Our  Affectionate Guardians
Chapter Four:

Prabhupada's Instructions

SSM, SP & many devotees

Shortly before he left us in 1977, Srila Prabhupada advised his disciples to see Srila Sridhara Maharaja if they had questions about philosophical matters. This instruction was accepted by the entire GBC at that time, and from 1977 to 1981 they did approach Srila Sridhara Maharaja with many important questions.

A substantial portion of the GBC Guru Position Paper of March 1978, the GBC's official statement published after their initial question-and-answer session with Srila Sridhara Maharaja, is taken directly from Srila Sridhara Maharaja's instructions to the GBC, with a few noteworthy additions and subtractions.

That it was actually the instruction of Srila Prabhupada that we should approach Srila Sridhara Maharaja for spiritual instruction is corroborated by taped statements of Jayapataka Maharaja, Satsvarupa Maharaja, Bhakti Caru Swami, Tamala Krsna Maharaja, and many other GBCs [some of whom later changed their minds regarding the validity of their previous statements], as well as by Tripurari Maharaja who was personally massaging Srila Prabhupada's lotus feet in the midst of several senior devotees when he heard this instruction from Srila Prabhupada. The instruction came in response to a question from Tamala Krsna Maharaja as to whom we could approach for advice after Srila Prabhupada's disappearance. Bhakti Caru Swami related to Srila Sridhara Maharaja on August 19, 1980:

Prabhupada gave us an instruction that if we have any difficulty then we should come to you, but they are deliberately neglecting that instruction of Srila Prabhupada.

In addition, official GBC recognition of this instruction of Srila Prabhupada was given in the GBC's March 1981 publication, "The Descending Process of Selecting a Spiritual Master." Giriraja Maharaja, in a letter of September 16, 1978 addressed to all GBC members, wrote:

According to Sridhara Swami, who Srila Prabhupada said we should consult about philosophy and practical points, there is relative and absolute considerationand we must give Sridhara Swami the highest regard. At one time, Srila Prabhupada said that apart from himself only Sridhara Swami was qualified to write the Bhagavatam purports. When we approached Srila Prabhupada before his departure about our writing books after his disappearance, Srila Prabhupada replied, "You can write when you are realized, but now none of you are realized."

So both in terms of relative rank and absolute realization, Sridhara Swami is far beyond any of us. Recently, I have heard statements to the effect that we have now surpassed Sridhara Swami and that we are in the position where we can improve upon Sridhara Swami's conception. In this connection, I am simply reminded of the words of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, svami na mane yei jana vesyara bhitare, tare kariye ganana, that we must remain faithful to our Swami [otherwise we will be prostitutes]. (Cc . Antya-lila 7.115)

In regard to Srila Sridhara Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada's disciples said:

[Prabhupada said] If there was question we should approach you. (Jayapataka Maharaja, tape, March 1978)

We should go to his godbrother Sridhara Maharaja for guidance. So this talk of October 21, 1980 certainly showed the gbc doing this, and Srila Sridhara Maharaja fulfilling this role, as Prabhupada requested he do for the disciples of Srila Prabhupada. (Satsvarupa Maharaja, tape, December 22, 1980)

Srila Prabhupada's leading disciples also greatly appreciated Srila Sridhara Maharaja. A historic series of darsanas during the Gaura Purnima of 1981 were attended every day by many leading iskcon devotees, including Tamala Krsna Maharaja, Ramesvara Maharaja, Kirtanananda Maharaja, Giriraja Swami, Jayadvaita Swami, Bhakti Caru Swami, Atreya Risi Prabhu, and many other GBCs.

Our Guru Maharaja was kind upon us, so you are kind upon us. I find no difference at all in how you are blessing us. When I used to come every year to Mayapur, my whole purpose in coming was fulfilled when I would be in his association. So similarly, now I am feeling that as I have come here, that my purpose is being fulfilled, whenever I am in your association. (Tamala Krsna Maharaja, tape, February 26, 1981)

I take it that Prabhupada is speaking to us through you. (Ramesvara Swami, tape, March 5, 1981)

Additionally, other disciples stated:

Sridhara Maharaja's instructions are nondifferent than Prabhupada's. (Autobiography of a Jewish Yogi, Acyutananda dasa)

Prabhupada told me twice, "Everything I know, I learned from Sridhara Maharaja." (Hamsaduta dasa)

Maharaja, time will prove that they [ISKCON leaders] are wrong, and you are right. (Bhakti Caru Swami, tape, February 1982)

Srila Prabhupada himself spoke highly of Srila Sridhara Maharaja:

...who is the most highly competent of all my godbrothers. This is B. R. Sridhara Maharaja, whom I consider to be even my siksa guru . If you are serious about the advancement of your spiritual life, I advise you to go to Sridhara Maharaja and I will feel that you are safe.You can also make arrangements for your other godbrothers to go there in the future. (SP Ltr. Hrsikesa, January 1, 1969)

What Sripada Sridhara Maharaja has directed, I take it on my head.It is appropriate that I should accept his direction. (SP Ltr. Govinda Mj, 12-9-69)

What Govinda Maharaja has said is true. I consider his guru as my siksa guru . (SP, ISKCON Mayapur Candrodaya Mandira opening ceremony 1974)

Those who are intelligent, they are making something, Sridhara Maharaja and others. (SP Conversation, Allahabad, January 13, 1977) [1]

One of my important godbrothers [Sridhara Maharaja] says. He's sincere. He says, "The prediction of Caitanya-caritamrta, prthivite ache yata nagaradi-grama So you have done it." (SP LA Morning Walk, December 11, 1973 & SP Ltr. Bon Maharaja, July 7, 1975) [2]

Our relationship is very intimate. After the breakdown of the Gaudiya Matha I wanted to organize another organization making Sridhara Maharaja as the head. (SP Conversation, March 17, 1973) [3]

Over the years, various facts have mysteriously changed, according to the political climate. Statements included in this book are substantiated with hard copy and tape recordings. Understandably, one may change his opinion regarding certain things, but this does not change the essential facts, the actual truth, satyam param dhimahi .

Letter to Rupanuga

Despite Srila Prabhupada's final and conclusive statements regarding Srila Sridhara Maharaja, some take Srila Prabhupada's letter to Rupanuga in 1974 as the conclusive statement about Srila Sridhara Maharaja. An excerpt of the letter follows:

My dear Rupanuga Maharaja,

Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter of April 17, from Washington D.C. and I have very carefully noted the contents.

You are right about Sridhara Maharaja's genuineness. But in my opinion he is the best of the lot. He is my old friend, at least he executes the regulative principles of devotional service. I do not wish to discuss about activities of my godbrothers but it is a fact they have no life for preaching work. All are satisfied with a place for residence in the name of a temple, they engage disciples to get foodstuff by transcendental devices and eat and sleep. They have no idea or brain how to broadcast the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. My Guru Maharaja used to lament many times for this reason and he thought if one man at least had understood the principle of preaching then his mission would achieve success. In the latter days of my Guru Maharaja, he was very disgusted. Actually, he left this world earlier, otherwise he would have continued to live for more years. Still he requested his disciples to form a strong governing body for preaching the cult of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He never recommended anyone to be acarya of the Gaudiya Matha. But Sridhara Maharaja is responsible for disobeying this order of Guru Maharaja, and he and others who are already dead, unnecessarily thought that there must be one acarya . If Guru Maharaja could have seen someone who was qualified at that time to be acarya he would have mentioned. Because on the night before he passed away he talked of so many things, but never mentioned an acarya . His idea was acarya was not to be nominated amongst the governing body. He said openly you make a GBC and conduct the mission. So his idea was that a self-effulgent acarya would be automatically selected from amongst the successful members of the GBC. So Sridhara Maharaja and his two associate gentlemen unauthorizedly selected one acarya and later it proved a failure. The result is now everyone is claiming to be acarya even though they may be kanistha-adhikari with no ability to preach. In some of the camps, the acarya is being changed three times a year. Therefore we may not commit the same mistake in our ISKCON camp. Actually amongst my godbrothers no one is qualified to become acarya . So it is better not to mix with my godbrothers very intimately because instead of inspiring our students and disciples they may sometimes pollute them. This attempt was made previously by them, especially [names three sannyasi godbrothers] but somehow or other I saved the situation. This is going on. We shall be very careful about them and not mix with them. This is my instruction to you all. They cannot help us in our movement, but they are very competent to harm our natural progress. So we must be very careful about them.

When there is a conflict between opposing statements, they must be reconciled. Rupa Goswami has written:

virodho vakyayor yatra napramayam tad isyate
yathaviruddhata ca syat tatharthah kalpyate tayoh

"When two scriptural statements contradict each other, one is not taken as inauthentic. One should give the meaning in such a way that the contradiction is removed." ( Laghu-bhag. 1.212)

The previously mentioned personal instruction of Srila Prabhupada to approach Srila Sridhara Maharaja for philosophy was given three years after the Rupanuga letter was written. This letter of Srila Prabhupada must be harmonized with the other statements by Srila Prabhupada in order to get an accurate picture of Srila Prabhupada's feelings about Srila Sridhara Maharaja. When seen in the light of proper historical perspective, the circumstantial nature of these remarks can be realized because the subsequent friendly and intimate dealings between Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhara Maharaja did not change in the slightest even after Srila Prabhupada made such remarks. Further, Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhara Maharaja lived together harmonously during the majority of the problems of the Gaudiya Matha mentioned in the Rupanuga letter, [4] and subsequent to this Srila Prabhupada requested Srila Sridhara Maharaja to be the president of ISKCON:

Our relationship is very intimate. After the breakdown of the Gaudiya Matha, I wanted to organize another organization, making Sridhara Maharaja the head. (March 1973) [5]

Unfortunately, taking the Rupanuga letter out of its true historical context, a handful of leaders have attempted to utilize it in order to discredit the deep and intimate relationship between Srila Sridhara Maharaja and Srila Prabhupada. Some of these leaders are fully aware of this deep relationship. Neither have we seen the letter written to Srila Prabhupada that elicited this response. A careful study of Prabhupada's many letters shows that quite often his letters are direct responses to particular circumstances and may even contradict other instructions in different situations.

According to Srila Sridhara Maharaja, a GBC was formed by the trustees of the Gaudiya Matha ten days after the disappearance of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, although it did not remain intact for long. Membership of the GBC was declined by Srila Sridhara Maharaja. The GBC elected an acarya and Srila Sridhara Maharaja helped advise the GBC when requested by them.

The War Is Over

In spite of Srila Prabhupada's sometimes strong criticism of his godbrothers, he also wrote positively about them:

Even amongst our godbrothers we have misunderstanding, but none of us is astray from the service of Krsna. My Guru Maharaja ordered us to execute his mission combinedly. Unfortunately, we are now separated. But none of us have stopped preaching Krsna consciousness. Even there was misunderstanding amongst the godbrothers of my Guru Maharaja, none of them deviated from the transcendental loving service of Krsna. (SP Ltr. Brahmananda, November 18, 1967)

The disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami are all godbrothers, and although there are some differences of opinion and we are not acting conjointly, every one of us is spreading this Krsna consciousness movement according to his capacity and producing many disciples to spread it all over the world. ( Bhag. 4.28.31)

So far as your question about controversy amongst the disciples of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Maharaja, that is a fact. But this controversy is not material. Just like in a national program, different political parties are sometimes in conflict and make propaganda against each other, but their central point is always service to the country. Similarly, amongst the disciples of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati there may be some controversy, but the central point is how to preach the mission of His Divine Grace. (SP Ltr. Mandali Bhadra, July 28, 1969)

The above letter to Brahmananda was written early on, subsequent to which there were many problems with Srila Prabhupada's godbrothers. The above purport, however, was written quite a bit later.

Srila Prabhupada also said, "The war is over now," and he created the Bhaktivedanta Swami Charity Trust for developing Gauda-mandala-bhumi and encouraging better relations and cooperation between ISKCON and Srila Prabhupada's godbrothers. Specifically, Srila Prabhupada instructed that this trust construct a kirtana hall at Srila Sridhara Maharaja's Matha and also one at the birthplace of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Yoga-pitha. [6]

When we examine the activities of these two Vaisnavas, we see the real intentions of these pure devotees of the Lord, fully absorbed in devotional service. One must examine all the facts impartially, not just make a superficial estimation based on one letter and general statements and pass a decree for all time. The mistakes made by the leaders of ISKCON were much more grave than the alleged mistakes of Srila Sridhara Maharaja [supporting an acarya who later fell down]. Within ISKCON the many mistakes of the leaders have been whitewashed, whereas Srila Sridhara Maharaja to this day is maligned. In light of an unbiased look at Srila Prabhupada's letters, conversations, and other instructions, it can be concluded that Srila Prabhupada did not discourage his disciples from receiving instruction (siksa) from Srila Sridhara Maharaja; on the contrary, he encouraged it. Similarly, an unbiased look at the siksa of Srila Sridhara Maharaja will show that his advice was perfect. When told of Srila Prabhupada's criticism of himself in the Rupanuga letter, Srila Sridhara Maharaja replied with a chuckle, "Just see the preaching of Swami Maharaja, he has not even spared me, his intimate friend!"

[1] 770113RC.ALL
[2] 731211M2.LA in ref to SP Ltr Bon Mj July 7, 1975 & 760122MW.MAY
[3] 730317RC.MAY
[4] Lilamrta, Vol. 1, p. 100
[5] 730317RC.MAY
[6] 771030R2.VRN & 771106RC.VRN

Chapter Five