Big Fish in a Small Pond

Jun 16 2018 - Krishna Talk 213

Question:  A sannyasi/guru/GBC of ISKCON, ________Goswami says in an interview on 24th June, 2017 that Srila Prabhupada had invited all his godbrothers to join with him in his preaching in western countries, even offering to give them everything – free flights around the world to preach, a nice car – anything they wanted, but “they all refused, all the time.” __________Goswami says that their reply to Srila Prabhupada was that:

“We don’t want to give up our positions. Like in my own matha, I am the acarya and I’d rather, basically be a ‘big fish in a little pond’ and not a ‘little fish in a big pond.’”

________Goswami says that Srila Prabhupada told him like that many times. Is this really cent-per-cent true?

Swami Narasingha: Hearing this kind of bigoted statement towards Srila Prabhupada’s godbrothers, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. There is, of course, some truth in __________Goswami’s statement, but it runs along the lines of a half-truth, a half-baked potato, rather than an accurate representation of the facts.

Make no mistake about it, Srila Prabhupada did request some of his godbrothers to join him in his preaching mission in the west, even inviting them to be in charge of the temples, which would have become branches of the Sri Mayapura Caitanya (Gaudiya) Matha.

Srila Prabhupada wrote to his godbrother, Srila Bhakti Vilasa Tirtha Maharaja, offering respects at his lotus feet and offering him the charge of the future temples in America. Srila Prabhupada wrote to Srila Tirtha Maharaja on October 8th 1965, scarcely one month after his having arrived in the USA.

Srila Prabhupada made it clear in his letter that he did not wish to be in charge. He wanted only to preach for the satisfaction of their spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and to that end alone, he invited his godbrother. Here are some relevant excerpts from that letter as follows:

“Pujaniya Srila Tirtha Maharaja, Kindly accept respectful obeisances at your lotus feet”

“But I think for establishing matha and temples here (America) you may take the charge and I shall be able to make them self-independent. “

“If you agree then take it for granted that I am one of the workers of the Sri Mayapura Caitanya Matha. I have no ambition for becoming the proprietor of any matha or mandira, but I want working facilities.”

It may also be noted that in that letter to Srila Tirtha Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada requested him to send ten lakhs of rupees via foreign exchange to start the New York temple – which was $150,000 in those days, or the equivalent of 1.5 million dollars by today’s standard.

“The Calcutta Marwaris are in your hand by the Grace of Srila Prabhupada. If you like you can immediately raise a fund of Rs 10,00,000/- ten lacs to open a centre in New York. One centre started, I shall be able to start many others also. So here is a chance of cooperation between us and I shall be glad to know if you are ready for this cooperation.”

Now can you imagine what the response would be if I, Swami Narasingha, were to write such a letter to the GBC at Mayapura/Kolkata requesting co-operation, asking them to send me 1.5 million dollars so that I could open a preaching centre in Mexico City?

“The Calcutta Marwaris are in your hand by the Grace of Srila Prabhupada. If you like you can immediately raise a fund of 1.5 million dollars to open a centre in Mexico City. One centre started, I shall be able to start many others also. So here is a chance of cooperation between us and I shall be glad to know if you are ready for this cooperation.”

I think the response to such a request is obvious – in fact, I doubt that I would even receive a reply. More likely than not, it would simply raise one hell-of-a-laugh! Factually, let us imagine if Srila Tirtha Maharaja had actually accepted our Guru Maharaja’s request back in 1965, then there would be no ISKCON! There would simply be no ISKCON! Can you imagine? Yes, that is what would have happened. All the centres in America and around the world would all be branches of Sri Mayapura Caitanya (Gaudiya) Matha and we would all have become disciples of Srila Bhakti Vilasa Tirtha Maharaja and not disciples of Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

These generous offers that Srila Prabhupada made to his godbrothers were indeed declined, but when ________Goswami says that the godbrothers responded by saying, “We don’t want to give up our positions. Like in my own matha, I am the acarya and I’d rather, basically be a ‘big fish in a little pond’ and not a ‘little fish in a big pond,” he is simply putting words in the mouths of Srila Prabhupada’s godbrothers that they never said.

In fact, the phrase ‘big fish in a small pond and little fish in a big pond’ was not actually in the vocabulary of Srila Prabhupada or his godbrothers. It is purely an American phrase that first came into use in the late 19th century. I doubt that even one of Srila Prabhupada’s godbrothers, or anyone in Gaudiya Matha, ever used that phrase – especially in reply to Srila Prabhupada’s offer of preaching in the west.

So rather than fault Srila Tirtha Maharaja for not accepting our Guru Maharaja’s invitation, I think the proper understanding would be to see it as Krsna’s arrangement. Lord Krsna wanted all the glory of spreading Lord Caitanya’s sankirtana movement throughout the world in every town and village to go to His empowered devotee, our Guru Maharaja, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. We should thank our lucky stars for that and not criticise the divine arrangement of Krsna.

Another example of Srila Prabhupada requesting a godbrother is that of Srila B.R. Sridhara Maharaja. On numerous occasions Srila Prabhupada wanted to arrange for Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s preaching.

Srila Prabhupada: “He (Sridhara Maharaja) lived in my house as a sannyasi for a few years. So naturally we had very intimate talks and he was my good advisor. I took his advice and instruction very seriously because from the very beginning I know he is a pure Vaisnava devotee and I wanted to associate with him, and tried to help him. And he also tried to help me – so our relationship is very intimate. After the breakdown of the Gaudiya Matha, I wanted to organise another organisation making Sridhara Maharaja the head.”

(Opening Ceremony of ISKCON Mayapura Candrodaya Mandira, 17th March 1973, while Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhar Maharaja were sitting together on the vyasasana)

Srila Prabhupada: “I very much want, Maharaja, that you come and stay at Mayapura. Because Prabhupada (Bhaktisiddhanta) always desired that you preach. He told me quite a few times, "Why don't you pull him out?" You know, I also tried to some extent before, but somehow or other it did not work out. Now, why don't you come and stay at Mayapura?”

Srila Sridhara Maharaja: “At last Prabhupada told me that, ‘You are an ease lover.’ The qualifications that you have.”

Srila Prabhupada: “Yes, that’s true. He (Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura) told me also, ‘He is such a qualified person. Sridhara Maharaja is one of the finest preachers.’ I want to take you everywhere. At least at the place we have in Mayapura, people are coming from all over the world. Why don't you come and stay there? What is your objection to staying in Mayapura? If you just agree, then whatever kind of building you want, I will arrange it for you. They are trying to build a house for me, so both of us will stay there. And whenever you want, you can come here (to your matha).”

Srila Sridhara Maharaja: “Yes, as long as I am alive to fulfill Prabhupada's (Bhaktisiddhanta’s) desire.”

Srila Prabhupada: “This is my earnest desire. Since you could not go around the world and preach, at least stay there and people will come to you. I shall make that arrangement. If you stay, then it will be very helpful to me also. Sometimes I need to consult with someone but there is no one. There is no one that I can consult. I feel this deficiency very greatly.”

Devotee: “If he stays in Mayapura, then, all kinds of people will get to hear from him.”

Srila Prabhupada: “Yes, that's right.”

Srila Sridhara Maharaja: “Yes, people from all kinds of cultural backgrounds will come there.”

Srila Prabhupada: “Yes, they are already coming. And in that house I will make arrangements for an elevator so that you won't have to go through the difficulty of walking up and down the stairs. You won't even have to move a step yourself. I'll make arrangements for a car and a lift. Jayapataka Maharaja is telling me that he will build a house for me. So, both of us will stay in that house. Most of the time I am just traveling around, so if you are there, then they can get some guidance. So, Maharaja, please, give me the order and I will make all the arrangements for you.”

(Room Conversation in Bengali, Navadvipa, Sri Caitanya Sarasvata Matha, 10th February 1977)

Only days after this room conversation between Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhara Maharaja in 1977, our Guru Maharaja began to manifest his illness and disappearance pastimes. Had Srila Sridhara Maharaja come to stay on ISKCON property during those times and during the days of the ‘Magnificent Eleven’ who usurped the position of the acarya of ISKCON after the departure of Srila Prabhupada, it is unimaginable to think what horrendous offenses the leaders of ISKCON would have made to Srila Sridhara Maharaja. As it was, even while staying in his own matha, ISKCON leaders mortified Srila Sridhara Maharaja by their uncivilised and un-Vaisnava like behavior –

Srila Sridhara Maharaja: “I am an old man, I am tired, excited, I am very, very sorry, (crying) really I say with folded palms that you are ill-treating me. I am very sorry. Swami Maharaja (Srila Prabhupada) was so affectionate, I also treated with such affection to him. And rudely you are behaving towards me. I am very much mortified for that, but what can I do? I am a small man…. If you give so much stress to his (Srila Prabhupada) words, then he wanted to make me president. Of course, I remember that. Once, he came and proposed to me, requested me to become president of ISKCON. That he did. But it is very deplorable to me to think that the so-called ISKCON committee is so eager to go away from me. In other words, I see that they are digging their own grave.” (Conversation with ISKCON GBCs, Navadvipa, Sri Caitanya Sarasvata Matha, 5th March, 1982)

Again I will mention that if Srila Prabhupada’s godbrothers had accepted his offer, beginning with Srila Tirtha Maharaja in 1965 and Srila Sridhara Maharaja in 1973 and 1977, or even before when Srila Prabhupada wanted to start another organisation after the breakup of Gaudiya Matha, making Srila Sridhara Maharaja the head, then there may have never been an ISKCON or even disciples of Srila Prabhupada.

From my perspective, it appears that the statement of _______Goswami and others of a similar mentality echoes the Judeo-Christian way of thinking. It is ‘judeo’ in the sense that ISKCON leaders are, step by step, turning Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON into a messianic personality cult. Christians accept that Jesus was crucified to die for their sins, resurrected on the third day and ascended to heaven to sit on the right hand of God, but they reveal their hypocrisy by condemning the Jews for the death of Jesus – without who's death there could never have been salvation for Christians. Similarly, ISKCON’s present leaders like _________Goswami glorify Srila Prabhupada as a pure devotee from birth who singlehandedly, by the desire of Krsna, spread Krsna consciousness around the world, yet at the same time condemn Srila Prabhupada’s godbrothers for not accepting his offer to be the acarya or president, for not accepting the preaching to be done under Sri Mayapura Caitanya (Gaudiya) Matha, and for not cooperating with Srila Prabhupada.

The fact is that some godbrothers did cooperate with Srila Prabhupada – especially Srila Sridhara Maharaja. A small, but significant example of the cooperation between Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhara Maharaja, and the high esteem in which Srila Prabhupada held Srila Sridhara Maharaja, can be shown in the following incident.

During the foundation laying at Mayapura Candrodaya Mandira in 1972, Srila Prabhupada invited Srila Sridhara Maharaja to attend. When Srila Sridhara Maharaja arrived, Srila Prabhupada came out to greet him and holding Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s hand, took him to his room and sat him down on his bed. Prabhupada then arranged for some tender coconuts and the two talked briefly. Then, leaving Srila Sridhara Maharaja sitting on the bed, Srila Prabhupada went down to the field to attend the function. Having completed the bhumi-puja, Srila Prabhupada returned to his room. At that time, Govinda Maharaja, a disciple of Srila Sridhara Maharaja, asked, “You invited Sridhara Maharaja to the function, but you left him in your room and went to the field to do everything yourself? What is the meaning?”

Srila Prabhupada replied, “Sridhara Maharaja should not be bothered with such details. The fact is that simply by his presence here at our temple, everything is auspicious, by his grace! There is no need for him to walk down to the field.” After this, Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhara Maharaja sat together on Prabhupada’s verandah and honoured prasadam.

Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhara Maharaja taking prasadam together
Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhara Maharaja taking prasadam together

It is a fact that Srila Prabhupada went many times to see Srila Sridhara Maharaja and Srila Prabhupada’s disciples (such as Acyutananda Prabhu) were sent to Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s asrama to learn from him. There they learned how to perform guru-puja and they also learned how to perform Vyasa-Puja when Srila Prabhupada and his disciples attended the Vyasa-Puja of Srila Sridhara Maharaja in 1967:

“Yesterday we have all come to Navadvipa. This place is another establishment of one of my godbrothers. It is very nice and extensive place and my godbrother, B.R. Sridhara Maharaja has spared one entire nice house for my stay. He has also agreed to cooperate with our society. We shall observe his birthday ceremony tomorrow and the brahmacaris shall learn how to celebrate the spiritual master's birthday.” (26th October, 1967 - Letter to Satsvarupa Dasa)

By faulting Srila Prabhupada’s godbrothers in the way that ________Goswami has done, many of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples fail to see the arrangement of Krsna. Thus, they reveal themselves to be hypocrites and remain kanistha devotees, or worse still, aparadhis.

Furthermore, a consideration that these devotees are self-condemned kanistha-adhikaris is the fact that anyone, after fifty years of devotional service, who continues to think that all the living entities in the material world, in countless numbers of universes, were once pure devotees of Krsna absorbed in love of God eternally in Goloka Vrndavana one day were overcome by lust and became envious of Krsna, and were thus cast down to the worlds of birth, death, old age and disease is clearly a kanistha, despite their having achieved a Phd in Sanskrit and risen to the heights of leadership in ISKCON.

Yes, you heard me correctly! They cannot understand, due to their Vaisnava aparadha and kanistha mentality, where the soul comes from. It is similar to what Lord Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita regarding the nature of consciousness:

ascarya-vat pasyati kascid enam
ascarya-vad vadati tathaiva canyah
ascarya-vac cainam anyah srnoti
srutvapy enas veda na caiva kascit

“Some look at the soul as amazing, some describe him as amazing, and some hear of him as amazing, while others, even after hearing about him, cannot understand him at all.” (Bhagavad-gita 2.29)