Our Affectionate Guardians, Chapter Four, Part Two

02In the second portion of chapter 4, Swami B. B. Visnu addresses what is often considered the primary evidence that Srila Prabhupada did not want his students associating with Srila Sridhara Maharaja.

Read previously published sections here.

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.1

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, 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)

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 Saraswati, 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 Krishna. My Guru Maharaja ordered us to execute his mission combinedly. Unfortunately, we are now separated. But none of us have stopped preaching Krishna consciousness. Even there was misunderstanding amongst the godbrothers of my Guru Maharaja, none of them deviated from the transcendental loving service of Krishna.2

The disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati 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 Krishna consciousness movement according to his capacity and producing many disciples to spread it all over the world. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.28.31)

So far as your question about controversy amongst the disciples of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati 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 Saraswati there may be some controversy, but the central point is how to preach the mission of His Divine Grace.3

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.

When we examine the activities of these two Vaishnavas, 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. Laghu-bhagavatamrta 1.212 []
  2. Prabhupada letter to Brahmananda, November 18, 1967 []
  3. Prabhupada letter to Mandali Bhadra, July 28, 1969 []

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