Our Affectionate Guardians, Conclusion
Published on January 5th, 2010 | by Harmonist staff41
The conclusion of Our Affectionate Guardians by Swami Bhakti Bhavan Vishnu.
Read previous sections here.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja Severed
Following a reversal of feelings towards Srila Sridhara Maharaja in early 1982, the Iskcon GBC legislative body decided during that year’s Mayapur meetings that anyone seeking siksa outside Iskcon must leave Iskcon. This decision was directed toward those who wished to approach Srila Sridhara Maharaja. Srila Sridhara Maharaja, however, replied very generously to this disconnection:
Devotee: Martial law. Dictatorship, just like in Poland.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: No, not martial. They are not happy to do that, but on policy they are to do this for the time being; they are to test what effect it may have. They have some affection for me; but still, to save their institution from the present crisis, temporarily they are giving trial to this particular injunction.
Devotee: Temporary injunction.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: I think like that. I think like that.
Devotee: You are very gracious.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: They cannot forget me totally. The newcomers may think like that, but the older devotees that have seen me along with Swami Maharaja. It will be difficult for them to put such a rigid law between the two, for those older men have seen how intimately Swami Maharaja dealt with me. It will be very difficult for them, but still they have a policy to make a check.
If ever Srila Sridhara Maharaja misjudged the senior men he refers to above, it was on this occasion. He gave them far more credit for having a sense of not only Vaishnava etiquette, but even common sense and human decency. They had no difficulty whatsoever enforcing their policy of severance from Sridhara Maharaja. Moreover, their policy proved not to be a temporary one.
Invited by Affection’s Force and Driven Out
Later, Srila Sridhara Maharaja commented:
Swami Maharaja very earnestly invited me with affection, and you are driving me out. Swami Maharaja had much affection for me, all throughout his whole life. He abused many of my godbrothers, with the exception of me alone, and he asked me several times, that you are to look after them. I was forcibly almost-by affection’s force-taken into the connection of Iskcon, and now, I am being driven out of Iskcon. I give my good will, but I can’t simply ditto their mandates. I am invited by your Prabhupada in his last days, and do you think that in my last days I am motivated by some mean interest? I differed from the GBC’s opinion and they withdrew. Still I am their aloof well-wisher.
They are thousands of men on that side, and you are few: five, six or ten, twenty-five. And they are so much afraid of you? They have the spirit of conquering. No attitude of give-and-take learning. That, we may have to learn something yet. They have finished their learning, and they are ready only to distribute their own hoarded wealth. Hare Krishna. Alright, He is there. Iskcon does not belong to their committee, Iskcon ultimately belongs to Swami Maharaja, represents Swami Maharaja, in my opinion. I see that they are digging their own grave. This is my sincere feeling, but this hurts, and it is objectionable to a certain extent. If they are Iskcon properly, they are promised to a particular ideal.
Deviation from that ideal, that is but a shadow of the Iskcon that was created and designed by Swami Maharaja. It is a very lamentable thing. Those who are sincere, the victory will be with them: na hi kalyana-krt kascid, durgatim tata gacchati. (Bg. 6.40) Kalyana means sincere to their purpose; not power-seeker, coercive nature. Hare Krishna.
I Am Very Much Mortified
In an unfortunate conversation in March 1982, indicative of the intensity of the aparadha being committed, Srila Sridhara Maharaja was visibly shaken by the behavior of the GBC representatives:
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 was so affectionate, I also treated him with such affection, and rudely you are behaving towards me. I am very much mortified for that, but what can I do?
The fate of Ramacandra Puri, described in the Caitanya-caritamrta, provides a stern warning of the unfortunate consequences of vaishnava-aparadha. He disrespected his guru and as a result was rejected, further causing him to criticize many exalted Vaishnavas and even blaspheme Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. In this regard, Lord Narayana states:
One’s so-called prowess, when employed against the devotee, certainly harms he who employs it. Thus it is the subject not the object who is harmed. (Bhag. 9.4.69)
The incident of Daksa’s offense to Maharaja Ambarisa also illustrates the severity of vaishnava-aparadha. Although Daksa apologized to Lord Siva for his offense, apparently it was not offered with proper remorse, for the effect of this aparadha resurfaced eons later in another manvantara, causing Daksa to commit additional vaishnava-aparadha to Narada Muni.
Those responsible for the ongoing Iskcon institutional aparadha are directly responsible for all further aparadha committed as a result. Indeed sastra states:
The most sacred assembly loses its sanctity and religiosity with the slightest vaishnava-ninda, and even a powerful assembly of sannyasis becomes bereft of religious purity if they indulge in vaishnava-ninda. In fact a drunkard’s party is better than such an unholy assembly. A despicable drunk has still a chance someday to be excused for his unrighteousness, but a Vaishnava offender is bound for abysmal damnation. (Caitanya-Bhagavata, Madhya-lila 13.3943)
Whenever an advanced devotee is insulted, for one man’s fault the entire town or place is devastated-everyone in connection with him will suffer. (Cc. Antya-lila 3.164)
Blasphemy Must be Undone
The offensive attitude toward Srila Sridhara Maharaja directly opposes Srila Prabhupada’s final instructions and desires with regard to Srila Sridhara Maharaja-the same desires that were understood and implemented by the GBC in 1978. Additionally, many of the GBC accepted Srila Sridhara Maharaja as their siksa-guru and later rejected him.
In The Heart of Krishna, Srila Bhakti Promode Puri Maharaja writes:
In spite of seeing and hearing about the fatal consequences of offending the Supreme Lord or the devotees, people refuse to become enlightened about it—such is the fearsome cloud of illusion that maya creates to delude everyone.
Even in the mundane world one who slanders another must retract the slander in the same form that it was given. This was not attempted in the case of Srila Sridhara Maharaja. A Vaishnava easily forgives offenses, however the dust of his feet does not. The example of Gadadhara Pandita shows how seriously one must take atonement for an offense to a Vaishnava. Gadadhara Pandita only committed a mental offense to Pundarika Vidyanidhi, yet he was ordered by Mahaprabhu to take initiation from Pundarika.
Offenses must not only be undone, but undone with interest—that is, one must make a real and substantial effort to correct the damage done, to clarify publicly any misconception or misinformation. Some token apology has been given officially and individually, yet we see that the offensive attitude of most devotees in Iskcon toward Srila Sridhara Maharaja has not changed.
That apologies were in fact insubstantial has also been stated by Somaka Maharaja in his paper In Search of Harmony:
All kinds of offenses against H. H. B. R. Sridhara Maharaja were broadcast, but the apologies to Sridhara Maharaja were not at all publicized.
The insincerity of these apologies is further illustrated by the fact that the offenses continued and even escalated after apologies were made for previous offenses—something like the elephant’s bath, which Srila Prabhupada was fond of quoting, or the Christian confessional. A public statement should be made in print, recognizing that forgiveness for these offenses will be proportional to the effectiveness of this public statement in terms of its correcting the offensive mentality in so many devotees’ minds toward Srila Sridhara Maharaja.
Offenses to Srila Sridhara Maharaja constitute offenses to Srila Prabhupada as well. One can imagine how displeased Srila Prabhupada has been by his leading disciples’ offensive dealings with his beloved godbrother. While Sridhara Maharaja, in the mood of a parama Vaishnava, did not acknowledge any offense, certainly Srila Prabhupada has been offended.
The intention of this publication is not to cause our godbrothers unnecessary embarrassment, but for the sake of clarifying certain vital points it has been necessary in certain instances to give as complete an explanation as possible. We are painfully aware of an unlimited number of embarrassing facts and unpleasant activities in great detail, but find no purpose in stating them herein. We are hoping that the illumination provided herein as to the supramundane position of the guardian of devotion of the Rupanuga sampradaya, Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Deva Maharaja, will clear the many misunderstandings surrounding him, and individually and collectively aspirants will realize their grievous offenses to such a very dear devotee of Srimati Radharani and Lord Krishna.
Those who are not aware of the sequence of events that are clarified within this presentation may question the necessity of this book-that Iskcon management has changed, that things are better now. While we agree that some changes have been made individually and managerially, institutionalized aparadha must be given serious consideration, for otherwise members cannot make proper advancement, burdened by its lingering effects.
No doubt many factors have contributed to the present status of Iskcon. However, no one factor, nor any collective factors, have the potential to damage a spiritual institution more than Vaishnava aparadha. If the Vaishnava is a superlative devotee and the offense is blatant, disaster is eminent. Such is the case with regard to offenses committed by Iskcon against Sridhara Maharaja. They created an explosion like an atomic bomb that initially reeked havoc and had lingering effects in the form of bhrama-tattva (illusion regarding tattva) and the samskara for continued offenses to senior Vaishnavas which hover over the institution like radiation.
We hope that recognition of the purity of Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s siksa will absolve many offenses. It is not expected that our godbrothers accept Srila Sridhara Maharaja as their siksa guru, nor is he amongst us at present. They must, however, develop a positive, non-offensive understanding and allow interested devotees under their care to study the books of Srila Sridhara Maharaja. Further, they should teach others to appropriately honor those who have taken shelter of Srila Sridhara Maharaja. They would do well to read his books themselves, if not print them in an effort to undue their wrongs. If we are to believe in miracles, it is possible that such a policy could restore Iskcon to the vital institution it once was. For those who do not see the need for this rectification, let them continue to think that spiritual life is measured by external success,and let them be known as Kali-chela, disciples of Kali.
It is not in the interest of serious devotees to continue the offenses to Srila Sridhara Maharaja, for one who has not fully amended his vaishnava-aparadha can never achieve Krishna. This is confirmed by Vrndavana dasa Thakura in Caitanya-Bhagavata, Madhya 22.8, vaisnavera thani ya’re haya aparadha krsna-krpa hoileo tare prema-badha:
If a person commits an offense at the lotus feet of a Vaishnava, even though he may have received Krishna’s mercy, he will never attain divine love, prema.
We place this offering before the Vaishnavas, scholars, and aspirants—whoever is a seeker of truth.
Hare Krsna. My Dandavat Pranamas to all the Vaisnavas.
Jai Srila Prabhupada and the Vaisnavas.
Thank you for you kind article, it is much appreciated by this fool.
I offer my respectful obeisances at the feet of all the vaisnavas present, those who have been with us phsically and are not at the present, and those yet to come. I am indeed an offender and am afraid to continue to be. I beg the vaisnavas to please be kind and merciful to this fallen jiva and forgive him for all his offenses so that this soul can continue on his path and return to his eternal home once an for all.
May Srila Sridhara Goswami Maharaj bless us all and look kindly upon these foolish children who have in their immaturity and pride caused offense in many ways. Not only Srila Sridhara Maharaj, but Srila Puri Maharaj, Srila Narayana Maharaj and all the other great souls who have been offended or dealt with in a disrespectful way.
For my part, I will suffer, but beg all the vaisnavas to please fgorgive this foolish child and offer an affectionate prayer for his well-being.
Ananta koti vaisnava vrnda KiJai!!!
Thank you for this great opportunity to write this.
May your efforts find ripe fruits and our vaisnava communities become closer and stronger in love as the mission of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
I am not a scholar and my writng is not the best. please forgive this.
Radhe Radhe. Jaya Prabhupada!
bv kusum sraman swami….
This is such a painful history.
It is unfortunate because this gross aparadha instead of being undone, has become institutionalized, perpetuated, and integrated into the very fabric of the society that perpetrated it. Srila Shridhara Maharaja is perhaps the personification of graciousness. Unfortunately this offense against Maharaja was just the beginning of what continues to this day. How many countless number of humble ‘unknown’ devotees were/are subsequently harassed, labeled, and kicked out of Iskcon, for oh, say, I don’t know, maybe reading this article for example? Having read Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s books before ever going to any Iskcon center I had an idea upon entering that something was ‘definately not right.’ Then I started to learn some of the history. I have subsequently concluded my spiritual life did not benefit at all from associating at those centers, to the contrary, definitively it was/is hindered. Why? Because upon entering such centers I had to witness Vaisnava Aparadha. Quoting Chaitanya Bhagavata above: -“In fact a drunkard’s party is better than such an unholy assembly.” The description of Bhrama Tattva as a cloud of radiation is perfectly fitting to describe what it is I could not place my finger on for so many years. The results of Vaisnava Aparadha. I beg any devotees I have offended in the past to please forgive me any offense I may have made whatever the reason, either in this lifetime or previous. I beg your mercy Vaisnavas. Please forgive me.
Dear BB Visnu Maharaja and the Harmonist staff
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga.
Thank you for this well written and well intentioned article. I found it helpful in understanding how the unfortunate misunderstandings and tensions between ISKCON and the followers of HH BR Sridhar Maharaja came about and also impacted Maharaja and his followers.
I hope and pray that healing and restored trust will prevail all round. And I also beg forgiveness if, due to my own lack of clear insight, I have caused injury or offense in my attitudes or words.
For what it’s worth, I believe that, in time, Lord Krsna – the Supreme Witness and Controller – will see that all misconceptions are eradicated and all performers of wicked deeds suitably chastised. Clearly there are many sincere souls in ISKCON – and elsewhere – who are innocent of wrong doing and the preaching mission of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu remains vital through the vehicles that Srila AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and his godbrothers established.
As a post-script to my earlier comment, I was a little disappointed with the final paragraph or two. Up until then, I thought that HH BB Visnu Maharaja occupied the moral high ground.
In painting ISKCON as having lost its vitality, its achievements purely external and suggesting that unless ISKCON accedes to Maharaja’s demands (eg insistence that all ISKCON’s members be encouraged to read Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s books) then its members or leaders are all Kali chelas, then the article perhaps serves to exacerbate the rifts between the respective organisations.
Damodara, you have read emphasis into the author’s comments which betrays your own psychological view on ISKCON and its challenges. You write:
There was no such “insistence”, and your characterization of that insistence being on “all ISKCON’s members” leads your readers who are similarly disposed or lacking critical review skills to adopt your same conclusions. The actual quote from the conclusion is not as you have characterized. Rather, it is this:
You continue to misrepresent the conclusion due to reading with ISKCON colored glasses, rather than without glasses at all. You conclude that the conclusion is this:
which is not at all what he said. He says that those who do not see the need for rectification of vaisnava aparadha may remain as such disciples of Kali:
If you want to make the stretch to say that ISKCON members and leaders are such, that is your interpretation, but it was not in the words of Sripad BB Visnu Maharaj.
The comments in these last paragraphs are directed at ISKCON leadership, referring specifically to the author’s godbrothers, disciples of Prabhupada who were directly responsible for the offenses to Srila Sridhar Maharaj, and the lingering effects of such aparadha. Maybe you should again read paragraphs that refer directly to person’s like yourself, and take in the balanced morality that they exhibit:
As for moral high ground, there is no morality in Gaudiya Vaisnavism higher than the defense of the character of the suddha bhakta. Not being followers of the dharma marga, we can measure our morality based on what is favorable to Krsna’s service. Certainly Sripada BB Visnu Maharaj’s article here criticizing no ISKCON devotee directly, but rather “hating the sin (aparadha), not the sinner” is of the highest moral character – in defense of the dear devotee of Krsna, and Prabhupada’s brother.
Dear Madan Gopal Prabhu
Thank you for responding to my post and pointing out my errors.
I remain – as indicated in my first post – generally extremely appreciative of the article. It is well researched and presented. I had hitherto largely heard “only one side of the argument” and this allowed me to hear “the other”. Both “sides” tend to have a natural bias or emphasis – which is perfectly understandable. And once has heard representation from “both sides” then one is clearly in a better position to determine where one personally lands.
To me, it is not a particularly helpful to approach this specific subject matter with an “either/or” mentality. I understand why, for instance, Srila Prabhupada expressed caution about his disciples mixing heavily with his godbrothers that does not necessitate my becoming offensive towards them. I do think that there has been some unfortunate behaviour – on “all sides” – around this.
I did not feel I could leave my appreciation here without offering the qualification which I maintain – notwithstanding my having worded it poorly and been taken to task by you. So, I will attempt to explain a little more fully.
Had the article stopped at being a mere historical account as the majority of it read then I believe it would have probably led readers to the desired conclusion(s) – that Srila BR Sridhara Maharaja is an advanced soul, who was dear to his godbrother, Srila Prabhupada and who was perhaps the undeserving recipient of some hostile behaviour by a number of ISKCON’s leaders at a point in time. That was all self-evident from reading the text.
Unfortunately, in the conclusion, HH BB Visnu Maharaja then, in essence, turns the document into something “political” in nature by seemingly seeking to influence a “policy decision” on the part of ISKCON’s leadership. Now perhaps I went too far in my example. However, here is the relevant text:
“We hope that recognition of the purity of Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s siksa will absolve many offenses. It is not expected that our godbrothers accept Srila Sridhara Maharaja as their siksa guru, nor is he amongst us at present. They must, however, develop a positive, non-offensive understanding and allow interested devotees under their care to study the books of Srila Sridhara Maharaja. Further, they should teach others to appropriately honor those who have taken shelter of Srila Sridhara Maharaja. They would do well to read his books themselves, if not print them in an effort to undue their wrongs. If we are to believe in miracles, it is possible that such a policy could restore Iskcon to the vital institution it once was. For those who do not see the need for this rectification, let them continue to think that spiritual life is measured by external success,and let them be known as Kali-chela, disciples of Kali.”
The hypothesis of institutional aparadha had been raised in the prior paragraphs – i.e. that the whole of ISKCON is guilty by association with those whose conduct actually constituted the offense and that the organisation is already suffering the effects. We have already left the domain of “historical narrative” which had perhaps characterised the previous chapters of the book.
Maharaja here seems to address his godbrothers – fellow disciples of Srila Prabhupada. “They MUST develop a positive, non-offensive understanding…” and “allow” those under their care to study HH BR Sridhara Maharaja’s books. The implications here are that the current understanding is less than positive or still contains some degree of offense; and that there is a demand for reading Sridhara Maharaja’s books which is being quashed, outlawed, forbidden.
He goes on to say that “they SHOULD” teach others to honour those who have taken shelter of Sridhara Maharaja. Only those who have taken shelter of Sridhara Maharaja? Presumably we should honour all devotees who are actively participating in Lord Caitanya’s mission. Does the honour flow 2 ways? Or are all members of ISKCON to be seen as participants in an organisation that has lost its vitality? A version of “asara” being sent back in the other direction?
He goes on to suggest that they not only read Maharaja’s books but print them too – and this measure is referred to as “an effort to undo (undue?) their wrongs” which sounds like an act of rectification (or even penance).
In the next sentence, Maharaja refers to this as a “policy” which he hopes might restore ISKCON to the vital organisation it once was. And then he comes to the “those who do not see the need for THIS RECTIFICATION…” – not any form of rectification but seemingly the specific remedies which Maharaja has previously outlined – “let them continue to think that spiritual life is measured by external success”… – that sounds like another swipe at ISKCON (i.e. “OK, so they have a bunch of temples and people and activities but these are merely external, no assurance of true spiritual adhikara.”) – “and let them be known as Kali chela…”
Perhaps I have misunderstood Maharaja completely but it read like a pejorative portrayal of ISKCON, a list of demands for rectification and a condemnation if such demands are not accepted. I apologise if I misrepresented one such demand earlier. My concern with the “Conclusion” remains nonetheless.
Mine is merely an opinion. I am not some formal representative of ISKCON or anything – just an individual who cared enough about the issue to take the time to read what Maharaja wrote and offer a little feedback. I note that you have also drawn some conclusions about my historical knowledge, institutional biases, motives, etc. which I honestly can’t see how you could reasonably arrive at.
I cannot see much hope for meaningful cooperation between the respective organisations as long as there’s even talk about “who threw the first stone”, etc. Cooperation surely has to be based on the mutual appreciation of each others’ strengths (and therefore the value of combining them). Any form of “better than” mentality on either side would surely inhibit such progress – along with scabs being picked at, old scars being worn with pride, accusation and counter-accusation, etc.
I know, for myself, if anyone wants to collaborate with me towards serving Lord Caitanya’s mission then beyond a demonstrated willingness to do so, etc. there are only a few “hygiene factors” to pass my “screening process”. If someone suggests that Srila Prabhupada “didn’t complete his mission” or that “his books were merely ABCs” or that his achievements were really due to empowerment offered by someone else (other than Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada or the Lord) then such sentiments thoroughly undermine any interest on my part to work with such an individual – even if they otherwise speak positively about Srila Prabhupada. To me, such expressions constitute (at best) a form of minimising of Srila Prabhupada’s unparalleled achievements and they are not appropriate to express to Srila Prabhupada’s followers even if the makers of such statements happen to believe them. Similarly, the re-initiating of disciples of gurus in good standing.
I mention these not to accuse anyone in particular but only to point out that as long as such behaviour exists “on any side of the debate” then there is no basis for cooperation. At some point, someone will need to walk the “higher ground” if any rifts are to be healed. There might have been other ways to end this document that could have gone there. However, my view is that, right at the end, Maharaja ends up reinforcing the rift rather than beginning to build a bridge. It assumes a tone of “the completely innocent party” dictating remedies to the “guilty party” – and, along with the institutional offense hypothesis, lumping in everyone who doesn’t completely agree with the description of alleged crime (institutional aparadha) or feel compelled to accept the “proposed” remedies.
Madanji, I have no idea what your own relationship with HH BB Visnu Maharaja is. I would love to hear his response to my feedback. I have explained myself a little more fully now. I am hoping that this doesn’t descend into an unfortunate “let me prove that you’re wrong” exchange.
The crux of the issue is GBC Resolution 188.8.131.52
“Since all the spiritual knowledge and instruction required is available in Srila Prabhupad’s books and from ISKCON, no ISKCON member shall be allowed to seek spiritual instruction from any other person or institution outside of ISKCON without approval of the GBC body. That any member of ISKCON who willfully disobeys the above order will thereby sever his connection with ISKCON.” (Resolution 184.108.40.206)
This resolution was drafted by and put into effect by the 1982 zonal acharya led GBC specifically to keep devotees from hearing Krsna katha from B.R. Sridhara Maharaja. Why was it drafted? Supposedly to protect Iskcon.
So while Damodhara dasa says that he would choose not to associate with devotees who he feels minimize Srila Prabhupada’s instructions or books, he fails to take into account that GBC Resolution 220.127.116.11 bans Sridhara Maharaja’s books, tapes, indeed his entire teaching legacy, as well as all of his followers from Iskcon.
How would he feel if the leadership of a Gaudiya group outside Iskcon issued a similar pan-institutional ban against Srila Prabhupada’s writings and followers—“that no member shall be allowed to seek spiritual instruction from Srila Prabhupada’s books tapes etc. or any person in Iskcon. Anyone who disobeys this order will be excommunicated.”
Would Damodhar dasa be heralding the idea of cooperation with such leadership or calling for a boycott against them.
So its well and good to consider co-operation but effectively this can only come about if individually or collectively Iskcon members disobey GBC Resolution 18.104.22.168 which is an action that would put them in jeopardy of loosing their positions and privileges in Iskcon. (so says Resolution 22.214.171.124)
So the ball is in Iskcons court, so to speak, because we don’t have a resolution banning Srila Prabhupada’s writings and followers from reading his books or being involved with our society.
Brahma dasa (ACBSP)
Dear Brahma Prabhu,
Thank you for providing this information. I understand it slightly differently to you.
What it actually says is “no ISKCON member shall be allowed to seek spiritual instruction from any other person or institution outside of ISKCON WITHOUT APPROVAL OF THE GBC BODY”. As such, this is neither an act directly against HH BR Sridhara Maharaja – as is alleged – nor is it absolute in nature. No doubt, HH BR Sridhara Maharaja would have been on their mind. However, this points to a general principle rather than discriminating specifically against Maharaja. And it would also seem consistent with Srila Prabhupada’s teachings about remaining cautious about mixing heavily with his godbrothers.
Moreover, I would say that it recognises that there may be, in fact, be some legitimacy to taking counsel from outside of ISKCON but that such exceptions to the general policy require some submission to and approval from the GBC body – presumably on a case by case basis. So the question might reasonably be asked as to whether any individuals ever made such a case and were subsequently denied – in which case, to do justice to the truth, it would be helpful to view both the case submitted and the associated GBC response. Or was it that, in fact, something else transpired which was an assumed slight against Maharaja specifically and subsequent outrage where individuals subsequently felt at complete liberty to disregard the GBC resolution – and the authority invested in that body by Srila Prabhupada?
I note that the wording of this supposed “ban” had not been provided in the overall document above. Some mention is made of slanderous propaganda (a campaign of vilification) against Maharaja – a supposed “institutional aparadha”. No specific evidence of this is provided to assist the reader in evaluating for themselves whether the allegation (i.e. of institutional aparadha) is justified. Of course, no-one in their right mind would wish to read such aparadha if it, in fact, exists. However, in the selective filtering of information in this account, the precise authorship of this alleged campaign is unclear. Are we to believe that the GBC body actually composed a smear campaign? Or are we talking merely about the rash – and unplanned – actions of a couple of individuals who are no doubt now paying for their malice?
The allegation of “institutional aparadha” is a very serious one – the inference that ISKCON’s leadership collectively set out to blacken HH BR Sridhara Maharaja’s name and character. The discriminating reader will observe that such a case is far from proven in this document – and that the accusation in itself – along with condemnatory statements about ISKCON’s vitality in general – serves to discredit ISKCON. On that basis, the document is not free from strong bias. I didn’t mind that it didn’t mention (or, at least, pay much attention to) – up to that point – the various (and frequent) references to Srila Prabhupada’s caution about mixing his godbrothers. That was to be expected. It is presenting “the other side of the argument” and I knew that I was perfectly capable – being cognizant of such references – of bringing these considerations to bear in the interest of developing a truly balanced perspective. I thought that, up until the conclusion, HH BB Visnu Maharaja had done a reasonably good job of avoiding descending into an “us and them” mentality. So I was merely disappointed that, at the very end, he felt the need to go there. It’s not a big deal. I am somewhat surprised that, despite my overall generally positive review, such pains are being taken to “straighten me out” for failing to endorse the document 100%. Could it be that anything short of 100% approval of Maharaja’s position – including, seemingly, agreement with the accusation of “institutional aparadha” – constitutes something unbearable for those who buy into Maharaja’s position? That would seem to constitute the very crime of which ISKCON is accused – i.e. a total “blacklisting” of anyone who doesn’t accept their preferred position.
If this is the one piece of evidence to support the heavy allegation of institutional aparadha then, personally, I am not sold. Nor do I think anyone objective would be.
The proof of the institutional aparadha is that the GBC formally apologized (posthumously, of course) for blaming the zonal acarya fiasco on Sridhara Maharaja.
The GBC can make mistakes (obviously). The fact that it apologized for its mistakes should not be held against the GBC or ISKCON. It is to their credit that the GBC has apologized.
The concept of “institutional aparadha” is tricky for me. I mean, an institution like ISKCON is made up of tens of thousands of individuals who are trying to serve Srila Prabhupada’s mission while also pursuing their own sadhana bhakti practice. It is hard to see how a mistake by the leadership would “taint” the whole institution so that an innocent devotee who distributes books or worships Deities in an ISKCON community becomes an offender by virtue of such service. If that is what someone means by “institutional aparadha” (and I have heard people who asserted that precise concept), I do not buy it.
I cannot imagine how Sridhar Maharaja would feel offended that someone who never met him or spoke about him distributes books or leads kirtans in ISKCON. I think this concept of “institutional aparaha” is itself a way of organizing anti-ISKCON politics that would not be appreciated by the great acaryas.
I can tell you that when I met Govinda maharaja, Sridhar Maharaja’s successor-acarya of Caitanya Sarasvat Gaudiya Math, Govinda maharaja told me, “Go on serving Swami Maharaja’s mission”, by which he clearly meant to encourage me in my service in ISKCON. Which of course makes perfect sense.
The idea that simply serving in ISKCON, without more, makes someone an offender to Sridhar Maharaja or Narayan Maharaja should be rejected. It makes no sense.
Similarly, the idea that anyone serving in ISKCON will imbibe some kind of inimical feelings against Sridhar Maharaja or Narayan Maharaja should also be rejected. (I bring up NM only because the strongest advocates of this theory of “institutional aparadha” I have met were from the NM group, which by the way had its own history of conflict with Sridhar Maharaja, although our Srila Prabhupada was close friends with both of those senior Vaisnavas.)
I know a lot of devotees in ISKCON who have no inimical feelings toward Gaudiya Vaisnava leaders in the greater Bhaktisiddhanta family outside of ISKCON. As an ISKCON member my experience is that some followers of other acaryas try to pursue the idea that one must join their institution (i.e., leave ISKCON) or risk being an offender, and that this is every bit as much an immature and institutional (in the derogatory sense) and “my guru is the best guru”-type an attitude as the attitudes they condescendingly claim are typical in ISKCON.
We can respect senior Vaisnavas from other Gaudiya Math groups or even saintly Christians, Muslims, Jews (Bhaktivinode Thakur wrote highly of Ralph Waldo Emerson!) without giving up our service to our own spiritual masters and our own preaching orhganizations. I think ISKCON is a fine institution although there were some seriouis mistakes in the 1980s that have for the most part been rectified.
If you are going to have a mass society of Vaisnavas dedicated to spreading the glories of Mahaprabhu through harinama sankirtan, book distribution, public festivals, farm projects, educational institutions, prasadam restaurants, etc., naturally you are going to bring together many diverse people, many neophyte devotees, many who do not get along with each other, some uncouth people, etc. Nevertheless, Srila Prabhupada favored such large-scale organization, and in my view ISKCON has been doing a pretty good job in the lest decade or so. Why knock it?
Srila Prabhupada’s attitude often seemed to be (for example responding to criticism by Siddhaswarupa’s followers of ISKCON aggressive book distribution tactics), “If you do not like it, show by your example a better way.”
The world of Gaudiya Vaisnavism is certainly big enough for many different institutions setting examples by showing their own version of a better way.
Kali yuga is the age of quarrel, but if we see quarrels going on between the followers of Lord Caitanya, something is wrong. Lord Caitanya’s sankirtan drives away this quarreling tendency. At least we should minimize it as far as possible.
I think this concept of “institutional aparadha” is suspicious, and it sounds like a way of organizing institutional politics and criticizing those outside of one’s own favored institution or sangha.
There was definitely a time in history (1982) when Iskcon as an institution took an offensive stand against Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja and those who embraced him as their siksa guru. And it included a campaign of vilification movement wide. Members who had previously embraced SM as their siksa guru before this campaign were forced to leave in 1982 when the GBC reversed their position of taking the siksa of SM and decided he was not a suitable siksa guru for its members, despite Prabhupada having stated that he was.
Later the GBC formally apologized to SM. However, those who had embraced him felt the apology was lacking in understanding of the implications of what the GBC had done and were thus left unsatisfied. What added to their dissatisfaction was the fact that while a movement wide campaign of vilification had taken place, the apology was in no way comparable to the campaign. Thus many Iskcon members were left with the offensive understanding they had imbibed from the campaign only to hand it down to new members.
However, it is difficult to suppress the truth. And thus today despite this past and no serious attempt to educate Iskcon members on the issue, many Iskcon members have come to appreciate SM and read his books. This includes leaders of today’s Iskcon. A number of them revere SM. However, most of them are reticent to state this publicly or to reference points of philosophy they cite in classes that they got from his books.
I believe all of this is unfortunate and it has troubled Iskcon in terms of its ongoing understanding of guru tattva and other philosophical issues.
I lived through all of this. Don’t bother trying take me to court over what I have written. I won’t show up. If others do not believe my testimony, I am not here to argue with them, especially if they were not involved when the campaign was begun.
A couple of weeks ago I read “Blazing Sadhus”, a memoir by Acyutananda Prabhu. It is basically a recollection of his own early experiences in New York and then the beginnings of ISKCON at 26 2d Avenue and his experiences in India in the late 1960s, early 1970s. Along with his historical account, he nicely works in an explanation of Krishna consciousness. The whole book is suffused with Acyutananda’s brilliant wit and eccentric sense of humor. The later chapters are mostly about his experience taking siksa from Sridhar Maharaja at Srila Prabhupada’s request.
He gives his own account of explanations given by Srila Prabhupada regarding the break up of Gaudiya Math and the way Srila Prabhupada interacted with various godbrothers in the early 1970s.
Again, the crux of the issue is GBC Resolution 126.96.36.199.
Regardless of how you try to spin it this resolution was created and still serves to keep Iskcon devotees from hearing Krsna katha from Srila B.R. Sridhara Maharaja. Thus forcing devotees to choose between hearing from B.R. Sridhara Maharaja or being members of Iskcon.
Srila Prabhupada’s last words on B.R. Sridhara Maharaja were that his disciples could hear Krishna conscious philosophy from him, therefore this resolution as it applies to B.R. Sridhara Maharaja countermands Srila Prabhupada’s direct instructions on the matter.
Therefore—Anyone or any group of people who preach through speech or written resolutions that one should not hear about Krsna consciousness from B.R. Sridhara Maharaja are committing Vaisnava aparadha.
Here’s another GBC resolution to consider:
Rule #188.8.131.52 from the 1995 Gurus and Initiation regulations states:
“ISKCON members who, in violation of ISKCON law, take initiation from gurus who have not been approved to initiate in ISKCON shall not be permitted to serve within ISKCON.”
Taken together there’s no ambiguity in these two resolutions–Its clearly against Iskcon law to “seek spiritual instruction from” or “take initiation from” anyone who is not a member of Iskcon.
Again–Anyone or any group, who preaches through speech or resolutions that devotees should not hear from or take initiation from B.R. Sridhara Maharaja, or any other highly qualified guru, are committing Vaisnava aparadha.
Sri Jiva Goswami says: “If a guru does not permit his disciples to honor great devotees of the Lord such a guru should be respected only from a distance, And if he is envious of real Vaisnavas, he should be rejected. (BS 238)
Therefore, if B.R Sridhara Maharaja is in fact a great devotee of the Lord then making laws designed to keep devotees from hearing from him is certainly Vaisnava aparadha–and anyone who knowingly takes part in such aparadha is implicated.
As for the GBC apology—Considering the GBC resolutions I mentioned this hollow gesture is hardly worth mentioning.
We the GBC apologize to B.R Sridhara for any offense that we committed, (but your books, tapes, videos, any association with you whatsoever, as well as the devotees who love and revere you, will remain by GBC resolution banned in Iskcon).
Some say that Iskcon has the right to determine whom their members can take instructions from and that in doing so it does not prohibit persons from hearing from anyone because anyone who wants to hear from those not deemed appropriate by the GBC can leave Isckcon and hear from such persons. But the problem with this reasoning as applied to Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja is that one has to explain why hearing from him is not acceptable in Iskcon, when Prabhupada said it was, etc., etc. From there one enters into a muddled conception of guru tattva, sectarian dogma, founder acaryaism, GBCism, covert ritvikism, preeminent siksa guruism, and so on, all of which are dangerous to the spiritual health of the sect and not representative of what its founder taught. And this all in the name of glorifying him. Thus the reasoning breaks down and such resolutions as they have been applied to Srila Sridhara Deva Goswami can be seen for what they are: material calculations that foster Vaisnava aparadha. And any member of Iskcon who does read Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja’s books and appreciates his siska and benefits from it stands in violation of this resolution they defend.
my experience in ISKCON of today is that these are not very prominent issues.
I had one very bad experience in Berkeley in the early 1990s. One lady, a disciple of Bhakti Tirtha Swami, with a Ph.D. in Economics and a responsible job in the Federal government, was in Berkeley on a job assignment. She came to visit the Berkeley temple and when she saw the Deities she was so overwhelmed with love that tears were flowing from her eyes. Somehow or another, she was invited to stay overnight in the temple, and she agreed and went back to her hotel and got her things.
Another lady in the temple, Dhanistha Dasi, was a candidate at the time to become President of Berkeley temple. There was no president and a kind of power vacuum. Dhanistha was a book distributor and at the time was very enthusiastic. She also had kind of a strong mood that Srila Prabhupada was the only pure devotee and that his disciples who were giving initiation in ISKCON were not really qualified.
There was no real authority in the temple but I was officially Vice-President and even though I was very junior and green (even today I am not initiated into gayatri mantra) I had some responsibility there, but the local GBC, Hari Vilas Prabhu, had agreed to give Dhanistha some responsibility, and specifically it was decided that she would be in charge of the women’s asram with full authority over who could stay over night at the temple, at least with respect to women (I think she also had some authority over which men could stay).
When this Ph.D. government economist came back (I do not know her name, but she is African-American), she noticed some of Sridhar Maharaja’s books in the temple room. She was curious about them and had never seen them before. She was reading them with some interest and then Dhanistha happened upon the scene and misunderstood. Dhanistha thought this lady had brought the Sridhar Maharaja’s books into the temple, and decided that the invitation for the lady to stay should be rescinded. She should not be allowed to sleep in the temple.
I was mortified. I do not remember clearly but I think I had been reading the books and left them in the temple room, thinking nothing of it. I thought we were being terribly inhospitable and treating this lady very shabbily. The lady was taken aback. They were not her books, and she was an educated lady and saw no reason why these books should be treated as “contraband”. But because Hari Vilas had specifically given Dhanistha full authority over the ladies asram, and Dhanistha was very insistent on exercising her authority, there was nothing I could do except profusely apologize to our guest.
Dhanistha was angry because she thought the Sridhar Maharaja books were taboo, and that this lady had brought these “contraband” books into the temple room.
I think that happened in 1992.
But mainly devotees that I know feel pretty free to read Vaisnava literature, and trust their own intelligence to discern whether there are any conflicts with Srila Prabhupada’s instruuctions.
When I was in Vrindavan in 2009, Manjari Dasi took my wife and me around to various temples. Manjari is devoted to Narayan Maharaja and very friendly with his followers. My wife wanted to visit Vrindavan Vilasini and we went to the Narayan Maharaj temple at Kesi Ghat and saw VV a lot of old friends there, and we spent some time with Syamarani who sold me a couple copies of Gopi Gita by Narayan Maharaja.
When we came back to California I presented one copy as a gift to Vaisesika Prabhu. He declined to accept it. He did not say why, and I did not ask, but I do not think it was because he felt restrained by some GBC edict. The effect it had on me was that I also lost interest in reading the book. I still have two copies and I have not read them. I do not think they are evil or dangerous or anything. I just kind of have not been very interested, knowing that Vaisesika did not want a copy.
Most of the devotees I know at my local temple are pretty much innocent of all of this history. Many of them were not even born yet in 1982. I was in college in 1982.
We never warn people what they may not read, but we do encourage everyone to study Srila Prabhupada’s books together favorably and faithfully as often as possible. We generally respect all of Srila Prabhupada’s godbrothers, and we know he was especially affectionate with Sridhar Maharaja and Narayan Maharaja.
I do not detect any pervasive attitude such as the one that caused Dhanistha to revoke the invitation for Bhakti Tirtha Swami’s disciple to stay at Berkeley temple. I found that incident to be bizarre, and a shocking violation of etiquette and decent manners. Soon afterwards, Dhanistha moved back to the midwest, and I have seen her here and there at a Ratha Yatra or something, but do not very well know her mood and involvement with ISKCON. I believe she is one of the devotees who criticizes Jayadvaita Swami’s 1983 revision of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
Yes, as I said, it is hard to suppress the truth over time. Iskcon would have done well to have found a place within its confines for those disciples of Srila Prabhupada who also embraced Sridhara Deva Goswami as their siksa guru, as the Catholics did with Francis and others. That to me would have demonstrated that the sect’s leaders had understood the gravity of their mistake and were intent on rectifying it.
Akruranatha (and Damodara?), I am glad to hear that you have an experience of a more mature ISKCON.
When you speak of your disinclination to read Gopi Gita, it demonstrates your affection for a devotee who you feel has your interest at heart. Without even saying anything direct, he influenced you. That is your faith, and that is wonderful. I honor that. Can you imagine the power of Srila Prabhupada himself recommending the guidance of Srila Sridhar Maharaj to his own disciples? As I’m sure you know, it happened, SEVERAL times.
As Brahma prabhu pointed out, since the time that the GBC turned against Srila Sridhar Maharaj, they have consistently restricted ISKCON devotees from taking his siksa. Beyond policy proclamations, there are offensive ideas that carry on unquestioned. Despite changes in GBC members and 30 years of time passed, the resolutions are still on the books and Prabhupada’s disciples who received the shelter of Srila Sridhar Maharaj are still excommunicated and their character maligned.
Just a year and a half ago a GBC here in the US sent out a nasty attack on my Gurudeva to all of the temple presidents and other leaders in his zone. Keep in mind that the sole reason my Gurudeva (Srila Tripurari Maharaj) is outside of ISKCON is due to this policy of excommunicating those who sought Srila Sridhar Maharaj’s shelter. Just last year the NAGBC issued a policy barring ISKCON devotees from associating with Tripurari Maharaja.
THAT IS WHAT IS MEANT BY INSTITUTIONAL APARADHA. A culture of aparadha carries on through the generations and pervades foundational understandings of siddhanta. Gaudiya Vaisnavas live a very authority centered worldview. When our leaders say things, whether in small groups or resolutions or large audiences we imbibe them. This is just one thing that GBC member wrote to his zonal leaders:
When challenged, this devotee did not give any evidence for his charges. He would not debate the facts of his allegations for his audience to discern the truth. The history that he is perpetuating is misinformed and confused. When I joined ISKCON I had no idea who Srila Sridhar Maharaj was. After a few years I quickly learned that he was the source of the zonal acarya fiasco. That is what I was taught by my leadership in ISKCON. Those misunderstandings and lies, those histories written by the conquerers (ISKCON) are powerful. The only way that such myths are undone is by a real, genuine apology by leadership. Sripada Visnu Maharaj has suggested several other remedies above. That would go a long way. If the aparadha to Srila Sridhar Maharaj was remedied, a huge tension in the current Gaudiya scene would be remedied as well, because we see that ISKCON is probably most challenged by its relations with other Gaudiya groups.
>>…a muddled conception of guru tattva, sectarian dogma, founder acaryaism, GBCism, covert ritvikism, preeminent siksa guruism, and so on.<<
Maybe Maharaja you could elaborate on these different "isms", their merits and demerits, and clarify our understanding of your views on these subject.
As far as trying to trace out the history of the GBCs offenses to Sridhar Maharaja, I would rather not even talk about it and dwell on it. I am sure there were many offenses, but I think these were offenses of individual devotees and not offenses that taint all of the devotional service done by anyone in ISKCON.
I think about how Srila Prabhupada did not spend a lot of time instructing us about the history of the breakup of Gaudiya Math. I thought there were some interesting things in Acyutananda's book that I had never heard before, private instructions Srila Prabhupada had given Acyutananda about "sons of the mother" (those who are devoted to the facilities and institution created by the acarya) and "sons of the father" (those devoted to the acarya's message).
But mostly Srila Prabhupada did not talk to his disciples too much about all his history and relationships with different godbrothers. He had a lot more to tell us about Krishna consciousness.
Maybe it is not possible to talk about all this history without getting entangled in quarrels. Historians rarely agree, especially if they have an emotional connection to their subject.
But if you can clarify the faults of the various "isms" that you find prominent in ISKCON and the proper way of thinking about these things, that may be beneficial to us and to ISKCON generally.
"a muddled conception of guru tattva": In ISKCON we are taught that although the spiritual master is a devotee and is not God (except in rare cases such as Arjuna's where his guru was actually directly Krishna Himself), that Sri Guru is accepted by the disciple as "directly God" because he is "God's representative", in the way that an ambassador is given all the respect due to the King whom h represents. "saksad-dharitvena samasta sastrair uktas tatha bhavyata eva sadbhih kintu prabhor ya priya eve tattva vande guroh sri caranaravindam"
Is there something further to add to unmuddle our conception?
"sectarian dogma": Can you elaborate on what you mean by that? I suppose every institution has its own "patriots" and zealots, but I have not found ISKCON to be more sectarian that the Narayan Maharaja group. I think it is healthy that we in ISKCON are enthusiastic about the mission of spreading Krishna consciousness. I do not think we should criticize other groups but just focus on carrying on our mission in an exemplary way.
"founder acaryaism": Srila Prabhupada is ISKCON's Founder-Acarya. Is this controversial? Srila Prabhupada instructed us to call him the Founder-Acarya of ISKCON. What fault do you find in that? What do you mean by "founder-acaryaism"?
"GBCism": Srila Prabhupada made clear that ISKCON was to be governed by the GBC after his demise, that they should be considered the executors of his will, and that there was no need to artificially elect an acarya or sole head of the organization, but it could be run by a board or governing body, the way modern corporations and universities and other institutions are run (I have heard that the Ramakrishna Mission or Vedanta Society was also run by a governing body of senior disciples, and it appears to me that Srila Prabhupada was very insistent on this point that SBSSTP wanted his disciples to govern Gaudiya Math cooperatively with Kunja Babu as president for life, rather than to elect an acarya). Do you disagree with this? What do you mean by "GBCism"?
"covert ritvikism": I am familiar withvarious kinds of overt ritvikism. What do you mean by covert ritvikism? Some of Srila Prabhupada's senior disciples who served as initiating gurus in succession after the departure of Srila Prabhupada have proven to be weak, immature, sometimes "guru bhogis" etc. Does acknowledging that make us "covert ritviks"?
"preeminent siksa guruism": It does seem accurate to say that as the Founder-Acarya of ISKCON and the author of the principal commentaries, the books that are the principal scriptures of our sect or society or institution, and the param guru (during Srila Prabhupada's time at least we did not have any other initiating gurus in ISKCON but him), he is in that sense the siksa guru of all our members and the ultimate authority for us in matters of philosophical and spiritual controversies.
I have always admired your writings and I wish the politics between you and ISKCON's leadership were not so antagonistic as they appear. I sincerely think that if you clarify what you mean about these faults or errors it will be instructive.
Big subject to be sure, but here is an example of what is taught from the pulpit in Iskcon. Someone just sent this to me. It is from a lecture by an Iskcon guru:
“In ISKCON, your guru is not the centre. In ISKCON, temple is the centre.”
The Iskcon I joined taught that the guru was the center, my guru. That is the teaching. If one’s guru is not the center of one’s spiritual life, he or she is a relative figure. How will gurunistha be attained? But it seems that in today’s Iskcon if your guru proves to be incapable of delivering you and falls away himself it’s not a problem because Iskcon will deliver you, its GBC and its founder acarya, who is now a purvacarya. In this way with time we end up very far from the saksad-dharitvena you cited with regard to the guru on the ground.
In managing the Society it was found that some gurus pull their disciples here and there for their own pet projects, to the chagrin of local TPs, or more often it may be the case that disciples play the “my guru says” card in controversies over how they should carry out local service.
This led to certain devotees (I think Bhanu Swami and Sivarama Swami were on the committee) writing an article on “parallel lines of authority” in ISKCON. I read the article, and though I do not remember too much about it I recall it made sense to me when I read it.
I do not think it so much minimizes the importance of the diksa guru but also emphasizes that all gurus in ISKCON are dedicated to the mission of Srila Prabhupada and to the practical execution of that mission in a cooperative spirit and due regard for the chain of managerial authority, the “org chart”, so to speak, that all large-scale organizations need to function successfully.
Srila Prabhupada’s instruction that we call each other “Prabhu” also indicates to me that we should be prepared to respect all Vaisnavas with whom we serve. Those who train us and personally advise us may be regarded as siksa gurus. Sometimes diksa gurus in ISKCON explicitly ask their disciples to see local senior devotees as siksa gurus.
I have seen some prominent leaders object that there should only be one authority and not “parallel lines”, but my take on it is as follows:
There are many authorities in everyone’s life, and it is up to us as disciples and moral agents to give due respect in proper proportion to our various authorities, which ideally should run in parallel but sometimes unfortunately may come into conflict.
For example, we all have parents, family obligations (most of us are not in the sannyas order), teachers, government laws and law enforcement representatives. Those who have jobs have to answer to bosses and committees. I have to defer to judges and arbitrtors. I have to keep my clients happy but occasionally stand my ground and let them know that I have principles of professional responsibility to follow as a lawyer.
I mean, there are so many authorities. Some involve material obligations, and those that come directly from the spiritual master or in prosecution of the preaching mission are transcendental. The spiritual masters in ISKCON are more or less (hopefully more) united in their desire to make ISKCON’s mission successful under the governing authority of the GBC and the system of individual local temple management, and they instruct their disciples to imbibe this mood of social, organizational harmony.
[The title of this publication is “Harmonist”. In theory, if everyone surrenders to Krishna and has the “isavasyam idam sarvam” vision, there will be harmony. In practice we have to be good at relating properly with proper respect and etiquette within the society of devotees.]
I heard some people criticize the “Parallel Lines” paper when it came out, but I felt it was good, as far as it went. It might have gone into further detail and more specific examples and judgments. Maybe I just have a legalistic and pragmatic way of thinking about things because of my professional training and education in the Anglo-American common law tradition.
Yes, I agree with your assessment above. My characterization of Iskcon leadership suffering from a muddled conception of guru tattva will resonate with some devotees, but others are quite happy in Iskcon and feel comfortable embracing its “practical” interpretation of sastra while at the same time singing saksadharitvena. I believe that if I have something significant to teach on this subject, it will require a teachable moment in the life of any would be students in order for me to do so. I have no need to work to create such a moment in the lives of devotees like yourself who are happy in Iskcon and can relate to its position on guru tattva. There are a number of benefits that some devotees can derive from Iskcon and they should most certainly take advantage of them. But I do openly say that Iskcon’s pragmatism has in the past lead to offending Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja and that the effects of that still linger in some corners of the Society. I leave it to Iskcon members to rectify that, as a number of individual members have in their own lives.
I will sign off this thread after posting this message. Overall I have found it helpful to acquaint myself further with the details.
Yesterday I researched the material around what ISKCON might have officially communicated about HH BR Sridhara Maharaja back in 1982 and since. I could not find a copy of “Purity is the Force” but was able to see the rebuttal in “Affectionate Guardians” Chapter 5. Presuming that the “accusations” outlined there were taken verbatim from a GBC document (and representative of its tone) then I can absolutely relate to why the statements triggered grievance. I am not sure that if anyone composed such statements today they would survive any sensible editor.
But I don’t know that the charge of an institutional, inter-generational campaign is warranted. As Akruranath Prabhu points out, the subject doesn’t come up very often. Most devotees would be blissfully innocent. I am not even sure how many would even know what the zonal Acarya era was.
I suspect that even if the language of the offending document(s) was suitably amended the perceived need for restrictions on association would remain. I don’t know that this is offensive. While it’s true that – in an aside, in Bengali – he did speak positively about those addressed taking guidance from HH BR Sridhara Maharaja, this was certainly not an instruction to all his disciples and followers. By contrast his words of caution in this regard were consistent themes throughout his letters, etc
If we take presumed motives on the part of the GBC aside, then (to me at least) it seems perfectly feasible that they sought to apply cautious risk management without necessarily intending any disrespect to HH BR Sridhara Maharaja (notwithstanding the seemingly clumsily written paper seeking to explain the need for the sanctions). That paper warranted an apology – no question. And it was given. But the sanctions – in the spirit of risk-management – appear warranted.
As to the fairness of their still being applied today to followers of Maharaja, one simply has to assess the ongoing risk. The risk is not, in my opinion, as inferred, a loss of institutional control by the GBC. I think that they have more or less managed to achieve that without external assistance. The risk relates to a different way of viewing the spiritual master and the spiritual master’s mission.
Trivikrama Maharaja, you repeatedly infer or state quite openly that you believe that ISKCON has some misconceptions about guru-Tattva. These impressions you’ve formed are seemingly the result of your learnings “outside ISKCON”. I am not currently wishing to assess the rights and wrongs of them. But, in your openly making such statements in your classes (or that Srila Prabhupada’s position on what constitutes illicit sex being wrong, misinformed, etc), you can hardly expect to be welcomed with open arms.
There is frequently debate internally about whether or not a particular policy or philosophical stance is appropriate. Preferably, these things are discussed via mature istagosthi with sound research, proper etiquette, etc. But, ultimately, when it comes time to resolve the Society’s position on a matter, it comes down to the GBC. That is the system that Srila Prabhupada established. And it’s not an authority structure that you seem prepared to recognise or submit to. Unfortunately that’s a deal breaker. It doesn’t necessitate bad feelings. It’s just a boundary.
Would you happily accommodate any of our members sitting on the Vyasasana addressing your congregation if you weren’t confident that their views were in line with or compatible with your own on various “core issues”?
It’s not that institutional interests should prevail over the truth. For instance, the GBC engages a Sastric Advisory Council to research various topics like guru-Tattva, origin of the Jiva, etc. there is robust discussion between devotees who happen to sit on various sides of an issue. But the time then comes for a definitive stance and the GBC decide. Allowing issues to rage for years, with campaigning on behalf of this point of view or that point of view is unhelpful, a disturbance, a distraction, etc. So the GBC has the ultimate say – much as an Acarya would in a different structural model. Full participation in the Society assumes submission to that authority. And the institution is not merely some external structure. It is a creation of Srila Prabhupada’s as a vehicle for spreading Lord Caitanya’s message.
It is most unfortunate that events played out as they did. But it’s perhaps time we all moved on
It is good that this will be your last post on the subject because I think you are in over your head. You and Akruranatha, at least on this subject, remind me of Arjuna in the first chapter of the Gita. I will start by citing your assessment of Prabhuapda’s endorsement of Srila Sridhara Maharaja and then replying to it. Iw ill then try to find the time in follow up posts to reply to your other points.
In stark contrast to you assessment Srila Prabhuapda has said the following publicly about Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja:
“We are very fortunate to hear His Divine Grace, Om Visnupada Paramahamsa Parivrajakacarya Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja. By age and by experience, in both ways, he is senior to me. I was fortunate to have his association since a long time, since perhaps 1930. At that time he had not accepted sannyasa, but had just left home. He went to preach in Allahabad, and on that auspicious occasion we were connected.Sridhara Maharaja lived in my house for many years, so naturally we had very intimate talks. He has such high realizations of Krsna that one would faint to hear them. He was always my good advisor, and I took his advice very seriously because from the very beginning I knew that he was a pure devotee of Krsna. So, I wanted to associate with him. Krsna and Prabhupada, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, liked him to prepare me. Our relationship is very intimate.
After the breakdown of our spiritual master’s institution I wanted to organize another institution making Sridhara Maharaja the head. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura told me that Sridhara Maharaja is one of the finest preachers of Krsna consciousness in the world, so I wanted to take him everywhere. This was my earnest desire. But since he could not go around the world and preach, at least the people of the world should come to hear from him.
For spiritual advancement of life we must go to someone who is actually practicing spiritual life. So if one is actually serious to take instructions from a siksa guru, I consider Sridhara Maharaja to be even my siksa guru, so what to speak of the benefit that others can have from his association.”
Add to the abope the fact that (in clear English) the last instruction that Prabhupada gave concerning Sridhara Maharaja was that after his passing from the world his students could associate with Sridhara Maharaja in the capacity of a siksa guru (for philosophy), and you have the person that Iskcon’s GBC deems unsuitable to serve as a siksa guru for Prabhupada’s disciples and grand disciples. Yes, Prabhupada wanted the GBC to manage Iskcon, but he also wanted the GBC to accurately represent him and put legislation in place that was Krsna conscious and thereby supported by sastra. That is not what they have done on this issue, and members of Iskcon very senior to you argee 108%. Recently Jayadvaita Swami stated publicly that all of the problems Iskcon has faced over the last three decades can be traced back to offending Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Deva Goswami.
Was there also any pressure from those who were taking siksa from Srila Sridhar Maharaj on ISKCON GBC to also take siksa from Srila Sridhar Maharaj?
not sure what you’re asking here Madan Gopal (nice name!), but if you’re asking if siksa disciples pressured the GBC to take siska, that was not the case. Prabhupada made the recommendation to his leaders and GBC’s, and they followed that right from 1978 just after Prabhupada left the world. From my research it seems there wasn’t much pressure for or against siksa from SSM (Srila Sridhar Maharaj) 1978-1980 because everyone in the leadership was taking that siksa according to that direction of Srila Prabhupada.
For anyone who questions Prabhupada’s endorsement of SSM and the GBC’s acceptance, knowledge and commitment to that endorsement, the proof is readily available. In the very first conversation the GBC had with SSM, Jayapataka Maharaj acknowledges that Prabhupada instructed them to come to SSM with their philosophical questions. Numerous other endorsements are given in the following years by GBC’s and other leaders in recognition of Prabhupada’s instruction in this regard and the great help that they were getting from SSM.
I meant : Srila Swami Maharaj said that his disciples can take siksa from Srila Sridhar Maharaj in need. So some did. If some of those who took siksa sometimes also pressured other god-brothers or GBC members that they also should or must take siksa from him? Such pressure could then also lead to that resolution. I don’t know. Just asking.
It looks like my spellchecker turned Tripurari into Trivikrama above
Tripurari Maharaja would indeed happily accomodate Iskcon members speaking at his temples. I have sat in lectures by Radhanatha Maharaja, Jayadvaita Maharaja, and Dhanurdhara Maharaja at Audarya in Northern California. Iskcon members are also welcome to comment here on the Harmonist whereas Tripurari Maharaja’s comments are not accepted on Dandavats.com. And it’s not that a person from another mission who speaks at one of his temples must fill out a questionnaire as to their position on various issues before being allowed to speak for fear of confusing the audience. Speakers can say what they want to say and he trusts that his students are mature enough to be able to recognize apasiddhanta if there happens to be any.
After the article Anadi for beginners was published here on Harmonist, in my disturbed faith and confusion I first tried to explain my certain objections as far as I could at that time, but when I later went to India and personaly spoke about it with many present Gaudiya Acharyas and senior Vaishnavas (inside Gaudiya Math and outside), all senior to revered Tripurari Maharaj by age, by joining the mission and in my personal opinion by realisation, I wanted to share those sayings with others here, but was refused by moderator explaining that those could cause disturbance of faith of some. Later on I also tried to share comments by Vishvanath and Baladev to relevant Gita verses, but was again refused. Now I also got explanation by Sri Vinod Baba of Barshana and Pandit Ananta Das Babaji of Radha kund which I wanted to share, but don’t know what will happen. I have nothing against Tripurari Maharaj, his teachings are essentialy good and I was helped by them very much, but above writting reminded me of this and maybe this could help some to better understand the position of GBC at those times.
This is not an accurate representation of why your comments were not approved. Nor does it provide any context. There are no less than 25 approved comments of yours on the article you mentioned, the majority of which are repeating your assertion that “anadi means beginning outside of time.” After numerous people tried in vain to present to you the problems with that claim, the discussion devolved into an unproductive state. Some months later, you went to India and consulted with those whom you had faith in and submitted a comment that basically said that those senior Vaishnavas agree with you and furthermore said that this subject can only be understood through bhajan, the implication being that it was pointless or worse for us to be addressing it as we had been on the site. At that time, as moderator, I chose not to approve your comment and I emailed you privately as to why that was so. Part of my email said the following:
Please note that my objection was one of principle, pertaining to how a debate of this nature should take place, especially between acaryas, so as to preserve the faith of all devotees as far as possible. And again, this is all after allowing 25+ of your comments. Your case was heard extensively. When later you began posting again it was completely within reason to assess if your comments added anything new and accept or reject them based on that assessment. Frankly, there is not a single other Gaudiya Vaishnava website in existence that allows comments as liberally as the Harmonist does.
I second that assessment, and I don’t think anyone could in all honesty either disagree or demonstrate otherwise.
Dear Tripurari Maharaja
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga.
The letter you have quoted – to Hayagriva in 1969 – precedes a significant number of cautionary letters (which are routinely conspicuously absent from any accounts provided by HH BR Sridhara Maharaja’s followers). At that time Srila Prabhupada’s letters were not in the public domain that it could be taken that this was a general instruction to all his disciples. Nor does it say “You should go!”
Where is the reference to the last instruction that Srila Prabhupada gave regarding taking instruction from HH BR Sridhara Maharaja? Is it documented so that any of us can examine the precise wording?
And, since the inference is now given that between 1978 and the sanctions in 1982, many ISKCON leaders, GBCs, etc were taking siksa, I wonder if we could have a little more evidence of that. Who specifically? How frequently? Discussing what? Perhaps more examples can be provided from the archives as this is currently unsubstantiated. The impression is given reading Madan gopal’s post above that, for all intents and purposes, he had become the siksa guru to ISKCON’s leadership and this was – all of a sudden – disrupted. My impression to date has been that, occasionally, a few ISKCON leaders might go and ask a few questions. Perhaps one or two individuals visited him 2-3 times. Some perhaps more frequently. Some never. I am happy to be proven mistaken if that is the case. But my hunch is that the frequency and degree of ISKCON’s leaders “taking siksa” has been blown out of proportion.
I can appreciate that my point of view may be irksome to you. However, I believe I am remaining civil. I am not sure why you feel compelled to state such things as “in over your head”.
Apparently you were not involved at the time. And now you are trying to piece together an account that conforms with what you have been told and have believed. I say that because when I cite the history of my experience, you ask for proof. Meanwhile you base your opinion on assumptions that you have no more proof for than you have for my account, maybe less. But you have faith in those from whom you have heard and from there have developed your opinion.
What is routinely conspicuous by its absence from your side is all of the positive statement of SP concerning SM. What we routinely get from your sect is only the so called “Rupanuga letter,” nothing more. Indeed that is the only letter or written criticism from SP of SM in existence. All of SP’s other letters and recorded conversations with and about SM are favorable. I did not even cite them all in the composite I posted. So do your own homework before asking me to provide evidence. Produce one letter or recorded conversation of Prabhupada in which he criticizes or cautions his disciples concerning hearing from SM. The repeated citing of the Rupanuga letter is about as suspect as it gets. The GBC had access to all the letters and conversations, while no one else did at that time. They chose this letter alone to make their case in an effort to reverse their position, one that was embarked upon becausue of Prabhuapda’s finavery positive statement about SM.
Regarding SP’s final statement you question, I heard it myself with my own two ears. And others on this thread have already pointed out that my account has been repeated by a number of Iskcon GBC members in explaining to Iskcon very shortly after the departure of SP why they were going to SM for philosophical advice. The statements of these Iskcon leaders are available somewhere in the historical record. Someone has cited Jayapataka M. Satsvarupa M. also wrote something about it.
The flow of devotees to SM was not in mass. For the most part they left discussion with SM to the Iskcon leaders. But anyone was free to go to hear from him. Still he lived in Navadwipa so the opportunity for others to do so was limited, and so too for GMC members. Before 1982 one GBC/guru felt that SM should be embraced as the siksa guru of Iskcon. He left Iskcon over the issue. After that another GBC/ guru left Iskcon to be able to continue to hear from him. But you have the record of much of the GBC’s interaction with SM. Study it again and you will see that some of them greatly admired him. But these are interactions between my Godbrothers and SM. Among us there are differences of opinion.
Your guru and I have a very different opinion on this subject, and I am not lacking in my ability to make my case but feel that it may not be in your interest to prod me to do so. I have all the recorded conversations between Bhakti Caru Swami and SM extending over years. So it is with this in mind that I have said that I think you are in over your head. Godbrothers have differences that it is not always wise for disciples to enter into. You said your last post was your final one, but now you have posted again. I have replied and I have more to say about what was once your last reply. I will try to get to that, but I am proceeding with one foot on the brake.
Damodara, here is plenty of documentation of Prabhupada’s instruction and the corroborating evidence of his disciples receiving that instruction:
“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)
I think its very encouraging for everyone to hear how our spiritual uncle Srila Sridhar Maharaja … [is helping us]… I thought the issues they discussed were very significant for my disciples, especially because of the answers given by Srila Sridhara Maharaja, and the way the GBC members responded to him, bringing about a resolution under Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s guidance. Just before his disappearance, His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada, our beloved spiritual master and the Founder-Acarya of ISKCON, said that we should go to his Godbrother Sridhara Maharaja for guidance on philosophy, after the disappearance of Srila Prabhupada. So, this talk of October 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)
I am not sure why you feel compelled to state such things as “in over your head”.
I am holding in my lap an audiotape from the SDG tape ministry, in which SDG corroborates Swami Vishnu’s account.
At the other extreme, my own ears heard an ISKCON GBC member state that it would be better to eat a hamburger than to listen to Sridhara Maharaja.
Your post admits that you are drawing your conclusions from “inference” and “impression” and “hunch.” For those of us who were in ISKCON when these events transpired, the informed frank assessment of a Sripad Jayadvaita Swami is far more credible than the hunch of a credulous latecomer.
Srila Prabhupada obviously gave instructions according to time, place and circumstance. It was almost universally understood, from 1977 through 1981 or thereabouts, that Srila Sridhara Maharaja was a venerable elder Vaishnava fit to give siksa to ISKCON leaders. If he warned some devotees against his association, they were no doubt conscience-bound to obey that instruction. However, that was not the instruction widely understood to have been given to the overall ISKCON society at the end of Srila Prabhupada’s manifest pastimes.
The main controversies regarding Srila Sridhara Maharaja early on involved whether new or junior devotees should also receive his siksa directly, or whether it should come through the GBC and gurus exclusively, since the ISKCON “party line” was that the 11 zonal gurus were uttama-adhikari maha-bhagavatas, mahajanas who were far above their godbrothers and essentially younger peers of Srila Sridhara Maharaja.
In your note, you write:
I am happy to be proven mistaken if that is the case.
Swami Tripurari, like Swami B.B. Vishnu, has given you not only a helpful narrative, but also pointers to the original documents that can prove you mistaken. But they cannot do the work for you. Just as I heard some of these things for myself 30+ years ago, you need to take the initiative and play the tapes and hear the classes and read the transcripts, etc.
Until you do that for yourself, your expressed “hunches” will reveal to anyone who was there that you are indeed in over your head. I wish you well in your search for the truth.
Here is an example of what a kind-hearted well wisher Srila Sridhar Maharaj was towards ISKCON. In this darsana attended by BV Tripurari Maharaj, BB Visnu Maharaj (the author of this article) and several of their godbrothers, SSM demonstrates his great concern for the welfare of ISKCON and the leaders that he is hearing reports of their leaving KC. This is 1987, several years after the GBC turned against SSM, and yet he is moved to tears several times over the great loss that Prabhupada’s movement is facing at the time. Absolutely no self interest, only the Absolute’s interest. What a fortune we have that some essentially sensible devotees took this holy man’s association, and that he lives on through them and his teachings. Jai Bhakti Raksaka Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj!
Thank you, Maharaja and others.
My intention to withdraw is based on Bhakti Charu Maharaja telling me that “it is better to avoid” these discussions and confrontations. I had sought his counsel on this during this exchange.
So I am seeking to close out my involvement accordingly. I also appreciate your point that, as his peer, it is not my place to challenge you.
I came to read this document, “Our Affectionate Guardians”, so as to broaden my understanding of the issue. As you point out, having not been there to witness any of these events first hand, I have no option other than “piecing together” the picture. In doing so, I have considered the evidence that HH BB Visnu Maharaja has presented here (and expressed appreciation for the same) as well as the various statements available elsewhere – including numerous direct statements of Srila Prabhupada on the matter of his godbrothers. I found Dravida Prabhu’s article here (http://www.dandavats.com/?p=8489&pp=1) also helpful.
In one sense, we are all piecing the picture together since no-one was present for every comment that Srila Prabhupada made on the topic. Of course, hearing one of those statements directly from Srila Prabhupada (and one which you believe renders previous expressions of caution null and void), I can appreciate why you feel as strongly as you do. It would be brilliant if every verbatim comment on the subject were “on the record” but, as the reference you cite demonstrates, there are some where we naturally depend on the recollections of first-hand witnesses. For instance, the conversation cited by HH Mukunda Maharaja from 1967 captured in Srila Prabhupada Lilamrta: “After two days, Prabhupada said he would not call any of his Godbrothers to come and take care of his disciples. He said, ‘If this person speaks just one word different from what I am speaking, there will be confusion among you.’ Actually, he said, the idea was an insult to the spiritual master.’” (Prabhupada-lilamrta, vol. 3, po. 162-163). Clearly that was not specific to HH Sridhara Maharaja. Neither you nor I were present during the aside to Hari Sauri Prabhu that you challenged him on in the “Crows’ Nest” article.
My feedback to HH BB Visnu Maharaja here was initially 100% positive but, on reflection, I did not feel that I could leave it without qualifier on my part as it might have otherwise seemed that I supported or endorsed every statement and, as I pointed out above, the wording of some of the conclusion wasn’t something I could support.
A significant proportion of HH BB Visnu Maharaja’s argument appears to be that HH BR Sridhara Maharaja has been misrepresented within ISKCON. I took this point seriously enough to conduct whatever research I could. I was not able to find the article “Purity is the Force” but did find some reference to some portions of it in Chapter Five of “Affectionate Guardians” (unabridged). And, from what I read there, as I have stated above, I agreed that there were inaccuracies or misrepresentation that warranted apology.
HH BB Visnu Maharaja’s article above naturally focuses on the positive statements made by Srila Prabhupada and omits the numerous statements he made that justify the GBC’s caution. It is not, as you suggest, only the letter to Rupanuga that constitutes just cause for such caution. Within the Rupanuga letter, he does make a very significant statement. “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 Madhava Maharaja and Tirtha Maharaja and Bon Maharaja 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.” THIS IS MY INSTRUCTION TO YOU ALL. This is later corroborated by his letter to Visvakarma (11/9/75) – “So I have now issued orders that all my disciples should avoid all of my godbrothers. They should not have any dealings with them nor even correspondence, nor should they give them any of my books or should they purchase any of their books, neither should you visit any of their temples. Please avoid them.” And there are many others. If pushed, I can add.
Now it may be, as you would no doubt argue, that these prohibitions and misgivings were nullified by the statement that you witnessed. I accept that, in principle, this could be true. However, without being able to independently assess the statement, it does come down to, as you point out, a matter of faith in terms the significance to attach to the statement, whose understanding of its significance to take as definitive. I am aware that HH Bhakti Charu Maharaja spent a lot of time with HH BR Sridhara Maharaja. And, when the GBC introduced the sanction, he chose to recognise it as valid. And I am aware that he would expect the same of me.
I feel that in painting the GBC as having prohibited ISKCON members from “taking spiritual instruction from any person or institution outside ISKCON” purely because they felt threatened by his influence – and ignoring the various legitimate reasons (such as Srila Prabhupada’s numerous messages on caution such as those 2 quoted by me above) why they might have felt such sanctions were necessary – is also a distortion or misrepresentation. Another would be portraying ISKCON as having lost its vitality or thinking that spiritual life is measured by external success.
Clearly feelings on the matter run high. And there is little point with our trading allegations of misrepresentation.
I feel that I have a broader understanding of the matter as a result of my reading of this document and these exchanges. I am grateful for this. And I apologise if, in my efforts to better understand or in attempting to challenge statements that I thought were imbalanced, I have caused offense. It was not my intention.
I, along with many others, long for a day when all branches of Lord Caitanya’s tree can cooperate in serving the Lord’s mission. I believe that this will only be possible when we can look back at all this with a balanced understanding. This may be more difficult for those caught in the crossfire. And I quite understand that, as a devoted siksa disciple of HH BR Sridhara Maharaja, that you would not be able to merely let go what you see as a grievous offense to him.
I do not think that it is helpful for me to remain in conversation with you at this time since it appears to be causing more disturbance than anything else – and that is not my intention. I beg forgiveness for any offenses that I may have caused you or anyone else involved with the thread. Hare Krsna
You misrepresent what I worte by stating the following:
I stated that there is only one letter and no recorded conversations of SP that criticize SM. Let me now add to that that even the letter that contains criticism also contains praise. Citing letters of SP with cautions about associating with his Godbrothers is another thing. The difference is a general rule as opposed to a specific instruction that transcends the general rule. My statement was correct. There is only one written or recorded criticism of SM from SP. Meanwhile there are numerous letters and conversations praising him and in the highest terms.
Your citation of Mukunda Maharaja’s memory is troublesome in that his memory and interpretation runs contrary to sastra. The idea that a Godbrother of one’s guru could act as one’s siksa guru after the passing of one’s guru is not offensive. Indeed, it is recommended and there are many examples in the history of the sampradaya. And the essential point I raised with regard to Hari Sauri’s memory was the that even if it were accurate, the reason SP did not encourage his diciples to pursue the association of SM in that conversation/memory was that other Godbrothers of SP would possibly come around if they did pursue SM’s association. Thus the caution pertained to extenuating circumstances and not the association of SM itself or his siksa. Add to that the fact that after the passing of SP that danger had also passed.
You also write,
The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. They engaged in a powerful rationalization and created an emotionally charged atmosphere thick with vilification of the outside enemy when in fact the enemy was within. And those who refused to abandon their siska guru, Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja, were called “prostitutes,” and “guru tyagis.” These labels demonstrate that those who assigned them did not understand the philosophy and dug their heels into a kanistha adhikari conception of sri guru, defending a muddled conception of guru tattva.
So that is the great divide. And while Iskcon thinks it got it right it suffers from lack of spiritually viable authority more than any other Gaudiya sect I am aware of. Every few years one of its acaryas falls down, and to make up for that they create a new philosophy wherein the GBC is the real guru. Nowhere in his writing, much less his Will, did Prabhupada ever give the GBC the position they have taken, one that takes precedent over the acarya—the saksadharitvena.
My advice to you is that you should read Sri Guru and His Grace. Let’s debate the philosophy presented therein in relation to Iskcon’s philosophy on guru tattva. As for Iskcon’s vitality, I would not evaluate it by its external success but rather by the philosophy it espouses, that and by way of comparing its vitality in the presence of Srila Prabhupada to its vitality today. If he is as present there (more than anywhere else) as the sect teaches, the question of its vitality today would not arise, as it did not when he was present. What you have in Iskcon is only the spiritual realization of its leaders. Nothing more. And the same holds true everywhere else.
And a word about institutionalized aparadha may also be in order. If you are initiated by a Vaisnava aparadhi you will be affected by that association/samskara—the sharing of his or her faith.
Sripad Tripurari Maharaja wrote:
Your citation of Mukunda Maharaja’s memory is troublesome in that his memory and interpretation runs contrary to sastra.
Does it? Consider the following:
(1) in his autobiography, Mukunda Maharaja mentions that Srila Prabhupada DID at first mention the name of a Godbrother who would be fit for the task. By inference, it would almost certainly have been either his sannyasa-guru Srila Kesava Maharaja, or Kesava Maharaja’s sannyasa-guru Srila Sridhara Maharaja.
(2) What was the insult to the spiritual master? Assuming that the standard ISKCON interpretation misunderstands Prabhupada, doesn’t it seem more likely that Prabhupada simply detected a wrong attitude or motive in the request? There’s nothing inherently insulting about a disciple going to a qualified siksa-guru, and Srila Prabhupada certainly knew so. However, for a callow new hippie disciple to treat Prabhupada as somehow replaceable or interchangeable, sort of an “If you die, won’t you be sure to send somebody else to come and make me into a pure devotee?” attitude, would indeed be an insult. Rather than a “die to live” attitude of selfless service, if young Mukunda Prabhu were coming across to Prabhupada as implying, “It doesn’t really matter if you die, as long as you send a replacement,” this would indeed be an insult. Without his yet having sufficient faith in and appreciation of his diksa-guru, taking a siksa-guru would have been pointless.
So, one can harmonize Mukunda Maharaja’s account with our siddhanta without considering his memory troublesome, just clouded by his then-youth. Plausible?
Yes, I have in the past also thought of it like this. Very good!
It appears that many of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples did have the understanding that they could approach Srila Sridhar Maharaja for guidance after his departure. To say that after 1969 Prabhupada had changed his opinion on the matter is doubtful. Otherwise why would many of his leading disciples be approaching Srila Sridhar Maharaja soon after his departure? If anyone understood what Srila Prabhupada had instructed in this regard it would be they, the intimate disciples and leaders of his movement.