Our Affectionate Guardians, Conclusion
Published on January 5th, 2010 | by Harmonist staff41
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.