Found in Sanga, Sanga 1999.

Rtvik and Siddhanta

April 1st, 1999 | No Comments

In the highest song of Narottama dasa Thakura, he is praying to take shelter of Rupa Manjari. He was a disciple of Lokanatha Goswami. In another prayer he says, “Oh Lokanatha, when will you take me by the hand and place me at the feet of Rupa Manjari?” In this song you can find the highest truth of Gaudiya Vaisnavism.

Sarasvati Thakura wanted this song to be sung when he left the world. So he asked Sridhara Maharaja to sing this song to him. Sridhara Maharaja was there with him in Jagannatha Puri. Sridhara Maharaja began to sing. Kunja Baba, who later became Tirtha Maharaja, stopped Sridhara Maharaja and asked Bhakti Promode Puri Maharaja to sing because he had the sweeter voice. So, Puri Maharaja began to sing, and Sarasvati Thakura stopped him personally, and said, “No, I am not interested in a sweet voice. I want Sridhara Maharaja to sing.” And Puri Maharaja said later about that, “At that time I could understand Sarasvati Thakura had given a special transmission to Sridhara Maharaja, the Rupanuga sampradaya realization had been put in his heart. He has acknowledged before all of us that Sridhara Maharaja has realized the conclusions of Rupanuga bhakti, the line of Sri Rupa. He has got admittance there.” And Puri Maharaja’s position became so high by saying that. Do you understand?

He was told, “Don’t sing,” the implication being that you don’t have the realization. “I want to hear this song from Sridhara Maharaja.” And Puri Maharaja bowed to Sridhara Maharaja and glorified his position and now Puri Maharaja’s position has become so high as a result. He is a real parama Vaisnava, Puri Maharaja. So these things are there in the history of modern Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Sarasvati Thakura asked Sridhara Maharaja to go to the West but he refused to go. Do you know that story?

Devotee: What is that?

SBVT: Bhaktisiddhanta asked Sridhara Maharaja to go to the West. But he refused to go. So some say “He is a nonsense, but our Prabhupada, he went.” This just shows what kind of Vaisnavas they are, that they make that type of interpretation. When you hear this story from Sridhara Maharaja, you can understand, “Oh, yes, this is how Vaisnavas deal with another and with their guru.”

Devotee: What happened?

SBVT: Sarasvati Thakura said, “I want Sridhara Maharaja to go to the West.” He chose him personally. And Sridhara Maharaja said, “Guru Maharaja, I am reluctant to go for three reasons.

“One, because I can’t so well understand the intonation of their English speaking. That is a little difficult for me. Others are better qualified to speak English. Also it has never been my nature to mix so much with the public, the general mass of people. You know I come from a brahmana family, and these are my conditionings. And thirdly, I want to take advantage of every moment, every opportunity, to have your personal association and stay in the background and hear personally from you. But if it is your order I must go.”

And Saraswati Thakura said, “You stay.” He liked the third reason. Do you understand? He liked that. It is one thing that our Prabhupada went out in separation and did it and it is glorious. The other side is also glorious. It is vipralambha and sambhoga. Both things are there.

They are both glorious. He wanted that and he took advantage of that. Later Sarasvati Thakura said, “I had originally chosen Sridhara Maharaja to go because I knew he could not be converted.” Later, obviously, he chose our Prabhupada to go. That is obvious. It doesn’t mean that everybody else is disqualified. The Lord works in wonderful ways. Guru-parampara works in wonderful ways. It is not that Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura knew one day that Abhaya Carana is going to go and do all this. Prabhupada didn’t know everything. Krishna knows. And maybe even Krishna himself doesn’t know. That is what Caitanya Mahaprabhu avatara is all about.

Krishna doesn’t even know himself fully. You can find references in the folio where Prabhupada says this. He is trying to experience himself as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

So this is our analysis. This is why we go on in the way we are going on here. And we publish our books and magazines and it is not necessarily different from the others. And if I have any good standing, it really comes from how I dealt with Sridhara Maharaja and what I understood there. So we are carrying on in that way. It is very happy and charming and endearing. And then I watched the same thing, I watched Sridhara Maharaja leave the world and I am seeing some parallels to what happened after Prabhupada left. And it is like history repeating itself in so many ways. It is very enlightening.

So all I can recommend to you is that there is a broader perspective. You came to Krishna consciousness for the truth and you have got it from certain angles. And there are other angles to experience it from. And it is well worth it. I did that and I can only speak of its virtues, how it has helped me. People criticize me for leaving ISKCON. I tell you, if I had to do it again, I would have left much sooner, knowing what I learned from leaving. By leaving, I learned more than what I had learned the whole time I was in.

The glory of siksa-guru is sung throughout the scripture. You yourself were saying that siksa-guru is actually more important than diksa. So we took Sridhara Maharaja as our siksa-guru and Prabhupada opened the door for that. I never would have gone there. I was a very orthodox follower. And I have a little rebellious side to me, which makes me a little bit of a maverick. But I have another side too.

I was very submissive to Prabhupada. I wasn’t as submissive to his GBC, but part of that was not planned. I didn’t even know what the GBC meant for years. I was sent to Australia in 1973 to teach book distribution and from there was invited to India by Prabhupada to come for his festival. When I was there Karandhara left the mission. Karandhara was the GBC of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles temple was the only temple really where I had any experience. I had gone to New York, gone to Chicago, San Francisco, a few places, but LA was where all my training and everything had taken place. I didn’t know so much what the GBC meant. The average brahmacari or devotee didn’t know what was going on, not like it is today. They were just into Krishna consciousness. What was going on in all those management meetings, incense-smoke filled meetings, we didn’t know or care.

And when I went to India in 1974, I was so fired up to preach and distribute books. That is all I thought about. And I was getting reciprocation from Prabhupada. I had a plan that came into my mind. Let me go to Chicago where they have a legal airport, the only legal airport in the country. And I will set up a base there and I will invite leading devotees from different temples to come and I can train them and then they will go back to their temples. This was my idea. And I told it to Prabhupada and he said, “Yes, very nice, and you do that and come back every year to Mayapura and spend the month with me.” So then I went. And I just started doing that. A few devotees came from three or four temples and they stayed. Ramesvara was helping to manage. He was the organizer. So we were planning together.

Then they came and stayed for one month and then they were supposed to go back to their temples. Three of them came to me and said, “You know the plan of this party is that we are supposed to go back to our temples after one month and new people are supposed to replace us.” And I said, “Yes, that’s the plan.” And they said, “Well, we were thinking that maybe you needed a couple of men as part of your staff and someone else can come and then return.” It was really very loving. It was like we had a very meaningful, loving relationship. We lived together in the same room. We read in the car on the way to the airport. We read on the way back. We stayed back two days a week and went to every arati and read from one of Prabhupada’s books for an hour, one after the other. First Nectar of Devotion, then arati, we chant four rounds, we read. That is what we did. That is how we lived for that one month. We became very close to one another. That is how my party started.

What was the GBC? What did that have to do with anything? I just didn’t think about it and my service was going on. It went for one year, from 1974 to 1975. And Prabhupada was pleased. I started corresponding with Prabhupada personally and he was writing me letters and saying nice things. Then I went to Mayapura. I was still a brahmacari. The GBC called me in and said, “So we want to know, you are traveling here and there and everywhere and raising lots of money and sending it all to the BBT—so who is your GBC?” I had never even thought about it. I thought, “GBC, what the heck is that?” I said, “Well, Karandhara was my GBC and he just blooped.” That was as far back as I could think. I wasn’t being facetious.They saw that I was naive. That is what they thought.

But I was a little smart too, at the same time, while I was standing there. They said, “Well, if you had to pick a GBC then which one would you pick?” Then I looked around and I thought, “They want me and my party in their zone.” I wasn’t so naive. I said, “Well, I’ll pick this one.” I picked a person that I thought would be low key because the other GBC men seemed like they wanted to dominate me. And I walked out of the meeting. And then they went to Prabhupada with their resolutions. And when they read their resolutions Prabhupada would say, “This is no good, this is no good, this is good, adjust this one.”

And then they came to Tripurari dasa. And Prabhupada said, “What has he done?” And they said, “Well, Prabhupada, he doesn’t have a GBC and he is going all over the countryside from airport to airport, flying, spending money on plane trips…” Prabhupada cut them off and said, “He is selling my books. He does not need a GBC.” I wasn’t there but three of the more humble GBCs, three grhastha men, came to me afterwards and told me, “Prabhupada said this about you. We are sorry that we brought you in and we gave you the third degree like that. Prabhupada said you don’t need a GBC.” And I thought, “Oh, oh. It’s not like that. Maybe I do need a GBC!”

But that year Prabhupada gave me sannyasa, ignoring the GBC resolution they had passed, which he had ratified, which said that for one to receive sannyasa you had to be recommended by a GBC and wait for one year. One month later Prabhupada gave me sannyasa. And then he placed a moratorium on sannyasa for two years. So I was very submissive to Prabhupada. That is why I did what I did, selling those books. It wasn’t like I was a used car salesman before joining the mission. Somehow Prabhupada used me in that way and I was very submissive to him. And I also had this other side, like a maverick. And when Prabhupada left I was very submissive to the GBC too. I tried to support them in every way. But it became difficult, unfortunately.

I was used to going out and giving somebody a book and saying, “You read this and you go to any one of the addresses in this book.” I would feel confident. I would say that to everyone and that’s how I felt. “You go anywhere, to any one of these addresses, and you are going to get the living thing that is in this book, the teachings.” And I remember I was in San Francisco selling books across the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito, at Vista Point. And one day I cried. I gave someone a book and I started crying. I took the book back realizing that I couldn’t do this any more.

I had already given up all managerial responsibilities in ISKCON and I was just traveling and preaching because I didn’t want to be affiliated with any particular temple or guru. Now I couldn’t sell the books.

And then, by divine providence, I went to Sridhara Maharaja. And whatever I am doing has come from that. It hasn’t been easy. I left ISKCON with nothing but a bad reputation unjustly earned. I hadn’t done anything wrong. I did the right thing and I had a bad reputation. But we went off in small way, tried our best and we feel that we follow the philosophy. We take it from Sridhara Maharaja and understand it.

I had a great opportunity. Look, here is a pure devotee—and here is a pure devotee. They are different and they are one. This is fascinating. So I could understand Prabhupada said things according to time and circumstance. Sridhara Maharaja is saying this way according to time and circumstance. And I am in another time and circumstance. I can draw from Prabhupada how he applied a certain circumstance. I can see how Sridhara Maharaja did and I come up with a synthesis, a third idea based on scripture.

It is one thing when you follow the father as a child and it is very cute and everyone likes it. You put on the father’s coat even though it is too big, you put on his shoes. Isn’t it cute, he is following his dad. But if that goes on your whole life people think maybe you are retarded. The father helps you grow up and add to the business, further develop it.

So, I write books. This is mostly what I do. We try to distribute them conventionally. We have formed a publishing company because we don’t have an army of people to go out to the airport and sell books. So we have to do it a different way. That doesn’t mean we’re not distributing any books. Prabhupada wanted books written within the cultural context in which we live. That makes the truth of Krishna consciousness much more relevant.

Take the analogy of the camel chewing the thorns. What does that mean? You have to explain it. That is an analogy from the Bhagavatam based on a way of life found in India. If you say it in India, anybody immediately understands, it clicks. There is nothing wrong with giving those analogies. In fact, it is interesting for Americans to find out what goes on in other cultures. But when you can make an analogy right from within the experience of this culture—you know this, you are a preacher—it just immediately hits homes and the point goes so much deeper. When you can draw those kinds of analogies, that means you have some realization of the thing.

We need real preaching to the people in a relevant way. It has to be like this, these are the rules. Then people will see that this is really something, it is alive. I’m getting nourishment from this. I come forward to take it up and learn it. That is what is required. And there must be some backing from higher Vaisnavas. What more can you ask then? Go with it. That to me is encouraging.

Sridhara Maharaja came for you as much as for me. As much as Prabhupada came for you, Sridhara Maharaja came in disciplic succession. You want to look for a self-effulgent acarya. When the sun of Prabhupada set, the moon of Sridhara Maharaja rose and he didn’t do anything to attract any attention whatsoever. He didn’t move a muscle to attract anybody. Prabhupada gestured in that direction. He was just sitting there chanting Hare Krishna, penetrating the Bhagavatam, dealing with his disciples in a small way as was his preference. And they started coming one after another, so he tried to help.

Meanwhile, they are all over there shining the light on themselves or having this one shine the light on me, “Blow my picture up bigger. You know, more buttons is what we need. More posters is what we need. Get bumper stickers.” “This guru is the best guru, you know.” Guru, guru on the wall, who is the greatest of them all? This is what was going on in Iskcon.

And Sridhara Maharaja is just sitting in Navadvipa. And I was sitting hearing the talks in Mayapura. As I told you, Prabhupada told me every year to come to Mayapura. And that was my life. I would see Prabhupada too when he would come to America sometimes. But in Mayapura, I would spend the whole month with him and hear his lectures. And I lived for that in Mayapura, to hear his lectures. And after his disappearance, all I could think was, “He is gone and I am hearing these talks by others and it is different. Where is the philosophy?” And meanwhile Sridhara Maharaja is over there, absorbed in radha-bhagavata katha. I was a faithful man. I was trying to follow the GBC. But people were going over there and saying, “He has very deep realizations.” And I thought, “I’m going over there. Ultimately, I must go over there.”

I read Prabhupada’s books. I follow Prabhupada’s books. And the GBC was teaching Sridhara Maharaja is against ISKCON and so many things. I never wanted to criticize, but I thought there must be something right in what they are saying. They are my senior Godbrothers. But I saw their character more and more. Then I thought, “I’m going to read Sridhara Maharaja’s book. Let me read this book and find out what is wrong with it. I know Sridhara Maharaja is not a mayavadi, or a sahajiya. He is a strict follower of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Let me read it.” And I was famous for being able to turn anybody’s head around in any airport, or in any temple. I was a pretty good preacher. I was accustomed to that. So I thought, “Let me look at it practically and see what is wrong here.” I read one chapter, two chapters, and certain things in my heart that I had thought about, they were being confirmed in there, about issues of the day, topics of the hour. And I thought, “This is endearing.”

I read a little further and it wasn’t just a book of information. In this book I was being asked to surrender more, on a deeper level. I got halfway through the book, and I started to cry. And I couldn’t put the book down. I finished the book and all I could think was, “Navadvipa, Navadvipa, there I must go.’

Then the first thing I did, I called Sudhira Goswami Maharaja. I said, “I’ve read the book ‘Sri Guru and His Grace.’” And he said, “What did you think?” And I said, “Nobody could affect me like that but Prabhupada, my guru.” And he said, “Well, if the incarnation of book distribution likes our book, it must be good!” Then we talked. And I said, “What do I do now?” And he said, “You should stay in ISKCON and circulate around quietly because everybody respects you. You are not in a managerial position. You are a preacher.” And we thought, “The teachings of Sridhara Maharaja are so nice, surely everybody is just going to realize this and everything is going to be fine. It’s going to happen any minute. It is so obvious.”

But by this time so many devotees in ISKCON were becoming deeply absorbed in the politics of the institution. On top of that, many had been offending Sridhara Maharaja and this had a terribly negative impact on their situation. To offend such a person, a parama Vaisnava, from the Vyasasana. They were offending the guru-parampara, really. So, I circulated a little bit and then I was caught preaching about Sridhara Maharaja and was banished.

But I was so charmed by Srila Sridhara Maharaja. I thought, “No one could turn my head around like this except Prabhupada.” And I realized that guru is one. He is not limited to a particular form or shape. He is coming in a new energy. The full moon has risen after the setting of the sun of Prabhupada. Soothing in a quiet way, that was Sridhara Maharaja’s style. But it was light-giving and most soothing.

This same issue of guru succession that you are dealing with came up in the Gaudiya Matha. I was saying before, when Sarasvati Thakura left, they all had a different opinion of what should go on. One time, Sridhara Maharaja told, one sannyasi got up in a meeting and said, “None of us here is as qualified as Guru Maharaja, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Our Guru Maharaja is a ray of Visnu. No one can be as qualified as him amongst us. Even the most qualified amongst us doesn’t compare a fig to him. Therefore, now that he is gone no one is qualified to fill his shoes.”

This was a big sannyasi preacher. He went on, “Therefore, I think what we should do, we should go on in his name and we shall make disciples on his behalf because he is nitya-siddha. What are we? But on his behalf we will make disciples. And in this way the mission will go on.” So he intimidated them all, in one sense. No one is qualified. No one will say, “Yes I am qualified”—then they will show their lack of qualification. So one devotee said to Sridhara Maharaja, “Can you say anything about this?”

Then Sridhara Maharaja spoke in the assembly, “So-and-so Swami has spoken and everyone knows his faith in Guru Maharaja. No one can doubt that for a moment. Neither his own qualification as a preacher and still he is saying this further showing his qualification, a true Vaisnava, a disciple of our Guru Maharaja.” He said, “So all these things are there. We must admit and praise him, but above your idea, I have only this to say. We are not Sikhs.”

Then everyone in the assembly said, “Yes, that’s right!”

The Sikhs said, “No more gurus after Gaura Govind Singh.” And then everything just deteriorated. Then they realized that it is a nice sentiment but it is not a solution to the problem. So I choose mahajano yena gatah sa panthah. I follow Sridhara Maharaja.

I had the choice. And you have the choice. This is the point I am making to you. You have the choice as well. This is your heritage. This is your family. Don’t take the choice that is not there for you.

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