Found in Sanga, Sanga 2003.

Q. I heard that Lalita Prasada was once a respected member of the Gaudiya Matha but left because Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, the founder-acarya of that mission took sannyasa, which was contrary to Gaudiya tradition at that time. Can you relate the truth of this matter?

A. Lalita Prasada was the younger brother of Bimala Prasada, who later became known as Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura. Bimala Prasada received Harinama and Narasingha mantra from his father, Kedarnatha Bhaktivinoda, and was advised by him to accept mantra diksa from the revered Gaudiya Vaisnava renunciate, Gaurakisora dasa Babaji. Lalita Prasada, on the other hand, received mantra diksa from Bhaktivinoda Thakura.

Thakura Bhaktivinoda asked Bimala Prasada to preach widely and, in doing so, to establish his conception of varnasrama dharma for Gaudiya Vaisnavas (daiva varnasrama). He encouraged him to use as his base Mahaprabhu’s birth site (yoga pitha), which Bhaktivinoda discovered through research and inspiration. Bhaktivinoda’s vision as to the place of Mahaprabhu’s appearance was accepted by his siksa guru, Jagannatha dasa Babaji, as well as by Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, both of whom were highly venerated Vaisnava renunciates of the time. However, his diksa guru Bipina Bihari Goswami did not accept it.

Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati followed the instructions of Bhaktivinoda Thakura with no objection. Moreover, with the blessing of Bhaktivinoda and Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, he initiated disciples in the manifest presence of his gurus, accepting his first disciple in 1906.

During this period, Lalita Prasada served in his brother’s Gaudiya Matha institution for several years, both during and after the departure of Bhaktivinoda and Gaurakisora. Sometime after their departure, Lalita Prasada took exception to some of the policies of the mission, the character of some of the leading disciples of Bhaktisiddhanta, and also with the sannyasa of Bhaktisiddhanta. Thus he left the mission.

It is worth noting that Bhakti Pradipa Tirtha Maharaja, a disciple of Thakura Bhaktivinoda, was the first person to accept sannyasa from Bhaktisiddhanta and that his sannyasa was predicted by Gaurakisora dasa Babaji at the time of Pradipa Tirtha Maharaja’s initiation. At that time, Babaji Maharaja predicted that in the future this new disciple would accept sannyasa from a sat guru and preach beyond the borders of India. After Bhakti Pradipa Tirtha Maharaja accepted sannyasa from Bhaktisiddhanta, he did travel to England for preaching under the direction of his sannyasa guru.

Thus while Lalita Prasada objected to the sannyasa of Bhaktisiddhanta, which he had accepted from a picture of Gaurakisora dasa after the departure of his gurus, it appears from the testimony of Pradipa Tirtha Maharaja that his own sannyasa had been blessed by Gaurakisora even before it took place. In any case, much innovative preaching was done on the part of Bhaktisiddhanta, the kind of preaching that Bhaktivinoda wanted him to do. Indeed, if there is to be a daiva varnasrama that gives support to Gaudiya Vaisnava initiates in the budding stages of their practice, how could it be complete without the sannyasa order?

Still, this and other innovations of Bhaktisiddhanta, such as his Bhagavata or siksa guru parampara conception, did cause a stir in the Gaudiya Vaisnava community. More problems were created due to the fact that Bhaktisiddhanta was critical of the moral standards of that community in general as well as various Gaudiya practices prominent at the time. Thus a rift developed between Gaudiya Matha and the so-called orthodox Gaudiya sects, and the gap created between Bhaktisiddhanta and these other sects only widened after his departure. Eventually, accusations were made that Bhaktisiddhanta had never been properly initiated, a principal protagonist being one of his own disciples who many had considered the most qualified to succeed him. Opponents of Bhaktisiddhanta, who were still smarting from criticisms he had made of them, naturally made much of this even though such accusations had not been made during the time when Gaurakisora and Bhaktivinoda were around to put such rumors to rest.

Bhaktisiddhanta’s followers, who had already broken into factions by this time, carried on with their independent preaching missions and some of these preachers realized considerable success. This, in turn, brought renewed credibility to the line of Bhaktisiddhanta. Although Lalita Prasada remained critical of some of the policies of his elder brother, in the end he did feel some inspiration to donate the place of Bhaktivinoda’s bhajana in Nadiya, which was under his care, to A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the most prominent preaching disciple of Bhaktisiddhanta. The donation was never realized, but the discussion surrounding it did signal a note of acceptance of the missionary activities of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada on the part of Lalita Prasada in the final days of his life. Furthermore, Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada on occasion allowed his disciples to hear from Lalita Prasada Thakura and personally showed him at least formal respect.

Suffice it to say that old histories like these are difficult to sort out in terms of fact and fiction and even more difficult to objectively prove. Thus different versions of these events are accepted by various followers and promoted by them along sectarian lines. In the end, people are inclined to accept the version of those who most inspire them and thus believe what they want to believe. What is true in every sense will only be discovered through spiritual practice and the grace of saints. Looking for the demon in others will never result in finding God in your own heart. Look within your own heart prayerfully and you will know how to proceed.

Q. Having come to know of Krishna consciousness through ISKCON, it has always been my understanding that ISKCON is the only bona fide Gaudiya parampara. Many members of ISKCON promote this understanding as well. Therefore, my question is where are you in the current parampara (disciplic succession) and how does it work?

A. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) was founded by Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada for the purpose of propagating Gaudiya Vaisnavism. It is not, however, the only spiritually authorized institution representing the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya. Srila Prabhupada himself makes this clear in a number of written statements such as these:

“Lokanatha Gosvami constructed the temple of Gokulananda, one of the seven important temples of Vrindavana—namely, Govinda, Gopinatha, Madana-mohana, Radharamana, Syamasundara, Radha-Damodara, and Gokulananda—that are authorized institutions of Gaudiya Vaisnavas.”

“The disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja are all Godbrothers, and although there are some differences of opinion, and although we are not acting conjointly, every one of us is spreading this Krishna consciousness movement according to his own capacity and producing many disciples to spread it all over the world.”

“So, practically there is no difference of opinion in our missionary activities, especially because we all are deriving inspiration from His Divine Grace Prabhupada Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Maharaja. I think all of our Godbrothers are doing the same missionary activities without a doubt, but still the regrettable fact is we are doing all separately, not in conjunction.”

As for myself, I am an initiated disciple of Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and he is my sannyasa guru as well. Srila Prabhupada suggested that after his departure, should any of his disciples have philosophical questions, they could approach his Godbrother Srila B. R. Sridhara Deva Goswami, whom he considered competent to guide his disciples in the capacity of a siksa (instructing) guru. Unfortunately, a few years after Srila Prabhupada left us, the Governing Body of ISKCON passed a resolution forbidding ISKCON members from accepting a siksa guru that is not a member ISKCON. This resolution stands to this day.

I was among those who after the departure of Srila Prabhupada approached Srila Sridhara Maharaja and found that his siksa captured my heart. After that time, I was no longer welcome in ISKCON. When I asked Srila Sridhara Maharaja for some seva, he told me, “Swami Maharaja (Srila Prabhupada) has given you everything; go and start a preaching mission on his behalf and I will be in the background to help you.” This is what I have done, and by the grace of my gurus, I have found some success.

So with regard to the parampara, I am a devotee of Krishna in the lineage that descends from Caitanya Mahaprabhu to Thakura Bhaktivinoda, who predicted and conceived of the present-day worldwide inundation of Krishna consciousness. The Bhaktivinoda branch of the Caitanya lineage descends most prominently to his son and disciple Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, who was the devotee responsible for spreading Gaudiya Vaisnavism throughout India in the early part of the previous century, as well as for sending Gaudiya missionaries to the West.

My position in the lineage is at the feet of two important disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, my diksa guru Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who established Gaudiya Vaisnavism throughout the world, and my siksa guru Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Deva Goswami, who through deep spiritual insight has helped thousands of devotees to advance spiritually. It is in the spirit of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, who included siksa gurus in his Bhagavata-parampara conception, that I consider myself connected to the parampara through both my diksa and siksa gurus. Both these gurus continue to teach and inspire me through their writings, and their combined influence on my spiritual life is apparent.

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