Srila Prabhupada's siksa guru, ISKCON faith, and Sister societies
By Gopakumar das
Posted April 7, 2003
Reply to http://www.chakra.org/discussions/succMar25_03_02.html
The main point of my article was that those devotees who followed Srila Prabhupada's mandate to see Srila Sridhara Maharaja for questions on philosophy were later excommunicated. They were asked to leave the mission or abandon their faith in Srila Sridhara Maharaja. This was not much of a choice for a sincere and loyal siksa disciple, some of which had been seeing him for many years, and as a result they have been living outside of Srila Prabhupada's institution for twenty years or so in order to ensure their loyalty to both these saints. I only wish that GBC members and leaders of the mission would validate these devotee's sincerity to preach and promote Srila Prabhupada's teachings while recognizing the influence Srila Sridhara Maharaja had on them. The spiritual world is big and we tend to want to make it very small by our mental function. I ask the GBC to call for the return of such devotees in the spirit of cooperation. There is much to be learned from their experiences. These devotee's independent missions have seen some success but they would like to see them united with ISKCON in a cooperating spirit as sister societies. Their identities would remain independent to ensure a free flow of faith and individuality…but they can interact openly with each other. Tripurari Maharaja, Narasingha Maharaja, Visnu Maharaja, and Paramadvaita Maharaja (to name just a few) have deep love for Srila Prabhupada and Sridhara Maharaja. It is time this is recognized and they be allowed to interact with their Godsiblings openly.
Only the readers interested in my responses to Vrndavana dasa Thakur's article, point by point, need read on. My main point has been emphasized.
Vrndavana das Thakur das: I really doubt if there is need to go 'beyond' Srila Prabhupada. In fact if I'm not mistaken he himself said that, by saying that everything is in his books.
No one has ever suggested going "beyond" Srila Prabhupada. What does that even mean? Prabhupada, my param guru, is part of a lineage of gurus who are all valid authorities in our tradition. They are gurun (guru in plurality) the manifestation of the divine in the lives of the jiva. Our particular lineage under Bhaktivinoda, the Bhaktivinoda parivare, is a siksa parampara. This means we emphasize the siksa line as it comes to us. For example, Bhaktivinoda is considered (by Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada) to be connected to the parampara through the more prominent link of his siksa guru Jaganatha dasa babaji. This is a very important point seeing that it distinguishes us from the lineage coming through Bhaktisiddhanta's brother Lalita Prasada. Both are to be respected, but we should know who we are. My secondary point in writing my article (Prabhupada's siksa guru) is that Srila Prabhupada HIMSELF considered Sridhara Maharaja to be a part of this line through his siksa. No one is expected to place Sridhara Maharaja on their altar. In fact, Srila Sridhara Maharaja forbade his siksa followers of ISKCON to do so because he did not want to appear as an intruder. But his are authorized. However, Sridhara Maharaja's books and talks do have a value of their own. It is not "either or". Both can be understood and assimilated into our spiritual lives.
Prabhupada did give us everything in his books. He gave us everything he taught plus all the references to them for us to follow through and enter more deeply into the Gaudiya siddhanta. There are hundreds of references to other Gaudiya books in Prabhupada's books. He had read them and understood them. He wanted us to eventually read them too. This is what he gave us in his books. But there is a wealth of information that Srila Prabhupada also gave us in his talks too. In fact, it is in his spoken siksa that he gave us everything. There he gave us Srila Sridhara Maharaja:
So if you are actually serious to take instructions from a siksa guru, I can refer you to one who is most highly competent of all my god-brothers. This is B.R. Sridhara Maharaja, whom I consider to be even my siksa guru, so what to speak of the benefit that you can have from his association. (January 1 1969 letter to Hrsikesa)
It would benefit us all to actually read Srila Prabhupada's books. His conception of Guru Parampara is clear…and we can all learn a little about it from there.
Vrndavana das Thakur das: Who Srila Prabhupada had as siksa is his personal choice, but our param siksa is unmistakenly Srila Prabhupada.
This is mistaken. Whoever Srila Prabhupada took instruction from and had regard for is much more than a "personal choice". It is everyone's choice. We are indebted to that eternally and bound to it in ways so deeply that it can never be distinguished. Just as Srila Sridhara Maharaja and all the other Gaudiya leaders are indebted to Prabhupada's immense contribution to the world so also is Srila Prabhupada indebted to Srila Sridhara Maharaja for the deep instruction and intimate friendship they shared.
Vrndavana das Thakur das: I can only conclude that prabhu is pointing towards taking siksa for better understanding of Srila Prabhupada.
There is another side of Srila Prabhupada, a side known only to his godbrothers and friends that is charming too. He can be understood from this point as well. Like the spiritual world, Srila Prabhupada is immeasurable. Seeing many facets of him can help you to love him more rather than less. The more you know, the more you have to love.
Vrndavana das Thakur das: I doubt Srila Sridhara Maharaja read any of his books, but i might be wrong.
Not true. Srila Sridhara Maharaja had deep appreciation from Srila Prabhupada, his writing, and his contribution. The relationship was reciprocal. They helped each other. Otherwise, Sridhara Maharaja not only read Prabhupada's books, he was a resource for them too. He also had read the original texts, studied them and had deep realization of them years before Srila Prabhupada had written his commentaries. Srila Prabhupada himself had done so too.
Vrndavana das Thakur das: this as he (Prabhupada)has living disciples who would die and live for him and his cause. So ISKCON gurus or seniors are still better solutions to understand Srila Prabhupada through siksa then Sridhar Maharaja alone.
ALL of Srila Prabhupada's disciples, including the siksa disciples of Sridhara Maharaja are best solutions. No doubt they would all die for the cause. But better that they should live, in unity making the cause more prominent.
We should not criticize each other, as Vaisnavas, because there is fault in everyone and we may be ourselves subject to criticism. Best thing is to be above suspicion ourselves, then if we see discrepancies and make suggestion the others will automatically respect and take action to rectify the matters. That is cooperation. And we must exist on such cooperation, otherwise the whole thing is doomed if we simply go on fighting over some small thing. So try to organize things and preach together in this spirit, and that will please me very, very much. (Letter to: Madhumangala, Hyderabad November 18, 1972)
Vrndavana das Thakur das: In 1969 Srila Prabhupada acknowledged Srila Sridhara Maharaja as his siksa once and once he said he would take any direction of Srila Sridhara Maharaja upon his head. Then further more he confirms that in year 1974 by saying that he considers Srila Sridhara Maharaja as his siksa.
Once is enough for me. Prabhupada does not have to say it four times for me to honor it and take it on my head. We should all take this and other positive statements concerning Sridhara Maharaja on our head.
It is NEVER appropriate (remember Vaisnava etiquette?) to emphasize critical statements Prabhupada made of his siblings. He apologized for this at his passing from the world. We cannot deny him his absolution from this. Srila Prabhupada was a saktavesa avatara (an empowered preacher), an idea introduced by Sridhara Maharaja. He made some statements of criticism towards his siblings. Only he can do so…and only he can ask forgiveness. We could learn much from his behavior in this regard.
Vrndavana das Thakur das: I must also notice (this being strictly my own feelings and opinion) that prabhu is doing two things (either knowingly or not knowingly). One is trying to diminish Srila Prabhupada and the faith which the ISKCON devotees have in him.
Quite the opposite is true. Have MORE faith in what he says. Not less. Then you can understand something of Sridhara Maharaja. But also, you choose to ignore his statements because they conflict with what you have learned. But better you align yourself with what he said…and make that what you learn. Don't disregard something as big as this because you have a critique to cling on to.
Vrndavana das Thakur das: Srila Prabhupada once commented on this, writing to his disciple to be conscious because they (Gaudiya Math) will try to destroy his faith in him and try to canvass his disciples eventualy to join them (maybe someone can quote on this i lost my source for it, but can be found in folio).
Interesting quote (which might exist). Otherwise, this is not what I am doing. So not really relevant. I am always under Srila Prabhupada. I would never have it any other way.
Vrndavana das Thakur das: But this as I said is only my opinion and I appologise if I'm wrong about it or if I'm making offense by expressing it.
No apology necessary. Don't ignore Prabhupada as a means to loyalty. Don't forsake the siksa he gave in regard to Sridhara Maharaja and claim chastity for it. Be honest with yourself. Read a book by Srila Sridhara Maharaja or maybe one of these excommunicated devotees and come back with differences in siddhanta. I will make sure they get addressed. That is, if you can find any.
Your article was gentle and kind. Thank you.