Prabhupada's siksa guru
by Gopakumar das
Posted March 8, 2003

The disciples of Srila Prabhupada were so fortunate to have had him as both their diksa guru and siksa guru. In fact, in his presence there was no need for anything else but his empowered association. Nowadays, the grand disciples of Srila Prabhupada seek inspiration from anywhere they can and they find very good scriptural precedence to do so. Srila Prabhupada himself said:
There is no difference between the shelter giving Supreme Lord and the initiating and instructing spiritual masters. If one foolishly discriminates between them, he commits an offense in the discharge of devotional service (Purport to C.C. Adi 1.47)
In the absence of our Gurudeva or in great need for Krishna katha we seek out the association of many devotees, some of which take such a prominent role in our spiritual enlivenment that we bestow on them the title siksa guru. This is quite an honor to give someone since the Chatianya Caritamrta clearly states:
Siksa-guruke ta’ jani krsnera svarupa

One should know the instructing spiritual master to be the Personality of Krishna. (Adi 1.47)

It is appropriate to accept such a siksa guru into ones life. In today’s modern devotional community it has even become fashionable to do so. Is there any precedence for this in the manifest lila of Srila Prabhupada? Did Srila Prabhupada himself consider anyone to hold such an exalted position in his life? Interesting quotes exist in this regard that are available to all and known to many. For example Prabhupada writes:
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)
Srila Prabhupada, who knew well the exalted position of the title siksa guru (having translated and commented on the above text from C.C.) conferred this title on Srila Sridhara Maharaja. He thought so highly of Srila Sridhara maharaja that he also said:
What Sripad Sridhara Maharaja has directed I take on my head--it is appropriate that I should accept his instruction. (January 29, 1969 letter to Govinda Maharaja)

What Govinda Maharaja has said is true. I consider his guru to be my siksa guru. (ISKCON Mayapur Candrodaya Mandira opening ceremony 1974)

Some devotees unfortunately use other statements made by Srila Prabhupada about his godbrothers and Srila Sridhara Maharaja in particular to justify vilifying him or at least ignoring these more significant statements made by Srila Prabhupada about his own siksa guru. It was only by the grand stature of our Srila Prabhupada that he was able to find relative flaws in his siblings. It is not for us to imitate this, unless we are also of that same stature. Prior to the disappearance of Srila Prabhupada, with his godbrothers present, Srila Prabhupada asked forgiveness for such statements of critique. It was Krsnadasa Babaji maharaja who responded that there was no offense. Whatever was done was done for the preaching. We, however, should regard Srila Sridhara Maharaja as a param siksa guru of our lineage in order to honor the relationship between he and our Srila Prabhupada. Our Srila Prabhupada said in the presence of many devotees such as Tamal Krsna Goswami Maharaja and Tripurari Maharaja that for any questions on philosophy we should see his godbrother BR Sridhara maharaja of Navadvipa. Tripurari Maharaja was massaging his feet at this time. Other devotees can verify this:
Prabhupada gave us the instruction that if we have difficulty then we should come to you (Sridhara maharaja), but they have deliberately neglected that instruction of Srila Prabhupada. (8-19-1980 Bhakti Caru Swami)

According to Sridhara Swami, who Srila Prabhupada said we should consult about philosophy and practical points... (Giriraja Maharaja to GBC 9-16-1978)

Although this issue has been somewhat addressed and more of less retired by the Governing Body Commission of ISKCON, I am aware of many sincere devotees that are still preaching the message of our Srila Prabhupada who were excommunicated because of their love for and loyalty to the siksa guru of our Srila Prabhupada. When will the GBC call for the cooperation of all disciples of Srila Prabhupada, including those that have been demonized by following these injunctions of their gurudeva? Amongst these devotees are Tripurari Maharaja, Narasingha Maharaja, Visnu Maharaja, Paramadvaita Maharaja and many other devotees. When will they all be reunited at least in the spirit of cooperation? There is much to be gained in correcting our mistakes of the past. By this we can please our Srila Prabhupada who said:
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)

Gopakumar das