guhyam ākhyāti pṛcchati: revealing one’s mind in confidence… (a letter to Srila Govinda Maharaja 9/20/90)

Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math

Kolerganj, P.O. Nabadwipa

Dist Nadia, W. Bengal, PIN 741302, INDIA



My dear Sripad Bhakti Sundara Govinda Maharaja,

My humble dandavats in the direction of your holy feet which are giving hope to my hopeless self. All glories to our beloved Srila Guru Maharaja and Srila Prabhupada our eternal well-wishers for it is by their grace only that we may continue in their absence.

I have received your very kind and thoughtful letter of Aug. 18. and feel very much relieved, satisfied and happy by reading it. I am always feeling so many anxieties due to the influence of the illusory energy. However, I think this situation that caused me so much disturbance must have been caused by the internal energy and therefore I feel very fortunate that I might be touched in some way by that divine substance even if the touch is in the form of extreme anxiety. Of course that I think this way may be further evidence of how much I am covered by the illusory energy but even if that is causing a false sense of happiness it is also bringing a real sense of hope.

As you well know I am like a foolish child who does not know how to behave properly. Therefore, I hope you will not take my offenses too seriously.

I do not think it will be possible for me to travel to Detroit for the initiation of Suresh Prabhu’s three friends. I think it is best if you go ahead and send the beads to Suresh, then if I’m able to go they will be there and if not, there will be no loss.

I am very happy to hear the good news of Srila Guru Maharaja’s mission in India. Especially I am happy about the news of Guru Maharaja’s Samadhi. Of course I am always hearing good things from the devotees that visit the Math and that is very encouraging to me. I have also seen some pictures of the Samadhi Mandir and feel very proud that you have completed it in such a beautiful and timely fashion. Paramadvaiti Maharaja also showed me pictures of your sketches on the walkway for the design and I was very impressed.

On the other hand I am feeling very ashamed that after so long Srila Prabhupada’s Samadhi at the Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir is still not complete. In my opinion it is another symptom of form over substance. Srila Rupa Goswami’s samadhi is a simple structure but there is no doubt in anyone’s mind about the significance of that holy place. In my opinion a simple shrine containing a particle of dust from Srila Prabhupada’s lotus feet would be sufficient to attract the minds of all great saintly persons.

Although these ISKCON men like to shout loudly about Prabhupada’s superiority over all other vaishnavas, it seems they cannot become very enlivened for his service unless he is cloaked in gold and jewels. It is particularly ironic when these same men like to speak about how wonderful it was to be with Srila Prabhupada in the beginning, when all the facilities were very modest. Those are the days which seemingly inspire their fondest memories.

Of course I am very happy to see the devotees offer the very best of everything to our most beloved Guru, but not at the expense of the ideal he represents.

I appreciate very much your personal invitation to attend Srila Guru Maharaja’s Sri Vyasa-puja celebrations and I have also just received in the mail an invitation for the installation of Srila Guru Maharaja’s Sri Vigraha. Now after a long time it is possible I might be able to get enough money together to purchase a ticket but I have too many responsibilities to attend to and there is no one else to look after them.

I think you know that the last three years have probably been the most difficult in my life. Sometimes I feel like a man who is punished by dunking his head under water then, just when he feels he cannot tolerate it any longer, he is brought up for air; then as he is catching his breath and getting some hope, again he is pushed under the water.

When I went to New York to open the Math there were several devotees to help me. However, it seems they had many plans of their own which could not be satisfied within the framework of the Math. One by one they left to fulfill those desires. Srila Guru Maharaja and yourself also sent at least six of Srila Guru Maharaja’s disciples to help me and all of them left to do something else. For some mysterious reason the only persons remaining to serve Srila Guru Maharaja’s Math were myself and Ramai, both disciples of Srila Prabhupada.

I can easily understand the difficulties of others by knowing my own difficulties and therefore I do not blame anyone. If I am to find fault with anyone it must be myself. Still I cannot think that the ideas these devotees had were proper since I do not see them fulfilling any higher purpose after their departure from the Math.

Although I have always held responsible positions since joining the mission, I have never attracted followers. Perhaps I never will. The result is that whatever I am able to accomplish is mostly by my own energy with little or no help from others and many times it is in spite of others. That is not to say that I am not receiving inspiration from other devotees. I am very enlivened by the association I receive and I am always eager for that, but materially I get help from no one.

Unfortunately, I do not seem to be alone in this regard. Except for Goswami Maharaja, Paramadvaiti Maharaja and Avadhuta Maharaja no one has been able to do anything substantial in the West. Of these three, Paramadvaiti Maharaja and Avadhuta Maharaja had considerable resources at their disposal when they left ISKCON. And now we see that Avadhuta Maharaja has also gone astray.

Here, in one of the most powerful countries in the world, there is only one temple of Srila Guru Maharaja which is under the direction of two sincere but very unsteady and uncertain householders in Miami. As you know from Maha Yogi Maharaja I just visited San Jose with him and found that Goswami Maharaja is no longer interested in maintaining a temple. He has a beautiful house to live in which he made clear is to be considered his residence and not a temple. This means that no one can come without a prior appointment or invitation and anyone that does come must wear western clothes, no dhoties are allowed to be worn by anyone but him, which he does once a month while giving a lecture to the devotees that come for a program. While I was there I even saw that Vidagdha Madhava Prabhu was serving the deities while dressed in Western clothes.

I spoke at length with Goswami Maharaja during my visit and found him to be substantially the same Goswami Maharaja I have known for almost 14 years. Goswami Maharaja has often moved in ways which might be considered “Unorthodox” even for us Westerner’s, but he has never deviated from the line of faith. He gave reasonable explanations for the changes he has made. Although I was not convinced by his explanations, I am reluctant to pass any judgement and maintain high expectations for him based on his previous extraordinary service.

Still, I am troubled that he does not seem to think he owes anyone an explanation for his unusual actions. Neither does he feel the need to consult with anyone. I think I know Goswami Maharaja as intimately as anyone and I am very affectionate towards him. Therefore, I am feeling concern for his welfare. Srila Guru Maharaja remarked about Goswami Maharaja that “he is bold bordering on reckless.” My fear is that he may be passing the bold stage and entering the area of recklessness.

Goswami Maharaja is not alone in adopting unusual standards based on the idea that substance is more important than form. Madhava Puri has not only abandoned his sannyasa vesha but his kunti-mala and brahmana thread as well. What to speak of the sannyasa dress, Madhava Puri has thrown off the idea of sannyasa itself [seeing it] as being an external thing. According to him, Guru Maharaja made it clear that we should go beyond these externals of varnashrama and live a life of internal cultivation of Krsna consciousness.

When I reminded Madhava Puri that Guru Maharaja told us “Srila Bhaktisiddhanta wore the sannyasa dress to the last day of his life and I intend to do the same”, he dismissed that as a show for our benefit because it is something we need to hear in order that our faith not be disturbed while maintaining our attachment to these external forms. Then, when we are able to see beyond these formal conceptions, we will be able to move about appearing as ordinary people externally, while internally we are fully Krsna conscious.

Although I often wear western clothes myself, as a matter of necessity for business and sometimes as a convenience, I do not think western clothes should be the preference of a sannyasi. Neither do I accept the idea that the sannyasa dress is only a formal and not a substantial consideration. While these men are speaking against attachment to any formal dress they non-the-less are adopting the dress of those who are attached to form. If we are to live in the world of the substantial and not the formal then why should we adopt the dress of those persons which are so much concerned with the form? Why not wear the dress which identifies us as those who are pursuing their interest in the substantial world?

As I told you in my last letter it was very difficult to overcome Badrinarayana’s way of thinking due to his long and intimate connection with Srila Guru Maharaja. It is similarly difficult for me to have any influence with someone like Goswami Maharaja or Madhava Puri. So I am in a dilemma. I do not feel it is my position to lecture my Godbrothers as if I was in a superior position, nor do I think they would accept me in that way. If I take a strong position against their ideas they may dismiss me as being kanistha, or antagonistic towards them and I may lose their confidence and friendship. If I go along with them it gives support to their ideas. Either way there is no benefit for them or me. I generally opt for diplomacy. Instead of speaking strongly against their ideas I embrace them as my friends, which of course they are. And instead of supporting their ideas I question them in a friendly way.

When there are such strong differences among the sannyasis who are supposed to be the leaders of society, then how can we expect others not to be confused? When there is confusion faith is damaged, when faith is damaged authority cannot be accepted, and when authority is rejected there is chaos. Those with enough spiritual strength are going on to some degree, but who is so strong that they can continue without the push of someone they regard as a superior vaishnava? As a result almost everyone is acting as their own guru, and making their decisions by consulting with themselves, since no one else may be trusted.

Doubt and suspicion have replaced faith and trust. And what can be said? I have also seen so many sannyasis and so called gurus use their positions to their own advantage or fall down from their position, and still it is going on. As a result I must also admit to a reluctance to accept higher authority even though intellectually I can understand Guru Maharaja’s comment that “suspicion has led to suspension.” While I am trying to dispel the suspicion of others I am also suspicious, so what help can I be to anyone? Yet, while I am preaching in favor of surrender I am also being affected by my preaching and it makes me aware of my shortcomings which need to be corrected. So perhaps there is some benefit to me even though I feel myself to be a hypocrite.

I am trying to follow the precept of “gopi bartu pada kamalayor dasa, dasa, anudasa” but I admit it is very difficult even though I believe strongly in it. We have seen even with Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhara Maharaja that only a few devotees have been able to give up self interest in order to serve them without motivation. In this regard we are extremely fortunate to be able to witness the example of yourself as well as others such as Hari Charan Prabhu, Sripada Aranya Maharaja, Sripada Damodara Maharaja, Sripada Tirtha Maharaja, Gaura Krishna Prabhu and others who are wholesale dedicated to the service of Srila Guru Maharaja.

At any rate the problem seems to be most apparent here in America. Perhaps we have a stronger inclination towards independence or we have a more critical eye. Perhaps we find fault with others too easily, or perhaps we will accept nothing less than the highest standard. Whatever the reason, it seems particularly difficult to inspire the standard of service that was previously expected of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples.

There is so much resistance from the older devotees that I have decided it better to turn my attention to new men who are unfamiliar with the frailties, faults, and fall-downs [of more senior devotees]. Even that is difficult, however, because there are always some older devotees around to plant doubts in their minds. From this perspective I have a lot of sympathy with Goswami Maharaja’s actions which insulate him and his followers from unwanted interference. Perhaps that is necessary.

For now, however, I am not so much concentrating on the present as the future. I am trying to establish the financial resources that will enable us to purchase a building, maintain the Deities and devotees and carry out some preaching program to attract new men. I also expect to be able to contribute substantial amounts to your programs in India. Like Goswami Maharaja’s actions this is also unorthodox in the sense that I spend a considerable amount of time involved in business matters which are considered dangerous for a sannyasi. This also brings criticism from some. But the more mature devotees don’t seem to be disturbed by it. Anyway I don’t see any alternative. To maintain the Deities, devotees, etc., money is necessary and it is extremely rare that anyone I am preaching to gives a donation. Whenever they do you know about it because I almost always send it to you, and that also seems to appeal more to them than giving me something to use as I see fit.

I know this letter has been quite lengthy and involved but right now I have the time to write so I thought I’d take advantage of it. I’m sure this has given you some insight into my thoughts and ideas so that you can better guide me in the right direction.

I have avoided one subject of your letter that requests me to accept your apology for causing me worry. I feel very uncomfortable by this request as I do not see any need for you to apologize to me. When Krishna met Srimati Radharani at Kurukshetra he leaned over to touch her feet in order to be excused for his mistreatment of her. She withdrew and told him that he had done nothing wrong. If there was any fault she felt it must be with her and not Krishna, whom she considered her master. In a similar way, I cannot feel that you have done anything wrong but I am very much moved by your humility and kindness towards me. I rather hope that you will forgive me for the trouble I have caused you.

Affectionatley yours,

Swami BK Giri