Srila Giri Maharaja “Dāsa-Dāsānudāsaḥ”

Dear Sriman Jagadananda dasa,

Pease accept my blessings and well-wishes.

After composing your website for our Manila ashram you mentioned to me you did not have much content and it would take some time to fill it out.

Now you have some very nice content which you sent to me and was posted on our “Mūle Math” (pronounced ‘mool’, meaning root Math or main Math) website (See: Vyasa-puja at Sri Gaura Vinoda Saraswata Seva Ashram ) but I do not see it posted on our Manila Ashram website, the most natural and perfect place for such content.

We had a very nice Gaura Purnima celebration here. Much of my time was spent with Sriman Gokulananda dasa arranging for our name change as I wanted this auspicious day, Mahaprabhu’s appearance day, to also be the appearance day of the new name (Sri Gaura Vinoda Saraswat Sanga) we will be operating under henceforth.

While we will always honor the organizations Gaudiya Math (while under the direction of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati), ISKCON (as it existed under the guidance of Srila Prabhupada) and Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math (with Srila Sridhara Maharaja and, afterwards, Srila Govinda Maharaja at the helm) we can no longer tolerate our mission being associated with those using the renowned names of the missions just enumerated in ways that do not accurately represent their founders and true heads.

ISKCON and Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math were named differently from the mission of Srila Siddhanta Saraswati and yet we see them as plenary expansions of Sri Gaudiya Math so long as they were maintained under the direct leadership of the Acharyas named just above. A Vaishnava preaching mission will be associated principally with its Acharya and secondarily with its name.

I was ordered to assume the chair of Acharya — and, thereby, follow him as his successor — by our previous Acharya, Srila Govinda Maharaja. Some persons wrongly assume the position of successor Acharya pertains only to those within the successor Acharya’s Maths, Ashrams, etc. They are blinded by the form, making the substance not visible to them. We recognize Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja and Srila Sridhara Maharaja as successors to His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura regardless of the fact the names of their missions (ISKCON & SCSM) do not directly correspond with the name Sri Gaudiya Math, the name of their predecessor acharya’s mission.

In a letter to Sriman Uddharan (dated 3/13/17, recently posted on our website) I explained the position of those that disobeyed Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s extremely firm pronouncement that Srila Govinda Maharaja should be accepted by all, not only those in his Math, by placing faith equal to that they professed for Srila Sridhara Maharaja in Srila Govinda Maharaja. They could not do that and, by way of excusing their behavior, argued the pronouncement did not apply to them since they were not members of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math. They could not see the universal application of faith, faith in Srila Sridhara Maharaja and his designated successor. They had forgotten the adage “Acharya is one.”

Gentlemen, the offering of such an homage as has been arranged this evening to the Acaryadeva is not a sectarian concern, for when we speak of the fundamental principle of gurudeva, or acaryadeva, we speak of something that is of universal application. There does not arise any question of discriminating my guru from yours or anyone else’s. There is only one guru, who appears in an infinity of forms to teach you, me and all others.

The guru, or acaryadeva, as we learn from the bona fide scriptures, delivers the message of the absolute world, the transcendental abode of the Absolute Personality, where everything non-differentially serves the Absolute Truth. We have heard so many times: mahajano yena gatah sa panthah (“Traverse the trail which your previous acarya has passed”), but we have hardly tried to understand the real purport of this sloka. If we scrutinizingly study this proposition, we can understand that the mahajana is one, and the royal road to the transcendental world is also one.

In the Mundaka Upanisad [1.2.12] it is said:

tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigaccet
samit-panih srotriyam brahma-nistham

“In order to learn the transcendental science, one must approach the bona fide spiritual master in disciplic succession, who is fixed in the Absolute Truth.”

Thus it has been enjoined herewith that in order to receive that transcendental knowledge, one must approach the guru. Therefore, if the Absolute Truth is one, about which we think there is no difference of opinion, the guru also cannot be two. The Acaryadeva to whom we have assembled tonight to offer our humble homage is not the guru of a sectarian institution or one out of many differing exponents of the truth. On the contrary, he is the Jagad-guru, the guru of all of us; the only difference is that some obey him wholeheartedly, while others do not obey him directly.

— Speech given by Abhay Charan Das (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami) before the members of the Śrī Gauḍīya Maṭha in Bombay, February 1936, on the occasion of the appearance anniversary of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura.

They attempted to make it parochial by compartmentalizing the faith Srila Sridhara Maharaja spoke of, faith in him, to apply only to the residents of “the Math” and, since they lived outside, the direction to be faithful to Srila Govinda Maharaja did not apply to them.

“I found inspiration in B.R. Sridhara Maharaja so I tried to serve him and was instrumental in bringing his teachings to the west. After his departure neither was I obligated to accept another siksa guru. Nor was I obligated to accept Srila Govinda Maharaja with the same reverence and affection that I had for Srila Prabhupada or B.R. Sridhara Maharaja. I was never a member of SCSM so my duty in relation to Srila Govinda Maharaja was simply to show respect to him as the successor acharya of SCSM” — Brahma dasa on said in a comment to the post The Road to Deviation, Deception and Deceit.

Note: Like so many unfortunate souls, Brahma dasa is blinded to the simple fact that we are to have faith in successors to an acharya, not successor heads of religious institutions. He confuses the two saying “I was never a member of SCSM so my duty in relation to Srila Govinda Maharaja was simply to show respect to him as the successor acharya of SCSM.” No. The point is that one should respect Srila Govinda Maharaja as the successor to Srila Sridhara Maharaja, just as Brahma says he wanted to serve him although he was “never a member of SCSM.” Service to Srila Sridhara Maharaja must pass through Srila Govinda Maharaja. It was so during the time of Srila Sridhara Maharaja, it remains so today, just as service to Sriman Mahaprabhu must pass through Sri Svarupa Damodara. It is as simple as that. Mahaprabhu did not look to institutional affiliations for confirmation of one’s bonafides. He looked to Svarupa Damodara. Similarly, except as a trespasser, no one passes through Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s gate without the approval of Srila Govinda Maharaja. One may ignore this fact and continue, as Brahma dasa does, to imagine service to Srila Sridhara Maharaja, but such service will always remain as illusion, not reality. — bkg]

After Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s disappearance they tried to make the world believe they were bonafide representatives of him, ignoring the fact that Srila Sridhara Maharaja designated the position of “representative” to only one person, Srila Govinda Maharaja: “Srila Guru Maharaj [speaking about Srila Govinda Maharaja]: ritvik means the representative.” The following is an excerpt to the letter mentioned above.

Tripurari Maharaja and others like him that I mentioned, do not present themselves as inimical to Srila Govinda Maharaja. They present themselves as equals who accept Srila Sridhara Maharaja as their siksha guru and Srila Govinda Maharaja as one of many gurus and acharyas that received recognition from Srila Sridhara Maharaja to perform the function of acharyas. True, as far as it goes. But Srila Gurudeva’s case is obviously different.

Srila Guru Maharaj: ritvik is ritvik, but if such transfer of power is done then what harm? For those that have got no Sraddha, they may go away. They may not accept. I do not care. I don’t accept them.

Dr. Asthana: Does ritvik mean the direct successor?

Srila Guru Maharaj: ritvik means the representative. It may be temporary or it may be permanent. It may be partial or it may be full, as empowerment is there.

Dr. Asthana: Is the empowerment to Govinda Maharaj now temporary or permanent?

Srila Guru Maharaj: Permanent. Wholesale—both property and the function—transferred. If anyone has no recognition of this opinion of mine, I do not want them to live in the Mission. I drag them out.

Dr. Asthana: But can they operate from outside and still operate as a part and parcel of you?

Srila Guru Maharaj: As a revolt. That is revolt—without sanction—anyone can do. I have deserted them. But they may do anything and everything as they wish and reap the results far from the spiritual world, from God. Unlawful.

Power may be extended and withdrawn also—I want to withdraw myself from them. Those that won’t have faith in my decision, I withdraw from them. It is not a fashion but a question of faith. If they have no such faith in me, I withdraw myself from them.

It is their refusal to acknowledge the differences that makes them dangerous. If it were not so, why did Srila Govinda Maharaja withdraw from them and advise all his followers to do the same?

It seems to me those who are dangerous, who endanger our well-being, may also be considered as inimical to us. A strong immune system will hardly notice the constant attack from the many viruses and bacteria that would cause us to become sick or die. That does not mean they are not our sworn enemies, they simply haven’t had the opportunity to overcome our immunity.

When it suited them, the same men (Srila Swami Maharaja’s disciples) who artificially set limits on the transference of faith from Srila Sridhara Maharaja to Srila Govinda Maharaja to those within the walls of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, demanded the opposite conception be adhered to when it came to those who attempted to constrain faith in Srila Prabhupada to the boundary walls of ISKCON. At that time they argued that their preaching outside of ISKCON was not a sign of diminished faith in Srila Prabhupada, in fact, it was proof of their faithfulness, as they understood loyalty to their spiritual master meant loyalty to his teachings, not the institution founded by him (when the two differed). This latter position is, in fact, correct. So why not apply it to Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s order to them to be faithful to Srila Govinda Maharaja as they would be faithful to him. As it turned out, they were. They were not faithful to Srila Govinda Maharaja just as they were unfaithful to Srila Sridhara Maharaja. This was made obvious soon after his (Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s) disappearance when they abandoned Srila Govinda Maharaja, dismissing him as an equal to whom they owed no loyalty and in whom they had no faith. They contend they did so as a matter of choice, their “free will” to which we should not attach any negative inference, as they were not required to have faith in Srila Govinda Maharaja, only Srila Sridhara Maharaja. I accept Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s pronouncement instead. It was this, as mentioned previously:

Dr. Asthana: But can they operate from outside and still operate as a part and parcel of you?

Srila Guru Maharaj: As a revolt. That is revolt—without sanction—anyone can do. I have deserted them. But they may do anything and everything as they wish and reap the results far from the spiritual world, from God. Unlawful.

As Srila Sridhara Maharaja put it: “Love me, love my dog.” And, “in the Ādi Purāṇa there is the following statement by Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself, addressed to Arjuna: ‘My dear Pārtha, one who claims to be My devotee is not so. Only a person who claims to be the devotee of My devotee is actually My devotee.’” (Bhaktivedanta Swami, NOD Chap. 12). This idea is common knowledge and is preached extensively as gopī-bhartuḥ pada-kamalayor dāsa-dāsānudāsaḥ:I identify Myself only as the servant of the servant of the servant of the lotus feet of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the maintainer of the gopīs.” (Bhaktivedanta Swami, Cc. Madhya 13.80). The most unfortunate persons are those who professed faith in Srila Sridhara Maharaja but could not identify themselves as the servants of the servant of Srila Sridhara Maharaja. They are destined to “reap the results far from the spiritual world, from God.” Those that follow them are equally unfortunate.

As I’ve mentioned previously, we are not followers of institutions, we are followers of Acharyas. When an institution is one with its Acharya we should follow the institution, as there is no difference between the two. When they differ, we must follow the Acharya.


The IAB

I’ve discussed at length; after Srila Govinda Maharaja’s disappearance a group of five leading devotees in Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math (SCSM) who called themselves the “Acharya Board”, but had actually been designated by Srila Govinda Maharaja as the International Acharya Board or “IAB” (a distinction with a difference), used their power and influence to coerce devotees into following the institution — over which they had significant control — rather than its Acharya, Srila Govinda Maharaja. As a result, the institution became polluted and it became necessary for me to distance myself from that which was controlled by the IAB. Fortunately, I had discussed such circumstances personally with Srila Govinda Maharaja some years before and, thereby, knew what must be done. That was the first step, declaring I would not take part in any functions that were conducted under the auspices of the IAB. The next step came not long afterwards when I adopted the public persona of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math Global to distinguish the mission I was conducting as one that is separate from that running under the IAB.

When I came to know that Srila Govinda Maharaja had named six successor acharyas I immediately knew what it would mean: “Six acharyas means six sampradayas and six missions.” I was criticized for stating this. But it is a fact of life, like it or not. While it may not be liked, certainly it has come to pass.

While some acharyas, named or not by Srila Govinda Maharaja, have overlapping interests — which I believe came about principally due to their unity in preserving the institution of SCSM and controlling the buildings in India associated with Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s and Srila Govinda Maharaja’s preaching — and, therefore, incentive to cooperate to some extent with each other, I remain an outsider, having the principal interest of preserving what they may think of as the “intangibles” of SCSM’s predecessor acharyas, adherence to their directions and teachings which, when combined, comprise their siddhanta.

I maintained faint hope for some years that a resolution would come when the others, having come to their senses, would admit their wrongdoing and redeem themselves with apologies to the devotees they had mislead and, vowing reform, would prove themselves reinstated as Srila Gurudeva’s faithful servants by resuming their previous exemplary words and actions. This has not occurred. The sprout, once broken, is almost impossible to mend. So too with such deviant behavior as I’ve described.

Srila Bhakti Vinoda Thakura in his “Bhagavata Speech” speaks of religious reformers and credits them, both East and West, with their glorious work of restoring lost faith in the Supreme Lord. He was such a reformer himself and introduced the reformation of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, seeing it as the only truly spiritual function of all jivas and, therefore, universally applicable and acceptable to all mankind. There was a big jump of over 400 years between the time of Sri Gaura Krishna (Sri Krishna Chaitanya) and the preaching of our Eastern Savior, Srila Bhakti Vinoda Thakura. As Sri Madhavendra Puri was to the awakening of Krishna Consciousness, Srila Bhakti Vinoda was to the awakening of Gaura Consciousness. After him, without any break in time, came Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakura, the revolutionary preacher of the precepts established by Srila Bhakti Vinoda. The rest, as they say, is history. A bit of that history was described by Srila Sridhara Maharaja during his 1973 talk with Srila Swami Maharaja Prabhupada during the Gaura Purnima inauguration of the Sri Chaitanya Chandrodaya Mandira

Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: Hare Kṛṣṇa. Hare Kṛṣṇa. So Swāmī Mahārāja has done a miracle, he has done a miracle! What Bhakti Vinoda conceived and Prabhupāda [Bhakti Siddhānta Saraswati] tried to translate the conception into action in his last days. And anyhow we find that through Swāmī Mahārāja these things have been fulfilled. We are happy, we are glad, we are proud of him.

Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: Bhakti Vinoda Ṭhākura’s deep and affectionate heart, conceived that why not Śrī Caitanyadeva’s prema-dharma is capturing the world. It is so self evident. It is the only constructive religion to the farthest extreme. And why not this is appreciated, this cannot but be appreciated. He has not only told that east, west, far west, all the world will come under the banner of Śrī Caitanyadeva. But also, he very strongly told that in the future no other religion will exist than the religion of Śrī Caitanyadeva, Nāma saṅkīrtana. This also he has stated, foretold. And for Prabhupāda [Bhaktisiddhānta Saraswatī Ṭhākura], his higher heart was trying utmost to spread this idea of Bhakti Vinoda Ṭhākura, every nook and corner of the world. Why not men, they should accept such a natural and so healthy religion and so simple religion.

It cannot be denied that we are so many particles, we are conditioned beings. Why not we seek some absolute centre for our health? Śaraṇāgati. This is self evident. Dainyam, ātma-nivedanam, when there is dainya, when there is real sincere feeling of ones self, the next thing cannot but come to take shelter under some greater power. And that relation must be of love and affection, love. And the beauty and love is controlling the central truth, central thing, not power. Power cannot control, cannot be the control in the extreme senses, but love should be, in a sincere heart this must be reflected.

So, that affectionate and deep thinking heart of Bhakti Vinoda Ṭhākura and Prabhupāda, and their desire. Their desire means Mahāprabhu’s desire and Kṛṣṇa’s desire. And that has come embodied in Swāmī Mahārāja. And so many efficient men have joined, both ladies and gentlemen, have joined his mission to work out to a sure success, this we pray and we feel.

In your article “The Birth Of Sri Gaura Vinoda Saraswata Seva Ashram” you have very nicely described the ashram’s manifestation as the acknowledgement of the fact that “it is the duty of everyone to mold his life in such a way that he will not forget Kṛṣṇa in any circumstance.” and to enable that noble goal the ashram made its appearance. It is the first child of Sri Gaura Vinoda Saraswat Sanga a mission which, like the missions of its predecessors, is born of the necessity to serve as shelter for those who wish to dedicate themselves to serving the precepts or Sri Gaura Krishna as they were conceived by Srila Bhakti Vinoda Thakura, and translated into action by Bhagavan Sri Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati. That said, I invoke the blessings or our trinity of gurus, Thakura A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Srila Bhakti Rakshaka Sridhara Deva-goswami Maharaja and His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Sundara Govinda Maharaja that we be enabled to follow in their footsteps for, by so doing, our mission will be successful.

I pray this finds you well in health and spirits. Please convey the same to Srimati Malini Devi, Siddhartha, Lily Ann and all those in your association.

Your ever well-wisher,

Swami B.K. Giri