Srila Giri Maharaja – “If Srila Prabhupada was present in front of you . . . “

Re: questioning my addressing Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja as “Swami Maharaja”.

—–Original Message—–
From: BK Giri
Sent: Thursday, April 12, 2012 05:59 PM
To: ‘Navadwipa Dasa’
Subject: A note from Giri Maharaja

My obeisances to you, Sriman Nabadwipa Prabhu.

I got a reply from Sripada Jayadwaita Maharaja who said he has the recording he made of you discussing the early press work. He offered to send it, or give it to me as soon as a means of transfer can be arranged. It is about 60 MB in size.

I also came across this today. The use of Swami Maharaja was approved by Srila Sridhara Maharaja for addressing our Srila Prabhupada. The following is from a conversation of his with Sripadas Dhira Krishna Maharaja and Bhakti Caru Swami.

@6:27 You will all say you are Swami Maharaja prabhu pari vada …Swami pari vada, the stalwarts, one of the stalwarts in the parampara, the guru parampara, generation, spiritual generation. One of the stalwarts of him who spread towards the length and breadth of this earth prthivite ache yata nagaradi grama that, we are that pari vada, who are connected with that pari vada. A special respect, that special respect for him, that may be.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja considered it a sign of special respect to think of ourselves as Swami Maharaja pari vada, or Swami pari vada, as with the pari vada of Bhakit Vinoda, Narottama, and so on.

I pray this finds you well in health and spirit.


Giri Maharaja

Date: 4/16/12

Dandvats Maharaj,

Did you get a chance to listen to that tape that Jayadwaita Maharaja sent you?

Regarding using the name Srila Prabhupada and Swami Maharaj. My point was that amongst Godbrothers who served in Srila Prabhuapda’s mission during the earlier years I think is is appropriate to use the the term Srila Prabhupada. Using the name Swami Maharaj is also appropriate being that is the name his Godbrother’s refer to in addressing Srila Prabhupada. Let me ask you a question: if Srila Prabhupada was present in front of you would you refer to him as Swami Maharaj or Srila Prabhupada? On the other hand if you refered to him as Swami Maharaj I’m sure that would be okay also. One more point, using Swami Maharaj when speaking with one of Srila Prabhupada’s Godbrothers is the way I would refer to Srila Prabhupada, or perhaps Swami Maharaj Srila Prabhupada.

Your servant,
Nabadwip das

On 17 Apr 2012, at 03:40, Swami BK Giri wrote:

My obeisances Sriman Nabadwip Prabhu,

I’m having a little fun. I agree with your points, to a degree, as it seems you do mine.

Let me ask you a question: if Srila Prabhupada was present in front of you would you refer to him as Swami Maharaj or Srila Prabhupada?

It’s a loaded question, but perhaps the answer is not as clear cut as you may think.

I had no personal association with our Srila Prabhupada. I was introduced to him on two occasions, close enough to speak to him or ask him questions on a few more. Thus, there was no chance for any real familiarity with him on my part. He would not have known me by name.

Among my Godbrothers and Godsisters I never heard him referred to as Srila Swami Maharaja, always Srila Prabhupada.

Association has a great influence on us. We are therefore advised to always seek good, preferably higher, association.

After Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance, my opportunity for higher association came from Srila Sridhara Maharaja and Srila Govinda Maharaja. In their company I had the chance to become familiar with these higher Vaishnavas who both knew me very well by name and with whom I had the chance to speak very freely. We’ve already discussed how informally I and many others addressed them, often simply as Maharaja. I even asked Srila Sridhara Maharaja how I should address him and he replied “Maharaja is sufficient.” or words to that effect.

Sometime, perhaps after receiving sannyasa, I began to regard Srila Sridhara Maharaja as my guru. I then asked him how one should address a Vaishnava he regarded as guru. To this he replied “Guru Maharaja or Gurudeva.” I then began to refer to him in that way. I believe I was the first among our group (of Prabhupada disciples) to do so, and others soon did the same. Still, it was easy to address His Divine Grace as “Maharaja” or “Srila Sridhara Maharaja” and I often did. I saw that many others did as well, including Srila Govinda Maharaja and other old disciples, as I remember, such as Prabhus Hari Charan, Krishna Sharan and I believe Prabhu Subala Sakha, to name a few.

By my recollection Gurumaharaja and simply Maharaja, were the words used by all the Math devotees when trying to catch his attention. While my memory may be imperfect on this point I am almost certain that I almost never heard his disciples use the prefix “Srila” when addressing him.

Now that you have aroused my sensitivity to these things I will try to make note of how Srila Sridhara Maharaja refers to his guru. I’m fairly certain he usually says “My Guru Maharaja” or “Our Guru Maharaja” or Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati, without the prefix of “Srila.”

Let me ask you a question: if Srila Prabhupada was present in front of you would you refer to him as Swami Maharaj or Srila Prabhupada?

My answer is, it depends on the circumstances.

While you may disagree, I hope, and I think it’s reasonable to believe, I know Srila Prabhupada somewhat better now than I did in the 1970’s, 1980’s and so on. He is my Divine Master and I am his humble servant. I believe my master will know his servant and not feel offended, perhaps even feel some happiness, if during the course of my service I addressed him in any of the ways mentioned above.

“Prabhupada” was chosen by the disciples of our guru as a means of conveying their regard and affection for him. Swamiji was used before that. It was not exactly correct, but Srila Prabhupada accepted it easily, as far as I can see, because his innocent, sincere followers were using that word to try and convey their respect and appreciation for him in the best way they knew.

Those that left his association before “Srila Prabhupada” came into vogue might well wonder how we have cast off the affectionate “Swamaji” in favor of the more formal “Srila Prabhupada.”

In any event, time does not stand still. Relationships are not stagnant. And some slackening of formality, as familiarity increases, is not bad in and of itself.

There are different ways to convey respect, regard, appreciation and affection.

In our presence, one who was recognized by him affectionately as his son, Srila Govinda Maharaja, generally addressed him as Swami Maharaja. From Srila Govinda Maharaja’s side, he regarded Srila Prabhupada as his guru. In the hypothetical situation you put forth, I am inclined to believe Srila Govinda Maharaja would generally address Srila Prabhupada directly as “Maharaja” as in “Maharaja, you can sit here.”

if Srila Prabhupada was present in front of you would you refer to him as Swami Maharaj or Srila Prabhupada?

I think you might just as well ask if I feel it necessary to do guru puja everyday as it was done when I was in ISKCON. No. It was not practiced in that way during the time of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati, and it was never done in SCS Math. This was, to the best of my knowledge, a practice introduced not by Srila Prabhupada, but by his disciples. He accepted it, he did not demand it except as conceived of within the chanting of Sri Guruvastaka and so on as followed in our Maths.

I was reading some Vyasa Puja offerings to Srila Prabhupada recently. In one a devotee says “Srila Prabhupada never asked us to do anything he didn’t do himself.” Did he do guru puja every day to Srila Bhakti Siddhanta, his guru? Did he do Tulasi puja/parikrama daily? Did he go out on the streets regularly for book distribution or sankirtana? It’s a little off point but further illustrates how ideas develop in a mission of some 5,000 disciples who may do, as Dhira Krishna Maharaja said to Srila Sridhara Maharaja, “Sometimes devotees are telling you things Srila Prabhupada said, that he never said.”

There is no doubt in my mind that the details of the practitioner’s life that are best to be followed by us are those shown by Srila Sridhara Maharaja in SCS Math, not ISKCON. If it were the other way around Srila Prabhupada would not have felt the need to have Srila Sridhara Maharaja complete the polishing of the rough gems he tried to deliver to him which are ourselves.

if Srila Prabhupada was present in front of you would you refer to him as Swami Maharaj or Srila Prabhupada?

If he were the only guru present, and I was speaking to him I may well address him as Srila Prabhupada.

If Srila Sridhara Maharaja and/or Srila Govinda Maharaja were also present and I was commenting to them about something “Prabhupada” said, I would likely clarify that it is Bhakti Vedanta Swami who said it in order to be clear I was not referring to Srila Saraswati Thakura. In that case I might say, as we discussed before, “our Prabhupada said…” or “Srila Swami Maharaja said…”

I think it is well to remember that our Srila Prabhupada is not alone. He is more than a guru with a number of disciples. As our guru he has his his gurus, friends, acquaintances, affectionate sons and so on, not just disciples.

We are worshiping Krishna in the manner of the sonhood of Godhead. In that position, all relationships are possible. He shows Himself to us as the acharya, our guru and there are different relationships possible there also, depending, not only on the disciples surrender and subordination to his master, but also the affection that arises out of such a relationship.

A disciple may easily feel the need to protect his guru. The interest to protect arises from a paternal instinct, vatsalya rasa. A close bond of friendship is also possible between guru and disciple, indicative of sakhya rasa. I can’t speak to madhura rasa but all rasas are contained within it and we are being groomed to be partial to madhura rasa. Then should we not expect to see more than simple servitorship, dasya rasa, relationships in the dealings between guru (who is the manifestation of both the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the Supreme Personality of Servitor Godhead) and disciple?

Only out of His immense compassion does the Personality of Godhead reveal Himself as the spiritual master. Therefore in the dealings of an acarya there are no activities but those of transcendental loving service to the Lord. He is the Supreme Personality of Servitor Godhead. It is worthwhile to take shelter of such a steady devotee, who is called asraya-vigraha, or the manifestation or form of the Lord of whom one must take shelter.—Adi 1.46

Srila Sridhara Maharaja said that either bhakti or prema (I can’t recall definitely which) do not show themselves until the devotee feels some sense of superiority over Krishna. When such symptoms manifest in a real fashion in a devotee, Krishna feels great happiness to see this.

I am only trying to point out that the guru-disciple relationship does not stand on formality. Even if you take it as primarily a father-son, father-daughter relationship, you know as a father yourself that there is much more to such a relationship than the formality of master and servant.

There is a time and place for formality and respect, there is also a time and place for intimacy.

if Srila Prabhupada was present in front of you would you refer to him as Swami Maharaj or Srila Prabhupada?

How would I refer to him? How can I say? I don’t believe it is as simple a question as it may appear at first glance.

Mahaprabhu said he knew only two meanings for the name of Krishna, Syamasundara and Yasodanandana. He had some reason to say that, just as there is some reason behind your point. But Krishna has many names by which He is known to different devotees, and each has its own beauty. I believe our Srila Prabhupada may also be known in various ways. Each will have its own beauty according to the affectionate relationship of the devotee expressing it.

I know it is your affection and regard for Srila Prabhupada, and your affection and kindness upon me, that you are making your points. This is not lost on me. I consider myself very fortunate to have such association as yours.

I pray this finds you well in all respects. Please convey the same to your good wife, Srimati Tilaka devi.

Affectionately yours,

Giri Maharaja
“I am a proof reader. I always see what is right and what is wrong. My father trained me in proofreading, but I am not only a proofreader of the press. I am a proofreader of the world. I proofread men: I see their faults and try to correct them.” — Srila Saraswati Thakura, Lecture, 1926