Srila Giri Maharaja “Something Old — Something New”

Srimati Govinda Nandini Devi is an old friend who contacted me regarding some ”new trends in the Russian SCSMath.” The following is our short exchange via Facebook message. At her request I’m posting our correspondence.

Swami B.K. Giri

 

Date: 7/12/22

“Please take my humble dandavat.”

My dandavats to you Srimati Govinda Nandini Devi.

“I’m doing well, Gurudev and the Lord are taking care of me.

I’m glad to hear it. It is very good to hear from you after such a long time.

“I follow the spiritual path with all my might.”

Yes, of course. I can never forget the help you gave me to return to Russia when Jaganatha Vallabha had had enough of me. He thought I was trying to usurp him as the leader there, but that was never my idea. My differences with him were philosophical. I also thought his dealings with some devotees did not align with the teachings and spirit of our sampradaya and the example shown by my gurus (Srila Swami Maharaja, Srila Sridhara Maharaja and Srila Govinda Maharaja).

When I spoke out in disagreement with him (JV) it was not to usurp his position but to correct what I saw as his mistakes. As his spiritual uncle with several decades more experience than him and with the sanction of Srila Govinda Maharaja I saw it as my duty to try and encourage everyone, even those that he may have seen as unqualified, unhelpful or undeserving.

It is difficult to imagine such a big development of followers of Srila Govinda Maharaja and programs in Russia without Sriman Jaganatha Vallabha. He asked me to come and help him with that development and I tried to do so as best I could, But I could not agree with him in certain ways which I believed were antithetical to our core mission, to spread Krishna Consciousness. As one example; he once became very insistent that I initiate a person; but that person would not agree to follow the principal of “no illicit sex.” As a result I refused to initiate him. JV tried in many ways to convince me it would be okay. Still I refused and that seemed to disturb JV a great deal.

JV was very good as a propagandist. I think he saw me as too “orthodox”, which interfered to some extent with his grand propaganda campaign. There may be some truth to that, but I saw things a little differently. Srila Prabhupada, Swami Maharaja, accomplished a great mission of propaganda for Krishna Consciousness while never abandoning the core principals of our sampradaya. I was educated and trained to follow that line and I have tried my best to do so, for better or worse. Srila Govinda Maharaja often spoke favorably of that quality in me. He encouraged me in that way and, as a result, I continued to move along those lines, despite any and all opposition.

“All is well in my family.”

That is good to hear.

“I have friends with whom I can talk about Krishna.”

“[W]ith whom I can talk about Krishna.”: very good English.

Good. Good association is everything for us. To converse with others about topics of Krishna is the lifeblood of devotees.

“I don’t understand the new trends in the Russian SCSMath.”

The disappearance of the spiritual master always results in chaos. With the appearance of Sri Guru order is brought to chaos. With his disappearance chaos returns. This is not only theoretical. It is also our practical experience. What you say comes as no surprise. To avoid the chaos Srila Govinda Maharaja named six successors he hoped to succeed him. But Avadhuta Maharaja and his fellow travelers disobeyed Gurudeva’s direction on this matter and attempted to install a single worldwide acharya for the mission (Acharya Maharaja). Violating such an essential direction of His Divine Grace as his choice of successors could only result in the “new trends in the Russian SCSMath” you refer to. The old way of following Srila Gurudeva was replaced with a new way, disobeying his order. Thus, the “new trends.” Perhaps as a result of this disobedience the Navadwipa Math was taken over by the enemies of Srila Govinda Maharaja who successfully expelled Sripada Acharya Maharaja from that Math until his passing away.

“So I keep myself apart.”

As have I.

A few years before his disappearance I asked Srila Govinda Maharaja how to deal with the situation you described. He advised me to do what you have done, keep myself separate.

For the first few years following Gurudeva’s disappearance I tried to convince the other acharyas named by him to change course. But they were adamant to continue on the wrong course, even appointing Sripada Goswami Maharaja to the position of acharya, which Gurudeva had not wanted. If he had wanted it he would have said so in his Last Will and Testament, as he named his other hoped for successors.

“I’m very glad you got in touch.”

Likewise.

“How are you?”

As the Vaishnavas are keeping me.

“How is your health?”

Mostly good. I got the SARS 2 virus in 2020 but I was only sick for a few days, much like the many influenza illnesses I would get when traveling to Russia except less severe. A year or so later I got the Delta variant which caused a strange tightening sensation in my chest. That also lasted only two or three days and there were no other noticeable symptoms.

I try to follow a moderate diet, take some supplements, exercise somewhat regularly and do some physical work outdoors whenever possible. I have too much work to do to die so I take these steps hoping Krishna will keep me fit long enough to complete some of the Seva given to me by Sri Sri Guru Gauranga.

And how is your health?

I pray this finds you well in health and spirits. Please convey the same to those in your association.

Affectionately,

Swami B.K. Giri
PS. I rarely use Facebook. If possible, please use this email ”________”[Contact Form] to contact me instead of fb messenger.

 

Srimati Govinda Nandini Devi’s Reply & Who is Ivan Russkiy?

(For Ivan Russkiy see: ”The Battle of Kurukshetra?”)

Date: 7/13/2

Dear Giri Maharaj!

Please accept my humble dandavat pranam.

I am very happy to receive a letter from you and I hope that you have forgiven me for all the trouble that I have caused you with my straightforward attitude to life. Years pass and the view of many past events of life changes simultaneously with the change in my own qualities. And only warm pleasant memories from communicating with you remain in my heart. Whenever my husband Modan Gopal das and I discuss Gurudev’s Mission, we always remember you. Gurudev respected you very much for your honesty, loyalty and steadfastness. He trusted you and knew that you would continue the Mission of Lord Caitanya even if you were alone. That’s enough for me and I trust you completely.

The events you mention in your letter are known to me. All these years the news of the Mission reached me in one way or another. However, since 2014, I have completely withdrawn from participation in the activities of Avadhut Maharaj. My last attempt is an “open letter” dated 12/18/2013 on the topic of Ritvik-Acharyas, which I sent to all possible addresses of the Mission. This sincere letter was actually a kind of provocation, calling to understand the essence of Gurudev’s last will. And most importantly, in this letter there was an appeal to Mahananda Prabhu with a request for his comments. Of course, he just didn’t answer. I want to confess to you that at that time I wrote to you under the pseudonym Ivan Russkiy. Forgive me. I can’t even remember now what I wrote to you about. At the same time, I corresponded with Goswami Maharaja. I tried to figure out what was really going on in the Mission. Later, I deleted all correspondence, including the “open letter”. Late last year, I received a response from a devotee. My letter was enclosed in his letter! Why am I telling you this story in such detail? Because I want to say that my heart hurts. And it doesn’t get any easier. I really want to participate in the continuation of Gurudev’s Mission. But “banners” do not inspire me. Guru Maharaj once said that it is difficult to find good association in the Vaishnava world. So I communicate more with Bhaktivinoda Thakur, Sridhar Maharaj, Gurudev, Bhaktivedanta Swami and other Acharyas through studying their instructions and following these instructions. In any case, everything is the will of the Lord. With the departure of Gurudev caring for me of the Lord and Guru-varga does not end.

Lately, I have been feeling strong need to chant the Holy Name. In our Temple they only sing bhajans, they don’t sing Hare Krishna… so I go to Iskcon for kirtans. Unfortunately, sahajiya is flourishing there. But chanting under the protection and presence of Prabhupada is spiritual association. I was introduced to Krishna Consciousness in 1988 through Iskcon. Prabhupada was and is the Guru for me. So Iskcon is also my family. This is my situation now. My life belongs to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga and I have complete trust in Them. Whatever happens, They will guide me to the right path. For my part, I only accept what is favorable for my spiritual life and reject what is unfavorable.

It’s good that your health is fine now. My whole family also had covid. You are right, we all need to take care of our health. This birth is so lucky! And keeping the immune system up is key.

I have an important question. How do you see Gurudev’s Mission? What is its meaning? What is its uniqueness? What exactly needs to be done to continue the Mission? What should ordinary devotes do who do not agree with the “party policy”? Now I keep aloof and I have one like-minded person, not counting my family members. After the “open letter” story, I do not actively express my position. And to whom to express it? Most simply publish pieces of lectures and books. Copy, paste, share. People don’t speak in the first person anymore. This is called “speculation”. If you read books, you are “gyany”. I won’t continue. The mission of Sri Chaitanya continues and that is good.

Please write your understanding of Gurudev’s Mission. This will help me a lot. Regarding the above “open letter”, I’m not sure if you received it. I can send if you’re interested.

I use Google translate. Please forgive my mistakes in the text of the letter.

I hope this letter finds you and your association in good health.

Your servant, Govinda Nandini dd.