Srila Giri Maharaja “They Only Sing Bhajans…”

Date: 12/8/22
Subject: “They only sing bhajans . . . so I go to ISKCON for kirtans”

Dear Srimati Govinda Nandini Devi,Please accept my blessings and well-wishes in remembrance of my Divine Masters.In your letter to me dated 7/13/22 you wrote:

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.

I have some questions and comments about some of the items you mentioned.

In our Temple they only sing bhajans, they don’t sing Hare Krishna… so I go to Iskcon for kirtans.

When you say ”our Temple”, to what are you referring? Where is this Temple located? Who is the Acharya presiding over it?

they don’t sing Hare Krishna…

If the acharya of that temple is in any way connected with the sampradaya of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakura, I find it difficult to believe “they don’t sing Hare Krishna.”

they only sing bhajans

While the Pancha Tattva mantra and the Hare Krishna mantra are the preeminent mantras, singing the songs (and understanding their meaning) composed by those recognized to be authorized acharyas in our line is also valuable to our sadhana practices.The songs of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura are especially important to understand. Early on Srila Sridhara Maharaja told Govinda Maharaja to learn these songs. Several of them are included in our morning program as directed by Srila Sridhara Maharaja and followed by Srila Govinda Maharaja who blessed us with some additions of his own. I do not want to imagine what life would be like without them. The songs of Narrotama dasa Thakura and other acharyas in our line are also highly valued and appreciated by us. Whoever sings these bhajans with faith and devotion will surely be favored with their mercy.

Prayer, praising Godhead, is included in Sankirtana.

The holy command of Shri Guru has been that we shall serve Godhead in association with one another. By the word ‘we’ he did not mean any one individual. There are many persons who are very selfish, indeed. They say, ‘I alone shall serve. It is incumbent on me alone. No one else has any claim to join me in my service of Godhead.’ But the kind heart of Shri Gurudeva says, ‘Come, let all of us jointly worship Godhead by giving up malice.’ The service of Godhead is the highest of all functions. My Gurudeva does not say that others will be unable to do the work because it happens to be the highest. Neither does he say that he will not allow any other person to serve Godhead, on the ground that it is the highest of all functions. The chant of Hari-Nama that is performed jointly by all persons is Sankirtana. ‘That Kirtana which is performed by many jointly is alone Sankirtana.’ Prayer, praising Godhead, is included in Sankirtana.

—Be Humbler than even a Blade of Grass, Srila Saraswati Thakur

The bhajans you referred to must qualify as “Prayer, praising Godhead” and are “included in Sankirtana.” Therefore, the result that will come from singing them is all auspicious. Bhajan and kirtan are sankirtana in different forms. Just as oral preaching and book distribution are sankirtana in two different forms.
There are nine processes of devotional service. Kirtana (and bhajan) is one of them. There are eight others, including seva. Seva is wide ranging and includes all activities directed at serving Sri Krishna under the guidance of a higher vaishnava.

Years ago during the installation ceremony of the Deities in Veracruz, Mexico Srila Govinda Maharaja was speaking and leading the chanting of bhajans in the temple. Seated near him were what he termed the dignitary devotees or dignitary vaishnavas of our mission. At one point he asked ”Where is the mountain?” No one understood what he was asking. Then he asked again, ”Where is the mountain, Giri Maharaja?”

Srila Sridhara Maharaja once told us something I found remarkable and very interesting. He said (paraphrasing) ”We could not even imagine seeing our guru maharaja chanting. Although he is propagating the sankirtana movement of Sri Chaitanya throughout the entire world, he was never seen to be singing.” Srila Saraswati Thakura, while promoting sankirtana, and even leading — by going in the front of — his sankirtana parties, laid greater stress on service to vaishnavas (including his disciples) and founded temples specifically for the purpose of giving that opportunity to one and all (“The holy command of Shri Guru has been that we shall serve Godhead in association with one another.”).

Perhaps like you, I tend to feel somewhat uneasy sitting for extended periods of time chanting bhajans. Very soon I feel the urge to do some service that seems to me to be more tangible. I thought “What will Krishna, Gurudeva and devotees do with my singing? What benefit will they get from it?”

Once a devotee, after doing some collecting, came to Srila Govinda Maharaja and, without offering obeisances, threw his collection down on Srila Gurudeva’s table exhibiting a manner that seemed almost contemptuous. Someone noted this (I think it was Goswami Maharaja) and mentioned to Govinda Maharaja ”This devotee did not even offer you obeisances.” Govinda Maharaja replied ”What will I do with his obeisances. What I need from him is his seva.” Personally, I see no reason why both could not be offered—obeisances and seva—but, if only one or the other, seva is preferable.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja spoke extensively to the importance of seva, especially preaching (both oral and written) and book distribution as the higher forms of sankirtana.

Satsvarūpa Mahārāja: I have one question about chanting, japa-mālā. Our Śrīla Prabhupāda has given us many duties to preach in the world. So sometimes when trying to concentrate on japa-mālā, instead of hearing the Holy Name I think of all these different duties I have to do.

Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: Our Prabhupāda was also of that type. Kīrtana, chanting, preaching, kīrtana means preaching, not only loudly pronouncing, bahubhir militvā yat kīrtanam tad eva saṅkīrtanam.

And Mahāprabhu came with saṅkīrtanam. Yajñaiḥ saṅkīrtanam praye. Saṅkīrtana will form the principal part. Yajñaiḥ saṅkīrtana-prāyair, yajanti hi sumedhasaḥ, in ŚrīmadBhāgavatam [11.5.32] we get about Mahāprabhu. Mahāprabhu came with saṅkīrtana. Saṅkīrtana means bahubhir militvā yat kīrtanam, sango śakti kalau yuge. This age of Kali, and the combined efforts will be fruitful; so saṅkīrtanam.

And Prabhupāda came to preach, and so there was the difference between those so called bhajana-siddha sahajiyā, they’re only – once, about Kṛṣṇadāsa Bābājī, Prabhupāda’s remark, “Kṛṣṇadāsa Bābājī is a good man, man of character, but his tendency generally towards Nāma-bhajana.”

Tamal Kṛṣṇa Swāmī: Your God-brother?

Dhīra Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja: Bābājī Mahārāja.

Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: God-brother, Kṛṣṇadāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, yes. He was in Balihati. He did not like to do any other service but he’s always very inclined to take Name in the mālikā. ________________________ [?] I was in charge of Delhi Maṭh at that time. I had intimacy with Kṛṣṇadāsa Bābājī. I wrote to Prabhupāda, “If you permit I like to take Kṛṣṇadāsa Bābājī here in Delhi Maṭh.”

Prabhupāda wrote; that letter is here, “If you can bring him there and make him help you in the work of preaching, then you’ll be doing the friendly service, real friendly service to him. I don’t recognise that in the jungle of Balihati only to count the beads of the Tulasī mālā that is kṛṣṇānusilan.” Balihata jangali bati avasiya tulasi malika arkarsan kṛṣṇānusilan nahe [?]

That was his expression. “The sitting in the jungle of Balihati, only to draw the Tulasī mālikā; that is not kṛṣṇānusilanam, the cultivation about Kṛṣṇa, I don’t recognise that.”

There are so many things. So kīrtana means preaching, śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ, that kīrtana is not uchay, ucharanam [?], but that is preaching regularly, and when it is preaching that must have to fight with the opposition party, wholly, opposition, it is a fight. Kīrtana means a fight. Divine vibration will be created and that will fight with the ordinary vibrations that are floating in this world, in the subtle, and also in the gross waves.

Satsvarūpa Mahārāja: So because preaching is so important our Prabhupāda…

Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: So, I’m coming there, so Prabhupāda told that, “Tulasī, it may not fast.” The minimum advice was, “You must at least once do some service in the mālikā, upabāsa, the mālikā should not fast, that is. And as much as you will be able you preach.”

And once: one of the big mahant of Urupi Maṭh, Utaradi Maṭh, in Madras we had a talk with him. He also told that, “Sometimes I preach about Madhvācārya and this bhakti cult, and I do not get any time for sandhya, gayātrī, japa, all these things, book reading.”

We supported him. Our Guru Mahārāja is of such type. The Hari kathā is not of less importance than the sandhya mantra japam. It is rather a more living thing, more living.

Tamal Kṛṣṇa Swāmī: Preaching is more living.

Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: Preaching is more living. When we are preaching, we are talking, preaching, automatically the maximum control we must have from all our nerves. But otherwise, we may be going on counting, I may be absent minded. But when I’m talking about Kṛṣṇa to a person, to a body, or something like that, then I must be all-attentive, otherwise I may talk irrelevantly.

Tamal Kṛṣṇa Swāmī: So true.

Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: So automatically the whole attention will be concentrated when I shall talk about Kṛṣṇa. So preaching, and writing, that is, more accuracy is necessary than speaking, so writing also kīrtana, the cultivation more intensely thereby, so Kṛṣṇa kīrtana. Kīrtana means, I told the other day, in the Bar Library once that, “Gauḍīya Maṭha has declared totalitarian war against māyā, and all other existing conceptions of religion, and authority is Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and Mahāprabhu.” The divine love is the supreme-most summum bonum of life of every jīva. That is the summum bonum, the highest attainment. Beauty and love: that is controlling the whole thing, and not power. Not power but beauty and love, and that is Kṛṣṇa, that is Vṛndāvana at the highest position. The absolute conception, the conception of the absolute is that of Reality the Beautiful and love divine. And that should not be misconceived that lust is love. It is at the same time this difference should be clearly realised.

[ataeva kāma-preme bahuta antara] kāma — andha-tamaḥ, prema — nirmala bhāskara

[Therefore lust and love are quite different. Lust is like dense darkness, but love is like the bright sun.] [Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi-līlā, 4.171]

The long space of dedication is there, the acme of dedication only there is love, the Braja Vṛndāvana love. And preaching is saṅkīrtana and preaching is the real service of Kṛṣṇa, and not counting beads. But because we have taken and it is ordered by Mahāprabhu and Gurudeva to chant the Name, counting the beads, I must do my duty to that mālikā.

“That mālikā may not fast.” That was the word of Prabhupāda, mālikā upabāsa nā ________________________________ [?] But if I engage myself in preaching, that is I am feeding, Kṛṣṇa feeding everybody, still particularly because that job other things will be done. But there is no doubt, should not be any doubt that if I engage myself in the preaching work in the sevā kaga then I am not really obeying the orders of Mahāprabhu, “Take lākha Nāma.” That is provincial sayings, lākha Nāma, as we’re always engaged in the service of Vaiṣṇava.

tāte kṛṣṇa bhaje, kare gurura sevana / māyā-jāla chuṭe, pāya kṛṣṇera caraṇa

[By worshipping Kṛṣṇa and rendering service to the spiritual master, one is liberated from the illusory world of māyā, and attains the lotus feet of the Lord.]
[Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā, 22.25]

Sevā, that is, the spirit of service is the all important factor; all important factor.We’re not told that the gopīs they always count the Nāma, the Tulasī bead, but how they possess the highest position in the jurisdiction of the service of Kṛṣṇa. So Kṛṣṇa Nāma, Kṛṣṇa, He will help us greatly and most cheaply towards Vṛndāvana, Nāma. Its importance is there, that like a special train it carries us to the goal without stopping in any other station. We’re only taking the Name without any formal petition, ‘give me this, that, that.’ No kāmana.

Tamal Kṛṣṇa Swāmī: Express train.

Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: Express train, or special train, only it will go to Vṛndāvana, non stop, the Name. This anyābhilāṣa, karma, jñāna, all these aspirations are not there. “I want Kṛṣṇa. I do not know what is good, what is bad. I want Kṛṣṇa.” Something like that.

Tamal Kṛṣṇa Swāmī: How many mālās did your Guru Mahārāja ask his initiated disciples to chant each day? Set number?

Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: General, at least four times, if in proper health, at least four times. Then generally, the general recommendation was at least twenty five thousand; that is sixteen beads.

Dhīra Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja: Sixteen rounds.

Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: At least four times, minimum. And then when you have got no work you may do one lākh.

Tamal Kṛṣṇa Swāmī: So would he give dīkṣā for four times? If someone could only do four times, would he give someone Hari Nāma dīkṣā, your Guru Mahārāja? If someone was only doing four mālās a day, would your Guru Mahārāja give him Hari Nāma dīkṣā?

Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: Hari Nāma dīkṣā?

Dhīra Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja: At the time of dīkṣā, he would ask sixteen, or how many?

Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: No consideration, no consideration. Formally he must do something, counting; no rigid limitation. But what he wanted from us that intense engagement in the service, under the guidance of Vaiṣṇava. Hari sevā, vaiṣṇava anugatye hari sevā: because the all important factor, what I was just going to say, the, sevonmukhe hi jihvādau svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ.

[ataḥ śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāmādi na bhaved grāhyam indriyaiḥ
sevonmukhe hi jihvādau svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ]

[Therefore, (because the name of Krsna is identical with Krsna Himself, and is beyond the realm of sense experience) the name, form, qualities, associates, and pastimes of Krsna are beyond the realm of sense experience. When, however, a devotee engages the senses, beginning with the tongue, in the service of the Lord, Krsna reveals Himself to the purified senses of that devotee.] [Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Purva-vibhaga, 2.234]

Only by increasing the number we cannot achieve the goal. Sevonmukhe hi, by increasing the quality, not quantity. But what is the quality? Sevonmukhata. Sevonmukhe hi jihvādau svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ. There are so many sayings in the śāstra to encourage Hari Nāma in different ways, but Śrī Rūpa Goswāmī is giving a central thought there. He says, ataḥ śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāmādi na bhaved grāhyam indriyaiḥ. Our indriya, physical or mental, they’re not eligible to come in touch with the aprākṛta. The Name is aprākṛta, Vaikuṇṭha, another plane. So ataḥ śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāmādi, nāma, rūpa, guṇa, līlā, nothing about Kṛṣṇa can be even touched by our indriyas, the senses, physical senses or mental senses. But, sevonmukhe hi jihvādau, but when we are sevonmukhe, we are in serving attitude, proper serving attitude, svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ, He comes down of His own accord. Then this tongue can pronounce Kṛṣṇa. Otherwise only the akha, that is the letter, the physical sound, mundane sound. The tongue, this hand, all these, our mundane things cannot come in touch, but intervening something is necessary to connect this body with the aprākṛta and that is sevon mukhata, our earnest desire to serve Him, to satisfy Him. That must come in connection.

The bulb won’t light if the connection of the electricity is not there. So, and if electric connection is ready then if you push the switch then the bulb will be lit.

So the Name may come in the tongue, and in the ear, in the mind, in the writing, but the sevon mukhata, the connection we must have from Vaikuṇṭha to this mundane world. What is that? That is sevā, bhakti; a function of serving attitude. That can only connect this physical world with Vaikuṇṭha, Vṛndāvana.

ataḥ śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāmādi na bhaved grāhyam indriyaiḥ
sevonmukhe hi jihvādau svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ

He’ll come out of His own accord. He’ll come down, to your tongue. Then your tongue will be able to take the Name of Kṛṣṇa. Otherwise this is __________________ bogus firing.
_________________________ [?] The Name, nāmākṣara bahiraya batu nāma kabu naya. [Merely the sound of the Holy Name of Kṛṣṇa should never be thought of as the actual Name. This is explained in the Prema-vivarta of Jagadānanda Paṇḍita, a book which is full of the philosophical conclusions of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. It was published and edited by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura.]

Devotees: Misfire.

Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: Misfire is when it loses its aim, is it not that? Without bullet, firing; firing without bullet – that is misfire, without bullet?

Dhīra Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja: Oh, blank?

Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: Blank, yes, blank sound.

Dhīra Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja: Makes the sound but no bullet.

Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: The sound but no bullet. Just like that, the Kṛṣṇa, only the tongue depth Kṛṣṇa.

Tamal Kṛṣṇa Swāmī: Chanting without service is like firing a gun without any bullets. Just the sound, that’s all.

Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: Hearing also, so Kṛṣṇa; that must be surcharged with serving temperament, that is, the tendency to satisfy Kṛṣṇa, otherwise that sound is bogus, only imitation. Ataḥ śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāmādi na bhaved grāhyam indriyaiḥ. It is not to be taken by indriya. Atindriya, transcendental, supra-mental, transcendental; so ordinary sound in the mundane world cannot be the Name of Kṛṣṇa. Or even the ear cannot hear the Name. If that mediator, that is the serving attitude is not there, then ear cannot, but earnestness to satisfy the Kṛṣṇa’s will, in that temperament, that is mediate between Kṛṣṇa and the ear, through the mind. Then only Kṛṣṇa Nāma will enter this ear. So, ataḥ śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāmādi, so Kṛṣṇa nāma, rūpa, guṇa, līlā, everything is not physical, it is aprākṛta, only through sevonmukhata it can come down to this mundane world; everything.

Our Guru Mahārāja laid highest stress on this, the sevon mukhe. Without sevon mukhata everything will be bogus, all imitation. And people will say, “Oh, there is no Kṛṣṇa. These are hypocrites. They’re only dancing and making noise. Not surcharged with that spirit of sevon mukhata.”

Then coming in direct contact with Kṛṣṇa everything will be all right. So sevonmukhata, the sevon mukhata to practice how to attain sevon mukhata, the Vaiṣṇava sevā, Vaiṣṇava is doing service, and imbibe from him, do, practice how to attain the way, how to attain the serving attitude, serving attitude, sevon mukhata, bhakti, śraddhā, śraddhā, bhakti. And sādhu will come to the great help in such stage. Under the control, under the order of sādhu, you practice yourself to give yourself. Self abnegation is necessary. Self dedication is necessary. And the positive thing you will get from the sādhu. And try to, with self abnegation, try to dedicate yourself.

—Srila Sridhara Maharaja, 81.03.07.A

Srila Sridhara Maharaja said “Gauḍīya Maṭha has declared totalitarian war against māyā, and all other existing conceptions of religion.” Srila Swami Maharaja spoke something very similar.

Prabhupāda: Preach as much as possible, by saṅkīrtana, big saṅkīrtana. Big saṅkīrtana is book distribution, and small saṅkīrtana= is with mṛdaṅga.= Big saṅkīrtana is going on all over the world; small saṅkīrtana locally. Overflood the demons’ godless civilization. Our declaration of war against this godless civilization.

Dec. 31, 1976,Bombay
Audio file: audio/transcripts/1976/761231R2.BOM.mp3

So, preach as much as possible and if you can distribute the books of our sampradaya that is very good. But after the books have been distributed, then what? Who will guide the sincere seeker in his reading of the books? Will you direct him to ISKCON, following your example?

so I go to Iskcon for kirtans

I do not. I have not gone there since 1982 except for some specific service for our Mission or as directed by Srila Sridhara Maharaja or Srila Govinda Maharaja. We have been warned many times against going there. It has become the fashion to ignore the warnings. But I cannot forget advice such as that found in the following excerpt of one of Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s talks with us.

Visitor: Should we associate with the saints of ISKCON, or with the saints from Caitanya Association [Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math]?

Devotees: [Group laughter]

Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja: That is a direct question put. If you want my clear impartial decision I may say that what they’re doing that is primary. They fail to catch the higher realisation. They’re going at present in a business way. The connection with pure spirituality has been lessened there, degraded. As regards to the adherence with the highest ideal, the real ideal, according to me they have deviated and going lower to the material conception of the thing. The monopoly of trade, that is to enjoy the credit of their Gurudeva, exploiting the name of their Guru. Going far down from the high ideal, the abstract thing, and more or less being materialised. Organisation to be admired according to the ideal for which they’re organised. The deviation from the high ideal, then the organisation will fetch a lower value. The ideal will have the best importance.

So I cannot give ditto to their activities, so they’re now preaching against me. And I’m told that so much that they have been preaching me as a demon, and I’m injecting poison, according to them. Because I say that they’re below the standard. A big organisation, that is good, approaching many souls for their delivery. That is one thing, that quantity. But as regards quality, they’re lacking, according to my decision, as sincerely speaking as I feel I say so.

I have got my fifty-five years experience in the Maṭh, and seen many things, and experienced many things. Though it is not within this mundane experience, but experience with the association of the sādhu, that is something. And with that experience and aspiration, and as supported by our God friends also. What I can understand is that they’re afraid of keeping, or making contact with Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Bhaktisiddhānta Sarawatī Ṭhākura, and my faith. What I say, I’m saying from the beginning, from the time of Swāmī Mahārāja. They’re also coming, during Swāmī Mahārāja’s lifetime many came to me, even Swāmī Mahārāja, we had a talk. I think I’m in that standard, my talk is of that standard. But they say that is going against them, against their committee, their combined resolution. I have got my independent opinion. And when it comes in clash with them they say it is a poison.

—82.07.27.A

One might reply to me ”That was 1982, now it is different, they no longer make offense to Srila Sridhara Maharaja.”

That is not my experience. Offense to Srila Sridhara Maharaja is systemic within ISKCON.

The following excerpt was sent to me in an email by a disciple of one of my Godbrother (by Srila Prabhupada) ISKCON gurus. It is indicative of how deep the offensive mentality runs throughout ISKCON.

“Dear Uddhava

Please accept my blessings, all glories to Srila Prabhupada!

In my last email , I clearly told you that iskcon members are not to associate with , or read the books of the Gaudiya Math. It seems you do not accept my instructions in this regard.

You should know that Sridhar and Govinda gave initiation to disciples of Prabhupada and his disciples in good standing.

By association of these persons, your Bhakti Lata Bija will be destroyed and, as your guru, I would be implicated also.

The choice before you is simple, stand by your diksa vows by maintaining chastity to the real parampara that you belong to or, leave iskcon and that connection behind.

Whichever you decide, I wish you the very best and hope that you never forget the mercy that Srila Prabhupada gave you. For it is by his mercy that all the other Vaishnava missions still somehow continue to exist.”

ISKCON has no actual guru, as it did during the time of Srila Prabhuapda, and the devotees of ISKCON think Prabhupada will continue to do the work of guru of ISKCON so that no one else will be held to that responsibility.

In place of a guru it has substituted a committee of both so-called acharyas and non acharya members who decide all important matters by vote, a sort of democracy.

Prabhupāda: But it is democracy. Because we are sinful, we have made a sinful government. It is democracy. Formerly the personal monarchy… There is no monarchy. It is democracy.

Morning Walk, Jan. 12, 1976, Bombay
Audio file: audio/transcripts/1976/760112MW.BOM.mp3

Democracy is not great for a materialistic society, it is worse for a spiritual one.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja said ”Mass is ignorant.” This highlights the main problem with democracy; those of a lower standard (the majority of humanity) choose who shall be accepted to rule over them. In ISKCON those considered to be of a lower standard of devotion, the non-acharya section, decide who shall be accepted as the highest standard (acharya mam vijaniyam), the one who is supposed to be the highest and purest representative of Sri Krishna. They are not qualified to do this. As a result the sampradaya propagated in this way becomes spoiled (apa-sampradaya). Instead of skisa-guru parampara it is democracy parampara and, like all democracies, regardless of how noble its design, will eventually degrade to the point of buying votes. When the mass comes to realize it can get what it wants by simply voting for a candidate for office who agrees to offer it to him, the candidates will respond by promising more and more benefits to the voter. At its zenith candidates will offer to supply all the needs of the voter — food, shelter, clothing, education, etc. — with no demand on the voter to do anything for himself; except vote for the candidate offering him the most ”free stuff.” This is a very pleasing proposal for the masses who are sudras and want nothing more than security and material enjoyment, in exchange for which they are willing to sell themselves as slaves to the master offering them the best deal.

In the material world all forms of government are imperfect and problematic so long as the population is blind to spiritual life. A raja-rshi, an auspicious ruler with true spiritual vision, will be able to guide society in such a way as to help promote all its members up the ladder of progressive spiritual life. By the same token an auspicious citizenry will demand an auspicious ruler.

Spiritual societies (Gurudeva’s Mission you asked about), like their material counterparts, will not do well when run as democracies. They must be guided by an acharya and the acharya must have veto power over all others. That was the system that served us so well as disciples of Srila Prabhupada, Srila Sridhara Maharaja and Srila Govinda Maharaja. Any proposal that was decided by others could always be vetoed by our acharya, the ultimate guide and ruler of our activities.

Devotee: So, it is possible that even if some members of the Governing Body, they are not gurus, but can the Governing Body as a whole make a restriction on the activity of an individual guru?

Srila Sridhara Maharaja: (Laughter) A most difficult thing, (more laughter), a non-guru comes to regulate the gurus. Is it not?

Assembly: Yes.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Those who are not fit for guru, who are not considered to be fit for guru, he will come to guide the guru?

— 78.03.__.A [GBC] & 78.03.__.B [GBC]

I have been criticized and derided because I detected this flaw in the system the International Acharya Board (”IAB”) attempted to establish and spoke out against it. From the time of its very first meeting it sought to ”regulate the gurus” following the decision of both acharya and non-acharya (Goswami Maharaja). Immediately afterwards, while including the non-acharya in their meetings, they excluded two acharyas directly selected by Srila Govinda Maharaja to succeed him (myself and Sripada Trivikrama Maharaja). At this point the whole thing was ruined and due to further decisions taken by them the Navadwipa Math — the principal seat of Srila Sridhara Maharaja — and other properties of our gurus’ Mission were lost to ”anti parties” who were offenders to Srila Govinda Maharaja and, ipso-facto, Srila Sridhara Maharaja.

In one of your emails to me you spoke derisively about the rtvik-guru idea propagated by some nonsense disciples of Srila Prabhupada. You were correct in assessing the flaws with that idea which opposes the system of skisa-guru parampara accepted by the acharyas in our sampradaya.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja: If nama guru is living, then he should be mantra guru, he should be sannyasa guru.

Jayapataka Maharaja: Everything.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Everything, everything. And the ritviks are but vartma pradarsaka guru. When he was living, he appointed so many ritviks, representatives, they are really, they are vartma pradarsaka. Do you follow?

Jayapataka Maharaja: Vartma pradarsaka.

Srila Sridhara Maharaja: That, they are showing, they are showing, indicating the way to the guru.

—SSM & GBC, Mar. 1978, some bkg edits

Practically speaking ISKCON promotes the same flawed rtvik-guru system in a modified form by enforcing ultimate allegiance of its members to its governing body commission (GBC) rather than to a guru or acharya. Everyone is constantly reminded that the GBC is the ultimate authority, even above the guru of any disciples (as exemplified in the quotation above from Uddhava dasa). It’s ISKCON’s way or the highway and the GBC decides what the ISKCON way will be.

While some devotees of ISKCON may now present themselves as neutral or even favorable to Srila Sridhara Maharaja and his teachings, it is, as far as I’ve seen, only a mask covering their real face. Srila Govinda Maharaja explains how they now manage this, when previously they showed their real face. It is because Srila Sridhara Maharaja no longer presents any threat to them.

88.11.02.A Nab @0:14 (edited by bkg for readability)

Srila Govinda Maharaja …Jayapataka Swami [ISKCON guru/GBC] also came here, and he glorified very much. Now there is no difficulty to glorify. Now [after his disappearance] no one can come to Guru Maharaja. No one can see him here, then he is glorifying very nicely. And also I have seen, that book is also with me, one news of the disappearance of Guru Maharaja, and they wrote very nicely four or five pages. Five pages about Guru Maharaja, glorifying, and said Guru Maharaja was the highest Vaishnava in this world.

They are not coming in the time of Guru Maharaja, they’re afraid their disciples will go to Sridhara Maharaja, if they are seen going to him.

But after the disappearance of Guru Maharaja, they printed his magazine and there are five pages of glorification of Guru Maharaja. And very nicely they wrote. Little mistakes are there, little mistakes. Not historical mistake, some time mistake. You have seen? And they sent it.

Guru Maharaja was not taking their magazine from them. Guru Maharaja wrote them “We do not want your magazine. Don’t send to me.” In this way, Maharaja was very heavy, he cannot tolerate any apa–siddhanta [opinions outside those of authentic Gaudiya Acharyas].

As you may note by the length of this email, even small points can require lengthy and well researched responses. Because my time is limited I hope you will excuse my inability to respond to every point of your email but I am trying as best I can to work through each of them as time permits.

I hope this finds you well in all respects.

Sincerely,

Swami B.K. Giri

NB I hope to begin my next installment by addressing your comment: “Unfortunately, sahajiya is flourishing there (ISKCON). But chanting under the protection and presence of Prabhupada is spiritual association.”