[When votes count more than theology]

by Sripad BV Avadhuta Maharaja

Politics is a funny thing. It takes a role in everything. Everyone has an opinion and some, unfortunately want there opinion to predominate. So, they sway others to their side, talk and when there is a good chance legislate.

Opinion, however, does not matter an iota in the face of realization. It has to bow down to the power of truth as it is revealed to the hearts of the 'chosen'. Gopinatha Acharya, a relative of the powerful mayavada Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya was adamant about the absolute position of his master Shree Chaitanya as being the powerful Supreme Lord in person. The disciples of Puri's Bhattacharya were not convinced and sided with Sarvabhauma who contended that there was no avatar in the Kali yuga. When asked point blank how he knew such a claim was true Gopinatha opted that he had received the mercy of the Lord and was therefore in the right. Of course, there are scriptural statements to verify the descent of the Lord in Kali yuga as the son of Sachi and Jagganatha Misra, but nonetheless, Gopinatha pronounced the fact that unless one receives the mercy of the Lord he cannot understand things as they are.

Another consideration of the situation of Sarvabhauma and his disciples as far as there removal from grace is the offensive nature of Mayavada philosophy. Any Mayavadi is an offender to the Supreme Lord by denying his Person.

When I read the statements (VNN story# 7290) of my senior god-brother, Satswarupa Das Goswami regarding the present situation in ISKCON I could not help but think of the above similarity.

The article entitled, "How All Generations Can Stay With Srila Prabhupada" could have been written by the Ritvik camp for it denies the continuation of the sacred parampara despite the fact that the disciples of Srila Prabhupada continue to initiate and advance the parampara by tradition and ritual. However, is this the real parampara? If it is then why the BBT does not at least put all the names of the ISKCON gurus under Srila Prabhupada's name in the Bhagavad-gita and other publications so everyone can know just who is the guru for the present generation. If someone then reads the Gita and is impressed with the philosophy he can then go to that person and feel he is part of the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya. Yet, till this day no publication has ever printed anyone's name in the list of disciplic succession. Why?

Obviously, the reason is that the succession has stopped. There is no one to fill the gap and for that reason Srila Satswarupa and others want others to know that Srila Prabhupada is the one who continues the parampara with a perfunctory initiation performed by certain selected gurus. The new disciple offers worship and praise to his ceremonial guru but his instructions are to read and understand Krishna consciousness from Srila Prabhupada's books, as he lives always in sound. Thus Srila Satswarupa concludes that 'all the nectar of his Srila Prabhupada's direct association' is still available.

This is the direct result of institutional politics. The parampara is lost by virtue of heartlessness and imposition. It is makeshift and because the society of ISKCON has become bereft of a pure sadhu it will either fade into oblivion or structure itself to continue in much the same way that the Catholic Church and other Christian organization have for the sake of their founder-acharya, Jesus.

It is here that we need to review a little of history, because if you are unaware of the events that took place in ISKCON then it is very easy for those in power to convince by avoiding the facts.

We all know that Srila Prabhupada wanted just one 'moon'. By moon we mean a person who outshone all others and would become the next acharya. Was Srila Prabupada's desire unfulfilled? Was he unsuccessful in filling the position he maintained for eleven years? No. Absolutely not. He was successful. For anyone who heard from Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja and observed his character and activities the natural conclusion came to mind that here is the moon that Srila Prabhupada wanted over and above so many other 'stars'. Unfortunately for the world at large and the entire movement of Krishna-consciousness many of the stars became jealous of being outshone. So, politicking to their chagrin Srila Gour Govinda was denied the right to preach in many areas of the world and was about to be excommunicated before he removed himself from the world of Vaishnava gone mad. Although we all know that the position of acharya is not a matter of vote counting but of realization of the Divine it would have been only proper if the position and title of 'acharya' had been given to him. Just as the Rajasuya sacrifice of Yuddhisthira Maharaja was executed to honor and worship Shree Krishna, so the glorious pure devotee moon could have been duly praised and allowed to guide and instruct all the men and women of ISKCON. Of course, such an event was never to even come in dream except in the hearts of the faithful. After all the whole hierarchy of gurus and disciples could be put into disarray.

Politics is such an evil master. It works to the advantage of insincere and blind followers to secure their goals and paradoxically defeat the goals of the founder-acharya. What is worthy of mention here is the history of how our siddhanta, our Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy became corrupted by the instigation of the politically minded. Srila Gour Govinda Swami made strong reference to the fact that the 'jiva' soul cannot fall from Vaikuntha.

The tiny soul is 'tatastha shakti' and as such it is in a position to choose matter or spirit but not from within the boundary of spirit. It is in the marginal position originally and can see both worlds. Thus we are 'pro-choice'. That is the Gaudiya tradition. The 'pro-lila' contenders believe that the soul was with Krishna in Goloka and got the 'boot' for being envious. However, the 'chit-jagat' or spiritual world is without Maya or the material energy. Envy and spite are conspicuous by their absence. When Satyanarayana Das and others were translating the Sandarba's of Jiva Goswami which our Srila Prabhupada described as the final authority in all philosophical matters, they were stopped by the same political heads when it was discovered that Jiva Goswami was also a 'pro-choice' advocate. To further lampoon the folly of mundane politics the leaders of Srila Prabhupada's institute then decided to cast a vote on the siddhanta during the yearly pilgrimage to Mayapura, India. Thus they not only deleted a basic truth to Gaudiya Vaishnavism but also did so while living in the holy dhama to further compound the pitiful effects of there foolishness.

No doubt Srila Prabhupada wanted his disciples to become guru, as had Lord Chaitanya and any and all who follow Him. Become guru. However, there are two levels of guru. One is a monitor-guru who looks after his flock of disciples and carries on the tradition by acting in accord with the scripture and predecessors, and another guru who has full realization of the Godhead and is steeped in love being situated firmly in his permanent relationship or stayibhava. To carry on the parampara and stabilize an organization by siddhanta and mercy only a bhagavat-bhakta, pure devotee will do. As much as Srila Satswarupa and others lay stress on being strict followers the history of ISKCON is full of 'corruption'. The modes of nature corrupt and if one is not situated above the three modes of natures he or she will become corrupted to various degrees. It is only a matter of time. Thus the society has to continually apologize and reorganize itself if it is to continue and have the support of its followers. However, a faithful follower may see too much or get wind of events contrary to the ideals of Krishna-consciousness and eventually leave. This is the case before the ISKCON society. Srila Satswarupa and others have to continually apologize for the faults of erring devotees. They must also no doubt have to cover or avoid mentioning things that would be embarrassing. But still the papers and talks will go on about remaining sincere to the founder and not abandoning the institute he founded.

If only the leading men had the vision that went along with their position then we would have seen Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja's name in the list of disciplic succession although he only came to light ten years after the departure of our Srila Prabhupada. In that interim however there was another acharya, another pure devotee, realized soul whom Srila Prabhupada had even asked to become the President of ISKCON, as he had previously done when he founded his League of Devotees in Jhansi, India. That personality who preached strongly and enamoured many of the men who had come to Srila Prabhupada was none other than Bhakti Rakshak Shridar Maharaja of the Gaudiya Math. The fact is that the Gaudiya Math and ISKCON are in essence one and the same despite the contention of Srila Satswarupa. That our Srila Prabhupada would offer to put an elevator in the Mayapura Chandrodaya Temple and live in the same room as his god-brother is only verification of the truth. But we will see and have seen how the efforts of Srila Satswarupa and others will be to divide and conquer by defining so many irreconcilable divisions between the two camps even though their spiritual master had wanted the two to work cooperatively to spread Krishna consciousness.

Srila Prabhupada had asserted the fact that only he and Srila Sridhar Maharaja were capable of translating and purporting on the Srimad Bhagavatam, the crest jewel of Puranic scripture and 'Bible' of the devotees. But again politicians had their way and that honor and blessing was not offered to the head of the Chaitanya Sarawat Gaudiya Math. Instead, a devotee who disobeyed Srila Prabhupada's order not to go to school to learn Sanskrit took up the task.

Had their been true-hearted devotees leading the movement then acknowledging their inherent weakness they would have understood their master's desire and begged Srila Shridar to lead them and take the position of acharya. Krishna had lead devotees to the Chaitanya Sarawat Math in Nabadwipa but it was Srila Prabhupada's expressed desire that Srila Shridar Maharaja live in Mayapura and facilitate devotees around the world to hear from a Mahabhagavat. Knowing past, present and future our Srila Prabhupada obviously knew that he was to depart in 1977. Thus he petitioned Srila Shridhar's presence in order to enthuse and enlighten his young disciples with such a powerful preacher who was praised by Srila Prabhpada's own guru, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta.

Thus from the historical perspective it was obvious that Lord Krishna provided the opportunity for devotees who were practicing Krishna-consciousness to hear from realized souls. Whether the institution had the intelligence to implement their realization in regular classes and books was another matter, however. Srila Shridar Maharaja was criticized and blasphemed for speaking Krishna-consciousness to the ISKCON devotees who became bereft of a real sadhu in the person of Srila Prabhupada although as we mentioned previously it was in fact the desire of the founder-acharya to put such a sadhu within the walls of his society before he left the world. In this way we see how an institution can act to the complete contrary of their guru's desire and obviously Lord Krishna's desire since the sadhu and the Lord are intimately connected.

It would have been wonderful however, if ISKCON had worked in the spirit of sadhu-sanga, always hearing from the lips of realized souls. Not only would the lives of so many devotees have changed but we would not doubt have not had to bear witness to so many ghastly 'falldowns' in the absence of an acharya.

Furthermore, the BBT, the publishing arm of ISKCON could have fired up the presses with the words and proclamations of the Lord's pure devotees. If that had been done the world would then have been flooded not only with the divine message of Srila Prabhupada but also his god-brother, Srila Shridar Maharaja and his disciple Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja. The BBT's glories would have reached heights never before imagined. But, alas history is full of folly.

We are told by Srila Satswarupa to serve in separation. But he is totally unaware of the fact that a devotee who has not realized his eternal identity has to associate with real devotees of the Lord, otherwise falldowns are inevitable. There may not even be a gross falldown as we witnessed so many times in the years after Srila Prabhupada's departure, but there may be so many subtle falldowns which nobody ever hears about but which leaves the movement and society founded by Srila Prabhupada floundering in diverse ways.

Srila Raghunatha Das was ready to commit suicide being bereft of association. Srila Narottam Das was ready to beat his head on stone. These are fully realized souls and just witness their torment due to separation. So how are we to manage our lives in such separation. Who wants to dally. Srila Prabhupada had told us that we were unfortunate as to not be afraid of Maya. We have to have association. It is not only to root of bhakti but the mainstay as well. 'Krishna bhakti janma mula haya sadhu sanga'! 'Krishna prema janma punah mukya anga'!

We may want to glorify Srila Prabhupada for spreading Krishna-consciousness and the chanting of the holy names of the Lord around the world but what is the situation of the Temples today? How many are chanting the pure holy names of the Lord? How many devotees compromise with the illusory energy? Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati contended that he would sell all his Maths and liquidate everything if he could bring one soul to Krishna consciousness. The value of buildings and manpower is insignificant in the wake of a pure devotee's presence.

For any devotee who comes under the grace of a real sadhu, his guru is all and all and as good as God - 'shakshat Hari'. For this reason we cannot dismiss the sentiments of Srila Prabhupada's disciples. However, their sentiment is working against their dormant Krishna consciousness by denying themselves and others access to the real key to higher consciousness.

Now that Srila Gour Govinda is gone from this world having departed of his own accord due to the politics of his guru's neophyte disciples we have to seriously make amends before it is too late. After the departure of Srila Gour Govinda the Lord so kindly sent another pure devotee to take up the slack. His name is Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja and it was his kindness and mercy to accept the order of Srila Prabhupada to place him in Samadhi in Vrindaban in 1977 and to help his disciples in their Krishna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada told to us to consult with Srila Narayana Maharaja with regards to Vaishnava ettiquette and it would seem to me that the Maharaja was allowing Srila Gour Govinda the place of preacher-acharya before he entered the arena. Thus in 1996 after the departure of Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja, Srila Narayana Maharaja began with his world preaching.

Srila Narayana Maharaja has placed emphasis where emphasis is due and that is why he has stressed the importance of 'raga' or deep attachment to Krishna and His associates in the mood of the gopis of Vrindaban. The gopis are the topmost devotees of the Lord and anyone who follows the six Goswamis of Vrindavan must imbibe this message as the writer of the Chaitanya Charitamrita, Srila Krishnadas Kaviraja has stated that the Lord is not moved by worship in 'opulence' or the mood established by 'vaidhi bhakti' that of scriptural rules and regulations. He is moved by spontaneous love exemplified in the highest degree by the damsels of Vrindavan. This spontaneity is what Rupa Goswami taught in his book the Bhaktirasamrita Sindhu ultimately and it is the secret of achieving the mercy of the Lord and the goal of entering into the abode of Goloka.

It was stated in the article of Srila Satswarupa that Srila Prabhupada's answer to the question of what service most pleases him, was to "love Krishna". If that is the case then actual love can most easily be achieved if we are guided on the path of raganuga bhakti by a competent devotee who has achieved Krishna bhakti. The contention that we should honor the institute of our predecessor acharya by remaining faithful to it would seem ridiculous if we do not honor the desire of Srila Prabhupada as expressed to 'love Krishna'. That desire could most easily be 'instituted' if the men and women of ISKCON allowed Srila Narayana Maharaja or any other realized Vaishnava steeped in the wake of raganuga bhakti to enter its 'sacred' halls and speak. Even by seeing such a pure devotee one can secure many blessing for not only himself but generations past and future. If we scrutinize the 'lawbook' of Krishna-consciousness, Srila Prabhupada's translation of Rupa Goswami's 'Bhakti-Rasamrita Sindhu' we can find so many references to association with pure devotees of the Lord and the mercy by which one can advance in love of God. But it seems that the minds of Srila Prabhupada's 'faithful' disciples are not in favor of such association or mercy. It is really a crying shame. I feel betrayed and sorry for the many souls who are being denied access to real love of God. Is not this denial demoniac? Is it possible for a devotee to be a demon? In a way I suppose, yes. We know for a fact that Srila Madhava Maharaja had denied our Srila Prabhupada land to purchase for the Mayapura Temple despite being one of the most powerful preachers of Krishna-consciousness after the departure of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta in India. Later, of course he changed his mind on the instigation of Srila Shridar Maharaja and the land was purchased for the Mayapura Temple.

In the same way I feel that this little bit of Maya can be dissolved and finished for once and all if the present leadership of ISKCON can meet to allow for once and for all time hopefully a pure Vaishnava saint to enter its Temples and preach. Should the doors of Srila Prabhupada's Temples remain closed to his most affectionate well-wisher who served Srila Prabhupada long before many devotees were even born and who has been in the renounced order of life for longer than all the devotees have been in contact with Krishna-consciousness.

Yet, there is such a strong objection and fear that opening the doors of ISKCON's Vaishnava Temples would endanger the status quo. Many devotees may be drawn to the Maharaja and leave to follow him. There could be violent confrontations with the disciples of other gurus.

In this regard we are reminded of a situation in which one of Srila Prabhupada's disciples came before Srila Narayana Maharaja and although offering due respect he was overtly closed-minded, emphatically asserting that he needed no help from others and his love was reserved just for Srila Prabhupada and no one else.

The Maharaja then politely asked if he loved his mother. The devotee replied to the affirmative. Then Maharaja asked if he also loved his father. The devotee replied again, "Yes". Maharaja then asked about his father's father and his mother's mother to make the point that love should be realistic. The point being that all mahabhagavats are our helpers. They only want us to succeed in conquering the forces of Maya, illusion, which intercedes in our attempts to reach 100% purity of mind and heart.

Srila Satswarupa acknowledges that ISKCON is not perfect and has made mistakes in the past. He did not mention any specifics but all devotees should know very well that there is no greater mistake to be made than offending Vaishnavas. Before we can enter the tenth canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam we are acquainted with the history of Ambarisha Maharaja in the ninth canto wherein Shukadeva Goswami illustrates the seriousness of Vaishnava aparadha.

If we were to examine the faults of ISKCON with the aim of improving its status and future we would not have to look any further than the first offence to the holy name of the Lord which is recited faithfully by all the devotees after Mangala Aratika. If we were to apply the Califonia State's 'three strikes and you are out' principle then counting Srila Shridar Maharaja and Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja as two venerable Vaishnava's who bore the brunt of aparadha, the society founder by Srila Prabhupada would now be 'out' having offended Srila Narayana Maharaja by even going so far as to label him a 'sahajiya'.

A Vaishnava aparadha can only be removed as we see in the story of Durvasa Muni and Maharaja Ambarisha by falling flat before the devotee whom we offended and begging his mercy. If the devotee however, leaves this world before we can make all apologies then our fate is more or less sealed to our detriment. It would therefore make sense that before the 'three strikes' takes effect that the leaders of the said society come before Srila Narayana Maharaja and ask him humbly how they should act in order to become free from the offences they have committed. Being that Srila Prabhupada ordered us all to seek his advice on matters of etiquette, it would be most profound to hear what then transpired for the benefit of ISKCON and the whole world.

If this one humble act can be done with all sincerity I am sure the course of the Vaishnava world will change and with it the whole world.

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