It seems appropriate to write this article today, on the appearance day of His Divine Grace Srila Prajnana Kesava Maharaj. He inspired my Srila Prabhupada to accept the renounced order of Life and fulfill the order of our line's parama gurudeva Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarsvati Thakur had instructed Abhay Charan De many years earlier to preach this cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to the English speaking world. Abhay Charanaravinda did his best from the grihasta ashram. He lost direct contact with his god brothers For some years, but re-connected with them in Allahabad, and offered whatever facility he could to the Gaudyia Vaisanvas.
Despite an eronious remark recently printed on VNN that Abhay Charanaravinda prabhu "...did virtually nothing to help our Param Gurudeva," during his household years we can see from the actual history and not anyone's useless opinion that he was always helpful to his god brothers. He offered residential quarter to Srila Sridhar Maharaj for 8 years and they had many intimate discussions on philosophy. As a grihasta Srila Prabhupada paid for the printing of Srila Sridhar Maharaj's Sri Sri Prapanna-jivanamrta. Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Prabhu also lived with Srila Prajnana Kesava Maharaj for some time and co-founded the Gaudiya Vedanta Samhiti with him in the l940's.
Abhay Charanaravinda was not an ordinary householder. He started his Back to Godhead Magazine in l944 and was sole writer, editor and publisher for many years until his disciples took over the task in the l960's. He wrote many articles for the Sri Gaudiya Patrika (the magazine of the Gaudiya Vedanta Samhiti) and his articles were always deeply appreciated by the other Vaisnavas, except perhaps the envious who were overly concerned with his outer dress.
He spoke at many functions of the Gaudiya Matha, and particularly on the appearance days of his Divine Gurudeva, our beloved spiritual grandfather Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura.
His poem was received by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura very enthusiastically. This Poem expresses Srila Prabhupada's great love and appreciation for his spiritual master. It was written earlier but published in the second appearance of Back to Godhead on February 16, 1952:
Adore adore ye all,
The happy day.
Blessed than Heaven
Sweeter than May.
When He appeared at Puri
The holy place,
My Lord and Master,
His Divine Grace
Oh ! my Master
The evangelic angel.
Give us they light,
Lit up thy candle,
Struggle for existence
A Human race,
The only hope
His Divine Grace
Misled we are
All going astray,
Save us Lord
Our fervent pray,
Wonder thy ways
To turn our face
Adore thy feet
Your Divine Grace
We fallen soul
Paying most heavy
The illusion's toll
The only hope
His Divine Grace
FIVE Message of service
Thou has brought
A healthful life
As Caitanya wrought.
Unknown to all
It's full of brace.
That's your gift
Your Divine Grace
Absolute is sentient
Thou has proved.
Thou has moved.
This gives us a life
Anew and fresh.
Worship thy feet
Your Divine Grace
Had you not come
Who had told
The message of Krishna
Forceful and bold
That's your right
You have the mace
Save me a fallen
Your Divine Grace.
The line of service
As drawn by you,
Is pleasing and healthy
Like morning dew
The oldest of all
But in new-dress
Your Divine Grace.
While some may try to limit the importance of Srila Prabhupada's years as a householder he was clearly showing the proper example of responsibility to family affairs and fealty to guru that we must imbibe in our own lives if we are married with dependents to care for.
The nara lila of the acaryas illustrate important steps in the life of a jiva soul. Nara lila means That the eternally liberated soul acts like an ordinary conditioned jiva for the benefit of Instructing others. We know that Arjuna was not in illusion when he expressed doubts about his duty to Lord Krsna. The result of his "hesitation" to fight in the Kurukshetra war was Lord Krsna's recitation of The Bhagavad-gita. The result of Srila Prabhupada's apparent hesitation to accept third initiation can only help those of us who are still attached to family life and if we are fortunate will also be asked to one day give it up. His pastime also emphasizes the importance of accepting the sannyasa ashrama at the fag end of one's life, and also points to our ultimate understanding of the importance of the raga marga of our line and how we connect to Srila Rupa Goswami the rasacarya of our param para line. Only sannyasa disciples are supposed to hear and chant the "gopi bhava" mantra of the kama gayatri.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was also a householder for many years. He held various positions, one as chief magistrate, and was not full time active in preaching. Yet we see from his life that he kept a rigorous and extremely regulated life style always dedicated to pure devotional service, despite his ashram. Will anyone dare make mention that he did not do his utmost to serve his gurudeva, Srila Jagannatha das babaji, and direct our line and inaugurate the Sankirtana Movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in the modern era? Only a fool number one will imitate his son Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasavati thakur who took Srila Bahktivinoda Thakura to task for being a grihasta.. Do not make the mistake of imitating eternally liberated souls with your fallible opinion and envious heart.
Krsna has a grand plan; especially for His pure devotees. His plan for Abhay Charanaravinda was to manifest the highest level of active service after accepting the renounced order. It is a gross and severe Vaisnava aparadha to make reference to our gurudeva's household period in any negative or derogatory fashion. He certainly made up for "lost time" and many members of the Gaudiya Matha to this day still cannot accept his success in spreading Krsna Consciousness, outside of India when they remember his as "another grihasta." I have heard Srila Prabhupada say "One cannot enter the spiritual world unless he accepts the renounced order of life. Everyone start to prepare. Ladies as well. This is not a bodily conception, but an invitation to divine consciousness.
My beloved godbrother His Holiness Narasingha Maharaj, who was also sorely insulted in a recent VNN article has written very perceptively on this point. He wrote to one of my god sisters who asked about women making ultimate progress without sannyasa initiation: Here is an excerpt from my letter to him, and his answer.
> One other inquiry from our godsister. If a jiva has female birth and
>will not hear the gopi bhava mantra in this life does that prevent her
>from attaining the highest goal , and is another birth in a male body to accept the
>sannyasa ashrama required for achieving krsna prema? (Puru das)
Everything is attainable by the grace of the Holy Name of Krsna. One need not become a male-being or a female- being to achieve perfection from this world. Ultimately there are advantages and disadvantages to either male or female bodies in this world. The women section of Vaishnavas have already been given Gopal-mantra and Kama-gayatri to help them in their quest for pure devotion and love of Krishna. They need not take sannyasa. If they will qualify themselves, through Krishna nama then everything can and will be revealed (that means Gopi-bhava also). The gopal-mantra and kama-gayatri are to help them to that end.
Nonetheless there is a speciality to the gopi-bhava mantra of the sannyasa order. Who has got the male form in this world is, from one point of view, at a greater disadvantage. Therefore the gopi-bhava mantra is for them and not for the women. It is especially meant for the male section otherwise sannyasa is simply dry renunciation. (His Holiness B.G. Narasingha Maharaj, Jagat Guru Swami.)
Anyone confused about my dear god brother's sannyasa name is just confused, period. They can kindly read http://www.vnn.org/editorials/ET9901/ET13-2835.html for clear understanding. Fault finding is a nasty part of ISKCONitis disease the we must all learn to give up.
Srila Prabhupada wrote of his god brother and sannysas guru; in a letter of bereavement from the Seattle ISKCON temple in l968 sent to Trivikrama Maharaj, his sannyasa god brother:
". . . The greatest compassion of Srila Kesva Maharaja was to make me a sannyasi.
I have taken a vow that I would never accept sannyasa, but Srila Maharaja forcibly gave it to me. He would certainly have been most pleased today to see the success of my preaching. Las year (l967) I visited him in Calcutta along with my disciples, and despite being bed-ridden, he was very pleased to receive us. I have complete confidence that both in his manifest presence and after his disappearance, he must be very pleased to see my widespread preaching of the message of Sriman Mahaprabhu in western countries like America, Canada, England, Germany and Hawaii. (Honolulu), situated in the pacific ocean as well as eastern countries like Japan (Tokyo) and so on.
I was a staunch grhamedi (one whose intelligence is absorbed in household affairs).
Srila Prabhupada used to come to me in dreams from time to time and call me to Renounce family life and come along with him. The dreams would frighten me and make me think that I would have to accept sannyasa. I didn't have any desire to take sannyasa. But upon the repeated insistence of Sripada Narayana Maharaj, Srila Kesva Maharaj bestowed boundless mercy upon this unwilling and blind Person, by forcibly giving me sannyasa. It seems that this desire of Srila Prabhupada's Was transmitted in his heart, and it thus was that my sannyasa was accomplished.
So I am eternally indebted to Srila Kesava Maharaj. (Their Lasting Relation p.38-39)
To try and draw false distinctions amongst the disciples of Srila Bhaktsiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura and make material value judgements about Their service is useless. As their disciples It is not our business, or position to even think we can understand any differences they might have had. We are their children, and nephews. We must respect our uncles as much as our father, and special affection for our father is easily understood. It should be appreciated rather than denigrated by prejudice and immature understanding of the acaryas' nara lila.
If these exalted souls did not bathe in the donkey urine of pratistha, it behooves us to give Them a bath in it, as an expression of our so called love for them.
In Sri Krsna Bhajanamrta Srila Naraharai Sakara Thakura writes:
Kindly understand this example:
Just as one respects one's father as a guru, his (the father's) older and younger brothers are also similarly respected, but nonetheless, the father is worthy of the most respect. Not withstanding the above, if the father's guru, even if he is family related, comes, one should double the respect, as he is the spiritual father of the father, or the guru of the guru. He is offered twice the puja or respect.
This behavior if recognized as appropriate by all authorities.
In earlier slokas Srila Narahari says more about respecting all vaisnavas.
Because the Vaisnava devotees of the Lord are always meditating on Lord Sri Krsna the contamination of sinful activities cannot come upon them. Because a Vaisnava's body has the fire of Krsna Consciousness within it, even if they are fallen, this fire of Krsna Consciousness will burn up to ashes any material contamination.
However, those who are not able to understand the respective levels of spiritual potency may take shelter of this example. As in the Ganges there are many waves, and some of these waves are larger then other waves but all of the waves are considered to be sacred, one wave being not considered more holy than another wave, similarly, all types of Vaisnavas, those who are spiritually strong and those who are not so strong, can be offered equal worship. Considering this perspective in such circumstances that can be accepted as perfect worship.
Here completes the conclusion in this regard.
All Vaisnavas are considered as guru or spiritual master.
Amongst all of the Vaisnavas the initiating guru (diksa-guru) and instructing guru (siksa-guru) are special.
It is proper to offer these two special respect.
Amongst all of the other spiritual masters these two (diksa-guru and siksa-guru) spiritual masters' orders are to be followed.
So it is natural for a disciple to hold his own gurudeva "above" other devotees in his own heart but he should never make the mistake of denegrating the god brothers of his gurudeva in the name of praising his beloved spiritual father.
Here is some insight from our gurudeva's siksa guru and beloved godbrother Srila Sridhar Maharaja: "The guru should be recognized by impartial judgement. Everyone thinks that his own mother is the most affectionate. But when a comparison is drawn between two mothers to see who is more affectionate, an impartial criterion will be applied. This is called tatastha-vicara: an impartial comparison of relative and absolute considerations. When the two are weighed, the absolute calculation will always have the greater value.
The position of acarya is very intricate. It is very difficult to bring an acarya under rule. You see, that is our practical experience. You please hear and note this. The position of acarya is a relative thing, and the position of the disciple is also relative, just like the relationship between mother and child, father and son, wife and husband. Although to his godbrothers a guru will be seen in a relative position, to his disciple, the guru is absolute. So to adjust between the relative and absolute is a difficult thing; it is an eternal problem. Even in krsna-li1a there is enmity between madhurya-rasa and vatsalya-rasa, but when the absolute consideration comes, both rasas must be included within the fold. (Sri guru and His Grace Ch. 8) In 1936 Abhay Charnaravinda Prabhu said this to an assembly of the gaudiya math: "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 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 form to teach you, me an all others."
So now we get to the next and final point of this discussion. When the children of a father Misbehave our material tendency maybe to shift the blame to the father. This is a rather Christian idea. Jesus died for our sins, so we are not be held to blame. Srila Prabhupada clearly rejected this idea. He explained that if you commit murder and the police come to arrest you, and your say "Oh arrest my father he is responsible." will the police agree? No. You must accept responsibility for your own misdeed. It is a gross error of judgement and miscalculation to blame His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada for the misbehavior of some of his disicples. It is a gross manifestation of guru envy or some other psychological malady to draw a parallel to the off thinking of conditioned souls with the transcendental consciousness of a nitya lila pravistha pure vaisnava like our Srila Prabhupada.
This over reaction to the misdeeds of others is not a symptom of self realization. Vidura, the Pandava's were mistreated many times at the hands of the envious cousins, the Kaurava. Do we read in the Srimad Bhagavatam "Vidura's Comlaint?" Never! Do we ever hear Yuddhisthira complaining about how he was treated? Never! And why not? Because they understood that Krsna was the Supreme Controller and They were surrendered souls at His lotus feet. They were sages of steady mind despite their ashram. Yudhisthira was ksatirya and Vidura was born sudra.
No one has any problem with their birth, or activities if he is a perceptive devotee. We can Easily see how their distress was an impetus for greater events in their lives that ultimately Benefited the jiva souls. Uncle Vidura left the palace after the harsh treatment of his nephew, the envious Duryodhana and the net result was his detachment from the palace politics and hearing from Maitreya a wonderful section of the Bhagavatam, that would have otherwise not been spoken. Maharaj Yudhisthira and his brother's dilemna gave rise to the Kurukshetra war, and the recitation of the Bhagavad-gita We are still benefited by the inconvenience they suffered at the hands of their envious cousins. All these events were part of Lord Krsna's grand plan to deliver the jiva souls form the degradation of the kali yuga.
We should view the present day difficulties with ISKCON in the same way. If we harbor too much resentment for rough handling by the monkeys like Ravana's messenger in the Ramayana, then we fall short spiritually. We fail to have the same vision as Vidura or Maharaj Yudhisthira and we will see things from our tiny brain's perspective and relate on the level of false ego and not self realization.
Now of course we are outraged at the treatment of Vidura and the numerous offenses heaped Upon the Pandavas, and we should be intolerant when such things are done to others. However If we do not keep an even keel and see the will of providence how will we make spiritual Progress? So many devotees have so many valid complaints against so called god brothers and miss-managers of Srila Prabhupada's institution. What to do? Cry like baby or rise to a higher understanding of WHY Krsna allowed such injustice to manifest?
ISKCONitis is therefore a psychological condition in which we forget that Krsna is the ultimate Controller, the supreme enjoyer and our dear most friend. We have to "see the action of the External energy working but internally and externally" (SB 2nd Canto) as Vidura did and not be bewildered by the immaturity of karma misra bhaktas, kanistha adhikaris, or guru bhogi, or guru tyagi former associates. Everyone has some positive motive to serve his gurudeva.
Many of our former associates are simply poorly trained and misled and others are more culpable since they are the pervayors of such miskconceptions as the fall of the jiva from Krsna loka, the foolish condemnation of Srila Prabhupada's godbrothers out of context (Vaisnava aparahda), and the misunderstanding of guru tattva. We should be very careful not to link these monkey disciples to His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and think He shared any of their materialistic motives. He was not a karma misra , yoga misra or jnana misra bhakta, but a suddha bhakta of the highest degree. It is only, us , his foolish students who have fallen short. Never our gurudeva., His Divine Grace.
It is with great pain and frustration that I witness so much resentment from some quarters.
We must learn to see through shastra, shastra chaksus. We must not blame anyone for our Own misfortune. You doubt this then read, Sri Guru and His Grace by Srila Sridhar Maharaj very carefully. Go to "God Consciousness vs. Society Consciousness". Read the whole book please but take note of this point which is especially relevant to this discussion.
The Fire has Come to Test Us
What we have received from our spiritual master we understood only in a rough estimation.
Now, things have come in such a way that we have to scrutinize ourselves in every position.
We have to analyze ourselves. Atma-niksepa, self-analysis has begun. We are under trial.
What we have received from our spiritual master, in what way have we received it? Properly, or only showingly? The time has come to purify us, to test whether we are real students, real disciples, or his disciples only in face and confession. What is the position of a real disciple? If we live in a society, what is the depth of our creed? In what attitude have we accepted his teachings? How deep-rooted is it within us? The fire has come to test whether we can stand. Is our acceptance real? Or is it a sham, an imitation? This fire will prove that.
So, this is the real field of sadhana, or practice. Our practice, our advancement needs these difficulties. Otherwise, we may not know what is progress, and we will become hypocrites, and give the adulterated thing to others. So, to purify ourselves, it is necessary that so many disturbances come.
And God has no error. He commands the environment. It is not our responsibility. The responsibility of the environment does not rest upon us. If I am sincere, then I have to adjust myself with this environment and put my faith before Him. "Everyone may leave me, but I shall stand alone!" With this attitude we must march on, whatever the circumstances may be. Then the recognition may come in my favor, that "Yes, under such trying circumstances he is still there." Our superiors will be pleased with us.
The relative and absolute considerations are always coming in clash. The absolute should be accepted and the relative sacrificed. Still the relative is necessary. After graduation from primary school another teacher is accepted for higher education, but that does not mean that the primary teacher is neglected or insulted. For our own interest, whatever we find which is akin to what was given to us by our guru maharaja, whatever we find that will enlighten us further, and whatever will help us to understand more clearly what we heard from our guru maharaja, must be accepted. Is my realization a living thing, or is it dead? Anyone who has come in connection with the infinite cannot but say this: "I am nothing." That should be the salient point.
We have left all social concerns and so many other shackles. For what? For the Absolute Truth. And wherever I shall find that, I must bow down my head. And if a great soul shows us, "This is the path to where you will find your thirst quenched. The line is in this zigzag way," we must accept that for our own interest. We are worshipers not of this form, but of substance.
Wherever I feel the presence of my Lord in an intense form, I must be attracted to that side.
Krsna says, sarva dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja. Wherever we shall find Him, we must run in that direction. My interest is with Him. Not that we can challenge, "Why did Krsna appear here, and why is He appearing there?" If a man in a boat is passing through the current and finds himself in danger, then from whatever side help may come, he must run to that side.
If we are worshipers of Siva, when we understand the special superiority of Narayana, should we stick to Siva? And then Krsna? In the Brhad-bhagavatamrta the story is told of how Gopa-kumara, by chanting his Gopala mantra, gradually leaves one stage and progresses to the next. There, the gradation of devotion is traced from the karma-kanda brahmana, to a devotee king, then to Indra, then to Brahma, then to Siva, from him to Prahlada, then to Hanuman, then the Pandavas, then to the Yadavas, to Uddhava, and finally the gopis. In this zigzag way he is passing. In the sincerity of his quest, his thirst is not being quenched until he goes to Vrndavana. So, the Brhad-bhagavatamrta has shown us the line of guru parampara, or the real line of our quest, of our search.
Srila Sridhar Mahraj also points out our individual responsibility when adversity manifests in our In the printed version of Sri Guru and His Grace (former from cyber text) His Divine Grace writes: "So we must not be afraid of any adverse circumstances. Krsna says in the Bhagavat-gita ,"A happy ksatriya hankers for the battle you are facing" (sukhinah, ksatriya partha labhante yuddham idrsam). So a bad workman quarrels with his tools. Our karma has come to face us, to surround us, and we can't avoid it. These disturbances are a result of our own karma; they came from within us. So we must not quarrel. We must act properly in dealing with that.
We have to scrutinize ore accurately, what we thought we understood. Everyone must ask himself "Where am I? What is my real need? And how much am I hankering for the real thing?" All these things will be expressed, and made public. So, this is the real field of sadhana, or practice. Our practice, our advancement needs all these difficulties. Otherwise, we may not know what is progress, and we will become hypocrites, and give the same adulterated thing to others. So, to purify ourselves, it is necessary that so many disturbances come.
(Sri guru and His Grace p. 46, printed version).
So on this the appearance day of my beloved gurudva's divine sannyasa guru and god brother,, Srila Prajnana Kesava Maharraj I dedicate this small attempt to help all of us who have suffered at the hands of others, in particular, so called god brothers, and be able to see Krsna's ultimate control in all such affairs. Srila Prabhupada writes in the Krsna Book that We are all subject to the controls of the material nature, but material nature is working under Krsna's direction t o engineer the surrender of his sincere devotee." In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna claims proprietorship and ultimate control over this material energy.
daivi hy esa gunamayiIn his purport His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, writes: ""Inferior material natures is defined herein as divine nature due to its divine conection and movement by the divine will." The whole purport is worthy of repetition but we do not want to take up too much space. Please consult it yourself (Bg. Ch.7. Text 14)
mam maya duratyaya
mam eva ye prapadyante
mayam etam taranti te
"This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it."
So may I conclude with two statements. I am horrified by the misdeeds of many of my so called god brothers. I have no tolerance for their many injustices and for their smearing my gurudeva's name and institution through the mud, since his disappearance in l977. Any one of them that holds the tridanda for the wrong reason, and has betrayed the spiritual and social trust of that staff puts it in jeapordy should he come within my physical reach. I will break that bamboo against the nearest corner building. Someone who cheats and lies, and manipulates in the name of service to his gurudeva does not deserve to carry such a spiritual symbol. Forewarned is forearmed. Come near me at your own risk.
Lord Nityananda broke Mahaprabhu's danda into three pieces to emphasize that Sri Caitanya actually held the tridanda not the ekedanda. The destruction of a staff of surrender that has been used like a club, or baseball bat to bully and coerce god brothers won't be broken for the same reason. Down with the saffron police (deviating gbc and their blind followers), And secondly I pray to the lotus feet of my gurudeva Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, my siska guru Srila .B..V. Narayana Maharaj, and Their divine sannyasa Guru Srila Prajnana Kesava Maharaj, on this His appearance day to some day make my heart and mind fit places for understanding Radha and Krsna conjugal, yugala pastimes, and that one day myself and all my dear abused and mistreated god brothers and sisters can join them and take part in the Lord's eternal lila in Goloka Vrndavan.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura said that in the fire of ordeal one burns up the reactions of one's past sinful activities. My dear godbrother Kundali prabhu has said "We own our own problem." However, this problem, the mistreatment and abuse of other vaisnavas, is one many of us share And one that we will have to come to terms with personally by taking responsibility for our own situation. No one on the gbc forced us to take birth in this material world. That was our choice.
We have to blame ourselves and become introspective sages, while at the same time be intolerant when such things happen to others.
Srila Prabhupada spoke of Srila Prajnana Kesava Maharaj in a l968 lecture given in Seattle on the occasion of His disappearance; that if he ever confronted a guru bhogi, Srila Kesava Maharaj would preach as if with a sword.
So with the sword of knowledge let us try to become cured of ISKCONitis, and try to do our best to spend the rest of our lives glorifying the predecessor acaryas, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and awaken within our hearts Krsna prema, and take the advice of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and "forget the past that sleeps." Let us please learn to meditate on the glory of our gurudeva's transcendental accomplishments and forget the nonsense of his insincere bhogus so called followers. Learn from the mistakes of others, but do not repeat them and make them the object of your meditation.
Om Tat Sat. Dedicated to the fond memory of Srila Prajnana Kesava Maharaj whose causeless Mercy we pray for on this his Divine appearance day. All glories to all the disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, their sincere followers and grand disciples.
Puru Das Adhikari
The Bhaktivedanta Memorial
Museum and Library Ashram
[Originally published 02/07/99 on VNN]