Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakura
Srila Bhakti Vedanta Swami Prabhupada
Tridandi Swami Bhakti Hridaya Vana Maharaj
Akinchan Krishnadas Babaji Maharaj
Avadhuta Ramesh Babaji Maharaj
Memories of Srila Prabhupada
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(C) 1995 by Richard S. Brown All rights reserved.
"Vande Gurun" Means More Than One
By Richard Shaw Brown
When I first joined Srila Bhakti Hrdaya Vana Maharaj in Vrindavan during Jan. '68, I was taught that all the Gaudiya Math acaryas (his Godbrothers) were equally great and I loved them and all of their disciples. It didn't matter what Matha. I went with Vana Maharaj and visited many of his Godbrothers including B.V. Tirtha Maharaj, Sridhar Maharaj, Madhava Maharaj, etc. I saw the love and respect they shared with Vana Maharaj. I saw with my own eyes Vana Maharaj and Sridhar Maharaj weeping as they embraced each other. And I saw all the disciples of Vana Maharaj mixing with those of Tirtha Maharaj, Madhava Maharaj, Ashram Maharaj, Sridhar Maharaj, etc., all respecting and loving each other like the best of family.
The concept of "my Guru Maharaj is better than yours" just
didn't exist at all. The different devotees mixed happily and loved and
respected each other as well as their different Gurudeva's. All was pakka
seva, bhajan, vairagya, vidya and humility. All was pure, expert, genuine
and mature Krsna consciousness with divine intimate personal exchanges
of love and affection.
B U T...Then I met some ISKCON devotees who burst my blissful bubble.
They informed me about material duality, that I was a traitor. Us/them.
ISKCON v/s the evil Gaudiya Math. This offensive association finally led
to me offending my own great well-wisher and honorable Diksa-Siksa Gurudeva,
Srila Vana Maharaj and caused me to leave him to join forces with the
so-called "good guys," viz., ISKCON. That was my spiritual downfall.
I now look back and realize that my years in Sri Gaudiya Matha were real,
bona fide Krsna Consciousness and that's what is missing in ISKCON*.
I believe that the downfall of ISKCON may be caused by this most offensive
thinking and acting against BSSP's great disciples and our mother-faith,
Sri Gaudiya Math. ISKCON has made Sri Gaudiya Sampradaya and Sri Hari-Nam
the laughing stock of the entire world and "Hare Krishna" is
now considered to be in the same category as the Moonies, Children of
God and other lunatic personality cults.
In Sri CC paramahansa Srila Kaviraj Goswami starts with these first two
Sanskrit words: "Vande gurun"---obeisance's to all my Gurus**.
There will be our Hari Nam Guru who empowered us to chant the Maha-Mantra;
there will be the Diksa Guru, who may not be the same manifestation of
"Guru-tattva" as our Hari Nam Guru; there will also be many
other Gurus in our lives who will be other manifestations of the one Guru-tattva;
and there will be antaryami Guru who is Paramatma within our hearts. All
these manifestations of Guru-tattva will be significant in our spiritual
journey back to Godhead.
A good example is Srila B.V. Narayan Maharaj who helped give Srila Prabhupada
his sannyas and who buried*** HDG for us. ISKCON devotees don't know that
much about Vaisnavism because Prabhupada DID NOT reveal everything and
every detail before his departure. But there is not only one manifestation
of Guru-tattva; CC begins with the words "Vande gurun," which
clearly specifies more than one manifestation of Guru-tattva. Even HDG
advised us to take help from his Godbrothers like Sripad Sridara Maharaj,
and also Prabhupada's sannyas Godbrother, Srila Narayana Maharaj. Since
1968 I have been in awe of Narayana Maharaj's good qualities and vast
learning. He was born a Gaudiya Vaisnava and initiated in the line of
BSSP. He has never fallen down nor ever left his strict vows during his
long and surrendered lifetime. It stands to reason that after so long
he has realized his eternal form or svarupa. So why doubt him? Prabhupada
never doubted him.
But the terrible truth is that at present Srila Bhakti Vedanta Narayana
Maharaj is not allowed to speak in any ISKCON (neophyte) center and he
is roundly condemned as a heretic by the GBC. The reason given by the
GBC is that "he is stealing OUR men!!!" Personally I am no body's
or no group's man; I belong to the vast circle of Gaudiya Vaisnavas who
are all my Gurus, especially the pure personalities whom Krsna has kindly
brought me in touch with. It is material nonsense when a spiritual group
thinks they are losing "their men." In my karmi business if
another business man steals one of my expert staff members then I will
become angry and say, "he has stolen my employee." But that
is material life not spiritual life! Spiritual life means some how or
other fixing up our minds on Krsna. And the goal is "svarupa siddhi"
or self-realization, not material world domination.
For ISKCON to be so materialistic is a sign of serious neophyte status.
And for ISKCON to ban Narayana Maharaj is a sin and serious aparadha.
Why not accept that HDG is still teaching us in another form through Narayana
Maharaj and other advanced and potentially self-realized Vaisnava siksa-gurus?
A while back some of the long-time ISKCON devotees approached Narayana
Maharaj for advanced guidance; but ISKCON's GBC got paranoid that Narayan
Maharaj will "steal our men." I say WHOSE MEN? Narayan Maharaj
is doing the same as HDG by helping us progress on the Krsna-bhakti-marga.
That is the goal, not some limited material group.
But the ISKCON devotees turned against Narayana Maharaj, Prabhupada's
own recommended siksa guru, just to "save [their] material skin"
(a 1973 Tamala Krsna Goswami quote to me when I had to flee India) and
protect their goal of cornering the world market in collection of money
and followers. In other words they offended Srila Narayan Maharaj just
to protect their 'material livelihood'.
I'm certain that HDG would want us to further our sadhana with the kind
help of other great devotees like his dear friend Srila Narayana Maharaj
who is truly an expert in all facets of Gaudiya Vaisnava life. Prabhupada
would never condone this offense against a leading and very advanced Gaudiya
Vaisnava who is his own close friend and ISKCON's ever-well wisher.
And this is not just about Narayana Maharaj. We must respect and offer obeisance's to all Prabhupada's Godbrothers, past and present, as well as their disciples. We are all one family and the goal is not to build up some separatist personality cult on the material platform; the goal is to some how or other fix up our minds on Krsna by taking help from all the different manifestations of our own unique guru-tattva. ISKCON must broaden it's scope and embrace all the members of the Gaudiya
Vaisnava family, especially in the line of Prabhupada Srila Sarasvati
Thakura. Our goal is Krsna consciousness, not expanding ISKCON's material
domination. As my father calls such persons: "material empire builders."
*Of course, in retrospect, I realize that the defect was in me. That
is, I left bona fide, mature Krsna consciousness to associate with a group
of kanistha offenders.
**Vande gurun is also sung in the guru-vandana prayers every morning
in all Gaudiya missions as it was started by our great Param-Gurudev.
***Srila B.V. Narayana Maharaj interred the divine body of Srila Prabhupada into his vapu samadhi tomb for the benefit of ISKCON, and he wrote the samadhi mantra on the chest of his divine body. Tradition has it that whoever writes that mantra on the chest of the guru in his samadhi tomb, he shall be his successor! Even in courts of law [in India], when successor disputes occur, the law rules in favor of the party who interred the body into the samadhi tomb. But what was the example of Srila Narayan Maharaj?---he went to court after ACBSP's disappearance, not to claim his right as successor, but in order to defend ISKCON against Srila Prabhupada's gross karmi family members who were (and still are) making claims upon ISKCON's assets! But the ingrate ISKCON GBC have now banned Srila Narayan Maharaj from any ISKCON temple.