From: His Divine Grace Om Vishnupad Srila Bhakti Nirmal Acharya Maharaj
Date: 23 June 2018
Subject: Sri Govinda Parivar

All glory to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga

Dear ***,

Please accept my humble obeisance.

I have received your letter and I appreciate your submitting your enquiry regarding the role of initiating Gurus in our Mission. The manner in which you have made this enquiry, however, contains statements and conclusions that are inappropriate and disruptive to our Mission.

In the future, should you feel that some uncertainty exists about proper conduct in our Mission or the conduct of leading Vaisnavas representing our Mission, then I request you not to jump to negative conclusions and speak criticism of them which may be detrimental to the faith of those serving in their care and which certainly is destructive to your own cultivation of bhakti. Srila Gurudev has warned us countless times about the danger of criticising and offending Vaisnavas, and the scriptures provide numerous examples of the negative consequences of doing so. I pray you will be more careful about this in the future for your own benefit, the peace of our Mission, and the satisfaction of Srila Gurudev, Srila Guru Maharaj, and Sriman Mahaprabhu.

The proper etiquette in regard to having publicly criticised Vaisnavas is to withdraw your criticisms, seek the forgiveness of those whom you have criticised, and express something in glorification of those Vaisnavas, and to do all of this in the same degree of detail and public visibility that your initial inappropriate statements were made. By doing this sincerely, your heart will be purified of the negative effects of aparadha.

To help you and others understand why the conclusions you have made and the manner in which you have expressed them are inappropriate, I will make a few important points that I hope everyone within our Mission will pay heed to.

Sri Govinda Parivar

Our Gurudev, Om Visnupad Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj, preached widely all over the world to fulfil the desires of Srila Guru Maharaj, Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj, and Srila Swami Maharaj Prabhupad. Over the course of 18 years, he went on twenty-four world tours, established numerous centres on six continents, and multiplied the size of our Mission many times over. As this took place, Srila Gurudev's vision was that in the future after his presence in this world many Acharyas would lead the Mission in its development in different quarters of the world while maintaining a respectful, affectionate, and supportive relationship with the central Math in Sri Nabadwip Dham and the Acharya appointed to lead the Mission there.

We are all fond of saying that everyone in our Mission in the time of Srila Gurudev and into the present are members of the Sri Govinda Parivar, the family of Srila Govinda Maharaj, just as Srila Saraswati Thakur strived to instill in his disciples the feeling that they were members of the Bhakti Vinod Parivar and Gaudiya Vaisnavas of an earlier era identified themselves as members of the Narottam Parivar in honour of Srila Narottam Das Thakur. We want everyone in our Mission, regardless of whether they are a disciple of Srila Gurudev or one of the current Acharyas, to feel that they are all welcome members of the Sri Govinda Parivar, Srila Gurudev's family, and that they have ideals and values in common with all other members of the Mission on the basis of which they can collaborate in service with harmony, respect, and affection.

Seeing deeply into the Mission during his time and on into the future, Srila Gurudev laid paramount stress on Sriman Mahaprabhu's teachings of humility, tolerance, and giving honour to others. These values are essential both to maintain the peace and harmony of the Sri Govinda Parivar and to satisfy the heart of Srila Gurudev. I feel it to be my greatest duty to practise and inspire others to practise these teachings, and I humbly appeal to you to do this to the best of your ability.

Gotram nu vardhatam iti: "May our family grow!"

It was Sriman Mahaprabhu's desire that His Name be chanted in every town and village on the earth, and it was the desire of Prabhupad Srila Saraswati Thakur to establish a Temple of Sriman Mahaprabhu in the heart of every living being. Srila Gurudev endeavoured greatly to fulfil these ends according to the deep and exclusive teachings of our Param Gurudev.

We are all very happy to see the growth of our Mission dedicated to these ideals as it spreads all over the world, and as our Mission grows, the scale of responsibility for it and its members also grows. Thus it is natural that as the Mission grows, so too will the number of leaders needed to maintain and develop it.

It is a general rule within the Mission that no one will take the role of an initiating Guru within the Mission without being appointed to that role. Srila Gurudev appointed a number of Acharyas to serve in this capacity after his passing, and they similarly have the right to pass this responsibility on to their disciples upon their passing. They also have the right during their lifetime to extend this responsibility to their godbrothers. The criterion for doing this is that the godbrother must have the necessary qualifications of an Acharya and there must be a clear necessity for such extension of responsibility to them.

Over the recent years as our Mission has grown and some of the Mission's leading Acharyas have at times faced restrictions, legal and otherwise, regarding the places they have been able to visit, they have elected to extend the responsibility of serving as an initiating Guru to some of their godbrothers whom they have considered qualified to do this in response to the present necessity.

This is something that is approved of and explained in detail by our Guru-varga, and persons who have taken on this service responsibility in this way should not be rashly judged to be deviant, subversive, offensive, or of detrimental association for others. Rather, they should be respected as exalted Vaisnavas, and their service efforts should be supported.

Our lives are short and the challenges we face in cultivating pure Krishna consciousness are already numerous, so I strongly urge everyone to spend their energy fighting with maya rather than with Vaisnavas who seek only to serve. In particular, I request you and others do not spend time engaging in criticism and debate on social media and rather spend your precious time engaged in service under the guidance of a higher Vaisnava.

As I have consulted with devotees on this subject, a lecture by our Param Gurudev has been brought to my attention which I feel is most pertinent to this situation. It explains the necessary qualifications of initiating Gurus, the manner in which initiating Gurus may be appointed, the relationship between Gurus within the Mission, and many other essential points everyone in the Mission should understand in order to serve in harmony. I feel this lecture serves as a perfect guideline for our Mission, and I will include a transcript of it below for everyone's reference.

I have made all the above comments with the hope of unifying our Mission, showing due respect to all its members, and providing some vision for its health and growth.

If you or others have any further enquiries on this subject or other related subjects, please take the time to consult with senior Vaisnavas or ask me directly before expressing unfounded opinions on social media.

Your ever well-wisher,

Swami B. N. Acharya

 

 

The following is a transcribed excerpt from a discussion with Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj on 11 March 1981 at Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math in Sri Nabadwip Dham.

 

Student: It is said that the Guru is above disciplinary action.

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: Yes, but this is applicable in relation to the disciples. In the zone of the disciples, the Guru's position is unchallengeable. But the Acharyas, amongst themselves, with their friends of equal position, can discuss and may evolve some laws and bylaws for their movements. Especially when it is in a particular Mission, and when there is a combination of many Acharyas in one place, some laws and bylaws should be there, and that should be dealt with by the persons of almost the same plane, and that sort of discussion should take place especially not amongst the disciples. It should take place privately, amicably, and amongst persons of the same plane of understanding because when we live in an association, some laws and bylaws for conduct are necessary.

Student: We are seeing that sometimes there is not so much secrecy, and sometimes things become publicly known, so it is very...

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: Of course, it may become known, but still our aim will be towards secret, amicable settlement amongst equals. There should be some sitting, some consultation amongst equals, but it is desirable that consultation will be friendly with the object of adjustment, and the direction of Gurudev, the scriptures, and the Vaisnava mahajanas will be above everyone's head. With Guru, the mahajans, and the sastra overhead, friends must discuss how they will live and move in their ways because there are many, and they are within an organisation. I think it is good to evolve some rules, laws and bylaws, suiting their harmonious relationship, but as much as possible these things should be kept away from the disciple section.

Student: What will be sign of a new Acharya?

Srila Sridhar Maharaj:

achinoti yah sastrartham achare sthapayaty api

(Vayu-purana)

He who can understand the meaning of the scripture, who can help others to accept that advice of the scripture, and who himself can respectfully accept that advice in his own life is an Acharya in general. This is the general qualification of an Acharya: he will be able to understand the meaning of the scripture, he will be able to preach it to others, and he himself will have regard for it and live according to it. We should desire and expect to see these three qualifications in an Acharya.

Student: At what point should someone expect to begin to give diksa?... What moves a man to give diksa?

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: The qualification of a Guru, an Acharya, is sincere realisation:

sabde pare cha nisnatam

(Srimad Bhagavatam)

He has practical experience and also theoretical knowledge of the scripture, he has real, sincere realisation of the transcendental truth, and he can prove that truth to the public with the help of the scriptures.

These qualifications are given in the Upanisads as srotriyam Brahma-nistham, and in Gita, these qualifications are given as jnani and tattva-darsi:

tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya
upadeksyanti te jnanam jnaninas tattva-darsinah

(Srimad Bhagavad-gita: 4.34)

If someone gets inspiration from above that he can distribute it to others, then he will come up to take the position of Acharya. He must have this qualification: he is established in the faith, and he can prove the superior characteristic of his faith from the scriptures to others. With the help of the sastra, he will be able to prove to the public that this is a higher life, and he himself is established in and lives that form of life.

Student: A devotee generally thinks that he has no qualification himself, and he does not desire this position. So, is it wrong to want to give diksa?

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: The Vaisnava characteristic is that one is connected with the Infinite, so knowing has no limit. So, as far as one will make progress, one will find oneself helpless and one will find that one knows nothing. But still, one will be confident like Newton, "I am more learned than you all because you say that I have finished learning but I think that I have only touched the ocean of learning in one part. That is why I am more learned that you all." In this way, one will think, "I know nothing because He who is to be known is of such infinite character. This is more true than what people in general say, so I can request them to take my conception." In this way one may take the line of preaching the transcendental truth.

"People say there is no God, but I feel the existence of God. I feel that I am helpless and dependent, and that the Absolute is there. But they say there is no Absolute or that we are that Absolute. These are all foolish ideas. Though I know that I am meagre, still I hold a greater position than these fools who say, 'I am God.' So, I am in a position to help them: 'Don't be so proud as to think yourself to be God. God is great, God is greater than the greatest.'"

This will be his position, his attitude, and with that he can go to preach: "God is infinite, and we are finite. You are not God." In this way when any inspiration comes in him, when he feels this is true and it will help one and all, then he will extend that knowledge to all, "Be helped. Come to realise the Truth and help yourselves." With this spirit he will do.

In a congregation and in a mission, however, that personal will has some value, but not full value, because within a friendly circle, one may feel about another, "You do this duty. This is a common duty, and you do it better, so I may not do it." But if someone feels in his heart, "Others cannot carry out the order of my Guru well, and I can do it better", if someone has some sincere feeling, then he will try to acquire the position of an Acharya and go on in the service of his Gurudev.

Student: Sometimes the disciples of initiating Gurus are being trained under the care of their godbrothers.

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: There should be some common guiding rules for this. The godbrothers should try to help them in such a way that they do not lose their reverence for Gurudev. Reverence for Gurudev should be promoted. In this way, the godbrothers have a sense of responsibility. Also, when there are many disciples of many Acharyas mixing together, their faith in their Gurus should not be disturbed. "Your Guru is of lower order; my Guru is of higher order." Such statements should not be indulged in. There should be some laws and bylaws, and if it is found that anyone is boisterous and not caring for these rules, then he should be gradually warned, chastised, and then punished, so that there may not be chaos in the Mission. If we want to go on together, we must follow some rules of conduct. And when we live together, we can help each other. We are all dedicating units, not disturbing elements. We must understand that we are all dedicating units. We should not come to fight with each other. We should behave submissively and modestly. There is the law of Mahaprabhu:

trnad api sunichena taror iva sahisnuna
amanina manadena kirtaniyah sada harih

(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta: Adi-lila, 17.31)

["The Lord's Name is to be chanted always with more humility than a blade of grass, tolerance like that of a tree, honour for everyone, and without desire for honour from anyone."]

These things must be repeatedly preached.

Trnad api sunicha: I must not be so rigid that I cannot accommodate others. Taror iva sahisnu: if still some aggression comes towards me, then I shall try to tolerate it. Amani manada: I will never seek any fame from the environment, and I will always be ready to give honour to all. With this attitude, we should march on our way.

This maxim should be given very broad circulation. To become a Vaisnava, we must have some discipline—discipline of this type, and it comes from no greater a personality than Sriman Mahaprabhu Himself. So, we all, more or less according to our capacity, must follow and respect these rulings of Mahaprabhu. It is especially required in a congregation movement.

Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur says in his translation:

sri-krsna-kirtane yadi manasa tohara
parama yatane tahi labha adhikara

["If you aspire to chant the Name of Krishna, then very carefully develop the qualifications to do so."]

trnadhika hina, dina, akinchana chhara
apane manabi sada chhadi' ahankara

["Always consider yourself lower than grass, needy, poor, and mean; give up your false ego."]

vrksa-sama ksama-guna karabi sadhana
pratihimsa tyaji' anye karabi palana

["Practise tolerance like a tree, give up malice, and nurture others."]

jivana-nirvahe ane udvega na dibe
para-upakare nija-sukha pasaribe

["Do not cause others anxiety for your own maintenance and forget your own happiness in the course of helping others."]

ha-ile-o sarva-gune guni mahasaya
pratisthasa chhadi' kara amani hrdaya

["Even if you are honourable and qualified with all these qualities, give up desire for prestige and be modest at heart."]

krsna-adhisthana sarva-jive jani' sada
karabi sammana sabe adare sarvada

["Knowing Krishna is always present within every soul, always respect and honour everyone."]

dainya, daya, anye mana, pratistha-varjana
chari gune guni hai' kara sankirtana

["Humility, compassion, honouring others, and giving up prestige—become qualified with these four qualities and engage in sankirtan."]

(Gitavali: Siksastakam: 3.1-7)

Sankirtan means bahubhir militva yat kirtanam: kirtan in which many are combined. That means it presupposes all these qualifications in its members: dainya, they will be humble; daya, they will sympathetic to others; anye mana, especially, they will honour others; and pratistha-varjana, they will not seek their own name and fame. We must have these four qualifications if we are to go on in a combined way with sankirtan.

Student: Every disciple has his own temperament.

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: Of course.

Student: A Guru has one temperament, and his disciple may be under the care of his godbrother who has a different temperament. So, the Guru may become a little disturbed that his disciple is developing the temperament of his godbrother.

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: Of course. There are difficulties. I do not deny that. It may not all be very smooth and easy, but still, if we want to go on with the movement successfully in a combined way, then some sort of check should be there. All cannot be let loose. There should be some check: some common laws and bylaws.

And there may be some teachers engaged also who will look after the conduct of the disciples in general. Some inspector. He will go to every camp and hear such complaints and give soberly some advice to them. If such a department is opened, it will not be bad because in a Mission of variegated nature, there may be so many complaints. Some impartial judges should make a circular movement, and they will hear about such cases, and they will help to minimise, compromise, pacify, and maintain the peace of the movement, the internal peace. To maintain internal peace, some well-charactered, well-conducted officer may be engaged, a Vaisnava of course. He should not be useless I think. It would help the movement of the Mission to go on smoothly.

Student: You mentioned before that there may be addition and elimination. So, at what point is one to be eliminated?

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: The general, main point, will be when he loses his faith in Guru, sastra, and sadhu. If God forbid such things happen, he should be eliminated summarily. One who has lost his faith should be eliminated. How can he be maintained? For what purpose? The capital is faith, really, faith in Guru, faith in the Vaisnava, faith in scripture, faith in Mahaprabhu, faith in Krishna, and all these things. If faith is gone, the man is gone. He can no longer be taken in the group.

Student: How is it demonstrated that one has lost faith in his Guru?

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: By his movements, ways, and activities, it may be detected by those who have faith. It will be clear. Suppose he has clearly revolted against his own Guru and is preaching against his Guru or he is preaching against the scripture, "What I say, that is everything."

"Oh, you are moving in a novel way?"

"Yes. I have got inspiration from the upper, beyond the Guru. I am not compelled to imitate the practices of my Guru."

In this way, if he leaves his Guru, Mahaprabhu, and others, then it will be considered that he does not have faith in the creed. So, he should go out and do according to his own creed, his own faith.

guror apy avaliptasya karyakaryam ajanatah
utpatha-pratipannasya parityago vidhiyate

(Mahabharata: Udyoga-parva, 179.25)

We find this saying of Bhisma, one of the twelve mahajanas of the Vaisnava school. Guror apy avaliptasya: if one is seen clearly in a fallen state, very sensual, and preaching politics, or sociology, or this thing and that thing, and sometimes criticising the spiritual agents, then if it is explicit, then he should be eliminated, rejected.

Student: It has to be some grave thing.

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: Yes. Very grave, very gross, and impossible to maintain. When to maintain him is to give slap to the Guru and the Vaisnava, then we must detain him.

Student: Sometimes personal feelings may be so great that …

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: Others should come and minimise that. Some persons may temporarily have some excitement and there may be a clash between them, but after some time that will be minimised and they will be friendly again. That should be tolerated to a certain extent, and that should be managed. If that is standing, then they should be given a different place and allowed not to work together. There may be a little separation. In this way it may be managed. The exciting temperament is not a disqualification, but we must try to manage it by putting a little distance between the two who are not working together. Their field may be changed or something like that. But if someone has sincere earnestness to preach the propaganda of his Guru, his Guru's dictum, and has the qualification for that, then he should not be eliminated. Some eccentricities may be tolerated if the main thing is there.

We have heard, "To err is human, but to forgive is divine." There may be differences amongst many. That is most natural, and adjustment is divine and admirable. That should be the ideal. If we want to work together, godbrothers from different quarters who have come with different temperaments from different countries and different ways, we have to give some prescription for toleration. There should be room for toleration. Otherwise, so many of so many different countries, different nations, different societies, and different faiths have come to worship together. Differences being there then is not a miracle. So, we must be prepared to work together with differences, and differences of minor nature should not be cared for much. We shall give importance to the main things. We shall try to meet where we have common ground. When everyone has come to one person with a particular temperament, all are charmed there, and all have sympathy and attraction for that temperament and that creed, then there must be some common ground between them though there must also be some differences between. So, if we want to work in a Mission, we shall have to have toleration and unification. And what I say is that some superintendent may have a circular tour to examine what are the petty troubles within the different zones, and that man will be of impartial and tolerant nature, and have some good faith in the cause of the Mission. Two, or three, or four, or five should be allowed to make tours to keep up the internal peace and order. It will be a good thing.

Student: I was thinking of Mahaprabhu this morning. He is very desirous that this movement expand, and therefore He actually wants many Gurus to come forward.

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: Yes. In Mahaprabhu's time also, many Gurus worked on His behalf: Advaita Prabhu, Nityananda Prabhu, Gadadhar Pandit, Narahari Sarkar Thakur, and many others made disciples. Then again Srinivas Acharya and Narottam Thakur. Narottam Thakur's Gurudev did not accept any disciple although at last somehow he accepted Narottam, but Narottam Thakur in his turn overflooded the whole of the nearest world. The whole of Manipur came under the banner of Narottam Thakur accepting him very ardently and extensively.

Gauraharibol.

Student: So, we should be thinking that somehow or other it is good that we expand the number of Gurus? It is a good thing?

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: Expansion should not be very lavish, but must have some permission for extension. The fit persons should be accepted to show the dynamic character of the Mission, and then there will be hope, a prospect, and people may wait and may not leave the Mission, "We have no prospect, no hope, here. So, let us go and seek our fortune elsewhere." Some openness should be there that a bona fide person may be accepted.

It can be seen even after the departure of Guru Maharaj. Because everyone has to go, if we want things to continue, then, when we are old sufficiently, we are giving the charge to our disciple section. So, why cannot we on principle extend it to our brothers? We are already many, so the number may be increased. So, many of the qualified godbrothers will have some hope, and they will stick in and they will render service. They will be kept in: "We must get the chance to give it to the world to our heart's content." And to hanker for that chance is not always pratistha, that one wants position. It is not always that. The sincere necessity within the heart also may be there. The feeling of necessity that I must do something of higher service towards my Guru, and I can do. So, that sort of thing must be encouraged. Such a broad basis must be there in the Mission. It is my opinion.

Student: Our Srila Prabhupad said, "As the need arises."

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: Yes. As the need arises, the numbers of soldiers should be increased. They are doing that now. The military expenses are increasing day by day every year to fight the opposition. The need of spiritual soldiers are not only in want, but we want everyone everywhere, from village to village, to be hunted and approached, "Take the Name of Krishna! Come under the flag of Mahaprabhu and Swami Maharaj!" Let us approach every village and every man. This shows the life, the vitality of the Mission.

Student: You said something very interesting in August about the Narottama-parivar. You said, "We are rather inclined to think of ourselves as the Bhakti Vinod-parivar."

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: You all say that you are the Bhaktivedanta-parivar.

Student: We will say that. Your Guru Maharaj instilled in you this feeling that we are the Bhakti Vinod-parivar, so we have thought that in our Mission it should be instilled in all the disciples that we are the Bhaktivedanta-parivar. Is that correct?

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: It is not making much. It is quite fit and proper. He was such a big personage that you may say you are the Bhaktivedanta-parivar. It will be befitting according to my understanding. Hare Krishna. Gaurahari.

Student: What if a Guru is not inclined to make more disciples in a particular place because he finds that his disciples are developing the temperament of his godbrother, and he would like that they develop his temperament?

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: Hare Krishna. Krishna Krishna. God willing we hope there may be peace and everything will be adjusted. We pray to Him. Of course, in such a big organisation, there will be difficulties of a big nature, but still we shall have to have hope. We cannot but hope that God may give peace and proper direction to the management and administration, and let such a big organisation go on in the Name of Mahaprabhu to help the world at large.

Hare Krishna. Gauraharibol.

 

 

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OTHER DOCUMENTS:

Written Statement on the Succession
On Passing Away of Sripad Santosh Krishna Prabhu
On Criticism
Advice on Online Recources
Sri Govinda Parivar

"HUMILITY, TOLERANCE, GIVING HONOUR TO OTHERS | HUMILITY, TOLERANCE, GIVING HONOUR TO OTHERS"