Keeping faith with srila prabhupada

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If accepting a raganuga guru were really so necessary for our further advancement, then one would certainly have expected Srila Prabhupada to mention this vital fact during his last days. He would surely have said something like this: "My dear disciples, you have grasped the essence of my preaching mission, and I am very grateful to you for this. But now it is time for you to advance to the higher stages of Krsna consciousness. Your preaching activities have carried you to the point of anartha-nivrtti. Very soon some of you shall be coming to the point of achieving the platform of raganuga bhakti. Unfortunately I will no longer be present to guide you through this important stage. Therefore you should look for a living siksa guru who can instruct and guide you in these important matters." If the matter were so important, why did he not explicitly mention this? Rather, he said, "Just keep doing as you are doing, and you will be successful." He did not want us to tamper with the process he had taught us.

Should we accept Narayana Maharaja's appeal to modify significantly our legacy from Srila Prabhupada? We should first consider the following remarks by Srila Prabhupada, spoken during a room conversation on August 16, 1976 in Bombay:

Why this Gaudiya Matha failed? Because they tried to become more than guru. He, before passing away, he gave all direction and never said that 'This man should be the next acarya.' But these people, just after his passing away they began to fight, who shall be acarya. That is the failure. They never thought, 'Why Guru Maharaja gave us instruction so many things, why he did not say that this man should be acarya?' They wanted to create artificially somebody acarya and everything failed. They did not consider even with common sense that if Guru Maharaja wanted to appoint somebody as acarya, why did he not say? He said so many things, and this point he missed? The real point? And they insist upon it. They declared some unfit person to become acarya. Then another man came, then another, acarya, another acarya. So better remain a foolish person perpetually to be directed by Guru Maharaja. That is perfection.

This statement makes clear how much importance Srila Prabhupada attached to remaining faithful to the instructions of the acarya just as he gave them--neither adding nor subtracting anything. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada did say to form a GBC to take charge of the mission. The Gaudiya Matha failed to do so. This is an instance of subtraction. And naming an acarya to head the mission a case of addition.

Srila Prabhupada clearly regarded this as a matter of utmost seriousness. So if ISKCON leaders have taken to heart the instruction to always be directed by the order of the spiritual master, it is no wonder that they hear alarm bells go off when they are told they should now introduce the concept of special raganuga-sadhana and rasika-guru in ISKCON. They would be disobeying Srila Prabhupada by adding something to his direct instructions.

We must ask ourselves: Why, during his last days, did Srila Prabhupada not directly advise his disciples to search for a living raganuga siksa-guru? He was talking of so many things. What could be more important than the means to achieve the goal of Krsna consciousness? Why would he have neglected this important point?

Indeed, why didn't he say: "My dear disciples, you have grasped the essence of my preaching mission and I am grateful to you for this. But it has taken you only so far. Now, I have asked Sripad Narayana Maharaja to give you further instructions to take you the rest of the way." Yet Srila Prabhupada, who was so meticulous in every detail, never instructed us in this manner. Narayana Maharaja says that Srila Prabhupada asked him to help us. Even so, had Srila Prabhupada intended anything as consequential as this, he would certainly have said something to his own disciples.

First of all, the prime qualification for anyone to guide ISKCON devotees is strict fidelity to the order of Srila Prabhupada, who, as we have seen, restricted concentrated attention upon matters such as Krsna's conjugal-lila to those utterly free from sexual desire. As we have also seen, Narayana Maharaja does not observe this restriction. How then can any follower of Prabhupada take instruction from him? Association with advanced Vaisnavas is certainly a devotional principle, but such association cannot help us if it causes us to lose our association with our most advanced teacher Srila Prabhupada, having discarded his instructions. Whatever advancement we attain completely depends on our keeping faith with Srila Prabhupada.

In fact, let us spell out completely the consequence of accepting Narayana Maharja's directions. The implication of Narayana Maharaja's statements is to set up Narayana Maharaja himself as the next acarya of ISKCON after Prabhupada. If we reflect upon the extensive interpretation Narayana Maharaja places upon what he says was a request by Prabhupada for him to help us, and Narayana Maharaja's belief that introducing raganuga-sadhana is what Prabhupada would do were he present to complete his work, the conclusion is hard to avoid. Narayana Maharaja will be the rasika-guru for ISKCON, appointed, even, by Srila Prabhupada to take over where Prabhupada left off. The problem with this is that Srila Prabhupada carefully gave his disciples quite different instructions for the future of ISKCON, and he held the Gaudiya Matha up as an example to us of precisely what not to do: "Why this Gaudiya Matha failed? Because they tried to become more than guru. He, before passing away, he gave all direction and never said that 'This man should be the next acarya.' " If we follow Narayana Maharaja, then we will have exactly recapitulated the fatal error of the Gaudiya Matha. Narayana Maharaja is hardly the first sannyasi from the Gaudiya Matha to tempt ISKCON with siren songs promising to lead us into "more advanced teachings" than Prabhupada imparted. Keeping faith with Srila Prabhupada, we should continue to reject firmly any such allurements to disobey his order.

Yet some may still wonder how we will reach the higher stages of Krsna consciousness if we do not practice raganuga-sadhana under the guidance of someone like Narayana Maharaja. Prabhupada has assured us that if we are conscientious in following the program he has meticulously laid out for us, we can have all confidence of complete success. In a Bhagavad-gita lecture given in Los Angeles on November 27, 1968, Srila Prabhupada gave this answer to a disciple who inquired about developing gopi-bhava:

So first of all you have to come out from this conditioned life. Then the question of serving gopi will come. Don't be at the present moment, very eager to serve gopi. Just try to get out of your conditional life. Then time will come when you'll be able to serve gopi. . . . But Krsna gives us opportunities to accept service in this arca-marga. Just like we keep the Deity of Krsna, offer prasada under regulation, under principle. So we have to make advance in this way, this chanting, hearing, and worshipping in the temple, arati, offering prasada. In this way, as we make advance, then automatically Krsna will reveal to you and you'll understand your position, how you have to . . . .Gopis means who are always, constantly engaged in the service of the Lord. So that eternal relationship will be revealed. So we have to wait for that. Immediately we cannot imitate serving gopis. That's a good idea that you shall serve gopi, but it will take time. Not immediately. Immediately we have to follow the rules and regulations and routine work.

This is only one out of many similar statements to be found by searching the Prabhupada FOLIO database under the words "automatically reveal." The indication consistently given by Srila Prabhupada is that by conscientiously performing the routine activities of devotional service, we will eventually come out of the conditioned stage of life, and then Krsna will automatically reveal internally our real position, while externally we continue to follow the same routine practices that brought us to the liberated stage. Does this process require patience? Yes it does, but it is better to be patient than to become involved in an artificial, and ultimately self-defeating, attempt to jump-start the process, running the risk of deluding oneself about one's actual state of advancement.

Srila Prabhupada wrote to Satsvarupa on March 21, 1967, with this counsel:

For ourselves when we are in perfect stage of devotional service, we can know our eternal relation with Krishna and as such one of the associates of Lord Krishna becomes our ideal leader. This acceptance of leadership by one of the eternal associates of the Lord is not artificial. Do not therefore try it at present. It will be automatically revealed to you in proper time.

Here are some other remarks by Srila Prabhupada during a garden conversation in New Vrndavana on June 23, 1976:

First of all try to rectify it, then talk of svarupa. Where is your svarupa? Simply wasting time. A man is diseased, he's thinking, "When I shall be cured I shall eat, go to this hotel, I shall eat like this." First of all cure, then talk of eating this and that. Svarupa, when you are cured, that is svarupa. So long you are not cured, what is the use of talking svarupa? First business is cure yourself. Anartha-nivrtti, that is anartha-nivrtti. Then svarupa will come.

Here Prabhupada's statement clearly reveals the fundamental difference between his approach and Narayana Maharaja's. Narayana Maharaja's approach directs you to talk about your svarupa and its activities, before the svarupa is attained, in order for you to reach it. Srila Prabhupada indicates another process: "Where is your svarupa?" He demands sarcastically. "Don't talk unnecessarily. First of all come to svarupa, then talk of svarupa." It would be hard for him to be any clearer. Prabhupada goes on to say:

So what is the use of talking utopian? First business is anartha-nivrttih syat. Adau sraddha tathah sadhu-sango 'tha bhajana-kriya tato anartha-nivrttih syat. You adopt this means that you have got full faith that "Krsna consciousness will save me." Then you live with devotees who are similarly determined. Then you execute devotional service. Then anartha-nivrttih syat, you'll be free from all these.... These are the stages. There is.... Up to anartha-nivrtti, you have to struggle very hard with determination, and then automatically everything will come.

The following exchange is taken from a room conversation in Bombay on April 25, 1977:

Prabhupada: "Svarupa-siddhi means when he is actually liberated, he understands what is his relationship with Krsna. That is svarupa-siddhi. Sakhya... So that is far away. Unless... If he's such a fool, then where is svarupa-siddhi?" Tamala Krsna: "So that realization doesn't come by some initiation from some babaji." Prabhupada: "That automatically comes when there..., he is liberated, not before."

Anyone who researches the matter carefully will find that Srila Prabhupada constantly teaches that the higher stages of Krsna consciousness--understanding of one's svarupa and rasa, meeting one's eternal guide, etc.--are all matters that will be automatically revealed to us if we steadfastly practice Krsna consciousness exactly as we have been instructed by him. The automatic realization will come "when we are in the perfect stage of devotional service."

However, someone might propose that one necessary element included within that "automatic revelation" will be to discover, by divine revelation, a specialist raganuga-guru and to practice raganuga-sadhana under his supervision. This interpretation of Prabhupada's statements cannot be accepted. Not only does it add something that Srila Prabhupada does not explicitly say, what it adds contradicts the direct, dictionary meaning of Srila Prabhupada's expression "automatically revealed." The Oxford English Dictionary gives the root sense of "automatic" as "self-acting, having the power of motion or action within itself."

Srila Prabhupada did not say that in the non-liberated stage some special practice of raganuga-sadhana under a raganuga-guru was needed to disclose one's svarupa and rasa. He simply said practice the routine principles conscientiously until you come to the liberated stage and then everything will be automatically revealed. We should be faithful to this instruction of Srila Prabhupada and take seriously his warning that one who teaches differently from him cannot be a proper siksa-guru for us.

The extracts taken from Narayana Maharaja's book reveal what has become a general theme of Narayana Maharaja's preaching: First, that Srila Prabhupada's mission was incomplete, and second, that Narayana Maharaja is the chosen person to complete it. While everyone in ISKCON has heard that Srila Prabhupada remarked that his mission was only fifty percent complete, the completion he called for was not raganuga-sadhana bhakti, but rather the establishment of varnasrama dharma, which wide-spread preaching would make necessary. He did not expect that raganuga bhakti would become the focus of practices and teachings different from those he had already given us. Srila Prabhupada followed perfectly the example of his Guru Maharaja Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura by demonstrating that potent preaching in itself is the preeminent symptom of advanced Krsna consciousness. Enthusiasm in preaching not is merely a qualification for something higher. Enthusiastic preaching is itself the very symptom of that higher stage.

Srila Prabhupada and his Guru Maharaja both taught by their own example that purification from anarthas as well as taste for Krishna-katha are achieved and exhibited through spreading the sankirtana movement. This was far more significant to these two most recent acaryas than attempts to "cultivate the mood of the Brijbasis." To put it in another way, in his unflagging potency to preach, Srila Prabhupada revealed the symptoms of a real Brijbasi, a real rasika Vaisnava. He showed us what a real rasika Brijbasi does in this world, in India as well as in the West: bold preaching of Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam.

Yet Narayana Maharaja says in private that he has no taste for Bhagavad-gita, no attraction for Puri or Dvaraka, no interest in Rama or Narasingha. In India, one often hears gurus use such statement as an encoded way of disclosing their high level of advancement. In the first place, whatever Narayana Maharaja's level may be, what example does such talk set for his followers, who inevitably come to know and repeat his views? In the second place, Srila Prabhupada always evinced a genuine taste for Bhagavad-gita. We should understand that Srila Prabhupada was situated on the most extraordinary level of spontaneous devotion, one that expressed itself in his preaching Bhagavad-gita with unflagging enthusiasm and relish. We wonder whether Narayana Maharaja has appreciated that.

In summary, Srila Prabhupada stressed that we need not add any extraneous endeavor to what he has given us to realize our relationship with Krishna; at the proper time, guru and Krsna will reveal it to us. In the meantime we should steadfastly continue rendering sincere service to the lotus feet of our spiritual master and his mission. When our hearts are thereby purified, everything will be revealed. At all times, we should behave strictly according to the principles of vaidhi-sadhana-bhakti. Any other example will simply create confusion both for others as well as for ourselves.

We know, nevertheless, that the Krsna consciousness movement of Caitanya Mahaprabhu is ultimately meant to bestow the highest love for Radha and Krsna. Is there nothing special ISKCON devotees can do before liberation to become qualified for the higher stages of Krsna consciousness?

In this regard, Srila Prabhupada always emphasized the great potency of the basic program of Krsna consciousness: chanting the Holy Names and preaching. By preaching and chanting the Holy Names we get the mercy of Srila Prabhupada and the previous acaryas which enables us to achieve the highest perfection. This basic program is nonetheless quite special. In Krsna consciousness the means and the end are the same, and the "basic program" of chanting Hare Krsna is in fact direct association of Radha-Krsna. The special nature and potency of our basic program becomes progressively manifest the more the quality of our engagement improves. The more we take pains to avoid offenses in chanting and the more we become energetic in broadcasting Krsna's message everywhere, the more we become eligible for higher development in spontaneous devotion. As Srila Prabhupada said, "The way to develop the gopis' love for Krsna is to spread Krsna consciousness all over the world."

What is the mood of the gopis? They were prepared to do anything, sacrifice anything, to please Krsna. Since Krsna is most pleased when His devotee is pleased, we should therefore work selflessly to please Krsna's dearmost devotee and representative--Srila Prabhupada. Since Krsna and Srila Prabhupada are especially satisfied by preaching, we should preach selflessly and tirelessly as Srila Prabhupada himself did.

Absorbed in the ecstatic emotions of Srimati Radharani, Lord Caitanya prayed, "I do not mind My personal distress. I only wish for the happiness of Krsna, for His happiness is the goal of My life" (Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya 20.52). In the purport to this verse, Srila Prabhupada explains the selflessness of a devotee:

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura says that the devotee does not care about his own happiness and distress; he is simply interested in seeing that Krsna is happy, and for that purpose he engages in various activities. . . . Others who are materialistic, however, who are very proud of material wealth and have no spiritual knowledge, like the prakrta-sayajiyas, regard their own happiness as the aim of life.

Srila Prabhupada sees the exemplification of this selflessness in the activity of preaching:

Sometimes the representatives of the Lord engaged in preaching work meet various so-called difficulties. This was exhibited by Lord Nityananda when He delivered the two fallen souls Jagai and Madhai, and similarly Lord Jesus Christ was crucified by the non-believers. But such difficulties are very gladly suffered by the devotees in preaching because in such activities, although apparently very severe, the devotees of the Lord feel transcendental pleasure because the Lord is satisfied. . . . There is no self-interest in such service. . . . Pure devotees like Narada and Nityananda Prabhu take up the order of the spiritual master as the sustenance of life. They do not mind what becomes of the future of their lives. (Srimad Bhagavatam 2.8.6, purport)

There are many examples in history of devotees of the Lord who risked their lives for the spreading of God consciousness. . . . Now we can imagine how merciful Krsna is to those engaged in His service, risking everything for Him. Therefore it is certain that such persons must reach the supreme planet after leaving the body. (Bhagavad-gita 11.55, purport)

Srila Prabhupada always glorified preaching to the highest degree, and he condemned with equal vehemence the sahajiya babajis and others who denigrate preaching. For instance:

Prabhupada: "Vrndavana, there are so many dangers. All these babajis they are... 'Oh, I am not going out of Vrndavana.' But he has got connection with so many women. So what is the use? Have you experience of this? He is attached to women and doing all sinful activities in Vrndavana. This is going on, manufacturing bidi, smoking bidi, in the dress of Rupa Gosvami, loincloth, big tilak, kanthi, and what he is doing? Bidi-making. Have you seen? Prithu-putra: I have seen some of them doing this, .... Prabhupada: Not all of them. But they are also claiming they are on the stage of Rupa Gosvami. We are preaching -- we are lower stage. That is their opinion. We are preaching all over the world; we are in the lower stage. And because he has imitated the dress of Rupa Gosvami--he is higher. This is going on. (Conversation, 28 January, 1977)

Srila Prabhupada often cited the statement of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura that "An uttama-adhikari Vaisnava can be recognized by his ability to convert many fallen souls to Vaisnavism" (Nectar Of Instruction 5, purport).

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura said that the position of a Vaisnava can be tested by how good a touchstone he is--that is, by how many Vaisnavas he has made during his life. A Vaisnava should be a touchstone so that he can convert others to Vaisnavism by his preaching, even though people may be fallen like the hunter. There are many so-called advanced devotees who sit in a secluded place for their personal benefit. They do not go out to preach and convert others into Vaisnavas, and therefore they certainly cannot be called sparsa-mani, advanced devotees. (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madya 24.277, purport)

In this connection, Srila Prabhupada quoted the saying, "Like father, like son." He preached extensively all over the world with unprecedented success, and he ordered us to preach in the same way. To the extent that we follow Srila Prabhupada's instructions to preach, he will be pleased, and he will bless us with the mercy of the disciplic succession, and we will be successful.

Srila Prabhupada has instructed us to preach and explained the qualification needed to do so:

Kanistha-adhikari devotees cannot turn others into Vaisnavas, but a madhyama-adhikari Vaisnava can do so by preaching. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu advised His followers to increase the number of Vaisnavas:

yare dekha, tare kaha 'krsna'-upadesa amara ajnaya guru hana tara' ei desa (Cc Madhya 7.128)

It is Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's wish that everyone should become a Vaisnava and guru. Following the instructions of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His disciplic succession, one can become a spiritual master, for the process is very easy. One can go everywhere and anywhere to preach the instructions of Krsna. Bhagavad-gita is Krsna's instructions; therefore the duty of every Vaisnava is to travel and preach Bhagavad-gita, either in his country or a foreign country. This is the test of the sparsa-mani, following in the footsteps of Narada Muni." (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 24.227, purport)

The members of the Krsna consciousness movement chant a minimum of sixteen rounds a day, which can be done without difficulty, but at the same time they must preach the cult of Caitanya Mahaprabhu according to the gospel of Bhagavad-gita As It Is. One who does so is quite fit to become a spiritual master for the entire world. (Caitanya-caritamrta Antya 4.103, purport)

In the light of the all the above evidence and discussion we should now consider how we are to regard Narayana Maharaja's assertions that he regards Srila Prabhupada as his siksa guru and himself as ISKCON's well-wisher. It should be abundantly clear, why we cannot accept him at his own evaluation. The teaching that Narayana Maharaja feels inspired to bring to ISKCON will harm ISKCON by deviating it away from Srila Prabhupada's direction. Consequently ISKCON has been left no alternative but to restrict its followers from interaction with Narayana Maharaja. The following GBC resolutions passed in 1995 explain what is expected of ISKCON devotees and the consequences for violators:

To fulfill the previous acarya's desire for a united world-wide preaching organization to expand Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mission, Srila Prabhupada founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness as a distinct branch of the Brahma Madhva Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya. Therefore he is the Founder-Acarya of ISKCON.

a. Srila Prabhupada is the foundational siksa guru for all ISKCON devotees because he has realized and presented the teachings of the previous acaryas of the Brahma Madhva Gaudiya sampradaya appropriately for the modern age.

1. A: In obedience to the instruction of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the GBC directs that the members of ISKCON should respect all senior Gaudiya Vaishnavas outside ISKCON, but should not intimately associate with them, personally or through printed or recorded media, for guidance, teaching, instruction, or initiation as their presentation of Krishna consciousness often differs from that of Srila Prabhupada in emphasis, balance and other aspects of both teaching and practice.

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