lunes, 24 de mayo de 2010

Krsna Talk 108 - Crow's Nest of Misconception

Krsna Talk 108 - Crow's Nest of Misconception

by Swami B. V. Tripurari Maharaja

Question: What is your opinion of Hari Sauri's account of Srila Prabhupada's
final meeting with Srila Sridhara Maharaja:

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Answer: I was recently alerted to these posts by two members of Iskcon, an
active preacher in the household asrama and a member of the renounced
order. The posts appeared on a popular Iskcon blog entitled Vaisnava
Blog Feeds. These posts were a step above many of the things that
Iskcon members have written and said about Srila Sridhara Maharaja in
the past in that they acknowledged Prabhupada's respect and affection
for Srila Sridhara Maharaja. The description of the final meeting of
Srila Sridhara Maharaja and Srila Prabhupada was for the most part
innocuous, although Hari Sauri's penchant for assuming that he can read
people's minds and an annoying lapse in Vaisnava etiquette in his
frequent references to Srila Sridhara Maharaja, a highly respected
sannyasi and founder-acarya, as "Sridhara" did sully the description.

Unfortunately, the first post takes a sharp turn for the worse towards
the end. There Hari Sauri's personal insights drift into a competitive
spirit that borders on offensive thinking as to how Prabhupada is more
spiritually advanced than Sridhara Maharaja, although such mundane
calculations have no place in genuine spiritual circles. In doing so,
Hari Sauri casts Srila Sridhara Maharaja in as unflattering a light as
he possibly can in order to reach a conclusion that, while seeking to
serve Srila Prabhupada, regrettably manages only to add to Iskcon's
legacy of sectarianism and Vaisnava aparadha. This post is followed by
a second one in which Hari Sauri makes a bold attempt to rewrite
history by claiming that Srila Prabhupada never gave his disciples the
option to take siksa from Srila Sridhara Maharaja after his passing.

Hari Sauri's first post concerns the last meeting between Sridhara
Maharaja and Srila Prabhupada held at Sridhara Maharaja's matha in
Navadwipa. Oddly, in his description of the meeting, Hari Sauri does
not mention the fact that Srila Prabhupada invited Srila Sridhara
Maharaja to live with him in Mayapur. He saves this information for his
description of the private conversations he had with Srila Prabhupada
after the trip. Unfortunately, his three-sentence paraphrase of
Prabhupada's invitation does not do justice to what Srila Prabhupada
said and the feeling it conveys. Let me therefore cite this
conversation before we proceed:

Srila Prabhupada: "I want very much, Maharaja, that you come and stay
at Mayapur. Because Prabhupada [Bhaktisiddhanta] always desired that
you preach. He told me quite a few times, "Why don't you pull him out?"
[They both laugh.] You know, I also tried to some extent before, but
somehow or other it did not work out. Now, why don't you come and stay
at Mayapur? Srila Prabhupada told me also, "Sridhara Maharaja is one of
the finest preachers." I want to take you everywhere. At least at the
place we have in Mayapur, people are coming from all over the world. If
you just agree, then whatever kind of building you want, I will arrange
it for you. They are trying to build a house for me. So both of us will
stay there. And whenever you want, you can come here to your matha."

"This is my earnest desire. Since you could not go around the world and
preach, at least stay there and people will come to you. I shall make
that arrangement. If you stay, then it will be helpful to me also.
Sometimes I need to consult with someone and there is no one. There is
no one that I can consult with. I feel this deficiency very greatly....
And in that house I will make arrangements for an elevator so that you
won't have to go through the difficulty of walking up and down the
stairs. You won't even have to move a step yourself. I'll make
arrangements for a car and an elevator. My disciples are telling me
that they will build a house for me. So, both of us will stay in that
house. Most of the time I am traveling around, so if you are there,
they can get some guidance. So, Maharaja, please, give me the order and
I will make all the arrangements for you. That planetarium [The Temple
of Understanding] also will be built under your direction."

Srila Sridhara Maharaja: "Yes, as long as I am alive to fulfill
[Bhaktisiddhanta] Prabhupada's desire."

By not doing justice to this important conversation-the importance
being apparent by the fact that Hari Sauri spends the next half of the
post attempting to minimize its importance--although a transcript is
readily available (Hari Sauri states he didn't have it in front of
him), he avoids the stark contrast between this recorded conversation
and his recollection of the private conversations that took place after
the meeting. Whereas in the recorded conversation Srila Prabhupada
said, "I want to take you everywhere...this is my earnest desire," in
Hari Sauri's recollection Srila Prabhupada's mood has changed entirely
and Srila Sridhara Maharaja is practically labeled envious due to his
being associated at times with other Godbrothers who were envious of
Prabhupada's success ("After all, a man is known by his association").
Hari Sauri thus evades the responsibility for explaining this dramatic
contrast between the recorded conversation and his recollection/
imagination, in which Srila Prabhupada is made to appear two-faced.

This said, it is entirely possible that Prabhupada decided not to
further pursue inviting Sridhara Maharaja to live at Mayapur. He had
mixed feelings about his Godbrothers, and although he had a very loving
relationship with Sridhara Maharaja and high regard for his siksa,
other disciples of Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura also
had high regard for Sridhara Maharaja's siksa, and thus they liked to
take advantage of it and associate with him occasionally. Thus it is
altogether possible that upon further reflection Prabhupada concluded
that if Sridhara Maharaja lived with him in Mayapur some of his other
Godbrothers who were not appreciative of Prabhupada's position would
also frequent Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir and that this could be
problematic for his disciples.

However, Hari Sauri's conclusion that it was Prabhupada's desire that
his followers should not hear from Sridhara Maharaja misses the boat
altogether. First and foremost he fails to understand that what
Prabhupada clearly wanted was for Sridhara Maharaja to share his
realizations with his disciples. If he could arrange for that without
having to worry that other Godbrothers of his who were envious of him
would also be in the mix, he would have been successful in fulfilling
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's request of him to bring Sridhara Maharaja out
for preaching, he would have someone whom he highly respected to
consult with, and his disciples would have been able to benefit from
Sridhara Maharaja's siksa. Note that in the long run Prabhupada
realized two of these ideals: he did effectively bring Sridhara
Maharaja out for preaching all over the world and his disciples had the
opportunity to associate and benefit from his siksa without
interference from any of Prabhupada's other Godbrothers who may have
been envious of his success.

Unfortunately, Hari Sauri does not give Prabhupada the credit he is due
for bringing Sridhara Maharaja out for preaching, as evidenced from his
erroneous account of Prabhupada's final instruction to us about
Sridhara Maharaja that I will deal with ahead. He entirely misses the
salient point that Prabhupada clearly desired that his disciples have
the opportunity to further flourish under the siksa of Sridhara Deva
Goswami. He misses it so badly that for the last thirty-three years he
has been preaching that Prabhupada's disciples and grand disciples
should not hear from Sridhara Maharaja even when his personal
association was available without interference from other Godbrothers
and even after Sridhara Maharaja passed away and his recorded talks
were widely circulated within Iskcon, wherein many devotees including
leaders of Iskcon took advantage of them with no negative

As I mentioned earlier, Hari Sauri seeks in his second post to rewrite
history altogether, history I am a personal witness to. Not only does
he want to rewrite the history of Prabhupada's final instruction to his
disciples regarding the position of Sridhara Maharaja, he expects us to
believe his rewrite on the basis of a private conversation he claims he
had with Tamal Krsna Goswami, a conversation in which Tamal Krsna
Maharaja allegedly privately changes his publicly stated version of
what he and others heard Prabhupada say. While Tamal Krsna Goswami
publicly stated that Prabhupada told his disciples they could associate
with Sridhara Maharaja after his departure for siksa, and others who
were also personally present at the time have confirmed this as well,
and although this has been widely acknowledged as factual,
Hari Sauri implies three things, two that are in stark contrast to the
facts and one that is highly questionable:

Tamal Krsna Maharaja was the only one present when Prabhupada gave his
final instruction to us concerning the association of Sridhara
Maharaja. Tamal Krsna Maharaja stretched the truth in order to convince
the entire GBC that Prabhupada told us we could consult with Sridhara
Maharaja for philosophical questions. Tamal Krsna Maharaja, many years
later, privately admitted this to Hari Sauri and now Hari Sauri, many
more years later, has decided to tell us what Tamal Krsna Maharaja said
privately to him to set the record straight.

As I mentioned, I was personally present when Prabhupada gave his final
instruction to us about Sridhara Maharaja, as were others. I was
massaging Prabhupada's feet and Tamal Krsna Maharaja asked Prabhupada
how were we to perform the funeral/samadhi rites if he should pass on
shortly. It is well known that at that time Prabhupada replied that for
this we should speak to Narayana Maharaja, who resided in Mathura a
short distance from Vrindavana. After a short pause Tamal Krsna
Maharaja asked a follow-up question: "Is there anyone else we can
consult with after your departure?" To this second question Prabhupada
replied, "For philosophy, my Godbrother B. R. Sridhara Maharaja of

A brief history of what followed was that Narayana Maharaja was
consulted regarding the samadhi ritual and he prominently participated
in it. Then three months later at the annual Mayapur meeting, members
of Iskcon's Governing Body Commission (GBC) approached Sridhara
Maharaja, who resided nearby, with philosophical questions. For several
years thereafter, leading members of Iskcon continued to associate with
Sridhara Maharaja for his siksa on philosophical questions and even
rank and file devotees were free to approach him with their questions.
Such association with Sridhara Maharaja became a contentious issue at
times, but it continued for five years on the strength of the common
knowledge that Prabhupada himself had opened the door to such
association and sanctioned it. Had Iskcon's association with Sridhara
Maharaja been driven merely by Tamal Krsna Maharaja's memory of what
Prabhupada said to him in a private conversation, Iskcon's GBC would
not have been so hesitant to stop devotees from taking siksa from
Sridhara Maharaja when his siksa called their spiritual credibility
into question.

The alleged private discussion between Hari Sauri and Tamal Krsna
Maharaja runs contrary to this, and furthermore it fails miserably in
terms of logic. According to Hari Sauri, Tamal Krsna Goswami privately
told him that Prabhupada never said that we could associate with
Sridhara Maharaja for philosophical instructions, but rather that we
could speak with either Narayana Maharaja or Sridhara Maharaja
regarding how to perform the samadhi ritual. But why would Prabhupada
suggest that we speak to both Sridhara Maharaja and Narayana Maharaja
about how to conduct the samadhi ritual? Narayana Maharaja lived close
by and was knowledgeable of ritual procedure, including presiding over
Srila Prabhupada's sannyasa ritual. Srila Sridhara Maharaja lived 1000
miles away and was not known for his involvement in ritual procedure
but rather for his philosophical siksa. Furthermore, while Prabhupada
did not consult with Narayana Maharaja on philosophical issues, he
often praised the siksa of Sridhara Maharaja and even once wrote that
we could benefit greatly from his siksa because he considered Sridhara
Maharaja his own siksa guru.

Regarding Hari Sauri's alleged private conversation with Tamal Krsna
Maharaja and its contents, why are we only hearing about it now? Why
are none of Tamal Krsna Maharaja's close associates aware of his
position as alleged by Hari Sauri? I have personally corresponded with
several of Tamal Krsna Goswami's closest associates and none of them
have any recollection of Tamal Krsna Maharaja changing his position on
what Prabhupada said about associating with Narayana Maharaja regarding
the samadhi ritual and Sridhara Maharaja regarding philosophy. Thus we
have nothing to support Hari Sauri's version, nothing from Tamal Krsna
Goswami or anyone else to confirm that he changed his position. Indeed,
as late as 1995 Tamal Krsna Goswami approached B.G. Narasingha Maharaja
and myself and confided in us in sacred Vrindavana that he felt the GBC
were mistaken to have decided that Iskcon members would be in violation
of Prabhupada's desire if they accepted Sridhara Maharaja as their
siksa guru. At that time he acknowledged once again that it was
Prabhupada who had suggested it in the first place.

Hari Sauri concludes his second post with the following reflection:

"For whatever reason, it was done [taking siksa from Sridhara
Maharaja], and we live with the consequences. If we sincerely continue
with our preaching on behalf of Srila Prabhupada things will be
gradually adjusted to the right point."

Here Hari Sauri implies that there have been negative consequences that
have resulted from Prabhupada's disciples taking siksa from Sridhara
Maharaja and that the reason for this is that Srila Prabhupada didn't
want us to do it in the first place. I do agree that there have been
negative consequences, but I do not think Hari Sauri realizes what they
are, nor do I agree with his idea of why there have been such
consequences. Indeed, if he keeps preaching the way he has in these
posts in the name of representing Srila Prabhupada, the negative
consequences that Iskcon has been suffering since the departure of
Srila Prabhupada will only continue to manifest.

The negative consequences that resulted from hearing from Sridhara
Maharaja are more a result of not understanding what he actually taught
and how it is in concert with Gaudiya siddhanta and then
misrepresenting his siksa and offending His Divine Grace--Vaisnava
aparadha. For Hari Sauri to attempt to rewrite the history of the
events surrounding this issue serves only to perpetuate this aparadha.

The sectarianism and religious fanaticism in the name of guru bhakti
that Hari Sauri's posts represent are telling. They speak loudly to the
thoughtful observer as to just how much the swan-like paramahamsa Srila
Prabhupada may have flown the coop of Iskcon, while leaders like Hari
Sauri seek by such posts to secure the faith of its members, clip their
wings, and fear monger them to embrace their crow's nest of
misconception. If one wants to know who is responsible for the
shadow-like status of today's Iskcon in comparison to its luminous
past, they need look no further than to its present leadership, many of
whom have been serving in this capacity for decades.

Hari Sauri is a prime example, and although his may be only one opinion
among many within Iskcon, his posts are most likely scheduled for
future publication in his ongoing diary series. Indeed, Hari Sauri has
become one of Iskcon's leading historians of the legacy of Srila
Prabhupada. Should Hari Sauri publish his rewrite of history, it will
no doubt be followed up by the author's book tour and signing at any
Iskcon temple he chooses to visit. In contrast, persons like myself are
banned from speaking in Iskcon because I don't toe the party line in
regard to Srila Sridhara Maharaja, although the party line was
established decades ago by devotees who largely have fallen from their
positions. Does anyone really think that Srila Prabhupada would agree
with such a policy?

Ironically, in the name of chastity to Srila Prabhupada, Hari Sauri's
mood in regard to Srila Sridhara Maharaja couldn't be farther from that
of Srila Prabhupada himself. My own position on what chastity to Srila
Prabhupada constitutes can be found here:

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