by Rupa Raghunath das
Recently I heard someone minimizing Srila Gurudeva’s relationship with Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and that person even said that our beloved Gurudeva was not in line with Srila Prabhupada. This was due to his being grossly misinformed and repeating the same kind of false propaganda that’s been going on since 1995. We will no longer just sit back and listen to false propaganda against our gurus. On the contrary Srila Gurudeva, like Srila Prabhupada, is full of compassion and love and we will attempt to show how their relationship is eternally based on spontaneous love.
If we carefully explore the letters that Srila Prabhupada wrote to Srila Gurudeva (in the book Letters from America), we will be able to see their close relationship. There were several hundred letters exchanged between Srila Gurudeva and Srila Prabhupada during the twelve years that Prabhupada was preaching in the West. Srila Gurudeva treasured and asked his brahmacaris to save all those letters from Srila Prabhupada. When asked by one of the senior leaders of Prabhupada’s ISKCON movement if they could borrow that big stack of letters for Srila Prabhupada’s biography, Srila Gurudeva happily complied. Unfortunately, although he asked to get them back, none of those letters were ever returned to Srila Gurudeva. Many years later a handful of other letters were found in a desk in Mathura by some brahmacaris, Sriman Premananda Prabhu, Sriman Subhananda Brahmacari [now Sripad Tirtha Maharaja], and Navina Krsna Brahmacari [now Sripad Madhav Maharaja], like this one where Srila Prabhupada wrote on July 14, 1967, “I am very happy to receive your letter in your own handwriting dated the 8th of July. I have received all of your letters and I have replied to each. I hope you have received them.”
In other letters he wrote of their intimacy, “Our relationship is certainly based on spontaneous love. That is why there is no chance of us forgetting one another.”
Who is the real servant of guru? Srila Prabhupada wrote Srila Gurudeva, “I think that you are the real guru sevaka, so I always correspond with you and I always give my full love and affection to you.”
He also compares their relationship with that of his own guru. “The relation between you and me is eternal, just as my relation with my Gurudeva, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Öhakura Prabhupada, is an eternal relation, so in the same way the relation between you and me is eternal.”
Srila Gurudeva and Srila Prabhupada met in 1946. Srila Gurudeva said in his first Western lecture in Holland that, “We became bosom friends.” They associated intimately for twenty years before Prabhupada even founded the International Society for Krsna Consciousness. After going to America, Prabhupada wrote to him from there, “From the first time I saw you I have been your constant well-wisher. At the first sight of me Srila (Bhaktisiddhanta) Prabhupada also saw me with such love.” See how he here compares his relationship with Gurudeva and his guru Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada, so how can anyone be so impudent to say they are not in line with one another?
There had so much love and respect for one another. Srila Gurudeva repeatedly stated that he considered Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami his siksa-guru and before his lectures, besides honouring his diksa-guru, he would also honour Srila Bhaktivedata Swami, his siksa-guru by offering millions of dandavat pranati (obeisaces) unto his lotus feet.
RATHER THAN FIND DIFFERENCES, SEE THE SIMILARITIES
Krsna permanently resides in the pure devotees’ hearts and one should not disrespect them in any way. Rather than try and find differences, we can observe many similarities in the lives of these two pure devotees who are the empowered acaryas of our Gaudiya disciplic succession.
Allahabad, circa 1924. Abhay Caran De (Srila Prabhupada) is seated on left next to his father, Gour Mohan and his older sister, Rajesvari and standing next to him is Radharani, Abhay’s wife.
They were both born of Vaisnava parents in a holy tirtha in India. They both married in a traditional Vedic style and both had children. They both took sannyasa from Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Goswami Maharaja and spread the pure siddhanta of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, giving their entire lives and strength to serve their guru-varga. They both lived and preached in the holy dhama in India. When they came to their old age they both mercifully travelled around the world many times preaching the sublime message of Mahaprabhu and benefiting everyone with the pure chanting of the Hare Krsna mahamantra.
They both gave instruction to everyone on how to follow their sadhana and both gave the essence of all instructions from the rasa-acarya Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhupada. They both inundated the devotees’ hearts and minds with Krsna consciousness. They gave access and opportunity to everyone to talk to them, to ask questions, to hear their lectures, to perform guru-puja to them and to take their Krsna prasadam. They helped and gave support to everyone who came to them, regardless of caste, creed or color; such was their unlimited causeless mercy. They both wrote profusely and gave everyone their wonderful books and magazines. They are always guiding the conditioned souls to their goal and they are both very dear to Srimati Radharani. In the end their final lilas were perfect. They both entered nitya-lila on a most auspicious occasion in the most holy dhama of the Lord, surrounded by loving disciples.
The most beautiful thing is that they have not left us. Spiritually they are fully present. As Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura says, “He reasons ill who tells that Vaisnavas die when thou art living in sound.”
In 1975, when a reporter in Berkeley asked what would happen to his movement when he died, Srila Prabhupada said that he would never die. “I shall live from my books and you will utilize.” In his 1962 Srimad Bhagavatam dedication he wrote of his spiritual master Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Maharaja, “He lives forever by his divine instructions and the follower lives with him”.
Srila Gurudeva said that he felt that his guru, Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Goswami Maharaja was always with him and guiding him. If we could only enter this mood of intense greed to achieve guru-nistha and purely follow their instructions, then we will also be able to always feel the presence of our guru.
“THERE IS ONLY ONE GURU, WHO APPEARS IN AN INFINITY OF FORMS TO TEACH YOU, ME AND ALL OTHERS”
Abbay Caran De (Srila Prabhupada) in his 1936 Vyasa-puja offering said, “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 the fundamental principle of gurudeva, or acaryadeva, 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 forms to teach you, me and all others…
Thus it has been enjoined herewith that in order to receive that transcendental knowledge, one must approach the guru. Therefore, if the Absolute Truth is one, about which we think there is no difference of opinion, the guru also cannot be two. The Acaryadeva to whom we have assembled tonight to offer our humble homage is not the guru of a sectarian institution or one out of many differing exponents of the truth. On the contrary, he is the Jagad-guru, the guru of all of us; the only difference is that some obey him wholeheartedly, while others do not obey him directly. In the Bhagavatam [SB 11.17.27] it is said:
acaryam mam vijaniyan navamanyeta karhicit
na martya-buddhyasuyeta sarva-deva-mayo guruh
na martya-buddhyasuyeta sarva-deva-mayo guruh
“One should understand the spiritual master to be as good as I am,” said the Blessed Lord. “Nobody should be jealous of the spiritual master or think of him as an ordinary man, because the spiritual master is the sum total of all the demigods.” That is, the acarya has been identified with God Himself. He has nothing to do with the affairs of this mundane world…”
“SAME WINE IN DIFFERENT BOTTLES”
At Govardhana on the appearance day of Srila Bhakti-Raksaka Sridhara Goswami Maharaja in 2003, Srila Gurudeva said:
“Even now I am not giving anything new. Devotees throughout the world come to hear my classes, but I don’t understand what is there in those classes. Then I consider that something is there, but it didn’t come from me. It came from my guru-parampara. It came from what I have heard from my guru-parampara, Srila Rupa Gosvami, Srila Sanatana Gosvami, Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Srila Prabhupada, my Gurudeva, Parama-pujapada Sridhara Gosvami Maharaja, Prapujyacarana Srila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja and others like them. I never say anything new in my classes Only my voice is different.
Someone may say, “You are somewhat different from Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja.” I reply, “Yes I am different, because he was somewhat shorter than me, and he went to college and mission schools whereas I never went to such schools. He has so many great qualities whereas I have no such qualities, and there is sometimes a difference in our choice of words. We present the same wine in different bottles. The wine is not different. I am not explaining anything new. Srila Swami Maharaja has also not explained anything new, nor has Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja. They have also given the same thing in new bottles. They presented the same ideas with different words. Srila Sridhara Maharaja and my Gurudeva have taught the same philosophy and principles as taught by Srila Jiva Gosvami. They have not given anything new. Krsna-bhakti is the aim and object of all human beings. You can tell it in a different style, but the wine must be the same. The color of the glass may change, but the wine must be the same.”
FINDING FAULT WITH THE PURE DEVOTEE CAN NEVER BE AUSPICIOUS
We should be so careful not to offend Sri Guru and the Vaisnavas for only by their mercy can we receive the mercy of Sri Sri Radha Krsna. Some even mistakenly think that they are increasing the glory of their own guru by finding some fault in others. Criticism of a pure devotee is a serious aparadha and can never be auspicious. Srila Gurudeva taught that we should look in our own heart and find fault with ourselves, not with others. We are now entangled and our position in this material existence is already not very good, consequently we shouldn’t do anything to offend our spiritual well-wishers. That will make things much worse. Our delicate bhakti creeper must be fenced from such aparadhas and given proper water and proper care. We have seen so many falldowns in the ranks of even very prominent preachers. Many became weak and left and some even became opposed to the line of bhakti. Previously, they were serving Prabhupada nicely, so why did this happen? It can almost always be attributed to Vaisnava aparadha.
SRILA PRABHUPADA APPOLIGIZES ON BEHALF OF HIS DISCIPLE
This is an excerpt from a letter dated December 15, 1966, “I came to know that my disciple Chandrasekhara from Delhi wrote you a letter. Chandrasekhara sent me a copy of your reply to him. In that letter I came to know that foolish Chandrasekhara had blasphemed you. Fools do not know how to honour Vaisnavas. By your greatness, please excuse him. I haven’t instructed him to do such a thing. I only told him to visit you. Anyway, excuse his aparadha. Chandrasekhara is a good man, but out of foolishness he used bad words to you. You please forgive him and me by your good qualities.”
From this letter we can see that Srila Prabhupada does not want his disciples to dishonour Vaisnavas in any way. He himself asked Srila Gurudeva to excuse his foolish disciple. When people in the name of protecting Srila Prabhupada’s movement or glorifying him blaspheme Srila Gurudeva or any Vaisnava, we should remember how Srila Prabhupada responded in such a circumstance, “Fools do not know how to honour Vaisnavas.” We should help those who are innocent and misinformed to find their real shelter.
Aspiring to serve Sri Hari, Guru and the Vaisnavas,
Rupa Raghunath das