The state of the disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhantha Sarasvati Thakura in the Gaudiya Matha:
Srila Prabhupada explains that his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhantha Sarasvati Thakura was “disgusted” (word used by Srila Prabhupada) at the state of his disciples in the Gaudiya Matha:
Prabhupada: My Guru Maharaja was lamenting (about his disciples), “They are simply after this stone and bricks.” He condemned. He was very, very sorry.
… My Guru Maharaja said, “There will be fire in this Gaudiya Matha. Agun jvalbe. …If I can sell these marbles of this temple and convert them into books.” That was his ambition. He started a very nice press, and his disciple, Tirtha Maharaja sold it. “Better let’s have money for fight in the court.” (Room conversation with Srila Prabhupada on July 26th, 1976, London)
Srila Prabhupada also described that his Guru Maharaja did not see any of his disciples to be qualified to be an Acharya in the Gaudiya Matha and hence did not appoint one:
My Guru Maharaja used to lament many times for this reason and he thought if one man at least had understood the principle of preaching then his mission would achieve success. In the latter days of my Guru Maharaja, he was very disgusted. Actually, he left this world earlier otherwise he would have continued to live for more years. Still he requested his disciples to form a strong Governing Body for preaching the cult of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He never recommended anyone to be Acharya of the Gaudiya Matha. But Sridhara Maharaja is responsible for disobeying this order of Guru Maharaja, and he and others who are already dead unnecessarily thought that there must be one Acharya. If Guru Maharaja could have seen someone who was qualified at that time to be Acharya he would have mentioned. Because on the night before he passed away he talked of so many things, but never mentioned an Acharya. (Srila Prabhupada’s Letter to Rupanuga, dated April 28th, 1974)
In the same letter to Rupanuga, Srila Prabhupada later writes:
Actually amongst my god brothers no one is qualified to become Acharya.
Self-effulgent Acharya Would Emerge
What was Srila Bhaktisiddhantha Saraswati Thakura’s plan for the next Acharya? Srila Prabhupada further explains this:
His idea was Acharya was not to be nominated amongst the Governing Body. He said openly you make a GBC and conduct the mission. So his idea was amongst the members of GBC who would come out successful, and self-effulgent Acharya would be automatically selected. (Srila Prabhupada Letter to Rupanuga, dated April 28th, 1974)
All devotees of ISKCON without a trace of doubt accept Srila Prabhupada to be that self-effulgent Acharya among the disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhantha Sarasvati Thakura. Only the blind cannot see the self-effulgent sun.
The state of the disciples of Srila Prabhupada in ISKCON
Srila Prabhupada was aware that from the beginning of the ISKCON society some of his western disciples were ambitious and wanted to become guru themselves. They were young in age (most of them were in late 20s or early 30s), they had not grasped the spiritual depth, historicity and greatness of the tradition they had become part of and they were passionate due to their upbringing and naive in organizational matters. Srila Prabhupada described their misdemeanor and wrongdoings in trying to become a guru as “childish frivolities.”
We are not pleased to talk about these transgressions, but the historical facts have to be stated for better understanding of the reality that Srila Prabhupada was dealing with. Offering my sincere respects to those devotees who were serving Srila Prabhupada to establish the worldwide Krishna consciousness movement, I will reproduce Srila Prabhupada’s own words in this matter without being too judgmental about them.
As early as 1967, Srila Prabhupada wrote:
“Kirtanananda was awarded the position of a sannyasi because he wanted it although I could understand it that he wanted to be a spiritual master himself. (Srila Prabhupada letter October 27th, 1967)
In 1968, Srila Prabhupada dealt with another ambitious disciple:
“The first thing, I warn Achyutananda, do not try to initiate. You are not in a proper position now to initiate anyone. Besides that, the etiquette is that so long the spiritual master is present; all prospective disciples should be brought to him. Therefore if anyone is anxious to be initiated, he should first of all hear our philosophy and join chanting at least for three months, and then if required, I shall send chanted beads for him if you recommend. As we are doing here. Don’t be allured by such maya. I am training you all to become future spiritual masters, but do not be in a hurry. If the family of the boy, who is so eager to be initiated certainly, is Vaishnavas, let them offer you some place, because you are in need of a place, first and foremost. In that place hold kirtana daily, morning and evening, as we do, that will be the sign of their sincerity. So for the time being, hold kirtana. As I have advised above, and speak from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, and try to serve the cause of the Krishna consciousness society. You don’t be attracted by such cheap disciples immediately.” (Srila Prabhupada letter to Achyutananda and Jayagovinda, Montreal, Aug 21st, 1968)
So clearly advise them not to indulge in childish frivolities. Achyutananda has already wasted 10 months’ time by his childish frivolities; sometimes preacher, sometimes guru, and sometimes so and so. So you will kindly give them clear indication that they should stop all these things, and work as directed in the above way–without further delay. (Srila Prabhupada letter to Brahmananda, Sept 17th, 1968)
In 1972, Srila Prabhupada encountered similar instances:
“Some time ago you asked my permission for accepting some disciples, now the time is approaching very soon when you will have many disciples by your strong preaching work. Stick to the line of our strong preaching method and many misguided persons will be blessed by your proper guiding.” (Srila Prabhupada’s letter to Achyutananda, 5/16/72)
In 1974, Srila Prabhupada was dealing with yet another situation:
From Madhavananda I have heard that there is some worship of yourself by the other devotees. Of course it is proper to offer obeisances to a Vaishnava, but not in the presence of the spiritual master. After the departure of the spiritual master, it will come to that stage, but now wait. Otherwise it will create factions. (Srila Prabhupada’s letter to: Hamsaduta:—Mayapur, 1 October, 1974)
In 1976, Srila Prabhupada was dealing with more such instances:
“So these attempts are being done, just like Gaurasundara told, that “Why should I live under the subjugation of these people? Let me go away, become a guru.” Similarly Sudama. This attempt will not be successful, but there is some attempt like that. What can be done? Such attempt will never be successful, but there are some attempts like that.” (Room conversation with Srila Prabhupada, May 30th, 1976)
In 1977, prior to Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance from this mortal world, he mentioned the principle of authorization to become a guru in Mayapur during the class on Srimad Bhagavatam:
Guru cannot be self-made. No. There is no such single instance throughout the whole Vedic literature. And nowadays, so many rascals, they are becoming guru without any authority. That is not guru. You must be authorized. Evam parampara-praptam imam… [Bg. 4.2]. As soon as the parampara is lost, sa kalena yoga nasto parantapa, immediately finished. The spiritual potency finished. You can dress like a guru, you can talk big, big words, but it will never be effective. (Srimad Bhagavatam class on Feb 27th, 1977 in Mayapur)
Later in April 1977, he talked about the ambition among his disciples to become a guru.
Our mission is to serve bhakta-vishesa and live with devotees. Not that you take the place of the guru. That is nonsense, very dangerous. Then everything will be spoiled. As soon as you become ambitious to take the place of guru—gurusu nara-matih… That is the material disease. (Room conversation with Srila Prabhupada on April 20th, 1977, Bombay)
Two days later, he once again addressed the issue of Hansaduta Maharaj, a sannyasi (at that time), a senior disciple and GBC member who was trying to become guru. He admonished with strong words, “rascal guru”. We hear this in a conversation between Srila Prabhupada and GBC secretary, HH Tamala Krishna Goswami in Bombay on April 22nd, 1977:
Prabhupada: People complained against Hamsaduta. Did you know that?
Tamala Krishna: I’m not sure of the particular incidences, but I’ve heard general…
Prabhupada: In Germany. So many complaints… No, you become guru, but you must be qualified first of all. Then you become.
Tamala Krishna: Oh, that kind of complaint was there.
Prabhupada: Did you know that? What is the use of producing some rascal guru?
Tamala Krishna: Well, I have studied myself and all of your disciples, and it’s clear fact that we are all conditioned souls, so we cannot be guru. Maybe one day it may be possible…
Prabhupada: Hmm. Yes. I shall choose some guru. I shall say, “Now you become acharya. You become authorized.” I am waiting for that. You become all acharya. I retire completely. But the training must be complete.
Tamala Krishna: The process of purification must be there.
Prabhupada: Oh, yes, must be there. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu wants that. Amara ajnaya guru hana [Cc. Madhya 7.128]. “You become guru.” [laughs] But be qualified. Little thing, strict follower… otherwise you’ll not be effective. You can cheat, but it will not be effective. Just see our Gaudiya Matha. Everyone wanted to become guru, and a small temple and “guru.” What kind of guru? No publication, no preaching, simply bring some foodstuff… My Guru Maharaja used to say, “Joint mess,” a place for eating and sleeping. Amar amar ara takana[?]: “Joint mess.” He said this. (Room conversation with Srila Prabhupada on April 22nd, 1977 in Bombay)
Apart from the ambitious disciples wanting to become gurus, another serious difficulty Srila Prabhupada was facing was his disciples, including the senior most GBCs, were spiritually weak and “falling victim to maya.” Srila Prabhupada wrote this in a letter in December of 1974:
“As far as your proposals are concerned the real thing is that we must make broader constitution of the management by GBC. But the difficulty is that our GBC men are falling victim to maya. Today I trust this GBC and tomorrow he will fall down. That is the difficulty. If the GBC men are so flickering then what to speak of the others. Unless this problem is solved whatever we may resolve it will not be very useful. We shall discuss this at our meeting. If the GBC men can ever manage properly then I shall get some time for writing my books.” (Srila Prabhupada’s letter to: Jayatirtha, December 16th, 1974)
On May 15th, 1976 in Honolulu, Hawaii, Srila Prabhupada received the news of Madhudvisha Swami, his trusted GBC had left the movement:
He (Srila Prabhupada) is greatly disturbed that even the main men whom he has so patiently trained up are still falling down. His hope of retiring from active management is now once again thrown into doubt. With a sober look he said resignedly, “What can I do? I am working with all third-class men, fools and rascals. Things are going on simply by Krishna’s mercy.” (Transcendental Diary Vol 2)
- The scriptures declare about the absolute necessity of a spiritual master. Srila Prabhupada’s book and teachings emphasize the exalted qualifications to become an Acharya or guru or an initiating spiritual master.
- Only an Acharya who has such qualifications can receive the due respect and regard that is also prescribed in the scriptures.
- Even a slight deviation from the standard of respect to the Acharya can cause havoc in the spiritual life of a disciple.
- The disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhantha Sarasvati Thakura in the Gaudiya Matha disobeyed his instructions on how to conduct the institution and appointed, without authorization, the next Acharya. The vibrant institution that Srila Bhaktisiddhantha Sarasvati Thakura had established failed, broke down and finished (all three words used by Srila Prabhupada to describe his Guru Maharaja’s institution).
- Srila Prabhupada too saw his disciples were ambitious to become Acharya but were not spiritually qualified; rather they were weak and untrained.