Our Goal is Quality
Is there any need for, or benefit
gained by comparing Vaisnavas to each other? My godbrothers often rejected
elevated Vaisnavas on the plea of: What did he do to save me?' Or, what
did he do for Krishna in comparison to Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Maharaj?' I felt so sad that, due to this material comparison, my brothers
were deprived of the sadhu sanga they needed so urgently.
Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur explains that only the highest devotee can know what level of advancement the others are on. He also says that a Vaisnava's glories can be understood by how many temples he opened, how many devotees he brought to this line, or by how much literature he wrote or distributed. While every Vaisnava should be very happy if another Vaisnava is successful in his missionary activities, we have to consider the many other Vaisnava instructions to get a complete picture of the right course of mentality to develop.
The Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita states: You should neither criticize nor glorify a Vaisnava. Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj stresses in his purport that we may make an exception in connection to glorifying a devotee for some extraordinary feat he accomplished by Krishna's grace, but we should never criticize a Vaisnava. This is so important that we can only refer here to the wonderful book The Heart of Krishna by Srila B. P. Puri Maharaj. This book shows us how Vaisnava aparadha will destroy our spiritual advancement.
Srila Sridhar Maharaj confirms that we should only associate intimately with Vaisnavas who are favorable towards the way our guru's mercy and Krishna descended into our lives. At the same time, we should not associate with those who like to put down our spiritual master, or who criticize other Vaisnavas unduly. The scriptures also state that a spiritual master is known by his disciples. A good disciple must therefore take care to please his guru by representing him well.
Every devotee loves to speak of the glories of his spiritual master. If he does not understand that same necessity for another, or if he is not generous in the evaluation of another's feelings for his guru, we can understand that he must be very immature. Such a person cannot see beyond the I and mine platform. He thinks: My guru is the best of all.' Or, my guru can give something one cannot get elsewhere.' Such comments are extensions of ego consciousness, are not in the line of a humble Vaisnava, and serve only to create disturbance among the spiritual family.
If we give recognition to some person for his great service, this is acceptable. But, if we commit the blunder of using that fact to put down another Vaisnava in any way, we will become aparadhis. Even subtle indications of comparing the glory of one's guru to show his superiority' will become an offense to guru tattva, a breach of Vaisnava etiquette, and in short an aparadha. Every Vaisnava who is accepted by other Vaisnavas must be a great soul. Among them, the shining stars will naturally be recognized in their own light. They don't need to be, nor would they like to be publicized among other Vaisnavas; what to speak of being pushed on other Vaisnavas. This is nothing but spiritual common sense.
In conclusion, one should treat Vaisnavas properly at all times. Being sensitive to their feelings is definitely more important than quantity or quality considerations. We have heard our gurus say that Srimati Radharani thinks that all are devotees except herself. In the same light, Srila Sridhar Maharaj told us: whoever says, I have something,' we should offer our respects to from a distance." Such a person does not reflect what we are looking for.
Harmonizing Different Standards Among Gaudiya Maths
With the translations of many books and
songs for Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj's world-wide movement, the
worship of Krishna gradually took on different variations. Who could forget
the beautiful Govinda song composed by George Harrison which Srila Bhaktivedanta
Swami Maharaj introduced in his temples for the greetings of the deities.
In addition, in Africa people celebrated the leading devotees as tribal
chiefs, and in Brazil everybody brought their samba instruments to join
in Lord Chaitanya's kirtan.
Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj's style of preaching in the West was very revolutionary; but his own guru's suggestions for preaching had not been any less revolutionary. To open ashrams for Vaisnava ladies was quite unique. Yet, Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur had already spoken about their existence and necessity in Prema Pradip .
This quality of adaptation is not new to our sampradaya. Over the years, different branches of the Gaudiya Math have developed many styles of kirtan, artik, puja, and preaching techniques. Both Srila Narottam Das Thakur and Srila Syamananda Prabhu developed particular kirtan styles. Vaisnavas of different areas also chanted their bhajans in their respective languages, and the influence of their local cultures became noticeable. Manipuri Vaisnavas and Orissa Vaisnavas are examples of this.
The soul's craving for love of God is her constitutional right, but in the external world everything changes to some degree. Even deity styles, temple constructions, styles of Vaisnava book publishing, festivals, and prasadam recipes change. While visiting different Gaudiya Maths, I noticed that they chanted different songs for their morning worship, and that the artik was also carried out with subtle variation. Some had the guru-parampara on the altar starting from the right side, some started from the left; some had a picture of Vamsidas Babaji Maharaj, some did not. Once I witnessed my sannyas guru, Srila Sridhar Maharaj, eat a piece of pizza out of love for his Western lady disciple. All in all, I understood that we are only interested in the essence. Neophyte devotees have the tendency to think that something can only be done in one particular way but, in truth, an empowered preacher may make adjustments according to time, place, and circumstance.
Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhupad states that all bona fide spiritual masters teach the same essence of Krishna Consciousness even though the details may change. If the essence is present in a preaching mission and there is no deviation in the siddhanta, the details of delivering that essence should be happily accepted. This may not always be easy to understand. When I first heard of Straight-edge hard-core music for Krishna I was horrified by the idea. Then, when I met young people who were totally convinced of Vaisnavism due to their contacts with this music scene, I recognized my narrow-mindedness in this regard. Today, many Vaisnava rock groups have affiliated with our temples and help bring many souls closer to the Holy Name of Krishna.
We have to judge things by their results. We cannot expect all devotees of the Lord to act in the same way. Krishna loves variety. If, however, He is displeased with some adjustment made in a mission, it will come to be known soon or later. As long as we do not forget the essence of Krishna Consciousness, all differences can be harmonized with a generous mind. In this way, we will see that Lord Chaitanya's plan is really for the whole world; and we will not be surprised of all the new variations that arise as Krishna conquers the hearts of people around the world.
Harmonizing the devotional community
could be compared to harmonizing a large kirtan. An inspirational
requires the cooperation of many different types of devotees under proper
guidance and conception. It is the responsibility of spiritual authorities
with vision to arrange the kirtan with everyone's benefit in mind.
Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur states that the more advanced devotees should
lead the kirtan so that everyone may benefit. A devotee should not
lead a kirtan simply to satisfy his ambitious, passionate nature,
ignoring more qualified devotees. Fancy mirdanga playing with excessively
loud beats that drown out the chanting and call too much attention to the
player are also to be avoided. The instruments used are meant to support
the chanting of the Holy Names: the focus and center of any kirtan
being the Name of Krishna. The yuga dharma is coming together to
glorify Krishna through his Names and the Name should be the prominent
vibration supported by all other vibrations.
Life in a community, like a kirtan, requires constant harmonization and protection. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupad used to hold meetings in which disciples who did not appreciate each other had to say something good about the other person. Srila Sridhar Maharaj also taught us that it is simply a waste of time to go adjust the environment - to adjust everything and everyone around ourselves. Time is better spent 'oiling our own machine' or working on our own Krishna Consciousness. Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj changed forever the lifes of countless Westerners by his personal example.
Godbrothers and Goduncles
The topic of godbrothers and goduncles comes
up in Vaisnava communities where a forum of discussion and possibilities
of disagreement exist. In some cases we may criticize our godbrothers,
but we should carefully avoid criticizing our goduncles. Usually, godbrothers
have different ideas and styles that may all please their guru.
Sometimes, these differences lead to the creation of a variety of services
and centers. However, if we criticize our godbrothers in a negative way
- by putting them down, or creating politics against them - then we will
commit aparadha which will disturb our devotional kripa.
With respect to the godbrothers of one's own guru (one's goduncles), the topic is much more delicate. Unless the goduncles have revealed a very negative attitude towards the guru, they should also be treated with the same respect as one treats his guru. As an example of this, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu showed formal respects in Puri to Brahmananda Bharati who was not behaving properly, but was a godbrother of his guru.
To meet an unqualified person in the seat of an acharya is very painful, and we should pray that we may never find ourselves in such a sad situation. If the heart of a devotee is telling him that a Vaisnava is really doing something wrong, then he should keep a distance from that Vaisnava or spiritual master and his disciples. Distance will say enough.Narahari Sarkar, in his Bhajanamrita, has given guidance to disciples who discover some wrongdoings in their guru; in many details, he explains how to deal with such a sad situations. Yet, even if a Vaisnava whose initiating spiritual master has disqualified himself has to be given aid, it should happen in accordance with the most important Vaisnava precepts. In the VVRS-WVA it is fundamental to accept all those who wish to serve their guru of a recognized line. They will be benefited by that sanga, and Krishna will do the rest to help all of us in this complicated world.
The Title Prabhupad
In my experience in the Gaudiya Math
I have often come across mixed feelings with respect to Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta
Swami Maharaj being called Prabhupad by his disciples in front of his godbrothers,
or, on the other hand, the not calling him Prabhupad by his godbrothers.
Overall, I believe the topic of who can be called Prabhupad and when one
can be called by that name can be harmonized quite easily.
We all know that the title Srila Prabhupad has been given to great acharyas in our sampradaya in the past. (Even other caste Goswamis use it for their gurus.) Every spiritual master is also considered a great acharya by his disciples and, as a representative of his guru's line, he is no more or less than other spiritual masters. Whatever name or title a spiritual master accepts to be called by his disciples is really of no business to his godbrothers. But, as godbrothers, they also have a valid name for him. This sentiment is understandable in that it would bring about equal confusion for each of us if one of our godbrothers began being called the very same name which we are accustomed to use for our guru. It is for this reason that Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj's godbrothers call him Swami Maharaj to this day. Since this book is meant for all members of the Gaudiya Math family, we have also used his original sannyas name.
It should be understood that it is never a mistake to call one's guru by the name one has learned, but in front of the guru's godbrothers it is the proper etiquette to call him by the name known by his godbrothers. The disciple should also learn not to feel disturbed or upset when his guru's godbrother call his guru by their private brotherly name. Sometimes a godbrother may make an exception to encourage the disciples of his godbrother, or he may have accepted his godbrother as his siksa guru and thus also call him his guru name. Such a behavior, however, should not be expected. Nor should we be surprised if other great Vaisnavas do not consider our guru to have the same exclusive importance as we do.
Only if such a standard can be introduced will missions and leaders be able to freely associate with respect and a strong sentiment of Unity in Diversity. I think that is what all of us really aspire for. After the physical departure of even the most powerful acharyas in the world, the Vaisnava world is the only hope for disciples to happily continue in separation from their guru. This is my understanding of proper Vaisnava etiquette regarding names of gurus; and it is my heartfelt wish that we can all create a VVRS-WVA environment where the non offensive Vaisnavas will share with each other and help to protect each other's preaching efforts and successes.
Every acharya will always be seen in the light of the contribution he gave to the sampradaya. There is no need to demonstrate the importance of our gurus by attaching numbers of exclusive titles and glorification to his name. On the other hand, if some disciples feel comfortable by glorifying their guru with many titles, we should be generous enough to accept that. However, let me ask you a question. Why is nobody anxious to attach many titles to Narada Muni or Sukadev Goswami when they speak about them? I fear that as long as we make the names an issue of contempt, we are not really in contact with the substance.
Vaisnavas of the world unite for an
increased effort to save the conditioned souls from their karmic reactions.
Let us all create the loving network which will properly exhibit the dignity
of the supreme Lord Sri Krishna and all his empowered beloved sons and
daughters. The Visva Vaisnava Raj Sabha - World Vaisnava Association
is the perfect forum through which we can all associate within the plan
of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Therefore, let us join together at meetings,
Melas, and festivals of the VVRS-WVA. Let us share our preaching accomplishments
and encourage each other by hearing from each other. When Srila Sukadev
Goswami spoke, all the sages of India came to listen. It is well known
that the lord conveys his blessings through his devotees. Thus, we need
each other's association. Taking a straw between my lips I fall at your
feet and beg you not to deprive all of us of your holy association.
If we can present the world with the religious culture of the Vedic tradition and a new strength of Unity in Diversity, we will all sing and dance with increased happiness. Strong, independent acharyas and Vaisnava missions will all stand up for the one truth of Love Supreme. They will do so not to control each other, but to exhibit the glories of this living tradition which continuously grows as more and more people with Vaisnava faith work to carry on the sacred tradition of the guru parampara. Additional facilities such as the Internet allow for Vaisnavas to communicate with each other all over the world. It also allows for the accessibility of information on Vaisnava missions and their literature for the majority of households in the world.
Whatever differences may have existed in the past are instrumental in the growth of our transcendental understandings. Broadmindedness and Vaisnava love, beyond the limits of one mission or another, is a symptom of an advanced Vaisnava. It will not always be easy, and some problems will not be resolved in a day, but this is not important. The effort is the glory in itself which protects us from any failure.
All true Vaisnavas are members of this sanga. No formalities are required to be a part of it. But, if we want this forum to be more effective, it will take many qualified Vaisnavas to invest a lot of energy and ideas. All volunteers should try to meet and gather further strength and ideas to make all Vaisnavas happy. In this way the Vaisnava world will further enhance the Golden age of the spiritual renaissance begun by Lord Sri Chaitanya in this age of Kali.
Again, I beg to be forgiven for the omissions and possible mistakes made in this presentation. Time has been short and we want to offer this publication to you in the year of the 100 birthday of Srila Bhakti Promode Puri Maharaj, the President of the VVRS-WVA. All Glories to him and to all the living disciples of Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur. They have done a marvelous job to help this sanga come together and have blessed us with their association and encouragement. They, and all the Vaisnavas make living in this world bearable. We fall at their feet and pray for causeless blessings. Let the glorious kirtan of the Gaudiya Math branches embrace the world, so that the jivas may discover real Love.
Srila Bhakti Alok Paramadvaiti Maharaj
was born on October 12th, 1953 in the village of Osterkappeln, Germany.
At a young age he felt an attraction to India and the monastic life. At
the age of forteen he started studying the Vedas (parallel to the study
of Carl Marx and Western philosophers). He published a book on social protest
and two journals against the injustices of this world. Still, he could
not find any true hope for the world and the mundane struggle for environmental
At seventeen, after analyzing the world of exploitation, he left all social connections to his society, parents and school, and entered the yoga ashram of Sri Aurobindo in Germany. There he experienced the life of impersonal indifference to the struggle of the world. He quickly discovered, however, that this polite form of atheism did not solve the problems of the world, nor did it seem to make the practitioners humble or soft-hearted. The fact that God, the supreme, merciful creator of all, did not exist in their philosophy, the impersonal yogis succeeded only in cultivating the pride of having none superior to themselves. Thus, he decided to dedicate his energy towards finding a true spiritual master.
Soon afterwards his prayers and meditations led him to Sri Krishna's Holy Name. He then entered the Gaudiya Vaisnava ashram as a brahmachari in the recently inaugurated local Krishna ashram of Düsseldorf, Germany. There, he was trained in the principles of bhakti yoga and prepared himself to become a disciple of Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj.
In 1972 he was initiated by Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj in Paris. His name became Alanath das. From this moment on, his life became very dynamic. He helped his spiritual master distribute the message of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Europe and America. Then, in 1976, his spiritual master sent him to help the mission in South America.
After the departure of his guru from this world, he struggled to keep the purity of his guru's mission. After some years, he joined other Vaisnavas in India and started associating with various Gaudiya Maths. In 1984 he received initiation into the renounced order of the sannyas ashram from the great acharya Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Maharaj. Profoundly inspired by his teachers, he began initiating disciples in order to help continue his spiritual masters service.
He started a preaching branch known as VRINDA (Vrindavan Institute for Vaisnava Culture and Studies), which quickly spread to various countries. Today the VRINDA mission has 82 centers around the world. He also founded ISEV The abreviations correspond to the spanish equivalent. (Superior Institute of Vedic Studies) and SEVA (Editorial Service of Vaisnava Acharyas). He has published many holy books and is the author of various others. He is a lecturer in English, German, and Spanish languages. In addition, he has restored many old temples in Vrindavan and started many temple constructions around the world. Vaisnava ecological awareness and ecological communities have increased strongly under his guidance. Many lectures on Krishna katha, festivals, book publishing, and Vegetarian Restaurants are also inspired by him. He has established country ashrams and has installed deities of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Radha-Krishna in many countries. He has also initiated many new sannyasis and has sent them out to preach.
His home-study yoga course has spread quickly bringing thousands of students to study the Bhakti teachings.
His latest work is to organize the University education programs of the VVRS-WVA through the Internet and through local Vaisnava academies. He has pioneered the preaching on the Internet, establishing the Vaisnava presence in several languages. Under the guidance of his siksa guru Srila B. P. Puri Maharaj he has tried to help unite the different Vaisnava branches from different sectors of India and other countries through the Visva Vaisnava Raj Sabha, in which he now serves as secretary.
To serve the dignity of all the great acharyas of the past and the present, and to show the historic development, need, and nature of Vaisnava Unity in Diversity, he has now compiled this book.
Other books by Swami B. A. Paramadvaiti
The Yoga Course for Home Study
The Temple president
The Search for Purity
The Liberated Woman (La Mujer Liberada)
Predictions for the Present Age (Predicciones Para la Era Actual)
Abortion - Inviting Disgrace (El Aborto- Invitando a la Desgracia)
Yoga vs. Drugs (Yoga versus Droga)
Yoga vs. Occultism (Yoga versus Ocultismo)
Vaisnava Etiquette (Etiqueta Vaisnava)
Illicit Sex (El Sexo Illicito)
The Will (El Testamento)
The Science of Vegetarianism (La Ciencia del Vegetarianismo)
Bhagavad-gita: The Supreme Science (El Bhagavad Gita: La Ciencia Suprema)
Initiation: The Second Birth (La Iniciación- El Segundo Nacimiento)
Bhakti-yoga - How it came to the West (Bhakti Yoga- Der Weg in den Westen )
For more Information in german contact
For more Information in spanish and english contact ISEV Peru!
The following books have been used
in our research:
All Glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga
Please let us join together as a united
Gaudiya Vaisnava forum.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came to deliver the whole world. The Visva Vaisnava Raja Sabha - World Vaisnava Association provides us all with a forum to create a united front against the influence of the age of Kali. As Mayavada is spreading with full force and materialism is continuing to destroy our mother earth and the morality of the citizens, it is an urgent need to create a united front for all the followers of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. We do not need to start a new organization. All Vaisnavas can join their hands, minds and projects in such a way, that they can be recognized as a true religion of freedom, truth and love. Many Gaudiya Vaisnavas are very successful, still the united front will provide the world with the unity in diversity, everyone can appreciate. Institutional limitations will be transcended and eastern and western devotees from all different branches of Gaudiya Vaisnavism will chant together in Sreedham Mayapur and all over the world.
That day was predicted by our Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur who again revived the Visva Vaisnava Raj Sabha of Srila Jiva Goswami.
Please help this proposal and visit our yearly International meetings of the WVA-VVRS.
Day: Rama Ekadasi -Place: Old Govindaji Mandir Vrindavan-Time 3PM
Day: One day before Gaura Purnima-Place: Sri Chaitanya Gaudiya Math Mayapur-Time: 3 PM
Organisational Meetings are held one day before the International Meetings
For more information please call 0565-443954
Or visit WVA-VVRS on the Internet:URL: www.wva-vvrs.org
VRINDAVAN INSTITUTE FOR VAISNAVA CULTURE AND STUDIES