Submitted by Krishna Vallabha dasi & Caru Chandrika dasi
Dear Vaisnavas and Vaisnavis, God-brothers and sisters. Please accept my dandavat pranams. All glories to Sri Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga.
As two God-sisters sat in a car together one hot afternoon, a heart-felt discussion ensued during which we realized that there were so many ‘issues’ on the surface of our sanga, obvious and hidden. Thus we shared our deepest feelings and thoughts about problems that seem to be plaguing our community at large.
We were both there in the early days when Srila Gurudeva began travelling around the world. Although many of us had come together as strangers we found ourselves sharing our homes, other’s houses and hotel rooms as brothers and sisters, with our beloved Gurudeva everywhere we went. Srila Gurudeva’s door and heart was open, and our hearts were open, which created a very sweet loving family atmosphere among us.
Srila Gurudeva always said that “We are all in the one family of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu” Srila Gurudeva embraced one and all – whether they came from ISKCON, or from another Math, institution or religion. All were welcomed with love and affection and we all felt very fortunate and grateful.
Although Srila Gurudeva was being blasphemed, and even lied about in the public forum he never ‘defended’ himself. He said that these devotees (‘offenders’) are my children, “little children may make some disturbance, but the mother or father does not take offense”, he said.
However Srila Gurudeva always warned us not to criticize. He said many times, “don’t criticize anyone – even an ant.” He always said that it is better to look in your own heart and see what anarthas you have, rather than focus on other’s anarthas. He taught us the profound meanings of the songs of our Acaryas and encouraged us to imbibe their deep moods of humility.
Although Srila Gurudeva could see our innumerable ingrained anartha’s and weaknesses in our hearts, none of us ever felt like he gave much importance to them. He brought out the best in us all. At the same time he was so expert at revealing and eradicating those things that were slowing down our progress in bhakti, just by his glance, or by ignoring or chastising us. However, none of us ever felt for one moment unloved by him.
One time Srila Gurudeva said “these material attachments and sinful tendencies you have are so insignificant that with one glance I can remove them, but aparadha I cannot.” Upon hearing this I certainly understood the danger of criticism and offenses. When we focus on the anarthas or ‘darkness’ in one another, we feed the ‘darkness’ in ourselves and others.
However when we focus on the beauty that is within others, we increase our own inner beauty, and influence other’s beauty to shine. Think about how bad you feel after you’ve been gossiping about others and fault finding? Our valuable time is lost and not only that, we are greatly hampering our progress in Bhakti, when we could have utilized our time in glorifying Srila Gurudeva or the Vaisnavas etc. for our further spiritual advancement.
Therefore, knowing that Sri Krsna resides in the heart of all jivas, one should honor every living being, what to speak of Vaisnavas who are greatly honored by even Sri Krsna Himself.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur said, “among all the different types of offences a jiva can possibly commit, no offence is more severe than blaspheming a Vaisnava.
In the book Namatattva-ratnamala, it is said, “one should never reflect upon the faults of a bhakta namely, those that were present in him before bhakti awakened in him, those that temporarily remain during the time when his heart is purified through his practice of bhakti, and those that may appear in him accidentally due to providence. One who reflects upon any of these faults, not with a goodhearted purpose but rather with slanderous intent, is a blasphemer of Saints and is extremely degraded.”
“We should consider that, without the right motive, it is inappropriate to reflect, even impartially, upon the faults of any living being, what to speak of Vaisnavas.”
Srila Gurudeva also said, “do not criticize others, or else their bad qualities will overpower you and gradually you will become degraded. Be very careful…. you should not endeavour to correct others, even if they are wrong. If you attempt to correct them without possessing sufficient spiritual strength, it will lead to your own downfall. Srila Gurudeva and the senior Vaisnavas are the best people to correct them. This work is best left for them alone.”
Another time Srila Gurudeva said, “if you see that a person is wretched, then don’t associate with him. Try to do your dandavat pranama from afar by saying or thinking, “Oh, dandavat pranama, I should go. But do not criticize. Guru can criticize and chastise. We are not masters to chastise.”
Therefore it is not our place to judge others in the matter of what they are doing or where they are going for inspiration.
Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhar Maharaja said, “I am to think that I am in a hospital where there are so many diseased persons. This is not a place where all healthy people live – it is not possible. I am also a patient. There are so many patients. Patients are of different types. Some are progressing, and some may have some setback (relapse), and even some may die. But I mustn’t be distracted by any of this, and I mustn’t criticize either, I must be concerned for my own health and go on under the guidance of the doctor taking the proper prescribed medicine and diet. Then I will be cured.”
By our words or deeds we can either assist or cause harm to our brothers and sisters, who are in the ‘hospital’ together with us. We can offer a friendly helping hand, in the form of kind words and encouragement, or we can gossip about their ‘disease’, quarantine them, or publicly stone them, and in this way drink poison and cause others to drink poison along with us.
THE CHOICE IS OURS. THE RESULTS ARE VERY DIFFERENT.
Therefore, next time we go to say something critical, then we can remember the consequences of Vaisnava aparadha, that we are very much endangering our bhakti lata bija, as Bhakti devi will never enter the heart a Vaisnava aparadhi. Not only that, ultimately it will deprive us of our real inheritance, Krsna prema or Radha dasyam. Thus knowing this, we can use our intelligence to hold back and say something positive and inspiring instead. Also, whenever we happen to hear Vaisnava aparadha, then we can remind the culprit of the consequences, and if they still continue thereafter, then we can follow the instructions of Srimad Bhagavatam:
A person who does not promptly leave that place where blasphemy of Bhagavan or a Vaisnava is perpetrated, becomes bereft of all his sukrti and meets with degradation. (10.74.40).
This is how Srila Gurudeva wants us to behave as it is the only way forward, the only way that we can surely progress.
However, my God-sister and I both observed that unfortunately, since our Srila Gurudeva has entered nitya lila, there has been some split in our sanga. There are those who are going here and there for shelter or inspiration, those getting ‘re-initiated’ or those that are leaving our lineage or the path of bhakti altogether.
Meanwhile, the war in the middle-east is worse than ever before! In Gaza a mass genocide is happening, because of people not being able to reconcile their religious or cultural differences, and here we are finding fault in each other or labelling each other, criticizing this group or that group, and in this way creating conflict and division.
Srila Gurudeva said, “I am desirous that the gaura-vani, the instructions of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu which our parampara preached and which Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu personally followed should not stop after I leave this world. It should continue. Everyone should be united…. the temples should not be divided into separate Maths with separate interests. All the temples and devotees should be united. You will have to try for that.”
We are all brothers and sisters united under one flag, the flag of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the maha mantra that He gave to this world.
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare
This is our common ground. We have all come to this path in the hope of gaining entrance to the same transcendental abode – our eternal home, Goloka Vrindavan, whether we are in this group or that group, or whether it takes one lifetime, or many life times.
However, as it is Kali yuga – the age of quarrel and hypocrisy, there are bound to be differences of opinion and disagreements among those who are not pure devotees, still somehow or other I feel a deep yearning from within, to bring attention to these matters. Therefore I am begging my brothers and sisters around the world, to rise up above all these differences, and see, or rather look for the good in others, no matter who they are, or what they’ve done, in the past or present, knowing that we are all trying to attain the same goal.
Srila Gurudeva is eternal and like a loving father is always guiding his sons and daughters. Therefore there is no doubt that he will continue to correct each and every one of us, throughout our lives. He is the purest expression of love that we have ever come across, and he will surely not allow us to get away with anything that prevents us from receiving this very rare gift that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to give – Radha dasyam.
Therefore we do not need to correct anyone else besides our own selves. Srila Gurudeva is so powerful, and as Krsna can make the impossible possible, so can Gurudeva! He can correct us and empower us, unless one commits aparadha and does not beg forgiveness that is….. in that case, Gurudeva himself said that he is powerless to do anything.
Ultimately, the conclusion of our long discussion was this. If we can’t unite under the guidance of Srila Gurudeva, Srila Prabhupada, and our Guru-Varga, then how can we unite under Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu? And if we can’t unite under Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, then how can we set the example of empathy, compassion, unity and co-operation, what to speak of love and devotion for others to follow?
If we are divided due to fear based on any material considerations, criticism or politics, then we are left powerless. Srila Gurudeva and Srila Prabhupada’s mission are already somewhat fragmented. Srila Gurudeva used to say we should be like many sticks bound together – unbreakable, knowing that one stick alone is easy to break. After all we are all one family, as Vaisnavas, or aspiring Vaisnavas or even as human beings. So let us be united according to the desire of Srila Gurudeva!
Srila Gurudeva ki jaya! Sri Rupanuga Guru-Varga ki jaya!
Please forgive me for any offenses that I may have committed in writing this article.
Aspiring to be the insignificant servant of the servant of Sri Guru and Vaisnavas.
Krishna Vallabha dasi & Caru Chandrika dasi