Dear devotees and friends,
Please accept my best wishes. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Now I’m here in Mayapur. The GBC meetings are going on and everything is very busy, but at the same time very nice.
It’s been an interesting few weeks since I last wrote to you. I had been in Siberia at the japa retreat, which was very nice. Outside it was very cold, even to the point of being minus 46, but inside it was fine. However when we went outside it was quite a shock to the system. Believe it or not my nose almost stopped functioning because the mucus in it and in the top of my sinuses froze within about a minute of going outside, which was quite an interesting experience.
I arrived back in Johannesburg on January 12th, to find the devotees very concerned about the impending visit of Narayana Maharaja, a disciple of one of Srila Prabhupada’s Godbrothers whose followers have been enthusiastically preaching to ISKCON devotees whenever he can and directly or indirectly trying to get them to leave Srila Prabhupada’s movement and join him. I had never experienced the phenomenon directly, and when he came to Durban I was away, so this was all quite new to me.
In Durban a very small number of devotees who had been with ISKCON for years left to join him, which was extremely disappointing, and now in Johannesburg the same thing might happen. A special Summer Festival had been created by the management team here, to be held on the same evenings the he was holding his programmes, and they went very well. There were two programmes in Marlboro and two in Lenasia, one of which was the Lord Nityananda’s Appearance Day festival, which of course was packed out in the Lenasia
Narayana Maharaja’s followers did their level best it seemed to convince ISKCON devotees that he is Srila Prabhupada’s successor, and therefore they should take shelter of him. I really can’t understand how they come to that conclusion, as I was present when Srila Prabhupada was here, and never heard Narayana Maharaja mentioned even once by Srila Prabhupada or any of his assistants, all of whom I knew quite well. When Srila Prabhupada talked about the future of ISKCON and its leadership he said that his faithful disciples would lead after he had gone. For example there is the following conversation on November 2nd, 1977, 12 days before he left this world. Some people had been questioning Srila Prabhupada about this, and had asked his disciples to leave the room while they did. When they left Prabhupada called the disciples back in and described what had happened:
Prabhupada: (They asked) “…after you, who will take the leadership?” And (I told them) “Everyone will take, all my disciples. If you want, you can take also. (laughter) But if you follow. They are prepared to sacrifice everything, so they’ll take the leadership. I may, one, go away, but there will be hundreds, and they’ll preach. If you want, you can also become a leader. We have no such thing, that ‘Here is leader.’ Anyone who follows the previous leadership, he’s a leader. ‘Indian,’ we have no such distinction, ‘Indian,’ ‘European.’ ”
Brahmananda: They wanted an Indian to be the leader?
Prabhupada: Yes. (laughs) “Everyone, all my disciples, they are leaders. As purely as they follow, they become leader. If you want to follow, you can become a leader. You are Indian. But you don’t want.” I told them that.
Tamala Krsna: Yes, they probably wanted to propose somebody who would take over our movement.
Prabhupada: Yes. Leaders. All nonsense. Leader means one who has become first-class disciple. He is leader. Evam parampara-prapta… One who is perfectly following… Our instruction is ara na kariha mane asa **. You
know this? What is that? Guru-mukha-padma-vakya, cittete kariya aikya, ara na kariha mane asa **. Who is leader? A leader, to become leader, is not very difficult, provided one is prepared to follow the instructions of a bona fide guru.
Srila Prabhupada did not want his ISKCON movement to follow the system of the Gaudiya Matha splinter groups that developed after Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati left this world, who all insisted on establishing “acaryas” as leaders of the groups, rather than have a Governing Body direct the whole Gaudiya Matha institution, as Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati wanted. Prabhupada discusses this in Caitanya-caritamrita Adi-lila Chapter 12 in discussing the split between the sons of Advaita Acarya, and on Advaita’s Appearance Day, just before our Summer Festival, I read that part of Caitanya-caritamrita to the devotees. Srila Prabhupada says:
“The words daivera karana indicate that by dint of providence, or by God’s will, the followers of Advaita Acarya divided into two parties. Such disagreement among the disciples of one acarya is also found among the members of the Gaudiya Matha. In the beginning, during the presence of Om Visnupada Paramahamsa Parivrajakacarya Astottara-sata Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada, all the disciples worked in agreement; but just after his disappearance, they disagreed. One party strictly followed the instructions of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, but another group created their own concoction about executing his desires. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, at the time of his departure, requested all his disciples to form a governing body and conduct missionary activities cooperatively. He did not instruct a particular man to become the next acarya. But just after his passing away, his leading secretaries made plans, without authority, to occupy the post of acarya, and they split into two factions over who the next acarya would be. Consequently, both factions were asara, or useless, because they had no authority, having disobeyed the order of the spiritual master. Despite the spiritual master’s order to form a governing body and execute the missionary activities of the Gaudiya Matha, the two unauthorized factions began litigation that is still going on after forty years with no decision.”
Srila Prabhupada continues: “The success of the ISKCON party, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, which strictly follows guru and Gauranga, is increasing daily all over the world. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura wanted to print as many books as possible and distribute them all over the world. We have tried our best in this connection, and we are getting results beyond our expectations.”
Mainly the different splinter groups of the Gaudiya Matha have single acaryas, and there is no real governing body, but we as members of ISKCON have to work under Srila Prabhupada by following our GBC Body, which we are doing to the best of our ability. We definitely don’t need someone claiming to be the next acarya.
A few devotees did join the Narayana Maharaja group, as they are so forceful in pushing people to do that. I was told that one lady was physically forced to accept beads he had chanted on and to sit in an initiation ceremony in Johannesburg, but she refused, and with great difficulty avoided being forced into it. Of course their first initiation is not the same as Srila Prabhupada’s initiation. They don’t really expect people to make serious spiritual commitments, and are willing to initiate even people who only chant one round a day, so it is all rather strange.
Anyway, I left Johannesburg on the 1st of March and went to Kuala Lumpur where we did some programmes, and then on the 4th I flew to Calcutta and then drove to Mayapur.
The meetings are going on, and I’ll write again in a little while with some news from them.
Hoping this meets you well.
Bhakti Caitanya Swami