I wrote this book in an attempt to please
my spiritual master, Param Pujyapad Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj,
affectionately known to his disciples as Srila Prabhupad. My spiritual
master stated that after the disappearance of a great acharya, great
disturbances and confusion manifests. This year is his centennial appearance
year, and his followers and admirers are somewhat divided and spread out
all over the world. Might this be Krishna's plan to make his devotees surrender
We have heard and witnessed that after the disappearance of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupad, there was much confusion among his disciples. Similar confusion arose after the departure of Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj, Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Dev Maharaj and many other leading acharyas. Even after Lord Chaitanya's disappearance, His sampradaya went through difficult times. Following this pattern, after the height of the construction of the great temples of Vrindavan, came the period of Muslim attacks when great monuments of the Vaisnava faith were severely damaged, and deities had to go into hiding.
Vrindavan, along with the hope of the Vaisnavas, was later restored, however, by Srila Visvanath Cakravarti Thakur and Srila Baladev Vidyabhusan. Then, when the legitimacy of the Gaudiya Sampradaya was questioned, Srila Baladev Vidyabhusan wrote the famed Govinda Bhasya as the commentary of the Gaudiya Sampradaya on the Vedanta Sutra. Years later, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's prediction that Vaisnavism would eventually influence the entire world and that in every town and village the Holy Names of the Lord would be sung, began to manifest through the activities of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur.
Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur's studies had first drawn him towards Western philosophical teachings. Only after coming across the original Vaisnava writings, did he discover the greatest treasure of the world lying within; hidden by unfortunate historical developments of his time. During his early life, Vaisnavism in Bengal was suffering severely under British oppression which had replaced the Muslim tyranny of India. Many pseudo Vaisnava groups, due to their degraded sensual abuses in the name of Vaisnavism, had given a bad name to the sampradaya and to Vedic culture at large. Thus, he began his own mission with the purpose of defeating all these abuses and misinterpretations, and vigorously preached pure Vaisnavism. He also established the process of Nama Hatta for the distributing the Holy Name to the entire world without discrimination. In this way, all traditional obstacles, such as caste consciousness, misrepresentations of the teachings, or attempts to claim proprietorship over Lord Chaitanya's teachings, were soundly defeated by the Thakur.
Two generations later, my spiritual master, Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj, fulfilled the prediction of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, as well as the wishes of all acharyas, by taking the teachings of India to the rest of the world; thus bringing new aspirants from all classes and countries to the feet of the Vaisnavas.
Today, two years after the re-establishment of the Visva Vaisnava Raj Sabha under the guidance of the senior most living disciple of Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, Srila Bhakti Promode Puri Goswami Maharaj, it has become obvious that the disciples of all the different branches of the Gaudiya Math are longing for a combined effort to serve our sampradaya. We see that vigorous efforts of individual Vaisnavas are becoming successful. As the teachings of Lord Chaitanya start embracing the world with so many different arms, it reminds us of the all-pervading universal form of the Lord.
I have collected here, as much as I could, information on the history of our family, the Gaudiya Math, to serve my friends and senior Vaisnavas. Sometimes we disrespect that which we don't know and are quick to cast judgments on others due to our own immature weaknesses. Some devotees do not even realize that, as one of the branches, they are members of the Gaudiya Math family. It certainly does not look good for a person to ignore the other branches of the same tree which has given him the life of loving devotional service.
We see that the different generations and missions are merging into a combined effort in the true spirit of Unity in Diversity. This cooperation is wanted. This is truly sankirtan, the congregational chanting of the Holy Names; with no attempt to control each other, but rather to love and serve each other. Of course, we still have a long way to go in order to convince all Vaisnavas to give their heart's support to this plan of Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhupad and Srila Jiva Goswami Prabhupad. This will bring about an unprecedented power for the Vaisnavas in this world.
It is also true that a branch of the Chaitanya Tree may dry up and separate from the tree. We are neither happy or proud of it, yet this can happen, for example, when Vaisnava aparadha becomes rampant, or the teachings are severally distorted by some ill motivated persons. We will have to dwell on this subject in some of the chapters of this book in order to advise ourselves and hopefully learn from the mistakes of others. We should always follow the track which will certainly lead us into the service camp of Srimati Radharani and Her empowered agents.
I pray to all our readers to bless this fallen soul who has dared to approach such an elevated subject, despite his low birth and hopeless condition. I have done so in order to glorify my spiritual master and all of your spiritual masters beyond all limits. Please forgive me if I have omitted any important information or if I have made any mistakes.
May Srila Gurudev guide us to write these words solely in his service.
May Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu, the embodiment of the divine couple of Brajendra Nandana Krishna, the svayam rupa of the Lord and His beloved Srimati Radhika the svarupa shakti, bless us to never loose the association of his confidential servants.
May Lord Sri Vishnu, Sri Narasingha Bhagavan, the protector of all the Vaisnavas, protect us from any mistakes in this presentation.
May you, beloved Vaisnava Thakur, pray for my soul to loose all attraction to this mundane existence and to receive the shelter at Sri Nityananda's lotus feet.
This is my audacious request.
Swami B. A. Paramadvaiti,
Sri Krishna Janmastami, 1996
Part I The Harmonist
The Movement of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
The ontology and history of the movement
of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has filled many volumes. There are biographies
of him written by Krishna das Kaviraj Goswami, Vrindavan das Thakur, and
Lochan das Thakur. There are also biographical works by Sri Kavi Karnapura,
Prabhodananda Sarasvati, Narahari Chakravarti, Raghunandana Goswami and
many others. Throughout the history of his sampradaya further books on
his life and teachings have been written and published in many languages.
Here we would like to point out one interesting feature: How Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu established Unity in Diversity in our sampradaya. How, for example, he sent many Vaisnavas to establish branches of his family into different locations. These Vaisnavas, in their various moods, brought a range of followers to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Among them are: Sri Nityananda Prabhu, Jahnavi devi, Sri Advaita Prabhu, Svarup Damodar, Ray Ramananda, as well as Gadadhar Pandit in Navadvip; Vakreshvar Pandit and Prabhodananda Sarasvati in South India and Vrindavan; the six Goswamis in Vrindavan; Syamananda Pandit in Orissa; Narottam das Thakur in Manipur and many other places; Srinivas Acharya in Bihar and other areas. All these associates of the Lord had some relationship with the Visva Vaisnava Raj Sabha of Srila Sanatana, Rupa and Jiva Goswamis, and today we worship all of them, even if we generally do not maintain much connection with their respective preceptorial lines.
Tolerance and respect for all Vaisnavas and their different moods was the nature of Sri Chaitanya's teachings. While most of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's associates had the mood of the followers of Srimati Radhika, some had the mood of sakhya-bhava and others had the bhava of love for Sri Rama. Due to the development of prakrita-sahajiyism of many kinds, it later became difficult to distinguish the quality of each group. The scriptures, however, give us many guidelines to understand the adhikara and the integrity of a Vaisnava. As a matter of fact, Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur was a great savior of the dignity of the Vaisnava contributions to the world. Today Vaisnavism is a major force of religious enthusiasm, spread all over the world in the shape of many missions and individual Vaisnava preachers who all adhere to the strict principles of sanatan dharma. As devotees of a personal Supreme God, the Vaisnavas give a non-sectarian and loving contribution to the world of theism.The continuation of this section has been adopted from Sri Prabandhavali, Gaudiya Vedanta Publications
Srila Prabhupad Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Thakur said, We accept in our line those who are fully perfected souls, who know the correct siddhanta, and who are rasika, wherever they are." In this way all of the various lines were represented in our parampara in one place or another.
There are so many lines of disciplic succession, but Srila Prabhupad Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Thakur said that we will recognize the guru-parampara, not the disciplic succession.
The guru-parampara is composed solely of those who were bhagavat-gurus, even if they made no disciples and therefore there is no direct disciplic line coming from them. Some of them may not have initiated any disciples at all, but still they are jagat-gurus. In this way, with all pervading vision he collected all the mahajanas and made what is known as the bhagavat-parampara or the guru-parampara.
After the departure of Visvanath Cakravarti Thakur, so many familial disciplic lines arose, but Srila Prabhupad Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Thakur ignored them and gave recognition to Baladev Vidyabhusana, and then Jagannath das Babaji. He accepted only those in whom he detected the real spiritual siddhanta. Simply receiving the mantra in one's ear and wearing a dhoti or other cloth given by the guru does not qualify one as the guru's successor. Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur did not receive any mantra from Jagannath das Babaji Maharaj, so how was he his disciple? He was a disciple of his conception: his feelings towards Krishna, his conception of rasa and his conception of tattva. This is a disciple. Most people can't understand this, but being able to see with such insight, Srila Prabhupad Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Thakur declared this to be our line.
Srila Gaur Kishor das Babaji Maharaj was also not an initiated disciple of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur, but he embraced all of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur's sentiments and conceptions, and due to this his name appears next in the succession. At this point, some of the babajis said, Whose disciple is Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati? Who gave him sannyas? Why doesn't he wear the same cloth as Sanatana Goswami did? In our sampradaya, after Nityananda Prabhu and Svarup Damodar, everyone wore white cloth, but we see that he wears saffron cloth and accepted a danda. How can he do this?" But what relation does wearing either orange or white cloth have with bhakti? Is there any relation?
The Sampradaya, as given to us by
our spiritual masters, goes back to Lord Sri Krishna. Thus a great amount
of spiritual masters throughout history have represented the Supreme Lord
in this world. In this way they have shaped the evolution of the Vaisnava
school. Srila Madhvacharya gave special glory to the school known as Brahma
Sampradaya, and the appearance of Srila Madhavendra Puri further enhanced
the teachings. Then the Brahma Madhva Sampradaya was blessed without limit
by the appearance of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He accepted the sampradaya
and was initiated by the disciple of Srila Madhavendra Puri, Srila Isvara
Puri. Through him the transcendental school is now known as the Brahma
Madhva Gaudiya Sampradaya.
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the Supreme Lord Himself. He appeared to save the fallen souls in the age of Kali with his Sankirtan Movement, the congregational chanting of the Holy Names of the Lord. Another great gift of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the rediscovery of Sri Vrindavan Dham. He predicted that the Gaudiya sampradaya would reach every corner of the world. His principal disciples, the six Goswamis of Vrindavan, blessed us with a flood of writings to give detailed guidance to the Vaisnavas of the present age.
Every spiritual master in this line, as well as their activities, deserve to be studied. Still, the detailed history of our sampradaya remains limited to the availability of information. In order to understand the formation of the different branches of our sampradaya we have given many details here. Due to the world wide preaching of Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj, there is now great demand for Vaisnava association. All this helps to form different branches of the sampradaya which embrace the world in a tide of Vaisnava mission networks.
It is noteworthy that the importance of the individual spiritual masters is the lifeline of the spreading of the sampradaya, never to overshadow the supreme importance of the Supreme Lord or the Gaudiya Vedanta Siddhanta. Thus, over the years many masters have come and gone, but Sri Krishna, his beloved Srimati Radharani, and their combined incarnation of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, are deities who are universally worshipped by many Vaisnavas.
Taking into consideration the history of the sampradaya, we see how the individual spiritual masters are not given the same importance as the different disciples must give to their different individual gurus. Overall importance is given to their teachings and contributions to the world. Their explanation of the Vedanta, their literary contribution, the deities they installed, the places of pilgrimage they established, their contribution to the expansion of the Chaitanya tree, and their relationships with other Vaisnavas are all considered when estimating the importance of someone's contributions to the Vaisnavas school of thought.
Therefore, it is also said that the acharyas are self-effulgent. They shine in the light of their service to all. Even those acharyas who do not stand out in history, carry the same importance for their disciples as the famous acharyas do. Except in the case of a person who is an impostor and does not care for the real Vaisnava life, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu confirmed in the Chaitanya Charitamrita (CC Madhya-lila 7.128-129) that he will personally protect any one who teaches the science of Krishna; as taught in books like the Bhagavat Gita and the Srimad Bhagavatam::
Instruct everyone to follow the orders of Lord Sri Krishna as they are given in Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. In this way become a spiritual master and try to liberate everyone in this land. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu further advised the brahmana Kurma: If you follow this instruction, your materialistic life at home will not obstruct your spiritual advancement. Indeed if you follow these regulative principles, we will again meet here, or, rather, you will never loose My company".
Vaisnava Raj Sabha
World Vaisnava Association
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the most
loving and humble, merciful and futuristic personality in the recent history
of divine guidance manifesting in this world for all Vaisnavas. It would
be wonderful if his plan to inundate the world with the Holy Names could
manifest through the Visva Vaisnava Raj Sabha or World Vaisnava
Association that was designed by none other than our dear Srila Rupa
Goswami Prabhupad and promoted by his beloved Srila Jiva Goswami Prabhupad.
Since its creation, the Visva Vaisnava Raj Sabha has re-manifested several times, the last time under the guidance of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur Prabhupad. It is only natural that his senior most living disciple, Srila Bhakti Promode Puri Maharaj, continue this important mission.
The fact that Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj fulfilled the prediction of Lord Chaitanya - that Krishna's name would be chanted around the world - has revealed the true meaning of the name World Vaisnava Association and the necessity of this association in our present age. Thus, the Visva Vaisnava Raj Sabha or World Vaisnava Association (VVRS-WVA) is the plan of our acharyas, and all the living disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur have accepted it as the revival of the original.
All aspiring Vaisnavas in the line of Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur who try to serve their respective gurus are automatically members of the VVRS-WVA; whether they know it, accept it, or not. The many who are already actively involved in the re-establishment of the VVRS-WVA are mentioned here in various ways. Some members belong to the group of founding members and are marked as FM" of the VVRS-WVA. (The VVRS-WVA has also established that any sannyasi or acharya who joins the VVRS-WVA will also be considered as an equal founding member.) Meanwhile, some missions have not yet fully endorsed the VVRS-WVA. Nevertheless, many of their members are involved with the VVRS-WVA on an individual basis.
Since this book is directed towards the entire Gaudiya Math family, and since the founder of the Gaudiya Math, Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, is also famous as Srila Prabhupad, we have chosen, for the sake of clarity and etiquette, to name all of the Vaisnavas by their initiation or sannyas name.
Vaisnavas of other Vaisnava sampradayas or other branches of the Chaitanya tradition can also be members of the VVRS-WVA in as much as they perceive that the Supreme Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu chose Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur as a special agent for fulfilling his predictions.
It is our humble opinion that the Vaisnava theistic mission - meant to benefit the entire world - has been most extraordinarily preserved and distributed through the Gaudiya Math branch of our sampradaya. It is notable, as will be clearly shown in this book, that Lord Sri Krishna has utilized the Gaudiya Math in his plan for distributing Vaisnava teachings to the world. We say this with all respect to the great contributions of the four Vaisnava sampradayas and their very old traditions, or any other followers of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who have kept up the pure spirit of Mahaprabhu's line.
In fact, one of the projects of the Visva Vaisnava Raj Sabha is to research the Chaitanya tree and our association with all other Vaisnavas of the older South Indian sampradayas who were blessed by the personal visit of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself.
The VVRS-WVA is working to unify the Gaudiya Math and all its extended and developing branches; to inspire individual devotees to take up responsibility for preaching; and to approach the entire Vaisnava world with the all encompassing contribution of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The particulars of this unified effort will manifest as advancement is made in the yearly VVRS-WVA Melas held in Srivas Angan, Mayapur and Radha Govindaji, Vrindavan, as well as in our joint presentations on the Internet.
Acharyas and missions desiring to become more actively involved in the action plans of the VVRS-WVA are invited to come every year to the organizational meetings of the VVRS-WVA to prepare proposals to the entire membership. These meetings are held before each international meeting day. Gradually, these meetings will produce an effective evolution of the VVRS-WVA as a joint forum to coordinate whatever future plans will manifest to benefit the world with the Vaisnava's contribution.
The common cause of all Vaisnavas, especially those interested in preaching, is served by such efforts as the VVRS-WVA which, like a transcendental "trade show," inform one another of the work done by each separate Vaisnava mission. It facilitates the sharing of preaching accomplishments with other missions. It also creates an environment which is attractive to other Vaisnava sampradayas which in one way or another have remained isolated in their own groups. When they see how Lord Chaitanya has inspired the world wide branches of His sampradaya to create a favorable atmosphere to spread the yuga dharma in this world, they will be drawn to contribute to the cause with their sanga. In addition, the world will learn to see Vaisnavism as a true world religion, far beyond what main stream religions and secular people have categorized to be a strange sect.
Vaisnava history does not, at any point, claim that a particular Vaisnava school may have the exclusive rights to represent the Vaisnava tradition. The Unity in Diversity which manifests through different disciples of the guru, who start new branches of the same tree is what has made the Vaisnava tradition survive up to today. Branches have thus spread all over the world, sometimes with little or no contact with other branches of the same tradition. Needless to say, over the years this has caused certain varieties of styles and practices to develop. Through the standards established in the Vedic scriptures along with the writings of Lord Chaitanya's followers, it can easily be established who are true followers of these great teachings.
The transparent transmission of the transcendental current that may be found in a Vaisnava mission (represented by their respective spiritual leaders) depends on the divine will of God alone. Samasthi guru is the divine principle of the disciplic succession, and vyasti gurus are the individual representatives of that principle. Just as different electric outlets differ in place and form but sustain their validity due to being connected to the electric current coming from the powerhouse - so works guru tattva.
The VVRS-WVA recognizes only those schools which teach the traditional Vaisnava values and are not promoting any particular line or branch at the expense of others. Still, it is not the aspiration of the VVRS-WVA to judge others genuineness or bona fide nature in this regard. Only in border cases would a commission study the eligibility of a particular group to participate with the VVRS-WVA in accordance with the principles of the Vaisnava tradition. In addition, the VVRS-WVA is not responsible if anyone claiming to be a Vaisnava, whether officially affiliated to the VVRS-WVA or not, commits any wrongdoing in this world. Such things are unavoidable, and the VVRS-WVA has no active role in or possibility to "straighten out" anybody. In case of severe damage to the good image of the Vaisnavas, the same commission which studies border cases will decide whether some member or mission should be removed from the VVRS-WVA member list.
It is our honor and sacred wish to be able to embrace all true theists in the loving fold of the VVRS-WVA and in Vaisnava Unity in Diversity. The VVRS-WVA opens the doors for all Vaisnavas to cast aside all of their superficial misgivings with other Vaisnava groups, forgive any mistakes done by others in the past, and join the kirtan of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as it was planned by our acharyas. Maya divides - Krishna unites. VVRS-WVA is Krishna's uniting force: Uniting in spirit for the common cause, without loosing one's own responsibility. It will be very effective if we can cast aside the smaller contentions regarding ritual and different traditions and focus on our real service: to save the world from impersonal indifference and apathy towards service to a personal God.
This book serves to show how Krishna blesses the true devotee with the protection He has promised, and how the purity of His sampradaya is maintained. In regards to the exploitation of nature and rampant materialism, all Vaisnavas share the same goals and should stand strongly united with a plan to face the horror of the influence of this age. In this way, the Visva Vaisnava Raj Sabha will become the forum to serve the plans of our one Supreme Lord. It would be logical and natural if all followers, after understanding the purpose of the VVRS-WVA, include themselves actively in this joint effort.
The Beginnings of the Gaudiya Math
Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur took initiation
in the Gaudiya sampradaya from Vipin Bihari Goswami. He was the
first Vaisnava acharya to promote preaching in the Western world,
and he also started the Nama Hatta program as a means to freely distribute
the Holy Name. During his lifetime several Vaisnavas became very prominent.
Among them was his main source of inspiration, Srila Jagannath das Babaji,
with whose help he rediscovered the actual birth place of Sri Chaitanya
Mahaprabhu. Then came his connection with Srila Gaur Kishor das Babaji
Maharaj who, although considering himself a disciple of Srila Bhaktivinode
Thakur, was approached by the Thakur for the dress and mantra of a renunciate.
The Thakur sent his son, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, to take
shelter of Srila Gaur Kishor das Babaji Maharaj.
After initial reluctance on part of Babaji Maharaj, the boy was finally accepted as his disciple and was trained by both father and guru to uplift the world with the great Sankirtan movement. In this way, the stage was set to start a mission which would change the world view of Vaisnavas and Vaisnavism. It is this mission that became world famous as the Gaudiya Math.
Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur started the Gaudiya Math together with Kuñja Babu and other intimate associates. Just after the Gaudiya Math was established, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Maharaj was exiting a building with the devotees and a balcony fell off missing him by just a few inches. He was standing there fearlessly and said: The Gaudiya Math will be known for saving people from imminent danger."
The spirit of his father and his guru made Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur a very determined preacher who became known as the lion guru'.Please refer to the biographies of him to get a clear picture of the life and teachings of the founder of the Gaudiya Math. His disciples worked hard to help their guru, and deity worship began flourishing in many centers. Through the efforts of the many outstanding disciples of the founder, the original Nama Hatta program started to change into establishments of serious ashrams. From the most simple man or woman up to kings and famous people, all received the grace of the Sri Gaudiya Math equally.
In the beginning, the mission was a revelation to the Vaisnava world and was full of innovative contributions to the preaching spirit. The introduction of the tridandi sannyasis in the Gaudiya Sampradaya was a great surprise for many. The combination of the personal God and His inconceivably infinite potency was also quite new to a world where impersonalism and polytheism had become synonymous with Hinduism. At the same time, one of the great strengths of the Gaudiya Math was its push to send members out into the world, and the West was one of the destinations of the enthusiastic Gaudiya Math missionaries.
On July 20th, 1933 the Gaudiya Math was officially presented to the King and Queen of England. Not long afterwards, the first European preaching center was established in London (London Glouster House, Cornwall Garden, W7 South Kensington) under the name Gaudiya Mission Society of London'. Lord Zetland, the English Secretary of State, was the president of this society.
The second European preaching center was opened by Srila B. H. Bon Maharaj in Berlin (W30 Eisenacherstr. 29).
Later, on October 8th, 1935 some of the first aspirants were received with an official reception in the Howrah Station in Calcutta under the chairmanship of the Maharaj of Burdwan, Sri Bijoy Chand Mahatab.
The Gaudiya Math revealed the true treasure of theVedanta., the Srimad Bhagavatam, to be the ripe fruit of Vedic knowledge. This presents a world view full of devotion to the One, Supreme Lord. The Lord can appear as many variegated avatars without loosing His original position. Much like Christianity, although much older, the Vedic tradition (as represented by the Gaudiya Math) teaches how to become a loving servant of God in the eternal world. They call this region Goloka Vrindavan and it lays beyond the shores of our mundane senses.
The simple lifestyle which is promoted by the Gaudiya Math also brings light to a world which is about to self destruction due to greed for material sophistication, and lack of spiritual self-satisfaction and engagement.
The journey of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to different parts of India was the introduction to a great Vaisnava unity. Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur predicted that all the Vaisnava sampradayas would come together in the present age under the inspiration of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's contribution. Fulfilling this prediction, the Gaudiya Math began by establishing tirthas all over India in remembrance of the holy journey of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu; and Mahaprabhu's footprints were installed in seventeen places. The work of the founder acharya of the Gaudiya Math also reflected the desire to glorify all the acharyas of all the Vaisnava sampradayas. He installed their Deities in the Gaudiya Math headquarters of Sri Mayapur, he published their writings, and he established some of the Gaudiya Math temples in South India.
Under the Gaudiya Math banner, the Vaisnavas fearlessly did the needful. Temples were established in the heart of big modern cities; old Vaisnava books were published and distributed through the Brihat Mridanga (the printing press); Vaisnavas started to use motorcars, boats and machines for distributing their message; materialism was attacked with the use of its own offspring - technology; theistic exhibitions connected art and education to promote Vaisnava values, and so on. As time has already proven, the changes that occurred and the new activities that were introduced were both God-willed and empowered.
Still, some people criticized the Gaudiya Math for their preaching activities. In the beginning years, the Gaudiya Math strongly denounced the so called Vaisnavism which had several currents in those days known as the Auls, Bauls, Kartabhaja, Gauranga Nagari, Sakhi Bheki, etc. These groups did not find approval from Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur. In addition, the Gaudiya Math denounced the false claim of the caste-conscious brahmanas that it was necessary to be born in a brahmana family in order to become a brahmana. Previous to Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, renounced Vaisnavas used to dress in a simple white cotton gancha. This dress is known as the babaji dress and indicates that a person has given up all other concerns for this world. At the time, however, there were also many so called babajis who wore this dress without being qualified. The Gaudiya Math spoke out strongly against these "babajis" as well. In this way, there was no lack of opposition to the Gaudiya Math among these different groups.
Out of all the many currents which claim to follow Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the Gaudiya Math has most strongly demonstrated how the true spirit of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu can uplift this world: a world devoid of spiritual, moral, social and ecological solutions. Meanwhile, some branches of the Chaitanya tree have either dried out, barely survived, or distorted the real teachings due to misconceptions that have arisen in the past. All have been blessed, however, by the vigorous campaign of the Gaudiya Math to establish Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in His real glory and to show the transcendental character of the disciplic succession. This real disciplic succession must be totally free from any type of monopolistic, elitist, or privilege hunting mentalities which go against the nature of a transcendental family.
Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhupad had taught that true renunciation is to use everything in Krishna's service. Through the Gaudiya Math this became manifest within the Vaisnava world. Those who still criticize the founder of the Gaudiya Math are unhappy people. They could not do anything substantial to help the world develop love of God, serve the sankirtan yajña, or bring people to the holy waters of Sri Radha Kunda. They simply exhibit their ignorance and lack of compassion towards the conditioned souls.
Overall, the Gaudiya Math gives a name to the quality and message of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. This book shows us that all the developments in the Gaudiya Math and its further sub-branches such as the Bagh Bazaar Gaudiya Math, Sri Chaitanya Gaudiya Math, ISKCON, Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti, etc., are all a plan of the Supreme Lord to spread His loving message.
It has been confirmed in the scriptures that Krishna loves all of His devotees and that He does not want to loose any one of His preachers or their accomplishments. In fact, there are always opportunities for lesser qualified souls to come and create disturbances within the missionary organizations. For this reason, Sri Krishna creates situations which oblige many devotees to take up spiritual responsibility themselves, again and again, in order to continue the mission of their Guru Maharaj.
Thus we find so many Vaisnava missions today. Some carry the name Gaudiya Math in one way or another, some don't. Some have many branches, some have only one. Some do a great amount of missionary activities, some are rather quiet and introverted.
All, however, are supposed to stand on the following foundation: To carry the flag of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu into the hearts of all the suffering, conditioned souls, and to uphold the glory of our common founders and all their surrendered servants.
Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur ki... jay....
History of the Gaudiya Math Governing Body
Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati
Thakur requested his disciples to form a governing body in his absence.
This governing body was supposed to administer the mission after his departure.
This body was formed by twelve members: Kuñja Babu, Paramananda,
Ananta Vasudev, Srila Bhakti Keval Audulaumi Maharaj, Prof. Nisikantha
Sanyal, Hayagriva das B., Giri Maharaj and others. Later, all sannyasis
were added to this list. While he made Kuñja Babu (the first and
life-long secretary of the Gaudiya Math) the president for life, he did
not indicate any particular successor acharya. As he had often remarked
- the acharya is self effulgent. Thus, the initial time after the
disappearance of Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur was filled
with uncertainty, with many different opinions arising concerning how the
mission would continue.
The humility of the leading devotees of the Gaudiya Math was remarkable. Nobody wanted to become guru and accept disciples. In general, the consensus of everyone was: we are not qualified to become spiritual masters.' That was the reason why no sannyasi of Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur ventured to take up the acharya post. Still, everybody was shy and anxious to serve other senior Vaisnavas in the absence of their guru. Looking back, it seemed necessary that some dissension be created in Sri Krishna's Mission, in order to involve all the qualified preachers in active missionary work. (At least that is my understanding of why Sri Krishna allowed His mission to enter into a period of disagreement).
As the decision on who would be the next acharya in the mission became a dispute, many devotees suffered in separation of their beloved Gurudev. Even though Kuñja Babu was undoubtedly the most prominent organizer of the Gaudiya Math during the lifetime of Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, many sannyasis did not want to accept him as the next acharya. After some time, a learned brahmachari named Ananta Vasudev was suggested as the possible acharya for the Gaudiya Math and most of the Members of the GBC and the sannyasis accepted that proposal. Kuñja Babu and his close associates, however, did not agree with the decision on the new acharya. Subsequently, a dispute began and the original Gaudiya Math mission divided into two administrative bodies which continued preaching on their own, up to the present day. In a settlement they divided the 64 Gaudiya Math centers into two groups.
Due to the relative decline in the preaching spirit caused by the disputes, older and experienced Vaisnavas realized that the call from their guru had come for them to leave those institutions and begin new limbs of the Gaudiya Math branch of the Chaitanya tree as well. Impartially observed, however, we have to conclude that the two groups who stayed to administer the former Gaudiya Math properties did not increase the mission very much with respect to opening new temples or publishing new Vaisnava literature. On the other hand, some of those who left to start new branches of the Gaudiya Math became very successful. Although, throughout the years, several other very important branches have sprung up, let us first concentrate on the two primary branches.
The Sri Chaitanya Math Branch
Kuñja Babu was a close and
very dear disciple of Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur
since the beginning of the Gaudiya Math. With his help the Gaudiya Math
spread all over India. A lot of people joined the Math and many historical
achievements took place. Practically speaking, he was the administrative
genius who helped the Gaudiya Math grow into a great mission. Even though
he was not so popular among all of his godbrothers, he was still highly
After separating from the Gaudiya Mission at the Bagh Bazaar Temple, he opened the Sri Chaitanya Research Institute in Calcutta. He later took sannyas from Srila Bhakti Vijñan Ashram Maharaj and received the name of Srila Bhakti Vilas Tirtha Maharaj. He remained the leader of the Chaitanya Math branch, writing many books and publishing many titles of the Gaudiya Siddhanta from the Madras Publishing department.
He attracted support and sympathy from many important Indian politicians, and preached non-stop while traveling all over India. He initiated many high ranking Indian leaders into the Bhakti tradition. Many of his godbrothers also worked with him and helped maintain and expand the Chaitanya Math. In the Chaitanya Math the most beautiful Samadhi Mandir of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Thakur Prabhupad was constructed by him. According to Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj, who later started the ISKCON mission, Srila Bhakti Vilas Tirtha Maharaj went home back to Godhead as a pure devotee. I am quoting this just to show that temporary disagreements between Vaisnavas do not indicate that they will not get the mercy of their guru and Krishna.
The Chaitanya Math branch in Mayapur, India also sponsored the All India Vaisnava Conference on two occasions. Under the organization of Srila Bhakti Vilas Tirtha Maharaj, along with the attendance of many representatives of other Vaisnava institutions and sampradayas (such as the Pejwar Swami of Udupi), a conference was held to increase cooperation in the spreading of sanatan dharma.
On the Vyasa puja day of Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur in 1948 a resolution was made to appoint Srila Bhakti Hriday Bon Maharaj to the position of secretary for Sri Chaitanya Math, which he served for three years. At that time a disciple of Srila B. D. Madhava Maharaj was the secretary of B. V. Tirtha Maharaj. He later became the acharya of the Sri Chaitanya Gaudiya Math under the sannyas name of Srila B. Vallabha Tirtha Maharaj. Then, in 1954, Srila Bhakti Dayita Madhava Maharaj, who had worked with Srila B. V. Tirtha Maharaj (even though he began initiating disciples earlier than him) decided to leave the Chaitanya Math with most of his disciples.
After Srila B. V. Tirtha Maharaj's disappearance from this world, his godbrother Srila Bhakti Kusum Sraman Maharaj became the next acharya. In addition, many other disciples of Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur started accepting disciples within and in association with the Chaitanya Math. Some are included in the following list:
Under the Chaitanya Math mission the famous
Yoga Pith, Srivas Angan, and other holy places in the Dham are maintained.
After the disappearance of Srila B. K. Sraman Maharaj, the Chaitanya Math
mission divided into several branches under the leadership of different
The official person to accept disciples after Srila B. K. Sraman Maharaj's
departure was Srila Bhakti Bhushan Bhagavat Maharaj, a disciple of Srila
B. V. Tirtha Maharaj.
Later, many of the leaders of the Chaitanya Math, such as Srila B. S. Sajjan Maharaj, Srila Bhakti Prasun Puri Maharaj, Srila Avadhut Maharaj and Srila Bhakti Vaibhav Sagar Maharaj, helped to organize the Visva Vaisnava Raj Sabha meeting in Srivas Angan during Gaur Purnima of 1996. The first big World Vaisnava Association Mela was also celebrated at the same time. As the previous generations of great souls are gradually withdrawn from this world, it becomes the obvious duty of all older and newer members of this family tree to work hard in order to continue the great works started by the Gaudiya Math.
Additional highlights during S. B.V. Tirtha Maharaj's time
The Gaudiya Mission
Another principle group which branched
out from the Gaudiya Math became known as the Gaudiya Mission. This mission
kept the famous temple of Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur
at the Bagh Bazaar in Calcutta. Many central activities of the Gaudiya
Math were at this temple in Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's
time. However, this temple was also the cause for some dissatisfaction.
The devotees fought over the use of some rooms after this splendid, marble
floored temple was finished. Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati
Thakur thus remarked that it would be better to sell all the marble and
to print books. This temple was constructed with the impressive donation
from Sri Jagabandhu Dutta. When the properties were divided, the Bagh Bazaar
Math and Sri Dham Mayapur Yogapith were the most important settlements.
Each group received one of these major properties to conduct their preaching
Both Ananta Vasudev Prabhu and Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Maharaj were often asked to explain their guru's classes. Ananta Vasudev knew the verses his guru quoted even before he would quote them. While many senior sannyasis had declined to become acharyas, this brahmachari had shown great capacity to understand his guru's teachings. Thus when the governing body proposed that Ananta Vasudev Prabhu become the next acharya, and the proposal was accepted by many senior members of the Gaudiya Math, he accepted the post of acharya. When Kuñja Babu and his supporters started to defy their decision and to form a different branch, the Bagh Bazaar Gaudiya Math stayed under the guidance of Ananta Vasudev Prabhu. After accepting sannyas, Ananta Vasudev Prabhu became known as Srila Bhakti Prasad Puri Maharaj. Some years later, he left the mission, and the post was transferred to the expert hands of Srila Bhakti Keval Audulaumi Maharaj.
Srila B. K. Audulaumi Maharaj had been with the mission since the days of the Nama Hatta program of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur. He worked hard for the Gaudiya mission, and purchased many of the buildings the Gaudiya math previously had rented. He had been the son of a big landlord in Nadia. During this time, the mission opened a wonderful new branch in Godrum, Navadvip. They published many books and their kirtans were held with lively dancing in an organized fashion.
He traveled all over India and preached to many important leaders. He also published a book of his discourses in English. His mission kept a lot of distance from the other Gaudiya Maths after the division took place. After his disappearance, the mission was guided by Srila Bhakti Srirup Bhagavat Maharaj, another disciple of Srila Prabhupad Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Thakur. He preached in India, England, and opened one center in Holland. After the disappearance of Srila B. S. Bhagavat Maharaj the mission was handed over to Srila B. Suhrit Parivrajak Maharaj.
Additional highlights of the Gaudiya Mission:
uThe Gaudiya Mission organized yearly Navadvip Dham parikrams.
Acharyas who became active in the Gaudiya Mission or started new branches include the following:
In general it can be said that it
was not personal ambition that created the difficulties in the Gaudiya
Math. Rather, it was the unpredictable influence of Krishna which made
certain aspects flourish and others fail as the mission continued to develop.
Krishna wants all his devotees to receive credit; not only one or two.
The world benefits from witnessing the individual performance of the outstanding
Vaisnavas, instead of just watching voiceless members of bureaucratic missions.
The fact that Krishna's plan was different from the plans of many of His devotees became that much clearer with examples like the unexpected withdrawal of Bhakti Prasad Puri Maharaj (formerly Ananta Vasudev) from the acharya post and sannyas life.
Another example is that nobody would have ever thought that Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj, who was once a grihasta known only to a few Gaudiya Math members, would become a prominent acharya and expand the mission all over the world. When he left for America at the age of 68 and started the world-wide Hare Krishna revolution, many of his brothers could hardly believe it. For some it took years to understand that Lord Nityananda's potency had chosen this special Vaisnava to fulfill the predictions of both Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu and Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur.
This story will repeat itself whenever Krishna's plan differs from arrangements made by others in this world. The acharyas will be known by their own light and by their contribution to the happiness of this world; not by resolutions or cast votes, appointments or experiments. If we simply try our best and follow our heart sincerely, Krishna will guide us from within, and the real spirit of the Gaudiya Math will never be lost.
The real spirit of the Gaudiya Math
revealed many self effulgent acharyas. This began a continuum of
branching out as founder acharyas entered into their nitya lila.
This has created such a scenario, that, in the present day, devotees of
Krishna often meet each other with surprise all over the world and do not
necessarily even know which branch has already reached that area and established
Many of today's popular and growing Gaudiya Maths (often considered to be the orthodox Gaudiya Math of today) were not fully accepted branches in the beginning. These new branches were considered rebel" branches from the point of view of the two contemporary institutions which managed different parts of the original Gaudiya Math, and any members were taken by surprise by the development of new successful branches outside of their jurisdiction.
Thus, those who did not agree with the spirit of the established branches, or were simply inspired to expand the mission of their guru on their own enthusiasm, had to start without any help. Renunciates, equipped with the blessings of their guru and the Vaisnavas, many stalwarts started their missions - some of which became successful beyond imagination.
This is the beginning of a new era. In the following chapter on Gaudiya Math activities we will present the Gaudiya Math branches and outstanding preachers with a simple report on their current activities.
Very few people know the real extent to which Lord Chaitanya has, through his beloved Srila Prabhupad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, already spread his sampradaya to all corners of the world in so many different ways. Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj undoubtedly stands out as a pioneer fulfilling the wish of his guru and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu by giving the Holy Name to the whole world. In this list we will find many additional contributions to the expansion of Krishna Consciousness. It is evident that the future also holds many surprises and varieties of activities by which the Gaudiya Math family tree will benefit the conditioned souls.
VRINDAVAN INSTITUTE FOR VAISNAVA CULTURE AND STUDIES