Nothing Bad Happens Without Good Reason

Initially I thought that by joining a Vaisnava ashram all my problems would be finished. Well, I was wrong. We have to be alert at every moment so as to not fall in Maya. Kanaka (desire for wealth), kamini (desire to satisfy our lust), and pratistha (desire for fame) always linger within us waiting to catch us in an inattentive moment. Spiritual advancement is not acquired by simply staying in the mission for many years. Even elder members of missions have to be careful. In truth, we are only safe in the pure praying mood of a helpless soul aspiring for true devotion.
There is a saying in South America: Nothing bad happens without good reason." We have experienced many difficult moments in our ashram life as well as in the history of Vaisnava missions. Why do such difficulties accrue? Krishna is the supreme controller: When He sees His devotees entangled, or with offensive mentalities, He makes drastic arrangements to protect the path of purity.
Even in my most difficult moments and after apparently insolvable situations, I soon discovered the blessing in disguise. For example, I was told not to associate with advanced devotees for the sake of institutional concerns. Nevertheless, I disregarded these formal objections and thus I obtained the merciful association of pure devotees of Krishna; whom are very rarely found.
Impartially said, I have to thank all those who have, even unwillingly, made my life so complicated that it forced me to move onward on this path of the search for Sri Krishna.
The ups and downs within our sampradaya can also be seen as ways of preserving the sampradaya's purity. They help spread the essence of its teachings free from any institutionalized control. Srila Bhaktivinode's writings confirm this in many of his historic statements such as:

  • Sectarianism is the greatest enemy of truth.
  • As long as they are ignorant, we should expect that they will act ignorantly.
  • If you cannot find inner peace, you must, as Vyasa did, knock at the inexhaustible fountain of truth.
  • Vaisnavism is the religion of liberty, unmixed truth, and absolute love.



    Lessons to be Learned

     Srila Raghunath Das Goswami describes: In the absence of my beloved Gurudev even Govardhan looks to me like a great python and Sri Radha Kunda, the holiest of all places, looks like a tiger mouth ready to devour me. In truth, the disappearance of one's guru is one of the most difficult moments in a disciples life. In separation of Sri Guru, life seems to be unbearable. In addition, many difficulties concerning how to continue the acharyas mission naturally arise.
    To continue the guru's mission after his departure it is necessary for some Vaisnavas to give shelter to newcomers just as the acharya gave to all of his personal disciples. But who is qualified to continue his mission? This question gives rise to so many opinions. Some may be perfect, some may be wrong. How the spiritual lineage continues after an acharya leaves sometimes takes awhile to manifest. We may wish for a formal or institutionalized solution during this time, but this transitional period is necessary to awaken all the disciples of the spiritual masters to the need of their own complete surrender.
    Our guru has taught us how to recognize a real Vaisnava and the true philosophy. He has taught us to preach the Vaisnava siddhanta to impersonalists and to atheists. He has warned us about so many gross and subtle deviations. Now, in his absence, we are hopefully mature enough to remain faithful to his teachings. We must learn to act correctly. If we have not yet done so, it is the time to fully surrender. Otherwise, confusion will be unavoidable.
    How shall we continue to preach with enthusiasm without the presence of our Gurudev? To whom shall we send the new devotees to take shelter of as we did when we met Sri Gurudev? So many tests are coming now, all of a sudden. Are my godbrothers really qualified to continue the disciplic succession as gurus? Or, is it because of my envy that I am seeing so many faults in them? In this way, our mind will search for a clear understanding of how to continue, or better yet, how to surrender more in our life. The process of Krishna Consciousness is voluntary, and in the end we all have to decide with our own hearts how we want to continue the order of our guru. Our own understanding of our guru's order will be our only guiding star.
    After the disappearance of my diksa guru Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj, and after the disappearance of my sannyas guru Srila B. R. Sridhar Maharaj, I experienced many unexpected difficulties. During that time, I also studied the history of the Gaudiya Math. What appeared at first to be very chaotic and extreme, later revealed itself to be an urgent intervention by Krishna to teach us the basic principles of a pure disciplic succession. Whatever painful development had to be witnessed was a lesson to be learned for the many who only very recently had come in contact with the disciplic succession.
    In the long run, these lessons, which we have had to learn very quickly, will prove to be the struggle of the disciplic succession against contamination and misuse. It will also be understood that any time a personally motivated individual takes a position in a spiritual organization, it is doomed to failure. Here are some examples of the lessons we have received.

    Acharya Transition - Theory and Practice

     In the past, acharyas have prepared their disciples for the moment of physical separation in different ways, but, to my understanding, none of them changed the dynamism of the guru parampara. Some acharyas appointed some rittvik acharyas to initiate on their behalf; indicating that such rittvik acharyas could become real acharyas after their departure. Others appointed a secretary for the mission after their departure. Some acharyas left a paper declaring a particular dear and trusted disciple to be the next acharya in charge of the temples and Deity worship which were established by him. There are really no hard and fast rules concerning what an acharya must do in such cases. But, one thing remains without a doubt: No acharya has neglected the need of the plurality and dynamics of spiritual revelation which permeates the scriptures and the living tradition again and again.
    For technical reasons, or to avoid devotees fighting over the use of assets, the guru may easily put his assets and trust upon one particular disciple. Yet, his and Mahaprabhu's order to all his disciples is clear: All of you should try to save others by becoming gurus yourselves and teaching the conclusions of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam. Interpretations which tried, in the past, to limit the spiritual revelation of an acharya to one institutionalized outlet all proved to be wrong; bringing about embarrassment for that mission. In other words, every disciple shall, according to his fullest hearts content, be able to give to others what he has received from his Gurudev. This may very easily mean that he has to start a new branch mission of the Vaisnava tree.
    Our spiritual master sent us out so many times. Go and open new centers for the mission," he would say. Do not be attached to anything except Krishna and Sri Guru's grace. After all, if Krishna wishes to utilize you in some special service, he can reveal that very easily." For this reason we can tell when an acharya is self-effulgent. As our disciplic succession confirms; acharyas manifest as lighthouses to show the path in this dark age of Kali. Krishna will show the acharyas to this world, and we shall help them as much as we feel inspired to do so.
    The past has shown that some acharyas may be the gurus of many other gurus, while others may just carry on their service almost unnoticed. Sri Krishna Himself reserves all the rights. Only by His function as caitya guru, does the relationship guru-disciple come to have validity. Voting, public opinions, political considerations, or false claims of exclusivity are bound to fail in this process. They have nothing to do with the guru parampara. Maybe a guru writes many books, maybe he does not; maybe he initiates many disciples, maybe he has only one; maybe he is a learned Sanskrit scholar, maybe he is not; maybe he is born in an Indian brahmin family, or maybe he comes from a Western mleccha family. All these differences should not bring us to go against divine principles by discriminating between one acharya or another.
    Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj wrote in The Search for the Ultimate Goal of life: To think of one guru as more pure than another is an offense." Only Krishna knows everything. On our part, we do well by simply respecting anyone who actively preaches the true glory of our beloved guru and Krishna.

    The Posthumous Rittvik Escape

     Rittvik acharya is a term which is strictly used in our sampradaya to represent a living acharya under his order. There is no other reference in our long lineage of another kind of rittvik acharya being implemented. If there were, everyone would like to be initiated by Srila Rupa Goswami or Narada Muni through rittvik. Still, due to bad experiences in our sampradaya and the mental speculation of some devotees, it was proposed that a new procedure be introduced into the disciplic succession whereby new devotees could be initiated as disciples of the already departed acharya. This system, known as the posthumous rittvik acharya system' created a good amount of arguments but no viable spiritual solutions for anybody.
    Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj warned us of the dangers of deviation by giving the Christian example and demonstrating how they lost their guru-disciple connection over the years. The Sikhs also abolished the guru system after Guru Govinda Singh. Both systems are rejected by our sampradaya. In fact, the only case where we have heard of this kind of posthumous rittvik acharya is in some sahajiya tradition in Bangladesh.
    The other inherent danger in the posthumous rittvik acharya proposal is that the person who is offering rittvik connection to a disappeared acharya is acting on his own whim; and when he does not live up to the standard of devotion himself, he will abandon the newcomer to an unprotected life.
    The acceptance of a living spiritual master as the principle of becoming the servant of the servant of God cannot be voided simply because the opportunity exists for unqualified persons to occupy such a post. Guru, shastra, and sadhu are the guides on the spiritual path. According to the Vedic principles, if someone who is inspired to find God accepts another person as his spiritual master, Krishna Himself takes the responsibility to protect him. This personal connection with a spiritual master is the greatest relief for the conditioned soul.
    Searching for the guru and serving him in any of his forms is an eternal, voluntary principle which gives true life to our parampara. Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj highlights this point in one of his speeches.
    "Gentlemen, on behalf of the members of the Bombay branch of the Gaudiya Math, let me welcome you all because you have so kindly joined us tonight in our congregational offerings of homage to the lotus feet of the world teacher, acharyadev, who is the founder of this Gaudiya Mission and is the President-acharya of Sri Sri Visva Vaisnava Raja Sabha -I mean my eternal divine master, Om Vishnupad Paramahamsa Parivrajakacharya, Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Maharaj.
    Sixty-two years ago, on this auspicious day, the acharyadev made his appearance by the call of Thakur Bhaktivinode at Sri Kshetra, Jagannath Dham at Puri.
    Gentlemen, the offering of such an homage as has been arranged this evening to the acharyadev is not a sectarian concern, for when we speak of the fundamental principle of Gurudev or acharyadev, we speak of something that is of universal application. There does not arise any question of discriminating my guru from yours or anyone else's. There is only one guru, who appears in an infinity of forms to teach you, me and all others."
    The sincere seeker is taken to his personal spiritual master by the help of the inner guide, the paramatma, who is God Himself. Thus, the choice of the spiritual master is mystical. Many people visit different branches of the Gaudiya Math and also other movements. How faith arises in the heart to accept someone in particular as a guardian is beyond comprehension; what to speak of this being controllable by others. Every soul is responsible for his choice. This applies to the acceptance of the diksa guru as well as the acceptance of the siksa guru. Whenever attempts are made to geographically or institutionally restrict the free flow of faith towards a spiritual master, it results in some kind of disaster.
    We conclude that the posthumous rittvik acharya idea proposed by some disciples of ISKCON's founder acharyas is not part of our tradition. Such ideas will not be embellished by trying to point out that one's guru is so extraordinary that from now on the sampradaya will change. This is really an offense against the guru. No authority in our family has approved of such distortions. Even if it is painful, we have to work hard and try to continue serving our guru in separation. It is not enough to hang up huge pictures of an acharya, play his tapes and quote his words.
    If someone is qualified and trustworthy enough to receive the service of another person, then he would also be a candidate for the transmission of Krishna's mercy. If new searchers, who wish to be active in service, are not finding such qualified Vaisnavas, they should be encouraged to look elsewhere. There is no need to share the sad company of someone who has no trust nor is trustworthy. Krishna will help us to regain our enthusiasm in the association of real sadhus and the family will go on, as our gurus wish.

    The Acharya Appointed by a Committee

     Another particular lesson we learned is that acharyas cannot be appointed or controlled by committees. In the eyes of his disciples, the acharya is accepted as the fully independent complete authority and representative of the Supreme Lord. Because of this, his position can easily clash with the relationship he has with his godbrothers, or with other members of the mission.
    Difficulties may also arise with respect to the decisions made on the assets of the mission, especially if those assets were accumulated with the help of the acharya's godbrothers before he started initiating.
    On the other hand, institutions need a board of directors. In the absence of the founder acharya, the board of directors has to protect the mission, properties, deity worship etc. Combining the acharya tradition with the board of directors is quite complicated, and, while different proposals have been made and experimented with to solve this dilemma, many have failed to create harmony in the missions.
    Even the grand temples of the great Gaudiya acharyas such as Srila Sanatana Goswami, Srila Rupa Goswami, and Srila Jiva Goswami were affected by this type of confusion, giving rise to the Caste Goswami tradition.
    The original free spiritual current was presented by the priests to be a confined family seminal (sukra) disciplic succession. Worse still, many young kids in these Caste Goswami families did not have interest in the mission and started to take advantage of the temples; using them as a means to make a living or simply for their own enjoyment.
    In response to this dilemma, Srila B. R. Sridhar Maharaj suggested that the original temples started by a founding acharya remain as tirthas for the future branches of the family. New acharyas, he said, should start new centers or develop small communities. The tirthas serve to bring together all the godbrothers of a branch to celebrate main festivals. In the tirtha no new acharya becomes prominent.
    Yet there are so many circumstances to be taken into consideration here. For example, who will maintain the tirthas? The tirthas will only work if there are many new branches which are ready to give financial support to a central tirtha and to send devotees there to keep the worship running. The sevaites (or the board of directors) no doubt have a great responsibility, but they can not have jurisdiction over the feelings and relations a devotee has with his spiritual master.
    Let us never forget that every member of a Vaisnava family is a voluntary member, and that he will remain so as long as he feels that his heart is properly situated. The sevaites and the respective acharyas who decide to continue the initiation process shall lovingly try to find a way of mutual respect and a happy preaching spirit. This is the real test to pass in order to create unity in diversity and thus have the Vaisnava family grow without obstacles.

    The Appointment of an Acharya as an Exclusive Successor

     Not only committee appointments faced severe problems, but another phenomena also manifested: Some devotees interpreted the nomination of a successor acharya of a mission to mean that he had the exclusive right to represent his guru to the world. They believed that anyone else who might give initiation would not be qualified and would violate Vaisnava ethics. This concept stifles the preaching spirit.
    Srila B. R. Sridhar Dev Maharaj explained that everyone has the right and duty to give to one's heart's content that which he received from his spiritual master. It is a laudable attempt if someone wants to give spiritual shelter to others. This can not be controlled by law or restricted in any way. Srila Sridhar Maharaj even welcomed other acharyas in his lifetime to initiate and be part of his mission.
    The acharya can nominate one of his disciples to continue as acharya and to manage his temples in order to avoid fighting among the godbrothers, but the acharya does not limit the line of spiritual masters to only one particular person. That would contradict the whole Srimad Bhagavatam and the Chaitanya Charitamrita.
    There is a great need in this world for many spiritual masters. The service done by anyone who is faithful to his guru and feels the inspiration to protect others should at the least be considered a noble act.'
    All these conflicts help us to see that the real dynamic expansion of Krishna Consciousness can only come from persons who are happily surrendered in this process; as our loving spiritual masters were.

    Rank is but the Guinea Stamp;

    Man is the Gold of It

     Today, the world of Maya is so strong that even leaders of countries are often caught as cheap little thieves filling their pockets instead of serving their people. In the name of religion, the most unwanted material activities can also be found. It is no surprise that people are doubtful about the intentions of anybody who follows a path of submission to the spiritual master as the representative of the truth and God's pure goodness. It almost sounds unbelievable. Still, this is our path, and our only hope.
    The saying, Rank is but the guinea stamp; man is the gold of it" comes from the English times when a guinea stamp was printed on gold to testify to its quality. Here, we use this popular saying to describe the difference between a post, a prestigious position, a function or a form, as compared to the holder of the position and the essential substance which should stand behind the formal conception. True devotees are the only gold promised by the Vaisnava guinea stamp of a brahmana, sannyasi, guru, or mahanta. Fortunately, we have examples of such stalwart devotees in our Gaudiya Math history that, upon any investigation on their sanctity and level of extreme dedication, all doubts regarding their purity disappear.
    Unless a person is surcharged with the service life, his acceptance of other's service or collaboration is a hoax, and Krishna will sooner or later expose that painful fact for the benefit of all. Often, some unqualified people in bureaucratic Vaisnava institutions try to use material facilities for a lowly purpose that obliges true devotees to withdraw from such environments to save the dignity of the gurus line. Therefore, we should not blindly accept every person who is holding a position among Vaisnavas, but instead should carefully watch the surrounding sadhus to see if they are happy with the service of their leader. If other people start to chant Krishna's name and start becoming good devotees by connecting with such a leader, Krishna must be using him for His purpose and we shall show our respect.

    Reinitiation - Demoniac and Divine

     Our siddhanta points out that in the long run our sampradaya is really a siksa-guru sampradaya. Nevertheless, the sambandha jñana (the knowledge of our eternal relationship with the Supreme Lord) is generally given along with the diksa connection. Received through the initiation process, this connection is, in many ways, the life line of a disciple in spiritual life, as well as the source of his conviction and service. Therefore, to loose one's diksa guru is a great calamity in a person's spiritual life.
    Generally speaking, if a Vaisnava has left the service of his guru he should be saved; whatever it may take. Yet, Vaisnava etiquette must also be considered. If two spiritual masters have a relationship, they can easily cooperate with each other to take care of a disciple. This is common in instances when devotees, especially brahmacaris, need to change their location. If a Vaisnava requests another Vaisnava to look after his disciples, there is obviously no need for re-initiation.
    In several instances, however, many devotees have lost their faith in their diksa gurus due to the wrong behavior and insensitivity of those gurus. These devotees became very helpless and went searching for shelter at the feet of other Vaisnavas. Under the circumstances, some received a connection through initiation from another guru who was in the mood of offering relief to the suffering devotees. The sentiment was that the previous initiation was really not valid, since the promised protection was not given. In such cases, Vaisnavas should be content if his friends and brothers find a place where they are happy to continue their devotional service.
    Overall, it is up to the criteria of the spiritual master to see how he wants to deal with disgruntled followers of another guru. It is his responsibility, and he will receive the reaction if he does not consider the other Vaisnava's situation with sensitivity. If, however, re-initiation takes place between two acharyas or Vaisnava missions without communication or due cause, it only demonstrates the lack of recognition towards the genuineness of the other. Any case of motivated preaching against another guru in order to steal his disciple is clearly offensive and will have disastrous results. It is desirable if such differences could be eliminated, and the common cause could be discovered. Guidance with respect to such situations can be found in the actions of great devotees such as Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj, Srila B. R. Sridhar Maharaj, Srila B. P. Puri Maharaj, and many others. Of course, above all, Krishna is the true enjoyer of all of His devotees.

    Transcendental Courtesy

    In truth, it is quite natural that close contact between conditioned souls will be full of difficulties. Even those who have chosen the path of bhakti and enlightenment sometimes enter the field of misunderstandings and misinterpretations. In this way our human frailties are exhibited. Devotees from different missions who meet in Vaisnava functions may not necessarily agree on every point within their practices and siddhanta. Tension may also exist between members of the same mission. Still, we should follow the famous advice: Hate the sin, not the sinner. Differences such as styles of preaching, over-zealousness of neophyte devotees for their guru or simple ego clashes should not disturb our overall appreciation for each other.
    Westerns, particularly, often have the tendency to be harsh with each other. Such treatment is altogether undesirable. Pride, arrogance, conceit, anger and harshness are clearly described as demoniac qualities in the Bhagavad Gita and one should not feel justified in this sort of behavior. A forum should exist for discussing philosophical points without becoming blasphemous towards others.
    Personal attacks should be avoided and the truth should be spoken in a pleasing way whenever possible. When a sannyasi once asked Srila B. R. Sridhar Maharaj if there were any special instructions for him before he left to preach in the West, he replied: Yes, there is one thing. You must not have these harsh dealings with each other."
    In addition, assuming the mistakes of individual Vaisnavas to be a general trend of an entire group is only a shameful residue of the influence of the age of Kali. We should all try not to give any space to Kali in our preaching life and our Vaisnava relations. Meetings among Vaisnavas in a courteous spirit will always help in resolving misunderstandings.
    Devotees are also of different natures. In The Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj relates that Srila Rupa Goswami encourages devotees of similar natures to join together and discuss the philosophy of Krishna Consciousness. In this way their faith will become strong. On the other hand, if devotees of different natures clash over the philosophy, they may disturb their faith as well as the faith of others.
    The path of devotional service is full of tastes, as well as degrees of surrender and conditioning. Not every person can understand every instruction in the same way. Some instructions of the Vaisnava literature can only be really understood by very advanced Vaisnavas. Therefore some literature is practically prohibited for the general sannyasis, let alone the beginners. Yet this should not become a reason to disrespect each other or avoid creating a welcoming atmosphere in our temples for all other members of the World Vaisnava Family.
    Each devotee is at a different stage of development. Thus, tolerance needs to be present in order to allow and encourage everyone to grow in their Krishna Consciousness. This does not mean that there cannot be philosophical discussions and dialogue. Rather, such discussions should be done in a spirit of helping individuals and groups advance in their Krishna Consciousness.
    This attitude could be called transcendental courtesy. Meetings such as the VVRS-WVA meetings, or the celebrations of a Vaisnava acharya's Vyasa Puja or Tirobhava, are attended by many members from various missions. During these types of meetings transcendental courtesy is quite normal. After all, we all have so much in common and so little to disagree upon, once we start appreciating each other.

    Customs Within the Gaudiya Math

     Sistachara means the rules of conduct and worship, as passed down from the verbal instructions of the spiritual masters to their disciples. These unwritten rules of relationship between different Gaudiya Maths find their roots in the Vaisnava tradition. While missions may differ on certain subjects, a general pattern can be observed almost everywhere. It is compulsory, by the nature of the non-sectarian Vaisnavas, for instance, to be very friendly and appreciative of the devotees and the services done by members of other branches.
    Nevertheless, disputes or misconceptions have entered into various branches, or between missions, resulting in many unfriendly relationships in the Gaudiya Math family. Thus, for the purpose of guiding us, I will record a few of the characteristics of proper Vaisnava conduct that I have observed in the Gaudiya Math.
    1. Whenever any Math celebrates a special festival in honor of their founder etc., they invite the other different branches in their vicinity to attend the function. To show respect, the other missions send a few members to honor the invitation.
    2. Respect is shown among the Gaudiya Math members in accordance with seniority. Often, however, senior members will reject such respect, choosing to honor a younger Vaisnava who has done outstanding service. They, in return, will reject that motion and insist to honor the senior members first. This is a kind of a loving struggle often observed among real Vaisnavas. In this way, the speakers are chosen within the meetings, and other personal care is scheduled.
    3. If a Vaisnava comes to bless a meeting or festival he will generally receive, in accordance with the ability of the host, the following items:

  • A sweet worded welcome.
  • A sitting place in the form of an asana made of kusa grass or cotton. (Senior members are often received with a wooden bench.)
  • A request to speak Hari katha.
  • An invitation to take prasadam.
  • A donation to cover his travel expenses.
  • A cloth.
  • An invitation to rest.



     These are the basic customs observed among Vaisnavas which make their association very sweet. In fact, these elements of fraternity and friendly welcome to guests is compulsory for any well educated person. Even an enemy should not feel ill treated when he comes to your home, what to speak of other Vaisnavas. To serve them properly only brings about blessings and happiness.
    In addition, a few more points may be mentioned herein:

     1. One inquires from an arriving Vaisnava about his initiation and service connection in order to find out how to properly honor and encourage this Vaisnava on his path.
    2. One should not glorify his guru extensively in front of his guru's seniors or his godbrothers. To refer to your spiritual master in front of his godbrothers with the same name his godbrothers use for their guru is also not correct.
    3. In the Gaudiya Math, in general, we are always in the spirit of offering respect to others without expecting anything first.
    4. If any type of pride comes to contaminate the Vaisnava relationships, it is just a question of time before Krishna sends a lesson. We are happy about this. The environment is friendly to all of us, all of the time.
    5. Never despair in difficult moments. Learn your lesson well, and continue your path of surrender.

    Most importantly, we should never forget the sloka by Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhupad: yena tena prakarena, manah Krishna nivesayet. . . Above all else people should think about Krishna. Later, the rules and regulations can gradually be introduced."
    Everybody has to be happily accommodated in this family of Krishna Consciousness. This is the golden rule, and our attitudes should not interfere with this ideal. Topics such as the different songs sung in different functions, their rituals, and initiation procedures, etc., are quite secondary. Even though the book Sat Kriya Sar Dipika, by Srila Gopal Bhatta Goswami, gives guidance on many samskaras (purification rituals), we have seen that different acharyas have adopted different simplified variations of rituals in their preaching practices. This is not a reason for dispute.
    If someone is too much of a neophyte to understand this, he will have a hard time associating with other Gaudiya Math branches. It is not possible to apply the same strictness at all times, places, and circumstances. Let us be flexible, harmonize, and again, always think of Krishna.

    The Origin of the Soul

     From 1981 to 1996 a controversy arose within the ISKCON limb of the Gaudiya Math branch of the Chaitanya tree concerning the origin of the soul. Thus, it will be briefly mentioned here that the Gaudiya Vaisnava siddhanta, as taught by our acharyas, perfectly clarifies the fact that the jivas come from Sri Krishna's tatastha sakti (marginal potency) and have not fallen down from the personal association with Lord Krishna in Goloka, or from the association of Lord Narayan in Vaikuntha. In fact, all four Vaisnava sampradayas are in agreement with respect to this topic. Statements to the contrary (such as those found in Back to Godhead etc.) or those which lend themselves to interpretation, can be understood as simplifications within a framework which does not require siddhantic clarification. At any rate, the secrets of the origin of the soul are well kept by our Supreme Lord who reserves all rights to fully facilitate His loving lila, and who does not oblige anyone to have a relationship with Him.

    How Vaisnava Siddhanta Views Copyrights of Transcendental Literature

     By using copyrights someone claims to own the rights of a creative contribution. Yet this is incompatible with the nature of the divine decent of knowledge into this world. Limiting the publication of holy scriptures and their distribution to any one person or institution contradicts the nature of our siksa guru parampara and the Vaisnava acharyas. Any copyright claim decision which causes the number of transcendental books distributed and published to decrease is also certainly not in the interest of any Vaisnava acharya.
    The only real proprietor of the rights is the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna Himself, and it is He alone who decides which disciple is qualified to deliver the pure message of his guru. Once, when Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj was reading the Krishna Book, his secretary asked him why he was reading his own books. Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj replied: These are not my books, they have been dictated to me."
    While Krishna allows His Bhagavat-Gita to be printed by many different people, only the real devotees get the blessings of bhakti by printing this sacred text. Therefore, all other attempts by any Vaisnava institution to claim the exclusive rights to their acharya's contributions is not in accordance with the transcendental law.
    The spiritual master is a transparent medium of God who delivers His teachings to the world. Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj wanted his books to be distributed by anyone to everyone. When he was present, even those who kept a distance from the administration of his mission were allowed to distribute his books. Acharyas desire their teachings to be handed down through their disciples and other sincere Vaisnavas.
    A disciple receives the mantra and teachings from his guru; and he promises to remain faithful to his guru's teachings. This is the only formal condition required for a disciple to be accepted. Thus, each disciple has the right and duty to distribute the teachings of his guru in the way he considers the most appropriate. It is also true that every Vaisnava mission naturally wants to use the literature they print and distribute to further their cause through the invitations printed in the books.
    History has shown that the properties of the missions of great acharyas sometimes end up in the hands of mundane persons unaware of the sacred meaning of such places. Nevertheless, such people have not had the opportunity to claim monopoly on the teachings and writings of their guru and founder acharyas. This is a very important observation. It is a well known fact that successors sometimes fail to continue the acharya's line of pure devotion, while other disciples succeed in carrying on the essence of the sampradaya.
    Due to the misdirection of some leading members of Vaisnava missions, the properties which their guru established have become objects of dispute or misuse. Nevertheless, the teachings of any true guru are the property of all those who carry on the true spirit of his message. Since it can not be pre-determined who is really a qualified disciple, all have the right to preach the message of their guru as well as to publish and distribute his teachings. Only by his own qualification, and not by any type of nomination, can someone be accepted to represent his spiritual master properly. We find that this conclusion is supported by the living Vaisnava tradition. Examples of this include the following:

  • All Gaudiya Math branches freely publish the books of the previous acharyas. I.e. ISKCON published the Brahma Samhita, which was previously published by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur.
  • All Gaudiya Vaisnavas sing the songs of Bhaktivinode Thakur and of Narottam das Thakur.
  • Usually, Vaisnavas are very happy if any other Vaisnava prints and distributes the sacred Vaisnava literature of any author; knowing well that Krishna and the author are very happy when more souls come in contact with the divine truth.
  • Since only Krishna can lead someone to his spiritual master (brahmanda bhrahmite kona..), it is a mistake to think that someone could unlawfully abuse the teachings of any guru by distributing and publishing his works.
  • For practical reasons, their is no objection to coordinating and publishing books by previous acharyas in a joint effort by several missions. Yet, this can only be done if the purpose of the publishing house is transparent and known to all who participate. Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj himself encouraged his disciples to write even while he was personally present. How can a disciple write if he has no permission to quote his guru and to publish his writings?

  • Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj started many different divisions of his publishing house called the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. I ( B. A. Paramadvaiti) was personally responsible for several Bhaktivedanta Book Trust departments (in Swedish, Danish, Finnish and Portuguese) from 1973 to 1979.
    Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj gave us full freedom to publish and happily welcomed any new books. His concern was that all energy should be spent for Krishna, regardless of who will manage it afterwards. Potentially, every disciple of Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj and their genuine followers are qualified to start a transcendental publishing division and to publish Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj's, Srila Sridhar Maharaj's, as well as all the other previous acharya's writings. He only has to make sure that the energy from these books will truly be used for the Lord's service; otherwise he will be held responsible by his reactions. It is also necessary for any transcendental printing department or joint Vaisnava enterprise to be transparent in their financial dealings in front of all their contributors. As the saying goes: Clear accounts maintain the friendship, or, Love and trust with good administration.
    The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust and all other publishing divisions in the Gaudiya Math are nothing less and nothing more than a service branch of the Gaudiya Math. It is very disappointing when the family members cannot recognize their other relatives. Are any of our great acharyas like Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur less important in the Vaisnava history than Srila Jiva Goswami? Imagine someone from the Radha Damodar temple trying to claim royalties for any of Srila Jiva Goswami's books that have been published by Vaisnavas. It is bad enough that so many wonderful tirthas, such as the Goswami temples, have been occupied by television watching and bidhi smoking residents.
    It is time to bring the true siddhanta into clear focus. Successors of an acharya, even if they received the proper appointment , should keep in mind that their godbrothers have the equal right and duty to carry on the disciplic succession. This is the law of the disciplic succession. In this spirit, all Vaisnavas are also invited to offer their preaching materials, such as pictures, publications etc., for the use of other missions in a list that will be published in the VVRS-WVA Newsletter.