by Srimati Jadurani devi dasi 1 October 2002
For the past few years, ISKCON leaders have had a worldwide ban on Gaudiya Matha Indian sadhus. In particular, the ban is targeted to Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja, one of India's most renowned saints, who is honored by over 100,000 Indian and Western devotees and other religious-minded persons. Not only do the ISKCON leaders make regular propaganda against him, they do not allow him to enter their temples around the world. In hopes that this ban would be removed, we, disciples of Srila Prabhupada Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja (the founder-acarya of ISKCON) and also followers of Srila Narayana Maharaja, did not make it public before.
However, because it has, on the contrary, become increasingly stringent, and many sincere devotees are suffering as a result, we now find no other option than to inform our respected Indian readers.
This ban does not only apply to Srila Narayana Maharaja. It also applies to his disciples, as well as to the disciples of Srila Prabhupada, and it also applies to other devotees who associate with and appreciate him.
The Ban in Los AngelesThe following official letter from ISKCON of Los Angeles was recently handed to one of Srila Narayana Maharaja's disciples who had been living one block from the temple and attending its functions for several years:
"The policy of ISKCON Los Angeles is that initiated disciples of the guru Narayana Maharaja are not allowed on any of the ISKCON properties, including the temple, the restaurant, the gift shop, or the ISKCON property division apartment building on Watseka Avenue. As an initiated disciple of Narayana Maharaja, you have been informed of this policy verbally and by letter. The letter you received also explained the reasons for the policy. Despite these notifications, you have refused to obey the policy, and have entered one or more of the above-mentioned properties. The next time you violate the policy by entering any of the above-mentioned properties, the temple will obtain a restraining order, forbidding you to enter those properties. As soon as it is issued, this order will show up on your police record. You should also understand that if you violate the restraining order, you might be subject to arrest, fine, and imprisonment. Our hope is that you will respect the policy, and not force the issuance of a restraining order."
The Ban at Bhaktivedanta ManorThe Bhaktivedanta Manor in England is another example. Its policy is that any devotee who accepts guidance from Srila Narayana Maharaja, or is even just curious to meet him, are at risk of being banned from the Manor and rejected from ISKCON. Many of Srila Prabhupada's disciples, who have given up to 30 years of their lives for his service and the service of the Deities were banned from the Manor. Although these devotees had faithfully distributed hundreds of thousands of Srila Prabhupada's books, they were banned because of their faith in Srila Narayana Maharaja. Their children were also banned from attending the temple Gurukula, and young Indian members of Pandava Sena Youth Forum who were interested in taking siksa from Srila Narayana Maharaja were banned from the temple. When local devotees approached Srila Narayana Maharaja's disciples with criticisms of him, any attempt undertaken by his disciples to defend him was immediately reported to the authorities as "proselytizing." When the disciples of Srila Narayana Maharaja protested that they had been forced into defending their spiritual master, the authorities declared that even if their guru was being blasphemed they were forbidden to answer back. This was not an isolated incident. Approaching the devotees, temple authorities threatened them with dire consequences should they so much as mention the name of "Narayana Maharaja" or speak about him in any way.
Srila Narayana Maharaja's Relationship with Srila PrabhupadaThis is all very strange, since the relationship between Srila Narayana Maharaja and ISKCON's founder-acarya, Srila Prabhupada, has been very intimate since 1946, before the birth of most of the ISKCON devotees. Srila Narayana Maharaja's initiating guru, Srila Bhaktiprajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja, is Srila Prabhupada's god-brother and sannyasa-guru, and Srila Maharaja himself is Prabhupada's siksa-disciple.
Srila Narayana Maharaja assisted Srila Prabhupada in his preaching in Jhansi and other places in the 1950's. He performed Prabhupada's sannyasa initiation in 1959 (even showing him how to wear the sannyasa apparel), and he assisted Prabhupada in publishing the books that he first brought with him to America in 1966. He sent Prabhupada Deities so that he could train his new Western disciples how to worship Thakurji, according to authorized Vedic standards, in his brand new ISKCON temples. He sent Prabhupada's Sanskrit books for his translation work, and also his first karatals and mrdangas for his worldwide sankirtana activities. He assisted Prabhupada in training the first American disciples who Prabhupada brought back with him to India, and he performed many other services until 1977.
Then, in November of 1977, when Srila Prabhupada was in his last manifest days in this world, he requested Srila Narayana Maharaja to take care of his disciples after his divine departure. Srila Maharaja promised to do so, just as Lord Rama promised his father Dasaratha Maharaja to serve his order up until his last breath. Although Prabhupada's own senior-most disciples and also his own god-brothers were also present at the time of his departure, he requested Srila Maharaja to personally put his divine body in samadhi. In 1986, on the request of the ISKCON leaders, Srila Maharaja went to the Bombay court and saved all the ISKCON properties and funds from being given to Prabhupada's previous son (who was suing ISKCON for all its properties on the false plea that Prabhupada never took sannyasa). Ever since Prabhupada's departure, Srila Narayana Maharaja has been helping to give new life to thousands of Prabhupada's followers who came to him for spiritual shelter.
Many thousands have been inspired.
Srila Narayana Maharaja in the WestAlthough he is over 82 years of age, Srila Narayana Maharaja regularly travels abroad. He preaches the glories of Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Radha-Krsna, and the glory of ISKCON's founder-acarya Srila Prabhupada, for 8 months every year, in about 10 countries every year, and he has just completed his fourteenth world preaching tour. In many of those countries, especially in Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia, he is invited to give discourses on India's Vedic Sanatana-dharma, following in the line of Sri Krsna-dvaipayana Vyasadeva and Mahaprabhu, at prominent Hindu temples.
In June, 2001, Srila Narayana Maharaja held his annual Ratha-yatra festival in Birmingham, England. During that week-long festival, the Life Foundation Worldwide presented him with the "World Peace Flame", for his contribution to preaching love of God and peace around the world. Lit by royalty, indigenous elders and eminent peace-makers, the World Peace Flame was flown to England from six continents by the RAF (Royal Air Force). This award has also been presented to Pope John Paul II and the Dalai Lama.
Srila Narayana Maharaja in IndiaWhen Srila Maharaja is in India, he is regularly invited by Indian dignitaries to speak at their spiritual programs. Political leaders in India, before being voted in to their posts, and after being elected, come to him for blessings. Moreover, he is recognized by tens of thousands of Gaudiya Vaisnavas, sannyasis, and acaryas as a pure self-realized spiritual master.
A member of the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya disciplic succession, Srila Narayana Maharaja is highly acclaimed throughout all of India, by at least a hundred thousand Indians, as a renowned spiritual scholar and teacher, and as a pure devotee of Lord Sri Krsna in the line of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He is recognized a strict follower of Vedic culture, Hindu sanatana-dharma, Vaisnava etiquette, daivi-varnasrama, and bhagavat-bhajana. Most of the notable spiritual scholars of Mathura and Vrndavana, such as Sri Srimad Acyuta Bhatta Gosvami and the Gosvami of the famous Radha-ramana Mandira, Sri Padmanava Gosvami, come and pay their respects to him. They invite him to speak to their assemblies, and he also invites them. He has made a tradition, since 1954, to hold meetings and invite them to speak, and when he himself speaks at those meetings, all are in awe. The following is excerpted from an international news report on a Visva-Vaisnava Raja-sabha meeting (Royal Assembly of the United Vaisnava Community of All Sampradayas), held on August 27, 2000, at Srila Narayana Maharaja's Sri Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha in Mathura:
"Most of the prominent erudite Vaisnavas and panditas in Vraja-Mandala assembled in Sri Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha on this auspicious dvadasi day to discuss the evolution of the conception of suddha-bhakti in the Srimad Bhagavatam. In this distinguished assembly, many elderly Vaisnava scholars of vast learning and experience, along with their devoted disciples, united on this momentous occasion to glorify suddha bhagavat-bhakti according to the precepts of their respective sampradayas. Such a council of Vaisnavas is very rarely seen in this world. Some of the mahatmas gracing the assembly by their noble presence were: Sri Srimad Manohara Lal Sastri, Pandita Chote Lal Sastri, Sri Srimad Acyuta Bhatta Gosvami, Sripad Vasanta Lal Sastri, Sri Thakurji Sastri, Sri Srimad Hariharaji Chachaji and others. More than two hundred devotees attended the function, eager to witness this unique event and hear the inevitable flow of hari-katha. As host of the assembly, Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja welcomed and honored all the respectable speakers with asanas, sandalwood paste, flower garlands, and sweet words."
Many Indian government officials, like the DCP (Deputy Commissioner of Police) and also many court judges, in Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Mathura, and elsewhere are Srila Narayana Maharaja disciples. Many renowned industrialists and businessmen regularly come to him to inquire about spiritual life and receive his blessings. Many head pujaris throughout Vraja Mandala visit him and honor him. Others personally send their representatives, long distance from the well known Radha-Govinda Mandira in Jaipur and Jagannatha Temple in Puri, to bring him garlands from the Deities when he is about to commence on another world preaching tour. The leader of all Lord Jagannathadeva's servants, the Dayita-pati of Puri, also attends his classes when he is in Puri.
Srila Narayana Maharaja has been conducting Vraja Mandala Parikrama for over 50 years, and during that time, the heads of all the villages come to him and pay their respects. He's been engaged for several years in organizing the renovation of many holy places in Vrndavana, such as Bandiravana and Brahma-kunda in Govardhana. These renovations are well known to the public.
The events in relation to the renovations are published in the newspapers, and Srila Maharaja's work in this regard is also recognized by the government. He also leads a Navadvipa-dhama Parikrama every year at the time of Gaura-purnima, and at that time he and other acaryas and sannyasis are followed by over 20,000 pilgrims from Bengal, and over 2,000 other Indian and Western pilgrims. Most of the devotees from Bengal are poor village people, and therefore they are given free facilities and prasadam throughout the week-long festival.
Still, Srila Narayana Maharaja has been banned by ISKCON from entering Prabhupada's temples, and he is not even allowed to enter the samadhi mandira in Vrndavana, where he had personally put Prabhupada in samadhi in 1977. On the very rare occasion that he is allowed to come and pay his obeisances at an ISKCON temple, ISKCON leaders try to keep local devotees away from him.
Srila Narayana Maharaja does nothing but illuminate the words of Prabhupada to make his teachings and the teachings of his guru-parampara much more clear and vital to the suffering souls in this world, and yet he is being unfairly discriminated against.
The following is an excerpt from a transcript of a conversation that took place on May 31, 2000, in the Beverly Hills home of one of ISKCON's original eleven GBC-elected gurus, Hrdayananda Maharaja. Another participant is Bhagavan dasa, who is one of the original GBCs and a former ISKCON guru.
Bhakti-Caru Maharaja is also a GBC and another one of those later elected by that body to act as guru. [The GBC (Governing Body Commission) is legally charged with the administration of ISKCON.] Also present was Svasa dasa, ISKCON Los Angeles temple president.
Bhagavan dasa: [speaking to Srila Narayana Maharaja] We like to fight a little bit; but all the time is not good, and everybody in this room has a lot of love for you and I believe you have a lot of love for them. And I think that's the thing that Prabhupada was very expert at; taking all of us who really didn't like each other very much and making us like each other, to some degree. My understanding is that you came to the West to help Prabhupada.
Srila Narayana Maharaja: To serve; not to help.
Bhagavan dasa: Yes, to serve. And ISKCON needs service and help. I understand that there has been a lot of pain because of the way the GBC has responded to things.
Srila Narayana Maharaja: I think they want to serve ISKCON, this movement, and according to their intelligence they are doing so. But we can think further how we can honor each other and fulfill the mission of Srila Swami Maharaja.
Bhagavan dasa: Is it your desire, if possible, to be an active part of ISKCON - to work with people like Bhakti Caru, Hrdayananda - [addressing all present] working together without necessarily putting Maharaja as the new ISKCON Acarya but working with.
Srila Narayana Maharaja: I want only to help you in all ways. I don't want to be Acarya. I don't want to be GBC. I don't want any position. I want to help with the core of my heart.
Bhagavan dasa: .sometimes I think they have a fear that Prabhupada becomes relativised.
Srila Narayana Maharaja: He is my siksa-guru; not less than my diksa-guru.
Bhagavan dasa: If Prabhupada knew that Narayana Maharaja was in town, he wouldn't want that Narayana Maharaja would be giving a talk somewhere else and him giving a talk somewhere else. There would be no question about that.
You would be sleeping in his quarters with him, telling jokes, having fun, giving massages, making each other laugh, and talking on how to promote things.
Srila Narayana Maharaja: That is what I want - that first we make a proposal to discuss how we can honor each other, how we can have no ban to meet each other. Then, I may go there, and they can come to me everywhere.
Hrdayananda dasa Maharaja: At the same time we feel that it is necessary that those who are senior in ISKCON should be recognized as actually representing Srila Prabhupada and having a special understanding of Srila Prabhupada. And, based on that special understanding, Srila Prabhupada asked some of us to represent him even in his physical absence. I bring this up because for us this is one of the important things that has to be acknowledged in our relationship - that there is some understanding that is relevant to the co-operative mission. Anyhow... I'll stop here.
Srila Narayana Maharaja: But you should also know that I have been serving him since 1946, when there was no League of Devotees and no ISKCON. Your Prabhupada was a householder at that time, and he was one of the establishing members of the Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti. He was one of the founders, and I have served him and associated with him since that time. I have experience of more than 54 years service to him. Moreover, I know that he is still alive and I want to follow him as my guru. I see no difference between us. Our bodies are different and our pronunciation of words is different, but we are in the same disciplic line of philosophy and mood.
Also, I was the priest of his sannyasa ceremony in 1959. So I consider that I am also his disciple. The GBC leaders should not think that only they have served him. I think that I have served more than anyone, from the core of my heart. I have so much regard for him. If anyone says that only he has served, that is very painful for me to hear. They should realize these things.
Bhakti Caru Maharaja: I understand.
Hrdayanda dasa Maharaja: Good. We are having a discussion. I think I would never say that you have not served Prabhupada. I would never say that, and I don't think anyone. I've never heard.
Bhakti Caru Maharaja: Narayana Maharaja, why don't you suggest what you would like ISKCON to.
Srila Narayana Maharaja: I want that you should sometimes invite me, and I will invite you. You should sometimes give me a chance to offer my puspanjali at the lotus feet of my siksa-guru, Srila Prabhupada.
Bhagavan dasa: Another proposal is that ISKCON temples are not manpower rich. They need manpower. There are temples that have hardly any pujaris.
There are temples that hardly have cooks. There are temples that hardly have people going out preaching. There are temple presidents that need manpower.
Narayana Maharaja is taking devotees who for some reason or other have lost their connection with ISKCON and he's given them some shelter and a home.
Maybe, sometimes the way you preach may not be familiar to everybody. I don't think that's really a big issue. I think the big issue is that the temples have no people. I think that the big issue is there are projects that Prabhupada gave his life for.
Srila Narayana Maharaja: I am ready to help. But we should honor each other and think that we are in the same family of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Whether someone is a kanistha-adhikari (a beginner in bhakti) or an uttama adhikari (a self-realized soul), we are all in the same family of Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Sravasa dasa: If I could interject something? I don't think that Narayana Maharaja cannot come to the temple. He can come to the temple, but there are certain restrictions. There are certain restrictions the GBC have recommended for him coming to the temple; so I think we should focus more on that.
Srila Narayana Maharaja: Anyone else can go, without restrictions.
Sravas dasa: Yes.
Srila Narayana Maharaja: If Mayavadis can go, if Hollywood Stars can go, and you are not inviting me, I don't mind. But if I go and offer pranama, and I come to serve, what harm is there?
According to sastra, pure devotees are truly self-effulgent, and that effulgence is not dependent on being accepted by ISKCON management. Still, for the benefit of all, why should Srila Narayana Maharaja not be welcomed and invited to preach in Srila Prabhupada's temples? His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada would want nothing less.
[The author of this article, Jadurani dasi, is one of the earliest female disciples of ISKCON'S founder-acarya, Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
She was one of the main illustrators of Srila Prabhupada's books, as well as one of his main preachers, ever since the Hare Krsna movement began in the West in 1966. She has been receiving personal guidance from Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja for the last ten years. She has kindly offered to meet with any leaders of the Indian community to further discuss the subject matter of this article, and also to assist those who would like to meet Srila Maharaja.]
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