In the search for the absolute truth
I studied the will of Srila Jiva Goswami and the wills of my spiritual masters and I am thinking of those who will stand tomorrow by themselves in separation of their spiritual masters, but without a personal memory of the wonderful days when we had Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhar Maharaj personally with us giving us guidance.
Of course it is always true that the chaitya-guru in our heart will protect the sincere searcher and guide us to the proper protection. But whenever we have nobody to ask and we have to make our own decision about the continuation of our guru's mission I beg to present the following observation and recommendations to be taken into consideration. They appear to me to be of vital importance.
First I want to alert to be aware of the following symptoms, which are signs of imminent danger and indicate the need to do something about it, in order to save one's spiritual life.
1. Materialistic lifestyles appear even though vaisnavas are supposed to be renounced and simple. Now luxurious comforts will be justified by public relations and "too holy to be affected by those things".
2. The holy teachings are monopolized, (modern; copyrighted) distorted, hidden, or simply ignored. History shows us that uncomfortable books find their way into the fire, even when truly worshipful, and critics are declared heretics, condemned, exiled, and sometimes killed.
3. The representation of God on earth and the holy truth is limited to voting committees or governing bodies, birthrights, or other social considerations.
4. Love is exchanged with fear and the "nobody trusts nobody" atmosphere starts to predominate.
5. Discussions and creative philosophical exchanges with outsiders are totally discouraged. Vaisnava philosophy can defeat any opposing concept. We still recall Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati declaring the totalitarian war against all misconceptions.
6. Intoxication, greed for money, lies, conspiracy, and mundane sexuality are general side symptoms of such false "saints". No religious community is immune against such deadly diseases. It only takes one leader to be a hypocrite. That is the reason why the Vedas have recommended to us to take shelter of a pure spiritual master and not of any institution. Cooperative thinking, typical for our western multi-national corporations, will not help us much in keeping the line of our Gurudeva alive.
But all these before mentioned symptoms should not discourage
us in our attempt to surrender and to actively spread
Krishna Consciousness. Behind every suffering there
is a great lesson to be learned. Krishna personally
allowed all this to happen for the sake of all of us.
This lesson is: wake up before we are all in our eighties
as well as for all the future western vaisnavas. The
world is not interested in any organized religion except
when it comes to politicians gathering votes. Churches
are dead as far as true religion is concerned. But
one truly realized soul and his truly beneficial contribution
to society can win over many hearts, and like Srila
Prabhupada, my spiritual master, proved, make a distinct impression on the consciousness of mankind without the need to be backed by any rubber-stamp committee. So it will depend on
all of us how loud the true glory of Srila Prabhupada
will be heard in our lifetime.
Regarding the Continuation of the Spiritual Succession
Without sacrifice there is no mission. Without love and trust there will be no sacrifice and surrender. After my Guru departed from the physical plane there was only really one question of importance for me. How can I go on serving him? How can I increase my desire to serve him and love Krishna? How can I enthuse others now, to take up spiritual life seriously? Previously, I happily took the new friends to my Guru and told them: "With all confidence you can surrender to him. I am trying to do the same. He can take us back to the Supreme Lord." But how will I preach now? Without having a good answer to that question we are in trouble. Our spiritual dignity is at stake. I can only represent what is fully approved within my heart, otherwise I will fall down to mundane considerations like: Who will give me the nicest job with the most fringe benefits? Who's disciple would I like to marry? Who will bother me the least?...
Therefore please try to maintain this wonderful Krishna Consciousness always alive within your hearts and actions. Always try to deliver it to others in the same way as we have received it from above by the causeless mercy of our eternal guardians and for that purpose we have to become pure devotees.
* How lovingly Srila Prabhupada handled every individual
until the day he left the physical plane. How much
knowledge and maturity will we need to be able to serve
* The search for purity, simplicity, modesty, humility and the true selfless service attitude must be an undisputed base for a divine revelation to come down to us.
* Never forget that the guru is also not his body. His body is engaged in Krishna's service and therefore not ordinary, but he is not limited by his body. Actually Sri Krishna is the original spiritual master. All his representatives (gurus) will come to those who sincerely want to serve him. To those honest souls some inspiration of the guru-tattva will come to show the proper way.
* Brahmanas and sannyasis have a great responsibility. Practically they are the spiritual masters in this world, and we are all requested to qualify to be able to assume those services.
To accept disciples, who have felt in their heart that Krishna has sent them to you for protection, is a holy duty and a right in the guru parampara, after your spiritual master disappears. But you alone have the responsibility for your actions. It is on your own risk.
If you are a bad representative you will have to be removed in due course of time and your service to your guru will be ruined. If we are not sure if we are capable to represent Lord Chaitanya and our guru truly, and that for the rest of our life, then it is better to take the new devotee to some other vaisnava of whose sincerity we must be completely convinced. The new devotee will have to examine the vaisnava you recommend, and/or any other he feels inclined towards.
* Whoever brings about that sentiment in our heart, that we want to become pure devotees of Sri Krishna, or whoever later increases that sentiment in us is really our spiritual master, who deserves our eternal love and respect. By carefully studying Srila Sridhar Maharaj's book Sri Guru and His Grace, we can get an appreciation of the mystery of guru-tattva.
* Let new gurus start new temples. Nobody should intrude anywhere and claim that he is the successor Acharya of his guru unless particularly indicated by his guru and even then limited to the actual place where he conducts his preaching and not with any geographical implication. Krishna will lead the true searcher to his guru.
If a new devotee joins a temple founded by an already departed Acharya and managed by devotees who don't personally accept disciples, he will gradually know the other initiated devotees and their disciples, since they are also welcomed to the main temples and in this way he can find his personal diksa-guru.
There is no one obliged to accept you as a guru or to help you in your mission unless they feel that urge in their heart and that they should continue to serve their guru by helping you. Of course vaisnava etiquette teaches us to be very cautious not to disturb the faith of the new devotees, another big reason why gurus have to have their special place(s) where their relationship with their disciples is not challenged. That is another reason why the main temples of the founder Acharya must simply be open to all without anybody trying to become the new Acharya there. A movement without such understandings will end up like a big swimming pool without water and people jumping inside in order to learn how to swim (surrender).
* Preacher or spiritual master means someone who is a real surrendered servant. He serves his disciples. He renounces his privacy and he works hard himself to spread his guru's message.
* Don't think that you know all of your gurus unless you have already reached Krishna's lotus feet or pure love for Krishna is flowing in your heart.
* Do not visit the temples of those devotees whose sincerity you doubt, or if you cannot share and support the feelings of the devotees there. Don't be envious or overly critical with those who may be more successful in serving your guru.
* Criticizing those who have no chance to help is like spitting against the wind. To dwell on the rumors about others or even over the true mistakes of others who we are unable to help, will bring their faults into our own mental world and they will want to manifest again in our gross world as a reaction. Only be eager to correct those who beg you for your help. We should only visit temples when we want to help them, and only join them to make them better and better and better.
Regarding Institutions and Spiritual Life
* If you are a leader of any group, please always respect
the opinion of others who join to help your preaching
mission. Don't become a victim of the deadly disease
called megalomania. Let others participate in your
projects and creatively contribute to the development.
Make weekly board meetings. Appreciate the new devotees'
need for space to develop. Exchange ideas, let everyone
think freely and allow them to express their constructive
participation, just like Srila Prabhupada did with
all of his disciples. This attitude will protect your
projects from lethargy and indifference. Whoever allows
me to serve him is actually giving his mercy to me
and a representative of my spiritual master.
* Don't ever condemn anybody who doesn't want to serve under your leadership. Rather search out how you can serve him.
* Every temple has some need for organization; president, treasurer, weekly meetings of responsible devotees. Every devotee should understand the basic concept of how to do all things in Krishna Consciousness. That is the principle for personal growth and the success of the entire community. Without the mystic, loving inspiration every organization will ultimately fail. Train leaders if you want to be a good servant of your guru.
* Vaisnavas in leading positions should be very cautious about their huge responsibility before the devotees and the general public. Therefore they should live in a very open way, without any secrets regarding their finances and their moral life. Their temple should have clear bookkeeping. Every devotee should give to Krishna what he likes to give from his heart. Krishna is not interested in anyone's money or property. He only wants our heart. At the same time, all which has been donated to Krishna by the devotees and friends must be carefully protected. All properties bought by the devotees for Krishna must be registered in such a way that no individual can ever sell it or use it for his private interest. The founder Acharya may choose the future leadership before his departure to avoid fighting, or if he did not give particular instruction in this regard, then those temples should be maintained as a place of unity for the new growing diversity in the vaisnava family. The leadership in that case should be disciples who themselves are not accepting disciples. Such a place will only remain a sacred place of pilgrimage if the loving respect to all true members of the family is alive.
* Nobody should venture to become a temple or ashram leader if he doesn't want to do that service selflessly for the pleasure of Krishna.
* Give love if you want to get love. Do your service with all your heart. Stick to it. Never let anyone down. Srila Prabhupada expected his preachers to make lifelong commitments.
* Never fight with other devotees over mundane benefits or power.
* Pure preachers are always needed. Mundane governors are always surrounded by false friends. Nobody loves them.
* Don't get into any conflicts with mundane authorities. They can destroy our good name as vaisnavas, servants of the Supreme Lord, and the whole world with their propaganda machine. Therefore devotees should deal legally with their contacts in this world. We want to teach the world to have faith in the devotees so we can serve them their highest benefit of their human birth.
* Don't impose your views but expose your wisdom. Don't demand respect, but command respect by your example.
* Organizations and their legislative operations are justified and necessary in their existence only as far as they truly promote and facilitate the essential principles of the vaisnava ideal. The sacred principle is unity in diversity. Krishna is the real enjoyer of His real devotees' efforts. He is happily worshiped in His Deity form in the ashrams and temples. It is not so important who is in charge as long as he is appreciated by the other devotees. From the oldest to the youngest member, all of them should be HAPPILY ACCOMMODATED WITHIN THE MISSION. That is the duty of leadership. If the reality in your place is different, then everybody should try to change that situation following the heart of the sadhu-sanga principles. If all good efforts have failed, one should search for a different ashram to serve in the association of loving devotees, or start a new ashram in the same place to truly worship Krishna and his pure devotees. Since practically every neighborhood should have devotees preaching there it may even turn out that the problem ends as a blessing in disguise.
* Every devotee should work exclusively with and under those vaisnavas who he feels completely sure that they are pure in their transcendental purpose. Anyone may commit a mistake, but hidden motivations will destroy the love, trust and surrender in the community.
Some General Recommendations
* Anger and hate are generally just symptoms of our
frustrated lust, therefore always try to deal kindly
with all others. Don't scream unnecessarily at anybody.
* Always be ready to question your approach to everything. Utilize the help of guru, sastra and sadhu to fight your dogmatic tendencies. Conformism, sleepiness, laziness, laxness with one's self, surrounding oneself with flattering "yes-men" will cover our objective view of reality.
* Preaching is always the essence and it must be essential to fit the claim of presenting the absolute truth.
* Don't get attached to money or real estate. It is better to begin a new mission, if that is necessary, in order to follow our ideals. Krishna can give us the whole world in one moment if He would think that to be fit. On the other hand He can take away everything that we have if He sees that material things start obscuring our advancement.
* It is not the goal of the process of Krishna Consciousness to follow many external rules. The true goal is to develop love for God. In this connection everything helpful should be accepted and every disturbance should be removed.
* Always take shelter of Krishna's Holy Name, both by chanting the rounds as well as by the congregational chanting in the temples and on the streets.
* Never expect anybody to do anything which they don't want to do or which they are unable to do. That is a golden rule for wonderful vaisnava relationships. Of course a member of a community should be willing to voluntarily and happily share the burden of love with the others in order to qualify for living in a vaisnava community.
* Never stop reading the transcendental literature of the vaisnava Acharyas, preferably in the association of other devotees. Dive deep into the confidential meanings by exchanging with others and by clarifying any doubt which you may have.
* Always try to do things the best way possible. Accept no mediocrity, please. To the Supreme only the best should be offered. If you don't try your best it means that you yourself don't really believe in what you are doing. Human life is too short for nonsense. Brahmacari, grihasta, or sannyasi, cook, preacher, or pujari, always try to be excellent, to give your best full of love.
* Never fear to accept responsibility. Real compassion means that you have to be ready to sacrifice your energy in the service of Krishna to make others happy and hopeful.
* We should serve everyone, but with some discrimination:
* Never forget that this movement started by the important
ashrams organized by Srila Prabhupada, and that the
ashrams are the center for shelter and true welfare
* Sadhana Bhakti will give us the strength to go on with our spiritual vows.
* Our most important guru is the one who has helped us the most to become Krishna conscious. Only a disciple knows who all his gurus are. Others may or may not know. Only you know how important Srila Prabhupada or Srila Sridhar Maharaj is for you. But fortunately there is no petty competition amongst pure devotees to be the only one loved by their disciples.
* If you cannot find anybody around you who carries on the living line of loving devotional service, then it will be up to you to take responsibility. Your guru will always be there when the only desire burning in your heart is to serve him. And that flame should never be extinguished. Always search how to increase it and then your exchange with other devotees will truly be sadhu-sanga.
* Never forget: Krishna and his pure devotees are never bankrupt.
I want to thank all of my beloved brothers and friends, all who have tolerated me and my shortcomings, all who allowed me to learn from their mistakes, all who trusted me and supported me in the most difficult moments of my spiritual search, all who have allowed me to speak about Krishna and his devotees, all who remind me of my spiritual masters and engage me in their service, all who have sacrificed so much and given me their love and friendship. I am eternally indebted to all of you.