(The following Vyasa-puja offering by HH Bhakti Vikas Maharaj was published in the Srila Prabhupada Tributes book, available to download at www.sptributes.com)
namas te sārasvate deve gaura-vāṇī-pracāriṇe
Śrīla Prabhupāda, recently a Śrī Vaiṣṇava ācārya invited me to a thirumañjanam (elaborate ceremony of worship) of Śrī Rāmānujācārya. That was another occasion for me to observe how the sampradāya to which Śrī Rāmānujācārya gave new life, meaning, and direction is still united around him many hundreds of years after the period of his manifest activities.
About three hundred years after Śrī Rāmānuja’s withdrawal from manifest activities, his sampradāya split doctrinally into two warring camps, each of which quite differently interpreted certain teachings of his. Even today both sects continue, their previous acrimony and doctrinal differences largely overlooked or forgotten. The very reason for the longevity of both divisions has been their sworn adherence to Śrī Rāmānuja’s teachings, regarding both siddhānta and practice.
The long-standing coherence of the Mādhva-sampradāya must also be principally ascribed to the fact that its members are loyal to the teachings of their founding-ācārya.
Similarly, in your ISKCON, strength derives from adherence to the teachings of the founder-ācārya, namely Your Divine Grace.
Śrīla Prabhupāda, although those teachings are available to all, and although to be your follower plainly means to follow your teachings, nowadays there are multiple interpretations of several of those teachings, and devotees who claim to be your followers are divided on various issues. Some camps have already sprung up outside the ambit of the ISKCON that you incorporated, and presently some doctrinal disagreements threaten to sunder the core movement that you established.
In this predicament, it is particularly apt to recall the following statements from your teachings:
keha ta’ ācārya ājñāya, keha ta’ svatantra
sva-mata kalpanā kare daiva-paratantra
Translation: Some of the disciples strictly accepted the orders of the ācārya, and others deviated, independently concocting their own opinions under the spell of daivī-māyā.
Purport: This verse describes the beginning of a schism. When disciples do not stick to the principle of accepting the order of their spiritual master, immediately there are two opinions. Any opinion different from the opinion of the spiritual master is useless. One cannot infiltrate materially concocted ideas into spiritual advancement. That is deviation. There is no scope for adjusting spiritual advancement to material ideas. [Cc. Ādi 12.9]
ācāryera mata yei, sei mata sāra
tāṅra ājñā laṅghi’ cale, sei ta’ asāra
Translation: The order of the spiritual master is the active principle in spiritual life. Anyone who disobeys the order of the spiritual master immediately becomes useless.
Purport: Here is the opinion of Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Goswāmī. Persons who strictly follow the orders of the spiritual master are useful in executing the will of the Supreme, whereas persons who deviate from the strict order of the spiritual master are useless. [Cc. Ādi 12. 10]
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There are many disciples of Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, but to judge who is actually his disciple, to divide the useful from the useless, one must measure the activities of such disciples in executing the will of the spiritual master. . . . By accepting the criterion recommended by Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Goswāmī, one can very easily understand who is a genuine world-preacher and who is useless. [Cc. Ādi 12.12, purport]
* * *
If the Absolute Truth is one, about which we think there is no difference of opinion, the guru also cannot be two. The Ācāryadeva for whom we have assembled tonight to offer our humble homage is not the guru of a sectarian institution or one out of many differing exponents of the truth. On the contrary, he is the jagad-guru, or the guru of all of us. The only difference is that some obey him wholeheartedly, while others do not obey him directly. [From your speech on the occasion of the Vyāsa-pūjā of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Goswāmī, February 1936]
* * *
The main business of human society is to think of the Supreme Personality of Godhead at all times, to become His devotees, to worship the Supreme Lord, and to bow down before Him. The ācārya, the authorized representative of the Supreme Lord, establishes these principles, but when he disappears, things once again become disordered. The perfect disciples of the ācārya try to relieve the situation by sincerely following the instructions of the spiritual master. [Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 4.28.48, purport]
Śrīla Prabhupāda, I pray that you may count me among those disciples of yours who are sincerely following your instructions. Please bless me with the association of those whom you have blessed with the unsullied vision and determination to always sincerely and wholeheartedly obey your instructions. Please protect me from the association and influence of persons who profess to be your followers yet do not obey you directly—for instance, by not rising early every day for sādhana, or by preaching and teaching in a manner distinctly different from yours.
You told us to be śāstra-cakṣuḥ. Accordingly, a sincere disciple will always try to understand everything through the instructions in your books. By reading your books one can clearly observe that the principle of anyābhilāṣitā-śūnya—which is the central pulse of your teachings—is nowadays considerably compromised within the society that you founded for establishing this principle within the world. Hence, much of what passes as being adherent to your instructions is in fact a deviation from them.
Quoting again from your purport to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 4.28.48:
The perfect disciples of the ācārya try to relieve the situation by sincerely following the instructions of the spiritual master. At the present moment practically the entire world is afraid of rogues and nondevotees; therefore this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is started to save the world from irreligious principles. Everyone should cooperate with this movement in order to bring about actual peace and happiness in the world.
Śrīla Prabhupāda, you are the most important ācārya in this Kaliyuga, and your instructions, if perfectly understood and executed, can effect tremendous good for the entire universe—as is recognized even by leaders of other Vaiṣṇava sampradāyas. For instance, during a public meeting several years ago Śrī Visvevara Tīrtha, a widely revered patriach of the Mādhva-sampradāya, stated, “ISKCON is the only organization that can spread viṣṇubhakti throughout the world.”
It could be said that the very cause of the longevity of the old Vaiṣṇava sampradāyas is also the cause of their present admitted inability to spread viṣṇu-bhakti throughout the world. Ācāryas Rāmānuja and Madhva are fully worshipable by us, as are their teachings and the followers of their teachings. But, as ordained by Lord Caitanya, now is the time for gaura-vāṇī to spread widely via the personage of Your Divine Grace. As the Śrī Vaiṣṇava ācārya whom I mentioned above told me, in his sampradāya there are many elaborate procedures, but you made bhakti easily available to all.
Śrīla Prabhupāda, one of the reasons that you were able to spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness worldwide was your ability to present “old wine in new bottles.” You knew the art of maintaining basic principles while adjusting details according to time, place, and circumstance. Yet we who claim to be your followers must be careful to not imitate (anukaraṇa) your example rather than faithfully following in your footsteps (anusaraṇa). If, due to inexpertness in distinguishing details from principles, we infiltrate materially concocted ideas into spiritual advancement (in the name of “time, place, and circumstance”), and in so doing fail to bring about the revolution of bhakti that you envisioned, then we shall surely be asāra.
What must we do to save ourselves from the same accusations that you leveled at your godbrothers? For the answer, we must look within your teachings—which you gave to us minute by minute during your manifest presence, and continue to give us through your books—and we must be sufficiently sincere to wholeheartedly accept those teachings unchanged and in toto. We must beseech you for the discrimination by which to distinguish details from principles, and for the empowerment to dynamically continue the paramparā without becoming either anachronisms or rank speculators.
Your teachings are as clear and brilliant as the sun, yet great harm can be done if persons who present themselves as teachers of your teachings instead attempt to mix or replace them with their own materially infiltrated concoctions. If you see fit, please bless me to serve your mission during this critical period by careful, prayerful study of your pristine message, and with the ability to delineate it via both the spoken and written word, particularly to distinguish it from various misrepresentations; and also bless me to not be just an armchair critic but to continue to be actively involved in your mission in multiple ways, giving special attention to two crucial programs that are presently nearly forgotten, namely daivavarṇāśrama and gurukula.
Śrīla Prabhupāda, please give me the intelligence and wisdom to understand that, although you have given certain parameters the stepping outside of which disqualifies one as your genuine disciple, still there is no “one” way to be your follower. This is clear from your having accepted all kinds of people and encouraged them in various ways in your magnanimous, pragmatic endeavors to engage every jīva within the entire universe in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Considering this, I must also bear in mind your instructions regarding your disciples’ cooperating together, unity in diversity, the story of the quarreling sons beating their father rather than massaging him, excessive and inappropriate liberality in devotional service (niyamaagraha) vs. fanaticism ( niyama-āgraha ), plus your own example of repeatedly trying to work with your godbrothers (despite their indifference toward such proposals) yet also castigating them, and of course Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s essential tṛṇād api call for humility and tolerance—notwithstanding that all of these dictums are commonly misinterpreted and misapplied.
Always seeking your mercy, without which I have no hope of any good fortune—what to speak of executing any grandiose plans—I pray to always be
Your dedicated servant,
Bhakti Vikāsa Swami