A letter from Ravindra Svarupa dasa about Narayana Maharaja
A letter from Ravindra Svarupa dasa about Narayana Maharaja
Taking Srila Prabhupada Straigh
16 July, 1998
Please accept my obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada,
Last May, our Potomac temple received requests from both you and Madhava Pandita dasa that it extend a personal invitation to H. H. Narayana Maharaja to visit the temple during his summer tour of ISKCON congregations in America. This matter came to me, as I am a GBC representative for Potomac.
We declined to extend such an invitation. This is in line with ISKCON’s stated policy that directs our members not to take instruction from Narayana Maharaja.
Around the same time I saw an article posted by your good self on a web-site (VNN).
In this article you respond to the complaint from ISKCON about the fact that Narayana Maharaja is, as a routine matter, reinitiating disciples of ISKCON gurus in good standing.You absolutely defend this practice. You argue that this reinitiation is entirely justified according to the principles enunciated in Sri Krsna Bhajanamrta by Narahari Sakara.
There, Narahari Sakara states that if one’s spiritual master is in good standing, and yet is not sufficiently elevated to give a disciple instruction for his further advancement, then the disciple, taking the permission of his diksa guru, should take shelter of that more advanced Vaisnava for instruction.
What if the diksa guru does not give his permission? Then, he may be considered to be envious of the Vaisnavas (‘isvarebrantah’, that which is connected with the Supreme), and the disciple should reject him.
You apply this principle to the case at hand: Narayana Maharaja is an advanced Vaisnava. If an ISKCON guru forbids his disciples from taking instruction from such an advanced Vaisnava, that guru is considered to be envious, and he should be rejected.
This then is your argument:
1. If a guru forbids his disciples from taken instruction from and advanced Vaisnava, the guru, being envious of an advanced Vaisnava, should be rejected by the disciple. [From Narahari Sakara]
2. Narayana Maharaja is an advanced Vaisnava. [Your presumption]
3. ISKCON gurus forbid their disciples from hearing from him. [An empirical fact]
Therefore, the disciples should reject the ISKCON gurus.
Logically, the argument is valid. In other words, IF the premises are true, THEN it is certain that the conclusion is true. Truth, however, is different from validity; the truth of the conclusion of a valid argument is still contingent on the truth of the premises. One (or more)of the premises may be false. Your argument, then, helped me clarify my thinking on this matter: I have no doubts about the first and third premise. But now I must acknowledge something I was reluctant to face squarely. And this is: There are good grounds to doubt your second premise.
I want to lay before you these doubts.
For the sake of comity and good manners, I and other ISKCON leaders have simply expressed our conviction that Narayana Maharaja’s approach differs significantly from Srila Prabhupada, and that Narayana Maharaja is not, as he claims to be, a siksa disciple of our founder-acarya. He does not represent Srila Prabhupada.
Your article, however, forces me to bring into the open a much deeper reservation, and to question whether he is, as he claims to be, “an advanced Vaisnava,” a “rasika devotee,” and soon.
I think that many of us have these doubts, and they are based on specific considerations.Perhaps you are the one to clear them up.
After all, Narayana Maharaja is claiming that he is Srila Prabhupada’s chosen successor. All in ISKCON are urged to acknowledge him as our authorized spiritual master. However, Prabhupada has taught that one should not blindly accept someone as a spiritual master.Before accepting such a person, one is supposed to use his intelligence to ascertain whether or not that person is actually a bona fide guru. We are enjoined to do this.
I have grouped my misgivings, for convenience, under a number of headings.
Narayana Maharaja’s war against ISKCON
It has become obvious to everyone that Narayana Maharaja has aggressively targeted ISKCON’s members and congregations for his preaching, and in lecture after lecture he dwells on the supposed evils of the GBC and other ISKCON leaders. It is not just that refugees or seekers leave the low-level “kanistha,” “karma-yoga” organization (which is the way Narayana Maharaja and his followers habitually characterize ISKCON) to go to him, butthat Narayana Maharaja habitually acts with extremely aggressive attitude to recruit them andeven “reinitiate” them. His summer campaigns take him exclusively to ISKCON congregations. And what is the attraction of Houston, Texas, of all places, for him to spend an exceptionally long time there? Could the fact that Tamal Krishna Goswami’s most successful center is located there have anything to do with it?
These pugnacious dealings have understandably given rise to misgivings about him, for it certainly looks as if he were expressing resentful and vengeful feelings. Indeed, his hostile activities exhibit that certain driven, obsessive character which is usually the indicator of hidden, unacknowledged motives. (Please don’t reflexively dismiss this doubt on the presumption that Narayana Maharaja is a pure devotee, and therefore his motive couldn’t be disreputable. It is that presumption that is at question here.)
Recently, more fuel for this doubt came from a mature Prabhupada disciple who had spent several years with Narayana Maharaja and his followers but has now become disillusioned.This devotee reports having directly heard—this was at Gaura Purnima two years ago— Narayana Maharaja vow to reinitiate the disciples of ISKCON gurus. According to this witness, Narayana Maharaja voiced the judgment that because Tamal Krishna Goswami, Giriraja Swami, et al. stopped coming to him, and because we tell all our people not to visithim, it is proof that we are “not bona fide Vaisnavas.” (It seems he gave basically the same argument you do now, but without the reference you supplied to Narahari Sakara). And he proclaimed, “I’ll reinitiate their disciples!” His attitude was, “I’ll show them! I’ll reinitiate all their disciples!” And that is what he has been trying to do, quite systematically.
Narayana Maharaja’s dubious claim to be Prabhupada’s disciple and successor
In 1990 I was persuaded by some who were then taking siksa from Narayana Maharaja to visit him. In the course of our discussion, the invocation of Sri Isopanisad somehow came up,and I rendered the meaning and purport the way it was presented by Srila Prabhupada,mentioning that this world (‘idam’), as an emanation from the ‘purnam’, is also ‘purnam’.
Narayana Maharaja immediately cut me off, and pronounced (in quite an ex cathedra manner)that I understood the text incorrectly. “No!” he said. “The material world is not purnam.”‘Idam’ did not refer to this material world, which cannot be purnam. Rather, he said, ‘idam’ refers to Visnu-tattva expansions like Balarama. They are purnam.
I was a bit shocked. Here I was Prabhupada’s disciple, yet he was telling me Prabhupada was in error in his books. Of course, I understood at once that Narayana Maharaja had to beignorant of Prabhupada’s books. He had not been enlightened by Prabhupada’s brilliant account of just what it meant for this material world to be realized as a complete whole.
(It seemed weird to give an interpretation that ignored the context of the invocation, and to ignore the fact that everywhere in the Upanisads and the Bhagavatam ‘idam‘ is conventionally used to stand for ‘this world’; and how strange it is to use a neuter singular pronoun to refer to Balarama and other expansions. To give him the benefit of the doubt, I assume he had some authority for his gloss of the sruti mantra. At any rate, Prabhupada’s understanding is clearly far more profound. I actually felt sorry for Narayana Maharaja that he had not received the benefit of Prabhupada’s teaching.)
Although during our meeting Narayana Maharaja showed himself skillful at managing statusrelations, adroit in assuming the role of the teacher and putting me in the position of a pupil,he blew it (as far as I was concerned), and I decided to keep my distance. I had premonitions of trouble.
When, a few years later, it became known that Narayana Maharaja was claiming to be Prabhupada’s (first, senior-most) disciple, and even his designated successor and therefore our own authorized siksa guru, I remembered our 1990 meeting, and I could not accept this claim at all.
Didn’t Prabhupada emphasize the importance of his books for us? Didn’t he tell us that association with him via his books was better than his personal association? Now, how is a person who has never even bothered to read Prabhupada’s books to be considered his siksa disciple? How is he to represent Prabhupada to us?
I’ve been told that the claim Narayana Maharaja makes for himself has inflated over time. At first, he seemed to present himself simply as a friend, a benign siksa guru. By now, however,he has announced himself as the successor-acarya to Prabhupada, the authorized acarya of ISKCON. And he tells the disciples of Prabhupada, “I know your guru better than you do!”And one-time followers of Prabhupada, like Yadurani dasi, proclaim the obvious conclusion:”We can’t know Prabhupada unless we go through Narayana Maharaja!”
(She says, “Only an uttama adhikari can understand an uttama adhikari,” which does makeone wonder how she is supposed to be able to understand Narayana Maharaja.)
Two years ago, Lokanatha Swami brought ISKCON’s parikrama party to Kesavji Gaudiya Math in Mathura, where Narayana Maharaja addressed them. It became quite emotional. He said that he used to “lie under the Tamal tree” and to “rest his head in the lap of Giriraja.” Hesaid that even Lokanatha Swami used to be his friend. But all of them left him. They deserted him.
And then, when the parikrama party had left, Narayana Maharaja turned to his disciples and said, “Not one of these is a true follower of Srila Prabhupada! I am the only true follower of Srila Prabhupada!” Other witnesses have heard him voice the same idea still more recently: “Iam the successor to Srila Prabhupada,” he says. Even: “I am ISKCON.”
I find it strange indeed that Prabhupada, who was so careful to explain things to us, revealed nothing of this occult plan for succession. It seems he transmitted it, in private code, to Narayana Maharaja. For example, Narayana Maharaja explains that Prabhupada’s statement that Narayana Maharaja could show Prabhupada’s disciples how to put their spiritual master in his samadhi, has an esoteric meaning. To us, it may have seemed that Prabhupada was speaking about funeral services, but it is revealed to Narayana Maharaja the deep meaning:that samadhi is Prabhupada’s eternal absorption and participation in Radha-Krishna lila, andso on. (Well, “only an uttama-adhikari can understand an uttama adhikari.”)
These so-called “instructions” are cited to establish Narayana Maharaja’s authority over us. In fact they will be persuasive only to those who have already accepted his authority, and so believe in the validity of his personal “realizations” about Prabhupada’s intentions. On his authority you accept that this statement of Prabhupada (and maybe every statement?) bears an esoteric meaning in addition to an exoteric one, and you accept Narayana Maharaja as the authoritative interpreter of that esoteric meaning.
I fear we are being led down the primrose path of deviation. If we were to accept Narayana Maharaja’s claims, we would be disregarding Prabhupada’s explicit directions to us, and, in so doing, reenacting the error of the Gaudiya Matha in disobeying the orders of its founder-acarya. While Prabhupada’s alleged directions to Narayana Maharaja are known only to himand depend upon our accepting his authority as an explicator of Prabhupada to us, Prabhupada’s instructions to us are clear and open and direct, and he has warned us of the folly of deviating from them:
Why this Gaudiya Matha failed? Because they tried to become more than guru. He, before passing away, he gave all direction and never said that ‘This man should be the next acarya.’But these people, just after his passing away they began to fight, who shall be acarya. That is the failure. They never thought, ‘Why Guru Maharaja gave us instruction so many things,why he did not say that this man should be acarya?’ They wanted to create artificially somebody acarya and everything failed. They did not consider even with common sense that if Guru Maharaja wanted to appoint somebody as acarya, why did he not say? He said somany things, and this point he missed? The real point? And they insist upon it. They declared some unfit person to become acarya. Then another man came, then another, acarya, another acarya. So better remain a foolish person perpetually to be directed by Guru Maharaja. That is perfection.
(Room conversation, Bombay: August 16, 1976)
As Prabhupada’s disciple, do you wonder what it would be like to stand before him and explain why you promoted Narayana Maharaja as ISKCON’s next acarya? And on whose authority? Well, as it turns out on inspection, strictly on Narayana Maharaja’s. Because you blindly believe Narayana Maharaja when he proclaims, “I understand your Guru Maharaja better than you do.”
This is my doubt: That my God-brothers and sisters who are following Narayana Maharajaare doing so blindly, and they have been beguiled into accepting a pretender.
Narayana Maharaja as deviating from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada radically reformed the Gaudiya Tradition, transforming it into a global preaching mission for the modern world. His work was not much appreciated by many, prominent among them the babajis of Vraja, who felt thathe was deviating by his emphasis on vigorous preaching rather than the esoteric cultivation of raga-marga. His disciples were constantly assailed by the charge that their Guru Maharajawas a deviant who could not offer them the “real thing.” As you know, a number of them succumbed, most prominently the unauthorized “successor-acarya” Ananta Vasudeva dasa (later reinitiated in the babaji community as Puri Goswami).
A number of our own God-brothers also fell prey to the same attack, even while Prabhupada was present. And the attack continues to this day. My doubt here is whether Narayana Maharaja has become an instrument of this attack against the mission of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura.
What he is now preaching and delivering clearly comes from outside the line of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. He did not get this from Bhakti Prajnan Kesava Maharaja, his diksa guru. Narayana Maharaja has acknowledged that there was no practice of raga marga in that matha, no “rasa-katha” but rather discourse about Prahlada Maharaja, Dhruva Maharaja, and so on.
Narayana Maharaja was apparently not satisfied with this, for, as he once confessed, he left his spiritual master’s temple without permission, and he went to Govardhana. In great distress, crying, Bhakti Prajnan Kesava Maharaja came and brought him back.
But later, after the departure of his Guru Maharaja, Narayana Maharaja returned to the babajis of Govardhana, and from among them he accepted a rasika guru, supposedly the one who “pushed the switch” which made the “current of bhava flow.”
It troubles me greatly that after his guru’s departure Narayana Maharaja did something his guru had forcibly prohibited in his presence.
This babaji, then, is Narayana Maharaja’s siksa guru — a personage, as you yourself argue, who often can be more prominent than the diksa guru. Whatever it is that Narayana Maharajais giving comes from this babaji. This is his lineage.
It is clearly not the lineage from Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. I don’t know anything about this babaji, but given the judgment about Radha-Kunda babaji by our recent acaryas,we have the obligation to be doubtful. Don’t we have to ask a few questions about this babaji,and whoever else in that community Narayana Maharaja may have learned from? What did Narayana Maharaja actually get? Is it the real thing?
As you know, there is a shadow or simulacrum of authentic spiritual emotion that can fool even an experienced devotee.
At any rate, we know that Narayana Maharaja, against the order of his spiritual master, went to the babajis for spiritual instruction. (I am sure he can offer a clever rationalization for this.Indeed, it is surely the same one he provides Prabhupada’s disciples to justify our own disobedience of Prabhupada’s instructions in order to surrender to him. History repeats itself.)
My misgiving is that, in taking siksa from Vrindavan babajis, Narayana Maharaja is acting contrary to the desires of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasavati Thakura, and as a result is undermining the great acarya’s achievements.
There are some particulars that support this misgiving. Let me present one glaring instance.
Narayana Maharaja, of course, finds a great difference between preaching activities of the sankirtana movement on the one hand and activities of solitary bhajana on the other. He dismisses book distribution as an inferior activity, as karma-yoga (at best). It is not actual bhakti, but bhaktyabhasa, bhaktyaropya. On one occasion, when the accomplishments of a great ISKCON book distributor were extolled, Narayana Maharaja was quite dismissive, and he said that the result would be that in his next life the book distributor might qualify for advanced association (of a rasika bhakta), but that was all. Yet Srila Prabhupada, as you may still recall, did not recognize such a dichotomy between Gauranga’s seva and Gopijanavallabha’s seva, for, as he famously commented: “Book distribution is in the mood of the gopis.” Srila Prabhupada tells us that he attained this realization from his Guru Maharaja:
In Vrndavana there are prakrta-sahajiyas who say that writing books or even touching books is taboo. For them, devotional service means being relieved from these activities. Whenever they are asked to hear a recitation of Vedic literature, they refuse, saying, “What business do we have reading or hearing transcendental literatures? They are meant for neophytes.” They pose themselves to be too elevated to exert energy for reading, writing and hearing. However, pure devotees under the guidance of Srila Rupa Gosvami reject this sahajiya philosophy. It is certainly not good to write literature for money or reputation, but to write books and publish them for the enlightenment of the general populace is real service to the Lord. That was Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s opinion, and he specifically told his disciples to write books. He actually preferred to publish books rather than establish temples. Temple construction is meant for the general populace and neophyte devotees, but the business of advanced and empowered devotees is to write books, publish them and distribute them widely. According to Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, distributing literature is like playing on a great mrdanga.Consequently we always request members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness to publish as many books as possible and distribute them widely through out the world. By thus following in the footsteps of Srila Rupa Gosvami, one can become a rupanuga devotee.
Madhya 19.132, purport
This understanding of the unity of Lord Caitanya and Lord Krsna, and their seva — so fully realized and implemented by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura to form his revolutionary, dynamic sankirtana movement—seems to have eluded Narayana Maharaja. Why should service to the sankirtana mission of Lord Caitanya be seen by Narayana Maharaja as something quite different from service to Krishna in Vraja? How has that happened? Has some contamination entered?
In this connection, I am enclosing an exact (unedited) typescript of Prabhupada’s preface to the original edition of the second volume of Srimad Bhagavatam (1964). Here, Prabhupada replies to criticisms of his activity. These very same criticisms of “brhat-mrdanga preaching,” voiced by the sahajiya babajis of Vraja, are unfortunately being recycled by Narayana Maharaja.
Prabhupada begins by saying:
The path of fruitive activities i.e. to say the path of earn money and enjoy life as it is going on generally, — appears to have become also our profession although we have renounced the order of worldly life! They see that we are moving in the cities, in the Government offices, banks and other business places for promoting the publication of Srimad Bhagwatam. They also see that we are moving in the press, paper market and amongst the book binders also away from our residence at Vrindaban and thus they conclude sometimes mistakenly that we are also doing the same business in the dress of a mendicant!
And Srila Prabhupada winds up by voicing his heart-felt conviction:
So even though we are not in the Himalayas, even though we talk of business, even though we deal in rupees and n.P. still, simply because we are 100 per cent servants of the Lord and are engaged in the service of broadcasting the message of His glories, — certainly we shall transcend and get through the invincible impasse of Maya and reach the effulgent kingdom of God to render Him face to face eternal service, in full bliss and knowledge. We are confident of this factual position and we may also assure to our numerous readers that they will also achieve the same result simply by hearing the glories of the Lord. (Jannama sruti matrena puman bhavati nirmala.)
Narayana Maharaja explains Prabhupada’s high praise for book distribution and book distributors a mere tactic to encourage those of us without the samskara for raga-marga.Therefore it is worth noting that this preface was written about his own activities and some years before he had any neophytes to encourage.
To recapitulate: In differing from Srila Prabhupada’s teachings, Narayana Maharaja also differs from Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s teachings. As it turns out, Narayana Maharaja went outside the Sarasvata community to take instructions from babajis, and nowhe brings back into that community opinions that are characteristic of sahajiya babajis andthat are anathema to Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada.
This misgiving leads me to a fuller explication of a related doubt.
Narayana Maharaja and certain sahajiya symptoms
Lord Caitanya says (CC. Madhya. 156-157):
bāhya, antara, — ihāra dui ta’ sādhana
‘bāhye’ sādhaka-dehe kare śravaṇa-kīrtana
‘mane’ nija-siddha-deha kariyā bhāvana
rātri-dine kare vraje kṛṣṇera sevana
“There are two processes by which one may execute this raganuga bhakti– external and internal. When self-realized, the advanced devotee externally remains like a neophyte and executes all the Sastric injunctions, especially hearing and chanting. However, within his mind, in his original purified self-realized position, he serves Krsna in Vrndavana in his particular way. He serves Krsna twenty-four hours, all day and night.”
And Rupa Gosvami says in Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (1.2.295)
seva sadhaka-rupena siddha-rupena catra hi
tad-bhava-lipsuna karya vraja-lokanusaratah
“The advanced devotee who is inclined to spontaneous loving service should follow the activities of a particular associate of Krsna in Vrndavana. He should execute service externally as a regulative devotee as well as internally from his self-realized position. Thus he should perform devotional service both externally and internally.”
I understand that it is characteristic of the sahajiya to transgress this injunction to keep the activities of the siddha-deha and the sadhaka-deha separate. The sahajiya is known for displaying in his mundane body and relationships actions that belong only to the spiritual body and its relationships.
There are several habitual actions of Narayana Maharaja that give the appearance of such an improper conflation.
The first I may call as witness is his well-known disposition to crookedness. He is extremely cavalier with the truth. For instance, he often lies outright about what transpired when he visits some ISKCON temple. (His claim that he was “locked out” of the Houston temple is a notable example.) Even some of his own followers have found his disposition to dissimulate hard to reconcile themselves to. However, they have been told that it is a symptom of his transcendental position, and they have acquiesced to it.
Narayana Maharaja himself justifies his behavior on these grounds: “Unless you learn to be crooked, you cannot qualify for Vrindavan.” He points out that the Yamuna is crooked, that Krishna’s staff is crooked, and so on.
In effect, he has announced to his own followers that he is free to deceive them, and that they should, as part of their surrender, agree to be deceived. In this matter, Narayana Maharaja reminds me greatly of Kirtanananda, who used to do something similar. If you found that he has lied to you or cheated you, and you call him on it, he would preach that dishonesty in Krishna service was a virtue, and ask, after all, for Whom were you cheated? If you were persuaded by this, he felt free to cheat you again and again.
During Kartika last year, Narayana Maharaja was holding a darsana in which a number of disciples of Gaura Govinda Maharaja were present. He announced that last night Gaura Govinda Maharaja had appeared to him in a dream, and after speaking some words (I can’t recall the matter of it), Gaura Govinda Maharaja merged into Narayana Maharaja’s body.
Is this a true dream? Or, in the mood of crookedness, is it the opportunistic psychological manipulation of susceptible people.
Yet if he has a (transcendental) license to be crooked, why should we take as truthful all those accounts of his deep relation with Prabhupada, his reported dreams of Prabhupada, and even his effusive public glorification of Srila Prabhupada?
There was a time when Narayana Maharaja criticized Prabhupada in public. He pointed out”mistakes” in his books and “mistakes” in naming of certain Deities. Now, however, he claims that he never said these were Prabhupada’s mistakes but those of his followers, and he never criticized Prabhupada. This is not true. The truth (if it matters) is that in private Narayana Maharaja still belittles or criticizes Prabhupada, while praising him in public: a crooked course. And of course, if the private is made public he simply denies it happened.
In Srimad Bhagavatam we have read that in Kali-yuga truthfulness is the last leg of dharma;it now seems that Narayana Maharaja is intent on establishing crookedness as the last leg of dharma. In fact, truthfulness is required always of the sadhaka, and to supplant it with the”crookedness” of the siddha is a perfect illustration of sahajiya contamination.
The other area in which Narayana Maharaja seems to conflate the mundane and the transcendent realms is in his relationship with women. Here he outrageously transgresses the behavior proper to a sannyasi.
Many have witnessed the ritual in which a group of dreamy-eyed women massage his feet. Narayana Maharaja’s spokesmen deny this, but we can dismiss their denial. Like him, they are acolytes of the higher crookedness, and there is ample testimony from those still bound by mundane honesty. One well-brought-up European lady reports encountering Narayana Maharaja during his tour of the Continent. Women sat at his feet, stroking and massaging his lower limbs. One lady was languorously caressing the soles of his feet with her fingertips.The observer found this tableau charged with eroticism. Beckoned to join the group, she could not bring herself to do it. Instinctively, she felt repelled.
He also forms relationships with women by unabashedly using the language of carnal courtship and seduction. “Now you belong completely to me,” he will tell one girl. Or: “Now your heart is mine forever,” “I have captured you and will keep you.” And so on.
Given the above public actions, the following, less public, conduct needs, I think,investigation. I have it on reliable authority that in addition to his personal servant Naveen, Narayana Maharaja is attended in Mathura by two “kumaris” — two unmarried girls in their twenties. He often spends time alone with them, behind closed doors.
You may remember when certain acaryas in ISKCON indulged in similarly questionable behavior, and yet misgivings and criticisms became suppressed or repressed by the notion that the “acaryas” were advanced beyond the regulative principles. Although deluded followers had been convinced by this teaching, the truth at last came out. Could this be happening again? In my time, I have seen how many remained convinced that, say, Kirtanananda Swami, was an uttama-adhikari (whose acts were beyond judgment of the lower), and how otherwise quite intelligent men swore he was pure and fair and bright. You ignore the warnings of Srila Prabhupada and of Rupa Goswami at your peril.
Indeed, it seems to me that something eerie has happened to the intelligence of those disciples of Prabhupada who have become followers of Narayana Maharaja. There is a mystery about this that needs solving. How it is that many disciples of Prabhupada have been able to so thoroughly neglect Prabhupada’s instructions with an apparently good conscience?
For example, they hear Narayana Maharaja say—within the smaller circle—that he has no taste for Bhagavad-gita, no attraction for Puri or Dvaraka, no interest in Rama or Narasingha. What has happened to them, that their memory has become corrupted, so that they can’t recall Prabhupada’s unequivocal judgment about those who make such statements? To cite one example:
Therefore those who are sahajiyas, they simply go to the pastimes of Lord Krsna with the gopis. Other things: “Oh, no, no. That is not Krsna’s pastimes. That is not Krsna’s pastimes.” That is, they differentiate the absolute activities of the Absolute. That is called sahajiya. The sahajiyas will never read Bhagavad-gita, will never read. [Sarcastically:] Because they have been elevated to the mellows of conjugal love. Therefore they have no interest in Bhagavad-gita.
Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.3.20-23; Gorakhpur, February 14, 1971
What influence does Narayana Maharaja exercise to make us disobey Srila Prabhupada? We can begin to understand it, I think, by looking at the reason Satsvarupa Maharaja stopped hearing from Narayana Maharaja. He was the first of ISKCON leaders to reject Narayana Maharaja as a teacher. When a crisis arose concerning the others who continued under his tutelage, I asked Satsvarupa Maharaja what made him decide to quit.
He told me, “I discovered that I was reading Srila Prabhupada through the eyes of Narayana Maharaja. And I decided I had better take my Srila Prabhupada straight.”
To be sure, Narayana Maharaja has his own interpretation of why Satsvarupa Goswami left. He took it that Satsvarupa Maharaja was afraid of losing his disciples to Narayana Maharaja;out of fear and possessiveness, Satsvarupa Goswami stopped associating with Narayana Maharaja and forbade his disciples from doing so.
Now, I accept Satsvarupa Maharaja’s account. He is by nature transparently honest — even,some say, to a fault. His own account is characteristically direct, simple and guileless. Narayana Maharaja’s interpretation inadvertently reveals much about Narayana Maharaja’s mentality (it is offensive), but nothing of Satsvarupa Maharaja’s.
Satsvarupa Maharaja noticed how some subtle and powerful change was happening in his hearing of Prabhupada, and Prabhupada was now coming to him in a distorted or crooked manner. He was hearing Prabhupada differently, and this gave him such qualms that he took remedial measures.
Such a change indicates the level on which Narayana Maharaja was able to act. What Narayana Maharaja is able to do is to corrupt one’s buddhi, intelligence. As devotees, our intelligence has been formed through our assimilation of Srila Prabhupada. To keep our intelligence chaste (vyavasayatmika-buddhi), Prabhupada left us his instructions and directions, particularly in his books. Repeatedly, he stressed that “the secret of success in spiritual life is to take the order of the spiritual master as one’s life and soul.”
It is clear enough that that Narayana Maharaja differs greatly from Srila Prabhupada, but the deviation is explained away by claiming that Prabhupada was, in effect, a lower-level guru (a teacher of vaidhi-bhakti only) while Narayana Maharaja is a higher-level guru (a giver of raga-marga).
In essence, then, those who follow him may set aside significant parts of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and directions as a kind of outgrown elementary instruction. In effect, Narayana Maharaja gives them the way to (respectfully) disregard Srila Prabhupada’s teachings without suffering the pang of conscience.
Although Prabhupada sought to keep us from being misguided by stressing, over and over,the virtue of strict fidelity to the instruction of the guru, Narayana Maharaja has circumvented this safeguard by sabotaging the denotation of “guru.” While all of us thought that “fidelity to the guru” meant simply “fidelity to Prabhupada,” Narayana Maharaja has enabled some to now understand it as “fidelity to Narayana Maharaja.” This is an instance of “corruption of intelligence.”
How has Narayana Maharaja been so effective in thus replacing Srila Prabhupada with himself? A large part of it rest upon his ability to convince some of us that he was Prabhupada’s first and most intimate disciple, that Prabhupada handed us over to him, that he knows Prabhupada better than we do, and so on.
Yet all these claims turn out to have no evidentiary basis. They are accepted simply on Narayana Maharaja’s authority. Having been accepted, they are then used to establish his authority.
To me, this is smacks of blind or sentimental following. I am afraid you have been fooled.
I have given further reasons for doubting Narayana Maharaja’s claims to be Prabhupada’s follower or designated successor and an advanced Vaisnava. He acts in an envious manner to Vaisnavas and seems to be driven by a competitive spirit of domination. He is unacquainted with Prabhupada’s teachings and he differs from them in many ways. He has gone outside the line of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura for instruction, and he does not follow the directions given by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. He receives teachings on his “raga-marga” from babajis, and gives evidence having absorbed, in the process, sahajiya contamination.
All these things make me seriously doubt his claim to be an advanced rasika Vaisnava and successor to Srila Prabhupada. Instead he seems to be some kind of talented pretender or imposter, who has seduced, beguiled and misled many people.
Before we accept someone as a guru, we should examine that person with critical intelligence. I have done so, and I cannot accept Narayana Maharaja. From what I have seen, most of my God-brothers and -sisters choosing to follow Narayana Maharaja have not used their intelligence in this matter. Instead, they have surrendered their intelligence and let it become corrupted. They have accepted Narayana Maharaja improperly.
For a start, you might read Prabhupada’s Cc. Madhya-lila 19.159 and purport. There different kinds of unsaintly behavior (nisiddha-acara) are described, such as kuTinaTi (duplicity), jiva-himsana (killing the soul), labha (desire for profit), puja (desire for adoration)and pratisTha (desire for distinction) These are all weeds that kill the true creeper of bhakti. I have claimed to find some of these weeds quite evident in the person of Narayana Maharaja. If I am right,then you may ask, why do so many apparently intelligent, well-intentioned, and perceptive people follow him?
There is an answer in that purport. “Sometimes these unwanted creepers look exactly like the bhakti-lata creeper. They appear to be of the same size and the same species when they are packed together with the bhakti-lata creeper, but in spite of this, the creepers are calledupa Sakha [unwanted]. A pure devotee can distinguish between the bhakti-lata creeper and amundane creeper, and he is very alert to distinguish them and keep them separate.”
There is a counterfeit creeper that can fool even otherwise discerning people. I fear that just such a counterfeit is present in this case. I have taken some pains to try to tell you why. Please consider what I have presented. It is not too late to return to the service of Srila Prabhupada, who saved you and who will save you still.
I hope you are well,
Your servant in the service of Srila Prabhupada,
Ravindra Svarupa dasa