(Following our previous Kṛṣṇa Talk article, we present another recent letter from a Vaiṣṇavī who has also written to an ISCON guru about the inspiration that she has felt reading the words of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja and associating with those who have accepted his shelter. Once again, names of all concerned parties have been redacted.)
Dear XXX Mahārāja,
Please accept my most sincere obeisances to you. All glories to your service, Śrīla Prabhupāda and the line of disciplic succession.
Mahārāja, I first wanted to thank you for your bit of time the other evening, your advice of keeping our personality and maintaining friendships struck a chord with me and I am very grateful for this ‘secret’ in staying steady in our often difficult environment.
I was hoping you would allow me to share my experience with XXX and XXX. I was sorry to hear there was some discomfort after their program and XXX mentioned perhaps you would be enlivened if I shared with you a bit about how my husband and I are sharing Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja in our preaching center in XXX. Back in February of this year my husband and I brought the devotees from our center to stay with XXX and XXX and it came with some very positive results.
I will say, at first when coming to stay with XXX I was unaware of his relationship with Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāja. I was familiar with Śrīdhara Swami’s name, and I had heard in a lecture he was essentially responsible for the zonal ācārya system and was opposed to the GBC established by Śrīla Prabhupāda. My feelings toward him were not so positive and I found myself, at first, rather defensive in XXX’s home and a little worried for the new devotees who had come with me.
So when I heard some of the responses to the other night’s program were rather negative, I could understand why they might be feeling the way they were. I could especially understand your disciples surely being grateful for a very intimate night with yourself in the ‘Old Vṛndāvana’ atmosphere within a candle lit temple, chanting sweetly…and so perhaps a few were a little surprised by the ending.
However, as you also know XXX’s heart, I could deeply admire his desire to give credit to the great souls who have blessed him with such a home and temple and to offer Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja’s compassion with the devotees present.
This strong desire to share who Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja actually is, as a great soul, guardian, and protector of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s ISKCON, is what I appreciate most about XXX and XXX. I found in their association feeling I had a lot to learn about the person Śrīla Prabhupāda and that his dear friend Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja might actually give me a deeper understanding of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s heart. Just as we are unable to know Kṛṣṇa without knowing His associates, surely it must be the same with his devotees, especially in light of your point on the significance of friendship in Kṛṣṇa Consciousness. So XXX and XXX have given me reason to want to serve Śrīla Prabhupāda and ISKCON with increasingly more enthusiasm by introducing me to another guardian of our movement.
Had I not been willing to question or inquire from XXX about Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja or had I not come to stay at his home in the first place, I would most likely continued in my devotional life with an ingrained Vaiṣṇava aparādha blocking my path, because again, I was not unfamiliar with Śrīla Śrīdhara Swami’s name and to think I could feel such a way toward him now is very painful.
This easy Vaiṣṇava aparādha is very concerning to me, and certainly I would not wish it upon anyone. I also fear perhaps those who may have some negative, confused or reserved feelings toward Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja might also, perhaps unintentionally, make the mistake of becoming offensive toward XXX or XXX. I know all too well this ability to make sweeping decisions or fixed opinions based on isolated events, and that it can often be difficult to see a devotee in relation to their service and appreciate them for who they are rather than who we want them to be. I’ve done it so many times.
I also know their association has helped so many. I have personally witnessed their care for many others during my 4.5months with them and I can say so for myself as well.
Having their association has also helped in my confidence in having mature and ultimately enlivening conversations with those within our preaching center about the history of ISKCON and the need to understand the society in which we are currently living. My husband and I have a policy to not hide from our history but to appreciate and grow from it. Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja does play a large role in this and we keep his books in our public book case. Although his presence tends to bring out ‘dirty laundry’ in our society, speaking with our new devotees on an individual or small group basis about him and many other (sometimes uncomfortable) topics has allowed us to become a very strong, tight and affectionate group. Our little XXX center (although essentially just a bunch of off the street youths), have a deeply rooted desire to serve Śrīla Prabhupāda and his movement for the entirety of our lives, despite the current and future difficulties. We want to serve each other and our seniors who are guiding us on how to fulfill Śrīla Prabhupāda’s desires and we want to give future devotee the gift of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s International Society of Kṛṣṇa Consciousness wrapped in loving, responsible families, understanding friendships and respect for those who have worked so hard before us for our sake. XXX and XXX surely are our well wishers, they are my well wisher, and I feel eternally indebted to them for this.
I hope I have not stepped outside my jurisdiction in writing to you, but it is my desire to share my appreciation for your disciple in this difficult atmosphere. She is such a treasure to me.
I also will humbly request you for myself, and on behalf of my husband, XXXXX to come enliven our little center, it would mean so much to us all.
Desiring to Serve,
XXX XXX Devī Dāsī