Defending ISKCON & The Sannyāsa-āśrama

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Defending ISKCON &

The Sannyāsa-āśrama


DEFENDING ISKCON & THE SANNYĀSA-ĀŚRAMA The information in this publication are excerpts from the book: The Supreme Treasure Çréla Gurudeva compiled by Çrépada BV Mädhava Mahäräja, who was the personal servant of Çré Çrémad Bhaktivedanta Näräyaëa Gosvämé Mahäräja for over 30 years and eye witness to these events. This informaton has also been presented in the publication Çré-guru Darçana by Bhaktabhandav Publications, Våndävana, India. First Edition 200 copies. ISBN: 978-0-6450973-1-3 © 2021 ÇRÉ GIRIRÄJA GOVARDHANA GAUÒÉYA MAÖHA - MURWILLUMBAH AUSTRALIA SOME RIGHTS RESERVED. EXCEPT WHERE OTHERWISE NOTED, CONTENT ON THIS BOOK IS LICENSED UNDER THE CREATIVE COMMONS ATTRIBUTION-NO DERIVATIVES 4.0 INTERNATIONAL LICENSE.

To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/4.0/ Website: www.purebhakti.org.au For digital publications visit: https://issuu.com/purebhaktisocietyaustralia Image front cover © Sarada däsé


Defending ISKCON &

The Sannyāsa-āśrama

Compiled by

Śrīpāda BV Mādhava Mahārāja

Çré Giriräja Govardhana Gauòéya Maöha - Murwillumbah Australia


nitya-lélä praviñöa-paramahaàsa-añöottara-çata

Çré Çrémad Bhaktivedanta Näräyaëa Gosvämé Mahäräja


Defending ISKCON &

The Sannyāsa-āśrama

A

bhay Charan De (1 September 1896 – 14 November 1977), who became the illustrious Founder Äcärya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) then known as A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupäda, was born in an aristocratic family in Calcutta (Kolkata). Before adopting the life of a renunciate (vänaprastha) in 1950, he was married with children and owned a pharmaceutical business. In 1959, he took a vow of renunciation (sannyäsa) and started writing commentaries on Vaiñëava scriptures. In his later years, as a travelling Vaiñëava sädhu, he became an influential communicator of Gauòéya Vaiñëava philosophy in India and specifically in the West through his leadership of ISKCON, founded in 1966. As the founder of ISKCON, he emerged as a major figure in the Western World, initiated thousands of young Westerners and opened 108 Temples worldwide. His mission was to propagate Gauòéya Vaiñëavism throughout the world as per the instructions of his illustrious spiritual master the Gauòéya Äcärya Çréla Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvaté Prabhupäda. After the passing of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupäda from this world in 1977, the society he founded (ISKCON), continued to grow.

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The children of Çréla Bhaktivedänta Svämé Mahäräja1 [Prabhupäda] harboured resentment when their father entered the renounced order of life and began preaching. And when ISKCON became immensely successful, they became envious of the wealth and property their father’s society had accumulated.

Mathura-Mohan De Declared All ISKCON Assets Were Rightfully His Family’s Property In the 1980s, Mathura-mohan De, the eldest son of Çréla Bhaktivedänta Svämé Mahäräja, filed a claim in court stating that all ISKCON assets were rightfully his family’s property. Mathura-mohan De declared that Çréla Svämé Mahäräja was not a brähmaëa, and hence could not accept sannyäsa. He said that his father was a businessman and that ISKCON was his business enterprise. Consequently, it legally belonged to the hereditary son. He convinced all of his siblings, except for the youngest son, Våndävana-candra, to support him in the case. His mother, Rädhäräné De, however, signed an affidavit against her son’s prosecution of ISKCON. ISKCON leaders stated that the disciples of a sannyäsé are his true heirs and that Çréla Svämé Mahäräja had renounced his blood family [September 17, 1959] long before he had inaugurated ISKCON [founded in July 13, 1966 in New York City by A. C. Bhaktivedänta Svämé Prabhupäda]. Mathuramohan De posited that his father had not taken sannyäsa, nor had he been eligible for sannyäsa, being of a vaiçya class, and that ISKCON had only been a business venture. 1. The actual sannyäsa name of Çréla A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupäda is Çréla Svämé Mahäräja. Recognizing his philosophical learning and devotion, the Gauòéya Vaiñëava Society honoured him in 1947 with the title ‘Bhaktivedänta’.

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The ISKCON Leaders Requested Śrīla BV Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja to Testify in Court The case caused quite a stir in India. After going to the Kolkata [Calcutta] High Court, it was transferred to the Bombay [Mumbai] High Court. In danger of losing all ISKCON properties and assets, the ISKCON leaders requested Çréla Gurudeva (Çréla BV Näräyaëa Gosvämé Mahäräja) to testify for them in court. They remembered Çréla Svämé Mahäräja telling them, “If you have any difficulty, go to Çréla Näräyaëa Mahäräja for guidance and help.”2

We Will Lose Everything They entreated Gurudeva, “Please convince the Court that Çréla Prabhupäda was a bona fide sannyäsé and that his disciples are his inheritors; explain the vaiñëava-siddhänta on sannyäsa and give witness that Çréla Prabhupäda’s sannyäsa ceremony was performed in Mathurä. If you do not come, we will lose everything. Çréla Prabhupäda’s sons will seize ISKCON properties and sell everything. Prabhupäda’s legacy will be lost and his stature as a sannyäsé discredited. The Court may also decree some laws restricting sannyäsa to only those who are aged brähmaëas. At present, the Indian court has no law governing sannyäsa.” Çréla Gurudeva readily agreed. Although in weak health at the time, he went alone and stayed for months at the Juhu 2. Link to the Last Conversation with A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupäda: https:// www.purebhakti.com/resources/kirtans/srila-bhaktivedanta-narayana-gosvamimaharaja/155-last-conversation-with-a-c-bhaktivedanta

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ISKCON Temple in Mumbai. From there, he would go back and forth to the courthouse to testify on behalf of ISKCON. By 8:00 a.m. Çréla Gurudeva was en-route to the courthouse and he did not return until evening. He prepared evidence from çästra regarding the validity of bhakti-sannyäsa, and attested to Çréla Svämé Mahäräja accepting sannyäsa from Çré Çrémad Bhakti Prajïäna Keçava Gosvämé Mahäräja in Mathurä in 1959.

They Argued that Only a Brāhmaṇa Can Take Sannyāsa Çréla Gurudeva described the ceremonies he had personally overseen. Mathura-mohan De convinced the sahajiyä-bäbäjés and other quasi-Vaiñëava groups envious of ISKCON to give testimony on behalf of the prosecution. They argued that çästra states that only a brähmaëa can take sannyäsa and only after 75 years of age, having passed through all the other äçramas. They said, “In proper varëäçrama-dharma, one first resides as a brahmacäré in his guru’s äçrama until 25 years of age, then follows religious married life until 50, then retires and lives as a vänaprastha separate from his family, and only then can he accept the sannyäsa order of life.” Çréla Gurudeva cited many examples against this theory, such as that of Çaìkaräcärya, who accepted sannyäsa at eight years of age, and Madhväcärya, who was twelve when he took sannyäsa. He also explained how Çréla Çukadeva Gosvämé, as well as the Four Kumäras, had accepted sannyäsa when they were mere boys, and how Närada Åñi had renounced his family as a boy.

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The Jāvāla Upaniṣad Çréla Gurudeva supported all his statements with quotations from the Vedas, Upaniñads, Bhägavatam, and other scriptures. He gave the following quotation found in various authoritative Vedic texts, such as the Jävälopaniñad [Jäväla Upaniñad]3 and the Näräyaëa Upaniñad, to support that one may accept sannyäsa directly from any äçrama as soon as detachment from material life arises.

One May Accept Sannyāsa from the Position of Any Āśrama Upon Developing Genuine Detachment atha hainaà janako vaideho yäjïavalkyamupasametyoväca bhagavansannyäsaà brühéti | sa hoväca yäjïavalkyaù | brahmacaryaà parisamäpya gåhé bhavet | gåhé bhütvä vané bhavet | vané bhütvä pravrajet | yadi vetarathä brahmacaryädeva pravrajedgåhädvä vanädvä || atha punaravraté vä vraté vä snätako vä’snätako votsannagniko vä yadahareva virajettadahareva pravrajet | (Jäväla Upaniñad) “The saintly king Janaka Mahäräja inquired from the great sage Yäjïavalkya, ‘O Great one! Please explain to me the qualifications and regulations governing the acceptance of sannyäsa.’” “Yäjïavalkya replied, ‘First of all, strictly observing the vow of brahmäcärya, one should study the Vedas in the home of one’s guru. Then, after appropriately observing the occupational duties of the gåhastha-äçrama, one should accept vänaprastha. 3. The Jäväla Upaniñad discusses the taking of sannyasa and renouncing of this world.

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Defending ISKCO N & the Sannyā sa - ā śram a ‘Finally, after vänaprastha one should accept sannyäsa. Before entering the gåhastha-äçrama, if one develops a powerful sense of detachment from material life while still in the stage of brahmäcärya, then one should accept sannyäsa directly from the brahmäcärya-äçrama. ‘Otherwise, as soon as one’s vairägya is very strong, it is quite appropriate to accept sannyäsa from the stages of gåhastha or vänaprastha. In other words, the principle is that one may accept sannyäsa from the position of any äçrama upon developing genuine detachment. ‘Whether one’s study of the six limbs of the Vedas is complete or not, whether one has taken bath as prescribed by the Vedas or not, whether one has duly dismissed the presiding deity of the sacrificial fire or not; whether one is married or a widower; in any condition of life one can accept sannyäsa when intense vairägya manifests in one’s character.’” (The Jäväla Upaniñad translation)

There Are Three Kinds of Sannyāsa

Karma-Sannyäsa, Jïäna-Sannyäsa, and Vedic-Sannyäsa or Bhakti-Sannyäsa

The prosecution further argued, “Abhaya Charan did not factually take sannyäsa, nor follow sannyäsa principles. Furthermore, the Brahma-vaivarta Puräëa forbids the acceptance of sannyäsa in Kali-yuga, the present Vedic epoch. açvamedhaà gavälambhaà sannyäsaà pala-paitåkam devareëa sutotpattià kalau païca vivarjayet

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defend ing iskcon & the sanny ā sa - ā Śra m a “In this Age of Kali, five acts are forbidden: offering a horse in sacrifice, offering a cow in sacrifice, acceptance of the order of sannyäsa, offering of oblations of flesh to the forefathers, and begetting children in the wife of a brother.” (Brahma-vaivarta Puräëa, Kåñëa-janma-khaëòa, 185.180)

Çréla Gurudeva countered with scriptural evidence, refuting all of the prosecutor’s arguments. He said: “This verse is referring only to karma and jïäna-sannyäsa. Three types of sannyäsa are mentioned in the Padma Puräëa: jïäna-sannyäsinaù kecid-veda-sannyäsino ‘pare karma-sannyäsi-nas-tvanye trividhäù parikétitäù “There are three kinds of sannyäsa: karma-sannyäsa, jïäna-sannyäsa, and vedic-sannyäsa [or bhakti-sannyäsa].” (Padma Puräëa, Svarga Khaëòa)

Karma-sannyäsa alone is forbidden in Kali-yuga. A karmasannyäsé is one who has no self-knowledge and who does not accept sannyäsa with the aspiration of attaining pure devotion. He renounces because his senses have become enfeebled or he desires acclaim. Bhagavän’s devotee is not a karmé; hence, the question of karma-sannyäsa does not arise. Çréla Gurudeva next stated that the instructions of the Vedic literature are always applicable; while sannyäsa is prohibited on the basis of only one verse from the Brahma-vaivarta Puräëa, many other authentic scriptures unanimously support sannyäsa and saffron cloth for qualified persons in every age. Çréla Gurudeva quoted another verse from the Brahmavaivarta Puräëa to prove that sannyäsa is a valid äçrama in Kali-yuga, and that the previous prohibition towards sannyäsa,

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as found in the same scripture, refers to an occasional special circumstance or to a particular type of sannyäsa: daëòaà kamaëòaluà rakta-vastra-mätraà ca dhärayet nityaà praväsé naikatra sa sannyäséti kértitaù “A sannyäsé is one who only possesses the staff of a renunciant, a water-pot, saffron cloth, and is always travelling, with no permanent residence.” (Brahma-vaivarta Puräëa 2.36.9)

Śrīla Bhaksiddhānta Sarasvatī Prabhupāda

The Authorised Ācārya in the Brahmā-Madhva-Gauḍīya-Sampradāya

Mathura-mohan De’s advocate then proposed, “Even if sannyäsa were permitted in this age, it is only for those from a brähmaëa caste, not for the other castes. In truth, Abhaya Charan De was not a sannyäsé. He preached in the West, wearing saffron cloth, which is not exclusively for sannyäsés, but he did not follow the rules of a sannyäsé. He did not follow shaving regulations, he dressed opulently, amassed wealth and properties, wore expensive watches and rings, drove in fancy cars, and had many servants. A bona fide sannyäsé will not eat the cooking of çüdras or mlecchäs, nor associate with them, and he will not go overseas. As Abhaya Charan did all these activities, he was not a real sannyäsé. Even if he went through a sannyäsa ceremony, he violated the rules of sannyäsa. Sannyäsés are not supposed to collect wealth and properties. They are supposed to have renounced all things of this world. Plus, the assets of Abhaya Charan’s ISKCON rightfully belong to his sons.” 8


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Çréla Gurudeva countered thus, “The illustrious Gauòéya Äcärya Çréla Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvaté Prabhupäda instructed that anything the scientists discover can be utilised by the sannyäsés in God’s service and for helping the living beings of this world. Otherwise, if one does not accept and utilise these things, then they will create a disturbance and be harmful for the world. “Bhagavän and His followers, like a king and his sons, are always respected. Their acceptance of gifts or facility that is offered with respect confers great spiritual benefit to the giver. The pure devotees of the Lord use whatever they possess for Kåñëa’s service.” Çréla Gurudeva quoted many verses from çästra giving evidence that a brähmaëa is accepted as such by qualification, not by birth, and that Vaiñëavas are the highest brähmaëas. Gurudeva described that the teaching of Çréla Bhaksiddhänta Sarasvaté Prabhupäda, the authorised äcärya in the BrahmäMadhva-Gauòéya-sampradäya, is that any genuine Vaiñëava is a qualified brähmaëa and is fit for sannyäsa. Çréla Gurudeva also explained that his guru, Çréla Bhakti Prajïäna Keçava Gosvämé Mahäräja – the sannyäsa-guru of Çréla Bhaktivedanta Svämé Mahäräja – was an authorised sannyäsé in the line from Çréla Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvaté Öhäkura Prabhupäda, and was thereby qualified to bestow sannyäsa.

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The Gosvāmīs Felt Themselves Fallen and Did Not Want to Put Themselves on the Same Level of Mahāprabhu The Bäbäjés and smärta-brähmaëas then stated that in Mahäprabhu’s sampradäya the Gosvämés never accepted sannyäsa and were outside the jurisdiction of the four äçramas. They claimed that saffron cloth was reserved only for Mahäprabhu. Çréla Gurudeva replied, “The Gosvämés felt themselves fallen and did not want to put themselves on the same level of Mahäprabhu, as a sannyäsé. Later, respecting the paramahaàsa stage of the Gosvämés, Çréla Prabhupäda Sarasvaté Öhäkura humbly remained in the varëäçrama system as a sannyäsé. He set this example for the majority of people, knowing that it can be harmful for one to think himself qualified to renounce external dharma and perform exclusive bhakti. çruti-småti-puräëädipaïcarätra-vidhià vinä aikäntiké harer bhaktir utpätäyaiva kalpate (Çré Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu 2.2.101) “The display of exclusive hari-bhakti, while neglecting the injunctions of the païcarätra-çästra, only causes a disturbance.”

Çréla Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvaté Prabhupäda therefore said, “We shall follow the rules of çästra, hoping to be purified. We offer our respect to the stage of paramahaàsa as well as to those who are situated in that position. But it is not possible for us to be equal to such personalities. Our verified aspiration 10


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is to become the servant of the servant of the paramahaàsas such as Çréla Rüpa Gosvämé, Çréla Sanätana Gosvämé, and Çréla Raghunätha däsa Gosvämé.”

Why Did He Keep the Family Initials A.C. - Abhaya Charan? When the prosecution asked, “If he was a legitimate sannyäsé, bearing the name ‘Bhaktivedänta Svämé,’ why did he keep the family initials A.C. - Abhaya Charan?” Çréla Gurudeva responded, “The name Abhaya Charan was kept by his Guru Mahäräja, Çréla Bhaktisiddhänta Prabhupäda, at the time that he received dékñä. Also, when anyone goes from India to Western countries, they need a passport and visa. So, he kept his birth name for legal reasons regarding his passport.”

Śrīla BV Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja Returns Back to Mathurā Çréla Gurudeva [Çréla BV Näräyaëa Gosvämé Mahäräja] returned to Mathurä by train after the first hearing. He arrived back frail and ill and was nursed back to health with medicine and nourishing food over the course of several months. When the time for the second hearing came, the ISKCON leaders came and requested Çréla Gurudeva to again testify in Mumbaé. Çréla Gurudeva again agreed, but this time Navénakåñëa Brahmacäré [now Çrépäda BV Mädhava Mahäräja] told the ISKCON sannyäsés, “You must buy two plane tickets. Çréla Mahäräja will not travel alone. Last time he became ill and had no proper facility in Bombay. If you want him to save ISKCON, 11


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you must arrange for roundtrip tickets, a nice room, and a place to cook.”

Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja was a Genuine Sannyāsī The leaders acquiesced and arranged flights for Çréla Gurudeva and Navéna-kåñëa Brahmacäré. Gurudeva testified again in favour of ISKCON. He established that bhakti-sannyäsa is sanctioned in Kali-yuga; that Bhaktivedänta Svämé Mahäräja was a genuine sannyäsé; and that the assets of ISKCON are rightfully inherited by his disciples.

Gurudeva Safeguarded Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja’s Sannyāsa Status, the Assets of ISKCON and He also Protected the Sannyāsa-āśrama in the Gauḍīya-Sampradāya The judge and the lawyers asked Çréla Gurudeva many questions, and on the basis of his testimony, a precedent was set in the Court on how to deal with similar cases in regard to sannyäsés. Çréla Gurudeva returned to Mathurä after the second hearing, however, he was called several times over the following years as the case progressed. With his cogent delineation of Vedic and Vaiñëava philosophy, and his testimony to verify of Çréla Bhaktivedänta Svämé Mahäräja’s sannyäsa status, Gurudeva safeguarded the assets of ISKCON. He also protected the sannyäsa-äçrama and the tradition of wearing saffron cloth in the Gauòéya-sampradäya.

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“I

n the 1980s, Mathura-mohan De, the eldest son of Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja, filed a claim in court stating that all ISKCON assets were rightfully his family’s property. Mathura-mohan De declared that Śrīla Svāmī Mahārāja [Prabhupāda] was not a brāhmaṇa, and hence could not accept sannyāsa. He said that his father was a businessman and that ISKCON was his business enterprise.”

“Ś

rīla Gurudeva returned to Mathurā after the second hearing, however, he was called several times over the following years as the case progressed. With his cogent delineation of Vedic and Vaiṣṇava philosophy, and his testimony to verify of Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja’s sannyāsa status, Gurudeva safeguarded the assets of ISKCON. He also protected the sannyāsa-āśrama and the tradition of wearing saffron cloth in the Gauḍīya-sampradāya.”

Çré Giriräja Govardhana Gauòéya Maöha - Murwillumbah Australia