Shrila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja
An interview by Shrimati Satyarupa dasi
Murwillumbah , Australia
January 15, 2000
[Satyarupa dasi is a disciple of Shrila Prabhupada A.C. Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja. In January, 2000 she was attending University to get her PHD in religious study. She asked Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja many important and essential questions about our guru-parampara -- past, present, and future. Shrila Maharaja was so pleased with her that he requested her to be always on tour with his travelling party.]
[Satyarupa dasi:] Can you tell me about the development of Gaudiya Matha, maybe from the time you joined? And can you explain how and why it branched out into different mathas?
[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] I will tell you all things, beginning from where Gaudiya Matha originally came.
[Satyarupa dasi:] You told me in one darsana that the Gaudiya Matha came from Brahma.
[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] But now I will tell you more. Those who follow Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, especially those who are from a place called Gauda, those devotees are called Gaudiya. There are five Gaudas, and each is between two rivers. The first is Punjab, located between the Sindhu and Yamuna rivers; another is between Ganges and Yamuna; another is between Ganges and Gundaka; the fourth is between two other rivers and the fifth is Bengal. Of the five, the prominent Gauda is Bengal.
[Satyarupa dasi:] Why?
[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] Because Shri CaitanyaMahaprabhu appeared there. He practiced love and affection for Krsna in parakiya mood. Do you know what is meant by parakiya? It is paramour-love (transcendental unwedded love). In India there are so many sampradayas (lineages of devotional service) which do not know about this. Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu discovered it from Shrimad-Bhagavatam.
[Satyarupa dasi:] What specific verses are evidence of this in Shrimad-Bhagavatam?
[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:]
ativilanghya te 'nty acyutagatah
kitava yositah kas tyajen nisi
"Dear Acyuta, You know very well why we have come here. Who but a cheater like You would abandon young women who come to see Him in the middle of the night, enchanted by the loud song of His flute? Just to see You, we have completely rejected our husbands, children, ancestors, brothers and other relatives."]
When Krsna played His flute on the full-moon night, all the gopis left their husbands, children, friends, fathers, mothers, and all material considerations, and they went to Krsna. Their husbands were there, at home; and therefore this is parakiya. Although the gopis had husbands, Krsna was their beloved. From the beginning they had no relation with their husbands; Yogamaya arranged it so that their husbands never touched them. She made artificial wives, and the husbands used to be with them. Those who accept this, and who follow the teachings of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, are called Gaudiya.
[Satyarupa dasi:] Like the false Sita?
[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] Yes, something like that. There are so many slokas in Shrimad-Bhagavatam:
na paraye 'ham niravadya-samyujam
yama bhajan durjaya-geha-srnkhalah
samvrscya tad vah pratiyatu sadhuna
Krsna is telling the gopis, "I cannot repay you. Your love and affection to Me, and our meetings, are so pure and transcendental that I cannot repay you. You have given up your husbands and all other relatives for Me, but I cannot give up anyone. I cannot give up my father and mother. I have so many devotees, and I cannot give them up. Therefore I cannot repay you."
The gopis had left their husbands, and therefore this verse is another evidence of parakiya-bhava. This understanding was discovered and preached in this world by Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Those who follow this idea of Mahaprabhu, under the guidance of Shrila Rupa Gosvami and Shrila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, are Gaudiya. Those who do not follow are not Gaudiyas, even if they live in that area. Those who maintain this idea that the gopis are parakiya, who want to develop the same mood, and are doing bhajana for that end, are Gaudiyas. Shrila Rupa Gosvami is Shri Rupa Manjari. He is doing bhajana, externally in the body of Shrila Rupa Gosvami and internally as Shri Rupa Manjari. Externally he is chanting and remembering as Shrila Rupa Gosvami, and internally he is serving in his siddha-deha (spiritual form of a gopi) as Shri Rupa Manjari. There, as a gopi manjari, he is serving Radha and Krsna conjugal.
This is the idea of Gaudiya, and those who follow this are Gaudiyas. It is coming especially from Shri Madhavendra Puri, then Shri Isvara Puri, Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Shri Nityananda, Shri Svarupa Damodara, down to my Gurudeva, Shrila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja.
[Satyarupa dasi:] But there is a gap from Shrila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura.
[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] No, you should accept everyone in our guru-parampara: Shrila Rupa Gosvami, the Sat (six) Gosvamis, and Shri Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami. Then the three: Shri Syamananda Prabhu, Shrila Narottamadasa Thakura and Shrila Shrinivasa Acarya. Then afterwards, Shrila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, Shri Baladeva Vidyabhusana, Shrila Jagannathadasa Babaji Maharaja, and all others. There is no gap. There are so many acaryas.
[Satyarupa dasi:] Have you written about this?
[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] Everything is written. Then Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Shrila Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, my Gurudeva, and also Shrila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja -- your Prabhupada. And then it is coming to us.
How has the guru-parampara become so many? Because it descended from the six Gosvamis, then to Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, and then to Shrila Narottama dasa Thakura. They preached all over Bengal and made so many disciples. It was not by quarreling that their centers manifested everywhere. It was all coming through parampara. Some came from Nityananda Prabhu, some from His wife, Shrimati Jahnava Thakurani, and some from Shrinivasa Acarya, Shri Narottama dasa Thakura, and others. Shrila Rupa Gosvami never made any formal sisyas (disciples). He made only one sisya -- Shri Jiva Gosvami. Shri Jiva Gosvami also did not make any formal disciples, but he adopted devotees like Shrinivasa, Syamananda and Narottama dasa, and he taught them all the spiritual truths. From these three came so many groups: Syamananda's group, Narottama dasa Thakura's group, Shrinivasa Acarya's group, and the group of Vircandra, the son of Jahnava and Nityananda Prabhu. Their branches and sub-branches have spread everywhere.
After Baladeva Vidyabhusana, there was a bad time for Gaudiya Vaisnavas. The preaching stopped, and all learned persons lost faith in Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Some developed like the Sahajiyas, doing 'bhajana' by taking others' wives and saying, "This is parakiya-bhava." So many bad things mixed in this. Then Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura came and saw that so many amalgamations had come. He therefore began to preach, and when Shrila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura came, Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura told him, "O, preach my books here and there." And he began to do that.
Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura had so many very qualified disciples. Among them our Guru Maharaja was very prominent; and others were also, like Pujyapada Shrila Shridhara Maharaja, Shrila Bhakti Vilasa Tirtha, Shrila Srauti Maharaja, Shrila Giri Maharaja, Shrila Bon Maharaja, Shrila Vaikhanas Maharaja, Shrila Bharati Maharaja, Shrila Madhava Maharaja, Shrila Siddhanti Maharaja, and so many others. And they established their mathas here and there.
After Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, there was a person named Ananta Vasudeva prabhu. He was very qualified, but he became charmed by a lady devotee and left his sannyasa. They married, and after that all became against him and said, "Now you should enter family life. This behavior is like that of a dog who eats something and again vomits it." At that time he was very powerful. He had money and so many disciples, and he began to torture his god-brothers, the disciples of Shrila Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati Thakura, who opposed him.
[Satyarupa dasi:] What was the cause of the friction?
[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] It came about because he was attracted to his own lady-disciple and married her. Everyone told him that in Shrimad-Bhagavatam and other scriptures it is written that such behavior is not a good thing for Vaisnavism. They said, "You should go with her; and you should vacate your position as acarya." Everyone turned against him. He was at that time very wealthy, and he had a great deal of power. His god-brothers therefore left his place and established their own mathas here and there.
So there are many sections, and everyone besides him is in the parampara. All are like one. Sometimes they meet together and have discussions. They also meet here and there wherever there is an utsava (festival). Their preaching centers are in different places, but they are of the same opinion.
[Satyarupa dasi:] Was the falling of Ananta Vasudeva Krsna's arrangement so that the Gaudiya Matha would grow more?
[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] Yes, that is right. We can reconcile it in this way. Otherwise we could not have preached all over the world.
I know that we are all in one family, and the family master is Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who taught that we should all serve Radha and Krsna. Though our preaching centers are in different places, we are in one family. I also think that you are in our family.
[Satyarupa dasi:] I think so too. We are all one family.
[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] Any more questions? Are you satisfied?
[Satyarupa dasi:] Yes, I have many questions. Can I ask you a personal question? How do you deal with the antagonism? How are you responding to some of the Iskcon leaders being against you?
[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] I am very happy. I know that they are my children. Shrila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja has told me to save them, and I know that they are ignorant. I want to help them in all ways. Little children may make some disturbance, but the mother or father does not take offense. I always try to help them and I am very happy. I know that they are my children. They may do anything to me, and I never take any offense. I am happy that I am helping you. I want to help everyone, including those who have left. I have relation with so many who fell down. They are coming to me and I am happy. I know that they are like my younger brothers and sisters, my sons and daughters. I never feel anything when some persons say things against me. They make so much bad propaganda, but I feel no disturbance. I become happy that by this propaganda I will preach more.
[Satyarupa dasi:] Can you tell something about your initiation?
[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] My initiation is like that of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, like that of my Gurudeva, and like that of Shrila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja -- the same.
[Satyarupa dasi:] What does your initiation mean to you? What is the intrinsic meaning?
[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] Initiation means the giving of a thick relation, a special relation with Krsna, and the realization of 'who am I.' Regarding the word 'diksa' in sanskrit: in 'di,' divya-jnana (the realization of ones transcendental relationship with Krsna) comes: "I am an eternal servant of Krsna." But there must be some deeper meaning of 'eternal servant.' In the line of Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Shrila Rupa Gosvami, there are five kinds of relations with Krsna. To give any of these relationships -- this is initiation. Initiation is not given in a moment or in a day. We admit the devotee in the 'school' of diksa, and it may take so much time to realize all these things.
[Satyarupa dasi:] I heard that Shrila Bhakti Pramode Puri Maharaja said that the person who is designated by the guru to perform his samadhi is his successor. Is that true?
[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] It is not necessarily true, but Shrila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja told me to give him samadhi, and I did it. He had so much faith in me. I am not his uttara-adhikari (successor). Actually, I am. Those who are falling down are his successors outwardly, but spiritually and transcendentally I am his successor.
You should also understand that an elevated devotee may not be present at the time of giving samadhi. He may actually be a more elevated disciple, and he may be the successor, no harm; but anyone else can give samadhi. Shrila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja told me to do it, but it may be that another acarya has not told his successor, "You should give me samadhi." Has Shrila Puri Maharaja himself told? I don't know that he has told like this.
[Satyarupa dasi:] I want to know if this is true or not.
[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] I think it is not true. His successor is Shripad Bodhayana Maharaja, who is a good devotee, very humble and polite, but at the time the samadhi was given, he was not there. He was in another country. Others gave it. My god-brothers came, and others came, and they all gave samadhi. Then, after some time, Bhodayana Maharaja came; there is no harm in that. It is not siddhanta that he who gives samadhi will be the successor. So many devotees came from Devananda Gaudiya Matha, and others also came to give samadhi to Shrila Bhakti Pramode Puri Maharaja. But they will not be the successor. His successor will be his own disciple in whom he has belief, and to whom he has told.
Usually the guru never tells who will be his successor. Shrila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja never told who will be his successor. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada never told who will be his successor. He knew that, "Someone will come who is very near and dear to me, and who knows all siddhanta." No one can ever make anyone guru by appointment. His own qualities will make him guru.
[Satyarupa dasi:] Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Maharaja did not nominate a successor. So how did it come about that Ananta Vasudeva became his successor?
[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] It is not the transcendental line that anyone can make someone else a guru. It may be that if one is so qualified, Gurudeva selects him and says, "After me you will be successor." This is one line. The more essential and prominent line, however, is that anyone serving Gurudeva totally, preaching so much in his line after his departure, and making his Gurudeva very prominent, he is successor. He will preach the same line.
Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura never told my Gurudeva, "You should be my successor." Never. But he became so, as did Shrila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja. My Gurudeva never appointed me; yet I became so and as I am preaching all over the world; so many are accepting me. So it depends on quality. Shrila Prabhupada Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja was not made by anyone, yet he became prominent all over the world. Ramanuja was not made acarya. Do you know Ramanuja? He took sannyasa himself, and Madhvacarya also did this. He was not given sannyasa by anyone else.
So we should follow this thought. Who made Shrila Sukadeva Gosvami acarya? Shri Vyasadeva never said, "You are my successor." Krsna will arrange that those who do bhakti will be acaryas.
Shrila Svami Maharaja knew what were the qualifications of his disciples -- that they may fall down, they may give him poison, and so many things. So he never declared anyone as his successor.
[Satyarupa dasi:] When the time comes that you must depart, in what way would you like to see things continue?
[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] I know the system from the beginning. No one made Shri Narada Rsi acarya. He who manifests very good qualities, and who serves his Gurudeva -- he is acarya. I am not worried about this. If I will see someone, I will select. Otherwise, without being selected they will become acaryas themselves, by their qualities, and all will be bound to obey them. We know that Shrila Rupa Gosvami is our complete root acarya, and he never initiated anyone. Still, all accept him.
[Satyarupa dasi:] So we can get siksa from Shrila Rupa Gosvami?
[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] Yes. This is the eternal line. No one ever knew that I will preach all over the world, and glorify my guru and the whole paramapara, and this parakiya mood. But Krsna can do anything, even from any dry straw. I am unqualified, but still my Gurudeva accepted me; all my guru-parampara accepted me as acarya. I never thought, "I am acarya." Never. I have no such self-conception. I am not acarya, but all are telling me that I am.
[Satyarupa dasi:] How do you feel about the Australian devotees? What are your feelings about them? What is your experience and how do you feel the preaching is growing here?
[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] I know that in all preaching, the root is Shrila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja Prabhupada. Only by his mercy is everyone preaching. When I preach, all know that, "Oh, he is in line of Shrila Svamiji, Shrila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja; he is preaching in his line." Everywhere in the world, except in India, Shrila Svamiji did this; being one hand of Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Thakura. Of course he also did it in India, but in India there were others as well.
I know that everywhere there are so many disciples of various sections, like Pujyapada Govinda Maharaja, myself, Shrila Puri Maharaja, and Shrila Bhakti Ballabha Tirtha Maharaja. All are making disciples, but I think that we are in one family. Now I see however, that so many sections don't like each other. They fight among themselves, and also with others. They even fight with their wives and divorce them. And some disciples divorce their guru also. We don't like that. We should try to help each other.
There is some envy. The disciples of certain gurus never come to me. Those gurus fear somewhat, but I don't fear. I know that they are in one family. They are fearing that, "Oh, when he (Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja) will come, he will take all my disciples and attract them." But really I don't want to do that. I want to help all, as a siksa-guru helps. They should understand this, and they should not quarrel; otherwise this preaching will come to some harm.
We should think in this way: "He can help my disciples, and I should help his disciples." During Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's time there was no division like this -- that he should come and he should not come. All used to come to Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu; all used to come to Shrila Rupa Gosvami. I want it to be like that.
Though I know that sometimes disciples may be weak and give up bhakti, I want to help them so that again they can serve. And I am doing that. I am calling those who left, and I am giving them inspiration to serve their Gurudeva. I am helping without consideration of caste or creed.
[Satyarupa dasi:] Why is this fear here? Why is there fear?
[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] Because of ignorance. In Vaisnavism there should be no envy. That is why, although Iskcon is very big, there is a lack of harmony among the members. They don't give honor to their elders, and elders are not giving all their love and affection to juniors. We should try. Otherwise a dark age will come again, and everything will be ruined. I think that if I was not here, going here and there, then sahajiya groups who think, "Oh, we are Caitanyaites," would increase. I want a revolution like this: we should come to the real path, in the real sense. Krsna will arrange for someone to come after me; and after that anyone else will come, and this will not be ruined. The world will be ruined, but this line is eternal. Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has said that this line is eternal. Someone from any group will come.
[Satyarupa dasi:] You mentioned that Ramanuja took sannyasa by himself.
[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] Himself. Ramanujacarya wanted to take sannyasa and preach our bhakti cult. Before he arrived at the feet of his guru, however, his guru passed away. All of his disciples were taking him on a palanquin, to give him samadhi. Ramanujacarya met them on the way and asked, "Where are you going and whom are you carrying on the palanquin?" They replied, "He is Jamunacarya and he has passed away from this world."
Ramanuja requested, "Stop here. I want to see Gurudeva. When they set down the palanquin, he asked, "Why are his three fingers closed?" It is a general rule that when someone takes birth his fingers are closed, and when he passes away his fingers are open. Seeing the closed fingers Ramanuja was surprised "Why are these fingers in an unnatural way?" All were surprised, and told him, "None of us have seen this before." Then Ramanujacarya said, "I shall take sannyasa right now." The first finger opened and became straight. Then he said, "I shall compose a commentary on Vedanta Sutra." The second finger opened and became straight. Then he said, "O Gurudeva, I will preach your mission everywhere. I will preach all over India, distribute my books, and defeat the mayavada philosophy." When the last finger became straight,
Ramanujacarya proclaimed, "My Gurudeva is not dead. He is still here. He is in Samadhi." The disciples told him, "You should give him Samadhi." Ramanuja took sannyasa there, at that very time, and then the disciples took him to give samadhi. After this, Ramanujacarya went to the temple of Shri Rangam and served all his elder god-brothers for 12 years.
He served some for one month, some for two months, some three months, four months, etc. And (in his human-like pastimes) he received blessings and all knowledge from all of them. After this he became acarya. Ramanujacarya was actually so qualified. He wanted to teach the whole world that an advanced devotee is not proud.