Let us begin our story.
Manifesting his appearance on this planet in 1874, Sri Siddhanta Saraswati, as he preferred to be known, was formally initiated by Om Vishnupad Paramhansa Srila Gaura Kishor dasa Babaji in 1900. He formally accepted his first disciple, either Beni Madhava das or Sri Rohinikumar Ghosh, in 1906. “Prior to this, he had never given initiation to anyone.”18 Sometimes he is internally referred to as Nyana-manjari.
By 1913 he had rented a large house for 36 rupees per month at Number 4 Sangar Lane, Kalighata, Calcutta and had initiated at least two other disciples, Vaishnava dasa (1906) and Paramananda Vidyaratna (1910). Vinoda Brahmacari was also first-initiated (1915) prior to the departure of babaji maharaja. It was at that place he established the Bhagavat Printing Press, which he referred to as the brihat mridanga. In 1914 the press was moved to Vrajapattana and in 1915 to Krishnanagar.18
On June 22, 1914, Om Vishnupad Paramhansa Srila Bhaktivenoda Thakur departed his mortal coil and entered Samadhi at Bhakti Bhavan in Calcutta.
Babaji Maharaja entered Samadhi (departed this world) at Koladvipa on Utthana Ekadasi, November 19, 1915.
At the same time, Sri Kunjabihari Vidyabusana, who had previously had the Thakura’s darshan, having secured two months leave from his job at Calcutta Post Office, arrived in Koladvipa on the same day Babaji Maharaja departed. Before the end of the year he was formally initiated by Sri Siddhanta Saraswati.
It was Sri Kunjabihari Vidyabusana who in November 1918 famously rented a house for 50 rupees per month at Number 1 Ultadanga Junction Road. Sri Siddhanta Saraswati christened it Sri Bhaktivenoda Asana. The ashram was crowded and Sri Siddhanta Saraswati lived in a room on the roof, the same place where he was famously visited by Sri Abaya Charan De in 1922.18 In 1923 he established the Gaudiya Printing Works in Calcutta.
He called his society the Gaudiya Math, Gaudiya indicating Gauda desh (Bengal) and Math indicating ashram or place of spiritual practice. It was registered as the Gaudiya Math society under the Societies Registration Act of 1860 on Gaura Purnima day in 1918. On that same day Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada, accepted the order of tridandi sannyasa at Mayapur from a photograph of Srila Gaura Kishor dasa Babaji. Ironically, the only known photograph of Babaji Maharaja was taken of him after he had departed from this world, as he would not permit himself to be photographed while living.
The society grew prominent. He controversially preached that no matter what family a vaishnava was born into, he is perfectly qualified to worship the salagrama sila and recite the Vedas
“Srila Prabhupada was very affectionate to his disciples. If he had not been it would not have been possible to attract so many men to join him, leaving their affectionate mothers and families. If Srila Prabhupada had not been affectionate, few could have remained. Had he simply taught the scriptures, administered rules and regulations, and used harsh words, few could have come. He was so affectionate it could hardly be described. He was always concerned for his disciples, not only for their spiritual welfare, but for their material welfare also. If grhastha disciples came to serve in the Math, Srila Prabhupada after some time would see that their families, if in need of it, got some money.”4
“The Gaudiya Math…consisted of 64 Maths and centers which had been established by means of donated money. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada’s sannyasins went out on bhikshu tours and sometimes returned with appointments with very rich people who wanted to donate. The most famous donation perhaps was the beautiful Bhag Bazaar Math - marble temple, mansion and hall - which was all donated by one family. In other cases groups of families got together. One family would donate the building site, another the ground floor, a third family would donate the first floor; someone else would donate the painting work and someone else the movables. After donation, the buildings belonged to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada. He was the owner of all property.”19
Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur used to call Ananta Vasudeva "My Ganesh" because he helped so much in writing and preaching, just as Ganesa helped Vyasadeva. Sometimes, while giving lectures Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati would speak animatedly for some minutes, so quickly that it was difficult to understand. Then he would stop and ask Ananta Vasudeva (Aug 25, 1895 - March 8, 1958) to explain what he had said, which Ananta Vasudeva would do perfectly. It was as if he knew his masters mind. He was also an expert singer and mrdanga player, and Srila Prabhupada liked to hear him sing, so he would often ask him to sing. When he asked others to sing, he would tell them what song to sing, but with Ananta Vasudeva he didn't. Ananta Vasudeva could sing for a long time without getting tired. Ananta Vasudeva had met Srila Bhaktivenode Thakur in 1911 at the age of 16 at Bhakti Bhavan in Calcutta, and first met Sri Siddhanta Saraswati there in 1918.
“One time in Puri, at the Lila Kutir, there was one room near to Haridasa Thakura's samadhi, and Srila Prabhupada was staying there. He liked to hear Yashomatinandana sung when he was there. Ananta Vasudeva was an expert singer and mrdanga player and Srila Prabhupada liked to hear him sing.”4
In the Gaudiya Math there was a saying: "If you want to know about siddhanta you should go to Vasudeva Prabhu, and if you want to know about seva you should go to Kunja Babu [Kunjabihari Vidyabusana]." Ananta Vasudeva was known as Siddhanta Vigraha and Kunja babu as Seva Vigraha. No one now can say what glories Paramananda Vidyaratna possessed, but Srila Prabhupada loved him very much. He was the only person who dared joke with Srila Prabhupada.
”Srila Prabhupada wrote that we are a mission of the vani. We may not collect so much money. Money is not such a great thing. But the vani we must follow." So like this, he pretended to have a heart attack. He told that he had had a heart attack. It was at this time that he said he wanted to stay in this world for ten more years but now he was not feeling to do so. He was disturbed by the sraddha ceremony of Kunja Babu [Kunjabihari Vidyabusana]. At first Srila Prabhupada was very pleased with Kunja Da [Kunjabihari]. He was working in the Post Office in Calcutta, helping to organize the mission. Later he went to Mesopotamia [Iraq] and sent money for the mission. Srila Prabhupada praised him saying, ‘He is just like a manjari helping the sakhis. He is a manjari. As the manjaris help the sakhis, so Kunja Da is helping our mission in many ways.’ But after ten years, when he performed the smarta shraddha ceremony for his mother, deliberately defying Srila Prabhupada's order, Srila Prabhupada said, ‘This day is the day of the downfall of the Gaudiya Mission!’ Srila Prabhupada sent him three letters to stop that smarta sraddha, but still he went ahead with it. In the beginning, when Kunja Da first came, Srila Prabhupada appreciated his service and even helped him financially. From 1923 Kunja Da was helping Srila Prabhupada, but after 1932 he didn't follow his orders properly anymore.” 4
“The management of the Gaudiya Math was organized as follows. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati was the undisputed administrative and spiritual leader. Below him in the hierarchical structure was a trustee board [also sometimes known as the Board of Governors] with three members. By 1936, they were Yasodanandana Bhagavat Bhusana, Ananta Vasudeva, and Paramananda Vidyaratna. Furthermore, there was a general secretary, Kunjabihari Vidyabusana, plus the secretary assistant, Bhakti Kevala Audulomi Maharaja [the brother of Sri Bhakti Prajana Keshava Maharaja].”19
”Each member of the board had his own field of responsibility. Ananta Vasudeva was in charge of the properties plus he was chief editor for all of Gaudiya Mission’s publishing businesses. This was quite a job since there were so many magazines, books and papers in different languages. ISKCON’s Ravindra Svarupa once described Ananta Vasudeva as a man who remembered - i.e., a man who would remember everything he saw and read. He had very high demands on himself as well as on others, and this was the reason why everybody thought of him as quite a tough person. Kunjabihari Vidyabusana was in charge of all movable property plus he had staff functions. As to his tasks, Kunjabihari Vidyabusana had contact with many temple devotees daily and was considered less coarse than Ananta Vasudeva. Kunjabihari Vidyabusana was answerable to the acharya and to the three members of the trustee board - not the other way around.”19
Gradually his Gaudiya Math institution grew to 64 branches, mostly in Bengal and Orissa, but also large cities in India such as Delhi and Madras, and foreign places as Rangoon and London and Berlin. Because the Gaudiya Math was so Bengal-oriented, it was almost mandatory for non-Bengali members to learn the Bengali language.
In Vrindavan, early in 1935, he wrote a letter, saying, "I have to stay in this world ten years more, but now I am going. The internal struggle in the Gaudiya Math is too much. They don't want me in this world!" In the last one or two years he became very critical of materially motivated devotees.4
“When the organization expanded there was money, many branches, prestige, then always problems occurred. In the early days, all the devotees were very seriously engaged in their sadhana - very serious about spiritual life. Later on, although the preaching was going on, they were building buildings, and doing so many things, but the spirit was different. It even came to the point of arguing over which rooms in the Gaudiya Math building in Bhag Bazaar they should occupy.”4
”Disruption in the Gaudiya Math had taken place since the beginning of the 1930’s and different wings were fighting each other. But from January 1, 1937, when Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur passed away, the disagreements came out in the open. The trouble began when Kunjabihari Vidyabusana insisted upon continuing as the new acharya in Gaudiya Math. Kunjabihari maintained that Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur had appointed him as acharya in verbal instructions. However Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur’s verbal instructions given on December 23, 1936 (eight days before his demise) to the [devotees] assembled in Bhag Bazaar Math did not mention this. The instructions were written down immediately and the wording is rendered in several books. One author writes: ‘On 31st Dec. , the day previous to his disappearance Srila Prabhupada called for all his important disciple by his side and advised them to note down the following instructions for their Guiding Principles in future: Form a Governing Body of 10 to 12 persons for management of Mission work but Kunja Babu [Kunjabihari] will manage as long as he lives. Kunja Babu’s sympathy for me brought me in connection with so many persons. His intelligence excelled all. His sympathy for me knows no bounds. I advise you (Kunja Babu) to be courageous and callous as I am callous to all. This should be your guiding principle. I told the other day and again I say Kunja Babu should be respected as long as he lives. Do not quarrel with one another. Vasudeva [Ananta Vasudeva] should engage himself in writing something and he should help the Professor (Nishi Kanta Sanyal) and Sundarananda in this respect.’”19
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada departed this earth on 1st January 1937. Immediately, the mood arose that a new acharya should be appointed. Ananta Vasudeva made the point that Kunja Babu was appointed leader of the mission activities and not as the acharya of the mission. He maintained Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada didn’t want Kunja Babu to be acharya because he was a grihastha. “Another reason was that Ananta Vasudeva considered Kunjabihari Vidyabusana to be a subordinate, a secretary, who in his eagerness to advance tried to bypass the board.”19
But Srila Prabhupada (he accepted that title in 1931) had made his will known before his departure, appointing three members to oversee its implementation; Paramananda Vidyaratna prabhu, Ananta Vasudeva Brahmacari, and Kunjabihari Vidyabhusan prabhu.14 This group is different from the trustee board as previously cited. Sometimes these individuals are referred to as the three governors or trustees.
“Srila Prabhupada wrote on a piece of paper: ‘In case I die, these three men: Kunja babu, Paramananda Vidyaratna and Ananta Vasudeva, will be trustees, with the majority being effective.’ So that scrap of paper was kept by Tirtha Maharaja [Kunjabihari], and later on guru maharaja [Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati] wanted to make a constitution, but he [Kunjabihari] avoided, he didn't do it. After his [Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati ] demise that scrap of paper was presented in the High Court and the property was given. 4
“In the beginning, Prabhupada was to undergo surgical operation. So he was a little nervous, that ‘I may die.’ So he made a scrap paper, that ‘In case I die, these three disciples will be trustees of the Gaudiya Math Institute.’ That's all. So this Kunja Babu kept this.”1
His disciples were to form a governing body to administer his mission after his departure, and it was constituted on the tenth day after his departure.15 This body was made up of twelve members: Kunjabihari Vidyabhusan prabhu, Paramananda prabhu, Ananta Vasudeva Brahmacari, Bhakti Keval Audulaumi Maharaja, Professor Nisikantha Sanyal, Hayagriva Brahmacari, Giri Maharaja and some others. A little later, Bon Maharaja was added to the body. Later all sannyasis were added.
As previously noted, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada had made Kunjabihari Vidyabhusan prabhu (who was already the first and life-long secretary of the Gaudiya Math) the president for life; that is, the manager of the entire mission.
“Once while residing in the Calcutta Gaudiya Matha, Srila Sarasvati Thakura was deathly ill and bed-ridden…. The devotees were at their wits end how to help, and so they finally pleaded with their Gurudeva asking him what to do to relieve his suffering.”7
“Finally…Prabhupada opened his eyes and begged them in a choked voice to please bring Kunja Da…At that time Kunja Da was working at the Calcutta post office to help raise money for his Gurudeva's preaching. In fact, it was Kunja Da who met Srila Saraswati Thakura while he was a bhajan-anandi and helped him to come out and start preaching. He also helped Srila Saraswati Thakura carry the corpse of Srila Gaura Kishore Dasa Babaji Maharaja to the current samadhi in Mayapur.”7
“A devotee was sent to bring Kunja Da, who immediately left his duties at the post office and returned to the Math. As soon as Kunja Da entered the sick room of Srila Saraswati Thakura, the great Acharya sat up with opened arms. Kunja Da ran into the arms of his Gurudeva who embraced him tightly. The other devotees (including Bon Maharaja) were astounded to see the face of their Lion Guru resting on the shoulder of Kunja Da with profuse tears pouring from his eyes onto the body of Kunjabihari Dasa. And Kunjabihari Prabhu was also weeping and trembling as he hugged his great master. This tearful embrace lasted what seemed like a long time. And after that Srila Saraswati Thakura was better…. This is one of the many reasons why so many devotees sided with Kunjabihari dasa.”7
However, he did not appoint any particular successor acharya. He had often remarked the acharya is self-effulgent. Srila Prabhupada had said, “Each disciple is considered to be a math,” and “They are not my disciple; they are guru.” It can be said that through these comments he appointed all disciples to be guru with the following instruction: “All of you please work together to preach the message of Rüpa and Raghunätha with great enthusiasm.”
Therefore, the initial time after the disappearance of Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur contained some level of uncertainty, with different opinions arising concerning how the mission would continue.
“There was some tension between two groups: One headed by Kunja Babu, the other by Ananta Vasudeva. Kunja Babu said, ‘Unless we (meaning him and his followers) collect money, you cannot do all that you are doing. You're just sitting and writing books on the order of Srila Prabhupada.’ They were writing books and editing his lectures, publishing them, weekly and monthly magazines. So Ananta Vasudeva said, ‘Unless there is this vani seva, this preaching, by the method of making transcendental literature, the vani of Srila Prabhupada, all your collecting money is useless.’ One party consisted of Ananta Vasudeva, Sundarananda Vidyavinoda, and others, and the other Kunja Babu and others. Now Kunja Babu's party told the other party, ‘You should also go for collection. We're collecting and you're simply sitting and writing.’ But Ananta Vasudeva's party said, ‘No. We're writing on the order of Srila Prabhupada.’ Srila Prabhupada said that one party is doing vani seva and the other is doing vapu seva, and he wrote an article in the Gauriya magazine, entitled Vani and Vapu."4
There was an erudite group of devotees working in the publications department. These devotees had stayed close to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati whether he was in Mayapur or Calcutta and did not preach outside to the public. This group included Ananta Vasudeva Brahmachari, Pranavanda Brahmacari, Sundarananda Vidyavinoda brahmachari, and Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaja, who had replaced Bon Maharaja in London.15
Thus here were two factions that had emerged over time, the collecting and preaching side, and the intellectual writing side. “To the party raising money, he said, ‘Yes you raise money. That is a good thing.’ He wanted to encourage them also, but he said, ‘Do not disturb those who are distributing the vani. The money should be for preaching the vani.’ Both sides would complain to him. For instance, Sundarananda Vidyavinoda (the editor of the Gauriya magazine) would come and complain, saying, ‘You have made me the editor of this magazine, but they are not giving money for its publication.’”
Ananta Vasudeva Brahmachari was considered the most erudite disciple. Sometimes Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati would begin a sentence, and Ananta Vasudeva prabhu would finish it. At other times, Srila Prabhupada would finish speaking on a topic, and he would say, “What now, Vasudeva?”
Ananta Vasudeva came from an auspicious linage. The noted Radha Govinda Babaji was the father of both Bhakti Pradip Tirtha Maharaja and Ananta Vasudeva.” 4
“Sridhar Maharaja was in the party of Ananta Vasudeva…but he was not the only one. With the exception of a few people like Bon Maharaja who were always independent…most of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati’s disciples aligned with Ananta Vasudeva over…Kunja Babu, who was seen by most to be nothing more than a manager, not a spiritual leader…. Kunja had close followers, and with good reason. He was one of Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati's first disciples and participated in the early formation of the Math. He was a good businessman and he pushed Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati to undertake preaching activities, organized the first Calcutta center, etc.”4
“Ananta Vasudeva was a younger brother of Bhakti Pradipa Tirtha, a disciple of Bhaktivinoda Thakur [initiated 1910] who was Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati’s first sannyasi. He [Ananta Vasudeva] was a brilliant scholar who also had organizational talents. He was Prabhupada's amanuensis [a person who writes down the words of another] and a leading figure on the publication of Prabhupada's books. The reason he was not a sannyasi was probably because of these responsibilities. The Math (or at least the sannyasis) as a whole voted democratically that Ananta Vasudeva should be made acharya. This included Sridhar Maharaja. When Kunja Babu and his followers rebelled, the shock was felt throughout the Math. Our Prabhupada, who was…far from the halls of Gaudiya Math power…nevertheless was a supporter of Ananta Vasudeva at the beginning. Sridhar Maharaja and others left the Gaudiya Math not so much because of the internal friction, but because of a deep felt need to express their individuality and to make their own disciples in the intimacy of their own organization. Our Prabhupada supported this effort as is proved by his working cooperatively with Sridhar Maharaja in the 40's and then later with Kesava Maharaja.
The splintering in the Gaudiya Math became evident when Ananta Vasudeva started to criticize some of the teachings in the Gaudiya Math which were, he felt, at variance with the writings of the Six Gosvamis. A sensitive person, he was profoundly affected by the acrimony resulting from the split in the movement precipitated by Kunja Da. Ananta Vasudeva thought that these things were the result of basic flaws in the institutional concept itself, which he felt promoted the seeking of labha, puja and pratistha. Money and power corrupt... He insisted that all his disciples cease preaching activity and study the Bhakti Sandarbha. He especially criticized the use of texts like Gaudiya Kantha Hara, which give scriptural quotations for various philosophical positions, but which do not present the arguments…. He and Sundarananda Vidyavinoda eventually came to the conclusion that Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati's diksa was invalid, and he advised all his disciples to seek initiation elsewhere. Many of them did, and some became leading Vaisnavas in Vrindavan. Puri Maharaj [Ananta Vasudeva] sealed his infamy in Gaudiya Math circles by getting married and moving himself to Braja. He never took any more disciples, though he participated in the editing and publishing of the most authoritative and complete critical edition of the Gosvamis' works that has ever been produced…. Needless to say, when Prabhupada [A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada] talks about guru-bhogi, he refers to Kunja Babu and guru-tyagi about Ananta Vasudeva. Sridhar Maharaj established his independence from both groups very early on. He gave sannyasa initiation to Keshava Maharaja and many others…. Like Prabhupada [A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada], Sridhar Maharaj was an independent who struggled to follow the instructions of his spiritual master. At least let us give Tirtha Maharaja the benefit of the doubt. At least he was in it for the long haul. He maintained his sannyasa and he ran his organization to the very end. He made many disciples and friends in high places. He was a scholar, though not a brilliant one.”10
Therefore there was much support for making Ananta Vasudeva the next acharya, and almost immediately in 1937 an election was held and he was elected acharya. In 1943 he adopted the order of sannyasa, taking the name Bhakti Prashad Puri Maharaja.
“Srila Prabhupada was powerful. His sannyasa disciples were also powerful. They never fell down. Ananta Vasudeva gave himself sannyasa, and he fell down.”5
“After the disappearance of Guru Maharaja, there were the trustees and they said that a Governing Body (GBC) must be formed, so on the tenth day after his departure a Governing Body was constructed. The governing body decided to elect an acharya and the majority of the Governing Body voted for Vasudeva Prabhu to be acharya.”16
It is worth noting here that persons who had received only first initiation from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada, such as Bhakti Vaibhava Puri Maharaja, were given their second (diksha) initiation by Ananta Vasudeva. Some others took their second initiation from new gurus who had separated from both factions, such as Bhakti Vedanta Vamana Maharaja, who accepted diksha from Bhakti Prajnan Keshava Maharaja while the latter was imprisoned on a trumped-up murder charge.
The late Srila Bhakti Pramod Puri Maharaja was then known as Sri Pranavanda Brahmachari. He helped and supported the new acharya.
“One of the trustees was [Ananta] Vasudeva Prabhu and the other two trustees wanted Kunja Babu to become acharya. Many senior disciples like Nemi Maharaja objected. He said that when a branch is directly connected with the trunk and he is then asked to connect himself with another branch, is that possible? This was the argument he forwarded. My advice was asked by Professor Sanyal. I started pleading the case of [Ananta] Vasudeva because he was like my elder brother.”16
“I do not know sannyasi or grihasta or anything else. We are attracted not by the external grandeur of Gaudiya Math, but by the teachings. The siddhanta has attracted us and whoever knows the siddhanta, he must be acharya, whether he be a brahmacari or any other thing. The siddhanta, according to that; therefore, [Ananta] Vasudeva Prabhu is the best choice." And Professor Sanyal and Sundarananda all supported [Ananta] Vasudeva Prabhu. But several older sannyasis were already very eager to get independence; they and both the trustees were on the other side, opposing [Ananta] Vasudeva Prabhu. Bon Maharaja was excluded from the Governing Body at first; he had been passing his days in something of a revolt, with some difference of opinion with Prabhupada about western preaching. He was living a little separately from the mission. But after the demise of Prabhupada, when he came he hankered so much, so he was included on the Governing Body. There were already twelve in the Governing Body and when Bon Maharaja was added it was thirteen. Then Bon Maharaja went against the side of Vasudeva Prabhu, making five votes on that side and eight votes on the side of Vasudeva Prabhu. That meant a three-fourth majority or more on the side of Vasudeva Prabhu. So, they were defeated. They left and rented a house.”16
“Since the post was denied Kunjabihari Vidyabhusan prabhu, he left the Bagbazar Math …accompanied by 31 of the assembled sannyasins. According to one informant: 'The sannyasins thought that if they followed Kunjabihari they would have to obey his order and he is very strict...but he was not as strict as this person [Ananta Vasudeva].’ As mentioned Ananta Vasudeva had been a tough editor. And he did not deal differently with persons of higher or lower status when they handed in texts too late. Generally, it is agreed that it is improper for a grihastha to scold a sannyasin, but Ananta Vasudeva did and so he lost the support of the sannyasins in Calcutta. However he did have some very important sannysasin supporters, but they were at locations where he was not physically present. Ananta Vasudeva remained in Bhag Bazaar with the rest of the tyagins still in full control of the property as in Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati’s and suddenly the sannyasins who had followed Kunjabihari Vidyabhusan prabhu were without roof over their heads. Kunjabihari could not provide for them. “19
“According to one informant the sannyasins who left with Kunjabihari Vidyabhusan had misunderstood his role in the administration. Srila BhaktisiddhantaSaraswati and Kunjabihari Vidyabhusan had always worked close together establishing temples, etc., plus they had a lot of contact because of Kunjabihari Vidyabhusan’s staff function. Furthermore they had a close personal relationship. “Outsiders” could easily get the impression that Ananta vasudeva’s areas of competence were less important. Moreover, the monks were not aware of the division of labor on the legal level. They did not know that Kunjabihari Vidyabhusan had jurisdiction over only the movable property and had nothing to do with plots, buildings and cultivated farmland. They simply followed the person they looked upon as being in control because of his close friendship with Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and because they thought he had administrative authority. But in fact Ananta Vasudeva was the only official administrator.’19
Sridhar Maharaja became disgusted at an early date and established his own math in Navadvipa in 1942. “Before that, I waited for some time with Keshava Maharaja in a rented house and sometimes in Nagpur Math with Yadhava Maharaja and Madhava Maharaja.”16
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami noted that during the bombing of Calcutta by the Japanese in 1944, he sent his sons to stay in Sridhar Maharaja’s Math in Navadvipa, although his wife refused to leave Calcutta.14
Lawsuits, temple occupations, arrests and accusations of murder followed. The disciples of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati either fell into one camp or another, or left in disgust and struck out independently. B.P. Keshava Maharaja formed (with A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami and Narattomananda dasa Brahmacari) the Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti in 1942. Bhakti Saranga Gosvami Maharaja, Bharati Maharaja, and others all founded their own institutions in the 1940's and 50's.
“In time, with the tensions between the Ananta Vasudeva and Kunjabihari Vidyabusana wings growing, an official partition became unavoidable. The monks and their brahmacaris gathered in the temples where the wing they personally favored was in majority, and from 1937 to 1942 a number of lengthy lawsuits were initiated. Basically these lawsuits were about ownership to farmland and properties. Kunjabihari Vidyabusana and individual sannyasins demanded parts of the estate. For example, a sannyasin would say: ‘This Math was donated due to my missionary efforts, so now I want this math or land or some other value. ’”19
In 1940, Ananta Vasudeva applied to the Bengal High Court to have “the Gaudiya Math as a whole registered under Societies Registration Act of 1860 with amendments. The essence of this law is that non-profit organizations are benefited with tax exemption. In return for registration the organization must abide with a rule that no single person or group can claim ownership to any properties of the organization. And quite a few Indian religious groups are recorded under this law today. By 1942 Ananta Vasudeva’s application was accommodated with retrospective effect to 1940.’19
This meant that no individual could claim proprietorship over a math property. An individual may have worked as a member of the mission to acquire the property, but upon leaving the mission, or in some other circumstance; he could not claim ownership of the asset.
“It was now impossible for an individual to claim property on leaving the Gaudiya Math because the property was no longer private. Only monks who wanted to continue operating temples could hope for a share of the properties and even this only through court cases. So by 1942 a row of new cases had started. The chief court case was between the Kunjabihari Vidyabusana and Ananta Vasudeva wings. Altogether it spread over 12 years. But an important compromise was agreed to on January 1948. One informant explained to me that Ananta Vasudeva was shocked to see Kunjabihari Vidyabusana leave the Gaudiya Math after being denied the acharya post, an eventuality for which he had not been prepared at all.”19
“Then I thought, I tried my best to purify the mission according to my conscience but it is not to be so, so I must leave the mission, go on, go outside the mission, go and try to fight again to purify the mission according to my ability. That was my mentality, but Madhava Maharaja, Vinod Babu [Kesava Maharaja], and Goswami Maharaja [Bhakti Saranga] said ‘No, we can't tolerate that a false man will be in the place of our Guru Maharaja. We can't tolerate that. He is the Acharya of the Gaudiya Math. That is the next position of Guru Maharaja. That this position is overthrown by such a character as Vasudeva Prabhu, we can't tolerate that.’ I was indifferent and they were fighting. Then Vinod Babu and others made a [court] case.”16
Another who left was Hiagriva Brahmacari. He traveled around India and gave initiation himself.2 Later he accepted sannyasa from Srimad Bhakti Gourav Vaikhanas Maharaja on Gaura Purnima 1944, receiving the name Bhakti Daitya Madhava Maharaja. Together with Radha Raman Brahmachari (later Shanta Maharaja) and Yayabar Maharaja, Madhava Maharaja established a Math in Mindapur known as the Shyamananda Gaudiya Math in 1948. 15
The Gaudiya Math organization continued to function in some way, even though many, including the followers of Kunjabihari prabhu, were opposed to the new acharya. They felt this was contrary to the will of Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Gosawmi Prabhupada, who had seemingly given ascendancy to Kunjabihari prabhu in his final statements. In fact, Kunjabihari prabhu was sometimes referred to as “guru-prestha” [most dear to guru].11
“Yes. It is another way of earning money. And he was always after Guru Maharaja only for this purpose. Guru Maharaja took that ‘Oh, this man is helping me.’ But he had no such plan, to help Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati. He had the plan, ‘Keep Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati in front, earn money, and put it in my pocket.’ That was his very beginning. He was taking money like anything. But he was a good manager. Other Godbrothers complained; sannyasis. Guru Maharaja used to say that ‘Why you are complaining? You cannot reform him, your Godbrother? And if I would have to keep expert manager like him, I would have to pay something. Suppose he is taking something, why do you grudge?’ He would say like that. So nobody could say anything. But after the demise, everything burst out. ‘Kunja Babu must be driven out.’ That was the whole plan of Gaudiya Math breakdown. The grudge was against Kunja Babu…His name is Kunja Vihari Sar. So that was boiling in everyone's heart. So as soon as Guru Maharaja passed away, so that burst out. And the whole plan was how to get out this Kunja Babu.
This was the cause of breakdown. This was suppressed by Guru Maharaja under his influence, but the rebellious was there during his lifetime. And it burst into... Therefore he advised that ‘You make a governing body and Kunja Babu should be allowed to remain manager.’ This was directly spoken. He never asked anybody to become acharya. He asked that ‘You form a governing body of twelve men and go on preaching, and Kunja Babu may be allowed to remain manager during his lifetime.’ He never said that Kunja Babu should be Acharya…None of them were advised by Guru Maharaja to become acharya. His idea was ‘let them manage; then whoever will be actual qualified for becoming acharya, they will elect. Why I should enforce upon them?’ That was his plan; ‘Let them manage by strong governing body, as it is offing on, then acharya will come by his qualifications.’ But they wanted that... because at heart, they were, 'After demise of Guru, I shall become acharya.’ ‘I shall become acharya.’ So all the acharyas began fight. One side, that Vasudeva Acharya and Sar Kunja Babu Acharya. And Paramananda, he thought that, ‘Whoever will be powerful, I shall join them.’ He only thought. But Guru Maharaja never asked that these three men should be trustees. He wanted governing body. So the rebellion broke out immediately after his passing away. And then fight in the High Court. And Kunja Babu, he is very intelligent man. So from the very beginning he knew that ‘There will be fight after the demise of Guru Maharaja. So fight will be in the High Court. So at the expense of Guru Maharaja, let my brother and sons become attorneys and barrister so I will have not to pay all these things.’ It was a planned thing. And that is being done. He was a clerk; it was not in his power to make his brother and sons attorneys and barristers. They were all made at the cost of Gaudiya Math to fight …in favor of Tirtha Maharaja. These were the planned things.”1
But gradually, several things began to happen, separate from the legal actions and temple occupations.
On one hand, rumors of sexual misconduct on the part of the new acharya began to circulate. Devotees were already beginning to opt out of the Gaudiya Math organization at this point.
One day Sri Pranavanda Brahmacari was going about his duties of opening the mail for the acharya, when he came upon a romantic written by the sister-in-law of the rich and famous devotee, Sri Jagat Bandhu Dutta, the same individual who had donated the cost of the Calcutta Bhag Bazaar temple.
Interestingly, Jagat Bandhu had originally been preached to by Kunja Da, and after Jagat Bandhu’s death, “his two wives gave all his property to a ‘Trust’, meant to be for the work of the Gaudiya Mission, and Kunja Da had a controlling position in that Trust.”4
Of course, he may have heard rumors, but he had not given them credence. But, upon reading this letter, Pranavanda Brahmacari could understand the true situation, and he promptly left the Math. At the time of this incident, Ananta Vasudeva had not yet taken sannyasa, so we must assume the date is between 1937 and 1939, the date the Chaitanya Math website claims he accepted sannyasa. In this way, by the interception of that love letter, the love affair between Ananta Vasudeva and the sister-in-law of Jagat Bhandu was confirmed.15
Ananta Vasudeva was thus exposed, yet he refused to leave his post. There was fighting, some even say killing, as the battle raged. Even though he was exposed, he still accepted sannyasa in June 1939 at Gaya.22 Some say he awarded it to himself, but it is unclear. His new name was Bhakti Prasad Puri Maharaja. He was also called Srila Acharyadeva.
Now, this story of sexual fall down is the usual story, which is often repeated. It is whispered that Bhakti Prashad Puri Maharaja traveled to his different temples with a female sannyasini in his company, but I have not heard this from any authority and so do not confirm it.
However, there was other activity undoubtedly that began to take place. Even though Ananta Vasudava is usually rejected and vilified for sexual fall down, there was darker, more dangerous philosophical activity taking place. Here an alternate revisionist history is revealed.
Now, every action has a gross cause and a subtle cause. One action is that he suffered a falldown from the brahmacari platform. The other is that he openly criticized and ultimately rejected his guru and rejected his initiation and line.
Ananta Vasudeva and his close friend Sundarananda Vidyavinoda began to formulate criticisms of their guru, Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati. The were unhappy about the lack of siddha-pranali at initiation and felt that neither they nor their guru were linked to that vaishnava line by initiation, that the initiation as practiced by Sri Saraswati Thakur, both diksha and sannyasa, were invalid, eventually coming to the conclusion that only those born in certain families can be initiated, and can initiate. They also considered the wearing of saffron and Brahmin threads incorrect for those in the vaishnava line.
In this way they began an active program of scholarly criticism of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s philosophy, abandoning the literature of their guru and concentrating on the original works of the Six Goswamis. Ananta Vasudeva had started a commentary on the Bhakti-Sandarbha in 1934.22
Ananta Vasudeva was also disturbed and unhappy with the proselytizing mission of the Gaudiya Math. He considered it to be over-zealous, offensive, neophyte, ill informed and against the mood and true spirit of traditional Vaisnavism.11
Ananta Vasudeva and Sundarananda Vidyavinoda may also have been disillusioned to some extent by the bitterness and greed shown by their opponents in the succession war, even though such qualities could be attributed to their side as well. They came to see that the rapacious nature which was revealing itself was a symptom of the problems in the institution itself, and was manifesting because the institution was not following a proper line.
Ananta Vasudeva therefore eventually rejected the initiation given by Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, and urged his disciples to take diksha from what he called accredited acharyas, thereby rejecting his guru. This he justified on the basis of his understanding of the early writings of the followers of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Sundarananda Vidyavinode wrote an essay on the subject entitled “The Characteristics of the Guru According to Vaishnava Theology.” 12
“The contention is that Bhaktisiddhanta did not get mantra diksha and guru-parampara. Without mantra diksha and guru-parampara there is no question of receiving a siddha-pranali. ”13
“Ananta Vasudeva and Sundarananda Vidyavinoda defected from his lineage and wrote books criticizing a number of [Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati’s] policies several years after he left the world…all opposition to Bhaktisiddhanta also includes the fact that he did not receive siddha pranali from Bhaktivinoda or Gaura Kishora. Some critics go so far as to question whether he was initiated at all.”17
Now, as it was Kunja Babu who had originally brought Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati to Number 1 Ultadanga Junction Road, he was thus very senior, and was usually addressed by math members as Kunja Da, the title Da meaning elder brother.
He was a manager in the Calcutta post office. Once when Srila Prabhupada was ill, he sent for Kunja Da, and Kunjabihari dropped his work and came immediately. When he appeared Srila Prabhupada sat up in his sickbed and embraced him, and immediately felt better. Everyone knew of the close relationship between Srila Prabhupada and Kunja Da.
“Once while residing in the Calcutta Gaudiya Math, Srila Sarasvati Thakura was deathly ill and bed-ridden…. The devotees were at their wits end how to help, and so they finally pleaded with their Gurudeva asking him what to do to relieve his suffering.”7
“Finally…Prabhupada opened his eyes and begged them in a choked voice to please bring Kunja Da…At that time Kunja Da was working at the Calcutta post office to help raise money for his Gurudeva's preaching. (In fact, it was Kunja Da who met Srila Saraswati Thakura while he was a bhajan-anandi and helped him to come out and start preaching. He also helped Srila Saraswati Thakura carry the corpse of Srila Gaura Kishore Dasa Babaji Maharaja to the current samadhi in Mayapur).”7
“A devotee was sent to bring Kunja Da, who immediately left his duties at the post office and returned to the Math. As soon as Kunja Da entered the sick room of Srila Saraswati Thakura, the great Acharya sat up with opened arms. Kunja Da ran into the arms of his Gurudeva who embraced him tightly. The other devotees (including Bon Maharaja) were astounded to see the face of their Lion Guru resting on the shoulder of Kunja Da with profuse tears pouring from his eyes onto the body of Kunjabihari Dasa. And Kunjabihari Prabhu was also weeping and trembling as he hugged his great master. This tearful embrace lasted what seemed like a long time. And after that Srila Saraswati Thakura was better…. This is one of the many reasons why so many devotees sided with Kunjabihari Dasa.”7
Therefore, when the GBC voted to make Ananta Vasudeva the acharya, Kunja Da and his followers left the Math and rented their own place. Then Kunjabihari Vidyabhusan prabhu, along with Vinoda Prabhu and others, came forward and made a court case against him. Because of his intimate relationship with the late Srila Prabhupada, many devotees - though a still minority of all - supported him. He was still working in the Post Office, but he was officially one of the three Gaudiya Math Trustees, the other two being Ananta Vasudeva and Paramananda prabhu. Paramananda prabhu and Kunjabihari Vidyabhusan prabhu were cooperating together against Ananta Vasudeva, Pranavanda Brahmachari, and others.
The court case was begun in 1940. It was after that the falldown of Ananta Vasudeva was [widely] exposed Initially their lawsuit, aiming to take back the organization from Ananta Vasudeva, was successful and they won the case, and all 64 Maths were ordered by the court to be released from the control of Ananta Vasudeva (Bhakti Prashad Puri Maharaja) and his faction.
“Ananta Vasudeva prabhu…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 Srila Bhaktisiddanta Saraswati Thakura, who opposed him. It came about because he was attracted to his own lady-disciple and married her. Everyone told him that in Srimad Bhagavatam and other scriptures it is written that such behavior is not a good thing for Vaisnavism. They therefore said, ‘You should go with her; and you should vacate your position as acharya.’ Everyone turned against him. He was at that time very wealthy, and he had a great deal of power. His Godbrothers therefore left his place and established their Maths here and there. [Interviewer: Was the falling of Ananta Vasudeva Krsna's arrangement so that the Gaudiya Matha will grow more?] Yes, that is right. We can reconcile it in this way. Otherwise we could not have preached all over the world…Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami 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.”6
But the Ananta Vasudeva faction (which was still the official legal Gaudiya Math) appealed the ruling, and they were ordered by the appeals court to come to an agreement to settle the dispute and present it to the court.
Before Ananta Vasudeva’s application for registration of the Math to the Calcutta High Court had been accommodated, he left for Vrindavan but soon went on to the Gaudiya Math in Gaya where his wing was in majority. When he received the news from Bhag Bazaar that registration had been approved, he immediately took sannyasa from Rupavilasa Brahmacari with the sannyasa name Bhakti Prasad Puri Goswami. [Note: This would put the date at 1942, yet the Gaudiya Mission website gives the date he took sannyasa as 1939. Obviously both dates can’t be correct. There is also the question as to whether he took sannyasa from this Bhahmacari, in itself unusual, or, as mentioned previously, awarded it to himself.] On the very same day he telegraphed Bhag Bazaar to inform them that now that he was on the correct ashram level he would return as acharya. After the 1948 compromise it took another three years to divide the 66 temples between the two wings. Ananta Vasudeva managed to get two thirds of the properties for his side, while Kunja Babu had to settle for the remainder. The procedure was that Ananta Vasudeva had first choice. One informant explained: ‘When the compromise was established, the other party Ananta Vasudeva wanted the Bhag Bazaar Math. It was a big math really and it was in Calcutta and it was widely renowned. So they wanted it.’ Kunjabihari said, ‘Let me have anything.’ So he was given Chaitanya Math in Mayapur, but at that time the Chaitanya Math was not so well developed. The two new lines took the names Gaudiya Mission and Sri Chaitanya Math, respectively.”19
Kunja Da had received the order of sannyasa from Bhakti Vijñan Ashram Maharaja in 1947, and he was now Sri Bhakti Vilas Tirtha Maharaja. In that same year, Srila Bhakti Hriday Bon Maharaja was appointed secretary of Sri Chaitanya Math (the Kunja Babu faction), a position he held for three years. B.D. Madhava Maharaja was also affiliated with that institution until 1953 when he founded the Sri Chaitanya Gaudiya Math Institution.
The two sides had talked about how to divide up the assets of the Gaudiya Math, with roughly two-thirds of the Maths going to the faction headed by Bhakti Vilas Tirtha Maharaja, now known as Sri Chaitanya Math, and one-third going to the renamed Gaudiya Mission. Bhakti Prasad Puri Maharaja had already sold the printing press to pay legal fees. Kunja Da had sent his son to law school, and he handled the litigation for his father’s side.
But there was a sticking point, even though both sides had agreed to the division of the temples, both still claimed the sacred Yoga Pith birth site complex and the extremely valuable Bhag Bazaar temple, and so there was deadlock. The fight centered on those two properties.
So in 1951 Sri B.R. Sridhar Maharaja called upon Sri Bhakti Vilas Tirtha Maharaja and “spoke to him of logic.” He pointed out that he could make a temple in Calcutta anytime, but there was only one birth site of Lord Chaitanya, and only one samadhi of Srila Prabhupada, so he should concede the Bhag Bazaar property, which was much more valuable in monetary terms, and accept possession of the sacred Yoga Pith site.15
“Krishnadasa Babaji was sent to me. No one could approach Vasudeva Prabhu, they are all very much afraid of his personality. ‘Only Sridhar Maharaja can approach him. Though he is his greatest enemy, still he has some affection for Sridhar Maharaja.’ [Ananta] Vasudeva told me that Prabhupada had done many things that cannot be supported according to the scriptures and he incited that, ‘your name is Sridhar Maharaja. Where is this name mentioned?’ I told him ‘in Gaudiya Kanthahara, you have all printed this and Ananta Samhita. You have this collection of quotations and one hundred and eight names of sannyasis.’ Vasudeva said, ‘Oh, that is all false, concoction. No Ananta Samhita. We have concocted this name and Sachin Pandit has given the Sanskrit. So, it is all false. Therefore, we cannot follow strictly the principles of Prabhupada.’’16
“Then I gave him this answer. In the Veda and Upanisad, there is sin also. The first consideration is Rsi, but if we consider that Srimad-Bhagavatam is full-fledged theism and that it is the primary conception of full-fledged theism is given in Bhagavatam and [by] Mahaprabhu. And those persons who preach that full-fledged theism and find expression within their heart, anything added to that, it appeared to me, is greater sastra than the Veda and Upanisad. I asserted this before him. Then he remarked, ‘Of course what you say may be true, but that man who feels any suggestion to create new things to help this movement of full-fledged theism must be svarupa-siddha. If he is svarupa-siddha, then what you say is true.’ That means that he thinks that Prabhupada is not svarupa-siddha. I thought that this was a hard thing, so I became silent. He also became silent. But anyhow, in my talk with him, I found that he may have some compromise with Kunja Babu. I wrote to Madhava Maharaja, saying that I have talked with Vasudeva Prabhu and I felt that a compromise may be affected very soon.”16
“After some time a proposal came to me that I approach Vasudeva and try to make a compromise; otherwise, by the way of litigation we won't be able in our lifetime to reach the solution. Then I approached Bhag Bazaar Math and I asked them that if any compromise was possible, I had come to take that. They said that they were not bold enough to approach Vasudeva with any proposal or compromise. They said that if I was, I could write him in Allahabad. I wrote a letter from there, the Bhag Bazaar temple, to his Allahabad address. Then [Ananta] Vasudeva came suddenly to the Bhag Bazaar Math. I was living there with [A.C. Bhaktivedanta] Swami Maharaja at Sita Kanta Bannerji Lane, Calcutta. They told me that he [Ananta Vasudeva] had come and I went and met him. Then he told me that he didn't care for any future consequence. ‘Yes, I know that. ’"16
“I told Vasudeva that ‘You are in the chariot, well equipped and Kunja Babu is on the earth standing with no weapon, but the law is on his side. Still he will compromise. I also think you should do that. They also rendered important service at the time of Prabhupada as you did, we think. They should not be cheated from their future service of the mission. Kunja Babu is almost the co-founder with Prabhupada. And the court case will come very soon and attract many people and a few things will come against you, your character. You mind that.’ ‘I don't care for that,’ he said. ‘That also I know, that you don't care for anything, but there is another party that has got their society, high society, and they will be very much blasphemed in faith. Will you be able to tolerate that? The blasphemy of the other party who has got their good society in Bengal.’ Then he was calmed, ‘Yes, you try. I am your friend, not your enemy. Still I am your friend. Then you try for compromise.’ "16
“Then I tried and in the middle of the negotiations, Kunja Babu said, ‘You please take me to him and then everything will be finished.’ I knew better. Still, I told him that if he wanted I could take him to Vasudeva's quarters. Vasudeva Prabhu and Kunja Babu met together, and the negotiation fell [apart] totally…so I said to the both of them, ‘You don't go from here. I pray to you.’ And again I connected both the Maths. The Bhag Bazaar Math was the most valuable, so both the parties demanded the Bhag Bazaar Math. Kunja Babu himself had tried his best to construct that temple, so he wanted it. And Vasudeva Prabhu, his party saw that Mayapur was under direct control of Prabhupada's [written] will. If this compromise fails and in the future [the will] is again introduced into court, then they won't be able to [legally] keep possession of Mayapur…but Bhag Bazaar has a separate [legal] document. The lawyer [had] prepared a separate deed that the successor of Prabhupada will occupy it. So, basically, the Bhag Bazaar Math party thought that it would be safe to keep possession of the Bhag Bazaar temple and were uncertain of the position of Mayapur. They both also said that Bhag Bazaar Math was a preaching center of the whole world, an important position. So both demanded it.”16
“I put [forward] a proposal, in other places outside Bengal the temples will be divided equally, but in Bengal, it is Bhag Bazaar Math versus all other temples in Bengal. I gave this formula to them: only Bhag Bazaar Math, on one side, and all other Maths including Dacca, Mayapur, and others. Then they consulted and the devotees at Bhag Bazaar Math did not leave Bhag Bazaar Math. And Kunja Babu reluctantly took Mayapur. I told him, ‘The Bhag Bazaar Math can again be created in Calcutta, but a second Mayapur, the birthplace of Mahaprabhu, that can never be created. So this is a good portion.’ During negotiations some promise had been given that we could again form a Governing Body; that we shall go on preaching together again, but after the case they did not agree…. Later, another litigation was started, and that is in the court, going on; espoused by others. A [Section] 92 case, that is in high court going on, whatever, moving slowly…and now Kunja Babu is gone and again there is a split. Anyhow, they [Sri Chaitanya Math] continued in the possession of Mayapur.”16
At a certain point in time, Ananta Vasudeva/Bhakti Prasad Puri Maharaja authorized all his disciples to take initiation from whomever they desired, and handed over his organization, by then renamed the Gaudiya Mission, headquartered at Bagh Bazaar, to Bhakti Kevala Audulomi Maharaja in 1954, first making the stipulation he must dress in white, not saffron. To this he agreed, but at some unspecified time later reverted to the traditional saffron.
Ananta Vasudeva/Bhakti Prasad Puri Maharaja then went to Vrindavan, married one of his disciples - although it is not clear if that was to the sister-in-law of Sri Jagatbandhu dasa - and lived out his life in a reclusive manner, calling himself Puri dasa, writing a number of books. His criticism and rejection of Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati has caused him to be viewed with repugnance by the Maths to this day. His supporters and defenders were left disillusioned.
“When [Bhakti Prasad] Puri Maharaja discovered the lack of initiation in the Gaudiya Math lineage, he called all of the leading sannyasi in the Math organization together and informed them of his discovery. He advised them: ‘You all may as well go home and get married. Continuing this charade is useless.’ He then took his own advice taking off his saffron robe and heading to Vrindaban where he at first hid from the anger of his former God-brothers…. When he arrived in Vrindaban, he was given shelter by Vishvambhar Goswami, one of the Radharaman Goswamis. Shortly thereafter he publicly renounced the Gaudiya Math and apologized for all of the offenses he committed as a prominent member and leader of it. He later married and settled in Vrindaban producing over the years…more than fifty volumes…of Gaudiya scripture….”13
Many of his former disciples became renounced residents of Radha Kund. Puri dasa (Ananta Vasudeva) had promulgated a style of kirtan known as ‘Sri Krishna Chaitanya Gaura Gunadhama’, and that kirtan can be heard there to this day, although it is interesting to note that Puri dasa eventually believed that congregational chanting of the Hare Krishna mahamantra was unauthorized.
“At that time the Bhag Bazaar Math was the most desired. And Kunjabihari had to settle for Yogapitha and Sri Chaitanya Math in Mayapur. Later, Kunjabihari built these places to the destination for pilgrimage we know today. Apparently Puri Goswami [Ananta Vasudeva] thought he had now done his service. On March 1, 1951, he ordered the main gate of Bhag Bazaar temple closed, and read aloud from the court documents that the division of property had now been concluded. Then, to everyone’s astonishment, he added that he wanted to retire. He appointed his brother Bhakti Pradip Tirtha Maharaja as his successor. However the post as acharya did not suit Tirtha Maharaja and by 1953 he wanted to stop. A delegation was sent to Ananta Vasudeva who had moved to live in Allahabad (but not in Rupa Gaudiya Math since he had left his ashram). The delegation consisted of five persons: Aprema Dasa (?), secretary substitute Baba Bandashik Dasa, Bhakti Kevala Audulomi Maharaja, secretary Rupavilasa Brahmachari who later became Bhagavat Maharaja and acharya from 1982-1993, and Bhakti Pradip Tirtha Maharaja’s son Krishna Prasad Brahmachari. The delegation’s mandate was to request Ananta Vasudeva to talk his brother into staying on as acharya in Bhag Bazaar. However, Bhakti Pradip Tirtha Maharaja passed away at the age of 76 in November 1953 before the delegation even reached Allahabad. When this became known, Ananta Vasudeva decided that Bhakti Kevala Audulomi Maharaja - one of the very few persons who had taken sannyasa form Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Siddhanta Saraswati himself - should be appointed acharya in Bhag Bazaar. He ordered Bhakti Kevala Audolomi Maharaja to change his ochre sannyasa clothes to white ‘paramahamsa’ dress. As paramahamsa, Bhakti Kevala Audolomi was acharya from 1953 to 1982. The Gaudiya Mission today consists of about thirty Maths.”19
“One boy, Rancor, so his father and mother divorced and he was young child. He was the first child of his mother. And the mother, he said, would daily bring a new friend. So he could understand…[new boyfriends]…Daily night. And he was shocked. One of my Gaudiya Math Godbrothers, big, he became the head of this Bhag Bazaar Gaudiya Math. So his wife was debauched, and she was bringing new paramour, and the child protested…And the boy, he was ten years or twelve years old, he could understand: "Who is this man?" So he protested and said, "I shall tell all these things to my father." [And he was killed…the boy was killed…By the mother…She murdered him]…Yes. Killed means given poison. And the father, that is, my Godbrother, seeing this, he also took poison. This is the end of Gaudiya Math scandal. He was also one of the trustees. This Tirtha Maharaja [Kunjabihari] was a trustee, and another Godbrother and this man. In the beginning, they were made trustees. So one of the so-called trustees was this [Ananta] Vasudeva. So he died, his end was like this. His wife was a regular prostitute, and she killed her child, and on this shock, he took poison and died…. [He killed himself]… Naturally, he became shocked, that ‘This is my family life--the wife is prostitute and son is killed. What is the value of my life?’ This was his spiritual realization. Just see. And he was made the chief.”2
“What really happened was Ananta Vasudeva was seeing a prostitute in Navadvipa, and fathered an illegitimate child (while claiming to be the jagat-guru and acharya of the math). When he was caught, he left the Gaudiya Math (taking his prostitute with him) and joined a babaji in Vrindavana (because that babaji had no problem with him staying with the prostitute). Later the prostitute found another man, and she gave poison to kill the son of Ananta Vasudeva (who was around 10 at the time). After this Ananta Vasudeva committed suicide by consuming poison. This is the great history of this man. But some babajis like to quote him as though he was a great acharya. His offense was that he usurped the position of acharya without the authority of his spiritual master, Bhaktisiddhanta. Later he committed countless offenses to pure devotees, such as Srila Sridhar Maharaja and others. The results speak for themselves.”8
Initiated both hari nam and diksha by Sri Siddhanta Saraswati in 1913, Bhakti Kevala Audulomi Maharaja was the son of a big Nadia landholder and had been with the mission since the days of the Nama Hatta program of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur. Working intelligently, he had purchased many of the buildings the Gaudiya Math had previously rented. During this time, the mission opened a branch in Godrum, Navadvip. They published books and their kirtans known for their organized and lively dancing.
He traveled throughout India and preached to important leaders, and published a book of his discourses in English. His mission naturally kept a lot of distance from the other Gaudiya Maths after the settlement took place. After his disappearance in 1982, Srila Bhakti Srirup Bhagavat Maharaja, a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, guided the mission. He preached in India, England, and opened a center in Holland. After the disappearance of Bhagavat Maharaja in 1993, Gaudiya Mission was handed over to Srila Bhakti Suhrit Parivrajak Maharaja.
Following is a first hand account of Ananta Vasudeva’s preaching and later life.
“In 1943 [Krishna dasa] traveled with his son and Hari dasa to Delhi, where they were invited to attend a series of lectures on Sri Jiva Gosvami's 'Bhakti Sandarbha' given by Puri dasa Maharaja. It went on for up to five, six hours daily, nearly for a month and a half and continued in Mathura for about twenty days, having originally started in Sri Mayapur at the rate of three classes daily for a period of four and a half months. As a great Vaishnava and an accomplished Sanskrit scholar, [Bhakti Prasad] Puri dasa Maharaja was lecturing with profound theological sensitivity, finding it almost impossible to check his deep religious emotions, to the point of having his tears completely drenching his chest. At the concluding session he announced that he was relinquishing all of his followers to any of the existing authentic uninterrupted (parampara) Gaudiya Vaishnava hereditary spiritual lineages of which they had the choice to affiliate themselves properly in disciplic succession. He then got married, had a daughter and a son and dedicated the rest of his life in transliterating 62 books of the Vrindavan Gosvamis from Sanskrit to Bengali, publishing them for free distribution to the most important pandits of India.”20
” In 1948… Krishna dasa then returned to remain with Puri dasa Maharaja and assist him in his work. As Puri dasa Maharaja moved his quarters to Vrindavan Krishna dasa followed him and started living in Radha Raman Ghera as a neighbor of Vishvambhar and Krishna Chaitanya Gosvamis. This gave him the chance to daily attend the seven arati-ceremonies of Sri Sri Radha Raman. Puri dasa Maharaja stayed near Sri Sri Radha Raman Mandira for a while and moved to a room in Purushottama Gosvami's residence in Bankicha.”20
”In 1951, Puri dasa Maharaja decided to build a house at Ambika Kalna and entrusted the task to Hari dasa and Krishna dasa. They reached the place by train, bought a plot of land near Gauri dasa Pandit's Gaura-Nitai temple and had the construction work started. Hari dasa returned to Vrindavan after a few months, but Krishna dasa remained, continuing to supervise the work. Puri dasa Maharaja passed away in Vrindavana, four days after Gaura Purnima of 1958, and his corpse was brought to Radha Kund where he was given a Samadhi. Krishna dasa lived at the samadhi, located in the vicinity of the local cremation ground.”20
“Immediately after the loss of Bhag Bazaar Math, Kunjabihari settled with his 31 sannyasins in Vrindavan and Mathura. Since income was scarce, the bhikshu trips got more frequent and several sannyasins left Kunjabihari for this reason. One by one they left Kunjabihari, but not to return to Ananta Vasudeva. Rather, they started their own organizations. However Kunjabihari did manage to get a big Math going in Midnapur from where the sannyasins went on bhikshu tours in Bankura and Bishnupur. In the early 1940’s rooms were rented in Lansdown, Calcutta, and later on Hazra Road and even later in the still existing Chetla Math. At about this time the financial pressure began to loosen up. But some of the sannyasins started to act as acharyas, and initiated disciples with diksha. One source says: Kunjabihari protested against these, saying that a Math cannot have so many acharyas. Outraged Maharajas left in protest and renounced the Math, and individually built Maths of their own. They already had good savings so finance was no problem. And this is the reason why there are so many little organizations today that go back to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupada.”19
Bhakti Vilas Tirtha Maharaja remained acharya of Sri Chaitanya Math until his disappearance in 1976. Among the leading personalities who became his disciples were: Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first president of India, Dr. Radhakrisnan, President of India, Dr. Raddy, President of India, V. D. Yati, Vice-President of India, Dr. G. S. Patak, Vice-President of India, K. Kamraj Nadar, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu state.21
“Kunjabihari [Bhakti Vilas Tirtha Maharaja] passed away in 1976 and new disputes broke out. This led to the division of Sri Chaitanya Math into northern (Mayapur / Calcutta) and southern (Madras) branches. Bhakti Vilas Tirtha Maharaja’s son and Bhakti Kusum Sraman Maharaja took over the southern temples and Bhakti Prajnan Yati Maharaja became acharya for the northern temples. By 1986 they joined forces only to separate again in the mid-nineties. At its height Sri Chaitanya Math reached…35 temples.”19
Generally in today’s Gaudiya world, the Sri Chaitanya Math of Bhakti Vilas Tirtha Maharaja is considered the more correct of the two sides, as he maintained his sannyasa vow and more strictly adhered to the traditional line of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur. It continues to maintain many of the holy places in Bengal. Certainly there is felt a desire not to rock the boat and bring up past un-pleasantries with relation to the events described herein. Sometimes reconciliation can be achieved better if some things are left unsaid. Thus the mission today is considered mainstream Gaudiya and interacts with most other Gaudiya organizations, unlike the Gaudiya Mission, which has maintained much of its traditional isolation, and still honors the memory of Ananta Vasudeva.
In the 1950, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Bhakti Prajnana Keshava Maharaja wrote and published article on the breakup, the first in a series. Such a hue and cry of protest arose from the mass of devotees arose that they decided not to publish further articles on the matter. Bhakti Prajnana Keshava Maharaja was certainly in a position to know all the details firsthand, having at one time been falsely accused of murder and arrested along with his entire Math.
In the 1960’s a Section 92 [Exclusion of Evidence or Oral Agreement] case was filed.9
“Regarding the 92 section case against the Gaudiya Math, I don't think there is any possibility of compromise. Both the Bhagbazar Party and Mayapur party have unlawfully usurped the missionary institution of Srila Prabhupada, and whenever they will talk of a compromise, it means another complication.”3
“So he died, his end was like this.”2
And that is the story of the breakup of the Gaudiya Math.
Our story ends.
Authors Note: I have tried to the best of my meager ability present this information without editorial comment or judgment and with all respect to the participants living and dead. For my offenses, please forgive me. Now all are gone from our vision, and only we remain. It is worthwhile knowing our history, I think - but I may be wrong. I will revise this article as more information manifests.
Atithi Nivas, Alachua, Florida
July 10, 2006 Guru Purnima and Disappearance Day of Sanatan Goswami
©2006 Jalakara dasa
1. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. September 21, 1973. Conversation in Bombay, 730921r2.bom Conversations.
2. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. June 18, 1976. Recorded conversation. 760618rc.tor Conversations.
3. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Letter to Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja 9/30/69.
4. Bhagavata Janananda Prabhu. Taped interview May 20-22, 1977.
5. Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja. February 28, 2000.
6. Bhaktivedanta Narayan Maharaja. Interview with Satyarupa dasi. January 15, 2000.
7. Prabhupada's Godbrother Bhakti Vilas Tirtha Maharaj, Hrsikesananda dasa. VNN. November 6, 1998. [http://www.vnn.org]
8. Indiadivine. [http://www.indiadivine.com/ubb/Forum1/HTML/000345.html]
9. Indian Evidence Act, 1872
10. Letter to Rocana dasa, Jagadananda dasa. January 15, 1997.
11. The Parampara Institution in Gaudiya, Jagadananda dasa.1993. [ http://www.harekrsna.com/vada/nugas/param.htm]
12. Sripata-Paraga, Karuna Dasa. Calcutta, 1964.
13. More Reflections on Initiation: Critique of Tripurari's Little Tan Book, Nitai dasa. September 15, 1999.
14. Srila Prabhupada Lilamrta, Satsvarup Goswami, BBT.
15. Sri B.B. Bhodayan Maharaja. Interview with Jalakara dasa. August 2002.
16. Our Affectionate Guardians, B.R. Sridhar Maharaja
17. Sri Guru Parampara, Tripurari Swami, VNN 4/12/98. [http://www.VNN.org]
18. A Ray of Vishnu, Robert D MacNaughton, New Jaipur Press 1988.
19. The Split in the Gaudiya Math, Dr Finn Madsen 1996 (from MA thesis entitled 'Tradition og fornyelse i Gaudiya Matha' (in English: 'Tradition and renewal in Gaudiya Matha'). It is an unpublished prize winning thesis from Copenhagen University. (Used by permission letter May 12, 2004). I have quoted this work extensively. Although my original article was completed in 2003, I came upon Dr Madsen’s work in 2004 and re-edited my work so as to accommodate his illuminating information for the benefit of the reader.
20. Madrasi Baba's Biography, cited by Jagadananda dasa (Apr 27 2004) at http://www.gaudiyadiscussions.com/index.php? showtopic=1557&st=0&p=14623entry14623 (I would welcome a more complete reference for this footnote.) The dates as given in this account seem on the surface to be at odds with other dates given herein.
21. Information provided by Sri Chaitanya Math, Yoga Pitha, Sridham Mayapur.
22. Official Gaudiya Mission Website, www.gaudiyamission.com
Contemporary Disciples Page