Dear gentle vaisnavas, first of all I take upon my head the holy dust from the lotus feet of my Paramaradhyata Gurupadapadma Om Visnupada Astottara Sata Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Vamana Gosvami Maharaja. At the same time I take the dust from the lotus feet of my beloved siksa-guru Om Visnupada Astottara Sata Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja, whom I have tried my level best to satisfy heart and soul in the capacity of his personal servant for the past twenty-one years.
Prior to today, I have never written or submitted any article to the Internet. However, I have been dragged into this arena against my will by the recent turn of events. Before joining the Gaudiya Math full time in 1979, during my college days in Bengal, I would visit my paramesthi sannyasa guru Nitya-lila Pravista Om Visnupada Astottara Sata Sri Srimad Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja. Every year since 1970, I had the good fortune to hear profound discourses from his lotus mouth in the divine company of my siksa guru, Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja. To this very day, we continue to pay our respects at the samadhi mandir of Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja during our annual visits to Sri Navadvipa Dhama. Now, on the request of the vaisnavas, I begin this paper entitled 'Refutation of "Krsna talk Ratha-yatra in Navadvipa".
Recently an article entitled "Krsna Talk: Ratha Yatra in Navadvipa", published on the Internet by Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja has become a cause of confusion among certain members of our Gaudiya vaisnava community. In this article Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja accuses Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja of committing an offense to Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja in 1974 during a written debate about the legitimacy of holding Ratha-yatra in Sri Navadvipa Dhama. However, this article contains several statements which are historically inaccurate. Therefore, with sympathy for all concerned, we will try to clarify the main points of contention. Most importantly, we pray that the readers will not harbour any ill-feeling towards Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja after reading this paper. He is a qualified and courageous devotee, yet somehow or other, due to his being misinformed, he has written something which may be harmful to his readers. A minor mishap such as this should be overlooked and considered negligible when weighed against more than thirty years of sincere guru-seva.
For the purpose
of this paper we have adopted the format of presenting direct
quotations from the article of Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja.
His article was written in response to a statement by Srila
Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, spoken on Baladeva Purnima this
year, regarding an objection to Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava
Gosvami Maharaja's decision to hold Ratha-yatra in Sri Navadvipa
Dhama. Avoiding any unnecessary criticism, we will now address
each point of the aforementioned article by Sripad B.G.
Narasingha Maharaja. Each point is followed by a comment for the
purpose of correcting any misinformation etc. It is our intention
that the information presented herein may heal some old wounds
and promote a new harmony amongst the spiritual family of Srila
Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura.
QUOTATION 1: (Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja writes:) "The first contention we have is whether or not Srila Keshava Maharaja actually established the Ratha Yatra in Navadwip in the first place. We do not find mention of such in the authorized biography of Srila Keshava Maharaja nor did we hear of such from Srila Sridhar Maharaja."
COMMENT 1: From the outset Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja admits that he is quite uninformed about the details surrounding the incident in question. Nevertheless, after presenting a statement from Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, who directly said that Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaja started Ratha-yatra in Navadvipa, Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja encourages his reader to think that the statement is false. He does not even take the trouble to research the historical facts. The historical evidence is being presented herein. In the archives of Sri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti one can find all the past issues of the journals entitled Sri Gaudiya Patrika and Sri Bhagavat Patrika. In the issue dated 20 varsa 4 sankhya, 25th June 1968 there is an invitation to Ratha Yatra in Sridhama Navadvipa. It was written personally by Srila Bhakti Prajnana Keshava Gosvami Maharaja. In the following issue (5th Sankhya) there is also a report of the whole festival, describing how all the procedures were observed successfully under the guidance of Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaja.
Prapujyacarana Bhakti Prapana Damodara Maharaja has been mentioned in the article of Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja as the person writing the objections (to holding Ratha-yatra in Navadvipa) on behalf of Sri Caitanya Sarasvat Matha. It is interesting to note that Sripada Bhakti Prapana Damodara Maharaja not only attended the festival, pulled the chariot, pushed the wheels and honoured Jagannatha deva maha prasada, but even collected a donation for the festival from Sriman Haripada dasa Adhikari.
If Sripad B.G.
Narasingha Maharaja had at least spoken with Sripad Bhakti
Prapana Damodara Maharaja he could have confirmed that
Ratha-yatra in sri navadvipa dhama was indeed inaugurated by
Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja. Instead of
researching the actual history, Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja
has chosen to publicly bring into question the statements of a
senior vaisnava and sannyasa godbrother of his gurudeva on the
basis of groundless speculation.
QUOTATION 2: "Generally speaking the programs established by Srila Keshava Maharaja at the Devananda Gaudiya Matha, such as the Navadwip Dham-parikrama have been maintained by the disciples of Srila Keshava Maharaja, even up to the present day. There is, however, no Ratha Yatra in Navadwip being maintained by that Matha."
Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja is a reliable person, but it
seems that he is depending upon a fallible research assistant.
The Ratha-yatra established by Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava
Maharaja in Navadvipa takes place at the same time as the
festival in Puri every year to this very day. Anyone with eyes
can go and see for themselves.
QUOTATION 3: "This controversial issue [whether or not it is proper to hold Ratha-yatra in Navadvipa] was discussed through a series of articles that appeared in the journals of the Devananda Gaudiya Matha and the Sri Caitanya Saraswata Matha respectively. Narayana Maharaja was writing for Devananda Gaudiya Matha and Srila Damodara Maharaja, a disciple of Saraswati Thakura was writing the articles on behalf of Srila Sridhar Maharaja for Sri Caitanya Saraswata Matha. These articles were written in Bengali and those articles are still available in the respective Matha libraries. Ontologically, whatever Srila Sridhar Maharaja directed to be written in the articles from his Matha was sastricly correct and he did not at anytime 'criticize' Srila Keshava Maharaja as Narayana Maharaja has suggested."
COMMENT 3: One may rightly inquire from Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja where exactly has Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja suggested that Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja had criticized Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaja? This assumption is the crux of the whole controversy. Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja has quoted the following words of Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja to substantiate his claim:
"When our Gurudeva started Ratha-yatra in Navadvipa, no one criticized him. When he left this world, however, a very highly advanced devotee spoke something against Ratha-yatra in Navadvipa. The day I heard it I could not sleep at night. I was restless and so much agitated. Soon after that I wrote an article in our magazine, and that article created chaos, havoc and very great agitation on the other side."
Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja's whole article is based on the assumption that the identity of the person referred to here as a "very highly advanced devotee" is Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja. However, Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja was not referring to Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja. This is the point where Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja's presentation breaks down because he accuses Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja of saying something he never said. It is not a credible practice to compose a thesis about something you thought that someone else said. We suggest that Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja read his own statement of evidence again. The name of Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja does not appear anywhere in the statement of Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja.
If he still insists that Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja has accused Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja of criticizing the decision of Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaja to hold Ratha-yatra in Navadvipa, then he can clear his doubt once and for all by reading the original article written in 1969 by Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja. As Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja mentioned " These articles are still available in the respective Matha libraries."
It seems that Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja has not read the original articles. If he had read them, he would not have made such thoroughly misguided assumptions. Perhaps he cannot read either Hindi or Bengali. If he had asked us, we could have furbished him with a translation. However, daring to write about this historical exchange of articles without even ever having read them must inevitably invite unmitigated shame upon oneself. The opening paragraphs of the first article written by Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, as a response to the article published by Sri Caitanya Sarasvat Matha questioning the authenticity of Ratha-yatra in Navadvipa, are presented below for the information of the readers. The complete article may be found in the appendix of this paper.
Sri Bhagavat Patrika, Kartika Agrahayana,
Samrat 2026, Varsa 15 Sankhya 6-7 26th December 1969.
"Sri Gaudiya Darsana "trayodasa varsa, pratham sankhya me, prakasita" Sri Rathayatra Sri Rupanuganucintana "namak prabandha parha. Usse aisa pratita hua ki ukta prabandha adaraniya sampadaka mahodayako bina dikhalaye hi prakasita kar diya gaya hai.
Ukta prabandhame anabhijna lekhak "Bhakti-Kovida" mahodayane bina kuch anusadhanaka klesh svikar kiye yohi managarhanta aur niradhara bate likh mari hai.
"Having read the essay entitled 'Sri Rathayatraya Sri Rupanuganucintana' [Ratha-yatra according to the conception of the followers of Srila Rupa Gosvami] published in the first issue, volume 13 of 'Sri Gaudiya Darsan' [the journal of Sri Caitanya Sarasvat Matha], it seems that this article has been printed without showing it to the most honourable editor, Prapujyacarana Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja. In the aforementioned essay, the uninformed author, by the name of Bhakti Kovida Mahodaya, without taking the trouble to research the subject matter, has rashly written some groundless and imaginative statements."
Considering the above direct quotation from Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja's first article:
In conclusion, by the historical evidence of the original documents, it is proven without a shadow of a doubt that Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja has neither criticized Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja nor suggested that Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja has offended Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaja.
One may quite rightly question Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja as to why he has made such serious allegations against a much senior member of our vaisnava community simply on the basis of hearsay, without even once referring to the specific source of his information.
One may also inquire as to why Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja has not quoted a single example of authentic evidence from the beginning to the end of his article. In all of his written works, Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja quotes extensively from Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja's own words in direct quotation marks. This being the case, why are any such statements conspicuously absent from his article "proving" the alleged offense committed by Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja?
We leave the
conclusion to be drawn by our respected readers.
QUOTATION 4: " in those days the disciples of Srila Keshava Maharaja were quite young and they may have lacked the experience in dealing with very highly advanced devotees."
COMMENT 4: We are more concerned with the facts than with opinions. The disciples of Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaja referred to as "quite young" and lacking experience in dealing with very highly advanced devotees were as follows:
Age at that time
Srila Bhaktivedanta Vamana
Srila Bhaktivedanta Trivikrama
Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana
QUOTATION 5: "Narayana Maharaja, in a last effort to avoid surrender, turned to attacks on the character of Srila Sridhar Maharaja and also to criticizing Srila Sridhar Maharaja's competency to preach. In his last article Narayana Maharaja called Srila Sridhar Maharaja 'a fish seller and a coal merchant.' Narayana Maharaja wrote: "You know the utility of selling fish and the utility of selling coal, but you do not know the utility of preaching."
COMMENT 5: Here we find a direct statement, supposedly from Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, fortified with the authority of quotation marks. We would like to ask Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja from where he has procured this statement.
He claims that it is from the last article of the exchange written by Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja. However, no such statement was ever written by Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja in the last article or in any other article. It is evident that although Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja has never read this article, he is bold enough to quote from it in public and thus inadvertently mislead innocent devotees who have no access to the historical facts. The original text in Bengali and English is being presented below.
Sri Gaudiya Patrika 22nd year issue 10 dated December 16th 1970
"'Anukulyena krsnanusilanam' ki prakara Sri ratha-yatra yadi anukula anusilana na haya, taha haile gamabhanga karya, kayala, matsya prabhrtira vyavasayaguli ki anukula krsnanusilana haibe Ucchadhikarura erupa cintasrota kanistha adhikarira durbodhya."
"Uttama bhakti is defined as the continuous cultivation of endeavours and moods which are favourable to Krsna anukulyena krsnanusilanam. How will it be accomplished? If Sri Ratha-Yatra is not anukula anusilana, then how will an enterprise of milling wheat, or a business involving coal and fish, be considered anukula anusilana? Highly elevated personalities may think like this, but it is very difficult for a neophyte to understand."
From the above authentic evidence it is clear that:
QUOTATION 6: "Some devotees from the Sri Caitanya Saraswata Matha approached Devananda Gaudiya Matha and informed Narayana Maharaja that Srila Sridhar Maharaja was mortified by Narayana Maharaja's article. Srila Sridhar Maharaja was so heart broken by the words of Narayana Maharaja that he remained in a very serious and internal mood for three days and did not take prasadam, but remained fasting. This was intolerable for the disciples of Srila Sridhar Maharaja, who then approached Narayana Maharaja and informed him of the gravity of the situation. The next event to unfold was that Narayana Maharaja came to the holy lotus feet of Srila Sridhar Maharaja with folded hands and humble prayers for forgiveness."
COMMENT 6: Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja narrates a truly moving story concerning this event which he claims took place "sometime in 1974". However, historical evidence proves that the article in question was published on December 16th, 1970. Are we to believe that the said article in this rapid exchange took four years to reach Sri Caitanya Sarasvat Matha, which is only one kilometre away from the press of Sri Devananda Gaudiya Matha?
As if that is not enough to raise doubts in the story narrated by Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja, the next point to understand is that Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja wrote all the articles from Sri Keshavaji Gaudiya Matha, which is more than two thousand kilometres away in Mathura. The articles were also printed in the Hindi language in the Journal of Sri Keshavaji Gaudiya Matha entitled "Sri Bhagavat Patrika" (as quoted earlier in this paper.) Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja was permanently posted by his Gurudeva in Mathura as head of the Matha there. It is common knowledge that Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja has stayed there for half a century and only visits Navadvip briefly at the time of Gaura Purnima. Thus there are hundreds of witnesses and also written documentary evidence to prove that Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja was two thousand kilometres away at the time when the article in question was published, namely December 16th 1970. So how could devotees of Sri Caitanya Sarasvat Matha approach Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja in Sri Devananda Gaudiya Matha and inform him of Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja's serious condition? The answer is obvious. They did not. Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja should face the facts. The whole story is a fabrication. It simply never happened.
Does Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja seriously expect any discerning person to believe his account of this incident when:
If Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja would like to contest this point in any court of law, we will happily oblige him. Unfortunately no lawyer in his right mind would ever take up the case of Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja because all the evidence is stacked firmly against him.
disappointing to see that such an exemplary personality as Sripad
B.G. Narasingha Maharaja has been completely taken in by the
scurrilous gossip of others. Furthermore it is out of character
for His Holiness to accept one side of a story without listening
to the other. If he had discussed these topics with us before
writing his article he would have been saved from such
QUOTATION 7: "One certainly has the right to preach what he earnestly believes to be the wishes of his Gurudeva and support such with philosophical arguments, but by name calling and ridiculing a senior Vaishnava, certainly a great offense is committed."
This is one statement with which we wholeheartedly agree. On
the one hand Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja tells us that we
should support our ideas with philosophical arguments and on the
other hand he presents a case against Srila Bhaktivedanta
Narayana Maharaja without supplying us with one shred of
supporting evidence. Furthermore, he refers to Srila
Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja as a "grievous
offender", and then facetiously calls him "the
rasika-acharya" two times. ("Rasika" is a term
applied only to the mahabhagavat who is free from the propensity
to criticize others. Therefore, the terms "rasika" and
"grievous offender" cannot be applied to the same
person without being contemptuous.) At the same time he tells us
that name-calling and ridiculing a senior vaisnava is
"certainly a great offense".
QUOTATION 8: " the rupees received from the fishermen for the rights to fish the pond were directly engaged in the service of the Deity. It was also the practice of the Matha to purchase a large amount of coal at one time and sell it to the surrounding villagers in small amounts day by day. Thus a modest profit was earned to help with the maintenance of the temple and Matha."
COMMENT 8: Although those opposing the Ratha-yatra festival in Navadvip were unable to recognise its practical value as a method of preaching to the local villagers, they were adept in recognizing an opportunity to take their money by renting their pond to the fishermen and selling coal. Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja has commented that they did this "at a modest profit." However, all such practices have been strictly forbidden by our acaryas for sannyasis and brahmacaris who are observing the tenets of pure Rupanuga vaisnavism. We cannot conveniently "adjust" the vaisnava siddhanta in the name of "yukta-vairagya". Admittedly, acaryas may make concessions for those who are not immediately ready to adopt the highest standards.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has written in his commentary entitled Piyusa-varsini-vrtti on Srila Rupa Gosvami's Sri Upadesamrta:
"Sato-vrtteh means one should maintain one's life in a suitable manner. Brahmacaris and sannyasis should beg alms by performing madhukari. As madhukara, bees take nectar from many flowers, similarly brahmacaris and sannyasis accept very little alms from many different households."
In other words, brahmacaris and sannyasis who want to engage in any type of business are in the wrong asrama. This is the conclusion of the genuine followers of Srila Rupa Gosvami. When this was kindly pointed out by Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, instead of being grateful, those who were guilty of transgressing the strict conduct of Rupanuga vaisnavism became unnecessarily angry and later fabricated a false history to hide their own digression from the path of saranagati and suddha-bhakti.
liberated maha-bhagavat vaisnava in the line of Srila Rupa
Gosvami, Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja was fully
conversant with vaisnava-sadacara (appropriate behaviour).
To imply that he would have masterminded the mundane profiteering
of some of his followers is an offence. It is possible however
that he allowed certain activities to go on as a concession for
neophytes. Therefore Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja's
valid comment that collecting money by various forms of business
is not pure Rupanuga bhakti does not in any way amount to a
criticism of Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja. Anyone who
could possibly construe it as such should examine their own
motives for doing so.
QUOTATION 9: "This controversial issue [whether or not it is correct to hold Ratha-yatra in Navadvip Dhama] was discussed through a series of articles that appeared in the journals of the Devananda Gaudiya Matha and the Sri Caitanya Saraswata Matha respectively. Narayana Maharaja was writing for Devananda Gaudiya Matha and Srila Damodara Maharaja, a disciple of Saraswati Thakura was writing the articles on behalf of Srila Sridhar Maharaja for Sri Caitanya Saraswata Matha. These articles were written in Bengali and those articles are still available in the respective Matha libraries."
COMMENT 9: Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja is rightly and widely acclaimed as one of the greatest vaisnava poets of our time. This being the case, what was the necessity for someone else to write on his behalf? Especially when this serious dispute, which was allegedly triggered by his own comments, escalated over a period of twelve months. We would expect that if Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja had felt so strongly about it, he would have personally written at least one sentence.
Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja admits that the articles refuted by Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja were not even written by Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja. All those articles as mentioned by Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja are "still available in the respective Matha libraries." The readers of this paper are welcomed to study all the original articles which focus exclusively on the siddhanta and rasa-tattva regarding Ratha-Yatra and Sri Navadvipa Dhama. All the articles are available from us on request, including the brilliant and scholarly paper written by Srila Bhakti Bhudeva Srauti Maharaja, a prominent disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, in support of the conclusions presented by Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja.
"Srila Sridhar Maharaja advised that the Ratha Yatra
should not be held in Navadwip."
COMMENT 10: We cannot accept that Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja could present as his ultimate conclusion such ideas which contradict both tattva-siddhanta and rasa-siddhanta, what to speak of the opinions of all his prominent godbrothers. It would not be inappropriate at this point to mention the fact that the Ratha-yatra of Devananda Gaudiya Matha was approved of by the following prominent disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Furthermore, many of these great vaisnavas used to personally participate in the Ratha-yatra organized by Sri Devananda Gaudiya Matha. Their names have been indicated thus: *:
Bhudeva Srauti Maharaja even submitted an article full of
sastra-pramana (scriptural evidence) supporting the article
written by Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja. Moreover,
Prapujyacarana Srila Bhakti Vilasa Tirtha Maharaja, acarya at the
Mula Gaudiya Matha and Sri Yoga Pitha also held Ratha-yatra every
year in Mayapura dhama.
QUOTATION 11: " Navadwip is the Gupta-Vrindavana (covered Vrindavana) and the ratha means the chariot. The chariot means Akura, who has come to take Krsna away from Vrindavana. Srila Sridhar Maharaja stated that when the eternal residents of Navadwip Dham see the Ratha Yatra, that it will strike terror in their hearts. Thus the Ratha Yatra is not appropriate to be held in Navadwip Dham. Indeed it would be an offense to the eternal inhabitants of the Dham."
COMMENT 11: All the above statements which have been attributed to Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja were actually written by "Bhakti Kovida Mahodaya". These statements are not upheld by Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who has commented: "The Ratha-yatra festival observed by Lord Caitanya is the emotional process of taking Krsna back to Vrndavana." (Krsna book, Chapter 81). This event is a cause for great jubilation. Excuse us for stating the obvious, but all chariots are not the same, and Akrura is not the only person in the whole world to drive one. The chariot of Lord Jagannatha has nothing to do with Akrura, and it has nothing to do with Krsna leaving Vrndavana.
There is no need of writing any new articles to establish the authenticity of Ratha-yatra in Sri Navadvipa Dhama. All objections have been refuted long ago. Therefore, for the pleasure of the vaisnavas, we are presenting, in its entirety, the excellent article written as the first response by Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja in 1969 in the appendix of this paper.
It has been shown conclusively in this paper that Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja has not committed any offence against Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja. Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja always honoured Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja as his siksa-guru and continues to honour him as such to this very day. Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja associated with Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja every year since 1946 (some years before the present birth of Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja). According to the brief biography on his website, Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja received "specific instruction" from Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja some forty-one years later in 1987. This was seventeen years after the incident in question. Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja disappeared in 1988.
Furthermore, Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja is the sannyasa guru of Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja's gurudeva. Therefore, on what tangible grounds can Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja deny the siksa connection of Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja with Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja as he has done in his article?
The articles of the original dispute were written in 1969 and 1970. Every year since that time, Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja and I came to pay our respects to the lotus feet of Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja during the Gaura Purnima celebrations. This continued right up until the year of his divine disappearance in 1988. In those meetings Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja and Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja had long and jovial philosophical discussions. Not once did Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja ever mention any point of siddhanta opposing Ratha-yatra in Sri Navadvipa Dhama or the articles written by Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja.
If Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja had actually been offended by Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja in 1970, then Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who also considered Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja to be his siksa-guru, would certainly have come to know about it. Why then would Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada call Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja to his bedside on the final days of his life? Furthermore, why would Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada request Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja to help his young disciples after his divine disappearance? [original recording or transcription available on request] Furthermore, although Srila Prabhupada was surrounded by his disciples, peers, and even seniors in Vrndavana, still he selected Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja to have the honour of putting him in samadhi. This would be a strange way to behave with a person who had grievously offended one's siksa-guru. Although talk about an alleged offense was circulating in a certain, isolated section of the vaisnava community, Srila Prabhupada obviously did not believe it. Why should we?
To conclude this paper, we would like to express our gratitude to the respected readers for patiently and carefully considering all the points presented herein. We would also like to extend a hand of friendship to Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja. We are not demanding that (to use his own words) "he should print a retraction of his previously published statements." We simply politely request that he remove the article entitled "Krsna Talk Ratha-yatra in Navadvipa" from his website to avoid any further misunderstanding. He might also entertain the possibility that Om Visnupada Astottara-sata Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja could be one of his few genuine well-wishers in this world. We pray that His Holiness Sripad B.G. Narasingha Maharaja and all the members of the family of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu may be peacefully united in the attempt to deliver all of Sri Krsna's parts and parcels from the dreadful ocean of material existence and one day serve the lotus feet of Sri Sri Radha-Govinda under the guidance of Sri Rupa Manjari.
vaisnava krpa lesa prarthi,
Tridandisvami Bhaktivedanta Madhava
The following article is the first reply written by Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja to the objections printed in the journal of Sri Caitanya Sarasvat Matha regarding Ratha-yatra in Sri Navadvipa Dhama.
Sri Bhagavat Patrika, Kartika Agrahayana,
Samrat 2026, Varsa 15 Sankhya 6-7 26th December 1969.
Sri Ratha-yatra in Sri Dhama Navadvipa
Is it contradictory to the conceptions of Rupanuga Bhakti?
Having read the essay entitled 'Sri Rathayatraya Sri Rupanuganucintana' [Ratha-yatra according to the conception of the followers of Srila Rupa Gosvami] published in the first issue, volume 13 of 'Sri Gaudiya Darsan' [the journal of Sri Caitanya Sarasvat Matha], it seems that this article has been printed without showing it to the most honourable editor, Pujyapada Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja.
In the aforementioned essay, the uninformed author, by the name of Bhakti Kovida Mahodaya, without taking the trouble to research the subject matter, has rashly written the following groundless and imaginative statements:
Therefore, it is against the principles of the followers of Srila Rupa Gosvami to hold the Ratha-yatra procession in Sri Navadvipa Dhama.
It is definitely necessary to analyze these 5 arguments.
1) "One cannot see the Ratha-yatra-lila in Sri Vrndavana " This statement made by Bhakti Kovida Mahodaya is completely groundless and a figment of his own imagination. It is evident that the writer has never been to Vrndavana or Vraja-mandala, or he has never taken the trouble to inquire from the realized vaisnavas who constantly reside here. The three worshipful Deities of the Gaudiya vaisnavas, namely Sri Madana-mohana, Sri Govindaji and Sri Gopinatha have Their respective temples in Vrndavana. The festival of Ratha-yatra-lila has been held in these temples with great pomp and splendour for hundreds of years. At the same time as the Sri Ratha-yatra procession in Puri, the same festival is also held in the temples established by the Gosvamis such as the Sri Radha-Damodarji mandir, and also in the Sri Radha-Syamasundarji mandir, the Sri Radha-Gokulanandaji mandir and others. In addition it is also held in almost all the prominent temples of the other sampradayas such as the Sri Ranganathji temple and the Sri Shaha-Bihariji mandir. This annual Ratha-yatra-lila is also a common sight in the homes of thousands of Vrajabasis. This procession takes place not only in Vrndavana but also in Mathura, Nanda-gaon, Varsana and even in Radha-kunda. Moreover, there are also ancient temples of Sri Jagannatha deva in Vrndavana and Radha-kunda. Therefore, to say that the Ratha-yatra-lila is not performed in Vrndavana or Vraja-mandala is completely false.
There are Rupanuga vaisnavas throughout the world. They performed the procession of Sri Ratha-yatra-lila in the past, and they are still performing it, in order to nourish their bhajana (confidential service). An associate of Sri Gaurasundara, Sri Kamalakara Pippalai, is a friend of Krsna named
Mahabala Sakha among the Dvadasa Gopalas (twelve prominent cowherd boys) in Krsna-lila. He has manifested the service and Ratha-yatra-lila of Sri Jagannathadeva in Bengal, in the district known as Mahesa. Even today this Sri Ratha-yatra festival is observed annually with magnificent pageantry. In the nearby district of Sri Rama-pura, the service of Sri Jagannathadeva is conducted both in Vallabhapura and Chatara, where Ratha-yatra has been observed for hundreds of years. In the village of Dhama-rai, (district of Dhaka) Ratha-yatra is very famous. The Vyasadeva of Sri Gaura-lila, Sri Vrndavana dasa Thakura, has also established a Deity of Sri Jagannath deva in his own village of Sripata, Sri Mamagacchi in Sri Modadruma Dvipa in Sri Navadvipa Dhama. The service of Sri Jagannathadeva is still going on there even today. The Ratha-yatra of Mahisadala, in the district of Medinipura, is also very famous. These days even in the huge cities of America such as San Francisco, Sri Ratha-yatra is celebrated in a grand style, in accordance with the mood of Sriman Mahaprabhu.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has expressed a particular mood in regard to Ratha-yatra. He always considered that Sri Krsna, being mounted upon His chariot, is returning to Vrndavana, to meet with all the gopis, especially with Srimati Radhika, who had been afflicted by the severe pains of separation from Krsna for a very long time. We should always remember that the Sri Rupanuga acaryas who were possessed of the necessary facilities, have manifested this pastime of the Ratha-yatra festival on the earthly plane in order to stimulate the aforementioned mood of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu within their hearts and to nourish their bhajana. Some niskincana Rupanuga vaisnavas, being bereft of the necessary facilities for observing this festival have stimulated this mood within their hearts by manasi-seva. Alternatively, they nourish their bhava by taking darsana of Sri Ratha-yatra-lila in various places such as Puri Dhama. The purpose of both approaches is fundamentally one. There is no difference between them.
2) Seeing the ratha (chariot) would stimulate a terribly undesirable apprehension in the hearts of the vraja-gopis. Therefore, how can the rupanuga vaisnavas, who are following the moods of the gopis, join in the Ratha-yatra procession?
This conception is also completely wrong in all respects. Adorned with the sentiment and complexion of Sri Radha, Sri Gaurasundara is directly Sri Krsna Himself, Sri Gadadhara Gosvami (Srimati Radha), Sri Svarupa Damodara (Sri Lalitaji), Sri Raya Ramananda (Sri Visakha), Srila Rupa Gosvami (Sri Rupa Manjari), Sri Sanatana Gosvami (Sri Lavanga Manjari), Sri Das Gosvami (Sri Rati Manjri) and all of the associates of Sri Gaurasundara, who were all mainly sakhis or sakhas in Vraja, assembled together for Ratha-yatra. They all danced and chanted before the chariot, deeply immersed in the mood, krsna lana vraje yai--e-bhava antara: "Let us take Krsna and go back to Vrndavana." Did the associates of Mahaprahu feel any distress or anguish upon seeing the chariot? Definitely not. Then why will their followers, the Rupanuga vaisnavas feel any anguish or undesirable apprehension?
The internal purpose of the moods of Ratha-yatra as promoted by Sri Gaurasundara is as follows: after a long period of separation, on the occasion of the solar eclipse at Kuruksetra, Srimati Radhika and the gopis met with Sri Krsna. But Srimati Radhika was not satisfied due to the fact that Sri Krsna was dressed as a king and was surrounded by immense opulence, elephants, horses, military generals and His associates of Dvaraka. She wanted to see Krsna dressed as a cowherd boy in Vrndavana, the place of His sweet, human-like pastimes. Therefore she wanted to bring Krsna back to Vraja. It is evident from the Padma Purana that Sri Ratha-yatra-lila, the pastime of Krsna's returning again to Vrndavana on a chariot, is exhibited in Sri Jagannath Puri and other places. Therefore, what is there to impede the manifestion of Ratha-yatra in Sri Vrndavana or Sri Navadvipa Dhama? In order to stimulate this profound mood that was established by Sriman Mahaprabhu, His devoted followers can perform Ratha-yatra everywhere, and have indeed done so. The mood of Sriman Mahaprabhu has been revealed in the verse:
"Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu used to sing this song [seita parana-natha] especially during the latter part of the day, and He would think, 'Let Me take Krsna and go back to Vrndavana.' This ecstasy was always filling His heart."
(Sri Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya-lila: Chapter One, Text 56)
Yes, it is true that when the gopis, or the vaisnavas who have taken shelter of gopi-bhava, see the chariot which takes Krsna out of Vraja and far away from them, they feel anguish and the apprehension that Krsna will not come back. However, when they see the chariot on which Krsna sat and came back to Vrndavana, they become overjoyed, not sorrowful.
Uddhava, after taking permission from the gopas and gopis of Vrndavana, sat upon his chariot and was about to return to Mathura to meet with Krsna. At that time the Vraja gopas and gopis, overwhelmed with prema, adorned the chariot with various presents for Krsna and bade Uddhavaji farewell with great respect.
(Srimad Bhagavatam 10.47.64)
Furthermore, after some time, Sri Baladevaji came to Nanda Gokula on a chariot. When he arrived, all the gopas and gopis welcomed Him with great affection.
(Srimad Bhagavatam 10.65.1,2)
Sri Gaudiya vaisnava acarya Srila Jiva Gosvami, on the basis of`the verses of Padma Purana, has described that Krsna, after killing Dantavakra, indeed returned to Vraja upon a chariot. Upon hearing the sound of Krsna's conch and the rumbling of His chariot, all the gopas and gopis of Vraja surmised that Krsna was returning. Driven by excessive eagerness to see Him, even feeble, old women ran with great haste, from wherever they were, in the direction of the sound of Krsna's conch and chariot. When they drew nearer and saw that Garuda was sitting on the flag of the chariot, they became sure that Krsna was definitely returning to Vraja. Being overwhelmed with joy, they became motionless like statues and were unable to go any further. Only their gaze advanced in the direction of the approaching chariot.
(Sri Gopal Campu tri. pu. 34, 35)
Therefore, the idea that the Vraja-gopis become distressed and apprehensive upon seeing a chariot in all circumstances is not at all correct.
In the pastime of Sri Ratha-yatra and also on the path of Sri Rupanuga bhajana, the importance of the internal mood is predominant. Externally perceived substances or places are not more important than the internal mood. In Ratha-yatra the internal mood that Krsna is returning to Vraja is stimulated. There is no internal sphurti (inspired vision) relating to Dvaraka or Mathura dhama in this lila. The inspired vision is only of Sri Krsna's returning to Vraja after being absent for a very long time. It is in this mood that Sri Jagannatha-devaji travels from the Jagannatha Mandira in Puri to the Sri Gundica Mandira. This signifies His journey from Dvaraka to Vrndavana. During this journey Sri Gaurasundara and His confidential associates experienced the utmost jubilation, being deeply absorbed in the moods of Sri Radha and the Vraja-gopis respectively. Moreover, they all assembled together before the chariot, singing and dancing in great joy, fully absorbed in exactly the same bhava during the ulti-ratha-yatra (the festival of Jagannathadeva's return to the Sri Mandir from Sri Gundica).
Did they think that by observing Ratha-yatra in the opposite direction Sri Krsna was leaving Vrndavana and returning to Mathura or Dvaraka? Never. Such an understanding must be mistaken. It has been mentioned in Sri Caitanya Caritamrta how Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates assembled together, danced and performed kirtan at the ulti-ratha-yatra:
"The next day Lord Jagannatha came out from the temple and, riding on the car, returned to His own abode."
"As previously, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His devotees chanted and danced with great pleasure."
(Sri Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya-lila 14.244, 245)
Although the Vraja-gopis, and especially Srimati Radhika. were extremely anxious to see Sri Krsna, they would not leave Vrndavana even to go the very short distance to where Krsna was staying in Mathura. Then how can Sri Gaurasundara, Who is adorned with the sentiments of Srimati Radhika, and His associates stay at the Puri Mandira or Sri Gambhira? The Puri Mandira and Sri Gambhira are the embodiment of Dvaraka because the Ratha-yatra sets off from there. Alternatively, Sri Gaurasundara used to see the gardens of Puri as Vrndavana, the ocean as Yamuna and Cataka-parvata as Govardhana. In such a Vrndavana, what aspect of the Ratha-yatra-lila festival would be contrary to the principles of raganuga or rupanuga bhakti in the eyes of the respectable Bhakti-Kovida Mahadaya?
Why did the Vraja-vasi Gosvamis, Srila Thakura Bhaktivinoda, Srila Prabhupada, Pujyapada Srila Sridhara Gosvami Maharaja and all the prominent Sri Rupanuga Acaryas go to Sri Puri Dhama to have darsan of Ratha-yatra, if Ratha-yatra darsana would be the cause of any type of disturbance or apprehension that something undesirable was about to happen? It appears that Vraja-gopi-prema is simply stimulated by having darsana of Ratha-yatra.
3) From ancient times up until the present day, no great personality who was expert in the performance of bhajana has ever performed the procession of Ratha-yatra lila in abhinna-vraja mandala, Sri Navadvipa Dhama.
The respectable writer, Bhakti-Kovida Mahadaya, has stated that is inappropriate to hold Ratha-yatra in Sri Navadvipa Dhama because no great historical personalities who are proficient in bhajana have ever manifested Ratha-yatra-lila in Navadvipa. This statement is meaningless and incoherent in all respects for the following reason. From the time of Sriman Mahaprabhu until the present day, almost all Gaudiya acaryas and bhaktas have made a pilgrimage to Puri Dhama at the time of Ratha-yatra to have darsana of the festival. In this way, the divinely inspired vision of the moods exhibited by Sri Gaurasundara is stimulated within their hearts and thus their bhajana is nourished. Until now, there had been no impetus to manifest Ratha-yatra in Sri Navadvipa Dhama and our previous acaryas had not considered it necessary to do so. However, whenever the inspiration came in the hearts of great personalities, they have manifested this lila in various places in Gauda-mandala, such as in the district of Mahesa. Thus, if a great personality is also inspired to manifest this lila in Sri Navadvipa Dhama, then it is in no way contrary to the path of Sri Rupanuga bhajana. For example, in the Sri Gaudiya vaisnava-sampradaya, from the time of Sriman Mahaprabhuji, Srimad Bhagavatam has been considered the natural commentary on Sri Brahma-sutra. However, when the necessity arose, Sri Gaudiya Vedantacarya Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana prabhu manifested a separate commentary, namely Sri Govinda Bhasya. From the point of view of Bhakti-Kovida Mahadaya, is this activity contrary to siddhanta, or is it the embodiment of prestige for our Sri Gaudiya sampradaya?
4) Jagad-guru Om Visnupada Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Thakur has not performed Ratha-yatra-lila in Sri Gaura-dhama.
Jagadguru Om Visnupada Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura has manifested Sri Radha-kunda and Sri Syama-kunda in Vrajapattana (Sri Caitanya Matha) within Sri Dhama Mayapura. He has preached daiva-varnasrama dharma. He has reestablished the use of saffron cloth and tridandi sannyasa in the Gaudiya vaisnava sampradaya. He has flown the victory flag of Gaudiya vaisnava dharma throughout the world. Prior to the appearance of this crown jewel in the dynasty of acaryas, no other acarya ever inaugurated the aforementioned activities. Yet can any of these projects of Srila Prabhupada be considered contrary to the principles of Sri Rupanuga bhakti? Never. Anyone who could say such a thing would have to be utterly ignorant of bhakti-tattva.
5) In Sri Navadvipa Dhama, how is the darsan of Dvaraka possible or appropriate?
We have already explained that the predominant bhava in Sri Ratha-yatra-lila is " krsna lana vraje yai." There is not even the slightest scent of a sphurti (momentary vision) or darsana of Dvaraka in this bhava. Therefore, even the question of any kind of Dvaraka darsana arising from the performance of Ratha-yatra-lila in Sri Navadvipa Dhama is completely irrelevant.
On the other hand, Sri Navadvipa Mandala, which is non-different from Vrndavana, is amsi-dhama i.e. the root cause of all dhamas in which all other dhamas exist. Mathura, Dvaraka, Ayodhya and Paravyoma are all eternally existing in Sri Navadvipa Dhama, just as all the plenary portions of "amsi" Krsna, such as Narayana and Visnu, exist eternally within Him.
At Candrasekhara Bhavan (Vrajapattana), in Mayapura Dhama, Sri Gaurasundara personally used to dance in the mood of Sri Rukmini. It is well known that Sri Rukminidevi is an associate of Dvaraka-lila. Therefore, if this lila is possible in Vrajapattana, which is non-different from Vraja or Sri Radha-kunda, then how can Dvaraka darsana be impossible in Sri Dhama Navadvipa? Thus, on what grounds can it be said that the manifestation of Ratha-yatra-lila is not possible?
Hence the conclusion is that there is an inseparable relationship between Ratha-yatra-lila and Rupanuganugatya. Sri Rupanuga vaisnavas manifest this lila everywhere in Navadvipa Dhama and thus, according to the path founded by Sriman Mahaprabhu, they inspire the internal mood expressed in the following verse written by Srila Rupa Gosvami:
priyah so 'yam krsnah .. kalindi-pulina-vipinaya sprhayati
(Padyavali 383, Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya-lila 1.76)
This thoroughly nourishes the bhajana of the genuine Sri Rupanuga vaisnavas.
-- Editor (Tridandisvami Bhaktivedanta Narayan)
Contemporary Disciples Page