A Brief Response to ‘Ratha Yatra in Navadvīpa’

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by Swami B.G. Narasingha

“A Brief Response to ‘Ratha Yatra in Navadvīpa’” was written by Śrīla Narasiṅgha Mahārāja in November 2000. This was written after H.H. Bhaktivedānta Mādhava Mahārāja and his associates penned a response to ‘Ratha Yatra in Navadvipa’ - a previous article by Narasiṅgha Mahārāja. In this ‘Brief Response’, Śrīla Narasiṅgha Mahārāja questions some of the main points of the opposition and gives evidence from Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja concerning the insults hurled at him by the opposition party.

By the request of our readers and immediate group of associates, we present a brief response to the response paper to our ‘Ratha-yatra in Navadvīpa’ article recently written by His Holiness Bhaktivedanta Mādhava Mahārāja of the Śrī Keśavajī Gauḍīya Maṭha in Mathurā.

In our original article there were some details regarding dates and such that were corrected by B. V. Mādhava Mahārāja in his article. I thank B. V. Mādhava Mahārāja for this information, although these additions to our original article do not change the main issues at hand.

B.V. Mādhava Mahārāja has stated in his third objection that the whole crux of our article was that we had unlawfully assumed that Śrīpāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja had implied Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja in his statement as follows:

“When our Gurudeva started Ratha-yatra in Navadvīpa, no one criticized him. When he left this world, however, a very highly advanced devotee spoke something against Ratha-yatra in Navadvīpa. 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.”

However, until B. V. Mādhava Mahārāja tells us who that “very highly advanced devotee” is, we will continue to assume that Śrīpāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja was surely referring to Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja who was the ācārya of the maṭha that Śrīpāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja later referred to in an article as, “an enterprise of milling wheat, or a business involving coal and fish.” This is indeed calling Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja a “fish seller and a coal merchant”, this is certainly an offense.

B.V. Mādhava Mahārāja makes his argument early on in his article that Śrīpāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja never offended Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja but on page eight, comment eight, of the same article B. V. Mādhava Mahārāja writes in quite a condescending way and again calls Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja a merchant by saying:

“Although those opposing the Ratha-yatra festival in Navadvīpa were unable to recognize 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.”

So not only was the offense to Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja made in 1970, but they have repeated the same offense again in the article by B. V. Mādhava Mahārāja. That Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja was indeed offended in 1970 will be shown by his own statement below in this essay. Of course throughout this controversy B.V. Mādhava Mahārāja maintains that Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja is not the one to have authorized his disciples at Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Maṭha to have arranged the coal, etc. but such is only their speculation.

What also becomes evident as this controversy unfolds is that Śrīpāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja and his followers are unable to sense when they have grieved the heart of a pure Vaiṣṇava. Again this will be shown by Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja’s own statement below.

However, the question of an offense to Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja or whatever Śrīpāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja actually meant in his statement regarding attacking a “very highly advanced devotee” is not the primary issue in this controversy. An offense to an advanced devotee is indeed regrettable, but the real issue at hand is even more encompassing.

Therefore, we would like to bring this present essay into focus on the main issue and that being whether or not Śrīpāda B.V. Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja is actually a śikṣā-disciple of the revered Guardian of Devotion, Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja. On page eleven of B.V. Mādhava Mahārāja’s article he has boldly put forth a conclusive question as follows:

“Therefore, on what tangible grounds can Śrīpāda B.G. Narasiṅgha Mahārāja deny the śikṣā connection of Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja with Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Mahārāja as he has done in his article.”

Our answer to the above question is simple and direct—there are no examples stated in B. V. Mādhava Mahārāja’s article wherein he has shown that Śrīpāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja follows the instructions of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja, particularly those instructions regarding Ratha-yatra in Navadvīpa—not to mention Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja’s many instructions to his disciples and śikṣā-disciples not to discuss the mādhurya-līlā in public or in the assembly of unqualified devotees.

On the contrary, B. V. Mādhava Mahārāja has supplied us with ample proof that Śrīpāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja has no actual regard for the teachings of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja whatsoever, despite his saying that Śrīpāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja had listened to the lectures of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja for many years. Since we have not been shown even one single thread of evidence that Śrīpāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja follows the instructions of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja it is only logical that he not be accepted as a śikṣā-disciple of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja until he proves otherwise. After all, disciple means discipline – so what specific disciplines from the teachings of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja does Śrīpāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja embrace?

Possibly His Holiness B. V. Mādhava Mahārāja will remember when we hosted Śrīpāda B. V. Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja at our temple/āśrama in Eugene, USA several years ago. During those friendly days I brought to Śrīpāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja’s attention the gāyatrī commentary of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja known as the Gāyatrī Nigūḍhārtha wherein Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja states, “gāyatrī-muralīṣṭa-kīrtana-dhanaṁ rādhā-padaṁ dhīmahi – the flute of Śrī Kṛṣṇa exclusively sings the glories of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.” When mentioning this to Śrīpāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja I was utterly dismayed at his reaction – flipping his hand in the air and wrinkling his nose he said in a disdainful voice, “That is already there in many places.”

I could not accept that this is the proper appreciation of the gāyatrī commentary of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja especially coming from someone who professes to be a śikṣā-disciple of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja. Frankly speaking that was the start of my great doubts about Śrīpāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja.

In contrast to the lack of appreciation shown by Śrīpāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja for the gāyatrī commentary of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja we have heard the following from Śrīla B. P. Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja:

“I am bereft of the proper language to elucidate the profound meaning of Śrī Gāyatrī as expressed by Pūjyapāda Mahārāja in the depth of realization, which is that sublime śrī-rādhā-dāsya or śrī-rādhā-pāda-dhyāna, the exclusive devotional servitude to Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Therefore, it can only be presented and understood through his own illustrious transcendental language and by his exclusive divine grace. This deepest meaning of Śrī Gāyatrī has been nobly established by the message emanating from his lotus lips and by the exultant mood radiating from the core of his heart…”

Does Śrīpāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja teach the Gāyatrī Nigūḍhārtha, which is the essence of the teaching and instruction of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja, to his disciples? Does Śrīpāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja teach his followers anything from the books of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja, or does he just teach them to “respectfully” belittle Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja as B. V. Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja has artfully done in his article?

The many thousands of disciples and grand disciples of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja, associated with Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Maṭha around the world, are quite adamant about this issue.

Furthermore B. V. Mādhava Mahārāja makes the following statement on page seven of his article:

“Does Śrīpāda B.G. Narasiṅgha Mahārāja seriously expect any discerning person to believe his account of this incident when: He does not supply us with the name of even one witness. Failing that, neither does he inform us from whom he heard this account.”

This question is asking for trouble. His Holiness B. V. Mādhava Mahārāja apparently assumes that I am prone to listen to any rumour blowing in the wind and then put my neck on the line when I am unable to substantiate what I have written. B. V. Mādhava Mahārāja has apparently been informed by his associates that I may only have spent a limited time with Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja during the last year of his manifest pastimes on this planet. That may be true, but I am happy to say that Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja gave his full blessings, as did his many intimate disciples who had his association for a lifetime, such as Śrīpāda B. S. Govinda Mahārāja, Hari-caraṇa Prabhu, Kṛṣṇa-śaraṇa Prabhu, Bhakti Sudhīra Gosvāmī Mahārāja, and others who were all very kind to bestow their unlimited blessings on me on numerous occasions. But what B. V. Mādhava Mahārāja has not been told is that shortly after the disappearance of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja I became heir to one thousand one hundred hours of audio recordings of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja and one hundred and twenty hours of his recorded videos. These audio and video recordings are the evidences that B. V. Mādhava Mahārāja is wondering about and more.

So rather than quote the many references to my information from the followers of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja which are certainly valid, I will simply quote here Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja directly. Thus, we allow our readers to read what Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja had to say in summary about the Ratha-yatra in Navadvīpa (this tape and transcript is in our possession and available for any of our readers upon request).

“Only what I know I can say to them, this is my position. No physical risk of any war or any fight. I am the last man to accept. I never did it in my life and now also it is so. Always standing in my own fight, alone. I may be alone, but not fighting with the environment, circumstances. I had to fight with Keśava Mahārāja some principle of Ratha-yatra and when they abused me I left my propaganda for the same. The paper was abolished. But I still hold my position, principle there. That they are doing wrong. They have placed not only Jagāi Madhāi, but even Vāsudeva and Devānanda figures as gatekeepers, I opposed. And so many ācārya’s figure, that should be worshiped and not a matter of play, as I understood from the teachings of Prabhupāda. So I opposed and I still oppose. And the Ratha-yatra, that it is not a matter of play to show to the public.”

“In any day you may put on the chariot for the play of the Deity or for Their satisfaction. But in the Ratha-yatra day when Mahāprabhu is taking from Kurukṣetra to Vṛndāvana, with this attitude, that day, that idea should be overlapped. And by our whim we shall do anything and everything, especially in Navadvīpa-dhāma. This is also Gupta Vṛndāvana. And Gaurasundara has got his nitya-līlā. And against that current I shall create another current opposite to that, in collision. That is not desirable. Who will like it, they may follow. What I am, I am. That is my position. And if anyone comes to me then I shall try to say what I know. But I am not going to risk to any physical war. I have no such capacity. If anyone wants to continue physical war, they may do separately. But I am not there. I was not there and I am not there, and I won’t be there, physical war.” (Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja, Feb. 4th, 1982)

What Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja clearly states above is that he is definitely opposed to the Ratha-yatra in Navadvīpa, and after he was abused he dropped the issue, but that he remains opposed and considers that those persons conducting such in Navadvīpa are doing wrong. He is also strong on his point that those who want to follow him may do so but that he will not fight with anyone.

The article of B. V. Mādhava Mahārāja goes into many details and side information in an attempt to prove that I have no backing for my statements but this is simply his attempt to avoid the main issue – does Śrīpāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja follow the instructions of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja? From Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja’s statement above our conclusion is that Śrīpāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja does not represent Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja and to mislead devotees in western countries to believe that he does so is tantamount to cheating the innocent.

The arguments in the article of B. V. Mādhava Mahārāja may be suitable for the in house devotees of their maṭha, or for those who have wondered from the grace of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja and are now treading in dangerous waters where angels fear to tread. However, B. V. Mādhava Mahārāja’s plea to establish Śrīpāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja as a śikṣā-disciple of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja is not suitably convincing for us.

His Holiness B. V. Mādhava Mahārāja wants to push this issue by asking us to prove how Śrīpāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja is not a follower of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja but such a demand is quite audacious since the majority of the Vaiṣṇava world far and wide already understands and accepts this point. The reality is that for canvassing purposes throughout the world, Śrīpāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja claims to be the only true disciple of all of our gurus ­- Śrīla Svami Mahārāja Prabhupāda, Śrīla B. R. Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja, and Śrīla B. P Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja. Thus, Śrīpāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja candidly becomes the guru of everyone else’s disciples. But without adhering to the instructions of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja regarding Navadvīpa, and to his many instructions concerning the intimate topics of the mādhurya-līlā of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Govinda, such a proposal is, in the very least, farcical – especially so in the eyes of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja’s bona-fide followers. In the words of Śrīla Bhakti Pramoda Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja:

“One who does not accept the siddhānta of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja cannot be counted among the follower of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura.”

How then does B. V. Mādhava Mahārāja expect us to hold such a person in high regard?

My concluding statement in this matter is that it would be greatly appreciated by the followers of Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja if Śrīpāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja and his followers would simply conduct their preaching mission within the merits of their own accomplishments and kindly desist from canvassing in the name of being a śikṣā-disciple of Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja.

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