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Title: Instructions and Institutions

User: Swami Gaurangapada Date: 2006-11-09 11:00:00


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Q. Queen Kunti states in the Shrimad Bhagavatam…vipadah shantu tah shashvat tatra tatra jagadguro…so we should understand that whatever calamities or problems or obstacles come in our life, we should never leave the institution of our Guru. Is that correct? More »: ""

 Answer by Bhaktiratna Sadhu Swami: "http:///" Gaurangapada:

 The institution founded by the Guru and the actual spiritual teachings (Vani) of the Guru are two different things. The institution is temporary whereas the teachings are eternal. An institution is just a medium to propagate the teachings. The teachings are the substance. An Acharya is eternally identified with his writings and teachings not the institution which he may have started. Presently, is there any Gaudiya Vaishnava institution which has lasted for more than 100 years?

 For the teachings (vani) of the Acharya to be eternally practiced and followers by the future generations of followers, one should not solely identify his teachings with any institution(s) as all the future generations of followers may not belong to the same (or any) institution. I would say that is one of the reasons why Shrila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami: "http:///" Prabhupada wanted the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (publishing wing of his teachings) to be autonomous to ISKCON (institution which he started).

 Presently one may not be in the original Gaudiya Math institution founded by Shri Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada but still one can sincerely follow the teachings of Shri Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada and may be a true follower of Shri Shrila Prabhupada. Same can be applied to the teachings and followers of any Guru or Acharya.

 If you enforce that one should never leave the institution of one’s Guru, then how do we explain the great Acharyas whose Gurus had no institution? Were they not following their Guru just because they were not part of any institution? Or were their Gurus wrong in not starting any institutions?

 How do we explain Shrila Abhaya Charanarvinda Bhaktivedanta Naam: "http:///"]Swami Prabhupada leaving the Gaudiya Math and starting ISKCON? If he would have been forced to remain in his Guru’s institution Gaudiya Math by such stereotyped narrow-minded understanding, would he have been able to spread [URL="http:///" worldwide like he did? With this kind of sectarian viewpoint, how do we explain the wonderful success of the disciples of Shri Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada who went out and started their own institutions? Were they bereft of the mercy of their Guru Shri Shrila Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada, just because they could not stay in the institution which he founded due to genuine problems?

 What if by staying in an institution, for some devotees in some unchangeable circumstances, it becomes easy to hear or commit offenses against other devotees especially if there is no means of stopping others’ mistakes, deviations etc.? Will the Guru become happy if we keep on hearing or committing offenses and judging the mistakes of others or if we remove ourselves from that situation and keep on doing our Naam: "http:///" bhajana and prachara peacefully without having to see the faults of others all the time?

 I think the Guru will become happy by the latter as the first and foremost primary instruction of the Guru and Acharyas is to totally shun and avoid offense and criticism of other devotees, in fact not even see the faults of other devotees. And the only way to do this is to associate with devotees equal or more spiritually and philosophically astute and advanced than ourselves whichever Gaudiya-Vaishnava-Vinoda-Sarasvata-Bhaktivedanta society or institution they may belong.

 The Supreme Absolute Truth Lord Gauranga: "http:///" Mahaprabhu would have established an institution Himself while He was personally present on this planet 500 years back if He would have thought that an institutionalized method was the only way to spread His Holy Names. Nobody can preach more than Him and He preached His own Holy Names without identifying Himself with any institution or directly starting any institution. The loyalty of His Associates to Him was not equated with any institution but how carefully they would follow His instructions and teachings.

 Starting an institution is one of the ways to spread the Holy Names and Teachings of Lord Naam: "http:///"]Gauranga Krishna but the Holy Names can be successfully spread without it also. One should understand that Nityananda, Gauranga, and Hare Krishna [URL="http:///" is the all-powerful supremely independent Naami Lord Himself, so there are no conditions required for chanting and spreading These Holy Names.

 Interestingly, from the very inception of his spiritual organisation, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta understood its limitations. He warned in the Harmonist: “The idea of an organized church in an intelligible form, indeed, marks the close of the living spiritual movement… The people of this world understand preventive systems; they have no idea at all of the unprevented positive eternal life. Neither can there be any earthly contrivance for the permanent preservation of the life eternal on this mundane plane of popular scale.”

 In this long and revealing article he argued that spiritual teachers needed to retain their individuality and sovereign right to teach the absolute truth in their own way, he explains… “The Supreme Lord Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, in pursuance of the teachings of the scriptures enjoins all absence of conventionalism for the teachers of the eternal religion. It does not follow that the mechanical adoption of the unconventional life by any person will make him a fit teacher of religion. Regulation is necessary for controlling the inherent worldliness of conditioned souls. But no mechanical regulation has any value, even for such a purpose. The bona-fide teacher of religion is neither any product of, nor the favourer of any mechanical system. In his hands no system has likewise the chance of degenerating into a lifeless arrangement.”