Why Suhotra Maharaja Does Not Belong on the List of Fallen Gurus

by ADI LILA DAS

Dec 01, USA (SUN) — The position of Suhotra Maharaja has raised some controversy in the ranks of ISKCON, both among his peers, his GBC fellows, as well as the next generation. Therefore we can understand that some may feel he belongs on the list published yesterday in the Sun, with the other fallen gurus of ISKCON. We will prove in this essay that those who would clump him with such fellows as adorn the list in question have totally failed to understand his motives or his sterling character. But are mahatmas easy to understand? This essay is not presented to paint a grim picture of the others, though some of them—not all—would deserve such a portrait for allowing power over a few kind and submissive souls to rot their brains with fantasies of self-proclaimed divinity.

Rather, we wish to establish in this brief essay that Suhotra Maharaja was among the most stalwart and staunch of disciples of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. It is well-known among his close friends—numbering a mere handful for great men find confidence only in a select few who will bother to understand them—that he switched to vanaprasta ashram for his own very sound reasons. First, as the following essay will show, he was discontent with a creeping form of impersonalism that was undermining the fabric of the Society he loved. Quite simply, his last public show demonstrated he wanted to place himself at arm's length from that which any sincere disciple would consider internal corruption of his spiritual master's Society.

Secondly, and please note the importance of this, he wished to shorn himself of cheap followers who were addicted to paying obeisance to a color or a dress, but not the heart and soul of the man wearing that dress. When he switched to a slightly different dress, he tested the mettle of his followers. Thus his peers, ISKCON's gurus, were ever-ready to stretch their arms for new followers from amongst his flock. As an enlightened being, he knew his time of leaving the earth was at hand. He shared this with a few, and publicly announced it just a couple of days before his ascension in Shridham Mayapur. Skeptics may access his recorded statements on this account—words to the effect of "you'll never see me again"—at his last class in Shridham Mayapur Dham (a recording of which can be found on his archives website, see next paragraph). At that class he made the announcement, somewhat coded but very clear in 20/20 hindsight, that he would soon depart. His body was found a few days later sitting and in chanting posture, so this is a form of departure the greatest of yogis hanker for but cannot achieve. He left behind an adoring following of proud disciples who are carrying on Shrila Prabhupada's work to this day.

Therefore, unless the author of the list under discussion here feels himself qualified to depart this world in such an advanced state of yoga as Suhotra Maharaja, he should have the insight to remove the name of His Holiness Suhotra Maharaja from the list of fallen gurus. As time will prove, to date no one else in ISKCON history—amongst Shrila Prabhupada's august disciples—has left such a vast array of literary and spiritual contributions for the continued propagation of the sankirtan movement of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. In short, Suhotra Maharaja lived and disappeared as an austere first-class devotee, as a brief look through his literary legacy, his twenty-four hour kirtans nd his college lectures will reveal.

I offer as proof an essay written by Suhotra that demonstrates his willingness and ability to speak out against internal wrongdoings, even when they are committed at the highest pinnacles of power. In the following essay he unmasks the creeping treason and tyranny of mayavada within the BBT by pointing out where Shrila Prabhupada has been mininmized by his own so-called followers. No wonder he wished to disassociate with such "Judas devotees", for those pretenders who openly use the resources to the Guru to violate the spiritual master's teachings are to a disciple the vilest of mankind, lower than snakes who crawl on the ground.

The essay below appears in his diary accounts, accessible via www.suhotraswami.net (click on "In2Me-C"). Along with this entry, he left behind a wealth of concise, highly individualistic and profound writings that appeal to all classes of devotees, all of which serve to establish the superiority of Gaudiya Vaishnavism according to Shrila Prabhupada's wish. Suhotra Maharaja never broke the regulative principles, he lived a very austere life, and he shunned materialists including those on the GBC and BBT who saw ISKCON in terms of head count and dollar signs.. When he resigned the GBC and switched to vanaprasti, he did so under the condition that he be allowed to serve on the Shastra Advisory Board so that future written accounts, like the misguided one he discusses hereunder, no longer be dignified with the sacred seal of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.

The particular book that raised the ire of Suhotra Maharaja was The Hidden Glory of India by Steven J. Rosen (Satyaraja Das) who continues to serve on the staff of Back to Godhead. Blind to their offensive mentality, thee BBT has also sent The Hidden Glory of India into multiple printings. In Suhotra Maharaja's essay given below, he discusses the sickly subservience of the author to an atheistic form of Hinduism, as well as defends the sort of disenfranchised devotees like you who read the Sun. Therefore, Suhotra Maharaja does not embody a symptom of the mistakes that led to ISKCON gurus falling down, but rather he is a defender of those devotees who felt forced out of a movement due to its having turned away from the very principles upon which Shrila Prabhupada founded it.

Therefore, unless the author of the list under discussion here feels himself qualified to depart this world in such an advanced state of yoga as Suhotra Maharaja, he should have the insight Vaishnava etiquette and common decency to remove the name of His Holiness Suhotra Maharaja from the list of fallen gurus. As time will prove, no one else in ISKCON history—amongst Shrila Prabhupada's august disciples—has left such a vast array of literary and spiritual contributions for the continued propagation of the sankirtan movement of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. In short, Suhotra Maharaja lived and disappeared as an austere first-class devotee, as a brief look through his legacy will reveal. His disciples continue to echo his legacy of service to Shrila Prabhupada.

I offer as proof an essay written by Suhotra that demonstrates his willingness and ability to speak out against wrongdoings, politics be damned,even when they are committed at the highest pinnacles of power. In the following essay he unmasks the creeping treason and tyranny of mayavada within the BBT by pointing out where Shrila Prabhupada has been mininmized by his own so-called followers. No wonder he wished to disassociate with such "devotees", for those pretenders who openly use the resources to the Guru to violate hhe spiritual master's teachings are to a disciple the vilest of mankind, lower than poisonous seerpents who crawl on the ground.

The essay below appears in his diary accounts, accessible via www.suhotraswami.net (click on "In2Me-C"). Along with this entry, he left behind a wealth of concise, highly individualistic and profound writings that appeal to all classes of devotees, all of which serve to establish the superiority of Gaudiya Vaishnavism according to Shrila Prabhupada's wish. Suhotra Maharaja never broke the regulative principles, he lived a very austere life, and he shunned materialists including those on the GBC and BBT who saw ISKCON in terms of head count and dollar signs.. When he resigned the GBC he did so under the condition that he be allowed to serve on the Shastra Advisory Board so that future written accounts, like the misguided one he discusses hereunder, no longer be dignified with the sacred seal of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.

The particular book that raised the ire of Suhotra Maharaja was The Hidden Glory of India by Steven J. Rosen (Satyaraja Das) who continues to serve on the staff of Back to Godhead. Blind to their offensive mentality, the BBT has also sent The Hidden Glory of India into multiple printings. In Suhotra Maharaja's essay given below, he discusses the sickly subservience of the author to an atheistic form of Hinduism, as well as defends the sort of disenfranchised devotees who read the Sun. Therefore, Suhotra Maharaja is not another symptom of the mistakes that led to ISKCON gurus falling down, but rather he is a defender of those devotees who felt forced out of a movement due to its having turned away from the very principles upon which Shrila Prabhupada founded it.

Suhotra Maharaja's criticisms of the book stop at the Introducton wherein Vivekananda and Shrila Prabhupada are discussed on equal-sounding terms. He probably put the book down at that point, but a reading of the book shows that there are many more such devious and offensive postures. For example, why is a giant picture of a Tibetan yogi shown blowing open his chakras in meditation with a smaller photo of Shrila Prabhupada sitting behind him? Did Prabhupada teach us this form of yoga, or did he teach its useleness in Kali Yuga? Why are the intimate qualities of Shrimati Radha openly discussed—and discussed incorrectly— in a mere introductory guide book on to India p. 56? Is this the rebirth of the Gopi Bhava Club?

From The Diaries of Suhotra Maharaja (20 Jan. 2003)

Suhotra Maharaja

(We go) to the Bowery in New York City, where in 1966 Srila Prabhupada shared a loft with a young man named David Allen. Prabhupada hoped David would become his first initiated disciple. Unfortunately he continued to take drugs even while being trained by His Divine Grace. At last he went mad. David's madness prompted Srila Prabhupada to vacate the loft. From there, with the help of Carl Yeargens (Karlapati dasa) and Michael Grant (Mukunda dasa), Prabhupada moved to Second Avenue, where his kirtans and classes in the Matchless Gifts storefront began.

I got to know David Allen when he visited the Boston temple sometime in the winter of either late '70 or early '71. Why do I remember this? Yesterday's journal entry alluded to the falldowns of senior disciples of Srila Prabhupada. In a way, David's case is the first such story in the history of ISKCON.

I recall the great respect the devotees of Boston temple showed him. He wasn't initiated, but he was the first candidate for initiation. For a time he was the only person in whom Srila Prabhupada found a potential for serious spiritual life. He was special. Nowadays my older Godbrothers and -sisters who spent a lot of personal time with Srila Prabhupada, who did great service to His Divine Grace, and who may have been sannyasis or even gurus, but who suffered setbacks in their spiritual life, are treated (or should be treated) with the same kind of respect that I saw the Boston devotees show to David.

David was a simple fellow, no pretensions. But because he'd been touched so early on by Srila Prabhupada, there was something different about him, something I found appealing. I just had to talk to him. He didn't have a great deal to say, really. No amazing revelations, like I'd hoped. But Srila Prabhupada had clearly made a deep impression on his life. He was in awe of His Divine Grace. I could see that David would never forget him. And that's what made David so special.

There was another person whose birth name I've forgotten. He finally joined ISKCON after Srila Prabhupada's nitya-lila pravishtha, and was initiated as Prabhupada dasa. I think he serves at present in South America. Anyway, this young man ran a second-hand shop not far from the Boston temple. But during the Matchless Gifts days he lived in New York and used to visit with Srila Prabhupada.

I found his association very appealing also. In those early Boston days of my memory he kept long hair and beard (David was more clean-cut), but he told funny stories of his times with Prabhupada. He said he had a lot of trouble with his wife and used to go to Prabhupada to lament. Prabhupada would listen for a while, then reach for one of his folded saffron sannyasi lungis that were stacked on a shelf. This he would hold out to the young man as an invitation that he ought to renounce his marriage and take the sannyasa order. The young man said, "Oh no, Swamiji! Not that!" Srila Prabhupada returned the lungi to the shelf and remarked something like, "So then you must continue suffering. " As a new devotee I felt it was my great fortune to associate with David and the future Prabhupada dasa. Now in ISKCON, by default, I am a "senior disciple" of Srila Prabhupada. But I still feel very fortunate whenever I can associate with anyone who carries with him or her the oceanic mercy of extended personal association of Krsna's pure devotee during the beginning days of his mission. Such fortunate persons may appear before our imperfect eyes as "fallen" in some way, as "not up to standard. " But if they carry Srila Prabhupada in the core of their heart then in my opinion they are not of this world. They are of the spiritual world, Prabhupada's world. As soon as they start talking about Srila Prabhupada, their eternal identities as his servants birth after birth become apparent.

Here in Kolhapur I was asked, "Why did they fall down?" Well, how do we know they fell down? I see that internally, in their hearts, they continue to mediate upon their service to Srila Prabhupada. And I see that if Srila Prabhupada returned, they would instantly resume all the external formalities of service to him. They are Prabhupada conscious. They are rasa-graha: they cannot forget the nectar of his association. No matter the external situation or activities, if one is rasa-graha, or retaining consciousness of the nectar of the lotus feet of the Lord (which means the nectar of the pure devotee who is always situated at those lotus feet), one's spiritual identity is established. "My dear Vyasa, even though a devotee of Lord Krsna sometimes fall down somehow or other, he certainly does not undergo material existence like others [fruitive workers, etc. ] because a person who has once relished the taste of the lotus feet of the Lord can do nothing but remember that ecstasy again and again." (SB 1. 5. 19)

Someone may ask, "Well, why don't such fortunate persons just come back to ISKCON and serve in the institution like the rest of us?" Often the sad answer is that they are very sensitive about the minimization of His Divine Grace that they find in ISKCON after Prabhupada's departure from this world. If you think that Srila Prabhupada is always glorified and never minimized in today's ISKCON, you are overlooking certain unhappy developments.

For example, the BBT recently published a book for distribution to the public in the USA. It is a very pretty book written in an up to date style. But it associates Srila Prabhupada in a favorable way with Vivekananda, a Mayavadi whom Srila Prabhupada severely condemned. It associates His Divine Grace favorably with a host of other mundane persons, one of whom is still alive and taking active part in criticizing Srila Prabhupada on the Internet.

I've noticed that many of our present-day ISKCON devotees are able to shrug this off: "Anyway, the book sells, and who among the karmis is gonna take notice of those details?" Well, for one thing, Prabhu, this is the Internet age. Anybody can get on the Net and type this list of mundane names into their favorite search engine. Voila! Mayavada missionizing and Prabhupada minimizing right there on your home computer screen. But apart from that, the main thing is the book is an offense to Srila Prabhupada. If the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust would have ever printed a favorable mention of the name Vivekananda during the years of Prabhupada's physical presence on this planet, a bomb blast would have gone off that we would still be talking about now. Just because Prabhupada is not physically visible to us now does not mean he does not know about this book and is not unhappy with it.

My Godbrothers and Godsisters who gave their youthful lives to Srila Prabhupada and who still love him in the core of their hearts are deeply pained by this new BBT book. I know, I talk to them. So why should they take part in a movement that produces and distributes offenses to their spiritual master?

All glories to Srila Prabhupada

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