(letter by Gaura Bhagavan das from 16th December 2005)

Otford, Australia
Dear Prabhus
Please accept my humble obeisances
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Few devotees had asked me earlier this year about the condition of H.G. Suhotra Maharaja. I have just now been a month in Mayapur where I met him several times. He was looking well and he asked me to convey a message to his former disciples. He told me that after giving up his services as Guru and Sannyasi he had initially been quite down for some months, but just recently he has been feeling a lot better. After talking to him twice for a long time he also seemed to be relieved. He had recently started to coming to the temple quite regularly to Mangal Arati which he had not done in a long time. The day I left he looked visibly happier than when I first saw him and I told him that. He confirmed that now he was feeling happier day by day. Among the things we discussed he said that his nature was really to be a tyagi or a tapasvi and he likes the idea of staying out of active preaching for at least several years, stay in the Holy Dham and increase his austerities and chanting. He has not forgotten about the global preaching mission and in time, when he feels very well spiritually established from following his present program he would like to do some traveling again. I will relate more things from our discussions at the end of this message.

The message to you that he dictated is as follows:

"I want my initiated disciples to know that I have been silent and out of communication at the request of the GBC. But that does not mean I haven't been thinking about you all. In fact for several months I was completely overcome by sorrow at having turned out to be a disappointment as your Diksa Guru. I have been feeling intense separation from you all. Actually too intense to be put into words. My heart was shattered.

"In a purport in the fifth Canto, Srila Prabhupada states that there are two reasons for why a Vaisnava falls down. One is because of Vaisnava aparadha. I am certainly guilty of that and during this time of grief, my mind was pounded by memories of offending many devotees, including many of you. Therefore I fall at your feet and beg forgiveness for all offences I have committed with my mind, body and words. The other reason Srila Prabhupada gives is due to the will of Krishna. I am therefore seeing Krishna's will in all that has happened, as sad as it may appear. I pray that all of you may see Krishna's loving hand at the back of these events and in this way understand that my leaving the post of your guru is actually for all of our spiritual benefit.

"Some of you have already taken full shelter of bona fide ISKCON spiritual masters. This is very good of you to do that. The rules of the GBC do not require you to take re-initiation but my sincere advice to you is that you take shelter of and instruction from senior Vaisnavas in our movement who are clearly qualified to lead you on the path back home, back to Godhead.

"In the light of this being Krishna's will, you should all be feeling spiritual relief as a result of my giving up my post as Guru. As for myself whatever relief you are feeling I am feeling it 120 times more, because that was the number of disciples I had that I could unfortunately not care for properly. So after several months of profound grief, I am tasting this relief and finding shelter and devotional service that is more suitable for me in the Holy Dham of Sridham Mayapur.

"The distasteful anomalies in my behavior that you may have heard about, have by Srila Prabhupada's and Lord Caitanya's divine grace fled far away from me. I am gaining determination to perform austerities that I long wished I could do, but was unable to do, simply because I had disciples (see footnote). Without going into the details, there is vast darkness and trauma surrounding the core of my heart as a result of my karma. Because of this I have since long had problem in maintaining steadiness in my devotional service. Now I am taking measures to rid my heart of this lingering spiritual disease and therefore I am feeling much more positive and hopeful and lately I have gotten strengthening words of encouragement from the lotus lips of senior God-brothers like Jayadvaida Swami, Radhanath Swami, Kavicandra Swami and Bhaktivikas Swami. And of course since coming to Mayapur I have been under the direction of my close and respected dear friend H.H. Bhaktividya Purna Swami. As I told Jayadvaita Swami the other day, I am realizing that my acceptance of the Vanaprasta Asram is proving to be real Sannyas (renunciation). My nature is to be in the renounced order. Both Vanaprasta and Sannyas Asrams are tyaga asrams. And for the time being, in terms of ISKCON, I feel better suited for the Vanaprasta mode of renunciation. So I find this all very encouraging, and since we all remain related, at least as members of Srila Prabhupada's mission, I pray that you too will similarly become more encouraged your own spiritual lifes."

Footnote: I asked him to explain what he meant by saying that he could not practice austerities because of having disciples. He said: "Everything taken together, having 120 disciples, all trying to serve me, my style of living as nice as possible and dealing with me as a liberated soul that has already achieved all that is to achieve in Krishna Consciousness, and me in turn seeing it my duty to acknowledge all this Guru Bhakti and to reciprocate with it...all this was just too much for me. So I lost my determination and seriousness about my own personal progress and became an easy target for Maya's influence."

He then added: "I think I had wonderful moments with you at my better times of service. I consider you all wonderful devotees and real asset to Srila Prabhupada's movement. The outcome was not the best, but with all of you remaining in Devotional Service it was not bad either. As Srila Prabhupada said, that even on the royal road there are accidents. Hopefully these were things that were only temporarily afflicting me. I continue to love all of you and continue to pray to Krishna that He protects you and helps you to advance. I pray that all of you think of me in the future as your well-wisher."

We spoke about his present situation and thoughts. His service now is to write a course on the Bhagavatam, seeing it in the format of questions and answers. That means he finds what questions are asked where in the Bhagavatam and then he studies where and how they are answered. That is a wonderful way for him to engage his mind and intelligence in Krishna's service and get Srila Prabhupada's association. He also wants to increase his austerities by reducing his eating and do much chanting. He talked how Srila Prabhupada had originally intended devotees to chant 64 rounds a day but later when seeing their unability to practise sadhana had to reduce them to 16 and filled the rest in with lots of service. Suhtora Prabhu had understood from his talks with Brahmananda Prabhu and other devotees from the early days what was Srila Prabhupada's intentions then. He had also recently found out that Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati had actually made 64 round the standard for anyone staying in the Math but for those who were very advanced in chanting by following that vow and were thus empowered to preach he had made a concession for them to do only 16 rounds when having less time. So actually the 16 rounds standard was for then for advanced devotees. Srila Prabhupada seeing our western conditioning had to adjust by giving us 16 rounds and lots of service to fully engage us. Bhavananda Prabhu had actully mentioned in a class in Mayapur just few days earlier an incident from the early days in Mayapur where a lady disciple of Srila Prabhupada in Mayapur was physically unable to engage in any service except chanting. She lamented about that to Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada responded that chanting was actully real service, but because we were not able to chant all the time he therefore had to tax his brain to find things for us to do. One point Suhotra Maharaja was making with this is that traditionally, before one starts some major preaching assignment, he will for some time perform a lot of sadhana to be more empowered. That was the example Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati showed prior to starting the Gaudiya Math. He stayed in Mayapur and performed austerities and chanted 300.000 names daily for nine years. Srila Prabhupada himself did not start preaching vigorously until after a life-time of preparation: after leaving his family, taking sannyas and staying for several years in Vrindavan. So in his own case, Suhotra Maharaja felt that he wanted this time around to do something like that before going again out to preach.

Suhotra Maharaja also pointed out the distinction between the Vanaprasta and Sannyas asrams in their mode of renunciation. Bhaktividya Purna Maharaja had showed him a relevant section in the Manu Samhita on the subject which explains that the Vanaprasta practices more austerities than a Sannyasi. This is because the sannyasi is more advanced and has come the platform of indifference. For instance, if a sannyasi has a choice between eating simple kitchari and a feast he does not avoid the feast out of material discrimination. The Vanaprasta however, who is still trying to elevate himself above the platform of duality, chooses the kitchari over the feast. So that is the mood Suhotra Maharaja wants to imbibe in this stage in his life. It was very nice for both of us to meet each other and share these and other things. Although our relationship has gone through changes, especially in the recent year and especially now, it is still naturally always pleasant and affectionate.

Thank you.

Always your servant,

Gaura Bhagavan dasa

PS. I found on the folio the quote by Srila Prabhupada from the 5th canto that Suhotra Maharaja was referring to (Bhag 5.1.5, Purport):

"According to Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, there are two kinds of impediments to devotional service. The first is an offense at the lotus feet of a Vaisnava. This is called vaisnava-aparadha. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu warned His devotees not to commit vaisnava-aparadha, which He described as the mad elephant offense. When a mad elephant enters a beautiful garden, it destroys everything, leaving a barren field. Similarly, the power of vaisnava-aparadha is so great that even an advanced devotee becomes almost devoid of his spiritual assets if he commits it. Since Krsna consciousness is eternal, it cannot be destroyed altogether, but advancement may be checked for the time being. Thus vaisnava-aparadha is one kind of impediment to devotional service. Sometimes, however, the Supreme Personality of Godhead or His devotee desires to impede one's devotional service. For example, Hiranyakasipu and Hiranyaksa were formerly Jaya and Vijaya, the gatekeepers in Vaikuntha, but by the desire of the Lord, they became His enemies for three lives. Thus the desire of the Lord is another kind of impediment. But in both cases, the pure devotee, once advanced in Krsna consciousness, cannot be lost. Following the orders of his superiors (Svayambhuva and Lord Brahma), Priyavrata accepted family life, but this did not mean he lost his position in devotional service. Krsna consciousness is perfect and eternal, and therefore it cannot be lost under any circumstances. Because the material world is full of obstructions to advancement in Krsna consciousness, there may appear to be many impediments, yet Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, declares in Bhagavad-gita (9.31), kaunteya pratijanihi na me bhaktah pranasyati: once one has taken shelter at the lotus feet of the Lord, he cannot be lost."