Vaisnava etiquette and/or the lack of it–SP

May 2, 2021 in Articles by Damaghosa dasa

Hare Krsna-Below we have some statements by Srila Prabhupada regarding past acaryas and also Bhaktivinode Thakurs son Lalita Prasada who was brother to Srila Bhaktisiddhant maharaja. These interactions show us the delicate nature of relationships between Lord Caitanya and Vallabha Bhatta as well as between Srila Prabhupada and his own guru’s brother, Lalita Prasad.
Antya 4.129--“My dear Sanātana, although you are the deliverer of the entire universe and although even the demigods and great saints are purified by touching you, it is the characteristic of a devotee to observe and protect the Vaiṣṇava etiquette. Maintenance of the Vaiṣṇava etiquette is the ornament of a devotee.
Madhya 19.61–At that time, Śrī Vallabha Bhaṭṭa was staying at Āḍāila-grāma, and when he heard that Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu had arrived, he went to His place to see Him.
PURPORT-Vallabha Bhaṭṭa was a great learned scholar of Vaiṣṇavism. In the beginning he was very much devoted to Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, but since he thought that he could not receive proper respect from Him, he later joined the Viṣṇusvāmī sect and became ācārya of that sect. His sect is celebrated as the Vallabhācārya-sampradāya. This sampradāya has had great influence in Vṛndāvana near Gokula and in Bombay. Vallabha Bhaṭṭa wrote many books, including a commentary on Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam called Subodhinī-ṭīkā, and notes on the Vedānta-sūtra, in the form of an Anubhāṣya. He also wrote a combination of sixteen short works called Ṣoḍaśa-grantha. …. His book known as Ṣoḍaśa-grantha and his commentaries on Vedānta-sūtra (Anubhāṣya) and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (Subodhinī) are very famous. He has written many other books besides.
Aug 7 1976 letter
Madame Sumati Morarji,
…I am sorry to learn that you have become a little agitated regarding the publication of an article in our Back to Godhead magazine. It is certainly unpleasant, but the officers who publish the magazine do not know satyam bruyat priyam bruyat, in this material world only palatable truth should be spoken. Unpalatable truth should be carefully avoided. The cause of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s agitation was much the same as your own. As you are irritated by the criticism of Sri Vallabhacarya, similarly Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was also agitated when Vallabhacarya criticized Sridhara Svami.
Sridhara Svami is accepted as the original commentator on the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Perhaps you know that there is an edition of the Srimad-Bhagavatam by Krsna Sankara Sastri “abhinavah sukah” Vedantacarya, Sahitya-tirtha, sribhagavatasudhanidhi, from Ahmedabad. In his book he has given almost all the important commentaries on the Bhagavatam, as follows: 1. Sridhara Svami 2. Sri Vamsidhara 3. Sri Gangasahaya 4. Srimad Viraraghavacarya 5. Srimad Vijayadhvaja Tirtha 6. Srimad Jiva Gosvami 7. Srimad Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura 8. Srimad sukadeva 9. Gosvami Sri-giridharalal (Vallabhacarya Sampradaya) 10. Sri Bhagavat-prasadacarya, etc..
Among all commentaries, Sridhara Svami’s is given the first position. This parampara has existed for a very long time. It was also accepted during Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s time, but Sri Vallabhacarya violated the system. Instead of acknowledging Sridhara Svami’s pre-eminent position, he wanted to take it himself. … I would like to draw your attention to verse 113 on page 55 where Vallabha Bhatta says:
“In my commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam,” he said, “I have refuted the explanations of Sridhara Svami. I cannot accept his explanations.”
Moreover, verse 114 states:
“Whatever Sridhara Svami reads he explains according the circumstances. Therefore he is inconsistent in his explanations and cannot be accepted as an authority.”
Vallabha Bhatta’s declaration certainly agitated Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Consequently, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu remarked sarcastically that He considered that anyone who did not accept the svami (or Sridhara Svami) as an authority was a prostitute. Prabhu hasi kahe; but he smiled and said this jokingly, because they were friends.
Although this point is very controversial, it is not based on hearsay, as you have stated, but it is authoritatively documented by the Caitanya Caritamrta. As you have written in a friendly spirit, I do not wish to discuss this point further. If you will kindly take a little trouble to read this chapter “Lord Caitanya meets Vallabha Bhatta” you will understand the whole situation. Actually Vallabha Bhatta should not have criticized Sridhara Svami, because even now Sridhara Svami is very respected. Even authorities like Sri Jiva Goswami and Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura mention in their commentaries, svami caranat, as we have learned it from the lotus feet of Sridhara Svami. So when Vallabha Bhatta criticized Sridhara Svami, Caitanya Mahaprabhu criticized Vallabha Bhatta strongly. This is a fact, but this does not mean that Vallabha Bhatta and Caitanya Mahaprabhu were inimical. Vallabha Bhatta honored Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as a superior. Sometimes Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu would chastise Vallabha Bhatta and sometimes He would favor him, because this was their relationship. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu would never refuse the occasional invitations of Vallabha Bhatta.
Now we turn to Lalita Prasad the brother of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta maharaja
Note-In the following letter Srila Prabhupada explains the etiquette to be followed when visiting an older Godbrother or special person of spiritual status. So this was early on in dealing with Lalita Prasad…
Sept 2 1971 letter to jayapataka
P.S. Whenever our men go to visit Lalita Prasad Thakura they must take some presentation, cash or kind, worth not less than Rs. 50/- at least. Some nice presentation should be always given. Not that you go empty handed. It is customary to make a presentation to the Deity and Spiritual Master. Lalita Prasad Thakura is son of Bhaktivinode Thakura and younger brother of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati so he is considered my spiritual master.

May 17 1972 letter to Jayapatka
Regarding Lalita Prasad Thakura’s proposal, merging is possible in two ways: They become merged in our institution and we make it as one of our branches. In that case, as we are supplying all necessities to our branches, similarly, this branch will be also supported. When there is scarcity of money, everything will be provided by us. So in that case the management will be under our direction. Otherwise, if they want to keep their own identity then there is no other alternative than to take the land on lease. They can keep aside their portion independently, and the land which is given to us on lease, we keep ourselves independently. So far our relationship is concerned, even though we keep independent of one another, there will be no misunderstanding, because the central point is Bhaktivinode Thakura. Our only ambition is that the birthsite of Bhaktivinode Thakura must be gorgeous and attractive so that people may come to see from all parts of the world. Bhaktivinode Thakura is no longer localized. His holy name is being expanded along with Lord Caitanya’s. So let them understand this point. They are occupying the place for more than 50 years and none of their men could fulfill the desire of Bhaktivinode Thakura in the matter of preaching in foreign countries. With this spirit we should combine. So next you can talk with them on this understanding. I can understand also that Lalita Prasad Thakura is very much favorable in giving us the concession but his assistants may be hesitating unnecessarily.
Note-So the situation was –that Lalita Prasad wanted to give this property BUT he wanted to remain there as Acarya-and not give this status to Srila Prabhupada who by then had already shown his expertise in spreading Lord Caitanyas sankirtan movement. worldwide.
More letters….
july 22 1972 letter to Acyutananda
My Dear Acyutananda,
Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter dated June 16, 1972, along with two tapes and one book. The book contains some derogatory remarks about my Guru Maharaja, therefore we shall having nothing to do with printing it. In fact, since Lalita Prasad Thakura has not fulfilled his promise to give us that Birnagar land for our ISKCON center, so we shall not have any more to do with printing any books by Bhaktivinode Thakura or anyone. Try to induce him to fulfill his promise, otherwise we want nothing more to do with the whole business.
Hoping this meets you in good health.
Some Conclusions-So in both cases, Vallabha Bhatta and Lalita Prasad, both exhalted spiritual personalites, but both of them, according to our Srila Prabhupada, has transgressed the normal Vaisnava etiquette of showing proper respect to a superior Authority. In Vallabha’s case it was not respecting Sridhar Swami, the original commentator of Srimad Bhagavatam and in Lalita Prasadas case it was not recognizing who Srila Prabhupada really was-a world class Acarya who had already proven himself and backing out of his promises to Prabhupada and worse still wanting or being attached to keeping his name there as “acarya”. What to speak of making in a book he wrote some degrading remarks about his older brother Srila Bhaktisiddhanta maharaja who had already established 64 Vaisnava temples throughout India.
Prabhupada began his “instructions” to his neophyte disciples to properly receive such a great soul as Lalita Prasad, but then later warned them to have nothing to do with him due to dis respect by him.
So these things will happen time to time and therefore the final conclusion I take from these episodes is this final instructions by our guru maharaja Srila Prabhupada regarding his Godbrothers….
April 28 1974 letter to Rupanuga
You are right about Sridhara Maharaja’s genuineness. But in my opinion he is the best of the lot. He is my old friend, at least he executes the regulative principles of devotional service. I do not wish to discuss about activities of my Godbrothers but it is a fact they have no life for preaching work. All are satisfied with a place for residence in the name of a temple, they engage disciples to get foodstuff by transcendental devices and eat and sleep. They have no idea or brain how to broadcast the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. …So Sridhara Maharaja and his two associate gentlemen unauthorizedly selected one acarya and later it proved a failure. The result is now everyone is claiming to be acarya even though they may be kanistha adhikari with no ability to preach. In some of the camps the acarya is being changed three times a year. Therefore we may not commit the same mistake in our ISKCON camp. Actually amongst my Godbrothers no one is qualified to become acarya. So it is better not to mix with my Godbrothers very intimately because instead of inspiring our students and disciples they may sometimes pollute them. This attempt was made previously by them, especially Madhava Maharaja and Tirtha Maharaja and Bon Maharaja but somehow or other I saved the situation. This is going on. We shall be very careful about them and not mix with them. This is my instruction to you all. They cannot help us in our movement, but they are very competent to harm our natural progress. So we must be very careful about them.
SP letter 9th November, 1975-“All my disciples should avoid all of my God brothers. They should not have any dealings with them nor even correspondence, nor should we give them any of my books, nor should we purchase any of their books, neither should you visit any of their temples. Please avoid them.”
Hare Krsna
damaghosa das