by Sri Srimad Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja:
When the ācārya disappears, a dark period comes, just as a patch of black cloud covers up the effulgent sun. It is an unfortunate time, but it is temporary. That cloud will go away. A violent storm may come and disperse the cloud, and then the effulgent sun will come out. If you trace out history, you will find that after the disappearance of an ācārya, this period comes. That period came after the disappearance of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. Then his disciple Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami appeared like the effulgent sun. After his disappearance, a dark period has come. The sun is there. It is only covered by a temporary black cloud. It will be dispersed, and then the effulgent sun will come.
Mahaprabhu was doing ācārya-līlā — preaching. After the disappearance of Mahaprabhu, the Goswamis came. They were not preachers. They were bhajanānandīs. They just stayed in the jungle of Vrindavan and wrote books. They were ordered to do four things: a) Write bhakti śāstras, scriptures speaking the science of bhakti; b) Excavate the lost tīrthas such as Shyama-kund and Radha-kund; c) Install deities, construct temples for the deities, and teach the pro-cess of deity worship; and d) Teach vaisnava etiquette — Sanatan Goswami wrote Hari-bhakti-vilāsa, wherein he quotes many śāstras describing vaisnava etiquette.
They were doing these four things. They were not preaching, but they were preparing the preachers. Scriptures are needed for that. Otherwise, what will a preacher speak? We quote authority from śāstra. In Caitanya-caritāmrita (madhya 22.65), Chaitanya Mahaprabhu spoke the definition of uttama-adhikārī to Sanatan Goswami:
śāstra-yuktye sunipuṇa, dṛḍha-śraddhā yāńra
‘uttama-adhikārī’ sei tāraye saḿsāra
Śāstra-yuktye sunipuna — He is very proficient in presenting śāstric conclusions, siddhāntas. By presenting them strongly, he defeats bogus philosophies and establishes pure bhakti-siddhānta. He is very strong in tattva. He is dṛḍha-śraddhā— he has unshakable, strong faith. Such a person is an uttama-adhikārī. Only such an adhikārī vaisnava can deliver the whole world — tāraye saḿsāra.
The Six Goswamis were preparing preachers. Jiva Goswami sent his three students, Shyamananda Thakur, Narottam Das Thakur, and Srinivas Acharya with books and told them, “Go and preach!” These three elevated vaisnavas went to preach. Shyamananda Thakur came to Orissa. Narottam Das Thakur went to the eastern side, to Manipur and Assam, etc. And Srinivas Acharya preached in Bengal. They are the first preachers who came after the disappearance of Mahaprabhu.
Then came Bhaktivinode Thakur. Gaura Kishor Das Babaji and Jagannath Das Babaji were not preachers. They were bhajanānandīs. Only Bhaktivinode Thakur came out, that is ācārya. After Bhaktivinode Thakur came, then successively Bhaktivinode’s son Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur came, and then Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Bhaktisiddhanta had many sannyāsī disciples. Also, Mahaprabhu had predicted,
prithivīte āche yata nagarādi grāma
sarvatra pracāra haibe mora nāma
My name and teachings will be spread to all corners of the world. Still, after the disappearance of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta a black period was there.
So who fulfilled Mahaprabhu’s prediction? Bhaktivinode Thakur started. Because India was blindly following the West, he thought that the books and teachings of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu should be presented in English‚ and that this science should be taught in the Western world. He was very disappointed that although this samskrti, culture, is here in India, Indians are blindly following Western civilization, dog civilization. Bhaktivinode Thakur is mahājana, ācārya. He had the transcendental vision that Mahaprabhu’s teachings should be presented to the Western world in English, and then, when the Western people would accept it, the Indians’ eyes would be opened.
Bhaktivinode Thakur also predicted that a very powerful son would be born who would fulfill this desire, who would preach and spread Mahaprabhu’s teachings in the West and throughout the world. His son, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, was born. He was a very powerful vaisnava. From his very birth he was a brahmacārī, and he was very strong, very powerful. He did not go to the West, but he prepared some of his sannyāsī disciples to go and preach. He sent Bhaktipradip Tirtha and Bon Maharaja, but they could not achieve success.
My guru-mahārāja, Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, was just a grhastha. He was not a sannyāsī. He was not living in the āśrama. He had always been a grhastha. But he got the real mercy of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, Thakur Bhaktivinode, and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He was empowered, because he was a true follower. He did not twist the teachings. He did not add any deliberation to them. He followed them “as it is”. Then he preached in English throughout the world. In their first meeting, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta told him to preach in the West. He could understand, “The person has now come to me who can do it.”
Our Srila Prabhupada was a young man at that time. After the disappearance of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, all of his sannyāsī disciples fought with each other. There was a case before the Supreme Court. They were quarreling like dogs for a piece of bone.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta had set up sixty-four temples. In the court case they were all divided. This maha went to this person, and this maha went to another. So many, many divisions. It was a black period. There was no strong ācārya. And now, after the disappearance of Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a similar period has come. Quarreling and fighting is also going on now in Prabhupada’s society. So many have lost faith and left. Some of them became karmis and are doing other business. So many of the gurus, the pillars of the society, fell down! Again, this is a dark period. In any case, Mahaprabhu’s movement will never be lost. The day will come when the black patch of clouds will be dispersed and the effulgent sun will come out. Prabhupada has said the day will come when the ācārya will appear.
Devotee: How have previous ācāryas been recognized by the vaisnavas?
Gour Govinda Swami: By their potency, their effulgence, and their proficiency. How they present facts. They have been recognized by their clarity, their quoting of authority, defeating bogus philosophies, establishing pure siddhānta, and attracting many people, making many persons vaisnavas. That is the proof. Krishna is all attractive. It is said that in the material world Krishna attracts the jīvas in two forms: In the form of His holy name and in form of ācārya — nāma-rupe, ācārya-rupe.
Devotee: Today, it seems like ISKCON is focused more on following an institutional path than it is in recognizing and following the vaisnava-sādhus. For example, guruship is decided by the GBC. Also, it seems like many are attracted to take sannyāsa just to get some power.
Gour Govinda Swami: Yes. What to do? It is a matter of time, place and circumstance. “Please, give me position.” Better to give it to him. Don’t let him feel disappointed or depressed. This is a large worldwide organization, and somehow we have to keep it up. Two aspects are there, two facets, two sides, and one of them is the organizational consideration. It is a different consideration, how to keep up the organization. We should not allow the organization to be split up, broken into pieces. In order to keep up the institution, the GBC is doing these kinds of things.”
Devotee: When there are failures in this organization, and we see gurus falling down, it gives a bad name to . . .
Gour Govinda Swami: You should understand this thing. The society gives opportunity. If one has been given a position in the society, and he is really intelligent, he will understand, “I don’t deserve it; I have no qualification. But still this opportunity has come to me. So I must make myself qualified, then I can stay in the position. Otherwise I will lose it.”
For the sake of maintaining the institution, opportunity is given. Unity must be there. We should not allow it to be split up. This is an organizational matter. Why should a member feel discouraged that he cannot get an opportunity? Srila Prabhupada did the same thing. Prabhupada knew these people were not qualified. But he gave them sannyāsa. Prabhupada said, “Take this opportunity! Do it now!” Otherwise, how could he manage the society? He would give someone sannyāsa, and then put that sannyāsī in one area to manage. In this way, the brahmacārīs and devotees will obey him, because he is a sannyāsī.
Mahaprabhu took sannyāsa for this same reason. He was Mahaprabhu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But because He was a grhastha, many were not accepting him and were criticizing. Mahaprabhu thought, “I have to take sannyāsa, because a sannyāsī has prestige.” The general people have the notion that a māyāvādī sannyāsī is Narayan. Mahaprabhu thought, “I must take sannyāsa, otherwise these people won’t listen to Me.” So He took up sannyāsa from Keshava Bharati, who was a sannyāsī in the māyāvādī sampradāya. However, Mahaprabhu preached vaisnava philosophy. That was His purpose.
Similarly, Srila Prabhupada gave sannyāsa. Otherwise, how can you manage such a worldwide organization? All of the brahmacārīs and devotees will accept if a sannyāsī is the leader. They will offer him obeisances and accept what he says. But if he is a grhastha, if he is a brahmacārī, nobody will accept. Prabhupada gave an opportunity. If you are intelligent, you will understand this. You should think, “I don’t deserve it. I am not qualified. But he gave me an opportunity so I must make myself qualified and keep up the position.” But instead of being intelligent, you are a fool. You are thinking, “Now I am a sannyāsī! Now I am great! Now I am guru, now I am ācārya!” You have developed pride. You commit aparādha and fall down. This is the reason for these fall downs.
So, when we think of organizational matters we should consider all of these things. Otherwise how we will maintain the world-wide organization? These two aspects are there, the spiritual aspect and the organizational aspect. This is the organizational aspect.
— From an evening darśana in Bhubaneswar on 31 March 1992.