Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja
For His International Pure Bhakti-yoga Society
August 6, 2008
We are fast approaching the holy month of Kartika. We are immeasurably fortunate that our beloved Srila Gurudeva is with us. He will be guiding us forever, and soon he will be guiding us through an inspiring month of parikrama, harikatha, and sadhu-sanga.
Srila Gurudeva's spiritual daughters and sons around the world desire to fulfill his wishes for the future success of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mission as it is descending through his own International Pure Bhakti-yoga Society. As a small service to you all in that regard, we are sending out the following question and answer conversation between Srila Gurudeva and Sripad Brajanath dasa on August 7, 2008, in Govardhana, India.
1) Why did you create the Bhaktivedanta Trust International? What is its purpose?
Srila Gurudeva: I have preached the vani of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Sri Rupa-Raghunatha in every part of the world. I have also printed and distributed books everywhere around the world. These are the two main features of my mission. So, just as preaching and printing is going on in my presence, in a similar way, also after me, I want the vani of Sri Rupa-Raghunatha and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to continue to be preached around the world, but even more so – in much greater proportion.
I have also established Bhaktivedanta Trust International (BHAKTI) for another reason, which is to keep my mission unified, now and after me. I want that all the qualified Sannyasis and preachers who are preaching my mission shall be united by affectionate dealings.
2) What are the responsibilities of the Trust?
Srila Gurudeva: The Trust has the responsibility to ensure that our worldwide mission of preaching the vani of Sri Rupa-Raghunatha and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu continues; and to ensure that my books are printed and distributed; both preaching and book distribution should go on in a manner similar to what is happening now. Also, the Trust has the responsibility to keep our preachers unified and to keep preaching happening long into the future.
3) What are the responsibilities of the Advisory Board?
Srila Gurudeva: The members of the Advisory Board are responsible for advising on the various aspects of how my mission's preaching and book distribution can continue without interruption.
4) And what are the responsibilities of the Trust in relationship to the Society?
Srila Gurudeva: In the event of a breach of trust within the Society, the Trust is responsible to give proper advice to the Society and if required to correct it.
5) What is the relationship between the BTI and your Sannyasis?
Srila Gurudeva: There should be loving and affectionate behavior between the BTI and my preachers and sannyasis. The sannyasis should be respected. They are one of the main limbs of my preaching, and without their help I cannot preach everywhere in the world. As a result, it is proper for everyone to respect them. If the Trustees or anyone have suggestions, they can offer them to the Sannyasis in a proper and respectful way so that preaching of my vani will happen everywhere.
6) What vision do you have for the International Pure Bhakti Yoga Society?
Srila Gurudeva: I desire that people everywhere understand Pure Bhakti as practiced and preached by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Pure Bhakti is also called Prema Bhakti. Prema Bhakti is found only in the activities and lives of our Rupanuga Acharyas and nowhere else. It is the desire of our Rupanuga Acharyas that the glories of unnata-ujjvala parakiya bhava of the gopis, as exampled by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, are preached throughout the world.
Srila Rupa Gosvamipada established the greatness of the parakiya bhava of the gopis through scriptural evidence and logic. He stated that the upapati (paramour) relationship between ordinary men and women is disgusting and is a pathway to hell. In contrast, there is no fault in the parakiya bhava of Lord Krishna's relationship with the gopis. As Parabrahma He is Himself the Hero and the gopis who are the prakash of His svarupa shakti are His spotless heroines. With this understanding the purpose and goal of prema bhakti (suddha bhakti), as practiced and preached by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, is the goal and vision for our Society.
7) Do you see the Trustees as directors or managers of your Society?
Srila Gurudeva: My understanding is that the Trustees are sevaks (servitors) of everybody. They should behave humbly and respectably with the members of the Society. The Trustees are not the controllers or managers of anyone, rather they are everyone's servants. This is my vision. In this way, becoming humble and meek, giving proper respect to everybody without expecting respect in return, and behaving with love and affection. This alone is the duty of Trustees.
8.) Should the Trust make financial reports to the Society?
Srila Gurudeva: If you think that it is possible to present this, then you may do so.
9) Who are the Trustees accountable to, especially in your absence?
Srila Gurudeva: If the Trustees are doing something wrong, then the members of the Society should advice them, either through the Advisory Board or directly. The Society can give advice by stating what is not good. And the Trustees should accept their advice.
10) Should they report their activities publicly to the members of the Society?
Srila Gurudeva: Some matters require discretion and so should be kept confidential, but those matters that are beneficial for the public should be disclosed to the public.
11) How do you want the Trustees to act? What are the guiding principles for them to follow in the execution of their responsibilities?
Srila Gurudeva: I have previously answered this question. (See Question #7.)
12) Why did you choose these particular Trustees?
Srila Gurudeva: To ensure that my mission (i.e. the vani of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu which was practiced by Him) should be preached everywhere and that my books should be printed and distributed, that is why I have selected these Trustees. I saw that these Trustees are surrendered to me, that they have surrendered everything to me and that they don't keep even a paisa for themselves. These Brahmacharis and Sannyasis surrender everything to me, whatever they collect from pranami (collection, bhiksha) – even to the last single amount, without keeping even a single paisa for themselves. Instead, I give them money for their expenses. After seeing the sincerity of their duty and obligation (kartavya parayanata) I appointed them as Trustees.
13) Some say that they are somehow on the Trust because they have money and property? Is this true?
Srila Gurudeva: Some say that I appointed these Trustees because some of them are wealthy, having money and property. That is completely false. Only after seeing their atma samarpana (surrender unto me), their guru nistha and all services, have I appointed them as Trustees. They have helped me and are still helping me with Govardhana Math, Navadvip Math, Gopinatha Bhavan, Durvasa Math, and with my publications. They also preach and understand our philosophy. They have complete faith in me.
14) Do the Trustees have any influence over you Srila Gurudeva? Do you take decisions because of what they tell you? Please explain this in detail Srila Gurudeva.
Srila Gurudeva: To say that the Trustees influence my decisions is completely false. In making my decisions I am not influenced by anyone. I only make decisions that are proper and appropriate for Hari-Guru-Vaisnava seva. I make decisions that are favorable and useful to that seva and that is beneficial for the welfare of the public.
15) Some devotees feel that all the power and decision making authority for the Society is concentrated in the hands of the BTI Trustees. They worry about this. Srila Gurudeva, what is your comment?
Srila Gurudeva: Some devotees feel that all the power and decision making authority for the Society is concentrated in the hands of the BTI Trustees and not in my hands. But this is completely false. The BTI Trustees do not make their own decisions. They consider a matter and make recommendations to me. They advise me what they think is the right decision. When they are wrong, I tell them so and I decide. If some adjustment is needed, I make a change. They act as servants, nothing more.
16) On the other hand some devotees hold suspicions about the character and integrity of the Trustees. They think the Trustees are not important at all and that they are only interested in money and prestige which buys them privilege, special treatment and facilities. Some devotees think their appointment is your loving trick to engage them, but that there is no need to think of them as having any value to the devotees in general. Srila Gurudeva, what is your comment?
Srila Gurudeva: I understand that none of those devotees that I have appointed as Trustees have bad character. Rather, the life and character of all these Trustees are pure and sacred. I have appointed them as Trustees only after testing them in every way. To err is human. If they are wrong or make a mistake, then as Guru I correct them. They accept my correction completely. I engage them in service and they are surrendered, so if there is some discrepancy they are forgivable and their life and character should be understood as being pure and sacred. Lord Krishna has also said in Gita (9:30)—"api cet suduracaro..." meaning that "Even if a man of abominable character engages in My ananya-bhajana, he is still to be considered a sadhu, due to being rightly situated in bhakti." Even if for whatever reason that devotee is weak, if he has ananya (one-pointed) bhava towards Bhagavan, all his faults will go away, be corrected in the near future. As such he should be considered nothing but a sadhu.
Is there anyone in the world who is faultless? If those who have suspicions or question the Trustees motives, can they themselves say that their own life and character is completely pure and without fault? I don't think so. I don't think anyone can make that claim. Rather, it's the accuser, who has so many faults, so many anarthas, which they do not see in themselves but which they see in others. Only Lord Sri Krishna and myself know about another's faults and anarthas. If some devotees think that my appointment of them is my loving trick to engage them in Bhagavan's seva – they are quite wrong. Rather, I want to engage everyone in the service of Supreme Godhead, whether they are male or female, grhasthas, brahmacharis or sannyasis. To think that I have caught them to engage them in Bhagavan's seva is not true. I know that all my disciples somehow have anarthas in their hearts. That does not matter because I want to engage them all in seva, I want to correct their false egos and remove their anarthas.
17) Don't you think there are more qualified persons to elect to your Trust? People who are better devotees and who are more surrendered to you?
Srila Gurudeva: When I first made the Trust, at that time the Trustees I selected were the most qualified to fulfill the responsibilities of their posts. It may be that others are now more qualified, grhasthas, sannyasis or other preachers. Still, the Trustees have accepted the responsibility. I have said they are everyone's servants. I want everyone to unite in love, trust and affection. Each and every one should respect each other. That will please me. Moreover, I know that having qualities such as being a good scholar, being intelligent, very rich and other qualities – these are not important. Unless and until there is surrender to Sri Guru then all qualities and attributes have no value. If surrender to Sri Guru is present, then and only then do these qualities have meaning. All things good or bad are reconciled and adjusted by surrender to Sri Guru and the agency of his krpa (mercy).