Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj explains the importance of honour and tolerance within the Vaiṣṇava community.
Student: Śrīla Prabhupād [Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Swāmī Mahārāj] said that among Vaiṣṇavas, there may be some difference of opinion because of everyone’s personal identity, but despite all personal differences, the cult of Kṛṣṇa consciousness must go on.
Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj: That is good, but there may be gradation. All may not preach from the same rank, the same plane. Some from a little superior plane, and some from a little inferior plane, are working to spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness. So, all are justified, but all are not of equal level. It should be conceived in this way. Hare Kṛṣṇa.
Student: Śrīla Prabhupād also said that there are many disciples, but to judge who is actually a disciple, to divide the useful from the useless, one must measure the activity of such disciples in executing the will of their spiritual master. … But now in our society, the godbrothers, initiating or non-initiating, have different ideas about how to execute Prabhupād’s orders. … In Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Śrīla Rūpa Goswāmī mentions the general principle of accepting an Āchārya, but he does not choose to mention the details because they may vary from one to another, and Śrīla Prabhupād mentions that Śrīla Rūpa Goswāmī doesn’t go into the details because there may be differences from one Āchārya and the other. He doesn’t choose to mention the details, but rather mentions the general principle that one must accept an Āchārya.
Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj: On vital points, there will be no differences, but on details, in unimportant matters, in regard to practice, there may be small differences. On the main points, there will be one common understanding.
Student: Śrīla Prabhupād also mentions that a disciple must execute the order of the spiritual master but not offend other Vaiṣṇavas.
Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj: As much as possible, but sometimes also an elder brother may punish a younger brother. Good sense, however, must be there: sincerity. Because he wants good for the junior, he may chastise a younger brother, “Don’t do that. Do it in this way.” There should be room for that. If he is well meaning, then there is no harm if he punishes a junior. Nāhi kalyāṇa kaśchit durgatiṁ tāto gachchhati (Bg: 6.40). That is rather a form of affection. Punishment is also a form of affection. In vātsalya-rasa, it is used loosely, even Kṛṣṇa is not exempted. Ha ha.
Student: But sometimes in our society the younger brothers want to chastise the older brothers. Knowing that there is variety and that there may be differences in ways of preaching, we have to accept these things. But in a practical sense, how do we remain unified with such differences? That has become a problem: to allow for difference and at the same time remain unified.
Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj: The spirit of tolerance should be spread amongst us. If we want to work in a group—engage in saṅkīrtan—then this sort of qualification is essential and inevitable: tṛṇād api sunīch, taror api sahiṣṇu, amāni, mānadā [being more humble than a blade of grass, more tolerant than a tree, free from desire for honour, and inclined to give honour to others]. These characteristics should be maintained and given more attention if we want to work in a group. We must be humble and tolerant, otherwise we cannot take up any big work in a combined way. Amāni and mānadā: we must give honour and not desire it for ourselves. These four qualifications are necessary if we want to go on with saṅkīrtan: samyak kīrtan [complete kīrtan].
What is saṅkīrtan? This Śrīla Jīva Goswāmī’s explanation:
bahubhir militvā yat kīrtanam tad eva saṅkīrtanam
[“Kīrtan in which many are combined together is saṅkīrtan.”]
If you want to go on in that process, then these qualifications should be encouraged within the organisation: the practices of humility and tolerance, the tendency to give honour to others, and not seeking honour for oneself. Especially pratiṣṭhā, the hitch is there: in fame and maintaining one’s own position. By attempting to maintain our own position, we cannot keep our position. This principle should be taught within the organisation. By seeking position, we will not attain position. But sometimes by not seeking and rather giving position to others, we can get position. So, amāni and mānadā: giving honour to others and not desiring it for oneself. The hitch, the main hitch, is there. First humility, then tolerance, then giving position to others, and then not wanting position for oneself. With these qualities, we can go on together. This must be given more stress.
śrī-kṛṣṇa-kīrtane yadi mānasa tohāra
parama yatane ta̐hi labha adhikāra
(Gītāvalī: Śikṣāṣṭakam, 3.1)
[““If you want to chant the Name, then first, with great care, become qualified.”]
If you really want to grow the saṅkīrtan, then these four qualifications are indispensably necessary for everyone.
ṭṛṇādhika hīna, dīna, akiñchana chhāra
āpane mānabi sadā chhāḍi’ ahaṅkāra
[“Give up your false ego, and always consider yourself lower than grass, needy, poor, and mean.”]
vṛkṣa-sama kṣamā-guṇa karabi sādhana
pratihiṁsā tyaji’ anye karabi pālana
[“Practise tolerance like a tree, leave aside revenge, and nurture others.”]
jīvana-nirvāhe āne udvega nā dibe
para-upakāre nija-sukha pāsaribe
[“Do not trouble others for your own upkeep. Forget your own happiness in the course of helping others.”
ha-ile-o sarva-guṇe guṇī mahāśaya
pratiṣṭhāśā chhāḍi’ kara amānī hṛdaya
[“Even if you are honourable and qualified with all qualities, give up desire for prestige and remain prideless at heart.”]
kṛṣṇa-adhiṣṭhāna sarva-jīve jāni’ sadā
karabi sammāna sabe ādare sarvadā
[“Knowing Kṛṣṇa is eternally present within every soul, always respectfully honour everyone.”]
dainya, dayā, anye māna, pratiṣṭhā-varjana
chāri guṇe guṇī hai’ karaha kīrtana
[“Humility, compassion, honouring others, and giving up prestige—become qualified with these four qualities and engage in kīrtan.”]
bhakati-vinoda kā̐di’ bale prabhu-pāya
“heno adhikāra kabe dibe he amāya”
[“Crying at the feet of the Lord, Bhakti Vinod says, ‘O Lord! When will You give me these qualifications?’”]
This attitude should be preached, and in this way we should create a favourable atmosphere so we can go on with saṅkīrtan. Bahubhir militvā: with many combined in one campaign, we can move on. Hare Kṛṣṇa.
Spoken on 22 February 1981.