The importance of honour and tolerance within the Vaisnava community.

By Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj

Student: Srila Prabhupad [Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj] said that amongst Vaisnavas, there may be some difference of opinion because of everyone’s personal identity, but despite all personal differences, the cult of Krishna consciousness must go on.

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: 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 Krishna consciousness. So, all are justified, but all are not of equal level. It should be conceived in this way.

Student: Srila Prabhupad 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 Prabhupad’s orders. … In Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Srila Rupa Goswami mentions the general principle of accepting an Acharya, but he does not choose to mention the details because they may vary from one to another, and Srila Prabhupad mentions that Srila Rupa Goswami doesn’t go into the details because there may be differences from one Acharya to another. He doesn’t choose to mention the details, but rather mentions the general principle that one must accept an Acharya.

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: 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: Srila Prabhupad also mentions that a disciple must execute the order of the spiritual master but not offend other Vaisnavas.

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: 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. Nahi kalyana kaschit durgatim tato gachchhati (Bg: 6.40). That is rather a form of affection. Punishment is also a form of affection. In vatsalya-rasa, it is used loosely, even Krishna is not exempted.

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.

Srila Sridhar Maharaj: The spirit of tolerance should be spread amongst us. If we want to work in a group—engage in sankirtan—then this sort of qualification is essential and inevitable: trnad api sunich, taror api sahisnu, amani, manada [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. Amani and manada: we must give honour and not desire it for ourselves. These four qualifications are necessary if we want to go on with sankirtan: samyak kirtan [complete kirtan].

What is sankirtan? This Srila Jiva Goswami’s explanation:

bahubhir militva yat kirtanam tad eva sankirtanam

[“Kirtan in which many are combined together is sankirtan.”]

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 pratistha, 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, amani and manada: 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.

sri-krsna-kirtane yadi manasa tohara
parama yatane tahi labha adhikara
(Gitavali: Siksastakam, 3.1)

[“If you want to chant the Name, then first, with great care, become qualified.”]

If you really want to grow the sankirtan, then these four qualifications are indispensably necessary for everyone.

trnadhika hina, dina, akinchana chhara
apane manabi sada chhadi’ ahankara

[“Give up your false ego, and always consider yourself lower than grass, needy, poor, and mean.”]

vrksa-sama ksama-guna karabi sadhana
pratihimsa tyaji’ anye karabi palana

[“Practise tolerance like a tree, leave aside revenge, and nurture others.”]

jivana-nirvahe ane udvega na dibe
para-upakare nija-sukha pasaribe

[“Do not trouble others for your own upkeep. Forget your own happiness in the course of helping others.”

ha-ile-o sarva-gune guni mahasaya
pratisthasa chhadi’ kara amani hrdaya

[“Even if you are honourable and qualified with all qualities, give up desire for prestige and remain prideless at heart.”]

krsna-adhisthana sarva-jive jani’ sada
karabi sammana sabe adare sarvada

[“Knowing Krishna is eternally present within every soul, always respectfully honour everyone.”]

dainya, daya, anye mana, pratistha-varjana
chari gune guni hai’ karaha kirtana

[“Humility, compassion, honouring others, and giving up prestige—become qualified with these four qualities and engage in kirtan.”]

bhakati-vinoda kadi’ bale prabhu-paya
“heno adhikara kabe dibe he amaya”

[“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 sankirtan. Bahubhir militva: with many combined in one campaign, we can move on. Hare Krishna.


Spoken on 22 February 1981.