Read My Books
Posted August 16, 2006
Carefully noting the commotion in recent years regarding temples and other bhakti yoga societies, the Gurus, temples and temple heads, changes within ISKCON and in devotee relations etc., I wish to present what's in the books of His Divine Grace Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and in other books of bhakti yoga regarding these issues. I do understand that many devotees do not read the books for many reasons.
As for book reading here's my personal resume: I have read Srila Prabhupada Lilamrta five times, the five-volume set of the unedited letters of Srila Prabhupada three times, the Bhagavad-Gita As It Is 45 times, all 12 cantos of the Srimad Bhagavatam 40 times, Sri Caitanya-caritamrita 40 times, Nectar of Devotion 30 times, a detailed Ramayana three times, a Mahabharata three times, Nectar of Instruction 25 times, Sri Isopanisad ten times, as well as a few other books by some of the recent writers in ISKCON.
Some time back one GBC and some VIPs said to me: "Antaryami, why read the books so much? All you need is a computer and the Prabhupada Vedabase; reading is not necessary." My argument then and now is: the founder-acharya states in all of his books, conversations and letters that books are the basis and that we should read the books. I have personally found that computers are not reliable for searching data from the Prabhupada Vedabase. While computers do have a place in society, because they are designed by persons having the four defects, defective computers are the result.
Temple living: In the books there is no mention that someone from another Hare Krsna group is a lesser bhakti-yogi. (Of course, I do not preach this in any of the Krsna temples. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and, since no one is asking, why say it?) Nowhere is it mentioned that followers from the lilas of Sri Rama, Sri Krsna, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Sri Jagannatha, Sri Narayana, Lord Vishnu, etc. belonged to any group, temples, societies, etc. Of course, there was a succession to every process and a teacher/Guru to the student/disciple for purity. I personally have found ISKCON the most practical and easiest bhakti-yoga process on earth today. In the books it says the process today is chanting the Hare Krsna mantra a fixed number of times with no hard or fast rules and practicing with faith, sincerity and perseverance.
Ashrams: In the Dallas temple, before the devotees and the Deities in early 1983, H.H. Tamal Krsna Goswami read out a letter from Srila Prabhupada: "My dear Tamal, the temple is likened to a military training camp where persons come and are trained as soldiers. After being trained they are sent out into the field to live an ideal devotee life preaching and living by example, or they remain in the temples to serve in one of many varieties of service. Those who are not strong enough to live outside the temple maintaining sadhana they can remain in the temple till such a time." (I was there during this reading.)
Long before coming to the west, Srila Prabhupada asked his Guru Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati if it would be okay for him to move into the temple ashram. His Guru told him not to move into the temple, as at that time there were a lot of problems, politics, etc., amongst his disciples. It was better to live outside practicing, etc., and in time all would be done. History is repeating itself today in many temples for many devotees.
I present such examples because some devotees are disturbed when asked to move out of the temples or being denied entrance. Some think this the work of temple managers in hate, etc. In a class given by Srila Prabhupada titled "Weapons by mantra, and Gopis have highest pleasure," Srila Prabhupada quotes this verse by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu: "Every one of you become guru, and deliver; please let people understand what is Krsna." No mention of particular societies, or that one need remain living in a temple ashram.
Preaching: Many present-day ISKCON devotees and VIPs are presenting ISKCON as do some Christian Baptists -- as an "our way or no way" mission. This is still seen to date, and many persons have commented on this after visiting ISKCON temples or after meeting devotees in the field.
Before Srila Prabhupada came to the west and started ISKCON, he was preaching in India traveling as a retired family man and while married. In his preaching travels he did not direct persons to any particular temples. This is not mentioned in the books. Srila Prabhupada was a really good, pure and learned preacher empowered directly from Krsna. With integrity he encouraged everyone towards the bhakti cult.
Bhakti processes: There are four disciplic lines of bhakti yoga in this universe, from Brahma (ISKCON's line), Siva, Laxmi and the four Kumaras. Many followers of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's lila 500 years ago did not belong to any group temple societies. Many started their own temples when mature.
Maya: The books say that Maya is a very strong personality. Maya directs us to always choose, whether it be enemies, friends, right, wrong, husbands, wives, etc. Maya also starts wars and makes the peace as well. She makes the good look bad and the bad look good. Maya affects our minds, bodies, intellect and intellectual conclusions. She does this personally and through her aides-de-camp, the three modes of material nature. Our tasting, eating, drinking, smelling, seeing, feeling, etc., are also affected by Maya. We desire something, and Maya presents it for our experience -- it's no accident.
Maya's job is to direct us away from or toward our goals, be they spiritual or material. The books show that Maya's mission is to destroy Hare Krsna societies from within and without. Srila Prabhupada said that this chanting of Hare Krsna is a war against Maya and that Maya's work is to keep us here -- bewildering us, cheating us, taunting us, playing with our mind's eye and psychological intellect. This is Maya's service to Krsna.
Testing devotees: Some devotees, when they are not allowed to enter a temple, for whatever reason, will stop the bhakti process. Did Srila Haridas Thakur the Namacarya stop chanting Hare Krsna when banned from the Jagannath Puri temple? Did he start some movement to reform the temple? Did he say "they changed", "I can't go in there" or "They beat me up and Krsna did not protect me, so I quit "? There are many examples of tests given in the books. These tests are brought about by Krsna through Maya, through the demigods and personally by Krsna. Such tests show the greatness of sincere steadfast devotees as well as testing the neophyte devotees' iron. Tests are sometimes a result of past karma.
Srila Prabhupada of ISKCON did not start a Gaudiya Math reform movement during his lifetime. He just kept to the process learned from his Srila Gurudeva and, with faith and perseverance, living outside the temple, showed through example how to be a good devotee in Krsna bhakti. He showed us how to act (to be an acharya).
Prabhus, we are not the international society for Mahatma Gandhi politics. Srila Prabhupada says: "One need only know how to act, and it is faith only that will see you through in this process." The books teach that, once having learned the bhakti process, one need only follow it with faith, whether in a temple, living outside or far away.
Examples of tests: 1. The brahman whose finger was burned in his meditation of making sweet rice. He learned a process not directly taught to him, and he privately practiced that process with faith. 2. Prahlada Maharaja and his demon father. 3. Sita devi, apparently kidnapped by a demon. 4. Dhruva Maharaja insulted by his step-mother. 5. Daksha's cursing of Narada Muni. 6. the Pandavas exiled. 7. Lord Rama exiled. 8. Krsna's firstborn son Pradyumna stolen by a demon. 9. The Pandavas' grandson to die from snakebite. 10. Haridas Thakura beaten. 11. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's many associates faced many difficulties. In recent history, Srila Prabhupada the founder-acharya of ISKCON encountered many problems while preaching. Such examples and pastimes are there to teach, to help us stay faithful in the process of Krsna consciousness. There will be many problems; this is kali-yuga.
The books present problems and perfect solutions. One needs to read the books carefully to see what those persons of the past did to resolve or deal with circumstantial problems and personal karma and eventually to go back to Godhead. ISKCON is not a plain-Joe or -Jane yoga society; ISKCON is a Bhaktivedanta yoga society. There are many books; the acarya has asked us in every page and chapter to read them -- it is our duty as Bhaktivedanta yogis.
Something to heed: In Srimad Bhagavatam there is the story of Daksha and Narada Muni. Daksha curses Narada Muni that he would not be able to stay in any one place for any long time. Srila Prabhupada says in this purport that this curse had fallen upon him, also, from the parents of the young devotees who joined his society. Interestingly, Srila Prabhupada says he has passed this curse onto his disciples.
Karma: Our friends, relatives, family members, children, enemies, mind, intellect, health, looks, senses, strength, birthplace, wealth, fame, infamy, etc., are results of past karma. Karma is not only a "sticks-and-stones, break-bones" or timely-death issue. Karma is deep and complicated. Maharaja Dasarath, the pastime father of Sri Rama, said to his wife, the mother of Rama: "Now I see that no one is exempt from their karma -- not even I."
The books state the material world is so complex that sometimes even Brahma and Siva are placed into perplexities due to its complexities. Again, this is kali-yuga, the fallen age. Contaminated with the four defects, affected by maya and the three modes of material nature, we have unlimited karma.
Hare Krsna always was and always will be about one thing only: Hearing,
chanting, remembering or seeing Krsna's form, whether real or on paper,
etc., at the time of death -- and that's it. I've chosen to read the
books a lot. I felt it was my duty and, as Srila Prabhupada states in
Bhagavad-gita, a onetime reading is not sufficient. For those of
you who doubt my history of many times reading the books, I can only
ask you to seek out those ISKCON devotees who personally know me and to
ask them. One who has not read the books cannot ask others to read
them. Hare Krsna.