Chakra Discussions

Thoughtful Liberty

by Niscala dasi

Posted June 28, 2006

I would like to thank the author of "Stop Empire-building; Do What Is Right" for his/her courageous honesty in expressing what so often devotees try to cover up, i.e. doubts. Srila Prabhupada wrote that doubt is an indication of intelligence. He also indicated in various letters and discussions that Krsna Consciousness should be given to all, but particularly to the most intelligent class, or in other words, the most doubting class. The reason for this is that faith that has not stood the test of scrutinizing doubt must necessarily be blind and based on sentiment or fanaticism, but not truth.

Thus the author posits some serious anomalies in our history, which seem to test the truths of our sastras : "How can somebody take diksha from Prabhupada, chant for many years, study the shastra for many years, and end up abusing their power like this?"

It is possible, because as Lord Chaitanya warned, alongside the bhakti creeper grow weeds that are also nourished by the watering or chanting process. Some of those are weeds that are the result of bhakti- such as the weed of the desire for worship, the honor and glory showered on those who are regarded as very senior and advanced. When one has such weeds in his heart, they override all feelings of devotion and service attitude- he will do anything to keep his glory intact. He will cover up his transgressions- demonize his opponents- or failing all else, even stoop to Kirtananda's policy of murder. Thus in consequential steps, the weeds strangle the creeper, and we have the phenomenon of persons chanting 16 or more rounds a day and possessing not a trace of devotion.

Bhaktivinode Thakura has written extensively about these weeds or anarthas. And he has also described the association of the false vaisnava, the "dharma dvaji", as being more dangerous than that of the outright materialist. Duplicity is as dangerous as the horns of a maddened bull, according to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. Add to all these considerations, sastra declares that in Kali Yuga in particular, religion appears to be irreligion, and vice versa. Add up the indications and what surprise is there at all that chanting is producing the predicted weeds or that Kali Yuga is going the predicted route of ensuring that hypocrisy flourishes?

What surprise is there, when Srila Prabhupada warned that chanting in the lower modes of nature is a means (rather than an end to) material existence. There is chanting in ignorance, passion, goodness and pure goodness. The former two end in foolishness and misery (GBC resolutions in general), the latter in happiness and pure devotion. What surprise is there that chanting in purity is so rare, when sastra describes it exactly that way?

The author brings up another valid point thus:

How can somebody who associated with Prabhupada personally so much, who was personally given sannyas by Prabhupada and who was glorified by Prabhupada, end up abusing his power so much? (I'm referring to 'Kirtanananda Swami' in particular.)

This is possible because contrary to mass opinion in ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada was not superhuman. Although he was amazingly accurate in assessing people's character, he was not infallible. He was capable of making an error of judgment, of putting the wrong people in charge of our movement and in charge of our schools. The reason for this is the limitations inherent in the jiva soul- they include him not being omniscient, thus there is the possibility of him making a mistake. I once wrote an article on this subject and it was posted on CHAKRA and it caused a storm. I discussed the nature of the liberated soul's "freedom from the propensity to make mistakes", based on Srila Prabhupada own words in this regard. That freedom from error is in relation to the philosophy, as the liberated soul never changes it and thus presents it as it is- perfectly- and without error. But errors that could only be avoided if one were omniscient, are possible even in the liberated soul. This reasoning makes sense to me and it tallies with my logic and experience in this world, but many see it as heresy. I could waste a lot of time and energy agonizing over this accusation, but I prefer to think for myself and accept what makes sense to me.

Srila Prabhupada: "This Krsna Consciousness movement is for training men to be independently thoughtful"

Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura similarly warned that we must think for ourselves:

"No thought is useless. Thoughts are means by which we attain our objects. The reader who denounces a bad thought does not know that a bad road is even capable of improvement and conversion into a good one. One thought is a road leading to another. Thus a reader will find that one thought which is the object today will be the means of a further object tomorrow. Thoughts will necessarily continue to be an endless series of means and objects in the progress of humanity...

The Bhagavatam, like all religious works and philosophical performances and writings of great men, has suffered from the imprudent conduct of useless readers and stupid critics. The former have done so much injury to the work that they have surpassed the latter in their evil consequence. Men of brilliant thoughts have passed by the work in quest for truth and philosophy, but the prejudice they imbibed from its useless readers and their conduct prevented them from making a candid investigation...

Two principles characterize the Bhagavatam- liberty and progress of the soul throughout eternity. The Bhagavat teaches that God gives us truth as He gave it to Vyasa- when we earnestly seek for it...

Truth is eternal and unexhausted. The soul receives a revelation when it is anxious for it. The souls of great thinkers of bygone ages, who now live spiritually, often approach our enquiring spirit and assist in its development. Thus Vyasa was assisted by Narada and Brahma. Our sastras, or in other words, books of thought, do not contain all we could get from our infinite father."

Hereafter Srila Bhaktivinode explains how even the disciplic succession can result in error of detail, therefore one must seek the essence of what is being said, and we are in no way obliged to accept what does not make sense to us:

"No book is without its errors. God's revelation is absolute truth, but it is scarcely received and preserved in its natural purity. We have been advised in the 14 th Chapter of the 11th Skandha of the Bhagavatam to believe that truth when revealed is absolute, but it gets the tincture of the nature of the receiver in course of time and is converted into error by continual exchange of hands from age to age. New revelations therefore are continually necessary in order to keep truth in its original purity. We are thus warned to be careful in our studies of old authors, however wise they are reputed to be...

Here we have full liberty to reject the wrong idea, which is not sanctioned by peace of conscience. Vyasa was not satisfied with what he had co0llected in the Vedas, arranged in the Puranas and composed in the Mahabharata. The peace of his conscience did not sanction his labors. It told him from within: 'No Vyasa! You can't rest contented with the erroneous picture of truth which was necessarily presented to you by the sages of bygone days. You must yourself knock at the door of the inexhaustible store of truth from which the former sages drew their wealth. Go, go up the fountainhead of truth, where no pilgrim meets disappointment of any kind.

Vyasa did it and obtained what he wanted. We have all been advised to do so. Liberty then is the principle which we must consider as the most valuable gift from God. (GBC take note!) We must not allow ourselves to be led by those who have lived and thought before us. We must think for ourselves and try to get further truths which are still undiscovered. In the Bhagavatam we have been advised to take the spirit of the sastras and not the words. The Bhagavatam is therefore a religion of liberty, unmixed truth and absolute love."

In other words, dear author, accept what makes sense to you, and reject all foolish ideas, which are nothing but the philosophy filtered through the mode of tamas. Use your intelligence at every step, for it is the "form directive of the Supersoul" and never ever trade it for another's opinion, even if supported by millions. You have all the tools at hand to steer your own ship into favorable waters- intelligence, sastra, guru, and the human form of life. With such facility, what need is there for a boat riven by gaping holes and directed by captains who are blind?