An Echo of My Own Concerns
Posted April 30, 2006
I read Aniruddha's concerns about the behavior of Srila Narayan Maharaja towards his mother, and I feel that he needs to be congratulated for taking a stand against what he perceives to be vaisnava aparadha. We are mistaken that aparadha can only be made towards the big devotees -- those who, we are told, are pure devotees, uttama-adhikaris and so on, and who have a large following proclaiming their glories. We are reminded of the zonal acarya days when so many so-called "small" disciples of Srila Prabhupada were offended in the process of making the prominent ones ever bigger and ever more glorious.
Jadurani prabhu seems to also have this infatuation with status, as she has requested Aniruddha's famous father to respond to his son's criticism, rather than his less famous mother. After all, it was the mother who had the humiliating experience with Narayan Maharaja, and therefore, she is the one who should be consulted for the details to be validated or disproven. That would be the correct way to deal with the issue, for aparadha, after all, is about behavior, not position.
Instead, Jadurani prabhu introduces us to Pradyumna with a certain amount of fanfare -- all of which is utterly irrelevant -- while ignoring the position of the mother and her distressing experience as related by her son. To me, this smacks of impersonalism. In regard to Aniruddha's point, I thoroughly agree with him that Narayan Maharaja cannot be compared to Srila Prabhupada as is commonly claimed; in fact, when I first had contact with Narayan Maharaja I was amazed at how different his preaching and behavior was from Srila Prabhupada's, considering so many were claiming the similarity.
Prabhupada focused on philosophy, beginning with expelling our illusions, by using the tools described in sastra as the hallmarks of the uttama-adhikari -- logic and argument. Narayan Maharaja avoids arguments on the basis of logic and sastra. He does not use logic and argument in his lectures, and -- as we see in his interaction with Aniruddha -- he avoids logic and arguments when they are placed before him. Srila Prabhupada, in contrast,welcomed any arguments, and often on his morning walks would bring up different arguments for and against bhakti. This is the mark of the representative of Krsna, for as we see, Krsna did the same for Arjuna, welcoming all his arguments, such as not to fight and so on, and defeating them with sound reasoning.
In the many lectures of Narayan Maharaja that I have attended I have never heard any arguments with logic and reason, only stories of Krsna and the gopis. When I brought this up with his disciples, they answered that Srila Prabhupada was preaching for the hippies, but -- now that they had been devotees for 20 or 30 years -- they were ready to "move on"! What is this "move on" about? According to our philosophy, one can spend countless lifetimes in mixed devotional service and never get anywhere. "Moving on" is not about time, but rather motivation and dedication. Bhakti must be unmotivated and uninterrupted in order to completely satisfy Krsna, and in this way gradually qualify as a gopi. "Deserve first, then desire...."
Therefore, Srila Prabhupada stressed absolute dedication to the service of the Lord, free from all desires for sense gratification -- gross and subtle. He exposed the subtleties of maya's workings on the mind and intelligence. His preaching was like a knife separating illusion from reality, and one could clearly see oneself entrapped dangerously in maya. From this position one could humbly beg Lord Chaitanya to help rid one of so many anarthas, feeling oneself unqualified due to clarity of vision. Through logic and reason he exposed our vulnerability to maya and our utter dependence on Krsna's mercy. It was logic and reason that one called upon while on one's knees. It was vision, it was knowledge, but it never resulted in intellectual arrogance. This is the stark difference between the logic and argument used in academics and that used by a pure devotee. That was the legacy of Srila Prabhupada's preaching that differed so widely from Narayan Maharaja.
The other point is his behavior, which Jadurani has tried to defend by references about how the guru must be harsh with his disciples. Firstly, Aniruddha's mother was not a disciple. Secondly and more significantly, as expressed by Aniruddha, is that Prabhupada was never harsh with disciples who had been away from devotional service or the association of vaisnavas. He was overwhelmingly welcoming. The psychology is that it is often very difficult to return to the society as one has to deal with judgmental attitudes, which make one feel guilt-stricken, or one is patronized pitifully, which makes one feel very foolish. In a nutshell, it takes a lot of guts to face the b.s. and one can feel very alone and isolated or unloved. Srila Prabhupada welcomed with open arms all those who took this step. It is unimaginable that he would have "guilt-tripped" them in public. In fact, when a sannyasi's falldown was made public knowledge, he heavily chastised those responsible.
Srila Prabhupada was expert in using psychology to introduce and to keep people in the shelter of Lord Krsna's lotus feet. Now, Narayan Maharaja may not have this particular talent. I can accept that and still regard him as a sincere soul. However, like Aniruddha, I cannot compare him with Srila Prabhupada other than through obvious superficialities such as birth and upbringing. It is not janma, but rather guna and karma that identify the person.
My final point is that Jadurani has used many quotes to discourage Aniruddha from reading Srila Prabhupada's books alone. It is true that one needs a self-realized soul to study sastra, and that is exactly why Srila Prabhupada has written purports and commentaries on the Sanskrit verses, and why he stressed that the books be distributed widely, even to people who would probably never see him personally. To this day, his books remain foundations for our pillar of bhakti, increasing our faith powerfully with every reading. Association with a self-realized soul is in two forms -- vapuh, or personal association, and vani, or instructions. Out of the two, Srila Prabhupada stressed that vani was much more important. Since Aniruddha already has the association of Srila Prabhupada, who is a self-realized soul, he is not "alone," and so none of this preaching of Jadurani's applies to him.
I would like to thank Aniruddha for his exemplary dedication to Srila
Prabhupada; his faith has deepened my own. Away from all the fanfare
and hype, he has had opportunity to be reflective and sober, resulting
in wisdom which exceeds his years. Srila Prabhupada was alone in
America also, but his preaching became ever the more profound and
dynamic. Sometimes solitude -- at least for a time -- is necessary when
the essence of the preaching is lost and society descends into
sentimentalism or fanaticism. Not that one is ever truly in solitude,
as caitya-guru as well as guru-vani are always with you.