The Lunatic's Logic
Posted August 19, 2003
Sometime ago, on the old CHAKRA, an interesting discussion was terminated, and deemed to be offensive. Since the new CHAKRA is now commendably committed to open-minded discussion, I am bringing it up here again, with some added comments on the topic, which I would love to see commented on, even disagreed with. It is about the perfection of the liberated soul.
The debate initially went along the following lines. 1. Sastra describes that the liberated soul is beyond the propensity to make mistakes. 2. Sastra also says that if one uses his senses completely in the service of the Lord, then he is liberated - -- even in this body. 3. Srila Prabhupada used his body, mind and words in the service of the Lord, without any personal agenda -- so he should be considered liberated, and yet 4. Srila Prabhupada himself admitted to making mistakes, such as when he pushed one of his disciples to take sannyasa prematurely, with disastrous results. Does this mistake and others like it disqualify him from being considered as liberated? How to reconcile this apparent contradiction?
One interesting way to reconcile it, popular with the old Chakra school, is simply to throw out the data. Even a mistake that Srila Prabhupada personally admitted to, cannot really be a mistake. It must be something else. Actually it is offensive even to consider it possible, so the argument is non-existent unless heretics are involved. I am wondering when in our line has such narrow-minded fanatic interpretation of faith, ever been preached by our acharyas?
Srila Prabhupada often showed us astonishingly clear perception, a symptom of one who has subdued his passionate drives and is situated in pure goodness. But he was a jiva soul also, with limited sense perception, by definition. And yet again, a liberated soul is free -- not only from mistakes -- but from the limitation of imperfect senses. Does this mean he must have perfect senses? Another need to reconcile...
I propose that the liberated soul is free from imperfect senses in that he does not allow his presentation of Krsna consciousness to be tainted by this imperfection. In other words, he accepts knowledge coming down in parampara from the infallible Lord Himself, and that is what his preaching -- the essential principle by which he is defined as liberated -- comprises of. One can know a liberated person primarily by how he speaks, and since the knowledge is from the Lord Himself, it is free from the imperfections of the senses, as he is also when he speaks it. Similarly, his presentation is free from mistakes, as he is also when he speaks it. This makes sense, as one associates with a liberated soul primarily through the medium of sound. And Srila Prabhupada himself told us "I am not perfect. None of us are perfect. But I am delivering the perfect message. That much I am perfect." Of course, this is not to be taken blindly, but if by testing that message with all the power at our command, we find it to be perfect too, the naturally we have faith in the perfection of sastra, and of Srila Prabhupada as its perfect emissary.
There is a wonderful and natural kind of faith, free from fanaticism, which results from viewing Srila Prabhupada as he is, rather than perfect in all respects and subduing all one's observations to the contrary.. But this means going against the overwhelming tide of opinion, that such a stance is faithless, offensive, even envious. And what do you know, but there is even a neat little verse in sastra -- very popular, of course-. that "proves" this point of view. Let us now examine it.
In the course of any ISKCON discussions on this topic, this particular verse is bashed about in a lop-sided manner: "one should not be envious of the guru and regard him as an ordinary human being". The reason behind this instruction is clear -- to instruct one to avoid envy. If one is envious, then no matter what the envied person does, it will be seen as ordinary. One does not want to admit that someone else is extraordinary; one wants to be superior to everyone else, or one already feels one is superior, and so one twists one's perceptions accordingly, to protect that cherished belief. And when this hateful, arrogant and ignorant attitude is used against the Lord's devotee, then one certainly invokes the displeasure of bhakta-vatsala.
But ISKCON devotees have a weird interpretation of this very clear verse. They use it fallaciously to try to prove that anyone who sees any evidence of the guru as being an ordinary human being who can make occasional mistakes, then he must be envious. In logic this is the fallacy of affirming the consequent. Premise 1: If there is x (envy) then there is y (seeing the guru as ordinary) Premise 2: There is y (seeing the guru as ordinary) Conclusion There is x (envy). The fallacy in this is that there may be other causes for seeing the guru as ordinary, other than envy. There may be certain things he does, such as the making of mistakes, that fall into the category of ordinary. So this verse is clearly not able to be used to diagnose envy. Yet we are advised to avoid envious persons. So how is one to know if a person is envious or not?
An envious person will twist his perceptions of others, so that he will see everything as ordinary. For example, the fact that Srila Prabhupada accomplished so much during the "fag end of life" will be seen as ordinary. But a person can be true to his perception and be non-envious also -- obviously!. In that case, he will see black as black and white as white. He will not see a black spot and have to rationalize it as being white for fear of being unfaithful, nor will he see a black spot and rationalize the white as non-existent, for fear of being surpassed.
The "pockmarks on the moon" analogy is similarly misunderstood. A
realistic person, looking at the moon, certainly sees pockmarks, but
considers them insignificant as they don't impede the moon's illumination.
The conclusion is that if one can see only pockmarks and no illumination,
one has a big problem. Definitely. But if one thinks that therefore he
must declare the pockmarks as non-existent, then I start to worry about
the state of his mental health. Indeed, if one declares that being unable
to see any pockmarks is a hallmark of faith in the moon, and that all who
see any pockmarks have no faith in the moon, then his logic would best
be described as luna-cy. And that's more than a moonbeam away from the
society of sober headed, intelligent, independently thoughtful men and
women that Srila Prabhupada envisioned ISKCON to be...