Srila Prabhupada's Instructions on Advanced Association
A Response to Aniha das
Posted March 13, 2005
Religion without philosophy is sentiment (or sometimes fanaticism),
while philosophy without religion is mental speculation.
In his February 11th article on Chakra, Aniha das responded to my previous article wherein I address my many concerns over B.V. Narayana Maharaja's comments on the Bhagavata Sampradaya theory. Aniha's opening excuse that he is unqualified to respond on a philosophical level is nonsense. Instead, he was moved to express his sentiments and frustration at my apparent criticism of great Vaisnava personalities. He refuses to directly debate, point on point, but instead resorts to the touchy, feely, new-age approach. He parrots often-heard verses and stories used by spokesmen of the Gaudiya Matha camps.
I won't participate in the counter-quoting game. I've already presented my arguments in the original article, and will be happy to engage in any direct discussion on the points raised therein. After publishing that article, I was challenged by another BV Narayana Swami disciple, who presented himself as Krsna das from the Netherlands. He had a similar approach as Aniha das's. The ensuing debate can be found at the Krsna Blog. My thanks go out to Shiva das for the valuable contributions he made during that Blog thread. I invite interested readers to study the contents and add their own comments.
I will take this opportunity to expand upon my initial article and the Blog contributions that followed it. My position is essentially rooted in my image of His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada as being situated in the exalted post of a rare Sampradaya Acarya. For those unfamiliar with this idea, I invite you to read my Sampradaya Acarya paper. Those who read the above-mentioned Blog and Sampradaya Acarya paper, and who are not convinced by my conclusions, are encouraged to present their thoughts and challenges.
As I see it, the essence of this disagreement is a pervasive lack of realization in regards to Srila Prabhupada's unique position. Understanding this phenomenon also helps us to understand why Srila Prabhupada ordered the ISKCON-wide ban on associating with his Godbrothers. Historical memory reveals that since Srila Prabhupada's departure, this order was ignored by the GBC, which resulted in major problems. Yet again, time has proven that Srila Prabhupada was correct.
My challenge is directed to any and all who advocate that Srila Prabhupada's Godbrothers/gurus are spiritually equal to him. I assert that all are not spiritually equal, and that only the other nitya siddha Sampradaya Acaryas such as Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura are comparable to Srila Prabhupada. The "all Gurus are one" apasiddhantic theory is a virus originating from the Gaudiya Matha philosophers, and it has insidiously infected countless devotees.
ISKCON's Prabhupada Lilamrita, which casually depicts Srila Prabhupada, has contributed to this contamination. This literary concoction is, in fact, a remnant of the early days of the Zonal Acarya era. It leaves the reader with the impression that Srila Prabhupada is a sadhana siddha. This outlook mirrors the conclusion of Srila Prabhupada's Godbrothers. Amazingly, this treatise remains the official ISKCON biography of their Founder-Acarya.
In reality, the guru issue has been hotly debated since time immemorial. To illustrate this, we can reflect upon the historical example presented by Aniha das in his article. During the Battle of Kurukshetra, Arjuna fought and mortally wounded his beloved grandfather, Bhisma deva. In the first Canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam there is a description of Bhisma deva's passing from his body while lying on the bed of arrows. In these verses and Srila Prabhupada's purports, Bhisma deva is described as one of the twelve great Vedic authorities known as Maha jnanas. Yet just before the battle Sri Krsna spoke the Bhagavata Gita, saying that he had come to reestablish the Brahma Parampara on account of this knowledge being lost. Interestingly, we find that Bhisma isn't listed as one of the 32 Sampradaya Acaryas going back to Lord Brahma.
My point is that Sampradaya Acaryas are situated in a category all to themselves. I am not implying that Sampradaya Acaryas have been the only pure devotees in this universe from the time Lord Brahma spoke the truth to Manu. What I am saying is that the Sampradaya Acaryas play an important role in Lord Krsna's overall mission of saving the fallen conditioned souls. There are innumerable other pure devotees who play supporting roles as participants in Krsna lilas, including Shaktavesa Avataras such as Jesus and Mohammad. In fact, Lord Krsna's empowered pure devotes are innumerable; they display many pastimes within this material world.
In the context of this debate, we are focusing on those exalted souls whose mission is to revive, rejuvenate, surcharge, and philosophically expound, according to time, place and circumstance, the Brahma Vaisnava Sampradaya. Let's not forget that there are Sampradaya Acaryas within the other three Vaisnava Sampradaya traditions, such as Ramanuja and Nimbarka Acaryas.
I hope this explanation illustrates my position that some of Srila Prabhupada's Godbrothers may very well be advanced sadhana siddha Vaisnava's and honorary members of our Sampradaya, but they are not Sampradaya Acaryas. I am convinced that Srila Prabhupada has exhibited symptoms which show him to be a nitya siddha Sampradaya Acarya rather than a sadhana siddha, like others in the modern Krsna Consciousness landscape.
Aniha das speaks abundantly about Srila Prabhupada's active participation and close association with his Godbrothers during his pre-ISKCON days. Despite the few supporting quotes he presented in his article, these pastimes were not familiar topics during Srila Prabhupada's ISKCON lila. On the other hand, Srila Prabhupada far more frequently brought up the fact that he had disagreed with his Godbrothers and that his difference of opinion went back to the time of his Guru Maharaja's departure. He let us know, in no uncertain terms, that they failed to appreciate that Srila Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati was a nitya siddha Sampradaya Acarya. Consequently, they tried to replace him as the head of the Gaudiya Matha. All the hearsay accounts offered by Aniha das came to light after Srila Prabhupada's departure, and they are therefore suspect.
Aniha das comes to his conclusions based on these anecdotal stories, and from this he extrapolates that we are authorized to follow Srila Prabhupada's footprints and associate intimately with Godbrothers, uncles, and cousins. Apparently we are to ignore the profound philosophical disagreements between them and Srila Prabhupada. Not only are the circumstances much different for us today then they were for Srila Prabhupada with regards to the availability of Vaisnava association, but Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati didn't decree to Srila Prabhupada that he was to avoid his Godbrothers, like Srila Prabhupada decreed to us.
Another aspect of this issue to keep in mind is that from the very onset, Srila Prabhupada fully comprehended the transcendental nature and spiritual status of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur in terms of being a Sampradaya Acarya. Consequentially, Srila Prabhupada was more than capable of associating with his Godbrothers, despite the fact that they didn't share his realization, and he could do so without being adversely effected by their "living Acarya" rhetoric -- unlike most of us in today's circumstance.
History reveals that Srila Prabhupada never had any long-term commitment to any of his Godbrother's mathas. I hypothesize that it was because of the aforementioned contrariety in regards to the Sampradaya Acarya.
Srila Prabhupada informed us, his disciples, far more often and in more detail about his disharmony with his Godbrothers then he ever did as to the rosy "good time" pictures Aniha das wishes us to embrace. Aniha's emphasis on Srila Prabhupada's seldom-uttered complimentary comments, and the unspoken meaning Aniha das construes from the "final forgiveness" statement Srila Prabhupada made just prior to his departure, seem dishonest to me. This vision leaves everyone with the impression that Srila Prabhupada finally admitted that he had made an egregious blunder, both in forbidding us to associate, and in making critical public and sastric comments suggestive of him being influenced by the mood of anger. There appears to be no advisement that Srila Prabhupada gave the matter deep, conscious consideration before acting, on both accounts.
We are advised that serious disciples are obliged to cultivate the attitude that all of Srila Prabhupada's purports are non-different from sastra. The logic of Aniha das and his peers suggests that Srila Prabhupada's fault-finding statements should be deleted from the archives. The bottom line is that Vaisnavas following Srila Prabhupada are obliged to accept one side of the argument or the other. Therefore, the question remains: which is more offensive, to associate with the Godbrothers, or to avoid their association?
For thirty years prior to his journeying to the west, Srila Prabhupada maintained throughout his profound realization that his guru was, in reality, a Sampradaya Acarya. The critical statements Srila Prabhupada made of his Godbrothers were primarily rooted in their lack of appreciation for Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati's exalted position. The Godbrothers' lack of realization resulted in the ruination of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's vibrant preaching mission. Their pretentious attempt to replace him with a non-Sampradaya Acaraya was the cause of the mission's loss of momentum. We could say the same thing for the post-samadhi ISKCON GBC, as evidenced by their immediate enactment of the disastrous Zonal Acarya System, which was suggested by the Gaudiya Matha acaryas.
If you truly believe that Srila Prabhupada is on the exalted platform of a Sampradaya Acarya, then you can theoretically immunize yourself from being adversely influenced by all the pretentious small "a" acaryas. Evidence is that they don't accept the concept of a category of spiritual classification known as the Sampradaya Acarya. Instead, they preach something less than that understanding -- which means they preach that Srila Prabhupada is on a less exalted platform.
It is a great shame that those who advocate the Sampradaya Acarya concept are looked upon suspiciously by the authorities in various institutional camps. Not surprising, the authorities view the idea as a potential threat to their own status. Keeping one's thoughts on this matter private for the sake of gaining "association" may be deemed a worthwhile trade-off for some devotees. I don't find fault with those who decide to zip their lip. Maybe Srila Prabhupada did the same during his pre-ISKCON lila period. Regardless, we must keep in mind that Srila Prabhupada is a Sampradaya Acarya, and as such is infinitely more qualified and capable in all activities, some of which are potentially dangerous to a neophyte's spiritual health.
It behooves us to remember that Srila Prabhupada did clearly and categorically forbid his disciples from associating with his Godbrothers. All the profound reasons behind this decree continue to remain a mystery and consequently, we are still involved in this 30 year-old discussion. The Gaudiya Matha devotees have gone out of their way to dispel any fear we may have of disobedience to the guru. Aniha das has provided us with many of their well-known arguments, by which many in the past have been convinced -- even those within the highest ranks of ISKCON management.
The modus operandi for most, if not all, the Gaudiya Matha gurus, as well as many ISKCON diksa gurus, is to promote the concept that our branch of Gaudiya Vaisnava lineage is enjoying an era of diksa guru initiation. I can find no supporting statements from the last two Sampradaya Acaryas, namely Srila Bhaktisiddanta and Srila Bhaktivedanta Swamis, verifying the validity of the current 'exclusive diksa guru' ideology. Quite the contrary.
I have encountered copious pronouncements by ISKCON personalities which glorify various characterizations of Srila Prabhupada. However, not one of these accolades categorically declares Srila Prabhupada as a rarified nitya siddha Sampradaya Acarya on the same level as Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Why this is so remains a mystery to me.
Aniha das has informed us that Lord Chaitanya instructed his followers to be very reverential to our Spiritual Master's Godbrothers: "Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself taught us that we should offer all respects to the godbrother of our guru and never find fault in him." One must ask the question as to why, if the above is true, this truth doesn't apply to Srila Prabhupada, who indelibly enshrined within his purports to divine scriptures many critical remarks directed towards the actions of his Godbrothers?
By my way of thinking, if Srila Prabhupada felt so duty bound to express his disapproval, despite the sastric warnings, then we must conclude there is a profound message to all the future readers. Srila Prabhupada let us know on many occasions that his comments on sastra are Lord Krsna communicating through him. Aniha das is now asking us to accept his personal premise that Srila Prabhupada had included his dire warnings only for the sake of protecting his preaching mission. What negative influence originating from the Godbrothers would have adversely affected Srila Prabhupada's preaching effort? Aniha das asks us to swallow his contention that this necessity on banning association with the Gaudiya Matha was, in fact, a temporary measure that is now outdated. Yet Aniha das offers no explanation for the fact that Srila Prabhupada apparently embedded such a temporary instruction into the permanency of sastric purport.
I assert that Srila Prabhupada's pastime of asking forgiveness from his Godbrothers at the end of his lila was simply a gesture of genuine humility and magnanimity. He made no mention that he was referring to his previous contentious critical comments. It appears that Aniha das's group has jumped to their conclusion because they were always offended by Srila Prabhupada's attitude in this regard, and were looking for some indication that Srila Prabhupada was admitting that he was mistaken. Aniha das's position logically leads the reader to conclude that his vision of Srila Prabhupada is that he is a fallible jivatma.
Aniha das adds insult to injury by introducing ideas that will logically lead some to conclude that Srila Prabhuapda's comments on his Godbrothers should be removed from his books. For example, he goes so far as to say that the devotees constant repetition of Srila Prabhuapda's criticisms "brings shame on ISKCON." Let us pray that in the future, the BBT authorities will not be influenced by the likes of Aniha das, and will not have Srila Prabhupada's books once again "edited" so as to remove these contentious comments.
This issue has been exhaustively researched by both sides, therefore
the chance that any new information will come to light is slim to
non-existent. Consequently, serious devotees must study the
philosophical points made by both parties and decide what personal
conclusions they will reach in this regard. While reaching the wrong
conclusion may not destroy one's devotional life, this is not a small
matter and it has the potential of seriously impacting one's spiritual