Your Rogue Anti-Vaisnava Letter
Posted September 23, 2003
I received quite a number of favorable comments about my article entitled Rogue Anti-Iskcon Fliers Disrupt LA Rathayatra: http://www.chakra.org/discussions/succSep08_03.html
The only unfavorable comments I received came from a very rude follower of the ritvik philosophy and a rather civilized and humble letter from a siksa disciple of Srila Narayana Maharaja that I received with the title "Your Rogue anti-Vaisnava Letter". I have no desire to attack or belittle the faith of a sincere godbrother who has years of Vaisnava seva in his favor but I decided to post his letter and my response to it because his letter contains his reasoning as to why anti-Iskcon fliers at Rathayatra are acceptable. That reasoning can be summed up as amar-guru jagat-guru (my guru is the greatest guru), a philosophy in practice that can only lead to continual clashes between otherwise sincere devotees affiliated with different groups.
This is a perennial problem that Bhaktivinode Thakura felt the need to address more than 100 years ago and my own siksa guru B.R. Sridhara Maharaja felt the need to give us as a primary lesson more than 20 years ago. In today's pluralistic Vaisnava society the subject of amar-guru jagat-guru needs to be understood and discussed. Publishing this correspondence is my humble attempt to shed some light on the matter.
Sincerely, Brahma Das
Dear Brahma Das, After reading and reflecting on your letter concerning Shaunaka's efforts to change the hearts of devotees towards a 'shudda' Vaishnava I feel that there has got to be more than just using logic and the textbooks. If we wish to have perfect guidance in our journey back Home then what better than a bona-fide 'rasik' Gaudiya Vaishnava. If we examine ourselves we find no realization of our relationship with the Supreme (personally speaking), our senses are not under perfect control and when contemplating the Diety mundane considerations enter the mind instead of seeing the Lord Himself standing before me. Therefore our preceptors suggest that we avail ourselves of a pure devotee as 'shiksha' guru particularly when our 'diksha' guru has left us. The two are considered non-different. If Gaura Mahaprabhu came to give essentially 'raga-marga' then we have to take help from one who is a pure rasik Vaishnava. Why is it that every time Krishna sends one to us, that there is a systematic program for dumping such a pure soul as if he were another Osama Bin Laden?
Thank you for reading and reflecting on my article. In that article I did not compare Srila Narayana Maharaja to Osama Bin Laden and I have no objection to anyone accepting him as siksa guru. The point I was trying to make in the article is that devotees need to learn to respect the faith of others. Faith is subjective and cannot be forced or legislated. While one devotee believes his guru is in the highest position another devotee even after hearing from the same guru may not be inspired to similar reverence and affection. Therefore those who go about proclaiming their own guru as the highest Vaisnava will naturally meet resistance from disciples of other Gaudiya gurus who do not share that faith. Especially if those devotees go to public functions demanding their guru be accepted as the highest while passing out fliers that belittle the faith of everyone else.
You feel that distributing fliers at Iskcon's Rathayatra is an acceptable way of trying to change the hearts of others toward a guru who you believe is a suddha Vaisnava. This even though Srila Prabhupada never encouraged any activities of this nature in relation to Gaudiya Math or any other Vaisnava organization that may have opposed or lacked faith in him at one time or another. When certain leaders of Gaudiya Math objected to him being addressed as Prabhupada or tried to block his purchase of the Mayapura property he did not send disciples to distribute fliers or picket their functions. Even today many members of Gaudiya Math do not accept our Prabhupada with the same faith and reverence as we do. Should we picket or flier the functions of those in Gaudiya Math who don't accept him as shaktavesa avatar, nitya siddha, maha-purusha, or some other superlative, or should we simply go on preaching the glories of Mahaprabhu with respect for all Vaisnavas regardless of differences in faith and practice?
"Amar-Guru Jagat-Guru" (My guru is the greatest guru) is what Bhaktivinode Thakura called the attempt to glorify ones guru by denigrating the faith of others in their guru. The Thakura taught that those who go about demanding that everyone accept their guru as the greatest guru actually do so to satisfy their own egos. About this B.R. Sridhara Maharaja said that persons, who go hither and thither from camp to camp, disturbing the faith of others with loud proclamations of amar-guru jagat-guru, have the lowest conception of guru, because they fail to recognize the decent of divinity through a plurality of sources.
While humbly stating your own disqualifications you proclaim your guru as a bona-fide pure rasika Vaisnava and praise those who in his name attack the faith of others at public functions. The question that arises here is what is your qualification to make this profound determination about any Vaisnava? In Sri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti's edition of Jaiva dharma, a rasika-bhakta is defined as, one who is able to relish bhakti-rasa within his heart. Within his heart refers to a state of consciousness (samadhi) that lies mostly beyond the realm of objective verification. Therefore even your own guru teaches that a kanistha adikari does not have the qualification to recognize or proclaim who is an uttama adakari.
In this excerpt from his lecture Srila Narayana Maharaja said: "From today, try to give proper respect to Vaisnavas according to their level of bhakti, as kanistha, madhyama, or uttama-adhikari. You cannot realize who is uttama and who is on another level, but try to give proper respect. If you do not do so, you are not even a kanistha-adhikari. You should think that those who are chanting krsna-nama, whether they are initiated or not, are in our family."
Here he says that devotees (even in his own camp) who do not give proper respect to all Vaisnavas are not even kanistha bhaktas. Similarly in this response to a letter about the aforementioned type of preaching being done by some of his followers Narayana Maharaja writes:
"Actually I want to regard all Vaisnavas, even those who are junior to me. I agree with all your points and will inform my devotees accordingly. You must agree with me that there are those who are only in name disciples and will not be able to follow properly. They will create disturbance and tell that they are serving Sri Guru and Vaisnavas. I do not like this, neither do I approve of their actions."
In consideration of his words these questions now arise: Does Srila Narayana Maharaja specifically approve of the practice of going to Iskcon's Rathayatra and Sunday feast to distribute fliers that disturb attendees as well as undermine the preaching work and sanctity of the festival? And does he know that some of the fliers distributed in his name are so ridiculous and inaccurate that instead of promoting appreciation for him they do him a disservice? Therefore before any of his devotees take it upon themselves to distribute fliers at Iskcon's Rathayatra or Sunday feast I suggest they obtain in writing Srila Maharaja's approval of both the activity and content of the flier. Personally I don't believe he will give his written approval and if he does the correspondence to and from him should be posted so that those of us who are against this activity can consider his point of view.
In the meantime you should be aware that not every disciple and follower of Narayana Maharaja agrees that distributing anti-Iskcon propaganda at Rathayatra and the Sunday feast is favorable devotional service. To illustrate this point I will end with this heartfelt letter I received in response to my article.
Brahma Prabhu, Some of my beloved family members are initiated disciples of Narayana Maharaja. They are respectful to all Vaisnavas and often go to Iskcon temples to do service and observe festival celebrations. When his devotees do things like distributing flyers antagonizing Iskcon, they become very upset. They want to be able to visit the temple, see the Deities, and do service. It means a lot to them and thus they become very disturbed when that is threatened. They grew up in Iskcon and have many happy childhood memories of Iskcon. Devotees who distribute fliers do not care how others are affected because of their reckless activities and that places a heavy burden on the disciples of Narayana Maharaja that I am talking about.