Quantum Leap to Understanding
Posted September 1, 2009
Responding to a letter I sent seven years ago to H.G. Adipurusa das, president of the ISKCON temple in Telok Intan, Malaysia, my friend Senthil das wrote to suggest that even advanced devotees might not be able to understand the Radha-bhava mood of Lord Gauranga Mahaprabhu.
Most of us, even devotees or so-called advanced devotees within the Hare Krishna movement, are only pretending, with grave consequences, to be devotees. Quoting shastra and acharyas, Srila Gaura Govinda Maharaj has warned us: “If you even think you are a devotee, you are definitely not.” It is my belief that all of ISKCON's problems result from the false belief that we are devotees or advanced devotees.
To avoid Mahaprabhu's vipralambha mood being disturbed unintentionally by people of innocent ignorance and sentimental feelings, we require total faith in the fully realized words of our gurudevas, of Srila Prabhupada and and of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur. Many of us, however, have so-called intelligent but actually muddled ideas about the ascending terms:  accept,  know,  understand,  experience,  realize,  taste,  truth,  absolute truth, and so on to higher and higher levels. Each step leads to the next, but the gaps between them are exceptionally wide and nearly insurmountable for most of us.
If we are honest with ourselves, most of us are not ready even to take the first step of acceptance of what we hear from shastra and acharyas, except to the degree that it is easy or palatable. We pick and choose, but acceptance can only start with sraddha or total faith.
The second step of knowing is even more difficult. Only through total faith can we start with superficial knowledge and slowly advance to deeper knowledge with deeper faith. With humility we'll be able to acknowledge that even getting to the second step is too big a leap for most of us.
Almost no one can accomplish the third step of understanding; indeed, Gaura Govinda Maharaj used to emphasize this point: “Aare, baba, what can you understand? — nothing! You are all fallen souls — nitya-baddhas, mlecchas, yavanas, mudhas. You cannot understand. First accept, with total faith. Then only, with guru's mercy, you can slowly begin to understand — not otherwise; no, not otherwise.”
It is a huge step, a quantum leap, to advance to the third step, especially when people in general, within and without ISKCON, are reluctant to take even the first step of simple acceptance. Yet our very own life-giving, life-sustaining ISKCON is, alas, full of people who choose to accept, ‘know’ and ‘understand’ whatever their minds dictate, without uniformity or conformity even among themselves. They trap themselves in whatever they prefer, according to the dictates of their own whims and fancies, trapped in Mahamaya's myths and meanderings, unmindful of Mahaprabhu's moods, magnanimity and mercies.
We don't want to take the first step of accepting the statements of fully realized acharyas who know shastra to the hilt, so naturally we cannot take the second step of coming to know what they say; we have proudly and foolishly put it out of our reach.
How, then, can anyone ever reach the third step of understanding their words? Even so-called advanced devotees or senior devotees etc, holding big posts, may come to think they know and understand anything and everything, although they do not. Many of ISKCON's problems result from unreined thinking, the activity of the wicked mind.
The next progressive steps of experience, realization, etc. are not even within our scope of contemplation. Without the sad-guru's and Gauranga's merciful intervention, none of these super-transcendental steps is within our grasp for æons to come.
The problem I have raised may seem petty, but mahajanas are telling us it is a grave matter. Our gurudevas are telling us the same thing with all seriousness, so is it a small matter to be ignored? Certainly not.
Will our silence be of benefit to ourselves and to others? Should we be afraid to speak about such eye-openers, seemingly petty to most of us, if it can benefit all, some or even one? Should we sideline Srila Prabhupada's definition of truth? Satyam, he says, must be spoken, even if unpalatable, “for the benefit of others,” as he emphasized thrice in his commentary on Bhagavad-gita,10.4-5. Silence means complicity and represents cowardice.
Though I may know nothing, I can accept my gurudeva's profound words and repeat them, in the hope that at least one person hears and benefits.
If we minimize the gravity of our pranadhana gurudeva's words and think the topic too petty to concern ourselves with or to repeat to others, we fall prey to guru-ninda, vaisnava-aparadha, which is fatal to devotion. It is not my business to think of success or failure before I do what is needful. The result is entirely up to guru and Gauranga, and it belongs only to them.
I suggest to Senthil prabhu that it is futile to wonder whether 'advanced devotees' can understand the philosophy of Mahaprabhu's mood. It's just a matter of different lengths of time. All will understand in the end, even if it takes countless lifetimes. A hundred thousand years of earthly time is only one second of Lord Brahma's time. We may require the patience to pass many tens or hundreds of Brahma's mere seconds before we can understand tattva-vichara and qualify to start real devotional service.