Chakra Discussions

Anti-TKG Tirade Was ‘Grave Theological Error’

by Krishnabhishek das

Posted June 16, 2009

In response to Mukunda prabhu’s recent attack (posted elsewhere) on HH Tamal Krishna Goswami, I am writing as a student/scholar of Gaudiya Vaisnavism presenting our siddhanta both within the Vaishnava community and to secular academia, as well as a disciple of Tamal Krishna Maharaja, who engaged me directly in these services.

Mukunda das posted Chapter 24 from a 2004 book edited by Dr. Edwin Bryant, and has mistaken this for Maharaja’s doctoral dissertation, an entirely separate work. Along with Garuda prabhu (Graham Schweig, PhD, Harvard), I am assisting in reviewing his thesis for publication. I also know Prof. Julius Lipner from Cambridge, Maharaja’s thesis adviser (not "handler", as Mukunda das terms it), who initially helped prepare it for publication. It is presently undergoing review at Columbia University Press and should be published in a year or two if everything goes right. I have legal access to his actual dissertation and have read it several times. What Mukunda das presents is from Dr. Bryant's book, not from Maharaja’s thesis, and he has therefore begun his whole tirade on a wrong track.

Alluding as he does to the ethnic roots of Tamal Krishna Maharaja and Krishna Kshetra prabhu is simply a grave theological error called vaishnave jati buddhi and is offensive to all Vaishnavas. If the author doesn’t understand what I am saying, I humbly request him to search the term in the Vedabase.

Maharaja’s idea behind getting into academia was to represent Gaudiya Vaisnavism, especially coming from the line of Srila Prabhupada, to worldly scholars. From reading Srila Prabhupada’s books and biographies quite thoroughly over the last 17 years, I gather that he himself valued this kind of preaching. If the author is not convinced about introducing Krishna consciousness "in their own language" to worldly scholars, philosophers and scientists, there is nothing much one can do about it.

Each area of studies will have its own technical jargon, and presenting Krishna consciousness to secular academia "in their own language" would mean setting aside some common ISKCON jargon. For example, if one mentions to some worldly scholar that "XYZ prabhu left the planet in 2009," he might easily imagine an Apollo 13 mission with a devotee in an astronaut suit leaving planet Earth. I hope the author can comprehend this simple example.

The word "charismatic" is commonly used in religious studies. The sociologist Max Weber coined the term in this context, explaining that it is "a certain quality of an individual personality, by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities." After all don’t we say that Srila Prabhupada has the sakti of Lord Nityananda or that he is exceptional and is set apart from us? That’s another example of presenting our siddhanta in "their own language".

Before letting out all the vitriol, the author should understand that to effectively spread Krishna Consciousness in the academic world requires time, energy and resources, as well as the patience and intelligence to deal with intellectuals who influence the way the world thinks and who may be unfavorably indisposed towards our movement.

If, however, the author thinks that the devoted, scholarly preaching led by Tamal Krishna Maharaja has not been satisfactory, I challenge him to explain our philosophy effectively "in their own language" by writing on the teachings of Srila Prabhupada from a world-class university, getting it published from a reputed scholarly press and be taken seriously by major intellectuals. Only then can I — or perhaps any scholar or devotee — take his accusations seriously.

Finally, I humbly request the author and all other Vaishnavas questioning the motives of Tamal Krishna Maharaja in academia to seek the essence of his words and actions; a careful, unbiased analysis will clearly reveal Maharaja’s true intentions if one is honestly open to it. If the author is interested in reading Maharaja’s real thesis, it should be hopefully out from Columbia sometime soon. I urge him to be a bit more patient; it cannot be given out at this moment, like any other manuscript about to be published.