"Desa-kala-patra (Time, Place and Circumstance)
by Rocana dasa
March 14, 2005
This article is in response to a paper written by Sridham sakha dasa entitled "Personality Cultism is Anti Vaisnava”, which was published on VNN in September 1998. I am addressing the paper now because it was recently posted by Krsna dasa, a BV Narayana Maharaja supporter, in the Krsna Blog thread entitled Questions on Narayana Maharaja's "Bhagavata Parampara". Krsna dasa didn’t specify at the time of the post that the article was actually written by Sridham sakha dasa, not himself, but a quick search on VNN identified the source.
Sridham sakha dasa directed his article to the ISKCON authorities who, at the time, had introduced the official GBC non-cooperation directive on Srila BV Narayana Maharaja. To my knowledge, this “banning” decree is still in effect. While I haven’t researched the GBC edict or subsequent articles in response to it, I did write a VNN article addressing the issue around the time the GBC released their position.
I am not an ISKCON GBC apologist, nor am I one of their supporters. Frankly, I’m disappointed by their philosophically weak attempt at justifying their position in respect to BV Narayana Maharaja. As far as I know, no GBC member challenged Sridham sakha dasa’s article at the time it was published. I do agree in principle with the GBC’s action of forbidding BV Narayana Maharaja from making use of ISKCON facilities for his preaching and recruiting efforts.
I have stated on many occasions that in my opinion, the essence of ISKCON’s problems is their reluctance to embrace the concept that AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada as not only the Founder-Acarya of ISKCON, but is the present Sampradaya Acarya for the Madhva Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya. The steady migration of ISKCON members towards the various Gaudiya Matha camps is but one of many problems facing ISKCON. BV Narayana Maharaja is one of the most successful recruiters of the disenfranchised, but he is not the only one.
ISKCON’s GBC have handicapped themselves since Srila Prabhupada’s departure due to their making, and then not correcting, several maha-mistakes. First and foremost, they approached and then took siksa instruction from a number of Gaudiya Matha notorieties, including Srila Sridhara Goswami and later BV Narayana Maharaja. After accepting and implementing their advice, they later publicly rejected both these individuals. The Zonal Acarya System seed was planted by Sridhara Swami, and it quickly grew into a multi-headed monster that wreaked havoc for nearly a decade. A philosophical product of this era -- the most grievous of all -- has been ISKCON’s Lilamrita, which is accepted to this day as the official biography of Srila Prabhupada.
Soon after the reformation of the Zonal Acarya System in the mid to late eighties, many prominent high-ranking GBC formed the secretive “Gopi-Bhava Club”, which idolized BV Narayana Maharaja as its revered siksa guru. In due course other GBC members outlawed this “band of brothers and sisters”, but they never publicly admitted the depth or devious danger underlying the Gopi-Bhava’s bogus philosophical position. Having offered the readers this brief historical backdrop, I’ll proceed with my challenge to Sridham sakha dasa’s article.
“Personality Cultism is Anti Vaisnava”
In his article, Sridham sakha dasa has presented the following sastric points:
1) Guru, Sästra and Sadhu and desa-kala-patra (time, place and circumstance): The author weaves these combined principles into his over-all argument. He asserts that Srila Prabhupada gave the world the basics, and BV Narayana followed him, willing and able to provide neophyte Vaisnavas with the complete causeless mercy offered by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
2) There is an absolute requirement for any and all disciples/followers who are bereft of direct association with the diksa guru to surrender to a living siksa guru. In this context, Sridham sakha dasa refers to this principle as applying mainly to Srila Prabhupada’s disciples. His argument is not only that Srila Prabhupada is not physically present, but also that Srila Prabhupada’s teachings lack advanced Vaisnava siddhanta.
The above philosophical points are intertwined throughout the “Personality Cultism” article by its author, whose transparent objective is to recruit newcomers to BV Narayana’s camp and provide the membership with further justification for remaining loyal to BV Narayana. We observed this intention in action when Krsna dasa recently presented the article as a means to rebut our position.
Not surprisingly, Sridham sakha dasa utilizes BV Narayana’s own debating and preaching tactics. The strategy of this group is to bury their main message within copious sastric quotations in an attempt to appear learned and authorized to the naive. Their carefully placed ‘punch lines’ are ambiguous rather than straightforward, so when or if they are confronted, they can simply accuse the challenger of being “envious” in their misinterpretation.
BV Narayana Maharaja has not strayed far from the original themes he preached during the Gopi Bhava era. His group’s ultimate conclusion is that all Srila Prabhupada’s followers are to be considered offenders if they don’t accept BV Narayana Maharaja as Srila Prabhupada’s natural, approved, intended successor. After the GBC ban went into effect, I doubt the group held out any hope of BV Narayana Maharaja ever being officially recognized as the next Acarya of ISKCON, as some of the GBC members of the original Gopi Bhava Club had attempted to implement.
In his article, Sridham sakha dasa has mapped out the foundational pillars of their philosophical justification for anointing BV Narayana as the living, prominent, jagat-Acarya successor after Srila Prabhupada. While this article was written nearly six years ago, my experience is that their group’s ambitions and arguments haven’t changed.
The following sloka was quoted to emphasize one of Sridham sakha dasa’s premises:
"Srila Narottama dasa Thakura says, sadhu-sastra-guru-vakya, cittete kariya aikya. One should accept a thing as genuine by studying the words of saintly people, the spiritual master and sastra. THE ACTUAL CENTER IS SASTRA, the revealed scripture. If a spiritual master does not speak according to revealed scripture, he is not to be accepted. Similarly, if a saintly person does not speak according to the sastra, he is not a saintly person. SASTRA IS THE CENTER FOR ALL."
(Madhya-lila: Chapter Twenty, Text 352)
The author then commented:
“Therefore, one who is truly a follower of Srila Prabhupada should follow the above, wherein he states that it is sastra which is in fact the main reference point, and not guru.”
Please take note that later on in his article, the author tries to take an opposite position in order to prove another one of his points, namely that having a living Guru is of more importance than Sastra.
"SIMPLE THEORETICAL BOOK KNOWLEDGE IS NOT SUFFICIENT FOR A NEOPHYTE DEVOTEE. Book knowledge is theoretical, whereas the arcana process is practical. Spiritual knowledge must be developed by a combination of theoretical and practical knowledge, and that is the guaranteed way for attainment of spiritual perfection. THE TRAINING OF DEVOTIONAL SERVICE FOR A NEOPHYTE DEVOTEE COMPLETELY DEPENDS ON THE EXPERT SPIRITUAL MASTER who knows how to lead his disciple to make gradual progress towards the path back home, back to Godhead."
The above-referenced quotes call the question of whether or not Srila Prabhupada’s purports, lectures, conversations, books, etc. are to be viewed by his disciples and followers as identical with sastra, in the sense implied by Srila Narottama dasa Thakura.
In my mind, being absorbed in Srila Prabhupada’s teachings is akin to associating directly with Srila Prabhupada. Let us keep in mind that most of the followers of BV Narayana Maharaja don’t receive any more live and direct “association” with him than most of us did with Srila Prabhupada during his ISKCON lila period. Even today, Srila Prabhupada’s followers receive just as much association, if not more, by reading and hearing from Srila Prabhupada’s literary legacy than BV Narayana followers can achieve by his occasional visits. Narayana Maharaja has provided his followers with far less written material than Srila Prabhupada. Admittedly, his followers can receive a direct response to an inquiry from BV Narayana, on the rare occasion when he is in town. Simply on that basis, however, there is not justification for surrendering to BV Narayana as a siksa guru.
Sridham sakha dasa’s message is that by sastric decree, all seekers require a living guru. This concept is based on the theory of mystical transformation of consciousness. The shakti enters the “heart” of the initiate at the point of surrendering to the living Uttama siksa/diksa guru. However, this theosophical idea was not taught to us by Srila Prabhupada -- quite the opposite. He taught that studying and understanding our philosophy under the guidance of a pure devotee is the essence of initiation.
All in all, Srila Prabhupada’s disciples and followers are far better off with their circumstance of constant and instant access and guru association through Srila Prabhupada’s transcendental writings. Compare this scenario to the alternative of having physical access to a far less advanced living guru. Srila Prabhupada fulfilled his guru responsibilities by preaching, lecturing, traveling, organizing, motivating, writing, publishing and distributing his teachings. His ideal preaching process, which he adjusted according to circumstance, would have continued up to today if not for the detrimental influence of the Gaudiya Matha preachers.
Below is another of the many quotes offered up by Sridham sakha dasa:
"The Vedas instruct us that knowledge must always be considered in terms of desa-kala-patra. Desa means 'circumstances,' kala means 'time,' and patra means 'the object.' We must understand everything by taking these three elements into consideration."
(Life Comes from Life: The First Morning Walk April 18, 1973)
Sridham sakha comments:
“However, despite understanding the above, a disciple may reason that since his means of deliverance from the material energy is from the mercy of his guru, he will not therefore concern himself about whether or not all of the statements his guru has given are all perfectly siddhantic. This logic may work for a time, at least for long as the guru and the extraordinary circumstances in which he is preaching are manifest. However, the guru also wishes that his disciple properly understand the siddhanta and thereby advance in spiritual life. He certainly does not intend for him to remain in ignorance and illusion.”
Here we find the innuendo that Srila Prabhupada didn’t give us (fallen westerners) all the siddhantic knowledge we needed in order to achieve the ultimate goal, which is obtainable via our Sampradaya. Consequently, we will “remain in ignorance and illusion” if we don’t go to BV Narayana.
The author further comments:
“However, not only does an acarya sometimes compromise his presentation of the absolute truth for the sake of his disciples and followers, but on occasion he will deliberately speak isolated, outright untruths to them. In fact, he may even go so far as to consistently teach them an utterly false doctrine for the purpose of uplifting them, if he sees that they are sufficiently degraded or illusioned. We see that this was done by Sankaracarya and Lord Buddha. This practice is known as "badasamisa nyaya", meaning the logic of using the bait to catch the fish.”
Here, the author makes the further inference that Srila Prabhupada actually altered or departed from the pure tattva as a strategy in order to convince and convert the fallen souls outside India. He refers to this as “the logic of using the bait to catch the fish”, but please note that the author provides no descriptive details as to the essential truths that Srila Prabhupada supposedly set aside. Neither does he say what aspect of the tattva was actually changed by Srila Prabhupada as part of his “badasamisa nyaya” western preaching strategy.
He goes on to say:
“Since Srila Prabhupada's preaching mission was undertaken in quite exceptional and unprecedented circumstances, it was necessary for him perhaps more than any other acarya since Srila Rupa Gosvami to employ the principle of badasamisa nyaya. Indeed, never could time, place and circumstance have been so radically different for preceding acaryas as they were for Srila Prabhupada. Wishing that his disciples and followers understand this principle very clearly, he spoke about it at length and in depth on a number of occasions.”
According to the author, Srila Prabhupada is the bait, we are the fish, and BV Narayana Maharaja is the fisherman. He suggests that BV Narayana Maharaja is appearing by the plan of the Lord to complete the conversion process initiated by Srila Prabhupada. The readers are left with the impression that BV Narayana will correct Srila Prabhupada’s sastric deviations so that we can now all fully benefit. The author, following in the footsteps of his preceptor, provides us with no systematic list of the supposed required changes and provides no embellishment, just leaves his sweeping statements open to interpretation.
I will not attempt to completely reproduce the author’s blizzard of supporting quotes. Needless to say, I found the sastric verifications mostly misleading, out of context, and basically a camouflage of punditry for the purpose of driving their offensive points home. The author expects his readers to assume that BV Narayana is a more spiritually advanced successor to Srila Prabhupada. He infers that others are misusing or exploiting sastra in order to achieve their political goals, when in fact, he is a student of the master of this technique.
The author tries to convince us, by including the quote below, that the historical situation Srila Bhaktisiddhanta faced after his father, the previous Sampradaya preceptor, departed somehow applies to the situation in question. According to the author’s story, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s followers wouldn’t cooperate with His son’s mission so he addressed them thusly. He compares this directly to Srila Prabhupada’s movement not working with Narayana Maharaja, who they chose to view as the successor Acarya:
"Those who pretend to recognize the Divine Mission of Thakur Bhaktivinode WITHOUT ASPIRING TO THE UNCONDITIONAL SERVICE OF THOSE PURE SOULS WHO REALLY FOLLOW THE TEACHINGS OF THE THAKUR BY THE METHOD ENJOINED BY THE SCRIPTURES and explained by Thakur Bhaktivinode in a way that is so eminently suited to the requirements of the sophisticated mentality of the present Age, only deceive themselves and their willing victims by their hypocritical professions and performances. These persons must not be confounded with the bonafide members of the flock." (Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, The Harmonist,
December 1931, vol. XXIX No.66)
To make such a comparison, we must envision BV Narayana to be in an identical circumstance in relation Srila Prabhupada as was Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati to his Divine Father. If the reader concedes to my assumption that this comparison does not apply to Srila Prabhupada and BV Narayana, then there is absolutely no applicable significance to the statement above. The circumstance is completely different. In one case, we’re talking about the continuation of one Sampradaya Acarya’s spiritual mission by another Sampradaya Acarya. In this case, Srila Prabhupada is the Sampradaya Acarya and BV Narayana is not a Sampradaya Acarya. There’s no continuation – Lord Krsna didn’t send another Sampradaya Acarya in the person of BV Narayana to continue on Srila Prabhupada’s mission.
The author really doesn’t expect to convince the GBC or loyal ISKCON members that his position is right. The transparent motive behind the article is addressing the doubts of those who have recently been converted over from ISKCON to BV Narayana’s camp, or those who are considering conversion. Many of BV Narayana’s new siksa disciples have been directly introduced to Krsna Consciousness through Srila Prabhupada’s efforts, either directly by ISKCON or indirectly by Srila Prabhupada’s writings, and not by the preaching efforts of the members of BV Narayana Maharaja’s camp. Of course, this methodology fits their premise regarding Srila Prabhupada’s primary position in their preaching “food chain” philosophy. Namely, Srila Prabhupada is to attract the newcomers and give the ABC’s, and BV Narayana has manifested in order to complete their higher Vaisnava education. In order to verify his position, Sridham sakha dasa chooses to present Srila Prabhupada’s purports as authoritative proof, which in itself seems contradictory.
The verse below is interesting in that it is supposed to validate the author’s claim that Srila Prabhupada saw fit to implement a “special technique according to country, time and candidate."
"To broadcast the cult of Krsna consciousness, one has to learn the possibility of renunciation in terms of country, time and candidate. A candidate for Krsna consciousness in the Western countries should be taught about the renunciation of material existence, but one would teach candidates from a country like India in a different way. The teacher (acarya) has to consider time, candidate and country. He must avoid the principle of niyamagraha--that is, he should not try to perform the impossible. What is possible in one country may not be possible in another. The Acarya’s duty is to accept the essence of devotional service. There may be a little change here and there as far as yukta-vairagya (proper renunciation) is concerned. ...What is required is a special technique according to country, time and candidate."
In BV Narayana Maharaja ‘speak’, that translates to the incomplete minor league version of Krsna Consciousness compared to the major league BV Narayana Maharaja version, by which he is now ‘mercifully delivering the Gopi Bhava level’ of Krsna Consciousness. To my knowledge, amongst those who succumbed to the Maha Maharaja rhetoric, there aren’t any miraculous transformational cases to present as evidence.
In regards to the formula of adjustments to time, place and circumstance, only the time factor seems to be different and in the whole scheme of things, thirty years is a very short period. Srila Prabhupada stated, time and time again, that everything we need for spiritual advancement can definitely be found within his teachings. Nowhere did he indicate that some advanced “savior” would appear to take us to a higher level. Anyone considering taking up the Maharaja’s all-inclusive “package deal” should serious considers the risk that by surrendering to accept siksa from BV Narayana Maharaja, they may offend Srila Prabhupada, or worse still, Sri Krsna, who may view it as offensive towards his bonafide Sampradaya Acarya.
In the verse below, which was included in the author’s essay, the message is transparent: first and foremost, we must view Srila Prabhupada as just another acarya on par with BV Narayana Maharaja. It is not concluded that Srila Prabhupada is, in fact, a nitya siddha Sampradaya Acarya, whereas BV Narayana Maharaja has made his advancement by means of following the sadhana process. As such, none of us can accurately ascertain what level of Krsna Consciousness he has attained. I’m sure Srila Prabhupada wasn’t referring to BV Narayana Maharaja when he wrote the purport below, but rather was referring to the past Sampradaya Acarya, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. We are all familiar with the changes Srila Prabhupada made in the number of rounds of japa mala, as well as other alterations in the process. BV Narayana Maharaja, on the other hand, is making changes in the siddhanta with his Gopi Bhava concept.
"As an ideal acarya, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu devised ways to capture all kinds of atheists and materialists. Every Acarya has a specific means of propagating his spiritual movement with the aim of bringing men to Krsna consciousness. Therefore, THE METHOD OF ONE ACARYA MAY BE DIFFERENT FROM THAT OF ANOTHER, but the ultimate goal is never neglected."
(Adi-lila Chapter Seven, Text 37)
Sridham sakha dasa writes:
“Despite this, certain devotees see fit to criticize Srila Narayana Maharaja because some of his preaching and standards differ from those of Srila Prabhupada. Although they seem to think that the more faithfully they copy the external activities of Srila Prabhupada, the more qualified they will be, they are in fact entirely wrong.”
In the statement above, any reader unfamiliar with the issue under discussion would be left wondering; just who are these unnamed critics and what are they actually saying against Srila Narayana Maharaja’s preaching standards? This is the author’s commonly employed preaching strategy of being purposely vague, leaving his statements up for interpretation. His guru, Srila BV Narayana Maharaja, utilizes the same preaching methodology. The author admonishes the misguided faithful who are inspired simply by copying Srila Prabhupada’s external activities. This verbalization carries a more subtle meaning, i.e., that there is an indication of the poor training within Srila Prabhupada’s disciples’ ranks. What exactly are Srila Prabhupada’s external activities compared to his internal activities? As neophytes, we are left to speculate on what Srila Prabhupada’s internal activities are, namely his thoughts, moods, motivation, etc. BV Narayana Maharaja uses this double speak technique because his strategy is to present himself as far more advanced and therefore qualified to unquestionably know Srila Prabhupada’s internal activities.
Sastric decree emphatically states that faithful followers are to carefully follow in the footsteps of the previous advanced authorities/maha-jnanas. The sastra doesn’t specify that we should follow the internal and not the external activities of the great souls, as the author implies. If it were true that we are to follow the internal, we would be left to simply speculate on what, exactly, that is.
In the context of the article under discussion, the reader is expected from the very beginning of the discourse to grant an equal spiritual position to Srila Narayana as that of the true present Sampradaya Acarya, Srila Prabhupada. If, like myself, you see Srila Prabhupada as much more prominent, important and advanced than Srila Narayana, then the author’s arguments carry no weight. Actually BV Narayana Maharaja should be following in Srila Prabhupada’s footsteps. After all, he advertises the fact that his spiritual position is that of a siksa disciple of Srila Prabhupada. However, the propaganda we witness from the author implies just the opposite.
The author comments:
“As has already been shown, there will inevitably always be differences between the preaching approach of one acarya and another. Therefore, far from being a disqualification, adjustment of preaching according to time place and circumstance is what we *would* expect to see from the bonafide acarya. It is in fact the artificial copying of the previous acarya, which is condemned:“
Carrying forward the points I made above regarding assumed equality, inevitably differences between one guru and another are based upon the principle of the uniqueness of individuality. Naturally we take that fact into consideration. The author, on the other hand, asks us to consider that the differences are primarily due to a perceived difference in time, place and circumstance, which justifies and contributes to philosophical differences. However, the time, place and circumstance factors are not accurate in this context.
Both preachers were/are functioning outside India, primarily interfacing with western-bodied devotees. BV Narayana is recruiting previous followers of Srila Prabhupada. In other words, the time factor is not significant. As for the circumstance, the only one that has been presented by the author is the notion that BV Narayana is the post-graduate educator/guru and that he’s still living. But what is indicated is that BV Narayana himself is “artificially imitating” rather than “following in the footsteps” of a bona fide Sampradaya Acarya.
Further quotes given by the author:
"One who tries to imitate the mahajanas just to become an imitative spiritual master is certainly far away from following in the footsteps of the mahajanas. Sometimes people cannot actually understand how a mahajana follows other mahajanas. In this way people are inclined to fall from devotional service."
“A conditioned soul needs the personal guidance of a bonafide guru, and cannot make significant spiritual advancement by reference to sadhu or sastra alone. This applies as much to those who may have received diksa or "There is no difference between the spiritual master's instructions and the spiritual master himself. In his absence, therefore, his words of direction should be the pride of the disciple. If one thinks that he is above consulting anyone else, INCLUDING A SPIRITUAL MASTER, he is at once an offender at the lotus feet of the Lord. Such an offender can never go back to Godhead. It is imperative that a serious person accept a bona fide spiritual master in terms of the sastric injunctions."
The author’s comments on the above verse are as follows:
”A conditioned soul needs the personal guidance of a bonafide guru, and cannot make significant spiritual advancement by reference to sadhu or sastra alone. This applies as much to those who may have received diksa or siksa at one time, but are now physically separated from their guru, as it does to those who never had the good fortune of ever associating with a bonafide spiritual master. Indeed, one who refuses to accept a siksa guru after the disappearance of his diksa guru becomes an offender:”
The author repeatedly shares with us his unqualified and speculative statements. In no way does a diksa disciple of a departed guru becomes an “offender” for not taking siksa from someone else. Did Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s disciples take siksa after his disappearance? I think not! Did our Srila Prabhupada take siksa initiation from someone else after his Spiritual Master departed? He did not. Taking siksa and having association with like-minded Godbrothers are distinctly different relationships. We have witnessed the extent of the big “rethink and mood adjustment” that occurs in Srila Prabhupada disciples who have taken siksa from BV Narayana Maharaja and Sridhara Swami. One can conclude from his statements that the author has a very low regard for Srila Prabhupada disciples, but we are reminded of the all-encompassing theme: first we get Krsna’s mercy in the form of Srila Prabhupada then, if we are fortunate, we graduate to BV Narayana Maharaja.
Sridham sakha dasa has laid out his party line position in a non-ambiguous way. We can assume that whatever he has articulated comes from BV Narayana. From my perspective, looking back over thirty years, nothing I hear from this source surprises me. The underlying attitude of the upper echelon leaders of the Gaudiya Matha towards Srila Prabhupada since the beginning days of ISKCON have not changed much. I don’t really blame them, for they are seeking perfection through sadhana and as such are just revealing the level of their advancement. In other words, they aren’t purified enough to be able to recognize a nitya siddha Sampradaya Acarya. The most significant symptom of advancement is humility, as emphasized by Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself.
It would take a very high degree of spiritual advancement for these long-time, big-time Sannyasis to acknowledge that a humble householder Godbrother, with whom they associated intimately for many years was, in fact, a nitya siddha destined to fulfill Lord Caitanya’s prediction of spreading Krsna Consciousness worldwide.
I have heard many fine, poetic phrases coming from their mouths glorifying Srila Prabhupada, but actions speak louder than words. They continue to adversely influence Srila Prabhupada’s followers and go against his wishes that his disciples adopt his mood and style. The real fault, and therefore reaction, lies with the foolish followers who have become willing victims of the less enlightened Godbrothers. Now, we are being asked to cooperate for the sake of harmony and preaching, but such cooperation gives tacit consent to their actions. Joining together for kirtan and prasadam perhaps, but beyond that I, for one, will not capitulate or compromise. Our business is to expound the absolute truth in this material world and I believe that the truth is that Srila Prabhupada is an unalloyed Sampradaya Acarya.
Replies: 7 comments
Posted by Joshi @ 03/23/2005 08:18 AM PST
Bravo Rocana prabhu for exposing the Emperor's new clothes. I have been following your discussions here and have a somewhat half formulated question. How do you defend yourself against arguments that you created - certainly with the best of intentions - the Sampradaya Acarya concept out of whole cloth? I mean, if Prabhupada was a Sampradaya Acarya and Bhaktisiddhanta was also, wouldn't you expect to see some literary evidence specifically on the subject? Are we not supposed to be emulating the mood and example of Srila Prabhupada. If he never specifically mentioned or stressed the importance of SA's as part of his overall teachings and legacy, perhaps that was for a very good reason?
Posted by Rocana dasa @ 03/24/2005 01:07 PM PST
Hare Krsna. Thanks for your comment on this topic.
Throughout the teachings presented by the Sampradaya Acaryas, particularly the Srimad Bhagavatam and the Caitanya-caritamrita, we find speeches from great devotees whose self-description is very humble. This is the mood and example we should be emulating. It depends upon the reader’s state of advancement to decipher the true meaning from situations such as the one we are now presented with. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu emphasized the need for humility in his third verse of his Sri Sri Siksastaka. Trnad api suicena.
It may be a fact that Srila Prabhupada didn’t liberally use the exact term “Sampradaya Acarya” to describe the 32 members listed in our parampara, but the Acaryas underscored the importance of finding and following a “bonafide” guru in disciplic succession. What that term bonafide refers to lies at the heart of the age-less controversy we are still involved in.
Srila Prabhupada presented to us all a short list of those personalities he considers to be uniquely exalted members of our Sampradaya. This list was compiled by his Guru Maharaja, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami. Srila Prabhupada added his own name to the list. We also know that the Godbrothers have added their names to the very same list. So, there are a total of 32 names on the list, and the first name is Lord Brahma. The time period represented by this list is inconceivable. The question that must be answered is, why did Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati include only 31 names on the list? What is so significant about these particular 31 personalities?
Let’s not forget the fact that there have been innumerable bonafide representatives on the planet since the time Lord Brahma was initiated, which was prior to this universal creation. How many bonafide gurus have there been since then, over countless ages, who have properly instructed their disciples in our siddhanta? What category, exactly, should we place those 32 personalities listed in? What name should we use to distinguish them from what Srila Prabhupada himself said were “regular gurus? Should these regular gurus feel free to add their names to this list? The answers to these questions must be derived through a number of sources, particularly if the absolute authorities are purposefully vague. SP said, “don’t worry for the gaps”.
I’ve made my opinion on this matter abundantly clear. In short, Srila Prabhupada should be on the list, and his Godbrothers should not. I feel the personalities on the list should be identified as Sampradaya Acaryas. In the end, it all comes down to personal choices, which in this climate appear to be unavoidable. It has been suggested that I incorrectly coined the term 'Sampradaya Acarya' by using a quote wherein Srila Prabhupada is referring to past Sampradaya Acaryas who were actually the modern founders of their Sampradayas, such as Ramanuja, Visnu Swami and Madhva:
"Our Indian spiritual life is guided by the acaryas, sampradaya acarya, the Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya, Visnuswami and Nimbarka. There is... Whole Indian spiritual culture is dependent on the guidance of these acarya. And in the Bhagavad-gita also, in the Thirteenth Chapter, it is advised, acarya upasanam: "One should follow the instruction of the acarya." That is our Vedic civilization."
Srila Prabhupada Lecture to World Health Org., 06-06-74, Geneva
It has been inferred that it would be incongruent to include Srila Prabhupada's name with the other four Acarya's names, and therefore Srila Prabhupada must not be a Sampradaya Acarya. However, we also hear the following from Srila Prabhupada in his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 2:9:6:
"Thus Brahma was initiated by the Krsna mantra, by Lord Krsna Himself, and thus he became a Vaisnava, or a devotee of the Lord, before he was able to construct the huge universe. It is stated in the Brahma-samhita that Lord Brahma was initiated into the eighteen-letter Krsna mantra, which is generally accepted by all the devotees of Lord Krsna. We follow the same principle because we belong to the Brahma sampradaya, directly in the disciplic chain from Brahma to Narada, from Narada to Vyasa, from Vyasa to Madhva Muni, from Madhva Muni to Madhavendra Puri, from Madhavendra Puri to Isvara Puri, from Isvara Puri to Lord Caitanya and gradually to His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, our divine master."
In this instance, Srila Prabhupada is speaking very specifically about the genesis of the Brahma Sampradaya, listing the direct disciplic chain as including both Madhva and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. Clearly, in this context, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta is included as being on par with all the other names in the direct disciplic chain. While the term "Sampradaya Acarya" is not mentioned here, in my mind this list is clearly more than a "mechanism used to authenticate the sampradaya among Vedic traditionalists".
You may have some problem with my use of the term "Sampradaya Acarya", but you’ve read my thesis, and hopefully recognize that nowhere am I proposing that Srila Prabhupada should be looked upon as the establisher of a modern day lineage. We are still predominantly under the influence of the Yuga Avatara, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. In fact, I am hypothesizing that the three successive nitya-siddha Acaryas are a predictable futuristic extension of that same divine lila, just as Srila Madhva Acarya heralded the coming of Sri Gaurasundara. If you can suggest a more appropriate name than "Sampradaya Acarya", then feel free to do so.
To re-emphasize, my conclusion is also prefaced by an explanation as to the appearance of the three nitya-siddha Acaryas, namely Srila Bhaktivinoda, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, and Srila Bhaktivedanta. Basically, I assert that together, they were essentially extensions or manifestation of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s lila – specifically, the aspect of the Lila that hadn’t been fulfilled, namely spreading Krsna Consciousness worldwide. This was effectively carried out by these three appointed Acaryas and as such, I conclude that they are Sampradaya Acaryas on a similar level as Ramanuja. No Vaisnava Sampradaya was technically started in Kaliyuga. Rather, they were resurrected by nitya-siddhas sent by the causeless mercy of the Lord to reestablish principles of religion at the appropriate time, place and circumstances.
Even Shankara Acarya and Lord Brahma, let alone western manifestations such as Christ and Mohammad, are understood to be great Acaryas. Christ and Mohammad were not preaching pure tattva on the level presented by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and as such they are not considered part of our present Brahma Madhva Gaudiya Sampradaya. Srila Prabhupada said that the Christians are not even to be considered a Sampradaya because they have no real bhashya. While their spiritual impact was enormous, how can it be compared to the impact of the three nitya-siddha Acaryas in the Gaudiya Sampradaya, who preached pure Krsna Consciousness across the entire world?
Let me know if this answers your question.
Posted by Joshi @ 03/29/2005 01:33 PM PST
Thanks. That does answer my question. As you say, it comes down to personal realization and personal choices.
Posted by Antariksa das / Eric W. Crosley @ 04/08/2005 03:28 AM PST
Dear Rocana Prabhu,
Plese accept my humble obeisances.
All glories to our Srila Prabhu-
pada. I just finished reading
Sridham Sakha dasa's position pa-
per and then your most excellent
response. I truly enjoy your gift
of clear-headed analysis which is
able to cut away the trappings of
Sridham's message so its deepest
meaning becomes very clear. Thank
I find it hard to disagree with
almost anything you write in this
present dialog on such a signifi-
cant topic as Srila Prabhupada's status in our blessed light bear-
ing Sampradaya. I found it fasci-
nating to hear of Narayana Maha-
raja's role in the infamous, "gopi
club." If we look at the history
of ISKON's problems since Srila
Prabhupada's manifest lila chang-
ed, and at the various factors of
the larger picture including the
history surrounding the flow of
Srila Bhaktivinode, Srila Bhakti-
siddhanta and Srila Prabhupada, I
think it becomes darn near impos-
sible for any devotee, with a de-
gree of true humility in their
hearts, to fairly disagree, signi-
ficantly, with the conclusion you
draw of Prabhupada's exalted posi-
tion related to ANY of his God-
Rocana, what do you think of the
idea of me being involved in the
role of a 'public servant' in the
US Congress? Krsna willing, that
will soon become a reality. And,
if it does, I pray to Him that I
not forget what it is really all
about. How does Crosley's Collab-
oration for Congress sound? :>)
I've been so involved in so many of the civic, cultural, educa-
tional, spiritual activities of
this place here in mid-Michigan,
for so long, and I'm a teacher of
writing and communications at com-
munity colleges in this area, and
I am the student of one who teaches that the true nature of all of us bumpkins in this flimsy material world, is that we all are
eternal servants of Krsna, it just
makes sense that we should practice our bhakti-yoga as a hum-
ble servant of the jivas of the
Eighth Congressional District as
their Representative in the quite
temporary US House. Let me know
what you think, if you care to.
Prabhu, I hope your good wife and you are healthy and happy. Again,
if you ever are in the vicinity of
L-Town, please allow me to serve
you by offering you shelter you
might want here in our humble abode. And again, Rocana, thank you so much for the superb service
you are performing for Srila Guru-
deva Prabhupada and all of his disciples and others by the power
of your most glorious writing work.
Antariksa das / aka Eric W. Crosley
Posted by Rocana dasa @ 04/23/2005 01:08 PM PST
Dear Antariksa das,
I apologize for taking so long to respond. I’ve been embroiled in a rather extensive writing project, which just appeared as a new blog.
It is always encouraging to be made aware of reader’s positive experiences. The BV Narayana Maharaja phenomenon has been, for me, a worthwhile project to analysis from different angles of vision. My last writing project on this subject, along with commentary from other contributors, has summed-up for the time being my perspective. If we, as active preachers representing Srila Prabhupada, wish to present our Sampradaya’s siddhanta accurately and convincingly, it behooves us to have a clear and concise explanation on issues such as the Gaudiya Matha influence as well as accurate presentation of Srila Prabhupada, Rtvik-ism, guru initiation, modern day ISKCON, religiosity verses spirituality, and so on.
An honest 20-20 historical version of ISKCON history cannot be gotten from inquiring of those within the institution. There is an unwritten rule that if you wish to be seen as a person of good standing within ISKCON, then you keep quiet about anyone who presently holds a responsible position such as diksa guru, GBC, or high ranking bureaucrat. As all the major embarrassing blunders where caused by this class of personality, there’s essentially a blackout or re-writing of the “text books”, like in Japan or the Catholic Church. History is written by the victorious. As that saying applies to ISKCON, those who took over Srila Prabhupada’s mission in 1978 and still hold the power, despite certain so called reforms, get to whitewash their numerous mistakes. Not that they are fooling many true followers – just the unfortunate foolish and ignorant. Be forewarned that if you, like me, broadcast the truth about ISKCON then you will likely be stigmatized. In the minds of the GBC this is the unforgivable disqualification. I stand as a living testament to this fact, as noted in yesterday’s Blog.
I hope my expressions have helped you in your preaching work. It seems you have an ideal circumstance in which to inject Krsna Conscious philosophy into the hearts and minds of those with whom you interact. If you feel that running for public office is your calling, then by all means venture forth. You will certainly gain a great deal of insight and realization along that path. I’ll be interested to see the results of your activities in that sphere.
Posted by Somie @ 06/04/2005 02:14 PM PST
I'm interested to know what you would say to someone who is interested in Gaudiya Vaishnavism but is not particularly inspired by the books, classes and presentation of Srila Prabhupada. By your "sampradaya acharya" theory, it seems you are saying that anyone on the planet at this point in time interested in Gaudiya Vaishnavism MUST approach the topic through your guru's particular presentation.
Posted by Rocana dasa @ 06/13/2005 06:47 PM PST
If you read my Sampradaya Acarya paper carefully, you will find that I have answered your question in detail. I mention there that there are numerous other groups representing the Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya, so it’s not that I say Srila Prabhupada is the only way to approach our tradition. At the same time, I’m making the point that as I understand it, the great scholars in our Sampradaya have articulated the fact that in order to get the best results in executing the Gaudiya Vaisnava process and philosophy, one must be following the Sampradaya Acaryas. I’ve made my case as to Srila Prabhupada’s being such a rare Sampradaya Acarya. If that is correct, then regardless of the fact that other Gaudiya Vaisnavas are available to instruct you, the most recent preeminent Sampradaya Acarya is Srila Prabhupada. Therefore, it behooves us to recognize him as such, and take his instruction as the highest and most recent available connection to the Sampradaya.
If you choose not to see Srila Prabhupada in this way, then choose whoever you will to guide you in this science of Krsna Consciousness, and judge by the results. You possess God-given free will, which ultimately gives you the power to determine your own destiny. Just why it is that you are not spontaneously attracted to Srila Prabhupada’s unique presentation of Gaudiya Vaisnava process and philosophy is a question only you can answer. I have absolutely no idea who you are as an individual spirit soul, nor what your karma has provided you with in terms of birth, parentage, culture, education, strength, and so on. Within this material world there are undoubtedly innumerable personalities who share your same sentiments regarding Srila Prabhupada. I suggest you pray to Supersoul (Caitya Guru), chant the Hare Krsna Mantra, and study the teachings of whomever you are inspired by and see where it takes you. Krsna Consciousness is a spiritual science. As such, one can judge by the results of one’s efforts. If your desire to take to Gaudiya Vaisnavism is purely for the sake of making genuine advancement towards the ultimate end of Unalloyed Love for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then you should be able to feel, see and experience the blissful results as you partake in the process. I wish you God speed.
Your well wisher,