Who Is a Sampradaya Acarya?
BY: ROCANA DASA
Jul 19, 2010 CANADA (SUN) This is in response to a recent paper by Josh Hawley, submitted a few weeks ago and published in today's edition of the Sun: Substantive Reality". By and large, I agree with many of the statements made in his paper, but one of the aspects I disagree with is what he's saying in regards to the use of the term "Sampradaya Acarya" in respect to Srila Prabhupada, which he's taken issue with. If he had taken the time to study my Sampradaya Acarya paper where I've substantiated my position, then he might have been able to understand exactly why I use the term, and under what circumstances. I provided a detailed definition of what my use of the term Sampradaya Acarya is, and is not.
Josh prabhu mentions that Srila Prabhupada and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur list 32 nama-acaryas in our disciplic succession, and our entire philosophy is based on the fact that you need to be initiated into the Sampradaya by a bona fide Spiritual Master, through diksa. He also states that our Sampradaya is predominantly siksa instructing Spiritual Masters. These are points I also made in my paper.
I qualified the fact that I am personally not attached to using the term "Sampradaya Acarya", in the sense that there are interchangeable terms, like parampara-acarya. The main essence of my position is that within ISKCON and amongst the so-called followers of Srila Prabhupada, many do not appreciate Srila Prabhupada's position in the sampradaya. They feel that their ISKCON approved and appointed gurus are entitled to include their name on the List of 32. Their promotional program targets newcomers, who are strongly encouraged to be initiated by one of these ISKCON gurus, without really being giving the proper understanding of who Srila Prabhupada is. Instead, they're assigning an erroneous, watered down and un-philosophical, and from my point of view offensive position to Srila Prabhupada, both in the Lilamrta and in many of their statements on who Srila Prabhupada is. I've written extensively on that subject, as well.
In Josh Hawley's article, he says that it's very inappropriate for me to use the title 'Sampradaya Acarya', and that Srila Prabhupada's proper title is 'ISKCON Founder-Acarya' -- but not Gaudiya Sampradaya Acarya. Personally, I've never call him a 'Gaudiya Sampradaya Acarya'.
Josh appears to have become attached to the concept that Rupa Goswami is our Sampradaya Acarya. I certainly don't disagree that Rupa Goswami is a Sampradaya Acarya, but he does not singularly hold that position or title. Nonetheless, Josh has become attached to this perception, and that's fine. Our philosophy is based on the principle of individualism and the fact that individuals have a right to their different perspectives on the philosophy, as long as they don't deviate from the basic principles.
It's also a tendency for the conditioned soul, as Josh himself said, to think that absolutely, their opinion is the one everyone should hold -- it's absolutely in line with the sastra and the Spiritual Master. Of course, he goes on to say that anyone who disagrees with him, anyone who does not see his perspective, is wrong. In essence, he suggests that his absolutely correct position qualifies him to be known as a paramahamsa, a swan-like person who can perfectly perceive what is completely, accurately in line with sastra. So he's putting himself in that position, in contrast to most everyone else. His main focus is on the Rtviks, and me, by virtue of my position on Srila Prabhupada as a Sampradaya Acarya. He suggests that we are preaching illusion, leading everyone astray, we are equivalent to Shankaracarya, and so on. This is really overboard, as far as I'm concerned.
Let us look at the evidence the swan-like Josh Hawley has provided for his position that Rupa Goswami is the Sampradaya Acarya. First, he refers to a previous article posted in the Sun, from April 2009:
"1.On Apr 18, 2009, in an article posted on Sampradaya Sun by Sri Nirmal Chandra Goswami Maharaja, Maharaja refers to: Srila Rupa Goswami's Kirtan Mandapa will be a welcome relief for the thousands of pilgrims who visit the Samadhi and Bhajan Kutir of our "Sampradaya Acharya, Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhupada at Sri Radha Damodara Mandir"."
Please note that the article mentioned above is not a philosophical essay or siddhantic position paper. It is a news story written by a group of Gaudiya Matha followers – not ISKCON members, and not Srila Prabhupada disciples. But somehow or other, Josh assumes that because they mention Srila Rupa Goswami as the "Sampradaya Acharya", surely it must be so. He extrapolates from this news article that the devotees mean it as an exclusive designation, and Rupa Goswami as the only Sampradaya Acarya. In their article, we see that they also mention Srila Jiva Goswami as "our Tattva Acharya", and presumably Josh Hawley accepts that as an absolute statement and a singular designation, too.
In his next paragraph, Josh prabhu states:
"2. Historically our sampradaya follows the ideal. It is a sampradaya of instructing spiritual masters more than initiating spiritual masters. Bhagavad Gita As It Is only contains 38 names even though the system is 50 centuries old. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, wrote:, 'mahaprabhu sri caitanya radha krsna nahe anya rupanuga janera jivana : the highest truth of Krsna consciousness comes down through the channel of siksa gurus, instructing spiritual masters'. Diksha goes on and continues, but the real thing are the instructions."
"Historically our sampradaya follows the ideal" apparently refers to the idea that Srila Rupa Goswami is the Sampradaya Acarya, although no evidence is given to support that notion. Referring to the List of 32, Josh states that the "Bhagavad Gita As It Is only contains 38 names". He either has the number wrong, or he isn't telling us what six additional names he thinks are somehow added to the list.
Josh goes on to provide this evidence in support of his conclusions:
"4. harer nami presthe hari-tithisu rupanuga-jane makes special reference to the line of Rupa Goswami and his followers by the words rupanuga-jane. Bhaktivinode prays in his mood of natural humility that whenever and wherever he may happen to take birth he simply desires that his loving affection and attachment will remain unshaken for the line of Rupa Goswami and his followers.-Sva-Niyama-Dvadasakam, 12 Verses of My Self-Imposed Regulative Principles."
Obviously, there is no mention in this reference to Rupa Goswami's line about the term "Sampradaya Acarya" – who is or is not a Sampradaya Acarya, who is or is not on the List of 32, or how an Acarya on the list compares to the many other acaryas or diksa gurus who are not on the list. In other words, this reference doesn't provide any evidence at all relevant to the use of the term, "Sampradaya Acarya".
Josh's next statement is as follows:
"Those who advocate posthumous initiation by rtvik, or proxy are also misguided in their interpretation of the term sampradaya acharya. They do not understand the nature of Guru Tattva (science of guru). Those who quote the Ramanuja sampradaya, as being applicable to the Gaudiya Sampradaya are simply misguided. The conclusions of the Gaudiya Sampradaya vary extensively from that of the Ramanuja sampradaya. The strict ontological definition of the title of sampradaya acharya within the Gaudiya sampradaya is reserved for Sri Rupa Goswami Prabhupada. Many followers of Srila Prabhupada wish to be known as prabhupadanugas, however such prabhupadanugas, (followers of Prabhupada) cannot be so, without first being rupanugas(followers of Rupa Goswami)."
Here Josh lumps all his opponents together for ease of discrediting. He suggests that like myself, the Rtviks are also misguided in their use of the term "Sampradaya Acarya". But he does not tell us anything about how the Rtviks use that term, which in fact, is decidedly different than the way I use it. He compares using the term to quoting Ramanuja tattva, but that is a rather disembodied statement in this context. He says very authoritatively that "The strict ontological definition of the title of sampradaya acharya within the Gaudiya sampradaya is reserved for Sri Rupa Goswami Prabhupada", but again he offers no evidence for this proclamation, except to say that "prabhupadanugas" must first be "rupanugas". Again, a completely unsupported notion.
Josh goes on to quote 13 different slokas glorifying Srila Rupa Goswami. Not a single one of these quotes has anything to do with the concept or designation of "Sampradaya Acarya", nor do any of the quotes mention the List of 32, or suggest some point of comparison between Rupa Goswami and other members of the list, or other Acaryas or diksa gurus not on the list. In other words, while we appreciate Josh's sentiment for Srila Rupa Goswami, these quotes in no way support his rebuttal of my use of the term "Sampradaya Acarya" to describe Srila Prabhupada.
After the compendium of quotes, Josh offers this explanation:
"A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada founded his ISKCON mission for preaching within the existing Gaudiya Sampradaya. He did not establish a new sampradaya, which by definition would require an interpretation of the Brahma Sutras. From our Gaudiya siddhanta ontological standpoint, Sri Rupa Goswami is the uddharaka-guru (deliverer guru) to whom, Srila Prabhupada, as the upakaraka-guru (instrumental guru) is directing. Thus Sri Rupa Goswami Prabhupada is the authentic, sampradaya acharya, empowered and authorized by the Supreme Truth Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
In my Sampradaya Acarya position, I have never suggested that Srila Prabhupada established a new sampradaya. We are trying to understanding the import Josh places on the statement, " From our Gaudiya siddhanta ontological standpoint, Sri Rupa Goswami is the uddharaka-guru (deliverer guru) to whom, Srila Prabhupada, as the upakaraka-guru (instrumental guru) is directing." Unfortunately, he does not provide a citation from sastra for the use of these terms, uddharaka-guru and upakaraka-guru so they can be understood in context, nor does he explain his understanding of what "directing" is comprised of.
He essentially infers that Rupa Goswami stands between Srila Prabhupada and Sri Krsna, and that the conditioned souls Srila Prabhupada saves, by connecting them to the eternal sampradaya, can only get to Krsna through Rupa Goswami. From this, Josh extrapolates the conclusion that Rupa Goswami is therefore the one and only Sampradaya Acarya. But we do not find that conclusion given anywhere in sastra. So not only do we challenge his conclusion in this regard, we challenge his use of the terms uddharaka-guru and upakaraka-guru, and suggest that he come forward with solid evidence from Srila Prabhupada or our Sampradaya Acaryas (there's that term again…) to support his argument.
In fact, we don't find Srila Prabhupada ever using the term uddharaka-guru (Folio 2.0, 1987-90), either to describe Rupa Goswami or in any other context. We find a single mention where Srila Prabhupada uses the term upakaraka-guru, in Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya lila, 22.78-80, referring to devotees in general, not to Rupa Goswami.
Josh goes on to emphasize the fact that we are followers of Sri Rupa Goswami, or Rupanugas, which we do not argue with. He offers this piece of evidence in support of his main conclusion:
"The position of Sri Rupa Goswami is made clear by the song of Narottama Das Thakura: sri rupa manjari pada sei mora sampada sei mor bhajana pujana sei mora prana dhana sei mora abharana sei mora jivanera jivana
Sri Rupa Goswami is the leader of our sampradaya in this world, and in the spiritual world he is the leader of the manjaris in the form of Sri Rupa Manjari."
However, when we refer to the actual text of Narottama das Thakura's prayer in Songs of the Vaisnava Acaryas (BBT, 1979), the text of 'Sri Rupa Manjari Pada' does not match the explanation given above by Josh Hawley. In fact, the verse and translation are as follows:
sri-rupa-manjari-pada sei mora sampada
sei mor bhajana-pujana
sei mora prana-dhana sei mora abharana
sei mor jibanera jibana
"The feet of Sri Rupa Manjari [Rupa Gosvami's eternal form as a gopi of Vraja] are my real wealth. They are the object of my bhajan and puja. They are the treasure of my heart, and they are my ornaments and the life of my life."
On the Vrindavan-dhama.com website we find a different translation of 'Sri Rupa Manjari Pada' (see Lalasa Longings, Song 16). Neither version says anything remotely like the statement Josh Hawley attributes to Narottama das Thakura, that "Sri Rupa Goswami is the leader of our sampradaya in this world".
Now, at this point we are beginning to see a trend emerge in Josh Hawley's presentation. On several occasions, he has offered evidence without sastric citation, and a search of the Vedabase indicates that Srila Prabhupada has not made the statements Josh puts forward. One begins to wonder where he is coming up with these notions from. Fortunately, a quick Google of the phrase, sri-rupa-manjari-pada sei mora sampadagave us that answer.
We refer the reader to a 1999 article archived at VNN entitled " Srila Prabhupada 'Deliverer' Or 'Instrumental' Guru?" by Swami B.G. Narasinga. It was written in response to another article, "The Founder-Acharya and Other Gurus in Madhva and Sri Sampradayas" by Vidvan Gauranga das. B.G. Narasinga Swami writes:
"The uddhaaraka-guru position held by Ramanuja Acharya and Madhva Acharya in their respective successions, has already been given to Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhupada in our Gaudiya-sampradaya by none other than Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, approximately 500 years ago.
Our Srila Prabhupada (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami) does not hold the same position as Madhva or Ramanuja, since he did not introduce a new philosophical system or establish a sampradaya based on such. That was accomplished by Srila Rupa Goswami, and hence we (even Srila Prabhupada, Saraswati Thakura and Bhaktivinode Thakura) are all known as Rupanugas, followers of Srila Rupa Goswami."
After reading the entire article, one will no doubt conclude, as I have, that the core of Josh Hawley's presentation here is borrowed heavily from Swami B.G. Narasinga's work. That no citations have been provided to make this fact clear is unfortunate.
We are quite familiar with this article by B.G. Narasinga Maharaja and the prior article by Vidvan Gauranga prabhu, and both are being addressed in an exhaustive second edition of the Sampradaya Acarya paper, which we hope to complete sometime in the year ahead. Unfortunately for Josh, he does not have the freedom to simply borrow B.G. Narasingha's work, or his history, experience and realizations, and put them on like a coat. Josh must make his own case, and in this article, he clearly has not done so. From an academic or intellectual standpoint it is a poor performance, missing important citations, drawing speculative conclusions, and generally asserting a position that has not been proved based on Guru, Sadhu and Sastra.
To make matters worse, on this shaky foundation Josh Hawley sallies forth to belittle other devotees who have come to conclusions different than his, using an arrogant tone not earned by the quality of his presentation. For example, he writes:
"There are a good many devotees who throw around the above terms without having any understanding of the actual meanings. Such neophyte devotees also do not understand the relationship of guru as a manifestation of Krishna."
He goes on to clarify:
"It is a misnomer to call His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, sampradaya-acharya. Conversely the titles of Jagad Guru (world teacher) and saktyavesa (empowered), are appropriate and authorized titles of recognition for His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. One should be clear however, the title sampradaya acharya is not appropriate. He is ISKCON founder acharya, but not Gaudiya Sampradaya Acharya."
Srila Prabhupada did not pointedly refer to himself as jagad-guru, or even as nitya-siddha, but that does not mean the titles are not true and appropriate, or cannot be used to describe him. As I've pointed out in my paper, Srila Prabhupada himself used the term sampradaya-acarya, and we find nothing in sastra that bars us from applying this term to him. Josh's effort to prove that Srila Rupa Goswami is the one and only Sampradaya Acarya has not succeeded. And while B.G. Narasingha and others have made much more philosophically astute and well documented arguments that Srila Prabhupada is not a Sampradaya Acarya in the same way that Ramanuja and Madhva are, we believe that there is an even greater number of arguments to show the error of their logic, and these will be presented in the next edition of my Sampradaya Acarya paper.
In the meantime, we are left with Josh Hawley's pronouncements at the end of his paper, in which he unabashedly takes to task all those materially bewildered fools who do not agree with his position. He perhaps unwittingly includes even B.G. Narasingha Maharaja in this errant group, when he states:
"There is an art of interpreting information, so that one takes the substantive essence, regardless of the source, and its apparent disqualifications.
One who is perfected in this art is known as a paramahamsa. Or a swan like person…"
We are undoubtedly in an era wherein there is no Sampradaya Acarya or parampara-acarya physically present on the planet today, so we can't get a definitive answer on questions such as this. Such historical circumstances put a great deal of responsibility on the individual to do the research, to read all the sastras, and to come to their own conclusions in regards to who they're going to take diksa initiation from, what that diksa guru's position is, and how they're going to perceive all the great acaryas in the disciplic succession, as well as many other aspects of our philosophy.
What Srila Prabhupada was most interested in was having everyone cooperate and work together for propagating the message of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu throughout the planet. Those who want to follow him, which I feel is the proper path to take, should distribute his books and take his positions in regards to some of the controversial aspects of the philosophy. Now, Josh Hawley does not specify that this is his personal position. He doesn't say that he's a complete follower of Srila Prabhupada, in the same way that an initiated disciple claims. Of course, as his name implies, he has not taken diksa. He is emphasizing that siksa is more important, and he's maintained his birth name. Although our Vedic tradition dictates that one should take initiation, it's his choice.
What's most important in this discussion is that he does not exhibit or reveal in his writings that he is the equivalent of, or that he has the same mentality or perspective of one who is either a disciple of Srila Prabhupada or a strict siksa follower of Srila Prabhupada. Instead of using Srila Prabhupada's statements as evidence to support his arguments, he relies on other sources.
By emphasizing his position on Rupa Goswami, he appears to be wanting to be known or recognized as some sort of authority or acarya in his own right -- that he is essentially following the Six Goswamis, Rupa Goswami. Now, it's fine to say that Rupa Goswami is our Sampradaya Acarya, as I stated earlier, but the fact is that there were six Goswamis, there were many great Acaryas, there's Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Who is non-different than Krsna, and Who appeared in our sampradaya. If anyone could be said to have started a new sampradaya (which of course doesn't agree with Srila Prabhupada's understanding), then that would be Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Sri Caitanya was Rupa Goswami's Spiritual Master, and He preached the perfect understanding of the Absolute Truth. As such, one could easily argue that He is essentially the Sampradaya Acarya. After all, in the Madhva Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya, the Gaudiya aspect is referring to Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, not to Rupa Goswami. Of course, Josh doesn't give us his understanding of why Rupa Goswami is the Sampradaya Acarya and in comparison, Lord Caitanya is not.
If we are to work and cooperate together and enjoy each other's association, then we have to become far more accommodating to others who have a slightly different perspective. We can't go around making the sorts of statements that Josh Hawley is making at the end of his paper about everyone that doesn't agree with him. For that matter, ISKCON should be far more accommodating, even to the Rtviks. To call them demons and so forth serves very little purpose, just as the Rtviks calling everyone else demons is pointless. It alienates so many people who could be working cooperatively to execute the real desires of the most recent Sampradaya Acaryas, who were sent to spread Krsna Consciousness throughout the world. This is a task best accomplished in the spirit of cooperation. In our sampradaya, we should all be trying to assist Srila Prabhupada, the most recent nitya-siddha Sampradaya Acarya sent by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu to execute this task. Of course, we find exceptions to this, even in the Gaudiya Matha. They don't recognize Srila Prabhupada's position, either.
In ISKCON, we have to start seeing ourselves as an international society instead of a church. If we do this, then we can ultimately be pleasing the qualified Spiritual Masters, the great Acaryas, and make spiritual progress. It's much easier to do this in a society where debate and open-mindedness is advocated, than in an exclusive, dictatorial and restrictive church-like environment where others are looked upon in a very negative way.
So Josh Hawley is taking a hard line, just as many Rtviks take a hard line, as many ISKCON-ites take a hard line. Unfortunately, his position is poorly supporter by the statements of Srila Prabhupada, or by sastra. This is not at all conducive to Krsna Consciousness, and I don't think Srila Prabhupada would be very appreciative of such a position.