The Watered-down Preaching of Radhanath
BY: RAVANARI DAS
Aug 25, 2011 USA (SUN) Thank you, Hrishikesh das Prabhu, for your kind and balanced response to my article, "Damn Your Interfaith Garbage!". I assure you that I wrote the article purely on philosophical grounds and I have no personal vendetta with Radhanath Swami. Why should I? He is part and parcel of Lord Sri Hari, the Personality of Godhead, and is therefore due all respect.
Actually, it may surprise you to learn that I agree with all your points. Interfaith preaching, if presented properly as per the examples of the past Acaryas you have shown, is certainly welcomed. As devotee preachers, we are meant to represent a world movement for attracting members of all religions to the highest concept of religion: pure love of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna through loving devotional service. Naturally there must be elements of Interfaith if we are to reach out to others. So you are 100% correct.
Radhanath Swami: "A leading figure in world Hinduism?"
Now, if you will, please allow me to also give an example. Here is an excerpt from a lecture with elements of Interfaith delivered by the World Acarya, Srila Prabhupada, at the same place and same festival -- Janmastami at Bhaktivedanta Manor -- except that it was delivered some 38 years earlier. The discussion centers around the famous verse from Sri Chaitanya-caritamrita (Adi 9.41):
bharata-bhumite haila manusya janma yara
janma sarthaka kari' kara para-upakara
"So, Indians…Indians are meant for para-upakara. Indians are not meant for exploiting others. That is not Indians' business. Indian history is all along for para-upakara. And formerly, from all parts of the world, used to come to India to learn what is spiritual life. Even Jesus Christ went there. And from China and from other countries. That is history. And we are forgetting our own asset. How much we are callous. Such a great movement, Krsna consciousness, is going on all over the world, but our Indians are callous, our government is callous. They do not take. That is our misfortune. But it is the Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mission. He says any Indian, bharata bhumite manusya janma, if he's human being, he must make his life perfect by taking advantage of this Vedic literature and distribute the knowledge all over the world. That is para-upakara. So India can do. They are actually appreciating. These Europeans, American young men, they are appreciating that how great... I get daily dozens of letter, how they are benefited by this movement. Actually, that is the fact. It is giving the life for the dead man. So I shall specially request the Indians, especially His Excellency, kindly cooperate with this movement, and try to make successful your life and others' life. That is the mission of Krsna, advent of Krsna."
(Janmastami - Lord Sri Krsna's Appearance Day Lecture -- London, August 21, 1973)
So of course, Hrishikesh Prabhu, as we have seen in the words of the pure devotee above, we can and must include elements of Interfaith. But to know how this should be done we should look to the example of the Founder-Acarya, and not mundane wranglers looking to bolster themselves with a false concept of name and fame as "World Hindu Leaders."
The same medicine can be either a poison or a cure depending upon the expertise of the doctor. If we can present the philosophy in such an expert Interfaith way that Hindus and Christians wish to become devotees of Krishna, then we will be judged as successful. But if we water the philosophy down with a form of confusion that steers new members into impersonalistic or voidist notions, as Radhanath does in the article under discussion, then we have performed the greatest disservice to our beloved Guru Maharaja. Everything will be lost, as newer members will imitate this bland and gutless form of Interfaith, and ISKCON will turn into a sort of New Age Buddhism, which already appears to be underway in some centers such as Seattle.
You are a learned and qualified Vaishnava, as I can see from the gentlemanly and scholastic tone of your response. Our interest, one that we share with the Sun Editors and staff and I am sure with yourself, too, is to see that Srila Prabhupada's movement is pushed on in a parampara fashion. We are not interested in uselessly quibbling over details with other Vaishnavas with whom we are mostly in agreement. The so-called leaders -- the ones who carry self-motivated agendas --- are expert at breaking up the rank and file in their bid to divide and conquer. That is how so many devotees were forced out; their ranks were broken by leaders who divided the world into different zones, different philosophies, different sects, etc. They have already tried to ruin everything once through their wicked mayavadic schemes and now a kinder, gentler form of mayavada has once again raised its foul-smelling head, in the form of a convenient and insincere Interfaith.
Actually, the strength of this movement is found in the rank and file, within the great mass of devotees who actually believe the philosophy of Krishna consciousness. It would be the greatest mis-calculation to assume that ISKCON's strength lies with the self-aggrandisers who dream of becoming world Hindu leaders or quasi Dalai Lamas. Neither is Radhanath Swami alone. So many before him also compromised the pure philosophy of Prabhupada in senseless bids to become the next Dalai Lama or nuvo Mother Theresa. For example, Bhakti Swarupa Damodar Swami, though given unimaginable facilities for preaching at the highest level, created an imaginary platform by preaching world peace and thereby contradicting Srila Prabhupada. Through his form of Interfaith, he wound down the Bhaktivedanta Institute and sent it to hell. Do we wish this to happen to the Manor? Well, it appears to be already underway.
Since you are a learned student of Srila Prabhupada, I am sure that you know his example of the veterinarian and the horse with the swollen throat. Seeing the horse in great pain, the veterinarian gave the poor animal a blow to the neck. Almost miraculously, the swelling disappeared and the horse began chomping on grass again normally. So when the next time came around that the horse had a swollen throat, the farmer decided to save the expense of calling the veterinarian. He took a hammer and hit the poor beast's neck, which caused the horse to writhe in pain. Calling the vet once again, the animal doctor explained that the first horse had swallowed a melon which was stuck in his throat. So hitting it caused it to break and the horse then swallowed it easily. On the second occasion, however, the horse had a goiter and needed medicine. In the same way, how preaching is presented must be judged according to time and circumstance. Interfaith is fine as long as the principle is not changed. There is a world of difference between the examples you have given and the preaching of Radhanath Swami in the article under discussion.
In a letter to Sriman Bhakta das Prabhu, then President of ISKCON New Jagannath Puri, Srila Prabhupada wrote in November of 1974:
"Regarding the Ratha Yatra Festival, keep it always gorgeously alive, but do not change the principle. The principle should go on as usual. Yes, it is all right to make something in the park as you have suggested. Why you want to change the wheels? This is unnecessary. Don't do this. Keep the old system strong, and if necessary repair it. Don't change from this to that. That is your American disease. This is very serious that you always want to change everything."
So in the final analysis, Hrishikesh Prabhu, what is the culprit in this mad desire to change? The answer, pure and simple, is mayavada. Mayavada is the same disease that destroyed the very lives of an entire generation of genuine devotees. They were torn from the shelter of ISKCON because the GBC sat back on their holy seats and merged with their own form of bliss in the shape of money, power and rich prasadam , while eleven false prophets merged with their own notions of "becoming one with the previous acarya", and ripped off the position of the Founder-Acarya right in the spiritual father's own temples.
In the 1980's and ‘90's, the sacred lives of thousands of pure and innocent Vaishnavas were sent to the wayside as a result of this sharp, bloody sword of mayavada, wielded so clumsily by an inept GBC and their counterfeit pure devotees.
Now that same mayavada has again raised its foul head, only this time it is disguised in a new form as Interfaith, world harmony and all-embracing 'religious love'. Again, Interfaith is not bad, but it is the greatest poison when it is aimed at posing oneself as a sort of universalist saint. None of the present forms of Interfaith, which is a whitewash and whiteout of pure Krishna consciousness, has anything to do with the pure paramapara preached by Srila Prabhupada. What we have in ISKCON today is the corrupt and evil culprit of mayavadism surfacing once again in the form of a softer, kinder and gentler means of destroying the Hare Krishna Movement.
Finally, I regret it if the tone and tenor of my article offended you in any way. I admit that I was very angry when I wrote it, because Janmastami is not the right time to discuss the glories of other avatars or incarnations in a way that omits the Fountainhead of All Incarnations. Janmastami is Krishna's birthday. Can you imagine, for example, giving a lecture on "The Greatness of the Buddha" on the occasion of Vyasa Puja? What an insult and how inappropriate! Using the sacred names of Jesus or Buddha at Janmastami in a mis-mingling of priorities, and to promote a peer member of our ranks to the imaginary post of "World Hindu Leader" is offensive to both Sri Guru and Sri Krishna.
The full, watered-down preaching of Radhanath can be seen here, in the BBC article. Please read it in full and judge for yourself.
In the article…:
- There was no mention of the Founder-Acarya, whose birthday celebration follows Janmastami.
- There was no mention that Krishna is the Supreme Lord, what to speak of our being His eternal servants.
- Janmastami is not a time to "promote religious understanding and tolerance", and neither is it a time to promote ordinary congregational members as "World Hindu Leaders." It is Krishna's birthday party.
- Radhanath speaks of the essence of other religions, but what essence do they have? For example, as we write, Christian America is uselessly bombing no less than five of six Islamic countries. We do not need to understand other religions under these circumstances; they need to understand Krishna consciousness.
As writers, we are well aware that the reporter is free to write what he pleases. But it is the job of devotee, as Srila Prabhupada's representative, to give the reporter the correct information according to time and circumstances. In this case, the disinformation was obviously fed to the reporter by a motivated personality who is bent upon basking in the spotlight as a very wealthy "World Hindu Leader." And it was such egocentric blindness that caused him to present the philosophy in such a way that the self-styled Hindu Leader would emerge rather than Lord Krishna, Whose festival it is. This was the cause of my anger and I thank you for considering my point of view, Hrishikesh Prabhu.
Your servant in Srila Prabhupada,