BY: ROCANA DASA
Apr 15, CANADA (SUN) A weekly response to Dandavats editorials.
Today's Obeisances is in response to a short essay by HH Mahanidhi Swami entitled "Be Healthy, Happy and Holy - Sleep by 10 P.M.".
My comments are directed not only towards the content of the essay, but more importantly to the fact that Mahanidhi prabhu has the designation of "Swami" behind his name, meaning he's taken to the renounced order of life. This being the case, one would assume that he is dedicating his life to representing Srila Prabhupada and to preaching from the standards of the sannyasa order. Taking that into consideration, I find it not only strange, but also disquieting to read the essay he's written. From my point of view, this should be taken as a danger sign.
Based on my past relationships with Godbrothers who are now ex-swamis, I have every reason to be concerned for Mahanidhi Swami's spiritual well-being when I see what he has written here. In the past, I have had similar concerns for godbrothers like Jagadisa Swami and Vipramukhya Swami, both of whom were stationed here in Vancouver, BC just prior to their falldowns. On several occasions, I went to see these godbrothers to get their association, expecting and anticipating a conversation or sharing of dialogue based on Srila Prabhupada's teachings, books, mood and methods. Instead, I found that they were far more interested in talking about some new age subject, or other matters not even related to Krsna consciousness, what to speak of Srila Prabhupada. Of course, they would slip in a little Krsna conscious content so as to justify speaking on these mundane subjects, but by and large I could easily tell where their interest lay. Rather than being absorbed in Srila Prabhupada's presentation of the philosophy, they were reading, hearing and focusing on subjects other than what they were supposed to be focused on. In fairly short order, they fell down from the sannyasa order, and left Srila Prabhupada's ISKCON all together.
Swamis in ISKCON have got a job description that is well defined, both by their guru and by sastra. But rather than take to these job descriptions, history shows that many of our sannyasis fall into categories of their own design: some are the mellow, sweetie-pie type Swamis who are willing tell the devotees what they like to hear. Others are political Swamis. It appears that Mahanidhi Swami falls into for first category, while other fallen sannyasis like Harikesa, Bhagawan, Rameswar and Jayatirtha fell into the latter. We also have the pseudo-intellectuals such as Suhotra Swami, and the list of categories goes on. Unfortunately, the category that seems to be least populated is that of Swamis who actually adhere strictly and humbly to the standards established by Srila Prabhupada.
Right off the bat when we read this article by Mahanidhi Swami, we find that his statements are based on scientific research. Now anyone who reads or hears Srila Prabhupada's message soon discovers that he has little respect for modern science, or scientists for that matter, especially when the contradict or challenge sastra and preach an atheistic conclusion. And although some areas of science support aspects of sastric conclusion, the scientists essentially never get it 100% right.
Swamis, in particular, are supposed to stand firmly on the grounds of sastra and point out such inconsistencies and wrong thinking. If they are going to mention science, they should simultaneously point out where science deviates from the philosophy or comes to a different conclusion than guru and sastra. Unfortunately, when we read this essay by Mahanidhi Swami, we find that he doesn't do so. In fact, he doesn't even mention the aspects of the so-called scientific research that are not in sync with Srila Prabhupada's teachings and behaviour.
As Srila Prabhupada stated in a lecture in Calcutta, January 30, 1973:
"So our task is very easy. Everything is there. Our Vedic literature is so full, so treasure of knowledge, great treasure of knowledge, we haven't got to make research, search out where is the truth. Truth is there and is explained in the Srimad-Bhagavatam: satyam param dhimahi. Why don't you take it? The whole world is suffering for want of this knowledge. Before me, many swamis went in the Western countries, but they did not give the actual pure Vedic culture. They invented their own ways. Therefore it was not very fruitive. It was not very satisfactory."
In his lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.1, Caracas, February 20, 1975, Srila Prabhupada stated:
"So if you are scientist, if you say that "First of all I shall test whether it is gold and chemical composition and other ingredients. Then I will accept you" ...And somebody says, "No, my father says it is gold. My Guru Maharaja says it is gold. Well, so many acaryas says it is gold," then you accept it, gold. So one accepts gold by the authoritative statement of the superiors, and one accepts gold by chemical analysis. So one who accepts by the authority's statement, he is more advanced. He immediately gets the gold immediately. And those who are awaiting for chemical examination, they will get it. They will also know, but it will take time."
In the next paragraph, Maharaja thanks some mataji for doing the Internet research for him. This essentially means that if you want to read about sleep, you could have gone to Google and discovered this same information for yourself. You didn't need a Swami who's gotten some woman to do research for you to enable you to come to these conclusions, or to give you suggestions on the subject of sleep. And isn't it rather far afield for a sannyasi to be having conversations with a woman about sleep activities, and how they can be researched?
We all know what Srila Prabhupada had to say about sleep: how many hours you're supposed to sleep, which hours of the day to use for that activity, how it fit sleep into your daily pattern, etc. Basically, his instructions fall in line with what the Swami is stating here, and this was Srila Prabhupada's personal program. So the devotees can just accept that and follow it without getting into all this scientific research to bring them to the same conclusion.
Mahanidhi Swami goes on to add some scientific justification or support for what are the A-B-C's, or common knowledge in the Vedas and from Srila Prabhupada. However, these "scientific tips", as he calls them, are different from what Srila Prabhupada has recommended for us. For example, Maharaja tells us that we should have a hot shower before bed, or that we should wear socks to bed. If cautions the devotees about watching television after 10 P.M. Of course, a Swami shouldn't have a TV in his room. Of course, a Swami in the true sense of the term shouldn't even have a bedroom…
Another suggestion he makes is that we avoid fluids before bedtime, whereas Srila Prabhupada told us to have hot milk before going to bed. The Swami doesn't even mention that, however, but lets stand his 'scientific advice' that contradicts what Srila Prabhupada has to say.
We know that the brahminical standard is to stay regulated, and even the suggestion of having a nap is nothing new - this is something Srila Prabhupada did himself. And although he didn't directly recommend it, he clearly wasn't against it, if it was truly needed.
Mahanidhi Swami goes on to recommend the use of things like hot water bottles, and head massages and foot massages. As far as I know, Srila Prabhupada didn't go to bed with a hot water bottle, nor did he have a head or foot massage just before taking rest, to my knowledge. The Swami doesn't clarify this, one way or the other.
What really rings the warning bell for me in this article is the fact that Mahanidhi, as a Swami, is suggesting all these things, which may be good advice for a householder or the common working man -- but what he's really saying is that a Swami like himself can now justify the hot water bottles and the foot massages before they take rest. He says it by virtue of not clearly stating that this is not the case - that all this scientific advice on how to sleep doesn't pertain to those in the renounced order.
The coup de grace in all this is the terrible suggestion that he makes at the end of the essay, when he foolishly states, "Everyone knows that reading Srimad Bhagavatam or chanting Hare Krsna is a guaranteed method of instant sleep!!" In other words, the Bhagavatam and chanting are so boring that they act like a sleeping pill. As he says, they create "instant sleep". Perhaps this is based on his own experiences of reading or trying to chant his rounds, or watching the people attending his Srimad Bhagavatam classes and watching them all nod off. Regardless, there are no "LOL's" or "ha-ha's" behind this. It may have been a joke, but it was an extremely poor one. This last thing that devotees and newcomers to Krsna consciousness need to be hearing from our sannyasis, but it is exactly what we can expect to hear more and more of in today's ISKCON, where our leaders have to be entertaining, and lectures are designed to generate lots of laughter and applause for the so-called humble speaker.
All in all, I find this essay to be very disappointing. Although I've met Mahanidhi Swami in the past, I can't claim to be his friend, what to speak of a close associate. Still, I have a great deal of concern for his spiritual life. I'm sure some of my critics will claim that I'm out of hand saying what I have here… they feel such personal statements must be kept under wraps. But when statements such as Maharaja's are made public on the front pages of Dandavats, they require a public response.
I really do think that the Minister of Swamis, Prahladananda Maharaja, should have a little chat with Mahanidhi Swami. Rather than just selecting new swamis, he should be overseeing the spiritual welfare of the existing swamis. I would hope that when he reads this essay by Mahanidhi, he will be arranging for a counseling session for the Swami - "counseling" in the true Vaisnava fashion sense of the word.
Obeisances to Dandavats and to HH Mahanidhi Swami.