VNN Editorial - Let The Senior Vaishnavas Have Their Say

© 1998 VNN


10/21/1998 - 2392

Let The Senior Vaishnavas Have Their Say

Editorial (VNN) - by Parama Seva dasa

This is a reply to articles by Rishi Kumar dasa and Dhira dasi who wrote responses to Locanananda Prabhu's heartfelt expositions on the subject of initiations in ISKCON.

Before getting into the heart of the matter, I'd like to make it clear just who Locanananda Prabhu is. His Grace joined ISKCON in 1971 and offered his apartment as the first temple in France (and perhaps continental Europe, I'm not sure), a fact appreciated greatly by Srila Prabhupada in his letters. Then he donated funds to publish the first BBT publication in France, Sri Isopanishad. He was also the first devotee to preach in Israel. Later he remained a staunch sankirtana devotee and served as temple president in Amsterdam and New York.

That being said, I have a few points to make. First of all, there is no use in going through a point by point dissection of your articles. When a senior devotee offers his opinion on the matter of such a complex topic as Guru- tattva, we should not try to find faults. We are all eternally individuals and are entitled to our own thoughts and ideas. If you shout anyone down for expressing his opinion then you will be engendering an atmosphere counterproductive to open forums. I could also find faults in your essays, but I am not going to quote myriad slokas to prove my point and show off how much I pretend to know about the subject. By the way, Rishi Kumar's philosophy is certainly controversial and he should not put it forth as an unquestionable truth. I am not disclaiming his ideas, just saying that he should be careful when he criticizes another and then proposes what is considered by many to be heresy. Is he so infallible that we should all disregard another vaishnava's view and accept all that he says as gospel?

A proper forum for such ideas is a positive step and should be supported. Do not discourage devotees from expressing their convictions. Then you become like Nazis (no, there is no "t" in that word). Who are you to put yourself forth as an authority? Do you really think that you fully understand Guru- tattva? Locanananda Prabhu certainly wrote in proper vaishnava form, so why are you acting in such a haughty manner? We may not agree on all points, but let's talk openly, truthfully, and honestly; then maybe we can come to an understanding.

Just to make a quick point, you say that HH Gaura-Govinda Swami's disciples may understand him to be a pure devotee and that we have no right to stop them. That may be true in the present context, but a few months ago Harikesha Swami's disciples felt the same way about their guru, so was it proper to encourage them to worship him like that? I feel that we should only encourage new devotees to worship Srila Prabhupada as a pure devotee. Why should they be encouraged to accept a conditioned soul as infallible? Then what will happen to their faith if such a person "bloops"? Frankly, when I participate in Mangol Aroti or Guru Puja, it is Srila Prabhupada upon whom I meditate. The purports to those songs is so incredibly sublime, not just anyone fits the bill. Simply because Harikesha Swami's (or whoever) disciples wanted to view him as a liberated personality did not elevate him to that status.

I get the feeling that Dhira Mataji is suggesting that we find a pure devotee and surrender to him. We keep hearing this over and over, first Jayatirtha, then Kirtanananda, then others outside of ISKCON. The list goes on. If you wish to find your shelter there, please be happy doing so. I wish you all success in your endeavors. However, I do not feel that this is appropriate for ISKCON. Srila Prabhupada is the one who fulfilled Sri Caitanya's prophecy of "Pritivite acche yata nagaradi grama" and frankly, he has saved us. So, just twenty-one years after his departure, I do not see the need to "replace" him with anyone else. After all, his vani was direct, easy to understand, and not in the least bit ambiguous. He also left us so many books, lectures, videos, letters, etc., to answer any conceivable question you might have. How is it that devotees who enjoyed so much direct association with Srila Prabhupada suddenly need another guru? That doesn't seem like a very advanced mentality to me. "He lives forever by his divine instructions and the follower lives with him," as Srila Prabhupada said about his Guru Maharaja.

I do not pretend to know just what was meant by "The War is Over" and I will not speculate. It does seem obvious to me, however, that my Prabhu was putting forth his convictions as a possible solution to the fratricidal war which seems to be breaking apart our society. His purpose is without motivation and for a good cause. Srila Prabhupada is the Jagat-Guru and we must always remember that. Locanananda Prabhu once told me "The present gurus in ISKCON may deserve some degree of respect -- but no matter how much you worship and glorify Srila Prabhupada, it could never be sufficient." So I am going to stay here -- grand-disciple, second generation-disciple, fool, or whatever you choose to call me -- and stick with Srila Prabhupada, the Patita-Pavana. When I read HDG's books, listen to his tapes, or see his Moonlike, smiling face in my dreams, I know that he wants me to surrender to him and become Krishna- conscious that way.

Just one more thing, the "a" at the end of "Prabhupada" is purely semantic. If you wish to write it correctly, then you should use the diacritics (or in Devanagari, preferably). Srila Prabhupada himself wrote letters to "Woomapati dasa " on his old typewriter. And we sometimes write Krishna with an "h," which doesn't change the fact that it is a transcendental sound vibration. When we write in English, we are always approximating the Sanskrit anyway. For example, you seem to write "Rishi Kumar" with an "i" and an "h" although it is not found that way in Srila Prabhupada's books. Is it that you are completely ignorant of the meaning of your spiritual name? We won't accuse you in such a condescending manner; it's just a different way to express one word in a foreign language. I, for one, have no idea who you are and what is your authority to criticize such a longtime follower of Srila Prabhupada. He will not take offense, but I may. It seems as if you are really fishing for anything to support your ritvik philosophy. If you want others to listen to you, it behooves you to put forth your ideas in a humble, vaishnava manner. That is what Locanananda Prabhu has done and that is why people are paying attention to him. Your holier-than-thou attitude undermines your efforts and only reinforces popular misconceptions of the ritvik-vada.

Please take no offense to my observations, as none is intended.
Your most humble servant,
Parama Seva das(a)

PS. Locanananda Prabhu always expressed his desire to leave his body while on Harinama. Last year he almost had that opportunity when he suffered a heart attack in Bryant Park, NY. Even the doctors were surprised; "What was a man of your age doing dancing in the street?" So when such sincere devotees express their opinions, they should be heard. I am sure all of these differences could be settled if we just pick up some cartals and have kirtana together. I know that Locanananda Prabhu and I are always game; are you?


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