March 20, 1999 VNN3373
BY SWAMI B.V. TRIPURARI
EDITORIAL, Mar 20 (VNN) (from Sanga email@example.com)
"Bhaktivedanta Swami was a fundamentalist," said the yogini. "He has gone against the entire flow of Hinduism."
Defending one's spiritual master is the utimate challenge for the disciple.
The challengers offer perhaps the greatest opportunity for the disciple to glorify his or her guru. Let us offer our respectful obeisances unto those challengers, and let me offer mine to one in particular that I recently met in Rishikesh, a distinguished yogini and author of a new book on Krishna lila.
I have often thought of my service to my gurus like that of Sri Jiva Goswami's service to his guides Sri Rupa and Sanatana Ñ in spirit, that is.
Jiva Goswami provided the logical and scriptural support for the philosophy of Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis in his Sat Sandharbha, a monumental contribution. In spirit he positioned himself beneath Sri Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis, defending their revolutionary insights in the face of all challengers.
In the same spirit, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura chose to formally remain in a lower status than that of his guru, Srila Gaura Kisora das babaji.
parahamsa-varam-paramartha-patim patit-oddharane krta-vesa-yatim:
He was the best of the paramahamsas, yet he kept himself as a yati, a parivrajaka sannyasi, in order to point out just how exhalted the uttama-adhikari Vaishnava is.
Personally, I have no choice in the matter, but in spirit I am trying to follow in their footsteps. The position of my gurus is easy to misconstrue, especially for those bent on practicing yoga in Kali yuga. To see that their position is not misunderstood or belittled is our service, by which some day, through their grace, we will gain access to the transcendental domain.
The dust of the feet of Sri Rupa and Raghunath are our highest aspiration, to be kept always over our heads. In order to attain such a transcendental position we should always keep ourselves absorbed in service to the kirtan Ñ preaching Krishna consciousness.
Several times I warned my disciples that in the future they would be challenged by persons who had read Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's books and labeled him a 'fundamentalist', not a nice word in today's world. This very thing happened to me in Rishikesh.
A friend of ours was showing us around the Rishikesh area and thought it would be fitting to introduce us to a well-known devotee of Krishna. She is a yogini whose ista-devata is Lord Krishna. Seated before her altar, within her second story temple room apartment overlooking the Ganga, I noticed that beneath her large deity of Krishna, smaller deities of Radha and Govinda sat on opposite sides of the throne. For conversation's sake, I offered that Sri Radha might not be so happy, kept as She was, so far from her Govinda. Our host was quick to question why, if Radha is so dear to Krishna, is She not mentioned in the Bhagavatam.
She was acquainted with Sri Sukadeva's famous indirect reference to Srimati Radharani, 'anayaradhito' (she who has perfectly worshipped Krishna), but this did not satisfy her. She countered my initial response, contending, "It is very directly pointed out in the Bhagavata that the gopis' love for Krishna is the highest. Why then should the highest type of gopi's love be concealed?"
I explained further that Sri Radha was the 'ista-devata' of Sukadeva, as mentioned in Sanatana Goswami's 'Brhad Bhagavatamrta'. There, Sanatana Goswami explains that when Sukadeva mentioned the name of Radha he became 'avista citta,' spiritually excited within, but externally inert. Brahma Vaivarta Purana further mentions that if Sukadeva had mentioned Radha directly, he would have lost consciousness for up to six months. Because Pariksit Maharaja had only seven days to live and listen to the pertinent advice of Sukadeva, Sukadeva avoided saying anything that would have rendered him incapable of helping his disciple.
This was all new to our hostess, and for the moment she seemed to appreciate the Gaudiya Vaishnava angle of vision Ñ Radha Bhagavatam Ñ or so I thought. At least, she agreed that Sri Radha is the best of the gopis, and that 'gopi bhava' is the most consuming type of love. Meanwhile, a house servant showed me her book on Krishna lila, and as I browsed through it, she suddenly challenged our spiritual lineage. "Bhaktivedanta Swami was a fundamentalist," she said after I had acknowledged my connection with him. "He has gone against the entire flow of Hinduism," she continued.
Ever conscious of where I was Ñ in the heart of one of India's impersonal, mayavada strongholds Ñ I proceeded cautiously to rebuff her challenge.
Rather than lash back at her, I calmly offered her another angle of vision.
"I can see how you might have arrived at that conclusion," I began.
As I mentioned earlier, I knew this type of challenge was ahead for any preacher. Srila Prabhupada spoke very strongly in favor of exclusive devotion, asserting that Krishna, and only Krishna, was the Supreme Godhead. Not only this, but the Krishna standing next to Radharani was the one to whom we should offer ourselves exclusively, and this, too, through the service of Sri Radhika, who alone can satisfy Him.
To those acquainted with the Vedic literature, Srila Prabhupada was quick to justify his points with innumerable references from the same. Yet, in doing so, he presented every statement as though they were scientific facts. He likened the scriptures to books of law that spoke with finality.
If they were at all open to interpretive analysis, then this would only be acceptable within specific parameters acknowledged by thousands of years of spiritual lineage. The Vedas had a conclusion Ñ that Krishna was the Supreme Personality of Godhead Ñ 'vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedayo'. In today's world of religious and cultural pluralism, this exclusive emphasis could be easily misunderstood.
Srila Prabhupada spoke from his own cultural context with limited command of English, and often with only surface acquaintance of the arguments in favor of the cutting edge of Western thought. Regarding the high priests of scientific materialism, he once said, "I am not a scientist, but bring any scientist here and I will defeat him." He spoke from the heart and 'shot from the hip'. This, of course, did not impair his ability to potently arouse devotion to Krishna wherever he went. But it did leave something for his followers to do. He left many questions to be answered in greater detail. That was his mercy.
I began to explain to my hostess that Srila Prabhupada spoke the way he did, not because he was sectarian, but because of his 'bhava', spiritual emotion, an emotion that arises not out of material sentiment, but out of spiritual realization. "Fine," she said, "but he is not just speaking enthusiastically in favor of Krishna. He speaks strongly against any other type of worship."
I thought this comment was a bit strange, coming as it was from a 'devotee' of Krishna. I realized I would have to go a little deeper. Explaining the Gaudiya perspective regarding Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's descent as the yugavatara, the importance of nama kirtan in Kali yuga, and the unique opportunity in this particular Kali yuga in whch svayam bhagavan Krishna appears in the mood of Radharani distributing Himself. I left it to her to research this idea by making a comprehensive study of our devotional scriptures, especially the work of Sri Jiva Goswami.
I offered an example: "If Saks Fifth Avenue is having a sale Ñ everything for $1 for the next ten minutes Ñ and you know about it and see people instead going to Nordstrom, I. Magnin, J.C. Penny, etc., wouldn't you say to them, 'Don't go there! go to Saks! There the best is being offered for the least. Hurry!" Similarly, Mahaprabhu Sri Chaitanya is offering the best, 'unnatojjvala-rasam sva-bhakti-sriyam' for next to nothing, and the offer will not last long! Nityananda Prabhu has asked for only our faith, for which he gives Krishna nama and love of God, 'gaura prema'. Therefore, if one knows this, is he or she not justified in saying, 'Don't bother with yoga, jnana, karma, or any other pursuits?' Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami said that we would be better off to have died than to have had the opportunity for gaura prema and passed it by. Some things are worse than death.
We bantered back and forth, she advocating jnana (showing her true colors as a devotee of knowledge, not Krishna), and I, heralding the call of pure devotion. When I told her that we were interested in being liberated 'from' knowledge (jnana-sunya bhakti) rather than 'by' knowledge, she hit the crown chakra.
"Krishna advocates the path of knowledge in the Gita" she said, quoting the verse. Refuting her statement from the Gita itself by citing that devotion ultimately retires knowledge, I also replied, "Anyway, we are not very interested in Kuruksetra Krishna, at least not on the battlefield. We are interested in the heart of Krishna, for that is where He really lives 'in toto' Ñ Vrindavana Krishna.
She could not fathom that there was a difference between Krishna in Kuruksetra and Krishna in Vrindavana. Thus, I sought to further enlighten her about the esoteric truths of rasa-tattva.
Earlier, in our discussion about Srimati Radharani, she had admitted that 'madhurya' was the most complete expression of rasa. "All right," I said, "If you want to quote Krishna at Kuruksetra, fine, but he spoke there not only to Arjuna, but earlier to the gopis as well."
mayi bhaktir hi bhutanam amrtatvaya kalpate
diya yad asin mat-sneho bhavatinam mad-apanah
This was in response to the gopis' deprecation of jnana, karma, and yoga:
ahus ca te nalina-nabha padaravindam
yogesvarair hrdi vicintya agadha-bodhaih
jusam api manasy uduyat sada nah
Here the gopis express disinterest in the paths of karma (fruitive work in accordance with Vedic injunctions), jnana (speculative knowledge, 'neti neti') and yoga (the eightfold path of mysticism) rejecting all other paths intended to bring us closer to God. They had their own path, that of bhakti, and their own sense of closeness to Godhead. But how close do you want to get? That closeness conceived of by the gopis is mindboggling. They wanted to become His wives, and Krishna accepted them, revealing that they had purchased Him forever; that their devotion was greater than Himself
Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Deva revealed the inner truth of these verses in his book The Golden Volcano of Divine Love. It is not readily accessible to one whose only qualificatiion is mere Sanskrit scholarship or yogic prowess. To appreciate Sridhara Maharaja's explanation, we will have to consider that the lila of Krishna is not merely a story, but a living truth, 'the' Truth. The members of Krishna's lila are real people, more so than ourselves. Their personalities are not a composit of sensual and mental input, a figment of our imagination; they are made of 'ananda', spiritual joy in eternity. Thus there is a very high and very sweet spirit behind everything they say. One who is acquainted with this Ñ and even beyond that, is a participating member of that lila Ñ is qualified to tell us the inner meaning of their words.
Srila Sridhara Maharaja has explained the gopi's and Krishna's words in this way, citing Kaviraja Goswami's Chaitanya Charitamrta:
The gopis said, "Oh, we remember the day when you sent Uddhava to console us. He recited many scriptural references about how the whole world is mortal, how it is nothing Ñ how we shall all have to die Ñ affection has no great value; attachment must be cut out. He said that we must try to liberate ourselves from any attraction for the environment and attain salvation. You wanted to tell all these apparently sweet things to us through Uddhava."
"Now you yourself are showing the same path. You say that you are great and everyone should try, for their highest interest, to think of you. But do you think we are yogis who will be satisfied by abstract meditation on you? Can we be satisfied with imagination? We are not a party to that.
Neither are we karmis, fruitive workers who are incurring a great debt from nature, who come to your door to get releif. We want to love with you as your family. We want a direct family life with you. Don't you know that? Aren't you ashamed of yourself?"
Krishna responded, "You know everyone wants Me. Through devotion they want Me to help them attain the highest perfection in the world of eternal benefit. If they have some connection with Me they consider themselves fortunate. But on the other hand, I consider Myself fortunate because I have come in touch with the valuable affection that I found in your hearts." Sridhara Maharaja relates that Radharani read this reply in this way: "Wherever he may be in a physical sense, at heart He is mine alone."
After explaining this, I brought our discussion to an end. "As for Bhaktivedanta Swami," I said, "he is a confidential servant of Radharani.
What do you expect him to say? And what is the value of your devotion to Krishna if you consider one of Krishna's dearmost to be a fundamentalist?"
This is what our lineage is all about. We must come forward and let the world know about the fundamentals of rasa-tattva, after hearing about which no challenger shall remain. In order to do so, the preachers must become acquainted with Gaudiya ontology, and thus help to establish the dignity of our line. This kind of preaching will be very pleasing to our eternal guides, who, by their grace, may one grand day grant us entrance into the divine lilas of the Lord as a servant of the servant of Srimati Radharani.
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