01/24/98 - 1532
Membership in the Gopi-Bhava Club
USA (VNN) - by Agrahya Das (see also VNN stories #1527, 1512)
HH Prahladananda Swami made some good points in his article recently
posted to VNN where he related his perspective on recent events
in Fiji. I have great respect for Prahladananda Swami as a senior
Godbrother, a sannyasi, a sadhu, and as a thoughtful and philosophical
person. I say this honestly and sincerely and will not contradict
myself by attempting to equate him with prakrita-sahajiyas or
perpetrators of other deviations from the line of our sampradaya.
In particular I have always appreciated his dedication to systematic
study of Srila Prabhupada's books.
But having said that, I would like to address what seem to me
to be incorrect understandings presented in his article. We are
advised not to shy away from controversial discussions as they
are beneficial for sadhakas. So I would like to respectfully address
what I see as misconceptions. It is not my intention to create
trouble or assassinate the character of His Holiness.
1. Different points of view
Prahladananda Swami provides a different perspective on events
in Fiji. This is not only normal but expected. The same Truth
may be seen from many different perspectives, as in itthaM satAM
brahma-sukhAnubhUtyA. Similarly Prahladananda Swami's perception
of Srila B.V. Narayana Maharaja is totally different from mine.
But I do not feel any need to defend Srila Narayana Maharaja.
Sincere seekers of the truth will not take my words or anyone
else's at face value in praising or condemning a sadhu. Those
who wish to examine the quality of a sadhu may see for themselves
and draw their own conclusions. We have the benefit of guru, sadhu
and shastra. We should be able to find harmony with a special
emphasis on shastra. Often secondhand opinions are offered for
a reason. I have experienced that actions which I witnessed and
participated in have been clearly and deliberately misrepresented.
Thus I prefer to witness and evaluate for myself.
It is also true that some of the devotees who are greatly inspired
by the instructions of Srila Narayana Maharaja take it on themselves
to broadcast what they consider to be "the nectar" or the most
essential. I have experienced myself that I may often hear something
which inspires me deeply and resonates with what I have read in
Srila Prabhupada's books, and what I know of shastra. But sometimes
it may be some time spent in service and surrender before Krishna
grants me the realization to reproduce this understanding and
be able to properly pass it on to others. I have also experienced
that some younger devotees very enthusiastically speak whatever
they have heard, having full faith in the instructions received
from the bonafide guru. I cannot say there is anything wrong in
this, but sometimes the message is lost or diluted when it is
repeated without the proper realization. guru-mukha-padma-vAkya,
cittete koriya aikya: the words coming from the lotus mouth of
Sri Guru should become one with your heart. Thus I feel that we
must internalize and seek realization through service and surrender
so that we can properly understand. Repeating by rote is not sufficient
Worse, if some young devotee speaks on a very elevated topic such
as manjari-bhava without a proper appreciation of the level of
realization of the audience, people may misunderstand. This type
of misunderstanding may also play into the hands of those who
wish to vilify the guru through the fault of the disciple. But
ultimately, if we are sincere and take the shelter and instruction
of those who are more advanced and competent to guide us, all
faults will be resolved in due course.
2. Bodily concept vs. manjari-bhava
Prahladanda Swami claims that those who are in the bodily concept
are being encouraged to think of themselves according to manjari-bhava.
I am not sure what the basis for this claim is. My personal experience
has been that Srila Narayana Maharaja always speaks appropriate
to the level of realization of the audience.
I would like to point out that yena tena prakAreNa manaH kRSNe
nivezayet: first, by one means or another, fix the mind [of the
disciple] on Krishna. This is the business of an acarya. Simultaneously
we encourage the aspiring devotee to enter into the culture of
sense control. It is not that first we demand that someone give
up all bad habits then they can associate with devotees and chant
Hare Krishna. It is the other way around. By chanting Hare Krishna
and hearing Krishna-katha in the association of pure devotees,
one very quickly will develop faith, attraction and bhakti. satAM
prasangAn mama vIrya-saMvido, bhavanti hRt-karNa-rasAyanAH kathAH.
vIrya-saMvit means that topics of Hari-katha are full of the potency
to impart knowledge to wake up the sleeping souls. vidyA-vadhU-jIvanam:
Sri Krishna sankirtana is the life of transcendental knowledge,
which follows like a wife (vadhU). vAsudeve bhagavati... by engagement
in unmotivated bhakti-yoga, quickly knowledge and renunciation
To eliminate the "hRd-rogam" or heart disease of lust, we must
have the "vikriditam vraja-vadhubhir idam ca vishnoh" with "sraddhanvitaH"
as per Bhag. 10.33.39. Srila Bhakti Pramod Puri Goswami explained
in regard to this word "sraddhanvitaH" that this means hearing
with faith from a qualified Vaishnava. Then the unwanted things
will disappear from the heart. This verse is central to resolving
any controversy over what is "appropriate" subject matter for
hearing and chanting. The key element is whether or not the hearer
is qualified to hear higher topics. This verse particularly points
out that hearing higher topics is itself the medicine for curing
the mundane conceptions and impurities. There is no question as
to the qualification of Srila Narayana Maharaja to speak on such
The discussion of "higher topics" has become a buzzword. Some
equate the phrase "higher topics" with images of extremely graphic
descriptions of very intimate pastimes which will arouse lust
in the hearts of those who are not 100% pure. Those who criticize
hearing "higher topics" are not hearing these descriptions at
all or if they do hear, then they are not hearing properly without
envy and with a proper faith. Thus they read in a mundane twist.
This is discussed below in the section on prakrita-sahajiya.
What is being talked is not such types of descriptions, and is
not producing this undesirable result. The problem is that sometimes
immature devotees blab all sorts of things about indiscrimately,
like telling anyone and everyone about "manjari-bhava." This may
be a big part of the problem, as it leads easily to the incorrect
conclusion that immature persons are hearing the most confidential
and intimate pastimes without proper guidance. If there is a problem
it is only that some people have not yet learned to preach based
on realization, and others have not yet learned to judge based
on results rather than perceptions.
Our process is not to artificially cultivate jnana and vairagya
but to plant and cultivate the seed of bhakti. By development
of pure bhakti all good qualities will develop and all anarthas
will subside. yasyAsti bhaktir bhagavaty akincanAH sarvair guNais
tatra samAsate surAH. Akincana means "not anything else." One
should be sincere in surrendering to the process of bhakti, not
holding any little thing back.
Again, I would encourage those who are curious not to take my
word for it but to see for yourself what Srila Narayana Maharaja
3. Gaudiya Math problem society consciousness or siddhanta?
Prahladananda Swami offers his opinion:
Srila Prabhupada writes in the Adi-lila about how the members
of the Gaudiya Matha deviated from the disciplic succession and
began emphasizing different aspects of Krsna consciousness different
from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada.
Then he offers a quote from Srila Prabhupada as support:
The secret of success in advancement in spiritual life is the
firm faith of the disciple in the orders of his spiritual master.
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura wanted to print as many books
as possible and distribute them all over the world. We have tried
our best in this connection, and we are getting results beyond
This quote doesn't support his opinion that the Gaudiya Math deviated
philosophically in their understanding of siddhanta or scriptural
conclusions. Why? Because such quotes don't exist. There was a
deviation from following the orders of Srila Prabhupada Sarasvati
Thakur - some scurried for control of assets rather than remaining
focused on preaching, thinking that the temples and other assets
were the heart of the mission. Still Srila Prabhupada credited
his Godbrothers that "each of us is preaching according to our
capacity." There is no mention at all of not having the right
siddhanta. Srila Prabhupada never ever said that the Gaudiya Matha
was off in terms of siddhanta or understanding, only not passionate
for preaching. He responded in kind to those who were critical
of him and his preaching mission.
Srila Prabhupada, as the realized self-effulgent acarya, gave
us Krishna consciousness according to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu
and the Six Goswamis. By his divine inspiration so many people
came to Krishna consciousness in such a short time. But he never
took credit, always referring us to his reliance on the order
of his Guru Maharaja.
We can look in the Lilamrita and find the roots of Srila Prabhupada's
dissatisfaction with the society consciousness of the Gaudiya
Math. In one letter Srila Prabhupada's Godbrother Tirtha Maharaja
tells him that he has to work within the organization, otherwise
his efforts will not be authorized. One brahmacari who was going
to join Srila Prabhupada in New York was apparently dissuaded
from doing so by Tirtha Maharaja. The brahmacari wrote almost
in an insulting way to tell Srila Prabhupada that his efforts
were not sanctioned by the institution and so could not have any
good result. Srila Prabhupada did not heed this bad advice and
discouragement but stuck with siddhanta and Bhaktisiddhanta-vani,
and the rest is history.
Rather than looking at the history of the Gaudiya Math and seeing
room to criticize the devotees serving within the various missions,
we can see that somehow Krishna had a special plan for Srila Prabhupada.
Rather than blaming we should appreciate.
There is much more history on the Gaudiya Math and Iskcon's connection
with it in Vishnu Maharaja's book Our Affectionate Guardians,
which can be found at http://www.gosai.com/chaitanya/srila_sridhara_mj/affection/oag_contents.html In particular the unabridged edition (available from the same
site) goes into great detail on the history of the Gaudiya Math.
One particular section is very revealing in light of Srila Prabhupada's
comments in the 1974 letter to Rupanuga that is often quoted in
an attempt to discredit Srila Sridhara Maharaja: http://www.gosai.com/chaitanya/vishnu_mj/articles/affection_unabridged/oag_a_3.html
A new perspective on the history and events surrounding these
statements is given here and inquisitive persons who would like
to understand Srila Prabhupada's desires are recommended to read
Also documented in this book are Srila Prabhupada's statements
in 1977 that his criticism of his Godbrothers was to make his
disciples enthusiastic for preaching. It would seem that to take
this to the extreme of criticizing senior members of missions
outside Iskcon would not be pleasing to Srila Prabhupada in the
4. Mahavishnu and distributing confidential love
Prahladananda Swami quotes the section where Srila Prabhupada
talks about namo mahA-vadAnyAya in a way that confirms this often-misunderstood
quote about Maha-vishnu. It was Rupa Goswami's appreciation that
only Krishna Himself with the complexion and sentiment of Srimati
Radharani, in the form of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, could give
krishna-prema. Here Srila Prabhupada uses the phrase "confidential
love." The yuga-dharma of nama-sankirtana is not the same as krishna-prema.
Again, a case where we might have read this and missed it, but
that appears to be what Srila Prabhupada is talking about. Reading
the text it seems rather obvious.
It is understood that there is a yuga-avatara in Kali-yuga who
is an incarnation of Maha-vishnu. He appears in this Kali-yuga
as Advaita Acarya. Normally He propagates the yuga-dharma of nama-sankirtana.
But when Krishna appears once in a day of Brahma, so also does
He assume the sentiment and complexion of Srimati Radharani to
taste unnata-ujjvala- rasa (which only She can taste) and to distribute
I have given a presentation of the "Mahavishnu" talk given in
1994 on the occasion of Srila Prabhupada's sannyasa. Some persons
have grossly misunderstood statements made in this talk as putting
down Srila Prabhupada, his mission and his teachings, but nothing
could be further from the truth. It can be viewed at http://hgsoft.com/~agrahya/mahavishnu.html
Many other Vaishnavas were also present and none of them misunderstood
these statements in the way they have been misrepresented.
5. Vraja-mandala Parikrama Govinda-lilamrita
If Agrahya Das or even HH Prahladananda Swami were to speak to
a large group from Govinda-lilamrita it wouldn't be appropriate.
What is the effect on the devotees who hear these things from
Srila Maharaja, particularly when they have been performing austerities
on parikrama, sleeping on the ground and travelling barefoot to
so many holy places? Have they become enlivened to hear and chant,
giving up all other activities? I have experienced this firsthand
when I visited Vrindavan last Karttika and stayed at Rupa-Sanatana
Raganuga-bhakti sadhana has great effect but must be practiced
under the close guidance of one who has realization in its practice.
This is described by words such as anuzRNuyAt, one should hear
from the authorized source, and zraddhAnvitaH, one should hear
with great faith.
6. Gopi-bhava Club membership
I appreciate the fact that Prahladananda Swami gave a good chunk
of the morning walk when Srila Prabhupada was in LA to break up
the so-called Gopi-bhava Club. It's fairly easy to point out the
calling cards for membership in the so-called Gopi-bhava Club
of the prakrita-sahajiyas:
"You are after illicit sex and bidi and you want to be associated
with the gopis."
Nowadays we often hear about the infamous Club as a sign of the
danger of hearing about madhurya-rasa but rarely is mention made
that one of the "gopis" got pregnant. Rather, the emphasis is
that if we hear about madhurya-rasa we will become sahajiyas.
This is an unauthorized and incorrect conclusion. We must hear
confidential topics from the proper source (anuzRNuyAt) and with
full faith (zraddhAnvitaH) and soberly, not for entertainment
(dhIraH). The devotees involved in this Club took up a raganuga-bhakti
home study program without the guidance of a professor.
"Then let them read. What kind of krsna-katha? The krsna-katha
test is as soon as he'll get the taste, he'll lose this taste."
What is Srila Prabhupada talking about here? "as soon as he'll
get the taste, he'll lose this taste." "this taste" means mundane
sexual attraction. These people proved that their hearing was
not pure by their own illicit activities and lack of interest
If someone is actually hearing these things properly, their desire
to surrender will increase. This is the "Krishna-katha test" Srila
Prabhupada speaks of. vairAgyaM jnanaM ca yad ahaitukam - very
quickly knowledge and renunciation should come about. These things
come from bhakti, and if no detachment develops we can understand
there is some problem in execution of bhakti.
"They have no knowledge. Material. Prakrta-sahajiya. Their real
name is prakrta. Their thoughts are on this material platform.
Just as they are preferring this conjugal love because here the
sex is prominent. They are thinking that is the highest stage."
Very important point here. The emphasis is on the material or
mundane conception, thinking that rasa-lila is anything like mundane
sex. Prakrta-sahajiya means one is mixing up the highest spiritual
topics with the lowest mundane attraction to sense gratification.
It is therefore considered most abominable.
"The, this rasa-lila is for the person who is completely purified.
What...? When one is impure, he should not think of. That is stated
in the Bhagavatam."
This is the single strongest statement that one could argue here
for not hearing rasa-lila until one is completely free from sex
desire like the four Kumaras. But we take this in context of other
statements Srila Prabhupada makes and find harmony. Specifically,
he presented Krishna Book before completing the preceding 9 cantos.
Why? And why does this seem to be in contradiction with what Srila
Prabhupada says here?
When we have apparently conflicting statements, we must seek an
understanding by which they can be harmonized. In this case, there
are so many statements that one becomes free from impurity and
develops the topmost devotion by hearing these topics. But we
understand also that one must hear from the proper source and
in the proper frame of mind. Rasa-lila is not for entertainment.
We should be dhIra, sober. And we should hear from the authorized
source, one who has got some realization of these topics.
Let us judge by the results. phalena paricIyate. Those who hear
from Srila Narayana Maharaja become enlivened. Even those who
have put aside the beadbag for many years quickly become enlivened
to chant regularly, study Srila Prabhupada's books, and associate
with devotees. It is unfortunate that many such devotees also
have to come face to face with pointed, sectarian and dishonest
criticism of Srila Maharaja. Their reaction is naturally to reject
such criticism and its proponents, especially when they find that
the reality of his association is far far different from what
it is portrayed to be.
Note also Hari Sauri's statement that someone had underlined "can
become." This was not a matter of simply hearing the intimate
topics from Caitanya-caritamrita but there was a conscious and
deliberate effort toimitate the gopis without first following in their footsteps by surrendering everything. Srila
Narayana Maharaja has heavily emphasized this in his preaching:
follow, don't imitate.
But Srila Prabhupada not only presented the Tenth Canto to us
in the form of Krishna Book - he didn't just do that and sideline
it as a book "only for advanced devotees." He insisted that this revolutionary book be distributed in huge numbers,
and that devotees hear from it regularly. "Krishna book is our
medicine." tava kathAmRtaM tapta-jIvanam. An anecdote relating
a concrete example from Iskcon history is available at http://hgsoft.com/~agrahya/mail/msg00000.html
Simply by carefully examining Srila Prabhupada's statements in
context we can gain the proper understanding. We should not become
gopi-haters in the name of avoiding deviation. If we hear from
Srila Prabhupada's books in the association of pure devotees and
try to realize these topics through cultivation of pure devotional
service, our lives will become successful.
I have tried to present some brief responses to some of the issues
raised herein. I do not claim to have perfect knowledge or realization
but can only speak honestly according to my level of understanding.
If anyone is offended by what I have said here I beg that you
please forgive me. Sometimes in speaking the truth it is necessary
to say things that may be difficult for others to hear.
Several months ago I wrote a fairly long paper which responds
to many general philosophical issues on Iskcon's official position
on associating with Srila BV Narayana Maharaja. This paper can
be viewed at http://hgsoft.com/~agrahya/papers/response-to-follow.html
Vaishnava dasanudas, Agrahya das
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