by Nitya Krsna dasa
Srila Prabhupada’s Non-Sectarian Movement & Apa-Sampradaya? cont.
Servant to All
Until the zonal acaryas and their abuses, virtually every devotee in the ISKCON institution had a strong service attitude. When the reform movement devotees concluded that they were just as qualified to lead the movement as the zonals, political maneuvering started to displace their service attitude. Similarly, for decades the movement’s women were sidelined and suppressed by the male GBC and apparent gurus. That changed after the child abuse scandals of the 80’s and 90’s, along with their lawsuits. The women then understood that their suppression had failed both the children and the movement in big ways. The male leaders had often left the young devotees in the charge of sadists and pedophiles. This is described in terms of cause and effect in Hare Krishna Transformed, chapters 3 & 5.
Much like the zonal’s abuses moved the reform movement; the child abuse scandals also moved the senior women to politics. Now they also want to be apparent gurus or have their turn on the GBC, with the chance to wield some of its absolute power. Through all the GBC abuses after Srila Prabhupada’s departure, every GBC administration has defended their actions as service to him. However, at two important junctures politically motivated reformers have taken advantage of the shame to wrest a certain amount of power from the incumbents on the body. This is another instance of how mundane politics has masqueraded as Krishna consciousness. Such is the fruit of raw ambition woven into a fabric of utilitarian emphasis and damage control – the material modes of passion and ignorance.
The root cause of all this loss of service attitude was, of course, the zonal acaryas’ enjoying imitation of Srila Prabhupada and seizing absolute power over the other devotees. They set what might be called the (bad) example. Absolutely corrupting, this was the disease that spread to the reform movement and now the senior women. This means that genuine service attitude is currently either outside the group or largely confined to their ordinary devotees. Since their rank and file’s service often goes to the leaders, they are largely in the position of slaves. This was why Srila Prabhupada always demanded a strict service attitude for all his followers, both high and low. Everyone was expected to see themselves as “lower than the straw in the street” and “ready to offer all respects to others.”
Satsvarupa: Srila Prabhupada, sometimes you say only a very small percentage can take to Krishna consciousness.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Satsvarupa: But yesterday morning in your lecture you were saying it can expand to ten thousand, million, or ten million.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, if you take the proper way it can be increased.
Satsvarupa: Is that just up to our preaching?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. That will depend on your purified preaching activities. If you again become materially victimized, then you cannot do it. If you remain on the spiritual platform, if you try, then it will increase. Anandambudhi-vardhanam. It will increase. As soon as there is any contemplation of sense gratification, then the spirit will be lost. Then instead of Christianity, it will be “Churchianity,” officially going to the church, doing nothing, and gradually nobody will go. Morning Walk, April 7, 1975, Mayapur (our emphasis)
For the GBC to claim any kind of infallibility or divine connection at this point is the height of hypocrisy. Yet everyone who has ever been on the body presents themselves as a genuine brahmana.
samo damas tapah saucam
ksantir arjavam eva ca
jnanam vijnanam astikyam
Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge, and religiousness—these are the qualities by which the brahmanas work. Bhagavad-gita 18.42
Arjavam means honesty, or “freedom from duplicity.” Alternatively, many atheists take great pains to be moral in order to, among other things, deflect criticism that they are not responsible for their actions. This also makes them appear more ethical than mainstream religions that have abused innocents and lied about these actions. If the GBC think that their similarly infallible hypocrisies have had any different effect, they are as deluded as they are self-possessed. Many have argued that their policies were responsible for the movement’s significant membership decline after 1978. Hare Krishna was a household word in the 70’s, but now many Western young people don’t know what you are talking about. The conclusion is that, after Srila Prabhupada’s departure, the GBC has done little more than advance the cause of atheism.
In this regard, the present ISKCON institution and the Catholic Church have a number of similarities. They were both defendants of class-action child abuse law suits brought forward by the same Windle Turley law firm, suits they both lost. Both institutions covered up the abuse and transferred pedophiles to far flung legal jurisdictions, all the while maintaining an artificial infallibility and divine connection. In handling such situations the leadership becomes quite skilled at damage control and assuaging the doubts of members. This is also required when priests, cardinals or apparent gurus become enmeshed in scandal. Utilitarianism dictates that holding current and attracting new members (and their donations or labor) is always paramount. These actions of the GBC, what to speak of their ecclesiastical authority structure, place them firmly in the same institutional religious category as the Catholics. The principles of genuine Krishna consciousness and self-realization that were described at the beginning of the article have thus become buried under decades of pretense.
“The church that has the best chance of survival in this damned world is that of atheism under the convenient guise of theism. The churches have always proved the staunchest upholders of the grossest form of worldliness, from which even the worst of non-ecclesiastical criminals are found to recoil…………
The idea of an organized church, in an intelligible form, indeed marks the close of the living spiritual movement. The great ecclesiastical establishments are the dikes and the dams to retain the current that cannot be held by any such contrivances. They, indeed, indicate a desire on the part of the masses to exploit a spiritual movement for their own purpose. They also unmistakably indicate the end of the absolute and unconventional guidance of the bona fide spiritual teacher.” Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, Organized Religion
“Those are, therefore, greatly mistaken who are disposed to look forward to the amelioration of the worldly state – in any worldly sense – from the worldly success of any really spiritual movement. It is these worldly expectants who become the patrons of the mischievous race of the pseudo-teachers of religion, the Putanas, whose congenial function is to stifle the theistic disposition at the very moment of its suspected appearance. But the real theistic disposition can never be stifled by the efforts of those Putanas. The Putanas have power only over the atheist. It is a thankless, but salutary, task which they perform for the benefit of their unwilling victims.” Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, Organized Religion
A recent direction of the ISKCON institution’s outreach is also to present the group as just another religion. One need only sample the articles on the ISKCON News website. This is apparently intended to reverse the cult stigma of Krishna consciousness’ early days in the West. Mundane welfare programs are stressed, such as food distribution to the poor, and the “Hindu church” nature of many temples was mentioned previously. Institutional leaders also now attend ecumenical conferences that often strive for unity on world issues. Although this may work as utilitarian public relations, it was hardly Srila Prabhupada’s program. He regularly eschewed such artificial expressions of religious unity, saying that Krishna is the God the others only have vague knowledge of, and he made his servants’ business that of preaching this. His mission was not Churchianity, it was an individual and societal transformation.
“It is above all kinds of religion. It is postgraduate study. The process is how to develop love of Godhead. This is above all rel… Religion means, generally, some kind of faith. But it is not the question of faith. It is actually developing, how much you are loving Krsna, or God. So it is above all religions. It is not ordinary religion. Religion means… Suppose you are Christian, I am Hindu. As soon as this body is finished, my Christianism or religion, everything is finished. But this love of God will not finish. It will go with you. Any birth you go, it will develop. If you can finish, then you go directly to Krsna, back to Godhead, and finish your all material connection.” Initiation Lecture, October 20, 1968, Seattle
Pragmatism and utilitarian management are strongly influenced by the mode of passion because the priorities are either producing results or minimizing loss. However, this “nectar” is followed by the poison of the reactions of materialistic actions. The raw ambition and ruthless deception of the zonals thus resulted in the need for all kinds of damage control and reform. Not wanting to admit the zonal’s deviations from Vaishnava standards or their apparent gurus often obvious lack of qualification; the GBC instead enshrined and deified an unauthorized ecclesiastical apparent guru selection and regulation arrangement, something that merged both management and apparent spiritual authority. While this minimized the worst potential embarrassments of apparent gurus, such as murder of critics, it demanded regular philosophical contortions, such as the Founder-Acarya paper.
The strict Gaudiya-Vaishnava standards taught by Srila Prabhupada, on the other hand, define actions in the mode of goodness, wherein one depends on Krishna for the results. When devotees depart from these, they act on the unauthorized platform the GBC has found itself on for decades. Factions like the Gaudiya Matha exiles and the rittviks, what to speak of the thousands of unaffiliated, resentful and critical former members, are the inevitable reactions of such inattention, self-interest and hubris. These then lead to overt sectarianism, something that only causes further conflict and reactions. The conclusion is that succumbing to the nectar of utilitarian results throws one into a vicious whirlpool of difficulty, anxiety and hypocrisy – the forest fire of materialistic life.
Despite this, the leaders of the ISKCON institution still assert that the group is performing pure devotional service, and that they are, moreover, the sole authorized group continuing the Gaudiya Vaishnava disciplic succession after Srila Prabhupada. According to the criteria of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s compilation of the 13 deviant groups, this places them squarely in sahajiya territory. Other critics focus on their changes to Srila Prabhupada’s original books or the association of some, such as Radhanatha swami, with mayavada impersonalists at various yoga festivals. One can certainly argue that these also make them apa-sampradaya.
Srila Prabhupada, the previous acaryas and the sastras all repeatedly say that the bona fide spiritual master is the highest spiritual authority, yet the GBC dismisses these Vedic authorities and puts itself above the principle of guru. Other instances of minimizing the guru or Vedic scriptures were also noted as similar to the Buddhist leaning Nedas. Association with mayavadis is reminiscent of the Kartabhaja sahajiyas. “Jati” also means group. The classic jati goswamis say that only their hereditary apparent gurus are authorized, whereas the GBC says that only their group selections are.
For obvious reasons, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura did not describe groups whose Gaudiya Vaishnavism was polluted by Western philosophies. However, his views on such philosophies, as expressed in Sri Tattva-viveka, were hardly complementary. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada also did not have very kind words for “Krishna consciousness” that devolves into an organized religion.
When we study the previous words of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Prabhupada, we can understand that sectarianism itself is a substantial deviation from the parampara. Since Srila Prabhupada’s departure, the GBC led institution’s policy has been to ignore, dismiss or denigrate the efforts of any followers of Srila Prabhupada who are outside the group, regardless of how they preach or follow him. “Non-persons” have thus only increased in number.
The exceptions to this are those, like Radhanatha swami and his thousands of ex-Kirtanananda disciples, who can be allured by the promise of becoming apparent gurus and disciples in the ISKCON institution. This is in line with how the GBC has generally been forced, for the sake of increasing and maintaining membership, to become far more permissive regarding varieties in philosophy, preaching, etc.
The important thing is that one agrees to accept their “ultimate” authority. Outsiders are usually welcome back if they can submit. And that submission does not even have to be all that absolute. The traditionalists and outspoken women both regularly criticize the GBC regarding the role of women in the movement, all while remaining respected members. Likewise their apparent gurus also take similar liberties, sometimes going so far as to force the GBC to cover up their scandalous activities, usually to give them a chance to reform.
Of course, this apparent magnanimity and inclusiveness comes with the high spiritual and ethical price of ignoring the previously cited philosophical contradictions and disregard of Srila Prabhupada and the previous acaryas’s instructions, what to speak of the GBC’s dishonesty and abuse of untold devotees. The forbidden territory for criticism is describing the institution as apa-sampradaya.
Devotees drift into sahajiya territory when they fail to respect the time-honored Vaishnava strictures given by the spiritual master. This ignorance is often caused by aparadhas like the zonal acaryas and GBC purging the movement of thousands of Srila Prabhupada’s dedicated initiates. Rewarding the gurv-aparadha of the VAST critics will similarly not cause Krishna to intervene providentially for the institution’s benefit.
“If a so-called spiritual master accepts a disciple for his personal benefit or for material gain, the relationship between the spiritual master and the disciple turns into a material affair, and the spiritual master becomes like a smarta-guru. There are many caste gosvamis who professionally create some disciples who do not care for them or their instructions. Such spiritual masters are satisfied simply to get some material benefits from their disciples. Such a relationship is condemned by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, who calls such spiritual masters and disciples a society of cheaters and cheated. They are also called baulas or prakrta-sahajiyas. Their aim is to make the connection between the spiritual master and the disciple into a very cheap thing. They are not serious in wanting to understand spiritual life.” Sri Chaitanya Caritamrita, Madhya 24.330, purport
The rittviks have perhaps a greater resemblance to another classic sahajiya group. That is because many of them say that Srila Prabhupada was so great that he could override all previous Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, gurus and scripture, things that do not support wholesale granting of initiation after someone’s departure. Srila Prabhupada always distanced himself from this kind of false praise.
“One should accept a thing as genuine by studying the words of saintly people, the spiritual master and sastra. The actual center is sastra, the revealed scripture. If a spiritual master does not speak according to revealed scripture, he is not to be accepted. Similarly, if a saintly person does not speak according to the sastra, he is not a saintly person. Sastra is the center for all.” Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 20.352, purport (our emphases)
Such thinking by the rittviks is therefore a form of guruvada, wherein the apparent guru supposedly defines the absolute truth, even if it contradicts the scriptures. This is something prominently featured in kartabhaja sahajiya philosophy. A very similar process of apparent initiations was instituted by one of their apparent gurus, Anukul Candra, about 120 years ago.
As stated previously, the rittviks are also similar to the Christians. Their post-departure apparent initiations elevate Srila Prabhupada to a “for-the-ages” position, not all that different than Jesus Christ. Both are considered to be able to initiate or baptize new members despite having departed from manifest presence. When Srila Prabhupada was physically present, devotees would regularly point to the Christian’s lack of guidance from a physically manifest pure person. This is now echoed by, at least, devotees in the Gaudiya Matha.
The rittviks persist because their great strength is minimizing the influence of pretenders. Although some of them only appear strict, they are unable to mislead in the manner of an apparent guru. The group is thus relatively free from embarrassing scandals. In rittvik the focus is always on Srila Prabhupada’s exalted position and his teachings.
Towards the end of his lifetime in 2010, Narayana maharaja, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada’s godbrother Kesava maharaja, also claimed to be Srila Prabhupada’s successor, an inherently sectarian declaration. He was somewhat well known for discussing intimate details of Krishna’s pastimes with Srimati Radharani and the gopis in public meetings, something that was strictly avoided and condemned by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Srila Prabhupada. To the extent that some of his followers continue this practice, they are similar to the Gauranga nagaris and some other of the thirteen classic sahajiya groups.
“An ordinary person cannot understand the transcendental ecstasies in the mode of Srimati Radharani. Unfit persons who try to understand them are perverted into the sahajiya, baula and other sampradayas. Thus the teachings are perverted.” Sri Chaitanya Caritamrita, Madhya 2.83, purport
“The conditioned jiva who still has anarthas should hear and chant about the pastimes of Lord Gauranga and the childhood pastimes of Krsna. If (there is) the unqualified attempt to hear and speak about the confidential pastimes of Sri Sri Radha-Krsna, it will not bring auspiciousness to them, rather it will bring misfortune.” Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, Sri Srila Prabhupader Upadesamrita, (Our addition)
“Without coming to the perfectional stage, if anyone tries to understand the Gopis, he becomes a sahajiya.” Letter to Visvambhara from Ahmedabad on December 14, 1972
These quotes make clear that Narayana maharaja was not following Gaudiya Vaishnava practice when he discussed these intimate pastimes before unqualified audiences – he was only providing opportunities for these people to become sahajiyas.
A number of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples who approached Sridhara and Narayana maharajas also thought they were being trained by them in their intimate eternal “svarupa-siddhi” relationship with Krishna. They would say that Srila Prabhupada had only taught them the basics of Krishna consciousness. However, just months or years previously, many of them had been grossly misled by one zonal acarya or another. Such undiscriminating people are hardly ready to be trained in the intimate details of eternal life.
The strength of those now with the Gaudiya Matha is that some of their leaders have never known any other culture besides Vaishnavism. The thoughtful devotee will consider all the above similarities with the classic sahajiyas before following or continuing to follow such groups.
Srila Prabhupada: These sahajiyas will come out of so many devotees. What can be done? From my Guru Maharaja’s disciples, so many sahajiyas came. These are called sahajiyas. Very easily they capture thing. So my Guru Maharaja used to say, “When my disciples will be sahajiya, it will be more dangerous.” He used to say like that. Take things very easily. You know that Purusottama, supposed to be my Godbrother?
Srila Prabhupada: You don’t know?
Prthu-putra: In Mayapura?
Srila Prabhupada: In Vrndavana.
Prthu-putra: In Vrndavana. Ah, yes. Purusottama, yes.
Srila Prabhupada: He has poisoned this Nitai.
Prthu-putra: Oh. Is it because we have the desire to come in contact with such persons that we contact them, like Nitai contacting that Purusottama?
Srila Prabhupada: You may not desire, but if you are not strong, you’ll be misled by these rascals. But if we follow this instruction, Narottama dasa Thakura, ara na koriho mane asa, oh, then you become strong. Then you remain strong. Our bhakti line is anyabhilasita-sunyam. We should be completely zero of our material desires. Anyabhilasita-sunyam. Sunyam means zero. – Room Conversation on January 28, 1977 in Bhuvanesvara (our emphases)
The Very Fortunate
Srila Prabhupada described the remedy for being misled – find a truly qualified spiritual master.
Reporter: Don’t you feel that people are suspicious because of their experience with fake gurus? If you went to a quack dentist and he broke your tooth, you might be suspicious about going to another dentist.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, naturally, if you are cheated, you become suspicious. But this does not mean that if you are cheated once, you will always be cheated. You should find someone genuine. But to come to Krishna consciousness, you must be either very fortunate or well aware of this science. From the Bhagavad-gita we understand that the genuine seekers are very few: manusyanam sahasresu kascid yatati siddhaye. Out of many millions of people, there may be only one who is interested in spiritual life. Generally, people are interested in eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. So how can we expect to find many followers? It is not difficult to notice that people have lost their spiritual interest. And almost all those who are actually interested are being cheated by so-called spiritualists. You cannot judge a movement simply by the number of its followers. If one man is genuine, then the movement is successful. It is not a question of quantity, but quality.
Reporter: I wondered how many people you think might have been taken in by fake gurus.
Srila Prabhupada: Practically everyone. [Laughter.] There is no question of counting. Everyone.
Reporter: This would mean thousands of people, wouldn’t it?
Srila Prabhupada: Millions. Millions have been cheated, because they want to be cheated. God is omniscient. He can understand your desires. He is within your heart, and if you want to be cheated, God sends you a cheater. Science of Self Realization, Ch. 2, “Choosing a Spiritual Master-Saints & Swindlers” (our emphasis)
“One cannot deny the order of a spiritual master. Therefore one has to select a spiritual master whose order, carrying, you’ll not commit a mistake. You see? Now, suppose if you accept a wrong person as spiritual master, and if you, if he guides you wrongly, then your whole life is spoiled. So one has to accept a spiritual master whose guidance will make his life perfect. That is the relation between spiritual master and disciple. It is not a formality. It is a great responsibility both for the disciple and for the spiritual master.” Lecture on Bhagavad-Gita 2.7-11, New York, March 2, 1966 (our emphasis)
We should not think that finding a pure devotee is as easy as it was for many to find Srila Prabhupada. Great souls sometimes accept some unqualified people to establish a worldwide movement for the pleasure of Sri Krishna or Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Srila Gaurakisora Dasa Babaji Maharaja accepted only one disciple, and that was our previous spiritual master Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada. Generally one must be very qualified to contact such a guru.
“When actually you want Krishna seriously – you do not know who is guru – then Krishna will give you a guru. Just like Dhruva Maharaja. He was advised by his mother that ‘If you go to the forest you can see God.’ So he went there. But when he was very serious, then Krishna sent him Narada Muni. So if you are actually serious about Krishna, then Krishna will send you some of His representative and he will take charge of you. That is the process. If you do not find a guru, that means Krishna is not yet pleased, ….. you are not serious.” Conversation with Bajaj and Bhusan (at their home), 11 September, 1972, Arlington, Texas (our emphasis)
The best place to develop that seriousness and sincerity is in the association of devotees performing intense devotional service.
Srila Prabhupada’s Non-Sectarian Movement
Devotees forming factions and fighting with each other is the height of maya, or illusion. This was practically unimaginable during Srila Prabhupada’s pastimes, yet it now shocks hardly anyone. It is all too similar to how many Christians attack Muslims and vise versa, on and on. Now the exception is simply endeavoring to hear the holy name while banishing such anxious competitive mentality. Even those who have stepped back from the war are regular targets of zealotry and chauvinism that at least implies they are deluded if they don’t surrender to a sectarian cause. Yet Srila Prabhupada was a swanlike uttama adhikari. He and his original movement were never sectarian.
All this conflict is taking place is the context of thousands being misled after surrendering to someone whose devotional weakness was starkly revealed in embarrassing scandal, someone who was almost always “authorized” by a governing body purporting to be Srila Prabhupada’s representative on earth. This pervasive victim mentality now forms a veritable ocean seething with resentment and vengeance that regularly washes onto the consciousness of any devotees in earshot.
This conflict thus pervades the lives and interactions of virtually every follower of Srila Prabhupada. Much of their resulting discussion is far from enlivening, being surcharged with the qualities of the above ocean, those of passion and ignorance. This only leads to less enthusiasm to preach Krishna consciousness. Material sense gratification often offers more pleasure, something that only increases anxiety and misery in the struggle for existence.
The simple solution is always hearing and chanting. Anyone can become fully Krishna conscious anywhere, at any time, by hearing the holy name, while simultaneously trying to free the mind from all of the above, as well the garden variety of materialism. Real Krishna consciousness awaits those who transcend their personal resentments and the sectarian conflicts. One has to again make ones resolve one pointed – towards Krishna – taking nothing of this world, especially the “devotee maya.” As one partakes of this transcendental relief, they can act for the benefit of other devotees and the mass of conditioned humanity, who have largely been bereft of genuine Krishna consciousness since Srila Prabhupada’s departure. When such devotees come together in temples and communities, a genuine alternative becomes available.
Even then, non-sectarian devotees risk conflict if they disturb the minds of those who absolutely require an institutional structure to follow the ABC’s of Krishna consciousness. The same can be true for those who need a strong authoritarian leader or any other particular personality over them. This is their level of qualification. Unfortunately the leaders of such groups may be distorting Krishna consciousness, as well as exploiting their followers for sense gratification.
However, those with more qualification very much require getting free from the contradictions of such leaders to make further advancement. They cannot live without being absorbed in unalloyed Krishna conscious philosophy and practice. In one sense, they are already in the non-sectarian alternative.
The greater Krishna consciousness movement that Srila Prabhupada revealed to the world is still going on, but it is now in a much disorganized, often covered state. Although leaders of various groups may propagate any number of misconceptions, his family continues, albeit with a great deal of internecine squabbling. It is often easy to say it is on life support.
Nevertheless, the duties that Srila Prabhupada gave us are more than applicable in this dire situation. Those making genuine progress out of the conflict’s morass are enjoined to show mercy to the innocent by presenting Krishna consciousness as-it-is. This will benefit everyone and dispel the quarrelsome influences of the age of Kali. Regardless of one’s condition or state of bewilderment, Srila Prabhupada has already given what they need to transcend this world.
The quarrel and conflict mean that things changed after Srila Prabhupada’s physical departure. However, real Krishna consciousness has always been a matter of strictly following the pure devotees who represent Lord Krishna and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The association of such followers is where real advancement can currently be found. Institutions or groups only have value if they don’t add or subtract from the instructions of pure devotees like Srila Prabhupada. If their leaders are sectarian, apa-sampradaya or dharmadvajis, on the other hand, they can cause great harm. Truly non-sectarian groups will honor any devotee seriously following Srila Prabhupada or Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and will not exclude or ignore someone simply because they are unaffiliated with the group.
Low Births Recalled
Srila Prabhupada’s greater Krishna consciousness movement is a direct manifestation of the extraordinary mercy of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. That mission extends mercy to everyone, regardless of caste or birth. According to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, anyone who truly understands the science of Krishna is qualified to become guru. There is no requirement that one be born in a brahmana family, or to have accepted the renounced celibate sannyasa order.
kiba vipra, kiba nyasi, sudra kene naya
yei krsna-tattva-vetta, sei ‘guru’ haya
Whether one is a brahmana, a sannyasi or a sudra – regardless of what he is – he can become a spiritual master if he knows the science of Krsna. – Caitanya-caritamrita, Madhya 8.128
To make this clear, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu recognized Srila Haridasa Thakura, someone born a Mohammedan, as the authority of chanting the holy name. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu spoke this verse to Ramananda Raya, a non-brahmana householder, who felt unqualified to instruct Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who was a sannyasi from a high brahmana family. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s chief disciples, Srila Sanatana goswami and Srila Rupa goswami, were rejects from brahmana society because they had served in the Mohammedan government.
Following in Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s footsteps, one hundred and fifty years ago Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and his son, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada repeatedly defeated the caste brahmanas and jati goswamis when they tried to monopolize who could be guru in Gaudiya Vaishnavism, thus reestablishing the broad reach of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s spiritually egalitarian mercy. Srila Prabhupada was sent to the West by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta to prove that even Western meat eaters could become devotees and possibly gurus.
Unfortunately the current philosophical concoction and sectarian infighting among his mostly Western followers was not the result they preferred. All this must be disappointing to not only these three great acaryas, but also Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself. Despite the better individual efforts of many serious devotees, the dominant factions sadly bring to mind how Romaharsan Suta’s fallen birth was recalled when he failed to recognize Lord Balarama’s entrance at the assembly of sages at Naimisaranya.
“When Lord Balarama saw that Romaharsana Suta did not understand the highest principle of religion in spite of his having studied all the Vedas, He certainly could not support his position. Romaharsana Suta had been given the chance to become a perfect brahmana, but because of his ill behavior in his relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his low birth was immediately remembered. Romaharsana Suta had been given the position of a brahmana, but he had not been born in the family of a brahmana; he had been born in a pratiloma (mixed) family. . . . .Because Romaharsana’s transcendental realization was not perfect, Lord Balarama remembered his pratiloma heritage. The idea is that any man can be given the chance to become a brahmana, but if he improperly uses the position of a brahmana without actual realization, then his elevation to the brahminical position is not valid. . . . .As stated in the Bhagavad-gita, a person who is actually a brahmana and is very learned must automatically become very gentle also. In the case of Romaharsana Suta, although he was very learned and had been given the chance to become a brahmana, he had not become gentle. From this we can understand that when one is puffed up by material acquisition, he cannot acquire the gentle behavior befitting a brahmana. The learning of such a person is as good as a valuable jewel decorating the hood of a serpent. Despite the valuable jewel on the hood, a serpent is still a serpent and is as fearful as an ordinary serpent. If a person does not become meek and humble, all his studies of the Vedas and Puranas and his vast knowledge in the sastras become simply outward dress, like the costume of a theatrical artist dancing on the stage.” Krsna Book, Chapter 77 (our parentheses)
It is easy to blame the zonal acaryas for the chaos among Srila Prabhupada’s followers. However, one can also argue that they were exactly what everyone’s collective and individual (in)sincerity deserved. This also includes your humble author. No one in 1978 anticipated that the illusory energy would provide such a big test so soon after Srila Prabhupada’s physical departure.
Now so much that he worked to establish and maintain has been lost. So many new and innocent devotees are prisoners of the ignorance demanded by their leaders. A movement that was in the process of spiritualizing the entire world has now devolved into an embarrassing knock-down and drag-out. In so many ways Srila Prabhupada has become disgraced by his follower’s actions. In the name of serving him, so much has now resulted in doubting him and Krishna consciousness.
His mission is therefore in need of a great healing, but such healing can only take place through faithful application of his teachings. Let the truly righteous devotees take heart and again attract praise to the non-sectarian greater Krishna consciousness movement. It doesn’t matter what it is called – Srila Prabhupada’s movement, ISKCON, real ISKCON, ISKCON As-It-Is, whatever – purity is the force.
yasya deve para bhaktir
yatha deve tatha gurau
tasyaite kathita hy arthah
Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed. Svetasvatara Upanisad 6.23
So many devotees and all the conditioned souls are being consumed by the forest fire of anxious material pursuits. Let hundreds of non-sectarian temples and communities rise from the rubble of abuse and conflict and unite to again provide the shelter of pure harinam.
silanam bhaktir uttama
One should render transcendental loving service to the Supreme Lord Krsna favorably and without desire for material profit or gain through fruitive activities or philosophical speculation. That is called pure devotional service. Srila Rupa goswami, Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.1.11
By the mercy of Srila Prabhupada and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu anyone can become a self-effulgent maha-bhagavat, or pure devotee. That should be the goal of every one of us. Let us make the future of Krishna consciousness one that will honor Srila Prabhupada in the manner he deserves.
Pushta-Krishna: So then the first point is to educate people who they are serving, they are working for.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. First of all, there must be a class of men, ideal men, brain; people will follow them. My request is therefore that you should become ideal men. If we fight… Now there is fighting amongst ourself. That is very disappointment to me. The same politics, intrigues. The nature is so strong that brain becomes, what is called? Fag brain? Brain becomes deranged.
Pushta-Krishna: I remember on a walk in Vrindavana, Your Divine Grace said that there should be no politics in our society because a Vaishnava means one who wants to help others become happy.
Srila Prabhupada: Now politics is coming in. As soon as we are getting money, the politics coming. That is a great concern. – Room Conversation, May 31, 1974, Geneva
Srila Prabhupada: There was a movement, Moral Rearmament Movement, started from America.
Hansaduta: What was the name of it?
Srila Prabhupada: MRA, MRA, Moral Rearmament Movement. Do you know, anyone of you?
Hansaduta: No. Do you, Satsvarupa? No.
Srila Prabhupada: So it was going on for some years, then collapsed. The movement was started by some priest or gentleman, and it was supported by President Eisenhower. It was patronized by him. So their principle was that, Christian principle, that “You do whatever you… Simply confess. Simply confess.” (break) So that man came to India also with his party, just like I travel. (break)
Now, what about our movement? It will stay or it will also go like that?
Satsvarupa: (earnestly) It will stay.
Srila Prabhupada: Huh?
Satsvarupa: (earnestly) It will stay, we already have another generation coming up in Gurukula.
Srila Prabhupada: (softly) Hare Krishna.(break)
Satsvarupa: (soberly) The big danger you say is faction.
Srila Prabhupada: Hummm. (silence)(break)
– Morning Walk, June 19, 1974, Germany
“Unfortunately, in present day society, in the name of suddha-bhakti, various types of mixed devotion–such as karma-misra, jnana-misra, and yoga-misra, as well as various polluted and imaginary conceptions, are spreading like germs of plague. People in general consider these polluted and mixed conceptions to be bhakti. They respect them as such and thus are deprived of suddha-bhakti. These polluted and mixed conceptions are our greatest enemies. . . . . .Some people say that there is no value in bhakti, that God is only imaginary sentiment, that man has merely created the image of God through imagination, and that bhakti is a diseased state, unable to benefit us in any way. These types of opponents cannot harm us much, because we easily recognize them and avoid them. However, those who propagate bhagavad-bhakti as the highest dharma–yet behave against the principles of suddha-bhakti–can be especially harmful to us. In the name of bhakti, they instruct us against the actual principles of bhakti. This ultimately leads us to a path that is diametrically opposed to bhagavad-bhakti. Therefore, with great endeavor, our previous acaryas have defined the svarupa or intrinsic nature of bhakti, repeatedly cautioning us to keep away from polluted and mixed concepts.” Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Bhakti Viveka Tattva