by Swami B.G. Narasingha
‘The Vṛndāvana Anti-party’ by Swami B.G. Narasingha was first on VNN on 23rd April 1998. In this article, Narasingha Maharaja defends the paramparā of Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura from an attack from the Vṛndāvana anti-party concerning the validity of the bhāgavata-paramparā. This article was included in the book ‘The Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Paramparā.’
Some time back I published two articles on VNN entitled Sarasvatī Prabhupāda Paramparā Part I & II. These articles dealt with the issue of what we called the “anti-party” and their attack on the Gauḍīya Maṭha and ISKCON paramparā.
“When the self-realised devotees ordain any new arrangement, they should be agreed with as a religious code.”
At the same time as these articles were appearing on VNN there was simultaneously another attack on the Gauḍīya Maṭha and ISKCON paramparā being conducted in Vṛndāvana – in the very midst of the annual Māyāpura/Vṛndāvana festival. This time the attack against our paramparā was coming from a young Indian scholar (once a member of ISKCON) who was representing the arguments and objections of the anti-party guru – an elderly Hindu scholar. As it turned out, in their opinion, not even Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura is bona-fide, what then to speak of Sarasvatī Ṭhākura and his followers
Shortly thereafter I received several emails from a fellow Vaiṣṇava in Vṛndāvana informing me of the accusations against Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda and their respective missions.
To get a confirmation regarding the Vṛndāvana anti-party’s accusations against our guru-paramparā we sent two brahmacārīs to Vṛndāvana to seek an interview.
A three-hour special interview was first conducted by a third party and the discussions were tape-recorded. In a separate meeting the brahmacārīs sat in Satyanārāyaṇa’s library at the JIVA Institute and listened to the three hour taped interview and carefully took notes. We were thus able to obtain first-hand information regarding the propaganda against our guru-paramparā. It was no longer hearsay – the Vṛndāvana anti-party was on a campaign to disrupt the faith of innocent devotees who had taken shelter of our guru-varga.
The majority of the anti-party criticisms were aimed at Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda and ISKCON. Gauḍīya Maṭha was lumped in here and there. The anti-party representative took serious objection as regards the preaching mission and siddhānta of Sarasvatī Ṭhākura and also Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura.
In many instances the remarks of the Vṛndāvana anti-party were outrageous, in other instances they were based on logic or argument, and were often followed with scriptural references. Sometimes the arguments were even childish. However, in every instance one thing stood out the most – the objections lacked substance. The very essence of Kṛṣṇa consciousness was lacking.
We are going to reproduce here the main twenty-five points of objection that the Vṛndāvana anti-party makes against our paramparā and respond with our comments. We are doing this because we have been requested to do so by several concerned Vaiṣṇavas who feel that the propaganda of the Vṛndāvana anti-party is an intolerable offence to our guru-paramparā.
Before beginning the main topic of this article we would like to say a few words to clarify our position. Some of our readers may feel that we are speaking too harshly against the Vṛndāvana anti-party in this article or specifically against Satyanārāyaṇa. If so we would like to point out that we have not attacked the persons of the Vṛndāvana anti-party but only that which we perceive as their offences and misconceptions. We should also add that it is they that endeavour to find fault in the Divine Succession of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Sarasvatī Ṭhākura and their followers – it is not we who have sought out our accusers with a view to offend their paramparā. It is they who have attacked us, not we who have attacked them.
Nonetheless, we would like to vindicate some of the anti-party members to some degree for we feel that they alone are not to blame for their having arrived at their present position of offending our paramparā. If we look closely at ISKCON we will find that there are many devotees in ISKCON who think and feel in a way which is conducive to the anti-party sentiments. This, we propose, is not the fault of the individuals but the fault of the institution in which they have taken shelter.
It is the concerned opinion of many older members of ISKCON that since the disappearance of Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda the leadership in ISKCON has not trained their students in the proper siddhānta and practice of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism. It seems that the leaders have also over stressed the importance of external achievement at any cost, be it one’s own sādhana or even the dignity of another Vaiṣṇava, Vaiṣṇava aparādha. This we feel is largely due as a result of the ISKCON leaders having completely cut themselves off from the senior members of the Gauḍīya Maṭha who are themselves living/realised representatives of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda.
It is also a fact that the Vṛndāvana anti-party spokesman and others of their camp have been poorly treated at times by ISKCON leaders and they may naturally bear a grudge against ISKCON and our paramparā as a result of their bad experience. It is indeed unfortunate. I can sympathise with their plight to some extent but I cannot tolerate their propaganda against those who are very dear to Kṛṣṇa. We do not hate the sinner – we hate the sin.
The following are the twenty-five points of criticism of our paramparā by the Vṛndāvana anti-party. We have divided their statements into two thrusts against our guru-paramparā.
The first thrust is as follows:
There is no paramparā in ISKCON and the Gauḍīya Maṭha. This is supported by the following eighteen points (1-18):
1) Only śāstra (scripture) is an authority – no human can be so in any circumstance. Even God follows śāstra to show the example. Śāstra is there to make sure that the independent ‘self-effulgent’ personalities do not appear.
2) Bhāgavata-dīkṣā does not exist, there is no logical meaning of Bhāgavata-dīkṣā.
3) We can understand Kṛṣṇa and śāstra only through proper dīkṣā–paramparā.
4) Only Kṛṣṇa is self-effulgent – no jīva soul can be, because self-effulgent means in so many words independent.
5) Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda is a rebel against the paramparā. He disregarded all the proper dīkṣā lines and attempted to establish his own concocted line by picking famous names from the Gauḍīya history.
6) Sampradāya means proper inheritance and this can only be received if one has the proper guru–praṇālī (dīkṣā line).
7) In the Bṛhad-Bhāgavatāmṛta, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī says that this concept of Mahāprabhu and what he came to give, cannot be understood even by Lord Viṣṇu, what to speak about ordinary mortal beings. It cannot be preached or conceived by reading unlimited amount of books. It can only be revealed through proper dīkṣā-paramparā.
8) Guru actually means teacher. The word spiritual master does not give the full, proper idea. Teacher means that he is leading us through every step of rāgānuga-sādhana. That is the only way the secret flow of Mahāprabhu’s line comes down to us.
9) We must have an unbroken dīkṣā line, because, through that channel not only are we doing service in this plane but also in the eternal plane. One must have a practical guide along the whole way.
10) Guru must be completely bonafide. This means he must be śabda-Brahmā and ParaBrahmā (according to SB 11.3.21). Śabda-Brahmā means he must be learned and able to explain scriptural truths, and ParaBrahmā means he must have realisation of the transcendental plane.
11) Each and every guru must be of this high qualification (siddha-mahātmā). One cannot jump to the guru above him and remain properly connected.
12) Guru is a sādhana siddha.
13) Dīkṣā and śikṣā come from one person. Because internal meaning of the dīkṣā is śikṣā in a seed form. After that seed is planted, śikṣā that follows allows that seed to grow and finally produce the fruit of prema.
14) “Mantra is a secret that must be revealed. It must be heard directly from the guru. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda, if he ever received initiation, he definitely did not receive Brahmā Gāyatrī and sannyāsa mantra. Since his mantras are not received in a bona-fide disciplic succession they will never bear fruit (sampradāya vihīna ye mantras te niṣphala matāḥ – Padma Purāṇa).
15) Mantras which are received in ISKCON and the Gauḍīya Maṭha at the time of mantra–dīkṣā are not bona-fide. (This point is based on the idea that the mantras which Satyanārāyaṇa received from his guru, Haridāsa Śāstri, in the Gadādhara parivāra, are not the same as those given in ISKCON and Gauḍīya Maṭha)
16) Hari-nāma-dīkṣā in ISKCON and Gauḍīya Maṭha is not bona fide. Hari-nāma-dīkṣā simply does not exist.
17) In the Gauḍīya line Brahma-Gāyatrī does not exist, it is a part of varṇāśrama.
18) Sannyāsa in the Gauḍīya line does not exist, it is a part of varṇāśrama. Sannyāsa–mantra, as above mentioned, does not have any potency.
The second thrust is as follows:
Deviations from the siddhānta of the Six Gosvāmīs are being preached in ISKCON and Gauḍīya Maṭha. This is supported by the following seven points (19-25).
19) Śrīla Prabhupāda preached sahajiyāism. (Reading from sahajiyā literatures, Satyanārāyaṇa claims to find parallel points being preached by A.C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda and the sahajiyā groups.
20) These misconceptions given by A.C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda are also found throughout the writings of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Sarasvatī Ṭhākura.
21) Gauḍīya Maṭha and ISKCON have the wrong conception about the relation of rāgānuga and vaidhi bhakti. Sādhana is divided into vaidhi and rāgānuga sādhana. Vaidhi leads to vaidhi and rāgānuga sādhana leads to rāgānuga. Vaidhi never leads to rāgānuga.
22) A.C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda gives his own explanation of rasa in his Nectar of Devotion, one which is never heard of before.
23) A. C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda preached the māyāvāda philosophy by stating in a number of places in his books that this world is just a dream, non-real. This particular concept is actually found in the teachings of Gauḍapāda, the param-guru of Śrīpāda Śaṅkarācārya. (Satyanārāyaṇa argues that this is the wrong siddhānta since one of the basic tenants of the Gauḍīya philosophy is, as stated by Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa in his nine prameyas that this world is real (viśvam-satyam).
24) The Jaiva Dharma written by Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura is full of contradictions, misconceptions and apa-siddhānta. One of the examples is that it has been written there that the catuḥ-śloki of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam lies inherently dormant within the heart of the living entity. (Satyanārāyaṇa further argues that this is apa–siddhānta. If the catuḥ-śloki of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam is lying dormant within the heart of the living entity, then why Lord Brahmā, after a thousand celestial years of tapa, receives them from outside, from his guru, Śrī Kṛṣṇa)?
25) The concept that jīva is actually sat-cit-ānanda, as it is found throughout the teachings of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda, Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda is apa–siddhānta.” (Satyanārāyaṇa argues that jīva is not sat–cit-ānanda, it possesses only sat – eternality aspect. Cit and ānanda aspects are received in a seed form at the time of initiation, from a guru who is in a bona-fide dīkṣā paramparā.)
With the blessings of our guru-varga we are going to take up these points against our guru–paramparā in a series of articles presenting counter arguments and clarifications.
We would like to invite other devotees of our sampradāya to also write articles and preach against the Vṛndāvana anti-party according to their capacity and realisation. We ask you to take to heart the words of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura: “Please always crush these anti-devotional concepts by preaching pure devotional conclusions and by setting an example through your personal conduct.”
We have recently discussed this matter with several senior members of the Gauḍīya Maṭha and they are very eager to answer the complaints of the Vṛndāvana anti-party. Therefore, we would like to propose here that a public seminar on the ‘The Validity of the Gauḍīya Maṭha and the ISKCON paramparā’ be held during the up-coming 1998 Kārttika festival in Vṛndāvana. It has also been suggested that these discourses can be held in Sanskrit, Hindi, Bengali, and English for the purpose of encouraging all participants.
Although we have not spoken to an ISKCON representative at this time regarding the seminar we are sure ISKCON will also like to send a qualified speaker to address the assembly and dispel the doubts raised by the Vṛndāvana anti-party propaganda.
I offer my humble praṇāmas to all the Vaiṣṇavas who have assembled at the lotus feet of our guru–paramparā to perform hari–bhajana and to broadcast the message of the śrī-kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtana Movement. Param-Vijayate Śrī Kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtanam! Gaura Haribol!
In this article we will discuss the first point raised by the Vṛndāvana anti-party and briefly mention the second point as well.
The anti-party says: “Only śāstra is an authority – no human can be so in any circumstance. Even God follows śāstra to show the example. Śāstra is there to make sure that the independent ‘self-effulgent’ personalities do not appear.”
The first point of the Vṛndāvana anti-party is groundwork for their attempt to establish that the guru–varga of A.C. Bhaktivedandta Svāmī Prabhupāda did not preach according to the śāstra. The Vṛndāvana anti-party is of this faulty opinion for two reasons:
1) they themselves have not realised the purport of śāstra, and
2) they fail to understand that the pure Vaiṣṇavas are on equal footing with the śāstra in all circumstances.
Not only are the pure Vaiṣṇavas on an equal footing with the śāstra but they are sometimes on a superior footing as well. A pure Vaiṣṇava can make adjustments to the śāstra when and if necessary. This is of course possible only by the Lord’s own direct arrangement, nonetheless it does happen. We will give some examples and evidence for this opinion as our article develops.
It is indeed imperative that the śāstra be accepted as the benign authority in human society. Yet we see that only those with the Divine Vision can see what is hidden in the śāstra; what it is that the śāstra seeks to tell us. Other than to the pure devotees, the truth remains hidden. In fact, it is almost without exception that the kaniṣṭha and madhyama–adhikārī devotees seldom (if ever) understand the real meaning, or the essence of the śāstra. If nothing else, the history of Hinduism in India will bear testimony to that.
Here is an example of how the hidden truth in the śāstra is only known through the devotees who have higher vision, the rasika–bhaktas. In Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, the essence of revealed truth, we find no direct mention of the name of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. We are told that the Bhāgavatam, from its first verse to its last verse, sings the glories of the service of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. Yet, we find no direct mention of Śrī Rādhikā in Bhāgavatam. So how are we to know these things? They are revealed through the writings and purports of realised souls. It is not by Sanskrit grammar alone that one can extract the essence of the Bhāgavatam, otherwise millions of jñānīs, smārtas, brāhmaṇas, māyāvādīns and others would have known this most secret of all secret truths long, long ago.
It is Kṛṣṇa and His pure devotees alone who can extract the essence of the śāstra. They can show us how Bhāgavatam sings the glory of Śrī Rādhikā, they can show us how the Bhāgavatam is the purport of Brahma-Gāyatrī, and they can show us that the purport of Brahma–Gāyatrī is the Divine Service of Śrī Rādhikā. They alone can trace all these things in the śāstra and therefore the Vaiṣṇava is the highest authority. Through him we can see and understand the śāstra. Without the Vaiṣṇava to guide us the śāstra is static. It becomes dynamic when revealed by a pure Vaiṣṇava.
Whatever topics Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu revealed with His decent the Six Gosvāmīs endeavoured to give support to by quoting the śāstra. Nonetheless only those fortunate souls with śraddhā (faith) have accepted their evidences. On the contrary, many learned persons have rejected the works of the Six Gosvāmīs, even going so far as to say that Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī was an outcaste ācārya or a rebel.
In the not so distant past, some scholars (like Giridhāra Lāl Gosvāmī) have criticised an ācārya like Śrī jīva Gosvāmī, considering that he had no proper understanding of the śāstra. Similarly, in this decade we find a few so-called scholars criticising the validity of the works of ācāryas like Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura.
The Vṛndāvana anti-party statement in point one is a direct attack on Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Sarasvatī Ṭhākura for their having made revolutionary adjustments according to time, place, and circumstance in order to advance the cause of Kṛṣṇa consciousness throughout the world. Since the Vṛndāvana anti-party discriminates between the book Bhāgavata and the person Bhāgavata they therefore conclude that these adjustments are against the injunctions of the śāstra.
We strongly disagree with the anti-party on this point. It is the opinion of the followers of Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s line that the actions and words of great ācāryas (pure Vaiṣṇavas) are themselves as good as the śāstra and thus they are acceptable as an ultimate authority. As confirmed by Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, sākṣād-dharitvena samasta–śāstrair – all the śāstras sing the glories of the ācārya being the direct non-different form of the Supreme Lord Śrī Hari.”
Indeed, Kṛṣṇa Himself has said:
ācāryaṁ māṁ vijānīyān navamanyeta karhicit
na martya-buddhyāsūyeta sarva-deva-mayo guruḥ
“One should know the ācārya as Myself and never disrespect him in anyway. One should not envy him, thinking him an ordinary man, for he is the representative of all the demigods.” (Bhāg.11.17.27)
What one hears from a bona-fide ācārya can be accepted as good as the śāstra. Just because the revelation of a pure Vaiṣṇava is above our present understanding we should not disrespect or criticise him as the foolish and less intelligent persons may do. One in the lower position cannot give the certificate to the Vaiṣṇava in the higher position. It is not the duty of the lower adhikārī Vaiṣṇava to instruct or criticise the higher adhikārī Vaiṣṇava. Also it is not the duty of an empowered representative of Kṛṣṇa to ditto the plane of our limited understanding.
Those who cannot recognise the higher adhikārī Vaiṣṇava are either covered by ignorance, false pride, envy, aparādha (offences) or all of the above.
The difficulty with the anti-party is that they cannot see the Divinity of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, neither from their writings, from their personal conduct, or from their preaching missions. The anti-party cannot see that Bhaktivinoda and Sarasvatī Ṭhākura had a higher transcendental vision of the necessity of their times or that they had a higher understanding of the purpose of the śāstra. The anti-party is not prepared to accept that these two were Divine Personalities and that they were inspired by the Supreme Lord within. Therefore, the Vṛndāvana anti-party rejects all of the contributions of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Sarasvatī Ṭhākura.
Only Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura can save his critics from the darkness of ignorance – therefore we will now quote extensively from the words of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and allow the Ṭhākura to directly explain to the Vṛndāvana anti-party the truth regarding revealed scriptures.
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura writes in Śrī Tattva-Sūtra:
“This Tattva-Sūtra is obtained and proved by the eternal realisation. Therefore, it can be known as the very essence of the Vedas. This is originated from the Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa-Caitanya, and hence, is the origin of all the revealed scriptures. Only the Reality has been accepted in this treatise.
“The Divine Knowledge is characterised as the sun whereas all the scriptures (śāstra) are rays of that sun. This saying reveals that no scripture can contain the Divine Knowledge to the fullest extent. The self-evident knowledge of the jīvas is the source of all the scripture. This self-evident knowledge should be understood as God-given. The sages endowed with compassionate hearts have received this self-evident knowledge (axiomatic truths) from the Supreme Lord, and recorded the same in the scriptures for the benefit of all jīvas. This recorded portion of this primeval knowledge (God-given to the jīva) has been manifested in the form of the Vedas.
“The independent cultivation of the self-evident knowledge is always necessary. This is the important thing needed in understanding the Truth along with the study of the scriptures. Since the knowledge (Divine Knowledge) itself is the origin of the scriptures, those who disregard the root and depend upon the branches cannot have any well-being. Now, it may be argued that, when all the scriptures have been derived of the self-evident faith, where is the need for honouring them? The answer is that, in the conditioned state of the jīvas, the real knowledge is covered by the darkness of ignorance. In the devotional cultivation associated with retraction, when the hidden Reality is gradually manifested in the state of bhakti–samādhi, the jīvas will be realising the self-evident knowledge.
“Beginning from the time of cosmic creation until today, a great amount of knowledge about the Reality has been discovered by the sages. Apart from that limitless knowledge discovered, still the sages are occasionally delivering many new facts about the Reality, obtained in their devotional trance of samādhi. All these discovered principles may be called as the scriptures. By the help of a certain principle another one may be properly understood. Therefore, it is imperative to carefully record all these discovered principles of Reality. Without following this process, the ultimate conclusions of the discovered principles can never be attained.
“Śrī Brahma, the original propounder of the scriptures enlightened Śrī Nārada with the principles of Reality discovered by himself and advised him to develop the same by the further discovery of other Divine Principles.
“All the discovered principles of the Reality will get added to the scriptural knowledge and help the future developments of the same. Therefore, those who believe in the self-evident faith, they can never disparage the scriptures if at all they are intelligent in the study of them. But, those who are not endowed with the study of the principles of bhakti, which is the essential purport of the scriptures, their scriptural learning is only a waste of labour.
“Therefore, the essence-seekers’ conclusion is that, all the principles will be decided by the help of self-evident knowledge. All the scriptures should be understood by the help of that unalloyed knowledge. But, this rule does not apply to those whose self-evident knowledge has been adulterated with the empirical knowledge. Hence the following aphorism:
“Scriptural ordinances are intended for the regulation of the ignorant human beings whereas those who are endowed with discretion and Divine Wisdom are not controlled by them.
“Similarly, Manu also has elaborately explained the importance of scriptures and finally told the following:
“In this way; in all the scriptures these two signs can be seen viz., 1) honour of the revealed scriptures in general, 2) secondary importance of the scriptures in comparison to the self-evident faith. But, the authors of the scriptures do not clearly indicate the lightness of the scriptures. The reason for such an attitude is that, the meritorious people who are authorised to discard the scriptural binding can naturally become independent of the scriptures by the help of the hidden indications of the scriptural authors and also by their own purified knowledge. Such meritorious persons can carry on the sinless activities by the help of his own intellect as well as by the advice of the scriptures. In that stage, the scriptures will not have any binding over them but only they serve as their guides. On the other hand, those who are unable to understand their own spiritual path due to the lack of self-evident knowledge and due to ignorance who may not be able to ascertain their duties and fall into misery due to sensuality, for such people the scriptural ordinances are imperative. Such persons should not know that there is any way for them apart from the bindings of the scriptures. When they become authorised due to their advancement, they will be able to know this secret by the suggestions of the scriptures.
“Since knowledge itself is the root of the scriptures the one who has attained that self-evident knowledge will not be ruled by the scriptures, but only they guide him with advises. In case of ignorant people, this is not so. They must be governed by the rules of the scriptures for their upliftment, if not they will have their inevitable down fall due to the sensual addictions. If it is argued that, instead of governing by means of tedious rules, let the scriptures help the ignorant people by means of friendly advises. The reason for such an attitude is that the ignorant people do not understand their own good and bad due to the lack of knowledge. Due to the instinctual habits they will engage in wanton activities.
“Since their nature is mostly inclined towards the gratification of the senses, for their spiritual betterment the scriptures try to reform them through many types of tricks, by applying coercion, and with skillfulness etc. Often the scriptures threaten the ignorant people with punishment of the hell, at times they put forth the temptations of heavenly enjoyments. Again, they reform the human beings depending upon their inclinations. In many scriptures one may see the sanction of liquor, polygamy, killing of animals etc. All those are meant for the gradual control of the barbarian human beings by means of sanctioning some type of restricted activities according to their inclination. By their gradual reformation, the scriptures want to put them in the path of detachment. The many types of fruits mentioned along with those activities are only meant for attracting the attention of the ignorant followers.
“An argument may arise in this regard that, this Tattva-Sūtra also being a scripture, why the secret purport of the scriptures has been openly given here? The answer is that, this book of Tattva-Sūtra has been published for the benefit of the self-realised Bhāgavata devotees. They are authorised to know about all these thoughts. By the help of these aphorisms, their intellect will become favourable for the cultivation of Divine Love. Therefore, the author has openly declared here the scriptural secret.
“Devotees of the Supreme Lord are not controlled by the scriptures since their activities are congenial to the Divine Wisdom.
“Therefore, when the self-realised devotees ordain any new arrangement, they should be agreed with as a religious code, even if such new arrangements are not found in the scriptural dictums of the previous sages.” (All of the above quotes are from Śrī Tattva-Sūtra by Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, pages 191-204)
How can even a single thread of doubt remain regarding the proper understanding of the relationship between the pure Vaiṣṇava and the śāstra after hearing from Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura? If such doubts still remain in one’s heart it is surely due to the Supreme Lord being dissatisfied with that person.
According to the Vṛndāvana anti-party, the śāstra should be taken as the basis of everything and the Vaiṣṇava can never be considered an authority – that is, unless he dittos the śāstra. This concept, however, is not the opinion of self-realised souls like Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, who has been accepted throughout the land of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas as the Seventh Gosvāmī. Our readers should not take it lightly that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has been called the Seventh Gosvāmī. He was given this due respect not by the ignorant masses but by some of the most dignified and educated Vaiṣṇavas of his time. Paṇḍita Ṣaṭkari Caṭṭopādhyāya Siddhānta-bhūṣaṇa and other respected gentlemen of his mark all accepted the divinity of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura as the Seventh Gosvāmī, and it was thus accepted by all of Bengal. Not only Bengal but in recent times the Harvard Divinity College has commented that, “Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has made the most significant contribution to theistic thought in this 20th Century.”
A proper understanding of the point regarding the innovations of religious principles introduced by bona fide ācāryas is that one should accept those innovations to be as good as the śāstra. This is especially true in relation to Sarasvatī Ṭhākura having introduced the institution of sannyāsa, and the giving of Brahma–Gāyatrī as part of mantra–dīkṣā. We will discuss this topic at length however in a separate article.
The actual basis of spiritual life or advancement in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is śraddhā, faith, and association with sadhus. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has written, adau śraddhā sādhu-saṅga, bhajana-kriyā. In the beginning, at the basis of everything there must be śraddhā, faith. Then comes sādhu-saṅga and then in the association of sadhus one begins the study of the śāstra, bhajana–kriyā. Only to those who have this śraddhā as the basis of their Kṛṣṇa consciousness and the association with pure devotees are all the purports of the Vedas (śāstra) revealed:
yasya deve parā bhaktir yathā deve tathā gurau
tasyaite kathitā hy arthāḥ prakāśante mahātmanaḥ
“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.” (Śvetāśvatara Up. 6.38)
This is a hard lump for the scholars to swallow but faith alone is the sole necessity for advancement in Kṛṣṇa consciousness – faith and faith in the Vaiṣṇava. Scholarship alone can never reveal Kṛṣṇa:
śabda-brahmaṇi niṣṇāto na niṣṇāyāt pare yadi
śramas tasya śrama-phalo hy adhenum iva rakṣataḥ
“One may be expert in Vedic scholarship, but if he fails to understand the position of the Absolute Truth, all his study is a waste of time. His hard work will be his only reward, and his efforts will be like the labor of one who struggles to maintain a cow that has no calf and cannot produce milk.”
This is also confirmed in the Brahmā Saṁhitā 5.33:
vedeśu durlabham adurlabham ātma-bhaktau
“The Lord cannot be understood by academic wisdom of the Vedas, but knowledge of Him is revealed to unalloyed devotees.”
Like many scholars, anti-party members seem to have been overcome by the anartha of prāyasa, or trying by one’s own endeavour to acquire knowledge of the scriptures without proper guidance. The result of such prāyasa is always the same, one fails to understand the purport of Vedic literature.
bahu-śāstre bahu-vākye citte bhrama haya
sādhya-sādhana śreṣṭha nā haya niścaya
“If one becomes a bookworm, reading many books and scriptures and hearing many commentaries and the instructions of many men, this will produce doubt within the heart. One cannot in this way ascertain the real goal of life.” (Cc. Ādi-līlā, 16.11)
The search for knowledge is certainly misleading in our ultimate quest for pure devotional service. In fact, although somewhat necessary in the beginning of devotional service, it nonetheless becomes the prerequisite for pure devotional service that one become free from knowledge, jñāna-śūnya-bhakti. By knowledge it is meant the spirit of ascertaining the Absolute Truth with a calculative approach, the attempt to capture the infinite in one’s fist. In the ultimate issue Kṛṣṇa is unknown and unknowable. Śāstra points the way but only faith can reveal the higher plane. By jñāna-śūnya-bhakti. it is meant the plane of Divine Love which is free from any calculation and does not consider even the opulence and power of the Lord. This is the standard of pure devotion of the eternal residents of Goloka Vṛndāvana.
The mastery of knowing everything must be hatefully rejected if we are to approach the highest Domain, jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam. It is not possible to ‘know’ anything about the infinite, either in magnitude or quality. The infinite is a flow of autocracy, so what can we ‘know’ of it? Whatever we ‘know’ at present can all prove false in a moment simply by His will.
Kṛṣṇa is the unconquerable, ajita, but He becomes conquered, jitaḥ, by the love of pure devotees not by the knowledge of scholars or the study of many books. The anti-party wants to become expert in logic and argument to besmirch the path of pure devotion, the bhāgavata-marga, but this is all a waste of the valuable form of human life. For all their scholarship and learning the anti-party has simply become an educated combatant with the guru-paramparā.
A good example of the higher position sometimes given to a pure Vaiṣṇava with regard to his being an agent of revealed truth is found in the Caitanya–caritāmṛta, a śāstra accepted by all Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas. We find in the discussions between Śrī Caitanya and Rāmānanda Rāya that there is a point where the śāstra retires and the authority of the pure Vaiṣṇava is taken as the final word.
Śrī Caitanya, at the beginning of the discourse with Rāmānanda requested Rāmānanda to speak about the ultimate goal of life and to support his statements with the śāstra.
prabhu kahe paḍa śloka sādhyera nirṇaya
Śrī Caitanya said to Rāmānanda Rāya, “Please recite a verse from the revealed scriptures concerning the ultimate goal of life.” (Cc. Madhya-līlā, 8.57)
This is certainly the generally accepted rule in spiritual circles in India – one must support his statements with reference to the śāstra otherwise one will not be accepted as a spiritual authority.
aikāntiki harer bhaktir utpātāyaiva kalpate
“Devotional service to the Lord that ignores the authorised Vedic literature like, Upaniṣads, Purāṇas, Nārada Pañcarātra, etc. is simply an unnecessary disturbance in society.” (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, 1.2.101 and Brahma-Yāmala)
Śruti means that which is given by the Lord and smṛti means that which is spoken about the Lord by His devotees. In any case only the māyāvādīns do not accept the smṛti to be as good as the śruti. To the Vaiṣṇavas both the Lord and the Lord’s pure devotee are authority.
After each and every statement by Rāmānanda Rāya, Śrī Caitanya requested him to go further, āge kaha āra, “Please go further.” Thus the conversation between Śrī Caitanya and Rāmānanda progressed from one topic to another, step by step revealing the ultimate goal of life. At last the end of the discussions in mādhurya-rasa culminating in the transcendental loving affairs between Radha and Kṛṣṇa were discussed. All this was done by Rāmānanda by quoting śāstra.
At that point Śrī Caitanya pleasantly surprised Rāmānanda by saying:
eho haya, āge kaha āra
“This is very nice. Now please tell me something more!”
Hearing this Rāmānanda replied:
ihā va-i buddhi-gati nāhi āra
yebā ‘prema-vilāsa-vivarta’ eka haya
tāhā śuni’ tomāra sukha haya, ki nā haya
“There is another wonderful topic (prema-vilāsa-vivarta) which you can hear from me but I do not know if you will be satisfied with what I say.”
Here Rāmānanda Rāya reveals before Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu that there was a feeling in his heart which he was willing to express on the order of the Lord but that he would not be able to quote from śāstra. As it is said, dharmasya tattvaṁ nihitaṁ guhāyāṁ, the Absolute Truth is hidden in the heart of an unadulterated self-realised person.
Rāmānanda then spoke a verse which was his own composition. This verse begins with the words, pahilehi rāga nayana-bhaṅge bhela (Madhya-līlā, 8.194) In these words Rāmānanda gave a hint about the divine appearance of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu in whom both Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are combined.
For what Rāmānanda wanted to say, he had no śāstra to quote. Nonetheless when Mahāprabhu heard the composition of Rāmānanda He was very satisfied. Indeed, Rāmānanda, by his own composition, revealed that which had never before been revealed in the śāstra.
While writing this article a friend pointed out to me that the above mentioned argument was not a sufficient evidence for my point since the Six Gosvāmīs did substantiate prema–vilāsa–vivarta at a later time by quoting the śāstra. This however is precisely my point. It had not been shown in the śāstra before it was revealed through the heart and words of Rāmānanda Rāya.
Rāmānanda Rāya further said to Śrī Caitanya:
yei kahāo, sei kahi āmi vāṇī
ki kahiye bhāla-manda, kichui nā jāni
“I do not know what I am saying, but You have made me speak what I have spoken, be it good or bad. I am simply repeating that message.” (Madhya-līlā, 8.198)
What we find here in the discussions between Śrī Caitanya and Rāmānanda Rāya is a truth superior to that which the anti-party has attempted to establish in point number one. We do agree with all parties that indeed the śāstra is important and is not to be vilified, but the proper siddhānta according to Kaviraja Gosvāmī, the author of Caitanya–caritāmṛta, is that the Lord speaks personally through His pure devotees.
According to Vaiṣṇava ācāryas such as Śrīla Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja, the stage of anurāga (in which Rāmānanda Rāya was situated) is a stage of Kṛṣṇa consciousness independent of the śāstra. The śāstra, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja says, is to give us a confirmation of what we feel in our heart. The real thing, he says, is to be realised in the heart. Anurāga means the plane of direct experience of the world of Absolute Divine Reality, and there the experience is itself the highest confirmation. The śāstra is only pointing the way. Furthermore, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja says that the śāstras are the recorded experiences of those great personalities who have their special experience in the plane of infinite faith, śraddhā.
Not only does Kṛṣṇa speak through His pure devotees but He acts through them as well. Therefore, the proper conclusion is that the socio-religious adjustments that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Sarasvatī Ṭhākura have made with regard to the preaching mission and especially with regard to the institution of sannyāsa, are to be considered as an introduction of religious principles for the benefit of all mankind according to time, place, and necessity. These adjustments are exclusively meant for the preaching of the saṅkīrtana movement, the prime benediction for humanity at large. This has also been confirmed by Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura in his Śrī Tattva-Sūtra as quoted earlier in this article.
We also find the following statement by Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja in the Mahābhārata, Vana-parva, 313.117:
dharmasya tattvaṁ nihitaṁ guhāyāṁ
mahājano yena gataḥ sa panthāḥ
“The solid truth of religious principles is hidden in the heart of an unadulterated self-realised person. Consequently, as the śāstras confirm, one should accept whatever progressive path the self-realised predecessors advocate.”
Unfortunately, the anti-party lacks the spiritual sense to recognise that the contributions of realised souls are the very essence of the śāstra. It is also an obvious oversight of the anti-party that the śāstra, although eternal, does not come to us independent of the Vaiṣṇava.
The decent of the Absolute Truth which came to us through the succession of pure devotees and which is the only life of a bona fide (living) paramparā, is called a bhāgavata–paramparā. Indeed, the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam which is the most essential scripture for all Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, only comes to us via a śikṣā or bhāgavata–paramparā. Kṛṣṇa spoke the essence of the Bhāgavata to Brahmā. Brahmā spoke it to Nārada, and Nārada in turn taught it to Vyāsa. Śukadeva, who was known not to have undergone any dīkṣā saṁskāra, learned its essence from Vyāsa. Śukadeva spoke it to the Emperor Parikṣit. At that time Sūta heard it as well, and he in turn spoke it to Śaunaka. This is the bhāgavata-guru-paramparā, a śikṣā–paramparā. This is also our answer to the second objection of the Vṛndāvana anti-party wherein they say, “Bhāgavata–dīkṣā and thus bhāgavata–sampradāya are bogus.” In a nutshell, our response is that without the bhāgavat–paramparā (as mentioned above) there is no Śrīmad Bhāgavatam! Here we might put a counter challenge to the anti-party: if you have no bhāgavat–paramparā then you have no paramparā!
Truth is first revealed within the heart of Brahmā:
tene Brahmā hṛdā ya ādi-kavaye
“Vedic knowledge was first imparted into the heart of Brahmā, the original created being.”
Then this transcendental knowledge is passed on to Nārada and next to Vyāsadeva who, in this millennium, is the compiler of the Vedas. And after Vyāsadeva many perfected souls contributed to the śāstra from their realisations. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself composed eight ślokas which all Gauḍīyas accept to be as good as śāstra. The Lord then inspired and empowered his representatives in disciplic succession to also write books on the science of pure devotion, and He also empowered them to spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness all over the world.
If we trace the origin of all śāstra we come to Vyāsadeva, and then to his guru Nārada who heard the essence of truth from his guru Lord Brahmā in the form of the four nutshell verses of the Bhāgavatam. We do not find anywhere that Nārada received mantra–dīkṣā from Lord Brahmā. Lord Brahmā had realised the ocean of truth after he performed meditation on the three fold Gāyatrī, OṀ which had manifest from the divine flute of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. OṀ is indeed the seed of divya–jñānam, divine knowledge, the seed of all knowledge from which manifest the Gāyatrī. Next the Vedas, then the Vedānta, and then the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. Although it is said that OṀ emanates from Kṛṣṇa, it actually is emanating from Kṛṣṇa’s flute, and Kṛṣṇa’s flute is a nitya–pārṣada devotee eternally situated in śānta–rasa. Kṛṣṇa simply causes the flute to vibrate, when it comes in connection with His lotus lips. Kṛṣṇa does not directly vibrate the sound OṀ, but He causes His flute to do so. In this way, from the very beginning the position of Kṛṣṇa’s devotee is conspicuous in the process of receiving divine knowledge. Either the devotee is imparting knowledge according to his realisation or the Lord is directly speaking through him. In either case the message is transcendental.
In the last part of Satyanārāyaṇa’s first statement he has said, “Śāstra is there to make sure that the independent self-effulgent personalities do not appear.” I have not mentioned this point up to now in this article. Possibly Satyanārāyaṇa is trying here to make a twist on the siddhānta by playing on words. Anyway, the proper understanding should be that the śāstra is there to help us recognise “self-effulgent” personalities if and when they do appear, not to restrict such personalities from appearing.
We have written here a few words with regard to the first and second point of the Vṛndāvana anti-party’s first thrust against our guru–paramparā. Subsequent articles addressing further points of the anti-party will be forthcoming. We welcome any comments from our readers. We are particularly interested to hear from those who would like to participate in the proposed seminar on “The Validity of the Gauḍīya Maṭha and the ISKCON paramparā.”
Readers interested in this article or the proposed seminar are invited to correspond with the author via email. Gaura Haribol!
More Articles by Swami B.G. Narasingha
OṀ – The Supreme Combination of Letters Emanating from the Flute of Śrī Kṛṣṇa
'OṀ – The Supreme Combination of Letters Emanating from the Flute of Śrī Kṛṣṇa' was written by Swami Narasingha in 1999. In this article Narasingha Maharaja discusses the importance of Oṁ and connects it to the kāma-bīja, Klīṁ and the Mahā-mantra.
Gold is Gold!
"Gold is Gold" is a short article written by Śrīla Narasiṅgha Mahārāja for blog, narasingha.net, on June 7th, 2011. Mahārāja speaks about the actual value of gold and how paper money has no true value.
Gāyatrī for Women
“Gāyatrī for Women” was an article written by Śrīla Narasiṅgha Mahārāja in 1998, which remained unpublished until it was included in the book ‘Prabhupāda Vijaya’ in 2016. In this article, Narasiṅgha Mahārāja explains the reason why Śrīla Prabhupāda gave the brahma-gāyatrī to his female disciples.