Relative and Absolute Statements (06/08/18)
Sorry for taking so long to reply to your question. While returning from a road trip on May 29th our car was held up by a Mexican drug gang and at gun point our car and everything in it was stolen and we were left standing in the desert. Kṛṣṇa protected us, we were alive, no one was hurt but everything, computers, etc was stolen.
So we are just now getting everything back together. Below is my reply to one of the questions you asked a couple of weeks ago.
Question: “Regarding the part of the question about “not taking Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura or Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura to the letter…” doesn’t this revisit the topic of absolute vs. relative? In other words, we don’t necessarily take our ācāryas completely literally, right? We don’t blindly follow as Śrīla Prabhupāda has written in the purport to Bhagavad-gītā 4.34, correct? “
Reply: We should take or accept our previous ācārya (parama–guru etc) in whatever way our guru has accepted them. Having firm faith in our guru is the key to all success in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Of course, that pre-supposes our having accepted a bona-fide spiritual master, one who knows the science of Kṛṣṇa.
Statements by our guru or previous ācāryas that may be open to seeing as relative are not the statements made regarding the Absolute Truth, but statements concerning relative topics like politics, weather, health, etc. Absolute statements about relative subjects are rare, but sometimes occur. Most statements, true or false, about relative subject matters are relative in any case.
Why “we don’t blindly follow” as Śrīla Prabhupāda has mentioned in the purport to Gītā 4.34 is in reference to not blindly accepting a spiritual master in the first place, as is the case in many instances in today’s Vaiṣṇava world. It does not refer to how one should follow guru after having accepted initiation. If the guru is bona fide (sad-guru) and knows the science of Kṛṣṇa, then yes, one could follow blindly, as in the case of the rope is a snake. However, if the guru one has accepted has meager knowledge of the science of Kṛṣṇa or has become envious of pure Vaiṣṇavas then the disciple has to be attentive and intelligent enough to save himself.
Although Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism has spread all over the world, it can be said that it is weaker now in proper siddhānta and proper behavior than ever before. Quantity does not always guarantee quality. The ‘big institution’ can simply become a ‘big mess’, failing in its original purpose. In fact, it is usually the case when quantity increases, quality decreases or when quality increases, quantity will decrease. This we can see practically. The big institutions become absorbed is expanding their properties and numbers. Whereas, the smaller independent groups of devotees and preachers, though fewer in numbers, are more concerned with quality and proper conception.
We once heard that in the _____ Mahārāja camp that there were 200 devotees in a kīrtana in Los Angeles and all were crying in ecstasy! I for one did not take it seriously because I know for certain that real “ecstasy” is not that common. It is very, very rare. That everyone was crying, that I could believe because shedding tears comes easily to sahajiyās and sentiment-mongers. But to say that they were all in ‘ecstasy’ was self-deception.
The key to everything is guru–niṣṭhā, firm faith in guru. Reading many śāstra and hearing many opinions can and often times does become a case for bewilderment. While reading śāstra and listening to hari–kathā one should always keep in mind the question, “Who am I serving? Under who’s āśraya (shelter) am I reading and hearing hari-kathā?”
All our reading, researching, listening to hari–kathā, etc is to one end and one end alone and that is guru–pāda–āśraya and guru–niṣṭhā, to take shelter at the lotus feet of Śrī Guru and His Grace with firm faith and conviction — without which we are lost, a ship without a rudder or a captain.
yasya deve parā bhaktir yathā deve tathā gurau
tasyaite kathitaāhy arthaḥ prakāśante mahātmana
“Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports [truths] of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed.”
I appreciate your questions because I think you are intelligent and sincere, but at this time I think the Lord in your heart is your best friend and guide. Search with all earnestness and you will find what you are looking for.
Wishing you the best.