Some time back I published two articles on VNN entitled "Saraswati Prabhupada Parampara Part I & II." These articles dealt with the issue of what we called the "anti-party" and their attack on the Gaudiya Math and ISKCON parampara.
"When the self-realized 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 Gaudiya Math and ISKCON parampara being conducted in Vrndavana - in the very midst of the annual Mayapur/Vrndavana festival. This time the attack against our parampara 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 Bhaktivinode Thakur is bona-fide, what then to speak of Saraswati Thakur and his followers
Shortly thereafter I received several emails from a fellow Vaishnava in Vrndavana informing me of the accusations against Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and their respective missions.
To get a confirmation regarding the Vrndavana anti-party's accusations against our Guru-parampara we sent two Brahmacharis to Vrndavana 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 Brahmacharis sat in Satya Narayana'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-parampara. It was no longer hearsay - the Vrndavana 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 Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and ISKCON. Gaudiya Math was lumped in here and there. The anti-party representative took serious objection as regards the preaching mission and siddhanta of Saraswati Thakur and also Bhaktivinode Thakur.
In many instances the remarks of the Vrndavana 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 Krishna consciousness was lacking.
We are going to reproduce here the main twenty five points of objection that the Vrndavana anti-party makes against our parampara and respond with our comments. We are doing this because we have been requested to do so by several concerned Vaishnavas who feel that the propaganda of the Vrndavana anti-party is an intolerable offense to our Guru-parampara.
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 Vrndavana anti-party in this article or specifically against Satya Narayana. If so we would like to point out that we have not attacked the persons of the Vrndavana anti-party but only that which we perceive as their offenses and misconceptions. We should also add that it is they that endeavor to find fault in the Divine Succession of Bhaktivinode Thakur, Saraswati Thakur and their followers - it is not we who have sought out our accusers with a view to offend their parampara. 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 parampara. 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 Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada the leadership in ISKCON has not trained their students in the proper siddhanta and practice of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. It seems that the leaders have also over stressed the importance of external achievement at any cost, be it one's own sadhana or even the dignity of another Vaishnava, vaishnava-aparadha. This we feel is largely due as a result of the ISKCON leaders having completely cut themselves off from the senior members of the Gaudiya Math who are themselves living/realized representatives of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupada.
It is also a fact that the Vrndavana 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 parampara as a result of their bad experience. It is indeed unfortunate. I can sympathize with their plight to some extent but I cannot tolerate their propaganda against those who are very dear to Krishna. We do not hate the sinner - we hate the sin.
The following are the twenty five points of criticism of our parampara by the Vrndavana anti-party:
We have divided their statements into two thrusts against our Guru-parampara.
The first thrust is as follows:
There is no parampara in ISKCON and the Gaudiya Math. This is supported by the following eighteen points (1-18):
1) "Only sastra (scripture) is an authority - no human can be so in any circumstance. Even God follows sastra to show the example. Sastra is there to make sure that the independent "self-effulgent" personalities do not appear.
2) "Bhagavat-diksa does not exist, there is no logical meaning of bhagavata-diksa.
3) "We can understand Krishna and sastra only through proper diksa-parampara.
4) "Only Krsna is self effulgent - no jiva soul can be, because self effulgent means in so many words independent.
5) "Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada is a rebel against the parampara. He disregarded all the proper diksa lines and attempted to establish his own concocted line by picking famous names from the Gaudiya history.
6) "Sampradaya means proper inheritance and this can only be received if one has the proper guru-pranali (diksa line).
7) "In the Brhad-Bhagavatamrta, Srila Sanatana Goswami says that this concept of Mahaprabhu and what he came to give, cannot be understood even by Lord Visnu, 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 diksa parampara.
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 raganuga-sadhana. That is the only way the secret flow of Mahaprabhu's line comes down to us.
9) "We must have an unbroken diksa 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 sabda brahma and parabrahma (according to SB 11.3.21). Sabda brahma means he must be learned and able to explain scriptural truths, and parabrahma means he must have realization of the transcendental plane.
11) "Each and every guru must be of this high qualification (siddha-mahatma). One cannot jump to the guru above him and remain properly connected.
12) "Guru is a sadhana siddha.
13) "Diksa and siksa come from one person. Because internal meaning of the diksa is siksa in a seed form. After that seed is planted, siksa 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. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada, if he ever received initiation, he definetely did not receive brahma gayatri and sannyasa gayatri. Since his mantras are not received in a bonafide disciplic succession they will never bear fruit (sampradaya vihina ye, mantras te nisphala matah, Padma Purana).
15) "Mantras which are received in ISKCON and the Gaudiya Math at the time of mantra-diksa are not bonafide. (This point is based on the idea that the mantras which Satya Narayana received from his guru, Haridas Sastri, in the Gadadhara parivara, are not the same as those given in ISKCON and Gaudiya Math)
16) "Harinam-diksa in ISKCON and Gaudiya Math is not bona fide. Harinam-diksa simply does not exist.
17) "In the Gaudiya line brahma-gayatri does not exist, it is a part of varnasrama.
18) "Sannyasa in the Gaudiya line does not exist, it is a part of varnasrama. Sannyasa-gayatri, as above mentioned, does not have any potency."
The second thrust is as follows:
Deviations from the siddhanta of the Six Goswamis are being preached in ISKCON and Gaudiya Math. This is supported by the following seven points (19-25).
19) "Srila Prabhupada preached sahajiyaism. (Reading from sahajiya literatures, Satya Narayana claims to find parallel points being preached by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and the sahajiya groups.
20) "These misconceptions given by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada are also found throughout the writings of Bhaktivinode Thakur and Saraswati Thakur.
21) "Gaudiya Math and ISKCON have the wrong conception about the relation of raganuga and vaidhi bhakti. Sadhana is divided into vaidhi and raganuga sadhana. Vaidhi leads to vaidhi and raganuga sadhana leads to raganuga. Vaidhi never leads to raganuga.
22) "A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada gives his own explanation of rasa in his Nectar of Devotion, one which is never heard of before.
23) "A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada preached the mayavada 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 Gaudapada, the parama guru of Sripad Sankaracarya. (Satya Narayan argues that this is the wrong siddhanta since one of the basic tenants of the Gaudiya philosophy is, as stated by Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana in his nine prameyas that this world is real (visvam-satyam).
24) "The Jaiva Dharma written by Bhaktivinode Thakur is full of contradictions, misconceptions and apasiddhanta. One of the examples is that it has been written there that the catuh sloki of Srimad Bhagavatam lies inherently dormant within the heart of the living entity. (Satya Narayan further argues that this is apasiddhanta. If the catuh sloki of Srimad Bhagavatam is lying dormant within the heart of the living entity, then why Lord Brahma, after a thousand celestial years of tapa, receives them from outside, from his guru, Sri Krsna)?
25) "The concept that jiva is actually sat - cit - ananda, as it is found throughout the teachings of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is apasiddhanta." (SatyaNarayan argues that jiva is not sat - cit - ananda, it possesses only sat - eternality aspect. Cit and ananda aspects are received in a seed form at the time of initiation, from a guru who is in a bonafide diksa parampara.)
With the blessings of our Guru-varga we are going to take up these points against our Guru-parampara in a series of articles presenting counter arguments and clarifications.
We would like to invite other devotees of our sampradaya to also write articles and preach against the Vrndavana anti-party according to their capacity and realization. We ask you to take to heart the words of Bhaktivinode Thakur: "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 Gaudiya Math and they are very eager to answer the complaints of the Vrndavana anti-party. Therefore, we would like to propose here that a public seminar on the "The Validity of the Gaudiya Math and the ISKCON Parampara" be held during the up-coming 1998 Kartika festival in Vrindavana. 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 Vrndavana anti-party propaganda.
I offer my humble pranams to all the Vaishnavas who have assembled at the lotus feet of our guru-parampara to perform hari-bhajan and to broadcast the message of the Sri Krishna Sankirtan Movement. Param-Vijayate Sri-Krishna- Sankirtanam! Gaura Haribol!
In this article we will discuss the first point raised by the Vrndavana anti-party and briefly mention the second point as well.
The anti-party says: "Only sastra is an authority - no human can be so in any circumstance. Even God follows sastra to show the example. Sastra is there to make sure that the indepedent "self-effulgent" personalities do not appear.
The first point of the Vrndavana anti-party is groundwork for their attempt to establish that the Guru-varga of A.C. Bhaktivedandta Swami Prabhupada did not preach according to the sastra. The Vrndavana anti-party is of this faulty opinion for two reasons: 1) they themselves have not realized the purport of sastra, and 2) they fail to understand that the pure Vaishnavas are on equal footing with the sastra in all circumstances. Not only are the pure Vaishnavas on an equal footing with the sastra but they are sometimes on a superior footing as well. A pure Vaishnava can make adjustments to the sastra 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 sastra 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 sastra; what it is that the sastra seeks to tell us. Other than to the pure devotees, the truth remains hidden. In fact it is almost without exception that the kanistha and madhyama-adikari devotees seldom (if ever) understand the real meaning, or the essence of the sastra. 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 sastra is only known through the devotees who have higher vision, the rasika-bhaktas. In Srimad Bhagavatam, the essence of revealed truth, we find no direct mention of the name of Srimati Radharani. We are told that the Bhagavatam, from it's first verse to it's last verse, sings the glories of the service of Srimati Radharani. Yet, we find no direct mention of Sri Radhika in Bhagavatam. So how are we to know these things? They are revealed through the writings and purports of realized souls. It is not by Sanskrit grammar alone that one can extract the essence of the Bhagavatam, otherwise millions of jnanis, smartas, brahmanas, mayavadins and others would have known this most secret of all secret truths long, long ago.
It is Krishna and His pure devotees alone who can extract the essence of the sastra. They can show us how Bhagavatam sings the glory of Sri Radhika, they can show us how the Bhagavatam is the purport of Brahma-gayatri, and they can show us that the purport of Brahma-gayatri is the Divine Service of Sri Radhika. They alone can trace all these things in the sastra and therefore the Vaishnava is the highest authority. Through him we can see and understand the sastra. Without the Vaishnava to guide us the sastra is static. It becomes dynamic when revealed by a pure Vaishnava.
Whatever topics Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu revealed with His decent the Six Goswamis endeavored to give support to by quoting the sastra. Nonetheless only those fortunate souls with sraddha (faith) have accepted their evidences. On the contrary, many learned persons have rejected the works of the Six Goswamis, even going so far as to say that Sri Jiva Goswami was an outcaste acharya or a rebel.
In the not so distant past some scholars (like Giridhara Lal Goswami) have criticized an Acharya like Sri Jiva Goswami, considering that he had no proper understanding of the sastra. Similarly in this decade we find a few so-called scholars criticizing the validity of the works of Acharyas like Bhaktivinode Thakur.
The Vrndavana anti-party statement in point one is a direct attack on Bhaktivinode Thakur and Saraswati Thakur for their having made revolutionary adjustments according to time, place, and circumstance in order to advance the cause of Krishna consciousness throughout the world. Since the Vrndavana anti-party discriminates between the book Bhagavat and the person Bhagavat they therefore conclude that these adjustments are against the injunctions of the sastra.
We strongly disagree with the anti-party on this point. It is the opinion of the followers of Bhaktivinode Thakur's line that the actions and words of great Acharyas (pure Vaishnavas) are themselves as good as the sastra and thus they are acceptable as an ultimate authority. As confirmed by Vishwanatha Cakravarthi Thakur: "saksad-dharitvena samasta-sastrair - All the sastras sing the glories of the Acharya being the direct non-different form of the Supreme Lord Sri Hari."
Indeed, Krishna Himself has said:
acaryam mam vijaniyam navamanyeta karhicit
na martya-buddhyasuyeta sarva-deva-mayo guruh
"One should know the Acharya 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." (SB.11.17.27)
What one hears from a bona fide Acharya can be accepted as good as the sastra. Just because the revelation of a pure Vaishnava is above our present understanding we should not disrespect or criticize him as the foolish and less intelligent persons may do. One in the lower position cannot give the certificate to the Vaishnava in the higher position. It is not the duty of the lower adhikari Vaishnava to instruct or criticize the higher adhikari Vaishnava. Also it is not the duty of an empowered representative of Krishna to ditto the plane of our limited understanding.
Those who cannot recognize the higher adhikari Vaishnava are either covered by ignorance, false pride, envy, aparadha (offenses) or all of the above.
The difficulty with the anti-party is that they cannot see the Divinity of Bhaktivinode Thakur and Saraswati Thakur, neither from their writings, from their personal conduct, or from their preaching missions. The anti-party cannot see that Bhaktivinode and Saraswati Thakur had a higher transcendental vision of the necessity of their times or that they had a higher understanding of the purpose of the sastra. 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 Vrndavana anti-party rejects all of the contributions of Bhaktivinode Thakur and Saraswati Thakur.
Only Bhaktivinode Thakur can save his critics from the darkness of ignorance - therefore we will now quote extensively from the words of Bhaktivinode Thakur and allow the Thakur to directly explain to the Vrndavana anti-party the truth regarding revealed scriptures.
Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur writes in Sri Tattva- Sutra:
"This Tattva-Sutra is obtained and proved by the eternal realization. Therefore, it can be known as the very essence of the Vedas. This is originated from the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna-Caitanya, and hence, is the origin of all the revealed scriptures. Only the Reality has been accepted in this treatise.
"The Divine Knowledge is characterized as the sun whereas all the scriptures (sastra) 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 jivas 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 jivas. This recorded portion of this primeval knowledge (God-given to the jiva) 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 honoring them? The answer is that, in the conditioned state of the jivas, 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-Samadhi, the jivas will be realizing 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 Samadhi. 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.
"Sri Brahma, the original propounder of the scriptures enlightened Sri Narada 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 labor.
"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) honor 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 authorized 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 authorized 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-Sutra' also being a scripture, why the secret purport of the scriptures has been openly given here? The answer is that, this book of 'Tattva-Sutra" has been published for the benefit of the self-realized Bhagavata devotees. They are authorized to know about all these thoughts. By the help of these aphorisms, their intellect will become favorable 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-realized 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 Sri Tattva- Sutra by Bhaktivinode Thakur, pages 191-204)
How can even a single thread of doubt remain regarding the proper understanding of the relationship between the pure Vaishnava and the sastra after hearing from Bhaktivinode Thakur? 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 Vrndavana anti-party the sastra should be taken as the basis of everything and the Vaishnava can never be considered an authority - that is, unless he dittos the sastra. This concept, however, is not the opinion of self-realized souls like Bhaktivinode Thakur, who has been accepted throughout the land of Gaudiya Vaishnavas as the Seventh Goswami. Our readers should not take it lightly that Bhaktivinode Thakur has been called the Seventh Goswami. He was given this due respect not by the ignorant masses but by some of the most dignified and educated Vaishnavas of his time. Pandit Satkari Chattopadhyaya Siddhanta Bhusan and other respected gentlemen of his mark all accepted the Divinity of Bhaktivinode Thakur as the Seventh Goswami, and it was thus accepted by all of Bengal. Not only Bengal but in recent times the Harvard Divinity College has commented that, "Bhaktivinode Thakur 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 Acharyas is that one should accept those innovations to be as good as the sastra. This is especially true in relation to Saraswati Thakur having introduced the institution of sannyasa, and the giving of Brahma-gayatri as part of mantra-diksa. We will discuss this topic at length however in a separate article.
The actual basis of spiritual life or advancement in Krishna consciousness is sraddha, faith, and association with sadhus. Srila Rupa Goswami has written: adau sraddha sadhu sanga, bhajana-kriya. In the beginning, at the basis of everything there must be sraddha, faith. Then comes sadhu-sanga and then in the association of sadhus one begins the study of the sastra, bhajana-kriya. Only to those who have this sraddha as the basis of their Krishna consciousness and the association with pure devotees are all the purports of the Vedas (sastra) revealed:
yasya deve para bhaktir yatha deve tatha gurau
tasyaite kathhita hy arthah prakasante mahatmanah
"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 up. 6.38)
This is a hard lump for the scholars to swallow but faith alone is the sole necessity for advancement in Krishna consciousness - faith and faith in the Vaishnava. Scholarship alone can never reveal Krishna:
sabda-brahmani nisnato na nisnayat pare yadi
sramas tasya srama-phalo hy adhenum iva raksatah
"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 Brahma-Samhita, 5.33:
vedesu durlabham adurlabham atma-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 prayasa, or trying by one's own endeavor to acquire knowledge of the scriptures without proper guidance. The result of such prayasa is always the same, one fails to understand the purport of Vedic literature.
bahu-sastre bahu-vakye citte bhrama haya
sadhya-sadhana srestha na haya niscaya
"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, Adi-lila, 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, jnana-sunya-bhakti. By knowledge it is meant the spirit of acertaining the Absolute Truth with a calculative approach, the attempt to capture the infinite in one's fist. In the ultimate issue Krishna is unknown and unknowable. Sastra points the way but only faith can reveal the higher plane. By jnana-sunya-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 Vrndavana.
The mastery of knowing everything must be hatefully rejected if we are to approach the highest Domain, jnana-karmady-anavrtam. 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.
Krishna is the unconquerable, ajita, but He becomes conquered, jitah, 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 bhagavat-marg, 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-parampara.
A good example of the higher position sometimes given to a pure Vaishnava with regard to his being an agent of revealed truth is found in the Caitanya-caritamrta, a sastra accepted by all Gaudiya Vaishnavas. We find in the discussions between Sri Caitanya and Ramananda Raya that there is a point where the sastra retires and the authority of the pure Vaishnava is taken as the final word.
Sri Caitanya, at the beginning of the discourse with Ramananda requested Ramananda to speak about the ultimate goal of life and to support his statements with the sastra.
prabhu kahe, "pada sloka sadhyera nirnaya"
Sri Caitanya said to Ramananda Raya, "Please recite a verse from the revealed scriptures concerning the ultimate goal of life." (Madhya-lila, 8.57)
This is certainly the generally accepted rule in spiritual circles in India - one must support his statements with reference to the sastra otherwise one will not be accepted as a spiritual authority.
sruti smrti puranadi panchratra vidhim vina
aikantiki harer bhaktir utpatayaiva kalpate
"Devotional service to the Lord that ignores the authorized Vedic literature like, Upanisads, Puranas, Narada Pancharatra, etc. is simply an unnecessary disturbance in society." (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, 1.2.101 and Brahma-Yamala
Sruti means that which is given by the Lord and smrti means that which is spoken about the Lord by His devotees. In any case only the Mayavadins do not accept the smrti to be as good as the sruti. To the Vaishnavas both the Lord and the Lord's pure devotee are authority.
After each and every statement by Ramananda Raya, Sri Caitanya requested him to go further: age kaha ara, "Please go further." Thus the conversation between Sri Caitanya and Ramananda progressed from one topic to another, step by step revealing the ultimate goal of life. At last the end of the discussions in madhurya-rasa culminating in the transcendental loving affairs between Radha and Krishna were discussed. All this was done by Ramananda by quoting sastra.
At that point Sri Caitanya pleasantly surprised Ramananda by saying:
eho haya, age kaha ara
"This is very nice. Now please tell me something more!"
Hearing this Ramananda replied:
iha va-i buddhi-gati nahi ara
yeba prema-vilasa-vivarta eka haya
taha suni tomara sukha haya, ki na haya
"There is another wonderful topic (prema-vilasa-vivarta ) which you can hear from me but I do not know if you will be satisfied with what I say."
Here Ramananda Raya reveals before Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu 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 sastra. As it is said, "dharmasya tattvam nihitam guhayam", the Absolute Truth is hidden in the heart of an unadulterated self-realized person.
Ramananda then spoke a verse which was his own composition. This verse begins with the words, pahilehi raga nayana-bhange bhela (Madhya-lila, 8.194) In these words Ramananda gave a hint about the divine appearance of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in whom both Radha and Krishna are combined.
For what Ramananda wanted to say, he had no sastra to quote. Nonetheless when Mahaprabhu heard the composition of Ramananda He was very satisfied. Indeed Ramananda, by his own composition, revealed that which had never before been revealed in the sastra.
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 Goswamis did substantiate prema-vilasa-vivarta at a later time by quoting the sastra. This however is precisely my point. It had not been shown in the sastra before it was revealed through the heart and words of Ramananda Raya.
Ramananda Raya further said to Sri Caitanya:
yei kahao, sei kahi vani
ki kahiye bhala-manda, kichui na jani
"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-lila, 8.198)
What we find here in the discussions between Sri Caitanya and Ramananda Raya 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 sastra is important and is not to be vilified, but the proper siddhanta according to Kaviraja Goswami, the author of Caitanya-caritamrta, is that the Lord speaks personally through His pure devotees.
According to Vaishnava Acharyas such as Srila Sridhar Deva Goswami Maharaja, the stage of anuraga (in which Ramananda Raya was situated) is a stage of Krishna consciousness independent of the sastra. The sastra, Srila Sridhar Maharaja says, is to give us a confirmation of what we feel in our heart. The real thing, he says, is to be realized in the heart. Anuraga means the plane of direct experience of the world of Absolute Divine Reality, and there the experience is itself the highest confirmation. The sastra is only pointing the way. Furthermore, Srila Sridhar Maharaja says that the sastras are the recorded experiences of those great personalities who have their special experience in the plane of infinite faith, sraddha.
Not only does Krishna speak through His pure devotees but He acts through them as well. Therefore the proper conclusion is that the socio-religious adjustments that Bhaktivinode Thakur and Saraswati Thakur have made with regard to the preaching mission and especially with regard to the institution of sannyasa, 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 sankirtan movement, the prime benediction for humanity at large. This has also been confirmed by Bhaktivinode Thakur in his Sri Tattva-Sutra as quoted earlier in this article.
We also find the following statement by Yudhisthira Maharaja in the Mahabharata, Vana-parva, 313.117:
dharmasya tattvam nihitam guhayam
mahajano yena gatah sa panthah
"The solid truth of religious principles is hidden in the heart of an unadulterated self-realized person. Consequently, as the sastras confirm, one should accept whatever progressive path the self-realized predecessors advocate."
Unfortunately the anti-party lacks the spiritual sense to recognize that the contributions of realized souls are the very essence of the sastra. It is also an obvious oversight of the anti-party that the sastra, although eternal, does not come to us independent of the Vaishnava.
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) parampara, is called a bhagavat-parampara. Indeed the Srimad Bhagavatam which is the most essential scripture for all Gaudiya Vaishnavas, only comes to us via a siksa or bhagavat-parampara. Krishna spoke the essence of the Bhagavat to Brahma. Brahma spoke it to Narada, and Narada in turn taught it to Vyasa. Sukadeva, who was known not to have undergone any diksha samskara, learned its essence from Vyasa. Sukadeva spoke it to the Emperor Pariksit. At that time Suta heard it as well, and he in turn spoke it to Saunaka. This is the Bhagavata-guru-parampara, a siksa-parampara. This is also our answer to the second objection of the Vrndavana anti-party wherein they say, "Bhagavat-diksa and thus Bhagavat-sampradaya are bogus." In a nutshell, our response is that without the bhagavat-parampara (as mentioned above) there is no Srimad Bhagavatam! Here we might put a counter challenge to the anti-party: if you have no bhagavat-parampara then you have no parampara!
Truth is first revealed within the heart of Brahma:
tene brahma hrda ya adi-kavaye
"Vedic knowledge was first imparted into the heart of Brahma, the original created being."
Then this transcendental knowledge is passed on to Narada and next to Vyasadeva who, in this millennium, is the compiler of the Vedas. And after Vyasadeva many perfected souls contributed to the sastra from their realizations. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself composed eight slokas which all Gaudiyas accept to be as good as sastra. 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 Krishna consciousness all over the world.
If we trace the origin of all sastra we come to Vyasadeva, and then to his guru Narada who heard the essence of truth from his guru Lord Brahma in the form of the four nutshell verses of the Bhagavatam. We do not find anywhere that Narada received mantra-diksa from Lord Brahma. Lord Brahma had realized the ocean of truth after he performed meditation on the three fold gayatri, OM which had manifest from the Divine Flute of Sri Krishna. OM is indeed the seed of divya-jnanam, Divine Knowledge, the seed of all knowledge from which manifest the gayarti. Next the Vedas, then the Vedanta, and then the Srimad Bhagavatam. Although it is said that OM emanates from Krishna it actually is emanating from Krishna's Flute, and Krishna's Flute is a nitya-parshad devotee eternally situated in santa-rasa. Krishna simply causes the Flute to vibrate, when it comes in connection with His lotus lips. Krishna does not directly vibrate the sound OM, but He causes His Flute to do so. In this way, from the very beginning the position of Krishna's devotee is conspicuous in the process of receiving Divine Knowledge. Either the devotee is imparting knowledge according to his realization or the Lord is directly speaking through him. In either case the message is transcendental.
In the last part of Satya Narayana's first statement he has said, "Sastra 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 Satya Narayana is trying here to make a twist on the siddhanta by playing on words. Anyway, the proper understanding should be that the sastra is there to help us recognize "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 Vrndavana anti-party's first thrust against our Guru-parampara. 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 Gaudiya Math and the ISKCON Parampara."
Readers interested in this article or the proposed seminar are invited to correspond with the author via email. Gaur Haribol!