Thursday, June 14, 2007

Prema-vivarta

Some may recall that a couple of years ago I caused a bit of a tempest in a teapot by arguing that Bhaktivinoda Thakur himself composed the Prema-vivarta and attributed it to Jagadananda Pandit. A couple of days ago, Tripurari Maharaj sent me the following exchange between Aksayananda Swami and B.R. Sridhar Maharaj, which I quote here:

Aksayananda Swami: Prema Vivarta was written by Bhaktivinode, somebody told, not Jagadananda.

Sridhara Maharaja: I told. If we can think out that the teachings of Sri Caitanyadeva is the highest, full-fledged theism as told by Prabhupada several times, and Bhagavat is the highest development, then that has got reality, that is true, that cannot but be true. Whatever is felt, any more, any single division, that is generally bonafide. That is the only truth. That the revealed truth means that thousands and thousands of years back it was revealed in some rishi or so and that cannot be, the revelation cannot come at present, I don't think like that. Any time the revelation may come to support this highest form of theism, whatever the revelation. I also told that this Jaiva Dharma, it is fictitious, but I think that these things actually must have been true, found in the creation. When it has come in the consciousness of Bhaktivinode Thakura, it is not contradictory. It is floating and sometimes appearing and sometimes disappearing. It is all eternal truth, in this way.

Tripurari Maharaj comments: "It is not that clear, but he is saying that he also concluded at some point that BVT wrote Prema Vivarta, although he sees it as revelation." (It does seem clear enough, since BRS immediately agrees, "I said.")

In my response to the kerfuffle that followed my original article, I dealt with this particular argument (See The Implications of our Gurus' moral failings, scroll down to "Proposed solutions to the “three books” problem"), but at least it is nice to see that the basic premise, i.e., that BVT did himself put pen to paper and produce the Prema Vivarta, was not unacceptable to B.R. Sridhar Maharaj.

18 comments:

anuradha said...

Have you ever met and spoken to Srila Shridar Maharaja face to face ?
I have heard you did meet his friend Srila BP Puri Goswami several times and had some talks. How was that ? What did you talk about ? How did he deal with certain controversies ? I know he is a loyal disciple of SBSST and also had strong friendships in the broader Gaudiya world (like with Lalita Prasad Thakur and others).

By just reading books, aricles and nowadays blogs I sometimes get the impression we are at war.... 'IGM have no parampara, everything they do is in essence fake' vs 'cast-goswamis have polluted... etcetera'

Yet in reality the vaisnavas are very softhearted and understanding in dealing with certain controversies. And many times there are cordial friendships between the camps.

jijaji said...

That link doesn't work Jagat...

Hope your well!

jijaji

Jagat said...

Fixed the link. Sorry about that.

Jai Radhe, Anuradha Devi! I met Sridhar Maharaj many times, but I never met Puri Maharaj, at least not to my knowledge.

I still have extremely warm memories of Sridhar Maharaj, who treated me with great personal affection. When I took initiation from my Gurudeva, however, I went to see him once and he was exceedingly upset.

Unfortunately, religious maturity is a rare creature. I have been hearing many of the neo-atheists blame all wickedness on religion, while the fundamentalist Christians similarly blame all wickedness on Darwin and the resultant atheism. "The real clash of civilizations is in the human heart." The Bhagavatam tells us about the degrees of spiritual maturity. Bhaktivinoda Thakur also talked about the three degrees of faith. Why does no one pay attention to this?

The fact is that religion is so deeply connected to our quest for identity. And men, especially, look for identity in the heroic quest. They desperately want to be defenders of the truth, saviors of the ignorant, destroyers of the wicked, and so on. This is called vira-rasa. So even though we want to eclipse this tendency with the madhura bhava, we keep falling back into this tendency, which is fundamentally a sign of our insecurity. It's a lack of faith, for in the final analysis, we can really do very little except love.

I am therefore a promoter of Gandhian thought. I believe we should follow the path of ahimsa in all things. But most of all, we should bring glory on our sampradaya by endeavoring to follow the path of spiritual maturity and leave aside the great bane of religion, sectarianism.

Seek the truth. Follow the truth as it is revealed to you (What an challenging imperative that is!), but remember that even those who worship in the mode of ignorance are indeed following a version of the truth as it is revealed to them. mama vartmanuvartante manusyah partha sarvasah. Find the sweet association of Vaishnavas who are ssvajatiyasaya, snigdha, and svato-vara. Let their pedigree be of only incidental importance.

Jagat said...

It's rather odd that I made that post before I heard the radio program that I posted the next day.

==========

I did a lot of translation work for Puri Maharaj, as well as B.B. Tirtha Maharaj, so I know Puri Maharaj's spirit quite well. It is true that he was in general averse to conflict.

When I met Bodhayan Maharaj last year, he told me that he was a frequent visitor to my Guru's ashram in Birnagar, where Bhaktivinoda Thakur's birthplace is marked by a rather insignificant shrine, next to which is the samadhi of my Gurudeva. Bodhayan Maharaj has said that he wants to build something a little more glorious there. Since the ashram has little money, they will probably take it.

Lalita Prasad Thakur himself had an overall negative opinion of the Gaudiya Math. Although he cooperated with his brother for some time, when the GM started to get opulent, he left. I cannot provide much in the way of details, though I believe that he did leave a record of them. Perhaps one day someone will make them public. Let us just say, it was his considered opinion that there was a negative tradeoff of opulence for pure bhakti. Subsequently, he felt that he was unfairly cheated of the Svananda-sukhada Kunj residence of Bhaktivinoda Thakur in Godrumdwip (Swarup Ganj) by Bhakti Vilas Tirth and his disciples and was ever suspicious of friendly overtures from Gaudiya Math visitors, including Bhaktivedanta Swami, who all wanted to take over Bhaktivinoda Thakur's birthplace. All GM branches have more money than the Bhaktivinoda Goshthi, but my Gurudeva would never have let them take the one organization that he felt most truly represented Bhaktivinoda Thakur's innermost bhajan.

I am a little pessimistic about whether that wish of his will be maintained.

anuradha said...

In relation to BR Sridar Maharaja, what do you mean with 'exceedingly upset' ?
Dissapproval could be expected from his point of view since ACBSP is considered completely bonafide by him. So that didn't come to you as a surprise probably. If you had a relationship with him this decision you made naturally made him upset as expected. But was he angry with you ?

About the points you made concerning GM getting richer and the consequences....... Money can make people sick in the head. It's very powerfull. Yet it is also very necessary to print books, facilitate nice programmes etcetera. It is like handling fire, potentially deadly, but very necessary for cooking.

I can understand that your Gurudeva (probably more internally directed, like a bhajananandi) was appalled by some of the things that go on in a large institution (I dare to say....... ALL large and small institutions).

I still try to discover how an institute, however nice its founding ideal, can ever be free of greed and sectarianism.

Any ideas ?

Jagat said...

Sridhar Maharaj chastised me and proceeded to repeat the GM propaganda related to my guru, most of which can be found in the writings of Narasingha Maharaj.

Lalita Prasad Thakur was a thorn in the side of the GM because he vocally opposed Siddhanta Saraswati's "disciplic succession." Indeed, his claim was that Saraswati Thakur was never initiated at all. Since he himself had received initiation from Bhaktivinoda Thakur, the potential for creating trouble was substantial. Saraswati Thakur countered by saying that Lalita Prasad Thakur was blind to the subtler meaning of BVT's teachings, seeing him really as a father rather than as a guru. If anything, he had a physical or formal relation with BVT, not a genuinely spiritual one. This accusation naturally enraged LPT. But what can one do when the power to control history is in the hands of those who have a vested interest in distorting it?

So yes, Sridhar Maharaj was angry with me for being so stupid as to fall for this propaganda.

As to the problems of success and institutions, well maybe we can come to that some other time. It is, in many ways, the same problem as that of sex and spirituality, or any other matter where "yukta-vairagya" is being exercised. How can we prevent yukta-vairagya from being turned into an excuse for blatant sense gratification? Vigilance, individual and institutional, is the only answer. Institutions have the advantage of being able to collectively use a variety of coercive techniques to enforce their standards. The difficulty lies when institutions themselves become weak or corrupt. In the cases of highly centralized institutions, this can happen very quickly when the center weakens.

anuradha said...

So how does 'spiritual maturity' solve these heavy accusations made by your Gurudeva towards his brother ? And not in the sense like "I am right, but I tolerate the ignorant behaviour of the ones without parampara since they don't know any better and who follow a version of truth revealed to them in the mode of ignorance" (a general interreligious approach).

I have difficulty believing that from Bhaktivinoda's offspring develloped two entirely different religions. Though I am ready to accept it, if it is proven to be the case.
I have met your godbrother Gadadhara Pran several years ago. He was very friendly to me and I consider him an extravagant artist with a good heart. But he admitted that what was going on in the Maths is a whole other thing. Not the same, very different. I told him honestly that I am more comfortable with what I learn from my Gurudeva and even if I was ready to accept his approach, I was in no way ready for it. He told me that it was fear and I was probably right in not being ready for the real thing.
Advaita das also ones wrote me that it was "all fear" that makes me not want to see the inevitable.

Point is... I have no fear at all in these matters !
I feel SBSST is very sincere and in no way consider it a possibillity that he would give his many disciples a fake mantra. He is not on my list of bogus gurus in it for the fame and money. That on a more familiar level there is a disagreement between two brothers that love their father very much, but understand him differently doesn't pose a problem to me. Like...... whatever !;-)
But then again, I am not a preacher and do not have to prove my right from your wrong. Like you in a way, since you have taken the whole thing to yet another level... neosahajiyanism.

The harmonizing theme is something that interests me as you might have noticed. Any future light is welcomed by me.

Jagat said...

Somewhere in all the writing I have done I talk about this. There are a number of approaches, but the fundamental mature attitude is pluralistic or liberal. This is a big subject, because there are factually moral universals. Everything is not purely subjective, or at least not for practical purposes. The pluralistic approach, however, accepts that everyone, from Brahma to the Indragopa, is on the path leading to God, is indeed never separated from God. It requires maturity to recognize this and to not try to enforce one's own personal beliefs or attitude on others, usually out of a sense of personal insecurity.

However, this does not mean a wishy-washy anything goes attitude. On the one hand, a wise leader is aware of a moral hierarchy, enforces it in his own life and practice, and when the occasion arises, teaches it to his followers as an absolute. Certainly in the beginning stage it is necessary for the acharya to deal with his student in this way. After all, yoga means discipline, and one cannot expect real results without a discipline, without faith and nishtha. In other words, dilettantism has limited effectiveness. However, part of the disciple's progress is measured in how he understands the acharya and is able to distinguish between relative and absolute aspects of his teaching.

Now in the case of conflicts between gurus, one is tested in his maturity. After all, we have been trained to accept the guru as absolute in all respects. I am saying that one has to be able to harmonize that truth with the ability to recognize errors and character flaws, etc., and see them in proper perspective.

Jagat said...

With regards BSST's sincerity or not. Have you read Charismatic Renewal in Gaudiya Vaishnavism. The second part deals with Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati.

There is no question that Saraswati Thakur had a powerful vision and we are ever grateful to him for it. I am not with those who have "guru blindness" or "gratitude deficiency." That is a terrible disease in my opinion.

Nevertheless, I believe that if we look at Gaudiya Vaishnavism globally, we will have to adjust our conceptions towards the prominence of madhura-rasa and everything that implies. This is indeed a fundamental shift in attitude for which everyone may not be ready.

Jagat said...

I was looking around on the Prema Prayojan site for the text I refered to earlier. I found this, which seems relevant:

'The study of 16th century texts is certainly helpful, especially in some very important areas--that of appartenance, for instance, which is a central element in identity. And, as I have said, identity is the sine qua non of being a Vaishnava. If you think "I am Krishna Das, or Radha Dasi" then you are, at least in your own mind, a Vaishnava. And no matter how others try to prove you are not ("No initiation, no guru, wrong sampradaya, wrong behavioral standards, wrong sadhana, too intellectual"), you will still be one.'

Jagat said...

This is not the one I was thinking of either, but it is also relevant.
Soul killers.

anuradha said...

Yes, I read it.
It was given to me by a student of the Bhaktivedanta College (Radhadesh, Belgium). It is actually also appreciated by a wide range of Iskconites, because it is an analysis/interpretation of SBSST's reforms based on historical facts and not as in Nitai das' case an attempt to prove it is all a hoax mixing history with personal doubts and unwritten testimonies from people long gone from the planet. You leave in the middle if you personally believe it were necessary reforms or not.

That makes it the most unpartial abbreviated analysis I read so far.

Nitai das, Puri das, Narasingha Maharaja (Russia), Satyanarayan das and yourself included are amongst the scholars that have raised doubts about the authenticity of the BMGS-Sampradaya. The fact that it is especially the scholars versed in Sanskrit with doubts made me want to investigate.

I didn't find much that made me doubt though, only that there are more opinions around and not everybody agrees with the also scholar SBSST.

Jagat said...

It all depends, of course, on the particular attitude one has to bhakti, the kind of milieu or association one seeks, etc.

I personally believe that the personal connection of a diksha guru line has great importance. But, of course, as long as you are satisfied with the Gaudiya Math milieu, there is really no problem.

My essential point is to show that charismatic figures do come in history and start new religious movements. There is nothing wrong with that. These new movements establish their own legitimizing protocols--whether you belong or not depends on certain conditions. If you don't get baptized, for instance, or communion, you will not be fully accepted as a Catholic. Without holy orders, as a priest. It may be said that the Indian system of initiation is a lot weaker institutionally, but it nevertheless is the basis of appartenance. All Iskcon people want to know if you are a direct disciple of Bhaktivedanta Swami or not, etc. By direct disciple is meant formal initiation, no matter how everyone tries to fudge the issue with various quotes. Certainly if you want to be a guru in Iskcon, you have to be able to show diksha connections to the "sampradaya acharya."

So the second point, which follows that one, is that Saraswati Thakur made a deliberate choice to separate himself from all traditional parivars of the Gaudiya Vaishnava school. As the subsequent GM tradition shows, this splitting of the sampradaya and the generalized mutual cries of illegitimacy are still operative.

But more than this, he instituted and there has subsequently developed a variety of significant cultural differences. To some extent Narayan Maharaj's group has closed that gap a little, but nevertheless, there remain a large number of differences, some subtle, some gross. One who is attracted to the particular cultural forms that are widespread in the traditional groups--Nama Yajnas, Lila-kirtan, raganuga-smarana, cultivation of the Bengali padavali Mahajanas, etc., then the tendency will be to gravitate to them and to seek appartenance through initiation with them.

In my Keeping Faith with Kheturi article, I tried in a feeble way to show how the idea of a physical connection with the original associates of Mahaprabhu was integral to the thinking of the first generations of Gaudiya Vaishnava devotees. Understanding this will go a long way to understanding my general approach to bhakti.

Although I do not declare the GM illegitimate, and for the most part respect, admire and enjoy the company of devotees in these groups, each in their own way and in order to share with them a taste for Hari katha and kirtan, I nevertheless long for the association of those who share my particular approach.

anuradha said...

Your preference is clear to me. I belong to a different group. But my feeling is that you are not on a crusade to prove some kind of illegitimacy of the sangha you previously more or less also belonged to.

That makes me feel comfortable enough to once in a while ask you questions about general and specific matters concerning our Gaudiya tradition.

That's all

Jagat said...

Doing a Google search for "culture aparadha", I hit this page from Gaudiya Discussions. It's an exchange between me and Muralidhar Das, a Sridhar Maharaj disciple from Australia.

http://www.gaudiyadiscussions.com/index.php?act=print&client=printer&f=76&t=1923

anuradha said...

You wrote:
"I think it is clear now that Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati deliberately created a separate sampradaya, the Saraswata Gaudiyas, which begins its diksha line from Saraswati Thakur himself. I personally am ready to honor the insights, mission and accomplishments of Saraswati Thakur and his disciples, even while I give my allegiance to the different vision of the Gaudiya sampradaya. I personally refuse to go back to the feuding of the past. I will not perpetuate Vaishnava aparadha because of a perception of offenses committed to my guru varga."

Clearly I think you are way off saying that our diksha-line starts with SBSST. Only from the ritualistic traditional point of view you may have a point. And of course there is your personal point of experience, which is most important. If you have felt more love and intimacy from the person you refer to as your Gurudeva and a deepening of your bhajan came as a result of that affection then who am I to say you have to agree with your Guru's brothers' reforms ?
This is your personal justification for the choices you make in rejecting and accepting. I and my opinion hold no position in that realm.
Similarly your opinion about where our diksha-line starts has no place in my experience and perception. It has no meaning to me.

So I agree with you not to be to quest-like in proving our right over the wrong of others. This attitude keeps some doors open to appreciate certain aspects of the other parties' views and perceptions on a whole range of different topics.

It keeps doors open to learn from eachother....

Anonymous said...

Jagatji,

Lets see if I can get all this down with the cutting and pasting I need to do. In this discussion, you referred back to a discussion on Gaudyia Discussions...

http://www.gaudiyadiscussions.com/index.php?showtopic=1865

... in that discussion, you said, "Writing that particular article has been probably the most dangerous thing I did for my own material comfort since leaving Iskcon, the fallout from which I am still suffering."

Which article are you referring to?

- NMd

Jagat said...

Radhe Radhe! I was refering to the original article on the "three books" question. I had written an article on Bhaktivinoda Thakur and was troubled by two things: One was the rift between him and Vipin Vihari Goswami, supposedly over the Janma Sthan issue; the other was something that had disturbed me from long before, namely the issue of the three books (Prema-vivarta, Caitanya Upanishad, and Navadvipa-satakam).

The article is on the Prema Prayojan site, so you can read it there if you can find it.