Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Bhaktivinoda Thakur's Meat Eating and Lalita Prasad Thakur

When I see a discussion starting that deals with questions I was deeply involved in 10 or 20 years ago, or even more recently, I do not feel tempted to get involved again. One moves on, I guess.

Rocana Prabhu has recently published an editorial on the Sampradaya Sun wherein he struggles to make sense of Bhaktivinoda Thakur's avowal that he engaged in meat eating. In the context of this article, he makes a few disparaging comments about my diksha guru, Sri Lalita Prasad Thakur. It is unfortunate that there is no one but me to currently come to the defense of my guru, and for me to do so means exposing myself to involvement in disagreeable disputes, which is certainly not appealing to me. Nevertheless, it seems to me that I am under some obligation to say at least a few words.

Poor Rocana seems to have just discovered that Bhaktivinoda Thakur admitted eating meat and fish in his memoirs. He worries about "the potential this has to disturb the minds of many readers," who would consider such practices "abhorrent." This is in fact the realization that this admission plays havoc with his own idea of what it means to be a "nitya-siddha" or a "sampradaya acharya." Although he compliments Bhaktivinoda Thakur for his "extreme honesty," he does not seem to have grasped the real significance of such admissions.

Rocana bandies about with comparisons to Ramachandra and Bhima's meat-eating and how "they" are different from "us" and that therefore the same standards cannot apply. And woe be to those who compare their own sinful pasts to the comparatively less objectionable, historically forgivable actions of Bhaktivinoda Thakur.

But all this solves nothing and simply muddies the waters and reveals the general confusion about Guru Tattva that is rampant in the Krishna consciousness movement. A million quotes from Srila Prabhupada's books, unfortunately, do little to clarify the issue. Rather, they go on urging us to erase the human aspects of the Guru in order to see him as a God, and to sacrifice all capacity for individual self-realization in submission to the guru's orders and guru-created institutions.

I feel deeply that these kinds of exhortations have resulted in a huge imbalance in emphasis in the general understanding of Krishna consciousness. They diminish our humanity instead of lifting it to the heavens. How could this ever have been the intention of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu?

The importance of the human aspect of the Guru

Though I have, as mentioned above, already written about these issues, it is perhaps time to repeat myself again. Currently the Prema Prayojan site is closed temporarily, so I cannot not refer to the numerous times I have gone over the question. Indeed, the first time I publicly wrote on this subject was in letters to Rocana on his Garuda listserve, at the very beginning of my internet engagement with devotees. In connection with the Bhaktivinoda meat-eating question, I wrote on Audarya forums in 2003:

I think that we should be extremely indebted to Bhaktivinoda for having pierced the hagiographical balloon so that we can surmount the superficial understanding of guru-tattva and nitya-siddha and all the rest of the terms that we bandy about in order to blind ourselves to possible flaws in our guru vargas.

I have written about this before in relation to the controversy over the Prabhupada-lilamrita. How much more inspiring and glorious it is to have a human guru who has shown the way by struggling with the negative aspects of material entanglement and succeeding! This is, as far as I am concerned, a crucial point of transcending the kanishtha adhikari stage.

It is really the same question as that of guru omniscience and infallibility. There is much confused thinking on this issue... The arch-conservative and reactionary side tries to discredit the Sva-likhita-jivani itself. These people readily accept statements from this book when it suits their purposes, but refuse to accept those that contradict their idealized image of Bhaktivinoda Thakur. Even so, the SLJ is still the primary source of information on BVT's life as we know it--including Rupavilasa's book and all other Gaudiya Math publications on his life--with the appropriate expurgations, of course.

I take a much more liberal and, I believe, enlightened view that attempts to reconcile the humanity of the guru with his divinity rather than obliterate his humanity altogether in a cloud of mystification.

While I was thinking about whether I would write this article or not, I had the radio on and happened to hear an interview with Thomas Merton scholar Michael Higgins. Higgins spoke of the source of Merton's appeal and inspirational power as being anchored in his insistent search for truth and holiness. This comes out especially in the collection of diaries that he kept diligently and in which he spoke of things like a longstanding affair with a nurse and other "unsaintly" activities.

But rather than diminishing his stature, and I hope that this is abundantly clear, people's appreciation for Merton's true worth only grows, to the point that though he spoke emphatically and repeatedly against "the cult of personality", he has ironically become the subject of an entire Merton industry. Mahatma Gandhi, in his Experiments with Truth, had the same modern approach to saintliness.

None of this means that they are any the less saintly, but it is their saintly ambition, it is their honest, self-examined determination to attain the impossible goal of human perfection, that makes them admirable, and indeed worthy of being followed.

As an aside, Satsvarupa Maharaj has been, I believe, influenced by Thomas Merton to some extent and so he also approaches spiritual life quite openly. Without entering into a critique of the degree of personal honesty, mystical or theological profundity that goes into his writings, there is a certain modern sensibility that is beyond the comprehension of the ordinary devotees and their obsession with "nitya-siddhas."

My reproach of Satsvarupa is rather that he lacks courage and has made something of a career of retreating: He tempts fate by chanting extra rounds (Japa Notebook) and then retreats; he visits Narayan Maharaj, and then retreats; he has a sexual escapade, and then retreats; he decides to take face questions about sexuality head on, and then retreats--each time caving in to Iskcon criticism. No wonder the man is suffering so terribly from migraines!

If he could just once follow his instincts and break away from the terrible subjection to the Institution that holds him in its grip--a grip that is tattooed with the words "Iskcon acharya." With him, the problem is not so much a belief in the value of honest self-reflection as the lack of courage to follow through on his intuitions.

Recently I mentioned on these pages an interview with John Kain, who in a new book called A Rare and Precious Thing talks about a number of spiritual teachers in a variety of traditions. His opening statement was that all of these teachers have in "one way or another embraced the new paradigm." By this he meant that these spiritual masters made no attempt to pass themselves off as "nitya siddhas," but nevertheless had a powerful and lasting effect on their followers.

It is almost axiomatic to speak of today's spiritual leaders in Krishna consciousness as flawed. We have been so conditioned to accepting that the spiritual master must be a "realized soul", which we associate with some kind of unattainable superhuman status, that we end up absorbed in a kind of faultfinding exercise that makes us incapable of acknowledging even the considerable merits of another devotee except in the most begrudging manner.

Demonstrating that another person is imperfect is not a hard job: Ramachandra Puri showed us all that it is possible to find fault even with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. So, is there any problem in finding fault with a sadhaka who confesses his imperfections? The question here is: From whom can we, as sadhakas ourselves, learn more? From the person who exhorts us to be impossibly perfect while pretending to conform to this same, entirely corrupting attitude, or from the one who sincerely admits his flaws and reveals his strategies, etc., in dealing with them?

Evidently, adopting this kind of strategy will result in a sanguine attitude, even a distrust, of personality cults of all kinds. George Orwell said "saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent" (in Reflections on Gandhi), especially if they set themselves up as such. Of course, I am the first to admit that the currents of hypocrisy run deep, and no public self-reflection is entirely void of manipulative goals.

Nevertheless, let it be stated as an axiom, which like all axioms will seem bland and obvious, that all people, including saints, are human beings. As such, they are subject to all the flaws of humanity--weakness and temptation, error and illusion. It is not freedom from humanity that a saint achieves, nor even the perfection of an ideal humanity; I would say rather that the saint is one who has consecrated himself to the pursuit of holiness and has made that ideal real to others. The acharya is someone who in the depths of his realization has found jewels that are of inestimable value to other humans who seek life's meaning in God.

Those who are addicted to the idea that "God speaks to the Acharya; his words are therefore the words of God himself," patati patata, are missing several huge points.

Lalita Prasada Thakur, my Prabhu

Of course, the paragraph in Rocana's article that really inspired me to write anything at all was the following:

We also have to keep in mind that the Svalikhita-jivani is actually a long letter written to his son, Lalita Prasada. As history tells it, in due course Lalita Prasada became a real adversary to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati. In fact, he started a separate movement that is considered asiddhantic, and criticized Srila Bhaktisiddhanta extensively. So we should consider how that plays into our understanding this particular circumstance with Srila Bhaktivinoda's meat eating.

Who knows whether Srila Bhaktivinoda intended that his letter to his son be published and made into a book? He might also have been trying to send a direct message to Lalita Prasada, it's hard to tell. Svalikhita-jivani is certainly a very unusual, honest depiction of a great Sampradaya Acarya's early life. How Lalita Prasada - or any of us, for that matter - choose to interpret this information is of the utmost importance. After all, love is always tested. This candid written narrative might simply have been designed by the father as a test for the son. And as history shows, the son failed the test. Whether or not his publication of this autobiographical letter was part of the failure, we can't know.
This paragraph is so full of half-truths, misunderstandings and plain nonsense that it is hard to know where to begin. I have indeed already begun to do so above, as the root of the error is in Rocana's magical idea of the "Sampradaya Acharya." It is furthermore an unworthy and cynical attempt to deflect the problem onto a saintly person of whom Rocana knows nothing other than the parampara propaganda he now so condescendingly perpetuates.

Rocana's concept arose at least in part from reflection on the now generally well-known fact that Siddhanta Saraswati and Lalita Prasada Thakur were in profound disagreement on the issue of diksha, the position of Bhaktivinoda Thakur's diksha guru Bipin Bihari Goswami, raganuga bhakti practices, the nature of Gaudiya Vaishnava institutions, sannyasa, and many of Saraswati Thakur's innovations. I have written about these things at length and, I believe, with a certain amount of detachment. However, if we can draw one conclusion from the Sva-likhita-jivani, it is that Bipin Bihari Goswami played a significant role in Bhaktivinoda Thakur's life, something that is a bit of an inconvenient truth with most of Bhaktivinoda Thakur's putative followers.

And this lesson has a connection with the meat-eating issue. It is this: after taking initiation from his guru, Bhaktivinoda Thakur stopped all flesh consumption. Indeed, he highlights this as a miraculous result of being initiated. This in itself shows the Thakur's appreciation of a significant transformation in his life as a result of coming into connection with his guru. How does this square with those who are on the right side of history and have consigned Bipin Bihari Prabhu to the rubbish heap? This avowal by Bhaktivinoda Thakur on its own seems sufficient truth to me to discard Saraswati Thakur and to follow Lalita Prasad Thakur, everything else be damned!

Since Bhaktivinoda Thakur initiated Lalita Prasad and gave him the same pranali that he received from Bipin Bihari. We may well ask what kind of test he was giving Lalita Prasad in telling him these things about his guru and whether Lalita Prasad failed that test or not. Certainly, in my eyes, since he stayed on this earth long enough to pass this same pranali on to me when he was already 99 years old, he did not. Through all that time he did not swerve in his commitment or his determination to preserve Bhaktivinoda Thakur's heritage as he had received it. If Saraswati Thakur did not receive the same gifts from his guru, or received other ones, does this somehow put him on the right side of history? What kind of discourse about history is this anyway?

It is easy to buy into the fallacy that so-called success and virtue are the same thing when so clearly they are not. If there is anyone who should know this, it is Rocana himself, since he, as an outsider, is engaged in a discourse of resistance to a particular course of history. I am sure he thinks of himself on the side of truth and history, but one day, if Iskcon does not find itself on that rubbish heap, it will certainly throw him on it.

Rather than make rash comments about the fickle judgments of history, let us seek the truth. Orwell summarized the cynical ideological manipulation of history in 1984, "He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future." Fortunately for us, neither Rocana, nor Iskcon and the Gaudiya Math and their followers, yet have complete control over the Gaudiya Vaishnava world's present, whatever illusions they may have. Lalita Prasad Thakur will always be a hero of the resistance against those who have run roughshod over the history of the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya.

Siddhanta and sadhana (Dogma and Ritual)

There are, if anything, two major contributions made by Bhaktivinoda Thakur to the history of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, two contributions that blissfully stand in apparent contradiction to one another.

The first of these, which we can place in the early part of his life, is the principal message of Shukavak's milestone marking book. It is his work as a rational analyst of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. It was as an inheritor of an aspect of the Enlightenment, someone who had read European philosophers and was able to come up with the concept of the saragrahi.

I cannot tell you how significant this concept is. Perhaps Rocana has a little inkling of it, but only to a point, because he cannot exercise his rational function when it comes to his so-called Sampradaya Acharyas. The whole point of being a saragrahi, however, is that it must be applied to one's gurus themselves. The sara element of the Guru is the Truth that he has been able to connect his disciple to. That Truth is not the management directions of Iskcon, or the final order of succession, or instructions about who to associate with and when. The sara is "Love Krishna and do whatever is necessary to attain that goal." He may say, "I have done such and such myself; these are my gurus, my tradition, this is what they have done to get there, but I am only the door. Pass through this door and into Goloka Vrindavan. Illuminated by this guiding light of identity as a servant of Krishna, take the world I give you."

The Chaitanya Charitamrita tells us that Krishna is the Guru. He appears in the form of the teacher and initiator, but he is also present in the heart. It is Krishna in the heart who says "yay" or "nay" to his presence externally. When the truth comes as a blinding light accompanied by the imperative to act in the service of Krishna, that is Guru. But this does not mean that your relationship with God in the Heart is finished. It simply means that the relation with the Soul of your soul is mediated through a particular cultural and literary tradition, a symbol system, a religious language, a history of ideas and archetypal models.

As such, we are not meant to blindly follow anyone or anything, but rather to enter into the discourse that centers around this tradition, a discourse that developed over the centuries and to which Bhaktivinoda Thakur, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and Bhaktivedanta Swami have all made significant contributions, but which none of them has thankfully terminated in some Fukiyamian "end of history."

The second aspect of Bhaktivinoda Thakur's contribution consists in his discovery, approval, acceptance and continuation of the essential element of Gaudiya Vaishnava teaching, namely manjari bhava. I had left this essay untouched for several days until I saw a pretentious little article by Rasarani Devi called Poor Bhagavat Das in which she mocks this practice and goal cherished by Bhaktivinoda Thakur and then passed on to his son, through whom it has come to a few other fortunate individuals.

I am afraid that the baby has gone out with the bathwater here--perhaps we should go looking on the rubbish heap of history for manjari bhava as well, for it seems that this is where these self-righteous judges of Gaudiya Vaishnava history, looking through their narrow prism, have placed it.

16 comments:

anuradha said...

I understand the fire that ignites in you when you feel you need to stand up and say something in defense of your Gurudeva.

But keep your cool. Not every follower of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta shares Rocana's analysis and view on history. So do not be tempted to let the fire get out of control.....
"This avowal by Bhaktivinoda Thakur on its own seems sufficient truth to me to discard Saraswati Thakur and to follow Lalita Prasad Thakur, everything else be damned!"

There is room to appreciate both, you preferring Lalit Prasad Thakur, I preferring Bimal Prasad Thakur, yet respecting both.

Personally I never even read articles and books that so clearly falsify history in order to create some superhuman myth. Only a heavily brainwashed follower does not see through these attempts to do to Prabhupad (or Bhaktivinod) what they did to Jezus a few millenia earlier. An unconscious attempt to stop the current, or to crystalize the liquid flow of love.

Of course on the flipside of the coin I will also not pretend that there weren't any differences of opinion between the two brothers about how to march towards the goal we share..Prema Prayojan..

I told you earlier that all these superhuman miracles and myths work contraproductive to the devellopment of faith in me. I want to believe in this beautiful philosophy, but some preachers of this philosophy want to make me belief in miracles. It is not necessary. And somtimes even contraproductive.

Indeed the frankness and human aspect of Bhaktivinod strenghtens my faith more than some story about a miraculous healing or a prediction he might have done.

This is also why I so much like my paramguru Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, because he also wasn't flying high in the sky trying to impress his following with miracles and false promises. He is real and honest in his approach.

Of course I never had the fortune of meeting your Gurudeva nor did I read anything from his hands. But I know he kept friendly relationships with many of his spiritual nephews as well. And not only the grandnephews that came to be reïnitiated.

So in your frustration about remarks and behaviour of some of his followers (towards you, your Gurudeva and history) keep that in mind... The brother of your respected Gurudeva was honest and real.

I do understand also why you get tired of this topic. It is indeed tiresome.

Jagat said...

Thank you, Anuradha. I have always tried to be conciliatory in the past, and most of those who know me recognize that.

I have more to say, more confessional in nature, which will appear in my next post.

Anonymous said...

Powerful writing Jagat. Thank you!

RDK d

Harisaran said...

Dear Jagat,

Radhe-Radhe!

I was reading this article and I though you may want to know that Subal Das, is a disciple of Sri Lalita Prasad, and nowadays he lives in Hawaii, Big Island. I do not know exactly how much he knows about his Gurudeva's biography but yes he may have something to share about Sri Lalita Prasada.

Steve / Subal said...

Thanks for defending our gurudev once again. I usually do not read the writtings of persons such as Rochan, so I do not know what they are saying. I also consider most such critics to be beyond logic, reason and fact. However, your writting is good to clarify matters for those who may be open minded and confused by such mistatements as Rochan's.

It is good to be able to read your writtings again. I appreciate you as a learned fellow disciple of Lalita Prasadji, and offer my continued friendship.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jagat,

I applaude what you are doing to clarify the truth so that the sincere can find their way to an authentic Caitanya Vashnav Tradition, and by the power of Diksa can experience the Truth of Caitanya and the beautiful Tradition that has come down through him.

Kindly - within your own sensibilities - continue. Tell you the truth: you are such a good writer and with a good mind and loving heart - it is a great seva you are doing.

Jagat said...

Thank you, I appreciate your understanding and support. Jai Radhe! Please continue to give me your blessings.

Gaura said...

I appreciate your point of Srila Prabhupada overcoming obstacles making him glorious.
Regarding Bhaktivinode’s eating of flesh... A devotee presents the challenge that “Jesus ate meat,” Srila Prabhupada said “ Jesus could eat the whole world ! He was such a powerful personality, saktyavesa avatara. But you cannot imitate, our business is to follow his instructions

"One should simply follow the instructions of the Lord and His empowered servants. Their instructions are all good for us, and any intelligent person will perform them as instructed. However, one should guard against trying to imitate their actions. One should not try to drink the ocean of poison in imitation of Lord Siva." SB 10.33.30 - 31

Jagat said...

Thank you, Gauraji. With regards the remarks about Bhaktivinoda Thakur's meat-eating. Your quote from the Bhagavatam is interesting.

This philosophy is actually very dangerous and problematic in many ways. This is why I have addressed the issue briefly in the article The implications of our gurus' moral failings. But if you want to understand the other articles in that series.

Just today, there was a discussion of a similar way of thinking as it applies in American Christianity. May I draw to the following article and video Jeff Sharlet and Bill Maher interview. If you scroll down the comments to the discussions of Calvin (just do a word search for Calvin) and read those responses to get an idea of the Christian version of this doctrine of being "above the law."

Of course, you know as well as I do that this is supposed to apply to others and no Vaishnava would ever think it applies to himself. But at the same time, no one can really permit anyone to act outside the law. That is the basic principle of "the rule of law," which is the very essence of democratic society.

You may turn around and say that Prabhupada called democracy "demoncracy" or some such thing, but I am not at all in agreement. Of course that is a story for another day.

Radhe Radhe!

Anonymous said...

Personal Letter from Gaura, Part I

I have not read Rocana’s article but Srila Prabhupada cautioned us to not make any offences towards his godbrothers, what to speak of the brother of his own Guru Maharaja. I am your junior godbrother, and what you decide to do is your business but I feel the need to take another stance, with my limited knowledge and faith. You refer to Lalit Prasada Thakur as “my diksha guru,” “my prabhu.”

In the Folio on ISKCON devotees interacting with Lalit Prasad Thakur, initially Srila Prabhupada was encouraging Jayapataka to see him with the hope of the Thakur helping to procur land to start the Mayapur project. After some months when Srila Prabhupada saw the Thakur was not going to do anything , his instruction was not to associate with him anymore, but still be respectful. Srila Prabhupada himself bowed down before him offering obeisances, Guru Kripa prabhu told me, when he went to see him.

Was this instruction to these senior devotees only for them to follow, or was it meant for all of Prabhupada’s disciples?

Visvambara prabhu wrote to Srila Prabhupada telling him that Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur was his favorite author, and Srila Prabhupada had to remind him of his indebtedness to Prabhupada and said : "second favorite author,” not to take Srila Prabhupada for granted. Had it not been for him, we’d still be engaged in the worst of activities, and have no clue about Srila Bhaktivinod's family.

When Jai Sacinandana wanted to elminate Yamuna from singing Govindam at Deity greetings, Prabhupada said that constantly changing things is "our Western disease." "No! All along you have been hearing the recording of Yamuna dasi, and now you want to change. It is not ordinary singing, it is concert. Many people are singing, so it is not bad. Just like sankirtana, many voices are there -- men and women; so it is the same thing, sankirtana. I approve of it. Here in the Krishna-Balaram temple we are hearing the same recording every morning. So if it is good here, why not there?”

Srila Prabhupada explains “One gentleman, Vallabha Acarya. He was very much devotee of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He wrote one comment on Srimad-Bhagavatam, Subodhini-tika, it is called. That is recognized, nice tika, comment. But he approached Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He was very great devotee of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. So he simply said that ‘Caitanya Mahaprabhu, if You hear my comment on the Srimad-Bhagavatam, You'll find it is far better than Sridhara Svami's.’

“Sridhara Svami is the very old commentator. So Caitanya Mahaprabhu immediately rejected: ‘Oh, you are claiming that you have written something better than Sridhara Svami?’ He chastised him. Svami means another... He sarcastically remarked. The word svami, Sridhara Swami, svami, another svami means husband. So He said, ‘svami, I think one who does not recognize svami, he's a prostitute.’ He immediately said. "You do not recognize Sridhara Svami, then you are a prostitute. How can I hear from a prostitute?" He refused. Only word, that "I have written better than Svami." So this is the process of guru. You cannot disobey the previous acharya or guru. No. You have to repeat the same thing. Not research.” (London, August 22, 1973)

Anonymous said...

Personal Letter from Gaura, Part II

I don’t hear you referring to A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami as your diksha guru or “my prabhu,” but rather you offer this affection and commitment to someone who is philosophically opposed to the very person that brought you to this wonderful culture. Please explain to me how this differs from the point that Mahaprabhu makes about only having one “swami” at a time, and how it is not a justification to say that one may have many siksha gurus. What was Lord Caitanya speaking about here?
You are not saying that Lalit Prasada Thakur is your siksha guru, but you seem to give much greater prominence to him, and call him your diksha guru. Perhaps there is a disagreement between the Gaudiya Matha, and Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON in terms of definition. Diksha has always meant taking second or brahminical initiation after taking Harinam initiation.

Although I have read from the CC that siksha and diksha gurus should be honored on the same level, is not the diksha guru of greater importance because he is the one who, if qualified, makes the guarantee that he will take you back home to Godhead, or do you think that is a misconception that has been perpetrated within ISKCON ?

I think that what Rasarani mataji may be expressing her concern for regarding manjari bhava is it’s prematurity for many devotees who are not ready for it.

I had the good fortune to meet the highly advanced Srila Krsna Das Babjaji Maharaja during a Govardhana parikarama, and I’m sorry I didn’t get more of his association. I also love his bhajans and kirtans, but I feel it would be unfaithful of me to allow them to eclipse my loyalty and debt to ISKCON’s Srila Prabhupada. I also met Srila Gaura Govinda Maharaja and Srila Narayan Maharaja, and they were both very inspiring, but out of whatever little love I have for A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami , I feel it is most important for me to increase my love primarily for him.
Srila Prabhupada demonstrates his high level of integrity when at a festival with Puri Maharaja in Chandigarh, after a blissful riproaring kirtan, he is served some of his favorite Bengali dishes by his godbrother / cook, Anand Das Brahmacari. Prabhupada took seconds. Later a disciple of his godbrother, Puri Maharaja, asked Srila Prabhupada if he could join ISKCON and Srila Prabhupada said, “Stay in your Guru Maharaja’s Matha, otherwise people will criticise me for taking someone else’s disciple.”

It is apparently an unspoken rule in the Gaudiya Matha that although you may visit other Gaudiya temples, at the end of the day you return to your temple, knowing where your indebtedness lies.

Did Swami Vana Maharaja, Srila Lalit Prasad Thakur or presently Srila Narayana Maharaja act this way with the disciples of Srila Prabhupada? Apparently not. How could such exalted personalities make what is apparently a transgression of Vaishnava etiquette to Srila Prabhupada, giving them different spiritual names and re-intiating them ?

In what context do you place this letter that Srila Prabhupada wrote to his disciple Hrsikesa after he took re-initiation from Van (Bon) Maharaja:

Letter to Hrsikesa, March 14,1968 : I am greatly surprised for Bon Maharaja's initiating you in spite of his knowing that you are already initiated by me. It is deliberate transgression of Vaishnava etiquette and otherwise a deliberate insult to me. I do not know why he has done like this but no Vaishnava will approve of this offensive action.”

Thank you for sharing your point of view and inspiring me to think on these subjects more.

Jagat said...

Dear Gaura,

Thank you for your heartfelt comments. I have answered most of these objections in my articles on Bipin Bihari Goswami, etc.

The fundamental objection I have to all your points is this: If Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati committed the very breach of etiquette that you are talking about when he rejected Bhaktivinoda Thakur's guru--bear in mind that BVT himself did not do so--then does not everything you say become a little moot. Pot calling kettle black, wouldn't you say?

Or, we could not get so huffy and recognize that people's spiritual lives are not always so straightforward. And that the measure of someone's sincerity cannot always be measured in externals.

I recognize that it is difficult to understand, and it is appropriate for you to act according to your faith. In that, I only hope to encourage you in your path.

Genuine humility is the most important thing. So believe me when I say that I wish you and all Vaishnavas everywhere the very best.

Jagat said...

Gaura, I just reread my article here, and I have to say that I have nothing to add. I suggest that you read it again.

vaisnavi said...

This is fascinating. Thank you.

vaisnavi said...

This is fascinating.Thank you!

Mangala ma said...

HEllo this is an old post but still I wanted to say a couple things just in case anyone is reading

1 you are talking about when Srila PRabhupada was still present on the planet- and to go to another guru while your spiritual master is present in certainly wrong and offensive- but it was msny years after Srila Prabhupada left this world that Srila Narayana Maharaja came to help enliven devotees -old devotees and young devotees who didn't have a spiritual master (our children for one) and this was also at the request of Srila PRabhupada- You can't take such different scenarios and compare them - Srila Prabhupada present and Srila PRahbupada not present
2 the second thing - why oh why oh why do people think that in order to love someone- you have to hate someone else- in order to glorify someone and show your alliance - you have to criticize the other person- the two sons mentioned here are both great devotees and I am surprised anyone has the guts or foolishness to engage in criticism of advanced vaishnava-chaitanya bhagavat states that if someone sides with one vaishnava and says his is good but another one is not good- such a person can never get the LOrds mercy after millions of lifetimes-- look it up please everyone- you can be respectful to all vaishnavas ok