Sunday, June 19, 2016

Vaidhi-Raganuga Mentalities and ISKCON

My FB friend PamHo wrote a highly critical article of Bhakti Vikas Swami which he posted to Facebook: Martyr or Mother?
I have been thinking a little about the issues raised by Bhakti Vikas Swami in his book about women and the role of women in ISKCON, though not having read the book I haven't gone into any great depth. I do know him by reputation and from some articles I have read. I see him as the conservative pole of current ISKCON and Hridayananda Maharaj being at the other extreme, with the GBC navigating the middle.

I am not particularly supportive of either of those individuals nor their course, nor do I have any skin in the game of ISKCON's future direction. I find the issue of women's roles, etc., really something that cannot be subjected to a purely traditional scriptural rule of law. My position is that in the larger society, in the current context, women should be free to develop as individuals without being hampered by limitations imposed by male masters. But I am quite interested, in a disinterested way, to observe how this debate develops.

I will be a little bold and say that despite the above, I think that Varnashram Dharma deserves a shot. But I also think that a liberal Krishna Consciousness also deserves a shot. As long as people chant Hare Krishna I don't think either Prabhupada or Mahaprabhu would have much to complain about.

My personal feeling is that it is taking a lot of Hare Krishnas an awful long time to get to the point and in many ways it really is Prabhupada himself who is holding them back.

The centerpiece of Rupa Goswami's path of bhakti, the one that was followed by Krishnadas Kaviraj and Jahnava Mata and Narottam et al, is madhura rasa bhakti. This is meant to be the subject of
shravanam, kirtanam and smaranam.

It is the new starting point for philosophical debate in Krishna bhakti. That subject is prema, or Love, with a capital L.

As such, it embarks on a very new discourse about masculinity and femininity in the context of love.
It is, furthermore, a rejection of Varnashram Dharma, because it confines bodily identity to external factors to the soul and not a limitation on the soul.

It furthermore place Love at the very essence of devotional culture, and such love not only includes the male-female relationship, which is elevated to supreme status, but all the complexes of human relationships, the five kinds of rasa.

What are the implications of these ideas, which are at the center of the Vrindavan mood?

In my view, Srila Prabhupada deliberately kept his movement distant from this kind of idea, which is the ultimate goal of Chaitanya Vaishnavism and Vrindavan Vaishnavism.

I don't think that BVS -- being a sannyasi mired somewhere in a previous Indian millennium, a pre-Rupa Goswami millennium, not even a Bengali millennium -- will EVER be able to get outside of his vaidhi bhakti mentality.

And HDG is too buried in the Mahabharata on the Indian side (ironically) and external considerations, as well as being sufficiently orthodox (or afraid to go that far) to accept anything but a practical Prabhupadaism. But he probably is a Sahajiya just the same. He may be one in a vague undefined way, but does not really have the foggiest idea of what Sahajiyaism means as a sadhana. He strikes me a little too worldly and a little too clever.

But they -- and they are just ISKCON's extreme left and right wing -- are all being held back by Prabhupada. And that is, it is my firm belief, Prabhupada's intention. He "built a house that everyone can live in," but he put walls around it that only gopis can jump across.

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