The sins of the father are visited on the children

I had some misgivings about posting this and even considered deleting it completely. Facebook pie fights are unseemly and who wants to admit to having been sucked into one. I regularly get posters from my ISKCON friends -- usually people who are on the fringes, I suspect for a temple devotee to be my FB friends is a capital offense -- who exhort me to read Prabhupada's books as the magic cure for my confusion. It is not fair of me to point out that often they are clearly symptomatic of some kind of spiritual blockage, but occasionally I do. But the following made me take the whole question of this infantile approach to religion and to look at it in the light of history.

A comment on Facebook I made elicited the following response from Yuyutsu:


I wanted everyone to look carefully at this post by someone who claims to be have been initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1974. Look at it as a specimen of a mind. Observe carefully all the signs of spiritual advancement that this post displays -- over 40 years of chanting the Holy Name, reading Prabhupada's books and following the four regulative principles show their remarkable effects!!

Now to be quite honest, Yuyutsu Prabhu, I think that you have a serious spiritual problem. I know you won't listen to me because you are clearly too far gone to do so, and so there is no point in me showing you any careful diplomacy. I am using you as a text book example, for the edification of my more sober friends. But I still suggest that you need to carefully consider what you have achieved after all these years and ask yourself what went wrong.

You are not the only one in this same boat, it only appears that your case is acute.

Others manage to control their growing sense of frustration with the path they have committed themselves to -- and which they refuse to examine seriously and honestly -- but they unfortunately do so by doubling down in various unhealthy ways.

In my opinion, take it or leave it, devotees in ISKCON lost the road map and forgot to ask senior Vaishnavas which way to go. They listened to precisely the wrong people -- the ones Prabhupada put in charge. The dye was set by Prabhupada himself.

The possibility of association with genuine senior Vaishnavas was excised from ISKCON by Prabhupada himself when he forbade his disciples from associating with anyone other than his own disciples, particularly making sure they stayed away from anyone who might be an advanced Vaishnava outside of the society he created. He portrayed them as envious, ambitious and dangerous. Or as morally defective. Or as hopelessly deceived.

Jiva Goswami is rather harsh on this subject. For those interested, I suggest a careful reading of Bhakti Sandarbha 238. Portions in square brackets are commentary:

If, however, his guru out of envy does not permit his disciple to honor the great devotees of Bhagavān, there is nothing to be said about the poor fellow's misfortune, because he had rejected scripture from the very outset [by accepting a guru who does not know the shastra and therefore does not meet the criteria outlined therein, namely by discouraging the disciple from enriching his spiritual life and making progress in advanced association when it was appropriate].

Calamity certainly befalls such a disciple from both sides [because if he follows the order of his guru, he fails to honor the great devotees, and if he honors the devotees, he disobeys his guru].

With this in mind, the Nārada-Pāñcarātra states:

yo vakti nyāya-rahitam anyāyena śṛṇoti yaḥ |
tāv ubhau narakaṁ ghoraṁ vrajataḥ kālam akṣayam ||

“Both the one whose instructions are not in resonance with scripture and the one who hears such illegitimate teaching, proceed to a dreadful hell for an unlimited period of time.”

This last verse strikes one as a rather harsh statement and should of course be tempered by the subtleties of the ones preceding it. The passage raises the question of the guru's right to restrict association, and what the disciple is to do when he falls into this quandary of "do I follow my guru's order or do I associate with advanced Vaishnavas from whom I can learn how to get past this level of devotional life that I seem to be stuck in? In whose company my sadhana can be enriched and I can grow closer to Radha and Krishna?"

The conclusion (siddhānta) Sri Jiva makes is that you should worship your guru from afar (ata eva dūrata evārādhyas tādṛśo guruḥ) and you go for the association.

But if you come to the realization that your guru has become a hater of Vaishnavas -- i.e. has not just fallen down in some moral fashion but has actually begun actively speaking against other Vaishnavas out of spite or envy -- then he should be rejected. (vaiṣṇava-vidveṣī cet parityājya eva | )

Now this, I believe, is the moral quandary in which I found myself at a certain point in my life. I had to understand a few things about Gaudiya Vaishnava history, and by my guru's grace, I got an insight into the subtle workings of Vaishnava aparādha, which seem to have had a lasting effect on the lineage that it created.

Subtle Vaishnava aparādha is sometimes barely noticeable. All the external grandeur of God's devotion is on display, but the inner path is blocked because of some Vaishnava aparādha in the past. A kind of original sin. The sins of the fathers are visited on the children.

The results of this are clearly visible in the case of our dear friend, whose character perhaps Prabhupada knew well when he named him Yuyutsu ("he who likes a fight"). For you see, I happen to think Prabhupada knew what he was doing, and was right to do so. And if you have the patience to watch this video, you will have an idea of why that is.

A video about me fulfilling one of Prabhupada's last desires.

For Prabhupada it was a deliberate trap necessary to harness the energies of the majority of his new disciples and to use the discipline of a large institution to get the first wave of Harinam out into the world. In my Guru's opinion, an institutional discipline based on nivritti is not conducive to the culture of madhura-rasa.

My guess is that Prabhupada knew that sooner or later, like the gopis, one would have to vault the walls of dharma, guru-adesha, and vaidhi bhakti, to go on to a higher blessedness. The treasures of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's path are truly great and wonderful.

I would like to mention two counterexamples, which may or may not seem significant to you. One is that which I am linking to here: Six days in Sadhana Kendra ashram. The striking thing I would like to point out is that Swami Veda Bharati, in a spirit of openness, sent his students and disciples to another guru's ashram, someone from a different tradition, to experience it for themselves and to learn from it. The tradition was, of course, a meditational one so not radically different, but a different guru and lineage nevertheless.

Another example comes after observing the opening of the Bhakti Marg movement's Vrindavan Ashram next door to the Jiva Institute. I have written a little previously about Swami Vishwananda and since his disciples used Jiva as a base before the ashram was completed, and since the Swami and Babaji are good friends, I have plenty of occasion to just watch Bhakti Marg develop over the years.

I have come to some conclusions that I personally would never have expected. After all, I was in ISKCON once and I know how a proper ISKCON samskara would make me react to Swami Vishwananda – "He is NOT BONAFIDE, Prabhu!"
Last year I talked to one of his sannyasi disciples, who had been for four or five years a brahmachari in ISKCON. So naturally I wanted to know what, after being thoroughly indoctrinated in ISKCON he had moved to Bhakti Marg. His answer was enlightening. He said, "They are so obsessed with their legitimacy that they have lost sight of the essence of bhakti: the joy of bhakti seva and a loving community of devotees. They are too busy trying to eliminate the competition."

At that time also I wanted to write on this very same subject. Isn't it strange that the movement which is based in an illegitimate act related to tradition is the one that screams loudest about being the truest to the original revelation and having the most authentic tradition or parampara? It has the most anxiety about it because although they may claim that they have a legitimate disciplic succession, they have absolutely no idea what that means. They think it means that they are the true representatives of the original Vedic knowledge as it was 5000 years ago! Or as it was given by Narayan to Vivasvan umpty millions of billions of years ago!

Swami Vishwananda is a kind of avadhuta. I say that he became a guru before he had anything to be guru about. Bhakti Marg came to him after he had already tried a number of other spiritual paths, and to some extent he has never forsaken them. But Bhakti Marg is what suited his personality the most. He truly loves this path with a kind of joyful innocence and as far as I can see he is inspiring others to do so in the same way. He has a parampara, but his path is a collection of different elements from different sampradayas – some Sri Vaishnava here, a bit of ISKCON there, some other Gaudiya and generic Braj and so on.

He sends his disciples out to learn stuff – classical music and dance, puja, Sanskrit, etc., -- so that they will be expert in the aesthetics of bhakti. He likes something new, he is like a child, he makes it  a part of Bhakti Marg. He wants them to dress distinctively. His tilak is first and foremost an artistic creation, his very own.

But that is not what I want to talk about here.
Binode Bihari Baba from Barsana came to visit the new ashram. He sang a nice song about Radharani that I was quite surprised to hear many of Vishwananda's disciples knew by heart, at least the refrain.

A few days later, my neighbor Pradeep Das took a group of 40 Bhakti Marg disciples to Barsana for darshan. They all wanted to see Binode Bihari Baba. They waited in the Shriji temple until he came for Sandhya arati and then, "like a tsunami" says Pradeep, they ran towards him and paid their obeisances and took the dust of his feet. It was a bit like the way that Krishna Das Babaji of the Gaudiya Math was shown respect in ISKCON.

But the difference here is that Swami Vishwananda is teaching his disciples to do this. He is inculcating respect for the Vaishnavas in his disciples. He himself takes them to other Vaishnavas for sanga.

He is friends with Satyanarayana Das Babaji Maharaj and the two are clearly encouraging and helping each other. Their qualities are complementary. They serve different "clienteles," i.e., they inspire faith in different kinds of people, so they know they are not in competition. God sends a seeker to the place he belongs. The difference between Hinduism and the Abrahamic religions is that the latter believe there is One God for All, the former believe that each one of us has his or her own God. yo yac-chraddhah sa eva sah. 

I admire the enthusiasm of his disciples. I see many new disciples of quality, of all ages. People I know would never be attracted by the "legitimate" bona-fide non-bogus ISKCON.

I am happy that they have become neighbors of Jiva here in Sheetal Chaya. I like it that there is another place emanating kirtan – nice kirtan – just down the block. Their legitimacy lies in their inspiration to do bhakti. But in my view their potential is greater because they are open to association with those who will further inspire them to go further. When they are ready, they will do so, I am sure.

Everyone serves a niche. ISKCON is also serving a particular clientele and we give them all credit, but they are narrow in their vision about Vaishnavism. Their inner potential is thus limited by their narrowness.


Jagadananda Das said…
Maya Angelou :
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Vinode Vani d.d. said…
Glad I found this entry. It cleared up many things for me. And thanks for the sloka from Bhakti Sandarbha. Thoughtful piece.

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