Madhavananda and Buddhism

I just got back to Rishikesh after nearly three weeks in Mayapur and Vrindavan. I was not able to get online for anything but the most perfunctory of functions. So although I heard the news about Madhavananda some time ago, I have not been able to comment. Perhaps it is for the best, as it has given some time for reflection and also to watch the reaction of others, particular of Advaita and those who posted on his blog. I read most of Madhavananda's rationale and his response to the fallout.

No doubt, there are many people who are feeling puzzled and saddened by this event. I must admit that I was not altogether surprised. When I saw Madhava in Radha Kund, I embraced him and told him that I had complete faith in him and that Krishna would guide him. I feel a little sad that he did not open up to me more then, as if indeed we are as good friends as Advaita seems to think we are, it would have been nice to go over some of these issues with him. In fact, it is not unlikely that I may have confirmed some of his negative ideas.

Let me say first of all that I do love Madhavananda dearly and will always love him no matter what he does. If he becomes a Buddhist, he will always be a Vaishnava in Buddhist clothing, just as so many Vaishnavas are something else in Vaishnava clothing. I hope that his experience as a Buddhist will ultimately serve to enrich his understanding of spiritual life and shed light on what it really means to be a lover of God.

But it must be said, and I will say it again, that most often it is a kanistha understanding of God that we reject, not a true understanding. That is not surprising, as the kanistha understanding is predominant in most organized religion. It is full of misunderstandings and very susceptible to attacks of doubt. There are two Krishnas, the Krishna of the kanisthas and the Krishna of the uttamas. The Krishna of the uttamas is for them like the air they breathe, like the blood in their veins. Even one who is disappointed with the air cannot stop breathing. A devotee who has achieved a level of nistha cannot abandon Krishna, not because it is an intellectual decision, but because he simply recognizes that it is Krishna that is the all-pervading Truth. If after all these years, Madhava has failed to see how that is true, it is his misfortune. Krishna is not just another name for Brahman, nor a relative mundane aspect of the Truth. Satyam param dhimahi.

Perhaps Madhava felt that Krishna had insufficiently reciprocated his surrendering everything to take shelter of Radha Kund. I think the most telling thing he said when I saw him last was that he felt Ananta Dasji was indifferent to him. Radha Kund is a tough place, especially for a westerner. The fact of the matter is that there ain’t much love there. And if you want to know the truth, we are in this religion because we heard that there was some prema here. And yet, it seems that the prema of the babajis is more theoretical than practical. This is precisely the problem I am trying to address: the kanishtha mentality.

But, before I go on, I have absolutely no doubt that reciprocation is there for every devotee who simply says once "tavaivasmi". there is no need to wait for social approval, money raining from the heavens, or visions of Goloka Vrindavan; the response comes instantly in the utterance itself. It is not even a question of pure mind or aparadh-free mentality. Listen to yourself say these words and your heart will fill with joy and a sense of being rightly situated.

Most of us are intellectual, rational-minded Westerners. A left-brain thinker like Madhava follows a certain logical train through Iskcon, the Gaudiya Math and then the Babajis, discovering one by one that everyone seems to have lost the train. And then it is no surprise that he also loses it in a flood of details, superfluous myths, rituals and sadachar. Dogmatism, dogmatism, dogmatism, and little or no fundamental human warmth. You are with us or against us. If you are lukewarm I spit you out. Snigdha Vaishnava sanga is such a rare thing, alas. Alas, indeed.

When I was writing the first draft of this post I was listening to a kirtan wafting across the Ganga. A small group of two or three people were singing Nityananda Gauranga Sri Advaita Chandra, Gadadhara Srivasadi Gaura-bhakta-vrinda. I wonder why there are not more small groups of devotees in intimate sanga who can sit down and feelingly chant the Holy Name without any abhiman. Without any need to somehow “know” or “be” anything, but simply to throw themselves at the mercy of the devotees and the Holy Name. We need to learn how to cry and embrace each other, to serve and love each other.

Well, that is a nice thought. Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world, and the ideals that are inherent in a concept like “prema prayojana” are easily lost. But if they are lost, we must try to go to the very center of the concept and shake out the dust that covers it. In fact, it is my feeling that we need to serve the essence that permeates the words “prema prayojana” and dedicate ourselves to that. We need to remember that this is about service. If what you believe is essential to Mahaprabhu’s dharma is not there, then it is incumbent on you to serve that essence by filling the hole, and not to run away.

What I am responding to here is Madhavananda's claim that he had no real free choice when he came to Krishna consciousness, and that now he is somehow able to choose from a position of knowledge. This is, in my opinion, disingenuous at best. It is a great fortune that our purva samskaras lead us to a particular dharma and satsanga when we are young. These things should not be thought of in terms of the intellect alone, but in terms of forces beyond our control, namely mercy. How Madhavananda can think that he has somehow transcended these forces now and made a purely rational decision shows a level of self-unconsciousness that does not become him.

Nevertheless, let me return to the original question of kanishtha bhaktas and our responsibility toward it. Madhava is responding to the problem of sectarianism (which is the principal characteristic of the kanishtha mentality) by the familiar process of antithesis presented by the atheists, Mayavadis and Shunyavadis, alike. He says, "Krishna consciousness is only one among many systems." Now I have been trying to say recently that this is not altogether incorrect. There are two levels of Bhagavan realization. The first level, which is experienced on the kanistha level, is in fact bhagavad-abhasa. Krishna himself says that if you worship the deity in the temple without recognizing his presence in other jivas or Vaishnavas, then your worship is like oblations in the ashes of the sacrificial fire. The ultimate understanding of Bhagavan comes AFTER Brahman realization.

brahma-bhUtaH prasannAtmA
na zocati na kAGkSati
samaH sarveSu bhUteSu
mad-bhaktiM labhate parAm

This is what is meant in the Bhagavatam when it talks about the Uttama conception. When this happens, then one not only sees the universality of Radha and Krishna, perceived not only in the most fundamental building blocks of creation, but in the very highest heights of human achievement and experience. To look for the absolute in Brahman or Nirvana after understanding the personal nature of the deity, and relativising the personal concept is sadly philosophically and theologically unsound. Blaming it on God is no help.

To summarize: The problem Madhava has encountered is real. His solution is not.


Anonymous said…
Is it the sampradaya's fault that Madhava got no taste from the holy name? Is it the name's fault? Amny advaitins chant the same name and belive this is the easiest way to attain their goal.
Anonymous said…
Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future
Anonymous said…
I was waiting for this. I agree 100%. The proof of the pudding is eating it. Madhavananda has not tasted it. It was only a intellectual trip.

If a person taste just a little drop of this ocean of nectar (rasamrta-sindhu) he will want more and more.

About sectarianism, I think that Gaudiya Vaishnavism is not about a sect starting in Bengal. It´s about the way of love. It´s beyond any religion cause Krishna say that we must give it up all dharmas. Do you have to go beyond any social norms to go deep in the florest to meet that famous cheater dance with his lovers.
This is (sadly) your finest and most mature blog. Sad because it exists because our mutual friend's misfortune prompted it, but so helpful for any kanishta like myself who would peruse it. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swamiji would likely be very happy with it. Baba, accept my pranaams and congratulations.
Sri Radhe!
Baba, while I appreciate your critique of Madhavananda's psychological situation, I pray that you would address the critical underpinnings of Madhavananda's break with GV if you have time.
In addition, he seems to make much of the verse Bhagavat Purana 12.13.12. This being one of many verses that could be interpreted to be Advaitic (no problem with acintyabhedabheda) but nicely harmonizing in the inclusive vision of Mahaprabhu and the Acaryas.
Sri Radhe!
Vraja said…
Jagat you wrote

"What I am responding to here is Madhavananda's claim that he had no real free choice when he came to Krishna consciousness, and that now he is somehow able to choose from a position of knowledge. This is, in my opinion, disingenuous at best."

In fact all he is doing is trying to preach to us that if we, like him, become better educated about other dharmic paths then we will come to the same realization that he has come to. It's just Madhava trying to convert us, to keep his status as a leader and even to gain a following. Really that is all he is doing in his blog as of late, even in his lighter fare where he describes his travels he tries to interject some type of reverence for an impersonal religious vision with the goal of conversion and acceptance of him as a guru for his readers from gaudiya vaisnavism, or for his readers who are nihilistically cynical or new agey types over at Tapatis forum.

It seems like his vision of gaudiya vaisnavas and gaudiya vaisnavism is like so many others of a cynical persuasion. They have never communed with god, therefore due to their cynicism they refuse to believe when other people claim to have communed with a personal god. I would like to relate what I consider a relevant story from my own life.

I was born into an atheist family. My parents weren't militant atheists, they were just not believers, and therefore I was raised without religion. In fact my parents never mentioned religion or god in my presence, they were just indifferent to spirituality, not antagonistic. I thought belief in god was stupid. Like many common atheists I thought religion was all made up by power seekers in order to control people. Because I had no faith and never had a spiritual experience I believed that whatever others claimed to have experienced was just either lies or hallucinations. I was an utter materialist.

In High School I started taking psychedelic drugs. Immediately my perspective on spirituality changed. Like countless others before me my "doors of perception" were opened and I was able to see that there was more going on in this world then what was visible to my eyes. I experienced what many people who taken psychedelic drugs claimed to have experienced, that is, a vision of some higher mystical power at work in our world, a mystical unifying presence which seemed to be operating in other dimensions then we ordinarily perceive. Many a materialistic cynic took psychedelics and had their views changed radically over night. The counterculture that was born in 1960's was the result of a massive number of people taking psychedelics.

Like Huxley my defining psychedelic trip was with a mescaline based plant. Peyote has been used for thousands of years amongst native americans in their religious rituals, similar to the use of soma by vedic peoples. The belief was that when you took peyote that your spirit guide would appear to you and instruct you.

I had taken LSD and psilocybin mushrooms but not a mescaline based plant. While my experiences had radically altered my perception of the possibilities that reality could offer, I hadn't stopped being an atheist. None of my experiences I saw as being spiritual or having anything to do with god. At that time I also started to be involved with yoga practice. I read Yogananda and other popular yoga books. I practiced hatha yoga with pranayama and meditation as well. Still I was an atheist.

Then after I had moved to california my brother and a friend met some native americans at a rainbow gathering, in I think New Mexico, they bought a bunch of peyote and then came back with them. So one night we all took peyote for the first time. This was totally unlike the other psychedelics I had taken. My spirit guide showed up. Except it was made clear to me that my spirit guide was in control over nature and of everyone.

The best I could describe what I experienced is in a movie I saw called 'Fallen' starring Denzel Washington. In the movie a man is executed by the state for being a serial killer. But after the execution there continues to be killings with the same method as the dead serial killer. As it turns out the real killer is a spirit demon named Azazel who can possess someone completely simply by touching them. In one scene He travels from body to body along a sidewalk in a city by touching pedestrians one after aother, each time possessing them for a moment or two while taunting Denzel (who plays a police detective) and showing off his ability to possess people, and even animals.

So I experienced something very much like that. God showedoff his ability to control everyone by speaking through them to me, possessing them for a few moments at a time, but with the addition of also showing control over all of nature, and of showing me various other things within my mind when I closed eyes. Such as how god creates things through manipulation of the elements at the atomic level. All in all I spent all night and the next day communicating with god in a variety of ways. Since I had been recently going to the iskcon temple nearby for the free food, I was led there during this trip to get something to eat. When I walked in Acyutananda Swami was sitting on a little dias about to give a class, he was singing and playing mrdanga. I was seriously affected by the chanting, I had been to kirtan before, but there was something extraordinarily powerful this time. I was still being communicated with by god, it hadn't stopped since it started some many hours earlier. Then the chanting stopped, just a minute or two after I had walked in and sat down. God took control of Acyutananda who looked directly into my eyes and said "This is Krishna Consciousness". Then he gave a class, and for the first time I understood Krishna consciousness, for the first time I knew there was a god, in fact he was speaking to me right then and there.

It took a few months for me to move into the ashram, although I had become serious about gaudiya vaisnavism. I left iskcon some 5 years later and immersed myself in the writings of the original gaudiya acaryas. I never was spoken to by god or directly experienced god in the same way again...until some 7 years after that first time in 1977. I would meet god again, but this time there were no drugs, and I had become fully educated about god (well, almost everything, much was still to come). God has never stopped communicating with me since.

So for someone to tell me that there is no god, or that god is impersonal, or that god is not involved in this world very much, I have to laugh because I can't get way from god. Imagine having a conjoined twin attached at the mind, who wants constant attention, who wants to constantly show off in some way or another.

You have no idea just how much god is involved with your life and this world. You live inside of god, in god's virtual reality. This world is like being inside a gigantic virtual world where atomic particles are like pixels in a computer generated virutal reality, where the computer is in charge of everything you see and experience, where the computer is alive, where it plans everything out before it happens, long before it happens. If you realize this then everything you experience in this world becomes a vehicle for god to communicate to you with. God is within and without you, all around and directing everything single thing you will ever see or experience.

From 'Brain Salad Surgery'

Welcome back, my friends
to the show that never ends.
We're so glad you could attend!
Come inside! Come inside!
There behind a glass
stands a real blade of grass
be careful as you pass.
Move along! Move along!
Come inside, the show's about to start
guaranteed to blow your head apart
Rest assured you'll get your money's worth
The greatest show in Heaven, Hell, or Earth

You've got to see the show, it's a dynamo.
You've got to see the show, it's rock and roll
Right before your eyes,
We'll pull laughter from the skies

Anonymous said…
Respectful obeisances, everyone!


I just wonder why do you have to get on Madhava's case? If you experienced God, then seems like you would experience "Anbe Sivamayam Satyame Parasivam" or

"God is immanent LOVE and transcendent reality".

And you would experience 24/7/365:
"Oru pollappum illai" or "There is not even ONE wrong thing."

And if life is indeed a matrix and everything is pre-ordained, then wouldn't GOD have pre-ordained that Madhava can be like a Merry Prankster Pied Piper and go from one world view to another?

So that makes me wonder: are you on drugs now or taking drugs now? I don't mean it disrespectfully. Or did you take alot of drugs in the past? Sounds like maybe you did.

Because at least one acharya in one Hindu Sampradaya has said that yes, psychedelic drugs do open up the higher chakras. But they also open up the lower chakras as well.

According to that sampradaya, this is why is it very important NOT to EVER take drugs. Not to be some big ole prude, but to keep our lower chakras from opening up.

The lower chakras that open up from drug use are the chakras below the muladhara that govern

Atala: fear and lust
Vitala: raging anger
Sutala: retaliatory jealousy
Talatala: Prolonged confusion
Rasatala: Selfishness

"...That is why householders ...should not go too deeply into raja or kundalini yoga practices. If they are prone to anger, jealousy, contempt, and retaliation, they should abstain from any of the yogas of japa or exploratory meditation. These will only intensify and prana-ize the lower chakras...

"They should confine themselves to karma yoga,...[and] simple acts of charya are recommended...then and only then their life will be in perspective...and become one with [God's] perfect universe...

"The use of drugs is another foreboding danger, for certain stimulants set in motion the kundalini simultaneously into higher and lower regions.

"For example, when the user of drugs, LIKE AN INTRUDER, FORCES his way into the experience of oneness of the universe, the totality of now-ness and all-being, by touching the fourth chakra, anahata,

"...simultaneously EVERY OTHER CHAKRA BELOW THE ANAHATA IS STIMULATED: meaning Swadishthana
[the chakra which rules the false ego and our love of arguments which display our mental and intellectual accomplishments]

"and the first, third, and fifth and seventh below the spine--the centers of reason [which includes endless arguments defending one's point of view], fear, jealousy, selfishness, and malice.

"Noticeable mood swings of those who rely on drugs hamper one throughout life. Only severe prayaschitta, penance, can set the course towards spiritual healing..."

p.685-686 Hinduism's Contemporary Metaphysics, Chapter 42 "The Evolution of Consciousness"

Aum Shanti
Anonymous said…
Churches are hospitals for sinners not museums showcasing saints.
--Abigail van Buren "Dear Abby"
Anonymous said…
Why does Shiva ruin every thread? It's really a turn off Jagat. Talk about attention seeking!
Vraja said…
To whomever wrote


I just wonder why do you have to get on Madhava's case? If you experienced God, then seems like you would experience "Anbe Sivamayam Satyame Parasivam" or

"God is immanent LOVE and transcendent reality".

And you would experience 24/7/365:
"Oru pollappum illai" or "There is not even ONE wrong thing."

And if life is indeed a matrix and everything is pre-ordained, then wouldn't GOD have pre-ordained that Madhava can be like a Merry Prankster Pied Piper and go from one world view to another?"

Don't you see the contradiction in your point? You tell me I should see everything and everyone following the will of the lord, yet you don't see that in what I do and write? Madhava's path is preordained and what I do is as well, we are both puppets of the lord. The difference between us and I guess you, is that I am fully awake to this reality, you may be awake to some degree, I can't tell, and Madhava doesn't believe there is a god in control over anything.

Look, you may not like it when others take the position of instructor, but that is too bad. If no one takes the position of telling others when they are wrong in their conception or their path then there will be no spiritual traditions, no gurus, no sastra, etc. On the uttama stage the bhakta cannot teach if he doesn't come down to the madhyama stage. The uttama knows everyone is doing the will of the lord, so he has no reason to say anything to anyone about their path. But if no uttamas teach then all teaching is left to people who aren't very close to god. So god has his uttama bhakta come down to the madhyama level in order to teach. You may not like it, you may not care, so many people don't like or care about so many things. That's life here on earth my friend.

And no I do not take drugs. What I wrote is what is real, take it or leave it.
Anonymous said…
Jagatji said, "A devotee who has achieved a level of nistha cannot abandon Krishna, not because it is an intellectual decision, but because he simply recognizes that it is Krishna that is the all-pervading Truth. If after all these years, Madhava has failed to see how that is true, it is his misfortune......."

those that come to know
Krishna in Buddhist sanga
know no misfortune
Shaktipat Seer said…
This is all presumptuous crap.. I agree with Markus 100%, I had no choice in Krsna Consciousness. My realization was based on something I saw from Mahaprabhu in a video and everything after that was the conniving and cunning of Prabhupada manipulating me "for my own good" into being brainwashed into his movement.

What exactly do you mean by "Krishna" Jagad? And don't give me more fancy Sanskrit babble.. People have their own way of seeing things and the ultimate can never be standardized into a cutesy little sing-song religion based on external signs.

You say that we need to "fill in the space" if we don't see it in Mahaprabhu's movement.. Really? Maybe there's a reason it isn't there! Maybe the whole thing has degenerated to worthlessness?

You say that we should submit to one another, and be loving, and I assume you have some other textually approved dogmatic craptastic device for accomplishing this end no? TRUTH is not a dogma! Love is not a dogma! It is not to be realized by some external practice and worship! It's to be realized by absorption completely into Krsna as the universal being of all things, and don't give me anymore sanskrit crap about mayavada blablalba..

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