A bit of a debate took place on the internet as a result of Advaita Das's blog, in which he posted a response from Satyanarayana Dasji about the Bhavisya Purana and Brahma Vaivarta Puranas, particularly with reference to predictions about a "golden age" of ten thousand years within the Kali Yuga, which devotees following Srila Prabhupada attribute to the sankirtan movement. Satya Narayan Dasji did not think much of the Puranas in question and also questioned the interpretations made of the verses themselves.
Hari Parshada Dasji, a young ISKCON scholar and also a friend, expressed some reservations about the article in a Facebook note. He noted several places where Prabhupada made statements supporting the 10,000 year prediction (e.g. CC Antya 3.50 Purport,
Room Conversation with Allen Ginsberg, 13 May 1969) and expressed dismay that devotees out of ISKCON seem to be going out of their way to disparage anything that ISKCON or Prabhupada says or believes. Anyway, I made the following comments:
Though I sympathize with Hari Parshad Dasji's problem, I think that I agree almost entirely with SN Dasji here. I wish to say though that I find Hari's meticulousness and assiduity in research to be highly admirable and his article is constructive.
First of all I doubt such critiques are being made specifically with the intention of causing trouble for ISKCON. I don't think so. My personal impression is that there is no harm in establishing which texts are earlier or later, which are interpolated and so on.
I also consider the Bhavishya Purana as well as Brahma Vaivarta to be very recent, certainly from the post-Chaitanya period. So I, being a stickler for sampradaya, ignore them almost totally. To do so is not an insult to anyone, least of all to Vyasadeva. And to say that Sri Jiva Goswami relied on it in any way whatsoever for the Gopala-campu has no basis at all.
These late Puranas are not at all reliable, and in them anyone might say anything. I would go even further than Satya Narayan Dasji to say that these puranas are not simply rife with interpolations, but were composed wholesale as late as the 18th century. One may look at Studies in the Upapuranas by R.C. Hazra for an analysis of the reasons for coming to such an estimation.
I have seen that in the Sandarbhas, Jiva Goswami will use whatever text is favorable to his argument and not use what is not favorable. We also do the same in our own world. If some Western scholar says something favorable about the Gita we promote him and put his quote on the front cover of our published edition to take advantage of the name recognition. Where Jiva Goswami quotes some verse, it does not mean that he excepts that text in its entirely any more than we accept the public personality in his totality. Just think of Allan Ginsberg, for instance.
Sri Jiva even cites Shankaracharya to back up his own arguments. And why not? If your opponent says the right thing, then why not congratulate him? Or if your opponent's acharya states something that is useful for you, it is a friendly way of saying that we do not oppose the man, but the doctrine.
And Sri Jiva more or less says expressly that he picks and chooses verses that support his ideas in the Tattva-sandarbha when discussing Madhvacharya's sources. He admits that he does not fully trust their provenance, but if they are supportive, then why not?
When there is apasiddhanta, such as in the case of Bhagavata verses or other important texts that seem to disagree with his conclusions, Jiva Goswami may go to a great deal of trouble to interpret it in a way with the guidelines set in its directing verses such as 1.2.11, or especially 1.7.7-11. In the case of one of the older puranas, Jiva might take this trouble, but why should he bother with an upstart, late purana?
We have plenty of literature that clarifies our siddhanta instead of muddying it, or simply increasing the amount of "magic stories" that the puranas are full of. Let us concentrate on our rasa school of Vaishnavism and not get carried away by more Tulasi mahatmyas and the like that proliferate in all these late texts.
Next, I find any predictions in shastra to be fairly unimportant. These things are there to enthuse or inspire devotees to spur them to the action that is being recommended, whether it is bhakti, Harinam, preaching, whatever. The correct theological position, in my opinion, is that whatever age we live in is golden inasmuch as our own opportunity to advance in bhakti is right here, right now. What happens over the next 10,000 years will happen as it happens.
Of course, we should have an intelligent vision of what the next 10,000 years are to be like and must be able to engage with intellectuals and help move human history forward. In those terms, I would say that Krishna consciousness is not doing a particularly strong or direct job, even though it may be said that there are salutary effects to the chanting of the Holy Name and other actions Vaishnavas are promoting.
To give an example, environmental action is one area where devotees could make a strong and relevant statement that is both meaningful, effective and directly connected to the devotional movement.
My point, to be perfectly clear, is that as devotees our function is to be active in the world, but not merely making admonishments to chant the Holy Name. Prabhupada really had the right idea about doing welfare work for all humanity, but our capacity to sell it depends on our capacity to understand the intellectual positions prevalent in educated society and to deal with them. We cannot expect that an undigested repetition of mythologies from a bygone epoch will convince anyone who has a modicum of knowledge of comparative religion, psychology, etc. And those are the people who are interested in the subject and perhaps even sympathetic. Those who are gross materialists will simply laugh us off, as they do.
Nor can we sit back and wait for God to do the work. We have to be the nimitta. And in this matter being the nimitta means both being love and expressing love in action. That for me is the uttama bhagavata, the one who has passed the singular (kanistha) stage, and the madhyama (dual) stage, to achieve the plural.
By this I mean that the first place to find God is within, then in the other individual, and finally in the crowd.
This is also an aspect of tamas, rajas and sattva as well. Devotees in tamo guna fight, in rajo guna they agree to differ, and in sattva they seize the underlying unity of spirit.
We can lament or we can struggle to become prema-bhaktas by first becoming worthy individuals and then learning how to cultivate genuine loving relations.
Things don't happen by magic. "We just chant Hare Krishna and everything will happen. The golden age will come." Hare Krishna is only our call to perfection, it is our flute song, but now what form will our abhisara take?
And I would like to add that our subject is not Hare Krishna, it is prema. Prema is the prayojana. So that is our principal subject. Prema is the goal and bhakti is the imperfect attempt to emulate that stage. The first goal is to become a premi bhakta. That is our sadhana and that is our subject, our only subject. It is not Hare Krishna that will change the world, but prema. We have to be skilful in prema. If we can teach prema from a position of knowledge, the golden age that we ourselves experience will be shared in an ever enlarging circle.
But in this endeavor we must be able to "convince the intelligent" by our intelligibility.