The other side of another side and back again

I am currently traveling in Bengal and spent a few days with Gadadhara Pran Das, and so I thought I would share a couple of chapters of his new book, “Another Side of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur" :

Chapter 1:
Chapter 2:

Naturally, there are some people who find it necessary to repeat what is the “official story” about Lalita Prasad Thakur, because of things that happened between Siddhanta Saraswati and his younger brother and their differences of opinion.

Obviously, when GP and I made the decision to “move on” from Iskcon, we did so in full knowledge of what to expect. That is why GP says, in effect, “OK, you guys, we know your side. Everybody knows your side by now. And bully for you. All glories to your service and your nishtha. But Bhaktivinoda Thakur was big enough to have more than one side.”

And I think that GP is quite clear when he quotes from Harinama-cintamani, that the bhajananandi side existed in Bhaktivinoda.

prabhāte cārdharātre ce madhyāhne divasaṅkṣaye
kīrtayanti hariṁ ye vai na teṣāmanyasādhanam

The single-minded devotee who chants the Holy Names of the Lord in the morning, in the middle of night, at noon and at the end of the day, has absolutely no need for any other spiritual practice. (HBV 20.379)

evam ekāntināṁ prāyaḥ kīrtanaṁ smaraṇaṁ prabhoḥ
kurvatāṁ parama-prītyā kṛtyam anyan na rocate
bhāvena kenacit preṣṭha-śrī-mūrter aṅghri-sevane
syād icchaiṣāṁ sva-mantreṇa svarasenaiva tad-vidhiḥ
vihiteṣv eva nityeṣu pravartante svayaṁ hi te

Exclusive devotees engage in practically nothing other than chanting the Holy Name and practising smarana. Doing this with supreme love, they have no taste for any other activity. They may serve their beloved Deities according to their own particular mood, following their own desires and using their personal mantra. They also set the rules for this worship according to their personal taste. Regular duties (like bathing, etc.) are conducted automatically (i.e., without any direct mental involvement). (HBV 20.382-384) (Bhajana Rahasya)

Perhaps not everyone is prepared for that stage. In may be generations before any Western person is ready, so intensely has raganuga bhajan been surrounded by fences of fear. The mystic, intensely personal kind of bhajan is not a fake. It is the real life, the soul of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Call it a dirty job, if you will, but someone has to do it, otherwise Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s concluding works, Bhajana Rahasya and Harinama-cintamani, become irrelevant.

Anyway, someone thought to send me the following quote from Prabhupada-lilamrita:

Today was Srila Prabhupada's final day in Mayapur. Jayapataka Maharaja was instructed during the walk to arrange a meeting with Srila Lalita Prasada Thakura, the only remaining brother of Srila Prabhupada's Guru Maharaja, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. Prabhupada wants to meet with him on his way into Calcutta tomorrow.

Apparently Srila Bhaktisiddhanta had some difference of opinion with Lalita Prasada. Lalita Prasada is a babaji, a member of a class of reclusive devotees who remain aloof from the general population and simply chant the maha-mantra. His brother, on the other hand, was a sannyasi, an active preacher who created a large movement and attracted much opposition in the process. Apparently Lalita Prasada considers himself to be more confidentially situated in his relationship with the previous acaryas and Krishna.

Despite this, Srila Prabhupada has been negotiating to get either a lease or ownership of the birthsite of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, the father of Bhaktisiddhanta and Lalita Prasada, and our spiritual great-great grandfather. He wants to renovate the place and maintain a preaching center there. Prabhupada has met with Lalita Prasada previously, who said he was willing to cooperate with us. He has not been able to develop the birthsite, but still some of his men are hesitating. He has a committee to manage his affairs, and now it appears they want another meeting. 
Without raking up the controversial points, Srila Prabhupada made a few observations by which we could understand the actual symptoms of confidential service. "So what is the use of such men? Why he's keeping these men? They cannot do anything. He gets some pension, and he spends that money. But they are not doing anything. So what is the meaning of this committee?"

Jayapataka Maharaja told Prabhupada that the Thakura has admitted that many times he has told some of his men to leave their family life and take up some preaching, but they don't do it. "How they'll do it?" Prabhupada rejoined. "They do not know how to preach. Neither they are trained up. That means it is his disqualification. He could not train them how to preach. Even Caitanya Mahaprabhu, He was training Haridasa Thakura, Nityananda, 'Go there. Preach there. Do that.' My Guru Maharaja was doing that. But he [Lalita Prasada] has no power. He cannot do it. He simply talks that he is a very confidential devotee. That's all. He cannot preach. Otherwise Prabhupada developed this Mayapur, and he could not do anything. That means he has no such power."

"He should have developed that place," Jayapataka Swami ventured.

"Yes. He simply talks of big, big work. In the beginning, Prabhupada had no committee, nothing of the sort. That he'll not admit, that he has no power to do so. He simply thinks that he is a very confidential son of Bhaktivinoda Thakura."

Going down to the front gate, Prabhupada went to inspect the painting of the front wall. The gurukula children were gleefully yelling "Jaya Prabhupada! Haribol!" all the way down the road and he reciprocated with smiles and "Hare Krishna!" He has an ingenuous rapport with them, innocents entrusted to him to send back to home, back to Godhead. And they love him without reservation, putting in him their full trust, as guileless young children do. As he made his way out the gate, he emphasized why he has had such success in his preaching mission.

"You must be always convinced that if we simply take up the knowledge given by Krishna, then you are perfect. That's all. A little success is there for me, [more] than other swamis and yogis. It is due to my conviction on this point. I never compromised with anything which is not spoken by Krishna. Did you mark it or not?" All the devotees replied in unison. "Yes."

Satsvarupa Maharaj has done a masterful job of propaganda here, what can I say? Juxtaposing those innocent gurukula children and Prabhupada, to the useless followers of Lalita Prasad Thakur and his powerlessness. Well done, I say. And all the devotees dutifully echoing his teaching unquestioningly caps the anecdote with a fine diapason.

So this is the “truth.” Could the other side also be legitimate and true, or even more true? Truth is revealed gradually as one’s adhikara makes one capable of recognizing and understanding it.

I decided some months ago to put the picture at the top of this note on my altar, so it is now a permanent object of meditation for me. I often look at it and wonder what my Prabhu said to Prabhupada to make him laugh like that! I really love the twinkle in Prabhu’s eyes as he says whatever it is he is saying to his spiritual nephew.

I speculate about it sometimes. My first speculation was that Prabhu was making some comment about his disciples. If you look at the series of photos that Yaduvara took in 1972, you will notice that Gurudas and Shyamsundar, not able to understand the Bengali conversation, have fallen asleep on their malas. I thought, he must have made some comment about what a big job Prabhupada had undertaken, to take these young men and endeavor to train them in bhakti sadhana, but expressed it in such a way that made Prabhupada uncharacteristically burst out laughing, without reserve. Perhaps he said something about their level of adhikara.

As I further contemplated the picture, I fantasized that Prabhu was asking Prabhupada to send him a couple of his leftovers, including the fallen Das Jagadananda, “who is useless to you anyway. And maybe send me a couple of others...” I wonder if such an absurd request would not have made Prabhupada laugh like that. It even looks like a goodhearted laugh. Perhaps he said, “Alright, maybe I can spare one or two. Just for you, kaka.”

Anyway, after a couple of days in Nabadwip, I went to Birnagar and looked at the surroundings and I thought, “Thank God Prabhu had the prescience not to sell out to Prabhupada!” A curse on development!

What would have happened if Prabhupada had had his way and a couple of American brahmacharis had been stationed there expressly for the exclusive purpose of committing Vaishnava aparadha, I don’t know, but one thing is sure: What Lalita Prasad Thakur was preserving of Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s legacy was worth saving. Because only he was following and teaching the path of Harinama-cintamani as Bhaktivinoda Thakur intended it. I think Gadadhar has been showing that rather nicely in the first two chapters of “Another Side of BVT.”

This is the end game of Vaishnava sadhana and there are not yet many takers. There are not many who can jump the walls of dharma as the gopis did. Lobha is not an easy thing to get, not if it requires you to give up that something you have already been told over and over is the ultimate -- without really having studied the shastra -- and been prescribed for you by your guru on the fear of being cursed to go to hell if you abandon it. That is called dharma. At ever step, you advance by giving up dharmas. That is usually called “progress” if it is done right.

Anyway, there are a few of us who took that risk. And thank God Lalita Prasad Thakur was there to reenact the Harinama-cintamani guru-disciple scene with Gadadhar Pran Das. It is not such a surprise that there may only be one or two jewels who will be able to preserve this path of bhajan, the one that Prabhu was given himself by BVT at the age of ten. For all the generosity of Mahaprabhu’s sankirtan movement, in the end, the Gita tells it like it is:

manuṣyāṇāṁ sahasreṣu kaścid yatati siddhaye
yatatām api siddhānāṁ kaścin māṁ vetti tattvataḥ

Where are the adhikaris? And even among the adhikari sadhakas only a few can live a life of such intense inwardness.

Lalita Prasad was born in the same year that Bhaktivinoda Thakur took initiation in ekadasa bhava from his guru, six years after the birth of his older brother Bimala Prasad. No two children ever have the same father, not really. Bhaktivinoda Thakur presented himself slightly differently to each of them, what is so surprising about that? I think that he did have some special affection for this son, as is clearly revealed in the autobiography, which was written as a letter to him.

Yesterday morning I was chanting japa in my room at Dwadash Mandir. Maybe Prabhu did not have the power of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and Bhaktivedanta Swami to fulfill their worldwide preaching missions. Does it mean that Lalita Prasad Thakur was not empowered to do something different?

What is interesting here is that life will not let you stand still and so, to prevent the total destruction of Dwadash Mandir, it does indeed need to be developed. And it is perhaps more than a little ironical that I should participate in that. Maybe Prabhupada is getting his way after all, and that is what made his laugh so transcendent.

On the other hand, perhaps it is Bhaktivinoda Thakur, and behind him Nityananda Prabhu and Ananga Manjari (as you will see from the later chapters of GP’s book), who are making all these arrangements.

Hari Gopal Dasji is doing some things now, and the sign of success is that the lovely pukkur across the street, which was also neglected for so many years, is now being cleared of the greenery so that some of those unimaginative, ugly concrete boxes that are used for shops everywhere in India will go up.

It is Kali-yuga. It seems unstoppable. Sigh.


Prem Prakash said…
This is very beautiful writing. Thank you. You may want to be careful, however, of challenging the propaganda that Bhaktivedanta was all-knowing and his followers the epitome of discipleship. Hate to see you lose the few remaining friends at ISKCON you still may have.
madan said…

What surprises me most in you is the deep absorption in the tattva-siddhanta-goudiya; which makes all that you write very pure and sublime;

are very strong truths that fill the hearts of those who are open to hear the message; n with the intention of raising spiritually;

are examples such as yours that made me believe in the following phrase: "goudiya-vaisnavism can really change the hearts of the West forever, with the treasure of prema-dhana in the line of radha-dasyam."

what an incredible personality should be the 'live' encounter with srila-lalita-prasada-thakur;

that the legacy of BVT in the auspicious line of srla-lalita-prasada-thakur is never lost; and be more and more distributed here in the West and more and more understood by us all;


Popular posts from this blog

"RadhaKrishn" TV serial under fire

Getting to asana siddhi

What is sthayi-bhava?