Narayan Maharaj's comments on the Sva-likhita-jivani.

I was accused of Vaishnava nindā for my response to an excerpt from a Narayan Maharaj conversation. For the record I am presenting that excerpt [May 23, 2009 darshan] along with which I shall make some remarks. This conversation took place around 11-08-2017. I was a little confrontational so I have mostly edited my remarks.

Bear in mind that those who objected and accused me of committing offense to Narayan Maharaj paid no attention whatsoever to my remarks and simply condemned me for disagreeing with their authorities. I have spoken on that elsewhere on Facebook, but have gathered those remarks and shall post everything to my blog for reference.

I have already responded to many of the things Narayana Maharaj said in a blog post addressed to Rocana Dasa a few years ago as he was saying pretty much the same stuff, but with a bit less of the combativeness that Narayan Maharaj shows here.

Bhaktivinoda Thakur's meat-eating and Lalita Prasad Thakur.

The numbers are annotations that will be commented on in subsequent comments.

Srila Madhava Maharaj (recites from Gīta-mālā, Siddhi-lālasā song 11 (1) revealing that he is Kamala Manjari. Prior to this is a conversation with Vichitra Didi, Srila Gurudeva reveals that he [BVT] is also Srila Gadadhar Pandit in Gaura-līlā.) (2)

Ramachandra Prabhu: Yes, but this book [SLJ] says that although he is now siddha, when he was young, he took non-vegetarian foodstuffs for some time. (3)

Srila Gurudeva: No, that is not possible. That statement is an offense. It is not only false, it is fully false. Lord Ramachandra was in the role of a kshatriya and therefore hunted, does that mean he ate meat? Because he killed a deer, he ate meat? Krishna was also in the role of a kshatriya and he was also hunting. Do you want to say that Krishna ate meat? This is totally false.(4)

Ramachandra Das: People also say he wrote this autobiography with the help of Lalita Prasad. (5)

Srila Gurudeva. That book is not authentic. (6) Srila Prabhupada was his favorite son. What Bhaktivinoda Thakur did not reveal to Prabhupada he revealed to Lalita Prasad? (7) That is not possible. Lalita Prasad is not in the line of our guru parampara. (8) 
Sripada Madhava Maharaj: When Srila Prabhupada was born, Srila BVT said to Bhagavati Devi, a mahapurusha has come. He didn't say this about his other children. (9) He saw all auspicious markings on his son's body, such as the tilak and kanthi marks and told Bhagavati Devi to cherish him very carefully.

Srila Gurudeva (to Vichitra Dasi) You should give class very carefully so that no one will have any doubts.(10)

(1) This appears to be the wrong reference, probably means #8. Siddhi Lālasā is a beautiful set of ten songs which faithfully follow the ekādaśa bhāva that Bhaktivinoda Thakur talks about in numerous places in his books, most prominently in the last chapter of Harināma-cintāmaṇi. Song #8 most closely follows those eleven characteristics of his spiritual identity. Suffice it to say that these eleven characteristics of the siddha-deha, including the name of Kamala Manjari, were given to my Parama Gurudeva by his spiritual master, Bipin Bihari Goswami. Anyone who does not recognize the Guru of my Parama Gurudeva cannot be pleasing to my Parama Gurudeva. Anyone who tries to appropriate the gifts made by Bipin Bihari Goswami to his dearmost disciple while disregarding the giver of these gifts will be baffled in his attempts. As Siddhanta Saraswati himself said, “You can’t steal from the treasure house of love ” (bhāvera ghare curi). The process is ānugatya-maya.

(2) I have never heard that BVT was Gadadhar Pandit in Gaura Lila. These kinds of fabrications are not very helpful for the sāra-grāhi Vaishnava and simply muddy the waters for those who want to advance in the truth and to make Krishna bhakti palatable to the empiricists. I do not care much for such wanton embellishments and the way that hagiographies distort matters simply to enhance the prestige of their own gurus and lineage. Here we see a case of such embellishment.

I don’t know where this came from, except that Siddhanta Saraswati used to like to say that the Guru can also be seen as a form of Radha, who is Gadadhar Pandit in Gaura Lila. This is all very nice glorification of the Guru, but -- kintu prabhor yaḥ priya eva, “But although he is accepted as God Himself by the saints and the scriptures, he is in fact dear to the Lord.” I really don’t think I should have to say anything more about this excessive praise (atistuti), which in fact should be pleasing to no one, least of all to Bhaktivinoda Thakur himself.

(3) The book referred to here is the Sva-likhita-jīvanī, which is described as follows in most accepted listings of Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s writings:
“1896 Sva-likhita-jīvanī (Bengali) - A 200-page prose letter written to his son, Lalita Prasad Datta, who requested the details of his father's personal life.”
The original handwritten manuscript has been preserved at the Dwadash Mandir. The actual date of writing was 1894 and the first edition was published by Prabhu in 1896. There is no doubt as to the authenticity of the manuscript.

What Bhaktivinoda Thakur says is not that he was “now siddha” but that after taking initiation, he wrote a letter to his gurudeva, which he reproduces in the autobiography, saying that after being initiated he lost all taste for meat and fish and gave them up entirely. This indicates that prior to initiation in 1880, Bhaktivinoda Thakur did indeed eat non-vegetarian food, by his own admission. He would have been 42 at the time, hardly young.

Moreover, the issue of meat eating is one that recurs many times in the period preceding his initiation, showing Bhaktivinoda Thakur's struggle with the problem. His brother died in front of his eyes after eating tainted goat meat. He himself was instructed by his "Gurudeva", a Kartabhaja mystic, to abstain from flesh and the prasad of devas, when he fell ill. He writes how he could not maintain the vow and fell ill again. There are many such statements in the autobiography. All of which adds to the significance of his praise of initiation and its effect on "curing" him of this improper behavior.

(4) This is a great example of atrocious bad-faith argumentation. There is no relationship of the examples to the question of whether Bhaktivinoda Thakur ever had such habits. But if you believe he was Radharani or Gadadhar Pandit, then how could he possibly have eaten meat? When the premise is flawed, subsequent argumentation must be flawed.

(5) I have dealt with this in the linked posting and above (3). Lalita Prasada was only an innocent 14-year-old who had recently taken initiation from his father and admiringly asked him to write an account of his life. The book was written in a personal way to his loving son and disciple and does not preclude any sentiments he may have had for his other children. I find it atrocious that one would disregard a genuine text because it says things we don’t agree with, especially those written by someone we claim is a guru, and furthermore to cast aspersions on Lalita Prasad Thakur to whom it was written. This is not sincere seeking of the Truth, and if this is not offensive, I don’t know what the meaning of offensive is.

(6) As stated above, the original manuscript is in our possession at Dwadash Mandir, Birnagar, the birthplace of Bhaktivinoda Thakur, where it was preserved and treasured by the recipient of the letters. It has been restored and undergone treatment at the Bhaktivedanta Research Institute in Kolkata under the supervision of Achyuta Das. I have studied it carefully can testify to the consistency of the handwriting throughout. There are no interpolations or emendations.

(7) This was really the point that annoyed me the most in Narayan Maharaj's comments. As I wrote in my original response: “What silly nonsense sibling rivalry is being promoted by the disciples of one guru over another? Aren't those things supposed to be left behind in our childhoods?”

Seriously, I don’t think I can say anything more than this. Are we still little children? “Daddy liked me better than you.” Then the next generation, “Granddaddy liked daddy better than uncle.” This is what I mean by an “original sin” being preserved through the generations and creating unnecessary partisan feeling. Just read what Bhaktivinoda Thakur has to say about "party feeling."

As I just said, this book was addressed to Lalita Prasad Thakur, who had by this time already taken initiation from his father. Naturally Bhaktivinoda gave priority to matters related to the person to whom he wrote the book. He says that there were special circumstances surrounding this child’s birth: a sadhu whom he “recognized” as Narada Muni, came and glorified the child and said he would be a great mahapurusha.
You were born in Ranaghat on the 15th of Ashwin 1880. I saw auspicious signs on your body that indicated that you would grow up to be particularly religious. ... You were born on the day of Sri Ekadasi. In a dream I saw an ugly monkey which came to me and said, "This child is very wicked and will not live." Immediately afterward, Sri Narada appeared in the dream and said, "That monkey is Kali. Do not heed his words. This boy is born on Harivasara [ekadasi]. He will be initiated into the pure Vaishnava religion and will preach that dharma. No one will be able to kill him."

O Lalita! I hope that you will fulfill the prediction of Narada Goswami. In this world there is no wealth that can compare to the wealth of dharma. The body lives for just a moment; it is here today and gone tomorrow. Our most merciful Prabhu has kindly given the treasures of His name and of prema to this world. When you are older, you should understand this from the sadhus and the Guru. The books Śrīmad Bhāgavata and Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta are priceless gems in this world. Make some effort to study these books. There is no need to make a show of knowledge to worldly people, rather give them the treasure of bhakti. Live a sinless life according to religious principles and earn money and [167] support your family and yourself. But never at any time forget the holy name of Krishna. (Pages 165-167 of handwritten MS)
On the other hand, Thakur says nothing in this volume about Bimala Prasad’s birth. Whether that has any significance or not I do not know. I have no idea where those stories about Bimala Prasad come from. They may or may not be true, but in Lalita Prasad Thakur’s case, we have the Thakur’s personal testimony. And it was borne out, since only Lalita Prasad Thakur preserved his father’s dīkṣā lineage along with the esoteric aspects known as ekādaśa bhāva.

But why should Bhaktivinoda Thakur not reveal things to one son that he did not to another? He gave mantra to one and not to the other. Isn’t that revealing things? And isn’t it appropriate for a Guru to reveal things to a surrendered disciple that he does not give to a non-disciple, even if he is his own child?

This is not to minimize the preaching of Saraswati Thakur, for I am the recipient of his grace also, and indeed the recipient of Bhaktivinoda Thakur's grace through him. Please do not misunderstand me.

(8) “Lalita Prasad is not in the line of our guru-paramparā.” Well, really, that is the whole point, but I am afraid that Narayan Maharaj is on the wrong side of this one. A guru-paramparā is a dīkṣā-paramparā. That is the only kind of guru-paramparā there is. A Bhāgavata-paramparā is a general kind of tradition that, whatever its value or legitimacy, does not have this kind of connection.

The path of grace is manifold, but the principal stream is in the transmission of the mantra. That is why the Bhagavatam says, labdhvānugraha ācāryāt (11.3.48), “After obtaining the mercy of the acharya...” Jiva Goswami’s Krama-sandarbha and Bhakti-sandarbha 207: anugraho mantra-dīkṣā-rūpaḥ “Mercy means in the form of mantra-dīkṣā.” Therefore, in Gaudiya Vaishnavism, the connection to Mahaprabhu’s grace, though it has been channeled through many processes, such as the Holy Name and the Bhāgavatam, etc., is primarily passed down from generation to generation through the initiation mantra. Bhaktivinoda Thakur therefore, even if only to set example, took initiation in the line of Jahnava Mata, through Ramachandra Goswami (Ramai Thakur) who established his Shripat in Baghna Para near Nabadwip.

But we don’t take it as mere loka-sangraha. There are numerous evidences in Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s own writings of the affectionate relationship he had with his guru, as well as in the writing of Bipin Bihari Goswami. Any attempt to discredit this relationship would never be pleasing to Bhaktivinoda Thakur himself. And it is therefore distasteful to us also, his followers.

(9) Already answered in #7 above.

(10) So here Narayan Maharaj gives his disciple the instruction to carefully repeat the false conclusions he has taught. So no one will have doubts, because doubts are the enemy. Why? Because then you might leave the Gaudiya Math and become a babaji -- or something terrible like that.

I was reading the introduction to Kṛṣṇa-saṁhitā at the time and have been doing so again as I work on the Jīvanī translation, which is why I edited my comments here a bit and am publishing them after a year. The original conversation became a little heated as I called Srila Narayan Maharaj a falsifier, which is objectively true, though not pleasing to his followers. The Kṛṣṇa-saṁhitā introduction is very interesting. Bhaktivinoda Thakur talks there about the differences in faith and adhikāra, but I will leave that for a subsequent article.

To be most generous to Srila Narayan Maharaj, he was protecting the faith of his disciples, even though by his own claims, he wished to take the disciples of Bhaktivedanta Swami to a higher level of understanding. How can this be if one coddles them to protect them from difficult truths which when faced may enhance their understanding?

Of course I was called offensive and that led to the kinds of unpleasant exchanges that I generally have learned to avoid, but am unfortunately still occasionally susceptible to. But as Jordan Peterson says, you cannot speak anything at all or be a truth seeker without running the risk of offending people. And that is very much the issue here. Bhaktivinoda Thakur was no doubt offending someone when he spoke of the lower level of devotee, ones with weak faith, as "most foolish" (mūḍhatama), but the choice of words was his, not mine. And he took those words from the Bhāgavatam itself. So I think it worth exploring in another article.

Before doing so, however, I think it appropriate to just add A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami's remarks on related questions pertaining to SLJ, which I find rather more helpful than those given by Srila Narayan Maharaj:

Devotee question: I read in a book sent from India that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur was sent directly by Lord Chaitanya from the spiritual sky. I am not sure if that book was bona fide. Is the above true? Someone, a Godbrother, brought up that he had heard that Srila Bhaktivinoda was at one time an impersonalist. Was he ever?

Answer by Srila Prabhupada: Yes, what you have heard is alright. Just like Arjuna is constant companion of Krishna, as it is confirmed in the 4th chapter, Krishna says that both Arjuna and He appeared many times on this world, but he had forgotten his past appearances and Krishna did not. Krishna is like the sun, and maya is just like darkness. Where Krishna is present there cannot be any darkness of maya. So as Arjuna although always in the presence of Krishna as eternal companion in friendship, still he had some illusion in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, and Krishna had to dissipate that darkness by the teachings of Bhagavad-gita.

The purport is, sometimes even a liberated person like Arjuna plays the part of a conditioned soul in order to play some important part. Similarly, Bhaktivinoda Thakura for sometimes was associating with the impersonalists. And then he exhibited himself in his true colour as pure devotee, exactly in the same way as Arjuna exhibited in the beginning as a conditioned soul, and then as a liberated soul. So there is nothing to be misunderstood in this connection. Krishna and his devotees sometimes play like that, as much as Lord Buddha, although an incarnation of Krishna, preached the philosophy of voidism. These things are conducted in terms of place, audience, time etc.

In the Chaitanya Charitamrita it is said that the activities of a Vaishnava cannot be understood by the greatest scholar... So there is no doubt about it that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura is eternal energy of Lord Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. And whatever he did was just to suit the time, place, circumstances, and etc. There is no contradiction in his activities.


Prem Prakash said…
As an instructor of yoga asanas, I teach people not to confuse the twisting of the body with the experience of authentic yoga.

This reminds me of many people you seem to meet, Jagatji. They can twist their minds to protect their dogma (and to convict others of Vaisnava ninda) but I wonder about their experience of authentic bhakti.
wavefunction_collapse said…
Whoa that Jordan Peterson reference came from nowhere lol im glad to see you keeping fresh up with the times. I happen to regard Srila Narayana Maharaj as my Guru although i am not initiated by him unfortunately. In my thought-conception of AkhandaGuru Tattva, all teachers who have taught me, revealed to my mind and heart the glories of Sri Krishna Leela as explained in Gaudiya Vaishnavism as well as what role one jiva can develop greed to aspire for in service, all the individuals including you JagatJi are in the Solar Orb, the Spiritual Sun.
I think, personally, it creates schizophrenia to pretend that you havent learned from all your teachers, and so i dont pretend that. I keep my eyes open to the controversies in both Iskcon and GVP and other schools and try to learn from all with a discerning eye and heart, as much as someone in my state can.
I remember reading something to the effect that, its because BVT ate meat etc, and then transcended it that it makes it possible for us jivas. Its pointless to say BVT was a Nitya Siddha who came down to teach us, because its more meaningful and relevant for us if BVT was just "one of us" bahiranga tatastha shakti jivas, just another glorious human being, who transformed his energy from a human cterpillar to become one with immortal golden winged butterfly in Golok. And therefore kids, you can too! I think this lesson is more important. Its ridiculous to throw a hissy fit and say BVT could not have eaten meat, fish etc. You cant change historic fact by wishful thinking, i think we as adults should deal with this and acknowledge this. What happened has happened and did not happen any other way, and like grownups you should deal with the fact that Srila BVT indeed consumed meat, perhaps even enjoyed it (i mean who would eat meat more than one bite if they didnt like the taste?) but then, his sensitivity grew so much while practicing Shuddha Bhakti that the desire just dropped off completely to partake in meat and intoxicants and instead of being attracted to meat, BVT became repelled by it. This is a fact, in experience of countless people who have come to Gaudiya Vaishnavism who were meat eaters and then without making any effort of will, just had their cravings for meat drop off completely, because they were being fulfilled by subtler more refined food of the mind and heart. It doesnt mean that one who consumes meat and tries to come closer to aspiring to understand Krishna leela cannot do so because he is a brute. People can change for the better or worse at any time.
Vidya said…
Is the line from Lalita Prasad still current?
Jagadananda Das said…
Indeed it is. There are several individuals who are taking disciples and are worthy representatives of Lalita Prasad Thakur, disciples and grand-disciples. But most of them are not fluent in English.
Anonymous said…
but most of them are not fluent in English : except Jagat

Popular posts from this blog

"RadhaKrishn" TV serial under fire

Getting to asana siddhi

What is sthayi-bhava?