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Can We Compare Iskcon With Other Faiths?

Tuesday, 11 June 2013 / Published in Articles, Kesava Krsna Dasa / 3,449 views

By Kesava Krsna Dasa

Scholars and professors like to observe Iskcon and compare us with various religions. Devotees too, can feel that they belong to one of the faiths called Iskcon. Should we accept that we are just one of many, or is there something unique being neglected?

There is no doubt that scholarship can pass on useful information to us – how trust between devotees is required, how strictness might increase membership, how references can help Iskcon preservation and so on. We can benefit from others on how Iskcon social development progresses.

All this help largely centres around our human needs. We are all human beings and although taking to the process of Krishna consciousness, our behaviour and preconditioning mirror those of humans practicing other faiths or not. There is nothing unique in this, except that we are trying to spiritualise our needs.

Krishna consciousness essentially means to be Krishna conscious by dint of pure devotion, or Bhakti. While considering our Iskcon social needs and development we can minimise the value of Bhakti. Bhakti can then be subjected to scholarly observations as though She is just another faith or religion – is She?

If Bhakti is simply another faith or tradition, our connection or identification as Iskcon members looses true distinction. Bhakti ends up being confused with human behavioural phenomena and subsequent needs and development. Bhakti will then come under scholarly scrutiny. This mistake can pass by us without realising it. This happens when we fail to distinguish Bhakti from our human needs in general. What does Srila Prabhupada say of Bhakti?

“Therefore this bhakti word is applicable only in relationship with God, or Kṛṣṇa. In the material world, there cannot be any use of the word bhakti. Because here the so-called devotional service is motivated. So this bhakti word is monopolized by Kṛṣṇa, and nobody else.” (Vṛndāvana, October 28, 1972)

If Krishna has a monopoly on Bhakti it means that He and She are utterly independent standalone personalities. Their independence is none-negotiable. Of course, Krishna can be Bhakta-vatsala, being amenable to His devotees, but Bhakti has to be there first.

Can independent Bhakti be compared with other faiths that brew sectarianism and be conforming to the social needs of human beings? In reality, the useful information we gather for our Iskcon social improvement has nothing to do with Bhakti. We can try to create a mode of goodness situation and general conduciveness towards Bhakti, but She still remains aloof. Then how can Bhakti compare with or be compared with anything else?

“If you begin your bhakti-yoga, vāsudeve bhagavati… Bhakti-yoga can be applied only to vāsudeve bhagavati. Bhakti-yoga is not applied anywhere. The śāstra does not say.” (Delhi, November 13, 1973)

One may wonder how far we can go in comparative religion on an interfaith basis. Interfaith discussions will usually focus on shared interests and values of various faiths. The human need for peace, justice, harmony, alleviation of suffering and much more are suitable platforms for dialogue. But if we begin to compare independent Bhakti with mostly motivated forms of ‘Bhakti’ passing as religion, then we shall do injustice to Her.

“So these things are very nice. I will request you to study what is bhakti, what is pure devotion, what is Vāsudeva. Everything is there. It is a science, great science. It is not sentiment, neither it is so- called religious faith.” (Delhi, November 13, 1973)

Although we may engage in interfaith dialogue with other religions, we have to keep in mind that we are not a religion as Srila Prabhupada stated. We can easily make Iskcon a religion if we compare Bhakti in normal or mundane terms.

We can accentuate our sense of religiosity by identifying with or forming human preferences such as conservatism and liberalism for example, especially if we support one side or another merely because we agree without offering substance and merit. Such support is then counted as sentiment, not Bhakti. These sentiments can fuel sectarianism.

It could be that wise ‘outside’ advice and ideas can help improve the general practice of Bhakti, but in reality, Bhakti is independent from these. And social studies, scholarly observations and learned thoughts by professors on Iskcon are all of passing, incidental human interest only – as seen from an independent Bhakti perspective.

Another relevant statement like this might seem all too obvious for us: “The activities of the spirit soul, the activities of Brahman, is bhakti-yoga. Bhakti-yoga is not material activities. Bhakti-yoga is spiritual, pure spiritual activities.” (Delhi, November 13, 1973)

It can happen that information that is so familiar and so very obvious, is usually the type of knowledge we take for granted, and end up overlooking it entirely. This is where independent Bhakti can be obscured by mixing Her with human things of interest, however vital it may be for our needs.

This information may appear elitist or impractical for us. If we see how Bhakti, the holy names, sastra and sadhu sanga form the core of Iskcon existence, all of which help guide us to internal reality of service unto the Divine Couple, then we have to separate what is truly rare and unique from normal religiosity, as genuine mahatmas do:

“Mahātmā is not under the control of this material energy. He is under the shelter of spiritual energy, daivī-prakṛti. And the symptom is bhajanty ananya-manasaḥ: he has no other business than to serve the Supreme Personality. Bhajanti. Bhaja sevāyām.” (Delhi, November 13, 1973)

Even though this internal ideal appears light years away from us, it will remain so if we relegate Bhakti. If She is acknowledged with full unique distinction, no matter how much ‘outside’ help we get, or how many interfaith friends we have with all the wisdom that their traditions offer, we shall know that Bhakti belongs nowhere but through Her own independent desire to give Bhakti – let us pray for that.

Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa

36 comments

  1. 0
    damodar-das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Kesava Krishna Prabhu,

    Please accept my humble obeisances. All Glories to Srila Prabhupada.

    Thank you for your thoughtful article.

    Please permit me to make the following observations:

    1) The article has not answered the question. Nor does it seem a very meaningful question, because if the answer is “yes”, well and good, but the answer can never be “no” without violating the terms of the question, namely comparing ISKCON with other institutions.
    2) The argument conflates ISKCON with Bhakti, which seems as unwarranted. ISKCON is an institution, Bhakti is the eternal function of the soul, and Bhakti-Yoga is the science of reviving or executing that function. While there is overlap, they cannot be considered the same in every respect.
    3) The argument seems to answer the question “no” based on an insider perspective of ISKCON, but is necessarily confined to an outsider’s perspective of other faiths, rendering it biased.

    Please forgive me for venturing to comment, but I do look forward to your feedback.

    Hoping this meets you well
    Your Servant
    Damodara Prasad das

  2. 0
    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Part One:

    Damodara Prasada Prabhu,

    Thank you for your comments. If we view the article as being centred around Bhakti – pure unadulterated bhakti – then whatever attempted Iskcon ‘supports’ were mentioned fall in the categories of mixed bhakti, namely karma-mishra-bhakti and jnana-mishra bhakti.

    Scholarly inputs given from none-bhakti sources, tending to be indifferent to and ignorant of the true distinction of bhakti, but may offer positive suggestions for Iskcon social well-being, can, if implemented in some cases for the betterment of devotee social well-being, be as acts of indirect devotion – jnata or ajnata.

    Though I might not have given a definite yes or no to the article-heading question, it is given via the independence of Bhakti – She is “none-negotiable.” In answer to your first question, this none-negotiability pertaining to Her independence is made clear. This ties in with your third question, that if the answer is no, then perhaps the article is biased. This is an interesting area of discussion.

    As mentioned in the article, there is scope for devotees to relate on a human level with people of “other faiths or not.” There can even be shared interests on matters of faith, fidelity, reasons for joining a particular religion, relationships with fellow worshipers and so on. These all pertain to rudimentary or mixed forms of bhakti or religion. But they remain a distance from pure Bhakti.

    If however, we try to relate with others while attempting to downplay outsiders perceived notions of us as being exotic, unusual, strange, elitist, other-worldly, none-conformist and whatever else, and compromise the unique distinction of Bhakti, then we lose integrity.

    While we acknowledge the spark of truth-seeking, soul-searching and genuine potential to repose love towards God – there is no denial of this – there is still the yoke of love directed towards those who have given us the means to, as you wrote: “Bhakti is the eternal function of the soul, and Bhakti-Yoga is the science of reviving or executing that function.”

    Who gave us this Bhakti potential? To whom do we eternally show gratitude for allowing entry on the path of Bhakti? I am hinting at loyalty. There is a need to subscribe to the mystique of Bhakti – Rahasyam hy etad uttamam – that this can only be known to one who has developed a genuine personal loving relationship with the Lord. (BG 4.3)

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  3. 0
    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Part Two:

    This is something that we cannot barter with, to equate this unique mystique with what the Srimad Bhagavatam describes as – dharmaḥ projjhita-kaitavo ‘tra…

    “Completely rejecting all religious activities which are materially motivated, this Bhāgavata Purāṇa propounds the highest truth, which is understandable by those devotees who are fully pure in heart. The highest truth is reality distinguished from illusion for the welfare of all. Such truth uproots the threefold miseries. This beautiful Bhāgavatam, compiled by the great sage Vyāsadeva [in his maturity], is sufficient in itself for God realization. What is the need of any other scripture? As soon as one attentively and submissively hears the message of Bhāgavatam, by this culture of knowledge the Supreme Lord is established within his heart.” (SB 1.1.2)

    One has to be naturally “biased” towards such uniqueness. We need to preserve this while comparing and interfacing with other faiths – it is not a fault. It would be a fault if we were to say, “Pure Vaisnavas are just the same as everybody else… Bhakti is just the same as all others…” She is not; therefore, we uphold a healthy bias for Her and all things related to Her.

    Your second question seems to infer separation of Iskcon from Bhakti. To my understanding, Iskcon is intrinsically linked with Bhakti, but our human side does not allow pure execution of the function of Bhakti on all levels, hence the scholarly input compatible with shared human nature allied with social needs enters. I already mentioned that there is nothing “unique” in this, in the article.

    Even though we are naturally biased towards pure Bhakti, it is not for us to exhibit elitist superiority towards others of other faiths or not. We can be enriched with much wisdom that they offer and share. Interestingly, this ‘mystique’ of Bhakti fascinates many. This fascination will hold only if we remain true and ‘biased-without being-superior-and-unfriendly-biased.’ It is worth remembering that to be naturally biased is NOT a fault, otherwise we can fault Krishna for being Bhakta-vatsala.

    If we insist, we can change the word ‘bias’ to one of many ‘friendly’ synonyms on offer.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  4. 0
    Sita Rama 108 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Kesava Krsna Prabhu,
    Please accept my humble obiesances.
    All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
    You write, “While considering our Iskcon social needs and development we can minimise the value of Bhakti.” This mirrors the thrust of an article by me on this site, “Strictness is the Strength of ISKCON “. Scholarly observation of the level a religious organization focuses on social needs, as opposed to spiritual concepts, shows that those which focus on social needs, in an attempt to attract followers, actually decline while those that focus more on spiritual concepts, grow (in spite of the fact that the more spiritual organizations have social structures which are in tension with secular society in general.
    The theory (known as the, Economics of Religion) which explains the observational data, is: 1. In a free market, organizations are in competition for participants. 2. Religious organizations can offer something secular organizations cannot, namely, the spiritual benefits of immortality and an eternal loving relationship with God. 3. When religious organizations change their focus from fulfilling spiritual needs to fulfilling social needs, they place themselves in competition with secular organizations; however, secular organizations can offer more material benefits than religious organizations can. In this way religious organizations invariable decline. Scholars and religious historians use the term, “inner secularization”, to describe the ubiquitous tendency for religious organizations to switch from attempting to fulfill spiritual needs to fulfilling social needs. ISKCON is, in no way, unique in offering eternal existence and love for God. It follows: if ISKCON loses focus on spiritual concepts( to decrease tension with secular society) it will lead to decline, as seen throughout the history of Christianity and recent research on growth/decline of religious organizations..

  5. 0
    Puskaraksa das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    It seems that the author could have phrased his question differently by, on one hand, comparing spiritual institutions, churches, etc., together and, on the other hand, different faiths or religions with one another…

  6. 0
    pustakrishna ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    We can appreciate the conception that bhakti, nirmala bhakti, free from material self-interest, is the goal of transcendental loving service. Srila Prabhupad often likened the process to that of making sugar rock candy from sugar cane juice. The rock candy is contained within the sugar cane juice, but it is diluted with so much water and is not concentrated. Srila Prabhupad tried in every way to convey to us that there is another plane of consciousness apart from the contaminated conditioned material consciousness. Krishna explains how there is a banyan tree with its branches going down and roots going up. That is the reflection, and it has its substantial reality in the real tree. Similarly, we are part of Krishna, and we have minute attributes of Krishna, infinitesimally. Conditioned souls have, due to the “heart disease” of material consciousness, chosen to exploit or “lord over” matter, Krishna’s apara-prakriti. By the grace of Krishna, one gets the association of genuine vaishnavas, and by the grace of vaishnavas, one can obtain Krishna. Even Krishna recommends this…tad viddhi pranipatena. So, the process is vitally important. In fact, the process is the means and the end…ie it is bhakti. Like the sugar cane juice, it may begin diluted, and gradually the intrinsic concentrated sweetness may be obtained.

    The philosophy of devotional service is so extensive in our line. So many books, one cannot read them all in one lifetime! All are devoted to the principle of bhakti, and convincing those who might have doubts that this is in our own best interests. Still we must not think that what we have here in our hands has no capacity to please Krishna. Sri Krishna is all-knowing. He may playfully be observing us fumbling about as if in the dark, but He is pleased with our endeavors. We should not, in my opinion, become disheartened if “I” or “We” do not get the “bliss”. Ultimately, we are depositors in the transcendental bank of Krishna. We do not want to take out any deposits for our own pleasure. And, if Krishna, the Predominator, will overwhelm us with His ecstatic love, we must be fully charmed by His beauty and love, and deposit all back for Him. This exchange is rasa, and it take many forms as we have read. Sri Radha is the ultimate vortex of bhakti, for Krishna is attracted by Sri Radha, the Predominated aspect of Godhead. Sri Guru Vaishnava is the intimate servant of Sri Radha. Pusta Krishna das

  7. 0
    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Further reflection on being ‘biased’ shows how, when devotees mix on an interfaith level, they know that each multifaith participant will also retain their own biases towards their faiths and traditions. This is not a fault on their part and we respect them for this.

    If we are afraid of seeming too biased towards Bhakti and we dilute our presentations, we shall lose respect and integrity. This is why general interfaith discussions do not delve into esoterica, although in essence we might share.

    Put simply, our depth of Bhakti with all the variegated levels and permutations of Krishna prema has no comparison. On this basis, we remain guardedly ‘biased,’ or inclined, predisposed and partial. Pure independent Bhakti cannot be compared with other faiths. Our human side can be compared – short of pure Bhakti.

    Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would sometimes test a Rama-Bhakta, teasingly speaking of something higher in worship of Krishna. When the Lord saw that such Rama-Bhaktas could not swerve from their natural bias towards Sri Rama, He expressed delight and gratitude at such steadfast bias.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  8. 0
    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Sita Rama Prabhu,

    Dandavats, jaya Srila Prabhupada.

    Yes, you are right, there is a similarity with the thrust of your article. I had to bring in the principle of Bhakti as a reason why scholarly material, whether it agrees with our ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ views, is still flawed – from an independent Bhakti perspective.

    When I used the “flawed” word in comments on your article, it was because not a shred of Bhakti featured in such scholarly deliberations. It was not intended for you as an author. Please forgive me if you might have felt that way. It was also intended for a show of support for this because it appeared to bolster the ‘conservative’ cause. If such support exists without resort to Bhakti or just for the sake of it, then it is sentiment, not Bhakti.

    If we show how Iskcon preservation can best be safeguarded by speaking of the uniqueness of Bhakti rather than indifferent scholarly input – useful or not – then we are in broad agreement.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  9. 0
    Sita Rama 108 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    With all due respect I have to admit I do not understand the thesis of this article. But I want to point out that is certainly possible for, “mundane” scholars to determine whether a religious organization focuses more on concepts that are outside the boundaries of the material world or more on social/ethical considerations. For instance in my article,” Strictness is the Strength of ISKCON” I cited a massive study on church growth/decline. It measured how much members of particular congregations/denominations accepted their scripture as literal truth and how much their church restricted ,or regulated, eating, drinking, smoking, gambling, dress, unwed couples living together etc. Thus the study is relevant to Bhakti because it is undeniable that accepting a scripture as absolute and accepting prohibitions, which restrict the spirit of sense enjoyment, are requisites for developing Bhakti. What the study showed was that religious organizations which emphasize literal acceptance of scripture and prohibitions grow (although this creates tension between them and society in general) while those which embrace secular morality and world views decline. It is therefore safe to conclude that if ISKCON tries to minimize its distinctiveness from society at large by relaxing rules on behavior, and compromising absolute acceptance of the scripture, we will also decline.
    I have access to many studies on the correlations between strictness and church growth/ decline. These include arguments on the applicability and generalizability of the data, criticisms and overt attempts to disprove theories, etc. I am thus prepared; and will be happy to address, any direct criticism of my assertions.
    I will give one example. In 1975, the Presbyterian Church, in response to declining membership since the mid 1960’s, did a survey of 681 of their own congregations. The Presbyterians described themselves as liberal, and wanted to determine if there was any merit to the claim that conservatism lead to church growth. The conclusion of the study begins with:
    The results suggest conservative churches are somewhat more likely to grow in this sample of 681 United Presbyterian churches. The correlation is weak, but it is supported by a similar finding (McKinney, 1979) among United Church of Christ churches (both Congregational Christian and Evangelical and Reformed).

  10. 0
    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Sita Rama Prabhu,

    In response to your comment 9, I have already said that our human side can be compared with people of other faiths – but there is nothing unique in this. But try comparing such data with devotees who serve under the protection of the Lord, then I say that they are beyond empirical scruples, and beyond comparison, just as pure distinct Bhakti is.

    Other factors have to be considered, such as following strictly in an Abrahamic tradition due to fear of God. Such fear can cause worshipers to be strict, without true love. How can this compare with Bhakti, the path of love? There might be some element of fear and obligation in Vaidi-Bhakti, but then, such devotees have a no-fear fondness for Lord Nrsmha for example. Usually, our youngsters love Sri Nrsmhadeva. Such a personal exchange as this is commonly absent where fear of God predominates.

    To compare the level of consciousness between serious Bhakti-yogis and once-a-week church attendees also cannot be compared. Personally I find it offensive for a society of Bhakti-yogis to be lumped together with some of those who believe that this material body of ours is the soul.

    These considerations cannot produce consistent data when comparing with Bhakti. Otherwise the objective of your article appears to be similar.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  11. 0
    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Damodara Prasada Prabhu,

    My previous response to the 2nd question you posed was very generous. It requires a more stringent response. Your question was:

    2) The argument conflates ISKCON with Bhakti, which seems as unwarranted. ISKCON is an institution, Bhakti is the eternal function of the soul, and Bhakti-Yoga is the science of reviving or executing that function. While there is overlap, they cannot be considered the same in every respect.

    Iskcon is a multi-faceted preaching mission. All sphered of service activity encompass the various limbs of Bhakti. Iskcon is a Bhakti mission for Bhakti-yogis of varying degrees of spiritual progress. How is this unwarranted?

    As if to divorce Iskcon from Bhakti, you wrote: “ISKCON is an institution, Bhakti is the eternal function of the soul, and Bhakti-Yoga is the science of reviving or executing that function.” This is inconsistent.

    It should be remembered that wherever there is Bhakti, there is hearing, chanting and other angas of engagement. Bhakti comes first. If there is no Bhakti, there is no hearing and chanting… If Iskcon incorporates all these angas of engagement, then how is Bhakti divorced from Iskcon? Why again is this unwarranted?

    Certain observations might reveal what you say is “overlap” and therefore, “cannot be considered the same in every respect.” Depending on what you observe, you might witness apparent inconsistencies not in line with Bhakti, but it does not divorce Bhakti from Iskcon.

    Associating with devotees via this Dandavats forum is enabled by Bhakti, for Sadhu sanga is another anga of Bhakti. You chant your rounds daily, and this is also Bhakti given. Can you explain this divorce?

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  12. 0
    Sita Rama 108 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Kesava Krishna Prabhu,
    Please accept my humble obiesances.
    All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
    I think I understand the point you made in comment # 8, “It was also intended for a show of support for this because it appeared to bolster the ‘conservative’ cause. If such support exists without resort to Bhakti or just for the sake of it, then it is sentiment, not Bhakti.”
    The Acharya’s tell us that we cannot achieve Bhakti if we consider the rules as ends in themselves. Bolstering the,”conservative” cause for the sake of it, seems like another way of saying-seeing the rules as ends in themselves. I would not intentionally do this.
    The point I was making is that we do not need to think the practical aspects which are required for bhakti(accepting the scripture as absolute, and avoiding prohibited behavior) need to be relaxed so we can lessen the tension we have with secular ways of thinking and acting. We do not need to purposefully create tension with secular society but trying to ease the tension is likely to lead to decline.
    The overall thesis of the economics of religion is that religious organizations in general have something unique to offer,immortality and a relationship with God. No secular organization can offer these. When religious organizations offer material benefits they lose their uniqueness and fall into competition with organizations that can offer much more materially. Therefore in general, the “liberal churches” which have compromised with secular society, have been steadily declining since the mid 1960’s while those that emphasize spiritual benefits have grown steadily.
    I agree that ISKCON has something unique to offer. We have the fullest understanding of the science of Bhakti, and we have the most practical and easy means to develop devotion. But we cannot say that devotion, or Bhakti is totally absent in all of Christianity. I believe you have pointed out an area where my thesis needs work- how the aspects that make these churches strong are connected with bhakti. I will work on that area. Thank you.

  13. 0
    Puskaraksa das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “In the depths of jnana, vairagya and so on, and behind all religion, lies the desire for honour, name fame distinction and adoration.

    To the degree that we endeavour to develop ourselves spiritually, to become religious, to maintain a renounced life, and to deliberate on and discuss jnana, we desire our own pratishtha (honour and distinction). This desire contaminates our hearts and pollutes our characters.

    Although we make a great effort to control lust, anger, greed, illusion and envy, and although we perform severe austerities to control the senses, concealed within our hearts the desire for pratishtha, in the form of a wild infant animal, continues to grow.”

    Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur also explains in his ‘Bhakti Tattva Viveka’ that “Until one awakens to the platform of pure devotion he’s not really able to see other’s level of bhakti”. He saiys that, “As long as one has a mere reflection of bhakti, he is unable to discern who has real bhakti and who has just a similar reflection.”

  14. 0
    Raja Gopala das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Every religion that does not accept God to be the Unlimited Person with which one has an eternal loving relationship is completely out of touch with reality. Para bhakti is the perfection of science, religion and activity.

    Of course, Iskcon means the international society for Krishna consciousness, which is a individual state of consciousness in relation to guru and Krishna.

    Devotees are definitely not dogmatic institutionalists. We utilise Iskcon like we utilise the rest of the world; in guru & Krishna’s service.

  15. 0
    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Part One:

    Sita Rama Prabhu,

    Here are some further observations on your comment 9.

    You wrote: “But I want to point out that is certainly possible for, “mundane” scholars to determine whether a religious organization focuses more on concepts that are outside the boundaries of the material world or more on social/ethical considerations.”

    Iskcon is not a “religious organisation.” If you lump in Iskcon with other “religious organisations” then you are equating Srila Prabhupada;s society for Bhakti-yogis with others. Srila Prabhupada makes a clear distinction:

    “So these things are very nice. I will request you to study what is bhakti, what is pure devotion, what is Vāsudeva. Everything is there. It is a science, great science. It is not sentiment, neither it is so- called religious faith.” (Delhi, November 13, 1973)

    If this empirical research was “massive,” as you wrote, then even if the study was gargantuan, and immensely colossal, it still has no power to touch independent Bhakti.

    Then you say, “Thus the study is relevant to Bhakti because it is undeniable that accepting a scripture as absolute and accepting prohibitions, which restrict the spirit of sense enjoyment, are requisites for developing Bhakti.”

    This study has no relevance whatsoever to Independent, Distinct pure Bhakti. It is co-incidental, incidental empirical information concluded by indifferent none-Bhakti sources. This is distant jnana.

    It is common worldy knowledge that if we want order and following obedience, whether in schools, in the military, in God-fearing religions, then strictness is required. Such common knowledge has no relevance to pure Bhakti.

    For instance, it is common knowledge that if people take regular walks it might help keep their vascular system healthy. Such, knowledge has nothing to do with pure Bhakti. Now, Srila Prabhupada took the advice of one good doctor who recommended that he walk more often. These regular walks might have helped to keep Srila Prabhupada around physically for longer than anticipated. Are we to say that this acting on common knowledge means that brisk walking is relevant to pure Bhakti? No.

    However, because it helped Srila Prabhupada we can say that the good doctor engaged in ajnata-sukrti, and the walking information itself helped unintentionally – it had some use in Bhakti – but it did not constitute pure Bhakti in itself.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  16. 0
    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Part Two:

    The same applies to “strictness.” It might help novice Bhakti-yogis rise to higher levels of Bhakti, but it does not constitute pure unadulterated Bhakti – it is simply a means to get there. Still, the common knowledge of strictness itself has no relevance to pure Bhakti.

    If this information were implemented by Iskcon for example, and it helped to fortify membership numbers at least, then we can say it is helping us indirectly on a human social scale. Therefore, this common information belongs to the realm of jnana and karma, distinct from pure Bhakti.

    If we are to mix such information with pure Bhakti and not notice the difference, then we are contaminated in subtle ways.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  17. 0
    Kulapavana ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Can We Compare Iskcon With Other Faiths? As it was already pointed out, Iskcon is not a faith, so maybe the question should have been phrased differently, such as: “Can We Compare Iskcon With Other Churches?” or: “Can We Compare Krishna Consciousness With Other Faiths?”. Such questions and analyses can be interesting and quite useful. Hopefully, based on the analysis of facts, sound reason and logic, and impartial philosophy, people will conclude that Iskcon and Krishna consciousness compare very favorably with others.

    As to the claim that we are unique because we have bhakti, please consider the following quotes:

    Srila Prabhupada: Even the Muslim religion. That is also bhakti-yoga (devotional service). Any religion where God is the target, that is applied in bhakti (devotion). (Lecture on Bhagavad-gita, 21/02/69)

    Srila Prabhupada: Bhakti-yoga also exists among the Muslims, because God is the target in the Muslim religion. (Path of Perfection)

    Srila Prabhupada: There are many prayers in the Vedic scriptures and also in the Bible and the Qur’an. Although the Christians and Muslims do not worship the Deity, they offer prayers to the Lord, that is also bhakti. (Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, Ch. 15)

    Srila Prabhupada: The Christians and the Muslims, they offer vandanam (prayers). Although they do not worship the Deity, but they offer prayers to the Lord. That is also good. That is also bhakti. (Lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam, 04/12/74)

    Srila Prabhupada: They accept God. They are also our brothers because they accept God. They are not atheist. Atheists don’t accept God. “There is no God,” says the atheist. But here they are theists. They accept God. They want to please God. They go to the church, go to the mosque, offer prayers. Prayer is also bhakti, devotional service. The Christian way or the Muslim way is to offer prayer. The Muslims offer obeisances and offer prayer. So that is also bhakti (devotion). The Christians also do that, so that is also bhakti. And they accept God; we accept God. So there is no difference. But the only point is who is that God. (Room conversation. Tehran, 14/03/75)

  18. 0
    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Comment 17 by Kulapavana Prabhu is interesting. Yes, we can share on a human level with people of other faiths, even on rudimentary Bhakti stages, but these have limitations. We can share on morality and other societal and religious matters – we can compare very favourably.

    But deep, deep subjects of rasa theology cannot compare, nor would many adherents of other faiths appreciate them – they would be considered blasphemous.

    When material morality gets confused with spiritual reality wherein Rasa-lila and so on challenge perceived material morality standards, such limitations are to be avoided to prevent Nama-aparadha.

    However, we do not consider ourselves elitist or superior because of this. Pure distinct Bhakti softens the heart of Bhakti-yogis who appreciate and encourage all forms of genuine God worship. On this level Iskcon compares favourably.

    It is not that because distinct Bhakti is unique that we consider ourselves unique as individuals. We consider other Bhakti-yogis as unique and we offer respect to other God worsippers. A soft Bhakti-laden heart cannot but give respect to everyone.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  19. 0
    Sita Rama 108 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Kesava Krsna Prabhu,
    You write, “The same applies to “strictness.”It might help novice Bhakti-yogis rise to higher levels of Bhakti, but it does not constitute pure unadulterated Bhakti – it is simply a means to get there. Still, the common knowledge of strictness itself has no relevance to pure Bhakti”.
    The,”common knowledge”itself may have no relevance to Bhakti, but if someone applies that knowledge as a means to attain Bhakti, it certainly has relevance. How can something applied as a means to attain something be irrelevant to that attainment?
    But I agree that knowledge of the need to be strict to attain anything useful is common, and a common sense person will know it is required for the ultimate attainment. An intelligent human can analyze and see how much another person, group,or culture, emphasizes service to God and spiritual attainments as apposed to material attainments. Anon devotee can thus observe Bhakti in others . Of course observing is not the same as tasting it, but the clear distinctions between the external, behavior of one devoted to Krishna, compared with a materialist is,a crucial aspect of what makes Krishna Consciousness a science; it is testable, experienced by the individual, and correlated with behaviors that are observable to others.

  20. 0
    damodar-das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Kesava Krishna Prabhu,

    Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

    Thank you for your comments, but I do not feel that they have answered the objections.

    1) It is not possible to say “we cannot compare Iskcon with other faiths” without first comparing Iskcon with other faiths, and therefore the question is without meaning.
    2) ISKCON is not Bhakti. The goal of is ISKCON is bhakti, but the same can be said of other institutions, although using different terminology, as has been pointed out in the discussion. In other words, you cannot equate the two terms. Bhakti cannot be confined to ISKCON.
    3) The bias in the article does not emerge from the conclusion, but from the methodology. In this case, there was no demonstrable effort to explore the inner reality of other faiths.

    I feel that it is important to clarify our thinking on these issues, lest we fall into sectarianism. I may also add that faith for one’s chosen spiritual path need not depend on minimising the value of other spiritual traditions, or the scientific enterprise.

    Please forgive me for my offences.

    Your Servant
    Damodar Prasad das

  21. 0
    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Part One:

    Damodara Prasada Prabhu,

    Your questions are repeated: 1) It is not possible to say “we cannot compare Iskcon with other faiths” without first comparing Iskcon with other faiths, and therefore the question is without meaning.

    We say that there has been ample comparison of different faiths. Srila Prabhupada was exposed to Christianity. There are recorded dialogues of Satyaraja Prabhu and Christian and Jewish thinkers and so on. How many devotees belonged to other faiths before becoming Bhakti-yogis, and are able to compare before-and-after? Comparative doctrines are available for perusal as well as learned observations.

    What is distinctly clear is that the Bhakti realm of Rasa theology has no comparison. Can you cite examples of comparisons with deep, deep rasa theology? Our ‘biased’ acaryas all proclaim the unique distinction of Krishna Prema.

    If you wish to disagree, it would be worthwhile inquiring on matters above rudimentary Bhakti. Once you have realised the depth of information that causes those of other faiths “heads to swim,” I think you will appreciate the difference. At present, you are engaging on a purely comparative philosophical level without having studied rasa theology in its depths.

    2) ISKCON is not Bhakti. The goal of is ISKCON is bhakti, but the same can be said of other institutions, although using different terminology, as has been pointed out in the discussion. In other words, you cannot equate the two terms. Bhakti cannot be confined to ISKCON.

    My previous answers to question 2 still hold here. Semantics aside, it is safe to say that if there is no Iskcon, there is no practice of Bhakti – they are inseparable. If, “The goal of Iskcon is Bhakti…” as you say, then what precedes that goal? What is the “goal” if the practice of Bhakti begins even before joining Iskcon due to sadhu-sanga and the acquisition of Sraddha – faith?

    It is agreed that, “Bhakti cannot be confined to ISKCON.” I do not think I ever said this. In the context of discussing Iskcon, Iskcon was created for the purpose of devotee association – devotee association is an anga of Bhakti – enabling the performance of Bhakti through service – there are nine angas of service. Bhakti occurs outside of Iskcon as well. Perhaps we should say that Bhakti is facilitated by Iskcon, which still makes Iskcon intrinsically linked with Bhakti.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  22. 0
    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Part Two:

    If you wish not to accede to this, then the discussion will simply go on, as if to determine whether the chicken or the egg came first.

    3) The bias in the article does not emerge from the conclusion, but from the methodology. In this case, there was no demonstrable effort to explore the inner reality of other faiths.

    As explained above in answers to your first question, there is ample “demonstrable” evidence already available, and the “inner reality of other faiths” can be determined by whether an unbroken parampara exists, whether adherence to the original founding fathers exist, and using Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as the standard bearer on “inner reality.”

    (1) We accept the words and actions (methodology) of self-effulgent acaryas (guru) as self-evident bias.
    (2) Their inner bias is substantiated by Sadhus, sages, munis etc.
    (3) The Smrtis and Srutis are general reference for the above two. Then we have the Puranas headed by the Bhagavata Purana. Further still, are the written realisations and personal revelations of pure Bhakti-yogis awarded through sphurtis, guru-krpa and the rest.

    These are sufficient grounds for cementing such bias. If however, we rely on empirical comparisons, they will be biased based on the four defects of humanness, as Indology studies tend to show.

    Finally, you wrote: “I feel that it is important to clarify our thinking on these issues, lest we fall into sectarianism. I may also add that faith for one’s chosen spiritual path need not depend on minimising the value of other spiritual traditions, or the scientific enterprise.”

    Clarity of thinking is determined when we resort to Guru, Sadhu and Sastra. While there is an acknowledgement that Bhakti can and does exist outside of Iskcon, the development of – sraddha – faith is in itself a natural bias. Without it there is no meaning to following a “faith” of choice.

    It would be recommende that you familiarise with rasa theology as has been revealed by those close and chosen by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, such as Ramananda Raya, Svarupa Damodar, the Six Goswamis, Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur and many, many others, before hinting at “minimisation” of other faiths. If you are not familiar with such “inner reality” first, then you are guilty of succumbing to your own argument. How can you accuse of “sectarianism” and “minimisation” if you have not studied Bhakti “inner reality” first?

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  23. 0
    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Part Three:

    Otherwise, where can we find Madhurya-Rasa elsewhere outside of pure distinct Bhakti? Even though we may not find it, it does not give us the right to minimise others, and I have repeated this several times. Can you show me where Madhurya-rasa is found outside of our parampara? This “inner reality” has no comparison. Is this being “sectarian?”

    There is a way of being biased towards Guru, Sadhu and Sastra without evincing “sectarianism.” Why should it be that because Madhurya-Rasa is not found elsewhere – and there are verses to demonstrate how Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has given what no other incarnation has given before – that is makes us “sectarian” and thus “minimising” other faiths?

    If we retain empirical sympathies ourselves and try to be objective in somewhat indifferent and impersonal ways without a true basis in sraddha (bias), we can descend into political correctness. Natural bias becomes “sectarianism,” and “demonstrable” comparisons are treated as “minimisations.” It depends on who is handling such matters.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  24. 0
    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    For those who have wondered why the word “faith” is used in the title heading, it is because the word is generally used nowadays in interfaith exchanges – there is modernity to it.

    We all know how “faith” in itself is not a viable option for anything. Faith can be perverted: “A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.” (Friedrich Nietzsche)

    But here we are addressing genuine forms of Faith. Bhakti-yogis require it – adau sraddha… without which there is no meaning for our practice of Bhakti. Devotees might even wonder if the results of Krishna prema are achievable.

    This is nicely explained from another faith setting: “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.” (Saint Augustine)

    On the other hand, if I had used the word ‘Religion’ instead of Faith, then this would have implied that we as Iskcon are a Religion, which we are not.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  25. 0
    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I need to add a correction. I wrote: “Can you show me where Madhurya-rasa is found outside of our parampara?”

    I can get caught out with that because another bona-fide succession – Nimbarka – also has Madhurya.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  26. 0
    damodar-das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Kesava Krishna Prabhu,

    Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

    Please allow me to answer the question which you directed towards me in post number 11. You suggested that in drawing a distinction between ISKCON, Bhakti, and Bhakti Yoga, I was attempting to divorce ISKCON from Bhakti, and you asked me to explain this divorce. You also stated that it was inconsistent to draw a distinction between these terms.

    Firstly, I do not feel that it is inconsistent to draw distinctions between these terms, because they are in fact different terms, and they do refer to different things. For example, ISKCON did not exist before 1966, Bhakti and Bhakti Yoga did. The differences are intrinsic, and ignoring them leads to complacency and institutional stultification. ISKCON can be ruined by infighting and dogmatism, or strengthened by cooperation and healthy debate. Bhakti and Bhakti Yoga as universal concepts are, as you say, “independent” of our activities, and even of the activities of ISKCON. By treating these terms interchangeably you ruin your argument. It is an elementary logical fallacy. It is like saying “All cows are mortal, therefore all mortals are cows.”

    I was therefore not so much interested in divorcing ISKCON from Bhakti, or vice versa, as I was in clarifying the terms of your argument.

    You also took pains to remind me of the loyalty and debt which I owe to ISKCON. I agree with you. I derive many benefits from being a member of this institution, and I owe her both my loyalty and gratitude, but does this forbid me from pointing out the logical fallacies in your argument?

    Please remember, by “bias” I do not mean “natural preference”. I mean systematically excluding information which contradicts your argument.

    Begging your forgiveness,

    Your servant
    Damodara Prasad das

  27. 0
    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Damodara Prasada Prabhu,

    Further still to your claim of divorce of Iskcon from Bhakti, we can refer to some quotes of Srila Prabhupada saying how Krishna Himself has entered Iskcon or is none-different from Iskcon.

    The first one is from SB10.2.22 purport in which Srila Prabhupada writes: ” Therefore Krsna has taken birth or taken shelter within the womb of the Krsna consciousness movement.” This is in relation to the – dehino smin – verse in the context of demoniac opposition.

    The second is taken from the Lilamrta vol. V. ch 2. It says:” When Srila Prabhupada met C. Rajagopal Acharya[known as Rajaji], who was the first Governor General of ‘free India’ and famous as a religious politician and friend of Gandhi, in Madras, Rajaji expressed his only doubt: “Srila Prabhupada has created such a huge institution that now his disciples might identify with Iskcon rather than Krishna. If that were to happen, then by identifying with Iskcon, they would fall into the same type of materialism or false identification as before.”

    Srila Prabhupada replied, “Because Krishna is absolute, Krishna and Iskcon are non-different. To identify with Krsna’s Iskcon was to identify with Krishna directly.” Rajaji was satisfied.

    Wherever there is Krishna there must also be Bhakti. If Krishna is within Iskcon, how can Bhakti be divorced from Him, or is just merely a “goal?” Can you deny this?

    If we observe Iskcon from an empirical viewpoint, the mode of passion can cause such a divorce or separation of vision: “That knowledge by which one sees that in every different body there is a different type of living entity you should understand to be in the mode of passion.“ (BG 18.21)

    When the heart is more attuned to Bhakti with Krishna then: “That knowledge by which one undivided spiritual nature is seen in all living entities, though they are divided into innumerable forms, you should understand to be in the mode of goodness” (BG 18.20)

    If in spite of this evidence you cling to your divorce of Iskcon from Bhakti, we want to hear from you prove to our readers how Iskcon is divorced from Bhakti as well as giving substance and merit to your other two questions/opinions. I am amenable for correction.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  28. 0
    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Damodara Prasada Prabhu,

    In comment 27 we have a situation where a Mr Rajaji posited the same possible divorce of Iskcon and Bhakti, to which Srila Prabhupada assured, was solved by Iskcon being none-different from Krishna. This is beyond empirical logic. Thus, your divorce as stated in comment 26, 2nd paragraph is refuted.

    To sum up the gist of the main article, it is that within Iskcon we have different levels of Bhakti functioning. When pure unadulterated Bhakti is absent, being mixed with karma and jnana, this is comparable with other faiths on a human level. However, pure distinct unadulterated Bhakti has no comparison – we say this without arrogance or pride, because it is how Srila Prabhupada would say, “That is a fact.” Besides, Lord Gauranga gave what no other gave – pure unadulterated Bhakti. Again, we cannot compare this.

    This appears contradictory and hence “illogical” from an empirical standpoint. Srila Prabhupada has given the seal of – Acintya – to Iskcon, which means beyond the reach of logicians. Yes, there appears to be mundaneness and other human failings within, but still, Bhakti is so unique that anyone who comes in contact with Her is eternally benefitted.

    So while our human side can compare, we cannot reduce Bhakti to mere indifferent scholastic musings, yet these Bhakti activities happen within Iskcon. In Bhagavad-gita chapter 9, Arjuna pointed out a contradiction when Lord Krishna said that He was both within this cosmos and yet not a part of it. Lord Krishna gave the example of the sky which is unaffected by all things happening within the sky. Iskcon and pure distinct Bhakti are like the sky.

    This sky allusion indicates that Iskcon and pure independent Bhakti cannot be subjected to crude comparisons, although our human characteristic, short of pure Bhakti can be compared. We should not take this human side as being a full representation of unadulterated Bhakti. Is this hard to figure out? It appears that this is what is bugging you. Perhaps it is Acintya…

    If this still remains unclear, let us not pursue “chicken-and-egg” inconclusiveness. Rather let us pray for the mercy of Bhakti and the Lord through His Bhakti-yogis, so we can serve “inner Reality” without hindrance.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  29. 0
    damodar-das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Kesava Krishna Prabhu,

    Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

    Thank you for your detailed responses to my objections. They have certainly clarified your position, and it is a position which I find no fault with. Thank your for your recommendations for my further reading. I believe they were kindly meant, and, with your blessings, I look forward to deepening my understanding of these matters.

    My comments were addressed to the technical details of your argument, and admittedly, I overlooked your intention. Please accept my apologies for this oversight.

    With regard to your view that I am attempting to divorce ISKCON from Bhakti, I trust this was adequately answered in my previous post, which perhaps you have not yet read. I am, however, encouraged that you begin to acknowledge some distinction in the terms Bhakti and ISKCON, and that they are not identical terms. This need not imply divorce, just as acknowledging the personal differences between husband and wife need not imply divorce.

    Hoping this meets you well,

    Your Servant
    Damodar Prasad das

  30. 0
    damodar-das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Keshava Krishna Prabhu,

    Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

    Wrt post 27:

    Krishna and the spiritual master are non-different. Does that mean that the spiritual master is Krishna? Is it in the mode of goodness to make this assertion?

    Ys
    Damodar Prasad das

  31. 0
    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Part One:

    Damodara Prasada Prabhu,

    Dandavats, jaya Srila Prabhupada.

    Thank you for your comments again. You are young and educated and have recently written two articles on philosophy. You write well, and I would encourage you to continue writing.

    In regards to our discussion, I kept wondering what the “logical fallacy” was. Anyway, Vaisnava dealings usually end up being positive and beneficial. I wish you well, and all the best.

    But you raised some further questions in comment 30.

    Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has left us with a philosophical concept, both wholesome and accommodating – acintya bhedabheda-tattva – simultaneous onesness and difference, or oneness and distinction.

    Such a concept has to be applied to your question, which I presume is related to BG 18.20.

    You wrote: “Krishna and the spiritual master are non-different.” The answer is yes, but also distinct. Before we can ask such a question, we need to know that not all spiritual masters are on the same level of advancement. Some are madhyama and very few are uttama.

    A liberated spiritual master can be liberated by dint of perfecting sadhana Bhakti – sadhana-siddha, but may not have fully developed his original constitutional spiritual form yet – swarupa-siddhi. An uttama-Bhakti is one who is ever-liberated, even at birth and onwards – is already – swarupa-siddhi.

    A swarupa-siddhi is none-different from Krishna in terms of spiritual form and qualities, like humans are one in terms of bodies made of flesh and blood. He or she has an eternal spiritual form like Krishna has, but Krishna is the Whole, and His servant swarupa-siddhi is the part. The none-difference applies to spiritual essence of forms and purpose of being – servant/master relationship, friend, parent or Madhurya, and general compassion for the fallen. This is the oneness of the “Krishna and the spiritual master are non-different” quote.

    The distinction part of the same quote is that the spiritual master is not the same as Krishna in all respects in terms of quantity. Srila Prabhupada would sometimes refer the term “Supreme personality of servitor Godhead,” for a spiritual master, which accentuates this distinction.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  32. 0
    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Part Two:

    Krishna will say, “acaryam mam vijaniyan…” (SB 11.17.17) meaning that the acarya and He are One. One in purpose of being, but distinct in quantity.

    Next, you asked, “Does that mean that the spiritual master is Krishna?” Most certainly not, as explained above. Krishna is the original spiritual master as acted through Sri Baladeva/Nityananda.

    Then, “Is it in the mode of goodness to make this assertion?” No, because Vaisnavas do not make such an assertion. A mayavadi/impersonalist would do.

    Let us look at the verse more closely, “That knowledge by which one undivided spiritual nature is seen in all living entities, though they are divided into innumerable forms, you should understand to be in the mode of goodness” (BG 18.20)

    Keeping in mind the oneness and distinction understanding, the “…one undivided spiritual nature is seen in all living entities,” refers to the oneness of spiritual essence and form – constitutional position – swarupa-siddhi – manifest or dormant within all living beings. The Supersoul is also situated within all beings and atoms, though He is One undivided Whole.

    BG 13.17: Although the Supersoul appears to be divided among all beings, He is never divided. He is situated as one. Although He is the maintainer of every living entity, it is to be understood that He devours and develops all.

    Someone who has spiritual vision, literally or seeing through the eyes of Sastra will see or acknowledge the same spiritual essence of individual spiritual forms (distinction) in eternal relationship with Krishna, as “they are divided into innumerable forms.”

    The “undivided spiritual nature” is the oneness, and the distinction is how that “undivided spiritual nature” is dispersed.

    Without such a oneness and distinction outlook we can easily attribute a simple homogeneous oneness as is favoured by impersonalists and mayavadis. Such a proper distinction will help us place philosophical and arcane concepts into proper perspective.

    Impersonalists can analyse this verse from an impersonal angle and be in the mode of goodness, for – brahma-vadi – impersonalists are generally not offensive like mayavadis are. When a mayavadi interprets the same verse, it will belong to the mode of passion/ignorance. See BG 18.21 purport.

    When an enlightened Vaisnava analyses this verse, it will be from goodness or above that – vissuddha-sattva – transcendence.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  33. 0
    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Sita Rama Prabhu,

    Thank you for your contribution. Though we differ in the details, we are in agreement about the need for Iskcon preservation. Good luck with your amended presentation. Wishing you well.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  34. 0
    damodar-das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Keshava Krishna Prabhu,

    Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

    Thank you very much for sharing your valuable time and knowledge with me. Personally, I feel that some of my own comments have been somewhat adversarial, and for this I render my sincere apologies. You are both a senior devotee and a mentor, and this should have induced my silence on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I have found it difficult to refrain from comment.

    Having said that, I offer to make a more positive contribution in this posting, by answering my own objections to your article.

    Firstly, the question should not so much be “can we compare Iskcon with other faiths?” because, as has been demonstrated, we can and frequently do compare Iskcon with other faiths. Rather, the question should be, “in what spirit should we compare Iskcon with other faiths?”, or, more precisely “What can Iskcon offer to other faiths and to world theology as a whole?”

    In answering this question, I would not have jumped to rasa theology, “deep, deep” or otherwise. Firstly because, as you have rightly pointed out, I am unqualified to speak on such subjects, but more importantly, because this is not the immediate need in the present day context. Incidentally, I do feel that esoteric experiences comparable with madhurya rasa have been manifested within the Abrahamic traditions, but this is a separate issue. Another reason why I would not have jumped to this topic is because it makes a very serious error of conflating Iskcon with esoteric bhakti, which Srila Prabhupada took great pains to quell when it emerged in the form of the Gopi Bhava society.

    The present day context is marked by an increase in atheism and a situation in which the vast majority of human beings are unable to follow the elementary principles of religion. In this context, I feel that Iskcon can make a more meaningful and positive contribution in the following areas:

    1) Establishing the sentience of the absolute;
    2) Establishing the identity of the servitor self with an immaterial and eternal soul;
    3) Establishing the reality of transmigration and the qualitative equality of souls in all species of life; and
    4) Establishing the reality of karma.

    Up to now, Christian apologists have been the most forward in challenging the rise of atheism. The positive contribution of Iskcon is instrumental in defeating atheism and establishing a God-centred society.

    Your servant
    Damodar Prasad das

  35. 0
    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Damodara Prasada Prabhu,

    I agree with you. The only reason I brought up Rasa Theology was to impress on how Lord Chaitanya has given the world what no other has done. I was stating a principle if you like.

    We do not discuss esoteric Rasa Theology because this will lead to Nama-aparadha. Even among our own devotees we cannot just simply discuss such subjects. One has to be qualified – both the hearer and speaker. Even though I suggested that you familiarise with Rasa Theology, the qualifications have to be there. I was trying to bring to attention such unparalleled none-comparisons.

    Otherwise, Iskcon has so much to offer and your 4 four points are noteworthy. People like Christopher Hitchens (deceased) and Richard Dawkins will find attempts at ‘debunking’ Christianity relatively easy compared with schooled Vedic proponents, which I have not yet seen so far.

    Whereas many Christians reject what they say is the Greek concept of Immortality of the Soul, the challenge is for devotees or Vedic proponents to prove the immortality of the Soul, from which, Karma and many other hitherto ‘unexplained’ events have correlative meaning.

    I would like to see Richard Dawkins come face-to-face with a devotee/s, able to succinctly challenge his atheism, yet there seems to be room within him, to perhaps appreciate Vedic concepts like other scientists have, to some degree or other.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  36. 0
    damodar-das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Kesava Krsna Prabhu,

    Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

    Your response has elucidated your gentlemanly character.

    Please allow me this opportunity to make a public apology for the ingratitude, short sightedness, and plain stupidity of my comments. They were motivated by pride and envy. I beg your forgiveness.

    It is your credit that you could make something of them,

    Please forgive me,

    Your servant
    damodar prasad das

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