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Treating Vaisnavas with Care–in Appreciation of Satyaraja Prabhu’s Points

Sunday, 23 July 2006 / Published in Discussion, Ongoing debates / 4,253 views

My dear Satyaraja Prabhu,

Your letters were well-considered and well-articulated, and I much appreciated them. Certainly, we must seriously consider the words of sadhu, sastra, and guru in all our deliberations. We are meant to represent Srila Prabhupada, who himself represented his guru-parampara, our disciplic line from Srila Rupa Gosvami. Especially when we deal with Vaisnavas—and as you have noted, there are Vaisnavas on all sides—we must be very careful. There are scriptural injunctions that govern the behavior of Vaisnavas in relation to each other, and we must follow them; otherwise, we risk further deterioration in the spiritual atmosphere of ISKCON and the spiritual lives of the devotees.

What we do today will be judged tomorrow, seen in the light of the principles and precedents of the previous acaryas, not only by devotees inside and outside of ISKCON, but by our parampara, by Srila Prabhupada himself. One of his last instructions to us was “Do not fight among yourselves. I have given direction in my books.” I am sure that if we sincerely pray to Srila Prabhupada for guidance, with hearts and minds open to his divine will, free from preconceived conclusions, he will help us.

Your eternal servant,
Giriraj Swami

10 comments

  1. 0
    Rosen ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Urgent Request: I appreciate Giriraja Swami’s response. He seems to agree with my position that Dhanurdhar Swami is being used as a scapegoat, that our (ISKCON’s) treatment of him constitutes Vaishnava aparadha, and that there are many untruths being perpetrated in relation to his case. Unfortunately, this is unclear from his letter. I’m wondering if he’ll write another — not necessarily another article, but even just a response to this letter — clarifying his position. I would deeply appreciate that. yr servant, –Satyaraja Dasa

  2. 0
    Lalita Madhava d.d. ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Maharaja,

    Please accept my obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. In this letter you write that Satyaraja Prabhu’s letters in support of Dhanurdara Swami are well-considered and well-articulated, and you state that we must be very careful when we deal with Vaisnavas. This is an excellent point that can not be underestimated, and certainly gracious and respectful dealings are one glorious aspect of Vaisnava culture that we must strive to preserve. But I am disappointed that, like Satyaraja Prabhu’s letter, which advocates compassion for a former abuser but expresses not one word of compassion or empathy for the victims, your letter exhorting careful dealings with Vaisnavas who were abusers seems to miss the obvious point that the helpless children who were victims of violent abusers such as Dhanurdara Swami are Vaisnavas too – likely even quite exalted Vaisnavas, if you consider the qualifications one must possess to take birth in a Vaisnava family and hear the Holy Name from the moment they enter the womb. Thus, slapping these Vaisnava victims in the face by advocating “compassion” and “careful treatment” for the abuser seems to me to be rather a double standard. The very double standard, in fact, that has gotten this Movement into so much trouble all along with regard to this issue.

    You further state that “there are scriptural injunctions that govern the behavior of Vaisnavas in relation to each other.” But certainly the horrendous abuse perpetrated against these children violates all scriptural injunctions.

    And how much farther could the “spiritual atmosphere of ISKCON” possibly “deteriorate,” as you say, than by having child abusers and those who covered for them accepting worship as initiating gurus? There’s not much father down to go from here.

    And finally, you state that “what we do today will be judged tomorrow, seen in the light of the principles and precedents of the previous acaryas.” According to this principle, therefore, we must have the integrity to make sure that what we do today, not only in relation to the abusers who may strive for personal rectification, but especially in relation to Srila Prabhupada’s children, is sound when seen in the light of the principles and precedents of the previous acaryas. Clearly, what we did to these children yesterday is being judged in a rather harsh light today.

  3. 0
    PBMDD ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Thank you His Holiness Giriraja Swami and Satyaraja Prabhu for your posts. As Shakespeare wrote, “The fault dear Brutus lies not in our stars but in ourselves.” Only we have the power to unplug the vaisnava aparadha generating machine of “he said, she said.” Let us all pray to never become so ungrateful that we forget that we are merely invited guests by the mery of Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami into this sacred sankirtana-lila of Mahaprabhu. And Vaisnava aparadha will most certainly leave us all for dead in the dust of “he said, she said”.

    The answer dear devotees lies in guru, sadhu, and sastra.

  4. 0
    godhuli says:

    Gaurav, here’s a definition Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura gives early in Jaiva Dharma:

    If you ask how to recognize a vaishnava, I will tell you that a vaishnava is someone who has given up all offenses and chants Krishna-nama with great feeling. There are three categories of vaisnavasL the kanistha, the madhyama, and the uttama. A kanistha vaishnava chants the name of Krishna occasionally, a madhyama chants the name of Krishna constantly, and the uttama vaishnava causes others to chant Sri Nama by his very presence. According to Mahaprabhu’s instructions, we do not need any other criteria by which to discern who is a viashnava.

    Now, if you want to use this, or any other, set of criteria to judge Dhanurdhara Swami or anyone else, you should use the same criteria to ascertain to what degree you (or I) may be able to judge another. Do you chant pure Krishna-nama occasionally, or constantly? Does your presence inspire to chant pure Krishna-nama? We should all be more interested in examining our own qualifications than those of others. So your first question ought to be whether your mind is completely focused on Krishna.

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

    What about standing up for the right cause?
    Is it not our duty to speak up for those who cannot defend themselves?
    When unscrupulous individuals are exploiting their position for their own gratification, should we stay silent?
    What would HDG say if we neglect that duty on the pretense of not wanting to fight?
    Perhaps simply cowardice.
    How many times have I experienced this quotation of HDG’s used when some nonesense is being perpertrated.
    If some of us didn’t speak up, Narayan Maharaja’s followers, maybe Kirtanananda or others, would be running Iskcon.
    Unfortunatly, in the name of appearing united, in a charade of being spiritul etc., we are constantly told this watchdog mentality is unvaisnava.

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

    Godhuli: You said the same point which I have said. Actually, you made an even more stronger definition.

    You said, “a madhyama chants the name of Krishna constantly”. Where is the mind of a person when he chants the holy name? Is it constantly on Krishna?

    If yes, then we agree. I Don’t know why you addressed me if you agree with me.

  7. 0
    Lalita Madhava d.d. ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Mahavidya Prabhu makes an excellent point. It is a very troubling phenomenon that many of the very principles which make Vaisnava culture so gracious, refined and elevated (some of the the concepts Maharaja spoke of in this letter of his), have also made our institution completely dysfunctional by being misapplied or applied by persons with not-so-elevated motives. Mahavidya Prabhu mentions not “fighting amonst ourselves” and not speaking up. There is also the training that most of us received in the late 70’s and early 80’s that to even question a “senior Vaisnava” is an aparadha. Or that it is not “our position” to stand up to the “authorities.” When misapplied, these and other lofty standards of behavior can completely paralyze the directives of our own common sense, undermine our integrity and allow for a complete lack of accountability on the part of the leadership.

    These principles are truly a razor’s edge. We have to strive to maintain them in their pure form at all times, but also be able to recognize when they are being applied in a dysfunctional manner or misused to support abusive behavior.

  8. 0
    Giriraj Swami ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Satyaraja Prabhu has asked me to clarify my position in relation to his articles. Yes, I would agree that Dhanurdhara Swami has been made a scapegoat, but at the same time, he also is responsible. And yes, I would agree that he has been the object of Vaisnava aparadha, but at the same time, he has also committed offenses against Vaisnavas. Even now offenses are being committed on all sides–and they should stop. And I would agree that untruths have been perpetrated in relation to his case. At the same time, we may not find the whole truth and nothing but the truth in any one version, for as Satyaraja Prabhu himself has observed, the truth is many-sided. Still, there are real problems, and they must be addressed.

    Because this case involves so many subjective relative truths, I prefer to exphasize the more absolute truths, that we should deal with all Vaisnavas as Vaisnavas and that we should conduct ourselves in accordance with sadhu, sastra, and guru, as taught by Srila Prabhupada.

    Others have also commented on my article, and I am prepared to address their remarks as well. But I prefer to do so off of this site. So if any of you do wish to discuss further, you may address your letters to me personally.

    All glories to Srila Prabhupada. Hare Krsna.

  9. 0
    godhuli says:

    Gaurav, I didn’t say what a madhayama devotee is. I simply quoted Bhaktivinoda Thakura in response to your Urgent Request for a definition of a vaishnava. That’s the only reason I “addresed” you. Although you asked for a definition, it seems apparent that you really intended to offer one. Fine. Now we know.

    As far as Mahavidya’s points go, my only response is that our speaking up–the actions we take, as well as the way we carry those actions out–should be guided by our siddhanta, the conclusions of the scriptures and the previous acharyas in our sampradaya, if they are to reflect well on our spiritual master. If a society or institutions behavior is guided primarily by other considerations, then it will create more problems than anything else. Previously, one of ISKCON’s guru/GBC/sannyasi types preached vigorously that only sannyasis can initiate disciples. His reasons included the assertion that all householders are addicted to sex, whereas sannyasis are free from sex desire (belied by his own behavior at the time and since), and that only sannyasis can get women to go out on “sankirtan.” One of these is just false, and the other is purely material, as well as mistaken. When I called him on it, suggesting that he thought he had a better standard for guru than Lord Chaitanya’s, his preaching of this false doctrine stopped.

    Was Dhanurdhara Swami unqualified to run a gurukula, especially in Vrindavan? Apparently, from the evidence we have. Did he screw up in his attempt to do so? Darned right he did! The question we need to address now is what is his consciousness now? (That’s best answered by those who spend time with him now, not those who had a conversation with him 15 years ago.) What sort of service would Srila Prabhupada engage him in now? Answering that requires considering carefully the example he set repeatedly as his leaders screwed up. It may help to remember his pique when Tmal Krishna Maharaja widely broadcast news of Madudvisa’s leaving his posts: “Now you’ve made it impossible for him to return.”

  10. 0
    Gaurav Mittal ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Who is a advanced vaishnava is a complex topic. It is important to understand it. It mainly applies to us. We should evaluate our advancement by understanding who is advanced vaishnava. Especially in Kali-yuga, many poeple cheat others claiming themselves as advanced vaishnava. Srila Prabhupada always wanted to protect us from such people. Therefore, it is important to understand who is advanced vaishnava so that we can act properly in the society.

    Krishna loves everyone and therefore, He is with us all the time out of His causeless mercy. In that perspective, everyone is a vaishnava and we should respect everyone.

    SP – NOI Verse 5: “A madhyama-adhik•r• has received spiritual initiation from the spiritual master and has been fully engaged by him in the transcendental loving service of the Lord.” What does fully engaged means? Does fully engaged includes mind? I am very confident that Srila Prabhupada includes mind in above definition of madhyama-adhikari. What does engagement of mind means? How can one engage one’s mind? Since Srila Prabhupada has used word “fully”, mind needs to be engaged all the time upon Krishna.

    * When one chants, one’s mind should be fully engaged in the holy name. It can be done in many ways but it needs to be fully engaged in naam, rupa or lila during chanting.
    * When one does kirtan, same engagement of mind should be done i.e. fully engaged in naam, rupa or lila during kirtan.
    * Same is true when one does daily activities of cleaning body, puja, archana, book distribution, lectures etc. Our mind should be focussed on Krishna and we should have complete control over the mind so that we can fully engage our mind on Krishna.

    This is a simple fact: Our advancement in devotion is not dependent upon external designations (like guru, sannyasi etc), it is not dependent upon how many disciples one has or how much advanced one is accepted by others. It is also not dependent upon external devotional activites in which mind is not focussed upon Krishna. It is dependent upon our internal consciousness. It is dependent upon how internally we are focussed upon Krishna.

    During my interaction with devotees, I have found that sometimes devotees are missing above simple point. Many devotees claim themselves that their sinful activities (durachar) can be ingored quoting verse BG 9.30 . I would request them to read sankrit verse and read word: ananya-bhak. What is definition of ananya-bhak? Where is mind of such person focussed all the time? SP uses term “fully engaged” twice in the purport. Can those devotees who claim their durachar (past misdeeds) should be ignored claim that they are fully engaged in bhakti? Can they claim that their mind is completely focussed on holy name when they do their japa or kirtan? Can they claim that they thoughts are fully focussed on Krishna when they do activites other than japa and kirtan? If they cannot claim, then I humbly request them not to use these verses as a means to justify that they are advanced devotee even after committing durachar. Also, same applied to others who claim themselves advanced. Unless our mind is completely focussed on Krishna (fully engaged in SP terms), we should not claim ourselves to be madhyama-adhikari. We are still kanistha-adhikari. There is no harm in accepting our true position. Actually, that is the way to advance.

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