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Just A Sesame Seed Of Doubt

Sunday, 03 May 2009 / Published in Articles, Kesava Krsna Dasa / 5,699 views

By Kesava Krsna Dasa

Have we ever considered how many outstanding ‘harmless’ little doubts remain with us as we endeavour for perfection in Krishna consciousness? Some spiritual practitioners feel quite comfortable harbouring certain philosophical question marks that challenge our rationality, thinking them to be docile reasoning tools. Is there room for quaint musings that can be put aside until perhaps we get a boost of faith?

“For the doubting soul there is happiness neither in this world nor in the next.” (BG 4.40)

Most of us are, or were conditioned by universally accepted ‘rational’ observations presented as fact. They cement into such a strong belief that one has to reject or suspend them when pondering matters other worldly or spiritual. Such divisive objective and subjective issues as – creationism versus big bang and evolution theories – can tear apart communities, which in the absence of decent law and order, will erupt into enmity and loss of life.

The ‘rational’ mind cannot accept that for Christians, the world was created within seven days some 5 to 6,000 years ago, because it defies geological evidence, among other things. I am sure the vaisnavas would agree. The Vedic description of creation and the cosmos also confounds the empiricists due to the fantastic ‘mythological tales’ that describe things beyond our purview. Yet sometimes, we find that after some years of practicing Krishna consciousness, some ‘rational’ leftovers still cause some devotees to half ‘doubt’ certain facts or fiction.

“Therefore the doubts which have arisen in your heart out of ignorance should be slashed by the weapon of knowledge.” (BG 4.42)

The fantasy that earth men travelled to a heavenly planet called the moon still elicits thoughts of, “They could have gone you know…Srila Prabhupada was such a staunch believer, he could never yield to something opposing his way of thinking…but, but just maybe, they did go, or not.” Will such ambiguous uncertainties help us in devotional service?

Recently it was reported that the furthest ever object in space was detected, and that its distance away from earth is a staggering ’14 billion’ light years away from us. This would make the Vedic measurement of our universe appear as a sesame seed in comparison. Would such thoughts as, “Well, this is interesting…so vastly different from what I read in the Srimad Bhagavatam…but I’ll keep an open mind on it…I can’t be too fanatical about these things.”

Could we be accused of myopic inflexibility if we reject these findings as hell bound demoniac influences? Or perhaps, we simply brush them off as sincere but ignorant attempts to search for answers with faulty senses and instruments? In either case, would these delusions impinge on our happiness in spiritual life if we retain them as, “Yet to be sorted out?”

Can a devotee ever be in a state of delusion? According to (Bhagavad-Gita 10.4) the word – asammohah – means delusion, but Srila Prabhupada has translated it as “doubt and delusion.” They are both obviously synonymous in terms of understanding things from a wider perspective. It indicates then that anyone harbouring comfortable doubts is in fact keeping “Yet to be sorted out” delusions. So clearly they are not good for our Krishna consciousness, however reasonable we are.

These limitless attempts to cause doubt and delusion will continue unabated. They need not be confined to scientific knowledge. We will be tested even more on the devotional level as waves of gross and subtle interactions with other devotees, and the way they live and react in different circumstances can test our resolve. Above all, any doubt however big or small will put a dampener on our happiness. In the Chaitanya Bhagavata Lord Chaitanya told His dear devotee Sri Murari Gupta, that even a sesame seed of doubt will stop ones progress in Krishna consciousness.

Our faith in our respective spiritual masters and in every word and deed of Srila Prabhupada has to be complete. Anything less, even by a measurement of a comfortable sesame seed results in partial happiness without which we cannot be truly peaceful at heart. And who is the original guru preceptor we must take full shelter of? It is the great Avadhuta, Sri Nityananda Prabhu.
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Now hear, O son of Prtha, how by practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me, with mind attached to Me, you will know Me in full, free from doubt.” (BG 7.1)

In order for us to seek His mercy we literally have to reject and suspend all rationality, all notions of normal human behaviour, all social norms and high brahminical principles, and even ‘normal’ vaisnava cultural expectations, to not doubt in the least, the Avadhuta nature of Lord Nityananda. Only the privileged who have relinquished all forms of niggling doubts can get His mercy, and, as the often heard expression goes; “Dive in” to the ocean of Bhakti.

Realizing this, we will find that this realm of delusion and doubt inhabited by animated blobs of doubt – the material bodies – are somehow hovering about waiting for this opportune moment to become free from all doubts. We have to again suspend all empirical lucidity in order to read and understand the Srimad Bhagavatam, which was compiled from above normal time and space. If we retain them, the facts and figures found in this scripture will cause more doubt. Our full faith in the spiritual master helps to enlighten us.

Yet, whilst rejecting conventional thought while practicing devotional service, we have to retain it to make this knowledge suitable for doubt riddled persons to accept. A preacher who has doubts will not be very convincing.

Through Lord Nityananda and His extensions – the spiritual masters – a doubt-free mood will present no limits to our progress or acquirement of knowledge. “Whoever knows Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead without doubting, is the knower of everything. He therefore engages himself in full devotional service to Me, O son of Bharata.” (BG 15.19)

Your servant Kesava Krsna Dasa – GRS.

80 Responses to “Just A Sesame Seed Of Doubt”

  1. Kulapavana says :

    Faith and freedom from doubt is not something you can simply one day decide to have. Faith is a precious commodity that develops gradually IF we follow a proper process. Srila Prabhupada describes it perfectly in a Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.9.7) lecture from Mayapur, February 14, 1976 ( ).

    Essentially, faith comes from knowledge and experience. You have no doubt that the floor will support your weight because you are familiar with the way floors are constructed. There is also faith which arises out of ignorance. There are still millions of Christians who have firm faith that the world was created less than 7000 years ago. What is the value of such faith?

    Ultimately, in the spiritual sense, it does not matter whether you believe man landed on the Moon or not. But if you insist on everybody believing in your version of events as a prerequisite of spiritual advancement than you are taking a great risk of actually creating doubt regarding the entire process you are proposing.

    It is great that you yourself believe Himalayas are 80,000 miles high here in our world ( ) but please do not insist people suspend their reason, logic, and direct experience in order to follow your brand of Krsna consciousness. Simply put you may be wrong on two counts: one – that you do not understand what Srimad Bhagavatam is saying in these verses, two – that your insistence on blind following makes people reject Krsna consciousness process.

  2. Another great topic which I hope will generate at least 70 or 80 comments.

    I have an 8-week trial starting today and do not have much time, but I cannot resist at least getting started…

    Doubts and misgivings have to be cleared away before we can proceed straight on the path chalked out for us by Lord Caitanya, the six goswamis, and Srila Prabhupada.

    Arjuna gives a great example in the Bhagavad-Gita of how doubts are removed through the process of relevant inquiry from the authorized authority after pleasing Him with submission and service attitude.

    How to remove doubts? We cannot just wish them away, or pretend we do not have them. By practicing sadhana, hearing Bhagavatam regularly in the association of devotees, all that is troublesome to the heart will be cleansed away.

    It is a gradual process and it requires sincerity and purity. It is a personal journey and often the exposure of doubts, which are compared to demons who are slain by the spiritual master, is made through confidential discussions when the disciple is well-qualified.

    The main doubts are doubts that prevent us from practicing Krishna consciousness: Isn’t there something else I should be doing with my time? Won’t I be losing something? Will I become like a riven cloud? Isn’t this all just a fantasy or a sentiment, without knowledge?

    Other doubts involve our awe and respect for the learning and powers of mundane philosophers, scientists and technology. They seem to brag, “Sukadeva Goswami cannot make an electric vacuum cleaner or microwave oven (or jet plane or space shuttle). His knowledge of Krishna is more primitive than our knowledge of the workings of material nature.”

    On the other hand, the Goswami is peaceful and blissful with no material wealth, whereas the technoligists who manipulate nature simply become “more entangled in her complexities.”

    The Goswami knows what is essential about material nature: how she kicks away and covers the living entity’s original and pure Krishna consciousness, and makes him into a miserable false enjoyer.

    Science and technology can be used in devotional service. However, to really understand the true face of God and nature does not require knowledge of the details of chemistry, physics, astronomy, biology, etc.

    Without real knowledge of devotional service, the knowledge of the scientist never becomes perfect. Perfect knowledge goes hand in hand with morality, happiness and freedom from samsara.

  3. Ananda Hari das says :

    ‘In order for us to seek His mercy we literally have to reject and suspend all rationality, all notions of normal human behaviour, all social norms and high brahminical principles, and even ‘normal’ vaisnava cultural expectations, to not doubt in the least, the Avadhuta nature of Lord Nityananda. Only the privileged who have relinquished all forms of niggling doubts can get His mercy, and, as the often heard expression goes; “Dive in” to the ocean of Bhakti.’

    With all due respect to Kesava Krsna das I do not feel comfortable with the above statement.

    Is it not reasonable to have doubts? Even Srila Prabhupada doubted his Spiritual master when he heard him ordering his disciple to kill a snake, by Krishna’s mercy this doubt was removed and Prabhupada spoke fondly of the experience.

    Perhaps because of my own ignorance that I am not getting it but it is my understanding that we should not blindly reject Krishna Consciousness because of our doubts but rather pray for the understanding and mercy so that in time they will all be removed.

  4. KKDasa says :

    Kulapavan Prabhu,

    Our faith will always be susceptible to doubt, even as big as the Himalayas. Doubt can squeeze through tiny loopholes of our defence mechanism of sraddha, and embed itself manifold on clumps of our anarthas.

    Before the advent of ‘rational’ scientific advancement, and in particular, space exploration and astronomy, cosmological descriptions taken from the Srimad Bhagavatam and other scriptures did not raise as many doubts and questions as they do today. In short, scrutiny of scriptural revelations, as observed through microscopes and telescopes has caused more doubt for spiritual seekers today.

    In days gone by, aspiring vaisnavas nonetheless attained the desired goal of life – Krishna Prema – without resorting to Cartesian and deductionist methods of enquiry. Could we say that philosophical search for the Absolute truth was simpler in those days? Nowadays the complexity of competing faiths and scientific education has made spiritual enquiry a more daunting prospect. And intimidating it is, to hear that through strong faith one can ‘believe’ all that the Srimad Bhagavatam tells us.

    In contrast to what scientific textbooks teach us, to read how a Mr Nobody (myself) is advocating suspension of ‘rationality’ is certain areas of arcane Vedic thought can certainly make one hot under the neck beads.

    Whether faith develops gradually or rapidly, one thing is clear, either way one is going accept that the perfection of sraddha – Krishna Prema – means to be in the spirit of – projjitah kaitavo – for these doubts are injurious.

    Meanwhile, we can use our symptoms of intelligence, or doubt, to choose who to associate with and who to avoid. Reasonable doubt can be used for reasonable enquiry. Reasonable doubt can be used to sift through the weeds of doubt that infest our hearts. To do archaeological digs to peel away the layers of dirt covering the heart by self analysis, trying to make compatible deductionist and descending knowledge can be a tall order.

    It is Lord Chaitanya’s brand of destroying doubts, and Krishna’s words in the Bhagavad-Gita, through Srila Prabhupada (Not mine) that faith develops best through enlightened association. Enlightened association can be gotten through reading and studying the Srimad Bhagavatam. If herein there are matters of profundity, yet quite remote from our logical standpoint, are we going let our doubts of these stand idle? Then accuse those who have faith, as blind followers?

  5. KKDasa says :

    May I add, that the matter of whether earth men went to the moon or not – which you said has no bearing on our faith – does indicate something. One may call it blind following, but to hold on to suspect rationalisations in contravention to the words of the Bhagavat (Both) cannot be a symptom of full faith. To practice spiritual life with 90% faith and 10% doubt is still partial faith. When subjects are described that defy our imagination, is it blind faith to heed the spiritual master’s faithful words on such matters?

    The adjudicator in all of this is the Lord of the heart. However extreme it appears to read that one has either got it, or not, can be off putting. But sometimes on the platform of full consolidated faith, sadhus do display behaviour, or may say things indicating that nothing else in this world matters, except Krishna, His devotees and the holy name, which to an uninformed observer would sound ultra evangelical. But this faith is so precious – as you say – that a sincere devotee hankers to be free from doubt.

    As to whether one can know the Srimad Bhagavatam or not, as you pointed out, Lord Chaitanya angrily told Devananda Pandit that anyone who claims to know the Srimad Bhagavatam does not know this divine scripture. So I certainly am not going to claim I know it, but I do pray that the full meaning of Krishna incarnate in literary form, the Grantha-raja Srimad Bhagavatam will reveal all its inner meanings, with faith of course.

    Ys, Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  6. KKDasa says :

    Ananda Hari Prabhu,

    The uncomfortable paragraph you highlighted refers to Lord Nityananda Prabhu. It is known that His behaviour could easily make people lose faith in Him. One needs to read of His intimate pastimes in the Chaitanya Bhagavata to appreciate this. That this is uncomfortable will not make me renege on the words chosen, for good reason.

    One time, Lord Chaitanya said to Srivasa Thakur; “Why are you keeping this Avadhuta in your house? You do not know His background, His caste, His parentage, or anything. I think you should ask Him to move out of your house.” The Lord said this to induce some doubt while testing him. Srivasa Thakur was not beguiled by these words; in fact his faith in Avadhuta Nityananda was so full, that Lord Chaitanya was delighted to hear this.

    While the daily nocturnal kirtans were going on daily at Srivasa Thakura’s house, entrance was barred to all but the inner circle – the ones who understood each other. Why? Because what went on in there would confound the faith of even ordinary devotees, what to speak of the sceptics and fault-finders. Another time, Lord Chaitanya wanted to play in a drama with His confidential devotees and only those who were completely free from all sense gratification and the desires thereof could attend or participate. How many of us could stake this claim?

    It is no coincidence that the one from whom we seek the mercy to progress with faith in Krishna consciousness is the one whose behaviour one has to understand only if we shelve all preconceived notions of normal social conduct. He acted transcendentally as a young cowherd boy. For us to see an adult behave childishly would make us suspect the person. It is in this vein the paragraph was intended, not a suspension of rationality in all circumstances.

    Ys, Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  7. anantaramdas says :

    “We must think for ourselves and try to get further truths which are still undiscovered. In the Bhagavatam we have been advised to take the spirit of the shastras and not the words. The Bhagavatam is, therefore, a religion of liberty, unmixed truth, and absolute love.”

    Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, “The Bhagavatam: Its Philosophy, Ethics, and Theology”

  8. Ananda Hari das says :

    Dear Kesava Krsna Prabhu,
    Thank you for writing to further clarify and for taking the time to respond to my comment.

    I agree that to not doubt in the least, the Avadhuta nature of Lord Nityananda, we literally have to reject and suspend all rationality, all notions of normal human behaviour, all social norms and high brahminical principles, and even ‘normal’ vaisnava cultural expectations….

    However we should also not doubt his Mercy on the doubters, for example Jagai and Madai could be said to be full of doubts about the Avadhuta nature of Lord Nityananda.

    I really liked your description of the Nocturnal Kirtana and explanation why it was kept to the inner circle.

    Your servant
    Ananda Hari das

  9. It is an interesting and big subject.

    To become truly enlightened means to be full of complete knowledge, bliss and eternal existence. There is no doubt, fear or illusion in such an enlightened devotee.

    I suppose part of our process may involve “suppression” of doubts, at least in the beginning. By “suppression” I mean that we agree to accept certain authorities whose word is law, even if we do not yet understand everything they say.

    [We have enough experience that our faith has awakened in these authorities. We know that even if we do not understand the subject matter now, or it seems odd or contradictory to us, all will become clear to us later as we qualify ourselves to receive the knowledge.]

    One thing we do as part of our sadhana is recite prayers and hymns composed by great authorities (including paasages from Bhagavad-Gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam), hoping that eventually our mood and understanding will line up with the superior mood of the authors of these spiritual words.

    As a matter of decent behavior, we never question the authority of these infallible statements.

    However, we cannot remain long in the unnatural state of “suppression”. If there are statements we do not understand or cannot bring ourselves to fuly agree with, we have to be honest about our shortcomings and find a way to rectify our understanding.

    If we are sincere and devoted and approach the right source in the right way, Krishna will destroy our doubts and replace them with clear knowledge. Lord Nrsimhadeva has sharp teeth and claws that can protect us by tearing all our doubts to pieces.

    Fanatics are hypocrites. They pretend to believe words they do not really understand, and they try to coerce or intimidate others into professing such half-hearted belief. They are not illuminated by transcendental knowledge.

    On the basis of such half-digested truths, fanatics cause disturbances by trying to forcibly “convert” others to their professed beliefs. This happens not only in the field of religion, but also with political ideologies like fascism or totalitarian communism. In the religious arena it also seems to be most pronounced when religion is used to justify demands of political empires (I am thinking mainly of Christian and Islamic imperialism).

    The faith of devotees is not enforced by fearful dictators. It grows in the association of enlightened well-wishers, nurtured by self-control and sincere devotion.

  10. Fasting is making me light-headed today. I hope I am making sense and expressing myself clearly.

    How we go about as preachers explaining the truth revealed in our sastras can take a variety of forms.

    There are certainly many statements in Srila Prabhupada’s books that astonish and shock the average newbie.

    Some devotees like to “freak out” people by confronting them with beliefs that seem most outlandish (“Did you know there is an ocean of oil, of milk, of liquor, and of sugar cane juice?” “Actually there have been humans on earth for millions of years, and there used to be all kinds of talking animals like Jatayu the vulture, Jambavan the bear, and a whole race of intelligent monkey-soldiers who helped Rama conquer Lanka.” “God appears millenia after millenia in different wonderful forms, as a giant fish, a giant tortoise, a giant boar, a ferocious half-man and half lion, and as a beautiful dwarf brahmana who covers the entire universe with two strides.”)

    If we can back it up with real conviction and understanding, this can be effective preaching. If we are just repeating something we have heard but do not understand very well or even deeply believe, it may be less effective, or even give a bad impression.

    I guess even if we were all pure devotees, the way we see the world is so different from how nondevotees think, they might still consider us strange and wierd.

    And yet, I tend to think preaching is most effective when we can connect with people in terms of what is going on in their own lives and aspirations. They should see themselves as the kind of people who would enjoy reading Prabhupada’s books. It helps for them to see normal, successful, happy people (or celebrities and respected intellectual leaders) telling them how they enjoy Prabhupada’s books.

    People like to read entertaining fiction, fables, and parables with philosophical meanings. If we can induce them to approach Krishna Book or Bhagavad-Gita even in that spirit, many will eventually be purified enough to “get it.”

    I think it is important not to alienate people by erecting barriers and tests of faith. We want them to appreciate that Srila Prabhupada and the acaryas in our line have great, practical wisdom for helping them find real truth and beauty and to become successful in their own lives. We do not want to make them think we are a bizzare, irrelevant or ignorant sect that is too different and scary for them.

  11. brahma dasa says :

    Doubt is in one sense is natural as it serves as a protective mechanism, and freedom from doubt (asamsayam) in regards to Krsna consciousness is not brought about by an intellectual endeavor. Rather it is brought about by sincere spiritual practice. The Gita says yogam yunjan one attains comprehensive knowing through yoga practice—by practicing yoga and taking refuge in me, you can know me completely without doubt. Bg. 7.1

    Therefore, devotees will experience various degrees of doubt up to the point that they develop a genuine taste for chanting (ruci). Those who have not attained ruci are advised to address doubt through association with advanced devotees who have attained a taste for chanting, and to study the scriptures under their guidance. Such association and study helps one control the mind and develop the spiritual intelligence necessary to attain steadiness in spiritual practice. Steady spiritual practice (nistha), is the prerequisite for attaining a genuine taste for chanting and subsequent freedom from doubt. As much as our intelligence is wedded to our senses and thus serves to facilitate their gratification, doubt regarding the spiritual reality will predominate and genuine spiritual experience will be limited.

    Otherwise, firm faith in so-called Vedic cosmology is non-essential to the culture of bhakti.

    Prabhupada wrote: “These things are not very important, we may not waste our time with these insignificant questions. There are sometimes allegorical explanations [in the Bhagavatam]. So there are many things which do not corroborate with the so-called modern science, because they are explained in that way. But where is the guarantee that modern science is also correct? So we are concerned with Krsna Consciousness, and even though there is some difference of opinion between modern science and allegorical explanation in the Bhagavata, we have to take the essence of Srimad-Bhagavatam and utilize it for our higher benefit, without bothering about the correctness of the modern science or the allegorical explanation sometimes made in Srimad-Bhagavatam.” (Prabhupada Letter 72-11-07)

    brahma das

  12. Haribol Brahma Prabhu:

    Are you Prabhupada’s disciple Brahma who used to lead a Radha-Damodar TSKP bus and now lives in Booneville, California? If so, nice to see you here.

    If not, it is also nice to see you and make your acquaintance. I seem to remember reading Dandavats posting of yours before.

    You write very well and it is clear that doubts are conquered by obtaining the grace or prasadam of Sri Krishna. Otherwise, big scientists and philosophers can go on experimenting and speculating for billions of years and will never come to a conclusion.

    The letter to Krishnadas you have quoted is very nice. Srila Prabhupada seems to be disturbed by his persistent faith in the modern scientists. (This must be Saradiya dd’s brother Krishnadas who was living in San Francisco last time I checked).

    The letter should not be understood as advising Krishnadasa to accept the explanations of Vedic cosmology as allegorical. He goes on to say that in each and every planet there is a predominating deity, and that whereas modern science takes everything as dead stone, we devotees take it for granted that everything is being controlled by persons (and ultimately by Krishna).

    He ends the letter by saying that Krishna has declared that whoever knows Him as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, *without doubting* [emphasis in original], is understood as the knower of everything and therefore engages in His devotional service. (B.G. 15.19). Srila Prabhupada writes, “This is the understanding of advanced devotee, so my best advice to you is to come to this understanding.”

    I agree with you that the way to come to this understanding is through sincere practice of bhakti yoga. I think you have written very well about that.

    I really admired Sadaputa’s book “Vedic Cosmography and Astronomy.” In it, Sadaputa effectively dispenses with the notion that the Bhagavatam is to be taken allegorically as suggested in some writings of Bhaktivinoda Thakur. There are some passages that are clearly allegories, such as the story of King Puranjana (referred to in Prabhupada’s letter to Krishnadas), Narada Muni’s teachings to the sons of Daksha, etc., but Prabhupada did not go so far as Bhaktivinoda Thakur in referring to other explanations as allegories.

    They are accurate descriptions of things we cannot perceive in our current conditioned state. But as you say, when we become steady we will attain genuine taste and realization by spiritual experience.

  13. One thing we can point to is that there is other ancient Vedic literature (like surya-siddhanta) which has different cosmographical descriptions from Bhagavatam. Such literature is also accepted by great authorities (including Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur), but Srimad Bhagavatam stands far above all such knowledge as it reveals the highest truth of Krishna and His pure devotional service.

    The knowledge of material scientists has its place. If I want to travel by airplane to India I will take advantage of the expertise of the navigators and pilots of the airlines. They know how to get there that way. But they cannot get to the real Vrndavana, described by Srinivasa Acarya as full of trees which have valuable jewels under their roots. To get to *that* Vrndavana we must follow the bona fide disciplic succession.

    I certainly believe that a pure devotee can be an airline pilot, cartographer or even modern astronomer. I modern astronomer devotee would not have to argue with his colleagues day in and day out about where the moon and the sun are. There is a basis for the mundane scientist’s explanation. But it is an explanation of a different order, based on a different methodology with different standards of evidence and proof, and it is far inferior to Sukadeva Goswami’s explanation.

    By following the path chalked out by Srila Prabhupada, we can come to know realms of the material world that are not visible to the blunt senses or to the speculations of little scientists with their limited access to truth. And more than that, we can come to know aspects of the spiritual world that are off limits to all but the most fortunate devotees.

    But how we go about explaining this to others in a way that will attract them and make them interested in getting Srila Prabhupada’s mercy requires some intelligence and some tact.

    Hopefully, the best astronomers, physicists, chemists, engineers, mathematicians and philosophers will all become devotees. They might be more qualified to talk to other scientists about these things because they are colleagues and can relate to each other as professionals. (Why is it that so many ISKCON scientists have been chemists?)

    As devotees we should stick to the explanations of Srila Prabhupada’s books and not become too enamored by various mundane radical conspiracy theorists and so on. I am afraid this will make us seem gullible and dangerous, where as actually we have something very profound and sublime.

  14. I ended my last post (#13) by opening up a new topic about conspiracy theories. What I mean about this is, Srila Prabhupada’s statements about how NASA did not go to the moon (and he made a variety of different statements on this topic) were based on the authority of revealed scriptures. We have descriptions of the heavenly moon planet attained by performers of Vedic sacrifices (trai-gunya mam soma pah puta papa….), and the astronauts clearly did not attain that moon planet.

    Of course Srila Prabhupada had his own personal realization through his direct experience — nothing in the material or spiritual world was unknowable to him — but for our edification his arguments were based on the authority of sastra.

    This is a very high standard of proof we hold things to before we accept them as true. As Srila Prabhupada said in the letter quoted by Brahma, where is the guarantee that modern science is correct? We Vaisnavas are even more skeptical and less gullible than mundane scientists.

    We know that millions of well-trained, rigorous professionals have been engaged for hundreds of years in scientific endeavors, publishing results in peer-reviewed journals, building on the conclusions of their colleagues, and yet we have reason to doubt their conclusions, because they are conditioned souls, subject to four defects.

    So when some other mundane writer comes up with arguments or evidence that seems to support the Vedic conclusions, we might take some interest in his or her writings, but we should be careful to maintain our high standards of credulity.

    I remember when Satsvarupa resumed editorship of BTG in 1976, and the first issue was about the moon controversy, and Srila Prabhupada liked it.

    The reason for the editorial change was that the previous issue, which focused on social, economic and environmental topics, quoted extensively from anti-growth, anti-industrial economists and social critics like Schumaker and Roszak. Even devotees had their former, “karmi” names printed in parentheses next to their spiritual names, and the whole impression was we were trying to show how our views were in line with respectable mundane intellectuals. It seemed like we accepted these mundane professors as our authorities. Srila Prabhupada was displeased.

    So even if some nondevotee philosophers expose flaws in the received scientific versions, we should not become their enthusiastic, uncritical followers. We follow the paramahamsas

  15. anantaramdas says :

    —–Akruranatha wrote:
    I really admired Sadaputa’s book “Vedic Cosmography and Astronomy.” In it, Sadaputa effectively dispenses with the notion that the Bhagavatam is to be taken allegorically as suggested in some writings of Bhaktivinoda Thakur. There are some passages that are clearly allegories, such as the story of King Puranjana (referred to in Prabhupada’s letter to Krishnadas), Narada Muni’s teachings to the sons of Daksha, etc., but Prabhupada did not go so far as Bhaktivinoda Thakur in referring to other explanations as allegories.

    They are accurate descriptions of things we cannot perceive in our current conditioned state. But as you say, when we become steady we will attain genuine taste and realization by spiritual experience.

    Are you suggesting that Sadaputa Prabhu had a deeper understanding than Bhaktivinoda Thakur about the cosmological aspects of the Bhagavatam? Or are you saying that Bhaktivinoda Thakur referred to some parts of the Bhagavatam as allegories because, in his “conditioned state”, he could not “perceive” the “accurate descriptions of things”?

  16. scooty.ram says :

    Vada and Prativada is part of any inquiry.

    Disciple’s major activity involves questioning his master (submissively).

    In the process of questioning we obviously tend to reconcile the master’s statements.
    This is the correct process of hearing(contemplating on masters words)

    We do find contradictory statements from the same master. We are unsure which is the correct conclusion!

    Analysis is required.

    However what i should bear in mind is that the analytical capacity of my master is supreme and hence it is not wrong to put forth our findings from his words which are contradictory!

    Masters are also not liable to certain ‘ passing ‘ statements they make.It might be a non-serious statement.
    They are open to changing them.While they change their stand, they resort to sastra.
    Hence sastra becomes the ULTIMATE proof. If they dont resort to the sastra,they fail!

    However this doesnt mean masters have a double stand.They are our saviors and they are merciful in making us understand through many examples.

    If the master is absent , we can try our best by getting back to the sastra and reconcile.
    If we cant, we get another chance to realise our incapacity and the need of a master,eternally!


    Wrt”I certainly believe that a pure devotee can be an airline pilot, cartographer or even modern astronomer.”
    You might be pointing to a liberated soul whose activities are not limited to our imagination. The faculty of memory and talents are those of a material mind/medium.
    The Jnana of a soul are not similar to the memory in the material worlds!
    In short there is no organs to the soul.
    We might resort to using terms as “spiritual memory , spiritual mind”.But in spiritual world each organs does the function of other organ.
    So what this sums to is that , a soul can assume different bodies as krishna desires(Just like in the peacock lila)

    This is a fuzzy area since a soul is beyond time and what qualification would you expect from such a liberated soul? You might end up calling such a liberated soul’s memory and forgetfulness as a LILA.


    I agree with “As much as our intelligence is wedded to our senses and thus serves to facilitate their gratification, doubt regarding the spiritual reality will predominate and genuine spiritual experience will be limited.”
    A question arises in the mind and gets answered in the mind. what is required is to remove the so called ‘coverings’ of the soul .

  17. KKDasa says :

    I think the letter quoted needs to be read more in its entirety. We should bear in mind that this is a localized form of preaching to a doubting disciple. We will not find this message of Srila Prabhupada replicated on the pages of the Srimad Bhagavatam in a general way. Still, we can learn how this is quite a pervasive phenomenon.

    First thing that comes to mind is that, “Could the attempt to build a planetarium be done by those who suffer occasional doubt attacks?” It has to be as real as the faith of the participants.

    One time in London, Srila Prabhupada was asked by a BBC religious correspondent if he ever had any doubts about his faith, which caused some restrained laughter amongst some disciples. Srila Prabhupada replied that he would be a cheater if he preached without faith.

    As this letter shows, it is not an isolated incident. It has been, and still is a cause of consternation among doubting souls. While we may not attach to much importance to the disparity of modern science and Vedic wisdom, we require the words of a faithful vaisnava like Srila Prabhupada for clarity and direction. In other words, the scales of our faith should tilt in favour of his faith.

    It should be noted that offences can also cause doubt in spiritual life. So a sudden or prolonged doubt attack could be a consequence of, as Srila Prabhupada mentioned in the letter, “If we are seeking to find out some fault, maya will give us all facility to find any small thing and make it very big, that is maya.”

    “My Dear Krsnadasa,

    Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated October 30, 1972, and I have noted the contents. It appears that you are again constantly disturbed by the same nonsense doubts. These things are not very important, we may not waste our time with these insignificant questions. If we are seeking to find out some fault, maya will give us all facility to find any small thing and make it very big, that is maya. But such questions as yours: why there is so-called discrepancy between the views of Bhagavat and modern scientists regarding the moon and other planets, and whether Hitler is good or bad man, these are most insignificant matters, and for anyone who is sincerely convinced that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, for him these questions do not arise. Our information comes from Vedas, and if we believe Krishna, that… continue on next page

  18. KKDasa says :

    vedaham samatitani
    vartamanani carjuna
    bhavisyani ca bhutani
    mam tu veda na kascana
    [Bg. 7.26]

    that He knows everything, and “vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyo vedanta-krd veda-vid eva caham [Bg. 15.15],” that Krishna is non-different from Vedas, then these questions do not arise.

    But because you have asked me, I am your spiritual master, I must try to answer to your satisfaction. Yes, sometimes in Vedas such things like the asura’s decapitated head chasing after Candraloka, sometimes it is explained allegorically. Just like now we are explaining in 4th Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam the story of King Puranjana. Just like the living entity is living within this body, and the body is described there as city with nine gates, the intelligence as the Queen. So there are sometimes allegorical explanations. So there are many things which do not corroborate with the so-called modern science, because they are explained in that way. But where is the guarantee that modern science is also correct?

    So we are concerned with Krishna Consciousness, and even though there is some difference of opinion between modern science and allegorical explanation in the Bhagavat, we have to take the essence of Srimad-Bhagavatam and utilize it for our higher benefit, without bothering about the correctness of the modern science or the allegorical explanation sometimes made in Srimad-Bhagavatam. But this is a fact that in each and every planet there is a predominant deity, as we have got experience in this planet there is a president, so it is not wonderful when the predominating deity fights with another predominating deity of another planet. The modern science takes everything as dead stone. We take it for granted that everything is being manipulated by a person in each and every affair of the cosmology. The modern scientists however could not make any progress in the understanding of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, therefore we do not acceptmodern science as very perfect. We take Krishna’s version:

    gam avisya ca bhutani
    dharayamy aham ojasa
    pusnami causadhih sarvah
    somo bhutvah rasatmakah
    [Bg. 15.13]

    “I become the moon,” and “yac chandramasi yac cagnau,” (ibid, 12) “I am the splendor of the moon,” and “jyotisam api taj jyotis,” [Bg. 13.18] “I am the source of light in all luminous objects,” so no one is able to give us the correct information than Krishna, that you should know…”

    Ys, Kesava Krsna Dasa

  19. Somehow many of us can more easily accept that Krishna lifted Govardhan Hill or cut off all but four of Banasura’s 1,000 arms in battle than we can that NASA did not land a manned spacecraft on the moon. Why is that?

    It may be that, when we speak of things that happened remotely in time or space, we are dealing with things that are outside the purview of everyone’s senses. Whereas when we argue about how the universe should be mapped at the present moment, we come into conflict with the dominant views of empirical science which are based on “objective” sense observation and are generally taken as the last word in authoritative knowledge about such subjects.

    We have to understand that advanced devotees can directly perceive miraculous Krishna at every moment: santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti.

    Their perception of Krishna’s inconceivable qualities and logic-defying pastimes is every bit as direct, if not more so, than our perception of the monitor and keybord in front of us, or of the observations we may make in science labs.

    Premanjanac churita bhaktivilocanena: it is not with mundane eyes that they see beautiful Syamasundara always in their hearts, but with eyes tinged with the salve of prema.

    Such perception is more real than ours, because it is free from the “inebrieties” of the modes of material nature. (I love Prabhupada’s use of that word, inebriety, which means not sober, i.e., intoxicated).

    Only an intoxicated person would think that the description of the world found in science textbooks is complete and accurate. Honest scientists know that their science is a work in progress subject to even dramatic paradigm shifts as understanding increases. They also (most of them) will admit that the world is full of poetry, emotion, justice and morality and many other things that cannot be explained by their methods.

    And yet, there is a certain attraction to the idea that they are building a kind of knowledge that does not depend on faith in supposedly infallible other-worldly sources (it is no accident that the scientific temper, along with democratic political Liberalism, became dominant in Europe at a time of religious civil war and fanaticism following the Protestant Reformation).

    Only the low-minded mock religion because of its description of miraculous, inconceivable events and beautiful, Godly qualities. Most people love a poet. But the wise are wary of half-learned fanatics and the trouble they cause…

  20. We do not have to challenge scientists on their own turf. I mean to say, if we can make them into devotees, their science will also naturally become more lined up with the teachings of Prabhupada’s books. [Prabhupada engaged scientist devotees in preaching among the class of scientists.]

    But we should recognize that hearing Srimad Bhagavatam is doing something of a different, higher category than pursuing advances in chemistry, biology or economics.

    Empirical science has its own realm. It is useful for making and doing things. It is primarily concerned with discovering how things work. Its position at the apex of modern academic pyramid is emblematic of how in Kali yuga sudras occupy the role of brahmanas, just as government “by the people” or by workers and peasants is emblematic of how sudras occupy the role of ksatriyas.

    In his classic lecture “Magic, Science and Religion” (about 80 or 90 years ago), the great Anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski, father of modern ethnography, attacked the shibboleth that magic and religion were merely forms of primitive science, attempts by ignorant savages to understand the wonders of nature, to be discarded when more rational explanations arose. In every society, descriptions of the supernatural and the divine exist alongside traditional practical knowledge of how to go about gathering food, making tools and constructing dwellings.

    Somehow, due to peculiar and unnatural events in the history of civilized humans, the practical traditions have temporarily unseated the Vedic, brahminical traditions and now sit in the place of honor as the repositories and protectors of wisdom and knowledge meant to guide society.

    This topsy-turvy situation must be rectified by establishing the glory of Srila Prabhupada’s books and by profuse chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra. Those who study Prabhupada’s books soberly and carefully will not be seen as dangerous or gullible religious fanatics, but as the true brahmanas and sages, fit to lead all classes of society toward their highest welfare and enable all of us to fully taste the nectar for which we are always anxious.

    It is okay if people at first read the books with the understanding that the descriptions of wonderful events and various demigods are merely poetic or allegorical. When they are purified by such favorable reading very quickly they will come to see that reality has many more deminsions than are visible to the blunt senses and mind.

  21. brahma dasa says :

    According to the text itself, Vyasa wrote/compiled the Bhagavatam after entering into samadhi of smaranam on Krsna lila, urukramasyakhila-bandha-muktaye samadhinanusmara tad-vicestitam. SB 1-5-13. At that time Vyasa saw the Lord, his internal sakti, his maya sakti, his jiva sakti, etc. The same could be said of Sukadeva’s vision of the universe as related in the Bhagavatam. In other words such visions/realizations are the grace of the Lord.

    Prabhupada writes: “The pastimes of the Lord and their transcendental nature become automatically manifest by dint of devotional service. No one else can either know or describe the acts of the Lord, even if they speculate on the subject for many, many years.”

    The Visvarupa darsana in Bhagavad-gita, what is it? Krsna says, ‘Arjuna, you see this. I am so and so.’ And Arjuna is seeing that. It’s not that the object is controlling the experience of the subject. But the super-subject (Krsna) is controlling the experience of the lower subject (the jiva soul). That is my understanding. Everything is controlled by the higher. The root (consciousness) is above, not the fossil (matter). ‘The fossil (matter) will control my vision,’ no such mean law I am ready to accept.”

    So my friend Akruranath, (in reply to your question): We should be preaching the 2nd chapter of Bhagavad Gita, not the 5th canto of the Bhagavatam. In other words we should not preach something that we do not understand, what to speak of realize. Sukadev says, “: kastham manasa vacasa vadhigantum alam vibudhayusapi purusa, “No one can possibly explain or perfectly conceive of the nature of the material universe even in a lifetime of Lord Brahma.” (SB. 5.16.4)

    And yes, I am the RDTSKP/ACBSP brahma dasa

  22. Haribol Brahma Prabhu, I *thought* it was you! It is so good to have your association here!!

    I think I agree with everything you say, but I am not sure I know which question of mine you are replying to. (Did I ask a question?)

    As for preaching the 2nd Chapter of Bhagavad-Gita, even that is beyond my realization or understanding. But I do find that when I read and discuss it, I feel like I am understanding something. I do get that same feeling when discussing the rest of the Gita and the Bhagavatam and all of Prabhupada’s books, and those of his disciples, too.

    And here we are, discussing the Fifth Canto. Prabhupada asked us to read and discuss all his books, so what can we do?

    As for me, I hope I am not one of those who inappropriately blurts out to strange passersby that the moon is farther away than the sun, or that eclipses are caused by Rahu, etc. I often keep it general. I tell them, “This is about yoga, meditation, karma and reincarnation,” stuff like that. And then I listen to them and honestly but positively interact with what they have to say.

    But if someone starts asking about Vedic cosmography, I have to speak according to my admittedly limited lights. I recognize that what the incarnation of God Srila Vyasadeva composed after entering into trance, and taught to his great son Sukadeva (1.7.2-8), is all perfect and in a much higher category of knowledge than any theory of a mundane cosmologist or astronomer.

    And yet I can show due respect for the mundane astronomer’s talents and abilities, as long as he or she does not commit offenses to the Bhagavatam (I should be careful not to invite such offenses by my own bluster or enthusiasm).

    But Srila Prabhupada in his mature realization ordered us to erect a Vedic Planetarium Temple in Mayapur. He must have known we were going to have to start discussing this stuff with some level of realization, for the benefit of today’s world.

    “[T]he super-subject (Krsna) is controlling the experience of the lower subject (the jiva soul).” Yes. Prabhupada is speaking here not only of Arjuna’s experience of the Universal Form, but of the very nature of all our experience and consciousness. Right?

    “The Supersoul enters into the bodies of the created beings who are influenced by the modes of material nature and causes them to enjoy the effects of these modes by the subtle mind.” (SB 1.2.33)

    What do you think?

  23. brahma dasa says :

    Akruranatha you asked: “[T]he super-subject (Krsna) is controlling the experience of the lower subject (the jiva soul).” Yes. Prabhupada is speaking here not only of Arjuna’s experience of the Universal Form, but of the very nature of all our experience and consciousness. Right?

    The quote (not from Prabhupada) you refer to was somehow truncated. Here it is in its entirety.
    I post it again as food for thought.

    “Politically speaking, Russia is closer to India than America or Pakistan. Its nearness is calculated in terms of the friendly relations, or influence. So I like to say we may take in that way. Not in physical distance. Sun’s influence over the earth is first, next that of moon, next that of Mars. In this way perhaps we may proceed. I got some hint in that direction. If we are challenged we may take this course. But my ultimate basis of argument is that it is subjective. It is like a hypnotizer … what the Lord showed Sukadeva at that time, it is described like that. It is in his hands, subjective control. Not that the objective will control us to see a thing. But the subject as he likes can make a show like a hypnotizer. That is my view. So everything can be explained. The higher seer is controlling our capacity to see anything. What one man sees another man won’t see. Subjective control. The Visvarupa darsana in Bhagavad-gita, what is it? Krsna says, ‘Arjuna, you see this. I am so and so.’ And Arjuna is seeing that. It’s not that the object is controlling the experience of the subject. But the super-subject (Krsna) is controlling the experience of the lower subject (the jiva soul). That is my understanding. Everything is controlled by the higher. The root (consciousness) is above, not the fossil (matter). ‘The fossil (matter) will control my vision,’ no such mean law I am ready to accept.”

  24. Yes, Brahma, sometimes our comments here get truncated, or sometimes they do not get posted at all, and it is a little frustrating sometimes, but in the long run it is worth it I think. It is a very nice format for friendly discussion about all kinds of topics of interest to Vaisnavas.

    You did not actually respond to my question about whether S.B. 1.2.33 hits on the fact that the devotee you have quoted is discussing. It is about the nature of all subjective experience, including the experience of the astronomers when analyzing data from huge telescopes.

    It is only by the presence of the Supreme eternal conscious being that we fragmentary eternal conscious beings can experience anything.

    Therefore He is sometimes referred to as the atma or self, as for example in S.B. 1.2.21 (“drsta evatmanisvare”) or B.G. 6.20 (“pasyann atmani tusyati”). He is the self of our self, the basis of all existence including our own, and yet inconceivably we are also different from Him: we are His loving servants.

    This is the Bhakti-Vedanta philosophy that smashes materialism, impersonalism and nihilism.

    But…what does it have to do with science? I suppose we could say that the Lord showed Sukadeva Goswami and Vedavyasa one thing in their perfect samadhi trances, and shows us another thing when we undertake to explain the world using our blunt material senses and the methodology and (dare I say?) “disciplic succession” of the mundane scientists.

    If we want to get real knowledge the way Parikshit Maharaja did, knowledge of the Supreme conscious eternal Absolute Truth, we have to go through the bona-fide Vaisnava disciplic succession.

    “Not in physical distance” but by “influence” may be one way of putting it, but without further explanation I am not satisfied that this is the way His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada spoke of it or taught us to explain it. It may be an effective compromise preaching strategy, but it is not what Prabhupada wanted represented in the TVP, IMHO.

    By emphasizing the direct meanings of the statements of Sukadeva, Srila Prabhupada was more radical in his dismantling of the mundane construct of reality. He challenged the very core of our concepts of distance and time, by declaring his implicit faith in the superiority of the Goswami’s transcendental vision, crushing the pride of scientists who believe material objects more real than conscious spirit.

    But, this high understanding may be mistaken ….

  25. The high understanding presented by Srila Prabhupada might easily be mistaken for superstitious fundamentalism or fanaticism, but it is completely different from that. It is actually the profound cure for fundamentalism and fanaticism.

    I tried to answer Anantarama’s questions to me but my answer did not get published. I’ll try again:

    Of course neither I nor Sadaputa Prabhu consider Bhaktivinoda Thakur to be a conditioned soul. What I was saying is that, when Bhaktivinoda Thakur wrote in “The Bhagavat: Its Philosophy, Its Ethics and Its Theology” that Vedic descriptions of heavenly and hellish planets were not to be taken as factual but “as inventions to overawe the wicked and to improve the simple and the ignorant”, he was adopting a compromise preaching strategy according to time, place and circumstance, in speaking to the British-educated 19th century Bengali elites who looked down on the pure faith of Vaisnavas.

    Similarly, when the person Brahma quoted said “I got some hint in that direction. If we are challenged we may take this course…”, he seems to be saying that Krishna has revealed this as an appropriate strategy for dealing with people who still have too much faith in their limited scientific assumptions about distance and time.

    Sadaputa Prabhu writes: “I should clearly point out that Bhaktivinode Thakura did not personally accept the modified version of the Bhagavat presented to the Bengali intellectuals, but rather accepted the so-called mythology of the Bhagavat as true. He presented it as such in many of his writings, for example Jaiva Dharma…”

    [ISKCON Communications Journal, 1994, “Reflections on the Relation Between Religion and Modern Rationalism,” by Dr. Richard Thompson, available on the web at

    As Sadaputa Prabhu also points out in the above article, Srila Prabhupada accepted and explained the validity of the indirect or compromise approach, but emphasized the superiority of the direct interpretation:

    “If Bhaktivinode Thakura accepted the literal truth of the sastras, how could he justify making presentations in which he denied it? His grand-disciple Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has pointed out that there is a precedent for making such indirect presentations of sastra. . . “

  26. Sadaputa Prabhu continues:

    “An interpretation of a text which adheres directly to the dictionary definitions of its words is called mukhya-vrtti, whereas an imaginary or indirect interpretation is known as laksana-vrtti or gauna-vrtti. Srila Prabhupada pointed out: ‘Sometimes … as a matter of necessity, Vedic literature is described in terms of the laksana-vrtti or gauna-vrtti, but one should not accept such explanations as permanent truths.’ [Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi Lila, 7.110, Purport] In general, therefore, one should understand sastra in terms of mukhya-vrtti.”

    One might correctly say that Sukadeva Goswami was explaining the factual layout of the universe (not just in the 5th Canto, but in the 2nd Canto description of the Universal Form and indeed throughout all the Bhagavatam.) In Bhagavad-Gita also, we find such descriptions in the 10th and 11th Chapters. There really is a Brahmaloka, a Mahar-loka, Jana-loka, Siddha-loka, Tapa-loka, etc., as well as a Patala, Atala, Vitala, Sutala, and the various inhabitants of these various realms are all described.

    I agree with Brahma Prabhu that these things are outside the range of our mundane experience, and that when we discuss them with outsiders we may choose to play them down by presenting them as a received poetical or symbolic tradition, or by not presenting them at all, according to the time and circumstance.

    The fact is that we really *can* experience them through practice of yoga or through the perfection of submissive hearing, and that such experiences are real and are part of the actual mundane universe, though they are inaccessible to our mundane approach to acquiring knowledge.

    There really are demigods, demons and sages, siddhas, caranas, gandharvas, etc. All Vaisnavas really accept the factual existence of such beings, as well as the factual historical reality of the various avataras of Krishna and Their pastimes which were displayed in the universe among demigods, men and animals, and which are “reflected in the minds of recollecting souls.”

    The reality of these beings and transcendental pastimes are beyond the scope of our limited mundane experience. The intelligence of an Indra or a Manu is beyond the scope of what we can comprehend. (We should not be like Dr. Frogs and scoff at the perfect descriptions of things beyond our ken, which were explained for our benefit by those who could perceive them directly in a supernatural state of trance.)

  27. If we say that all the Vedic descriptions of the various planetary systems and their inhabitants are allegorical or symbolic, the next question might be: “What do they symbolize? What are they allegorical representations of?” “Why did Sukadeva bother with an allegorical description?” “An allegory is supposed to indirectly represent some real state of affairs, but what is the point of this allegory?”

    The mundane Dr. Frogs, puffed up by pride in astronomer’s descriptions, are apt to think, “Sukadeva Goswami did not have access to a good telescope. He did not know about Jupiter’s moons or the rings of Saturn. He was ignorant of the laws of universal gravitation, of spectrography, and of so many advances we have made since the time of Galileo.”

    In the same way, they might view Lord Krishna’s description of earth, water, fire air, ether, mind, intelligence and ego as a poor substitute for the Periodic Table of Elements. In this way they commit the offense of feeling superior to all the great sages and even to the Supreme Lord Himself.

    We might take a tactful approach of not confronting non-Vaisnavas immediately with our ancient, exotic descriptions until after we can get them a little attracted to chanting Hare Krishna and tasting prasadam.

    But sooner or later we have to get them to see that the descriptions in Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-Gita are superior in their way. They introduce the faithful student, who is well-equipped with sense control and good intelligence, to a more complete and accurate picture of God and His universe.

    The mundane scientists think that the universe is full of vast, barren, purposeless vacuums, but we know that every square inch of God’s creation is teaming with living creatures, that God creates the universe for the use of living beings, that life comes from life (not from matter), and that matter exists for life (to be misused in sense gratification or to be properly used in acts of sacrifice to please Hari).

    But we need not be (should not be) seen as uneducated, backward people. It is not that we are uninformed about the theories of scientists or their reasoning and methodology.

    A great scientist may also be a faithful devotee. Just as a devotee can become a judge, living and working within the existing political system, a devotee can also practice modern medicine, biology, chemistry, or theoretical cosmology, earning the respect of colleagues in those fields, yet faithfully hearing Bhagavatam.

  28. KKDasa says :

    Part one:

    If some devotees do have seizures of doubt, it would be worthwhile knowing that many scientists themselves are assailed by doubts about their own theories which have to be constantly upgraded or disproved. Among the many causes of scientific doubt is the dreaded singularity – what really happened before the universe came to be.

    When attempting to unravel circumstances before the so called detonation (Big-bang), all established mathematical equations – and the powerful computers configured that way – go berserk, or bananas. Yet simply because the universe appears to be expanding, it is expected that an explosion occurred. From this unknown origin or singularity sprouts nearly all the anthropic and evolutionary tales we have today, which challenge the existence of an all-loving God who has purpose.

    Confronted by whether to believe the Srimad Bhagavatam or the unconvinced scientists is there a reasonable option as to where to pin our faith? For instance, just outside of Johannesburg is a world class facility for visitors who come from all over the world to see the ‘Cradle of humankind.’ Devotees are not known to gamble, but I could bet with great certainty that some time in the future, that place will be known as ‘Formerly the Cradle of Humankind.’

    For these reasons alone there is no credible basis for this type of ‘objective’ rationality. To be clouded by the paradox of dual subjective and objective observations is somewhat like being a vegetarian who hates veggies.

    That the universe is described as being full of mountains and islands is truly subjective, but with objective reasoning we can arrive at a point of full conviction of the matter, to a certain extent If the cosmos is multidimensional then we should expect this wondrous landscape to be set in various dimensions different from ours, and that an enlightened soul like Srila Vyasadeva has the ability to see all this and more.

    For example, the Yamadutas operate and live on a dimension totally invisible to normal alive or ‘undead’ vision. When they take wicked souls to the southern direction of the cosmos, the pathway to ‘Pluto’ would be billions of miles according to conventional astronomy. Indeed things happen on this dimension that makes a few months an agonising millions or billions of years of punishment. This flouting and distortion of Einstein’ian time keeping remains unseen by us.

  29. KKDasa says :

    Part two:

    The various islands or planets appear to us to be barren pock-marked deserted places as seen by earthly eyes, but the bodies of the residents composed of either mind (Soma), intelligence (Lord Brahma), or ghostly bodies, and so on, live invisibly to us. When invisible beings go to visit beautiful resorts on various hills, mountains and lakes, these too are invisible to us. In this way, the Srimad Bhagavatam description of the cosmos is mostly an invisible one. All we see is the apparent stardust leftovers of the supposed bang after the singularity, that is, rock and space.

    When the singularities of faith arise we must convince ourselves not to be convinced by unconvincing space science. Even so, we cannot apply normal logic and reasoning to multidimensional existences. For this reason we have to accept the authority of Sastra as presented to us by fully convinced acaryas, even if it means to forsake our rationality in some instances. This is faithful faith, not blind faith. Blind faith really means to be taken in by unconvincing science, which is why science is the real opiate of the people, and doubting souls.

    Ys, Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  30. brahma dasa says :


    In the purport you cited (Adi lila 7.110) Prabhupada is involved in the refutation of Mayavadi philosophy. He is not speaking in reference to Vedic cosmology and is not saying that everything in scripture need be taken literally. Indeed. Vedic literature is full of allegory, metaphor, analogy, symbolism, parables, etc.

    For example, scripture says that the soul is one ten-thousandth the size of the tip of a hair. Need this statement be taken literally? Not necessarily because we know that Gita describes the soul as immeasurable (aprameyasya) and one ten-thousandth is a material measurement. (Svet. U. 5.9 also compares the size of the soul to the tip of a goad).

    Similarly, scripture says that Paramatma is the size of a thumb and resides in the region of the heart? Need this statement be taken literally? Again. Not necessarily because this is a figurative description for the sake of conceptualization during meditation (so says Baladeva Vidyabhusana in Govinda bhasya).

    Metaphor–a thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else, esp. something abstract–is used throughout Vedic literature for the sake of conceptualization. In this case the soul is compared with very small things to teach that although powerful, the individual soul is localized and infinitesimal, in comparison to Paramatma who is infinite and all pervading.

    So yes, ‘generally’ Vasnavas interpret scripture in terms of mukhya-vrtti, but not always…and certainly we should never preach that everything written in scripture must be taken literally. (Unless of course we want to nurture doubt).

  31. For those interested in Srila Prabhupada’s approach to mechanical space travel and the arrogant attitude of the “Enlighthenment consensus” (i.e., the 18th century idea that all ancient wisdom was little more than superstition and that mankind should begin anew on rational and empirical scientific footings), please see the highly entertaining and well-written article by Ravindra Svarup Prabhu entitled “To Boldly Go Where We’ve All Gone Before”, published on

  32. Brahma Prabhu,

    I agree not everything must be taken literally.

    However, there are elaborate sastric descriptions of the 14 planetary systems, their predominating deities and their inhabitants. Are you really saying all these descriptions are “metaphorical”?

    For example, in the beginning of Chapter 4, Krishna says he first instructed the science of Bhagavad-Gita to Vivasvan, who instructed it to Manu, who instructed it to Iksvaku. Arjuna is at first bewildered, because Vivasvan is apparently so much older than Krishna. Are you saying it didn’t really happen?

    How do you distinguish between what is metaphor and what is to be taken directly?

    Surely it cannot be that the distinction should depend on what mundane scientists think. It may be a preaching strategy to tell neophytes that, if their faith is so strong in mundane scientists that it disturbs them when they can’t square sastra with the current scientific account of “reality,” they may take the descriptions of sastra as metaphorical, or poetic. But what should we who are not very impressed by the scientific explanations think? What should be our criterion for determining what to take literally?

    I think the answer may lie in something you quoted from another devotee in your earlier post. We have to explore what we mean by “literally.” We have to understand that our whole construct of “reality” is under the control of superior forces.

    …muhyanti yat surayah tejo-vari-mrdam yatha vinimayo yatra tri-sargo ‘mrsa dhamna svena sada nirasta-kuhakam satyam param dhimahi (S.B. 1.1.1) The Absolute Truth is the Personality of Godhead, by Whom even the great sages and demigods are placed into illusion, but whose transcendental abode is free of the illusory representations of the material world.

    If even great sages and demigods are illusioned, what about puny human scientists? Why should we feel their descriptions are more “literally” true than those of Sukadeva Goswami who, as you pointed out, could see everything perfectly in trance?

    And why would Sukadeva give a “metaphorical” discription of cosmography?

    No, the Bhagavatam’s account of cosmography is to be accepted as more real, because it was perceived in trance by Vyasadeva and many others. It is just that mundane scientists who have no access to celestial beings, sages and demigods cannot understand it.

    Bhagavatam is for mahatmas. There is a lot in the universe an in Krishna that scientists cannot understand.

  33. Yes, in Adi Lila 7.110 Prabhupada is speaking about Mayavadi philosophy. Mayavadi feel obliged to twist the literal meaning of sastras to try to make the words fit their preconceived idea that the Absolute Truth is only formless, unmanifested and without qualities.

    Devotees can understand that the Absolute Truth is both formless and with transcendental form simultaneously.

    When sastra described the soul as 10,000th the tip of a hair, and also “immeasurable”, we can accept that directly. The idea is that the individual jiva soul is “anu” or atomic, whereas the Personality of Godhead is “vibhu” or great. At the same time, being spiritual, the soul is transcendental to time and space.

    When Paramatma is described as the size of a thumb, that description is there to aid in meditation. But what size is He “really”? He is conceived as localized, residing in everyone’s heart, and yet He is also completely transcendental to time and space. Everything rests in Him, and yet everything emanates from Him and does not rest in Him. He is smaller than the smallest, and yet he moves among men, demigods and animals in variety of avatar forms, assuming different apparent sizes to suit His pastimes.

    So…it is not incorrect to say He is the size of a thumb, although it would be superficial to think He is *only* the size of a thumb.

    Srila Prabhupada emphasized the literal interpretation of sastras to save us from the Mayavadi word jugglers. In a similar way, he emphasized the literal explanation of Vedic cosmography. As he wrote to Krishnadas, “Where is the guarantee that modern science is also correct?”

    I always feel safe when accepting this approach of Prabhupada. If I start thinking, “this is a metaphor, that is a metaphor,” pretty soon I will start thinking there are no demigods, no historical battle of Kurukshetra, no lifting of Govardhan Hill, no inconceivable sat-cid-ananda form of Krishna.

    As Sadaputa points out, in Krishna-Samhita Bhaktivinod Thakur even created a “timeline” of Vedic history to bring it in line with the currently-accepted Christian timeline. But Srila Prabhupada dispensed with such compromises.

    Granted, other Vaisnavas may adopt other strategies, and we wish them well and hope their preaching meets with great success.

    But if we want to stay true to Prabhupada I do not think we can say the Fifth Canto descriptions are “metaphor”. In fact, Prabhupada ordered us to build a Planetarium Temple. He was so bold.

  34. caitanya caritamrta says :

    Dear Assembled Vaisnava’s,

    Please accept my humble obeisance’s, All Glories to Srila Prabhupada!

    Again, Kesava Krsna Prabhu has written another stimulating article in this case it maybe a “seed of clarity” opposed to “doubt”. The responses are excellent for with them many of the incongruities of faith may be stabilized thus confirming the infallible nature of the Veda’s.

    More self-imposed dilemmas seem to stem from the empirical standpoint and the Vedic foundations and on the surface it may seem obvious there are anomalies in the latter. Yet, as we are now seeing that the actual ascending system of knowledge is revealing its defects and even some credence is now being given to our descending system in modern academia ( but don’t hold your breath).

    In “Mysteries of the Sacred Universe”, the late and great Richard L.Thompson (Sadaputa Dasa), has given some elaboration on the misconceptions of the delineations of the Himalayas and other related subjects. As Prabhu Kulapavana was mentioning in the conversations with Srila Prabhupada , the Himalaya’s vast measurements did not correspond to the modern measurements conveyance. Summarizing Sadaputa Dasa’s one explanation of ”stereographic projection” the astronomical references using planes from the north and south pole, as opposed to direct physical deductions . He also notes the Earth’s position in Vedic cosmology too. These elaborate techniques are definitely on a scientific level not for the “weak” and in my humble position I cannot properly utilize nor explain them competently. In actuality there are answers for most scientific quandaries, but another question is, who will be accepted as an authority?

    Point being, interpretation is subject to observation and modern quantum physics have dissected some of the older scientific theories and the ascending cycle goes on. For those who need some ‘mental floss’ to stabilize their conclusions this is where Akrurnath Prabhu has mentioned, “Science and technology can be used in devotional service. However, to really understand the true face of God and nature does not require knowledge of the details of chemistry, physics, astronomy, biology, etc.” Of course the obvious does not always work for the minds in Raja or Tama-guna.

    Again, reflecting on the Vedas, we need our foundation to build on and that’s the fundamentals that we, as westerners, were just introduced to by His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta. Since some of us (next page)

  35. caitanya caritamrta says :

    (from prior page)

    are late comers, old habits will not just go away, but the way is in training and the practice will re-secure our short comings.

    As Kulkapavan Prabhu wrote, “Our faith will always be susceptible to doubt, even as big as the Himalaya’s. Doubt can squeeze through tiny loopholes of our defense mechanism of sraddha, and embed itself manifold on clumps on clumps of our anarthas”. Then Brahma Das confirming the accurate use of “Metaphor–a thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else, esp. something abstract–is used throughout Vedic literature for the sake of conceptualization”. These two comments almost convey confirmation of each other in application.

    One thing we also may keep this in mind, from the Brahma Samhita 5.33: Advaitam acyutam anädim ananta-rüpam ädyaà puräëa-puruñaà nava-yauvanaà ca, vedeñu durlabham ätma-bhaktau; The Supreme Personality of Godhead is difficult to be approached by simple understanding of the Vedas. One has to become a devotee.

    So, in my personal and hopefully, practical application, I have found to grasp the essentials through out the day to maintain faith, such as 16-4 (four regulative principles and sixteen {good} rounds) and good association (Srila Prabhupada’s books and Vaisnavas) to keep connected to the anchor of our Sampridiya. In doing so I try to recall what it was like before I surrendered to the Lotus feet of the Acarya’s. Once done the ocean of material confusion may be crossed like a puddle in the hoof-print of a calf.

    Now will I remember this tomorrow? Maybe not, but there is one guarantee:

    “But those who always worship Me with exclusive devotion, meditating on My transcendental form—to them I carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have.” (BG 9.22).

    So there is hope for a fool like me, then so much for more senior devotee’s!

    Please excuse any offenses I may have committed in this meager note and thank you all for the privilege of your association.

    your servant,
    caitanya caritamrta das, das anu das.

  36. KKDasa says :

    Part two:

    The various islands or planets appear to us to be barren pock-marked places as seen by earthly eyes, but the bodies of the residents composed of either mind (Soma), intelligence (Lord Brahma), or ghostly bodies, and so on, live invisibly. When invisible beings go to visit beautiful resorts on various hills, mountains and lakes, these too are invisible to us. In this way, the Srimad Bhagavatam description of the cosmos is an invisible one. All we see is the apparent stardust leftovers of the supposed bang after the singularity, that is, rock, gas and space.

    What may be out of sight for us should not always be taken as allegorical or symbolic, lest we use this ploy each time something inexplicable surfaces, much like the Christians who substitute the devil for anything beyond Biblical reckoning.

    From our meagre standpoint we cannot see very much at all. Srila Prabhupada mentions that even with the latest high-tech tools of research, our vision is stifled. “No one can see the entire universe while sitting in one place. Even the most advanced scientists cannot see what is going on in other parts of the universe.” (BG 11.7 purport) This conviction arises because unless one has empowered vision we cannot perceive all the multi-layers of invisible reality.

    We could suggest the scientists build a telescope made of mind and intelligence, and then they might see a little more. Forget the Hubble. A major problem would be that the scientists will probably fumble right through it anyway, as it would be invisible. Interestingly, the planetarium would be exhibiting to the world a largely invisible Vedic depiction of the cosmos.

    This matter of doubt is a consequence of incomplete faith. Why is it important to highlight this? And why does this raise the ire of some devotees? Well, Krishna says, “Those who are not faithful in this path of devotional service cannot attain Me…” (BG 9.3)

    When the singularities of faith arise we must convince ourselves not to be convinced by unconvincing space science. Even so, we cannot apply normal logic and reasoning to multidimensional existences. For this reason we have to accept the authority of Sastra as presented to us by fully convinced acaryas, even if it means to forsake our rationality. This is faithful faith, not blind faith. Blind faith really means to be taken in by unconvincing science, which is why science is the real opiate of the people, and doubting souls.

    Ys, Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  37. Dear Brahma Prabhu:

    I find this an interesting discussion and I hope I am not talking too much (I really can’t help it).

    You warned I may be causing people to doubt scriptures by insisting on a literal interpretation, but as I have already indicated, I do not personally practice a confrontational or “shock”-oriented kind of preaching (although I have seen other devotees do so effectively).

    Sometimes I have said things I wish I hadn’t (haven’t we all?), but I probably do not preach to new people very differently from the way you do. Mostly I try to get them interested in Prabhupada’s books (and since you are an innkeeper I’ve been meaning to talk to you about our motel Gita program…) :-)

    But aside from the question of how we are to present Krishna consciousness to others is the separate and important question of how you and I really think about these issues. I am sensing we have some differences of opinion, but I hope probing it further may prove interesting for both of us, even if neither of us completely changes his convictions.

    It might help us to further examine what we mean by terms like “literal”, “real”, “allegorical”, “metaphorical,” and also give more concrete examples.

    One thing I readily admit: Knowing that Lord Brahma sits atop a lotus, rides on a swan, or has four faces (in this universe) does not mean I understand what his lotus or swan or head is really like. They are different from the lotuses and swans of my limited, human, earth-bound experience. [I discussed this a little recently in commenting on Ravindra Svarup’s Dandavats article about bar-headed geese. Did you catch that one?]

    So of course, when we hear that Krishna is blue like a monsoon cloud, it is still not like any blue we have seen with our material eyes. By service and surrender we gradually regain our pure, spiritual vision. (Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau…) It is only with that vision that we truly see His inconceivable, beautiful Syamasundara form. Otherwise, as tiny jivas, we are always being dictated to see things according to the modes of Krishna’s illusory energy, with the senses we were awarded due to our karma.

    This is the phenomenological insight well-known in western philosophy. Whatever we know is based on our own perceptions and is a construct in our own minds. All our aroha pantha (ascending) knowledge is in the realm of actions and reactions of the modes. (See, 10th Canto, Ch. 87, Prayers By the Vedas Personified)

  38. But actual knowledge of the “real”, the Absolute Truth, is possible by His grace. It has to descend from the Absolute realm.

    Whatever appears to have no relation to Krishna has no reality. rte ‘rtha na pratiyeto… It does not endure. Nasate vidyate bhavo…

    The same is true for all the theories of mundane philosophers. They may discover some relative truths that are impressive to other conditioned souls, but these temporary theories will be replaced later by other philosophers.

    We are functioning under a categorical imperative. As long as we try to find knowledge on our own we will be limited by our human mindset, the senses and mind we have inherited due to our past deeds.

    However, Vedic knowledge is superhuman, apauruseya. If we learn to follow the thread of such knowledge under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, it will lead us to Krishna, the Absolute Truth, param satyam, summum bonum.

    I always remember the story where Jadurani asked Prabhupada if in rained in Goloka and he replied, “If I told you it rained… you still wouldn’t know what it is like.” The same may be true, to a lesser degree, with my ability to conceive what its like on the heavenly moon planet, or in Indraloka, Maharloka, Brahmaloka. When we hear about things we compare them, more or less inaccurately, to our own conditioned conceptions. And yet we know that Varuna has a heavenly kingdom beneath the sea, Vivasvan has one within the sun planet, Yamaraja has his own abode, trayi-dharmis may enjoy godly happiness on the moon until their punya is used up (B.G. 9.20-21), and so on.

    As devotees we hear and accept these sastric statements easily, as in the story of the low-born devotee who easily accepted Narada Muni’s account that Narayana was putting an elephant through the eye of a needle. Remember that one? The intellectual brahmana thought it was “nonsense, impossible”, but the devoted cobbler immediately accepted. When Narada tested him further he replied, “For my Lord to do any wonderful thing is not very difficult: he has put a giant banyan tree inside this little acorn!”

  39. When scientists conceive of what it is “really” like today on Mars, or was like on Earth during the pleistocene epoch or in the cambrian period, they just have some conception in their mind that is based on conclusions derived at through an ascending process.

    As a matter of tact or strategy or personal style, we do not always have to be as dismissive of these conclusions as Srila Prabhupada often was, but the fact is, they are not infallible, nor do their adherents even claim them to be.

    On the other hand, statements of Vedic sastras are accepted as infallible by all authorities. This may at first blush sound like a kind of fundamentalist or “naive literalist,” anti-philosophical or anti-intellectual approach, but it is actually much more profound than that. It is super-philosophical in that the conclusions can really be understood as perfect by one who sincerely applies his or her intelligence to understanding the authoritative statements in the proper spirit.

    These are statements handed down from the superhuman sages whose intellects far outstrip the Einsteins and Isaac Newtons of this world.

    My Webster’s defines “metaphor” as “A figure of speech in which a term is transferred from the object it ordinarily designates to an object it may designate only by by implicit comparison or analogy, as in the phrase ‘evening of life’.”

    To say that Sukadeva Goswami’s description of the layout of the universe is a metaphor suggests that he is really describing something else by an implicit comparison or anology. If so, what is that “something else”?

    “Allegory” is defined as “A symbolic representation” or “A literary, dramatic or pictorial device in which each character, object, and event symbolically illustrates an idea or moral or religious principle.” Narada Muni is clearly employing allegory in the story of King Puranjana, for example.

    In Krishna Samhita, Bhaktivinoda Thakur explained Krishna’s killing of various demons allegorically, with each demon symbolizing some obstacle within our own psyches. But we should not conclude that these were not also real historical events, with real living entities playing the parts of different demons.

    Krishna is the Supreme playwright and real life often imitates art by His arrangement. He can accomplish many wonderful things at once.

    Similarly, even if Sukadeva uses the moon and sun as symbols to “stand for” something else (?), that does not mean they are not also the real moon and sun.

  40. Kesava Krishna Prabhu, I am eagerly awaiting your Part Two….

    I have noticed that lately our heroic Dandavats moderators have been taking a longer time (2 or 3 days) before stuff we write gets posted.

    All glories to Citraka Prabhu (and others?) who have the truly thankless task of reading through all our stuff before publishing it.

    I usually write something here as part of my daily routine, but that means I write before I see what I wrote before, let alone any response to it. Maybe that will have a healthy effect of slowing me down (or at least getting me to comment on different articles).

    However, I am really “over the moon” about this discussion of Vedic cosmography. :-)

    I must think about saying 10 or 20 times more than I actually say here. I want to talk about Descartes’ method of doubt, about Berkeley, Kant, Husserl… I want to talk about my own experiences confronting my college Philosophy Prof. Michael Williams (a great guy) back in about 1983, telling him how I thought all these ideas were already anticipated in Bhagavad Gita As It Is, and seeing how he dismissed the idea due to his understandable prejudices (he must have thought I was crazy).

    Every undergrad philosophy intro course has students read a little from Descartes’ “Meditations” or “Discourse on Method.” [The 18th Century “Enlightenment Consensus” was already having its foundations dug in the 17th Century by Descartes, Galileo, Spinoza, etc.]

    Descartes is such an entertaining writer! He wants to start afresh, sweep away all traditional knowledge and build on a solid foundation. He chooses as his method to entertain doubts about everything. Even what he perceives in front of his face could be an illusion conjured by a malevolent superior being. Still, he cannot doubt that he is a sentient, rational being (the “cogito”).

    So far so good, but then he takes a huge leap by saying the same “natural light” that prevents him from doubting his own existence tells him that God is not a malevolent being and the things he sees are real. What a cop out!

    He had such a great opportunity to explore the question of why God has allowed us to be under illusion and doubt (as we clearly are). But he punted.

    BBT’s “Beyond Illusion & Doubt” is a small start. I can’t wait for the world to see that the ideas of the heros of Philosophy were but playthings to the superhuman intellects who live on the planets of Sanaka Kumara or (Devahuti’s son) Kapila Muni.

  41. scooty.ram says :

    It is nature of the lord or veda to use different figures of speech to attract and distract speakers .

    By saying chanting is all powerful ,it can be taken as literal, metaphorical or allegorical.

    Realizations are functions of soul expressed through mind. It springs from within.

    Mental hallucinations are conceptions of soul attempted by the mind , which is impossible and flawed .

    Similarly when the mind tries to grasp the spiritual subjects , we fail.

    When the bhakti shakthi sprouts , it spiritualises the body and the hairs on the body stands up!
    So this form of ecstasy is literal,metaphorical and allegorical too.


  42. scooty.ram says :

    “For this reason we have to accept the authority of Sastra as presented to us by fully convinced acaryas, even if it means to forsake our rationality.”

    I beg explanation on this. Rationality is God gifted tool to conduct life!
    One’s rational thinking is sharpened only by reasoning and question and not by dull acceptance!

    Faith is not stagnant . Through proper faith we understand things better.If the faith doesnt help us in the understanding , it becomes a process of Non-Thinking. You reject your intelligence out of blind faith.
    Faith is a stepping stone. Not the goal.

    Below is a nice description from a blog!

    “The future is full of hope. You place your trust and faith only on future.
    Shraddha has relevance only towards future.
    Everything to get better and better.All dreams to come as a reality

    The past is gone and we cant invest faith on the past!
    Compare two people walking in a road where the street lights are absent and is blanketed by darkness. One of them is a old kid in town and know the street
    as he knew the palms of his hand and is familiar with its twist and turn, the other is
    a stranger and is totally clueless.”

    The stranger will need faith and tries to find the route.However it is odd to say that the resident villager needs faith!

    nishta is not similar to the sradha. Nishta is a form of ‘Living Faith’


  43. One person who clearly did not have even a sesame seed of doubt was Srila Prabhupada. Sraddhavan. Pusta Krishna Prabhu was saying before in another thread (which might have inspired Kesava Krishna Prabhu to start this discussion.)

    “By rendering transcendental loving service to Krishna, one automatically performs all subsidiary activities. This confident, firm faith, favorable to the discharge of devotional service, is called ‘sraddha'” (CC Madhya 22.62, the Lord instructing Sanatana Goswami on the process of devotional service)

    Devotees, endowed with such faith, do not care if they are scoffed at by scientists who may tell them “75% of your life is wasted.” They are like proverbial boatman who knew what was really essential.

    Still, out of compassion for the conditioned souls, great devotees desire that the materialistic and impersonal misconceptions are defeated by the pure, perfect revelations of bhakti sastras. For that purpose we should take care to establish this Krishna consciousness movement in a way that it is appreciated by the intelligensia of all countries. Srila Prabhupada seemed very pleased that it was being appreciated in “learned circles”. That is important.

    “One who is expert in logic and understanding of revealed scriptures, and who always has firm conviction and deep faith that is not blind, is considered a topmost (uttama) devotee.” (B.R.S. 1.2.17, quoted at CC Madhya, 22.66) Such an “uttama-adhikari” can deliver the whole world. (CC Madhya 22.65).

    That was Srila Prabhupada. His complete conviction and freedom from doubts, fears, insecurities, uncertainties, delusions, made him unique. We never met anyone like that.

    Generally if someone has no self-doubt, it is because they are madmen or fanatical egomaniacs, but Srila Prabhupada’s absolute certainty and full conviction was due to his being an unalloyed devotee of the topmost order.

    “One whose faith is soft and pliable (‘komala’) is called a neophyte, but by gradually following the process, he will rise to the platform of a first-class devotee.” (CC Madhya 22.69)

    “One should associate with devotees, chant the holy name of the Lord, hear Bhagavatam, reside in Mathura, and worship the Deities with faith and veneration. These five items are best of all. Even a slight performance of them awakens love for Krishna.” (CC Madhya 22.128-129)

    This process (abhideya) of attaining perfect sraddha and love has been nicely described by CC dasa above.

  44. scooty.ram says :

    “That was Srila Prabhupada. His complete conviction and freedom from doubts, fears, insecurities, uncertainties, delusions, made him unique. ”

    Basically do you mean to say that a pure devotee wont have the 4 defects?
    Why so?

    I remember vacho vegam verse whenever i hear about srila prabhupada.
    No doubt He is unique!


  45. KKDasa says :

    Raja Gopal prabhu,

    Yes, we are gifted with rationality, but this rationality is conditional to our spatial awareness and ability to understand things. For example, I recall how in a conversation Srila Prabhupada said that animals are rational according to their inclinations. To illustrate, a devotee – I believe it was Bhavananda Prabhu – who before joining Iskcon kept a pig. Sometimes he tried to give sweets to this pig, but it refused. If however he dipped that sweet into dirt and covered it that way, then the pig would eat the sweet covered by filth. This, said Srila Prabhupada, was a pig’s rationality.

    With our rationality we have accepted Krishna as our goal in life. Still, being embodied as we are with our present bodies, we can only hear, feel, see, taste and smell so much. There are many things in this world which lie beyond our rational experiences.

    Many of us dream – about Krishna hopefully – but occasionally some nonsense admixture of many events all combine to produce weird, fantastic scenes beyond our ability to understand, yet we perceive them with our subtle body – mind and intelligence. If one is trained to decipher dreams and their meanings, a plausible reason could emerge and have a rational basis.

    Now, there are realms of this cosmos made of intelligence and mind, and so on. If with our present faculties we try to rationalize what happens there, how the residents live and behave, the paraphernalia and homes, and the rest, could we reasonably expect to comprehend all that we observe? Would things make sense to us compared to our earthly experience? Probably not. The speed and agility of motion…the IQ would probably be in the thousands if not millions.

    For this reason we would have to abandon our earthly rationality because it could not cope. The Srimad Bhagavatam and the words of the acaryas remain our prime source of information, even if it sounds irrational at times. It is in this vein again, like trying to understand Avadhuta Sri Nityananda Prabhu that we have to suspend conditional rationality.

    Otherwise, as with doubt, we utilise our rationality for our benefit in Krishna consciousness. I do not say anywhere that one should give up doubting and rationalizing in all circumstances…I would be foolish to. I purposely ascribed certain suspension in the context of inexplicable and mystifying subject matter only. To continue…

  46. KKDasa says :

    Still, when studying the Srimad Bhagavatam, if we retain the same human conditional rationality, and hold tight to it when we suffer from 5th canto blues, our conditioning will not help us to fathom the sheer depths of Sukadeva Goswami’s words. To progress in our faith we chant the holy names Hare Krishna…which are themselves beyond our capacity to comprehend, or to rationalize. How Sri Bhaktidevi inspires an individual with devotion can also be confounding.

    So faith then is the gradual development from sraddha to prema, and along the way we have to pin our faith in matters that can easily cause doubt. How we chant Hare Krishna can be the difference, for the holy names can also be appreciated in terms of mukhya-vritti and gauna-vritti, as Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur describes in the Harinama Cintamani – primary and secondary names of Krishna. But if our chanting is Nama-aparadha or early Nama-bhasa, this could impact on our overall faith. Then we have to consider what type of doubts we harbour. Are they created due to some offence, or are they innocent? Lord Nityananda is more inclined to help offence-less doubters.

    Devotees often wonder how if Lord Chaitanya is ‘freely’ giving Krishna prema, then why haven’t I got it yet? To those souls who are freed from aparadha is Krishna Prema given. In reference to Ananda Hari prabhu – It is a known fact that Jagai and Madai never committed vaisnava aparadha. While not doubting the ability of Sri Sri Gaura Nitai to dispense with mercy, it is contingent upon us being free from offences, from where mukhya-nama develops and hence the qualification to doubtlessly receive Their mercy.

    Ys, Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  47. scooty.ram says :

    Dear Keshava Krsna Prabhu,
    Thanks for the reply.

    I agree to your explanation .We do fall into circumstances where some instructions sound irrational. However by following it , we understand their sensibility.They become no more irrational.

    I was only afraid that i should not be so much irrational/fanatical that i become contrary to the basic principles of human life( like modern jihadic beliefs who also have a similar reasoning based on religious faith)

    Wrt rationality and how that varies as per species.I agree that they differ.
    However i think that the God’s design in creation is such a way that all souls are directed towards Krishna.
    Hence me liking a sweet (as a human being) and Pig hating it has the same motive.

    Acharyas understand the functional aspects of human beings and hence have designed sadhana that would fit human beings.
    A pure soul is neither a human being nor any other species. It function on the human plane out of sheer mercy!

    “For this reason we would have to abandon our earthly rationality because it could not cope.”

    All rational thinking are based on the notion of “I”.
    To kill a son, as a father, is irrational.However to kill him as a dharmic king for the crime the son had committed is rational.

    By proper guidance and sadhana ,the basic notion of “I” changes .We continue to shed the karmic body which has layers of different ahankaric tendencies.

    Hence the same verses(which appear irrational to an athiest) do not appear irrational to the sadhaka.
    Indeed thats why few instructions on bodily cleanliness is applicable for a kanishta and not so for a uttama.

    “Still, when studying the Srimad Bhagavatam, if we retain the same human conditional rationality, and hold tight to it when we suffer from 5th canto blues, our conditioning will not help us to fathom the sheer depths of Sukadeva Goswami’s words.”

    I agree.Sometimes when we simply contemplate onthe words of those verses(even literally) ,they help us uncovering the inner meaning. Something like breaking a shell of mental conditioning which had stopped us from understanding some verses.
    Definitely such verses have spiritual intent or potency.


  48. For anyone wondering how it is that Lord Caitanya is “freely” giving Krishna prema, we might want to consider:

    (1) How rare Krishna prema really is, even for very highly qualified philosophers, yogis and demigods;

    (2) How somehow or other we have come in contact with this movement in which “sraddha, ratir, bhaktir anukramisyati” is very easily achieved in association of devotees, without even having to undergo very severe austerities or very thorough study of Vedic knowledge;

    (3) How even the very rare, confidential mellows of Krishna’s pastimes in Vrndavana are being disclosed and explained in Srila Prabhupada’s books; and

    (4) How truly lacking in any qualifications so many of us (speaking of course of myself) really are to even know anything about Vedic knowledge, let alone to get a taste for chanting Hare Krishna and losing attraction for material sense gratification.

    Its really remarkable, when you think about it, how much mercy Lord Caitanya is bestowing and Srila Prabhupada is extending everywhere in the world. In Satya-Yuga great yogis endowed with various siddhis would have to meditate for thousands of years and still never get a glimpse of what is very easily available for us.

    If we are a little slow to take it up due to impulse of past bad habits or from some relapse into bad association, it is collossal lost opportunity, but in fact we should have no fear. If we are even a little sincere we will soon find the strength and inspiration to cast aside all bad association and dull intelligence and take up this process with full determination and surrender.

    Then our lasting purification and eventual full tasting of the fruits of love of God will be quickly assured. Srila Prabhupada promises it and you can take that to the bank.

    You do not even have to do anything drastic or difficult. Just chant Hare Krishna every day and study Prabhupada’s books with faithful devotees, stay clean and worship the Deities, use your hard-earned money for supporting this great preaching mission, tell people you know about it and distribute prasadam to them and Prabhupada’s books as far as possible. And be a little patient. I would say that is “freely” giving.

    We did not have to surrender first and only after years of hard apprenticeship get inspired to chant Hare Krishna. Somebody gave us a sweetball, a Back to Godhead, or invited us to the Sunday Feast, and we were able to make rapid advancement without any preconditions…

  49. anantaramdas says :

    KK Dasa wrote: Devotees often wonder how if Lord Chaitanya is ‘freely’ giving Krishna prema, then why haven’t I got it yet?

    Sarasvati Thakur answers this question in his commentary to Chaitanya Bhagavata, Antya Kanda 9.121-122:

    “Those spiritual aspirants who are already fallen or will fall down from spiritual life in the future are averse to this sole means of deliverance called nama-bhajana, which is the worship of the sound incarnation of God in the form of chanting 100,000 names of the the Holy Names daily. Coming under the sway of their averseness to chant laksha-nama daily, they duplicitously invent (chalana) other means of devotional service (bhajana) to justify their not chanting 100,000 names daily but it is to be clearly understood that by this action they will not achieve anything auspicious (mangala) in their spiritual life.”

    Shri Chaitanya-bhagavata Madhya Khanda 15.5,

    ushah kale ganga-snana kariya nirjane;

    dui laksha krishna-nama laya pratidine.

    Purport by Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada:

    kathita ache, shri haridasa thakura pratyaha tina-laksha nama grahana karitena. jagai-madhai u pratyaha dui laksha nama grahana karitena. yanhara pratyaha laksha nama grahana karena na, tanhadera nivedita kona vastui shri chaitanyadeva grahana karena na. shri caitany-carananucara-gana pratyaha atyalpa pakshe laksha-nama grahana avasyei kariya thakena, natuva shri krishna tanhadera naivedya grahana na karaya bhagavad-ucchishta praptira vicare vyaghat ghate.

    “It is well-known that Namacharya Srila Haridasa Thakura used to chant 300,000 names daily. Jagai-Madhai also used to chant 200,000 names daily after being delivered by the Lord. Lord Chaitanyadeva does not accept any kind of offering (or vastu) from those who don’t chant 100,000 names of Krishna daily, The followers surrendered to the lotus of Lord Chaitanya compulsorily chant a bare minimum of 100,000 names daily. If they don’t do so Lord Shri Krishna will not accept any of their offerings and thus they will be obstructed or remain unsuccessful in their attempt to obtain the transcendental remanants (prasadam) of the Lord.”


  50. brahma dasa says :

    fundamentalism noun

    1: a form of Protestant Christianity that upholds belief in the strict and literal interpretation of the Bible, inc. including its narratives, doctrines, prophecies, and moral laws. 2: strict maintenance of ancient or fundamental doctrines of any religion or ideology.

    Final thoughts–Regarding Fundamentalism

    When certain Christians proclaim that everything in the Bible must be taken literally—Adam and Eve—Noah’s Ark—Jonah and the Whale–Tower of Babel—etc. are we impressed by their faith and certainty? Do we think that their approach to scripture is “appreciated in learned circles”?

    What about devotees who proclaim that everything in the Vedas must be taken literally? Are they fundamentalists? Is their doctrine of Vedic literalism “appreciated in learned circles?”

    In many ways we are of course literalists, but we are not radical literalists any more than we are radical allegorists. In other words, we don’t insist on the literal interpretation of scripture in every instance. For example, when scripture says that the living entity was—“born first as Brahma”—does this mean that every germ, worm, dog, and hog in existence was once born as Lord Brahma, the creator and head of our sampradaya? (This is unthinkable.)

    No says Bhaktisiddhanta–this statement refers to the totality of the individual conditioned souls who originally take birth from Brahma and are amalgamated back into him at the time of annihilation.

    Thakura Bhaktivinoda’ recognized that in most cases there is a legitimate figurative or allegorical understanding of scripture that can be applied in preaching according to circumstance and eligibility. Overall, he taught that the essential teachings of Sri Caitanya, which in his words were hari nama and kindness to everyone (jiva doya), are more important than an unreasonable dogmatic approach to scripture.

    brahma dasa

  51. anantaramdas says :

    Shri Chaitanya-bhagavata, Antya Khanda 9.121

    (121) prabhu bale,-“jana, ‘lakshesvara’ bali kare?

    prati-dina laksha-nama ye grahana kare”

    “Do you know who is a laksesvara? He is someone who chants one laksa or 100,000 holy names (64 rounds of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra) everyday.”

    Purport by Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada:

    shri gaurasundera balibena-“jini pratidina laksha-nama grahana karibena, tanharai grihe bhagavan sevita hana.

    Shri Gaurasundera spoke as follows-“The Supreme Personality of Godhead accepts service only in the home of those who chant one hundred thousand names daily.

    “bhagavan tanharai nikate bhoga-dravyadi grahana karena.

    “The Lord accepts bhoga (foodstuffs) and other ingredients only from such personalities.

    “jini laksha-nama grahana karena na, tahara nikate haite bhagavan naivedya svikara-dvara seva-saubhagya pradana karena na.

    “Those who don’t chant 100,000 names (64 rounds) daily, are never awarded the great fortune of rendering service to the Lord by offering Him naivedya (bhoga). This is because the Lord never accepts (svikara) their offerings.

    “bhagavad-bhakta matrei pratyaha laksha-nama grahana karibena natuva vividha visaye asakta haiya bhagavad-seva karite asamartha haibena.”

    The Lord continued-“Those who consider themselves devotees of the Lord must compulsorily chant 100,000 names of Krishna everyday otherwise they will gradually but surely become attached to varieties of sense-objects and thus become incapable to rendering any kind of service to the Lord.”

    tajjanyai shri chaitanyadevera ashrita sakalai nyuna kalpe laksha-nama grahana kariya thakena. natuva gaurasunderera udeshya pradatta naivedya tini grahana karibena na.

    (Shrila Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada continues) “Therefore all the devotees who have taken shelter of Lord Chaitanyadeva perform the chanting of a minimum of 100,000 names of Krishna daily as their first and primary duty. Because they know that if they don’t do so then Lord Gaurasundera will never accept the very bhoga (naivedya) which they cook for Him daily.

  52. anantaramdas says :

    Shri Chaitanya-bhagavata, Antya Khanda 9.122

    (122) “se janera nama ami bali ‘lakshesvara’

    tatha bhiksha amara, na yai anya ghara.”

    “Lord Gauranga continued-I call such a person a laksheshvara. I only accept meals in such a person’s house. I never go anywhere else.”

    shri chaitanya bhaktagana abhaktera sahita sambhashana karena na. jini bhaktivyatita karma, jnana o anyabhilashara kathaya pradatta tahara sahita bandhutva karibe na.

    “The devotees of Lord Shri Chaitanya never talk with such non-devotees. They never do friendship with those who are engaged in the cultivation of karma, jnana or other desires which are devoid of bhakti.

    pratyah laksha-nama grahana na karile patita vyaktiganera visaya-bhoga pravritti vriddhi paya, takhana ara tahara shri gaurasunderarera seva karite pare na.

    “Those who don’t accept this vow of chanting 100,000 names daily, fall down even more although they were fallen in the first place (due to the contamination of Kali-yuga). Thus their propensity for enjoying the senses and sense-objects continually and steadily increases and ultimately they are not able to render any kind of service even to the most merciful Lord Gaurasundera.

    “This is the precise reason why the real Gaudiya-bhaktas do not accept any other ideal (adarsa) in Gaura-bhakti or Krishna-bhakti except the process of chanting 100,000 names of the maha-mantra daily.

    adhapatita va adhapete gana eka-matra bhajana-sabda-vacya shri-nama-bhajane vimukhata-vasata laksha-nama grahana karibara parivarte anya bhajanera chalana korena, taddvara tahadera kona mangala haya na.

    “Those spiritual aspirants who are already fallen or will fall down from spiritual life in the future are averse to this sole means of deliverance called nama-bhajana, which is the worship of the sound incarnation of God in the form of chanting 100,000 names of the the Holy Names daily. Coming under the sway of their averseness to chant laksha-nama daily, they duplicitously invent (chalana) other means of devotional service (bhajana) to justify their not chanting 100,000 names daily but it is to be clearly understood that by this action they will not achieve anything auspicious (mangala) in their spiritual life.”

  53. brahma dasa says :

    Final thoughts regarding doubt:

    How many ex-devotees do we know that at one time or another thought of or proclaimed themselves doubt free in regards to Krsna consciousness?

    Everyone knows that loud talking, flag waving, doubt free, believers in any religion are a dime a dozen. Why? Because they are on the egotistic, not the spiritual platform—so says Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Real freedom from doubt is a very high position as it is intrinsic to true spiritual experience. Experience is the ultimate pramana—so says Sri Jiva Goswami.

    Beginners (kanistha) are big on proclamations (I am spiritual–I have the best guru–I belong to the greatest religion) and short on genuine spiritual experience. The vast majority of devotees fall within this category as evidenced by their activities and attachments. If we are sincere and diligent enough to advance it is from the intermediate position that we truly face and examine our doubt, hopefully overcoming it through grace brought about by steadfast devotion (nistha).

    Ultimately, true freedom from doubt is a matter of heart, not head. (jnana-sunya-bhakti)

    Best wishes, brahma dasa

  54. KKDasa says :

    A genuine concern is raised about the risks of fundamentalism due to blind faith. We need to differentiate between maudlin fluctuating faith and wise informed faith.

    Sentimental faith arises in the beginning stages of devotion – usually in bhajana-kriya, or thereabouts – until one’s faith has steadied. Someone on this level could cause some disbelief when trying to be convincing while preaching. What is said may be inconsistent according to emotional highs and lows experienced.

    Wise informed faith is more consistent and is fuelled by loyal reliance on sadhana bhakti. The BG verse 15.19 has been quoted quite frequently in this discussion. But what happens when a devotee is convinced? The next verse BG 15.20 says,”…Whoever understands this will become wise…” When such a devotee speaks, he knows what he is talking about.

    Fundamentalism comes along with the luggage of militancy, terrorism, violence, radicalism and the rest, thanks to religious extremism. Because of this some devotees are afraid of being stigmatised thus if we brandish a raw ‘blind’ trust in the 5th canto description of the cosmos. But the Srimad Bhagavatam is a revolutionary scripture meant to change the world’s mindset, and the devotees are the revolutionaries. Does this sound scary? Will this dim any last appreciation all the world’s academia had for us?

    Being a devotee means to get back to spiritual basics – we are not this body – and live in harmony with Guru and Krishna’s desires, which is fundamental to say the least. Devotees are fundamentalists, but should not be compared with the demoniac extremist elements. “The symptoms of a sadhu are that he is tolerant, merciful and friendly to all living entities. He has no enemies, he is peaceful, he abides by the scriptures, and all his characteristics are sublime.” (SB 3.25.21) The devotees are the dearest fundamentalist revolutionaries around, for they do not threaten anybody.

    In the face of this now ‘dirty’ word fundamentalism, the onus is on the devotees to educate on what true fundamentalism is. The academic world should learn the difference. Sometimes however, our balancing act of attempting to appease the academics can cause us to even, very slightly compromise in grey areas of human uncertainty, which can be a disturbance to the vaisnava order. There is an extremely fine line between presenting our philosophy in a palatable way, and appearing to move along with the times out of appeasement. ONE

  55. KKDasa says :


    In light of this, the desire to cover up inexplicable matters the academics will frown upon, with allegorical, figurative and symbolic ruses to replace our lack of faith, is not very healthy. Admittedly, certain sections of the Srimad Bhagavatam are allegorical, but a great deal of it isn’t. At the beginning of this dialogue Kulapavana Prabhu raised the doubt about an 80.000 mile high Himalayan mountain, as a case in point.

    Contrary to what we normally experience, it is the unseen forces that possess more power than the rocks we tread. The air of life ‘prana’ or ‘ayur’ is the power that moves our bodies, indeed the whole cosmos. More powerful still is the unseen invisible Lord Ananta Sesa who holds all the planetary systems upon His hoods. It is obvious there is an invisible side of the Himalaya we cannot perceive in our dimension. But to shrug this off as a figurative phenomenon means to also dismiss the fact that Parvati (Durgadevi) the wife of Lord Siva (Lord of ahankara) is the daughter of the Himalaya. Is another grind on our faith?

    If we go on like this, where will our ascending deductions of the cosmic order end? In fact it does take faith to accept the words of Sukadeva Goswami and Srila Prabhupada. Akruranatha Prabhu has raised this point nicely in previous comments. It is irksome to hear the charge of ‘blind’ faith hurled by disbelieving souls at devotees who accept with faith. And to think these wise faithful devotees will be a liability if they encounter the academics smacks of superciliousness. A convinced preacher is more convincing.

    Even at the best of times most scientists will scoff at any claim of intelligent design and creation. Scientists will not budge until at least the invisible mind has been substantiated, by which time the attempted GUT should be confined to the GUTTER of repudiation. While trying to convince the intelligentsia of Vedic alternatives for a troubled world, the last thing we want is to be in dire need of faith.

    Ys, Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  56. Mithuna Das says :

    Hare Krishna Prabhus

    Thanks to all the Prabhus and Matajis who have been contributing to this interesting forum, and the Dandavats moderators who have been making it available.

    I wanted to share an angle about coping with doubt, which I have not seen presented. Doubt , like many other things are often made socially unacceptable , in neophyte Vaisnava circles. The external banishment of doubt does not mean that it go away; in fact doubt merely recedes into the subconscious , and an acquire an autonomous dynamic of its own. If for the” ahankaric” / ” tendency to defend” sake of looking good, the community continues to villify and repress doubt, it can become a ” private demon ” in the life of the practicioner; on the community level , it can lead to wide scale pretense, and in the worst case , a community of ” Sunday Parahamsas”. If the sadhaka does not continue to purify, we find that his sraddha in the shelter of karmic activity does not reduce, and the alienated doubt comes and goes unbidden; only the sadhaka ( and Krishna ) is privy to this experience .

    I find a very useful personal tool for coping with doubt ,is to spend a daily deep private time with the Holy Name; and during this time , we can acknowledge, pacify and cajole this doubting self to take an ” iconographic form” , and come out of its hiding. We can also sincerely acknowledge to the Holy Name , our inability to deal with this doubt or even get it to reveal itself. With sincere effort, and in a short time the dynamic of this doubt is greatly reduced and we can continue to delve more deeply into our relationship with the Holy Name. Other hidden agendas in our subconscious ( ex: tendency towards sex life) can be similarly dealt with.

    In some way, I see this forum is using a similar approach, except that the doubt is being brought out collectively, and in a linguistic form.

  57. This is a great discussion. Please, Brahma Prabhu, don’t make these your “final” thoughts on fundamentalism. I know you and I are both busy with business affairs (I am in the middle of an 8- or 10-week trade secrets trial, and to make matters worse Jagarini is out of town and I have no assistant), but the subject is very interesting and there is much scope for enlightening insights to pop out of this friendly discussion.

    You say: “Overall, [Bhaktivinoda Thakur] taught that the essential teachings of Sri Caitanya, which in his words were hari nama and kindness to everyone (jiva doya), are more important than an unreasonable dogmatic approach to scripture.”

    Agreed. Your discussion of militant kanistha adhikaris is also right on target. Such kanistha’s whose realization is meager and whose faith is very pliable, are not very well-equipped for preaching Lord Caitanya’s message throughout the world. [And yet it is a stage most of us will have to pass through].

    But again, when faithful devotees are discussing Srimad Bhagavatam together amongst themselves, they accept the majestic descriptions of Srimad Bhagavatam, which are perfect and much more factual than the materialistic vision of reality promoted by some scientists. Bhagavatam discloses a higher reality.

    Science also has its “fuindamentalists”, in the sense that many of the great scientists are actually able to take a philosophical, flexible approach to their understanding of the mysteries of the world, and to see the scientific construct of reality as just one of many types of explanations. But there are rigid, small minded, true believers in “scientism” who feel the need to belittle any different tradition or approach to explaining reality as “primitive”, “superstitious”, “unenlightened”, etc.

    Smart-alec comedians like Bill Maher ridicule beliefs that sound irrational or “mythological” to the modern ear, but their understanding of the real need of modern civilization is very paltry. They are encouraging people to waste the human form of life with a philosophy of “eat, drink, smoke pot, have illicit sex, and be merry.” Na te viduh svartha-gatim hi visnuh.

    Srila Prabhupada emphasised direct and literal explanations, but he was no neophyte, nor was he interested in simply training up a group of neophytes. The fact is that there are many statements in Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-Gita which, though literally true, sound fantastic or “unthinkable” to the uninitiated.

  58. Kesava Krishna Prabhu I like the way you think (you know that), but as a matter of semantics I would not embrace the term “fundamentalists” when referring to Gaudiya Vaisnavism or ISKCON.

    I tend to agree with Brahma that there is a kind of “fundamentalist” personality that can be seen among followers of different movements or faiths (we see it even outside the realm of other-worldly religions), which have been interestingly addressed by longshoreman/Philosopher Eric Hoffer in his mid-20th century books like “The True Believer” and “The Ordeal of Change.”

    Much of what we often refer to as fundamentalism involves a reaction against encroaching modernization, often in the context of hurt national pride and the need to exorcize a sense of inferiority in the face of losses (military, political, economic) to those who have a radically different culture. In this sense the dictionary definition given by Brahma above is, in my view, inadequate, not sufficiently nuanced.

    I agree with Brahma that many of us, “converts” to Gaudiya Vaisnavism, display or have displayed characteristics of “fundamentalists” from time to time. There definitely is a huge gap between our values and views of the world and those of the dominant modern materialistic culture.

    But I agree with Kesava Krishna that great, fully-realized saints accept the literal truth of the Vedic and Srimad-Bhagavatam description of the universe, with its planets, demigods, subtle beings, and amazing descriptions of events which dumfound the rational mind. They understand such truths with deep faith and peaceful, self-satisfied personality, being no longer in want of gross or subtle material enjoyment, with clean hearts that are free from envy. I just think it would be wrong to call such saints “fundamentalists” (Again, it is a question of semantics, language, choice of words.)

    The world needs to be transformed by such saints. The authors of our dictionaries need to meet them and receive their mercy. :-)

    As for whether every germ was once a Brahma (do the sastras really say that?), I do not find the proposition particularly problematic. When we are dealing with infinities of time and vastness of creation of infinite universes, our “baby” intellects have a hard time coping.

    Nevertheless, I accept that Maha Vishnu, an inconceivable person, in His “creative trance,” is dreaming unlimited universes that spring from His pores as He exhales, and has been doing so without beginning.

  59. Maybe Anantaram has a point that we would be less like neophytes and fundamentalists if we took up the practice of chanting 100,000 names (about 58 rounds) each day.

    On the other hand, I have unflinching faith that Srila Prabhupada was fully authorized to establish as a *minimum* in ISKCON 16 rounds per day. We should have no doubt that Srila Prabhupada was fully authorized by the blessings of Lord Caitanya, Rupa Goswami, Bhaktivinod Thakur and his beloved guru maharaja SBSST.

    Prabhupada wanted to make pure, unalloyed devotees, and yet he also wanted to (and did) start a mission that was capable of bringing forth great transformation and enlightenment to the world. We have not yet begun to see the extent of the powerful, purifying influence that ISKCON will have on the world.

    I have to say though, Anantarama Prabhu (and I think you will agree with me) that simply by chanting 64 or 96 or 128 rounds a day does not guarantee one will chant with pure love. There are offenses that can be made even by those who take firm vratas to chant astronomical numbers of rounds, and ultimately the award of pure love is bestowed by the Lord’s mercy only and cannot be achieved through one’s own endeavors.

    I am sure you did not mean to criticize Srila Prabhupada’s reduction of the minimum number of rounds, any more than I meant to imply that Bhaktivinod Thakur was a conditioned soul. :-)

    But as it is a *minimum*, many of us would find it beneficial to increase our own vows. Agreed. And yet we want to encourage others to take advantage of this Krishna consciousness movement in whatever way they can, as much as they can, even if they are caught up in the practical demands of household life.

    [That is another aspect of some fundamentalists: They become angry and envious towards those who do not practice self-control as strictly as they do, because they are finding it difficult themselves]

  60. Rajagopal Prabhu,

    To answer your question: Yes. I emphatically am saying that Srila Prabhupada was a pure devotee and was therefore also free from the four defects.

    Your reference to the Nectar of Instruction is quite appropriate.

    One who is free from the four defects can transmit infallible knowledge of the Absolute Truth to a qualified disciple. Such knowledge is completely perfect.

    A pure devotee never identifies with his material body and therefore the apparent imperfections of his material body and senses (such as old age, blindness, sickness, low birth, etc.) should be overlooked. It is offensive to think of a pure devotee in terms of these external, apparent faults, just as a spiritually advanced person will accept the transcendental purity of the Ganges and Yamuna in spite of the bubbles, foam and mud that arise in the rainy season (and the pollution caused by modern-day Kaliya demons).

    A pure devotee may apparently or externally make an occasional mistake (such as taking the wrong train, mispronouncing someone’s name, etc.) Such devotees do not display their full opulences to the external vision of the world, just as foodstuffs and flowers which have been accepted by the Deities appear to decay and rot, and the Deities Themselves appear to the general public as lifeless, inanimate statues.

    However, the qualified disciple may gain tangible experience of the infallible spiritual plane from the pure devotee (and also of subtle material realms that are invisible to ordinary humans) along with the awakening of infallible transcendental senses. It is this experience, beyond the four defects, that Brahma Prabhu alluded to when he quoted Jiva Goswami as saying experience is the highest pramana.

    Mundane sense experience is a lower order of pramana than rational analysis, which is still lower than the infallible transcendental experience. Sabda, or the authoritative transcendental sounds, are beyond the four defects, but are only fully percieved by those who have awakened their trancendental ears. In the mean time, however, such pronouncements of the infallible are accepted as infallible.

    [Kesava Krishna Prabhu was talking about this in a different thread when discussing Patanjali Rshi’s acceptance of trancendental sense perception]

    The example Prabhupada often used is, the Vedas declare that bone is impure, but a conch shell, which is a bone, is pure. Such apparently contradictory statements must be accepted, however.

  61. Someone told me that in his later years Tamal Krishna Goswami had been working on academic presentations to demonstrate that Srila Prabhupada was not a “naive literalist” theologian.

    Does anyone know where I could access some of TKG’s writings on this subject?

    Anantaram Prabhu, are you the philosophy professor who posted some articles on Dandavats about, for example, Kurt Goedel’s exploration of Anselm’s ontological argument for the existence of God? I really appreciate that qualified devotees are getting Ph.Ds in philosophy.

    [I am afraid that if they chant 100,000 or 200,000 names daily they might not make the academic impact that could be so important. But then, someone else will do it. No worries.]

    Brahma Prabhu, please reconsider the “finality” of your comments. We are just scratching the surface of a very important subject and we need your help to excavate further.

    Please do not think of it as a “debate”. Let us all be like a team of archeologists who are working together to unearth an Atlantian civilization, establishing once and for all its reality, as Schliemann did in a way, for Troy.

    Kesava Krishna Prabhu is onto something when he pointed out material science’s inadequacy in dealing with psychology, with the mental. Even though neurology can identify more and more about the mechanism of what goes on in the nervous system during certain kinds of experiences, that still does not explain the inner quality of how experiences “feel” when we experience them. This is a subject that remains of current interest to thinking people.

    We are dealing with an Atlantis not of bricks but of concepts. Reality is perceived by persons, or it has no existence. Influenced by sattva guna we can perceive more.

    It is in the mental or astral realm that the various celestial beings, demons and demigods described in the Vedas live. They do not make it so easy to travel to heavenly planets, for example, by Appollo rockets.

    I remember reading in one Bhagavatam Purport that Lord Buddha has appeared in defferent kali yugas in different kalpas with different missions. Most recently, He appeared to stop misuse of Vedic sacrifices for slaughter of animals to satisfy the tongues of the wicked. In previous yuga cycles, however, He appeared to stop kali yuga people from traveling to heavenly planets in mechanical vehicles. Interesting…

    The sophisticated moon residents won’t let the Niel Armstrongs upset the heavenly atmosphere there.

  62. Imagine, crude 20th century Americans driving golf balls and planting flags and scientific equipment on the lunar surface. There goes the neighborhood.

    Next thing you know, Bob Hope would be entertaining troops there at 4th of July barbecues with hamburgers and potato salad and plenty of Budwiser.

    The demigods are smart enough to prevent such disturbaces. They have a higher class of society. They would never let astronauts and cosmonauts join their country clubs.

    We will not begin to see things as they truly are unless we become quiet and pure enough that the modes of passion and ignorance subside and lust does not overwhelm and cover our true knowledge.

    Reality is not dead stone. It is the truth as perceived by purified consciousness.

    This vision of life is not that of the unphilosophical fundamentalist, although it may be that common people approve and support and follow it in the beginning without much depth of understanding.

    A neophyte, fanatic devotee is better than a nobel-prize winning, atheistic mayayapahrta-jnana.

    Actual knowledge is a matter of character, detachment from foolish activities, and perception of the soul and its predicament when conditioned in bodily identification.

    Krishna identifies 19 elements of Knowledge in B.G. 13:8-12, as follows:

    Humility; pridelessness; tolerance; simplicity; accepting a spiritual master; cleanliness; steadiness; self-control; renunciation of objects of sense enjoyment; absence of false ego; perception of the evil of birth, death, old age and disease; detachment; freedom from family/home entanglement; equilibrium; devotion to Krishna; solitude; detachment from general people; inquisitiveness about self; and philosphical search for the Absolute Truth.

    Everything other than this is ignorance (“ajnanam yad ato ‘nyatha”)

    So even real, spiritual knowledge is not just a “head thing.”

    Then, on top of that, Brahma Prabhu is quite right to point out that the highest goal of life is pure love of Krishna beyond any tinge of selfish desire for knowledge. Desire for knowledge can lead to the last snare of maya — i.e., extinguishing one’s spiritual identity in impersonal “liberation” (sayujya mukti).

    But the above 19 elements of real knowledge do blossom in a person who is engaged in devotional service to Krishna. Such a person should never be confused with an anti-philosophical fanatic or “fundamentalist”, even if he or she explains the perfect scriptures literally.

  63. When I was 15-years-old (as a student at University of Miami) I applied for admission to Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. I said I was interested in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. (Thank God MIT did not accept me, or I might have become another boring Silicon Valley billionaire.) :-)

    In the essay I wrote for my application, I expressed the theme that “reality is a function of language.” I was already attracted to an idealist or at least non-materialist view of truth and “reality.”

    We could say that Srimad Bhagavatam’s description of the world is poetic or allegorical (I prefer “poetic”, because as I pointed out above, “allegorical” suggests that it is a symbolic representation of some other reality, which is not quite correct).

    But what we really mean is that Bhagavatam introduces us to the fact that the actual, real state of affairs is truly magical, poetic, full of wonderand things that are not only beyond or ordinary experience but even beyond the ability of our ordinary rational mind to conceive.

    Ultimately, the Absolute Truth is not subject to our powers of comprehension or our tiny will, but is the beautiful Supreme Person, the ultimate poet and reservoir of all emotional rasas, our best friend.

    Our will and cognitive faculty are just fragmental parts of His supreme, beautiful existence. Wordsworth was correct: “Beauty is Truth. Truth, Beauty.” That truly is all we need to know. Reality is poetry, not science.

    “Sraddha” means truly knowing and understanding that nothing else is required but Krishna consciousness.

    Materialistic science has its function. It even has a function in determining and predicting real outcomes or interactions. However, it is a blunt and inadequate tool for discovering the true face of reality, the smiling face of Krishna.

    The universe is not a dead stone. The most important parts are the living, experiencing, sentient beings. Those beings are experiencing “dead stones” due to their misguided attempts to be lords of all they survey. Reality permits them the illusion of becoming lords of stone and lunar rocks, but it does not bring them the satisfaction they really crave.

    We will be fully satisfied by reawakening our dormant love for Beautiful Krishna, who is our master, is fully cognizant, and is never under our control. Nevertheless, He enjoys subjecting Himself to the control of completely pure devotees. Jaya Radhe!

  64. scooty.ram says :

    Dear akruranatha Prabhu
    “A pure devotee may apparently or externally make an occasional mistake (such as taking the wrong train, mispronouncing someone’s name, etc.) Such devotees do not display their full opulences to the external vision of the world…..”

    Forgetting sloka is obvious. We cant expect BBT to ignore those errors and print them in books calling it as a lila.If such mistake was consciously made, we might end up saying the sloka is from other yugas.

    You have already noted/accepted the effects of memory loss etc.To be precise i meant to say an embodied being will have defects! Soul is pure,always.The defects are to the body and not the bhakta soul.

    To expect pure devotees to do mystical feats is only a wishful thinking.No doubt they are better than yogis and jnanis.
    We can endlessly tell everything is a lila.But reasoning or questioning the transcendental activities are not wrong. Neither are they inexplainable.
    We have never seen any devotees mystically flying a plane or code Java.

    Pure devotees are not human beings.They function as a human being not due to karma but through Krishna’s will. Having taken the position of human beings , they will abide by krishna’s laws of nature.Hence they cant fly like a bird or do such contradictory activities for normal functioning.
    In material world, Form and function co-exist and they dont contradict each other.
    When krishna came , he came as himself (or just a manifestation) and hence he could lift hill and do wonders.
    We might say pure devotees are part of the eternal caitanya lila. However any kind of preaching activity is a function of paramatma. Such a functional entity is absent in the spiritual world.

    What will happen to the fruits or foods eaten by devotees in vaikunta? They perish?
    Everything in vaikunta is Chit.It is chinmaya!
    “Reality is not dead stone. It is the truth as perceived by purified consciousness.”
    Purified consciousness is itself the truth. Perception,analysis , response are innate.Neither intrinsic.
    No material adjuncts can impose a check to the mission of a pure devotee including the four defects.however it is apparently Krishna’s will to have souls suffer in the material world . We might blame it on the free will of the soul. Is the free will powerful than hladini or samvit shaktis which a pure devotee carries?

    Hence just like birth death old age and disease are part of the body, the four defects too are part of the body.It should be over looked as you adviced.


  65. anantaramdas says :

    Dear Akruranatha Prabhuji,

    Dandavats. Yes, I am the same Ananta Ram das (Hector Rosario) who has written three articles on Godel, Mathematics, and Spirituality. They were prepared for the Bhaktivedanta Insitute’s conferences in India in 2006, 2007, and 2008. However, although a mathematician and educator by training (not a philosopher), scientific preaching is merely a tool I use to survive in the academic world. Somehow or other, Krishna has been merciful to have my university administrators consider this preaching proper academic work. :) Nevertheless, I prefer to discuss nama-tattva and the importance of increasing one’s attachment to the holy name in the form of increasing the quality and quantity of rounds one chants. In his book “Art of Chanting Hare Krishna,” Mahanidhi Maharaja convincingly presents this is very pleasing to Srila Prabhupada. I wrote an article about this topic in 2006, published here

    Although numerically speaking, 58 rounds approximate 100,000, Bhaktivinoda Thakur and Sarasvati Thakur, along with the entire parampara starting from Srila Rupa y Srila Raganatha Das Goswamis, establish that one must finish 64 rounds (16 granthis; 1 granthi (knot) equals 4 rounds) to fulfill the vow of chanting 100,000 names.

    Bhaktivinoda Thakur was a grihasta with a demanding job and large family, who completed his vow of 64 rounds daily. Chanting 64 rounds is consistent with being a grihasta with many children, even in today’s world. We have practical experience of this.

    I would also like to add that Brahma Prabhu has made some of the best comments in this discussion and I would like him to stay a bit longer. In particular, Brahma Prabhu, kindly tell us where Srila Jiva Goswami establishes that “experience is the ultimate pramana.” My understanding was that in Tattva Sandarbha, Srila Jiva Goswami establishes that shastra is the ultimate pramana. Thank you.

    Ananta Ram dasanudas

  66. pustakrishna says :

    Having sifted through the above 63 comments, I can appreciate how enthusiastic the bhaktas are to embrace Krishna consciousness. I liked Brahma das’s comment 53. Yet, faith in Krishna ultimately culminates not only in realization (vadanti tat tattva vidas…) of Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan…by Their own grace and revelation, but in the acceptance of the jiva soul into a loving blissful exchange with Krishna in rasa, which will be pleasing to Him, and which sweeps the jiva souls up into His realm, anandam budhi vardanam, an ocean of ever-increasing loving bliss.
    Western ahankara, false ego, is characterized by a sense of independence, ownership, position, and sense enjoyment. These are all anti-thetical to the life of bhakti. What a relief, indeed, that Krishna consciousness presents for us. The direction to think about Krishna, to serve Krishna, to accept Krishna’s proprietorship, and to accept Krishna as the supreme enjoyer. Our realization of Krishna as the absolute truth must make us cry within all the more for relationship with Him. To be accepted into His family, we are indeed already His parts and parcels, yet we are feeling that we may be kept are arm’s distance……..NAY, He is always with us, never pushing us away….it is we who have pushed Him away. It is our own disqualification, not His. Therefore, let us pray that we may be graced by our vaishnava well-wishers, to help make us become acceptable offerings to the Lord. May Srila Prabhupad in all of his manifestations as Sri Gurudeva ever keep watch over us, and guide us. Kindly soften our hearts fully to the love of Sri Krishna, which is your desire.
    Pusta Krishna das

  67. caitanya caritamrta says :

    Please accept my humble obeisances, All Glories to Srila Prabhupada!

    Again, Dandavats has stimulated some extrordinary discourse! My false-ego has been beaten down again. The article by “Anata Ram” I missed (64 rounds) and in reading confirmed my lowly position, then “Pusta Krisna Prabhu” re-vitalized my desire to continue.

    These transcendental exchanges are most beneficial for us neophytes, as to not waste any more of your valuable time, am just conveying appreciation of the assembled Vaisnava’s and am looking forward to more nectar….but first a better grip on Tulsi-Mala!

    All glories to your Service!!

    yr servant n training,

  68. KKDasa says :

    I too agree that Brahma Prabhu should contribute more. In spite of apparent differences, this is a family discussion, and we are all learning from each other. If I myself am precariously close to being an ex-devotee due to hyper gung ho head-in-the-clouds faith, then as an uncle you can assuage it with some wisdom.

    Yes Akruranatha Prabhu, I did say the word fundamental was now a sullied word thanks to all evil connotations. Srila Prabhupada liked the word cult, stemming from cultivation, but how many of us use this word to promote Krishna consciousness? I am thinking of appeasing you with synonyms of elementary, basic, elemental, deep, and essential…If anyone has a good alternative let us know.

    All the while I was wondering when and if Pusta Krishna Prabhu would enter…and indeed he has. It’s good to have you here.

    Ananta Ram Prabhu has advised of the shelter of Sri Hari Nama Prabhu. I can already envision an article on the original desire of Srila Prabhupada to have Iskcon devotees chant 64 rounds a day, but reduced it to a minimum of 16 because of an inability to follow, which is an act of extreme mercy. Can we take advantage of this mercy and stick to minimum and still go back to Goloka – or Vaikuntha? It should produce an interesting discussion. Still, everything, including our faith hinges on our attainment of Suddha-nama.

    Altough Kulapavana Prabhu began this comments thread he is certainly welcome to add more, particularly now that many learned and academic vaisnavas are commenting. Perhaps ‘my’ brand of Krishna consciousness is a new sampradaya called ‘Fundafaith Unlimited.’

    I thought Chaitanya Charitamrta Prabhu would have more to say since it appears he is involved with the Bhaktivedanta institute. Forgive me for saying, but you attributed some sentences to the wrong author, which made your comment a little confusing.

    Raja Gopal Prabhu has questioned certain points made and demanded explanations. He is willing to accept rational responses and will not rest until he does.

    Mithuna Prabhu made an interesting comment from a psychological angle. Doubts could conceivably lurk deep inside as retention issues and rear their ugly heads in a moment of crisis.

    To many devotees I am an unknown quantity. Yes, my name appears here on the Dandavats website and I have submitted some articles which may not say as much about me as some apparently fanatical states of dedication I espouse, which seem to cause some jitters. ONE

  69. KKDasa says :


    By and large I express myself by usually gunning for the best available in terms of effort, faith, self-analysis, or whatever. If the ideals appear too high or exalted, then it is a form of self preaching telling me to aspire for those ideals. Naturally some incredulity will arise in some quarters. It is better to be a sceptic with an unfamiliar voice.

    I have an interest in science, but the sceptic inside me really does not have any faith in conventional cosmology. In fact, I am surprised that the incongruity between Vedic and conformist astronomy still raises deep felt emotions in, it seems, quite a number of devotees. I was hoping some convincing contributions could help devotees in general, but, faith is a developmental process and will not fit everyone’s doubt size.

    Ys, Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  70. pustakrishna says :

    In comment 60, my good friend Akruranath Prabhu alludes to the evidence that Srila Jiva Goswami is referring to is experience through the senses devoid of the defects of mundane flaws. But, this is too intellectual as approach.
    In actuality, the evidence is ultimately pure revelation, Causelessly brought about by the Supreme Controller and Actor, Sri Krishna Himself. However, even such touch, achintya-bheda-bheda tattva. with He Who is the only Reality, Diversified for His own sweet pleasure, inducing loving ecstasy of prema in the jiva soul who realizes that it is Krishna Who is Raso vai sah, Embodiment of all eternal loving mellows…the jiva soul feels profound separation, lalasmayi, from His Master, Friend, Parent, Child, Husband and Lover, beautiful and sweet Sri Krishna. We are just sampling a drop of nectar of an unlimited ocean of bhakti-rasa, according to Srila Rupa Goswami. And, we hope against hope that we may truly be invited to sample it.
    Srila Prabhupad has appeared to take us Home. Overlooking our karmic coverings, practically spoonfeeding the Yuga-dharma inaugurated by Lord Chaitanyadeva to the apparently unfortunate souls of the Kali-yuga, emphasizing that it can be done without any material prequalification, he has created our good fortune, indeed. Humility, tolerance, giving honor to others, the divine formula for chanting and hearing the Holy Names of Sri Hari. We cannot properly glorify Sri Krishna and His Holy Name when even Ananta-sesa with His countless tongues feels hopelessly inadequate in glorifying Him. This Krishna, Summum Bonum, Who declares to Arjuna that the material world springs but from a spark of His splendour, this Krishna Who expands Himself to dance with countless gopis, and to allow cowherd boys to know Him intimately through activities of affectionate playfulness, Who plays as the Child of His parents, this Krishna Who as Lord Chaitanya even tries to taste His own sweetness imbued with the heart of Srimati Radharani… this Krishna we utterly surrender unto You, praying for your Causeless Mercy. You must not neglect our plea, for we have no place else to go. Kindly engage us as the servant of your servants, forever more. Pusta Krishna das

  71. Jayananda Prabhu once told me a story about how he was traveling with Srila Prabhupada in a car and there was a truck ahead with an unusal load. Prabhupada asked Jayananda what he thought the load was, and Jayananda could not say. Then Srila Prabhupada said, “I think it is such-and-such kind of industrial equipment …” (to the best of my imperfect recollection Jayananda told me Prabhupada said it was part of a turbine for a hydroelectic plant), at which point Jayananda, who had a degree in engineering, realized that is what it was. Jayananda told me that he got from this incident a faith that Srila Prabhupada knew very well about all kinds of things, and it solidified his implicit faith in his Gurudeva.

    Srila Prabhupada made numerous statements such as: “It appears from this verse that the moon is one of the stars; therefore the stars that twinkle in the sky also reflect the light of the sun. The theory that there are many suns within the universe is not accepted by Vedic literature. The sun is one, and as by the reflection of the sun the moon illuminates, so also do the stars…” [B.G. 10.21, Purport]

    How does a faithful disciple cope with such a statement? One thing is clear: Srila Prabhupada was not ignorant of modern astronomy. I mean, he was not a practicing astronomer by any means, but he was an educated man with a good grasp of the modern theories. He was not some pious, simple villager who was unaware of how strange such statements would sound to the modern ear. He had gotten a good education at Scottish Churches College in Calcutta in the 1920s and had remained informed of current events and developments throughout his life. He was not ignorant of scientific theories.

    And yet he obviously considered it very important that our faith in modern science be subordinate to our faith in the Vedic view of the world. He insisted on writing such things and did not choose to simply paper over them for the sake of avoiding confrontation with the modern accepted view. This was undoubtedly a deliberate choice on his part and not an accident or blunder.

    When Hayagriva edited out a portion of “Easy Journey” dealing with the inability of astronauts to travel mechanically to the moon, Srila Prabhupada was highly displeased, and insisted that the missing text be restored.

    And he ordered us to build a Planetarium in Mayapur.

    I am convinced there is something imporant for us to understand regarding Vedic cosmography.

  72. At the same time, I agree that we should not appear ignorant of modern scientific theories. We should not appear as reactionaries or fundamentalists in that sense.

    But we should have unflinching faith in the Guru and the Supreme Lord (“yasya deve para bhaktir yatha deve tatha gurau…”)

    Basically, I think that a devotee who wants to get a Ph.D in Astronomy and teach Astronomy at college will have to go along with the modern understanding of the sun of our solar system as just one of the billions and billions (to borrow a phrase from Carl Sagan) of stars, at least while wearing his or her “Astronomer hat”.

    For example, if I want to introduce scientific expert testimony in a court case, the scientist has to be qualified as being respected in his or her field, or at least within the realm of generally accepted practitioners of that field. Otherwise, the judge is required to exclude the testimony. To be practical, I have to understand what will be acceptable and what will not. There is a body of accepted scientific opinion.

    But scientists should not think that the scientific explanation of things is the only useful or valid explanations. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in their [scientific] philosophy. The Vedic scriptures give us infallible knowledge bywhich one can understand absolute truth, whereas empirical scientific knowledge, though perhaps useful in its sphere, is inferior. It is not free from the four defects.

    Srila Prabhupada did seem to emphasize this lesson, and if that makes me a fundamentalist than I guess that is what I am (but I don’t think it is).

    I do agree with Brahma that I should go beyond an over-simplified way of understanding these things to get a deep understanding. I am not just a simple villager, nor are we presenting Krishna consciousness as a path only for the simple, backward or uneducated. (And I agree with Anantarama that the way to do so is to improve my japa: it is not simply an academic enterprise but a matter of realization through bhakti yoga.) [But we do say it is “simple for the simple”] :-)

    Let me add, I loved Mithuna’s comment #56. We cannot afford to simply “repress” doubts and expect them to go away. We should hopefully be able to find devotees in whom we trust who can help clear doubts away for us in private discussions, and of course as Mithuna Prabhu said good japa and sadhana is essential in this process of becoming truly doubt free.

  73. One thing is, it is not easy to understand Krishna as He is. Even the sages and demigods cannot understand by the process of speculation.

    Maybe one reason Srila Prabhupada belittles the teacjings of mundane science is because we have to become thoroughly convinced that such speculative and empirical methods are useless in achieving real success in human life.

    “bhaktya mam abhijanati” It is only by devotional service that we can understand Krishna and become qualified to enter into His realm in the association of favorable devotees.

    “bhaktya tv ananyaya sakya” Only by undivided devotional service can we understand and see Lord Krishna is His orioginal, beautiful form.

    We can understand what the astronomers and scientists are saying, and why they are saying it, but we need to realize that their methods are not adequate to approach the highest goal. We have to lose faith in them as superior authorities.

    Or rather, we have to acquire deep, abiding faith in the superior statements of the pure devotees like Narada, Sukadeva, Bhisma, Prahlada, Lord Caitanya, Rupa Goswami, Narottama dasa Thakur, Bhaktivinoda Thakur and Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada’s books are full of such statements by great devotee-authorities, compared to which the speculations of empirical philosophers and impersonalists are insignificant and childish.

    I asked Brahma before what is the purpose of such an allegory. This may be part of the purpose, if we accept (for the sake of th discussion) the “allegory” hypothesis. The fact is that any description of the world based on our human senses and mentality is going to be limited, faulty and subject to various errors. We made need to follow our human understandings to go on with some human activities, but we have to come to the point of seeking higher understandings if we are going to evolve into higher, spiritual beings.

    We should understand that there are super-human intellects like sages and demigods, but even they are incapable of understanding Krishna, who is the source of all such intellects. “na me viduh sura-ganah, prabhavam na maharsayah, aham adir hi devanam…” (B.G. 10.2)

    And we should know that the explanations of spotless devotees and bhakti sastras are transcendental to even such super-human understanding.

    And for most of us, we do not have to worry about becoming astronomers anyway. I mean, how important is it to know about astronomer knowledge?

  74. Every one of us, whether we are astronomers, musicians, bus drivers or novelists, have certain ideals and people we really care about.

    “The people of the world act ceaselessly in pursuance of some ideal.” (Lord Krishna to Brahma at the end of Brahma-Samhita).

    I mean, some astronomers may be emotionally devastated over the loss of a child, spouse or parent, or may even become wrapped up in life-threatening anxiety over some material possessions or properties or business dealings. People from all walks of life are driven to desparate acts because of some passions or attachments to persons or things.

    We may do science or philosophy as a profession, but where do we really live? What is the lodestone that guides us through life and pulls us in one direction or another? Let it be Krishna. By worshiping Him through our various deeds we can become fortunate to receive His pure devotional service.

    Sometimes friends have revealed doubts to me, “I know it is beautiful and inspiring but, is it all really true? Is Srimad-Bhagavatam really true? Is Krishna really God? Did He really display His charming, human-like activities 5,000 years ago?”

    [I remember putting such questions to Mahanidhi Swami (before he was a sannyasi) in Washington D.C. in about (I think) 1979, and then later he came to my rented shack in Southwest Miami and sold me a full set of Srimad-Bhagavatam in about 1980.]

    And we can say with full conviction, “Yes it is true. It is more true than we can know while we still have so many distractions and attachments.”

    But what prompts us to ask such questions is that we are still not sure where to dedicate ourselves. We are still restless and have not discovered who or what really matters to us most of all.

    Some scholars become dedicated to studying Mozart, Picasso, or Shakespeare, or the French Revolution or the American Civil War. Some are dedicated to the study of quantum physics or the mundane science of cosmology, or hurl themselves into politics, or various movements to improve the lot of the poor or downtrodden, or to enhance the stature of their own nations.

    What I am trying to say is, these are all essentially dedications or passions more than attempts to distinguish reality from illusion, and yet people become satisfied with them and waste their lives.

    But when we become dedicated to Krishna with our hearts and souls, our illusions cease and we see everything clearly and become completely happy.

  75. At the end of David Lean’s film “Doctor Zhivago”, Yevgraf (Alec Guiness) asks “The Girl” (Rita Tushingham) why she will not accept that the great poet (and Yefgraf’s half-brother) Dr. Yuri Andreovich Zhivago (Omar Shariff) was really her father.

    “Don’t you want to believe it?,” he asks. [He is a big shot Soviet general and can do a lot to help his long lost niece.]

    “Not if it isn’t true,” The Girl replies.

    Yevgraf observes, “That’s inherited.” He remembers how his brother persisted in loving truth and beauty in spite of turbulent historical forces that prompted many Russians of their generation to at least outwardly profess that such concerns were “self indulgent.”

    “The personal life is dead in Russia” was the party line that hardcore Reds like Pasha Antipova, aka “Strelnikov” (Tom Courtenay), and even Yevgraf himself, had used to criticize Yuri and his poetry. Everything, even family and all personal sentiments, had to be sacrificed in order to make the revolutionary struggle a success. (They could not really suppress their love for his poetry, but they pretended to, and this fooled and hurt the sensitive Yuri.)

    Actual beauty and truth reach their zenith in the person of Krishna, though scientists and mundaners profess to love some other, imposter “truth”. For many, the “personal life” of devotion to Govinda is dead. They seek out truth in impersonal abstractions.

    Yet, we often observe these same scientists and materialistic philosophers have no trouble loving different kinds of music, art, literature, friends and family. They admire literature in which the hero risks or sacrifices his life for some noble ideal (often for love of the heroine). If they can care so much about jazz, fine wine, patriotism, justice, or their girlfriends, why don’t they care about Krishna? Why can’t they see that it is Krishna who is the ultimate ideal of truth and beauty for whose sake everything should be sacrificed?

    Don’t they want to believe in Krishna? “Not if He isn’t true,” they may reply. But they are readily believing and trusting in so many things that clearly aren’t true and lasting.

    Similarly, they may ask devotees, why are we so persistent in rejecting all the possibilities for grand material life. Why do we stubbornly refuse the opportunities for material comfort, wealth, social advancement, and persist in our determination to become Vaisnavas? “Don’t we want to be happy?” “Not if it isn’t true happiness”, we respond.

  76. KKDasa says :

    I would like to say a little more for those who have gripes with my use of the word fundamentalism. Perhaps what should have been said was that we are fundamentalists at heart, but innovative and pliable in practice.

    When I preach I do not use this word to describe our state of being any more than I would use the word cult, for much the same reasons.

    Yet in matters of faith in Krishna consciousness we do need to be fully convinced, or advancement is troublesome. Our ascending powers of observation will simply hold us down while seemingly trying to escape this world by partial faith. The two do not mix. Genuine spiritual life is as clear cut as this.

    The consensus here is to take full shelter of the holy names. If everything we do in Krishna consciousness is a reflection of how we chant Hare Krishna, as again mentioned in Harinama Cintamani, then our present state of mind and how we perform our devotional duties, not to mention the severity of doubt and faith loss, can be attributed to this.

    If this deduction is still sounding extreme and fanciful then I owe it to the Mahajanas to rest the case.

    To be a convinced fundamentalist at heart but externally appearing to the public as learners and seekers of truth is a way of not appearing fanatical or blinkered. Indeed there are many interesting things we can learn from science which tells us how much of a genius Krishna really is, but to lessen our Krishna conscious faith with doubtful empirical assumptions is risk too much.

    Ys, Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  77. I am reading Jaiva Dharma for the first time (finally), and I am relishing it very much. I have heard devotees use one or another passage at some point to quibble with something Srila Prabhupada has said (maybe subconsciously that’s why I put off reading it so long), but I am 2/3 through and I find absolutely no contradiction with Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. [I am reading a Kusakratha Prabhu translation with a short intro by Purnaprajna Dasa, published by Rasabihari Lal & Sons]

    I came upon this instruction this morning: “One should accept the straightforward, obvious interpretations of the scriptures. One should not struggle to construe obscure, contradictory, opposite meanings from them.” [Chapter 20, spoken by Raghunath Das Babaji to Vrajanatha and Vijaya-kumara]

    There are other passages to the effect that the statements of bona fide scriptures must be accepted as true, even if they appear to contradict one another, and that many passages are beyond ordinary human understanding.

  78. It seems to me that by the time Homer wrote the Odyssey and Illiad, the disciplic succession linking the Vedic descriptions of Devas and the sacrifices for pleasing them, had been severed. The Greeks inherited a religion that was a distorted version of brahminical, Vedic traditions. [That might be a gross oversimplification. I do not pretend to have done any historical research about this.]

    I can say that in Plato’s Timaeus, the old Greek sage Solon tells of being told years before by an Egyptian, “The Greeks are Children”. In other words, Greek civilization and its religion, learning and culture were still new compared to older civilizations extant at that time.

    I would say that the Vedas of India, handed down in an ancient oral tradition, date back far earlier even than Homer, and express knowledge which pre-exists creation of the universe. [This is a twist for mundane historians: They assume that all culture was invented by humans, who have only existed for a tiny percentage of the vast ages that have passed since the theoretical ‘big bang.’]

    Greek and Roman poets (and later Medieval and Renaissance European poets) took a sort of license when referring to the Homeric gods and their well-known exploits. An educated person would be familiar with the traditional tales, characters and personalities, and would use them to suit his own purposes in creating new works of art. They were symbols, archetypes, apotheoses and cultural points of reference even for those who were self-concsiously creating fiction, rather than depicting real historical or true events.

    [In the European occult traditions of astrology and alchemy, planets and elements had personal characters and influences related to these gods, as they do in Vedic culture]

    We should avoid the temptation to think of the Puranas and Epics in that way, as fanciful works of art created by talented human poets. These things were perceived in trance by the well-qualified Vyasadeva, especially the spotless Srimad-Bhagavatam.

    Of course the Devas, demons, sages and ancient kings are more than mere historic personalities. They really do “stand for” the great forces and qualities of nature they embody, and their exploits really are deeply instructive and resonant with symbolic meaning. But they are also real, living personalities who have done the acts as described.

    This is not the blinkered, narrow view of the fundamentalist, but the broad vision of the mahatmas.

  79. I guess I always think of the word “fundamentalist” referring to someone who is frightened of challenging new ideas, who is trying to push back the clock, a reactionary that seeks to keep people in a kind of familiar, traditional ignorance. At least, it has that kind of cultural baggage for me.

    I do not gravitate to Christian and Muslim and Jewish fundamentalists. They seem to be xenophobic and narrow-minded.

    Bhaktivinode Thakur famously said (in “The Bhagavat” lecture?), “Party spirit is the great enemy of truth.” Fundamentalist implies to me a kind of narrow, angry person brimming with party spirit, unable to consider ideas from outside a specific narrow tradition.

    I remember reading something Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur Prabhupada wrote in which he used the word “henotheism”. I looked it up, and it referred to a kind of primitive religious approach in which a totem is worshiped as ancestor and protector of a particular clan or tribe. This kind of reminds me of the mascots of our modern sports franchises: mobs of people, uniting together against other mobs, for no sensible reason, under the banner of Eagle, Bear, Colt, Cowboy, Tiger, or Brave. :-)

    Fundamentalists strike me like that. They do not want to discuss or embrace different ideas. They only care about whose team you are rooting for.

    Although we sometimes can and do give off those signals, while as neophytes we are sometimes afraid to expose ourselves to potentially contaminating, bewildering influences, my experience with ISKCON devotees is that they are not like that. They are quite the opposite.

    For devotees who were raised outside of Hindu families, they had to be curious, courageous and open-minded enough to give serious consideration to a tradition that seemed very different from their own. They had to have the strength of character to adopt new modes of dress, diet, belief and culture, often in the face of rejection and ridicule by friends and family. They are adventurous by nature, and they are also philosophical and open-minded.

    And ISKCON devotees from Hindu backgrounds are equally liberal and broad-minded.

    Just because we accept the literal truth of ancient tales of full of supernatural divine and demonic beings, yogis with mystic powers, sages with deep, confidential knowledge, and the marvelous pastimes of a young, beautiful, playful, inconceivable Personality of Godhead, does not make us fundamentalists in my book.

  80. And once we really accept the factual existence of Devas, Daityas, Siddhas and sages, of Lord Brahma and Lord Siva and Lord Varuna and Indra and Surya and Soma, Yamaraj, Kartikeya, Ganesha, the Maruts, Vasus, Rakshasas, Vanaras, etc. we have to accept the existence of their various realms, which are to a certain extent beyond our powers of comprehension but which are described in some detail in various sastras.

    It is an unacceptable assumption that the universe from top to bottom is made of the elements of the Periodic Table combining according to the laws of physics and chemistry. That is just one very narrow, limited way at looking at what is happening before our eyes, and making giant leaps of extrapolation and speculation about what is happening or has happened elsewhere, remotely in time or distance. It is an arid, limited and foolish view of reality.

    Emotions are real. Ideas and meanings are real. It is natural to assume they have real origins. A description of reality that fails to account for these things is grossly inadequate and incomplete.

    It does not seem to work for modern man, either. It creates depression, anxiety, ansgt, world-weariness, a lost sense of place.

    We are not suggesting to turn the clock back to a simpler time when we were ignorant of the findings of modern science. (It might be a good idea if we could do it, but it is not necessary). :-)

    Science and technology are fine in their spheres, but they should not arrogantly presume to have dwarfed the wisdom of great ancient civilizations. Just exposing oneself with humility and honest, open-mindedness to Lord Caitanya will immediately cure all this arrogance and anxiety.

    That is our real problem as preachers. We have to somehow get people interested enough to consider Prabhupada’s books with humility and sincerity. It is *their* narrow-mindedness and prideful rejection that is the stubling block.

    They may be seeing us as primitive, fundamentalist, gullible, uneducated, but we are willing to listen to and address their own philosophical positions, so how are we fundamentalists? Somehow we have to contrive to get them enough sukrti or humility that they can accept Lord Caitanya’s mercy.

    But it will help if we do not act like the Bible-thumping type fanatics they might expect us to be.

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