Dandavats, Skepticism, and Believing
By Kesava Krsna Dasa
I’m quite sure there are devotees who have been thinking of writing for Dandavats, but are concerned that their articles may get, “shot down” or “grilled” by our learned and discerning readership. It’s true; we have seen submissions by senior, learned and wise devotees, and no one escapes the scrutiny of our diverse opinions. Is this a good or bad thing?
If this sounds intimidating enough, then we can imagine how certain devotees feel when their own stories or realizations are subjected to extremes of opinion. When we see these extremes coming from our readership, what does this say about our society of devotees? Is this a sure sign of healthy vaisnava expression? Certainly, if we all thought alike, as some of us might expect, wouldn’t there be less to talk or write about?
For example, take Patita Pavana Prabhu. He is very senior and respectful, yet he has been on the receiving end more times than not, it seems. He has to defend the merits of astrology when applied to predicting future events and more recently, to the transmigration of Raghava to Ratnavali. The scepticism to his articles usually come from those claiming scientific or logical reasoning. Are these the balanced viewpoints that help keep our overall devotee reputation intact?
When our logicians and scientific minds do reveal scepticism they are seen as having less faith than the average layperson devotees. Is this true? The moon landing article certainly pitted the “faithful” layperson devotees against the scientifically more informed “faithless” devotees in debate. Such was the intensity evolving around the “absolute” or “relative” opinions of Srila Prabhupada on this matter.
This is another hot topic; how do we imbibe the “relative” statements of Srila Prabhupada into our own personal faith developments? We know he is a pure devotee, so do his relative opinions also come from the shelter of – daivim prakrtim – divine nature? (BG 9.13) If not, then anything Srila Prabhupada ever said about the moon landing, the 5th canto, and women’s issues and so on, will continue to surface without absolute resolve. Is this really a battle between faith and doubt?
We can also see how, a “logical” mind can categorically quote Lord Krishna’s words as a sloka, and irrefutably claim finality on a topic of discussion. We sometimes think of ourselves as absolute arbiters of truth. Everything we say or write is right. Does this type of attitude creep in to our discussions? I wonder if I am guilty of this myself sometimes. If so, there is reason again to doubt an absolute outcome for even the most unending on-going topics. I think we know what they are by now?
If there is little chance of reaching finality on any given subject, should it be left for Spiritual authorities or scholars to solve? Or would that make us readers redundant in having a say? There are subjects being discussed where either side can quote Sastra and the previous acaryas with great proficiency, and still end up with less than satisfactory endings.
But underpinning all of our comments and submissions are the emotional admissions. It is surprising how a few apparently innocuous words passing as comment, can affect moods and emotions. We sometimes observe how scientific or logical words often seem less emotional, or clinical and hard. The mentalities behind these are less inclined towards stories that pull the heart strings or that describe subjective experiences like the Ratnavali events.
When these emotional differences show, we can see why on the surface, that the clinical mood seems more distant or detached along with scepticism, and the soft-hearted readers appear more accommodating and believing, to the point of being gullible, as ascribed to by the sceptics. Is this hard and soft complex a worrying trend? Does this mean that the devotees are reluctant, disparate allies under the banner of Lord Chaitanya’s sankirtana mission?
Then there is the obligation of the editors of Dandavats to allow diversity of expression. Complaints are sometimes raised about publishing either side of the emotional scale. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t! I think most readers will agree, the balance is about right. Yet more readers might appreciate at least a modicum of dignity or decorum in our chosen words.
Learning from the last few years that this website has been running, we can see how quite widely diverse we are under the unity of Srila Prabhupada’s mission. This is a healthy sign. But I know too that this will be disputed by some quarter. It could be enough to say, that I am allowed my say, and everyone else is allowed theirs, within dignified reason of course. Since we’re all in this together, I’d like to finish off with something that Pusta Krishna Prabhu commented somewhere recently, that in spite of our diversity, we still, “love you all.”
Your servant, Kesava Krsna Dasa.
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