By Sita Rama das
We have to have intelligence to understand and discuss Krishna Consciousness in both a non-dogmatic and uncompromising way. Intelligence implies abstract thinking. As children we begin to think abstractly but this is limited to concrete operations. If a child has two blocks of equal size it can conclude that a pile of two will be twice as high as one, every time. As we grow we develop the ability to think abstractly about intangible things such as truth and justice. But at first this thinking is limited by the logic applied to concrete items. Things are true or false, right or wrong. The complexities of moral decisions in the real world are not fully recognized. Many people never go beyond this basic level of logic
Someone with greater intelligence can see how this overly logical thinking is insufficient to explain human cognition and social interactions. People’s perspectives are often multifaceted. People’s emotions are often ambivalent. A single action by a person often serves more than one purpose. By locating the limit of restrictive logic we can overcome it by developing a more flexible logic that opens up new ways of thinking. We can see things from other people’s point of view.
This level of IQ is needed if we are going to read, “As They Surrender Unto Me”, (SUM), which is a supplement to “Bhagavada Gita As It Is”, found in Bhaktivedanta Vedabase. In SUM we find commentaries of previous Acharya’s in which a word from the text is translated in the exact opposite way Srila Prabhupada translates it. We have to have enough intelligence to see that in spite of this there is no disagreement among the Acharya’s.
SUM contains descriptions, in greater detail than Bhagavada Gita As It Is, on the multifaceted diplomacy used by Duryodhana as he addressed his army- in the first chapter. In verse 10 Srila Prabhupada, translates Duryodhana speech as saying his army’s strength is “immeasurable” being protected by Grandfather Bhisma. We learn Vishvanatha Cakravati Thakura translates verse 10 as Duryodhana saying their amy’s strength is “insufficient” being protected by Bhisma. So apparently the word used for immeasurable can also be translated as insufficient. Both of these translations are right. Bhisma understood the word to mean immeasurable. Drona understood the word to mean insufficient. Bhisma was directly encouraged. And Drona was indirectly encouraged to be vigilant because he was reminded that their most powerful warrior, Bhisma, is insufficient for assuring victory because he has a soft spot for the Pandava’s who they were fighting against.
Another example is Chapter 2 text 54-72. In text 54 Arjuna asks how a transcendentalist speaks, sits, and walks. In SUM we read that Srila Visvanataha Chakravati Thakura comments that these questions seem to deal only with external behavior but they each have an internal meaning. Srila Prabhupada’s comments is a little different; “…one who is Krishna conscious has his particular nature- talking, walking, thinking, feeling, etc.” He says the most important quality is the way transcendentalist’s talks and the all these qualities are described by Krishna. In SUM we find the comment on text 63 saying that the purport to the question of walking means how one engages his senses.
We should be aware of the principal method of understanding Vedic text. In the purport to “Lord Caitanya in Five Features” chapter 7, texts 110, Srila Prabhupada quoted Srila Bhaktishidhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s description of direct and indirect meanings. The direct meaning is “…the meaning that one can understand immediately from statements of dictionaries, whereas the indirect meaning….is a meaning one imagines without consulting the dictionary.” The Viasnava’s except the direct meaning. This is in the context of defeating Mayavadi philosophy, and is not exactly comparable to comments of various Acharya’s. But still, the point is, the direct meaning is accepted unless we are told otherwise.
We are not told by Srila Prabhupada that by “how does he walk” Arjuna meant something entirely different than what is denoted by the dictionary definition of the world- that he was asking how a transcendentalist engages his senses. Nor are we told in SUM that the previous Acharya’s said this is Arjuna’s question, we are told it is the “purport to Arjuna’s question” Therefore the conclusion is that Arjuna, playing the role of one with misconceptions about the nature of a transcendentalist, was implying that a self realized soul can be identified by an external quality such as ones walk or gait. And Krishna does not directly answer this question.
If we say that based on what we read in SUM the only proper way to see this is that Arjuna was speaking in a figurative way and Krishna answered his question directly we are not accepting the conclusion given in “Bhagavada Gita As It Is”. If we are not accepting Srila Prabhupada’s conclusion we can be sure our understanding of the previous Acharya’s conclusion is also wrong. So we should not say that Arjuna meant something figurative when nothing in Srila Prabupada’s translation warrants that conclusion and nothing in previous Acharya’s statements necessitates that conclusion.
Actually devotees need intelligence beyond what is needed to consider various points of view expressed by ordinary people. In ordinary people different points of view usually contain elements of truth and falsehood and an open minded person tries to blend such views together. This is not the proper approach when reading commentaries from other Acharya’s, all their points of view are perfect, in themselves, and if we are going to consider seeming differences we have to do so without modifying one over the other. However if this is not possible, for us, we must simply see Srila Prabhupada’s commentaries as most perfect.