Comments Posted By Akruranatha
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Nice article. There is a Purport in the Second Canto where Srila Prabhupada explains that the spiritual master explains everything reasonably to the disciple and answers his questions, but “it is not exactly an intellectual process.”
We are not going to attract Krishna by our erudition. He is only attracted to pure bhakti. We have to show Him how we have become the devoted servant of His servant. Therefore it is said,
“Only to those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed.” (Svetasvatara Upanisad 6.23)
Not that erudition is a bad thing. As part of our development in Krishna consciousness we should go on hearing regularly and discussing Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita among faithful devotees. We should learn verses by heart so that we can call them to mind and explain them to others. But all of this must be done without pride or ulterior motives. Such learning will enrich our hearing and will give us strength throughout our lives. Explaining what we have heard and remembered will make us inspirational preachers.
But it is a fact that the culmination of such spiritual learning is the change in heart, the change in character, which makes a devotee into a transcendental servant of his or her spiritual master. That is a function of the soul proper and not of the mind or intellect.
Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 13.04.2014 @ 15:09
It is not surprising that ISKCON has not yet met with much success in its cow protection programs. ISKCON is young, it has few resources, and is a much smaller organization than many of the major churches or governments in the world.
Rather than focus on our failures of the past it would be better to see these as opportunities for improvement. “Failure is the pillar of success.”
Creating a sustainable, functional, peaceful and successful social and economic model for the whole world to follow is a great challenge. No one should realistically expect us to succeed overnight. But if we slowly but surely accomplish it, that will be a great achievement.
Critics of Vaisnavism (and religion in general) argue that other-worldliness saps the will and energy of humans to make needed improvements in the world. To a certain extent we can learn from such criticism. The message of Bhagavad-gita, with its emphasis on Arjuna performing his “worldly” duty in a spirit of complete submission and dedication to Krishna (thereby transcending materialism while externally acting positively), shows us that real Vaisnavas should not use other-worldliness as an excuse to shirk our prescribed duties. Krishna really has a design for how the world should go on, and each of us has a role to play in this world, just as Arjuna did. The perfection of yoga is to play our specific roles in Krishna consciousness, not to go live in the forest to make a show of renunciation.
And a big part of how human society should go on is through kindness to cows. Cows are dependent, and how we treat our dependents says a lot about our character.
We are now faced with an incredible opportunity in the history of the world to demonstrate that the real teaching of Bhagavad-gita is not impractical or unsustainable. We can show that the answer to the age-old question “What if everyone became a Hare Krishna?” is: “In that case the whole world would become like a wonderful paradise in which the miseries of old age and death and war and famine and plague would become insignificant, practically nonexistent.”
So rather than worrying about how others have failed, we should use our energy to generate positive support for a successful, exemplary model of society in which advanced Vaisnavas can teach by their own behavior as well as their words how to cure the ills of society, through Krishna consciousness and cow protection.
Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 12.04.2014 @ 18:40
It is counterintuitive to most, if not all political pundits and social commentators, that the answer to our contemporary problems, from climate change to war to human rights to equitable distribution of wealth, lies in cow protection. Yet it is a fact.
This material world is a place of misery, but nevertheless it is the property of the Supreme Lord. It is designed as a complete whole with a natural order of universal justice. Hare Krishnas are not nihilistic, other-worldly religionists who say the world is just an illusion so we need not be careful about how we behave in it. Everything we see all around us is the property of Krishna, “isavasyam idam sarvam”, and therefore it behooves each and every one of us to be very attentive to performing our duties property as servants and caretaker’s of Krishna’s property (and people).
Krishna is known as Govinda and Gopala. Among Krishna’s most beloved “people” are His dear cows, calves and bulls. We hear from the sages of ancient India that the Earth herself (Goddess Bhumi) frequently assumes the form of a cow, and righteousness personified (Dharma) takes the form of a bull. This indicates that humans cannot be proper custodians of earth, or of justice and morality, unless they properly treat, respect and protect cows.
People may be vegans for some time, but in the history of the world there is no sustained civilization that has abandoned consumption of animal flesh without consuming milk products. Nature’s arrangement is that a cow will produce enough milk for her calves and also to feed humans. Cow’s milk is a miracle food that can be made into many nutritious and delicious foods and sweetmeats.
Ethics entails acting responsibly and gratefully with respect to nature and all living creatures. Nature has arranged for humans to drink the milk of cows, and in turn it falls on us to show kindness and compassion to cows. To take the milk and then butcher the older, non-productive cows is cruel and heartless. Such selfish behavior infects the way people treat other humans, too. One who sees a spirit soul in all living beings cannot act immorally, and those sworn to such immoral behavior (pasu-ghna) become killers of their own souls.
ISKCON’s primary mission is to disseminate the chanting of Hare Krishna and hearing Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, but if we do that well, then automatically people will see that cow protection is essential to godly life.
Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 12.04.2014 @ 18:11
Many philosophers, psychologists and anthropologists have pondered the importance of myth and religion in human culture.
In his Pulitzer Prize winning “Denial of Death”, Ernest Becker (atheist) argues persuasively that humans have a dual nature, a physical existence which is mortal, and a kind of mental or internal identity of symbolic meaning. Human civilization, with its religion, literature, philosophy, etc., is an elaborate defense mechanism against our inevitable physical mortality. We embark on “hero projects”, in which we identify with something bigger than ourselves, something having universal and eternal significance and value beyond our temporary, mortal lives.
In a way he is right, but he seems to assume these hero projects are illusory and irrational. Actually, as Srimad-Bhagavatam explains, “yoga” truly means to succeed in uniting with the universal, unchanging, eternal Supreme Person (through devotional service), and thereby to transcend our less substantial, external, temporary existence. But it is not just some Quixotic quest for dreamers or deniers of reality. Srimad-Bhagavatam elaborately delineates the great science of how one can ultimately succeed in this very real, all-important immortality project, and how materialistic persons repeatedly fail to do so.
If other religions are “hero projects”, that only underscores how widely recognized it is that transcending our mortality and our temporary, external physical is a crucial, deeply felt, core need.
Others, like Erich Fromm and the C.G. Jung-influenced Joseph Campbell have written about the importance of myth in human culture and oft-repeated, nearly universal patterns of world mythology, including the heroic transcendence of death (an essential element, also, of the literary form known as ‘tragedy’).
But it seems that even Joseph Campbell could never bring himself to completely “go native” and become a true believer in any of the mythology he studied. He inherited and edited the notes of his Indologist friend Zimmer and spent some months in India in his 50s which profoundly influenced him, but he never really shook his intellectual roots in the European humanist intellectual tradition and surrendered to Lord Krishna.
The hero of Somerset Maugham’s popular novel “The Razor’s Edge” eventually becomes a saint in an Indian asram (but an impersonalist).
It is time for Western culture to give Srimad-Bhagavatam the deference and attention it deserves.
Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 04.04.2014 @ 03:40
Thank you Gauragopala, for your friendly words. I personally am a little embarrassed by my “record for the most comments on Dandavats.” People who spend much time blogging are often suspected of not having anything better to do. But what can I do? I have a talkative nature, and if I can make some favorable Krishna-katha, I can’t think of a better use of my time.
I am disappointed there has been little discussion about this article. I guess nobody wants to challenge an article praising Srimad-Bhagavatam, even if the praise is lavish. That is the nature of Srimad-Bhagavatam. No amount of praise can be too much. No enthusiasm can be “over the top”. Srimad-Bhagavatam is an incarnation of God, the wonder of the literary world.
And yet it is still not well known outside Hindu circles. Not many people are qualified to study it. It remains an open secret. Even Bhagavad-gita, one of the world’s most famous books, rapidly becoming part of the core university curriculum of “great books”, is full of confidential knowledge which cannot be understood by nondevotees, as Krishna declares in the Gita itself. And so it is with Srimad-Bhagavatam, maybe even more so.
If someone were to play devil’s advocate, they might say, “Everyone thinks his own scripture, or culture rooted in ancient mythology written by legendary saints and mystics, is superior. Aren’t you just being another cultural chauvinist crowing about his own religion?”
Someone else might say, “‘Reality’ is a big subject. Sure we have emotional and psychological ‘realities’ that may be rooted in religion, myth, and shared values, but there is also a practical side of life, of being able to describe the phenomenal world, with all its causes and effects, and accomplish our material ends, so that we can meet our needs and wants. Science and technology fill those needs better than myth and religion.”
Branislav Malinowski, in his lecture series on “Magic, Science and Religion”, argued that religion was not just bad science done by primitive people. Rather, every culture, no matter how primitive, has some kind of religion, and some kind of technology, functioning side by side, as it were.
It was not my purpose to run down science and technology, much less to run down any culture’s mythology or religion. Religion is part of every human culture precisely because it is such an important part of what it means to be human, and Srimad-Bhagavatam fills this function most superbly.
Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 04.04.2014 @ 03:02
Just as devotees are the greatest yogis and the greatest welfare workers, the greatest statesmen and the greatest artists and poets, we can expect that they will be the greatest scientists and philosophers, too.
Empirical science as practiced in the contemporary world is obviously not the best way to realize Krishna. Krishna is understood through pure bhakti. No one denies it.
However, science does have its uses, and it does afford certain kinds of relative knowledge. It would be foolish for us to deny that, too. Just as we have devotees who are doctors and lawyers and teachers and members of every other profession, we should not be surprised to find many devotees who are successful, well-respected scientists. And we should not like to see devotees get a reputation as being half-learned or ill-informed about science.
There is something annoying about the way the “science versus religion” conflict is played out in popular culture and mass media. At least here in the US, it is mostly presented as a conflict between free-thinking, open-minded, thoughtful intellectuals on the “science” side, and fundamentalist Biblical literalists on the other side who insist that the world was created 6,000 years ago and the Bible should be taken as a perfect account of history, which can only be questioned by evil, offensive, Satanic people.
In reality, and throughout history, the fundamentalist Christian view has been a small minority among Christians.
Of course the universe is a much more interesting and complicated place than can be described by modern science. There is beauty, morality, soul, yoga, demigods, etc.
Yet, devotees can be scientists and can recognize that there need not be anything inherently evil or atheistic about science, either. It is just a discipline, like any other. One never has to affirm that the results of science have “disproven” any legitimate proposition or injunction of Vedic scriptures.
Even in Vedic thought, there are some schools of philosophy (e.g., Vaisesika darsan) that accept only pratyaksa and anumana as pramana, or grounds for accepting the truth of a given proposition.
Because scientists tend to occupy the intellectual high ground in contemporary society, it is important that Lord Caitanya’s movement be able to present itself in such a way that thoughtful, well-educated scientists can appreciate and respect it. I am glad that Bhaktivedanta Institute is carrying out such important work.
Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 22.03.2014 @ 01:28
Very nice class.
If I am not mistaken, the second devotee asking questions was Jnanagamya Prabhu. It sounds like his voice.
Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 11.03.2014 @ 04:27
It seems curious that Pearl admired a book called “My Conversations With God” and at the same time asserted that all scriptures are man made. If the author of her book could have a “conversation with God”, then others could also. Scriptures which record the actual statements of God in such conversations would not be man made, but directly dictated by God.
Bhagavad-Gita is such an actual conversation with God. Of course, the book that Pearl thinks is wonderful is not a genuine conversation with God, if the conclusion is that one should live an unrestricted life of hedonism and that all scriptures are man made. But if she reads Bhagavad-Gita Pearl can see a real conversation with God, in which God explains how the senses must be regulated in order to curb the enemy of lust, which covers the real knowledge of the soul.
Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 12.02.2014 @ 17:18
As flattered as I am that my photograph was used to illustrate this article, I think a photo of the author, Krsna Kirti Dasa, would be more appropriate. I think someone must have thought this was a picture of Krsna Kirti Prabhu by mistake. Anyway, I am not complaining, but I think Krsna Kirti would probably prefer his own picture with his article.
(Editor’s Note: The original photo on the article depicting Akruranatha prabhu has been replaced now with a photo of the actual author, Krishna Kirti prabhu)
Interesting article. The argument is that social sciences cannot eliminate biases as well as physical sciences can do through controlled experimentation. The conclusion is that one should accept the authoritative directions of Vedic scriptures in suggesting solutions to social problems.
I suppose we could go further and say that even physical science cannot yield the kind of perfect understanding that is obtained through bona-fide parampara. Of course, the acaryas in parampara are not interested in building airplanes or even curing epidemics as much as they are in solving the real problems of avidya and false ego, so their solutions may be overlooked by materialistic people who may already be biased toward seeing results in the form of technological development.
One problem we encounter in the area of religion is that people may accept the same scriptures and saintly teachers of the past, yet still come to different opinions or conclusions about details concerning what course to take in specific situations. The tendency of members of different religions (or even within the same religion) to quarrel with one another and not to be able to resolve such quarrels seems to be a factor causing mistrust of religious authority in modern times.
I suppose social scientists may have unresolved disagreements too, but in religion it seems people are so passionate about their convictions, which penetrate so deeply into their core values and sense of identity, that religious quarrels can be more frightening and socially disruptive.
Just pointing out that social sciences may have a harder time in eliminating biases in pinpointing causes of specific effects does not prove why one should follow Vedic as opposed to Christian or Muslim scriptures, or even why one should follow one as opposed to another Hindu or Vaisnava guru.
If we really want to see Vaisnavism become a more dominant force in Culture and Philosophy and Science, we should hope to see more general consensus among its contemporary teachers and saints. The tendency of being divided into competing sects has held Vaisnavism back.
Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 26.01.2014 @ 15:28
“How can it be the conviction of the Iskcon.org team that their approach will create a well informed and connected citizenry within ISKCON when the majority of ISKCON devotees, such as in Africa, Russia, India and more traditional conservative countries are not represented on this team” ?
Why not directly ask the devotees on the team? Or volunteer to add some content more appealing to African and Indian and Russian devotees (or Chinese or South American devotees)?
You may not share their convictions, but these devotees are entitled to their convictions. They are working out of a sincere desire to render some service, and that should be respected. They are producing a nice website, and I am sure we can all find things we like about it.
I am not aware that they excluded any volunteers from other countries. Nor have they expressed any conviction that a news and information website organized and maintained by devotees from other countries would be less reliable, balanced or useful in keeping ISKCON’s “citizenry” informed and connected.
Yes, some articles on their site could be found elsewhere on the web, but there are things on the site which are of more direct interest to ISKCON members that will not be found elsewhere. And if there is something unappealing to some devotees about their editorial policy, no one is forcing us to subscribe. We might write a private email to them to sound off. Public criticism is harsh.
I think I have noticed a phenomenon in the blogosphere where people seem more interested in writing about what they do not like or do not agree with than what they do. It may be similar to the phenomenon in democratic politics that negative advertising (to drive up negative feelings about an opponent) is often more effective than positive advertising about the candidate paying for the ads.
We want to say something original and unique to show how smart and discerning we are, and the easiest way to do that is point out the flaws we perceive in others’ efforts and ideas. I get it. It is natural. It makes sense.
Still, I feel like we should be more encouraging to devotees who are investing time and energy and attention into doing some devotional service for the benefit devotees who view their website. “Grandma’s” rule of thumb was, if we cannot think of something nice to say, better to keep quiet.
Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 23.01.2014 @ 23:39