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Comments Posted By Akruranatha

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“Back to Godhead” means Back to Godhead

“So, why in Tattva, i.e. in depth, would Srila Prabhupada have deviated from our Parampara and our previous Acaryas’ teachings…?”

Puskaraksa Prabhu, I do not think anyone here has said (or would say) that Srila Prabhupada deviated from Parampara and our previous Acaryas’ teachings, in depth or superficially.

Are you implying that the many statements being cited by Gauragopala and others are some kind of “superficial” departure from the Acaryas and Sastras?

If so, please be more explicit, for the purpose of shedding light on the issue: What specific Acaryas and Sastras do Srila Prabhupada’s statements appear to be deviating from?

I remember the issue came to a head when a couple of devotees (who have since left ISKCON) were translating the sandarbhas. One of those devotees sent a lot of angry emails advancing the theory that Srila Prabhupada, in teaching that we have fallen into maya by misusing our marginal independence, was simplifying or tricking western disciples, who were immature. I disagreed.

What I have never seen is a calm, clear explanation of what Jiva Goswami said about these things that is so different from what Srila Prabhupada said.

I think by affirming apparently contradictory things Srila Prabhupada treated us like grown ups.

I do see that Srila Prabhupada addresses these issues over and over again in his books. He talks about how no one can trace when the living entity first came in contact with material energy. He acknowledges we have *always* misused our independence (and that some souls never do). There does seem to be something inconceivable about it.

There are many statements by many great devotees in their prayers in Srimad Bhagavatam and elsewhere that no one can fully understand Krishna and His inconceivable activities and energies. All of us have experience that we cannot encompass Lord Krishna in the nutshell of our mundane logic. He will create a rock so big that He cannot lift it, and then He will lift it.

The concept of “inconceivable” or “mystery” can be misused in an anti-philosophical way. To say “no one knows” is sometimes a convenient way of deflecting inquiry.

But great devotee-philosophers have pointed out that there really are certain things that cannot be grasped by the human (or jiva) mind in any kind of Cartesian clarity and distinctness. A true philosopher should know all about inconceivability, the contours and limits of philosophical understanding.

Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 06.05.2014 @ 19:54

“Fact 3: We can’t go back if we were never there.”

Sita Rama Prabhu, it is this premise of your syllogism that I question.

It may be “common sense” that we cannot go “back” to a “place” we have “never” been, but this common sense is derived from our experience as conditioned souls. Transcendental time defies our common expectations.

“Babaji: The time and space present in the spiritual world is different from the time and space you experience now in the material world. In the material world, time has three phases: past, present and future. In the spiritual world, time is not nroken in that way. There, time is an eternal present. In the spiritual world, things do not come into being. Everything exists in an eternal present.

“When we who are living in the world of material time and space try to describe the spiritual world, we tend to say things like, ‘The individual souls were created,’ ‘the individual souls were imprisoned by maya,’ ‘the spiritual world was manifested,’ and ‘the individual souls are spiritual and were not created by maya.’ When we talk in these ways, we certainly show how much we are influenced by staying in this world of material time.

“As long as we stay in maya’s prison we cannot avoid talking in this way. That is why, when we describe the individual souls, or the nature of of spirit, we cannot avoid speaking in terms of material time. Therefore we tend to speak in terms of past and future. Therefore, a person who tries to understand the spiritual world properly tries to speak of an eternal present.”

Jaiva-dharma, trans. by Kusakratha Dasa, ed. by Purnaprajna Dasa, 2006, Pub. Rasbihari Lal & Sons, Chapter 15, pp. 268-269.

For me that resolves the mystery.

On the one hand we have such a great personality as Gour Govinda Swami saying that when Srila Prabhupada said “The conclusion is no one ever falls from Vaikuntha”, his use of the word “conclusion” was intended to mean that this is the siddhanta, the final word, our party line.

On the other hand we have devotees saying, “But Srila Prabhupada also explicitly explained that we were previously with Krishna in His lila.”

I think we have to examine our own notion of “previously”, “never”, “again become nitya siddha”, and similar concepts, as being bound to material notions of past and future.

It is better to remain humble and say “there may be things here I cannot grasp” than to indirectly (or directly) criticize great devotees and scriptures.

Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 03.05.2014 @ 14:51

We should read Srila Prabhupada’s books with an open mind and not be so prone to the mood of debating on the strength of one or another favorite Vaisnava authorities (to the exclusion of others).

Very often in Srila Prasbhupada’s Bhaktivedanta Purports we read that “Sridhar Swami says this”, “Jiva Goswami says that”, “Visvanatha Cakravarti says something else.”

In these passages, Srila Prabhupada is not asking us to reject what one or another acarya is saying. He is teaching that there may be different angles of illumination, and that reading Srimad-Bhagavatam is not a kind of static or wooden activity to establish the supremacy of a specific doctrine. Rather, our reading should inculcate a mood of humility and submissive hearing and appreciation for all our predecessor acaryas and their merciful explanations of a mysterious, wonderful, living, breathing subject matter. Such reading is a dynamic devotional activity.

I may not have made myself clear above when I cited an unnamed sannyasi who taught me something that sounds a little different from what I have heard from Srila Prabhupada about the possibility of getting eternally situated in sayujya-mukti. My point was that we ought to be able to consider such statements with an open mind, while at the same time perhaps reserving judgment, thinking, “Hmm, that sounds a little different from what I have heard in Srila Prabhupada’s books.”

There have been times in ISKCON when devotees felt the need to strongly establish Srila Prabhupada’s authority against challenges, real or perceived, from his godbrothers or from upstart disciples. I understand and sympathize with those who acted to preserve order and authority in historical times of crisis.

Yet I think such crises are behind us. Who in our circle would doubt Srila Prabhupada’s great authority and stature as a specially empowered world acarya and deep Vaisnava philosopher?

I would like to see the tone of discourse be more open, more willing to accept that there may be other bona fide angles of Vaisnava vision. We do not have to run to the barricades at the first hint of any apparent inconsistency. We should have a more philosophical and humble rather than doctrinaire and belligerent turn of mind, at least in dealing with other Gaudiya Vaisnavas (or even, as in this case, competing statements made by Srila Prabhupada himself).

We can be stern against the atheists, but give Vaisnavas the benefit of the doubt.

Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 01.05.2014 @ 14:07

“Brahma-sayujya and Krishna-lila—both may be possible. But when you came down from Brahma-sayujya or from Krishna lila, that remains a mystery.”

Recently a senior ISKCON sannyasi and scholar wrote me that there is evidence from scriptures and previous acaryas that one may be liberated in brahma-sayujya and never fall down again. That is why, he explained, the prospect of such liberation is so horrifying and hellish for Vaisnavas. How long might we stay in a state of impersonal liberation, outside of Krishna’s lila? We could get stuck there eternally!

I have to admit that in reading Srila Prabhupada’s books he always seems to emphasize that even if we attain brahma-sayujya we will eventually fall back down into conditioned karma and birth and death. Usually he cites “aruhya-krcchena param padam tatah patanty adhah” (S.B. 10.2.32) (But this Swami suggests that can be understood as only referring to jivan-muktis).

I cannot recall ever coming across a statement by Srila Prabhupada that we could get stuck eternally in brahma-sayujya and never return (although he describes the condition as “hellish”, “never accepted by Vaisnavas”, “last snare of maya”, etc.)

But whether it is eternally or just billions of billions of years, what difference should that make to us in terms of our own determination to attain the Lord’s lotus feet? We should be eager to attain Krishna now!

In the crow-and-tal-fruit letter, Srila Prabhupada explains the position that all jivas are by nature Krishna’s eternal servants, whether in maya or in Vaikuntha.

But he also says, as to whether we came down from brahma-sayujya or from Krishna’s lila, “both may be possible”. He further says that “when” remains a mystery. He is not calling on his disciples to defeat the view that we came down from brahma-sayujya, although at times he explained that brahma-sayujya should be understood as already a fallen condition (of course).

In Brahmaloka there is a limited duration of time before the destruction of the universe. Krishna says “punar avartino ‘rjuna” (B.G. 8.16) But in the brahmajyoti itself, time as we conceive it does not exist. Time is a form Krishna assumes in connection with His srsthi-sthithi-pralaya lila.

I do not find it objectionable to keep an open mind about these issues. Srila Prabhupada did not insist on us coming down hard on one side or the other. But we should avoid doubting, minimizing or neglecting Srila Prabhupada (of course).

Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 30.04.2014 @ 13:56

“On the top of a tree there was a nice tal fruit. A crow went there and the fruit fell down. Some panditas—big, big learned scholars—saw this and discussed: ‘The fruit fell due to the crow agitating the limb.’ ‘No, the fruit fell simultaneously with the crow landing and frightened the crow so he flew away.’ ‘No, the fruit was ripe, and the weight of the crow landing broke it from the branch.’ And so on and so on. What is the use of such discussions? So whether you were in the Brahma-sayujya or with Krishna in His lila, at the moment you are in neither, so the best policy is to develop your Krishna consciousness and go there [back to Godhead]—never mind what is your origin.”

The point of this crow and tal fruit story, it seems to me, is that we are not supposed to become partisans of one or another side of this apparent debate.

Of course, Srila Prabhupada does go on to make the point that when we are in maya, we are still indirectly in touch with Krishna through His energies, we cannot ever go out of the sun, and so on. He gives a thorough explanation that explains both sides of the issue.

But his emphasis seems to be not to take one side or the other (were we previously, “originally”, here or there?), but to teach us to avoid useless debates caused by our inability to understand, due to the limits of our conditioned state. There is a kind of categorical imperative that now prevents us from beholding Krishna, with all His inconceivable glory, through pure bhakti. We should understand and fix that.

Srila Prabhupada concluded his letter: “But we should think that, ‘because I am now covered by this clay, I am diseased.’ We should think that, ‘I must get to business to get myself uncovered,’ and not wonder how I got this way. Now the fruit is there—take it and enjoy. That is your first business. God is not bound by cause. He can change [anything]; He is the cause of all causes. Now don’t waste your time with this kaka-taliya-nyaya, ‘crow-and-tal-fruit logic.’”

I do not mean to accuse anyone here of crow-and-tal-fruit logic, but just to generally call on all of us to accept that it is better to look at all statements and harmonize them than to dig in our heels about whose statements are more authoritative. Srila Prabhupada’s explanations seem to be all-encompassing to me, to have that quality of accepting both sides and explaining how both can inconceivably be correct.

Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 30.04.2014 @ 13:19

“My position is that when Srila Prabhupada makes a conclusive statement and we see something from a previous acarya which seems to contradict it we must conclude that we misunderstand the statement of the previous acarya rather than reject what Srila Prabhupada says.”

You and I are in agreement about this.

“I do not know the grounds for your claim, “There is something in the tone of the article that might suggest (if unintentionally) that Srila Prabhupada really *did* teach something different from previous acaryas and we should accept Srila Prabhupada’s version as different and better.”

Just for the reasons alluded to by Swami B.A. Asrama. Please don’t take it hard. It seems like instead of focusing on and explaining the statements Srila Prabhupada (and other acaryas) have made that seem to contradict the position that we were previously with Krishna in his lila, with an effort to harmonize and show that both are absolutely true, and the seeming contradictions come from a defect in our own consciousness, your emphasized that Srila Prabhupada had made it clear that we were once with Krishna in His lila and fell down.

My experience in reading Srimad Bhagavatam is that Srila Prabhupada also does emphasize these other points, that we are eternally conditioned, our ignorance is beginningless, the nitya siddhas are a different category, no one ever falls from Vaikuntha, etc. These are points made by Srila Prabhupada and by scriptures and our previous acaryas, that should be explained.

When the GBC resolutions came down in 1995, I understood them as targeting certain devotees who were undermining faith in Srila Prabhupada’’s explanations of the subject, but there were some senior devotees who were upset with the decision (notably, Puskaraksa Prabhu’s saintly spiritual master Sriman Gour Govinda Swami). To such devotees it appeared that the GBC was taking a stand against the clear statements of scriptures and previous acaryas that appear to contradict the conclusion that we were previously with Krishna. It would be better to see more harmony and in-depth discussion of both “sides” of the subject.

I think the whole controversy should be a tempest in a teapot. The defect is our inability, as conditioned souls, to conceive of matters beyond time and space. We have to use terms like “before” and “once”, or provide a spacial locus for “where” the jivas “originated”. These are just signposts for our understanding.

Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 30.04.2014 @ 10:56

Regarding Puskaraksa’s comment # 18, I agree it is important to understand the distinction between nitya-siddha eternal associates of Krishna, nitya baddha conditioned souls, and also that people may become sadhana-siddha or krpa-siddha and attain perfection.

It can be confusing, because servants like Jaya and Vijaya come to this world with a certain purpose, for example to give Krishna an opportunity to sport with them in fighting. But in the “Crow and Tal Fruit” letter Srila Prabhupada says that on the strength of the example of Jaya and Vijaya he says we fell from Krishna’s lila. (!)

We must recognize that Krishna’s eternal associates never fall down, and that it is an offense for a conditioned soul to think, “I am Subala, I am Nanda Maharaja” or anything like that. Krishna’s eternal associates, though they are not Visnu-tattva, are fully empowered with 55 of His 64 qualities, and they reside eternally in the spiritual world. They never forget Krishna, even if they come to this world for some purpose, such as to assist Him with His pastimes.

Now, Narada Muni tells a story of how he became perfect after taking prasada and hearing from Vaisnava “Bhaktivedantas”. Does that mean he is a sadhana sidha and not a nitya siddha living entity? Or was his life as a maidservant’s son an arrangement of yogamaya’s, like Jaya and Vijaya’s three births as demons? I have heard devotees express opposite conclusions about this.

It gets confusing when we consider that Lord Caitanya says (Cc. Madhya 22.77): “nitya-siddha krishna-prema ’sadhya’ kabhu naya sravanadi-suddhe-citte karaya udaya”. We awaken the “nitya-siddha” (!) Krishna prema in our hearts by sankirtan. It is not gained from some outside source.

And so we have passages like this, from a lecture Srila Prabhupada gave in New York, July 13, 1976:

“But the actual constitutional position of every living entity is nitya-siddha, because God is eternal and His part and parcels, the living entities, they are also eternal. So that is nitya-siddha. Nitya-siddha, sadhana-siddha, krpa-siddha—there are different grades. They are all described in The Nectar of Devotion. So one can become sadhana-siddha. By following the rules and regulations and instructions of the spiritual master, he can also become siddha. He can become again nitya-siddha.

“So the Krsna consciousness movement is to make the nitya-baddhas again nitya-siddha, to bring them. It is a difficult task.”

So it can be confusing.

Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 29.04.2014 @ 14:46

The point of my quoting Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur Prabhupada’s “‘Back to God, and back to home’ is the message of the Gaudiya Math” in Comment #1, in case it was not clear (I did not have space to explain further but I hoped it was clear), was just to show that “Back to Godhead” was not some invention of Srila Prabhupada, but that Srila Prabhupada’s teachings are all continuous with the teachings of Bhaktisiddhanta Saravsvati, Bhaktivinode Thakur and all the acaryas.

Srila Prabhupada frequently said, “I have presented the message intact, without adding or subtracting anything, exactly as I have heard it in disciplic succession.”

If there appears to be a contradiction between the teachings of one acarya and another, we should understand that it is due to our own defective understanding.

It makes no sense to suggest that Srila Prabhupada was teaching us some “simplified” version. What he was teaching is apparently contradictory, so how is it simplified?

I sympathize with Sita Rama because I have heard devotees actually argue that Srila Prabhupada was wrong (I have been told “he didn’t know”!), or that he was deliberately teaching us something wrong, but it seemed to me like these devotees were accepting a more simplified version, and were trying to “jump over” their own spiritual master.

But I also sympathize with Swami B.A. Asrama because there is something in the tone of the article that might suggest (if unintentionally) that Srila Prabhupada really *did* teach something different from previous acaryas and we should accept Srila Prabhupada’s version as different and better. I do not think Srila Prabhupada would want us to think in that way.

When we hear in writings of previous acaryas things like, “The marginal jivas originated on a line of demarcation…”, we should try to see how these are various descriptions of inconceivable things. We know from Bhagavad-gita that jivas did not “originate’ at all, in the sense of having at one time never existed.

Vedic aphorisms such as “eko bahu syam” (the one God expanded Himself into many) does not mean that there was a time before there were many. These things happen outside the realm of time.

We should not think, “Once there was no Lord Caitanya, and then Krishna decided to experience being Lord Caitanya.” These transcendental pastimes are happening eternally, beyond material time.

It is inconceivable to us because of our own view of time.

Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 28.04.2014 @ 15:44

Karma is beginningless, but it is not eternal. Therefore to say one is “eternally conditioned” does not mean that he will never come out of conditioning. It just means that no one can trace out exactly when and how he came to be conditioned. He is said to be conditioned from time immemorial. You cannot go back in time until you find out when he was first conditioned.

Karma does not exist in the spiritual world. Everything that happens in the spiritual world happens outside the realm of material time. Everything that happens there is eternal. If karma were there, karma would be eternal too.

As soon as a marginal jiva misuses his independence then immediately he is placed in the realm of duality and fear (bhayam dvitiyabhinivesatam syad, SB 11.2.37). It does not make sense to argue whether it happens on this side or that side.

I think devotees make too much of this apparent contradiction. It is just a matter of spiritual time being inconceivable to us in our conditioned state. we think things need to follow a sequence of before and after. In the spiritual world time is not separated that way. Nothing there is subject to the quality of passing away even for the space of half a moment.

The GBC resolutions of 1995 do not prevent any thorough discussion of this topic, unless one wants to suggest that Srila Prabhupada was mistaken or dissimulating.

Res. No 79 says:

“1) Vaikuntha is that place from which no one ever falls down. The living entity belongs to Lord Krsna’s marginal potency (tatastha-sakti). On this we all agree. The origin of the conditioned life of the souls now in this material world is undoubtedly beyond the range of our direct perception. We can therefore best answer questions about that origin by repeating the answers Srila Prabhupada gave when such questions were asked of him:

“The original home of the living entity and the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the spiritual world. In the spiritual world both the Lord and the living entities live together very peacefully. Since the living entity remains engaged in the service of the Lord, they both share a blissful life in the spiritual world. However, when the living entity, misusing his tiny independence, wants to enjoy himself, he falls down into the material world.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.28.54, purport)

No ISKCON devotee shall present or publish any contrary view … “

Srila Prabhupada presented the whole topic thoroughly and in line with all acaryas

Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 28.04.2014 @ 15:24

It is not surprising that our ordinary logic fails us when we try to speak of what we were doing “before” we were conditioned. The very notion of “before” and “after”, at least in the conventional sense, seems only to apply to those who are under the control of material time, with its past, present and future. In other words, these notions do not properly apply to those who are not conditioned.

Therefore it also should not surprise us that different scriptures and acaryas may describe these things differently. Their descriptions should be taken as correct, and apparent contradictions with other authoritative should be taken as inconceivable to us in our present state.

Srila Prabhupada’s books contain many references to “anadi-karma”, to our having been conditioned “since time immemorial”, since before time began, for many creations and annihilations of whole universes, and also statements that “no one ever falls from the spiritual world.”

And yet he also mentions that we were previously with Krishna in His eternal lila but we misused our independence and fell.

And in his famous “Crow and Tal Fruit” letter, he warns us not to waste time arguing about it. It is beyond our comprehension.

As noted in Chapter 15 of Jaiva Dharma, “When we who are living in the world of material time and space try to describe the spiritual world, we tend to say things like, ‘The individual souls were created,’ ‘the individual souls were imprisoned by maya,’ ‘the spiritual world was manifested,’ and ‘the individual souls are spiritual and were not created by maya.’ When we talk in these ways, we certainly show how much we are influenced by staying in this world of material time.”

One thing we know is that we have a “svarupa”, or eternal, constitutional nature. Lord Caitanya tells us that the jivas’ ’svarupa’ is as Krishna’s servants, eternally. Krishna consciousness is not an artificial imposition on the mind but is the dormant, original consciousness of the jiva, which is reawakened by chanting Hare Krishna. Thus, going “Back to Godhead” is not like visiting some new, foreign realm, but is returning to our original, eternal home, awakening the “nitya-siddha krishna prema” which already exists in our hearts.

In the inaugural English edition of the Harmonist (June 1927), Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvarti Thakur wrote, “‘Back to God, and back to home’ is the message of the Gaudiya Math.” (”The Gaudiya Math: Its Message and Activities”)

Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 21.04.2014 @ 01:02


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