Comments Posted By bh. kurt harris
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It is true that Srila Prabhupada played the harmonium and also allowed his disciples to do so under certain circumstances.
But we should consider this example and instruction in context: Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura never allowed harmoniums in his preaching institution. I have spoken with members of the Gaudiya Math who are familiar with how strict he was on this point. Neither Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, His associates, the 6 Goswamis, Narottama das Thakura, Srinivasa Acarya, nor any of the other members of our acarya parampara ever played a harmonium to accompany Vaisnava kirtans or bhajans. It is only in much more recent history that the harmonium has become prominent. Even 50 years ago, harmoniums were rarely seen in Gaudiya Vaisnava society in holy places such as Vrndavana and Mayapur. Given this history and context, are the devotees still so confident that they can and should introduce other types of Western instruments based on the fact that Srila Prabhupada has allowed his disciples a limited use of the harmonium?
Another point is how harmoniums are played. In all the recordings of Srila Prabhupada playing the harmonium, you never hear him playing chords, such as major or minor triads, to accompany his singing. I’ve seen other devotees play the harmonium this way, but I’ve never heard this style from Srila Prabhupada. From the little I understand of accordion playing, it is all based on playing chords. There is a “button side” of the accordion which is used for playing drones which harmonize with the notes played on the keyboard. Thus the accordion is all based on harmonies which Srila Prabhupada (and our previous acharyas!) never used. Again, are the devotees still so confident that this instrument is not an innovation, and that it is authorized simply because harmoniums are also marginally authorized?
Consider this: Why did Srila Prabhupada have us offer Vedic foodstuffs to the Deities instead of the Western preparations we were already accustomed to making? Why did he have us wear Vedic clothing instead of the clothes we were already wearing? Why do devotees bother learning Sanskrit verses instead of simply learning their English translations? And finally, why did Srila Prabhupada introduce mrdunga and kartals into his kirtans instead of just having the devotees accompany the kirtans with Western instruments?
I think Srila Prabhupada introduced Vedic culture because Vedic culture and it’s paraphernalia are of a more refined, divine nature. It is both better for our consciousness and more pleasing to Krishna when we use the paraphernalia of Vedic culture in Krishna’s service. If we fail to recognize this, I think we open the floodgates for all kinds of lower culture to enter into our society. After all, electric guitars are based on the same tonal system as harmoniums, and rock drumkits can produce many of the same rhythms as a mrdunga ~~ maybe to attract followers or to please our own senses we can start using these instruments in our kirtans too?
It is true that Srila Prabhupada allowed his disciples to play harmoniums, and it is also true that accordions many have certain features in common with harmoniums. But I think if we consider this issue from a variety of perspectives, especially in the context of the history of Gaudiya Vaisnava instrumentation, from an understanding of the value of Vedic culture and from a simple understanding of the differences between Western and Vedic music, that the devotees should be very very careful to assume that the permission to use harmoniums gives us a license for various types of other instruments Srila Prabhupada did not specifically approve.
My strong opinion is that the devotees should not mix new Western instruments in with the performance of our most sacred duty, harinam sankirtan.
Comment Posted By bh. kurt harris On 27.07.2007 @ 23:22
I disagree with the last comment. So long as none of the devotees were doing hatha yoga postures, I don’t see any harm in the devotees chanting with those people.
My concern is why are the devotees playing an accordion? Surely this is not an authorized Vaisnava instrument. Neither Srila Prabhupada nor any of our Gaudiya Vaisnava acharyas ever played this instrument. This instrument is entirely based on the Western tonal system of music, and is thus definitely influenced by the lower modes of material nature. Such instruments are spoiling the natural sweetness of harinama sankirtan, and by performing on such instrument in public, the general populace is not being given an opportunity to relish pure Krishna kirtan.
It is a new ISKCON innovation that such instruments are being introduced into the Harinama sankirtan parties. My strong opinion is that all these instrumental innovations should be stopped. If we stick to the pure standard of Srila Prabhupada and our previous acharyas, only using mrdunga, kartals and in some instances harmonium to accompany the performance of harinam sankirtan, I am sure our kirtan parties will be more and more successful.
Comment Posted By bh. kurt harris On 24.07.2007 @ 16:45
I fully agree with Kesava Krsna Prabhu. I hope the kirtan standards committee will address djembes and minimize or eliminate their use in our ISKCON temple room kirtans. Djembes and other African drums are clearly in the mode of ignorance and passion and were never authorized by Srila Prabhupada — they are an innovation. In my opinion, they are spoiling the naturally sweet sounds of kirtan produced by melodious singing, kartal and mrdunga playing as per the standard of traditional Gaudiya Vaisnava kirtan.
None of our previous acharyas played djembes. Bhaktivinoda Thakura sings “madhura mrdanga baje”, not “madhura djembe baje.” I think ISKCON should promote a nice standard of mrdunga playing among its member instead of encouraging the use of foreign drums.
Please, kirtan committee, I implore you — look carefully at the fact that djembes are becoming so common and prevalent in ISKCON kirtans worldwide and carefully consider whether you think this is pleasing to Srila Prabhupada or not. We are waiting and hoping for your good guidance on this issue.
Comment Posted By bh. kurt harris On 16.06.2007 @ 10:59
I think it’s odd that devotees are so concerned with chocolate, yet it has become common practice to introduce African drums, such as djembes, into ISKCON kirtans performed in front of the Deities.
Prabhupada’s standard is to use mrdunga, kartals and in certain situations the harmonium, which is common practice in all Gaudiya Vaisnava kirtan. These instruments are pure and authorized. Djembes are a speculation, were never authorized by Prabhupada, and are clearly composed of the lower modes of nature.
If you are concerned with the subtle effects chocolate has on your consciousness (and perhaps you should be), please also be concerned that instruments composed of the lower modes of nature are now being used regularly in ISKCON. If chocolate has such potentially negative spiritual consequences on our consciousness, imagine the consequences of contaminating our primary spiritual practice — harinam sankirtan — with impure, unauthorized musical instruments.
Comment Posted By bh. kurt harris On 29.01.2007 @ 05:57
I respect the integrity of Pragosh Prabhu and the need to sometimes keep certain personal issues confidential. In general, I think when devotees have difficulty in their spiritual lives it’s really nobody’s business but theirs and their close associates and guides. Exposing people’s spiritual difficulties and making it the subject of internet chatter generally just drags everyone’s consciousness down.
I think it’s unfortunate that some devotees think it is somehow important to their spiritual lives to know about the faults of others, especially in regards to certain types of “falldowns.” I wonder if this need for “truth” isn’t just born out of envy. If someone in leadership has difficulty does it make you feel better about yourself to hear about it?
To anyone who insists that the truth must always be made public in this regard, I have several questions: How does hearing the faults of a Vaisnava help anyone? How does hearing the faults of others increase service to Guru and Krishna? If a sannyasi you hardly know had illicit sex, why is it your service to know all about it?
There are examples in our sampradaya of great Vaisnavas who would refuse to hear the faults of any other Vaisnava, true or not. Wouldn’t it be nice if more of us could give up the need to hear about other people’s problems and stick to humbly working on our own?
Comment Posted By bh. kurt harris On 04.11.2006 @ 15:22
Thank you for this excellent article!
Comment Posted By bh. kurt harris On 27.10.2006 @ 22:57
Maharaj‚Äôs last composed and last recorded song is one of the most beautiful and astonishing things I’ve ever heard in my life. I’ve never heard a devotee sing like that!
We are so unfortunate to have lost such an exceptional Vaisnava. This amazing recording really makes me sad that Maharaja is no longer with us. He was clearly empowered to communicate very deep and rich features of Vaisnava culture. This world is so much poorer without him.
Comment Posted By bh. kurt harris On 22.10.2006 @ 15:37
I want to applaud HH Satsvarupa Maharaja for being one of the very few senior leaders of ISKCON to publically take such a clear stance on this issue. I recognize that in such an intense political climate this is not an easy thing to do.
I would like to very humbly respond to a few of the points made by Lalita Madhava d.d.:
She has said that for HH Dhanudhara Swami to remain as an initiating guru would be “deeply disturbing” and “so utterly destructive that it is impossible to even contemplate the damage that would result. “
My sense is that you are very out of touch with the Dhanurdhara Swami of today. Whatever his faults of the past may be, those who know him have seen that he has matured into a very qualified Vaisnava, who is quite competent to nurture people’s faith in Krishna consciousness. He has initiated a very small handful of disciples, and helps many many more in their practice of devotional service.
My opinion is that he is not just a guru because of a vote by an official board; he is a guru because God has empowered him to do such service, and many people naturally recognize that he is uniquely capable to help them in their spiritual lives. The simple fact is that he will remain a guru no matter what any official board decides simply because he is qualified for this service, and because so many people feel they are dependent on him for this.
ISKCON is a large organization with many gurus. You may appreciate some gurus more than I, and I may appreciate some gurus more than you. If you chose not to accept Dhanurdhara Swami as your teacher that is your choice. But why deny others who will benefit from his association from making advancement in his association? My opinion is that what would really be destructive and damaging would be to deny many people an opportunity to make spiritual advancement.
Also, I find her comment “we still have his victims killing themselves” to be terribly inflamatory and unhelpful. Aside from those who were closest to Ananda (who have not chosen to publically comment on his suicide), it is mere speculation for any of us to say with real certainty the reasons for his decisions to take his own life. As I imagine you know, Ananda was a soldier, who had done a number of tours of duty in Iraq. There he lost friends and himself suffered terrible injuries, which resulted in permanent physical disabilites. He was also mistreated by doctors responsible to help him with his recovery. I only mention this to point out that it is likely irresponsible and unfair to place sole responsibility for his decision to commit suicide on the fact that Dhanurdhara Swami is still an ISKCON initiating guru. Ananda’s life took many traumatic turns beyond his years in gurukula. For this reason, I think to make such an inflamitory remark to be quite unhelpful.
Comment Posted By bh. kurt harris On 23.08.2006 @ 14:02
I respectfully disagree with Rambhadra Prabhu. It’s a mistake to re-sentance and convict Dhanurdhara Swami without a fair trial. It’s true that Laxmi Nrsimha Prabhu’s points may make life harder for the GBC by “gridlocking” their decision making process. But if the GBC handles this situation carelessly, and does not offer Dhanurdhara Swami a fair trial, perhaps by taking another look at the initial CPO decision, they risk alienating not only Dhanurdhara Swami, but his friends, well-wishers and supports from the association of ISKCON.
Thats why the details - the “trees” - really count here. Was Dhanurdhara Swami an uncontrolled monster who couldn’t help but abuse children? Or was he an immature devotee who tried to surrender everything to Srila Prabhupada’s service, was put in extenuating circumstances, and made mistakes which he regrets?
Figuring those questions out for sure is going to make a big difference in the spiritual lives of many people.
Comment Posted By bh. kurt harris On 26.07.2006 @ 17:34
Dear Lalita Madhava Mataji,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
I am sorry that you are disturbed by Satyaraja Prabhu’s article.
I think the simple point that needs to be made is this:
Compassion for a saintly Vaisnava and compassion for gurukula alumni do not have to be mutually exclusive.
The Swami has expressed remorse and has already taken a number of steps to assume responsibility for mistakes of the past - including apologizing on many occasions, voluntarily submitting himself to the ISKCON justice system, meeting with ex students and working things out, etc. He’s now left ISKCON as a service to Srila Prabhupada and ISKCON youth.
So why are there still devotees who are so determined to drag a good man down? Why is it compassionate to *anyone* to deny an accomplished Vaisnava his very substancial spiritual talents to be used in the service of Srila Prabhupada’s mission? If the Swami is so determined to serve Krishna as a sannayasi and a guru (neither easy services!!), and he can do a good job performing those services, why not support him?
Srila Prabhupada’s society needs inspired, enthusiastic devotees. These days, less and less people seem willing to take on the sacrifice of strictly following Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, taking up the austere vows of sannyasa, and making the major sacrifices involved in training disciples. It’s a shame to drag a good devotee down because of mistakes made 20+ years ago.
Recognizing these simple points makes us no less sympathetic to the plight of ex gurukulis. The Swami himself has matured considerably, by everyone’s estimation, and has gone to great lengths to support his ex students. Why not appreciate him for his exceptional strengths and his ability to contribute positively to our movement?
If we could just work together, instead of against each other, I’m sure that would be the most compassionate solution for all involved.
Comment Posted By bh. kurt harris On 24.07.2006 @ 23:27