editorials

Lively, insightful commentary on contemporary issues facing spiritual practitioners.

reviews

Book, film, and audio reviews of contemporary Gaudiya media, as well as a wide variety of media of interest to the spiritually minded.

news

News from around the world with an emphasis on alternative press that is especially relevant to spiritual practitioners.

classroom

Excerpts from classical Gaudiya texts, with and without commentaries, hosted by teachers with whom readers can interact and ask questions.

philosophy

Philosophical articles on Gaudiya Vaisnavism that focus on the tradition’s scriptural conclusions as well as its feeling for the nature of ultimate reality.

Home » editorials

What is the Bhaktivinoda Parivara?

Submitted by on June 18, 2012 – 11:51 pm29 Comments

By Nitaisundara dasa

Since the time of Srila Bhaksiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, those in his lineage have been taught to see themselves as members of the Bhaktivinoda parivara, or the family of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. In looking on the Thakura as our founding father in this regard, it behooves us to try to understand him and his vision deeply and thereby understand what it truly means to self-identify as a lineage stemming from him.

Of course, the Thakura’s concrete accomplishments alone are astounding. His role in reinvigorating Gaudiya Vaishnavism and in many ways initiating its interface with modernity can never be downplayed. In the auspicious invocation to his commentary on Bhaktivinoda’s songbook, Saranagati, Srila Bhakti
Raksaka Sridhara Deva Goswami encapsulates Bhaktivinoda’s contributions as follows:

guru-dam grantha-dam gaura-dhama-dam nama-dam muda
bhakti-dam bhuri-dam vande bhakti-vinodakam sada1

With great joy I perpetually bow to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, who has given us sri guru (Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakura), bestowed countless scriptures of Gaudiya Vaishnavism (which rep­res­ent the com­pre­hens­ive and con­densed essence of revealed truth), and revealed the abode of Sriman Mahaprabhu. He is the giver of the holy name (the proper con­cep­tion of the name), the granter of pure devo­tion, and the bestower of an abund­ance of divine for­tune.

In other words, he gave us everything.

At the same time, Bhaktivinoda’s significance is not ‘only’ that he gave us the above-mentioned blessings, but he did so in such a way as to lay the groundwork for Gaudiya Vaishnavism to be an enduringly relevant and practicable tradition in a world that is (one some level) rapidly shifting, both physically and conceptually. While it may seem like these two aspects—the dissemination of the teachings and their long-term applicability to people and their practice—are one and the same, this is not necessarily the case. In fact, the two often struggle to align.

In the introduction to his magnum opus, Systematic Theology, Paul Tillich writes:

Theology moves back and forth between two poles, the eternal truth of its foundation and the temporal situation in which the eternal truth must be received. Not many theological systems have been able to balance these two demands perfectly. Most of them either sacrifice elements of the truth or are not able to speak to the situation. Some of them combine both shortcomings.

This oscillating between poles is the labor of love that acaryas give themselves to, ever-navigating a thin line between timelessness and timeliness. In this endeavor, I would contend that ‘perfection’ is ultimately defined by the presence of pure motive within the heart. This is because any presentation of the teachings will always only resonate with some of the people, and all teachings, no matter how pure, will be distorted by some as well. Thus we find different acaryas approaching this task differently, incorporating varying degrees of innovative explanations and practices in accord with their best assessment of how to do so. Some will feel it more pertinent to err toward one pole over the other. Provided they are moved by intense devotion within their hearts, all such differences are faultless. Nonetheless, we find some acaryas manage to negotiate this dynamic tension in such a way that not only do they successfully convey the eternal truth (timelessness) in a way that “speaks to the situation” (timeliness), but their presentation continues to speak to the situation, far beyond its initial setting. They become almost timelessly timely.

We find such an extraordinary feat in the teachings of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. The Thakura, like every acarya, gave specific explanations, practices, etc. for his time, but over and above that, he gave a model for dynamic, nonsectarian thinking about the tradition, through which a variety of practices and differences among Gaudiya sects (and beyond) could be appreciated and not become a burden to future generations, who themselves would need to think dynamically.

By founding our family in the way he did, Bhaktivinoda established from the get-go the absolute necessity for dynamism, non-sectarianism, and deep, essential individual and collective spiritual engagement. He taught us what was and was not bhakti, going beyond the standard exclusion of desire for enjoyment (bhukti) and liberation (mukti) and looking critically upon the scripture with a willingness to break with literal readings of anything that did not have bearing on suddha-bhakti. In other words, he set an example for us of the kind of quintessential orientation that would be required to continue to “speak to the situation.” This trait of his has only become more pertinent and needed as science has continued to develop and the world has become increasingly influenced by materialistic philosophies (not to suggest that the two are inherently linked). Unfortunately, too few have risen to the occasion.

While the principle and practice of saragrahi (essential) Vaishnavism is thriving in the hearts and lives of all saranagatas, it is a thread that runs more overtly through all of Bhaktivinoda’s teachings. In honoring his divine legacy on the day of his tirobhava we should implore him for his grace in bringing such essentialism into our own lives and practice; that we may come to a point where our path suddenly widens, we become able to derive insight and inspiration from many sources, and we are imbued with a sincere compassion that removes the ulterior motives present even in our attempts to share Mahaprabhu’s teachings with others.

It is said colloquially that the parents live on in their children, and although today marks the commemoration of Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s disappearance, by his grace and that of his successors we can play some part in carrying on their legacy, recognizing that its very nature is such that this continuation is unlikely to appear just as it did in the past or the same in all places in the present.

In closing, we offer an excerpt deliberating on the nature of sectarianism from Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Sri Krishna Samhita:

Sectarianism is a natural byproduct of the Absolute Truth. When acaryas first ascertain and instruct the truth, it is not polluted with sectarianism. But the rules and regulations received through disciplic succession regarding the goal and the method of achieving it are changed in due course of time according to the mentality and locale of the people. A rule that is followed by one society is not necessarily accepted in another society. That is why one community is different from another.

As a community gradually develops more respect for its own standards, it develops hatred towards other communities and considers their standards inferior. These sectarian symptoms are seen in all countries since time immemorial. This is prominent amongst neophytes and found to some extent amongst madhyama-adhikaris. Amongst uttama-adhikaris, however, there is no trace of sectarianism. Adherence to a particular standard is the prominent symptom of a society. […] Differences that arise from places, times, languages, behaviors, foods, dresses, and natures of various communities are incorporated within people’s spiritual practices and gradually make one community so completely different from another community that even the consideration that everyone is a human being may cease to exist. Due to these differences there is disagreement, cessation of social intercourse, and fighting, even up to the point of killing on another. When an asslike mentality becomes prominent within the kanishta-adhikaris, they certainly indulge in these things. But if they develop a swanlike mentality, then they do not take part in quarrels; rather, they endeavor to attain a higher level.

———

  1. Sri Laghu-chandrika-bhasya: 1.8 []

———

29 Comments »

  • Mat

    I especially like Thakura’s statement that descriptions of hell in Srimad Bhagavatam are not to be taken literally, but that they were put in SB for a particular purpose.

  • Prema-bhakti

    Wonderful article and glorification of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur Nitaisundara bhai! His writings are our lifeline. I am grateful to be in the company of Vaisnavas who honor that. I pray to always remain connected to the Bhaktivinode parivara, seated at the feet of my gurudeva.

  • Gauravani dasa

    Wow, great article. It is so humbling to think about the purity and motivation behind what Bhaktivinoda has done for us. Thanks for writing this.

  • madan gopal das

    excellent! jayo saragrahi vaisnava vrnda!

    • madan gopal das

      I was thinking yesterday of how Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was fond of saying “preaching is the essence.” When we consider Thakur Bhaktivinoda’s description of the saragrahi vaisnava as an “essence seeker” able to sift and sort essentials from details, as well as his emphasis you have noted here on non-sectarianism, the obvious conclusion we come to is that we should never draw sectarian boundaries based on differing preaching styles of devotees. What a disastrous mistake that would be.

  • Kula-pavana

    While this is an excellent article and a very fitting glorification of Bhaktivinoda Thakura, I think that Bhaktivinoda Parivara also includes his other son, Lalita Prasada, as well as his legacy and contribution to the understanding of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. It would be nice to mention that, especially in the context of non-sectarian approach Srila BVT was famous for.

    • Yes, but it was BSST who came up with the term and notion of a “Bhaktivinode parivara.” Usually the term parivara is used in reference to the associates of Mahaprabhu who started lineages, Advaita, Nityananda, Gadadhara, etc. But in special cases the term has been applied to acaryas within lineages they themselves have not started and then used with regard to them thereafter. The Narottama parivara and the Syamananda parivara are examples. While BVT is in the Nityananda parivara, it was BSST who chose to refer to his lineage that followed in the footsteps of BVT with regard to creative preaching and interfacing with modernity as the Bhaktivinoda parivara. BVT’s other son, Lalita Prasada, probably referred to himself as a member of the Nityananda parivara. I know some who were initiated by him did.

      • Kula-pavana

        Thanks for the clarification, Maharaja.
        Is it not true that BVT explicitly considered himself a member of the Nityananda parivara as well? After all his diksa guru, Bipin Bihari Goswami, comes from that lineage.

        • I believe that he did. Naturally he did not refer to his lineage as the Bhaktivinoda parivara. Such is the glorification of the Thakura on the part of his disciples. But it is glorification that is accurate in terms of the Thakura’s unique contribution–not religious fanaticism.

  • Ishan das

    Although not directly stated in this article, it appears that this subject matter, the splintering of a beautiful truth into separate groups which display symptoms of rivalry and mutual disapproval is something that we in the west are already living with, only a few decades after the disappearance of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

    As the Thakur points out in his writing,

    “As a community gradually develops more respect for its own standards, it develops hatred towards other communities and considers their standards inferior. These sectarian symptoms are seen in all countries since time immemorial. This is prominent amongst neophytes and found to some extent amongst madhyama-adhikaris. Amongst uttama-adhikaris, however, there is no trace of sectarianism.”

    It is to be understood that this description given by Srila Bhaktivenoda is more than an observation of how things evolve, but rather a warning and solution as to how to avoid this unfortunate tendancy. Simply put, the only way to avoid this disintegrative effect is that we must endeavor to come to the stage of madhyama-adhikari with a strong aspiration for becoming pure devotees.

    Therefore if we are to honor Srila Bhaktivenode in truth, we must contemplate the differences between these successive stages of developement and examine ourselves according to these criteria.

    As a point of pracitcal application that comes to mind, perhaps we should reconsider whether certain cartoons on our web sites can be instrumental in cultivating these feelings of disparity. There was one about a waterfall……

    • One has to careful of conflating the lack of discrimination found in the uttama adhikari that is a result of realization and the lack of discrimination found in the kanistha adhikari that is a result of insufficient theoretical and practical knowledge. Such lack of discrimination on the part of the kanistha is his or her downfall.

      When confronted with a deeper understanding of the import of scripture, the kanistha must exercise spiritual discrimination and come to leave misconceptions behind, embracing correct ones. If the kanistha does not do this, his or her practice in resistance to the opportunity to progress and acceptance of the requisite growing pains, his or her practice becomes a breeding ground for offenses.

      Although an uttama adhikari himself, BVT pointed out twelve deviant sects prominent during his time that philosophically misrepresented the teachings of Rupa Goswami. I do not think many would object to cartoons or whatever that depicted the misconceptions of any of these sects.

      In our times (1982) Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja said, “I fear for the future of Iskcon. It is cracked at the foundation. It will become a shadow sampradaya.”

      Meanwhile others have reacted to this sect’s failings in different ways. Some took shelter of an uttama adhikari like Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja. Some remained in the sect and supported its position. Some became discouraged and fell to the sidelines. Some created a reactionary apasampradaya.

      • Vishnumurti

        I am not so sure that lumping the ritvik groups in with the apa-sampradayas such as:āula, bāula, kartābhajā, neḍā, daraveśa, sāṅi, sahajiyā, sakhībhekī, smārta, jāta-gosāñi, ativāḍī, cūḍādhārī and gaurāṅga-nāgarī etc. is really fair. If we look at Srila Prabhupada’s explanation of apa-sampradaya we find “In the present day there are many apasampradāyas, or sampradāyas which are not bona fide, which have no link to authorities like Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva, the Kumāras or Lakṣmī.”(SB 6.3.20-21, Purport)

        To say that the ritvik groups have no “link” to the bona-fide authorities is a bit of a stretch if you ask me and an unnecessary assault on a class of devotees that might be struggling within the faith of the Krishna consciousness movement.

        I don’t think that assaulting the ritvik groups really helps any preacher advance his own mission. It just seems like an unproductive and unnecessary foray into the grey zone of movement politics.

        The ritviks have a siksha link to the parampara though their diksha link might be in question per the tradition. To say they have NO LINK seems to be a bit of an assault on the concept of siksha-guru parampara that Sridhar Maharaja so nicely explained,

        • It is hardly “politics” to point out that a sect has no parampara, no ongoing succession. And this holds true for both Iskcon and ritviks. Both have concocted a scripturally incorrect idea of succession/parampara. Iskcon has the GBC as the successor with formal gurus in place that are not the disciples’ ultimate spiritual authority. Ritivks see no successor to Prabhupada and try to make a purvacarya the present acarya. And in both of these sects we find opposition to advanced devotees outside of their sects. Both for example show enmity toward Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja.

          Siksa guru parampara does not do away with diksa, nor does it do way with the need for a living siksa guru to be the dynamic successor. It is not about attaching oneself to a purvacarya in the name of having a siksa guru. It is about connecting oneself with a living siksa guru of spiritual substance in the event that one’s disksa guru is lacking in knowledge and realization. Thus for example, we trace our line more from BVT to Jaganatha dasa babaji (BVT’s siksa guru) than we do to Bipin-behari Goswami (BVT’s diksa guru).This is the idea of a siksa guru parampara or Bhagavata guru parampara.

      • Ishan das

        “One has to careful of conflating the lack of discrimination found in the uttama adhikari that is a result of realization and the lack of discrimination found in the kanistha adhikari that is a result of insufficient theoretical and practical knowledge. Such lack of discrimination on the part of the kanistha is his or her downfall.”

        Dear respected teacher, I accept what you are pointing out in the above quote. From what I can understand, I am actually, as you are saying, a kanistha adhikari with a lack of discrimination which is a result of insufficient theoretical and practical knowledge.

        I don’t want this lack of discrimination to be my downfall. At the same time it may very well be that I am in such a low level of Krishna Consciousness that there is not much distance through which I can fall.

        The fact is that I do not know what the official position of ISKCON is, what they are teaching, in terms of the guru issue. I do not know what the “ritvik” position is. And I do not know what is the siddhanta according to our Gaudiya sampradaya.

        I feel fortunate that I was initiated by Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. But it seems that my attachment to him was and is still largely sentimental. I have always thought of him as a topmost paramahamsa who has an intimate relationship with Krishna, in a dimension that is beyond my capacity to percieve. But when these subject matters are raised I don’t feel that I have the philosophical grounding to follow the arguments.

        I like reading your books, but for the most part, after putting the book down, I cannot explain what I have read. I simply feel that you know what you are talking about, and feel that if I continue hearing from you that gradually I will come to understand a little by degree.

        I left ISKCON in the early 1980’s, simply disgusted with what appeared to be nonsensical posturing on the part of leaders who demanded a level of respect and surrender that I could not give them. But in you I sense something so very different. I do not feel the same way in relation to you as I did in relation to Srila Prabhupada. But I do feel that you are rightly situated and well situated and that by coming closer to you it will be to my advantage if I am capable of utilizing the opportunity that you are extending.

        Although Srila Prabhupada said that everything we need is in his books, and I have read those books, I feel very incapable of dealing with the kinds of issues that are being discussed in this thread.

        When I first began submitting comments, I can see that I thought I had a lot to say. But over time I have come to understand that this is not so. I am simply a kanistha adhikari materialsitic devotee. I know a little about Krishna. But I don’t know Krishna.

        Do you envision any hope for me? I cannot give up my tiny practice of japa and reading and kirtan because I am afraid of material life, and there is some tiny taste. But my progress is so small. Please tell me what you feel is best for me to hear.

        • Ishan dasa,

          You suffer only from lack of theoretical understanding on some aspects of the philosophy. It was Prabhupada’s desire and that of Sridhara Maharaja as well that I help devotees like yourself strengthen your theoretical understanding. So I am making an effort to do that. “Everything we need is in Prabhupada’s books” includes the idea that we need sadhu sanga to understand the implications of those books. And sadhu sanga is meant to unsettle us that we may progress. I think there is great hope for you, given your submissive and respectful attitude.

          • Ishan das

            Dear Swami Tripurari,

            I feel tearful on receiving your kind, patient and encouraging words.

            Recently we have had discussions on this site:

            – how and why the jiva finds him/her self in this material world.

            – approaches to the guru issue as taken by ISKCON, the ritvik group, and ultimately the bonafide shastric conclusion. Also, how I should (shouldn’t ?) relate to these groups.

            Although your comments are interspersed in the threads, I wish that there were concentrated comprehensive, definitive portrayals of these subjects given by you so that I could achieve a sense of balance in those connections.

            I see that you have done this with repect to “the fall” and I will be reading that very carefully.

            Could you do something similar with the “guru” issue, covering the range of concerns?

        • Gauravani dasa

          Dandavats Ishan,

          Although your comments are interspersed in the threads, I wish that there were concentrated comprehensive, definitive portrayals of these subjects given by you so that I could achieve a sense of balance in those connections.

          Below are links to posts with extensive discussion in the comments about guru-tattva and ritvikvada.

          Nectar of Deviation

          As It Was

          I’ve wanted to compile these into a structured dialog but have not been able to make the time.

          • Ishan das

            Thank you Prabhu, so much. Having been out of touch for so many years, just me and my bead bag and books, and then coming back to association, I was overwhelmed by these issues. At first my inclination was to ignore it, but Swami BVT’s instructions indicate that I should understand the issues clearly. Thank you again, Ishan

      • Gaura Gopal

        Dandavats Maharaja,
        You quoted Srila Sridhar Maharaja in your post in 1982 as saying:

        “I fear for the future of Iskcon. It is cracked at the foundation. It will become a shadow sampradaya.”

        Is there a particular reference (date) for that quote?

  • Vishnumurti

    I think it is important to understand that the modern day devotees of the Bhaktivinode Parivara in the line of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati are not direct followers of Bhaktivinode but followers of the main branch of the Bhaktivinode Parivar. Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami laid down certain strictures and principles that distinguish his lineage from the other direct followers of Bhaktivinode. Srila Sridhar Dev Goswami was undoubtedly the greatest exponent of the Bhaktivinode-Saraswata conception and the Dean of Bhaktivinode-Saraswata school.
    Parivara means “dependents (family)” or it can also sometimes be used to mean “followers”. To say “Bhaktivinode Parivara” means the spiritual family of Bhaktivinode. Yet, we also must keep in mind that Bhaktivinode is the Grandfather of the family and not the father as far as the disciples of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhar Maharaja are concerned. The grandfather is sometimes more liberal and generous than the father, yet one must never lose touch with one’s own father and any particular rules and regulations that he might have established in his own family. We should never jump over our father and say “but grandpa said this or that”. Obey your father. If anything appears inconsistent between what the father says and what the grandfather said, we should always give primacy to the orders of the father.

    • Nitaisundara

      Thank you Vishnumurti. Kula-pavana has already pointed out that Bhaktivinoda Thakura has other followers, and Swami Tripurari already addressed why it is not inappropriate to limit a discussion to the Gaudiya-Saraswat Sampradaya when speaking about the “Bhaktivinoda parivara.” As for the family analogy, I agree that the determinations of the father take precedent, but the father also wants to see the children grow and become adults themselves, at which time one can only hope they will have the ability to make their own determinations for the highest good of their own children. This is one of the main points of the article: that Bhaktivinoda laid a foundation conducive to this ongoing nurturing and presentation of spiritual life. As for myself, I am still very much a child, but I take your advice to heart and give my spiritual father’s directives primacy over my grandfathers’ (Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhara Maharaja) and those preceding them.

      • Vishnumurti

        Yes, even today the adjustment and readjustment to time, place and circumstance must keep pace with the changing world we live in. It cannot stop with Srila Prabhupada or Srila Sridhar Maharaja. Time marches on, so we must always try to keep pace with proper adjustment. Religion means proper adjustment, not blind adherence to a bygone age. Western devotees can and must make the proper adjustment that even Indian gurus like Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhar Maharaja etc. did not make in their own times. If we get stuck in a time warp of a time gone by we cannot present Krishna consciousness in a framework that addresses the current state of world affairs.
        New revelation is inherent and intrinsic to the progress of spirituality in the world. Dogmatic adherence to the past is not a progressive momentum. We must be true to the spirit of the law and not the letter of the law.
        Of course not all of the contemporary preachers are going to agree on what is the proper adjustment for the day and age. Therefore, there is no other option available than for each and every individual to choose the initiator that he thinks and feels best espouses the faith according to his own inner necessity.

    • Kula-pavana

      In every family love, understanding, and mutual respect are of the utmost importance, or the family will fall apart, and will be a family in theory only. That is something very practical that most people experienced in their own lives. There must be a living tradition of love, understanding, and mutual respect – not merely an obedience to the father’s pronouncements, especially when such pronouncements are clearly subject to interpretation, as well as being subject to time, place, and circumstance considerations.
      The study of family’s extended history helps us establish the working boundaries of what is proper behavior and proper doctrine within the family. Those who think that for the next 10,000 years the members of Bhaktivinoda parivara are supposed to act and preach in a way Srila Prabhupada did in 1960’s and 70’s are simply delusional. All it takes is one look at the last 150 years of our family’s history to realize how absurd that concept really is. Look at the changes that took place, look at the new personalities that came into being during that time. Every family is a dynamic living thing, constantly adjusting in order to survive and fulfill it’s mission. Once you forget that, you are doomed to become extinct, or at best irrelevant.
      When BSST referred to his line a Bhaktivinoda parivara, he essentially enshrined the revolutionary and evolutionary character of BVT’s take on Gaudiya Vaishnavism. You can not call yourself a member of this parivara if you are a claustrophobic religious fundamentalist, insisting on a static interpretation of your tradition.

      • Ishan das

        ” You can not call yourself a member of this parivara if you are a claustrophobic religious fundamentalist, insisting on a static interpretation of your tradition.”

        Although your points are well-taken, still we must also remember what Baktivenoda Thakur is pointing out:

        “As a community gradually develops more respect for its own standards, it develops hatred towards other communities and considers their standards inferior. These sectarian symptoms are seen in all countries since time immemorial. This is prominent amongst neophytes and found to some extent amongst madhyama-adhikaris. Amongst uttama-adhikaris, however, there is no trace of sectarianism.”

        In other words, this is a two-way street. On the one hand there will be others who will inevitably cling to what you consider out-moded and who will judge those who adopt more effective ways according to time and place. However, if we in turn fall into the same fault-finding mentality, then we are, as the Thakur points out, in the same boat, as this tendancy “is prominent amongst neophytes”, while “Amongst uttama-adhikaris, however, there is no trace of sectarianism.”

        Again, the Thakur states that these differences always do and will arise. But the uttama adhikari, although experiencing this will continue to offer all respect even in the face of heavy criticism. This does not mean that we are not prepared to defend our stand. But still, we honor them as part of Krishna’s family, and also, especially as persons who are trying to become more devoted to Krishna. That they fault-find us is their misfortune. But let us not make it our misfortune in return.

        I have to admit my short-comings in this connection. But reading the Thakur’s words has helped me to see that I also tend to fall into the trap. It is not a question of which camp we are in; but a question of camp consciousness. “Amongst uttama-adhikaris, however, there is no trace of sectarianism.”

  • Rudrani dd

    Thank you, Nitaisundara prabhu, for a refreshingly essential article. May the spirit of the Thakura preside in our consciousness, our thoughts, our words, our deeds. May it engage our being into pure acts of devotion to the Lord and thoughtful consideration of the needs of others. May his exquisite devotional
    poetry infuse our hearts and guide our lives.

  • Vrindaranya dasi

    Wonderful article! I especially liked the point about some acaryas who “become almost timelessly timely” and the one that Bhaktivinode Thakura—beyond giving a specific practices— gave a “model for dynamic, nonsectarian thinking.” A lot of devotees overemphasize the specific set of practices an acarya gives (even to the point of thinking of them as something that can be franchised)—as if the parampara can just hang on to a particular set of practices and be free from the need to change, adjust, or otherwise deal with the fact that time exists. Time is Krsna. The truth isn’t established once for all time, but rather is established millennium after millennium. Truth is dynamic, perfect, but ever-expanding. Therefore, real security is not gained by freezing a set of practices and clinging on to a static set of rules but rather by having faith in Krsna’s mercy in the form of the acarya and following the crooked path of love—dynamic revelation that is ever-fresh and exciting.

    • Prema-bhakti

      This oscillating between poles is the labor of love that acaryas give themselves to, ever-navigating a thin line between timelessness and timeliness. In this endeavor, I would contend that ‘perfection’ is ultimately defined by the presence of pure motive within the heart.

      Very nice comments Vrindaranya. What I find is that when faith is weak the tendency to “freeze a set of practices” as you say, becomes pronounced. The statement above reveals to me the cause for static presentation. When one cannot recognize who is a Vaisnava and consequently feels no one else is pure but those that have been deemed overwhelmingly so as in the case of Srila Prabhupada, it leaves no room for others to be acknowledged as pure in the sense of being deemed “acarya” status. And who would dare in such a climate act on such an assumption as they would surely be labeled a heretic or worse.

      • Theist

        I sense in these comments a bias against the Prabhupadanugas, and a subtle attempt to classify them as religous fanatics which from my independent perspective shows a lack of compassion for those that endured the horrific events that were perpetrated by the hands of self-appointed pure devotees.

        It is no wonder they are distrustful of people who claim to be pure devotees and who instead of commanding respect, demand respect when they saw the example of Prabhupada who commanded respect based on his qualities.

        If the traditionalists who mock and deride the Prabhupadanugas are creating pure devotees then let them be seen by their qualities and I am sure in time eventually the trauma the Prabhupadanugas endured will subside and any pure devotees on the planet will get the respect they command by their qualities.

        • Nitaisundara

          Theist, I think a strong argument can be made that the very term “Prabhupadanuga” has arisen int he context of a fanatical environment. I use the term fanatical here to mean any instance in which an emotional attachment eclipses the teachings. Is it necessary to replace Rupa with Srila Prabhupada in order to be “Prabhupadanugas”? Was Srila Prabhupada any less of a “Prabhupada (Bhaktisiddhanta) man” for never coining the term “Saraswatanuga” or “Prabhupadanuga” in his own time?

          Furthermore, how does one appropriately show compassion for misconception? By fanning it? By pretending it is not illusion? What about when this misconception borders on or is overtly offensive, as is the case with many who call themselves “Prabhupadanugas”? The Bhagavatam (11.02.46) says a discriminating devotee will show mercy to those who are in need of guidance (which, at least on this issue, such people are) and indifference to those who show envy (which an unfortunate number have shown also). The extent to which why any person is how they are can factor into our reaction to them is limited.

          Nobody mentioned anything about people who call themselves pure devotees, which is a vague term people use to mean any number of things anyway.

          Lastly, I think Prema’s point was that many people simply do not know what qualities to look for, even after we give them the benefit of the doubt that they truly are looking. Vaishnava’s are hard to understand, and if someone is so externally oriented that only an acarya with hundreds of temples and thousands of followers can elicit their faith, then yes, they have a problem. To assume that a group of people who have been steadily cultivating suspicion of all spiritual authorities while also fanning exclusivism to their version of Srila Prabhupada will simply turn over and fall at the feet of anyone who shows great qualities is extremely naive. Neither faith nor doubt work that cleanly.

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.

Subscribe without commenting