Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Pam said, "to find a synthesis to these seemingly irreconcilable points of view is the challenge and is unheard of in GV circles." The only option for success is to climb to a higher vantage point and learn to see things as God sees. Otherwise what is the point of identifying with Krsna’s Consciousness? After all, Gauranga integrated Muslims, caste Brahmins and followers of different sampradayas. And for those who still have disturbance around who is a guru, Mahaprabhu's sannyasa guru was a Mayavadi.

Here is something to consider from our histories that shows how regardless of apparent indiscretions or contextually colored vision, greatness and truth can still be achieved. As the participants in these discussions have noted, the Founder Acarya of the movement from which we all took a spiritual birth, is not isolated from his critics. However, it should be noted by all, that before he came west with his personalized Bhagavad Gita, there were practically no western or European bhaktas.

Krsna's premise is that "every endeavor is covered by some kind of fault..." In this world, everything has denial mixed in with Truth, be it ever so small, that will affect the outcome of our endeavors. Please note this is presented without intent to offend……

Because we have consciously been connected to Krsna, we are the most contemporary chapters of the Mahabharata saga.

We can begin with Bhishma denying Amba's love, albeit it for a nobel purpose- to sooth the love stricken heart of his father. By shaming a righteous woman, her cosmic anger was allowed to reach Siva Himself, and (s)he became empowered to return as Sikhandi to kill him. Still, on the bed of arrows, he attracted Krsna to appear directly before him and listen to his discourse on dharma.

Out of social shame, Queen Kunti, denied her first-born son Karna. Because of her lack of acceptance, her oldest son went on to become the sworn enemy of his own brothers. Denial, born from social conditioning, covered her true feelings and created deadly resentment amongst her children. Still Queen Kunti remains Krsna's close associate.

Arjuna looked down upon Ekalavya, who without formal initiation by Drona, worshipped his guru via a mud figure in the jungle and became superior to Arjuna in talent. Arjuna, of Nara Narayana fame, complained to Drona that he was supposed to be the greatest archer and so caused the poor nishada's thumbs to be amputated. Still, without Arjuna there would be no Bhagavad Gita.

Later, when the competition came to test the prowess of Drona's students, Karna appeared uninvited into the arena, and again Arjuna was challenged. He secured his place only by belittling Karna's cast saying he was not fit by birth to challenge him. At that time it was none other than Duryodhana who spoke truth, that a person must only be understood and placed by his qualities and not by birth - the same truth that Caitanya fought for against the caste brahmins. Although Duryodhana was a heinous personality, some truth shone through.

The great Yudhistira, the embodiment of truth and dharma, gambled away his wife and family being affected by the social customs that a ksatriya can not back down from a challenge. He found himself being swept away by his addiction and denied his family's security allowing them to be banned to the forest. During their exile in the forest, Draupadi and Bhima criticized him and hurled insults at him for his recklessness. Still, he showed them the power of patience and led them to ultimate victory.

To master the art of fighting, Karna lied to his guru who then failed to recognize Karna's deep love for him, and so denied him success in battle by cursing him. Still, Radheya is known for his unsurpassed generosity.

Perhaps most outrageous of all, Bhishma, sat silently and denied Draupadi's honor, as she was being molested in front of a massive assembly. He further went on to fight against Krsna himself. Still he is known as a Mahajana.

Prabhupada would never see himself above these historic personalities. As such the issue before us is, did his history also affect him? This doesn't mean he didn't give us Radha Krsna. It means that the truth as he presented it was packaged in some of his relative experiences.

Did this affect his society? I would say yes. I do believe women suffered because of cultural ideas that he grew up with, specifically how women were less than men and needed a subservient position to achieve success. Does that mean he did not deliver Krsna? Absolutely not. If we expressed to him today what we have understood to be a better way to do or say things, especially things that had serious social implications, do you think he would ignore you or put you down? I don't believe so.

Being influenced by this physical dimension, the modes of nature are always active. Everyone from Kamsa to Hitler may have rays of goodness mixed with the most profound darkness. Every race or religion is capable of atrocities and can be prone to generic, behavioral quirks. Prabhupada constantly admonished us to distance ourselves from his godbrothers and would not even allow us to read the books of his spiritual master. However, at the end of his life, Prabhupada apologized to his godbrothers for belittling them and many of his followers have benefitted from the love of his godbrothers.

I myself expressed great anger after my leaving, that the discussions we had with him regarding guru succession, never extracted the detail necessary to maintain peace in the society.

To be sure, smoke can be found everywhere. But smoke is not fire. Here we are looking for the fire and recognizing the smoke. We do this as an expression of responsibility to ourselves, to all of our guides and to future generations. As they say, the Truth will set us free.

1 comment:

  1. Haribol! Good to see you emerge again and speak after such a long time. It does much to heal and clarify questions and the mysteries surrounding your "disappearance"! I wanted to weigh in on Prabhupada's so called inferior view of women. I personally never felt that His Grace saw me or the female sex as being lesser Vaisnavas. There are many anecdotes to substantiate these sentiments as well as his perception over time that his female disciples were in fact "more intelligent" than his male followers.( All these things must be taken in context.) There was also his desire that Yamuna devi be in charge of Diety worship throughout India and so many more examples. I simply feel that this perception is simply another discoloration of Prabhupada's view . He saw that in America things were indeed different: "Boys and girls" mingled freely unlike India and as such had different views of themselves in terms of self confidence and what they could achieve aside from the fact that the very philosophy states aham brahmasmi. What I always took issue with was the interpretation by certain "dasas" on what my position should be based solely on my body. I joined in the Philadelphia temple in 1982 and I can say that my strong willed and free spirited personality was guided there as there were many mature devotees there that had much more advanced realizations and were kind enough to tolerate my offenses ( I truly said anything I thought to anyone! LOL) but also strong enough to hear my critical observations. I might have perished elsewhere! I flourished in many ways in that temple and the temple president gave me his sanction to conduct a radio show on KC on a major commercial station. There were those who tried to stop me but I simply refused to be stopped and called them on it. It was that simple and it worked. That being said it was still a bone of some contention but we were the first, or at least among the first, to have the discussion. I also felt and still feel today that it is up up the women to feed themselves spiritually and seek out other examples that are in the Bhagvatam of incredible Vaisnavis right up to the consort of Nityananda Prabhu who established the first Gaura Purnima, the wosrhip or Srimati Radharani and who held together differing camps of Vaisnavas after their Lordships disappeared to Their Abode. The love of the gopis is the highest and they can take any form Krishna so desires to carry out His mission to wit the internal identities of the Six Goswamis. At this juncture there should be an understanding that on the deepest level bodily dress is truly immaterial. These should be sources of inspiration to everyone regardless of their current embodiment. In this case I don't feel that Prabhupada is too blame for our neophyte views and immature understandings. I thank him again and again for making it possible for me and women to live in the temple alongside their brothers, worship the Diety, take initiation which he was criticized soundly for from more "orthodox " peers who simply did not have faith in Caitanya's universal instructions. As you have so rightly pointed out it is up to us to grow, advance and share the love. I am sorry for any abuse that any of my sisters and children's a terrible thing. I also wonder if there is just a certain amount of "harassment" we should all expect simply due to the nature of this place. Thank you for your keen insights on the "Smoke" and 'Fire". All Glories to Caitanya Mahaprabhu!