A Dangerous Precedent
BY: VIDURA MAHATMA DAS
27 SEPTEMBER, 2017
From Srila Prabhupada’s books and teachings we can understand that there is responsibility on the part of a disciple in order to advance in spiritual life – the burden does not rest only on the spiritual master. Both must be bona fide. The disciple must be bona fide in the sense that he is obligated to put forth submissive inquiry in order to gain a clear and proper understanding from the spiritual master on spiritual life and philosophy so that the reciprocation of transcendental knowledge (diksa) can effectively ensue. Srila Prabhupada explains all of this in his purport to Bhagavad-gita verse 4.34. The spiritual master leaves behind instructions for anybody to take advantage of; To take shelter of Srila Prabhupada means to follow his instructions, who is nondifferent from his instructions. If the instructions are unknown, the spiritual master is unknown. This point has been discussed at great length over the past few weeks, with many perspectives and angles of vision presented, and many quotes from Srila Prabhupada considered. Without going deeper into that particular discussion, there is a bigger picture to be looked at here, and that is one’s propensity in assimilating Srila Prabhupada’s books and teachings to fully understand any problem, question or circumstance that may arise.
Srila Prabhupada practically gave us all of the questions and their definite answers and solutions in his books and teachings, and this is a point he wanted to strongly impress upon his disciples. In the course of resolving a philosophical dispute, the reluctance to rely on Srila Prabhupada’s books and teachings as a basis for the established conclusion sets a dangerous precedent for future generations of devotees wishing to take shelter at Srila Prabhupada’s books. Such an approach places dependency on the potentially whimsical conclusions of institutional consensus or an individual’s feelings and interpretations over Srila Prabhupada’s actual teachings. It also suggests that the controversy’s we face today and in the future cannot always be directly resolved with Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. This in turn diverts a new devotee’s faith and exclusive confidence in knowing that Srila Prabhupada’s books can fully guide and nourish one’s spiritual life and pursuance of Krishna consciousness. It sheds doubt on Srila Prabhupada’s books, and contributes to the ongoing false emphasis on physical presence rather than on Srila Prabhupada’s vibrational presence through his books.
On the subject of spiritual advancement in today’s misguided ISKCON, the plea that Srila Prabhupada is beyond the purview of his books in ascertaining whether he is guiding a devotee in spiritual life seems to undermine the fact that Srila Prabhupada goes to great length to explain the criteria of the spiritual master’s guidance and mercy throughout his books and teachings. Srila Prabhupada makes it clear that there is no real advancement to be made under a regime of continued offenses and inattentive disregard for the orders of the spiritual master. To disregard these instructions is to disregard Srila Prabhupada himself, who is not different from his instructions.
In the case of one’s personal frustration or inability to assimilate Srila Prabhupada’s books and teachings in resolving philosophical perplexities (readers may refer to Bg 2.41 purport), instead of rationalizing away Srila Prabhupada’s answers and solutions by mystifying their applicability, one should honestly and obediently take shelter of Srila Prabhupada through his books with serious and submissive inquiry and without reservation in order to obtain clear, explicit answers to all questions. That will dissolve all frustration and resolve all issues that arise. More importantly, it will set the proper precedent for future generations of devotees by encouraging them to faithfully depend on Srila Prabhupada’s books and teachings in their personal reciprocation of transcendental knowledge with Srila Prabhupada., as opposed to encouraging them to rely on the whimsical, independent interpretations and conclusions of other persons.
“My purports are liked by people because it is presented as practical experience.” (Conversation — May 28, 1977, Vrndavana – GBC Meets with Srila Prabhupada)
“Everyone can become a first class speaker. Simply cram the purports of my books. The references are there, the philosophy is there. Everything is there. So if you do it, everyone will be pleased with your speaking.” (Letter — Vrindaban 19 September, 1974)
“So we have to understand this philosophy. Everything is there in the book. So we have to read it carefully, understand it through the teacher’s or guru’s instruction.” (SB Lecture 6.1.19 — Honolulu, May 19, 1976)
Paramahaṁsa: Śrīla Prabhupāda, when you are not present with us, how is it possible to receive instructions, for example, on questions that may arise?
Prabhupāda: Well, the questions… Answers are there in my books.
(Morning Walk — Los Angeles, 13/5/73)
“In my books the philosophy of Krishna Consciousness is explained fully so if there is anything which you do not understand, then you simply have to read again and again. By reading daily the knowledge will be revealed to you and by this process your spiritual life will develop.” Letter — Bombay 22 November, 1974
“Every one of you must regularly read our books at least twice, in the morning and evening, and automatically all questions will be answered.” Letter to Randhira, 24/01/70
“There is nothing new to be said. Whatever I had to say, I have already said in my books. Now you must try to understand it and continue with your endeavours. Whether I am present or not does not matter.” Arrival Conversation, Vrindavan, 17/5/77
“So utilize whatever time you find to make a thorough study of my books. Then all your questions will be answered.” (Letter to: Upendra—Nellore, 7 January, 1976)
“You should always read my books daily and all your questions will be answered and you will have a firm basis of Krishna Consciousness. In this way your life will be perfect.” Letter to Hugo Salemon, 22/11/74
“Regarding your writing, it is a little off-time. I suggest that you read my books more carefully and present things as I have presented them.” Letter — Bombay 18 March, 1975
“In order to remain steadily fixed in Krishna consciousness there must be a sound philosophical understanding. Otherwise it will become only sentiment. Whenever you find time please read my books.” Letter —Nellore — 5 January, 1976
“I have given you all the guidance and hints and it is described in all my books. Now it is up to you. Please keep our principles firmly and everything will come out successful.” Letter — Hong Kong 1 February, 1974
Indian Man (2): …like your company very much in Toronto and we feel like talk you so much, but we don’t have so much time to talk with you. You have so much mercy, so we have not… know so much about Kṛṣṇa from you.
Prabhupāda: So in my absence you read the books. What I talk, I have written in the books. That’s all.
Indian Man (2): Personally, we think more greater.
Prabhupāda: That’s all right. But still, you can associate with me by reading my books.
Morning Walk — August 7, 1975, Toronto
Reporter: Who will succeed you when you die?
Srila Prabhupada: I will never die!
Devotees: Jaya! Haribol!
Srila Prabhupada: I will live forever from my books and you will utilise.
Interview, Berkley, 17/7/75
“There is no difference between the spiritual masters instructions and the spiritual master himself. In the absence therefore, his words of direction should be pride of the disciple.” (C.c. Adi 1.35, Purport)