7 July 2004
Are Academic Scholars like Snakes?
Part Three: The Eternal Enemy
When one forgets his identity in deep sleep, he becomes absorbed in dreams, and he may think himself a different person or may think himself lost. But actually his identity is intact. This concept of being lost is due to false ego, and it continues as long as one is not awakened to the sense of his existence as an eternal servitor of the Lord. The Mayavadi philosophers' concept of becoming one with the Supreme Lord is another symptom of being lost in false ego. One may falsely claim that he is the Supreme Lord, but actually he is not. This is the last snare of maya's influence upon the living entity.
--Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.27.15, purport
Devotee 1: One of our friends went to hear Chinmayananda, and he came back to the temple and he said, "Oh, he was speaking very nicely."
Devotee 1: So one of our swamijis said, "What did he say?"
Devotee 1: "I do not know."
Prabhupada: That is the disease.
Devotee 1: Yes.
Devotee 2: They just speak very big words so that the language looks very nice, but people don't understand a word what they are saying.
Prabhupada: (Prabhupada talks meaningless words, imitating the rascals; devotees laugh) They go on speaking like this. And people, "Oh, how amazing!" Simply give some grammatical form and talk all nonsense, people will appreciate. Jugglery. This is called jugglery. The Mayavadi panditas also do that.
--Morning walk, Hyderabad 24 April 1974
A mind steeped in Cartesian rationalism, certain that its university-certified powers of analysis are the only means to real knowledge. A mind zealous to unleash this knowledge upon its proper object, the external world, eradicating ignorance in every corner until that mind proudly ascends the shining throne of maitre et proprietaire de la nature (Descartes' own words: "master and proprietor of nature"). A mind without a shred of doubt about itself, without the slightest qualm about inner imperfections, mistakes, illusions, self-deceptions, nor about irrational monsters that at any moment may lunge from the murk of the subconscious to wrest control from reason's grasp.
Such is a mind lost in false ego.
A mind that, as it becomes inescapably evident its "knowledge" of the external world is but at assemblage of sensory and mental representations that may have nothing to do with reality at all, decides that if it can make no sense of the world, then there can be no sense in the world.
Such is a mind lost in false ego.
A mind that discovers an inverse, perverse absolute in senselessness: "I am absolutely free!" For even better than to become master and proprietor of nature is to become the irresponsible enjoyer of nature.
Such is a mind lost in false ego.
A mind that dresses up senselessness with misological rhetoric to appear as wisdom. A mind that, on the basis of that senseless wisdom, denies the existence of an absolute truth. A mind that uses the same misological rhetoric to deviously protect the one absolute it most cherishes: its own freedom.
Such is a mind lost in false ego.
A mind that fears no consequence of its actions due to the "knowledge" gained by rationalism that the field of activities (the world) is mere appearance with no substance; for in the end, the world will dissolve into the absolute senselessness of The Void.
Such is a mind lost in false ego.
Puffed-up Western rationalism is but an introductory phase of nirvisesa and sunyavadi philosophy, which is characterized by nonsensical relativistic talk. A Mayavadi, whether dressed like a Hindu sadhu or a Western scholar, is dangerous association for a devotee, especially when the Mayavadi comes to "discuss" topics of Sri Krsna and His philosophy.
So avaisnava-mukhodgirna puta-hari-kathamrtam, sravanam na kartavyam. And it is forbidden, "Don't hear." Why? "Hari-kathamrta, krsna-katha, the message of God, the words of God, Bhagavad-gita? He may be anything, but the katha is the same; so what is the harm to hear from an avaisnava?"
Sanatana Gosvami gives the example: sarpocchistha-payo yatha. Sarpocchista-payo yatha. Sarpocchistha... Just like milk, everyone knows, a very nice food, most nutritious food, but if it is touched by the life of a serpent, immediately spoiled. Immediately. Another place, Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, mayavadi-bhasya sunile haya sarva nasa. If we hear Mayavadi-bhasya, commentaries by the Mayavadis, those who do not accept the Personality of Godhead... They are called Mayavadis. Mayavadi means they see everything maya. Even Krsna is maya. That is called Mayavadi.
--Bhagavad-gita lecture in Ahmedabad, 14 December 1972
Mayavadi philosophy is dangerous because its influence spreads in tandem with the eternal enemy of the soul, lust.
svagamaih kalpitais tvam ca
janan mad-vimukhan kuru
mam ca gopaya yena syat
Addressing Lord Siva, the Supreme Personality of Godhead said, "Please make the general populace averse to Me by imagining your own interpretation of the Vedas. Also, cover Me in such a way that peopIe will take more interest in advancing material civilization just to propagate a population bereft of spiritual knowledge."
--Padma-Purana as quoted by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu,
C.c. Madhya 6.181
The phrase, "advancing material civilization just to propagate a population bereft of spiritual knowledge", neatly summarizes modern Western culture. The bodily comforts, the sensual excitants, the mental titillations and diversions provided for by science and technology are stimuli for lust. There's just no denying it: in modern civilization, science and technology are more the servants of sexuality than any other human interest. Thus the largest Internet enterprise by far is pornography. The population born out of such artificially stimulated, wildly exaggerated lust is varnasankara, a herd of beasts in human form with practically no inclination to spiritual knowledge.
Predominant in the mentality of such a culture of widespread sense gratification is aversion to the devotional service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. By such service, the fangs of the serpents of the lusty senses are broken. Srila Prabhupada explains in his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.1.17:
The sense organs are certainly our greatest enemies, and they are therefore compared to venomous serpents. However, if a venomous serpent is bereft of its poison fangs, it is no longer fearful. Similarly, if the senses are engaged in the service of the Lord, there is no need to fear their activities. The devotees in the Krsna consciousness movement move within this material world, but because their senses are fully engaged in the service of the Lord, they are always aloof from the material world. They are always living in a transcendental position.
Mayavadi philosophy, whether in Hindu, Buddhist or Western garb, denies that God is a person. Hence He has no senses. The raison d'être of engaging our senses in the service of the Lord is that by His mercy we come in contact with His transcendental senses. This is so very evident in Deity worship, for example. By contacting the spiritual senses of the Lord, our material senses, dangerous as serpents, are purified. Their fangs of lust are broken, and we may live in a transcendental position even while carrying on in the material body. But when the heart is darkened by the Mayavadi contamination, service to the Lord is dampened while the fires of sensuality are stoked.
Mayavadi philosophy stimulates lust in another way:
Sukadeva Gosvami concludes this episode of rasa-lila by pointing out that if a person hears from the right source of the pastimes of Krsna, who is Visnu Himself, and the gopis, who are expansions of His energy, then he will be relieved of the most dangerous type of disease, namely lust. If one actually hears rasa-lila, he will become completely freed from the lusty desire of sex life and elevated to the highest level of spiritual understanding. Generally, because they hear from Mayavadis and they themselves are Mayavadis, people become more and more implicated in sex life. The conditioned soul should hear the rasa-lila dance from an authorized spiritual master and be trained by him so that he can understand the whole situation; thus one can be elevated to the highest standard of spiritual life, otherwise one will be implicated. Material lust is a kind of heart disease, and to cure the material heart disease of the conditioned soul, it is recommended that one should hear, but not from the impersonalist rascals.
--Krsna, Chapter Thirty-two
The history of Gaudiya Vaisnavism in India has seen the rise of many apasampradayas like the Auls, Bauls, Ativadis, Smartas, Sahajiyas, Kartabhajas and so on. All of them are in some way compromised with Mayavadi philosophy. In and around ISKCON in recent decades, different schools of thought and practice have been springing up. The taint of Mayavada can be seen in many; and apropos to the theme of this essay, many--most, I would say--are tainted in particular by the Western scholarly version of Mayavada.
I'll give an example from my own experience. Back in 1971, as a new devotee, I got to know Jamadagni dasa, an intelligent, well-spoken young man with a strong independent streak that kept him in trouble with ISKCON temple leaders. Because he couldn't get along with the authorities, Jamadagni was for years on the move between the different ISKCON centers of North America. By 1975 he was settled in Los Angeles, working in an outside-the-temple business with a Godbrother named Kanupriya dasa. Their professed aim was to preach from within the karmi society and develop varnasrama-dharma. The general opinion of the devotees living in the Los Angeles temple was that Jamadagni and Kanupriya were "off."
In June 1975 Srila Prabhupada blessed Los Angeles temple with his divine presence. One day Jamadagni and Kanupriya came for a visit. They were friendly with a liberal ISKCON sannyasi who arranged a darsana with Srila Prabhupada for them. In the course of the meeting, Jamadagni began speaking to Prabhupada thus:
The statement [in the Krsna book] is that King Ugrasena had four billion personal servants. Now, we have gone and tried to spread to the scientific community. And if we say to them, "There was a king whose name was Ugrasena. He had four billion personal servants," they laugh and say, "What did they do for toilets? What did they do for food? Where did they live?"
Prabhupada: So you want to preach this particular portion and no other portion?
Kanupriya: No. We want to... We want to know if the story has an allegorical meaning rather than a literal translation, or that King Ugrasena who was a man who lived five thousand years ago and had four billion bodyguards, or whether the stories within the Bhagavatam, apart from some of them being actual, are allegorical stories. Such as the story of Krsna and Balarama chopping off the the eighty-eight...
Prabhupada: All right. You can give up that portion. You can take other portion.
Kanupriya: But then because so many things they have to accept on faith without knowing, it then weakens their faith as to what they should accept and why should they accept Krsna, who they can't see any more than King Ugrasena's four billion bodyguards.
Prabhupada: Don't accept. Don't accept.
Jamadagni: But we want them to accept. The point is, if we say to a scientific man, "There was four billion," and if our statement is wrong...
Prabhupada: But our position is that if some portion we cannot understand, it is our incapability.
Jamadagni: That is all right. But since we are...
Prabhupada: That's all. Unless we have got this faith we cannot use these Puranas. In the Puranas there are many such statements.
Jamadagni: Yes, but we just want to understand.
Prabhupada: Therefore many people, they do not accept Puranas. So what can be done?
Jamadagni: We're just trying to understand it because we've never dealt with Puranas before. We have been your disciples. But when we present this to the scientific community, because you have said that if one word is wrong, the whole philosophy is wrong, so they will say to us...
Prabhupada: So let them take it and throw out, don't read it. That's all.
Let us pause to consider Jamadagni's angle of approach and Srila Prabhupada's response to it. Jamadagni was clearly speaking from the standpoint of the Cartesian assumption that mathematics and analytical geometry are self-evident truth. (Whether he was speaking for himself personally, or only for the scientific community he mentioned, makes no difference.) From this standpoint the sastric statement that King Ugrasena had four billion bodyguards at Dvaraka is irrational. Srila Prabhupada's reply, "don't accept that portion," is a fit answer to give a Mayavadi. Sripada Sankaracarya's philosophy is known as aupanisadika-darsana because the abstruse statements of the Upanisads can be more easily interpreted in an impersonal way than can the Puranas. Therefore, as Srila Prabhupada wrote in a letter of 69-04-02,
The Mayavadis reject the Puranas, but actually the Puranas are supplementary to the four Vedas, the Upanisads and Vedanta. This is confirmed by Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura. Srimad-Bhagavatam also is considered amongst the Puranas, but because the subject matter within is purely transcendental, it is called the Maha Purana.
In effect, Prabhupada told Jamadagni, "Being the Mayavadi that you are, you should reject the Srimad-Bhagavata Maha Purana."
Prabhupada: I say you don't believe, you don't take it. Why you are insisting on that point? If you don't believe, you don't take it. If you don't believe the whole book or the whole society, then who forbids you?
Jamadagni: We were hoping that there are some things which can be improved, because they have not been set up by you.
Prabhupada: No. You cannot improve. Whatever we are, we are.
Jamadagni: Why can we not improve it?
Prabhupada: No. There is no possibility.
Jamadagni: Then what is the use of action?
Prabhupada: Action, whatever action we can do by chanting Hare Krsna, that's all.
Jamadagni: But we also have to make varnasrama society or farms or businesses.
Prabhupada: That, when we shall do, we shall see to it.
Jamadagni: But we are doing it. We are. [He's referring to the project he and Kanupriya had started.]
Kanupriya: We are doing it now, and that's the question...
Prabhupada: So do it in your own way.
Jamadagni: We don't want to. We want to do everything Krsna's way.
Prabhupada: Stop it. Stop it. I say stop it. You have come to me for my advice. I say you stop it.
Jamadagni: Then, we say, what should we do?
Prabhupada: You should do your business. That's all. Earn money and enjoy.
Jamadagni: No, I mean what should we do Krsna consciously?
Prabhupada: You give up Krsna consciousness, I say. That is my advice.
Jamadagni: Why should we do that?
Prabhupada: Then that I cannot say.
Kanupriya: Isn't there a middle of the road?
Prabhupada: If you are finding so many faults, you give it up.
"Isn't there a middle of the road?"
Isn't there a way to adapt Krsna consciousness to the Cartesian assumption, to evolution, to modern cosmology and atomic theory, to humanistic psychology and social values?
"You should do your business. That's all. Earn money and enjoy. You give up Krsna consciousness. That is my advice."
Soon after that my old friend Jamadagni changed his name to Indra Armstrong. (Before initiation he had been Jeffrey Armstrong.) As he explained, "Srila Prabhupada said if you want to have lots of sex life, you should worship Indra."
Yes, there's something in the Vedas for everyone. But one who can only accept without difficulty an injunction that allows gross sense gratification, and who on the other hand has difficulty accepting Bhagavata philosophy as it is, should not be considered on a high platform of spiritual realization.
avrtam jnanam etena
Thus the wise living entity's pure consciousness becomes covered by his eternal enemy in the form of lust, which is never satisfied and which burns like fire.
Krsna consciousness is not aimed at the end of knowledge in the Cartesian sense. It is aimed at the end of lust, which in turn spells the end of a most profound, inward and deep ignorance that a Cartesian is simply not equipped to deal with. Those who are unwilling to relinquish the Cartesian bias are invited by Srila Prabhupada to follow their path wholeheartedly: give up Krsna consciousness, do your business, earn money and enjoy.
There is no middle of the road. There is no contribution to be taken from the Cartesian standpoint that will improve the Krsna consciousness movement. "But why?" Jamadagni asked Srila Prabhupada repeatedly during the darsana.
Prabhupada: You are not following strictly. You cannot ask why.
Jamadagni: We could not ask why when we were following strictly either, Prabhupada. So I'm sorry that it has to be this way.
Prabhupada: No, our thing is that we have got some principles. If anyone cannot follow, then we don't accept him.
Kanupriya: Then what do you do with the rest of the world, except for the few people who...
Prabhupada: So what I can do I am doing. Therefore you have no right to ask me. What is possible by me I am doing. And those who are able to follow, they are following. That's all.
The reason why is that to maintain the Cartesian assumption is to remain in the service of the eternal enemy of the soul, lust. There is no compromise, no middle of the road, in dealing with your worst enemy. He must be defeated. Submissive hearing of Srimad-Bhagavatam from the authorized source is, as we have seen above, the means to defeat him. If one is not puffed-up with the Cartesian assumption that anything which is contradicted by "mathematical certainty" is irrational, one can get answers to all "why" questions about this philosophy. Giving up that assumption is equivalent to telling the eternal enemy, "I refuse to serve you any longer."
So, to wind up: are academic scholars like snakes? In as much as they are purveyors of the Cartesian assumption and all the relativistic Mayavadi nonsense that proceeds from it, yes. Because that means they are representatives of the eternal enemy, lust, "which burns like fire." Associate with these walking, talking serpents of the inferno at your own risk!