Prague, Czech Republic
17 August 2004
To complete what I mentioned here yesterday about my waiting in Prague for a Ukrainian visa, I did receive it--a visa good for 3 years, in fact. Tomorrow I am scheduled to depart Prague for Wroclaw, Poland.
Yesterday, quite astonishingly, I received the following letter from an old friend. My replies to specific points are interspersed in italics through the body of his text.
Dear Suhotra Swami,
Your web site has recently come to my attention. It is great to see you are working toward Spiritual goals and attempting to clarify the Vedic teachings we were given by Srila Prabhupada.
Thank you very much. I am really quite thrilled to get this email from you after so many years of no contact at all. I believe the last time I saw you was in 1976. I hope that by Krsna's grace life is treating you nicely.
In your version of the conversation which took place between myself and Srila Prabhupada, there are several inaccuracies and the conversation is not in its correct context. I have never been a Cartesian or Mayavada since being properly instructed by our guru.
Well, the text of the conversation quoted in my website I copied from the Vedabase. I have also listened to the audio tape several times. So I don't know of any inaccuracies in the source material. It is true that I did not reproduce the entire recorded conversation, only the parts that illustrate the theme of the essay presented on my website on 7 July of this year. I am happy to read your assertation that disassociates you from Cartesianism and Mayavada. I accept what you say. In that connection I beg forgiveness for being hard on you in my essay. As I will explain a bit later, I still believe that there is a philosophical lesson to be learned about Cartesianism and Mayavada from that conversation.
The real issue of the conversation was the misuse of power in certain areas of ISKCON at the time of the conversation and more specificly the dangerous idea that the administrative leaders of the movement had infalible spiritual authority, an idea that was quite widespread in those days. As young men in a new and difficult social environment, it was difficult to raise those social issues and Srila Prabupada was not very accesible due to his many duties and translating.
In retrospect I would not have have raised the question of the unusual statements that occur in the puranas, since it is a separate issue relating to taking all scriptural statements as literally true on the same level with each other. It is probable that there is a coded meaning to the idea of 4 billion servants, for example. The real point of that part of the conversation was to elicit a comment on levels of meaning in the scripture, not to imply an invalidation of the important truths by detail or inconsistencies. If I could ask the same questions now they would not seem so awkward.
This clarification you offer is valid. I can see, when looking at the entire transcript of the conversation, that the main issue was the anomalies evident in some ISKCON leaders of that particular time. But as you have admitted above, the quotations I used--which were rather lengthy in themselves--are illustrative of a separate, purely philosophical issue. This, the issue of how reason is to be employed to properly understand difficult statements of sastra, was the heart of July 7's essay published on my website. Now, Srila Prabhupada more than once would use a disciple as a "foil" in philosophical discussions. There's the well-known example of his challenging his very loyal disciple Svarupa Damodara, to the extent of addressing him "rascal scientist" just to get a good argument back that he could dismantle for everyone's edification. Therefore I stand firm on my take of the philosophical significance of Srila Prabhupada's reply to your questions about scripture. As our Godbrother Tejiyas Prabhu told me not long ago, "Srila Prabhupada was teaching us by everything he said and did." So we learn from this conversation you had with His Divine Grace about the hard-core Cartesian/Mayavadi approach to sastra, and how to respond to it. It is not necessary to conclude that you personally are a hard-core Cartesian/Mayavadi. Just as we ought not conclude from Prabhupada's discussions with Svarupa Damodara that the latter is personally a rascal scientist.
The truth is, Prabhupada had been misinformed by his other disciples on our intentions for even having the meeting so it started out on a bad note. Speaking only for myself I can tell you that prior to that meeting I had spent 5 years in the ashram serving exactly as we were taught, at the expected level of moral purity and committment. By the time of this meeting I was living outside the temple in an attempt to find a carreer and eventualy a wife, both of which I did. More to the point, my questions to our guru had to do with abuses of power and authority I had seen within the movement, most of which are now history but at the time were more hidden. They concerned me deeply at that time, though there was never a time that the imperfect actions of my god brothers (or myself) turned me away from our personalist teachings or practises which I have continued for the last 35 years.
Fair enough. My little comment (please don't take it as a retort) is that had I been the one to speak to Srila Prabhupada at this time instead of you, I would not have gone about it the same way. But that is obvious because we are different persons. It does not mean I am a "better" disciple than you. Humbly folding my hands, I ask you to simply take note of the fact that when I hear the tape, I get a little queasy at the tone of voice you and Kanupriya das used in His Divine Grace's presence. Anyway, I'm not arguing. The reasons you've given for why the conversation happened as it did are in order, especially for one (like me) who was aware of some of the strange things going on in ISKCON then.
All of these issues were much more problematic and perplexing at that time than they probably are now. I appreciate that you viewed the conversation as an attack on both our Guru and Krishna consciousness and are defending both but in fact the conversation arose from a similar concern for the well being of our movement and a desire to serve our mutual guru. I would appreciate you taking the time to review this account since you have chosen to publish it, in the interest of fairness it would be nice if you could take the time to discuss it with me.
I hope this finds you well in the service of the Divine couple and our guru's mission
Jamadagneya (the correct spelling)
Dear Jamadagneya Prabhu, I hope you don't mind that the discussion you asked to have with me has taken the form of my publishing your letter on my website along with these remarks of mine. I'm a bit challenged at the moment with the travel schedule I have in front of me, so this is the least complicated way for me to handle the issue. I believe it is the fair way to go. All visitors to In2-MeC can see directly what your standpoint is. For me it is very good news to know that you've remained a follower of Srila Prabhupada to this day. I want all my readers to know that personally I have only fond memories of you. I was not in LA when you and Kanupriya had your meeting with His Divine Grace, nor did I talk with you about the meeting afterward--in fact you and I have not spoken for some 28 years. I know only what is taped and transcribed. So forgive me, please, for my mistake in concluding from the source material that you had become an opponent of Srila Prabhupada. As is evident from yesterday's In2-MeC entry, which I composed before I read your email, I have been quite excited in the last couple of days by the discovery of your small role in an interesting film, Nothing So Strange. You seem to be doing well, and as an old friend I am happy for you.
From the Internet:
Anarchists' Convention Debates Voting
ATHENS, Ohio--A group of anarchists is taking an unusual step to make its political voice heard-—going to the polls.
Anarchists generally pride themselves on their rejection of government and its authority. But a faction of them fed up with the war in Iraq say they plan to cast anti-Bush votes this fall.
The voting debate was just one of the topics explored at the three-day North American Anarchist Convergence, which brought about 175 participants to Ohio University.
Some attendees rejected the voting proposal.
"Ultimately, those who are voting are either bad anarchists or not anarchists at all," said Lawrence, a "Californian in his mid-40s" who declined to give his last name. "No one can represent my interests. We reject political professionals."
Others said they are embracing their right to engage in the political process, and plan to vote for John Kerry, Ralph Nader or anyone who can underscore their opposition to the Bush administration.
Susan Heitker, 32, of Athens, believes that the U.S. government is neither legitimate nor democratic, but she still plans to vote.
"To me, at least, it's important to vote," she said. "There was a time when I was not going to vote, but I really dislike Bush."
Howard Ehrlich, of Baltimore, also embraces his right to "engage the political system."
"I will certainly vote against George Bush because he is leading the nation to further violence and eroding civil liberties," said Ehrlich, who is editor of Social Anarchism, a 3,000-circulation magazine.
What's interesting about anarchism from the Krsna conscious perspective is that it is a form of idealistic negationism, like Mayavadi philosophy. Even though he may try to deny it, a strict anarchist is defined by what he is against, not what he is for. As you can plainly see from the above news report, as soon an some anarchists came out for voting in the upcoming US election, other anarchists were denouncing them as bad anarchists or no anarchists at all.
On an anarchist website, I found the following attempt by an anarchist to refute the idea that anarchists are only "anti" and never "pro".
Is anarchism purely negative?
Caplan, consulting his American Heritage Dictionary, claims: "Anarchism is a negative; it holds that one thing, namely government, is bad and should be abolished. Aside from this defining tenet, it would be difficult to list any belief that all anarchists hold."
The last sentence is ridiculous. If we look at the works of Tucker, Kropotkin, Proudhon and Bakunin (for example) we discover that we can, indeed list one more "belief that all anarchists hold." This is opposition to exploitation, to usury (i.e. profits, interest and rent). For example, Tucker argued that "Liberty insists. . . [on] the abolition of the State and the abolition of usury; on no more government of man by man, and no more exploitation of man by man." [cited in Native American Anarchism--A Study of Left-Wing American Individualism by Eunice Schuster, p. 140] Such a position is one that Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin would agree with.
In other words, anarchists hold two beliefs--opposition to government and opposition to exploitation. Any person which rejects either of these positions cannot be part of the anarchist movement. In other words, an anarchist must be against capitalism in order to be a true anarchist.
Moreover it is not at all difficult to find a more fundamental "defining tenet" of anarchism. We can do so merely by analysing the term "an-archy," which is composed of the Greek words an, meaning "no" or "without," and arche, meaning literally "a ruler," but more generally referring to the principle of rulership, i.e. hierarchical authority. Hence an anarchist is someone who advocates abolishing the principle of hierarchical authority--not just in government but in all institutions and social relations.
Now, if you look carefully at how the author of the above quotation attempts to prove that anarchists hold to positive rather than only negative ideals, you will see that every evidence he offers entails "opposition to" something (e.g. government and exploitation). He shows nowhere that anarchists are "for" anything. So although he starts off objecting to a definition of anarchy as being purely negative, his own arguments only reinforce such a definition.
Prabhupada had a word for this: utopianism. I've explained previously in In2-MeC that "utopia" comes from Greek; it means "no place." Hence a negative idealist like an anarchist or Mayavadi, who defines his beliefs only in terms of what he or she is against, ends up nowhere.
Being utterly anti-government, anarchism ends up advocating a society in which no one has rights at all...and this in the name of complete freedom! If government is abolished, then there is no law. If there is no law, then someone can be enslaved, someone can be murdered, all without worries for the enslaver or the murderer. A criminal can do anything he wants, because there is no such thing as crime in anarchy.
Without law, people will form packs, like those in which wolves prey upon other animals. They will hunt the weak and unprotected. The stronger the mob, the stupider and more violent it will be.
In a world of anarchy consumer products could not be produced. Business could not be done. Without law to protect people's rights, who could do anything that resembles civilized human behavior? There would be no peace nor safety for anyone. In short, anarchy can never work. Anarchists are servants of deranged, impractical notions hatched from minds that are too disturbed by frustration with an imperfect society. They have a very slipshod grasp of the realities of human nature. Ultimately their vision of ideal freedom is a vision of complete animalism.
|The In2-MeC Flash Animation startpage (www.in2-mec.com)|
This is just a reminder of the fun animations you'll find on the In2-MeC startpage. Click on different planets and you'll
|have darsana of the all-beautiful Divine Couple|
|be able to offer arati to Sri-Sri Gaura-Nitai (just click on the items of puja paraphernalia)|
|find out what modern science is all about|
|see cloned swamis dance in the street while Earth is invaded from outer space|
|watch various colorful yantras and mandalas pass before your eyes|
|learn what happens when Grisby opens his third eye.|
All animations are in sound, so make sure your computer's audio is enabled! The animations take a bit of online time to download. Kindly be patient. Once they are loaded to your hard disk, you can enjoy them offline as much as you like.