Yesterday I talked about what might appear as “wrong” in HG Aindra Prabhu’s preaching. It isn’t wrong per se, was my conclusion, but only a consequence of a series of unfortunate events. On the material level all our actions have their causes and Aindra Prabhu’s arguments were no different. He made them in reaction to certain things and he advanced them in pursuit of certain things.
One could say that really transcendental messages shouldn’t be subjected to this kind of conditioning at all but even Śrīmad Bhāgavatam was recited following the imminent snake bite threatening life of Mahārāja Parīkṣit. It had to be of certain length to fit into a seven day period, for example. When retold to the sages of Naimiśāraṇya it had to be presented somewhat differently to suit the audience, and, again, it was told to satisfy a certain request. When Śrīla Vyāsadeva recorded it he again was trying to meet a certain objective.
What Aindra Prabhu did with our philosophy was no different. He had to react to certain things and he had to pursue certain things. The obvious difference, of course, is that Śrīmad Bhāgavatam was accepted as a spotless purāṇa by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
Still, it doesn’t automatically mean that Aindra was wrong, and, anyway, I’d rather talk about aspects where he was right. In the title of this post I meant “rights” as opposite of “wrongs”.
Aindra was certainly right when he argued that Lord Caitanya didn’t establish varṇāśrama as yuga dharma. He didn’t start the worldwide social development movement. He didn’t start book distribution movement. He didn’t start feeding people movement either. He started hari-nāma saṅkīrtna movement, congregational chanting of the Holy Name, and specifically Hare Kṛṣṇa mahāmantra.
We can’t say that our goal now is to establish varṇāśrama. We can’t say that unless we have vaṛnāśrama we can’t really do saṅkīrtana. If there are quotes from Śrīla Prabhupāda that can be interpreted so we must find a way to explain them in line with the teachings of Lord Caitanya. We have to find a way to explain them in line with setting saṅkīrtana, not varṇāśrama as the yuga dharma for this age.
There are two approaches to varṇāśrama. We can try to teach the world how adopt it, and we can try to set up our own model vaṛnāśrama communities, if only for the benefit of our own devotees if no one else pays attention. We can try to combine these two approaches, we might think of something else, too. The fact, however, remains – youga dhārma for this age is saṅkīrtana.
If we retire to our perfect little communities we won’t be engaging the rest of the society in performing the yuga dhārma, and if we go out and tell people about their vaṛnāśrama duties we won’t be chanting the Holy Name. There’s no way we can win here.
There’s another pertinent point – whatever we want to achieve in this day and age we have to do it by performing saṅkīrtana, there’s no other way. We chant and things automatically happen, that’s how it should work. We shouldn’t make any extraneous efforts, not our job. Technically, our chanting should inspire other people to do what is necessary, we shouldn’t divest our attention into any other schemes ourselves.
Perhaps we don’t need to change world’s social arrangement. If they love democracy so much let them. We should chant and thus inspire people to democratically elect proper, vaṛnāśrama ready leaders. It’s not our job to conquer territories and build our own state institutions on them ala ISIS.
More importantly, discussing these temporary conditioned topics was not the goal and not the legacy of Aindra Prabhu. They will soon be forgotten or fully internalized by our devotees who wouldn’t even know their source. His real legacy is his exceptional chanting. I can think of a few examples like him but no one displayed the same steadiness so far, not even close, imo.
Sure he had his moments getting lost in the melodies and directing others how to sing but most of his time was spent simply on crying to Kṛṣṇa. His kīrtanas were always addressing the Lord directly and his attention was undivided. Every Name, every word, every syllable was elucidated with full awareness of its significance. He never sang a name in vain, he never uttered it casually.
This loss of attention happens to a lot of devotees, even experienced singers. They occasionally slip into singing for effects – to make people dance, to make people appreciate the tunes, to make people enjoy the kīrtana and so on. Aindra’s singing was always a cry to the Lord and nothing else. Word after word, name after name, mantra after mantra, for hours non-stop.
Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t have his kīrtanas playing as a background music. They are always too grave, too serious to take them lightly. I caught myself numerous times where I’d rather turn them off than listen to them with half an ear. I can’t fully concentrate on anything else while his kīrtanas are on. I can’t work, plain and simple.
One other thing I “accused” him of yesterday was his disagreements with his local authorities. Generally, it’s not the way to progress in spiritual life and I think I can see how Aindra paid for that but I’d rather look at it from another direction.
Had he not rebelled against his temple management he would have never left for Vṛndāvana, never started the 24-hour kīrtana, and never started grassroots hari-nāma saṅkīrtana revolution either. It was a small price to pay.
When one’s guru departs from his world there’s no one to dictate to a disciple what to do and what service to take. Institutional structures are still in place, of course, but that alone doesn’t guarantee anything. Yesterday I cited an example of Gauḍīyā Maṭhas that followed their own ideas and got nowhere but, institutionally speaking, they appeared solid. There was one devotee who didn’t go with the flow, however – Śrīla Prabhupāda.
Contrary to everybody else’s opinions he thought that his guru’s real mission was publishing books, and preaching in the west would be greatly appreciated, too. It is kind of self-evident to us now but in those days it simply didn’t occur to anyone but Prabhupāda.
Who is to say that Aindra’s insistence on re-establishing harināma parties all over the world won’t pay handsomely in the future, too? It might appear counterintuitive and unproductive in the face of our current problems but it appeared so to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s godbrothers, too, and they were proven wrong.
Who’s got any real arguments against hari-nāma anyway? We might give reasons why we don’t do it daily but there are no reasons why we shouldn’t. No one ever in our society would start a sentence with “You shouldn’t do a daily hari-nāma because..” – it’s unthinkable. Most of the time we believe that dong so wouldn’t address our immediate needs, wouldn’t raise enough funds, wouldn’t distribute enough books, wouldn’t attract enough followers and so on. Still, it is THE yuga dharma, we can’t get around this simple fact.
Is it also the fact that we can’t develop Kṛṣṇa prema without chanting. We can earn money without chanting. We can discuss philosophy without chanting. We can collect donations without chanting. We can distribute prasādam without chanting. We can attract lots of followers without chanting. But we can’t develop prema without chanting, and our chanting should be not only pure but also constant and uninterrupted.
I also can’t say Aindra wasn’t right when he said that most of our devotees do very little kīrtana, even those who live in the temples. They have morning programs but time dedicated to chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra during maṅgala ārati is limited and there’s just a bit more after guru-pūjā and that’s all. Not even half an hour in total. We should definitely do more if we want to call ourselves “saṅkīrtana movement”.
Final, and perhaps the most important thing, is that talking about saṅkīrtana is not the same as actually doing it and Aindra Prabhu appeared as one of those devotees who knew that. Lots of times in his conversations he expressed the idea that instead of sitting and talking devotees should go down to the temple and sing. In this connection I don’t see the value of me typing any more words about it either.