Officially, our ISKCON is a branch on the Lord Caitanya’s tree of Gauḍīya vaṣṇavism and we are generally happy with this description. “Tree” is a nice analogy but what about the reality? What this “tree” really is at the present moment? What is its position in the universe?
I don’t know the real answers to these questions, they can only be seen by someone with the perfect vision, someone who can see the universe as described in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, for example. The rest of us can only speculate by looking at thin slices of reality through our illusion covered glasses. Since we all see the world subjectively we will never agree on any controversial subject. It’s just not how different people see it and nothing can be done about that, short of changing people’s subjective experiences.
That’s what we do when we preach, btw. We don’t tell people what they already know, we add to their knowledge or we force them to assign different priorities so that they come to new and unexpected for them conclusions. Debating, much less preaching, is not about reconciling divergent views, it’s about attaining a new, superior vision where divergence doesn’t exist in the first place.
There are no such contradictions for Kṛṣṇa Himself, we just have learn to see the world through His eyes and teach others, too. If they refuse this proposal there’s nothing more to talk about. The only thing that matters is how willing they are to accept Kṛṣṇa consciousness, everything else is not only secondary but will follow automatically.
Imagine they have heard a particular argument or a śloka that seemingly goes against our conclusions. This argument can obviously be answered by Kṛṣṇa if they are willing to hear it. If they are, Kṛṣṇa’s material energy will arrange for it. The answer could be manifested in our brains as we struggle to find it or the answer could be manifested in their own hearts and they’ll drop the matter as insignificant. If, however, they insist on rejecting Kṛṣṇa’s message and remain attached to their illusionary view of the world, the illusion will be all they see and no answer will ever register even if it hit them on the head.
It doesn’t mean our preaching efforts are useless and we can safely give them up as soon as going gets tough because everything is pre-determined already. Our preaching is our service and our duty, it should not be contingent on results and we should keep going whether people listen or not. It doesn’t mean we should keep arguing, however. Our service is performed within our hearts, what we do externally is directed by the Supersoul, if He tells us to shut up and move on that’s what we should do, perhaps our services are needed elsewhere or we need some preparation to do.
Where was I, however? It’s not what I was going to write about today.
Ah, yes, the Gauḍīya tree and it’s true position in the world. We don’t know what it is and so I’m prepared to adjust my views in light of any new information. I’ve been thinking about it for a few days now and can’t shake off the thought that outside of ISKCON the tree is dead. Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī spent several chapters in Caitanya Caritāmṛta describing this tree and it looked huge, how come I think only ISKCON is still alive?
My argument is two-fold. First, the reality – we don’t know where all these other branches are anymore. Surely Bengal must still have members of the original parivāras but they have utterly discredited themselves more than a hundred years ago. They might pass down initiations but as far as spiritual potency and carrying out the mission of Lord Caitanya is concerned they are invisible and, therefore, non-existent in my view.
I’ve also heard the prophesy that Advaita Ācārya’s branch will remain potent only for the first thirteen generations. That limit has been reached and currently they are in the fourteenth.
What about Gauḍīya Maṭhas? They are still around, why discount them? I’ve even heard them saying that GM now has more temples than under Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī.
Yeah, that may be so, but they are all filled with ex-ISKCON devotees who rejected their gurus and the shelter of the person who saved them all – Śrīla Prabhupāda. That’s where GM’s new numbers and new temples come from, not from peaching by bona fide GM followers.
Somehow they all, both original GM and ex-ISKCON members think that rejecting your guru and going against his orders is a trivial thing to do, and at the same time they pretend to know Gauḍīya siddhānta better than us. Fools, all of them who think this way. I already mentioned it the other day, but a soul who rejects a guru sent by Kṛṣṇa will be cast into guruless wilderness for seven hundred lives. Maybe this number is exaggerated and it’s only ten lives – still about seven hundred years, welcome to hell.
Śrīla Prabhupāda’s position is cemented in history, anyone who rejects him or openly disobeys his orders cancels out any opportunity for further spiritual progress (Kṛṣṇa doesn’t take away what has already been achieved). Those who accept association of these people contaminate their own consciousness as well, there’s no getting around this inconvenient fact. This means that whatever spiritual potency that was there in GM stemming from Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī is destroyed.
At the end of the day – look at their preaching efforts, whatever momentum they carried over from their ISKCON days is all gone. I just checked activities of the biggest of GM branches and all their news and announcements are about their weekend temple programs and hardly any temple has a website. The place is dead, they can’t and they won’t preach, they’ve become spiritually impotent.
Not all ISKCON devotees leave for GM, for course, in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s days going to “traditional Gauḍīyas” was popular, too, particularly to the brother of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī who was still present then. Over the years these devotees built up significant following but the leaders there got mired in drug use and outright sahajiism, with sex orgies and all. About a decade ago a brilliant scholar rose among them with extensive knowledge of both Gauḍīya texts and Gauḍīya history but then he left for Buddhism, “knowing” siddhānta didn’t save him from losing any taste for devotional service he might acquired in his ISKCON days. In any case, these people can’t even organize and name themselves, to consider them a “branch” would be too generous, nevermind the offense of leaving Śrīla Prabhupāda.
And then there are Vṛindāvana bābājīs who take a considerable amount of ex-ISKCON devotees on a ongoing basis. I don’t know what their service to Lord Caitanya is to begin with. Of course there are several important temples to maintain there but bābājīs are not engaged in that, and beyond that there’s nothing. They are devotees of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇi, they claim. Okay, but what is their service to Lord Caitanya? All I can think of is giving shelter to those who blooped in ISKCON. It’s important, of course, but not nearly as important as establishing yuga dharma for the benefit of the entire world, which is also the service to Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇi as well, and they are not doing it. As branches of Gauḍīya tree they are also dead.
And then there are couple of devotees who were never formally in ISKCON and grew influential by themselves. They belong to “traditional” lineage and their personal behavior is exemplary so we cannot say that they are corrupted. The problem with them is that we don’t know how much of their knowledge is taken from their gurus and how much they speculated up themselves by studying śāstras. “Traditional” gurus have not left any records of their teachings or of their understanding of the siddhānta, so we cannot check if their claimed followers are actually following or creating their own tune.
These devotees claim to learn siddhānta straight from the Six Gosvāmīs, or rather from their books. That’s not how paramparā works and so if we come to any disagreement with living representatives of the sampradāya their conclusions should be rejected as lacking guru and sādhu confirmation.
I haven’t even gotten to my second argument, maybe tomorrow, but the conclusion is already obvious – there’s no spiritual progress outside of ISKCON, I just didn’t explain why.