There’s one more issue that, I think, needs addressing while on the subject I’ve been on for the past couple of days. It’s a new twist on jīva origin controversy, or at least it’s new to me.
Perhaps one day someone can produce a paper of academic quality that details how the controversy developed play by play, who were the actors, how they directed the discussion, how it branched out and so on. I’m certainly not in the position to offer even a brief overview of this history but I can’t ignore certain developments as they come to my attention even if I don’t know everything that was there in between.
To me it looks as if it was a non-issue for hundreds of years of Gauḍiyā Vaiṣṇava history. Śrīla Prabhupāda started publishing “Back to Godhead” magazine in the forties, he moved to Vṛndāvana, took sannyāsa, lived in Rādhā-Dāmodara temple, went to America, resumed publication, established a world wide movement and became the most famous personality in Gauḍiyā Vaiṣṇavism, and yet during this time no one would even mention that “Back to Godhead” title makes no sense as it goes against “siddhānta” as understood by no-fall-vādīs. And that is in addition to uncountable references in Prabhupāda’s books, letters, and conversations where he clearly talks about our fall from spiritual world and the necessity to go BACK to Godhead. No one said a word for almost fifty years, then whole hell broke loose, or so it seems.
That book, about leaves falling off Vaikuṇṭha, started an avalanche of opinions on the issue. The entire ex-ISKCON world seemingly united against us on this philosophical point. If you listen to them, the entire Gauḍiyā world stand behind them, unanimous in their resolve, to confront our distortion of siddhānta.
In reality, no one gives a … (insert your favorite word). Moreover, there appears to be significant disagreements between our critics and accusations are flying around in that supposedly united world, too.
Personally, I thought that the original no-fall argument was made mostly on the strength of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s Jaiva Dharma. I don’t think any of the ācāryas who came before him addressed the issue straight on and so their statements are opened to interpretations if one looks for answers to this particular question. If Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura accepted them as “no-fall” then we ought to accept it, too, and then try to deal with differences between his followers in ISKCON and Gauḍiyā Maṭhas.
Personally, I had an impression that GM and their ācāryas are with no-fall on this one but, apparently, I was wrong. Well, the original book was written by a non-GM devotee, I just assumed his reasoning was accepted in GM as the same no-fall theory is pushed by the mahārāja I was talking about for the past two days, and he left ISKCON for a guru in Caitanya Sarasvatī Maṭha. Now I’m not sure his views are welcome there anymore.
This is his guru recorded answer on the question of whether jīva is forced to appear in the material world against his will:
He is not forced. The first starting point is that of free will. We have to accept that and we have to find that out. Otherwise God will be responsible for the jiva’s misery.
This is what this disciple has to say about “free will” idea, a bit lengthy but I highlighted main points for a quick scan:
..some contemporary acaryas in the parivara of Thakura Bhaktivinoda have written about the implications of anadi karma in ways that contradict each other. Some have written that jivas fall from grace or a condition beyond karmic influence into a karma bound life by exercise of their free will, while some have also written that jivas do not fall into a karma bound life and by implication are literally materially conditioned from a time without beginning. As it is clear from the discussion of the relevant sutras above, the former position is not Gaudiya siddhanta. The latter position is.
Some other followers of the same guru didn’t like this turn at all but I don’t want to be drawn into their internal reactions. Maybe there’s conflict there, maybe not.
Back to Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, however. It appears that his other statements, including in the same Jaiva Dharma, which support fall from the spiritual world, have been acknowledged and accepted by this particular critic, but then dismissed as mere preaching strategy (source):
Thakura Bhaktivinoda formulated a preaching strategy that, while appearing to differ from scriptural statements, was nonetheless efficacious in his time and for some time thereafter.
Basically, he says that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was preaching apa-siddhānta but it was a good thing. Nice excuse, normally one would stop listening on words “preaching apa-siddhānta”, the first reaction going along this line: “He says Bhaktivinoda was preaching apa-siddhanta. Bas, no more talking to this person.” Of course Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura never said he was massaging the truth for the purposes of preaching and none of his followers ever thought such an outrageous thing for a hundred years. It’s as if Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura duped not only materialists but devotees as well, as acknowledged in this quote from the same article: “The strategy under discussion, having begun with Bhaktivinoda, has been repeated both verbatim and with some variation by numerous acaryas in the lineage.”
The same thing is attributed to Śrīla Prabhupāda, too, who knew the correct siddhānta but made some statements contradictory to it according to time, place, and circumstances, like when he was commenting on Christian philosophy for the book prepared by his disciples.
All of this is preposterous, of course, and is beyond redemption, but we should see it as a natural response to the need to reconcile one’s own inventions with authority of the ācāryas. This is what is expected to happen when one tries to do his own thing but doesn’t want to abandon the tradition either. I want go as far as to say that it’s done out of fear of losing followers, I hope it’s a genuine desire to stay faithful while dealing with his own mind and intelligence.
There’s this quote mentioned in the GBC’s pdf:
Prabhupada said things according to time and circumstance, Sridhara Maharaja saying this way according to time and circumstance and I, another way according to time and circumstance. I can draw from Prabhupada how he applied in certain circumstances and I can see how Sridhara Maharaja did and I can come up with a synthesis, a third idea, based on scripture and what they had done.
No one is preaching the truth anymore, apparently everyone just deals with contingencies, time and circumstances, but why call this another third thing a siddhānta, though? Or is siddhānta status gets attached to these mental speculations as a preaching strategy, too? This argument (they were preaching, you are preaching, so it’s all apa-siddhānta now) presented in response to pushing of no-fall-vāda would be extremely ironic, wouldn’t it?
Bottom line is this – being attached to one’s own speculations is dangerous and will eventually lead to direct confrontation with one’s guru and predecessor ācāryas. Kṛṣṇa consciousness is not science in the sense we start from ignorance and “discover” things according to our own experiences and understanding. No, we accept the words of our ācāryas as the truth, that’s our starting point, and we should never allow our speculations to contradict verdicts of our guru. Don’t even step on that road, it leads to hell.
Incidentally, …(to be continued).