Vanity thought #1292. Aindra’s rights

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.

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Vanity thought #1291. Aindra

For many years I couldn’t made my mind about HG Aindra Prabhu. On one hand his reputation as the foremost kīrtanīyā is undisputed. No one in ISKCON history came even close, the informal title of modern day nāmācārya is fully deserved. On the other hand, he was always somewhat at odds with ISKCON leadership and that aspect of his life can’t be avoided, too.

I don’t know if there are different opinions on this, perhaps someone would provide an authoritative account how it happened, but, personally, I credit only Aindra with the grassroots worldwide saṅkīrtana revolution that has visibly changed the face of our society. It isn’t complete but it already has made a big difference.

I’m talking about proliferation of various kīrtana melās no one has ever heard of before. Aindra didn’t personally started them but it was his call for significant increase in performing harināma saṅkīrtana that provided the impetus. People just did whatever they could and short of 24-hour kīrtanas, kīrtana melās are the next best thing.

At this point I can’t help but notice that both these kīrtana melās and Aindra’s 24-hour kīrtanas have the same format – a group of devotees sitting down with traditional instruments and chanting for hours non-stop. They are not walking the streets and imposing themselves on unsuspecting public, often against people’s will. In both cases their main audience are temple visitors. Maybe this similarity is not that of causation – Aindra did this and kīrtana melās followed – but it looks so to me.

There are differences as well. Lots of kīrtanīyā groups look like professionals and pay more attention to the musical side of things. When Aindra started his one man band he didn’t even know how to play harmonium, he was self-taught and he learned more as he moved along. Eventually he produced professional CDs but most of his regular recordings are not musically impressing at all. He surely had a few catchy tunes but also tons of tunes no one could keep up with.

There’s also the inherent difference between pioneers and followers. Aindra started with nothing, he didn’t even plan to start 24-hour kīrtanas when he arrived in Vṛndāvana, and for the first half a year he was doing it alone, without any help. He says he’d ask anyone hanging around to pick up karatālas and join in, mostly various onlookers of Indian extraction.

Kīrtana melās of these days, otoh, are well advertised and enjoy massive support. The biggest ones gather over ten thousand people, it’s just not the same as struggling alone against all odds for years without any reward.

This struggle to establish himself also had its side effects, like everything in Kali yuga does. Unfortunate but true. And it’s this unintended consequence that puzzled me for years.

I might be wrong but my theory makes sense to me and it resolves whatever issues I might occasionally have with Aindra’s preaching so I’m quite happy about it. In fact, I can’t see it in any other way anymore.

It’s very simple – in his fight for recognition, not for himself but for big increase in congregational chanting of the Holy Name, Aindra had to justify it in all possible ways. He had to establish it philosophically, he had to made it look like a success to attract support, he had to preach to volunteers, and he had to prove it to himself, too. All of that had to stress relative supremacy of his chosen service which naturally looked as if it was made at the expense of everything else.

Whether he was talking on book distribution, saṅkīrtana, varṇāśrama, guru tattva, nature of the dhāma, development of bhakti, practically everything, he eventually turned it around to support his own service as the best solution possible. He would argue from śāstra and experience, he would argue from common sense and our preceptor ācāryas, he would argue for and against different positions, but at the end of the day it would always turn to implicit suggestion “therefore you should join harināma saṅkīrtana party in Vṛndāvana”. That has become the main giveaway for me.

I can’t possibly retrace all his arguments but very often I listened to them and thought that I wouldn’t necessarily interpret it this way, that other views are possible and just as valid, but there usually wasn’t anything clearly contradictory to our siddhānta. It’s only at the end, when he concludes that congregational chanting of the Holy Name in the Holy Dhāma is the best possible service that everything falls into the place. Why didn’t you say so at the beginning? Obviously there ARE other ways to serve the Lord which are just as valid so you premise and your conclusion can’t possibly be right.

Incidentally, every Indian bābā does exactly the same thing. They can drop tons of wisdom on you but at the end of the day the conclusion is that what they are doing is the only right thing.

To be fair, Aindra Prabhu never argued against book distribution, for example, and there’s nothing wrong with placing it below congregational chanting on a relative value scale, but for some reason he never ended his preaching with “therefore you should distribute books”. Never, under no possible circumstances, one would leave his room, pick up books, and try to distribute them. That’s just not right.

Why was it so?

Well, I already mentioned the need to prove his service and attract other devotees. You don’t do it by declaring it as second best and not really that important. The other reason is Aindra’s personal history. He left the West for Vṛndāvana after an acrimonious split up with his local management. I’m fully prepared to accept that the management was wrong and unfair and not spiritually enlightened enough even though I don’t know the exact circumstances. I’m prepared to give Aindra the benefit of th doubt on this, but the result was that he decided to chart his own course, pick his own service, and make his own name, so to speak. It worked, Kṛṣṇa clearly recognized his efforts, but it’s still not the best way to achieve progress in spiritual life.

In his case it led to the necessity to make his own judgments on practically everything. Ever since he left the US he had to make his own decisions and he didn’t accept any authorities but his own experience, understanding, and intelligence. More often than not it ends in disaster. In his own case it led to the assumption that one must take charge of his own progress, chart his own map and work towards his own goals, and there’s no other way.

The problem is that anyone who has a living breathing guru pleading his disciples to help him in moving the mission of our ācāryas has no space for passing his own judgments on what service he should take. We should try to please our guru, not invent our own ways. We are supposed to become “servant of the servant of the servant”, solely dependent on the mercy of other vaiṣṇavas and interested only in other vaiṣṇavas wellbeing, not chart our own course and declare it as pleasing to the Lord.

No arguments in the universe can overwrite the request of our guru. If he says “please go into the streets and distribute books” then this is the best and only possible service for us regardless of how little benefit we would derive from it objectively. I mean, according to Aindra and his quotes, every service done in Vṛndāvana is multiplied a thousand times – can’t compete with this math.

We can’t develop Kṛṣṇa premā by walking the streets either, it’s just not the place for such exalted emotions. Kṛṣṇa premā can only be obtained at the feet of a fully self-realized mahā-bhāgavata devotee who himself is fully absorbed in intimate pastimes of Rādha and Kṛṣṇa. Can’t argue with that either, it’s patently true, and Kṛṣṇa premā should be our only goal in our Kṛṣṇa consciousness, but whatever arguments are there, if our guru asks us to start a prasādam distribution program then this is what we must do. For a devotee there should be no other choice. We serve Kṛṣṇa by serving other vaiṣṇavas and whatever service we are given should be taken as absolutely precious. We can’t turn it down because it’s not exalted enough.

Aindra put himself in the position where he had to make his own choices and his guru had long departed this world so it was really only up to him. For most of us this isn’t the case, and looking at the example of Gauḍīyā Maṭhas we can see that going alone is a very risky proposition. Aindra survived, good for him. He had enough purity and sincerity, we might not be so lucky.

Sometimes he was frustrated too – he felt didn’t progress towards Kṛṣṇa premā fast enough. If we put our fate into the hands of our guru we wouldn’t worry about such things, whatever realizations come, they come when we are ready and when Kṛṣṇa is ready to trust us. When we set our own timeline it’s easy to turn it into a succession of artificial deadlines, too. I mean who else are we going to trust with judging our progress? Who is going to tell us we are too slow or too fast? Kṛṣṇa directly? Nope, our own intelligence and our own estimate.

Anyone who is trying to do so, to take his service into his own hands, is likely to create disturbances for himself and for others. There’s a verse supporting it but I don’t remember where it is from. I’m not saying Aindra created disturbances but I bet there were quite a few unsettled souls who didn’t know what to do with their lives after listening to him, as coming back home and following their local authorities didn’t seem like an option anymore, and pure and simple living in Vṛndāvana simply isn’t for everybody. Many have tried, most have failed.

I think this rant is getting too long and I probably didn’t give as much credit to Aindra’s unprecedented dedication to saṅkīrtana as he deserved, perhaps some other day, there’s a lot to say about his particular style of chanting.

Vanity thought #1200. Top shelf stuff

I’m still trying to imagine how otherwise purely spiritual relationships with Kṛṣṇa would manifest in the material world. The reason for this interest is that I’m highly skeptical of how it’s presented among “rasika” devotees.

Their common wisdom goes that we can’t develop love of Kṛṣṇa if we do not hear about His pastimes. They say things like Śrīla Prabhupāda published Kṛṣṇa Book before Bhagavad Gīta because reading about Kṛṣṇa’s life is more important for devotees in our sampradāya than learning philosophy. That argument is wrong, of course, because Gīta was published before Kṛṣṇa Book, and also because Prabhupāda spent far more time lecturing devotees on philosophy than on telling stories from Kṛṣṇa’s life.

Btw, this attachment to good story telling is all-pervasive. When giving Bhāgavatam classes some devotees openly set time aside for stories as opposed to discussing verses themselves. Everybody loves a good story, they assume correctly, but that doesn’t mean they should tell people what they want to hear as opposed to what Kṛṣṇa wants speakers to say. We have Bhāgavatam format set by Śrīla Prabhupāda and this time should be spent on discussing Bhāgavatam, not our personal stories, however inspiring.

There’s a thin line between incorporating episodes from the lives of devotees and Śrīla Prabhupāda into Bhāgavatam related narrative and an unstoppable itch to tell a story anyway. Easy to cross, easy not to cross, too, we just have to be aware of it and approach storytelling responsibly and in spirit of service to the Bhāgavatam, not our impatient tongues.

I love a good story just as anybody else but sometimes it makes me uncomfortable – Bhāgavatm is meant for self-realization, not self-gratification. Otoh, devotees telling inspiring stories are doing legitimate service, too, just possibly at the wrong time in a wrong place, but if they invoke devotional feelings in people’s heart it shouldn’t matter. Time and place don’t have much control over when and where glorification of the Lord can be conducted. Thin line, as I said.

The difference between this kind of storytelling and “rasika” storytelling is that the first kind comes from devotees’ genuine desire to share incredible realizations while the second kind is a matter of sādhana. The more you hear stories about Kṛṣṇa the more you’ll appreciate them, they argue. It’s like training meat-eaters’ kids to eat vegetables – there’s zero appreciation at first but with time they develop new habits and new tastes. It works on everybody, from dogs to adults, but it’s a mechanical, not spiritual process.

Ironically, they hope to develop spontaneous devotion by forcing themselves to hear the same stories over and over again until they come to like them. When they eventually succeed in developing this taste they proclaim themselves as true rasikas, those who relish Kṛṣṇa’s nectarean pastimes.

It also so happens that they concentrate only on top shelf rasa, dealings between Kṛṣṇa and gopīs, and consider everything else as inferior. They wouldn’t listen to Bhāgavatam, because it’s a book for neophytes, let alone Bhagavad Gīta, which is written for non-devotees, I guess. They wouldn’t listen to Kṛṣṇa spending time with His cowherd boyfriends or being nursed by His parents – not our rasa, they claim. We come in the line of Rūpa Gosvāmī and so we should go straight for the honey pot of mādhurya and do not divert our attention to any other flavor.

When I put it this way it’s easy to see why I am extremely skeptical. Personally, I think that a real rasika devotee wouldn’t be able to either tell or listen to Kṛṣṇa related stories, he’d immediately lose his external consciousness. We have plenty of examples from our literature where exalted devotees would start crying and fall on the ground at a mere sight of another soul who equally appreciates these same pastimes, there never had been any talking.

There were conversations between Lord Caitanya and Rāmānanda Rāya but they were never conducted in public and no one knows their actual content, and no one else was able to speak with the Lord in a similar way. Who among present day rasikas can claim being on the same level as Rāmānanda Rāya? Did Rāmānanda Rāya discussed these topic with anyone else? Who among modern rasikas can claim to be his worthy associate? It’s all nonsense, ideas concocted by people who do not trust in a path chartered for us by our ācāryas.

There’s one devotee who stands out among ISKCON rasikas – Aindra Prabhu who, unfortunately, left us some years ago. He often talked on the subject giving basically the same arguments, but, unlike stock rasikas, he was incensed by suggestions that Śrīla Prabhupāda didn’t teach us any higher taste. I feel like he talked about importance of developing rasa only to prove that we in ISKCON are in no way deficient in this area.

I don’t remember him ever talking about Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes themselves, btw. If he did I either didn’t hear it or it was so different from vomit inducing sweetness prevalent in rasika circles that it didn’t even register with me.

Being ISKCON most prominent kīrtanīyā he never sang any bhajanas, only Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. That’s another proof of his unorthodox approach to rasa – it’s all contained in simple words of our ācāryas or in syllables of the mahāmantra and that’s where we should go looking for it. If one is unable to appreciate sweetness of the mahāmantra it’s his problem and it can’t be fixed by artificial sweeteners of wannabe rasa-kathā.

Instead of expanding rasa carrying topics he distilled the essence of ordinary looking instructions. Not long ago I listened to his talk about Prabhāda Mahārāja whose prayers are considered inferior by wannabe rasikas but Aindra managed to explain them as manifestations of Rādhārāṇī’s love for Kṛṣṇa.

Usually rasas are explained incrementally, each higher rasa adding something non-existent in lower rasas but Aindra saw it the other way – inferior rasas stem from superior and so he didn’t see Prahlāda Mahārāja as lacking something comparing to Rādhārāṇī but as carrier of Her original love and compassion.

This looks like a far better, far more mature way to look at the wide spectrum of devotional flavors. Where wannabe rasikas sigh that this or that devotee doesn’t have this or that emotion we should see whatever they do have as a gift from Śrīmatī Rādhika Herself.

When it comes to personal behavior Aindra was also unlike any self-proclaimed rasika. As I mentioned, he didn’t seek taste anywhere outside the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra but the story of his arrival to Vṛndāvana is exemplary, too. He didn’t go there to enjoy rasa, he came as a one man traveling band, with a trunk packed with travel-size instruments, microphones, amplifiers etc. He planned on going from place to place and doing hari-nāma, not telling Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes to a few selected hangers-on. It so happened that he was asked to do 24 hour kīrtan in Vṛndāvana so he got stuck there.

To wrap it up – I do love the approach where we see not inferior rasas and tastes but traces of supreme devotion of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī in everything and in every devotee. I also like that ALL rasas are best expressed through chanting of the Holy Name, no separate story-telling necessary, not beyond what is prescribed by our ācāryas.

Vanity thought #251. Harinama varnashrama.

I don’t know what it means, I just like how it sounds, and the effect of big sounding sanskrity words make on my mind is going to be one of the points I’m going to think about today.

A few days ago a conversation between and unnamed devotee and recently departed HG Ainda Prabhu on the subject of promoting varnashrama was posted on Dandavats. To me it sounds quite provocative and maybe even controversial but so far it attracted no comments. At first I thought I should say something there but then I considered my insignificance comparing to all other people who have read the article and kept quiet so I decided to stay mum, too.

There are reasons for this, and one of them, I believe, is that it’s extremely difficult to publicly disagree with a departed vaishnava. Aindra Prabhu was like god to me, too, and his dedication to singing Hare Krishna is unrivaled, imo. If I were to choose one singer to listen to on a deserted island it would be Aindra. Of course there is Srila Prabhupada and the guru but those are not in the same category as the rest of our “singers”, or “kirtaniyas”, as they are often called. So I find it hard to engage myself in thoughts that might undermine my faith in Aindra Prabhu’s level of devotion. There’s that, and there’s the reality – he could have been wrong on some other issues, and that’s where things can get really sticky in just one second. So I decided to stay in the shadows and deal with my doubts in the privacy of this blog that no one reads.

All in all I absolutely agree with the main thrust of that conversation – harinama is far more important that trying to establish varhashrama, which is not our primary goal in any sense. Like it says in the article – we are not in the International Society for Varnashrama or Social Development, and varnashrama is not the yuga dharma for this age, but still something seems off.

First thing that I noticed is how many times Prabhupada’s instructions on varnashrama are referred to as “harping”. I’d love to give Aindra the benefit of doubt but all the dictionaries confirm my worst fears – the verb “harp” has negative connotations, and “nag” is listed as one of the synonyms. I don’t know, maybe it’s some sort of transcendental pastime I will never be privy to but now it’s in public domain and no disciple should use words like “harping” when talking about his spiritual master.

I don’t know how to explain that one. I’m sure neither Aindra nor the participating devotee meant any disrespect to Srila Prabhupada but they didn’t define the exact rules of that conversation either, we can only guess what they really meant. I think everybody got impatient with some of Prabhupada’s passages at least once, if we are being totally honest. If one picks up Chaitanya Charitamrita to immerse himself in the nectar of Mahaprabhu’s pastimes he is not going to get anything for the first couple of volumes, it’s all philosophy, sometimes pretty dry, and Bengali and the word-for-word translations only make reading slower. When I read it for the first time I often thought to myself: “When will I finally get to the good stuff?” I know it’s not what we should think and experience as allegedly inspired devotees but the reality is that we must experience occasional aversion to devotional service as conditioned souls, and not all Krishna conscious topics will inspire as at all times.

Maybe Aindra used the word “harp” from this point of view – necessary and important but it’s not the “good stuff”, we should just get through it and hope we won’t fail the test.

Another point that didn’t seem right to me is the extensive use of technical Sanskrit words for just about everything. Sure, if one is familiar with the philosophy of raganuga bhakti none of them would need an internet search but the overall expression is that they were talking in code, as if they wanted to distance themselves from neophytes like me, as if they were establishing the verbal barrier to keet the hoi polloi out. Maybe it was not the case but this approach is open to all kinds of abuse. What if it’s a self-assigned exclusivity? What if the usage of those words implies not only superior knowledge of the siddhanta but also superior level of realization? What if they enjoyed the bragging?

In the previous paragraph I first wanted to say “familiar with our philosophy” but felt that I cannot claim to belong to their club, they talked a lot about people misunderstanding the philosophy and especially the siddhanta, and I’m probably in the “you don’t know anything” group and thus can’t use “our” to describe it anymore. I certainly do not recognize their pattern of discourse as “ours”, actually quite a few of the Sanskrit terms they used do not even appear in the vedabase. Prabhupada didn’t talk like that but I know who did, better not drag any more names into this.

Another point that I “couldn’t help but notice” is that their accusation of people filtering Prabhupada’s books only to see what they want to see in them can be equally applied to this discussion, too. Every conditioned being cherry picks the arguments to support his views and discard all others as useless “harping”, every living being needs to support his own choices and thoughts, every living being needs the safety of knowing that they are right and other people are wrong.

In this case Aindra and his friend are definitely right, harinama is of utmost importance for us, and perhaps they are right in pointing out that in our regular sadhana there’s not enough time reserved for congregational chanting, and, of course, the best place for harinama is in Vrindavan or Mayapur, but that doesn’t make everyone not doing that automatically wrong. I sensed that they tried to raise the value of their views at the expense of everybody else. Maybe it’s my imperfect eyes and contaminated mind but hey, it’s because I’m familiar with this kind of contamination myself that I can sense it in others! Prabhupada surely loved to put down his opponents, too, but he never talked about reaching higher stages of progress to afford that. In fact the only thing he said was required is the full faith in executing the orders of his spiritual master and that takes me to hopefully the last contentious point in that article – qualifications needed for preaching.

Srila Prabhupada made it very simple – you just repeat what you heard without adding anything of your own, the power comes from Lord Chaitanya, He converts people’s hearts and makes them listen to our presentations while HG Aindra Prabhu and his friend were talking mostly about personal qualifications instead. Both approaches seem correct and I’m sure both have their place in fulfilling Lord Chaitanya’s mission, I just wish one wasn’t promoted at the expense of the other.

In this connection I recall Srila Prabhupada’s visit to Lalita Prasad, the brother of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati. He didn’t question Lalita Prasad’s personal qualifications, he just noticed that Lord Chaitanya didn’t choose him as a vessel for His mercy. He said that for the outside world with billions of suffering souls there is no benefit at all and all Lalita Prasad does for that world is sit and talk about how he was Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s favorite son. I’m sure Krishna appreciated Lalita Prasad’s personal bhajan but I appreciate Prabhupada getting on that ship and traveling to America better.

Oh, and I’m very skeptical about “cultivating the vision of uttama-adhikari” phrase, I hope I don’t need to explain why.

All in all, I don’t think anyone can doubt Aindra Prabhu’s sincerety and dedication to both Krishna and Srila Prabhupada but that doesn’t mean he was speaking from the level of an absolutely realized soul free from any contamination of the material energy and that we should take each of his thoughts as an absolute gospel, only his actual disciples would have been obliged to do that. Another important consideration is that he was not repeating words of Srila Prabhupada exactly or in the same exact mood. That doesn’t automatically mean that he was wrong but it opens the possibility.

To be honest, the very usage of the word “rasika” makes me deeply suspicious. Prabhupada never used it, it only appears as part of Bengali or Sanskrit verses, if he ever cared about it he didn’t express it publicly but there are devotees who just can’t stop talking about it, making it into some sort of an ideal standard everyone should aspire to. Why talk about it so much? What happened to durdaivam idrisham ihajani nanuragah? Isn’t there a danger of getting ahead of yourself?

Bottom line, I wish I had just a little drop of HG Aindra Prabhu’s attraction to chanting and I better not poison my mind by what appears to be his weaknesses, but I can’t “unread” that article, I hope I dealt with it in a least damaging way, that’s the best I can do.