This might very well be family matters series finale. There’s just one document left to address and it should be over. It’s called “A Response to Our Critics” but it isn’t about ISKCON reaction but rather a testament of how larger tattvavāda community reacted to this internet activism.
First they offer a brief history of their website, duly acknowledging that to many followers of Madhvācārya the very idea of placing their literature into public domain was against their core principle that only qualified people should be allowed to read it. They also say that they didn’t have any guidance from senior devotees. This generally means only one thing – their community didn’t support them, their seniors didn’t give them blessings, and so all they ever produced could not be anything but unnecessary disturbance. After commenting on the content of their site I think that this conclusion is supported by facts, too.
They had plenty of clues along the way to drop their project but they persisted. If they were meaning to induce people to worship Kṛṣṇa (or Viṣṇu) that could have been seen as testing of their resolve but since a lot of what is publicly available on their site is vaiṣṇva aparadha based on unsubstantiated accusations their entire work deserves condemnation and the fact that the site is frozen in time and nothing works there anymore is proof that the Lord does not look at it gladly.
They say their site attracts hundreds of complimentary messages every year but it doesn’t mean anything – you start criticizing someone on the internet and lots of people will immediately be attracted by the stink you raise, that’s the nature of the internet, nothing to be proud of. The flood of those complimentary messages has stopped ages ago anyway.
Next they declare what looks like the real drive behind their effort – to denigrate and distance themselves from ISKCON. Their basic understanding of our relationship with Madhvācārya is totally wrong, however. They somehow think that we in ISKCON follow Madhva’s tradition, share his doctrine and hold the same philosophical positions. We are clearly not tattvavādīs, however, that should be obvious right away.
The fact that Madhvācārya holds a prominent place in our disciplic succession and we even call ourselves Brahmā-Madhva-Gauḍiyā samparadāya it doesn’t mean that we have to agree on everything with OTHER followers of Madhvācārya. We take the essence from his teachings, which is supremacy of Lord Viṣṇu and devotional service to him, and are not very interested in discussing things like philosophy because speculations, mental or philosophical, is a domain of men and 99% of the time are a contamination of bhakti by jñāna.
Placing unalloyed devotion at the top of our value system we see our apparent differences from tattvavāda as insignificant and as caused by perturbations of material guṇas. These internet activists, however, take them seriously, which is understandable. If one does not have bhakti in his heart then mental speculations appear as supreme. We judge their value by whether they produce devotion but these activists see nothing but the value of speculations themselves. They become so blinded by their intellectual efforts that they don’t restrain themselves from committing vaiṣṇava aparadha which further deprives their hearts of bhakti and further cements the value of mental arguments.
So they say things like “ISKCON can hardly claim status as a serious school of thought”. We don’t even make such claims, at least not in their definition of “serious”. Any thought that does not lead one to selfless surrender is not serious in our definition but for them “serious” means conforming with their made up standards of philosophical proof. Apparently, they borrowed these standards from advaitins, seeing how successfully they worked for followers of Śaṅkarācārya, and then modified them to make themselves look like victors. They also see their superiority at the expense of all other vaisṇava traditions and reject the verse from Padma Purāṇa about four legitimate vaiṣṇava sampradāyas. This last point once again shows that devotion means nothing to them. They refuse to recognize it, they refuse to value it, their hearts are made of stone, which is a natural consequence of contamination by jñāna.
In the next paragraph, however, they notice that their traditional approach no longer works when they admit that they have lots of followers of Madhvācārya who moved over to ISKCON. They attribute it not to the appeal of genuine surrender but to lack of philosophical understanding on the part of their [hapless] followers. Rather than realize that people are tired of dry, self-serving philosophy and want bhakti to flow in their hearts instead they recommend even heavier emphasis on arguments and redirecting their mental guns towards ISKCON. This is not going to end well – they behave like internet trolls looking for enemies rather than the truth. The more they argue against us the less attractive their position becomes. It’s a good thing that they stopped some fifteen years ago, saved by the Lord within their hearts and by heaps of accumulated benefits from being vaiṣṇavas, no doubt.
Then they move on to the things they find unacceptable – the story of Gaurāṅga appearing to Madhvācārya in a dream, the debate between Lord Caitanya and tattvavādīs in Udupi etc. I’ve already covered those and have nothing more to add. Then there’s something about a false claim made by ISKCON, something about attributing a statement to a person who denied ever making it, but it’s impossible to check because their links do not work anymore. And that is basically it. Then they move on to their fellow tattvavādīs who they openly mock.
They are talking about several letters by senior tattvavāda scholars denouncing this website’s attacks on ISKCON. They say that these people might not have read their “position paper” or might not have understand English well enough to understand it. I’ve been commenting on that paper for two weeks now, it’s not nearly as convincing as its writers think, and these elders are surely familiar with Madhvācārya’s position on the topics covered in there, but it’s a typical fault of dry speculators – they think they are the only ones who know the truth and the rest are ignorant fools who need to be dismissed.
Their argument that falsity must be exposed is too generic to be taken seriously. They say that ISKCON’s teachings are false and that their own elders do not know the truth – it’s entirely up to their discretion who to designate as their enemies, they use this argument as a blank excuse to attack anyone.
They conclude their paper with a plea for support in their endeavor. Now, fifteen years on, it’s clear that it didn’t go anywhere and is lying there in the recesses of the internet as another failure. I hope the authors of this site themselves have cast away this offensive mentality and regained the rightful position in a FAMILY of vaisṇavas. Whatever their issues with ISKCON, there are far bigger enemies of devotion to Hari in the world.