The Wave of Sahajiyaism
by Sriman Atul Krishna Das
Reflections on the text "Who is following whom?"
With great curiosity I have been reading the papers written by the party of B.G. Narasingha Maharaja, as well as the recent responses from the followers of Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja. I have noted that the articles written by the followers of Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja appear to address the philosophical conclusions under discussion in a very polite way and with honor for the other side. Despite this fact, B.G. Narasingha Maharaja and his followers have not responded with equal kindness, but rather they have gradually escalated their propaganda into the realm of vicious and anonymous ad hominem.
This exchange of articles reached its peak, as recently an article entitled "Who is following whom?" by an anonymous disciple of B.G. Narasingha Maharaja was posted on "Krsna Talk" and other websites. This barrage of misinformation may be harmful to many innocent readers. Therefore, with the interests of our vaisnava community in mind, I will briefly point out some of the major defects in this paper. It is with great reluctance that I have chosen to stray slightly from the discussion of pure siddhanta, but the severity of the accusations made in "Who is following whom?" have impelled me to address some practical issues. The facts are the facts, and the truth has to be spoken. If the feelings of the gentle readers are hurt in any way due to anything I may present hereafter, I am requesting them to kindly forgive me in advance.
The paper in question sets the scene with the following statement:
"The followers of Sripad B.V. Narayana Maharaja write that, ‘the highest good can be obtained by anyone who faithfully hears krsna-katha from a bona-fide rasika acarya’ and quote Srila Narottama dasa Thakura, (‘A person averse to hearing these lilas will never attain perfection. I refuse to hear his name’) in an attempt to justify the hearing of confidential lilas by the unqualified."Here we see how the author tries to graft together two unrelated statements from the excellent article "Hearing from a Rasika Acarya" by Sripad Dhrstadyumna Das to give the impression that Srila Narayana Maharaja and his genuine followers (quote) "attempt to justify the hearing of confidential lilas by the unqualified." However, such a conclusion has not been presented anywhere in that paper. The statement that "the highest good can be obtained by anyone who faithfully hears krsna-katha from a bona-fide rasika acarya" is undoubtably true because a bona-fide rasika acarya knows how to present everything according to the qualification of the audience. The statement that "a person who is averse to hearing rasa-lila will never attain perfection," is also true because it is the statement of Srila Narottama Dasa Thakura. However, the author then makes 2+2=5 by waving his finger and boldly announcing, "Just see how they are attempting to justify the hearing of confidential lilas by the unqualified!"
In this way he insults the readers’ intelligence by incorrectly summarizing the gist of "hearing from a rasika acarya", and hoping that the reader will not notice. After that sleight of hand, he goes on at great length, slashing and cutting triumphantly at a point that was NEVER MADE. If Sripad Dhrstadyumna Das had actually condoned the hearing of confidential lilas by the unqualified anywhere in his paper then surely B.G. Narasingha Maharaja's disciple could supply us with the quote. Furthermore, even the quote he does present us clearly states "one who FAITHFULLY hears". Then totally overlooking the content of his own evidence, he attempts to persuade us that this means the followers of Srila Narayana Maharaja advocate the hearing of confidential lilas by the unqualified. Is he suggesting that the words "faithfully" and "unqualified" have the same meaning? Such incoherent and absent-minded writing can only occur as a result of vaisnava aparadha.
Previously B.G. Narasingha Maharaja wrote: "While commenting on this verse [10.33.39] Srila Viswanatha Chakravarti Thakura has mentioned that one should first come to the stage of anartha-nivrithi before attempting to hear the rasa-lila topics. It is sometimes taken that sraddha anvitah or full faith means anartha-nivrithi, the stage of being FREE from misconception and unwanted disturbances in the heart."
Of course Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura never wrote any such thing. This was proven conclusively in "Hearing from a Rasika Acarya". It seems that a sannyasa disciple of B.G. Narasingha Maharaja became upset over the fact that his guru was categorically wrong. Better to accept that fact with integrity than to shamelessly concoct a classic "straw man" argument to compound the humiliation. What is this straw man argument? X Maharaja has written:
"The followers of B. V. Narayana Maharaja have taken exception to Srila Narasingha Maharaja's statement that one must ‘first come to the stage of anartha-nivrtti’ before hearing rasa-katha."
It is not that we have taken exception to this statement. We have taken exception to B.G. Narasingha Maharaja’s speculation regarding the teachings of Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura. It is quite evident that the anonymous author of the aforementioned document lost track of the topic of discussion a long time ago. In his original article, B.G. Narasingha Maharaja has attempted to establish his own conclusions in the name of Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura. Then later on, a sannyasa disciple of his, after reading the true explanation of Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura’s statements, indirectly admits that his guru was wrong by trying to invalidate those statements as IRRELEVANT FOR the modern age and claiming that they present a method of sadhana which is different from that propounded by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura!
"Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura's writings must be seen in the context of the time, place and circumstances that he was living in. The genuine followers of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami do not practice the same sadhana that was practiced in the sixteenth century."
Herein they disclose the root of their inadvertent deviation. Although the tenor of preaching may be adjusted to address the ebb and flow of history, the actual process of sadhana in the line of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu always remains the same and can never change. We invite the author to supply us with the details of this NEW style of sadhana, which is different from the sadhana described by Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, and thus also different from the same sadhana described by Srila Rupa Gosvami. The example of non-Hindus not receiving Brahma-gayatri is an irrelevant sociological detail, which has absolutely no effect on the main principles of hearing and the qualification to hear. For example, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada gave brahma-gayatri to ladies, a practice which was not observed by his guru. Is it a new method of sadhana? Let us adhere to the subject at hand. The qualification of the general populace may change from time to time, but the qualification to hear cannot be altered by such external phenomena.
Actually, the commentaries of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura and of Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura on the verse "vikriditam vraja vadhubhir… (10.33.39)" express the same idea in different words. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura does not claim that one must be free from all anarthas, rather he stresses that one simply should not neglect the strict practice of sadhana-bhakti, the cultivation of sambandha-jnana, or compare the transcendental lila with mundane affairs.
This definitely leaves us wondering: "Who is following whom?" It appears that the two Maharajas are not able to follow even each other’s flows of thoughts. In their earlier document, they quote Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Sri Caitanya Siksamrtam to establish the conclusion that one should first become purified by hearing the pastimes of Krishna’s killing the demons, and in the later, they quote Srila Jiva Gosvami’s Krama-sandarbha to establish the conclusion that one should first purify his heart by chanting harinama, realizing Krishna’s form, qualities and associates, and only then is one qualified to hear Krishna’s pastimes. Certainly the authors of these documents are very competent in making it look like our acaryas contradict each other all the time, leaving behind heaps of confused readers, who must wonder whether the authors have a fixed siddhanta at all.
It appears that the anonymous author of the document is quoting from anywhere and everywhere to defeat his opponent, without a serious interest in establishing a solid conclusion. Technically speaking, this is called vitanda, or irrational, aimless reasoning. If B.G. Narasingha Maharaja and his followers intend to have a serious discussion on a particular subject matter, it would be helpful if they could stick to the issue at hand. Every time we give a thorough response to their documents, they twist and turn things around, make up facts of their own design, and subtly change the topic of discussion on top of it all.
Just because Sripad Dhrstadyumna Das has shown that one need not be beyond anartha nivrtti to hear rasa-lila katha from the lips of a pure devotee does not mean he is advocating hearing by those who are utterly unqualified, as illogically suggested in the paper under question. Quote: "This verse (Bhag 10.33.39) is often misused on an attempt to justify the hearing by anyone and everyone of the Lord’s confidential pastimes." Sripad Dhrstadyumna Das has thoroughly established the actual qualification required on the basis of the direct explanations of Srila Jiva Gosvami and Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura. So why does the anonymous author try to establish that Sripad Dhrstadyumna das is advocating hearing by the unqualified? Why?
Since the character and activities of Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja are all immaculate and flawless, it is necessary for those who are averse to him to first quickly create a false allegation against him and then enthusiastically present an exhaustive body of evidence from accepted authorities in the hope that the reader will not notice that the original allegation was unfounded. This cheap shot has been made in such a cowardly way that the author even declined to put his name on it. This is indicative of a distinct lack of guru-nistha.
Not only that, but the rest of the paper contains not less than another twenty anonymous statements and "some unspecified person allegedly said to another unspecified person etc…." type of anecdotal references. One might rightly ask, "If your case is so strong, then why is all your so called evidence anonymous?" Of course, all the witnesses are so dubious that even though anonymous statements have no credibility, it is better to have no credibility than to be associated with the infamous by citing their statements as evidence.
The unknown author goes to great length to provide us with evidence that one should not discuss the highly confidential astakaliya-lila of Sri Sri Radha-Krsna in a public assembly. However, he does not provide us with a shred of evidence to prove that Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja is actually doing this. If that were the case, then surely it would not be difficult to prove because the lectures if Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja are immediately transcribed and posted on internet and all the classes spoken in English over the past six years or so are easily available to anyone. If we inspect those lectures, what do we find? Mainly practical and repeated explanations of Sri Upadesamrta, Sri Siksastakam, Sri Rupa Siksa, Sri Sanatana Siksa, the opening verses of Ramananda Samvada, the lives of Prahlada Maharaja, Dhruva Maharaja, Ambarisa Maharaja, Bharat Maharaja, Ajamila, Citraketu Maharaja and so on. Sometimes we may find the pastimes of Krsna stealing butter, killing demons or even the separation feelings of Nanda Maharaja, Yasoda Maiya and the gopis when Krsna left Vrndavan. Do we find any discussions of sambhoga-rasa, astakaliya-lila, Sri Govinda-lilamrta and Krsna Bhavanamrta? Then why does the anonymous author rant on about this for more than thirty pages? He challenges:
"The onus is on those differing with this presentation of our acaryas actual inner mood to show where Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada, Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Gosvami Maharaja and Srila Bhakti Pramoda Puri Gosvami Maharaja prominently preached rasa-lila to mixed audiences."Here the author tirelessly reiterates his false accusation to reinforce the impression that Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja prominently preaches rasa-lila katha to mixed audiences. Where is the evidence? The best he can come up with is:
"In section 4 above, Srila Narayana Maharaja claims that Srila Prabhupada wanted to give this rasa-katha to everyone. This is clearly not the fact."Thus the author continues with his tiresome and transparent faultfinding. Any ordinary person will agree that all of our acaryas want to give rasa-katha to everyone (eventually). Simply to state this does not in any way dispose of the recognition of adhikara, as implied by X Maharaja. Such dysfunctional statements reveal more about the character of the author than about Gaudiya Siddhanta. The idea that Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja is not following the mood and conclusions of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura is absurd. The unknown author explains that Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja emphasizes smarana over kirtana in the following statement:
"Srila Sarasvati Thakura emphasized the chanting of the holy name over lila-smarana in order to purify the conditioned soul, whereas Narayana Maharaja stresses the opposite."However, nothing could be further from the truth. In his commentary on Sri Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu Bindu, Srila Narayana Maharaja writes:
"In Kali-yuga, if another anga of bhakti is performed, it must be accompanied by harinama sankirtana. Srila Sanatana Gosvami has also said that harinama-sankirtana is the foremost among all the angas of bhakti, such as smarana and so on.
manyamahe kirtanam eva sattamam
lolatmakaika svahrdi sphurat smrteh
vaci svayukte manasi srutau tatha
The Lord’s associates in Vaikuntha said: "In our opinion, KIRTANA is superior to SMARANA because remembrance manifests only within the mind, which is by nature unsteady. Kirtana, however, manifests on the tongue and vocal organs and automatically creates an impression on the mind. In the end the sound of kirtana not only satisfies the sense of hearing, but it pleases all those who hear it just as it does for the self. In smarana there is no such power. Therefore kirtana alone is capable of controlling the mind, which is ever more flickering than the wind. Besides, the mind cannot perform smarana without kirtana. Other than kirtana there is no other method by which the mind can be made steady–this is the deep and confidential meaning of this sloka by Srila Sanatana Gosvami."Again we challenge X Maharaja to provide just one shred of evidence to support his accusation that Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja stresses smarana over kirtana. It is utterly astonishing that the author of the aforementioned document has taken so much time to refute the products of his own imagination. Had he ever studied the books and lectures of Srila Narayana Maharaja, which are freely available on the internet, he would have discovered that the teachings of Srila Narayana Maharaja in the world of his mind do not even remotely correspond with the teachings of Srila Narayana Maharaja in reality. Instead of being radically different from the teachings of our previous acaryas, we find that the teachings of Srila Narayana Maharaja are identical with theirs in this regard. This is also true of the teachings of Srila B.R. Sridhara Maharaja, as is evident in the two quotes given below:
(Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, Bhakti Rasamrta Sindhu Bindu pg.106)
"Yes, Govinda Lilamrta is there, with asta-kaliya-lilas, the eight lila of Radha-Govinda. This is for the higher students."
(Srila BR Sridhara Maharaja, Room Conversation, Nov. 12, 1981)
"At our present stage we should not buy or read Govinda-lilamrta and Krishna-bhavanamrita. We must first engage in very good sadhana-bhajana and become mature in bhakti. Until then, we don't require to read these books any more than a three-year-old boy requires a young and beautiful wife."We request X Maharaja to explain the critical difference in the moods above, which impels him to accuse Srila Narayana Maharaja of deviating from the line of Srila Prabhupada Sarasvati Thakura. Should this not be convincing enough, let it be known that Srila Narayana Maharaja has stated: "Don't try to follow Krsna Bhavanamrta and Govinda Lilamrta at once; otherwise you will go to hell." (Srila Narayana Maharaja, lecture, Eugene, USA, April 29, 2001)
(Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, lecture, France, June 27, 1997)
How, then, should we relate with these very confidential pastimes? "Just as our Guru Maharaja, he is very cautious about to deal with the higher rasa, pujala raga-patha gaurava bhange." (Srila B.R. Sridhara Maharaja, quoted by B.G. Narasingha Maharaja without supplying the reference in article #19 of Krishna-talk) Or, in other words:
"Those who can sing and follow asta-kaliya-lila are very elevated. We only do pranama to these lilas. … I tell you that you should read First Canto, Second Canto, Third Canto; and after that you should take Tenth Canto. Prabhupada has also told this. I never tell the pastimes of the gopis with Krishna to common people."B.G. Narasingha Maharaja’s party claims to be on a mission to quell the wave of sahajiyaism. However, they have embarrassed the line of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura by publicly presenting incorrect statements about the precepts of our guru-varga and by being unable to counter the arguments of various sahajiya groups on several occasions, having first challenged them. Still, they would do well to attack those who are actually sahajiya and opposed to the mission of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, instead of trying to discredit the very person who has done more to protect the mission of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura and to crush sahajiyavada than anyone else in the world-preaching arena today.
(Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, lecture, Wales, July 1, 2000)
We refer our readers to Gaudiya Vaisnavism vs. Sahajiyaism and Prabandha Pancakam — "Five Essential Essays" by Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja. These two literatures have silenced all the critics of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. They have established the dignity of the Sarasvat Gaudiya Vaisnava line in the eyes of its adversaries. Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja is famous for publicly and successfully challenging all the sahajiya babajis at Radha-kunda to debate on sastra and the siddhanta presented by Srila Prabhupada. Thus he is the pride of our sampradaya.
It is beyond the scope of this document to discuss the misconceptions of sahajiyavada. The reader is invited to read Five Essential Essays - Prabandha Panchakam by Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja. This exceptional book is a compilation of five different essays written over the past 20 years in defense of Gaudiya sampradaya tattva siddhanta. Each refutation is elaborately and conclusively proven with evidence from sastra. Included in this edition are two lectures which glorify and follow the example of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada who boldly re-established the true conceptions of Sriman Mahaprabhu and the gosvamis, and began the preaching mission which is today bringing this pure bhakti tattva siddhanta to every country in the world.
The fact of the matter is simply that the mission of B.G. Narasingha Maharaja is weakening all over the world. The more he engages in pointless criticism, the more his disciples are losing faith and taking shelter elsewhere. The problems of B.G. Narasingha Maharaja are his own creation and should not be attributed to the preaching of Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja. It would be a source of great delight to see his mission flourish, yet we fear the worst due to his current spate of serious offences.
It is my sincere desire that all the misunderstandings among the followers of Srila Prabhupada Sarasvati Thakura can be resolved in a harmonious way, and that the message of Rupa and Raghunatha can be spread in good cooperation all over the world. Should there be anyone interested in discussing the philosophical conclusions or any details to substantiate the facts presented herein, the author of this document may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Atul Krishna Dasa
[Edited in 2006 by the BVML]