Maharaja Hridayananda has responded to my paper “HH Hridayananda Goswami, Krishna West, and Consequentialism.” My further response:
In his first enumerated point, Maharaja misrepresents my argument. He wrote, “KK ironically suggests that we accept all that Prabhupada says as true, even if to do so we must reject as untrue the limits that Prabhupada places on his own statements.” However, I specifically confined my argument to his books. As Maharaja has quoted me, I wrote, “But if Srila Prabhupada is fallible in his own books, how could anything else he says in them be trusted?” I did not make the claim that “all that Prabhupada says” is true. This distinction matters because on the one hand it acknowledges that a guru even of Srila Prabhupada’s stature is not omniscient and, for example, might be mistaken about how the latest iPhone works. And on the other hand, it asserts that there are some domains in which Srila Prabhupada’s opinion should be considered infallible. For example, in his own statements in his own books, it is self-evident that he is self-consciously speaking as a representative of our parampara. If what Srila Prabhupada says in his own books does not always faithfully represent our parampara siddhantas, then apasiddhantas are sometimes to be found in his books. This is what Maharaja’s 2005 paper on moral theology implies about Srila Prabhupada’s purport to SB 3.20.26. If it is the case that in Srila Prabhupada’s own books there are some utterances of his that are apasiddhanta, then it follows that Srila Prabhupada has no standing as a spiritual authority.
In response to Maharaja’s second enumerated point, a) Gita 12.10 recommends a “gradual process” for those who cannot properly follow the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga, so b) there is no need to speculate in the face of Srila Prabhupada’s own repudiation of the approach that Maharaja has recommended. Furthermore, the artificial restriction of sense-gratification does not necessarily lead to its abandonment (see SB 7.11.34).
In response to Maharaja’s third enumerated point, the hermeneutical principle Maharaja cites is not the only one that matters. Srila Prabhupada’s commentary to SB 3.20.26 is not Prabhupada speaking on “mundane history,” he is commenting on Bhagavatam, and his authority in this particular domain is not to be questioned, or for that matter “bracketed” or ignored. In a discussion with Vallabha Bhatta, Lord Chaitanya said, “You have dared criticize Sridhara Svami, and you have begun your own commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam, not accepting his authority. That is your false pride. Sridhara Svami is the spiritual master of the entire world because by his mercy we can understand Srimad-Bhagavatam. I therefore accept him as a spiritual master” (CC Antya 7.132 – 133). So, a question about Srila Prabhupada’s status can be resolved by this criterion: Is Srila Prabhupada also “the spiritual master of the entire world because by his mercy we can understand Srimad-Bhagavatam”? If the answer is “yes,” then as is the case with Sridhara Swami’s authority, Srila Prabhupada’s authority is not to be questioned.
The result of defying the commentaries of previous acharyas is that one ends up with a contrary purport. Lord Caitanya continues, “Whatever you might write due to false pride, trying to surpass Sridhara Svami, would carry a contrary purport. Therefore no one would pay attention to it” (CC Antya 7.134). In his 2005 paper, Maharaja indeed produces a contradictory conclusion. Srila Prabhupada in his purport to SB 3.20.26 writes,
It appears here that the homosexual appetite of males for each other is created in this episode of the creation of the demons by Brahma. In other words, the homosexual appetite of a man for another man is demoniac and is not for any sane male in the ordinary course of life.
But Hridayananda Maharaja contradicts this:
“Yet although homosexuality is said to have existed since the dawn of creation, the Bhagavatam does not explicitly describe nor proscribe it. Thus according to Krishna’s own statement [MB 8.49.49], since we do not find a specific, explicit, unambiguous set of rules for dealing with homosexuality, we must engage in spiritual reasoning about it.” (21).
The fault of Hridayananda Maharaja’s application of the hermeneutical principle he cites is that he applies it to a domain that he is not supposed to apply it to. Srila Prabhupada is commenting on shastra, specifically the Bhagavatam. Yet Maharaja spends several pages of his paper in order to justify a contradictory conclusion.
In this regard, Srila Prabhupada comments further on CC Antya 7.134,
The parampara system does not allow one to deviate from the commentaries of the previous acaryas. By depending upon the previous acaryas, one can write beautiful commentaries. However, one cannot defy the previous acaryas. The false pride that makes one think that he can write better than the previous acaryas will make one’s comments faulty.
The conclusion is that Hridayananda Maharaja advocates a system of moral behavior whose legitimacy depends on contradicting the authoritative statements (and hence authority) of Srila Prabhupada. Although Maharaja says, “Since I accept as infallible all Prabhupada’s statements that he classified as infallible, I clearly do not say that Prabhupada ‘has no authority’, as KK claims,” Maharaja has nevertheless misclassified statements of Srila Prabhupada that must be considered beyond reproach and accepted as authoritative. In this case, the statements are Prabhupada’s commentary to SB 3.20.26. Maharaja’s continued defense of his contradictory conclusion is unpardonable.
As regards to the legitimacy of Krishna West, more will be said about it later. However, it is sufficient to note that Hridayananda Maharaja’s faulty application of hermeneutical principles to an issue as vast as moral behavior is sufficient to put in doubt the legitimacy of the entire Krishna West project, which will surely be guided by the thinking he outlined in his 2005 paper “Vaisnava Moral Theology and Homosexuality.”