Krishna Kirti Das springs back on Hridayananda Das Goswami’s Krishna West response


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.”

  • niscala

    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,” –

    It should be blatantly obvious that the answer is “no”. There are many vaisnava sects that do NOT have SP as their spiritual master. There are many that do not even include Sri Chaitanya in their lineage. There are four bonafide vaisnava sampradayas. KK has betrayed his sectarianism from the start.

    KK is claiming that HDG is deviating from SP’s commentary, regarding the homosexual appetite as “demoniac” by stating that “Yet although homosexuality is said to have existed since the dawn of creation, the Bhagavatam does not explicitly describe nor proscribe it.” However, the later statement is quite correct. SP’s commentary is not the Bhagavatam itself. Furthermore, Hridayananda is suggesting a way to contain the demoniac propensity- restrained monogamy as opposed to promiscuity.

    This inclusive mentality, which is acknowledging of the principle that sense restraint cannot be forced but happens naturally as one develops one’s love for Krsna, and that anyone can become a devotee of Krsna, is reminiscent of SP’s reaction when he heard his heterosexual brahman grhastha couples were not following the “no illicit sex” principle. Rather than exclude them, or separate them or nullify their marriages, and instead of chastising or guilt-tripping them, he asked that varnasrama be introduced in ISKCON and devotees adopt a varna that was representative of their conditioning in the modes of nature.

    “Everyone for Krsna, and Krsna for Everyone” was SP’s mood.

    It may be argued that this is compromising our standards, and this was the exact point made to SP during the varnasrama conversation, wherein devotees objected that such was a compromise, as most devotees were brahmanas. He replied “yes we are raising them to that platform but they are falling down. Therefore, we need this”

    In devotee varnasrama, certain things such as worship of the demigods and forefathers are excuded- everything is centred around Krsna but there is acknowledgement of one’s conditioning in the modes, so there is no hyypocrisy, no compromise of standards. Sudras and vaisyas just follow the “no illicit sex” principle as best they can, increasing their ability over the course of time, as love for sense objects is replaced by the inflaming of passionate, friendly, parental or servile love for Krsna.

    This is the natural process of awakening one’s natural propensity to love. In the conditoned mindset, there is love and attachment for sense objects. This is called raga. The path of raga is not to nullify raga but change its flow to the lotus feet of Krsna by constant immersion in hearing, chanting etc In the beginning, in the stage of vaidhi bhakti, some restraint must be there, however. It is not that vairagya has no place at all. Thus, restrained marriage is important in the beginning. As one develops a sense of loving Krsna, then one succeeds very easily in sense control- it is automatic. Then one may be married or not married, it does not matter, for marriage becomes a friendship between two souls helping each other love their common beloved Krsna.

    • Krishna Kirti Das

      Mata Ji Niscala has written,

      [kkdas] 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,” –

      [ndasi] It should be blatantly obvious that the answer is “no”. There are many vaisnava sects that do NOT have SP as their spiritual master. There are many that do not even include Sri Chaitanya in their lineage. There are four bonafide vaisnava sampradayas. KK has betrayed his sectarianism from the start.

      The quote in the above statement belongs to Lord Caitanya, who refers to Sridhara Svami as “the spiritual master of the entire world”. Sridhara Svami was certainly not in our Vaisnava lineage, yet Mahaprabhu reprimanded Vallabha Bhatta for rejecting Sridhara Svami’s commentary.

      Like Sridhara Svami’s commentary on the Bhagavatam, that of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Srila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura, Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana, etc, are also to be respected as infallible. A person in our sampradaya is not allowed to transgress their commentaries. I am saying here that Srila Prabhupada’s own commentary has the same status as theirs. Consequently, someone who claims he is in a sampradaya coming from Srila Prabhupada cannot dispute or ignore Srila Prabhupada’s commentary.

      Thus, if Maharaja does not accept Srila Prabhupada’s statement in SB 3.20.26 (Maharaja in fact doesn’t accept it), then he is either a) outside of our sampradaya, or b) on still claiming to be a member of our sampradaya, he has committed the same mistake that Vallabha Bhatta committed for trying to surpass Sridhara Svami’s commentary on the Bhagavatam.

      • niscala

        Krsna Kirti prabhu, Sr Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is Krsna himself, and His words therefore are as good as sastra. If He declares Sridhara Swami to be spiritual master of the entire world, such a statement is irrefutable as it is sabda brahman, originating from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. When we state that Srila Prabhupada is spiritual master of the entire world, it is not sabda brahman and other sampradayas and lineages are not obliged to accept it.

        An argument may be placed on the equality of effects- that since Sridhara Swami was stated by Mahaprabhu to be the spiritual master of the world because through his commentaries, the whole world can understand Srimad Bhagavatam, then since the whole world understands Srimad Bhagavatam through Srila Prabhupada, logically he must be spiritual master of the entire world. That would be true, except not everyone understands Srimad Bhagavatam through Srila Prabhupada’s purports. Some have studied directly the bonafide commentaries of Sridhara Swami, Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakura and so on. No doubt they came to the same conclusions- I do not doubt that in the least. I also do not doubt that practically everyone in the western world who have become devotees, have understood Srimad Bhagavatam through Srila Prabhupada’s purports.But is is sectarian to pronounce Srila Prabhupada as spiritual master of the entire world, as those vaisnava sects who do not read or rely upon his commentaries would disagree.

        My main point of contention however is that Srila Hrdayanada Maharaja is not in any way contradicting the commentary of Srila Prabhupada you have referred to, in his recommendation of restrained monogamous marriage for our gay devotees. You have not addressed this, nor the points made thereafter in my response to you and therefore you seem to be skirting the issue. By focusing only on the first paragraph, you have avoided the main point of contention, and that which I am most concerned about. I did not write an article about whether Srila Prabhupada should be considered jagat guru, so please do not detract from the main points of discussion.

        • Krishna Kirti Das

          [ndasi] “since the whole world understands Srimad Bhagavatam through Srila Prabhupada, logically he must be spiritual master of the entire world. That would be true, except not everyone understands Srimad Bhagavatam through Srila Prabhupada’s purports.”

          Hence my point, is that if one claims to be in a sampradaya from Srila Prabhupada, one must accept his commentary on a level with that of other stalwart acharyas like Sridhara Svami, Vishvanatha Chakravarti, Bhaktisiddhanta, etc., whose commentaries on shastra are considered infallible and beyond reproach. This is the standard in other sampradayas.

          For example, the followers of Ramanujacharya accept his commentaries on shastra on an equal level with shastra itself–infallible. If you claim to be in that sampradaya but you don’t accept Ramanuja’s commentaries in that way, then you are necessarily outside of that sampradaya. No one in that sampradaya will accept you as a bona fide follower of Ramanujacharya. Similarly, one who claims to be in Srila Prabhupada’s sampradaya is obliged to also accept his purports in the same way that other Vaishnavas in other sampradayas revere their great acharyas. Otherwise, such a person must be regarded as outside of the sampradaya.

          • niscala

            Krsna Kirti prabhu, again you are avoiding everything in my original article, barring the first paragraph. This has happened twice now. It may be of interest to you that when I posted my response to you via facebook, I left out the first paragraph as I felt my case rested without it, and I did not want to detract from the essential point of contention, which I will summarize- again.

            Hridayanda Maharaja, in his recommendation of restrained monogamous gay marriage, is in no way contradicting the purport of Srila Prabhupada regarding the homosexual appetite being demoniac This was my point, which to date has not been answered by you. You have deliberately avoided the issue, which calls into question your sincerity in presenting your viewpoint.

            Furthermore, it has been pointed out by other devotees, very astutely, that in the context of the verse that Srila Prabhupada uses the word “demoniac” in, he is clearly referring to the homosexual appetite in a man who is not homosexual in nature. The demons created by Brahma were NOT homosexual- as they were deterred in their pursuit of Brahma by the creation of a female. If one examines the verse, it is clear that they were very lusty and without a moral compass, being inclined to rape and incest.To use this verse and its purport as an indictment of gay devotees, who may be decorated with far more many good qualities than our sorry selves, is offensive to the extreme.

            You should be more careful of vaisnava aparadha. In Hari Nama Cintamani, Srila Bhakitivinode Thakura has warned us that in considering whether we have committed vaisnava aparadha- we should not consider whether the person we have offended is a very advanced devotee or not- such an attitude is itself offensive. You should follow his advice and approach every gay devotee you have offended and beg their forgiveness, and if they don’t give it, you should wait on them as a menial servant, rendering service at every opportunity, until forgiven. If you do not, then you are in a worse situation than if you had engaged in illicit sex- because every anartha is overcome in due course of time through sincere chanting- but not vaisnava aparadha.

            Furthermore, your judgment is entirely unrepresentative of the compassionate all-inclusive example Srila Prabhupada set for us. He treated his gay disciples as no different from his other disciples, often giving them positions of authority and responsibility in the movement. And he was a cent-percent pure devotee, saturated in prema. Who are we in comparison to him? If he was loving and all-inclusive, not judging our anarthas, how much more so should we be of each other?

  • Acyuta

    IMHO, Prabhupada’s use of the term homosexual may not be concurrent with the definition of a homosexual person.

    In SB 3.20.26, the demons targeted Lord Brahma as an object of lust, but were deterred by the creation of a beautiful female. Conditioned souls born as homosexuals are NOT attracted to females.
    Therefore, the demons were not actually homosexuals, they were just very, very lusty.

    • niscala

      Very good point, acyuta. The “demons” were clearly NOT homosexual and were lusty after both sexes. They were also in the business of raping and incest- chasing their father Lord Brahma for sexual intercourse.

    • Amara Das Wilhelm

      Exactly. Srila Prabhupada’s comments are certainly true, but only in regard to males in the ordinary course of life (i.e., heterosexuals). For heterosexual men to engage in homosexual acts out of lust, in the absence of women or against their nature is certainly demonic and inappropriate. That is the context of the narration. The demons are clearly not homosexual by nature (gay or third gender) and any rational person will see that. Attempts to apply this verse to gay men and women are impelled by mean-spirited, ulterior motives and come across, quite frankly, as idiotic.

      • Sundar J.M. Brown

        A fantastic point, Amara, and, an irrefutable for anyone willing to extricate themselves from the tunnel-vision-cum-blindness which is the stuff of hyper-conservative fundamentalism. (I am, of course, referring to the views expressed by Krishna Kirti).

      • Chintamani Goswami Maharaj

        As a matter of fact and perfect evidence, all the entire subject matter and everyone’s contribution’s towards it, is only based on the bodily designation, skin disease which ultimately will never grant anyone a single benefit, other than great loses, Period! According to
        SB 10.84.13, it says, quot;
        yasyātma-buddhiḥ kuṇape tri-dhātuke
         sva-dhīḥ kalatrādiṣu bhauma ijya-dhīḥ
        yat-tīrtha-buddhiḥ salile na karhicij
         janeṣv abhijñeṣu sa eva go-kharaḥ
        One who identifies his self as the inert body composed of mucus, bile and air, who assumes his wife and family are permanently his own, who thinks an earthen image or the land of his birth is worshipable, or who sees a place of pilgrimage as merely the water there, but who never identifies himself with, feels kinship with, worships or even visits those who are wise in spiritual truth — such a person is no better than a cow or an ass. From this point, It absolutely means that non amongs Srila Prabhupada’s disciples could comprehend who is Srila Prabhupada, talk-less of understanding a ting of Who is Krishna. Within the entire era we are in now, it is due to only Srila Prabhupada’s Krishna’s given effort that we are able to know, hear and take to what is Krishna consciousness all over the three worlds. Before Srila Prabhupada, many so-called Sadhus went to the west, but non could make one devotee. The reason was that they did not present things as it is. At last when Srila Prabhupada went to the west, only with his karatalas, 40 rupees and box of Books he, by the empowerment of Lord Krishna defending and protecting him as His pure and unalloyed representative directly from the spiritual world, made him to inundate the entire world with Krishna consciousness. Who amongs you now debating on Srila Prabhupada’s message, who knows what is Krishna or God before Srila Prabhupada arrives in the America, please come forward, and I will ask you one question, if you can give me the answer. Who’s there? Srila Prabhupada is empowered, shaktives avatar of Krishna, fact! Whatever Srila Prabhupada says is absolutely perfect, because he simply repeated the words of his Guru and Krishna as it is without his own participation in the matter.Due to his loyalty to his Guru’s instruction and Krishna mercy, his preaching mission had no rival within the entire world. Absolutely no one within this era, could do what Srila Prabhupada did just on within the space of ten (10) years, who is that person come forward let me see your face. Nobody! All classes of the highest intellectuals in all field of knowledge, were all spelled bound at the erudite and unequivocal knowledge issuing from Srila Prabhupada and all without hesitation bow down at his lotus feet and become his disciples, yes or no? All of you who are arguing over Srila Prabhupada’s work now, where were you all, when he was here present before all of you? Why didn’t you bring your argument forward to him at that time? Why are you all making these useless noise now? It means that all of you are afraid, just like children. In fact, at this point, my only advice to you all is, just stop this unnecessary talk, if you can, simply chant the Hare Krishna and try to make your life better. Hare Krishna!”

  • Pam Ho

    The debate about homosexuality with Krishna Kirti Das wasn’t the main gist of his complaint, it was him using an example of a larger point he was making, i.e. that HDG is delegitimizing Prabhupada’s position as an “infallible” authority – at the least when it comes to his books, and probably also when it comes to spiritual topics in lectures, etc.

    He uses homosexuality to point out that Prabhupada was usually in an fiercely antagonistic mood towards it, whereas HDG has a mood of acceptance, more of a live and let live approach rather than fierce antagonism. KKD also points out some other statements by HDG on other topics which he considers to lessen or delegitimize Prabhupada’s position as an “infallible” authority, e.g. HDG doesn’t believe the story of Draupadi being disrobed after the gambling match in Mahabharata, he believes it’s an interpolation into the Mahabharata, that the Bhagavatam doesn’t mention disrobing, that Yudhisthira would not have stood by and allowed it. KKD counters that Prabhupada taught on the disrobing of Draupadi, and that HDG was delegitmizing Prabhupada as an “infallible” authority by denying it’s legitimacy.

    HDG countered wit this logic: he accepts Prabhupada as infallible when he makes statements in accord with shastra. That essentially skirts the issues KKD brought up. That principal stated by HDG is universal and can be applied to anyone, even an animal, e.g. “I accept as infallible anything my parrot says when it is in agreement with shastra, for example when he squawks nonsensically I don’t accept that as infallible, but when he repeats “krishnas tu bhagavan svayam” as I taught him, then I accept that as infallible.” It doesn’t answer what KKD was asking, i.e. does he accept Prabhupada as an infallible spiritual authority? Instead he answers with a principal that applies to the nature of a teaching, rather than to a specific teacher.

    Did KKD have the right to demand such an answer in the first place? His reasoning is that we must accept all that Prabhupada wrote as infallible, otherwise we are not in “Prabhupada’s sampradaya.” He compares the followers of Ramanuja to Prabhupada’s followers. But there is a problem in that outlook since Prabhupada is not considered the focal point of a sampradaya. There is no BV Swami Sampradaya, whereas there is a Ramanuja Sampradaya. Why must we accept all that Prabhupada taught as infallible? KKD makes that assertion as if it is an absolute truth, and whose acceptance determines whether or not one is a bona fide member of the same sampradaya as Prabhupada.

    Can you disagree with your guru and still be in the same sampradaya? KKD is a diksa disciple of HDG, yet he not only disagrees with him, he rejects him outright. Is he still in the same sampradaya? There is no shastric injunction that demands someone be accepting of someone as infallible in all they teach or else be rejected from the sampradaya. Otherwise what KKS claims to apply to HDG, also applies to himself.

    What is really being debated is the authority of Prabhupada, not in general, but in the sense of his being an “infallible” authority on everything he spoke or wrote about. For some people it’s not enough that Prabhupada is seen as a guru in the paramapara, for them he must also be held up as a special infallible god-like incarnation, whose every utterance must be enshrined as gospel truth, to do otherwise courts disaster, and is considered a fall from grace, or even a sin. That dual vision of Prabhupada is at the heart of the so-called “conservative-traditional” vs “liberal-modernizing” schism in the Gaudiya world.

    The homosexual issue, or the women issue, or the guru issue, these are all being made from one of the two sides of the spectrum. What we have seen is that one size doesn’t fit all. Whereas in India we see ISKCON and Gaudiya Vaishnavism in a state of constant expansion, that isn’t the case for most of the rest of the world – especially in the more modern countries. Maybe there needs to be some new type of presentation of Krishna consciousness. Prabhupada started ISKCON less than 30 years after his guru left. ISKCON didn’t stick to exactly the same thing as the Gaudiya Math, Prabhupada made changes for a more modern culture most importantly with the inclusion of women. Why should we believe that no more changes are allowed for all time? That seems like an insult to Bhaktisiddhanta. Prabhupada was able to change what his guru started, but no one is allowed to change what Prabhupada started? That seems like sentimentality over pragmatism. If Prabhupada was anything he was a pragmatist, often changing positions and even basic teachings if it was pragmatic, e.g. sometimes saying no one falls from Vaikuntha, other times saying anyone can fall.

    • Krishna Kirti Das

      Pam Ho wrote, “The debate about homosexuality with Krishna Kirti Das wasn’t the main gist of his complaint, it was him using an example of a larger point he was making, i.e. that HDG is delegitimizing Prabhupada’s position as an “infallible” authority – at the least when it comes to his books, and probably also when it comes to spiritual topics in lectures, etc.”

      This is an accurate summary of my point. I would like to clarify some additional points:

      1) “KKD counters that Prabhupada taught on the disrobing of Draupadi, and that HDG was delegitmizing Prabhupada as an “infallible” authority by denying it’s legitimacy.” [kkd: Not only SP but other acharyas also affirm the pastime’s legitimacy: A point is if one doubts a number of parampara acharyas, that is a prima facie reason to believe that the doubter is in maya.]

      2) “HDG countered with this logic: he accepts Prabhupada as infallible when he makes statements in accord with shastra. . . . It doesn’t answer what KKD was asking, i.e. does he accept Prabhupada as an infallible spiritual authority? Instead he answers with a principal that applies to the nature of a teaching, rather than to a specific teacher.” [kkd: There are parampara acharyas whose shastra vyakyas (commentaries on shastra) are indeed considered as good and as infallible as shastra. Sridhara Svami’s is the example from the pastime of Lord Caitanya with Vallabha Bhatta. The question then is whether Srila Prabhupada is one of them. If he is, then, yes, his commentary must be regarded as infallible. He is, or he isn’t. The GBC’s recent book, “Srila Prabhupada: the Founder-Acharya of ISKCON” pretty clearly makes SP out as in that category.

      • Pam Ho

        The idea of promoting a human as infallible by diktact is problematic in my estimation, especially when you consider that it is not uncommon for acharyas to have different opinions on various points of siddhanta. If Guru X and Guru Y are deemed officially infallible, then what does that do to those of weak faith in the entire religious doctrine if Guru X and Y have differing opinions? Or demonstrably are in error on some point or other? Prabhupada said you could find faults in him if you wanted to. How can gurus all be infallible if they disagree? Or how about the common knowledge that Prabhupada sometimes spoke or wrote contradictory opinions on the same topic? Which is the infallible one?

        This has had a big impact on ISKCON, with some promoting one version of Prabhupada on a topic, and others fighting against them with a contradictory version, e.g. the ritviks insist that you must be an uttama-adhikari or mahabhagavat in order to be a diksa guru, and they quote Prabhupada to support that view – while their opponents quote Prabhupada saying madhyama or even kanistha bhaktas can give diksa. Which is the infallible version? Or how about the ISKCON law which states that the fall of the jiva must be taught according to what Prabhupada taught, and then explicitly states two contradictory teachings that Prabhupada taught, i.e. the jivas never fall from Vaikuntha, and that all baddha-jivas have fallen from Vaikuntha. This is not a rational doctrine to promote as infallible since they are direct opposites. Or how about female diksa gurus? Both sides can quote Prabhupada to support their view. Which is the infallible one? The demand of accepting Prabhupada as infallible can harm faith in the face of all that, which is common discourse in ISKCON circles.

        We do not see past acharyas saying you must accept a guru as infallible or you are offensive or some type of low person – precisely because it can harm faith. Rather they make the point that you should try and find a bona fide guru, and that the bona fide guru is a manifestation of Krishna because he does not deviate from shastric philosophy. It is up to the disciple to develop faith in the guru, not that the person is first told that you must accept this or that guru as infallible or there is something wrong or unworthy of you. Faith is a tender thing for those not on the higher levels of bhakti – just like a tender shoot of a creeper can be easily damaged, faith cannot be legislated, attempting to impose faith can damage it. If you are told that unless you accept shastra, and any guru as infallible, and that there is something wrong with you if you don’t, then that can cause those not on that level of faith to give up in frustration, nor not take an interest in the first place because they don’t have enough trust or faith to accept that imposition.

        Enshrining by decree that Prabhupada or any other guru was infallible ,while demanding that everyone admit and teach that as a point of doctrine in order to be considered “part of the sampradaya,” has no inherent value, and can only cause problems. That is why you do not see a history of such a type of doctrine in Gaudiya history. If you insist that Prabhupada or any guru must be seen as infallible, then that causes the neophyte to look for faults in order to see if that is a true doctrine. It’s similar to overselling a book or recipe or movie, if you build it up too much, the reaction is to then judge it very severely.

        The history of Gaudiya Vaishnavism is not a history of demanding acceptance of a rigid doctrine on guru-tattva and preaching techniques. Rather, in Gaudiya history we see a less dogmatic and less reactionary type of society then that of the other Vaishnava sampradayas, a much looser and less regulated structure of gurus and teaching. We don’t see Prabhupada insisting that his followers accept his guru as infallible, nor any other guru in the parampara, or himself. It’s simply not taught. Having belief of the infallibility of any guru as a prerequisite for ISKCON, or as it’s official doctrine, is not in line with the past acharyas or with shastra. They may guide one to gain faith in that, but they don’t demand it as a point of faith or doctrine. That is a simple fact, not opinion. If ISKCON or others want to change that, then they should know it is not part of the tradition – and for a good reason – it causes people to look for faults.

        • Krishna Kirti Das

          Pam Ho wrote “We do not see past acharyas saying you must accept a guru as infallible or you are offensive or some type of low person”

          In the Gaudiya tradition we do, as do the members of every other Vaishnava sampradaya. That is exactly what Lord Caitanya said with regard to Sridhara Svami’s commentary on the Bhagavatam. hāsi’ kahe, — “svāmī nā māne yei jana veśyāra bhitare tāre kariye gaṇana”, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu smilingly replied, “One who does not accept the svāmī [husband] as an authority I consider a prostitute” (CC Antya 7.115).

          Even if for argument’s sake we accept there are some domains where a liberated guru / acharya is not infallible, his commentary on shastra is an exception. The followers of Ramanujacharya prabhu and Madhvacharya also treat their commentaries on a level equal with shastra, as do the followers of Shankara.

          • Pam Ho

            Krishna Kirti,

            That sloka is in response to someone saying they had found faults in Sridhar Svami’s commentary, that they wanted to promote their own version as superior. Mahaprabhu then spoke that sloka, which simply states that those who don’t respect Sridhar Svami’s commentary are like prostitutes, it says nothing about him being infallible, nor does it even use the word authority, which was added in the English translation. Instead it says “svāmī nā māne yei jana = anyone who doesn’t respect the swami,” “veśyāra bhitare tāre kariye gaṇana = I count them or consider them to be among prostitutes.”

            The point I was making is that to legislate faith in a person as infallible is not a wise course of action, faith is something which needs to be naturally acquired, it cannot be artificially forced upon a person, that is the nature of faith. To try to enforce faith and conversely shame or denigrate those without faith, serves no good purpose, and causes the opposite of the intended effect if the effect is to increase devotion – instead it will increase fault finding.

          • Krishna Kirti Das

            I have confined my argument to SP’s shastra vyakya, his commentary on shastra. Same with Sridhara Svami. Saying his commentary must be accepted on authority and that it is infallible are one and the same thing. If it is incorrect, faulty, then it lacks authority. However, you are making a distinction without difference, as there is no demonstrable difference between the two positions.

          • niscala

            Another aspect, brought up by Jester prabhu, is that guru X and guru Y may be disagreeing with each other on the basis of different time, place and circumstance. Even guru X and guru X may disagree- as with the fall of the jiva issue. So Pam Ho’s point is excellent regarding faith- that to try to enforce it and shame and denigrate those who do not- is counterproductive.

            Gradually as one gets a grasp on the whole sampradaic philosophy, one comes to know which instruction was siddhanta and which was an adjustment according to time, place and circumstance. Then one can reconcile guru X with guru X, and guru X with guru Y as well. This was done with recourse to the available siddhanta from past acaryas and presented in the book “In Vaikuntha Not Even the Leaves Fall” The GBC response was to declare the authors as anti-Prabhupada and publish and promote only one side of the story as the bonafide siddhanta.

            In regard to the commentaries of SP and what may be disagreed upon, my original essay was in regard to the purport regarding the homosexual appetite being demoniac. This is a commentary on the verse, and the verse clearly refers to HETERosexual males pursuing a male, so any comments made thereafter should be seen in that light. From this we can understand that the knowledge Srila Prabhupada had on homosexuality at the point of writing the commentary was reflective of the knowledge current in that period in history- that homosexuality is something acquired by a heterosexual through excessive uncontrolled lust- not a natural tendency of the body that is no more lusty than the straight kind.

            But even with that knowledge, would Srila Prabhupada have supported it? Definitely not, as it falls into the category of sex not for the procreation of KC children. But I think he would have hesitated to call it demoniac or put it in a verse which is about demons. Illicit sex is an anartha, which like all anarthas, we have to work through, gradually gaining ground in proportion to how much love and attachment we have for Krsna.

            While I really appreciate the enlightened commentary of Pam Ho, I would still like to see KK reply to the other points in my response, instead of focusing entirely on the first paragraph. That first paragraph has become the sole objective in this debate, which is not a bad thing, as the insights have been great- but can we get back to my original point- which is that Hridayananda’s support for gay marriage is NOT in conflict with the commentary? Krsna Kirti, could you please read and respond to what comes after the first paragraph?

          • Krishna Kirti Das

            Dear Mother Niscala,

            The point we are discussing is our fundamental epistemology. If you get this wrong, you get everything else wrong that follows from it. We are spending time where we should.

            In this regard, you believe that Srila Prabhupada’s commentary on that purport reflects the knowledge of the subject as understood in his time, and as compared with Srila Prabhupada you believe your own understanding of the subject is superior because your knowledge of the subject is more up-to-date. That is, by virtue of the time you live in, your understanding of this particular subject is superior to that expressed by Srila Prabhupada.

            Is this a fair characterization of your view of Srila Prabhupada’s commentary on SB 3.20.26?

            ys, KKD

          • niscala

            The knowledge of everyone of this subject is more up-to-date, or should be. So it’s not just me- and therefore I am not sure why you are singling me out. Yet despite the understanding of homosexuality being much better understood now than it was in the 60’s , specifically that homosexuality is not something that heterosexual people develop out of excessive lust, or something that can be “corrected” for example, by hererosexual marriage,if we follow the 60’s knowledge that has since been proven incorrect, just because Srila Prabhupada said it, then we are following blindly.

            He absolutely did not want blind following. In this respect, on one morning walk, Srila Prabhupada passed by a car and said “if we had that car, we would use it in Krsna’s service” The devotees went “Jaya Srila Prabhupada!” They then passed by a building, and SP said “If we had that building we would use it in Krsna service” “Jaya Srila Prabhupada!” They then passed by a dog “If we had that dog we would use it in Krsna’s service” “Jaya Srila Prabhupada!” Srila Prabhupada turned to them “Dog can’t be used in Krsna’s service! This is blind following! You should not follow blindly”

            On another occasion, Srila Prabhupada asked a devotee “What is the greatest thing in this world? ” “Krsna” ” No not Krsna- you have no experience, that is blind following. The greatest thing in this world is the sky, because we can see it everywhere” Our following SP should therefore be based on seeing faith- not blind faith. If SP says something that is not true according to our understanding, such as being able to use a dog in Krsna’s service, we are not obliged to accept it. He would not want us to. Similarly, we are not obliged to accept SP’s understanding of homosexuality when current studies on the subject, and the experience of every day life, prove it wrong. Homosexuality is NOT the result of heterosexuals being extremely lusty, it is simply the body acting as a body of the opposite sex would do- no more lusty than straight people, and therefore NOT demoniac.

          • Krishna Kirti Das

            Mother Niscala wrote:

            “Yet despite the understanding of homosexuality being much better understood now than it was in the 60’s , specifically that homosexuality is not something that heterosexual people develop out of excessive lust, or something that can be “corrected” for example, by hererosexual marriage,if we follow the 60’s knowledge that has since been proven incorrect,”

            I am speaking as a statistician here. I have a bachelors degree in statistics, and I am 3 classes away from completing a masters in applied statistics. As statisticians, we study very scrutinizingly what can and cannot be known by different kinds of studies, which include experimental methods, survey sampling, and observational studies. Of these three kinds of studies, the only kind allows one to make inferences about causality are the experimental methods. This is because by way of randomization such methods reliably allow one to control not only known biases but control for unknown ones as well. All other kinds of studies do not allow one to infer causality because it is understood that some bias, known or unknown, is always present.

            So, with regard to what you think you know about homosexuality that you think is more “up to date” than 50 years ago, here is a brief list of things you cannot know:

            1) What causes someone to be homosexual? It’s the eternal “nurture vs nature” debate here, which in statistical terms is unanswerable because possible factors (ones that researchers suspect may have something to do with it) are confounded. Short of dissecting fetuses and adults after subjecting them to random chemical or environmental factors, you will never get the answer to this question. Period. It would be grossly immoral to try. What causes people to become homosexual will always be a matter of faith, not reason, however strongly people feel about it. The bottom line here is you can’t employ experimental methods to find an answer to this question. At best, you are limited to observational studies, which are the least reliable kind of study, and from which causality cannot be inferred.

            2) Are children better off with heterosexual parents than with homosexual parents? Same problem as above. Only observational studies are practical to employ, and the only moral option as well. Biases will be operative, including ones you have no awareness of.

            3) Will allowing homosexuals to marry help heterosexuals in their marriages? Again, this is not a question that can be answered by statistics (though a specious outcome can be bluffed with it). Again, this cannot be understood through observational studies, because those are the only kind that could be employed. As already pointed out, they are biased and therefore no causality can be inferred from them. (That is, you cannot answer this question with such studies.)

            4) Will allowing homosexuals to marry help them control their own senses? (as HH HDG suggests). This question cannot be investigated by experimental methods. Observational studies only can be employed. (And then “data collection” would be, well, hmmmmm, let’s not go there if we don’t have to :-)

            5) Is homosexuality a predisposition toward immoral behavior, or is it morally neutral? You have to appeal to some religion or philosophy for a priori ideas about morality before you can even being to try to operationalize observable characteristics for use in a study, whether it be a randomized experiment or an observational study. In other words, the results you produce are heavily dependent on your a priori beliefs about the matter before you even start your study. This is true of all the above.

            The bottom line is that by way of scientific advancement, we don’t know anything more about homosexuality than we did 50 years ago, at least nothing substantial. There might be some refinements in descriptive characteristics of homosexuals as a sub-population, but that doesn’t tell us about underlying causes, and those refinements cannot help answer any of the questions posed above. The only thing that has significantly changed is prevailing social attitude towards homosexuality, and many people think that in itself counts as knowledge. It does not.

            What this means is that the social and psychological sciences cannot properly answer these questions, even though researchers in these fields try mightily. For more about why this is the case, here is an article I have written about the subject:

            All the best, ys, KKD

          • Jim Fahs

            Yes I can tell you are a statistician with a bachelors degree. I think there might be more qualified persons to offer answers to the questions and issues you raise. Have you asked their opinions? You make a comment about data collection that seems to be implying something unpleasent. What is that you meant by that comment?

        • Jester

          The only way to gain the capacity to reconcile apparent contradictions found in the commentaries of a bona fide uttama adhikari is to first accept that they are indeed infallible in regards to their translation and application of scripture.

          Only then can you mind be open to consider the contextual situations wherein each opposing statement has validity. And if your only search is to find the ultimate ontological point in siddhanta, then you will be empowered to inquire further into scripture directly, or to a superior scholar than yourself. Doing so you can exhaustively identify all statements on the particular subject, identify and classify the context wherein each statement applies as truth. And at that point you will discover that there is an overarching original truth from which various other truths derive, sometimes appearing contradictory because they apply differently depending on the context and level of advancement of the souls partaking in that contextual experience. This is a manifestation of inconceivable simultaneous oneness and difference,

          The classic example is that Srila Jiva Goswami declares that the jiva soul and Maha Maya have a relationship which is Anadi, they are eternally related and there is no tracing the beginning of their relationship or when the Jiva first associated with her in the material world. This is confirmed numerous times in so many ways. An example is Bhagavad Gita 13.2, prakṛtiṁ puruṣaṁ caiva

          viddhy anādī ubhāv… the translation of which is.

          “Material nature and the living entities should be understood to be beginningless. Their transformations and the modes of matter are
          products of material nature.”

          Yet in reading the commentary, Srila Prabhupada states in the last sentence that there is a caveat.

          “Both material nature and the living entity
          are eternal. That is to say that they existed before the creation. The
          material manifestation is from the energy of the Supreme Lord and so
          also are the living entities, but they are of the superior energy. Both
          of them existed before this cosmos was manifested. Material nature was
          absorbed in the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Mahā-Visṇu, and when it was required, it was manifested by the agency of mahat-tattva. Similarly,
          the living entities are also in Him, and because they are conditioned,
          they are adverse to serving the Supreme Lord. Thus they are not allowed
          to enter into the spiritual sky. After the winding up of material
          nature, these living entities are again given a chance to act in the
          material world and prepare themselves to enter into the spiritual world.
          That is the mystery of this material creation. Actually the living entity
          is originally the spiritual part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, but
          due to his rebellious nature, he is conditioned within material nature.
          It really does not matter how these living entities or superior entities
          of the Supreme Lord have come in contact with material nature. **The Supreme Personality of Godhead knows, however, how and why this actually took place.”**

          How and why something took place (implies a when).

          Thus for the purposes of someone studying and coming to understand the philosophy at a certain level, they first need to accept that there is it does not matter how the living entity comes in contact with the material world.

          But any good mystery will eventually evoke curiosity and at an advanced stage, there are answers, for if Krsna knows, he can and will share when it is appropriate.

          The point is that to the faithful, apparent contradictions are expected and not a problem, as one can choose the statement which applies practically to one’s current life situation for instructive purposes, and be assured that reconciliation of the contradiction will be forthcoming.

  • Sundar J.M. Brown

    Finally, an individual who understands, and succinctly describes, how assuming “fully spiritual” battle only renders one as fully spiritually weak. Thank you for sharing your tragic but uplifting story; moreover, thank you for setting such a fine example of what it means to maintain faith and love in God, and in one another, despite the weariness of spirit brought on by an incessantly flaming, fundamentalist vitriol. Your words rest among the finest example of authentic Krsna consciousness in practice. Krsna, and His devotees, need more like you.


  • Sundar J.M. Brown

    Krishna Kirti,

    Krsna loves everyone– even you. Although, it is reasonable to suggest that, presently, Krsna may be a bit put off by your tireless criticism of those persons, of all persuasions and orientations, who are making a sincere effort to come closer to Him. It is fair to imagine that Krsna isn’t pleased with your efforts to run interference on those persons who are facilitating others coming closer to Him either… just a thought, though, one gleaned directly via the influences of sastra and Founder-Acarya.

    I know, I know, you are a “tireless warrior for Srila Prabhupada” and, “if you don’t stand up and say something, ISKCON and the devotees will be lost”; “someone has to be the voice of reason”, “someone has to maintain our authentic Gaudiya Vaisnava traditions”, etc., etc. Yes. Save the movement. You alone can do it, or, at least lead the charge.

    Before you read any of this as an ad hominem attack, consider the degree to which you have “ad hominemed” yourself into an unnecessarily critical corner. Plainly put, no one likes an asshole. Perhaps it would do you well to stop acting like one. Just a bit of humble life advice from someone who is, clearly, not as smart as you are.