April 3 2009 – Rama Navami ki Jaya!

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Here’s question #6, a very topical subject from Bhakta Ilya Zaharov:

I heard that in Vrindavan there are many stories about Radha and Krishna which are being spread around by the word of mouth amongst Vrijabasis but they are not written in any bona fide sastras. What was Srila Prabhupada’s attitude to these stories ?

Answer:


    Srila Prabhupada said very clearly that unless we can verify any information or mantras we hear, from shastra or from our bona-fide acaryas, then we should not accept them. They may be true, or they may not be true. But shastra is our guide and reference.

On another occasion Srila Prabhupada chastized a learned Sanskrit scholar who had joined ISKCON, for making up a poem in which he incorrectly presented the philosophy:

January 25 1976 – Mayapur
[TD 1]

As we walked around, Anantarama Sastri joined us. Srila Prabhupada expressed his satisfaction that such an educated man has joined our movement, and he instructed Bhavananda Maharaja to make sure he is well looked after so that he may not go away.

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Anantaram Shastri holding microphone at the opening of the bank in Vrndavan KB mandira on April 5 1976 —see photos section for more pictures

“Although a somewhat self-conscious individual, Sastriji was eager to recite a poem he had composed for Srila Prabhupada’s pleasure. As we walked, and without asking first, he broke out into  melodious verse, singing the praises of Bhagavan Sri Gopala — or at least it seemed so. His chanting was impressive to my untrained ear; but Srila Prabhupada was alert. When Sastri sang naciye naciye aile gopala, “My dear Gopala, please come to me dancing,” Prabhupada stopped him. “Don’t manufacture knowledge. Take knowledge from Bhagavan. Don’t order Bhagavan. Just follow Bhagavan. That is not wanted. Do not write concocted poetries. That is not beneficial. Simply follow.”

“Srila Prabhupada told him that his singing was sense gratification because he was giving instruction to Gopala, “please come to me, naciye, dancing.” He stressed that our process is to take instruction. “It is all nonsense. Why should you ask Gopala to come to you? You cannot order. You must follow. We are to carry out the order of God, not to order God to carry out my order. That is mistake.”

“Prabhupada went on for some time, condemning the attitude with which people generally approach God. He explained that in India they sing a traditional arati song which repeats the words sab ko sampatti de bhagavan. De bhagavan means “give me.” And in the West, he explained, the Christians also have the same idea. “The whole world,” Prabhupada observed, “they have accepted God as order supplier: I order, You supply. The Christian church also, ‘God, give us our daily bread.'”

“And if God doesn’t give, then God is dead,” Tamal Krishna Maharaja added.

“Dead. This is going on. And our prayer is, ‘I don’t want anything. Simply engage me in Your service.’ This is the real prayer, which is taught by Caitanya Mahaprabhu.”
[end quote]

In a discussion about chanting on September 6, 1976 in Vrndavana, Srila Prabhupada made these comments about the necessity of following our acaryas:

[From TD 4]

“After the temple darsana in the evening there is always a big kirtana during arati, especially with Lokanatha Maharaja and his men here, as they are extremely enthusiastic chanters. However, they have developed a style of kirtana that is a little different from the ISKCON norm. When the kirtana reaches its climax, they gather around in a group and start singing ‘nitai-gaura haribol, haribol, haribol, haribol.’ They get completely carried away with chanting haribol. Sometimes they go on for five or ten minutes singing back and forth, ‘haribol, haribol! haribol, haribol! Sometimes it even goes on longer than the chanting of the maha-mantra. Some devotees are not happy about it, although no one can fault their enthusiasm.

Harikesa Swami objects to it quite strongly, and this evening he went into the garden to ask Srila Prabhupada’s opinion. Since we have never heard Srila Prabhupada sing this mantra, Harikesa had doubts it was actually a bona fide practice. Prabhupada had stopped Lokanatha’s kirtana at the pandala in Delhi, but at that time he gave no reason why.

Now this evening, Prabhupada, although not too upset by it, made it clear that such chanting was not approved by him. He told us that we should mainly chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. He said ‘nitai-gaura haribol’ is all right, because they are bona fide names of the Lord, but the real point is that we should strictly follow only what the acaryas have given. This is the process. He said that the acaryas only chant all five names of the Panca-tattva, notjust two. So although there is no offence in chanting the names of Gaura Nitai, if we deviate and chant our own made-up mantras then this is guror-avajna, or disobeying the orders of the spiritual master, and the line of acaryas. To make advancement in spiritual life one must always follow the line of acaryas.

He referred to the asrama at the back of our temple where they sing every morning, “nitai-gaura radhe-syama japa hare krsna hare rama.” He said that it is offensive because it is a deviation from the line of acaryas.

….Svayambhur wanted more clarification on what Srila Prabhupada had said about the chanting of nitai-gaura being a deviation. In his mind there was some contradiction, and he put it to Prabhupada to resolve. “Prabhupada, you wrote in the Caitanya-caritamrta that the Caitanya maha-mantra, sri-krsna-caitanya prabhu nityananda. … there is no offense to that. And so therefore in the Kali-yuga it is actually more beneficial …”

Prabhupada repeated his comments made to Harikesa Maharaja. “Offense is that what is spoken by the acaryas, if you do not follow, that is offense. Guror avajna. To chant Gaura-Nitai is no offense. But if our previous gurus have chanted sri-krsna-caitanya prabhu nityananda sri-advaita — why should we go beyond that? That is guror avajna. Even there is no aparadha, because guru, Kaviraja Gosvami, has sung like that and my guru has sung, we should follow that. We should not make any deviation. That is guror avajna, sruti-sastra-nindanam; namno balad yasya hi papa-buddhih. So it comes to be one of the items of the dasa-vidha-aparadha [ten offences in chanting]. Guror avajna.

“Is it more beneficial for people to hear the Panca-tattva mantra than the Hare Krsna maha-mantra?” Svayambhur asked.

“Oh yes,” Prabhupada told us. “You are going to Hare Krsna through Nitai-Gaura. Nitaiyer karuna habe braje radha-krsna pabe.” But he added, “The principle is don’t try to manufacture. Because you are not experienced, so what nonsense you will manufacture, that will be offensive. Better go on, the simple thing.”

Svayambhur said that he knew someone who chants the Panca-tattva mantra on his beads.

Prabhupada raised his eyebrows. “Who?”

“That boy Richard in Radha-kunda.”

He was referring to a tall thin New Yorker, liked by Srila Prabhupada and many devotees for his humble attitude, who has been living in Radha-kunda for quite a long time.

Prabhupada shook his head in disapproval and sympathy. “Rascal. That is his bad association. Therefore I say don’t follow these so-called Radha-kunda babajis. Nara-kunda babaji. And they smoke bidi. I have seen. Richard is still there?”
[end quote]
Finally I will add one more quote from Srila Prabhupada about invention:

[TD5]

November 2, 1976 – SB class in Vrndavana:

“He also took a shot at those who hold the so-called bhagavata kathas or bhagavata-saptas, whereby, in imitation of Sukadeva Gosvami, for seven days they speak and people come to officially hear the Bhagavatam. “There are 365 days, and other 355 days I go to the share market and simply inquire about the raise of this share and that share-that will not help you. Nityam bhagavata sevaya [SB 1.2.18]; then it is bhakti yoga. This manufacturing of seven days bhagavata katha, it is business. It is not bhagavata katha. In the Bhagavata comments there are so many authorized comments, just like Sridhara Svami, Viraraghavacarya, Vijayadhvaja, Visvanatha Cakravarti, Jiva Gosvami, and Giridhari Gosvami; so many. Nowhere it is stated that you hear bhagavata katha for seven days. You will not find. Therefore this seven days bhagavata katha, so far we can understand, it is not authorized. Here also it is said, mat kathaya ca nityam. Never you will find seven days. Nityam: you have to hear Bhagavatam daily.”

Prabhupada’s conclusion was that if we practice according to the prescribed method, sastra vidhi, then we can become liberated. Otherwise, he said, it is not possible. Quoting both Lord Krsna and Rupa Gosvami, both of whom advised that we not act whimsically but only according to the scriptures, he condemned concocted forms of spiritual practice. He also criticized in that connection the fashion of making up one’s own mantras. “There are so many they have invented. Just like Hare Krsna mantra is prescribed in the sastras, and they have invented so many. Although there is the name of the Supreme Lord, still you have to follow the sastra. If you say Rama Rama Rama, Radhe Radhe Radhe, Krsna, there are so many mentioned. That is also name, but you have to follow the sastra. Sastra says:
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
“You have to take that. Not that you can say, nitai gaura radhe syama, hare krsna hare rama; no. Why? Is there any in the sastra? No; you have invented. What is the value of your invention? You are not perfect. But they like that ‘It is my guru, I have got some followers, I invent some type of chanting.’ This is nonsense. You must follow, mahajano yena gatah sa panthah [Cc. Madhya 17.186]. You cannot invent.
[end quote]
From this you can understand that simply sentiment will not do. One has to know the philosophy very scientifically in order to be able to present it properly. Therefore when we hear stories or songs in the villages of Vraja, that does not mean automatically they are pure or correct. We should know the source and if they are not from either our Vaisnava acaryas or from shastra, we should not bother with them.

Your humble servant,
Hari-sauri dasa

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