Accepting the Challenge


Sep 19, 2012 — OJAI, CALIFORNIA, USA (SUN) — Reprising a 1999 challenge to the Ritviks.


Since April of 1997 there has been a new mantra adopted in some Vaishnava circles. It's not quite as popular as the mahamantra, but considering how much it has been chanted in the last two years one might begin to think that Srila Prabhupada failed to teach it to us. This magical mantra has the powerful ability to free the practicing yogi from being exposed to any dissenting opinions so he can fix his mind on one thing without interruption. It is known as the RFO mantra and is regularly chanted whenever a traditional devotee attempts to respond to the request for dialogue with a disenfranchised devotee. As soon as there is some difference of opinion the RFO-jvara is invoked. At that time the wind stops blowing, the earth stops turning and the demigods assemble in an attempt to decipher the sound vibration that can be heard rising up to the heavens: "Read Final Order! - Read Final Order! - Read Final Order!"

OK ladies and gentlemen I'm sorry. I read the Final Order (FO). The first time was shortly after it was compiled in April 1997. Back then it intrigued me, but I never took it very seriously because I was uncomfortable with the way words were dissected for the purpose of arriving at what seemed to be a lot of forced conclusions necessary to support a contrived hypothesis.

About a year later I was surprised to discover how many intelligent devotees were taking the FO so seriously. I decided to read it again in order to understand what captivated them so much and in doing so I developed more appreciation for how the document was crafted but remained unconvinced that it properly represented Srila Prabhupada's wishes.

Now the disciples of Srila Prabhupada are absorbed in a full-blown not-so-civil-war and a big part of the reason for this war is the hypnotic potency of the RFO mantra and the FO-Sastra. The practitioners of this new mantra apparently believe this document is flawless and that it remains philosophically undefeated. This viewpoint is maintained despite the numerous arguments that have been presented with equally convincing evidence which points to completely different conclusions. So what to do?

The Curtain of Sanctimony

I have avoided the ardent task of pinpointing just what it is about the FO-Sastra that doesn't hold together because devotees who are far more qualified than I have already presented so many good papers on the subject. I didn't feel I could be any more convincing than they were. I was also reluctant to spend the tremendous amount of time that is necessary to undertake such a task properly. But in the process of studying the whole guru/rtvik controversy I found myself getting drawn into the challenge because so many devotees I truly admire and respect have taken the FO-Sastra so seriously. So I decided that I would read it once again for the third time. My objective was to either allow myself to become convinced of its conclusions, or identify what it is specifically that keeps me from joining the RFO choir.

I apologize to those of you who may be offended by the pasquinade style of writing I use to convey my conclusions. Unfortunately there is nothing humorous about the ugliness that has driven devotees who once served each other prasadam into opposite sides of the courtroom. If our branch of the Vaishnava tree were not so tragic it would be amusing. But it is true that sometimes the most effective way to identify an inconsistency in ourselves is to extend the attitudes we have habitually adopted past the dimensions we are familiar with. The extremists may roar and declare foul play, but those who remain open to objective thinking might just find enough reality hidden in a caricature of ourselves to come out from behind the curtain of sanctimony.

So let's begin this endeavor with…. well how about the very beginning!

Read the complete paper here:

Accepting the Challenge


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