Sentiment, Not Siddhanta
BY: ROCANA DASA
Oct 18, USA (SUN) The obviously heartfelt perspectives of the disciples of the departed Bhakti Tirtha Swami continue to be expressed here in the Sun Blogs. To many readers, any challenge or critical response extended to these individuals may seem cruel. Throughout this discussion, I have tried to make certain philosophical points in justification of my expressed opinions. They have apparently fallen on deaf ears. Hari dasa has gone away after exhausting his arguments, and he avoided addressing my points.
Institutional authorities go to great lengths in order to avoid the kind of dialogue taking place in these Blog threads. Although the present person of focus is HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami, he is but one of a long line of ISKCON diksa gurus who have either fallen, disappeared, or died. The GBC have “tiptoed past the grave yard” in terms of telling the true stories or revealing all the historical facts pertaining to many of these individuals. Consequently, many of their followers/disciples carry with speculations, sentiments, misconceptions, and misinterpretations of our siddhanta, which they then pass on to others. No one challenges them because they feel so sorry for them, in their grief. I’m afraid I don’t adopt that approach, especially when the neophyte sentimentalists choose to write their nonsense down in a public forum like this one.
Jyotirmaya dasa describes Bhakti Tirtha Swami's preaching as creative and effective, albeit controversial. So where is this controversy coming from? His own senior Godbrothers in the GBC. Srila Prabhupada instructs us to submit everything -- especially preaching methodology -- to the guru, sastra, and sadhu test. In Bhakti Tirtha's case, many of the sadhus are not in approval of his practices. There is nothing in sastra which comes close to resembling the science fiction stuff he wrote and distributed, and Srila Prabhupada never approved of this preaching approach. Still, Jyotirmaya dasa and Hari dasa would have us accept these practices without question.
Disciples habitually employ the technique of quoting Srila Prabhupada, even if the reference is meaningless or irrelevant to the topic at hand. In this case, Srila Prabhupada’s statement to Bhakti Tirtha, "Now your life is successful", has been presented as evidence. How many disciples did Srila Prabhupada make that very statement (or a similar one) to? Countless. And what, pray tell, does it mean in terms of giving his approval to controversial preaching activities? The readers are supposed to conclude that Bhakti Tirtha was a special disciple of Srila Prabhupada, and has been given the extraordinary benediction to preach in a manner like no other past Acarya, all this in order to attract and capture the minds and hearts of the sci-fi groupies. That perspective is too much to swallow, even for someone under the “whammy”.
Jyotirmaya dasa’s next assertion, which he made with great certainty, was that Bhakti Tirtha Swami had undoubtedly chanted his daily rounds and strictly followed all the regulative principles. This ex post facto statement is simply unverifiable myth. Many of the past fallen ISKCON diksas appeared to be displaying the same pukka sadhana right up until the time of their unexpected departure. Jyotirmaya’s cited criterion is the standard ISKCON litmus test applied to almost every circumstance needing pre-qualification, from GBC to diksa guru, Temple President, and so on. While Supersoul or the demigods could attest to these statements of pure sadhana, Jyotirmaya dasa certainly cannot.
It is a common practice that to keep the “jackels from howling”, you have make certain than you appear as if you are fulfilling your vows. While attending the morning program and having a servant nearby much of the time helps to establish that one is following, in the final analysis everyone has to take someone else’s word that a devotee is properly chanting their rounds and fully following the 4 regs or vows of sannyasa. I’m not accusing Bhakta Tirtha Swami of not doing these things, I'm simply saying there is no way Jyotirmaya dasa can make this claim with all certainty. His assertion certainly isn't solid enough to muzzle critics.
The actual standards set by the Acaryas are based on siddhanta, not sadhana. That is what we're really discussing here in regards to Bhakti Tirtha Swami. The GBC should be focusing on insuring that our unalloyed siddhanta is not altered, that preaching is pure, that our senior representatives are passing down the “soft, sweet, mango fruit” given by the present Sampradaya Acarya, without dropping or bruising it. There are plenty of “other groups” whose sadhana practices are stricter, more austere, more complicated and regulated than ISKCON's. Srila Prabhupada, in fact, tailored the daily program to meet the needs of preaching rather than individual sadhana. As a matter of fact, the original sadhana program set-up by Srila Prabhupada has been further de-emphasized by the GBC over the years, on the excuse of having to preach more, or euphemistically to 'engage in devotional service'. There is less time given for good quality japa, reading, discussion, brahminical maintenance in lieu of temple service and sankirtan.
To neglect studying, appraising, and judging our leaders on the basis of their actual preaching techniques, message, and end results is far more in line with the Sampradaya Acaryas than just how speculating about how pure their japa is, or how strictly they seem to be following the principles. The only incidence I can recall where Srila Prabhupada threw a disciple out of ISKCON was because they changed the siddhanta and wouldn’t recant. Plenty of his senior men were obviously not engaged in strict sadhana or chanting their rounds religiously, and still they got no severe reaction from Srila Prabhupada.
At least Jyotirmaya dasa adds “in his eyes” when mentioning that Bhakti Tirtha Swami was innovative, appealing, interesting, and successful. Of course, as a disciple, he is least qualified to be an objective observer. He goes on to invoke yet another Srila Prabhupada pastime in order to make his point. He claims that Srila Prabhupada's Godbrothers criticized him for being too innovative. In reality, the real source of contention lay in the fact that he was publicly exposing many of their faults, which had been buried in the past. This was exacerbated by the fact that Srila Prabhupada enshrined his opinions in published sastric purports.
Jyotirmaya dasa goes on to bestow sainthood on Bhakti Tirtha Swami. On top of that, he declares that Bhakti Tirtha went straight back to Godhead, where he sits on the right hand side of Srila Prabhupada. By emphatically stating these truths to be self evident, Jyotirmaya dasa declares that Bhakti Tirtha did nothing wrong through his entire devotional service.
Let us remember that no ISKCON authority will step forward and challenge Jyotirmaya dasa’s suppositions. All his friends, like Hari dasa, will give him a big devotee hug and yell out his name, ending with "Ki Jaya!" All his siddhantic misconceptions are thus reinforced and accepted as being absolutely true. The myth making apparatus is put into full motion and fueled.
So many of my Godbrothers have been awarded sainthood simply by vox populi. It has only been 27 years since Srila Prabhupada entered samadhi. Giving the aging demographic, at this rate we will soon overtake the Catholic Church for official bestowals of sainthood.
Jyotirmaya's posts reveal the all-pervasive problem of unchecked philosophical deviation, which has filtered down to the grassroots. Who is to blame -- the GBC, the diksa gurus, ISKCON, Kaliyuga, the modes, or a combination of them all?
These disciples, represented by Jyotirmaya and Hari dasa, are publicly presenting themselves as trained up, initiated Brahmins. Their exalted diksa guru, Bhakti Tirtha Swami, is in charge of passing on our siddhanta to these individuals. When they open their mouths, we find they are sadly lacking in transcendental knowledge and it’s practical applications, and they are passing on their speculations as truth.