Sun Poll Results on "The Lilamrta"


Dec 02, USA (SUN) — Those readers following the recent commentary in the “It's Taboo, Prabhu” Sun Blog have been apprised of our feelings on the subject of Satsvarupa Goswami. Considering that our central theme is Srila Prabhupada status as the Sampradaya Acarya, there is good reasoning behind an intense dislike for the "Lilamrta". Admittedly, we chose this set of poll questions for that very reason.

Poll #1 - Does the Lilamrta depict Srila Prabhupada as a sadhana-siddha or a nitya-sidda?

As in all polls, we are most interested to observe the predictable party line split. In Poll #1 (see chart, below), we can safely assume that the 58% who feel the Lilamrta depicts Srila Prabhupada as a sadhana-siddha also know that this is an incorrect depiction. An unusually high percentage voted "Not Sure" (29%), which is not surprising. This is evidence of the exact problem being addressed here - that most devotees become contaminated by reading the Lilamrta.

There is little or no philosophical discussion within the Vaisnava community today, nor has there been in our recent past, concerning the differentiation between sadhana-bhaktas and nitya-siddhas. The designated categories of Vaisnavas found in our teachings are of three types: nitya, sadhana and kripa. With respect to the latter two siddhas, one presupposes that the successful aspiring bhakta needed to take their present bodily form due to the fact that in their previous life, they were in some state of illusion. All bhaktas who reach “siddha” status never again fall down, consequently at that enlightened point in time they become eternally “nitya”. In that sense, we read in sastra that they are all the same. However, that after the fact "sameness" does not mean that there is not an important philosophical distinction to be made about the state of the bhakta prior to his reaching the nitya platform. The big question before us today is whether of not Srila Prabhupada was materially conditioned when he took birth, or whether he was sent by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu to execute the mission that he so successfully undertook. It would be foolish to say that this distinction doesn't matter.

As the present time, the diksa guru tattva being promoted as absolute by both the Gaudiya Matha and ISKCON is modeled on the supposition that everyone is starting off as a sadhana bhakta, including those transcendental personalities we designate as being Sampradaya Acaryas: Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, and A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.

Poll #2 - Do you think the Lilamrta is a product of the Zonal Acarya system?

In Poll# 2, the shifting vote is most interesting. It appears that the "Not Sure" voters in the first poll have now swung over to the "No" column, supporting the idea that Satsvarupa's writing of the Lilamrta was not done with an aim to support the position taken by the Zonal Acaryas. The recent Sun Blog mentioned above expresses the view that Satsvarupa's participation was for that purpose. Clearly, Satsvarupa has an uncanny ability to maintain his saintly persona despite an avalanche of proof to the contrary.

There is so little information or historical reality within ISKCON today surrounding the Zonal Acarya era that it's very difficult for those who came to Krsna Consciousness after that period to understand what it really means and the significance of its implementation. To them it's just history. In fact, the Zonal Acarya scheme was a serious siddhantic deviation and expressed a complete lack of realization of Srila Prabhupada's spiritual position. That consciousness demonstrates the mentality of the persons who implemented it, and must therefore be assumed to underlie everything that came after it. There is no question that Satsvarupa was one of the key architects of the Zonal Acarya system. More than ample proof exists on the matter, coming straight from the GBC themselves.

Poll #3 - Is Satsvarupa's writing style in Lilamrta in line with Vaisnava literary tradition?

Here, the only consistent number is the 16% "Yes" vote, which is in line with what we assume to be the 100% loyal ISKCON block. Those who usually vote as independents, who we would assume to show a stronger "No" vote, are actually voting "Not Sure" or "Doesn't Matter". In face, the combined "Not Sure" and "Doesn't Matter" vote exactly equal the "No" vote. This is quite interesting because it shows there's very little awareness as to the spiritual criterion or level of advancement that is required in order for one to be qualified to properly present someone of Srila Prabhupada's status. There are many philosophical examples of this criterion to be found in sastra. In the Caitanya-caritamrta, for example, the status of Krsnadasa Kaviraj is elaborately and properly presented by the Sampradaya Acaryas, who make clear his ability to present Lord Caitanya's pastimes accurately. Bona fide biographies of other Sampradaya Acaryas demonstrate the mood and the style for which our tradition is known. Unfortunately, a good percentage of independent devotees are still in a quandary as to what constitutes a proper presentation of someone of Srila Prabhupada's status. This can only indicate one of two things: they don't understand the tradition, or they don't understand Srila Prabhupada to be worthy of being presented on that level.

Poll #4 - Should the Lilamrta be considered to be on the level of sastra?

The numbers here seem predictably consistent, with an even lower number of "Yes" votes than on the previous poll. This indicates that even those loyal to the institution don't think the Lilamrta is on the level of sastra. Regardless, we find that on many people's bookshelves, the Lilamrta is given equal status with all of Srila Prabhupada's books. In many instances, new people are given the Lilamrta to read even before they are given Srila Prabhupada's books. The Lilamrta is often quoted by preachers as if it was sastra, and many of the web biographies of Srila Prabhupada we find on ISKCON sites today drawn heavily on Lilamrta content and mood. All this indicates that there's either a lack of realization as to what qualifies literature to be considered sastra, as evidenced by the 14% "Not Sure" vote, or there's a lack of realization as to the actual level of consciousness the author had when he wrote the book, as evidenced by the 12% "Yes" vote.

Today we also find an ever-growing number of biographies, journals, and diaries authored by older devotees who are sharing their pastimes with and realizations about Srila Prabhupada. These literary creations, like the Lilamrta, tend to be given sastra-like status by many sentimentalists. Preachers often quote from these books in classes, so there is no wonder post-samadhi recruits have adopted an attitude of being unquestioning in regards to these speculative products, which are produced by conditioned living entities. This would also appear to be a significant contributing factor for the “Not Sure” voters.

Poll #5 - Is it proper to characterize the pure devotee as "sick and penniless"?

Here, the "Yes" vote numbers are quite consistent with the two previous polls. Most interestingly, it appears that a surprising number of the independent voters are still "Not Sure" on this point. Like previous polls, this goes to the question of how someone of Srila Prabhupada's status should be presented so as to philosophically differentiate the transcendental existence of a nitya-siddha from that of a conditioned soul. The consistent philosophical conclusion given in our sastra is that the status of such an elevated personality is inconceivable. When trying to understand devotees on this level, one has to constantly be reminded that their existence is inconceivable to us, and an author who is presenting them has to keep reminding the reader that this is the case. To speculatively present them as demonstrating some mundane 'negative' emotions or circumstance is, by definition, offensive.

Does the Lilamrta depict Srila Prabhupada as a sadhana-siddha or a nitya-siddha?


58 %


13 %


29 %

Do you think the Lilamrta is a product of the Zonal Acarya system?


65 %


21 %


14 %

Is Satsvarupa's writing style in Lilamrta in line with Vaisnava literary tradition?


16 %


42 %


26 %


16 %

Should the Lilamrta be considered to be on the level of sastra?


12 %


74 %


14 %

Is it proper to characterize the pure devotee as "sick and penniless"?


15 %


61 %


24 %


| The Sun | News | Editorials | Features | Sun Blogs | Classifieds | Events | Recipes | PodCasts |

| About | Submit an Article | Contact Us | Advertise | |

Copyright 2005, All rights reserved.