(On Criticism of the Pure Devotee)
by bhakta Eric Johanson
yanra citte krsna-prema karaye udaya
tanra vakya, kriya, mudra vijneha na bujhaya
Even the most learned man cannot understand the words, activities and symptoms of a person situated in love of Godhead. Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita Madhya-lila 23.39
The Bona Fide Spiritual Master
In order to understand what is beyond our sense observation and realize the absolute truth we require to come in contact with a person who is already intimately familiar with them. Such a person is called a spiritual master:
caksur unmilitam yena
tasmai sri-gurave namah
I offer my respectful obeisances unto my spiritual master, who, with the torchlight of knowledge, has opened my eyes, which were blinded by the darkness of ignorance.
The spiritual master has already realized and never departs from the absolute truth:
tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet
samit-panih srotriyam brahma-nistham
In order to learn the transcendental science, one must approach the bona fide spiritual master in disciplic succession, who is fixed in the Absolute Truth. Mundaka Upanisad 1.2.12
This spiritual realization and knowledge is what characterizes the genuine guru. Such an enlightened person is free from the material conception of life with its desire to lord it over and is able to give this knowledge and conviction to others:
tasmad gurur prapadyeta
jijnasuh sreya uttamam
sabde pare ca nisnatam
Any person who seriously desires to achieve real happiness must seek out a bona fide spiritual master and take shelter of him by initiation. The qualification of this spiritual master is that he must have realized the conclusion of the scriptures by deliberation and be able to convince others of these conclusions. Such great personalities, who have taken shelter of the Supreme Godhead, leaving aside all material considerations, are to be understood as bona fide spiritual masters. Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.3.21
The spiritual master also understands the various manifestations of the absolute truth:
vadanti tat tattva-vidas
tattvam yaj jnanam advayam
bhagavan iti sabdyate
Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramatma or Bhagavan. Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.11
Here Brahman refers to the undivided, ever-present, impersonal spiritual energy. Paramatma, or the Supersoul, is the supreme Lord in the heart of every living thing, as well as every atom. Bhagavan means the Supreme Being, the supreme personality of Godhead. Although He is known by other names, such as Vishnu or Narayana, Krishna, or “the all-attractive,” is the name that best summarizes His being the possessor of all opulence.
isvarah paramah krsnah
anadir adir govindah
Krsna who is known as Govinda is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal blissful spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin and He is the prime cause of all causes. Sri Brahma Samhita 5.1
The spiritual master is one who knows Krishna and how to attain Him:
kiba vipra, kiba nyase, sudra kene naya
yei krsna-tattva-vetta, sei guru haya
Whether one is a brahmana, a sannyasi or a sudra – regardless of what he is – he can become a spiritual master if he knows the science of Krsna. Sri Caitanya Caritamrita, Madhya-lila 8.128
When he was preaching Krishna consciousness throughout the world from 1965-1977 Srila Prabhupada exhibited all these qualifications and symptoms as he convinced thousands of Westerners to often become celibate and completely give up meat eating, gambling and intoxication. These people then devoted themselves to the service of Krishna, sometimes daily going out to face rejection by trying to convince others to buy and read a book about Krishna consciousness.
The 21st Century
Since Srila Prabhupada’s departure from manifest presence in 1977 society has changed greatly in a number of ways. Women have made gains towards equal status with men, and overt racial bigotry has become something largely relegated to small private gatherings. Western people have also become vastly more accepting of homosexual activity. Although the absolute state of pure Krishna consciousness has not changed in any way, the criteria by which many people judge others reflects these changing social standards.
Unfortunately a number of people, including some so-called initiated devotees, have recently taken to finding fault with some of Srila Prabhupada’s statements about women, homosexuality or other races. Many of these people have little knowledge of how Srila Prabhupada never personally discriminated against the members of any group and always encouraged everyone, regardless of their bodily circumstance, to take up Krishna consciousness. In this regard we should not forget that, during his manifest presence, the spiritual master also apparently functions on the material plane. This is ultimately so he can communicate the absolute message of love of God and exhibit this state of consciousness for others to become inspired by.
Because of this the spiritual master also speaks certain languages according to their current usage and works to attract the people of that time to Krishna consciousness according to their values. As times change what he said in these regards, often according to different country’s social standards, may appear to some modern people as antiquated or even sexist, homophobic or racist. A good example is the pronouns that were generally used by Srila Prabhupada. In the 60’s-70’s many authors still used “he” to refer to a typical person, man or woman. Many questioning modern people may be unfamiliar with the large number of statements Srila Prabhupada made about the spiritually equal status of all beings, regardless of gender and race, even species.
Srila Prabhupada: But the tigers and dogs are also your brothers and sisters, because you all have a common father—God. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad- gita [5.18],
brahmane gavi hastini
shuni caiva shva-pake ca
Priest: What does that mean?
Srila Prabhupada: That a truly learned man sees every living being with equal vision. In other words, he doesn’t make any spiritual distinction between you and a dog. You have a soul that is covered by a human body, and a dog has a soul covered by a dog’s body. But both of you are souls—part and parcel of God.
Priest: Would you say that souls are of different values?
Srila Prabhupada: No, all souls are of the same value. – Room Conversation, May 1975, Melbourne
The root reason for rejecting or fault-finding the spiritual master is, of course, the conditioned living entity’s natural aversion to God consciousness, their tendency to see themselves as the enjoyer and master of all they survey – that no one is better than them. However, holding onto this conviction will not gain them the liberation from the cycle of births and deaths that the spiritual master has to offer. Rejecting this merciful offer by harshly judging some poorly understood remark the spiritual master made in another time and circumstance is much like a panicked drowning man pushing away the lifeguard who has come to rescue them. Although free will certainly makes such a choice possible, it is not in someone’s best interest.
In this regard there are a number of good analogies. When we look at the moon on a partially cloudy and windy night it often appears that the moon is moving and not the clouds. Similarly according to our standards and values, the spiritual master appears to be an ordinary man who eats and sleeps and has social values just like everyone else. We then think that he also makes mistakes and acts according to the fallible social conditioning he accepted earlier in life.
A number of highly educated devotees on the VAST (Vaishnava Advanced Studies) internet forum actually made such statements about Srila Prabhupada almost twenty years ago. Despite their academic credentials, such people’s attention was diverted by the clouds of temporary material occurrences to wrongly conclude that the spiritual master was speaking under the influence of things he heard while a college student. They were apparently not very well trained in the philosophy. Unfortunately there are a number of similarly mundane depictions and characterizations in the Srila Prabhupada Lilamrita biography by Satsvarupa swami, and this offensive standard has apparently contaminated many of the devotees that accept its authorization.
Of course, when people think that the spiritual master was carrying the sexist, homophobic or bigoted attitudes of the India of his youth they will usually conclude that he cannot possibly be a truly enlightened or perfect being. However, seeing the guru as an ordinary man prohibits one from making further spiritual advancement:
arcye visnau sila-dhir gurusu nara-matir vaisnave jati-buddhir
visnor va vaisnavanam kali-mala-mathane pada-tirthe ‘mbu-buddhih
sri-visnor namni mantre sakala-kalusa-he sabda-samanya-buddhir
visnau sarvesvarese tad-itara-sama-dhir yasya va naraki sah
One who thinks the Deity in the temple to be made of wood or stone, who thinks of the spiritual master in the disciplic succession as an ordinary man, who thinks the Vaisnava in the Acyuta-gotra to belong to a certain caste or creed or who thinks of caranamrta or Ganges water as ordinary water is taken to be a resident of hell. Padma Purana
All in all, these kinds of conclusions about the spiritual master’s remarks about race, sexual orientation or gender are not all that different from what new devotees used to think in the temple when Srila Prabhupada dropped something or failed to exactly repeat some verse or story. How a person sees such things is a test of how sincere they are about becoming God conscious. They are similar plays of the temporary material nature that are very easily interpreted so as to inhibit our absorbing the absolute knowledge being given by the guru. Serious seekers will think that these minor apparent mistakes are just that, and that their deluded materially conditioned minds are incapable of knowing how a perfect person will act.
yasya deve para bhaktir
yatha deve tatha gurau
tasyaite kathita hy arthaḥ
Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed. Svetasvatara Upanisad 6.23
Someone who continues to think that the spiritual master makes ordinary mistakes or is still acting under the conditioning of his youth can never develop implicit faith. Developing such faith means seeing the absolute truth in everything the guru does and says, even the “mistakes” or politically incorrect quotes. The spiritual master who is always absorbed in love of Krishna is free from the four material defects:
bhrama pramada vipralipsa karanapatava
arsha-vijna-vakye nahi dosha ei saba
Mistakes, illusions, cheating and defective perception do not occur in the sayings of the authoritative sages. Sri Caitanya Caritamrita Adi 2.86
This is the absolute standard for someone desiring to know the absolute truth. Having this perspective of the guru’s statements doesn’t require blind faith or abandoning objective discrimination. It is one of the necessary first steps in learning to see the absolute truth in everything. We cannot realize the spiritual master’s constant absorption in love of God or develop that love ourselves without it.
Shifting Social Standards
Social standards in mundane societies are unfortunately and almost invariably driven by some kind of power politics. In the case of these gender and racial ones we find the privilege of white males being confronted by women and other races. The situation is similar for homosexuals and transgender people. Of course in almost all situations where one group has a privileged position over others, we will find many instances of abuse and exploitation by them. When these become insufferable for the victims, we usually find unrest and attempts to reform or even establish equal status.
Unfortunately not all the tactics or alternative standards of the oppressed are free from self-interest or attempts to establish their own forms of perhaps limited dominance over more cooperative members of the privileged group. This is, after all, the nature of power politics and often causes backlash from less amenable privileged people.
One of these questionable standards is the shifting notion of equality itself. Generally when we talk to advocates of gender and racial equality we will hear that women and non-white people are equal “in every way” to white males. This appears plausible at first from both a spiritual and consciousness perspective, so many will agree. The accompanying reasoning is usually that the apparent superior abilities of the privileged group, both mental and physical, are due to the social conditioning of sometimes millions of years of evolution.
In practice, however, we will generally find some less-than-ideal aspects in the manner this standard becomes implemented. This is because, in the name of increasing group pride and self-esteem, oppressed groups are also very inclined to broadcast their best qualities. In and of itself this also appears healthy and natural. It is in the way these things are imposed on the cooperative segment of the privileged group that we will usually find one-sidedness.
For instance women seeking equality will often talk up women’s generally greater familiarity with their emotions and their ability to express themselves in these manners. Similarly many African-Americans like to contrast the artificial institutionalized standards of white society with their general tendency to be “real” in terms of sincere genuineness. And, of course, there are a number of other qualities of both groups that are also pointed out, such as a woman’s nurturing compassionate tendency or African-American’s athletic and entertainment abilities.
The double standard of how these things are implemented is that the privileged are expected to always accept that women and non-whites are equal “in every way,” except in the ways that women or non-whites are superior. If a white male attempts to point out ways that white men have a similar statistical edge, he is almost immediately accused of exerting artificial privilege, bias, racism or sexism.
So the objective question then becomes whether there are real differences between men and women or the different races. These may be due to different temporary conditionings or whatever, but everyone knows that in real life most people, regardless of their level of privilege, will say things like, “women are more this way,” or “whites do that.” One simply can’t objectively say that we will recognize women or non-white’s superior qualities but not white males. Doing so is pure power politics. Unfortunately this is the standard by which disingenuous people are judging certain parts of Srila Prabhupada’s books and some of his other statements.
One might think that one can turn to academics and their studies to determine the objectivity of such questions, but academia is unfortunately not all that free from these kinds of political influences. During the reign of patriarchy and institutional racism prior to the mid 20th century it was not unusual to find academic studies affirming the superiority of white males, but now that women and non-whites share academic leadership, the conclusions of modern theory appear likewise. To now claim that we have gone beyond bias is either naïve or ideological. To be truly objective one should honestly admit that every group has statistical strengths and weaknesses and not be cowed by an enforced artificial notion of everyone being equal in every way. Needless to say this is an in-depth and controversial topic.
Advocates of gay rights are not really guilty of these devices since they are part of all the above privileged and underprivileged groups. More or less, they are following in the social wake of the women’s and non-white activist’s gains and the resultant more prevalent belief that everyone deserves to be treated equally.
In this regard serious devotees will readily agree that everyone is equal on the ultimate spiritual level. However, such a devotee will never accept that we should not differentiate between people in any way. The current sacred notion of equality advocated by Srila Prabhupada’s critics ultimately seeks to drag him down to the level of ordinary people who eat meat, take intoxication, gamble and indulge in varied sexual excesses.
Such critics are much like the typical gathering of alcoholics one will find in the downtown parks of most American cities. One may sit down at a table to talk with them, but inevitably one is asked if they would either like a drink or can give some money to buy more. If one replies that they do not drink, at least one alcoholic will immediately say, “So do you think you are better than us?” Unfortunately the politics of the notion of equality found in the peer reviewed publications of Western academics is not much different.
Devotees very much accept that, despite their pure ultimately equal spiritual status, every conditioned soul is at a different level of spiritual realization, and those devotees aspire to come to the level of the pure devotee spiritual master like Srila Prabhupada. The secret of such devotees effectively propagating Krishna consciousness, however, is to not provide reasons for others to conclude that you think you are better than them.
trnad api sunicena
taror api sahisnuna
kirtaniyah sada harih
One can chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking himself lower than the straw in the street. One should be more tolerant than the tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige and ready to offer all respects to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly. Siksastaka 3
It is when the leaders of Krishna conscious groups cause the abuse and exploitation of others, as will be described shortly, that people are led to think that they thought themselves superior, and that the modern forces advocating this kind mundane equality can, therefore, come back on them with a vengeance to contaminate what was once pure Krishna consciousness.
The Different Levels of Devotional Service and Preaching
Some of those who accuse Srila Prabhupada of racism, homophobia or sexism make the argument that if he really was enlightened and pure, everything he would say would be above fault-finding and perfect for every time, place and circumstance. Such people do not understand the actions of a devotee on the topmost level of Krishna consciousness.
“There are three categories of Vaisnavas: kanistha-adhikaris, madhyama-adhikaris and uttama-adhikaris. The kanistha-adhikari, or the devotee in the lowest stage of Vaisnava life, has firm faith but is not familiar with the conclusions of the sastras. The devotee in the second stage, the madhyama-adhikari, is completely aware of the sastric conclusion and has firm faith in his guru and the Lord. He, therefore, avoiding nondevotees, preaches to the innocent. However, the maha-bhagavata or uttama-adhikari, the devotee in the highest stage of devotional life, does not see anyone as being against the Vaisnava principles, for he regards everyone as a Vaisnava but himself. This is the essence of Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s instruction that one be more tolerant than a tree and think oneself lower than the straw in the street (trnad api su-nicena taror iva sahisnuna). However, even if a devotee is in the uttama-bhagavata status he must come down to the second status of life, madhyama-adhikari, to be a preacher, for a preacher should not tolerate blasphemy against another Vaisnava.” Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, purport, Sri Caitanya Caritamrta 1.7.51
Besides indicating how a serious devotee should deal with criticism of the spiritual master, this purport excerpt helps us to understand how God realized uttama adhikari devotees act when they are preaching and when they are not. Even if a devotee is on the topmost level of Krishna consciousness, he or she must still act like a second class madhyama devotee when they are preaching. Inherent in preaching is differentiating between the conditioned members of mundane society and approaching them in manners they can understand. This means that it is a mistake to try to judge the level of advancement of a preacher according to the statements he or she makes according to time, place and circumstance. Instead, one has to examine that preacher’s descriptions of the absolute truth and the means to attain it, what to speak of their ability to turn conditioned souls toward that path.
“Acarya is always cautious that he may not be subject to criticism. But who criticizes acarya, he becomes immediately offender. Because he is playing the part of acarya, he plays as far as possible. But sometimes for preaching work, he might have to do something which is not consistent. But if he is criticized, then that man who criticizes, he becomes… Of course, he must be acarya, not a bogus.” Room Conversation with John Greisser (Yadubara dasa), 3/10/72
Devotees who knew Srila Prabhupada during the early days of his preaching in the West, such as Rupanuga dasa, tell us that he regularly accepted advice from his first disciples on the customs and language expressions of 1960-70’s America. In the following excerpt Srila Prabhupada learns more about a commonly used English expression from Hayagriva dasa:
Srila Prabhupada: . . . .Their engagement is nidraya.. At night they sleep or enjoy sex, nidraya hriyate naktam vyavayena, and in daytime they hanker after money, runs the motorcar head-break speed, neck-break speed.
Hayagriva dasa: Breakneck.
Srila Prabhupada: Breakneck. And then what is the business? Searching out some means of food, exactly like the hog, he is loitering here and there, “Where is stool? Where is stool? Where is stool?” And this is going on in the polished way as civilization. . . . Discussions with Hayagriva dasa, Socrates
In this regard, someone might speculate what Srila Prabhupada would have said differently had he been preaching at the current time instead of 40-50 years ago. If he had been informed by his disciples of today’s social standards, he might not have made negative statements concerning women, etc. Undoubtedly this is an argument that has been made by those who want to remove such things from Srila Prabhupada’s books.
However, changing the books of the spiritual master would be a great offense, and similarly we are not very serious about Krishna consciousness if we act considering what the spiritual master might have said if this or that. The point of bringing up such a speculation is that rejecting the great body of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings on the basis of today’s worldly judgments of a handful of his preaching-related, more social-relative statements is not very well considered. One should not be fooled so easily by the comments of people who are not much different than downtown alcoholics. According to the quotes above, the pure devotee on the highest uttama level of Krishna consciousness can easily be obscured by the things he said acting as a madhyama adhikari preacher. Inwardly he is seeing everyone equally, but he is discriminating in different ways as part of his preaching.
sarva-bhutesu yah pasyed
bhutani bhagavaty atmany
A person advanced in devotional service sees within everything the soul of souls, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna. Consequently he always sees the form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the cause of all causes and understands that all things are situated in Him. Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.2.45
Srila Prabhupada also changed some of the more visible aspects of long-standing Vaishnava tradition to accommodate Western society, all the while strictly preserving the essence of pure devotional service. He was the first acarya to initiate women and engage them in performing brahminical activities. This caused no shortage of criticism in India.
“An acarya who comes for the service of the Lord cannot be expected to conform to a stereotype, for he must find the ways and means by which Krishna Consciousness may be spread. Sometimes jealous persons criticize the Krishna Consciousness movement because it engages equally both boys and girls in distribution of love of Godhead. Not knowing that boys and girls in countries like Europe and America mix very freely, these fools and rascals criticize the boys and girls in Krishna Consciousness for intermingling. But these rascals should consider that one cannot suddenly change a community’s social customs. However, since both boys and girls are being trained to become preachers those girls are not ordinary girls but are as good as their brothers who are preaching Krishna Consciousness. Therefore to engage both boys and girls in fully transcendental activities is a policy intended to spread the Krishna Consciousness movement… The results of this are wonderful. Both men and women are preaching the gospel of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Lord Krishna with redoubled strength… Therefore it is a principle that a preacher must strictly follow the rules and regulations laid down in the shastras yet at the same time devise a means by which the preaching work to reclaim the fallen may go with full force.” purports, Sri Chaitanya Charitamrta, Adi Lila 7.32 & 38
The point here is not so much to demonstrate that Srila Prabhupada made efforts to treat women and men, gays and straights or all races equally, but to show that there is significant room in the Gaudiya Vaishnavism he represented to alter certain aspects of the tradition according to time and locality. In making these judgments the acarya understands which things in the tradition are relative and which things are absolute. Only the empowered genuine representative of the Lord is authorized to make such changes.
Nevertheless, all sorts of people on the internet feel that their current politically correct values place them in a position to pass judgment on Srila Prabhupada or his level of God consciousness. In addition to charges of sexism, homophobia or racism, we will find people making much of his statements about Hitler or the apparent inaccuracy of some of his predictions. Such people do not understand what is absolute or spiritual and what is relative or temporary.
Of course, so much of what Srila Prabhupada said was recorded and is now available for people to criticize and use to reject his absolute position. The standards of any society are in a constant state of change, so it is just a matter of time before people will add or subtract from what is currently considered correct. At all times, however, virtually all people imagine that their particular values are the most evolved and correct compared to both other cultures and previous times. Knowing this truly discriminating people will be hesitant to reject a great spiritual personality based on the flickering judgments of vox populi.
The currently prevalent standard of secular people is to see everyone as ordinary or like them – atmavat manyate jagat – more intellectual downtown alcoholism. According to post-modern analysis, anyone attributed with absolute spiritual perfection is immediately suspect. Advocates of this standard will then spare nothing attempting to prove that such a person has the same foibles as others. However, these secular critics generally also place no value in using the human form of life to realize the absolute truth. For the most part their ideals consist of seeing that every human being has an equal right to enjoy the material resources we find around us, regardless of gender, race, etc. Many of them see spirituality as little more than the imposition of artificial values by some kind of pretender. They think all spirituality is cheating and are trying to prove that Srila Prabhupada is just like the many charlatans or hypocritical religious leaders of history.
Although most are not as materialistic as such people, they are very much influenced by their forceful presentations. Additionally, these in-between people are usually only sentimentally interested in spirituality and rarely have more objective standards to evaluate the many different spiritual teachings. These are, however, the people that stand to benefit the most from reading Srila Prabhupada’s books, the place where he presents clear knowledge of the absolute truth, God, and the objective science of attaining and knowing Him.
Other more modern so-called gurus or preachers may therefore appear far more in step with today’s social standards than Srila Prabhupada. So-called gurus are, however, always adept at attracting customers or future “disciples.”
Srila Prabhupada: So-called gurus, they are so-called gurus. They are not gurus. That is already explained. If one does not speak what Krishna speaks, he is not guru. If you accept so-called guru, that is your misfortune. What can be done?
Pusta Krishna dasa: Some of them will say some things that Krishna says, but they’ll take from other places also. What is the position of such persons?
Srila Prabhupada: He’s most dangerous. He’s most dangerous. He is opportunist. He’s finding out customer, something here….according to the customer he is giving something, as the customer will be pleased. So he is not guru. He’s a servant. He wants to serve the so-called disciples so that he may be satisfied and pay him something. He’s servant. He’s not guru. Guru is the master. You cannot disobey guru. But if you become a servant, you want to please the disciple by flattering him to get his money, then you are not guru, you are servant. Just like a servant pleases the master. He’s not guru. He’s servant. So our position should be servant, yes, but servant of the Supreme. So guru means heavy. You cannot utilize him for satisfying your whims. That is not guru. – Conversation, June 28, 1976, New Vrindavana
This is not to say that there will never be another genuine spiritual master. However, in order to tell such a person from the pretenders, one almost certainly will need as much help as they can get. The best place to find that advice is in Srila Prabhupada’s books.
“The first requirement is that one become educated in spiritual life. Spiritual life is not something one can understand by a few minutes’ talk. There are many philosophy and theology books, but people are not interested in them. That is the difficulty. For instance, the Srimad-Bhagavatam is a very long work, and if you try to read this book, it may take many days just to understand one line of it. The Bhagavatam describes God, the Absolute Truth, but people are not interested. And if, by chance, someone becomes a little interested in spiritual life, he wants something immediate and cheap. Therefore, he is cheated.” – Science of Self Realization, Ch. 2, “Choosing a Spiritual Master-Saints & Swindlers”
The conclusion is that only truly fortunate people will be able to see though the forest of modern social standards and their own sentiment to begin to understand the consistent spiritual knowledge that Srila Prabhupada brought to the world. These absolute spiritual principles are true at all times and places and realizing them will make one’s life perfect.
Discussion of individual quotes
Prabhupada: They should throw. I throw upon you, you throw upon me. You go to hell, I go to hell. That’s all. This will be the result. And the world will be cleansed of these all rascals. This will be the result. (laughs)
Bhagavan dasa: In the Teachings of Lord Caitanya, you say that even the atomic bombs can be used in Krishna’s service.
Prabhupada: It will be used by nature. Prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani. He is thinking that “I am proprietor of this atomic bomb,” but he does not know that the other’s atomic bomb will kill me, and my atomic bomb, I kill him. That’s all. He does not know that. He is thinking, “I am very proud of possessing.” But that will be the cause of his death.
Yogesvara dasa: Is such an atomic war foretold in Srimad Bhagavatam?
Prabhupada: Yes. Next war means atomic war. All these rascals will be killed automatically. I will kill you, you’ll kill me. That’s all.
Yogesvara dasa: Is that war to occur in the recent future? Or is that a long way off?
Prabhupada: Very recent, very recent future. This Communist and Capitalist mentality will bring the next… The Communists will be victorious.
Dhananjaya dasa: And after the war what will be the result?
Prabhupada: After the war they will come to sense. . . . Morning Walk, May 27, 1974, Rome
In this and other conversations Srila Prabhupada predicts that communism and capitalism will have an atomic war. Here he says that the communists will win. In other places he names the US and USSR in these connections. Since his departure in 1977 the communist Soviet Union has ceased to exist, and there was no nuclear war. Critics have said that he could not have been infallible because he did not perfectly know past, present and future. They have not been convinced when devotees have said that the future was changed by the potency of Srila Prabhupada’s Krishna consciousness movement. To them such explanations only indicate devotees’ blind refusal to admit Srila Prabhupada’s ordinariness.
Admittedly many devotees are blind followers, but current events have revived the fear that there could be an atomic war between the current Russia and the US. However, most would probably agree that 1974’s “very recent future” has probably past us by. That is, however, a matter of subjective interpretation. Similarly, one has no way of knowing if a great soul’s preaching and activities can change the destiny of an entire planet. Secular people will reflexively dismiss such a possibility.
As discussed previously to make such things the fulcrum of whether Srila Prabhupada was truly a lover of God or perfect is almost the essence of superficiality and casual thinking. It is a cheap argumentum-ad-homonym, one-line dismissal of a lifetime of dedication to God consciousness along with world history making achievements. Unfortunately such things are all too typical of the internet and allowing virtually anyone to have some kind of “journalistic” platform. It is much like rejecting Srila Prabhupada because he dropped the karatals during morning class. One can also make the argument that Krishna creates such circumstances so that superficial people can have a casual excuse to reject the spiritual master.
No one who is serious about self-realization is going to think that their limited conditioned mental capacity is going to be able to encompass every possibility of material nature. A sincere seeker should examine a possible spiritual master critically, but that examination should be on the basis of their philosophy and exhibition of the qualities described in the scriptures. Srila Prabhupada excelled in all those categories.
“Sudra is to be controlled only. They are never given to be freedom. Just like in America. The blacks were slaves. They were under control. And since you have given them equal rights they are disturbing, most disturbing, always creating a fearful situation, uncultured and drunkards. What training they have got? They have got equal right? That is best, to keep them under control as slaves but give them sufficient food, sufficient cloth, not more than that. Then they will be satisfied.” – Room Conversation Varnasrama System Must Be Introduced — February 14, 1977, Mayapura
Most modern people will say this is not only racist but opposed to human rights. Srila Prabhupada is supporting slavery! This combination is very shocking to them. Some white devotees will even take such quotes as evidence that blacks are so low that they should be owned as slaves. However, Srila Prabhupada is actually talking about sudras, a social division of varnasrama dharma, and he is only using a bad segment of African Americans as an example.
If the varnasrama dharma context was explained, most Westerners would mistakenly conclude that Srila Prabhupada was advocating the caste system, something that virtually all of them also abhor as backward and pre-dating the “evolved” concept of separation of church and state. The larger context, however, is that Srila Prabhupada is talking to a group of intimate disciples about how human society is structured. These were devotees who were already familiar with varnasrama dharma and how it became perverted into the caste system. The ultimate goal of such a spiritually centered society is to elevate everyone to spiritual realization, regardless of their social position, even sudras or “slaves.” The purpose was not, as will be cynically concluded by Westerners, to control the population for the self-interest of the leaders.
Taken by itself, which is the out-of-context manner of many of these on-line attacks, a superficial reading does not connect to Srila Prabhupada’s hundreds of other condemnations of the entirety of Western society, including the white members. This would only further enrage the critics. Kalau sudra sambhavah – in Kali yuga everyone is born a sudra. This means he was advocating that even the white people be denied the freedom to continue disturbing or be “uncultured and drunkards.” They also have no Vedic training. Virtually all of them revel in meat eating, intoxication, gambling and all manner of sexual activity. Certainly the above quote does not depict African-Americans in a very good light, but in the overall context of Srila Prabhupada’s view of Western society, it does not really discriminate again them.
The objective fact, however, is that everyone knows that African-American ghettos are very dangerous, especially for the residents, and that many of the young men found on the streets at night are disturbing, uncultured and drunk. This may be due to the prevailing racism in the US, other social conditioning or karma, but denying it is not something that will be done by any sane person walking those streets alone at night.
Actually the further modern secular people explore Srila Prabhupada’s presentation of Vedic culture or varnasrama dharma, the more repulsed they are going to be. The essential focus of his mission, however, was always the universal chanting of the holy name, something that would elevate anyone who heard it. Although secular people care very little for this spiritual nectar, they very quickly hone in on mundane political, social, racial or gender issues, just like flies are attracted to excrement.
Because most secular people don’t believe life extends beyond death, they are generally absorbed in the heaven-on-earth promises of democracy. They see these apparently opposing ideas of varnasrama as a type of enemy, like something a dictator or would-be dictator would try to force on unthinking people.
Varnasrama dharma may have been something that could have been implemented among Srila Prabhupada’s followers, as was being discussed in the above cited room conversation, and it would have helped in the implementation of genuine Krishna consciousness, but history interfered with that with his departure, and it never flourished. In any case it is a kind of graduate level side topic in the study of Krishna consciousness that can hardly be understood by non-devotees or the casual devotees on the internet who condemn these remarks. Considering how badly Srila Prabhupada’s followers managed the Hare Krishna movement after his departure, leaving such people to implement varnasrama dharma in the greater Western society would have certain produced very bad results.
It is interesting that this modern sacrosanct concept of individual freedom has a number of implications in regard to the impending dangers of climate change, and these are discussed to some extent in our Krishna Consciousness and Climate Change article. Giving this freedom to millions of people who cannot control their senses has resulted in they’re being seduced by a hedonistic lifestyle offering a constantly increasing variety of new products, such as automobiles and comparatively affluent housing. Their production and use, however, is exceeding the earth’s ability to provide resources or mitigate the resulting waste products, such as the carbon dioxide and methane largely fueling climate change. When we consider that the corporations marketing this excess have all intentions of expanding it to the billions in every corner of the globe, we can understand that there will, sooner or not-so-much-later, be a disastrous intersection of diminishing supply and exponential demand. In other words, modern “freedom of the individual” society is already well into the process of cutting off the branch of the tree of life it is “evolving” on.
The worst of all this might have been avoided if the mass of uncontrolled people had not been allowed to become free. This had been the role they largely occupied in previous, relatively more sustainable tribal or feudal cultures. Perhaps ironically, it is many of the same politically correct people who are abhorred by Srila Prabhupada’s statements that also want more governmental regulation of the causes of climate change. For those who oppose such regulation, any limitation of people’s ability to consume is compared to slavery.
Generally people concerned about climate change talk in terms of carbon trading, regulatory taxes, corporate penalties, alternative energy or a larger transformation towards some form of ecological regulatory socialism. They all see democracy and individual freedom as above discussion. The contradiction is the insurmountable task of convincing a majority of the “free” people addicted to the current profligate lifestyle to voluntarily give up some of their most pleasing conveniences and enjoyments. Most climate change activists advocate education to accomplish this, but this very much requires curtailing multinational corporations’ ability to drown them out with media advertising of the status quo. In this regard the US Supreme Court has recently given a number of rulings protecting this kind of corporate “free speech.”
In the Vedic terms of varnasrama, all this is the price of allowing uncontrolled sudras to vote and have the money and freedom to own homes and automobiles. How this genie is going to be put back in the bottle is perhaps a question that Srila Prabhupada’s on-line critics should consider addressing.
Hitler and More on Race
There are also a number of places on the internet where both devotees and non-devotees take difference with Srila Prabhupada’s statements about Hitler. They cite quotes like this one:
“Ah, yes. So these English people, they were very expert in making propaganda. They killed Hitler by propaganda. I don’t think Hitler was so bad man.” Room Conversation — June 17, 1976, Toronto
Here again we find the conventional wisdom of modern Western society having a condemnation field-day. In today’s society there is practically no one more reviled than Hitler, so anyone who says he was not “so bad” can also be subject to the same treatment.
On the other hand, the winners of World War II, such as Winston Churchill, are often considered heroes by the same critics. From the heights of their contemporary chauvinistic pedestals, such judges forget that these heroes and villains were largely reversed in the colonial India that Srila Prabhupada came from. Churchill and all of the English Imperial representatives preceding him were responsible for the continuing deaths, suffering and plundering of hundreds of millions of innocent Indians over hundreds of years. Conversely it was Hitler’s war on the British that largely brought the empire and this misery to an end. Gandhi, generally another hero of the same critics, may have done this or that, but without the destruction of the English war machine, it is far less likely that India would have achieved independence so easily after WW II. These critics are therefore revealed as having imbibed too much Western post-WW II propaganda.
In other places Srila Prabhupada also condemned Hitler as a demon.
“Similarly, those who are in the mode of passion worship the demons. We recall that during the Second World War a man in Calcutta worshiped Hitler because thanks to that war he had amassed a large amount of wealth by dealing in the black market.” Purport, Bhagavad-gita 17.4
In 50’s-60’s India Hitler was largely seen as not all bad. However, he certainly oversaw the horrific Holocaust, and these acts of the Nazis are largely what have relegated them to perhaps the most condemned group in modern times. We should coincidently note, however, that the European Jews they systematically killed and tortured were also white people.
In a similar program that inspired the Nazis, the American colonialists had earlier largely annihilated much of the native population. “The only good Indian is a dead Indian,” was one of their merciful humanitarian slogans. The British had also enacted a number of similar polices in their empire building and colonial suppression of African, India-Indian, Australian and other native populations. These earlier and far more extensive atrocities are all conveniently swept under the rug when Hitler’s genocidal policies are held up as “the worst.” Apparently current Western dominated history finds itself unable to confer the “worthy victim” status of European Jews on the non-white Native Americans or similar victims of European colonialism-genocide. It is not hard to understand who won both of the conflicts that these competing horrors were enacted in, and who got to write the history. For the most part US and European history tends to dismiss or minimize their barbarity during the colonial period.
There are also a number of quotes that link skin color with the pious or impious deeds of past life. This one is typical:
“…the higher classes of men are white (sukla), and the lower classes of men are black. This division of white and black is in terms of one’s white and black duties of life. Pious acts lead one to… acquire beautiful features. Impious acts lead one to… acquire ugly bodily features.” purport, Srimad Bhagavatam 3.5.9
These concepts are also very abhorrent to modern politically correct people. They remind most of Nazi ideas of a “master race” and all their other ideological abuses, many of which were distortions of Vedic culture, such as Aryan society. Of course, Nazi eugenics theory advocated for the extermination and sterilization of “inferior” groups of people, and they actually implemented some infamous programs to these effects. Therefore, many modern people will think that, along with his non-negative statements about Hitler, that maybe Srila Prabhupada and Vedic culture endorse these theories and programs. There are, however, no such statements of support by Srila Prabhupada.
In this quote Srila Prabhupada is talking about karma, and how some groups of people, in this case races, have better destiny according to the deeds of their past lives. Secular egalitarian people hate these kinds of remarks, not only because most of them don’t believe in reincarnation, but because the bigots of a privileged group will use such information or beliefs to oppress others. Therefore in the name of promoting equality, they would prefer to completely censor these kinds of remarks from public discourse or consideration. In this they have already been largely successful, and hence the shocked reactions to these types of quotes.
Such people are not really interested to know if Srila Prabhupada is delivering a spiritual or metaphysical truth. His remark is getting in the way of the political agenda that they consider vastly more important. For them John Lennon’s song Imagine is a kind of creed, “imagine there’s no heaven. . . and no religion too.” All this socially mandated censorship will supposedly take all of humanity to the ideal secular heaven on earth. How is that working out?
Nevertheless nothing negates that there are real scientifically observable differences between the races or genders. These include physical, social, emotional and mental criteria such as IQ. Most people can be forced to admit that at the current time black people as a group generally have far worse destinies than whites. When these differences are brought up the politically correct response is to label them “white supremacist distortion” or “patriarchal backlash” and avoid the real numbers or their implications. If anything is said, the aforementioned social conditioning and evolution are invariably invoked.
Of course Srila Prabhupada’s quotes of this variety have sometimes been misused by racist or misogynist devotees to abuse and insult women or minority devotees and non-devotees, but that was not Srila Prabhupada’s example. He always treated everyone equally and was certainly aware that many white Westerners also regarded him and other “tan” Indians as racially inferior or “mixed-race.”
The conclusion on these kinds of race-gender-karma remarks by Srila Prabhupada is that such metaphysical or spiritual knowledge is completely beyond the ability of modern science or people to discern. These remarks may also not be kind, but it is just as blind to reject them based on political correctness or currently inconclusive scientific theories.
“…the homosexual appetite of a man for another man is demoniac and is not for any sane male in the ordinary course of life.” – Purport, Srimad Bhagavatam 3.20.26
“They are discussing in the university homosex. Just see. They are not even fourth class men; they are animals, producing so many animals, that’s all, dogs and hogs.” – Morning walk, 5/14/75, Perth
“Now the priestly order is supporting homosex. I was surprised. They are going to pass a resolution for getting married between man to man. The human society has come down to such a degraded position. It is astonishing.” – Conversation with the GBC, 5/25/72, Los Angeles
So as we saw with race, Srila Prabhupada is apparently condemning one group to the exclusion of others, and this will cause many people to conclude that he was homophobic. Again the overall context is that Srila Prabhupada came down heavy on all sorts of sense pleasure. He wasn’t differential in regard to heterosexual illicit sex – sex was only for the procreation of devotee children by a married devotee man and wife. He considered all kinds of sex-for-pleasure between any non-devotees as inherently degraded and animal-like, producing children that Bhagavad-gita calls “varna-sankara.” Although such prohibition or judgment only further horrifies secular people as fundamentalist and oppressive, the reason Srila Prabhupada is making such extreme statements about homosexual sex or marriage is that there is absolutely no possibility of producing a child.
Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita:
balam balavatam caham
kamo ‘smi bharatarsabha
I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire. I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles, O Lord of the Bharatas [Arjuna]. Bhagavad-gita 7.11
In serious Gaudiya Vaishnavism sex according to religious principles means for procreation only. Sex between members of the same gender is therefore only for sense pleasure and hence inherently degraded. There is no way that it can be engaged in the service of Krishna to potentially produce a devotee child. No serious devotee will condone such activities. It is not because it is between gay people, it is because it is solely for sense pleasure.
Srila Prabhupada’s personal example was, again, very counter to any assumptions of homophobia. His first initiated disciple was Kirtanananda dasa, a homosexual from Greenwich Village in NY, still a popular gay district of the city. Kirtanananda dasa’s previous gay partner was Hayagriva dasa, an English professor who edited Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As-It-Is. Srila Prabhupada would even sometimes make jokes about them being husband and wife. There were also a number of other gay people who joined the movement at the first temple in the East Village. Srila Prabhupada did not turn anyone away because of race, sexual orientation or gender – as long as they agreed to follow the rules and regulations of Vaishnava behavior. If you wanted to have gay or illicit heterosexual sex, you were free to go elsewhere.
Although they wrongly interpret Srila Prabhupada’s statements as discriminatory, many modern egalitarians dislike these rules even more. Srila Prabhupada never even slightly condoned the hedonism most of them prefer. When we study the Vaisnava scriptures like Srimad Bhagavatam, we find absolutely no allowance for sense pleasure. This is actually the prerequisite for realization of the absolute truth in all the three phases cited previously. In that book Narada muni condemns his disciple, Srila Vyasadeva, for his guidelines in other Vedic scriptures that regulate sex, intoxication and meat eating. This is because one has to ultimately make all such enjoyment nil in order to achieve complete liberation from material existence. Srila Prabhupada preached this same standard to his disciples.
jugupsitam dharma-krte ‘nusasatah
svabhava-raktasya mahan vyatikramah
yad-vakyato dharma ititarah sthito
na manyate tasya nivaranam janah
The people in general are naturally inclined to enjoy, and you have encouraged them in that way in the name of religion. This is verily condemned and is quite unreasonable. Because they are guided under your instructions, they will accept such activities in the name of religion and will hardly care for prohibitions. Srimad Bhagavatam 1.5.15
This is a very high level of spirituality. Virtually all of the world’s major religious scriptures are mostly collections of rules that prevent people from acting like animals. Although this is better than nothing or the state regulated hedonism advocated by secular people, there is very little mention of who God is, what He is like or the means to actually realized and develop love for Him. Here Narada muni says that such scripture is jugupsitam, or “abominable.” This is because the people following these religions will use those rules to reject higher instructions to completely give up all sense pleasure in order to attain the highest goal, love of God or Krishna.
Attaining the absolute truth requires an absolute standard. Real love for God is devotion or undeviating. It is not being able to turn away for some private sense gratification. Eternal love and enjoyment is not experienced with the material senses and is always done in connection with Krishna’s desires or activities. Unfortunately, most modern people are too obsessed with material pleasure or egalitarian politics to understand the different types of spiritual teachings.
pasyann atmani tusyati
sukham atyantikam yat tad
vetti yatra na caivayam
sthitas calati tattvatah
yam labdhva caparam labham
manyate nadhikam tatah
yasmin sthito na duhkhena
tam vidyad duhkha-samyoga-
The stage of perfection is called trance, or samadhi, when one’s mind is completely restrained from material mental activities by practice of yoga. This is characterized by one’s ability to see the self by the pure mind and to relish and rejoice in the self. In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness and enjoys himself through transcendental senses. Established thus, one never departs from the truth, and upon gaining this he thinks there is no greater gain. Being situated in such a position, one is never shaken, even in the midst of greatest difficulty. This indeed is actual freedom from all miseries arising from material contact. Bhagavada-gita 6.20-23
Compared to the previous quotes, far and away it was Srila Prabhupada’s remarks about women that have caused the most controversy after his departure.
“Now, in the Manu-Samhita it is clearly stated that a woman should not be given freedom. That does not mean that women are to be kept as slaves, but they are like children.” purport, Bhagavad-gita 16.7
“…woman has no independence, because they cannot keep their independence—it is not possible. . . . By nature they are weak. . . In the Western countries, the women are given freedom like man, but that is unnatural. . . .So, woman—the conclusion is that women are weak.” – Lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam 1.15.20, Los Angeles, 11/30/73)
We have read where even so-called gurus in the movement have distanced themselves from Manu Samhita apparently because of the inconvenience it creates for their attracting gay or women followers. Such statements are hardly evidence of brahminical “implicit faith” in the Vedic scriptures. Srila Prabhupada has compared such minimization more with atheistic Buddhism than staunch devotional service.
Anyway Srila Prabhupada also made a great number of statements about how women were to be protected, and this is the key to properly understanding these apparently discriminatory quotes. Only foolish people will not admit that women, on the average, are physically weaker than men. This is why domestic violence is vastly distorted to the category of men abusing women. This would not be case if women were physically stronger than men or equally so.
This means that women have required physical protection in what we have thus far known as human society. In modern Western countries this inevitably comes from the men on the police force. Of course there is the occasional policewoman who is physically up to handling violent situations, but they are rare exceptions. This is why domestic violence shelter staffs are always focused on whether their mostly male local police department is following the proper protocols in domestic violence situations.
Like it or not, this demonstrates that women are clearly not as “free” as men, even in secularly more ideal modern democracies. They may be aspiring for that, but even staunch feminists acknowledge that the reality is still a long way off. They may believe that men’s physical superiority is the result of evolutionary conditioning and may be able to force a kind of politically correct gender blindness on their male sex partners, but reality has not yet decided to conform to their theory. Currently any slightly attractive female still avoids going out alone at night even in “safe” small towns or suburbs. At night women generally only go out in groups or with a man they can trust. This is more reflective of Srila Prabhupada’s statements than the feminist ideal.
“As children are very prone to be misled, women are similarly very prone to degradation.” purport, Bhagavad-gita 1.40
Largely because women are weaker, and therefore more like children, they are more likely to be forced into situations they may not prefer, especially in societies that do not provide them with adequate protection. They often find themselves being taken advantage of by exploitative men, even in countries like the US. Higher education may not be available or too expensive, and young women often get pregnant early in life due to indiscretions with a man who is either immature or irresponsible. They then commonly end up depending on their parents or, worse yet, falling into sex work, a vocation that always has a steady demand. Certainly these things are the target of feminist reform efforts, and the young women’s poor fates can also be attributed to social conditioning, etc., but they certainly tilt the statistics toward women being more “prone to degradation” than men. Many of the differences between men and women, both plus and minus, stem from women’s physical destiny, or karma, to bear children.
Prabhupada: Woman is not equally intelligent as a man.
Reporter: Equal in intelligence?
Prabhupada: Not equal intelligence. In the psychology, practical psychology, they have found that the man’s brain has been found up to sixty-four ounce, woman… Sixty-four ounce, man’s brain. And woman’s brain has been found, thirty-six ounce. So therefore woman is not equally intelligent like man. – Press Conference, July 9, 1975, Chicago
There are a number of similar quotes where Srila Prabhupada invokes this comparative size of men and women’s brains. The actual scientifically measured weights may not always be according to the proportion that Srila Prabhupada gives, but if not just for their generally smaller physical proportions, women’s brains are smaller. For the entire human brain scientific research confirms this, although studies of different parts of the brain will vary: Men’s and Women’s Brains Found To Be Different Sizes.
Critics will bring up academic research on intelligence and whether brain size is truly a reflection of it. We have certainly seen by now that there are any numbers of women who perform very admirably in jobs that were previously thought best done only by men. This really isn’t Srila Prabhupada’s point. Because he was always focused on people’s spiritualization, when this topic comes up he is almost always talking about spiritual intelligence – telling the difference between spirit and matter.
Srila Prabhupada also said this difference in intelligence is related to women being more in the mode of passion:
“The whole world is captivated by the two modes of material nature rajo-guna and tamo-guna, passion and ignorance. Generally women are very much passionate and are less intelligent; therefore somehow or other a man should not be under the control of their passion and ignorance.” Purport, Srimad Bhagavatam 4.27.1
People dominated by the mode of passion are absorbed in trying to attain material success and enjoyment and, therefore, have a more difficult time differentiating between matter and spirit. Someone more in the higher mode of goodness easily takes to following the regulative principles that are the prerequisites to realizing God. In the Bible Christ says in this regard that one“cannot serve two masters.” A person will make either spiritual or material attainment primary. They cannot be equally important. This is one of the big differences between the modes of passion and goodness.
Now critics will say that there are great women religionists and saints, and that conversely many men are very degraded and poor at self-control. Men are often seen obnoxiously approaching women for sex, regardless of time or circumstance, whereas women are generally far more discerning in their choice of partners; thus indicating better ability to manage their sex drive. These are, of course, the kind of gender differences that feminists like to tout and celebrate, unlike some of the others we are citing. In any case, this degraded tendency of many men is what Srila Prabhupada is writing about above when he says “the whole world is captivated by the two modes of material nature rajo-guna and tamo-guna, passion and ignorance.”In other words, the ignorant and passionate men in modern society are also quite degraded, often more than many women.
When he is saying that women are more passionate, Srila Prabhupada is describing men and women’s relative abilities to forego material concerns and dedicate themselves to spiritual discipline, or to rise out of passion and come to the mode of goodness. Although there are exceptions, women are generally more concerned with material comfort and appearance. Men are usually the member of the family left with the more austere dirty, dangerous and disgusting duties. Men are also known to generally spend less time and effort feeding themselves, whereas even materially gifted or intelligent women will often make eating choices an essential part of their daily routine.
Women are also generally more prone to see to the material comforts and looks of themselves and children. The comfort aspect is sometimes described as their “nesting” tendency, something that is often linked with wanting a nice environment for any children they might give birth to. This is generally a greater concern of the wife even if a couple is old or has no plans for a family. Although husbands usually go along cheerfully with their wives’ interior design and decoration choices, their interests generally go more to the needed tools or home electronics. Thus women’s specific maternal needs and concerns can be linked to some other key differences in modern men and women’s psychologies.
Women’s generally greater concern with appearance is also indicated by their overwhelming dominance of the statistics regarding weight control. Although men also diet, they’re being overweight is not considered as great a social flaw as women. They also very rarely become caught up in the eating disorders of bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa. In fact these disorders are almost exclusively confined to women.
Of course feminists will be quick to remind us that this weight obsessed gender imbalance is the result of patriarchal dominance and enforcement of men’s preferred taboos regarding women’s appearance. These taboos are then played upon by media and advertising to induce the insecurity needed to sell women beauty products and attractive clothing, sometimes driving them to the dysfunctional level of these disorders. Although there may be a social or sexist element to all this, it doesn’t change the fact that a key difference in women and men’s psychologies is making it possible.
Academics like Dr. Judith Butler contend that these gender differences are all socially created. They may be well received by the politically correct, but the practical proof of a society where men and women’s roles have been essentially reversed has not yet been demonstrated. It is difficult to completely disconnect all of women’s tendencies from their unique ability to give birth to children.
So certainly there are great spiritual women and ascetics, but men are still generally more prone to self-denial and disregarding appearance than women. When these things are engaged by the bona fide spiritual master in service to the Lord in the mode of goodness, interested men will have a comparatively easier time accepting the austerity than most women. This is what Srila Prabhupada is referring to when he says that women are generally more passionate and less intelligent spiritually. They are generally more concerned with material priorities than men.
Nevertheless there were a number of empowered women preachers and book distributors in the early days of Srila Prabhupada’s movement such as Jamuna devi dasi, Govinda devi dasi and Jadurani devi dasi. They were very dear to Srila Prabhupada and worthy of all devotee’s respect. In those days Srila Prabhupada managed his relatively small movement personally, and he treated his men and women disciples pretty much equally. This has been recounted and verified by both men and women devotees who were present. He saw his serious female disciples as devotees and not conditioned souls limited by their birth as women or melecchas, something that also applied to virtually all his male disciples. Melecchas are those who do not follow Vedic principles.
In chapter five of Hare Krishna Transformed, Women’s Voices, Dr. E. Burke Rochford Jr., the foremost academic authority on the movement, documents how the movement’s treatment of women changed in the early-mid 70’s when Srila Prabhupada turned over the everyday affairs of the movement’s management to his male disciples. Most of these men were sannyasis, celibate renunciates or swamis, who had supposedly foresworn sex for the rest of their lives.
One might conclude that their disregard for the movement’s women stemmed from their struggles to abstain from sex, and that this led to women being moved to the movement’s fringes. The more sincere among them saw celibacy as the express lane back to Godhead and were more effective at convincing male devotees to avoid marriage. Vishnujana swami is quoted by Tamal Krishna maharaja in Hare Krishna Transformed (p 116) as saying, “Whenever you make a woman a devotee, you lose one man.” In all serious yoga pursuits marriage or sex is seen as the magnet that will keep one bound to material consciousness and the cycle of births and deaths. In Krishna consciousness sex will only lead to spiritual advancement if it is strictly limited to procreation, and that only once a month after performing extra chanting.
However, in whatever way you looked at it, through the 70’s devotee women became increasingly seen as one of the main obstacles to either spiritual advancement, book distribution or both. Compared to married people generally single male celibates could dedicate themselves to fund raising from book distribution for longer periods of the day. When married couples had children this time often dropped off to zero. Children, therefore, were also not very high up on these leaders’s priorities. They preferred devotees who could produce the results they could use to either impress Srila Prabhupada or compete with each other.
Regardless of why the leaders saw women as a threat, this reveals one of the key differences between how Srila Prabhupada managed the movement personally and how the sannyasis did it. Although Srila Prabhupada also very much encouraged celibacy, he never wrote off a male devotee who very much needed to marry. Neither did he see serious women devotees as threats to his movement or every man’s spiritual advancement. Unlike his young, relatively inexperienced sannyasis, he was truly broadminded. Every sincere person had a place in his movement.
Many other male devotees of this period had also been raised in extremely patriarchal environments and were convinced that misogyny and even physical abuse were “healthy” and normal. These were the people that misinterpreted Srila Prabhupada’s statements about women to suit their own purposes rather than follow his personal example of how to relate with the women devotees.
In his book’s chapters about the movement’s children Dr. Rochford also nicely documents how these short-sighted policies resulted in widespread pedophilia and physical abuse in the movement’s schools. More qualified devotees were often placed in fund raising rather than education. Srila Prabhupada’s focus, on the other hand, was always on convincing people to become Krishna conscious, and he was able to engage virtually anyone in meaningful and productive service to Krishna. He would say that Krishna would provide the results that were needed to sustain the movement. He also created arrangements for everyone’s welfare, both material and spiritual. It was when the leaders put the results first and downplayed other priorities that things largely went to hell for the movement’s women and children. Of course those experiencing these abuses were effectively suppressed, and news of these goings-on rarely got to Srila Prabhupada.
It is interesting that many of these sannyasis were later among the eleven “zonal acaryas” that, about six months after Srila Prabhuapada’s departure, divided the world into exclusive papal-like domains. Imitating Srila Prabhupada and demanding God-like worship from devotees who had just previously viewed them as equals, these eleven apparently didn’t mind seeing the male devotees then join the women and children in going through hell.
Now that more details of Hare Krishna movement history are known, it is not difficult to characterize those who became zonal acaryas as bhogis, or enjoyers, rather than humble servants (yogis). Even before Srila Prabhupada’s departure they ruled their exclusive multiple temple-zone domains pretty unilaterally, receiving all sorts of honor and special personal service from those they managed.
With their 1978 audacious implementation of full imitation of His Divine Grace, for most of them this enjoying disease eventually metastasized beyond subtle violation of their vows of sexual renunciation. The ensuing scandals of their sexual falldowns irrevocably changed the Hare Krishna movement for the worse. Many have since asked if these men were even close to being qualified as gurus. They apparently accepted the posts more to keep people joining the movement in large numbers, something that eventually created the opposite result.
Why Did Srila Prabhupada Say These Things?
Anything a great soul says is meant for the spiritual elevation of everyone, and all the quotes we have cited were either from books with this purpose or conversations and classes for Srila Prabhupada’s disciples and the public. Nevertheless in regard to these now more controversial excerpts, it is said that a pure devotee like Srila Prabhupada is trikala-jna, or able to see past, present, and future. Of course this is made available by the grace of Krishna:
sarvasya caham hrdi sannivisto
mattah smrtir jnanam apohanam ca
vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedanta-krd veda-vid eva caham
I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas. Bhagavad-gita 15.15
It is not for us to know if Srila Prabhupada had this grace at all times or when he said these things that so disturb some modern people, and that some devotees say interferes with their ability to preach to them. We can certainly conclude, however, that Krishna wanted them said and recorded so that they would eventually find their way to the whole world on the internet. One could then ask that if Krishna truly wants to deliver every conditioned soul, why would He create such hindrances to people taking up His devotional service?
One reason may be that Srila Prabhupada, Krishna’s empowered representative, is no longer physically manifest to engage these people in pure devotional activities.
“Sometimes in autumn the falls come down from the top of the hill to supply clean water, and sometimes they stop. Similarly, sometimes great saintly persons distribute clear knowledge, and sometimes they are silent. The small ponds which were filled with water because of the rainy season, gradually dry up in autumn.” Krishna Book, chapter 20, Description of Autumn
It may be that, at the current time, there is no devotee pure enough to deliver the real medicine for the disease of repeated birth and death; that people who come to the process now will only end up being mis-trained in Krishna consciousness. Krishna may be planning to send another great soul and is waiting for events to catalyze the prerequisite sincerity that people will need to contact him or her. The predicted effects of climate change and the likely loss of faith in modern governmental and economic institutions could very well be those events. They are similar to the “mutually assured destruction” nuclear war threat of the 1960’s that caused thousands of Western young people to join the counter-culture that Srila Prabhupada so effectively preached to.
Regardless of such possibilities however, it is somewhat clear that many modern people are just not all that interested in or sincere about spirituality. Post-modern relativistic thinking and the positivist-agnostic conclusions of most advocates of science have been the higher educational rule since the 70’s. Most young people who attend non-religious universities find themselves embarrassed by the spiritual convictions of their earlier years.
Nevertheless life is still temporary and generally loaded with various sufferings. The modern conveniences, agricultural innovations and medicines invented by scientists may give the impression that suffering is diminishing, but their post-dated check promise of a body that won’t die is still not good. Actually for many poorer people life in the 21st century has become worse, and the effects of climate change have not been an insignificant contributor. Similarly movements for gender, racial and marriage equality are not going to alleviate all their advocates’ other fears of such things as death, disease and old age.
Real lasting happiness comes from transcending the problems and anxieties caused by the physical body. Krishna’s pure devotee, Srila Prabhupada, came to the Western world in 1965 because he felt great compassion for everyone’s suffering. This spiritual pleasure is the result of realizing our eternal relationship with the supreme spirit, Krishna, something made possible by engaging in His service according to the directions of His dearmost servant, the pure devotee.
naivopayanty apacitim kavayas tavesa
brahmayusapi krtam rddha-mudah smarantah
yo ‘ntar bahis tanu-bhrtam asubham vidhunvann
acarya-caittya-vaupsa sva-gatim vyanakti
O my Lord! Transcendental poets and experts in spiritual science could not fully express their indebtedness to You, even if they were endowed with the prolonged lifetime of Brahma (billions of years), for You appear in two features — externally as the acarya (spiritual master) and internally as the Supersoul — to deliver the embodied living being by directing him how to come to You. Srimad Bhagavatam 11.29.6 (our parentheses)
Transcendental happiness and realization is still very much available. It is not some cheap belief or faith. It is the transformative birthright of every living being and certainly every human. It is the return to the living being’s original eternal state of consciousness. It is the end of all fear and anxiety. The love of Krishna offered by Srila Prabhupada is still the “matchless gift” that it was when he was physically manifest. It is also for everyone – black, white, woman, man, gay or straight, good destiny or bad. One simply has to chant the maha mantra – Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. In many ways it is easier for the unfortunate because they generally have little more than God to depend on. They are not like the wealthy that will have difficulty “passing through the eye of a needle.” Regardless of societal conditions like post-modernism, Srila Prabhupada said that anyone who is completely sincere can contact or completely take shelter of Krishna in an instant.
mam hi partha vyapasritya
ye ‘pi syuh papa-yonayah
striyo vaisyas tatha sudras
te ‘pi yanti param gatim
O son of Prtha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth-women, vaisyas [merchants], as well as sudras [workers], can approach the supreme destination.. Bhagavad-gita 9.32
The precondition for achieving this is completely giving up material desire; something that many imagine is not possible. This is, however, the price of the highest pleasure and consciousness. This seemingly insurmountable task is made possible in the association of serious devotees and with sincere dedication to the teachings and orders of the pure devotee. Nevertheless it usually takes a number of lifetimes.
When Srila Prabhupada was preaching people were coming in contact with his basic Krishna conscious teachings and had next to no knowledge of the more private and esoteric remarks that are now used to fault-find him. The insincere people that now reject Krishna consciousness on account of politically correct criticism are just that, insincere. This is not the time or lifetime that they will embark on the journey out of miserable material consciousness and its cycle of births and deaths.
Krishna will provide the conditions for Krishna consciousness to flourish, and He will send His pure empowered representatives when humanity’s sincerity has been sufficiently awakened. Srila Prabhupada rode the wave of the 60’s counterculture and engaged the one-time hippies in spreading Krishna consciousness all over the world. It was like a flood of Lord Chaitanya’s ocean of love of Krishna. This internet criticism could be evidence of how that wave is now receding on our metaphorical beach, but we should not forget that Krishna is always in control. He is always missing those countless souls languishing here in willful ignorance of Him.
Krishna will supply the results of preaching Krishna consciousness. The pure representatives He will send in the future will almost certainly capture the imagination of whatever zeitgeist is popular, in much the same way that Srila Prabhupada led the hippies to Krishna’s lotus feet.
Nevertheless it should be clear from the changes in modern social standards that racist, homophobic or misogynist conduct and speech is not something that is now going to serve devotee preachers very well. The above quotes do not support these because Srila Prabhupada did not practice any of them personally.
We were previously acquainted with a devotee leader who liked to hide changes of course or misstatements behind how his followers were allegedly too attached to something, that attachment supposedly being why he initially set into motion the inferior course of action or did not previously tell them the unvarnished truth. Yet he would often make quite racist, homophobic or sexist condemnations of others and cite quotes like the above to make it sound like Srila Prabhupada endorsed such thinking. Such devotees might best turn the mirror on themselves and consider that Srila Prabhupada could have said these things because followers like them were racist, sexist and homophobic.
Such devotees should remember how they feel when they run into some traditional Hindu brahmana who sees them as a meleccha (untouchable) instead of a Vaishnava and realize that is how women, gays or non-whites feel when you deal with them. Everyone should follow in Srila Prabhupada’s footsteps and not freely make their own self-serving interpretations of his quotes.
Dr. Rochford documents how the movement’s women largely remained faithful to Srila Prabhupada’s program and continued rendering service in their positions through many personal insults and abuses up until the simultaneous abuse of the movement’s children became known in the 80’s and 90’s. As good Vaishnavis, they endured untold personal offenses but found it intolerable to see other’s abused. Sadly the way male devotee leaders had misused their dominance too closely mimicked Western society, and that provided a well established paradigm for the women to voice their concerns and demand more say. Nevertheless, and also according to the Western model, a group of mostly male “traditionalist” devotees strenuously objected. Those interested in more than our summary of this struggle can consult what is available on the internet and the applicable chapters of Hare Krishna Transformed.
Although many women, parent and child devotees underwent traumatic experiences that often resulted in they’re leaving Krishna consciousness, the longer lasting, deeper effects of the 70’s male leaders’ policies has turned out to be more spiritual than emotional or psychological. The real loss has been absolute faith in the pure devotee, Srila Prabhupada, still the essential prerequisite for currently making spiritual advancement.
In the ensuing debates the traditionalists invoked many of the above quotes to keep the women in their place and prove that they were contaminating Krishna consciousness with Western feminism. Although these men were largely the beneficiaries of the patriarchal policies of the leaders, they still had strong arguments citing how Krishna consciousness had been practiced in India for centuries.
The VAST academic devotees described previously largely weighed in on the side of the women, and Srila Prabhupada and his statements unfortunately went up on trial by all sorts of devotees who did not have firm training in Krishna consciousness.
“The bona fide spiritual master always engages in unalloyed devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. By this test he is known to be a direct manifestation of the Lord and a genuine representative of Sri Nityananda Prabhu. Such a spiritual master is known as acaryadeva. Influenced by an envious temperament and dissatisfied because of an attitude of sense gratification, mundaners criticize a real acarya. In fact, however, a bona fide acarya is nondifferent from the Personality of Godhead, and therefore to envy such an acarya is to envy the Personality of Godhead Himself. This will produce an effect subversive of transcendental realization.” purport, Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita Adi-lila 1.46 (our emphasis)
Just as they accused Srila Prabhupada of being influenced by the India of his youth, many of these women and academics became consumed by the fervor of late 20th century gender politics to overturn the male dominance that they felt caused the wrongs to the women and children. A number of them wrongly saw Srila Prabhupada’s quotes as the philosophical underpinnings of this abuse. Some of them then failed to discriminate their own sense desires for influence from wanting to prevent more abuse. In critisizing Srila Prabhupada they failed to make non-offensive brahminical Krishna conscious presentations. Sadly one can easily blame this on how women are generally more passionate. In their defence the traditionalists were equally offensive and ruthless, although they did not fault Srila Prabhupada. It was some of the women supporter’s criticism of the pure devotee that crossed a line of great offense in Krishna conscious behavior and for which some very extreme counter-measures are given in the scriptures. Certainly reforms were needed to stop the abuses, but one should always avoid offending the spiritual master – gurvaparadha, perhaps the greatest offense.
The least extreme counter-measure for criticism of a great personality is giving arguments in the manner of this document. Unfortunately those in official leadership positions did not see fit to either officially condemn or even clearly point out how criticism of Srila Prabhupada was offensive. Instead there was talk about changing Srila Prabhupada’s books or at least annotating the parts that might be seen as politicaly incorrect. In the end the women and supporters’ demands were largely granted by the movement’s leadership. The traditionalists were shocked that those who had offended Srila Prabhupada actually ended up being rewarded instead of condemned. It was as if 21st century society’s and modern sociology’s condemnation of the traditionalist’s “patriarchal backlash” was more important.
Dr. Rochford ends his presentation of this period of the movement’s history by writing, “The fact that the leadership failed to act decisively on Prabhupada’s behalf was an acknowledgement that his authority was no longer absolute” (Hare Krishna Transformed, p159-160). It should be noted that such loss of authority does not necessarily extend beyond the ISKCON organization and certainly does not apply to this non-sectarian website. The sad result is that ignoring or criticizing certain statements of the guru became almost encouraged.
Regarding Srila Prabhupada’s books in 21st century society, if devotees are really uncomfortable about distributing them or dealing with politically correct objections, they should just write their own. No one is stopping anyone. Srila Prabhupada’s books are his own, and what was in them when he left manifest presence remains authorized.
Since the VAST forum academic devotees played an almost decisive role in this deplorable outcome, some discussion on the proper training of such people is in order. If we study how Srila Prabhupada did this, we find that the model was Svarupa Damodara dasa brahmacari, a Phd. in organic chemistry. If one hears the morning walks of his days before he accepted the renounced order, one quickly notices the great mercy he received from Srila Prabhupada. His Divine Grace repeatedly made him the object of ridicule and peer pressure from his more experienced disciples, and this went on for several years.
The clear reason for this apparently harsh personal treatment was that Srila Prabhupada very much wanted him to understand that Vedic scriptural authority and guru were vastly more important than the empirical sense-based research he had previously been indoctrinated in. Because this went on for a number of years it should be obvious that Srila Prabhupada considered it a very difficult task.
The results, however, were a shining example of that need. Svarupa Damodara maharaja was eventually engaged to lead the presention of Krishna consciousness in an academic context and start the Bhaktivedanta Institute. In the conversations that discussed this founding we find that maharaja’s submissive discussions with Srila Prabhupada were exemplary and very pleasing to His Divine Grace. It is extremely clear that the offensive members of the VAST forum had either failed to imbibe this level of training or not received it at all. Perhaps they were seen more as “customers” than candidates for absolute knowledge.
In regard to the conflict between the traditionalists and the women and their supporters, we have already cited a number of Srila Prabhupada’s quotes that were used by both sides. However, perhaps the other main point dividing them was which version of the movement was truly authorized by Srila Prabhupada. The women cited the more egalitarian way he personally managed things in the movement’s early days. The traditionalists said that period was only an interim to allow the Western disciples to better understand real Vedic culture. They said what was in place when he departed in 1977 was what he was working towards.
The traditionalist argument, however, does not account for how the guru will sometimes indulge his managers by condoning less preferred policies so that they might gain confidence or learn from their mistakes. Not interfereing with disciple’s free will, the pure devotee will sometimes deal with them according to the level of their insincerity. Therefore it does not necessarily follow that he completely approved of how “Vedic culture” had relegated the women and children to minor positions and abuse by 1977.
In the end the “which version of the movement” question was largely resolved by the result. The utility of shoehorning Western society into a traditional Indian model was just too small, especially when we consider the fallen self-interested tendencies of the Western men who had risen to occupy the “big posts.” This quote was cited previously:
“Sometimes jealous persons criticize the Krishna Consciousness movement because it engages equally both boys and girls in distribution of love of Godhead. Not knowing that boys and girls in countries like Europe and America mix very freely, these fools and rascals criticize the boys and girls in Krishna Consciousness for intermingling. But these rascals should consider that one cannot suddenly change a community’s social customs.” purport, Sri Chaitanya Charitamrta, Adi Lila 7.32
Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also instructs us about proper renunciation, yukta vairagya, vs. suska vairagya, dry renunication. Commenting on this teaching Srila Prabhupada writes:
“To broadcast the cult of Krishna consciousness, one has to learn the possibility of renunciation in terms of country, time and candidate. A candidate for Krishna consciousness in the Western countries should be taught about the renunciation of material existence, but one would teach candidates from a country like India in a different way. The teacher (acarya) has to consider time, candidate and country. He must avoid the principle of niyamagraha – that is, he should not try to perform the impossible. What is possible in one country may not be possible in another. The acarya’s duty is to accept the essence of devotional service. . . . A Vaishava is immediately purified, provided he follows the rules and regulations of his bona fide spiritual master. It is not necessary that the rules and regulations followed in India be exactly the same as those in Europe, America and other Western countries. . . . We should not follow regulative principles without an effect, nor should we fail to accept the regulative principles. What is required is a special technique according to country, time and candidate. Without the sanction of the spiritual master, we should not try to imitate.” purport, Sri Chaitanya Charitamrta, Madhya Lila 23-105
Giving the women devotees equal facility to preach was a “special technique” that had been authorized by Srila Prabhupada in the West. Judging by the later result, the sannyasis’ imitation of Indian tradition turned out to be less than efficatious. Practically also, if Srila Prabhupada’s original inclusiveness of women had continued into the late 70’s, their later justification to demand reform and more recognition would not have built to such high levels. There probably also would not have been as much abuse of the children.
In conclusion, Pandora’s box became opened when the 70’s self-interested sannyasi managers failed to maintain a humble service attitude and instituted result-prioritized policies that caused widespread abuse and offense to innocents. Over time these policies generated a tsunami of righteous indignation and justification for those innocents and those connected to them. Unfortunately when this tsunami crashed down, the possessors of this justification were too passionate and insufficiently trained to express themselves without simultaneously offending Srila Prabhupada. Leadership’s condoning this resulted in abandonment of quintessential Vaishnava conduct and ettiquitte. Today there is apparently little that can be done to restore the authorized standard, and one is left with simply praying for the offenders or those who failed to come to Srila Prabhupada’s defense.
One of the key reasons why the women’s justification and outrage grew to such high levels was that the sannyasi-cum-zonal-acarya leaders daily exploited both the women’s and male devotee’s surrender to Srila Prabhupada in order to manage. Devotees were repeatedly told that new policies were “Krishna and Srila Prabhupada’s arrangement,” and that they should not make objections or suggest revisions. At the same time these policies were often presented one-sidedly to Srila Prabhupada in order to get his blessings. It was when the abuse and the leader’s glaring self-interest and hypocrisy became widely known that the women and their supporters could not be contained.
When we look back on the history of the movement, it is not difficult to trace practically all the later problems to how the future zonal acaryas misused both Srila Prabhupada’s and all the other devotee’s trust. Looking back on their egregious exploitation and overlording of their godbrothers and godsisters it has become very difficult not to conclude that they thought they were better than others. In this way they collectively rendered a great diservice to both their spiritual master and the preaching of Krishna consciousness. Their cascading scandals left a greater and greater mess for the devotees they had overlorded to clean up. Even after the scandals’ conclusion the effects of their self-interested policies continue to damage the purity and unity of devotee’s efforts. Had these leaders maintained their humble service attitudes and not developed enjoying mentalities, we would probably not have seen the triumph of mundane notions of equality over the purity of never criticising Srila Prabhupada.
Nowadays it is not uncommon to find devotees with initiated names, who are often accepted by others as some kind of authority, writing things like, “I do not agree with some of Srila Prabhupada’s statements about Hitler.” How is this setting an example of implicit faith in the spiritual master or seeing him as “a direct manifestation of the Lord?” This is not the Krishna consciousness taught by Srila Prabhupada, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu or any of the previous acaryas. This is sacrificing the purity and unadulterated philosophy for the sake of material convenience.
For the serious devotee the words of the pure devotee spiritual master are the fixed star-guide out of the ocean of material nescience. Criticizing or differing with these is then pretty much the definition of mental speculation or riding the manorathena, “the chariot of the mind.”
“. . . one who is controlled by the mind, he’s a rascal. He’s a rascal. Manorathenasati dhavato bahih harav abhaktasya kuto mahad-guna. Manorathenasati. They are driven by the chariot of mind—useless. No intelligence. No benefit. But all these rascal scientists, philosophers, they are going on the chariot of the mind, ‘I think.’ ‘In my opinion,’ This is their… Manorathena, on the mental platform. So they’re all foolish. They have no value. Mental concoction, useless.” Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 9.34, New Mayapura, 8/3/76
Apparently there is also some idea that if a devotee is not the direct disciple of Srila Prabhupada that he or she is now more free to speak critically of some of these quotes. This is still gurvaparadha. We will never find the previous acaryas speaking critically of any of their predecessors.
“Guru cannot change any word of the predecessor. There is one instance in Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s life. One gentleman, (he) is Vallabha Acarya. . . . . So he simply said that ‘Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Lord Caitanya, if You hear my comment on the Srimad-Bhagavatam, You’ll find it is far better than Sridhara Svami’s.’ Sridhara Svami is the very old commentator. So Caitanya Mahaprabhu immediately rejected: ‘Oh, you are claiming that you have written something better than Sridhara Svami?’ He chastised him. Svami means another… He sarcastically remarked, the word svami, Sridhara Swami, svami, another svami means ‘husband.’ So He said, svami jiva nahi mane besa bali guni(?): ‘I think one who does not recognize svami, he’s a prostitute.’ He immediately said. ‘You do not recognize Sridhara Svami, then you are a prostitute. How can I hear from a prostitute?’ He refused. Only word, that ‘I have written better than Svami.’ So this is the process of guru. You cannot disobey the previous acarya or guru. No. You have to repeat the same thing.” Lecture, What Is Guru, London 8/22/73
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that associating with non-devotees is less dangerous than being around devotees who criticize or minimize some of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings:
“Some people say that there is no value in bhakti, that God is only imaginary sentiment, that man has merely created the image of God through imagination, and that bhakti is a diseased state, unable to benefit us in any way. These types of opponents cannot harm us much, because we easily recognize them and avoid them. However, those who propagate bhagavad-bhakti as the highest dharma – yet behave against the principles of suddha-bhakti – can be especially harmful to us. In the name of bhakti, they instruct us against the actual principles of bhakti. This ultimately leads us to a path that is diametrically opposed to bhagavad-bhakti. Therefore, with great endeavor, our previous acaryas have defined the svarupa or intrinsic nature of bhakti, repeatedly cautioning us to keep away from polluted and mixed concepts.” Bhakti Viveka Tattva (our emphasis)
Minimizing the previous acaryas in order to please the general populace is the opposite of Krishna consciousness. One may be able to call one’s preaching Krishna consciousness because there is chanting, but the result of disregarding Srila Prabhupada or not speaking out against criticism of him will be something else.
“Because a pure devotee follows in the footsteps of the acaryas, any action he performs to discharge devotional service should be understood to be on the transcendental platform. Lord Krsna therefore instructs us that an acarya is above criticism. A neophyte devotee should not consider himself to be on the same plane as the acarya. It should be accepted that the acaryas are on the same platform as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and as such neither Krsna nor His representative acarya should be subjected to any adverse criticism by the neophyte devotees.” Krishna Book, Chapter 87 (our emphasis)
“Therefore Krsna says, acaryam mam vijaniyan nava-manyeta karhicit [SB 11.17.27]. ‘The acarya is as good as I am,’ Krsna says. Nava-manyeta karhicit, ‘Never neglect him.’ Na martya-buddhyasuyeta, ‘Never be envious of the acarya, thinking him as anything of this material world.’ Acaryam mam vijaniyan [SB 11.17.27]. Therefore, acarya’s position is as good as Krsna. Saksad-dharitvena samasta-sastrair. Acarya is always cautious that he may not be subject to criticism. But who criticizes acarya, he becomes immediately offender. Because he is playing the part of acarya, he plays as far as possible. But sometimes for preaching work, he might have to do something which is not consistent. But if he is criticized, then that man who criticizes, he becomes… Of course, he must be acarya, not a bogus.” Room Conversation with John Greisser (Yadubara dasa), 3/10/72 (our emphasis)
“While describing the system of protection for the creeper of devotional service, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has especially stressed protection from offenses unto the lotus feet of Vaisnavas. Such offenses are called vaisnava-aparadha. Aparadha means ‘offense.’ If one commits vaisnava-aparadhas, all of his progress in devotional service will be checked. Even though one is very much advanced in devotional service, if he commits offenses at the feet of a Vaisnava, his advancement is all spoiled.” Purport, Srimad Bhagavatam 4.21.37
“That will depend on your purified preaching activities. If you again become materially victimized, then you cannot do it. If you remain on the spiritual platform, if you try, then it will increase. Anandambudhi-vardhanam. It will increase. As soon as there is any contemplation of sense gratification, then the spirit will be lost. Then instead of Christianity, it will be ‘Churchianity,’ officially going to the church, doing nothing, and gradually nobody will go.” Morning Walk, 4/7/75, Mayapura (our emphasis)