“Vrindavan-Anti Party” Is Provoked Again

Recently it was brought to my notice that an article entitled “The Vrndavana Anti-party” which criticizes my views, was published on HareKrsna.com. Many of my students have approached me about this and asked me to write a rejoined. I personally have no interest in getting into any such debates and controversies.

Entrance Krsna Balaram Mandir Vrindavan

Entrance to Krishna Balaram Mandir Vrindavan

Recently it was brought to my notice that an article entitled “The Vrndavana Anti-party” which criticizes my views, was published on HareKrsna.com. Many of my students have approached me about this and asked me to write a rejoinder.  I personally have no interest in getting into any such debates and controversies. I have no intention to attack or minimize any particular group or society of Vaishnavas, especially Gaudiya Vaishnavas. I have philosophical differences with Gaudiya Matha and its branches and I do not hesitate in admitting it, but this does not mean that I have any hatred or malice towards them. I also don’t have any agenda to attack them or minimize their position.

However I feel that it is my responsibility towards my students to clarify the history behind this article.  From the article, it appears that this incident describing the meeting with me happened only recently.  However, this article was originally written by Swami B.G. Narasimha in 1998. It was posted on his website  (and can be still found there) and on VNN (Vaishnava News Network) and apparently even published in his book Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Parampara.

There are certain facts which are misrepresented in this article. It claims that I was interviewed by two brahmacaris which is not true. Rather, it was my friend Kundali Dasa who was my editor for the Sandarbha project, after I had left ISKCON, who came to visit me at my Institute. His main purpose of visiting me was to know why I could not continue to serve within ISKCON and reconcile my differences. We had a long conversation in which I touched upon various points on which I differ and I also told him that I was willing to reconcile my differences.  My book “In Vaikuntha Not Even the Leaves Fall” was an attempt in this direction. Unfortunately it was banned by the GBC and I was put under heavy pressure to leave my service in the Bhaktivedanta Swami International Gurukula Vrindanvan. Besides banning my book, I was forbidden to give any classes, with the exception of teaching the students in the gurukula and was restricted from studying with anyone outside of ISKCON.

I recorded this talk because many of my old friends from ISCKON were raising the same questions as Kundali to me and in order to save time and not repeat the same answers, I decided to record and then let people hear it. I didn’t intend to distribute this tape publicly and I never did, because I had no intention to create any opposition against ISKCON.

After a few days Kundali called me and informed me that Swami B.G. Narasimha, who was unknown to me, was doing research on parampara. He thought that my talk would be helpful for his research because I also discussed the parampara issue. Kundali said told me that Swami would like to come and hear the tape, to which I agreed.

Krishna Balaram Mandir in Vrindavan

Krishna Balaram Tempel

The next day, instead of Swami B.G. Narasimha coming himself, he sent two of his brahmacaris. Not foreseeing that the material from the tape would be used to attack me, I gave it to them to listen to.  I am not sure how much these brahmacaris, who reported it to their guru Swami B.G. Narasimha, understood the subject matter.

After some time I was sent an article written by Swami B.G. Narasimha which referred to me as “the spokesman of a Vrindavan Anti-Party” who is “on a campaign to disrupt the faith of innocent devotees who had taken shelter of our Guru-varga” (Swami Narasingha , “The Vrndavana Anti-party”, 04/23/98).  It presented 26 points which he claimed to be “anti-devotional concepts.”

To read this was a shock to me and I felt very disappointed. Yet I did not make any attempt to refute the Swami and let him have the pleasure of believing that he has done a great service to his guru-varga.

ISKCON / Gaudiya Matha Tilak

ISKCON / Gaudiya Matha Tilak

I am not obliged to conform to ISKCON / Gaudiya Matha theology. My faith is in shastra and if I see that some group believes in certain principles which are not supported by shastra I see no reason to accept them. This doesn’t mean that I am trying to disrupt anyone’s faith or that I am an Anti-Party.

From the fact that the Swami is still keeping this article on his website and then Hare Krsna Sun is republishing it after 15 years in the name of Mahasrnga Dasa as if it were a new discovery, it seems that they want to put me in bad light.

To reiterate,  I have no interest in a kind of debate and creating disturbance. At the same time, I am not afraid to debate if it is done in an appropriate manner. In my opinion, internet is not a suitable medium for that since it allows anybody to write anything without reaching a definite conclusion. If someone desires to debate with me on any controversial point, the following conditions should be met:

1. The debate should be done in person

2. There should be a qualified judge (parikshaka) who listens and understands both sides.

3.  The decision of the parikshaka should be acceptable to both parties.

4. The debater must prove that he or she is qualified to debate with me. The qualifications of the debater are as follows:

a) The person must have basic knowledge of Sanskrit.

b) The person must have studied the basic books of Nyaya Vaisheshika, such as Tarka Sangraha, Nyaya-siddhanta-muktavali.

c) The person should have basic understanding of Purva Mimamsa, such as Artha-sangraha, Mimamsa-nyaya-prakasha.

Our Gosvami literature assumes good knowledge of Sad-darshana or Indian Schools of Philosophy (which are Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Yoga, Sankhya, Purva Mimamsa and Vedanta) and Sanskrit grammar.  It is for this reason that I am putting up these minimum requirements for a person to debate with me.

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Comments ( 12 )
  1. Janakirama Dasa

    Dear Babaji: I think this is a very sensible approach. Someone needs to elevate the dialogue beyond the “he said, she said” approach that is present among Vaishnavas; someone needs to create the rules and space for real discussion. You are perhaps one of the few people in those circles who are even aware that there are standards of debate. Right now I am studying Vatsyayana’s commentary on the Nyayasutra, the part where terms like Vada, Jalpa, etc. are defined. It would be wonderful is someone could re-animate these traditions of debate that were so important and vivifying to Indian intellectual life. I suppose my question is: who could function as the madhyamastha, the judge, and who could be a qualified debate partner?

  2. snd

    Dear Janakirama,

    Thank you for your comment and understanding my mood. I am very much interested in reviving the tradition of education which is very much missing among Vaishnavas, especially in our own sampradaya. Among the sannyasis (as I wrote in my earlier article, this word is most commonly used for Advaita-vadis), there is still a good tradition of studying the scriptures.

    We, the Gaudiyas, have almost neglected the systematic study of our Gosvamis’ writings. This troubles me most. People do not even know how to have a good vada which Krishna mentions as one of His vibhutis in the 10th Chapter of the Gita. The Indian schools of thought in the past progressed and reached their glorious heights because of the tradition of having shastrartha (lit., the true meaning of scripture), the word commonly used among scholars for debate.

    As far as who could function as madhyamastha or parikshaka (judge), that I can find, there is no problem with that. In India there are still some old hats hanging around, although this breed is soon becoming extinct. As you know,two of my gurus from whom I took training for more than 20 years disappeared within a span of only six months. It is impossible to replace them.

    There is a lot of talk of saving some breeds of fish or tortoise or bird, and there are projects spending millions on such programs, but what is the gain from all this? The real breed to be saved is this breed of scholars who dedicated their life to the study and practice of shastra.

  3. M-

    Dear Babaji Maharaja,

    Your point here is well-taken. Debate should be conducted along traditional lines, with some sense of what counts as legitimate grounds for success and failure of an argument. Without that, there is not way to make progress.

    Unfortunately, the intellectual culture of contemporary Western Vaishnava debate is centered the fallacy of ad-hominem, attempts to impugn the character of someone deemed as dangerous or threatening, in order to simply ignore their existence and the danger it represents to one’s own faith in authority. There is no culture of actual vada.

    My humble suggestion is to ignore it at this point. You have provided guidelines if someone actually wants to debate. I can’t imagine that there is anyone qualified to do so. At this point, let people chatter. The internet is a cesspool of bickering.

  4. Janakirama Dasa

    Dear Babaji: Dandavats. I totally agree that we need to preserve the great traditions of learning, which are threatened from the inside and the outside. However, it seems like most “ordinary Gaudiyas,” and by that I mean the ISKCON, the Gaudiyamatha and the various offshoots of them, are so deeply invested in jalpa and vidanda, that to even get them to think about a vada type of debate will not go anywhere. They would question the purpose of studying all the darshanas. You are more in touch with the Vrindavana situation. Can you identify “enlightened” people there, whether they are Gaudiyas, Vallabhas, Nimbarkas, Naiyayikas, etc.? Can they be brought together for samvada? In my experience, talking with ISKCON, etc. is a waste of time and energy.

  5. Vraja Kishor das

    Dear Prabhu Ji,

    Please know that this one little “Vraja Kishor das” is someone with some ties to ISKCON, we could surely say, who sincerely loves you, appreciates you, and to whatever capacity is possible for an insignificant beast as I, “understands” you.

    One of my saddest and most frustrating moments as an āśramī in ISKCON was when …Not Even the Leaves Fall… was banned. What a miserable time that was. It was the beginning of one disturbing calamity after another, which eventually toppled my insufficient adhikar to remain an āśramī.

    Oh well, its not all bad! 🙂 We still remember Krishna now and then. And we are blessed to have your guidance and generous friendship.

    Your servant,
    Vraja Kishor das

  6. scooty ram

    Namaste:

    Even if there is a debate I think it would end up in disagreement of who is an apta and which exceptions can be made as a rule.

    What will be the outcome of this debate? Is it just adding more members to the group? I think everyone is adding value to the human society at a larger scale. All sampradaya need a preaching movement like iskcon. Gaudiyas need acharyas and scholars like Sri Haridas sastriji.

    But the truth is – Only because of Prabhupada, respect for Indian religion/philosophies/acharyas have increased in a new way.

    Regards

    • Janakirama Dasa

      Reply to scooty ram:

      I think that Babaji’s point — which is a good one, and one I totally agree with — is that there are ways that the institution established by Bhaktivedanta Swami is one that has in many ways devalued the Indian traditions. It has, for instance, never taken seriously the concept of an apta (or guru) as it is construed in the Indian tradition, and it has never investigated the Indian methods of discussion, both of which were discussed so well by Babaji in this article.

    • snd

      Scootyji, i think you are making irrelevant points. i am not talking about apta purusa but an apt parikhsaka or madhyastha. In Gaudiya sampradaya, the Gosvamis, Krsnadasa Kaviraja, Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti and Baladeva Vidyabhusana are accepted as aptas.
      To answer what is the outcome of such a debate? I am not challenging anyone but standing to the challenge.
      Your other rhetoric question is self-contradictory. Is it just…
      You glorify Prabhupada for his preaching. So what is wrong if i add people to my group, although that is not at all the purpose?
      Whether respect has increased or not is a moot point. That is your personal opinion and many may not agree.
      The article speaks of some principles about debating but i am sorry to read your comments which are written so loosely. Usually you write well.

  7. pd

    Dear Babaji,

    Reading Swami B.G. Narasimha’s old article “The Vrndavana Anti-party” in the last paragraph there he writes and quotes this one sentence, that suppose to be written/spoken by you. Anyhow, that sentence doesn’t make sense to me?
    Did you say/write this?

    …”In the last part of Satya Narayana’s first statement he has said, “Sastra is there to make sure that the independent self-effulgent personalities do not appear.” I have not mentioned this point up to now in this article. Possibly Satya Narayana is trying here to make a twist on the siddhanta by playing on words. Anyway, the proper understanding should be that the sastra is there to help us recognize “self-effulgent” personalities if and when they do appear, not to restrict such personalities from appearing.”

    Otherwise my take on this provocation is that you shouldn’t let yourself been drawn into this debate/dispute. Simply, because the other party cannot loose. It’s too much at stake. The other side, (whoever it may be) will never allow to come to an honest and fair conclusion based on Sastra.
    It’s sad, but we are also advancing in Kaliyuga, where many times truth is not a defence.

    • snd

      There is no question of writing it. I made it clear in my article that i never wrote anything.
      Whether i said it or not? Sorry i cannot remember what i said or not 16 years ago.

  8. purushottam das

    dear babaji,

    the standard of debate set is appropiate but so high for modern preaching movement, that anyone will dare, and if does, or claims fit candidate,then who is to check. better to leave this debate in trash. as long as you teach proper knowledge to your students, that is good.

  9. snd

    I am not challenging anyone for debate. I have no interest in it. I am only writing that if anyone wants to have debate with me then i have some standard to follow so that i do not waste my time.

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