We have decided to publish the treatise “In Vaikuṇṭha Not Even the Leaves Fall” as our first Kindle e-book since it is about to go out of print. It is a systematic and thorough analysis of the bondage of the soul or jīva according to Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava theology. The book was banned by ISKCON and has since become an “underground” classic.
There is a long history behind the making of this book. Here I will just give a summary. I wrote the book in 1994 to settle a philosophical controversy that arose within ISKCON (International Society of Kṛṣṇa Consciousness) over the origin of the jīva in its conditioned existence. At that time, I had been serving as a Sanskrit teacher in the Bhaktivedanta Swami International Gurukula, Vrindavan. Although my service was to teach Sanskrit to Gurukula students, I also had begun teaching śāstras privately in my room at the request of several local devotees. I taught various books, including Bhagavad Gītā and Śrīmad Bhāgavata with the Sanskrit commentaries of our previous ācaryas. Incidentally, this was also the period when I was studying under my teacher, Om Viṣṇupāda Śrī Śrī 108 Śrī Haridāsa Śāstri Mahārāja.
One of the books that I began teaching was Śrī Tattva Sandarbha of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī, which is the first of the six books of the Ṣaṭ Sandarbha. Around this time (1988), Bhūrijana prabhu started the Vrindavan Institute of Higher Education (VIHE), which offered one-month courses on different subjects during the month of Kārtik. I taught the first two Sandarbhas as part of the VIHE for two consecutive years.
While I was teaching Tattva Sandarbha, some devotees proposed that I should translate the Six Sandarbhas of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī. Although feeling unqualified, I took up this project as a service to the devotees and the paramparā. Kūrma Rūpa prabhu, who was an āśrama teacher at the Gurukula and my good friend, volunteered to do the editing. Jālandhara, a gurukula student, typed out my handwritten manuscripts. On Kūrma Rūpa prabhu’s request, Kuṇḍalī prabhu also came to Vrindavan and joined our Sandarbha project. Kuṇḍalī prabhu had been living in Thailand, working as an English teacher, and had experience as an editor for Back To Godhead magazine.
Kuṇḍalī prabhu began attending my classes and was impressed with the work of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī and with my commentaries on the Sandarbhas. He thought what I was doing was unique in the whole of ISKCON and that therefore, the Sandarbhas should be published by the BBT.
From my part, I wanted to have an educational institute in ISKCON where devotees could systematically study the Gosvāmī literature. I observed that although Śrīla Prabhupāda had successfully founded ISKCON, a great preaching movement, and established hundreds of temples worldwide, the movement seemed to lack a place to deeply study the scriptures. I felt that we should fill in this lacuna for the benefit of the devotees and Śrīla Prabhupāda’s society and thus formulated the idea of establishing the Jiva Institute for Vaiṣṇava Studies. My plan was to primarily translate and comment on the works of our previous ācaryas and to teach them to interested devotees. Both Kūrma Rūpa and Kuṇḍalī prabhus were enthusiastic about the idea, so we printed a small booklet describing the aims and objectives of Jiva Institute, which we called, in short, JIVAS.
To solicit support for our plan, Kuṇḍalī prabhu sent a proposal to Harikeśa Swami, a prominent ISKCON guru, BBT trustee, and director of the Swedish BBT, which was one of the BBT’s most active and flourishing divisions. Kuṇḍalī’s proposal included the translation work that we were doing and our future plan to have an educational institute. He also sent him a draft of my translation and commentary on Tattva Sandarbha. Harikeśa Swami was highly impressed by the proposal and our work, so much so that he wrote that after Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books, these books would be most important. He was one of the prominent GBCs of the Māyāpur project and for years had not visited Vrindavan. However, he came to Vrindavan to meet me, being eager to manifest the Jiva Institute.
Harikeśa Swami had long talks with me and raised various questions to understand my real intention. Being convinced of its importance and utility, he decided to support the entire project financially, to print the Sandarbhas under the Swedish BBT, to buy land for Jīva Institute, and to fund the construction. The Swedish BBT purchased a large piece of land very close to where Jīva Institute is located today. Construction work soon began under the supervision of Kāliya Kṛṣṇa prabhu, a disciple of Harikeśa Swami and the headmaster of Bhaktivedanta Swami International Gurukula. Harikeśa Swami also appointed Gopīparāṇadhana prabhu, who had worked on the Śrīmad Bhāgavata volumes printed after Śrīla Prabhupāda’s departure, to be our Sanskrit editor. Draviḍa prabhu was appointed as the final English editor. Upendrānatha prabhu had also joined us in Vrindavan, helping with typing and proofreading. We thus had a team of nine people.
The project was moving at great speed and full enthusiasm, and there was growing excitement about it in ISKCON at large, and especially at ISKCON Vrindavan. While teaching the Sandarbhas in the VIHE, however, a controversy arose over the issue of the conditioning of the living entity, the jīva. Śrī Jiva Gosvāmī clearly states that the jīva’s conditioning in the material world has no beginning and that no one can fall down from Vaikuṇṭha. He uses the word anādi (lit., beginningless) to describe the conditioning of the jīva.
My Sanskrit editor Gopīparāṇadhana prabhu was reluctant to accept my translation of anādi as beginningless. He proposed to translate it as “from time immemorial” to accommodate the ISKCON understanding that the jīva has fallen down from Vaikuṇṭha.
The controversy soon spread throughout ISKCON. We received many emails from devotees in different parts of the world, presenting their arguments against our view. There were also devotees supportive of us who shared their arguments and śāstric references.
When Tattva Sandarbha was almost ready to go to print in 1994, the translation of the word anādi was still unresolved. Gopīparāṇadhana and Draviḍa did not agree with my translation and explanation of the term; they therefore complained to the BBT trustees. The BBT then appointed Jayādvaita Swami to meet with us and mediate the controversy before the annual GBC meetings held at ISKCON headquarters in Mayapur, West Bengal. This is a time when temple presidents and GBC members meet to discuss various issues and institutional policies before the Gaura Pūrṇimā festival.
In Mayapur, Kuṇḍalī and I held long discussions with our two editors in the presence of Jayādvaita Swami. The issue, however, could not be resolved because the editors as well as the mediator refused to accept my translation and explanation of the word anādi. Since the book was to be published by the BBT, a meeting was held with all the BBT trustees. I was very firm on my view, while Gopīparāṇadhana, Draviḍa, and Jayādvaita Swami were firm on theirs. They proposed that I change my translation and accept the popular ISKCON understanding. I refused, because doing so would undermine the words of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī himself. To resolve the conflict, I suggested that Gopīparāṇadhana translate the Sandarbhas and write the commentaries himself. I offered my assistance with the translation work on the condition that my name not be mentioned in the work. Gopīparāṇadhana refused to accept this solution and said that he was incompetent to translate and comment upon the Sandarbhas.
After more discussion, the trustees proposed that my translation and commentary be published without changes. However, a footnote would be added to explain Śrīla Prabhupāda’s position, which differs from that of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī. The footnote would include acknowledgment that ācaryas do have differences of opinion and that there was no harm in bringing out this difference. Kuṇḍalī and I agreed to this suggestion, but Gopīparāṇadhana, Draviḍa, and Jayādvaita Swami were still opposed.
At that time, Harikeśa Swami put pressure on Gopīparāṇadhana and Draviḍa to cooperate. Both devotees were receiving monthly remuneration from Harikeśa Swami for their contributions to the project. Therefore, after a long struggle, they agreed. With the consent of the BBT trustees, it was thus decided that Tattva Sandarbha would be printed with a footnote, explaining the opinion of Śrīla Prabhupāda.
After the meetings, we returned to Vrindavan and sent the final manuscript of the book to the Swedish BBT for printing. However, Gopīparāṇadhana, Draviḍa, and Jayādvaita Swami had not agreed from their hearts. When they returned to the United States, they made a plan to sabotage the printing. They held a meeting among themselves and with other devotees such as Hṛdayānanda dāsa Goswami, and devised a plan to stop the publication, utilizing a letter written by Drutakarma prabhu, which was published in the original Forward of this book. This letter was sent to all GBC members, temple presidents, and prominent ISKCON devotees. When Harikeśa Swami received the letter, he realized that he would be heavily criticized by ISKCON leaders if he printed the book under the auspices of the Swedish BBT. It is my conjecture that to avoid this, he immediately scraped the project, calling his disciple Kāliya Kṛṣṇa Dāsa in Vrindavan to inform him that the Sandarbha project was cancelled.
When Kāliya Kṛṣṇa relayed this news to me, I was taken aback. No explanation was given, so Kuṇḍalī called Harikeśa Swami to ask the reason for the cancellation. Harikeśa Swami simply forwarded Drutakarma’s letter in reply.
This happened on Janmāṣṭamī, so I accepted the decision as the will of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, although it was very disheartening at that time. The dream that we had nurtured for so long and that was about to manifest was crushed in a moment.
Anticipating some hidden grace from Kṛṣṇa in this whole drama, I decided not to take action against Drutakarma’s letter. I had a meeting with Kuṇḍalī and Kūrma Rūpa prabhus, my closest supporters, about our next step. We decided to print Tattva Sandarbha on our own, which we did a year later. However, Kuṇḍalī prabhu was not satisfied with this alone as he was a fiery person and loved to debate. During the period of controversy, we had numerous email exchanges with different devotees who tried to refute our point of view. Kuṇḍalī loved handling all such communication, as I had no access to a computer.
We coined the term fall-vādis for our opponents, who believe that the jīva falls down from Vaikuṇṭha out of envy for Śrī Kṛṣṇa. I had no intention of writing anything other than what Kuṇḍalī had already written during his communication with other devotees. The letter of Drutakarma, however, made him furious and he wanted to give a fitting reply. Therefore he prodded me to write a detailed refutation of the arguments presented by fall-vadis and to end the controversy once and for all. For this purpose, he presented me with a summary of their arguments.
It was on his inspiration that I wrote the first draft of this book. To give it a little sense of humor, we entitled it “In Vaikuṇṭha Not Even the Leaves Fall.” Kuṇḍalī prabhu edited my first draft and added material he had compiled from different sources. Kūrma Rūpa prabhu did the typing and Navadvīpa prabhu gladly agreed to edit it. We wrote, edited, and printed the book in about four months and then sent copies to Mayapur with Upendranātha prabhu to sell at the annual festival of 1995.
To our dismay, as soon as the books were displayed in Māyāpur, ISKCON authorities confiscated them and Upendranātha was not allowed to sell any copies. I received a phone call from Gopāla Kṛṣṇa Gosvāmī, the GBC of the Vrindavan temple, asking me to come to Māyāpur immediately and to appear before the GBC board. Kūrma Rūpa and I then traveled from Vrindavan to Māyāpur. The GBC had formed a sub-committee to deal with the issue. We first appeared before the sub-committee where I had to explain why I had written the book. I told them that I had written the book to explain the truth and that I didn’t haven a hidden agenda to deviate ISKCON from śāstric principles or to become a prominent ISKCON leader, as alleged by Drutakarma in his letter. They could not argue on the philosophical points, but asserted that the book would be a great disturbance to the devotee community and therefore should be banned. I answered, “First of all, we do not know if it will disturb or satisfy the devotees. I suggest that you select a random sample of 100 devotees. Let them read the book and then see if they are disturbed by it.” My second argument was, “What I presented is not my concoction but is the view of our previous ācaryas, which is based on śāstra. Thus it is truth. If a devotee is disturbed by knowing the truth, then he is not truly a devotee.” The sub-committee did not accept my arguments and insisted that my book would be a great disturbance.
Since they were in the majority and I was alone, I had no desire to continue arguing. Their arguments were not logical nor could they present śāstric references to refute mine. They reported to the full GBC board that this book is very dangerous and would create a disturbance throughout ISKCON. The next day I was called to appear before the full GBC body, where I was again asked why I wrote the book. I gave my reply and they again stated their reasoning that the book would be a disturbance to the society. They therefore decided to ban this book. Along with this decision, they stipulated that I was not allowed to study outside of ISKCON nor was I allowed to give public lectures. I was only permitted to continue my service as a Sanskrit teacher at the Gurukula.
After some contemplation, I realized that my time in ISKCON was over. I had given 16 years of my youthful life in the service of ISKCON and Śrīla Prabhupāda and now had to leave to follow my convictions. Overnight I lost my connections and acquaintances, all of which were ISKCON-related. I was branded as “ an envious snake,” “a demon,” and “a killer of Prabhupāda.” I began my life anew, from scratch. This is how I left ISKCON and came to establish Jiva Institute, with the help of my family members.
Every Gaudīya Vaiṣṇava wanting to understand the nature of the jīva should read this book. Śrī Jiva Gosvāmī explains that the essence of śāstra is to impart knowledge about sambandha, abhidheya, and prayojana. Sambandha includes knowledge about the jīva and its relationship with Bhāgavan. It is crucial for an aspiring devotee to have clear understanding of the nature of the jīva to engage in abhidheya or the practice of bhakti to attain the ultimate goal, the prayojana. If our first step is misplaced, we cannot expect to reach the ultimate goal as enunciated in the Gosvāmī literature.
This book does not attack Śrīla Prabhupāda, ISKCON or anyone else; nor does it minimize Śrīla Prabhupāda’s position, or assert that he was wrong. Instead, it attempts to synthesize his views with the statements of our previous ācaryas.
This book consists of five parts or waves. Each wave is divided into chapters. The First Wave presents the conclusion or siddhānta of the Gauḍīya school and the verdict of the śāstra on the jīva’s bondage. Within the First Wave, the first three chapters relate the explanations ISKCON’s predecessor ācaryas Śrī Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Śrī Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatīon the jīva’s origin and the three types of jīvas. The Fourth Chapter gives references from the writings of Śrīla Prabhupāda, the Founder Acarya of ISKCON, who sometimes said that no one falls from the highest spiritual abode, Vaikuṇṭha, and at other times stated that jīvas fell from Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. Why Prabhupāda made seemingly contradictory statements on this issue is answered in the Second Wave. The Fifth Chapter of the First Wave gives evidence from Śruti, Vedānta Sūtra, Govinda Bhāśya, Āgama, and the Nārada Bhakti Sūtra, all of which deny the possibility of a fall-down from Vaikuntha. Chapter Six gives further evidence from Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī and Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura’s commentaries on Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. Chapter Seven includes evidence from the writings of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, Śrī Raghunātha Dāsa Gosvāmī, and Śrī Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī – the most prominent Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava ācaryas. In the following chapters of the First Wave, the term anādi (lit.,“beginningless”) is explained in detail. It is the philosophical term most commonly used by the ācaryas for describing the conditioned jīvas and is often misunderstood.
In the Second Wave, while establishing that preaching does not always mean presenting the siddhānta, we cite some historical examples of such preaching strategies being used by ISKCON’s predecessor ācāryas, including Śrīla Vyāsadeva. We conclude this wave by reconciling the siddhānta of no fall with Śrīla Prabhupāda’s statements that the jīva fell from Vaikuṇṭha. The Third Wave refutes the main objections of those who believe that the jīva fell from the spiritual world and became conditioned. In the Fourth Wave, more scriptural and logical arguments in favor of the no-fall down siddhānta are presented. The Fifth and last Wave lists the many philosophical inconsistencies in accepting a doctrine that eternally liberated spiritual beings, nitya-siddhas, can fall from Vaikuṇṭha, and then states the conclusion.
For some devotees, this book was a turning point in their spiritual lives. If you would like to share your realizations with other interested readers, please consider leaving a review on Amazon.
Indeed for a patient it is more crucial to know what is prohibited than what is prescribed because if he eats the prohibited item that may end his life. Similarly, it is more important to know the offenses than the limbs of bhakti, because an offense can bring an end to devotional life.
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