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The Origin of the Jiva, Controversy

“Setting The Scene”

Part 1

This book is the result of controversy.  In writing it we were advised to downplay the controversial aspect.

“Because a book on siddhanta should not explicitly bring out controversy.” 

Another reason given is that we must be careful not to date the book.  Upon consideration, however, we could not agree with either view.  Without the controversy we would not have written the book.  Why should this historical fact be hidden? 

Further, we also have the example of our previous acaryas.  In their writings they often dealt openly with controversy.  We find that there is wisdom in this, for by making it open there is less chance that the same circumstances that caused the controversy will recur. 

In the ISKCON community this particular controversy—where did the conditioned jiva come from or “the jiva-issue”—has been smoldering for many years.  Now, with the publication of this book, we hope to end the confusion.  But the confusion may not end.  In the Priti-sandarbha, Srila Jiva Gosvami explains why.  He says there are three types of discussions—vada, jalpa, and vitanda

In a vada discussion, the motive of all concerned is to find out the truth.  This is the ideal kind of discussion.  It is for persons who are sober and impartial about the outcome; they simply want to know what is the truth of the matter.  They are in the mode of goodness. 

Jalpa is a discussion wherein one is not interested in what is said by others, whether it has some truth or all of the truth, because one simply wants to be heard.  Any other view or contribution is of no interest.  This is the way for a person in the mode of passion. 

A vitanda discussion is in the mode of ignorance.  In this version the truth is of no value.  One simply wants to win at all costs. 

We believe that this book will clear the confusion for those persons interested in vada.

Our commitment to writing a book on the jiva-issue began when the following letter was posted to the GBC conference on COM. (Note, back in the mid 1990’s ISKCON took advantage of the emerging internet, and set up their e-mail server, to facilitate communications; and I do not know the reason, but they named it COM.): 

Text 31415: 27-Aug-94 18:16 EDT /167 lines/  LINK:  Drutakarma (Dasa) ACBSP (Alachua)

Reply-To: Drutakarma.

Receiver:  GBC Body <20>

Subject:  Once we were with Krishna

Dear GBC members,

Please accept my humble obeisances.  All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Lately I have been receiving inquiries from GBC members, BBT Trustees, and temple presidents about my forthcoming book “Once We Were with Krishna”, which shows conclusively that Srila Prabhupada’s teaching was just as the title says, and that this is in complete harmony with “Srimad-Bhagavatam” and the teachings of our previous acharyas going back to Lord Caitanya. One controversial feature of this book is that I am directly naming those who hold opposing views, and answering them point by point.  Since copies of the drafts of some chapters are floating around, by Xerox and computer, I thought it best to make sure all of you, and not just some of you, have an opportunity to see what is coming.  The second chapter, on Srila Prabhupada’s teachings, is attached to this message.  I am attaching the first chapter, on evidence from “Srimad-Bhagavatam” to another message.  The third and final chapter, on the teachings of the previous acharyas, is still being written, but as soon as it is finished, I will send it to you.  I am also including below the text of a letter to one of the GBC members.  It explains why I am taking the step of bringing out this book.  Originally, I intended to send it to just that one member, but since interest in the whole issue seems to be widening, I am sending it to all the members.

Dear————— Prabhu,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Like you, I share an interest that Srila Prabhupada’s teachings remain the central focus of ISKCON, and that they be passed down to the next generation unchanged.  I fear, however, that all of this is now endangered.

The specific point of my concern is Srila Prabhupada’s teachings on the origin of the jiva.  Srila Prabhupada addressed this issue many times, and said we have come “from Vaikuntha planet,” we were “with Krishna in His lila,” etc.  It has been said that Srila Prabhupada’s views are not supported by shastra and previous acharyas.  But my rather extensive investigation of these accusations reveals that they are unfounded.  I can produce dozens of statements from Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, that are exactly in line with Srila Prabhupada’s teachings.  Support for the idea that the jiva was originally with Krishna can also be found in the Bhagavatam and other works.  There is nothing in the Sandarbhas of Jiva Goswami that contradicts Srila Prabhupada’s teachings, despite the claims of Satyanarayana and Kundali, and others such as Bhanu Swami.  I say this on the basis of my own study and on the authority of Gopiparanadhana Prabhu, who has closely examined the relevant passages.  One might say, well, perhaps we are just dealing with a case of a transcendental disagreement among acharyas.  The problem is that one of the acharyas is our founder-acharya.  So even if one wants to accept that, then it is clear that in ISKCON we have to take sides, the side of Srila Prabhupada.  But I am convinced there is no difference between Srila Prabhupada and any of the major acharyas in our line going back to Lord Caitanya.  Some of Srila Prabhupada’s God brothers or disciples of his God brothers may have different opinions, but in one hundred years none of them will be recognized as a great acharya, whereas Srila Prabhupada’s place in history as one of the greatest acharyas ever is already assured.

You have asked if there is any role that the GBC could play in resolving this issue.  I am not at all hopeful that the GBC can actually do what needs to be done, because so many of the members are doubtful about what Srila Prabhupada said. Some of them, I suspect, actually agree with the position taken by Kundali and Satyanarayana that Srila Prabhupada spoke untruths to his disciples because they were too neophyte to understand the real siddhanta. That is so out of character for Srila Prabhupada that it is hard for me to see how any ISKCON devotee could accept it, unless they are ill-motivated or influenced by someone who is ill-motivated.

(Continued in Part 2)     First    Second   Third   Fourth   Fifth   Previous   Next

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