“Setting The Scene”
Basically, I think this issue will be settled, if at all, in the marketplace of ideas, where I am accustomed to function in a direct and confrontational manner. Nevertheless, I will outline a series of actions that I think the GBC could take to deal with the issue, if it so desired.
- Pass the following resolution:
Srila Prabhupada’s clear teaching is that the jivas in the material world originally existed with Krishna in one of His spiritual planets directly engaged in His service. Their fall down into this material world is due to misuse of their free will. When they go back to Godhead, they regain their original positions as Krishna’s loving servants. This view is in harmony with both “Srimad-Bhagavatam” and the previous acharyas in our line going back to Lord Caitanya. No other view shall be presented as conclusive in any BBT or ISKCON publications, courses, or classes. Any ISKCON member actively promoting an opposing view among ISKCON members shall be subject to sanctions, including removal from positions of authority (sannyasa, GBC, guru, temple president) and ultimately expulsion. The BBT is requested to publish Drutakarma’s book Once We Were with Krishna [names and exceptionally polemical statements removed] with adequate advertising and distribution to the devotee community. [This resolution would supersede any previous resolutions establishing study groups, etc. to research this question.]
- Once the idea that Srila Prabhupada said that the conditioned souls were once with Krishna has been adopted as ISKCON’s official policy, then the GBC could take further steps to insure our doctrinal purity. I will offer some suggestions.
- I am absolutely convinced that Satyanarayana and Kundali must be removed from the BBT project of publishing Jiva Gosvami’s Sat-sandarbhas and that the entire thing should be handed over to a loyal Prabhupada follower. It is true that, at present, Dravida and Gopiparanadhana have been given authority to filter out the nonsense views that Satyanarayana has introduced in his commentaries, but that is a very precarious situation. It is like having a cook, but you have to check every offering to make sure he isn’t putting meat on the Deity plates. Satyanarayana is very fixed in his views, and he is expert in propagating them among those many devotees who regard him as an authority in shastric matter. I have reports that in Vrndavana lectures and seminars he is directly saying that Srila Prabhupada is wrong on the question of the origin of the jiva. The issue is, however, much larger than the Sandarbha question or even the jiva question. The larger matter at stake is the integrity of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. If Srila Prabhupada’s teachings on the origin of the jiva, found everywhere in his books, letters, lectures, and conversations, can be relativized by word juggling Sanskrit experts influenced by outside figures, then what next? It seems to me that the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust should only publish authors whose views are totally in line with those of the Bhaktivedanta—His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. To publish someone’s work is to give them prestige inside and outside of ISKCON. And giving Satyanarayana this position is going to give him a better platform for pushing his erroneous views. Also, the BBT is setting him up with a whole institute for translating Vaishnava literature in Vrndavana. Right now, there are a few strong-minded individuals who are acting to prevent him from getting his contradicting of Srila Prabhupada into print. But at any time in the future this could change, we might find that Srila Prabhupada’s books get edited to bring them in line with Satyanarayana’s views. Or instead, we might find that footnotes and other explanatory materials are added to let people know what Srila Prabhupada really meant on this question (Satyanarayana has already written such things for exactly this purpose—it’s just a question of printing them in the books). And we could see this translation institute in Vrndavana become an avenue for the infiltration of all kinds of wrong ideas and attitudes into ISKCON. What about the fear that if Satyanarayana is confronted he will just go and publish his books anyway? Let him. If the steps I recommend are taken, it will be clear to ISKCON members that he is just doing his own thing—just one more Sanskrit scholar who has gone off the deep end. As Srila Prabhupada said,
“I am also practically finding that if any of our students artificially try to become scholars by associating with unwanted persons, [specifically in India] , they become victimized, for a little learning is dangerous, especially for the Westerners. I am practically seeing that as soon as they begin to learn a little Sanskrit then immediately, they feel that they have become more than their guru, and then the policy is kill guru, and be killed himself.”
That is the road Satyanarayana has embarked upon. To kill Srila Prabhupada’s teachings (by whimsically explaining them away) is to kill Srila Prabhupada. So let him go and publish his nonsense interpretations elsewhere. At least we will know that we have preserved Srila Prabhupada’s teachings intact and insured against that thing Srila Prabhupada most feared—that we would change or relativize what he taught us.
- In general, the BBT should not publish books by authors with views contrary to those of Srila Prabhupada on this question.
- Narayana Maharaja’s views on the origin of the jiva question should come under scrutiny, and that this should be taken into consideration in the GBC’s evaluation of Narayana Maharaja followers among the GBC and other senior ISKCON devotees.
I think a lot of this will automatically happen once the GBC takes the correct step of affirming that Srila Prabhupada’s statements that the jivas were once with Krishna is ISKCON’s position on this matter.
If the above steps were taken, I would feel satisfied that ISKCON had acted properly to safeguard the integrity of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings, not just on the jiva question, but in general.
Please feel free to circulate copies of this letter to whomever you like.