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Infallible Prabhupada
By Umapati Swami

In a recent Chakra article, Can the Guru Make Mistakes? Niscala devi dasi says that Srila Prabhupada’s statements about women are antiquated and mistaken. “Srila Prabhupada,” she adds, “had both imperfect senses and made mistakes.”

And Mother Niscala has her followers. In “Infallibility vs. Dogmatism,Thakur Haridas das applauds her. “No jiva is infallible,” he says, “be he pope or guru or whatever.”

I wonder whether Mother Niscala and her disciple understand that they are the fallible ones, with faulty senses and a tendency to make mistakes. “A conditioned soul,” says Srila Prabhupada, “is hampered by four defects: he is sure to commit mistakes, he is sure to become illusioned, he has a tendency to cheat others, and his senses are imperfect.” (SB 4.18.5)

Who is this Mother Niscala anyway? What has she done for the world that now she may sit in judgement of Srila Prabhupada and tell us which of his teachings are still good and which are outdated?

And of course, if Srila Prabhupada is outdated, what can we expect from his followers? “Some devotees had reactions which were a bit antiquated as well,” writes Mother Niscala. “One reaction which tended towards the absurd was to put up quote after quote about equating the guru as God, presumably to scare us into silence.”

Thakur Haridas Das agrees. “This is not unlike fanaticism in other religious institutions,” he writes, “which impose doctrine by physical force bolstered by unreasonable claims of infallibility.”

It seems, then, that quoting scripture is an absurd, fanatical scare tactic. But not according to Srila Prabhupada: “Any question that is put forward may be answered by quoting the authority, and that satisfies the saner section. That is the system even in the law court. The best lawyer gives evidence from the past judgment of the court without taking much trouble to establish his case. This is called the parampara system, and learned authorities follow it without manufacturing rubbish interpretations.” (SB2.10.51)

Now let us look at an absurd, scary passage: “Here it is said that advaitam harina advaitad. So of course Advaita Acarya is expansion of Visnu-tattva, but any acarya, he is to be considered identical with the Lord. The Lord says that, that acaryam mam vijaniyat: ‘One should understand the acarya...’ Acarya bhakti-samsanat. Acarya means who is spreading pure bhakti cult. ‘That acarya,’ Krsna says, ‘you should consider such acarya as Myself.’ Acaryam mam vijaniyat navamanyeta karhicit, that... You cannot consider, ‘Yes, he's acarya, but not as good as Krsna.’ No. Na avamanyeta. Don't deride in that way. Then there will be falldown. Acaryam mam vijaniyat navamanyeta karhicit. And in the Vedas also it is said, yasya deve para bhaktir yatha deve tatha gurau: [SU 6.23] ‘Anyone who has got unflinching faith in the Supreme Personality and the similar faith in guru...’ Yasya deve para bhaktir yatha deve tatha gurau, tasyaite kathita hy arthah: ‘All the Vedic literature,’ prakasante, ‘becomes revealed simply by these two principles.’ Guru-krsna krpa paya bhakti-lata-bija.” (Mayapur Apr 6, 1975)

Mother Niscala pretends to accept this, but grudgingly. “Similarly, in regard to him being free from mistakes,” she writes. “It is in relation to the message of Krishna which he presents unadulterated, i. e. without mistake. This is not to be accepted blindly…”

Not blindly? “Arjuna understood,” says Srila Prabhupada. “Sarvam etam rtam manye: ‘Whatever You have said, I understand. I have accepted it.’ So you accept it blindly even; then you are benefited. We may not understand.” (Vindavana  Apr 8, 1976)

In spite of this, Mother Niscala still says that some teachings are good and some are outdated. Not so, says Srila Prabhupada: “In the Second Chapter Arjuna surrenders: ‘So far we have been talking as friends, but now I accept You as my spiritual master.’ Anyone following the principle in this line accepts the guru as Krsna, and the student must represent Arjuna. Krsna is speaking as the spiritual master of Arjuna, and Arjuna says, ‘Whatever You are saying I accept.’ Read it like that—not: ‘I like this, so I accept it; this I don't like, and so I reject it.’ Such reading is useless nonsense.” (TYS, 7)

Mother Niscala offers to tell us how we should understand such things, but we still do not know her qualifications. Why should anyone listen to her? “A common man with all the four defects of human frailty is unable to teach that which is worth hearing,” says Srila Prabhupada. (BG 2.12)

Is Mother Niscala above the four defects? Is she repeating the teachings of some paramhamsa whom only she knows about? If it is neither, then everything is coming from her mind, a faulty teacher. “The mind is always making plans with the ten commanders [senses] to enjoy the material world,” writes Srila Prabhupada. (SB 4.26.1-3)

“Just like my Guru Maharaja used to say that while you get up from bed, you beat your mind a hundred times with your shoe, and when you go to bed, you beat your mind a hundred times with a broomstick.” (Philosophy Discussions, Freud)

Of course, Mother Niscala does try to jump over and go to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura to prove that Srila Prabhupada is wrong. And you had better agree with her: “If anyone can read it,” she says, “and still believe that Srila Prabhupada can make no mistakes, and that it is offensive to say so [that he can make mistakes], my hat off to them [sic]. They take the prize for irrational thinking.”

So Mother Niscala, our new paramahamsa, understands Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura better than Srila Prabhupada does. In fact, do we need Srila Prabhupada at all anymore, now that we have Mother Niscala to explain the previous acaryas for us? Srila Prabhupada answers: “I have heard something from my spiritual master, so I speak to you the same thing. So this is parampara system. You cannot imagine what my spiritual master said. Or even if you read some books, you cannot understand unless you understand it from me. This is called parampara system. You cannot jump over to the superior guru, neglecting the next acarya, immediate next acarya.” (LA Dec 8, 1973)

Well maybe Srila Prabhupada is on Mother Niscala’s list of irrational thinkers. He is certainly on Thakur Haridas das’s list of ordinary people. “No jiva is infallible,” says Thakur Haridas das, “be he pope or guru or whatever.”

Here is what Srila Prabhupada says: “A person who is liberated acharya and guru cannot commit any mistake.” (letter to Janardana Apr 26, 1968)

“In our International Society, I am also holding the superior post: I am sitting in a chair, and you are offering me garlands and the best food. Why? Because you see a perfect man whom you can follow. That mentality must be there. Everyone in the society must be able to say, ‘Yes, here is a perfect man. Let him sit in a chair, and let us all bow down and work like menials.’”  (JSD 7)

What’s more, Thakur Haridas das’s list of fallible people goes all the way up to Arjuna. “Even a pure devotee like Arjuna,” he writes, “greatest warrior in the world, proved fallible and was conquered by cowherds when the Lord withdrew his potency.”

But Arjuna knew that his power came from Krsna. Therefore, Arjuna had perfect knowledge and was infallible: “The military strength of the Kauravas was like an ocean in which there dwelled many invincible existences, and thus it was insurmountable. But because of His friendship, I, seated on the chariot, was able to cross over it. And only by His grace was I able to regain the cows and also collect by force many helmets of the kings which were bedecked with jewels that were sources of all brilliance.” (SB 1.15.14)

And, by the way, who were the conquering cowherd men? Srila Prabhupada answers: “So, in order to keep the words of the great muni [Astavakra Muni], the Lord Himself kidnapped His wives from the protection of Arjuna, otherwise they would have at once vanished from the scene as soon as they were touched by the rogues.” (SB 1.15.20 purport)

As for Mother Niscala’s list of irrational thinkers, it seems to include Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur and even Lord Krsna Himself. Srila Prabhupada says: “Visvanatha Cakravarti said that ‘Guru is as good as God by the verdict of the sastra.Saksad dharitvena samasta-sastraih. And Krsna says, acaryam mam vijaniyat:Acarya should be known as good as Myself.’ Navamanyeta karhicit: ‘Never become disobedient to acarya.Na martya buddhyasuyeta: ‘Never be envious of the acarya, considering him to be an ordinary person.’” (Gorakhpur Feb 10, 1971)

Srila Prabhupada also gives a word of warning: “In spite of all these instructions, if one considers the spiritual master an ordinary human being, one is doomed. His study of the Vedas and his austerities and penances for enlightenment are all useless, like the bathing of an elephant…. The spiritual master is as good as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and therefore one who is very serious about spiritual advancement must regard the spiritual master in this way. Even a slight deviation from this understanding can create disaster in the disciple's Vedic studies and austerities.” (SMD 2.2)

Too bad, says Mother Niscala, Srila Prabhupada is downright wrong. “We do not have to don blinkers whenever we see evidence that Srila Prabhupada was mistaken in his judgment of women and other things,” she says. “This is what it means to not follow blindly. We do not need to convince ourselves that it is all a product of our fertile imagination, or that we have imperfect senses that are handing us faulty information.”

Oh? We do not have imperfect senses? Again, “A conditioned soul is hampered by four defects: he is sure to commit mistakes, he is sure to become illusioned, he has a tendency to cheat others, and his senses are imperfect.” (SB 4.18.5)

Maybe it is Mother Niscala should take off the blinkers. She should put her wounded ego aside and look around at what Srila Prabhupada has done and try to understand who it is she is criticizing: “The Lord has a special potency by which He spreads the Krsna consciousness movement,” writes Srila Prabhupada. “This is explained in the Caitanya-caritamrta (Antya 7.11): kali-kalera dharma-krsna-nama-sankirtana/ krsna-sakti vina nahe tara pravartana. ‘One cannot spread the holy name of Krsna without being specifically empowered by Lord Krsna.’ A devotee who receives this power from the Lord must be considered very fortunate.” (CC Madhya 9.114)

Mother Niscala says that quoting scripture is nothing but a scare tactic, and this time she is right. She should be as scared as can be, and so should the rest of us. Denigrating Srila Prabhupada is not something to be taken lightly: “My dear sir, I am not at all afraid of the thunderbolt of King Indra, nor am I afraid of the serpentine, piercing trident of Lord Siva. I do not care about the punishment of Yamaraja, the superintendent of death, nor am I afraid of fire, scorching sun, moon, wind, nor the weapons of Kuvera. Yet I am afraid of offending a brahmana. I am very much afraid of this.” (Maharaja Rahugana to Jada Bharata, SB 5.10.17)

And what is Mother Niscala all upset about anyway? Maybe it is because Srila Prabhupada said women are less intelligent: “But when he [Asvatthama] was brought before Srimati Draupadi, she, although begrieved for the murder of her sons, and although the murderer was present before her, could not withdraw the due respect generally offered to a brahmana or to the son of a brahmana. This is due to her mild nature as a woman. Women as a class are no better than boys, and therefore they have no discriminatory power like that of a man.” (SB 1.7.42)

Still, there’s no need to worry. Men can be less intelligent too: “In human society all over the world there are millions and billions of men and women, and almost all of them are less intelligent because they have very little knowledge of spirit soul.” (SB 2.3.1)

And if you still don’t believe men can be less intelligent, just read the article by Thakur Haridas das.

© Umapati Swami

© CHAKRA 31 Aug 2001

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