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On Infallibility
By Locanananda das

In a recent article entitled Dogmatism and Infallibility, the author, without any scriptural basis, has brashly asserted that "No jiva is infallible, be he pope or guru or whatever. " He also states that those who make unreasonable claims as to Srila Prabhupada's infallibility may be "selfishly motivated." As we will see from the following evidence, it is the author who has indeed made the mistake of accepting false knowledge, not those who defend the infallibility of the spiritual master.

According to the Bhagavad-gita, the living entities are eternally separated parts and parcels of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Those in contact with the material world are called "jiva-bhuta," and the Sanskrit words "sarvani bhutani" signify that they are fallible. On the other hand, those who are in oneness with the Lord, who are not contaminated by matter, are called infallible. Srila Prabhupada explains further: "Oneness does not mean that they have no individuality, but that there is no disunity. They are all agreeable to the purpose of creation. " (B. g. 15. 16 purport.) Thus, when one surpasses the fallible nature of the living entity in conditional life by being legitimately absorbed in the devotional service of the Lord, one is counted amongst the infallible. (see also S.B. 3.5.1 purport)

Pure devotees of the Lord are beyond the four material defects of mistakes, illusions, cheating and sensory deficiencies. This is referred to in the Bhagavatam as the stage of infallibility, or acyuta-bhava-siddha. Every action of such a great soul is dedicated to pleasing Krishna, and so the Lord offers him special protection.

"The devotees are especially protected by the Lord so that they may remain infallible. Therefore the process of devotional service always begins in the service of the devotee who appears in disciplic succession. " (S. B. 2. 6. 34 purport)

Not that the pure devotee is only infallible in what he speaks about the absolute truth. His infallibility extends to his actions as well, because in all that he does, he is taking dictation from Krishna, the All-perfect.

"Anyone, therefore, who is earnestly serious in heart and soul about being in intimate touch with the Personality of Godhead in the relationship of transcendental loving service will always be infallible in words and action. (S.B. 2.6.34 purport)

It may be helpful for us to define what a mistake is, in the philosophical sense. According to Srila Prabhupada, a mistake is the acceptance of an object as something different than what it is. The example he gave was: if one sees a glittering oyster shell and thinks it is gold, that is a mistake. A mistake may also be the acceptance of false knowledge, for example, that the impersonal feature of God is the ultimate goal of self-realization. Faulty judgment would also come under the heading of a mistake, just as Gandhi ignored a warning of an assassination plot and was killed five minutes later. (See Cc. Adi. 7. 107 purport) The spiritual master does not exhibit such imperfection.

"A person who is a liberated acarya and guru cannot commit any mistake. " (Letter to Janardana dated 4-26-68)

What one may call a mistake according to the word's dictionary definition -- a misspelling, a mispronunciation in Sanskrit, changing one's mind, adjusting one's plans -- are not what are referred to as mistakes in terms of our philosophical concepts. Rather, these are reflections of the limitations inherent in the jiva soul because of its atomic size. In the Bhagavad-gita it is said that the Lord is "vibhu", or omniscient, and the living entity is "anu", or atomic. The minute living entity is therefore subject to limitations. For example, when Krishna explained to Arjuna why he could not remember all of his previous births, He was pointing out a limitation, not an imperfection. The personal associates of the Lord are eternally perfect, but they are not omniscient.

If a devotee thinks a spiritual master who is a pure devotee is making mistakes, he is seeing him from a material point of view. The Nectar of Instruction advises that we should avoid observing a pure devotee externally and, instead, try to see the internal features of his Krishna consciousness and understand how he is engaged in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. By judging the spiritual master externally, one will never become a purified devotee himself. If one does not have implicit faith in the statements of sastra or the words of the guru as presented above, his advancement will be very slow. One should be careful to not whimsically reject what the spiritual master has taught because it does not fit well with our preconceived notion of what is spiritual truth. Srila Prabhupada explained:

"When guru speaks, you cannot argue. This is not the process. You should accept a guru who is infallible. Otherwise, it is useless. " (Lecture of 10-3-76 Vrndavana, India)

The author of Infallibility vs. Dogmatism wants to see "didactic dogmatism" in ISKCON subside so that the sankirtana movement can progress, but, judging from the above sastric references, he will not become eligible to experience any spontaneous joy and bliss without first accepting Srila Prabhupada's infallibility.

Humbly submitted by Locanananda dasa

© CHAKRA 02 Sept 2001

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