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Did You Say, "Incorrect"?
Umapati Swami Answers 
Madhava Ghosh and the Others

My thanks to Madhava Ghosh Prabhu for his article, "Is It Possible to Be Incorrect and Still Be Perfect?" The article proves my point, although I don’t think this was what he wanted. My point is this: You won’t have any problems if you stop picking and choosing and just take everything Srila Prabhupada said. And this was what Srila Prabhupada told us to do.

Srila Prabhupada says his figures on the size of a woman’s brain are not necessarily correct, although the principle still holds. No one is obliged to accept figures that Srila Prabhupada himself says may not be right, and you don’t need all the tangled rationalizing to prove you are still faithful.

I have made this point before, but some people prefer to ignore it. I guess it’s more fun to pick and choose so we can make Srila Prabhupada seem wrong or antiquated or sexist or racist and then show off how magnanimous and faithful we are when we overlook his mistakes.

Madhava Ghosh does, however, support my point in a certain way: "If the guru says it, it is true. So the principle of acceptance of authority is a principle of spiritual life. I believe that Srila Prabhupada, showing the example of how to be a perfect disciple, fully embraced this principle."

The problem is that Madhava Ghosh theorizes, and herein lies his mistake, that following this principle weakens the ability to discriminate. Srila Prabhupada, he says, has lost the ability to tell who is a proper teacher and who is not and slavishly follows materialist authorities: "Not only in matters of spirituality," he continues, "but in material matters. His authority Professor Urquhart said 64/32 ounce, he accepts it and repeats it unchanged. That is perfection."

Many devotees in ISKCON today fear that Madhava Ghosh may be right and that if they surrender their minds to Srila Prabhupada, they will, in the end, also surrender to unqualified people who will hurt them.

Madhava Ghosh, at least, ought to know better. Srila Prabhupada has often shown his disdain for materialistic scientists and philosophers although he will quote them on points where they agree with him. In fact, the example of Srila Prabhupada shows that for one who surrenders to a perfect authority, the ability to tell good teachers from bad is enhanced.

The Folio is available to everyone, and if we take a broader look at the things Srila Prabhupada says, we might come to the conclusion that he is right, and right about more than what is taught in theology class.

Now I do not know what brought any of these other people to Krsna Consciousness, but I know my own motivation. I was convinced, and still am, that Srila Prabhupada has something that I want but don’t quite understand. Mother Niscala may brag that she knows all about guru-tattva, but I have not begun to seize the greatness of it. I want to understand, however, and Srila Prabhupada will show me if I let him.

It is indeed all or nothing. I saw Srila Prabhupada stand up, his face red with anger, and shout with the force of a roaring lion at Kirtanananda for saying that "unto Me" means unto the unborn truth within Krsna. "Why do you want to take it away from Krsna?" Srila Prabhupada shouted. "It’s Krsna! It’s Krsna! It’s no unborn within Krsna! It’s Krsna!"

I was awed. I had never before seen such magnificence and power. "He looks like a lion," I thought, "and his roaring shakes the whole room."

Why didn’t Srila Prabhupada play nicey-nicey with Kirtanananda? After all, we were new. I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but it was still summer, so we could not have been with Srila Prabhupada more than three months. Srila Prabhupada did not waste any time letting us know who was the teacher and who were the students, who would speak and who would listen.

Of course, we could always ask questions and bring up our doubts, but Srila Prabhupada was the authority. I accepted his authority because he was teaching from scripture, and he convinced me with scripture. "You see?" he said at a morning class. "It says in Bhagavad-gita that the devotee of Krsna is the highest yogi."

In Planting the Seed, Satsvarupa Maharaja tells about the time I stayed away for a few days because I disagreed with Srila Prabhupada. I finally went to see him and we had a "heavy but sincere exchange." (I don’t have a copy here, but I think those are his words.) Who do you think was heavy? Me?

And for all of you who think you can outguess Srila Prabhupada, here is a story he told us. I am repeating it from memory, so the words may not be exact, but the message is right. I do not know whether it happened in India or America, but one night Srila Prabhupada heard a strange sound outside. He could not imagine what it was.

The next day a policeman came to his door and asked whether he had heard a gunshot. Then Srila Prabhupada understood what the sound had been, but if the policeman had not come and told him, he never would have guessed.

In the same way, Srila Prabhupada continued, we try to guess what Krsna Consciousness is. "It’s this," we think, or "It’s that," but we cannot guess. Finally, one day, Krsna comes and says, "It’s this." Then we know.

Srila Prabhupada is trying to help us. He has given us a lot of information and steered us away from the impersonalist path, but we doubt him. We think we already know all about guru-tattva, but I wonder whether any of us know just how much knowledge self-realization brings: "When, however, one is enlightened with the knowledge by which nescience is destroyed, then his knowledge reveals everything, as the sun lights up everything in the daytime." (BG 5.16)

Srila Prabhupada has this knowledge. If we want it, we have to get it from him.

How? The day before the first initiation, Srila Prabhupada told us that the disciple must agree to worship the spiritual master as God.

I was shocked. I started to hesitate, but my friend Keith (later Kirtanananda) convinced me to go ahead with it. I am eternally indebted to him for that, no matter what he may have done later.

Today, I think that worshiping Srila Prabhupada on the level of worshiping God is not good enough. Does this make me a mayavadi, as Mother Niscala thinks? Let’s see what Lord Krsna tells Arjuna: "My dear Partha, one who claims to be My devotee is not so. Only a person who claims to be the devotee of My devotee is actually My devotee." (Adi Purana)

And Lord Siva tells Goddess Durga, "My dear Devi, although the Vedas recommend worship of demigods, the worship of Lord Visnu is topmost. However, above the worship of Lord Visnu is the rendering of service to Vaisnavas, who are related to Lord Visnu." (Padma Purana as quoted in Madhya 11.31)

Let Mother Niscala talk her big talk about realizing guru-tattva. I learned about guru-tattva from Srila Prabhupada, and I think he knows more about it than she does.

© Umapati Swami
CHAKRA 23 October 2001

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