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The Sun, the Moon, 
and Blind Following

Umapati Swami Answers Mother Niscala

Dear Mother Niscala,

Thank you for your letter "Accepting ‘The Parts You Like.’"

I will take up your challenge. I will show that you are wrong not only about blind following but also about the material world’s being outside of Srila Prabhupada’s authority. There is a relation between the two.

Let us start with the material world. I will quote Sri Brahma Samhita 5.17, as translated by His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura:

"Thereupon the same great personal Godhead, assuming the threefold forms of Visnu, Prajapati and Sambhu, entering into the mundane universe, plays the pastimes of preservation, creation and destruction of this world. This pastime is contained in the mundane world. Hence, it being perverted, the Supreme Lord, identical with Maha-Visnu, prefers to consort with the goddess Yoganidra, the constituent of His own spiritual [cit] potency full of the ecstatic trance of eternal bliss appertaining to His own divine personality."

Here it is stated that the creation of the material world is a pastime of the Lord. The Lord’s pastimes are neither irrelevant nor outside of Srila Prabhupada’s knowledge. You say, however, that this topic is not important, and I admit that Srila Prabhupada says something almost to that effect:

"I do not know how these doubts have come upon you. Why bother about all these things? They are not very important." (Letters to Various—No. 5 to Tirthanga dasa) What "these things" are is not stated, but from what follows, they seem to be astronomical questions, possibly the so-called moonwalk. What is important, however, is that we must accept the Vedic version:

"Everything is explained in Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam," Srila Prabhupada continues, "why you are still asking? If you believe whatever the material so-called scientists are saying, that is your business, but I do not believe [that] any of their so-called observations in outer space by the blunt material senses can be true without any doubt. So why you doubt Vedas and not scientists. I cannot even see into the next room, how I can see anything very surely so many millions of miles distant? But if someone who has been there tells me, then I can know everything about that place."

"If you are looking for some excuse to doubt," Srila Prabhupada adds, "then maya will always provide you. So this or that you may find out something flaw if you want. But Krsna says surrender unto Me and I will give you all protection, perfect knowledge of everything. You should not go to modern scientists for perfect knowledge. They cannot supply that. Krsna will supply you."

Here Srila Prabhupada asks, "So why you doubt Vedas and not scientists?" You, however, say, "If you want to know the distance to the moon, ask an astronomer." You are in direct contradiction to Srila Prabhupada. You doubt the Vedas and believe the scientists.

In the purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 2.7.53, Srila Prabhupada explains the importance of the Vedic version: "But a pure devotee knows that there is no difference between the pastimes of the Lord, either in rasa-lila or in creation, maintenance or destruction of the material world. Rather, the descriptions of such activities of the Lord as the purusavataras are specifically meant for persons who are in the clutches of the external energy."

In the clutches of the external energy? That sounds like me.

In the purport to 2.10.10, Srila Prabhupada says, "The Supreme Lord Sri Krsna and all His plenary portions and extensions of plenary portions are nondifferent from one another, and thus the supreme independence is in each and every one of them. In order to prove this, Sukadeva Gosvami (as promised to King Pariksit) describes herein the independence of the purusa-avatara Personality of Godhead, even in the sphere of the material creation. Such activities of the Lord are also transcendental, and therefore they are also lila, or pastimes, of the absolute Lord. Such pastimes of the Lord are very conducive to the hearers for self-realization in the field of devotional service."

Now did I hear someone say "irrelevant"? Srila Prabhupada says, "conducive to the hearers for self-realization in the field of devotional service." Isn’t that what we are after? And how can you accept the description of the Lord’s creating the universe if you do not accept the descriptions of where he puts the planets? Here is where faith and blind following come in:

"But if you actually appreciate that there is God, here is Krsna," says Srila Prabhupada, "so whatever He is saying, it is all right. ‘Sarvam etad 'rtam manye [Bg. 10.14]. There is no harm even if you accept His word blindly, there is no harm. Otherwise, if you don't like to follow blindly, then consider what is instructed. And then whatever you like, you can do. Both ways are there. But if you have faith in God, ‘God is saying this, I must do it,’ that blind faith is as good. Although it is blind faith, it is the fact. Actually it is not blind faith. It is full faith in God. ‘God is speaking this; I'll accept it.’" (Aug 12,1976)

Back to your letter: You say I speak of Mother Maharani’s questions and then neglect to provide a solution. This, you say, is incomprehensible.

But what I myself find even more incomprehensible is that you this and later quote my solution: "The good fortune is in being a disciple or a disciple of a disciple, near or far. Srila Prabhupada said that the good fortune was in following his instructions. In fact, I feel closer to Srila Prabhupada now than ever before."

Then you challenge me: "It is strange that you attribute your feeling of closeness to Srila Prabhupada to following his instructions, since you are neglecting all of his instructions to never follow blindly, and are instead insisting on a one-sided view exemplified by the rope and snake example."

You add, "Either accept our reconciliation of the rope/snake example with the instruction that blind following is condemned, or devise an alternative reconciliation."

No, I will not devise an alternative reconciliation because Srila Prabhupada has already given one. Devising things is your domain, not mine.

First, let us look at your train of logic:
a: We should accept all of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions.
b. One of these instructions is to avoid blind following.
c. Blind following includes accepting all of Srila 
      Prabhupada’s instructions.
d. Therefore, when Srila Prabhupada says we should follow 
      all of his instructions, he means we should not.

This is an absurd conclusion but is indeed what you suggest when you say I am "neglecting all of his instructions to never follow blindly, and [am] instead insisting on a one-sided view exemplified by the rope and snake example."

Your mistake is in part c: "Blind following includes accepting all of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions." This is false.

Let us look at some of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings on the matter. It is true that blind following is condemned:

"Not that you have to submit yourself blindly. Although your spiritual master may be self-realized and experienced in the Absolute Truth, still, you have to question. You have to understand from him all critical points by your intelligent questions. That is allowed. So it doesn't matter. If anyone is able to answer about the science of Krsna, he is spiritual master." (Aug 17, 1966)

And there is the instruction in the purport to Bhagavad-gita 4.34: "In this verse, both blind following and absurd inquiries are condemned."

But then, in the same paragraph, Srila Prabhupada talks about submissive hearing: "Not only should one hear submissively from the spiritual master, but one must also get a clear understanding from him, in submission and service and inquiries. A bona fide spiritual master is by nature very kind toward the disciple. Therefore when the student is submissive and is always ready to render service, the reciprocation of knowledge and inquiries becomes perfect."

You have stated that blind following and submissive hearing are the same. Then why does Srila Prabhupada condemn blind following and encourage submissive hearing? Could they be different? Let us turn to a conversation of January 29, 1977:

"Satsvarupa: One person said, ‘This kind of thing reminds me of Hitler’s Germany. If there’s too much authority or blind following, it’s not healthy.’"

"Prabhupada: No, too much authority if the authority is wrong... But if the authority is right, then it is very better to submit in one place and get everything. Just like we go to some supermarket. We get everything there, we go there." (Jan 29, 1977)

Here Srila Prabhupada says that if the authority is right, then submissive hearing is not blind following. I accept Srila Prabhupada as the right authority.

Here is a conversation of January 12, 1969:

"Prabhupada: Yes. Blind following and absurd inquiries. These things are condemned in this verse. Blind following means: ‘Oh, there is a swami. So many thousands of people are following. Let me become his disciple.’ This is called blind following. You do not know what is that swami, whether he is a swami or a rascal. You do not know. But because everyone is going, ‘Oh, let me become his disciple.’ This is blind following, without any knowledge, blind following. The swami says that ‘You give me money. I make you immediately God.’ So this is blind following."

But a little farther down in the same conversation:

"Madhudvisa: ‘One should not only hear submissively from the spiritual master, but one must also get a clear understanding from him...’

"Prabhupada: Yes.

"Madhudvisa: ‘...with submission, and service, and inquiries.’

"Prabhupada: Yes. Clear understanding. Don’t accept anything. First of all there must be submissiveness, no challenge. But at the same time, you must clearly understand. Because you have submitted, it is not that you have to understand something dogmatic. No. Submission must be there, but at the same time, you should have clear understanding. This is science, not that if something is pushed and you are: ‘Oh, my spiritual master has said; therefore I accept it.’ That is fact, that you should, but at the same time, by inquiries, by inquisitiveness, you must clear everything. ‘Yes, God is like this.’" (Jan 12, 1969)

Srila Prabhupada says here that one may ask for clarification but in an attitude of submission, not of challenge. This submission is not blind following,

Here’s more, from a lecture on January 6, 1971. First, Srila Prabhupada condemns blind following:

"But in bhagavata religion, bhagavata-dharma, there is no dogma. Caitanya Mahaprabhu's bhagavata-dharma, the Caitanya-caritamrta's author, Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, says, therefore, that caitanyera dayara katha karaha vicara. Vicara means you just try to understand the gift of Lord Caitanya by logic, vicara. Don't follow blindly. Following blindly something, that is not good. That will not stay. But one should take everything with logic. But the servants of God, they put everything in logic. Caitanyera dayara katha karaha vicara. If you study the Caitanya's philosophy with logic and argument... Don't go by sentiment. The so-called missionary, they're simply bogus propaganda without any logic. Without any logic. Just like some missionary people are propagating a man to become God. How a man can become God? There must be evidences how God incarnates. Not that somebody by worshiping a demigod becomes God. So many false propaganda is going on. That is not logical at all. So one should be intelligent to understand the philosophy of Krsna or philosophy of Lord Caitanya with logic and argument. Don't follow blindly."

But then, Srila Prabhupada talks about accepting the right authority:

"But once you accept, you cannot argue. You have to accept blindly. But before accepting, you take to logic. But when you accept, then don't go back. Then that is falldown. Naya-kovidah." (Jan 6, 1971)

Note that Srila Prabhupada says, "You have to accept blindly." Therefore, accepting blindly from the right source is not blind following.

Here is an excerpt from a lecture on February 2, 1967:

"Therefore Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu says that ‘I accept the order of My spiritual master in toto, without any interpretation, without any argument, without any understanding. Whatever he has said, it is all right.’ This is acceptance of spiritual master. ‘Oh, I accept spiritual master, but I don't accept your order’—this is not acceptance of spiritual master. If you at all accept somebody as spiritual master, you must test him. You must test him for at least one year if you have got doubts. And when you are convinced that ‘Here is a person whom I can follow blindly,’ then you accept. You haven't got to follow blindly. Spiritual master will not place before you anything unreasonable. But the process is that you cannot change the order of spiritual master. You cannot argue. You... Unless you are convinced that ‘I shall accept the order of this person without any argument,’ don't accept anybody as spiritual master. It is a false acceptance. Just see. Caitanya Mahaprabhu says that. And other point is that if you take Caitanya Mahaprabhu's life, oh, He was a vast learned scholar, but He said that His spiritual master found Him the nonsense. Now how it is that? He was a great scholar, and how His spiritual master found Him a nonsense? So therefore, however you may be a great scholar, if your spiritual master finds you a fool, you must accept that you are a fool. You don't say, ‘Oh, I am such a great scholar, and unjustly my spiritual master says that I am fool.’ Then you lose the connection at once. You'll understand, yes, just like Caitanya Mahaprabhu's disciple. He is, Caitanya Mahaprabhu is speaking about His own discipleship." (Feb 2,1967)

Here is an excerpt from a conversation of May 25, 1973:

"The authority means you have to follow blindly. That is authority. That is my point."

From a conversation of December 20, 1976:

"Arjuna accepted, when he was puzzled whether to fight or not to fight, he accepted Krsna as guru. Sisyas te 'ham. ‘Now I don't want to talk or argue with You,’ because as soon as you become a sisya you have to accept the statement of the guru. That is the relationship between guru and sisya. You cannot talk with guru from the same level. Whatever guru says you have to accept. Otherwise don't accept guru. Don't make a fashion of taking guru just like you keep a dog. Guru, first of all you have to select. Tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya [Bg. 4.34]. You have to select such a person where you can fully surrender." (Dec 20,1976)

Now I expect to get the usual flak from your friends about what a fanatic I am, but I challenge anyone to show that I have quoted falsely or in a one-sided way.

© Umapati Swami
CHAKRA 29 October 2001

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