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Defending the Person
Umapati Swami answers Chota Haridasa

Thank you for your response to my article "Guru Mukha Padma Vakya." In trying to find faults, however, you have missed the biggest issue of all: the validity of Krsna consciousness.

You say I should have dealt with the question about women and not taken up the defense of Srila Prabhupada. "Maharaja’s response was to defend the position/authority/infallibility of Srila Prabhupada," you say. "And that’s fine, if that’s all he can muster as a response."

Then you accuse me of a kind of ad hominem in reverse. "What you did was a twist on the ad hominem logical fallacy," you write. "That is to say, instead of defending the specific points raised by Niscala about Prabhupada’s views, you defended the person, Prabhupada."

"The ad hominem fallacy is when we attack the man rather than the point he is making," you add. "Your version was to defend the man, rather than the point."

First of all, ad hominem is not exactly what you say it is. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines it thus: "1 appealing to prejudice and emotion rather than to reason" and "2 attacking the character, motives, etc. of an opponent rather than debating the issue on logical grounds."

If I were to say that Mother Niscala is not qualified to speak because she is a woman, that would be ad hominem. If I said she is not qualified to speak because she is only trying to prove she is intelligent, that would also be ad hominem. (It is true I have accused her of that, but I did not say it disqualified her.)

It would not be ad hominem, however, to say that someone is unqualified to give class in the temple because he has never read Srila Prabhupada’s books. That is neither an attack on character nor an appeal to prejudice. It is a rational assessment of a person’s credentials.

Therefore, to defend Srila Prabhupada with a sort of ad hominem in reverse would be to say, for example, that we must listen to Srila Prabhupada because he is from India. Since I have argued with reference to scripture, which is not ad hominem, you cannot discredit me so easily. (It helps to know the definitions of the terms you use.)

You write, "But among thinking people (simple living, high thinking, comes to mind), fallacy disguised as virtue is still fallacy." I agree with you here, but the fallacy is not mine. You have not shown any statement of mine that fits the definition of ad hominem.

I still have not answered your objection, however, about why I discussed Srila Prabhupada himself and not the topic you say Mother Niscala brought up. But I did discuss the main topic. She brought up a topic that you are not aware of, and in doing so, she attacked the very foundation of Krsna consciousness.

Srila Prabhupada is a mahabhagavata, a devotee on the highest platform. I have mentioned this before, and no one has disputed it, so I assume everyone agrees. Srila Prabhupada is a paramahamsa, a swan who can separate milk from water. In other words, he can distinguish between truth and illusion. He is Prabhupada, the master at whose feet other masters sit.

Yet Mother Niscala says that Srila Prabhupada’s views are antiquated. She says, in other words, that Srila Prabhupada has attached himself to a certain era in mundane culture and has preached it as Absolute Truth. Now if even after attaining the highest platform of Krsna consciousness one still could not distinguish between a cultural fad and the Absolute, then Krsna consciousness would be useless.

This the question I have discussed, and until it is resolved, there is no use going on to any other.

There is more. If Mother Niscala can criticize Srila Prabhupada’s viewpoint, she must think hers is higher. She says, in effect, that a topmost devotee is still bewildered by the material energy but she is not. She can distinguish between truth and illusion better than a paramahamsa. Therefore, if you take Mother Niscala’s reasoning to its ultimate conclusion, no one can attain a higher state of realization than she herself has already attained. Even Srila Prabhupada, a topmost paramahamsa cannot distinguish between truth and illusion as well as she can.

This is, of course, absurd, but it is the ultimate conclusion of her attempt to judge Srila Prabhupada’s words. Therefore my defense of Srila Prabhupada is also a defense of the principles of Krsna consciousness, which he represents. I defy you to find any fault in my reasoning here.

You are as guilty as Mother Niscala with your principle of accepting and rejecting. "One must critically examine the statements of the guru against the backdrop of our philosophy," you write, "our epistemological proofs as given in the sastra, which, combined with reason is our ultimate pramana, or proof, not just the bald utterances of the guru."

"By doing this," you add, "one moves away from idiotic literalism, from emotionalism in the guise of sentimentality or fanaticism. One develops insight, wisdom. Vijnana. All part of this ‘science’ of Krishna consciousness."

You also mention that Srila Prabhupada wanted independently thoughtful people. Srila Prabhupada, however, said this in relation to temple management, but even if you want to extend it to other spheres, it cannot include thinking independently of the proper authority:

"Now how to become Krsna conscious?" says Srila Prabhupada. "Lord Caitanya says, sadhu-sastra-krpa: ‘One can become Krsna conscious by the mercy of saintly devotees and by the mercy of the scriptures.’ These two things are recommended. Not that fools, as they are thinking, ‘I can..., I can think myself. I don’t agree with the sastra. I don’t agree with the spiritual master. I don’t agree with scriptures. I have got my independent opinion.’ He is fool number one, rascal number one." (lecture, New York, November 24, 1966)

Again: "One should have complete faith in the guru, who helps the disciple make progress in spiritual life. As soon as the disciple thinks independently, not caring for the instructions of the spiritual master, he is a failure (yasyaprasadan na gatih kuto ‘pi)." (SB 8.17.1 purport)

Again: "In the neophyte stage of devotion one must follow all the principles, regulated by the authority of the spiritual master. The acceptance and rejection of things should always be in pursuance of the devotional principles; not that one can independently manufacture some idea of what should be accepted or rejected." (NoD 14)

Tell me now, Is this what you mean by "idiotic literalism" and "emotionalism in the guise of sentimentality or fanaticism"? I would advise you to be more careful about throwing words like that around. You never know where they will land.

You say that Srila Prabhupada himself showed the example of doubting the spiritual master. Can you please tell me where this example is found.

Srila Prabhupada states: "Therefore Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura says in connection with the explanation of this verse, vyavasayatmika buddhih, so he says vyavasayatmika buddhih means to take the words of the spiritual master as life and soul. That is vyavasaya... That is called vyavasayatmika buddhih."

Again: "Unless one is prepared that ‘I am accepting somebody as my spiritual master. I must accept whatever he says,’ if there is any doubt, that ‘I cannot accept his words verbatim,’ then one should not accept him as spiritual master. That is hypocrisy." (lecture Los Angeles, July 13, 1971)

Again: "Yes, if it is any credit for me, that is what you have written that I tried to give aural reception to the words of my Spiritual Master, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Maharaja, and thus I tried to engage my tongue in repeating the same words without any change." (Letter May 6, 1970)

Then where, I ask you, is the question of doubting?

You also say, "All our acaryas have done this, by practice, that is to say by becoming critical thinker (instead of quote machines), and not by divine dispensation as so many seem to think."

Here is an excerpt from an interview of June 18, 1976:

"Prabhupada: Yes, why not? Suppose you have got some philosophy. So you can explain your philosophy differently. Why should you take Bhagavad-gita and explain your philosophy? Is it honesty?

"Indian man: All the acaryas have been doing it.

"Prabhupada: No acaryas are doing it. All lower-class men. No acaryas do it. Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya, Nimbarka, these are acaryas. Sankaracarya, Caitanya, they never did it. Outsiders, who did not care for the authority of the acarya, they did it. Otherwise, we are the acarya sampradaya. They’ll never do that. Acaryavan puruso veda. Acaryopasanam. That is bona fide process of knowledge. Acaryopasanam. Amanitvam adambhitvam. Acaryopasanam. This is the process of knowledge. Evam parampara-praptam imam rajarsayo viduh [Bg. 4.2]. This is the acarya. Acarya will never interpret things like that. You see Ramanujacarya’s comments on Bhagavad-gita. Nothing changed. But in every sloka he has given evidence from the Vedas, from the Upanisads. Acarya will never change."

And you say, "becoming critical thinker (instead of quote machines), and not by divine dispensation."

All right, let us talk about "quote machines":

"Actually Sri Caitanya-caritamrta is not my writing," says Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja, "but the dictation of Sri Madana-mohana. My writing is like the repetition of a parrot." (Adi 8.78)

And: "Sri Ramananda Raya replied, ‘I do not know anything about this. I simply vibrate the sound You make me speak. I simply repeat like a parrot whatever instructions You have given me. You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. Who can understand Your dramatic performances?’" (Madhya 8.121-122)

Srila Prabhupada says, "I have several times, I was eulogized by many persons, ‘Swamiji, you have done wonderful.’ So I say that I am not a wonderful man. I simply follow Krsna. What Krsna says, I repeat, like parrot. That's all. I have no knowledge." (lecture, Bombay, February 19, 1974)

Again, "So one who is spreading Krsna-upadesa, simply repeat what is said by Krsna, then you become acarya. Not difficult at all. Everything is stated there. We have to simply repeat like parrot. Not exactly parrot. Parrot does not understand the meaning; he simply vibrates. But you should understand the meaning also; otherwise how you can explain?" (lecture, Mayapur, April 6, 1975)

Again, "We can say in the court that we are simply repeating like parrot. That's all. We have pledged to become parrot of Krsna. That's all." (Morning Walk, June 5, 1976, Los Angeles)

Again, "I speak, therefore, to my disciples that ‘You simply repeat like parrot Bhagavad-gita and follow by your life. Don't try to become very big scholar, do interpretation. Remain foolish and believe in Krsna. Then life is perfect.’" (conversation, January 2, 1977, Bombay)

And consider Srila Prabhupada’s statement above: "Yes, if it is any credit for me, that is what you have written that I tried to give aural reception to the words of my Spiritual Master, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Maharaja, and thus I tried to engage my tongue in repeating the same words without any change." (Letter May 6, 1970)

"You haven't got to learn very much," says Srila Prabhupada. "You simply repeat like parrot what Krsna has said. That's all. Is it very difficult? Krsna has said everything in the Bhagavad-gita. You learn Bhagavad-gita, and you repeat that. You become guru. This is guru.

"So sometimes people give me very much credit," he adds, "that I have done wonderful throughout the whole world. But I do not know that I am wonderful man. But I know one thing, that I am speaking what Krsna has spoken. That's all. I am not making any addition, alteration. Therefore I am presenting Bhagavad-gita as it is. This credit I can take, that I don't making any nonsense addition or alteration." (lecture San Francisco, July 15, 1975)

Is this what you mean by "quote machine"? Again, watch out where you throw your insults.

And what about divine dispensation? Do you deny spiritual realization? It is mentioned again and again in the scriptures. Srimad Bhagavatam tells us that great sages such as Narada, Dhruva, Prahlada, and Citraketu saw and heard the Lord but not that they became "critical thinkers," at least not critical of their spiritual masters. Can you show me any instance of a great sage being critical of his spiritual master?

At the end, you quote Srila Prabhupada: "‘Doubt is a sign of intelligence.’"

I could not find this passage on the Folio, but I found something close:

"Doubt is one of the important functions of intelligence; blind acceptance of something does not give evidence of intelligence. Therefore the word samsaya is very important; in order to cultivate intelligence, one should be doubtful in the beginning." (SB 3.26.30 purport)

Is this what you are referring to? It seems to prove your point, at least until you go to the next sentence:

"But doubting is not very favorable when information is received from the proper source. In Bhagavad-gita the Lord says that doubting the words of the authority is the cause of destruction."

And Lord Krsna says, "But ignorant and faithless persons who doubt the revealed scriptures do not attain God consciousness; they fall down. For the doubting soul there is happiness neither in this world nor in the next." (BG 4.40)

Finally, you say you want rational discussion in the mode of goodness. At the same time, you call me idiotic, emotional, sentimental, fanatic, irrational, falsely virtuous, afraid to think, and incapable of mustering anything except ad hominem. Is this what you call rational discussion in the mode of goodness? It sounds more like the mode of ignorance:

"The worker who is always engaged in work against the injunctions of the scripture, who is materialistic, obstinate, cheating and expert in insulting others, and who is lazy, always morose and procrastinating is said to be a worker in the mode of ignorance." (Bg 18.28)

I don’t know about all the other things, but insulting others seems to be your specialty. I personally deserve all this, of course, but the only thing you know about me is what I have written, and I have simply quoted scriptures. Better watch where you throw your insults.

© Umapati Swami

CHAKRA 3 November 2001

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