Akincana

DIFFERENT UNDERSTANDINGS OF SRILA PRABHUPADA’S TEACHINGS

GBC Resolution #313 – Harmonizing our Preaching Efforts

Whereas the GBC Body accepts that many different understandings of the teachings of Srila Prabhupada and sastra, and many different understandings of what constitutes effective preaching, exist amongst ISKCON devotees, and this, in general, is a healthy situation;

Whereas when one ISKCON devotee’s preaching efforts, however well-meaning, are seen to work at cross purposes with the preaching efforts of others, it is the responsibility of ISKCON’s leadership to step in and take regulative action that it considers will be most favorable for the fulfillment of the objectives of ISKCON;

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Few weeks ago I was doing the customary Sunday morning Sri Caitanya Caritamrita reading at our temple (instead of Srimad Bhagavatam class rest of the week). Something in one of Srila Prabhupada’s purports piqued me to briefly mention a recent event that had me riled up for some time – ban by the North American GBC on the book “Women – Mothers or Masters” authored by His Holiness Bhakti Vikasa Maharaja. Later, while honoring prasadam one fairly senior and conservative devotee remarked that while there can be different understandings of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings, it is not right to ban a book. I had a mixed reaction to his statement and responded that since the book is almost entirely made up of quotations from Srila Prabhupada teachings (books, lectures, conversations etc), banning this book is akin to banning Srila Prabhupada’s books themselves.

Later, I discussed the other aspect of the statement at length with another devotee. Here is a summary of the discussion – I said that I do not accept the statement that there are many different understandings of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. If any devotee has a different understanding than what Srila Prabhupada taught then he / she is out of our parampara. The parampara exists by accepting, understanding and realizing the teachings of the Acarya (which are in themselves in line with guru, sadhu and sastra) and by passing on that same understanding exactly as it is to ones disciple/s. It is not the business of the Acarya to give teachings that can be (mis)interpreted in different ways. Srila Prabhupada is an Acarya because his teachings are crystal clear. Anything less than that will not do. Vaisnava Acaryas do not give muddled teachings that can be misinterpreted and thus misused by unscrupulous folks.

Credit for muddled teachings firmly goes to the Mayavadis and Voidists (nirvisesa sunyavadi). That is the meaning of the word “sampradaya” – sam meaning samyak or sampurna, correct, full and complete and pradaya means to give or hand over. I would further add that it is the bounden duty of a disciple to pass on the full and complete teachings to the next generation of devotees. If a devotee teaches certain teachings and not certain other ones, then he / she is not being true to the parampara – disciplic succession and is causing the parampara to weaken and eventually be broken as Lord Krsna states at the beginning of the 4th chapter of Bhagavad Gita As It Is.

For someone who claims to be a follower of Srila Prabhupada it is not acceptable to have different understanding (of everything) than what Srila Prabhupada’s so painstakingly taught and explained at length and elaborated upon. What can be different, however, is the focus area of their service.  Thus we see that some senior devotees focus their service on distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books, some on deity worship, some on college preaching, prasadam distribution, scientific preaching and so on. However, my contention is that even though the service focus may be different for various senior devotees, they are still duty bound to Srila Prabhupada to pass on the full and complete teachings received from him. They may spend more time and energy on expanding the fulfillment of certain desires / instructions of Srila Prabhupada – but this should not be used as an excuse to not pass on the full and complete teachings of Srila Prabhupada.

For example, if a senior leader whose service is focused around scientific preaching is asked a question – say about the correct address for ladies or gender roles – it is his bounden duty to explain the proper and correct teachings on the subject as received from His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabupada along with how such an understanding will bring devotees and eventually societies to a more peaceful way of life and closer to the mode of goodness. How much of these teachings various devotees apply in their lives in specific situations will vary, and the preacher / leader would be naïve to expect all devotees to fully follow all the teachings – but it is of utmost importance that the full scope and meaning of teachings in all aspects be explained with all reason and logic with full explanation of how this understanding and practice helps in individual and collective progress in Krsna Consciousness as well in building as a more peaceful and dharmic society around us.

Isn’t that what Srila Prabhupada and our Acaryas came to establish and give us – a life in accordance with the teachings of Lord Krsna and Vedic scriptures thereby becoming more and more Krsna conscious and setting the example for the world to follow so everyone can have a chance to follow the teachings, make their life perfect and go back home – back to Godhead?

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