“There is No Other Way” – Fanatacism and Spiritual Authority




In the introduction to Sri Isopanisad Srila Prabhupada emphatically states:

“The Vedas are not compilations of human knowledge. Vedic knowledge comes from the spiritual world, from Lord Krishna. Another name for the Vedas is sruti. Sruti refers to that knowledge which is acquired by hearing. It is not experimental knowledge. Sruti is considered to be like a mother. We take so much knowledge from our mother. For example, if you want to know who your father is, who can answer you? Your mother. If the mother says, “Here is your father,” you have to accept it. It is not possible to experiment to find out whether he is your father. Similarly, if you want to know something beyond your experience, beyond your experimental knowledge, beyond the activities of the senses, then you have to accept the Vedas. There is no question of experimenting. It has already been experimented. It is already settled. The version of the mother, for instance, has to be accepted as truth. There is no other way.”

Here Srila Prabhupada’s absolute conviction in the authority of the Vedas is declared. This strong faith is an important aspect of his mood; and this same faith serves as the foundation for his mission of carrying out the instruction of his own spiritual master. For many, in the present day state of ISKCON, the idea of boldly declaring in a public lecture that ‘there is no other way’ may be deemed as confrontational or simply ‘bad preaching’. It seems as if the fashion of the times is to consider such upfront and direct repetition of the siddhanta as fanatical and unsophisticated. Indeed, despite all logical and authoritative references, such a direct explanation of the transcendental message received in disciplic succession can invoke quite a disenchanting reaction not exclusive to guests – but from devotees with many years of experience, who often chastise the candid speaker with allegations comparing such a simplistic presentation to fundamental Christian Bible-thumping tactics.

While such statements as ‘there is no other way’ may be considered fanatical by some, it is interesting to analyze what exactly is meant by an accusation of fanaticism. Srila Prabhupada defined fanaticism as an inability to listen to logic and reason. If no logical explanation can be given as to why any individual should not simply repeat the information found in Srila Prabhupada’s books then it certainly brings into question who is actually guilty of fanaticism. Ironically, for one who has faith and realization that Srila Prabhupada’s books contain the essence of the teachings of the acaryas, and is endeavoring to surrender themselves to the duty of repeating this knowledge without alteration, an accusation of ‘fundamentalism’ could serve as an indication of progress.

It is often misunderstood that only a spiritual personality as pure and empowered as His Divine Grace is qualified to speak Krishna’s message so plainly. While it is true that the degree of faith and conviction held by the speaker can determine the extent to which such faith is transferred to others, it is not a recursive conclusion that it is necessary for one with less faith to adopt any other means of communication. In fact, the habit of primarily relying upon mental abilities can shift the consciousness of the speaker from the endeavour to humbly represent the disciplic succession to a conception apart from being instrumental. In chapter eleven of the Gita, Krishna recommends the wise path of understanding oneself to be only an instrument in His hands:

“Therefore get up. Prepare to fight and win glory. Conquer your enemies and enjoy a flourishing kingdom. They are already put to death by My arrangement, and you, O Savyasaci, can be but an instrument in the fight. Drona, Bhisma, Jayadratha, Karna and the other great warriors have already been destroyed by Me. Therefore, kill them and do not be disturbed. Simply fight, and you will vanquish your enemies in battle.”

For a devotee whose utmost concern is to understand what his specific duty is, the words of Srila Prabhupada in the subsequent purport could be very fulfilling:

“Every plan is made by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but He is so kind and merciful to His devotees that He wants to give the credit to His devotees who carry out His plan according to His desire. Life should therefore move in such a way that everyone acts in Krsna consciousness and understands the Supreme Personality of Godhead through the medium of a spiritual master. The plans of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are understood by His mercy, and the plans of the devotees are as good as His plans. One should follow such plans and be victorious in the struggle for existence.”

Srila Prabhupada further explains this concept in regards to preaching in the following excerpt from a Bhagavad-Gita lecture given in 1973:

“If we are really Krsna conscious, then our business is to repeat the words of Krsna. That’s all. What is the difference between a Krsna’s representative and non-representative? The representative of Krsna will simply repeat what Krsna says. That’s all. He becomes representative. It doesn’t require much qualification. You simply repeat with firm conviction. As Krsna says, sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja. So one who has accepted this fact, that, “If I surrender to Krsna, my all business is successful,” he is Krsna’s representative. That’s all.”

The example that Srila Prabhupada set for us is lucidly enunciated. He demonstrated, for our benefit, the mentality and behavior of a true disciple. He also instructed us directly in the principles of discipleship: “Any opinion different from the opinion of the spiritual master is useless. One cannot infiltrate materially concocted ideas into spiritual advancement. That is deviation.” In purport after purport he encourages and assists us to develop our Krishna Consciousness with faith and knowledge thus steering us securely beyond the extremes of sentiment, actual fanaticism and mental speculation which can occur when either element is missing.

“Govinda is very, very difficult to understand by mental speculation, philosophical theses. Philosophical theses, speculation, without religion, simply waste of time. And religion without philosophical basis is sentiment. They must be combined together. So Bhagavad-gita is that, religion, combined with philosophy. If you simply take philosophy, it is dry speculation, no juice. Carvita-carvananam, chewing the chewed. There is no benefit. And if you simply take religion without basis of philosophy, then it is fanaticism, that’s all. So both should be combined, religion, based on philosophy and logic. That is religion. So that combination is Bhagavad-gita.”



From a lecture given by Srila Prabhupada in London, 1969 (transcribed as the Introduction to Sri Isopanisad)

Bhagavad-gita 11.33-34

Bhagavad-gita 11.34 Purport

Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 1.20 — London, July 17, 1973 : Just before this, Srila Prabhupada said: “As it is stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, sva-vid-varahostra kharaih. What is that verse? Ustra-kharaih, samstutah purusah pasuh. They…. in this world we see there are many great men, so-called great men, and they are very much praised by the general people. So Bhagavata says, that anyone who is not a devotee, who never chants the Hare Krsna mantra, he may be very great man in the estimation of rascals, but he is nothing but an animal. Sva-vid-varaha-ustra-kharaih. ” So how you can say such a great man. You are saying that animal.” Our business is very thankless task. We say any man who is not a devotee, he is rascal. We say generally. It is very harsh word, but we have to use it. As soon as we see that he is not a devotee of Krsna, then he’s a rascal. How do we say? He is not my enemy, but we have to say because it is stated by Krsna.”

Sri Caitanya Caritamrita – Adi Lila Chapter 12 texts 9-12:

keha ta’ acarya ajnaya, keha ta’ svatantra
sva-mata kalpana kare daiva-paratantra

Some of the disciples strictly accepted the orders of the acarya, and others deviated, independently concocting their own opinions under the spell of daivi-maya.
This verse describes the beginning of a schism. When disciples do not stick to the principle of accepting the order of their spiritual master, immediately there are two opinions. Any opinion different from the opinion of the spiritual master is useless. One cannot infiltrate materially concocted ideas into spiritual advancement. That is deviation. There is no scope for adjusting spiritual advancement to material ideas.

acaryera mata yei, sei mata sara
tanra ajna langhi’ cale, sei ta’ asara

The order of the spiritual master is the active principle in spiritual life. Anyone who disobeys the order of the spiritual master immediately becomes useless.
Here is the opinion of Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami. Persons who strictly follow the orders of the spiritual master are useful in executing the will of the Supreme, whereas persons who deviate from the strict order of the spiritual master are useless.
asarera name ihan nahi prayojana
bheda janibare kari ekatra ganana

There is no need to name those who are useless. I have mentioned them only to distinguish them from the useful devotees.
dhanya-rasi mape yaiche patna sahite
pascate patna udana samskara karite

Paddy is mixed with straw at first, and one must fan it to separate the paddy from the straw.

This analogy given by Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami is very appropriate. In the case of the Gaudiya Matha members, one can apply a similar process. There are many disciples of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, but to judge who is actually his disciple, to divide the useful from the useless, one must measure the activities of such disciples in executing the will of the spiritual master. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura tried his best to spread the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to countries outside India. When he was present he patronized the disciples to go outside India to preach the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, but they were unsuccessful because within their minds they were not actually serious about preaching His cult in foreign countries; they simply wanted to take credit for having gone to foreign lands and utilize this recognition in India by advertising themselves as repatriated preachers. Many svamis have adopted this hypocritical means of preaching for the last eighty years or more, but no one could preach the real cult of Krsna consciousness all over the world. They merely came back to India falsely advertising that they had converted all the foreigners to the ideas of Vedanta or Krsna consciousness, and then they collected funds in India and lived satisfied lives of material comfort. As one fans paddy to separate the real paddy from useless straw, by accepting the criterion recommended by Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami one can very easily understand who is a genuine world-preacher and who is useless.

Bhagavad-gita 4.9 Purport : “One should therefore cultivate Krsna consciousness with faith and knowledge, and in this way attain perfection.”

Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 7.1 — Ahmedabad, December 4, 1970


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