A Letter to the Editor of the Navbharat TimesA Letter to the Editor of the Navbharat Times
Kovvur - Ramananda Raya and Mahaprabhu's meeting place on the Godavari RiverKovvur
By Published On: May 17, 2024Tags: , 4.6 min read

Overview

In this letter, Gaura Gopāla Dāsa answers the question of a young devotee about whether or not to read the books of a certain sādhu, how the guru establishes which books a disciple should study, and how approaching the Absolute Truth is a 'heart-pursuit', not a 'head-pursuit'.

We are actually quite selective when it comes to what we read. This is coming from the mood of the ācāryas in our line. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu has mentioned the phrase sato-vṛtte – following in the mood of the guru. All the ācāryas in our line including my own guru, Śrīla Narasiṅgha Mahārāja, have laid out what literature is most essential for their disciples to read. All these personalities have a very clear understanding of the Gauḍīya siddhānta which is corroborated throughout their writings and the evidence drawn from the wider śāstra. There is no difference of opinion in this line. The more you look, the more you realise what an ocean of knowledge is out there and much of it is in disagreement with everything else. What has been drawn down by Veda Vyāsa is an ocean, but there is something for everyone in there. Do you want to eat meat? Here’s how you can do it ritualistically without incurring too much karma. Do you want a good wife? Here’s how to go about that according to dharma. Even in the Bhagavadgītā, Śrī Kṛṣṇa offers Arjuna the knowledge of so many paths – jñāna-yoga, karma-yoga etc. But in the end, He tells Arjuna:

sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ

Totally abandoning all kinds of religion, surrender exclusively unto Me. I will liberate you from all kinds of sins, so do not despair. (Bhagavad-gītā 18.66)

We are interested in this – the path that is straight as an arrow and most heartfelt in its approach. This is also why we are followers of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. On the one hand, it seems like a very simple process that is being delineated in His teachings – just chant the Names of Kṛṣṇa, everything is in the Name. But this is also the conclusion of the Bhāgavatam which is the essence of Vedānta Sūtra, and is speaking for those born in Kali-yuga.

nāma-saṅkīrtanaṁ yasya sarva-pāpa praṇāśanam
praṇāmo duḥkha-śamanas taṁ namāmi hariṁ param

I offer my obeisance unto the Supreme Lord, Hari. By engaging in saṅkīrtana of His Names, all impiety is destroyed. By offering of obeisances unto him, all suffering is removed. (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 12. 13.23)

But Śrī Caitanya is not just coming to give the Name of Kṛṣṇa as the all in all for Kali-yuga as put forth in the eight prayers of His Śikṣāṣṭakam, but also to harmonise the many schools of thought starting with Buddha, Śaṅkara, Madhva and Rāmānuja. That is Acintya-bhedhābheda-tattva (the philosophy of simultaneous oneness and difference). There is an agreement that the impersonal aspect of the Supreme is real and the personal aspect is also real. We are one with Bhagavān, we are His energy, we share many of the same qualities as Him, but also, we are different in that we are finite jīva souls. The qualities of Brahman, Paramātmā and Bhagāvan are established, and in Mahāprabhu’s conversations with Rāmānanda Rāya, we find the deeper exploration of who is Bhagavān and what relationship is possible with Him which culminates in a discussion of rasa.

All this is to say that we don’t read the books of ______ and many others. Although they may claim to have some appreciation for Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda, they do not consider him primary in any sense. They are on a quest for knowledge above all else and in that quest they only place emphasis on ancient ācāryas and ignore the contributions of contemporary ācāryas without whom they themselves would be nowhere.

We are looking to become part of the family of Kṛṣṇa, but that starts here in the family of our guru and like-minded saṅga. Many people feel that with their own limited intelligence they can re-interpret everything and represent it themselves better than any contemporary ācārya. We are connected to a specific lineage of living gurus and that comes to the present day where we are trying to trace the hand of Kṛṣṇa through the hearts of our gurus. This conception of approaching the Absolute Truth is a ‘heart-pursuit’ not a ‘head-pursuit.’ We accept as much knowledge as necessary to clear our doubts, but understand that the pursuit of knowledge itself means there is doubt in the heart that needs to be cleared. Knowledge can only take us so far. Ultimately, we are after real, deep śraddhā (faith). This is what we are trying to cultivate in our relationship with Kṛṣṇa and our gurus. In our own pursuit of knowledge, we should always be checking ourselves, “Why am I searching here? What is my purpose?” Paramātmā is within all of us and He knows what is in our heart, if we are truly sincere then we will not be cheated. That is His promise.

I know that was a long answer, but I do not like simply to tell people that we don’t read so and so’s books. That type of answer is also given by fanatics and sectarians.

Hoping this meets you well.

Gaura Gopāla Dāsa

Related Articles & Books

Further Reading

A Letter to the Editor of the Navbharat TimesA Letter to the Editor of the Navbharat Times
Kovvur - Ramananda Raya and Mahaprabhu's meeting place on the Godavari RiverKovvur

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About the Author: Gaura Gopāla Dāsa

Avatar of Gaura Gopāla Dāsa
Gaura Gopāla Dāsa Brahmacārī was born in 1987 to Dhīra Lalitā Dāsī and Jagadīśvara Dāsa, both disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda. He first met his guru, Śrīlā B.G. Narasiṅgha Mahārāja in 1993 and took initiation from him in 1995. He joined his guru’s āśrama full time in 2000, serving in various capacities for over 20 years and recently moved to Vṛndāvana where he is serving at the Rupanuga Bhajan Ashram.
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