Question: I have read an article by a scholar (Mr. Jan Brzezinski, aka. Jagadānanda Dāsa/ Jagat) in which he suggests that Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has counterfeited three books; Caitanya Upaniṣad, Prema Vivarta and Navadvipa Śatakam. My question is: How much attention or credit should a practicing devotee give to the opinions of scholars. (See Appendix at the end of this article for the quote by Brzezinski)
Narasingha Maharaja: Scholarship, in and of itself, is no qualification for understanding Divinity or revelation. Those who go by the name ‘scholar’ are simply licking the jar of nectar from the outside. Thus they have no capacity to understand divine revelation.
All too often, scholars want to study some books and through the acquisition of knowledge they want to be recognised as an authority of a particular spiritual tradition. However, without actually following spiritual principles they cannot do so. In particular, the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava tradition mandates that one take shelter of the spiritual master and remain under his instruction. This is an indispensable instruction for those who want to become successful in spiritual life.
guru-pādāśrayas tasmāt kṛṣṇa-dīkṣādi-śikṣaṇam
viśrambheṇa guroḥ sevā sādhu-vartmānuvartanam
“Submissively taking shelter of the feet of the guru, receiving initiation and spiritual training regarding Kṛṣṇa, serving the guru with affection and zeal, and following in the path of sādhus (saints). These are indispensable parts of bhakti.” (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 74)
Neglecting this instruction and simply becoming a scholar will not make one spiritually advanced. Scholarship alone is but a fruitless glory.
Divine revelation is a subjective experience and unless one is steadfast under the shelter (āśraya) of guru, divine revelation does not descend. One must have full faith in the guru before one can understand the truth. This is concurred by all ācāryas and throughout the Vedic literature, Upaniṣads, Purāṇas and so forth.
yasya deve parā bhaktir yathā deve tathā gurau
tasyaite kathitā hy arthāḥ prakāśante mahātmanaḥ
“Only unto those great souls who have complete faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed.” (Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 6.38)
What the Vaiṣṇavas call divine revelation, the scholars, like Mr. Brzezinski, prefer to call “counterfeiting.” Counterfeiting suggests cheating, which is certainly a material defect, or a “human failing” as Brzezinski points out. But what Brzezinski seems to have failed to understand, despite his studies, is that the pure devotee of Kṛṣṇa is above the material defects of bhrama, pramāda, vipralipsā, karaṇāpāṭava (mistake, illusion, cheating and defective perception).
bhrama pramāda vipralipsā karaṇāpāṭava
ārṣa-vijña-vākye nāhi doṣa ei saba
“Mistakes, illusions, cheating and defective perception do not occur in the words of the authoritative sages.” (Cc. Ādi. 2.86)
There are indeed many defects in this material world. Certainly the material bodies of all living beings are defective. Even the pure devotee has to pass stool. However, because the pure devotee is fully surrendered to the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord all his apparent defects are ignored and the Supreme Lord accepts him as His very own. Indeed, the Supreme Lord even embraces the so-called material body (even diseased body) of his pure devotee. Such was the case with Sanātana Gosvāmī who was embraced by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
more nā chuṅiha prabhu paḍoṅ tomāra pāya
eke nīca-jāti adhama āra kaṣṭu-rasā gāya
“My Lord, please do not touch me. I fall at your lotus feet. I am the lowest of men, having been born of a low caste. Besides that, I have infections on my body.” (Cc. Antya. 4.20)
balātkāre prabhu tāṅre āliṅgana kaila
kaṇḍu-kleda mahāprabhura śrī-aṅge lāgila
“Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, however, embraced Sanātana Gosvāmī by force. Thus the moisture oozing from the itching sores touched the transcendental body of Śrī Caitanya.” (Cc. Antya. 4.21)
prabhu kahe vaiṣṇava-deha prākṛta kabhu naya
aprākṛta deha bhaktera cid-ānanda-maya
“Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu said, ‘The body of a devotee is never material. It is considered to be transcendental. Full of spiritual bliss.’” (Cc. Antya. 4.191)
dīkṣā-kāle bhakta kare ātma-samarpaṇa
sei-kāle kṛṣṇa tāre kare ātma-sama
“Mahāprabhu continued, ‘At the time of initiation, when a devotee fully surrenders unto the service of the Lord, Kṛṣṇa accepts him to be as good as Himself.’” (Cc. Antya. 4.192)
The Supreme Lord can ignore the apparent defects of the pure devotee and embrace him to His heart but the scholars, because they lack faith in God, cannot do so.
Perfection cannot be found in the objective study of this material world or in the objective study of the pure devotee or the Supreme Lord. When seen with the eye of empirical knowledge even God Himself is seen to have so many ‘failings.’ Therefore, perfection can only be seen with the subjective eye or with subjective knowledge. As Śrīla Prabhupāda used to say, “Don’t see the tree, see Kṛṣṇa.”
To the scholar this may appear as a type of self-imposed hypnosis, but in reality it is the scholar who is under the hypnosis of the material energy and it is the pure devotee who is able to see the truth, by the grace of Hari, Guru, and Vaiṣṇava.
If one considers the pure devotee (or guru) as an ordinary mortal, all his endeavours to know the truth are a useless waste of time. This is the main defect in the scholars.
kiṁ ca satyāṁ bhūyasyām api bhaktau, gurau manuṣya-buddhitve sarvam eva vyarthaṁ bhavatīty āha yasyeti sākṣād bhagavatīti bhagavad-aṁśa-buddhir api gurau na kāryeti bhāvaḥ
“It is most important to understand that even if someone performs intense devotional practices to the Lord, it is a useless waste of time if he considers his guru to be an ordinary mortal. This is pointed out in this verse. The words sākṣād-bhagavatī clearly means that the spiritual master must be considered to be the Supreme Lord Himself and not even a mere expansion of Him.” (Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda in his commentary to the Bhāgavatam 7.15.26)
However, scholars do not like to admit that there is actually anyone who is above their own misgivings. To the scholars, spirituality is more or less an intellectual exercise. And śraddhā or faith (the very foundation of spiritual life) is considered by scholars to be a mental conjecture. Being the victims of a poor fund of knowledge the scholars do not know that śraddhā (faith) is a spiritual substance more real than all their empirical knowledge and research combined.
Mr. Brzezinski states that he thinks that Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has counterfeited three books: Caitanya Upaniṣad, Prema Vivarta and Navadvipa Śatakam. As evidence Brzezinski says that the falsity of the books is obvious in that they were “found by chance in mysterious circumstances only to disappear again” and that “the text contains elements of language and content that not only point to a modern origin, but to the very person who claims to have found the manuscript.”
That Brzezinski finds fault with the ‘mysterious circumstances’ surrounding Bhaktivinoda’s discovery seems in itself a strange complaint for one who has supposedly studied Indian spiritual traditions. Indeed, ‘mysterious’ is a circumstance that surrounds almost all Divine occurrences in India or for that matter all Divine occurrences throughout the whole world.
There is an example in the Śrī sampradāya of the loss of and then the later rediscovery of the 4000 verses of the Prabandhams written by the Āḷvārs in ancient times, which is certainly mysterious. All but ten verses of the 4000 Prabandhams (the Tamil Veda) had been lost for many centuries. One day in the village of Kattumannar Koil, the celebrated Vaiṣṇava, Nāthamuni heard a group of devotees chanting ten beautiful hymns in Tamil. As he listened, he discovered that the name of the author was Śaṭakopa (Nammāḷvār) and that the ten verses that the devotees recited were only a part of the original 1000 stanzas. Nāthamuni then questioned the devotees but they knew virtually nothing, except that if he went to the town of Tirukurugur maybe someone there could help him.
On reaching Tirukurugur, Nāthamuni went door-to-door inquiring from all the inhabitants of that place, but to no avail. Finally, one man told him that he should question a local mendicant whose name was Parāṅkuśa Dāsar. Prostrating before Parāṅkuśa Dāsar, Nāthamuni told him of his mission and asked him for help. Parāṅkuśa Dāsar explained that the hymns were known as the Prabandhams and had been composed by great devotees centuries before, but in time they had become lost. In order to retrieve them, Nāthamuni was told by Parāṅkuśa Dāsar to recite the prayers of Madhurakavi praising Nammāḷvār 20,000 times. Parāṅkuśa Dāsar had procured a copy of these ancient hymns and he readily gave them to Nāthamuni with the further instruction that he should recite them under Nammāḷvār’s tamarind tree in Tirunagari.
Nāthamuni performed this penance and on completion he was blessed with the vision of Nammāḷvār. The Alvar inquired why Nāthamuni was engaging in such austerities. Nāthamuni answered, “You who opened the inner-eye of Madhurakavi! You who gave the essence of the Vedas in Tamil! You who are called Śaṭakopan! Please bless me by revealing these 1000 hymns.” Nammāḷvār informed Nāthamuni that there were in fact 4000 hymns, not 1000, and went on to teach him all the Prabandhams of the Āḷvārs, along with their esoteric meanings.
After learning the Prabandhams, Nāthamuni went on to codify them into four sections and put them to music according to the instructions of Nammāḷvār. (Note: Nammāḷvār had been deceased for about 4000 years at the time of Nāthamuni)
This short story from Śrī Vaiṣṇava tradition, is certainly mysterious. The fact is that there is no empirical evidence that such a revelation ever occurred to Nāthamuni or that the Āḷvārs actually composed the Prabandhams in the first place. Verifiable or not, the 4000 verses of the Prabandhams currently exist and they are accepted by all Śrī Vaiṣṇavas as having been written by the Āḷvārs.
If maintaining the original document of any given literature were necessary proof of origin then where is the proof that Vyāsadeva wrote the Vedas, Purāṇas, Mahābhārata, and so on? Unfortunately, the original manuscripts of Vyāsadeva do not exist, yet only a ‘doubting Thomas’ has reservations about who actually wrote the Vedas.
It seems that the scholars should have realised by now that the people in India (especially in the past) were not at all concerned with preserving original materials other than the Deity. What they were concerned with however, and which is far more lasting, is the tradition of the guru-disciple succession – that being a living thing.
It is doubtful that Śrīla Bhaktivinoda found the original Caitanya Upaniṣad written by the hand of Vyāsadeva. If so it would have been close to 5000 years old. In all likelihood the text that Bhaktivinoda received must have been very old and in poor condition. Considering this as a possibility, after its publication the original document may well have been consecrated to the ocean or the Gaṅgā as was the practice in India for thousands of years or the text may even have been returned to its original owner. Have the scholars taken the time and trouble to find out or are they simply being carried away by their assumptions?
What we do know is that it is mentioned by the biographers of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura that, “Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda of village Choṭimaṅgalpura in Kendrapara District, Orissa, also collected the Śrī Caitanya Upaniṣad of the Paippalāda branch from Paṇḍita Madhusūdana Dāsa of Sambalpura, Orissa, publishing it in 1887 (the same year as its discovery).
It is peculiar why Brzezinski has suggested that the Caitanya Upaniṣad contains elements of language that point to a modern origin when in fact the text of the Caitanya Upaniṣad is written in classical Sanskrit with svara (only taught in South India), which is not practiced even in Bengal. We have shown the text of Caitanya Upaniṣad to several Sanskrit scholars at the Sanskrita-Saṁśodhana-Saṁsat Academy of Sanskrit Research in South India and their comments were the same, “The text is in perfect Vedic Sanskrit and the svara shows its origin to be from antiquity.”
It is also interesting to note that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura himself had only a modest knowledge, no formal training, of Sanskrit. Bhaktivinoda received some tutoring in Sanskrit from Ishvara Chandra Vidyasagara and Satyendranatha Tagore in Calcutta in 1874 and then began some writings in Sanskrit. So it is unlikely, given his limited experience in Sanskrit, that Bhaktivinoda would ever have written such a classical Sanskrit text with svara as Caitanya Upaniṣad.
That the Prema Vivarta has elements of the Bengali of Bhaktivinoda’s time is also not surprising. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura published his books for the benefit of the devotees at large and could easily have changed some of the grammar to suit his audience. This is called editing, not cheating or lying as Brzezinski suggests. The same is true of Navadvīpa Śatakam, written in Sanskrit of the Bengali style.
In any case we are happy with the conclusion of many senior Vaiṣṇavas that Bhaktivinoda received many of his writings via divine revelation.
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was a highly qualified ācārya and as such, nothing to date has been substantially shown to stain his spotless record. Only the limited ability of the scholars to understand divine revelation seems to be the real issue at hand (the ‘masī bindu’ is on the scholars).
In this regard one may be interested to hear what Sarasvatī Ṭhākura had to say regarding divine revelation, as opposed to the comparative study of religion by modern scholars.
Sarasvatī Ṭhākura: “Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya insists on the transcendence of the worship of Godhead with an emphasis that distinguishes His teaching from that of all the prophets and teachers of religion. The mystery of the worship of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, taught and practiced by Him and His followers, is unapproachable by any mundane contrivance. It is for overlooking this fundamental consideration that the comparative study of religion by modern scholars has so utterly failed to produce unanimity of conviction. It is high time to pay our best attention to the proper method of approaching the transcendence which is part and parcel of the revelations.” (The Harmonist, Statement of Purpose, Sept. 9, 1935)
Furthermore, one may be interested to hear what Śrīla B.R. Śrīdhara Maharaja had to say about this matter.
Śrīdhara Maharaja: That (Caitanya Upaniṣad) may not be found anywhere. This detail also, Brahma-saṁhitā is not to be found, it is taken by Caitanyadeva. It is written by Caitanyadeva? Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has written and we do not find any book by Caitanyadeva. If Brahma-saṁhitā comes from Him, then we are very much proud and we are satisfied that He has left at least one book. But Jīva Gosvāmī has shown, written, that there was really Brahma-saṁhitā, with one hundred chapters and this is one chapter out of that.
Devotee: Prema Vivarta was written by Bhaktivinoda, somebody told, not Jagadānanda.
Śrīdhara Maharaja: “If we can think that the teachings of Śrī Caitanyadeva are the highest, full-fledged theism as told by Prabhupāda and Bhāgavata is the highest development, then that has got reality, that is true, that cannot but be true. Whatever is felt, any more, any single division, that is generally bona-fide. That is the only truth. That the revealed truth means that thousands and thousands of years back it was revealed in some ṛṣi and that the revelation cannot come at present. I don’t think like that. Any time the revelation may come to support this highest form of theism, whatever the revelation. I also told that this Jaiva Dharma, it is fictitious, but I think that these things actually must have been true, found in the creation. When it has come in the consciousness of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, it is not contradictory. It is floating and sometimes appearing and sometimes disappearing. It is all eternal truth. Hare Kṛṣṇa. Gaura-Haribol. Nitāi-Gaura!” (Darśana, Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Maṭha, July 20, 1983)
Devotee: That deals more philosophically. He deals philosophically in that book, Prema Vivarta.
Śrīdhara Maharaja: Yes, many things in the name of Gaurāṅga, association mentioned there which helps much for the propaganda of Gauḍīya Maṭha. So a particular section, the opposition camp of Gauḍīya Maṭha they say that in the name of Jagadānanda this is written by Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. Their opinion is such because that book supports Gauḍīya Maṭha decision very well. Just as the sahajiyā section they think that when we live in Purī, the mahā-prasāda, no observance of Ekādaśī necessary. In Caitanya–caritāmṛta it is found. So when there is mahā–prasāda, even Ekādaśī day we should not fast, take mahā-prasāda. But in Jagadānanda Paṇḍita’s Prema Vivarta it is clearly written that Mahāprabhu was offered mahā–prasādam, but He touched it on His head and He kept it respectfully and the whole day and night chanted saṅkīrtana, then after that He took that prasādam. It is mentioned there.
Similarly many things which are very helpful for the preachers of the Gauḍīya Maṭha – it is found there (Prema Vivarta) proof positive. So one Professor Majumdar, one scholar he was university professor. Perhaps he came from the sahajiyā family or so. At least he accepted something of Mahāprabhu but he could not tolerate the criticism of the sahajiyā section from Gauḍīya Maṭha. So he has written a book and there he has mentioned carefully, very cleverly, who has written this book (Prema Vivarta) is not clearly known, but what the Gauḍīya Maṭha people they preach, they have got full support from this book (Prema Vivarta). (Darśana, Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Maṭha, Feb. 11,1982)
Historically it looks like the sahajiyā section was the first to lodge a complaint against the authorship of Prema Vivarta and the scholars simply picked up on the argument later on.
However, Śrīla Śrīdhara Maharaja fully supported the idea that Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura received many of his writings via divine revelation and not by the process of speculation, intellectual achievement, or mental conjecture. What Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura wrote throughout his books exists in eternity and Bhaktivinoda has received that through divine revelation.
We accept the opinion of Śrīla Śrīdhara Maharaja as regards the divine revelation of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura because we feel that Śrīla Śrīdhara Maharaja’s opinion has its roots in higher realisation. The realisations of Śrīla Śrīdhara Maharaja were, in fact many times confirmed in the presence of his guru and in later years by senior Vaiṣṇavas. Should we accept the opinions of conditioned souls (scholars) or should we accept the opinions of the tattva-darśīs, (Bg. 4.34) those who have seen the truth? Our choice is obvious – we accept the tattva-darśīs.
Some scholars conjecture that although Kavirāja Gosvāmī narrates in his Caitanya-caritāmṛta that Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu found the text of Brahma-saṁhitā being recited at the Ādi Keśava temple in the remote village of Tiruvattar, near Kanya Kumari, that it was actually Śrī Caitanya who wrote the Brahma-saṁhitā in order to give support to His own conception of Kṛṣṇa. This view is commonly held among modern scholars.
Thus according to scholars the revered Kavirāja Gosvāmī was also a liar as Brzezinski suggests of Bhaktivinoda. One might wonder if Brzezinski would agree with his fellow scholars that the integrity of Kavirāja Gosvāmī was also not above suspicion. Indeed, Brzezinski does think exactly that. In another of his articles, Prabodhānanda Sarasvati – From Banaras to Braj on the identity of Prabodhānanda and Prakāśānanda, Brzezinski states that the story of the conversion of Prakāśānanda as told by Kavirāja Gosvāmī “cannot be accepted as entirely true.”
Thus Brzezinski joins hands with a host of mundane scholars and ridicules the most revered biographer of the pastimes of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Not only does Brzezinski belittle Kavirāja Gosvāmī, but he indirectly belittles the Supreme Lord for it is the admission of Kavirāja Gosvāmī that he does not write Caitanya-caritāmṛta. Kavirāja Gosvāmī says that Caitanya-caritāmṛta is the dictation of Śrī Madana-mohana.
ei grantha lekhāya more madana-mohana
āmāra likhana yena śukera paṭhana
“Actually Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta is not my writing but the dictation of Śrī Madana-mohana. My writing is like the repetition of a parrot.”
What we find lacking in some scholars, rather than lacking in our ācāryas, is their own integrity. Are the scholars unbiased souls in search of truth or do they have some agenda, such as to destroy the very fibre of Divinity, the very fibre of the Gauḍīya sampradāya? My suspicion is that their motives are something other than pure.
It is interesting to note that many of the arguments that Brzezinski presents against the Gauḍīya Maṭha and Iskcon sampradāyas are almost identical to those found in an essay written by the scholar Sundarānanda Vidyāvinoda. This scholar was a disciple of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, but he later rejected his guru and vilified the Gauḍīya Maṭha and its founder. One might wonder if Brzezinski has taken his arguments directly from Sundarānanda Vidyāvinoda, or whether he was tutored by someone who was familiar with such arguments?
The various complaints that Brzezinski makes in his articles against Gauḍīya Maṭha and Iskcon, such as Yogapīṭha not being the real birth site of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, sannyāsa not being authorised for Kali-yuga, whether or not Sarasvatī Ṭhākura was actually initiated by Gaura Kiśora Dāsa Bābājī, Bhaktivinoda having presented false literature, the Gauḍīya sampradāya not having an actual link with the Madhva sampradāya and more, are for the most part all reiterations of arguments made against the Gauḍīya Maṭha almost 60 years ago by Sundarānanda Vidyāvinoda. By comparison it begins to look like Brzezinski is the reincarnation of Sundarānanda Vidyāvinoda.
Indeed, in more ways than one, Brzezinski is in a position quite like that of Sundarānanda. Unfortunately, in the same way as Sundarānanda rejected his guru (Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta) so Brzezinski (once Hiraṇyagarbha Dāsa) also rejected his guru (Śrīla Prabhupāda). Brzezinski rejected his guru shortly after the disappearance of Śrīla Prabhupāda. Having rejected Śrīla Prabhupāda, Brzezinski took initiation from Lalitā Prasāda. Brzezinski took bābājī-vesa and siddha–praṇālī from Lalitā Prasāda, but later gave that up to become a family man and a scholar. And now it seems that Brzezinski is also rejecting Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, the guru of Lalitā Prasāda.
It is mentioned in the Purāṇas and also stated by Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī that one who rejects his guru is as good as an atheist.
bodhaḥ kaluṣitas tena daurātmyaṁ prakaṭī-kṛtam
gurur yena parityaktas tena tyaktaḥ purā hariḥ
“One pollutes his own intelligence and exhibits severe weakness of character when he rejects his own spiritual master. Indeed, such a person has factually already rejected Lord Hari.” (Bhakti–sandarbha, Annucheda 207 quoting Brahma-vaivarta Purāṇa)
Our humble thinking is that only the opinions of pure devotees (ācāryas) and the opinions of the faithful disciples of such ācāryas are of any value to the practicing devotees. Let the so-called scholars first surrender to the lotus feet of Śrī Guru and Kṛṣṇa. Then we may give some attention and credit to their opinions – otherwise not.
(quote from Jan Brzezinski, Bhaktivinoda’s Relationship With Vipina Vihāri Gosvāmī)
“However, three books that the Ṭhākura published as ancient works were almost certainly composed by him. These three – Caitanyopaniṣad (1887), Prema Vivarta (1906) and Navadvipa Śatakam (n.d.) have certain common characteristics – they were all connected to Caitanya Mahāprabhu and the glorification of his birthplace. The motives are fairly clear: the Ṭhākura was trying to promote Mahāprabhu’s birthplace and he did it in a fashion time-honored in India. He simply wrote the material he needed and attributed it to someone who had historical credibility. Rather than attributing his works to Vyāsa or Narottama Dāsa Ṭhākura as did the counterfeiters of the past, he used the names of Jagadānanda Paṇḍita and Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī.
“Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura did in fact publish many rare manuscripts of genuine Vaiṣṇava literature, such as Śrī Kṛṣṇa Vijaya, many padyāvalīs, etc. He was not the only one in his time who yielded to the temptation of counterfeiting. Nevertheless, I personally find it problematic that someone who contributed so much to the Vaiṣṇava religion, who worked so hard to instil a spirit of morality and honesty into Vaiṣṇavism, whose life was in general a monument of commitment to service to Mahāprabhu and His principles, who in his worldly life was a justice and so presumably knew a thing or two about ethics and the law, saw fit to take such a chance.
“Furthermore, in view of his familiarity with scholarly historical method, it is hard to understand how he thought that he could get away with it. Perhaps he thought his personal probity put him above suspicion. But did he really think that a single manuscript found by chance in mysterious circumstances only to disappear again after its publication would not cause people to examine the published text more carefully? And if that text contains elements of language and content that not only point to a modern origin, but to the very person who claims to have found the manuscript, will our suspicions not be confirmed?
“I can only say that in his enthusiasm to see Mahāprabhu’s birthplace be glorified and become a centre of pilgrimage – as it has indeed become – the Ṭhākura took a chance with his personal reputation and that of his religion. He succeeded in making Māyāpura a magnet for pilgrims from around the world. His disciples, grand-disciples and great-grand-disciples have succeeded in creating an environment that is quite extraordinary. Nevertheless, one cannot help but wonder at the masī-bindu that stains his otherwise sparkling white cloth. Can we not expect people to ask the question that naturally arises: How can a religion that needs lies to spread its message make any claims to be the truth.
“It does not give me pleasure to remind us, who are accustomed to thinking negatively of Vipina Vihāri Gosvāmī as someone who was rejected for his caste consciousness and bad habits like tobacco smoking, that he publicly renounced Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura as his disciple shortly before dying in 1919. The reason he gave for this drastic act was precisely for ‘preaching falsehoods’ connected to the birthplace of Caitanya Mahāprabhu. It is easy to condemn Vipina Vihāri Prabhu for having some self-interest in this matter, but the doubts that have been brought up in this article tend to give justification to the Gosvāmī.
“I find it rather painful to bring the matter up, and I do so in the full expectation of being heartily condemned, but I would like to see those who love the Holy Name and Caitanya Mahāprabhu face this problem head on, much in the way that Roman Catholics have decided to accept the terrible things in their history – things which are many times worse than those we have mentioned here – and still find a way to justify their faith.
“Faith has to be honest to be genuine, and such honesty has to extend to our forefathers, even those to whom we have attributed the highest spiritual perfection. It is a shock to accept that our divinities may have had human failings, but I think this is a necessary step in facing our own failings.
“Human psychology is such that we often compensate for our own human frailties by placing faith in someone else. We say, I am not perfect, but my guru is. I have no personal qualifications, but this does not matter because the paramparā is perfect. This is a psychological trick and results in ego-inflation. By identifying with the guru and the paramparā, we appropriate their perfection and their authority for ourselves. Unfortunately, this expands into the kind of distorted personal psychology that is not only historically present in Iskcon, but in many of the interactions between devotees who are otherwise sincere.”