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Gaudiya Vaishnavism in the modern world. Dealing with the varieties of challenges we face as practicing Gaudiyas amidst Western culture.

Western Gurus - The future of the orthodox tradition



Madhava - Mon, 25 Nov 2002 04:56:03 +0530
QUOTE(Nitai Das @ in another thread)
[ (From here.) So renunciation is not only for the sannyasi.† Moreover, teaching and establishing big institutions, or even small ones for that matter, is not for sannyasis.† Nor are they meant to be gurus.

Who is teaching to be done by then?† It is to be done by the householders.† That is why I think it is time that we householders stop letting the bamboozelers do our job for us.† How about it.† It is time for us householders to become the teachers and the gurus of the Caitanya tradition.† Those of us who have received proper initiation from one of the authentic lineages should be willing to pass that on to others.† How about it, Jagat?† Why not pass on those lovely mantra that you received from Lalita Prasad Thakur?† Radhapada?† There may be others out there, too, with authentic initiations who are qualified to initiate.† Why wait until one is a renunciant?† That is not what renunciation is for.† We have to shed this wrong idea that a guru should be a sannyasi or even a baba.† One does not have to be a siddha to be a good guru, either.† One merely has to be a faithful follower of the tradition, male or female, who is properly initiated.

This brings up a topic of concern. It is very likely that Westerners will have to take up the task of initiating people in the traditional parivaras in the future. I have my doubts over whether many mahatmas from the forest of Vraja are willing to leave their vraja-vasa and peaceful absorption in bhajan to fly all over the world every year and initiate people here and there. And at any rate, even if it were to happen that some mahatmas would choose to take the burden of flying around the world, it would still not solve the issue, because the world is big, and people need to meet someone more often than once a year for a week for their ongoing spiritual nourishment.

We may propose, "let everyone go to Vraja and meet the mahatmas there", but it is a fact that not so many are able to do that on a regular basis for whatever reason. Hence, as the religion of Sri Caitanya develops in the West over the decades to come, there is a definite need for Western-born / West-based initiating and instructing spiritual teachers. Why, we need one or more for each town and village!

It is obvious that the model adopted by ISKCON in which all gurus are under the supervision of a central governing body is a bad idea, for the very simple reason that a guru-disciple relationship is a personal matter, a question of heart rather than a question of law and supervision. I believe it will naturally evolve to a point in which serious, senior sadhakas will come to accept disciples in the area where they live.

Any further thoughts on this?
Madhava - Mon, 25 Nov 2002 17:10:14 +0530
QUOTE(Radhapada)
I think it is a wonderful idea of spreading the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition to the souls of this western part of the world by having experienced devotees give diksa to eligible candidates. How else will people be enabled to begin bhakti practice if they don't have diksa? It is truely sad to see so many people waste their human form of lives not serving Sri Radha-Krsna. I know that for some people the prospect of going to India to seek a Guru is quite daunting. But if someone was nearby to give them guidence and encouragement all the way through it is much more beneficial than to send someone to India for a few weeks and do a crash course in bhajan and come back with little or no sanga. Yes, Jagat, Nitai, Minaketana, Adwaita, the souls are crying in the ocean of material suffering.

To Nitai, as far as myself is concerned...I have to consult with my consciousness and Guru.

I am trying to export the guru-conversation to this thread to give it full attention and to leave the other one for the sannyasa-theme.
Mina - Tue, 26 Nov 2002 04:14:01 +0530
I am only familiar with ISKCON's guru by committee process from the period of a couple of years subsequent to Prabhupada's passing. †At that time it was not yet a rubber stamping of new gurus, rather a select group of successors that were doing initiations. †From what I have heard, the approach was meant to standardize the qualifications for initiating gurus. †Although such ideas might be suitable for formalized and hierarchical organizations, they have no place in the traditional Vaishnava community, where it is peer pressure that sets the bar for standards of conduct. †What Nitai and Madhavananda have discussed above is the adaptation of the dIkSA institution to the Western world. †In Indian communities, there is no reason for all initiated disciples to become gurus. †However, as Madhavananda has pointed out, in our culture where there are so few initiated Vaishnavas, it behooves every one of us to step up to the plate, so to speak. †Hence, anyone that has received initiation in a recognized line that can be traced back directly to a direct associate of Sri Caitanya and that has been doing sAdhanA for several years, along with sufficient knowledge of the standard canonical texts, is adequately qualified to give initiation to others. †There really is no set timeframe for how long it takes a person to become ready to fulfill the role of mantra guru and/or instructing guru (zikSA). †In fact, one may never actually feel that they have advanced far enough on the path. †That however should not stop them from taking on that responsibility. †They may simply initiate with mantras and instruct their disciples in pUjA and send them to a more senior Vaishnava for instruction in smaraNam when the time comes. †In fact, taking instruction from other Vaishnavas as zikSA gurus, as long as they are practicing according to the tradition and not inimical towards sAdhus, should not at all be discouraged. †That in itself will set our gurus apart from those institutional gurus that tend to harbor jealousy towards other gurus and therefore discourage getting instruction from any source other than themselves. †

Nitai is putting together a handbook of initiation, which will specify the various requirements for harinAma initiation and mantra dIkSA (gayatrI). †He will, as time goes by, be citing Sundarananda's book on the guru ("Vaishnava-siddhante-sri-guru-svarupa"), which is an excellent compendium of all of the various original sources on the subject, including "Hari-bhakti-vilasa". †His audience is more those that have no prior experience with Vaishnavism, rather than focussing on those that were formerly in ISKCON or Gaudiya Math. †After all, it is not our purpose to recruit directly from those institutions. †Also, they would not appreciate any such activity, and although we may not agree with their brand of Vaishnavism, we still need to be respectful of their right to practice in the manner they choose.

Hopefully, all initiated disciples will eventually take on the role of guru. †In some cases that might even be within a couple of years of receiving it themselves, and if necessary, perhaps shortly after getting initiated themselves. †There is no reason there should be a shortage of gurus available to give initiations anywhere in the world. †We should view that as a temporary situation that will in time be improved to the point of there being no need to travel to India to find a suitable guru. †It also should give us a competitive edge over institutions that artificially limit the number of gurus and the number of initiations given by them. †The system set up by Sri Caitanya Himself was primarily the householder gurus to pass on the mantle of guruhood in their family lineages. †So we can adapt that approach to our own culture with a combination of family lineages of gurus and non-familial lines, without any institution of sannyasa borrowed from the Sri Sampradaya or the Madhvaites. †Part of the scope of the activities of those guru lines will be to publish good quality translations of the standard texts and the commentaries by our AcAryas.

Nitai and I have also discussed establishing an equivalent of Radha Kund somewhere in the West, such as America, for elderly Vaishnavas to retire to for bhajan and live the lifestyle of the babajis. †It would also be a place for householders to go on retreats for those times when they are unable to afford the luxury in terms of time and money of going to Braj. †This is not an unrealistic goal. †After all, there are hundreds of such yoga ashrams dotting the landscape, which were established by various Indian gurus and their disciples.

Those of us initiated in the various lines coming from Nityananda, Advaita, Gadhadhara, Gopala Bhatta, etc. also have the advantage of being non-competitive and capable of spreading the movement in complete cooperation with each other. †We do not run the same danger as the above mentioned institutions of falling prey to destructive sectarianism and elitism. †We also have no need to butt heads with mAyAvAdIs or Buddhists. †We can explain our philosophical differences on the strength of the acintya-bhedAbheda-vAda doctrine without condemning the other schools of philosophy. †After all, their doctrines are part and parcel of our own, just viewed as incomplete or inconclusive by our AcAryas.

So those are some tentative thoughts on the topic. †Now is our time to sieze the day (carpe diem) and take on the role of architects of the future of Vaishnavism in the West. †If we leave that up to future generations, there may be no one to carry the proverbial torch.
Madhava - Tue, 26 Nov 2002 05:21:09 +0530
I would like to now examine two issues, namely personal feelings of disqualification and objective disqualification for initiating.

Nowadays it has become a trend to focus on the assumed personal perfection of the guru, which often is nothing but the projection of the disciple arisen out of the lofty words of the guru's immature followers. We might label this as imaginative perfection. "A guru should be a maha-bhagavata, my guru is a maha-bhagavata." I am certain we are all familiar with the rhetoric. However, more often than not the maha-bhagavatahood of the guru exists in words only, and consequently the proposed qualification for the guru is only so much wordmongering.

During my last visit at Radha Kund I had an insightful discussion with Ananta Das Pandit. I asked about the qualification of the guru, whether he should be a svarupa-siddha or so. In answering, he related how it is of course ideal if guru is of such high qualification, while stating that such a guru is very rare. He emphasized that I should not worry, because should it so happen that something is lacking in the vyasti-guru (localized guru), it will be supplied from the samasti-guru (collective guru) directly. Thus we may understand that the presence of gurutva in a person is the symbiosis of the manifestation of samasti-guru and a bhagavad-bhakta. To view the visible guru separate from the samasti-guru is to misunderstand the dynamic of guru-tattva. Hence the individual jiva acting in the capacity of guru need not fear or be in concern over his individual qualification as long as he undertands the ever-dependent nature of gurutva.

On the other hand, we do not wish for it to become a fiasco in which whimsical individuals bring about chaos in the lives of others. Though a guru-disciple relationship is not a subject matter to be brought under institutional jurisdiction, I believe it is nevertheless the duty of all sincere Vaishnavas to stop and prevent beforehand deeds of spiritual violence as far as possible. In other words, not every Tom, Dick and Harriet (even if ornamented with the suffix Das) should become a guru under the influence of sudden utsaha, which is flickering by nature. Though the practice under discussion is to be encouraged, it is to be encouraged in a mature manner, and for mature individuals who have their act firmly together in both material as well as spiritual life.
Mina - Tue, 26 Nov 2002 10:00:58 +0530
Those are important caveats, Madhavananda Ji. †Thanks for the input from Ananta Das Pandit. †The more guidance we can get from such senior Vaishnavas, the better plan we can put together.

Ultimately we will not be able to ensure that all those who take the role of guru will be successful, any more than we can guarantee that all those who become disciples will be good ones. †The best we can do is provide them with the most accurate knowledge about our tradition and make them fully aware of the serious nature of making disciples. †Maturity should come naturally, if they are indeed sincere. †Ego can always get in the way. †That is just a fact of life. †Hopefully everyone will make disciples for the right reasons and not for fame, wealth, etc.

There should be a higher level of responsibility attached to those giving initation with gayatrI mantras, as opposed to giving harinAma initiation with the mahA-mantra. †I think that someone should be in a position to give the harinAma initiation without necessarily being as advanced. †So, perhaps there will be a number of those that only initiate with harinAma and then send the disciples to more senior gurus for the gayatrI mantras and instruction in pUjA.


We need to discuss all of the relevant details and come to a consensus on best practices. †Having advanced senior gurus in India in the loop will be very advantageous, if we can swing it.
Radhapada - Tue, 26 Nov 2002 16:01:42 +0530
Regarding siksa I think that there should be some understanding of what type of siksa (instructions) one would enquire about from whom. Instructions regarding teachings in general could be directed to any senior or experienced Vaisnava in the tradition. Whereas siksa regarding details in bhajan is best to enquire from devotees within the same parivar. Any thoughts?
Madhava - Thu, 28 Nov 2002 04:57:46 +0530
Did you have any insights into giving siddha-pranali and so? That would, as far as I am acquainted with Ananta Das Pandit's concept of it, require quite a bit of expertise and realization in smarana. Perhaps this would be one of the items with which the initiate would generally be directed to a qualified mahatma steeped in bhajan in the holy dham?

QUOTE
There should be a higher level of responsibility attached to those giving initation with gayatrI mantras, as opposed to giving harinAma initiation with the mahA-mantra.† I think that someone should be in a position to give the harinAma initiation without necessarily being as advanced.† So, perhaps there will be a number of those that only initiate with harinAma and then send the disciples to more senior gurus for the gayatrI mantras and instruction in pUjA.

I have often noticed the trend that it is considered a breach of etiquette to accept diksa from another person if the harinama-guru is still present. Obviously in the scenario you present this idea would have to be renounced. I believe it is a healthy renunciation altogether, for an overly obsessive attitude over disciples is never a healthy sign. The consideration of providing the smoothest possible path of advancement for the aspirant must be on the foreground, and in fact, a priority over everything else.
Radhapada - Thu, 28 Nov 2002 18:19:04 +0530
QUOTE
Who is teaching to be done by then?† It is to be done by the householders.† That is why I think it is time that we householders stop letting the bamboozelers do our job for us.† How about it.† It is time for us householders to become the teachers and the gurus of the Caitanya tradition.† Those of us who have received proper initiation from one of the authentic lineages should be willing to pass that on to others.†


kurma name sei grame vaidika brahmana
bahu sraddha-bhaktye kaila prabhura nimantrana
ghare ani prabhura kaila pada praksalana
sei jala vamsa-sahita karila bhaksana
aneka-prakara sneha bhiksa karaila
gosanira sesana sa-vamse khaila
yei pada-padma tomara brahma dhyana kare
sei pada-padma saksat aila mora ghare
mora bhagyera sima na yaya kahana
aji mora slaghya haila janma-kula-dhana
krpa kara, prabhu, more, yan toma-sange
sahite na pari dukha visaya-tarange
prabhu kahe--aiche bat kabhu na kahiba
grhe rahi krsna nama nirantara laiba
yare dekha, tare kaha krsna upadesa
amara ajnaya guru hana tara ei desa
kabhu na badhibe tomara visaya-taranga
punarapi ei thani pabe mora sanga
ei mata yanra ghare kare bhiksa
sei aiche kahe, tanre karaya ei siksa


In one village there was a vaidi brahman named Kurma. With faith and devotion he offered an invitation to Prabhu (Lord Caitanya). After bringing Prabhu to his home, the brahmana washed His lotus feet. Him and his family then drank the water. With affection the brahmana offered Prabhu all kinds of food. The remanants were later eaten by the family members.

(Thereafter, the brahmana prayed) "Those lotus feet meditated upon by Brahma and now manifest before me in my home. It is not possible to describe the limit to my fortune. My birth, home and riches are now glorious. O Master, please show mercy on me and let me go with you. I can no longer tolerate the waves of worldy affairs."

Prabhu replied, "Never speak such words ever again. Stay at home and always chant the name of Krsna. Whomever you meet tell him teachings about Krsna. I order you to be a Guru and deliver the people of this land. The waves of worldy life will not hamper you. You will again attain My association here."
At whosever home the Master accepted alms that person would receive similar instructions.
(Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya lila, 7 122-130)
Madhava - Fri, 29 Nov 2002 07:02:30 +0530
With the excerpt above, Radhapada touches the gist of the issue, namely global integration of the bhakti-tradition.

One may propose it would be a better idea to just preach and teach the basic philosophy to people, then sending them to a holy dham to receive initiation from a bhajananandi-mahatma. After all, most Westerners can sooner or later afford to go to India for a visit. Why should there be a need for others to initiate? It sounds rather radical for a proposal.

However, quite to the contrary, it is not radical at all, rather it is a very traditional way to go. While traveling and preaching around, Narottama, Srinivasa and Syamananda didn't send everyone to Vraja to receive diksa from Jiva and others, they initiated people wherever they traveled, and the initiates in turn initiated others in their respective locales. Similarly Nityananda and Advaita initiated their parivars which spread out in all directions. Thus the bhakti-tradition has integrated into the society and become a permanent part of the religious scene in countless places outside the core centers of the Gaudiya tradition, namely Vraja and Navadvipa.

Observing the global integration of religion into foreign cultures, we may note a similar trend. It is a rare Christian who travels to Jerusalem for baptizement. In desiring to introduce the general public to the beautiful religion of Sri Caitanya, the necessity for gradually building full-fledged local Vaishnava communities is unavoidable. This will certainly enable people from all walks of life, not merely the determined seekers of prema, to gradually embrace the path of bhakti.
Jagat - Sun, 01 Dec 2002 18:34:12 +0530
I have also been arguing like this, as in my Vipramukhya's retirement article.
Mina - Sun, 01 Dec 2002 23:53:49 +0530
I am not so sure about recommending people travel to India for extended lengths of time, at least until we have built †some accommodations for them. †From what I am hearing, the conditions are severely harsh at present, with much illness in the picture. †What we need is an ashram that is not necessarily luxurious, but perhaps more like a Western type hotel in its level of facilities. †For example, if you stay at any tourist resort in Mexico, they make sure that all of the water and food is safe to eat and that you are not eaten alive by disease carrying mosquitoes, plus they have professionally run tours to the Mayan ruins and temples. †So, we could also provide guided tours of the dhama and scheduled visits to various senior Vaishnavas for a reasonable fee, and a portion of the profits would go to the sadhus and temples visited as donations. † It is perhaps too unreasonable to expect the locals to anticipate and accommodate the needs of foreigners, when they really have their main responsibility to maintain the dhama and their own temples. †It is perhaps also too much of an imposition upon them when Westerners stay among them and attempt to perform the severe austerities, such as nirjala (no food or water) vrata on Ekadasi and other holy days. †We can have professionally trained bilingual people act as cultural liaison types to prevent friction between Western Vaishnavas and the bhajananadis living at Radha Kund and surrounding areas. †ISKCON always had Madrasi Krishnadas Baba at Radha Kund to act in that capacity back in the 1970s. †Baba always had one of his disciples, a householder Goswami living at Radha Kund act as the officiating priest to perfrom the Radha Kund puja for all Western disciples. † We can have some designated brahmins, as directed by Ananta Das Pandit, who can serve in that capacity and receive a portion of donations. †That way we can avoid a free for all of Western devotees being assailed from all directions for donations.

Certainly the shastras state the it is ideal to eventually settle in Vrindavan to do bhajan full time, but we have to consider the logistics and practicality of that for the international Gaudiya community. †Any temple is inherently non-different from Braj, because the Deities reside there. †So any ashram we build outside of India will be non-different from Braj, as are devotee households that perfrom puja. †Pilgrimage to the holy places in India is one thing, but taking up permanent residence there or going for extended visits is quite another matter. †We should not view those sacred places as spiritual tourist attractions, otherwise the problems with unmanageable crowds will just get worse as time goes on and an offensive mentality can easily arise in connection with the dhama and visits there.

I speak from past experience, and I believe many here will agree based on their past experiences. †Things do not always go so smoothly in visiting India and the holy places and there are a number of approaches, some of which I have mentioned above, to addressing the various problems. †When we visited Mayan ruins on the Yucatan peninsula, there were always guides present to advise us on respecting the sites and not disturbing anything. †So there is no reason we cannot do something along the same lines.
Jagat - Mon, 02 Dec 2002 18:01:56 +0530
This is perfectly true. It is not practical in the long term. Ultimately we have to establish congregations, which requires a certain amount of expertise. Ideally, it means the ability to create an inviting milieu of ritual (kirtan and deity worship) accompanied by theological competence.

I would strongly advise only those householders who have a partner who is favorable to the project and who will work at accomplishing its goals to "go for it." Unless husband and wife are both on the same wavelength, the guru project is, I think, pretty much impossible.

However, it is necessary. Our physical gurus are not immortal. When they leave, we will have to ask ourselves what they wanted of us.
yAcaka - Sun, 01 Jun 2003 00:20:41 +0530
Dear Vaishnavas,

having read this thread, I was filled with a good feeling realising that there are devotees who seriously care for the future of Gaudiya Vaishnavism in the West. It gave me a lot of pleasure, hope and optimism.

May I ask if any of these ideas (initiating western gurus, Nitaiís handbook of initiation, local Vaishnava communities, ashram in India for Westerners) have been put into practice since the last posting?

Jaya Radhe,
A D R Singh - Sun, 01 Jun 2003 05:39:49 +0530
There have not been any established communities in the West so far. Seems that most devotees are still dealing with the struggle for existence combined with their devotionalism.

I think as Jagat said unless both husband and wife are on the same wavelenght, the project of western initiating guru would be awkward, but if a person has faith in a devotee, then the initiation could still take place.

I've heard that the guru and disciple should observe each other for a year before they enter into the initiaton contract. I don't know how effective the internet method of observation would be in this regard, maybe someone can share their thoughts. I think it would be best personal as far as possible, so that both sides be convinced of the other's sincerity.

In Ananta baba's purport of the Prema Bhakti Chandrika, he describes what should be the expectations and behaviour of disciple, and guru whose words should never deviate from sastra and sadhu.

Radhapad asked Ananta baba about persons who are not initiated, what should they do. He said they should do Hari kirtan, japa, and study sastras.

He also told me that baba gave him permission to give initiation if someone has faith in him, but that is if they really really cannot go to Radhakund. So that is a nice bit of development. I think in the near future, this sort of thing will start happening
Madhava - Sun, 01 Jun 2003 14:57:36 +0530
I discussed the topic on a number of occasions with Sri Ananta Das Babaji Maharaj during my last visit to Radha Kund. He indeed stated that if there are people aspiring to do bhajan in foreign countries, who are unable to come to Vraja to meet a guru, then some disciples in the West can initiate them. Of course, the individual disciple would have to discuss this with the guru prior to undertaking such a task, for it is a violation of etiquette to initiate in the presence of one's guru without having received his permission.

Many devotees have expressed concern over the fact that perhaps everyone who may come to initiate in the future in the West may not embody all the characteristics narrated in the scriptures, having advanced to the higher stages of devotion and so forth. I related this to Baba. He said that people who say such a thing must then propose a better solution to facilitate the growth of bhakti of those unable to come to Vraja.

Initially when I brought up the topic of who is qualified to initiate, he mentioned that a person who is doing nice bhajan, tasting nectar and some anubhavas coming in the heart, he can initiate nicely. Later on, however, he noted that something is better than nothing in the current Western scenario. He emphasized that nobody should forcefully initiate anyone or canvass for followers, but rather only if there is natural faith, initiation can take place.
Madhava - Sun, 01 Jun 2003 15:00:30 +0530
QUOTE(A D R Singh @ Jun 1 2003, 12:09 AM)
I've heard that the guru and disciple should observe each other for a year before they enter into the initiaton contract.

This is noted in the Hari Bhakti Vilasa. However, I don't think the one year period is given as a hard and fast rule. Rather, the point is that the guru and the disciple should just properly become acquainted with each other, and whether it happens in a month or in ten years is not the point.

QUOTE
I don't know how effective the internet method of observation would be in this regard, maybe someone can share their thoughts. I think it would be best personal as far as possible, so that both sides be† convinced of the other's sincerity.

It is a good way to examine their knowledge of the scripture and so forth, but it is not a good way of examining their daily sadhana and so forth.

Unless the prospective guru has a webcam running half of the day. B)
Mina - Sun, 01 Jun 2003 23:05:40 +0530
QUOTE(yAcaka @ May 31 2003, 12:50 PM)
Dear Vaishnavas,

having read this thread, I was filled with a good feeling realising that there are devotees who seriously care for the future of Gaudiya Vaishnavism in the West. It gave me a lot of pleasure, hope and optimism.

May I ask if any of these ideas (initiating western gurus, Nitaiís handbook of initiation, local Vaishnava communities, ashram in India for Westerners) have been put into practice since the last posting?

Jaya Radhe,


Nitai and I had our first board of directors meeting down in Missouri last week. I am sending in the articles of incorporation for the non-profit organization (Temple of the Sacred Bower) tomorrow. The next step is for us to file for tax-exempt status with the U.S. government, which we have fifteen months to comply with once we have our corporation registered with the state of Illinois. We will begin fund raising for various projects immediately. Once we have some land and money to build a temple, then construction can begin. At long last, the Nityananda Parivara will have its own temple in the West, Radha willing. I am hoping that we can establish this center somewhere in a warm climate in the United States. We might, however, build the first center up north here, and then a second center in the sun belt, if that proves to be an easier approach for everyone involved. Nitai's wife is still a full time college professor in Missouri and probably won't be retiring from that post for several years. We might be able to obtain funding and land in the vicinity of the Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago. The Vivekananda Vedanta center is doing just that right now with their plans to move out of the city of Chicago.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Re: The etiquette of making disciples in the presence of one's guru only with his/her permission.

In our case that is a non issue, since our guru is no longer physically present. He did encourage us to begin these types of projects here in the West while he was still on the planet, however. One of his requests to Nitai and Jagadananda (formerly Yogananda in ISKCON) was that they try to meet regularly to have kirtan back in the USA. Of course, that was not very feasible since Nitai was living in Denver at the time and Jagadananda was in living in Berkeley.
Mina - Thu, 05 Jun 2003 20:52:38 +0530
On the subject of the trial period in which the prospective guru and candidate for dIkSA are to get acquainted:

I really don't see how the traditional system that would involve a candidate living at the ashram of the prospective guru is going to be very practical in today's cultural climate. I think that even delegating the task of scrutinizing candidates to an inner circle of disciples by the guru and then accepting certain candidates on their recommendation has a lot of merits. So, although that particular approach may have become too bureacratic in certain institutions over the past several decades, it could be made to work as long as it is done carefully and prudently.

This harks back to my thesis about modernization and updating our tradition according to the times and cultures we live in today. There is no question that someone born and raised in Europe or North America has an entirely different set of values and attitudes from a person that was raised in a strict Hindu household in India. To expect Westerners to bridge such a chasm while at the same time attempting to pursue a useful program of sAdhana runs the danger of being counter productive in the end. The challenge for us now is to devise an approach that makes our tradition adaptable without at the same time losing its essential components.
Jagat - Fri, 06 Jun 2003 00:25:12 +0530
"Temple of the Sacred Bower", eh? Sounds like a news item for NEHKE.

Congratulations, of course. Anyone besides you two on the board?
Mina - Fri, 06 Jun 2003 07:21:10 +0530
We needed at least three directors to incorporate, so currently there are three total. We are currently discussing who we might attract to the board that could help us by dint of their celebrity. Any ideas?
Madhava - Fri, 06 Jun 2003 07:32:26 +0530
QUOTE(Ananga @ Jun 6 2003, 01:51 AM)
We needed at least three directors to incorporate, so currently there are three total.†† We are currently discussing who we might attract to the board that could help us by dint of their celebrity.† Any ideas?

George Harrison is now gone... How about Boy George? Jagat is quite famous, and Narayan Maharaj is famous too. blink.gif

Give us the first idea Ramdas so we know where to begin with with our ideas. I guess there is some framework there within which the ideas should fit.
Madhava - Fri, 06 Jun 2003 07:53:55 +0530
QUOTE(Ananga @ Jun 5 2003, 03:22 PM)
I really don't see how the traditional system that would involve a candidate living at the ashram of the prospective guru is going to be very practical in today's cultural climate.† I think that even delegating the task of scrutinizing candidates to an inner circle of disciples by the guru and then accepting certain candidates on their recommendation has a lot of merits.

I'm not so sure if there is a necessity for living in the ashram in the traditional model either, unless you mean the real old style of sending the young boys to gurukula. I guess nobody is going to live through another childhood out there. However, it is definitely beneficial, and in my opinion very necessary, for the prospective guru and the prospective disciple to become well acquainted with each other prior to establishing a sacred bond between themselves.

Guru padashraya comes before diksa and siksa; I think this is a principle we cannot compromise with, as it is delineated as one among the most important by Rupa Gosvami himself. Pandit Sri Ananta Dasji glosses the concept in his Guru-tattva-vijnana:

QUOTE
Guru-padasraya means that a person who wishes to do bhagavad-bhajana must live near Sri Guru's feet for a while before taking initiation, and sincerely render service to him according to his wishes, so that the lotus feet of Sri Guru are pleased. In the scriptures, a mutual examination of guru and disciple is also described as necessary. In this way both guru and disciple can examine each otherís natures and qualifications. If this is not done, then they may both experience obstacles in their bhajana in the future. In other words, if the guru does not have the characteristics that are described in the sastras, the disciple will inevitably experience obstacles in bhajana, and if the disciple is not qualified, then the guru will inevitably experience obstacles in bhajana.

Not only that, this also has a very valuable result. When the sadhaka who is eager to receive diksa stays for a few days with the guru and engages in his service, he will also become qualified for both diksa and bhajana. On the other hand, the sri-guru-tattva will melt with compassion when he sees the sincere service rendered to such a maha-bhagavata. The practising devotee fulfills a main human pursuit by attaining the diksa-mantra from the lotus feet of Sri Guru, whose heart is melting of compassion, being satisfied with his service. In this way the practising devotee will be blessed with the true relish of ambrosial bhakti-rasa.

Here it is noteworthy that a mahapurusa, who is endowed with extraordinary powers, can examine the qualifications of a disciple on mere sight, or can make an unqualified candidate at once qualified and can thus give initiation to a candidate at once. For such great persons there is no bondage to the above rules and regulations. This, however, does not apply to all ordinary persons.
(Guru-tattva-vijnana)

There are certain inherent dangers in the delegation system. It is possible that one day the disciple feels dissatisfied with the guru and begins to regret his choice. If the disciple did not acquaint himself with the guru prior to initiation but rather had a third person in between the two to sort it out, there will be hard feelings afterwards as one has not really carried out the responsibility of examination himself. Been there, done that. Twice.

The same applies for the guru. We know from the Hari Bhakti Vilasa that just as the king accepts a share of his citizens' sins, so it is for the guru who takes responsibility for the disciples. A great mahapurusha can consume all varieties of sins through the power of his devotion, but one who may not possess such superlative qualities is prone to be affected. Therefore, bahu ziSya na koribe. For his own spiritual safety, the guru must also examine the seriousness of the prospective disciple and engage him accordingly. A guru who indiscriminately initiates people is bound to be bewildered in the course of time, straying from the straight and narrow path of devotion.



QUOTE
This harks back to my thesis about modernization and updating our tradition according to the times and cultures we live in today.† There is no question that someone born and raised in Europe or North America has an entirely different set of values and attitudes from a person that was raised in a strict Hindu household in India.† To expect Westerners to bridge such a chasm while at the same time attempting to pursue a useful program of sAdhana runs the danger of being counter productive in the end.† The challenge for us now is to devise an approach that makes our tradition adaptable without at the same time losing its essential components.

Is it not that in the West people examine the credentials of the teacher prior to committing themselves to study under him over long periods of time? I think the image of "cheater guru from India" is well enough stamped in the minds of the Westerners to make them carefully examine the guru, whatever the practical means of such examinations be. I could personally not encourage anyone to accept a guru without a careful examination, knowing well to what it may lead.
Mina - Fri, 06 Jun 2003 21:13:09 +0530
These are definitely tricky matters that need very careful consideration, Madhavanandaji. We are faced with numerous challenges in this field of endeavor. I have been reading a book about evolutionary medicine and therein are some fascinating results of research into genetics and adaptation in species to ensure survival. I find it helpful to draw parallels from it with the survival and spread of religious traditions throughout history. When considering any adaptations we might attempt, there is always a question as to which ones will prove successful in furthering the propagation of the paramparA. As you have pointed out, there are mistakes that we can avoid from past experiments. Still, we need to experiment along other lines to find the optimum approach when the tried and true is no longer as effective as it once was. The internet was not even an option twenty five years ago. It has been a double edged sword to date, with some valuable contributions alongside some major debacles (particularly some attempts at dialogue between certain opposing factions).

I believe delegation of examination of candidates could be workable, as long as the initiating guru can have confidence in the delegates and as long as the initiating guru performs some sort of final examination directly. I don't envision the use of tape recorders to transmit mantras, as was done in the past. That is just too impersonal and bureaucratic.

As far as starting the ideas off, I did not really have a rock star such as Boy George in mind, rather some dignitary that is prominent in the Vaishnava community, or even a prominent professional. One business executive that is well know and is also a Vaishnava could do much to lend credibility to the organization, what to speak of the valuable managerial expertise they would bring to the table. A scholar currently holding a respected chair at some prestigious university would also be an invaluable asset.
Hari Saran - Sat, 07 Jun 2003 00:54:55 +0530
(Guru-tattva-vijnana)

Thanks for this nectar...
Thanks for this Seva...
Thanks to be there...


ys
Mina - Sat, 07 Jun 2003 20:40:54 +0530
The ideals described in Sri Ananta Das Babaji's article are something we need to strive for. What I am aiming at is a practical plan to realize the goal of some day having elevated non-Indian gurus all over the globe that meet the highest standards of 'true guru'. The approach of making multiple pilgrimages to Braj and other holy sites is great for the small percentage of people that have the resources to do so. For the rest of the people, there has to be some alternative means of access to sAdhu-saGga - better to have some association with sAdhakas that may not be so advanced than none at all. The Sri Sampradaya is very active in the West, as evidenced by the many large and beautiful temples they have been constructing recently. Those temples, from what I have seen first hand, are also very well managed.

I see our potential congregation coming from three distinct groups:

1) Indian Vaishnavas living abroad (outside India)

2) Non-Indian Vaishnavas that have had some former affiliation with one sect or another and are now doing sAdhana independently

3) Newcomers to the tradition

For many younger Indians, Vaishnavism is the religion of their parents or grandparents and they just need to become better acquainted with it. For example, I met with a thirty something Bengali woman from a Brahmin family that was working at the same company I was at a few years ago, in order to see if she could help me with some difficult passages in a Bengali translation of Ujjvala Nilamani. She was unable to read the old language (sadhu-bhasa), but said that her mother back in India probably could.

To date it seems that most hits on our respective websites, including this one, are by those that fall into the second group above, and that is not at all surprising. The hard nut to crack, in my opinion, is going to be those from the third group. Many of them undoubtedly will already be students of yoga or Eastern mysticism in one form or another.

Once we have a very strong and united Vaishnava community, then there will be fertile ground to yield highly qualified gurus. As Nitai Das quipped the other day, "If they come, we will build it."
A D R Singh - Sun, 08 Jun 2003 21:07:38 +0530
Americans (who certainly are the most opulent people on earth ) even if they have resources, are not quite inclined to visit India (except Iskcon devotees, Indians, and Himalaya climbers.) So if they can create some facility for association, it would be quite good.

Non Americans (less opulent) are more eager about Indian pilgrimage. regardless of the austerities, from what I have observed. Still, facilities in the Vraj are now at a revolutonary high. I mean super rich Indians go and stay there comfortably all the time.

For those who would never be able to get a US visa, the US facility would not be of much use, and it is not an easy task to come upon such a visa. so they would still have to travel to India for association.

I think for the Western vaisnavs who fall in this category, and who are really too poor to make the Indian trip, an ashram would do fine someday.. maybe in the Caribbean, or an accessible part of Europe...like that.

B)
Madhava - Sun, 08 Jun 2003 21:59:48 +0530
QUOTE(Ananga @ Jun 6 2003, 01:51 AM)
We needed at least three directors to incorporate, so currently there are three total.†† We are currently discussing who we might attract to the board that could help us by dint of their celebrity.† Any ideas?

I just again paid attention to the text above. Who's the third one aside you and Nitai?
Madhava - Sun, 08 Jun 2003 22:08:18 +0530
QUOTE(Ananga @ Jun 7 2003, 03:10 PM)
The hard nut to crack, in my opinion, is going to be those from the third group.† Many of them undoubtedly will already be students of yoga or Eastern mysticism in one form or another.

Agreed. There needs to be much discussion on elementary teaching in approaching Vaishnavism.
Mina - Sun, 08 Jun 2003 23:02:06 +0530
QUOTE(Madhava @ Jun 8 2003, 10:29 AM)
QUOTE(Ananga @ Jun 6 2003, 01:51 AM)
We needed at least three directors to incorporate, so currently there are three total.†† We are currently discussing who we might attract to the board that could help us by dint of their celebrity.† Any ideas?

I just again paid attention to the text above. Who's the third one aside you and Nitai?

For now we have named a third person, but I will not post that person's name here without first getting their permission to do so. The important thing is that we have taken the first step by creating a legal entity that is exempt from taxes under the laws of the United States. That allows all those who make donations to deduct them from their personal income taxes. With respect to those from other countries making donations, I really don't know what the situation is, but I suspect that it is going to depend on the nation in question.
Mina - Sun, 08 Jun 2003 23:07:32 +0530
QUOTE(Madhava @ Jun 8 2003, 10:38 AM)
QUOTE(Ananga @ Jun 7 2003, 03:10 PM)
The hard nut to crack, in my opinion, is going to be those from the third group.† Many of them undoubtedly will already be students of yoga or Eastern mysticism in one form or another.



Agreed. There needs to be much discussion on elementary teaching in approaching Vaishnavism.


Madhavananda Ji:

Does your guru have any English language publications that would serve as basic primers? Dr. Kapoor's book, "The Philosophy and Religion of Sri Caitanya", is just about the best reference available to give people an overview, but it is not really an introductory primer per se.
Madhava - Mon, 09 Jun 2003 01:44:57 +0530
QUOTE(Ananga @ Jun 8 2003, 05:37 PM)
Madhavananda Ji:

Does your guru have any English language publications that would serve as basic primers?† Dr. Kapoor's book, "The Philosophy and Religion of Sri Caitanya", is just about the best reference available to give people an overview, but it is not really an introductory primer per se.

Not really, no introductory works as such. There is the Tattva-vijnana series, 12 or so short works which are each presentations of the gist of a particular subject of Gaudiya theology, but I would prefer to give something very very basic to a person who has next to no clue about what it's all about. I thought of writing something myself to fill in the gap.
Mina - Mon, 09 Jun 2003 01:54:12 +0530
What type of material were you thinking of including in what you were planning to write?
Madhava - Mon, 09 Jun 2003 01:58:33 +0530
QUOTE(Ramdas @ ,)
As far as starting the ideas off, I did not really have a rock star such as Boy George in mind, rather some dignitary that is prominent in the Vaishnava community, or even a prominent professional. One business executive that is well know and is also a Vaishnava could do much to lend credibility to the organization, what to speak of the valuable managerial expertise they would bring to the table. A scholar currently holding a respected chair at some prestigious university would also be an invaluable asset.

I guess both a prominent figure in the Vaishnava community and a prominent professional would both serve their purpose. However, the unfortunate fact is that we are rather limited in our selection, given that you'll probably want to restrict board membership to Gaudiyas initiated in the classical tradition.


QUOTE
I have been reading a book about evolutionary medicine and therein are some fascinating results of research into genetics and adaptation in species to ensure survival. I find it helpful to draw parallels from it with the survival and spread of religious traditions throughout history. When considering any adaptations we might attempt, there is always a question as to which ones will prove successful in furthering the propagation of the paramparA.

Agreed. Though we find that in the tradition there are many (if not a majority of) Vaishnavas who are reluctant to amend the existing protocols, even if nonessential, ultimately the survival and expansion of the tradition will have to be the deciding factor. However, the amendments must be very carefully examined to prevent the founding of heterodox movements which went one step too far beyond the acceptable. As we know from the early 1900s of Bengal, perhaps a puberty of the tradition in its motherland, many inspirational persons will arise, which is not necessarily an all-good phenomena. I think the situation is nondifferent here, as the Western Gaudiya scenario begins to unfold and spread. Fortunately we have the history at our disposal to examine and learn from.
Madhava - Mon, 09 Jun 2003 02:12:23 +0530
QUOTE(Ananga @ Jun 8 2003, 08:24 PM)
What type of material were you thinking of including in what you were planning to write?

Hmm... still open for influence. I haven't taken it far enough to outline a structure. Probably a fusion of brief history, Bhagavad-gita and some of the teachings of Mahaprabhu to Rupa and Sanatana, presented in a easy-to-grasp language.
Kalkidas - Sat, 06 Dec 2003 21:19:56 +0530
QUOTE(Ananga @ Nov 26 2002, 04:30 AM)
Ultimately we will not be able to ensure that all those who take the role of guru will be successful, any more than we can guarantee that all those who become disciples will be good ones.† The best we can do is provide them with the most accurate knowledge about our tradition and make them fully aware of the serious nature of making disciples.† Maturity should come naturally, if they are indeed sincere.† Ego can always get in the way.† That is just a fact of life.† Hopefully everyone will make disciples for the right reasons and not for fame, wealth, etc.

There should be a higher level of responsibility attached to those giving initation with gayatrI mantras, as opposed to giving harinAma initiation with the mahA-mantra.† I think that someone should be in a position to give the harinAma initiation without necessarily being as advanced.† So, perhaps there will be a number of those that only initiate with harinAma and then send the disciples to more senior gurus for the gayatrI mantras and instruction in pUjA.

Excellent topic!

Dear Ramdas, are any of you, senior western devotees from traditional lines, really ready to take your own disciples? That would be nice!
Mina - Sun, 07 Dec 2003 02:31:31 +0530
QUOTE(Sur das @ Dec 6 2003, 09:49 AM)
Excellent topic!

Dear Ramdas, are any of you, senior western devotees from traditional lines, really ready to take your own disciples? That would be nice!

That is a very good question, and I don't know that I have an answer for you.

I see it more as an issue of stepping up to the challenges of the future and preparing ourselves to do so as far as we are able. There are inherent responsibilities along the lines of being a mentor and guide, as opposed to becoming some charismatic acharya figure. It could be that the need to have a Western guru never actually arises, with people just heading to India to find someone from which to take intiation. I kind of doubt that that is a practical approach for many people out there. Also, other Indian gurus could travel to the West in the future, and Srivatsa Goswami in the sampradaya of Gopala Bhatta Goswami is an example of one of them who has made several trips to Europe and North America over the years (of course, he is a householder - to expect any babajis to do that type of traveling may not be as realistic).