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Discussions on the doctrines of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Please place practical questions under the Miscellaneous forum and set this aside for the more theoretical side of it.

Parampara Pakoras - Where Does the Truth Lie?

purifried - Fri, 27 Aug 2004 04:01:35 +0530
Recently I’ve been reading articles on parampara, which disagree with the way that ISKCON knows and teaches parampara. The main point seems to be that diksha parampara is correct and siksha parampara (the ISKCON and GM way) is not.

The question that comes to my mind is this – many if not all Christian churches and denominations believe that their own branch of Christianity is the only true branch. Certainly ISKCON believes this, with maybe the exception of the Ramanuja sampradaya. Yet other Vaishnava camps seem to have the same tunnel vision, i.e. that “our path, guru, line, parampara or whatever is the only way.” This brings up another question: “Doesn’t it limit Krishna when we say that Krishna can only be reached by a specific process? In other words, can the unlimited be limited?”

Of course then a counter argument is that Krishna Himself has set down the way in which to approach Him – evam parampara praptam. Then again, I suppose it depends upon what one believes parampara is (siksha or diksha).

Still the concept of limiting Krishna, or confining Him to a process doesn’t appear to be correct. Yet, in arguing that Krishna can’t be confined, one might pose the argument that ‘Krishna cannot be confined by the teachings of the Vedas’ either. With this latter argument, one undermines the foundation of sastra. But is there some truth to this argument too?

And again we have Rupa Goswami teaching us “atyahara prayasas ca prajalpo niyamagraha,” niyamagraha meaning that bhakti is destroyed by too much attachment to the rules (perhaps the emphasis of diksha parampara) and also by neglect of the rules (perhaps the emphasis on siksha parampara).

So where is the balance? Is it a matter of who’s right and who’s wrong? Is one way the only correct way? Are both ways correct and perhaps immaturity prods one to think up various arguments to give an individual support in his or her belief system?

Even when we analyze the word diksha (and please forgive me here, I’m no Sanskritist), my limited understanding is that diksha is the imparting of transcendental knowledge. Does initiation have to take place in order for this to happen? Isn’t initiation just a ritual and the bottom line is the education, i.e. the knowledge and realization one achieves?

In his article titled 'An introduction to controversial issues in Gaudiya Vaishnavism,’ Jagat wrote, “Prabhupada told us Krishna Consciousness was not a sectarian movement. It behooves us to understand what sectarianism is and how it acts.” Looking up the word sectarian, I found the following definitions: adhering or confined to the dogmatic limits of a sect or denomination; partisan; narrow-minded; parochial.

It seems to me when people get involved in arguing who is better than whom, or who is right and who is wrong, it becomes confusing at best. Then of course the notorious third argument comes in saying, ‘Why waste your time with it?’
Perhaps a similar issue was ISKCON’s handling the jiva issue. We had the people arguing that we were with Krishna before, the people saying we weren’t and then the people saying ‘crow and tal fruit logic’ (why waste your time with this issue). In the end, it seems that the truth did come out and ISKCON’s response was to cover over that truth with their concocted version due to sentimentally held ideas.

I’m just trying to present two sides of the story here. I don’t feel that I know the answer, and if there is in fact an answer I would like to learn what it is. I look forward to any following discussion.
Madhava - Tue, 31 Aug 2004 00:02:38 +0530
Thank you for the thoughtful post, Puri ji.

In regards to whether the Gaudiya Matha conception is right or wrong, the ultimate deciding factor must be whether it works or not. And since there is hardly an unanimous council which would declare siddha-mahAtmas, the correctness of the approach may only be indefinitely debated.

However, it is fairly clear that the approach is not in accordance with the rest of the tradition. This, I believe, will be hard to deny for anyone. Whether the tradition of dIkSA-paramparAs from the associates of Caitanya is right or wrong is another matter, but it is the tradition nevertheless. That is undeniable, and cannot be swept under the carpet by referring to Narada and Vyasa or something along those lines. The tradition is there.

In assessing the validity of each respective approach, we tend to look at the adherents of the said tradition. Those of us who are "traditional" have generations of mahAtmas to look up to for reference to bolster our faith. The Saraswatas are now at the third generation of gurus after the declaration of the zikSA-paramparA, counting Bhaktisiddhanta as the first. If the adherents of this tradition feel there is enough potency and mahAtmas who bear testimony to the same, then so be it, and may they rejoice in their chosen path.

It may be debated whether the approach is a valid alternative for the tradition, but it obviously is not the tradition that spans from the associates of Caitanya to the modern age.

Evidently we ought to respect everyone despite our agreements or disagreements. For the Saraswata-group, I would humbly submit that they would not market their approach as the original or as the befitting replacement, but rather as an alternative valid approach to avoid unnecessary indignation from those traditional people whose approach is being declared as invalid.

Again, I am not commenting whether the Saraswata-approach is valid. I am only making a point that it is different, and that people on both sides of the fence ought to recognize this fact.