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Varṇāśrama Interview with HH Bhaktividyā Pūrṇa Mahārāja

[The following interview about varāśrama was conducted on 30 May 2017 by Nagarī Mātājī (BVKS) for the Russian website of HH Bhakti Vikāsa Swami’s disciples.]

(This Interview was transcribed and kindly supplied to our website by Sulālitā dd (BBGS), edited by Balaram Briant from Bhaktivedanta Academy, Sridham Mayapur)

Varṇāśrama stereotypes

Nagarī Mātājī: What is the essence, or the foundation, of varāśrama? Many devotees confuse it with the caste system.

HH Bhaktividyā Pūra Mahārāja: Caste system, I see. If you listen to modern academics, if you listen to modern socially oriented people, they will try to make it into a caste system. Because the purpose is if make it look bad you don’t have to follow it. Continue reading Varṇāśrama Interview with HH Bhaktividyā Pūrṇa Mahārāja

How Apasampradayas Arise

Reading from ‘The Apasampradayas, deviant Vaishnava sects’ by Suhotra Svami*: “The link between namaparadha and full-blown deviation from the sampradaya is indicated by Srila Jiva Goswami who warns in the Bhakti Sandarbha that there are offenders to the holy name who are acikitsya or incorrigible (jnana-lava-durvidagdhastraacikitsyaatvadupeksa). Devotees, always compassionate, try to help fallen souls with good instruction. But if someone becomes insolent and arrogant due to acquiring a little knowledge from their association, he is disqualified from the sampradaya because of three kinds of namaparadha: sadhu-ninda (blasphemy of the devotees of the Lord), guru-avajna (disregard of the spiritual master) and srutisastraninda (blasphemy of the revealed scriptures).

“Yet the incorrigible offender never conceives the fact of his offenses. He cannot understand that the mercy of the spiritual master and the association of pure devotees are indispensable to the chanting of the holy name. Because he highly values wordly knowledge and accomplishments, he looks down upon the simple devotees who have surrendered themselves to devotional service. This is sadhu-ninda. He cannot accept that the spiritual master is a transcendental teacher, not a wordly one; thus he tries to measure the person and instructions of the guru by his own mental standards. This is guru-avajna. He studies the revealed scriptures as he would ordinary literature, gleaning from it whatever seems to support his preconceived notions, heedless of the rest. This is srutisastraninda.”

“They may not be able to always follow the order of the guru, or may not understand the things in shastra, don’t bicker with the other devotees, but he is not taking this as a main platform.”

HH BVPS Maharaja: So here is then the person who is performing nama-aparadha, then if they don’t have these problems… It doesn’t mean that… They may not be able to always follow the order of the guru, or may not understand the things in shastra, don’t bicker with the other devotees, but he is not taking this as a main platform. You can see that, okay, sometimes something is wrong, or something like this.

But here is someone who then doesn’t see the importance. Their own intelligence, their own perception on it is actually the main thing. So therefore the position of the acarya, the position of the vaishnavas, the position of the scripture is not the most prominent or driving element. And because of that then they separate themselves actually from the sampradaya. Because as we see here, they read the scriptures, but just take what they like and leave the rest.

“There is a difference between that there is difficulties, but the faith is there and you continue on in the devotional process, or that difficulties are there, but you think those difficulties are actually your qualifications.”

That’s what we saw before in the 6 systems of the Vedic philosophy, is they are taking it from scriptures, based on Veda, whatever they consider as their evidence, it goes back to the Veda, it’s all real evidence. But the problem is is, they only choose which evidence supports what they want, everything else they leave. Does that make sense? Like you have an example of that you are trying to establish that you don’t need to have a spiritual master, you’ll just directly take initiation from Prabhupada. So they’ll base it on a letter, even though you can give so much evidence from the books and other things, that won’t be accepted, it has to be a letter. Does that make sense? So this is that kind of aspect where you only accept which parts you like and everything else you reject. So then that’s there.

Or the devotees, because they are simple, like that, they’ve taken shelter of the Lord, they are performing their devotional activities, but they may not have great knowledge or be necessarily that thoughtful about the process, they just have faith, they just do it, so you consider them not so developed, because here you have, you are thoughtful, because you are making up your own system. Means, to make up your own system means you have to be thoughtful, but it’s just that you are applying the thoughtfulness improperly. Others aren’t, they are just going along with the system, so you don’t consider them special. So then that’s inappropriate.

And then the spiritual master instructions, then you look at him and you judge by your own. So in the same way, what you like, what you don’t like, it’s just on your own decision, it’s not by what is the standard, therefore even if you don’t see it that way, but you want to develop seeing it that way… Do you understand?

So, there is a difference between that there is difficulties, but the faith is there and you continue on in the devotional process, or that difficulties are there, but you think those difficulties are actually your qualifications. Does that make sense?

Prabhu (1): Maharaja, namaparadha is like a misgiving?

HH BVPS Maharaja: Namaparadha? Namaparadha can be anything. Means, it can be… Means, the specific one? Oh, yes, you would say it’s misgivings. But the misgivings, you take it that the misgivings are real, have substance and that they are actually something to judge from. Means, people may do that, but it’s not that they so much necessarily notice it. You know what I am saying? Just the conditioning is there, so you just continue in your conditioning as you always have, and then you are adding Krishna consciousness, so sometimes they conflict, because you have the pure devotional service and then the material, so it makes for that mixed devotional service.

But here it’s not that… Your point is that this is the most… How you say? The misgiving, it’s there, but you don’t necessarily notice it. Here the person is taking, noticing their misgiving and then making it that that is the standard by which you judge devotional service. You know what I am saying?

So you can see is that there is very nice… You can see, ok, you can understand someone is not situated in offenseless chanting, but they are still situated in devotional service. And then it’s very obvious, those who are completely apasampradaya. The difficulty would be what’s in-between, right? But the basic point is in-between is what is connected is proper and what’s not is not. So there may be more proportion of not, or more proportion of connected. But still, it’s considered within the sampradaya, you are just not so nicely situated. Does that make sense? So anything in-between, you don’t count it that they are from the apasampradaya, you count it that they are within the sampradaya. Does that make sense?

“It’s not so often that having given up the determined practice of devotional service, that very many create their own practices. Most just go back to whatever is their previous conditioning. But you see some, having come to the mundane platform then they create their own process and are actually able to continue in it. So that’s specifically your apasampradaya.”

Prabhu (2): So the main point would be to see that it’s progressing towards the apasampradaya or towards the sampradaya?

HH BVPS Maharaja: Yes, means, what’s their determination? So in other words, if their determination is there, with discussion, just know they are convinced, ‘No, this is my, my perspective is correct,’ then there is going to be a difficulty there. Then it’s just a matter of do they just go out of devotional service, or do they actually in going out maintain a so-called practice of devotional service. Does that make sense? Yeah.

So generally you see is, means, it’s not so often that having given up the determined practice of devotional service, that very many create their own practices. Most just go back to whatever is their previous conditioning. But you see some, having come to the mundane platform then they create their own process and are actually able to continue in it. So that’s specifically your apasampradaya.

Because generally someone having dropped to the mundane platform we just say that they fell down. But now in that fallen position, no, now they make up a new, their own thing, then that’s where your apasampradaya. Because most people come to that and then they just disappear. Then after a while they figure out, ‘This is stupid,’ and then they come back to Krishna consciousness. But this is they’ll never figure out it’s stupid, because they think they have their own process.

(From His Holiness Bhaktividya Purna Svami Maharaja’s lecture on Apasampradayas, Sastra Caksus course, 1st March 2013, Bhaktivedanta Academy, Sridham Mayapur)

*The book ‘The Apasampradayas, deviant Vaishnava sects’ by Suhotra Svami is a publication of The Bhaktivedanta Academy, Mayapur

Lecture audio:

Devotion Resides in Perfect Knowledge of the Supreme

or Why Do We Study Shastra?

Devotion resides in perfect knowledge of the Supreme. In other words, that knowledge that you have of the Supreme, your devotion can be based on that. It is being cultivated by that, it’s being developed by that, it’s being practiced by that. So if you don’t have knowledge of the Supreme, it will be really hard to cultivate the devotion.

Means, if you, seeing the Deity or hearing about Krsna and that, spontaneously just have a natural attraction just for Him, then means other than giving us great moral support there is no real need for you to be here. Other than, means, unless you sat here and gave the class, that would then be very good.

But the point is if that hasn’t happened then the idea is, then through knowledge, then you are able to properly situate yourself in devotion because then you know who you are, who Krsna is and what is your relationship. So he is making this point* is that it is not just a heading. Devotion resides in perfect knowledge of the Supreme that this is the basis of the whole course. Because we are trying to get knowledge by which we can base our devotion on. So that is the whole idea. To be able to see through this vision, to understand. It is not a matter of memorizing a few things because devotion is not based on a few things you have memorized.

Your devotion is based on what you understand, what you practice, that is manana. Manana is you understand it, you practice it. By practicing it you try to understand it more, you contemplate it more. By that contemplation you are better able to perform your practice. By continuance of this process, then you come to the platform of realization. That is then what you are trying to get to.

You realize this knowledge. You realize your position as Krsna’s servant, then act in that devotional platform. So you still have to take up seriously the devotional process. But the point is, first you have knowledge, that is the basis of your devotional service. Then by practicing that, then you come to realization. Then it becomes spontaneous. It is natural then. It is natural that you are doing it and in your mind it becomes a natural part of what you do.

So the whole idea is to situate yourself in devotional service. Otherwise, why would we have it? Why should we have study of the sastras? Why should we have organized classes in which people then study this knowledge and get degrees? To get degrees, to increase our prestige, make outside people think that we are educated. But that is not the purpose. The purpose is to develop devotion. This whole movement is only for that, it is not for something else. There is not another idea about it.

Devotee (1): If someone doesn’t have the intellectual capacity to go through this?

HH BVPS Maharaja: Why wouldn’t they?

Devotee (1): I know devotees, for them it’s a little bit hard to learn.

HH BVPS Maharaja: It is hard to learn things, but that is to memorize things. We are talking about understanding something. Understanding is based on some form of learning, but it’s more is what is the principle it is working on, principles are very easy. Krsna is God, we are His servant and our natural relationship is through devotion and for the purpose of expressing our love for Him and developing that love. That you can teach to a three-year-old. But that is the complete concept of the philosophy. The process we use is chanting Hare Krsna. The goal is love of God. You can easily teach that to a three-, four-year-old. No problem. So what is it that can’t be learnt?

So that is the whole point, the Vedic system is so perfect that it starts with the highest part and then it descends. The modern is, you start on the bottom and you ascend. Therefore what they speak in the university, the nursery school kid could not understand. But the Vedic is you start with the highest principle which is universal, everybody can understand it. Then according to the individual’s capacity then you descend down into the detail.

Because if someone knows ‘I chant Hare Krsna, I please Krsna, I go back to Godhead,’ if they only know that, that is their inspiration to chant, and they chant, they’ll get perfection. While someone else can tell you all the technical details about the different kinds of names and their effects, namabhasa and chayanama and all these different things like that, that’s because they have that kind of intellect. So that’s what it takes to engage in.

Means, somebody eats two three chapattis, someone eats ten chapattis, we take chapattis over to the elephant house we got a problem. So it is a capacity. So, therefore, because there is more intellect you have to give more detail. But the knowledge about Krsna and the process – that everybody can understand. It is just within that how much detail we deal with.

One is, because we want to make sure there are no doubts on any side, therefore very elaborately or exhaustively we will deal with the point. But the principle of that point is very simple. It will have been stated basically in the beginning. So then if we go on for a three days pontificating on all kinds of technical points then it is still that, it is not that the person who didn’t understand any of that lost anything. Because the beginning, the main point and the conclusion of the pancanga-nyaya are the same. So may be all the examples and all the technicalities given in clearing doubts may not have made sense, something will have made sense.

So that’s why the discussions, what you will be tested on in this course is not what you have memorized but what you understand. That is different. We are not looking for what you have realized. We are looking for what you have understood. Because realization is going to come from practice. This knowledge then you take it, you build on it for the rest of your life. We know Krsna is God, so how He is God, so how you can see Him in His creation as God, how you can see Him in our devotional activities or in others’ lives that we can go on spending the rest of our life seeing.

So that means devotion resides in perfect knowledge of the Supreme, so that perfect knowledge means actually understanding who you are and who Krsna is. So that means, then your devotion is going to be based on that.

(From Lecture on Science of Inquiry, 28th Oct 2008, Bhaktivedanta Academy, Sridham Mayapur)

*HH Suhotra Maharaja in his introduction to Bhakti Shastri study courses of the Bhaktivedanta Academy [editor note]

Transcription by Uddhava Priya Prabhu. Used with permission, minor adjustments in the text made by website editors.

Philosophical Definitions #1

PHILOSOPHICAL DEFINITIONS LECTURE #1, 18th Sep 2008, Bhaktivedanta Academy, Sridham Mayapur

HH BVPS Maharaja: So now we will begin our study of the basic scriptures that Srila Prabhupada had mentioned, what’s known generally in ISKCON in giving a Bhakti-sastri degree. In the Academy here that will give you a different degree. Because we will be studying many, many different aspects or elements. Continue reading Philosophical Definitions #1

MAN WOMAN INTERACTION LECTURE #22

MAN WOMAN INTERACTION LECTURE #22 Budapest, Hungary, 10th Aug 2007 Part 2

So this is the application of the philosophy into the culture. You see, it’s direct, as it’s explained, that’s the way it’s applied. Does that make sense? So much of the social difficulties we have is simply not understanding how the philosophy actually applies directly in our day-to-day ordinary life. Major principle is applied, we are not bewildered, “Am I servant of Krishna or not? Is Krishna God? Whether I should serve Krishna?” Means, these things the devotees are very fixed on, they are very good at philosophy. But transferring the philosophy into culture, then we see sometimes there is a loopholes. Continue reading MAN WOMAN INTERACTION LECTURE #22