Saturday, December 25, 2010

Harmony – Real and Apparent

Krishna Talk 118 - Harmony – Real and Apparent
by Swami B.V. Giri

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Take a precursory look at the news and it is obvious that we live in a world
of discord. War, religious strife, terrorism, racism, social upheaval and
discrimination are everyday events and have been since time immemorial.
Whenever any of the above scenarios rear their ugly heads, it is not long
before a chorus of voices cries out for peace and harmony.

Even in the Vaisnava world today we hear calls for harmony. Due to various
reasons, the devotee community is divided into many, many missions – some
small, some large, some popular, some not so well known, some with one
acarya, some with many. Amongst these various groups there are some devotees
who desire to bring all these institutions together under one umbrella in
order to work harmoniously to spread Krsna consciousness. At first glance
such an idea seems very noble and laudable – but what is their concept of


Etymologically, the English word ‘harmony’ is derived from the Greek word
harmonia, meaning ‘to join’. Similarly, in Sanskrit the word for harmony,
samanvaya, also means ‘to join’. Samanvaya can be broken down into two
words – sam +anvaya. Sam means ‘to join together’ and anvayah means
‘to put things in an order.’ Another Sanskrit word that is frequently
used to denote harmony is samarasa, Samarasa literally means, ‘to have the
same taste’. Although samanvaya and samarasa may seem to be the same, they
are not. Samanvaya means to join together in order to methodically engage in
a common pursuit. Samarasa implies something of a non-discriminatory nature
and carries with it the connotation of accepting all points of view without

Harmony/samanvaya does not infer that one must abandon all discrimination.
Yet some advocates of harmonious Vaisnava dealings are prepared to throw
discrimination to the four winds and ignore all philosophical divergences,
only emphasizing the external aspects of Krsna consciousness that are common
to all. That is not samanvaya – that is samarasa.

Real harmony does not lie in homogenizing everything based upon the common
traits shared by all denominations of Vaisnavas. Real harmony does not mean
picnicking together or having a few bhajanas in the name of inter-Vaisnava
relations. To engage solely in these activities is not real harmony. Real
harmony lies in cultivating the correct understanding of Vaisnava siddhanta.
This was the reason why Sri Jiva Gosvami originally established the Visva
Vaisnava Raja Sabha at the Radha-Damodara temple in Vrndavana.

Sri Jiva attracted the most advanced souls of that time through the teachings
of Srila Rupa Gosvami Prabhupada. Radha-Damodara Temple was not a playground
for misconceptions and superficial pleasantries amongst divided dysfunctional
groups of devotees. The Visva Vaisnava Raja Sabha was an assembly of
exemplary devotees who taught according to the Sat-Sandarbhas of Sri Jiva and
the bhakti-sastras of Sri Rupa and Sri Sanatana.

In 1936, on the disappearance day of Thakura Bhaktivinoda, Srila
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada explained that the purpose of
the Visva Vaisnava Raja Sabha was to spread the message of the
bhaktivinoda-dhara (the philosophical line of Bhaktivinoda):

"The only way is through the bhaktivinoda-dhara. The bhaktivinoda-dhara must
be kept alive by the kirtana of srauta-vani (the instructions of the
scriptures and acaryas). If kirtana of the truth is stopped, then we will be
severed from the bhaktivinoda-dhara."

When Sarasvati Thakura reestablished the Visva Vaisnava Raja Sabha in 1919,
he did not extend an open invitation to all groups of Vaisnavas. The Sabha
did not include Vaisnavas of different sampradayas, nor did it include those
who were opposed to the teachings of Sri Caitanya, Mayavadis, Sahajiyas and
other such aparadhis. The Sabha only consisted of his own disciples and
followers. This was because the various Vaisnava societies at that time were
permeated with apa-siddhanta and did not represent the pure ideals of
Bhaktivinoda and the Visva Vaisnava Raja Sabha.

However, today the situation is very different and much more complex. Many
philosophical misconceptions have become deep-rooted and widespread within
some of the branches of our very own parampara. Therefore the need of the
hour is not to see how many Vaisnava groups we can get together under one
roof – the real necessity is to try to propagate the concepts of
Bhaktivinoda and Sarasvati Thakura within our very own line.

Such words may not be palatable to hear, but we are not advocates of satyam
bruyat priyam bruyat (speak the truth, but only speak it when it is
palatable). This maxim is for those that are worldly, not for those that
speak the absolute truth.

"According to social conventions, if you want to speak truth, you must limit
yourself to truths that are palatable and flattering. Don't speak unpalatable
truths. But we are not meant to merely follow social conventions. We are
preachers and servants of God." (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada, Bombay,
January 3rd 1977)

Rather, we should speak plainly. As Canakya Pandita says, spasta-vakta na
vanchakah (one who speaks plainly is not a deceiver). Srila Sarasvati Thakura
has clearly explained that a loyal servant of the truth must speak plainly,
even if his words create controversy:

"The truth (satya) is propagated in a twofold way – positively or by the
method of direct support and negatively by the method of opposition. The
truth cannot be made sufficiently known by the positive method alone. The
positive method by itself is not the most effective mode of propaganda in a
controversial age like the present. The negative method which seeks to
differentiate the truth from non-truth in all its forms, is even better
calculated to convey the directly inconceivable significance of the Absolute.
It is a necessity which cannot be conscientiously avoided by the dedicated
preacher of the truth if he wants to be a loyal servant of Godhead. The
method is sure to create an atmosphere of controversy in which it is quite
easy to lose one’s balance of judgment. But the ways of the deluding energy
are so intricate that unless their mischievous nature is fully exposed it is
not possible for the soul in the conditioned state to avoid the snares spread
by the enchantress for encompassing the ruin of her only too willing victims.
It is a duty which shall be sacred to all who have been enabled to obtain
even a distant glimpse of the Absolute." (The Harmonist, Vol. 29)


Some years ago, our Guru Maharaja was asked the question, “How can we unite
all the Vaisnavas?” His reply was thus:

"I am not for the Unitarian Krsna Conscious Church – I am for the church of
variagatedness and difference. Based on that, I choose my association. I
think that variagatedness breeds a very strong and healthy spiritual
environment. We are not followers of the ‘Rodney King philosophy’ –
there was a man in America called Rodney King who was beaten up and then
there was a riot in Los Angeles. So he went on TV and said, “Can’t we all
just get along?” Well the answer is, “No Rodney, we can’t!” We
can’t because there are differences. Everyone is not the same; therefore we
can’t all live the same. Why isn’t everyone wearing sannyasa-vesa?
Because everyone can’t do it. Or why is it that everyone isn’t a
brahmacari? Why doesn’t everybody become a householder? Because it is not
‘one thing for everybody’. There doesn’t have to be hatred in
diversity. There should be harmony and appreciation – but there is
diversity and we can’t erase that. There’s life in diversity. "(Hungary,
August 2nd 2006)

Diversity is at the very heart of Gaudiya Vaisnavism and that diversity is
called rasa. Within the spiritual realm there is unity and diversity – all
the denizens there are united in pleasing the transcendental senses of
Govinda, but in order to fulfill that, diversity is a prerequisite. There are
diverse rasas and within each rasa there are divisions, sub-divisions and
sub-sub-divisions. By nature, each division is diverse, but all divisions
share the common goal of serving Sri Sri Radha-Krsna. In this regard Srila
Sridhara Maharaja says:

"Yasoda is always afraid of Devaki and Vasudeva: “What? They’ll come and
claim our child as their own? How can that be?” And Radharani’s camp
thinks hat Candravali’s group are anti-parties. So in all rasas there is
harmony in discord. It is the necessity of the nature of lila. Bifurcation.
Thesis, antithesis and synthesis. Synthesis means there are many antitheses.
Harmony means many. Plurality must be there. In the Upanisads it is said
that, neha nanasti kincana – “There is no plurality.” But this means no
nana – not many, in the sense that all are harmonized into one common
interest. ‘Not many’ means not many different independent interests, but
rather that are all meeting for a common cause."


In order to achieve real harmony, fighting against misconception is
necessary. Yet some devotees will shun any type of philosophical discussion
in the name of retaining harmony. The kanistha-adhikari will shun any type of
controversy, thinking that such talks will create obstacles to their
spiritual advancement. This mentality goes against the advice of Srila
Kaviraja Gosvami:

siddhanta baliya citte na kara alasa
iha haite krsne lage sudrdha manasa

Do not be lazy in your mind when it comes to discussing siddhanta. Through
such discussions, your mind becomes firmly fixed upon Krsna. (Cc. Adi 2.117)

Srila Sridhara Maharaja was once approached by a despondent devotee who
lamented that he could not understand why there were so many differences
between different Vaisnava groups. Why couldn’t “they all just get
along?” Srila Sridhara Maharaja responded:

"So many things are to be understood. Krsna is the cause of Kuruksetra
fighting, do you know that? In His presence the whole Yadu-vamsa was finished
and He was a sightseer. What is that? Can you understand this? How can you
adjust? What is the difference between Krsna and Balarama? Why does Balarama
side with Duryodhana and Krsna sides with the Pandavas? Why? They are almost
one and the same! What is your answer? All is bogus?

Fighting is life! Fighting is life! I must turn and preach this. Until and
unless I can change my understanding, Physical oneness is not one. To
maintain physical peace is lack of vitality. We must be true to our own
understanding. You want to crush everything – jumble everything together
into one mass. But that is all stone, fossilized. Do you want to see a
fossilized unity? What is the conception of harmony? Harmony means
independent thinking.

There are different rasas – Krsna is not representing only one feature. He
is of infinite features to accommodate infinite possibilities. That is
Akhila-rasamrta-murti – there are different groups and in the same group
there are so many different arrangements. Radharani and Candravali are
fighting – two camps fighting to satisfy Him. We have to understand how it
is possible. With humility we have to try to follow how it is possible. The
opposition party is there in the parliament to enhance the work of the main
party. In this way direct and indirect makes everything complete. And if that
is distributed everywhere, then there will be no difficulty to understand the
differences there.

Sankara and Buddha preferred that the ultimate goal is undifferentiated,
unknown and unknowable. All harmonized into death. That is brahma-nirvana or
prakrti-nirvana. Their brain went so far, but the final piece – no
differentiation, no trouble – all bathed in eternal slumber. If you prefer,
you can follow that school. (Navadvipa, 28th May 1983)

We are not opposed to harmony, but harmony must be understood in the right
context and not as an external show of saccharine smiles, hugs and honeyed
words. Let the Vaisnavas be diverse in their approaches to preaching and let
them be united in siddhanta. If devotees truly desire real unity and harmony,
this can only be achieved through following bhaktisiddhanta-vani.

"Variety meets unity in different planes of movement. That is harmony. This
applies everywhere, including the plane of color and the plane of sound. Many
branches meet together in the trunk of a tree, the trunk harmonizes the many
leaves, this is the movement of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. We must see a common
master, and work around the will of that master or conductor." (Srila
Sridhara Maharaja)

As members of the sarasvata-parampara, the ‘common master’ that we all
share is Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada and it is our duty to
follow his will and his precepts attentively. Any other process we concoct to
unify the fragmented Vaisnava world will simply be temporary, superficial and
futile. If we neglect or adulterate bhaktisiddhanta-vani in the name of
harmony, we will “stop the kirtana of truth.” Then, in the words of
Sarasvati Thakura, “We will be severed from the line of Bhaktivinoda.”