Spiritual Advancement

Spiritual Advancement

By Narasimha das

September 24, 2017 

“All these are pitfalls of personal sense gratification. Just to cheat some innocent people, one makes a show of advanced spiritual life and becomes known as a sadhu, mahatma or religious person. All this means that the so-called devotee has become victimized by all these unwanted creepers and that the real creeper of bhakti-lata-bija has been stunted.”  (Cc. Madhya 19.160, PURPORT) See purport below.

Any intelligent devotee who knows iskcon history since 1978 to the present day can easily understand the meaning and context of the above statement and how it applies to many or most iskcon leaders. But the question has been raised whether the “innocent people” who follow such posers can make tangible spiritual advancement. Any devotee or group can ask others to chant Hare Krishna and begin devotional life but not every sanga can assist us to advance further. Unless innocent people learn to follow the self-realized acharyaand hear from him with rapt attention, they risk losing their innocence by associating with offenders posing as sadhus. This is practically seen all over the world, and most of these innocent people end up leaving the mission or compromising with deviants.

It may be wrong to suggest that because we might not be perfect we therefore have no right to preach or judge who is making spiritual advancement– and who is on a deviant path that leads to degradation. It’s our duty as disciples to try to protect our own devotional service and the mission of the guru. How to do this? We must discriminate to understand and preach the correct path. We must accept the right association with genuine devotees. If we are content remain in a blind society of pretenders, we may leave the path of devotional service and fall down completely.

Srila Prabhupada once said, “I may be perfect or I may not be perfect, but I am repeating the message of the all-perfect Supreme Personality of Godhead without the slightest change. That is perfect.”

From this statement above and many others like it, we can ascertain that in this age almost no one is very advanced or perfect. We don’t need investigate the private life of a person to understand whether he is strictly accepting the path or deviating. It can be judged by what he says and does publicly and where he associates. Srila Prabhupada said, “A fool is exposed as soon as he speaks [or writes]. We don’t need to throw stones at all the sinners, but we really do need to understand what is siddhanta and what is concoction. This kind of discrimination and surrender to truth is the first duty of real disciples.

If we are leaders, or knowledgeable devotees, we may want to risk trying to help devotees who have been misled. We can politely warn them of their wrong association with deviants. But there should be no question of compromising, saying, “I am not perfect, so how can I expect others to be perfect?”  We don’t expect perfection but we can’t silently tolerate deliberate ignorance, distortions and lies in missions that claim to represent Srila Prabhupada.

The symptoms of one advancing in spiritual life are specifically described in Nectar of DevotionBhagavad-gita As it Is, and Srimad-Bhagavatam–and still more exhaustively in Sri Chaitanya-Charitamrita. Srila Prabhupada comments in First Canto of Bhagavatam that by regular attendance in Bhagavatam classes our long-standing “propensity for lording over material nature becomes slackened”. This is the first symptom of real advancement: detachment from gross and subtle sex and associated desires to be a lord in the material world. (He also explains in this connection that highly advanced devotees who have completely given up this propensity to lord it over material nature are posted as great demigods in the heavenly planets to act as Krishna’s empowered agents.)

Srila Prabhupada said in this same section that renunciation of the “spirit of enjoyment” is fully achieved only when we experience the higher taste of spontaneous devotion. Such liberation is attained, step by step, through faithful, determined and careful execution of sadhana-bhakti under the guidance of the eternal, liberated spiritual master. This called sadhana-siddhi. Perfection in spiritual advancement may be achieved, in rare cases, through the special mercy of a nitya-siddha devotee like Srila Prabhupada, Sri Praladha Maharaja or Srila Vasudeva Datta. (Srila Prabhupada warned that we should not idly wait for an honorary degree. This attitude, he pointed out, is not good.)

First stage of sraddha, or sadhana-bhakti, is that one is attracted to hearing the messages of Godhead as they are passed down through the bona fide spiritual masters in the parampara. By this hearing process one is then attracted to associating with genuine devotees, hearing further in the association of devotees, and beginning service to Sri Guru and Sri Krishna.

In the genuine ISKCON many devotees joined the mission or began chanting and associating before understanding much about Srila Prabhupada. Such newcomers were assisted in further development of their faith and devotional service by Srila Prabhupada’s disciples, who instructed them to carefully study all Srila Prabhupada’s books and hear His classes.

It’s a great misfortune when so-called disciples of Srila Prabhupada misuse His mission and teachings for personal prestige and gain and thus mislead new devotees in various ways by not encouraging them to develop their eternal realationship directly with Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada commented that his Godbrothers, who were posing as acharyas, had no capacity for helping ISKCON devotees but rather were quite capable of harming their “natural progress.” Why did Srila Prabhupada adjudge them as agents of harm instead of agents of mercy? Although they had many wonderful qualifications and great learning, they were envious of, or unable to recognize, a mahabhagavata.

Our “natural progress” depends fully on understanding the absolute position of the bona fide acharya who is the direct and empowered representative of the Absolute Truth, or Krishna. When iskcon leaders pose as spiritual authorities and minimize, modify, and/or ignore some part of the absolute spiritual teachings of the absolute guru, or if they try to imitate or supersede Him, this is the greatest disservice and offense. So, how can their followers make further advancement?

It has been argued that although iskcon and gaudiya-math leaders are not pure devotees, they still do great good by various means of devotion, including book distribution, Deity worship, kirtanas, and instructing fundamentals of devotional life. It has been practically seen that, through Srila Prabhupada’s mercy, even deviant preachers have helped people give up a depraved existence and begin the good lifestyle of Vaishnavas.

But Vaishnavism is much more than a good lifestyle. I heard in a class the other day Srila Prabhupada say,“Vaishnava philosophy begins from the platform of surrender.”  Lord Krishna confirms this in Bhagavad-gita in various places and from the very beginning: “Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service to him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.

Unfortunately, in the vitiated iskcon, most devotees are misled from the very beginning. They are not trained how to hear from Srila Prabhupada carefully, how to study His books carefully, or how to devote their minds and hearts to his pure teachings and mission. Instead they are told they must choose an iskuru from a club of poisonous posers. They are left with the burdensome task, from their first days in iskcon, of wading through iskcon politics to find some pretender who will offer them a bogus initiation.

The Krishna consciousness mission Srila Prabhupada created was meant for devotees who, after many births and deaths, have come to understand and accept, through good association, that Krishna is the source of everything–the Supreme Personality of Godhead. ISKCON was specifically meant for devotees who wanted to go back to Godhead in this lifetime by making rapid advancement through surrender and service to Srila Prabhupada, the predicted World Savior, the Jagat Guru, the Real Acharya of this Age. (Srila Prabhupada graciously accepted all these praises and thus acknowledged their validity.)

In Chapter Nine of the Gita, Lord Krishna explains that He is instructing this “most confidential knowledge”of devotional service to Arjuna because “you are never envious of Me.” This non-envious and submissive attitude is the first qualification for spiritual advancement.

But this material world is full of envious people. How can we preach to them? How can we separate wheat from chaff? ISKCON was perfectly formed by Srila Prabhupada in such a way that envious persons would not be attracted to association in such a society, which relies on understanding Srila Prabhupada’s absolute authority as the empowered, long-awaited and predicted representative of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai.

The present-day perverted mission known as iskcon is not genuine. It is a false mission by all accounts. If we are concerned about the devotees in iskcon who have been misled, we should try to help them come out of this misleading and dangerous association, which uses Srila Prabhupada’s name and fame as a crutch for many sinful activities under the guise of a preaching mission.

As we have seen practically, iskcon leaders deliberately subverted, hid, changed, perverted and adulterated some of the most important teachings of Gauidya Vaishavaism. All this led to a list of sins and offenses far too extensive to recount herein. (See the article “GBC vs. Prabhupada”) Deliberate distortions and changes ofsiddhanta and sadhana for the sake material gain is a severe offense at the feet of the mahabhagavataspiritual master. Such offenders and their followers may fall down to animal life or go to hell –if not rectified or saved by His special mercy. This is the verdict of shastra cited in Srila Prabhupada’s books.

Srila Prabhupada often tolerated and forgave deficiencies in executing sadhana in the preaching mission, but He never tolerated misunderstandings or deliberate deviations of siddhanta. Why? Because even a slight deviation in siddhanta leads to the ruination of the real preaching mission. The most important primary point to understand is that our spiritual advancement begins with understanding Srila Prabhupada’s position as the real initiator and instructor for all ISKCON devotees. Without this understanding there can be no further advancement in spiritual life; one’s devotional life becomes stunted or compromised.

“Presently people are so fallen that they cannot distinguish between a liberated soul and conditioned soul.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 4.18.5, Purport)

“Intermingling the spiritual with the material causes one to look on transcendence as material and the mundane as spiritual. This is all due to a poor fund of knowledge.” (Sri Caitanya-cartamrita, Madhya 16.72, Purport)

“The unwanted creepers have been described by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. He states that if one hears and chants without trying to give up offenses, one becomes materially attached to sense gratification. One may also desire freedom from material bondage like the Mayavadis, or one may become attached to the yoga-siddhis and desire wonderful yogic powers. If one is attached to wonderful material activities, one is called siddhi-lobhi, greedy for material perfection. One may also be victimized by diplomatic or crooked behavior, or one may associate with women for illicit sex. Others may make a show of devotional service like the prakrta-sahajiyas… One may become attached to the four sinful activities–illicit sex, intoxication, gambling and meat eating. One may also try to carry out a professional business while chanting the Hare Krsna mantra or reading Srimad-Bhagavatam, or one may try to increase his monetary strength by illegal means. One may also try to be a cheap Vaisnava by chanting in a secluded place for material adoration, or one may desire mundane reputation by making compromises with non-devotees, compromising one’s philosophy or spiritual life, or one may become a supporter of a hereditary caste system.

“All these are pitfalls of personal sense gratification. Just to cheat some innocent people, one makes a show of advanced spiritual life and becomes known as a sadhu, mahatma or religious person. All this means that the so-called devotee has become victimized by all these unwanted creepers and that the real creeper of bhakti-lata-bija has been stunted.”  (CC., Madhya 19.160, PURPORT)

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