Found in Sanga, Sanga 2000.

Q. I am glad that you are publishing a Gita commentary but some devotees I know are offended that you appear to be violating the tradition of translating a book already translated by one’s guru.

A. They are misinformed. Our tradition is just the opposite. Prabhupada translated and commented on the Gita in spite of Thakura Bhaktivinoda’s two editions. He translated and commented on Upadesamrita and Caitanya-caritamrita even though Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura had already done this. He wrote his own editions of these books rather than simply translating his guru’s editions into English. You will find this throughout the sampradaya. There is no law or tradition restricting a disciple from translating and commenting on a book that his guru has already translated and commented upon. To do so does not imply that the disciple thinks himself better than his guru. Those who think like this do not understand the dynamics of spiritual life. They are following blindly after so many years. While this may be good in the beginning, it must be replaced with spiritual thinking, which is a symptom of spiritual progress.

As for my edition of the Gita, Krishna himself has said, “One who explains this supreme secret to my devotees engages in the highest devotion to me. He will come to me, without doubt. No one in this world is more dear to me than him, nor will there ever be anyone on earth more dear to me.” These were the very first words Prabhupada ever spoke to me. He cited Krishna’s promise in this section of the Gita. I am taking it very seriously.

Q. In a previous discussion, ‘Women, degradation and trust,’ re: Prabhupada’s statements on the role of women, you wrote, “The statements themselves arise out of a particular cultural background…had he written his commentary today, it may very well have been different.” I agree that we should understand these issues intelligently. My concern is how to be intelligent and innovative for the times we live in, yet not minimize what Prabhupada said.

A. We have to understand this issue in light of the concept of a parampara, or succession of gurus, who explain the tradition relative to time and circumstance and whose teaching, while constituting a divine dispensation, overflows into the realm of social reform. Caitanya Mahaprabhu represents the zenith of divine dispensation but he is also known as a social reformer. With regard to the place of women in Bengal society, in particular, he improved their plight considerably.

Prabhupada was no different. Indeed, I have often heard criticisms of him from members of other Gaudiya missions for his liberal policy with regard to women. For example, he engaged women in ways that others, even his own guru, had not permitted. Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura did not allow women to live in the monastery, to chant and dance together in the same room with men, to cook for the temple deity, or to engage directly in the seva puja of the temple deity.

Prabhupada allowed women to do all of these things and in many instances gave women the position of head priest in charge of the deity’s daily service. He also allowed women to travel with him as his personal cook at times. Prabhupada’s disciples take these things for granted, as if they were the norm, but others from outside of Prabhupada’s mission often consider these policies to be deviations.

It is true that Prabhupada maintained his position, one that could be considered sexist by some today, in the face of modern thinking. But in relation to his own tradition and cultural background, he was often viewed as giving in to modern thinking. In reality he was neither sexist nor compromising. He was disseminating the essential teachings of Sri Gaurangadeva in light of modern times through the cultural filter of his own background. In his Sri Krishna-samhita, Bhaktivinoda Thakura acknowledges the cultural bias through which divinity expresses itself and he calls upon his readers to distinguish the relative from the absolute in their approach to scripture.

To do as you suggest in your question, to understand these issues intelligently, is to be spiritually vital. My suggestion is that you follow the example of Srila Prabhupada and step away from the crowd. Nothing risked, nothing gained. Use your Western intelligence in Prabhupada’s service. He wanted that very much. Although divine faith is superior to intellect, it must pass the test of reason to be so. Then, with reason fully at its disposal, divine faith will conquer over all.

Q. Do all members of the pusthi marga have a paternal rasa with Krishna, since the followers of this sampradaya focus on the worship of Bala Krishna?

A. In the pusthi marga of Vallabha, madhurya rasa is also cultured by some devotees. According to the Gaudiya Vaisnavas, Vallabha himself took initiation from Gadadhara Pandita in pursuit of this mellow. This is mentioned in Caitanya Caritamrita.

Q. It seems somewhat awkward to focus on the worship of Bala Krishna when Krishna does not have those childhood lilas in Goloka. Or does he?

A. The pastimes of Krishna’s birth are not fully played out in the deva lila of Goloka. Otherwise, parental love is fully manifest there with corresponding lilas.

Q. If the followers of the pusthi marga are not ultimately in a paternal rasa, how can the worship of Bala Krishna help them in the development of their particular rasa?

A. It is true that most pusthi marga devotees worship Bala Krishna and appear to be attracted to vatsalya rasa. No harm. As one advances, his or her natural attraction manifests and this usually corresponds with the attraction of one’s guru. If it is otherwise, an arrangement will be made from above as in the case of Syamananda.

Q. In your book ‘Ancient Wisdom for Modern Ignorance’ you say jazz is inferior to raga due to its sinful origins. Can’t any kind of music be purified if it is done with bhakti?

A. Jazz has obviously evolved and the consciousness behind it is sometimes much more spiritual than when it first appeared, as in the case of Coltrane whose music introduced Indian ragas to many in the West. Regardless of one’s art form, the spirit behind it, one’s consciousness, will have an effect upon its listeners. At the same time, some art forms evolved out of sattvic consciousness, while others evolved out of rajasic and tamasic consciousness. You can have a sattvic art form with rajasic/tamasic consciousness behind it, and a rajasic/tamasic art form with sattvic consciousness behind it.

Q. How can I develop my love for Krishna?

A. Chanting is the best way to develop love for Krishna. Do it attentively and watch to see that its effect plays out in your everyday life in terms of developing ‘jiva daya,’ kindness to all beings. Start with this and gauge your chanting accordingly. If your heart is not cleansed of selfishness and softened towards others, your chanting is not attentive. Pay better attention and gather knowledge in relation to Krishna.

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