Q. As a devout and orthodox follower of the Madhva lineage, I appreciated the Sanga, Sri Caitanya and Madhvacharya: Different Angles of Vision.
The question you answered was one that I had in mind for a long time. I really must thank you for this volume (and also the others) profusely. They contain a lot of interesting information and are received with utmost respect. It appears, however, that you are somehow aggrieved with the Madhva community. I deeply regret that. I would only say that true followers of the Madhva faith have always respected any devotee of Krishna, and followers of Sri Caitanya have proven time and again to be spotless devotees of the highest order. Hence all of them are respected and accepted. The Madhva Parampara does have some strong philosophical differences with the Gaudiya lineage and Iskcon but they are like the differences between two loving brothers…. I hope it is understood. Let us not let these differences deviate us from the path of Krishna seva!
A. I agree with you 100%. Truly, I only differ with those who proclaim to follow Madhva yet feel free to attack and criticize Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and his sincere devotees. They are followers of Sri Purnaprajna Madhvacarya in name only.
Q. I have one question for you. Please do not take this the wrong way. I mean no offense at all. This is just a humble inquiry. Did you know at the time of any of the child abuse that was perpetrated against the Iskcon youth? If you knew, did you do anything to rectify this or did you remain inactive thus allowing this abuse to continue and the people responsible to remain in charge? This is a serious question and I would like a serious response to set my mind at ease.
A. No, I had no knowledge of the abuse. I was not involved in Iskcon management or connected in any way with its gurukulas (boarding schools). My service was reading, chanting, arcana (temple worship), and distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books. It is well known that I was fully immersed in these services with no time for anything else.
Q. I’m confused by one of your replies in the Sanga “Ekadasi, The Day of God.” There you wrote: “Guru and sastra extol the virtues of common sense. When they speak against intoxication, this does not include the application of otherwise intoxicating drugs when used for medicinal purposes. Coffee and green tea are not good for the body or mind in the long run, but their occasional use at times for practical purposes will not affect one’s bhakti.”
What do you mean by “practical”? The person writing says he/she drinks coffee in order to work 24 hours straight. Is such use of coffee OK? Is working for 24 hours straight desirable? One could justify so much intoxicant use on the pretext of “practicality.” Would you kindly elaborate?
A. The devotee who asked me this question is a good friend of mine. He works as a paramedic, and four days a week he has to work 24 hour shifts. I think we need paramedics in this society, and I have no problem with devotees being employed in this field. Indeed, it has brought him many realizations about the fleeting nature of life in this mortal world. If he needs to drink coffee on these days to remain alert, it will not adversely effect his bhakti.
When I answer questions on Sanga, I assume that the questioners are sincere and intelligent. Overall, the tenor of my answers is intended to encourage people to think for themselves and use common sense. I take no responsibility if people abuse this. In my opinion it is better to risk that a few might abuse my advice if it means that more are encouraged to become independently thoughtful, living members of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Thus I prefer to answer as I do, rather than answering dogmatically and fostering fundamentalism and unhealthy dependence.
I am also concerned with shifting the focus when evaluating one’s standing in bhakti to examining one’s degree of faith and inner experience, as opposed to equating spiritual advancement simply with external adherence to rules and regulations. My answers reflect this as well.
Q. I have always had great respect for you and still do. However, I am humbly asking your response on the following matter. I read on the jacket cover of your Bhagavad-gita that you are the foremost exponent of Krishna Consciousness in the West. Is this your opinion of yourself? If so, what about Srila Prabhupada and many of our Godbrothers? This little expression on the jacket has disturbed me. Other than this I have never taken issue with you. Could you please explain this to me?
A. The expression that I am the foremost exponent of Krishna consciousness in the West is not written on the jacket cover or anywhere else in my edition of the Gita or in any of my other books. My humble suggestion is that you actually purchase a copy of my Bhagavad-gita and read through it. Then you can decide for yourself what my contribution is.
What some devotees criticize, and you obviously heard about and refer to, is from the promotional bio-data on the inside jacket of my book Aesthetic Vedanta. Due to my literary efforts many scholars and religionists do consider me the foremost living exponent of Gaudiya Vaisnavism in the West.
My disciples as well may consider me to be the foremost Western-born exponent of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. In their eyes, and in the eyes of many that are not disciples, I am writing about Gaudiya Vaisnavism in contemporary language, presenting anew the Gaudiya tradition from within the cultural context of my Western birth, and in this regard my contribution is unique.
Because many people think of me in this light my disciples felt justified to write that I am presently the “foremost Western exponent of the Gaudiya Vaisnava lineage” on the inside jacket of my book Aesthetic Vedanta. (The word Western referring to Western born.) You and anyone else are free to disagree with them if you like. I personally do not have a high opinion of myself, but I honor the subjective reality of my disciples as long as it has some basis in logic and scripture.
Here are a few of the many endorsements Swami has received from well-known authors in the contemporary spiritual marketplace:
“Swami Tripurari is the leading exponent of the bhakti tradition in the West, the contemporary voice of Vaisnavism.” David Frawley
“Swami Tripurari is a felicitous example of scholarship infused with the essential lifeblood of a lifetime of personal spiritual practice.” Georg Feuerstein
“Swami Tripurari’s work is important, as it comes out of spiritual conviction and is neither commercial nor academic.” Andrew Schelling
Aesthetic Vedanta was nominated for the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for religious writing. It is available for free download here.
Q. The world is so varied and variety is the spice of life. Internally, I experience the world like this, but this feeling seems incompatible with spiritual life, because in spiritual life we focus all our attention on Krishna and even our relations with others are tainted by our relation with God. I know that the Krishna conception encompasses all realizations but from my present viewpoint it seems life becomes so one-sided when one is in essence only busy with love for God. How do I solve this seeming incompatibility problem that keeps me from surrendering?
A. When we properly focus our attention on Krishna, we see everything in relation to him. The famous Upanisadic dictum “sarvam kalav idam brahma” says that everything is Brahman. It does not do away with everything; it merely seeks to properly identify everything. So all things are included in this vision of reality, but identified in relation to Krishna, the param brahma.
Accordingly, the true nature of all things will be realized in service to Krishna. When we see everything in relation to him, and thus employ the variety of this world in his service, we experience a dynamic sense of unity. On the other hand, when we see the variety of the world as something to be enjoyed by our senses, there is little hope of any unity at all. We do not want unity at the cost of variety, nor do we want variety at the cost of unity.
With regard to loving other people in the material world, this is inherent in loving Krishna. There is no meaning to Krishna consciousness that does not include within it a deep sense of love for humanity.
Thakura Bhaktivinoda says it like this, “jive daya krishna nama sarva dharma sara,” and furthermore in his Tattva-sutra, “Those who think that devotion to God and kindness to others are mutually exclusive and conduct their life accordingly will not be able to properly cultivate devotional life. They are involved in only a semblance of real devotion.”
With regard to the world of Krishna lila, everyone in the lila loves one another. Their love for each other is considered a sancari bhava (auxilliary emotion) that augments their sthayi bhava (fixed emotion) for Krishna.
To say that in Krishna consciousness love for others is tainted by love for Krishna is incorrect. In Krishna consciousness our capacity to actually love others is realized, not only some but all others, and not only for some time but forever. Whereas without Krishna consciousness, our love for others is tainted by our attachments and the oppression of our sensual and mental demands that cause us to forge relationships with others and to abandon them after some time, and to love one person at the cost of loving another.