Is the Guru the Same as God?
May I request answers to the following queries:
1. Some devotees accept the living guru as God Himself, to the extent that Lord Krsna Himself becomes of lesser importance. They call this "prakat-guru-hari"; i.e., Krsna has manifested in the living guru, and hence there is not much devotion required to be directed to Krsna bhakti. How could a living entity, in whatsoever capacity, equate with Lord Krsna?
2. Is it appropriate to worship an avatara of Krsna, to the extent of reducing Krsna's own worship?
3. How do I verify that a certain avatara is actually a Visnu-tattva [form of the Supreme Lord]? E.g., Bhagavan (Acharya) Rajneesh, Bhagavan Swaminarayan, Sri Sahajananda Swami.
I shall be highly grateful if these queries are solved on the basis of sastra [scripture] with adequate evidence.
Dr. P. V. Patel
OUR REPLY: According to the Vaisnava teachers and all Vedic scriptures, the guru (spiritual master) is respected as the direct representative of Lord Krsna (saksad-dharitvena samasta-sastrair uktas tatha bhavyata eva sadbhih). This is because the spiritual master is a very dear servant of Lord Krsna (kintu prabhor yah priya eva tasya).
The spiritual master is not God, but he is very dear to God. So one should equally honor both.
As stated in the Svetasvatara Upanisad (6.23), yasya deve para bhaktir yatha deve tatha gurau/ tasyaite kathita hy arthah prakasante mahatmanah: "Only unto those great souls who have full devotion to both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed."
The avataras (incarnations) of Lord Krsna are all Krsna Himself, appearing in different forms. According to Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.20.25), anugrahaya bhaktanam anurupatmadarsanam: "He manifests His innumerable transcendental forms for the satisfaction of His devotees." So one may worship the Lord in any of His Visnu forms.
Sri Hanumanji, for example, prefers to worship Lord Krsna in the form of Sri Ramacandra, and Sri Laksmi prefers to worship Krsna in His form as Narayana. As stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.9.11), Lord Krsna reciprocates with the devotee in whatever Visnu form the devotee prefers.
The members of the Hare Krsna movement, however, prefer to worship the Lord in His original form as Krsna, Syamasundara, because this form is the fountainhead of all incarnations (krsnas tu bhagavan svayam), the reservoir of all transcendental qualities.
One should note, however, that worship of demigods like Brahma and Siva can never equal worship of Lord Krsna or Narayana. As stated in the Padma Purana:
yas tu narayanam devam
sa pasandi bhaved dhruvam
"A person who considers demigods like Brahma and Siva to be on an equal level with Narayana must certainly be considered an offender."
If one is condemned even for equating the Supreme Lord with the great demigods, what to speak of equating God with an ordinary human being?
The most important way to identify a bona fide incarnation of God is by specific evidence from revealed scripture. Genuine avataras like Lord Rama and Lord Caitanya are precisely described in scripture. Unless specifically mentioned in scripture, the so-called Bhagavan is simply bogus.
Compromising the Culture?
This is in regard to the Nov./Dec. '94 issue and the article by Pranada Devi Dasi ["At Work With Krsna"]. Item 5 of your Statement of Purposes states that BTG will "perpetuate and spread the Vedic culture." I am having a difficult time understanding how the depiction of a devotee mother leaving the "protective environment of a life guided by full-time devotional service in ISKCON" to venture out, briefcase in hand, into the work force perpetuates and spreads the Vedic culture.
There is no reason given for her venturing into the work force. Was it out of financial necessity, or maybe it was to pad the bank account? Are women in our movement trying to prove themselves? The reader is left with more questions than answers.
The traditional family unit must be supported both within and without ISKCON. BTG should not publish articles that would seem to undermine the traditional family roles and values that Srila Prabhupada supported so strongly in his books and which form the foundation of the Vedic society.
Jiva Mukta Dasa
Thornbury, Ontario Canada
OUR REPLY: There are sixty million women in the American work force. Should we tell them all to quit their jobs, or should we tell them to chant Hare Krsna?
Krsna consciousness is not meant to bind everyone to tight stereotypes. America in the 1990s is a far cry from Vedic India.
Pranada Dasi is a smart businesswoman, and her husband is an excellent editor. The profit from Pranada's business lets her husband work full-time for free for Back to Godhead.
Though their roles may not conform precisely to Vedic tradition, both Pranada and her husband set an ideal example of dedicated service to Krsna. And serving Krsna is in essence what the Vedic culture is all about.
North America Left Out?
I was perplexed that BTG, among eight pages of plans for the Srila Prabhupada Centennial, made no mention of the North American rural Padayatra program and the recently established North American centennial office.
Bonners Ferry, Idaho
OUR REPLY: Sorry for the oversight. The new centennial office is located at P. O. Box 1987, Alachua, FL 32615. Phone: 1-800-205-6108 or (904) 462-0436. Fax: (904) 462-0550. Plans for a rural Padayatra are just getting started. For information contact Saunaka Dasa at 1030 Grand Ave., San Diego, CA 92109. Phone: (619) 483-0330.
Hare Krsna on the Internet
I am curious if there is a [LISTSERV] group on the "net" regarding Krsna consciousness. If so please help me get connected. If not, let's start one. I am a full-time student in MIS/Computer Science and also am a lover of Krsna. I would be glad to contribute in any way possible to the betterment of such a group.
Jennifer J. Schulke
OUR REPLY: No, we don't have a LISTSERV group yet, though we hope that one (or maybe several) will start soon.
But we do have a Hare Krsna site on the World Wide Web. It was started by a student, Anand Ravipati, who is now working with our Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. The site is still in its embryonic stages. We expect a lot of changes to it within the coming months. (If you'd like to make suggestions or help with development, please feel welcome.) This is the URL: http://www.webcom.com/~ara.
Clear Message About the Demigods?
BTG has improved so much in the past few years. But this demigod glorification series just doesn't seem to be going anywhere BTG wants to go.
One congregational member (she is from India and has been chanting for four years) told us this: "When I saw the article on the cover I thought, 'Oh no, not in BTG!' I didn't even want to read the article. But since it was in BTG I wanted to see what it said. I was disgusted by reading it. The article was very confusing. This is so unexpected. We are trying to give these things up." When asked what she thought the message of the article was she replied; "That it is all right to worship the demigods. You can do it."
Could we get a substantial reply about the apparently inconsistent messages about demigod worship?
OUR REPLY: We thought our message was clear: The demigods are glorious because they are servants of the true object of worship for all living beings the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krsna. Following the example of the demigods, every living being should worship Lord Krsna.
And Then Again
I am writing to you at the request of the Radha Raman temple board. The article "Ganesa, Remover of Obstacles" disturbed them because it portrays Lord Siva and Ganesa in what the members of the board interpret to be inappropriate and offensive ways.
For example, the article states that Ganesa is "ugly" and was "a seducer of women." Lord Siva is described as being so "passionate" that Parvati Devi had to have a bodyguard to prevent him from entering while she was bathing.
Apart from being personally offended by these statements, the board members are concerned that reading the article may alienate many people in their congregation. Consequently, the board is considering not distributing this issue.
President Sri Radha Raman Temple Placentia, California
OUR REPLY: It was never our intention to disrespect Sri Ganesa or Lord Siva. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught that we should be respectful even to the ant, so what to speak of such exalted devas (demigods) as Sri Ganesa and Lord Siva.
The intention of the article was to make clear that the devas are all highly elevated, super-powerful beings who carry out cosmic universal functions, being empowered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The histories mentioned in the article were taken, the author assures me, from authorized Puranas. In these histories, it may seem that the devas sometimes do something that in human society would be open to criticism. But we understand that the devas, being super-powerful, are not subject to ordinary human standards.
Lord Siva, for example, may sometimes be described in the Puranas as acting in a way that seems passionate. But Lord Siva also drinks an ocean of poison to protect innocent living entities. Therefore, Lord Siva is superpowerful, and he cannot be subject to criticism like an ordinary human being.
I've asked our author and editor to make sure that nothing in this series of articles disrespects the devas in any way. Rather, we want to make clear that the devas are our respectable superiors. They are all most exalted and powerful servants of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Visnu, so they are always worthy of our respect.
Following the instructions of Bhagavad-gita, we are exclusively worshiping Lord Sri Krsna as the Supreme Absolute, the Personality of Godhead. But at the same time we want to respect all other living beings, and especially such exalted controllers as Lord Siva and Sri Ganesa.
My apologies to the devotees who may have felt offended. My thanks to them for bringing the matter to my attention.
I hope this letter will clear up the matter to everyone's satisfaction.
[NOTE: The board decided to distribute the issue, along with our letter of explanation. Our thanks to them again.]
We'd like to hear from you. Please send correspondence to: The Editors, Back to Godhead, P. O. Box 430, Alachua, Florida 32615, USA. Fax: (904) 462-7893. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.