By Sivarama Swami
From Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and Gaudiya history, it seems that there has always been a tension between two kinds of followers of Lord Caitanya’s mission—the preachers and the reclusive practitioners. These are known as the gosthy-anandi (GA) and bhajan-anandi (BA), respectively. The debate between the two centres around how they realise the confidential essence of Lord Caitanya’s teachings, Vraja-bhakti, and the failings that each sees in the other’s practice. GA see that BA neglect Lord Caitanya’s order to preach and that they take an exoteric approach to spontaneous devotion in practice, for which the vast majority of aspirants are ineligible.(1) Therefore such BA are rightly labelled sahajiyas. BA, on the other hand, argue that GA preaching of varnasrama and refuting evolution are material activities, and the GA practice of regulative devotional service leads them to Vaikuntha and not Vraja. Both these charges show a lack of understanding of how to preach and how to elevate neophyte devotees to the realm of spontaneity.
My purpose in writing the Krishna in Vrindavan series was to highlight to members of ISKCON that while preaching and regulated practice are the guidelines given us by our acaryas, they—our acaryas—also taught an esoteric approach to spontaneous service, which did not, as did the BA exoteric practice, conflict with the preaching mission and its resultant influx of neophyte devotees.(2) In this regard Srila Prabhupada emphasised that as devotees’ hearts become purified by service and practice—mainly nama-sankirtana—they will naturally remember Krishna, and by remembering Krishna devotees will awaken their desire to serve Him in the same mood as the Vraja-vasis. That is vraja-bhakti. But if devotees do not read Srila Prabhupada’s books, or books of other Vaisnavas, what will we remember? If devotees do not hear of Krishna’s pastimes, His sweetness, His devotees’ services, then how will we awaken a desire to serve Krishna in Vrndavan?
Following Srila Prabhupada’s order, I am trying to provide more reading material for devotees’ remembrance, and also trying to give the truths of siddhanta and rasa that substantiate the understanding of the transcendental nature of Krishna’s pastimes, associates, and their mutual shared love. However, if devotees do not take seriously the study of transcendental literature, if we only emphasize preaching as a means to perfection, then such devotees may well be confirming the BA false assessment of the path of the GA. Therefore I request devotees not to neglect reading Srila Prabhupda’s books and if they have spare time, read the books like those made available by Lal Publications. Books are not meant to sit on shelves, but are meant to be read and thus awaken our desire to serve Krishna in the way that the Vraja-vasis do.
Yours in Krishna’s service,
1. Exoteric means external.
2. Esoteric means internal.