(Kadamba Kanana Swami, 07 October 2017, Canberra, Australia, Srimad Bhagavatam 4.27.25)
As ISKCON devotees, we are not meant to be fundamentalists! It takes great intelligence to apply the scriptures therefore whenever things are not clear then there needs to be a discussion amongst senior vaisnavas and we try to reach some conclusions. It is not all cut and dry. Every tradition has its fundamentalists and so does the Hare Krsna movement. We have plenty of them, like the Ritviks. They are trying to reduce things to where it is all black and white, and no shades of grey. It is either bonafide or it is off! Simple as that, nothing else. That is fundamentalism!
Back in the day, we had differences with some senior Gaudiya Math leaders. At that time, ISKCON leaders were much younger and the Gaudiya Math had very senior leaders who had great appeal. They were from India and everyone thought, “Whatever comes from India must be better.” That is not necessarily so with all due respect to India. There is also Kali-yuga in India.
At that time, there were differences and when there are differences then we have to decide what is bonafide and what is not. If something is not exactly the same as what Srila Prabhupada had said then we cannot immediately consider it ‘to be wrong’ – and it is as simple as that. No, it is not that simple because they (Gaudiya Math) are not Prabhupada’s disciples, they are coming from another lineage and they have a different emphasis. We may all agree that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead but how are we going to deal with raganuga-bhakti (devotional service executed with feelings of spontaneous love, NOD 15) which was one of the issues at the time.
Prabhupada made it clear to us that we should wait until we have the adhikara – the qualification. But persons in other lineages may be a lot more liberal about raganuga-bhakti. That is their prerogative and we, as followers of Prabhupada, are not meant to follow that. We are followers of Prabhupada and we are committed to following Prabhupada, even if some other Gaudiya vaisnavas have the right to have another approach, it is not for us.
That settles it and we do not have to make offences because if we go into a fundamentalist mode, “One is bonafide, the other one is off,” then we may just blaspheme senior vaisnavas and that is not our business. The real understanding is that we are committed to our lineage and that is it!
In this way, we are safe. We follow our acarya and we offer all respects to the other vaisnavas; we live our lives and co-exist. This is an example from our ISKCON history of how fundamentalism can create offences which are not beneficial and therefore fundamentalism should not be engaged in.
When we are dealing with Gaudiya vaisnavas, we must always remain respectful because they are in our life. There may be differences but still, we are in one family. We are respectful to all four Sampradayas (spiritual lineages) although we do not agree with them. Madhva Sampradaya does not accept that Krsna is the original Ādi–puruṣa. We accept Krsna as Ādi–puruṣa, not Ādi–puruṣa as Krsna. They will not accept; they accept Visnu as the origin and Krsna as the incarnation. Well you know, we could argue about that but this is not our main business to go around arguing with the other Sampradayas because by following their path, they can also attain Vaikuntha. So, we do not fight with these other Sampradayas. If there are any fighting propensities in us and we want to fight then go fight with the mayavadis (the impersonalists).