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Understanding the Art and Science of Krishna Consciousness: An Attempt at Reconciliation

By: on Jan. 31, 2008
Opinion
A quick glance at the many ISKCON-related websites tells us much, not least that there are differences of opinion about what Srila Prabhupada taught and different approaches to implementing his teachings. Naturally, we all think that our particular interpretation is "the" correct one, and that the Other is fundamentally errant.

Without doubt, there is, ultimately, one truth in Krishna consciousness, though it may be viewed variously, according to one's personal realization and level of spiritual advancement.

This much is obvious. But I am here to say that there is a way to make this diversity work for us, to help us reconcile our differences and to walk together for furthering our spiritual master's mission. Simplistic though it may seem, I propose that we learn to see Krishna Consciousness as both an art and a science, and I further propose that such vision can help us resolve our many conflicts.

It is a science because it provides a methodical approach to the Divine -- it's a time-tested and repeatable procedure that delivers reliable results. Prabhupada told us this time and again, and many stalwarts throughout history have benefited from its application.

It is also an art. For unless it is practiced with insightful intuition and with great sensitivity, it will yield only superficial results. Unless we creatively apply all that our acharyas have given us -- recognizing the individuality of each and every practitioner -- we become lost in theoretical philosophy and impractical solutions.

Now, it appears to me that the conservatives in our midst tend to emphasize the "science" side of our tradition, while the liberals are more given to the "art" of Krishna Consciousness. Both are legitimate, and so we should exhibit some appreciation for each other -- we should see that we erroneously decry each other, when we are actually reaching for the same thing, even if naturally approaching that thing according to our own psycho-physical makeup.

I don't mean to ignore the very real problems that face us -- the abuse of power, the deception, the insincerity, the concrete differences in our understanding of the basic philosophy; these are all real enough. But I am saying that a good number of our differences could be set aside in favor of our common goal, and the realization that there are various approaches to that goal.

Let's face it, we adopt a particular position according to our conditioning and limited understanding of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, even if it has been handed down to us by Srila Prabhupada. Let us not be so arrogant as to think that we, and only we, have some monopoly on the Vaishnava truths we often failingly incorporate into our lives. Let us be open, understanding, compassionate, and loving, and then, I think we can agree, we will inherit the fruits of our glorious tradition.

I know that there is a certain naïveté in my words, but there is also a lot of siddhanta as well. For those who agree, I thought this short note might serve to lessen our quarrel. Really, I just wanted to wish the best to my many brothers and sisters in Krishna Consciousness, whether I see reality the way they see it or not!

 


 















Satyaraja Dasa (Steven J. Rosen) is an initiated disciple of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He is founding editor of the Journal of Vaishnava Studies and an associate editor of Back to Godhead Magazine. Rosen is also the author of numerous books, including the popular Gita on the Green: The Mystical Tradition Behind Bagger Vance (Continuum International, 2000) and The Hidden Glory of India (Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 2002). Several years ago he was called upon by Greenwood Press, a major academic publisher, to write the Hinduism volume for their “Introduction to the World’s Major Religions” series.

The book did so well that they further commissioned him to write Essential Hinduism, a more comprehensive treatment of the same subject, under the auspices of their prestigious parent company (Praeger), and the book is now receiving worldwide acclaim. Rosen’s books have appeared in several languages, including Spanish, German, Hungarian, Czech, Swedish, Chinese, and Russian. His forthcoming work, Krishna’s Song: A New Look at the Bhagavad Gita (Greenwood, 2007), will explore key philosophical points in the Gita to illuminate the ancient text’s overall teaching and philosophical narrative.

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