Dandavat pranama. Jaya Sri Guru and Gauranga.
The following article is a review of the book, Na Paraye 'Ham. When the ideas promoted in the book were presented to Paramaradya Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, he at once gave his encouragement to present our Gaudiya Vaisnava siddhanta on the matter, and he himself dictated some statements to be included in this article. His statements may be found in section four.
The illustrations in the book, both the paintings and the pen and ink renderings, are absolutely lovely, and the original source materials, like the Rasa-lila chapters in Srimad-Bhagavatam and Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura's Sri Prema Samput, are worshipable for all Gaudiya Vaisnavas. The language usage is brilliant, and the grammar, syntax, and other aspects of English composition are excellent. There is one concern, however, and that is that the Introduction of the book states that the pastimes described in the book are not literal translations of our acaryas' revealed writings. Rather, the book has added fictitious characters and events to the real events in Krsna's pastimes, and it has subtracted other, real events.
The book conveys to the reader that real personalities like Sri Sri Radha and Krsna are conversing and interacting with personalities who are figments of the author's imagination, for the purpose of teaching Krsna conscious principles. It states that our Srila Prabhupada has approved of this writing technique and that our worshipable acaryas have written many of their own books with the same literary devices employed in Na Paraye 'Ham. It also states that some of the exalted pure devotees and associates of the Lord presented in Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura's Jaiva Dharma, which it refers to as a novel, are fictitious characters presented to express philosophy, just as some of the personalities in Na Paraye' Ham are fictitious.
A question arises as to the authenticity of this type of presentation. This book review is divided into eight sections, and discusses the questions that are raised in this regard. Listed here, in the order they appear in this article for the easy reference of the respected readers, are the questions that are raised and discussed:
1) Is it authorized to write about fictitious persons interacting with the most real persons, namely Krsna and His associates? Can that be called Krsna conscious literature?
2) Have our acaryas done this?
3) Has Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura done this?
4) Are the dialogues and two of the main personalities in Jaiva Dharma products of the imagination of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura?
5) Did Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura invent pastimes of Krsna and the gopis in his commentaries on Srimad Bhagavatam?
6) Is it authorized to quote Krsna saying things He may never have said, only because His suggested statements do not contradict points of philosophy?
7) When are allegories applicable?
8) Did Prabhupada encourage the writing of such books as Na Paraya 'Ham?
The format of this book review article will be as follows: In discussing each of the eight questions, we will first present some of the quotes from Na Payaye 'Ham, and they will be under the heading NA PARAYE 'HAM (a, b, c, d, and e are quotes from Na Paraye 'Ham). Then we will present our response under the heading BOOK REVIEW, along with quotes from Srila Prabhupada's books and other authoritative sources. The statements that are in square brackets are our own.
1) NA PARAYA 'HAM: [Here, the book states that it has added fictitious characters speaking and interacting with real personalities like Radha and Krsna:]
1a) "Disclaimer: 'One final note. I must reiterate that Syamalata, her story, and her interaction with Sri Radha and other residents of Vraja, is a literary device." (NPH p.29)
1b) "To keep the attention of the reader I searched for a suitable story line and literary device that, in tandem with illustrative pastimes, would lighten the mood of the book. In the end I settled on the story of Syamalata, the narrator gopi, who speaks to the reader and to Nava-sakhi, a newly arrived recruit to Krsna's bhauma-lila. The first poetic license, therefore, was to induce the fictional characters Syamalata and Nava-sakhi. As a consequence of this decision, these literary characters interact with real historical persons such us Radha and Krsna." (NPH p.19)
1c) "Enter Syamalata, a nitya-siddha gopi living in Yavat, Radharani's village. She is a yuthesvari, a leader of many other beautiful gopis, and is much beloved by Sri Krsna. Syamalata is not a member of Radha's group, but she does have a very friendly relationship with Sri Radha." (NPH p.17)
1d) "By associating with the eternally liberated gopisNava-sakhi's love will develop, and she will become qualified assistant of Krsna's sakhis." (NPH p.18)
1e) [The author states that the real Radha wrote a letter to the author's fictitious character, Syamalata. The fictitious Syamalata says in his book:] "I took the note from her hand. Radhika's handwriting was like a string of pearls. I was so enchanted by Her script that it took some time before I could read Her words. When I did, this is what I read: 'Syamalate! Pranamas! May your every desire be fulfilled! Dear friend! I know you doubt the fidelity of Sri Krsna's love for Me. I also know You wonder if I truly know His heart. Sakhi! To answer your questions I have sent this girl. She has been empowered by My Rupa." (NPH p.246)
BOOK REVIEW: [The following are quotes from Srila Prabhupada indicating that Krsna's pastimes are transcendental and thus cannot be imagined or partially imagined. Prabhupada writes:]
"One cannot imagine something about God or His form. Such imagination is not accepted by those who are serious about enlightenment. Here Brahma says that one can know Krsna through the path of properly understanding the Vedic texts. If by studying the form, name, qualities, pastimes and paraphernalia of the Supreme Godhead one is attracted to the Lord, he can execute devotional service." (Caitanya-caritamrta Adi 3.111 purp.)
[Krsna does not interact with imaginary characters.] "Pastimes of the Lord are executed in cooperation with His pure devotees" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.1.8 purp.)
"One who follows his imaginations about the Supreme Personality of Godhead is condemned."(Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.3.32 purp.)
"We have to take information of Krsna from the sastraYour eyes should be sastra, not your so-called imagination. sastra-caksusa. Yah sastra-vidhim utsrjya vartate kama... If you give up the direction of the sastra and manufacture your own wayyou will never get siddhi, perfection." (Srila Prabhupada's lecture on Bhagavad-gita 1.24-25, given in London on July 20, 1973)
"So as we have seen that Lord Caitanya, when He instructs, He gives at once evidence from authoritative scripture, that is the way of presenting. Always you should remember that we cannot imagine about God: "I think God is like this." This is nonsense. . . This is all nonsense. "( Srila Prabhupada's lecture on Cc. Mad. 20.152-154, New York, December 5, 1966)
"Therefore it has been described as avan-manasa-gocara, or beyond the description of our words and the imagination of our minds." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.1.21 purp.)
[Srimati Radhika is also Krsna. As one cannot manufacture Krsna, so one cannot invent a letter by Radha. In this connection Srila Prabhupada writes:] "Our Kaviraja Gosvami says that this Radha-Krsna prema, loving affairs between Radha Krsna, it is a fact. It is not imagination. It is a fact. But this fact is different from the fact we have got experience in this world." (Prabhupada's lecture on Caitanya-caritamrta Adi 1.5, given on March 29, 1975)
"The loving affairs of Sri Radha and Krsna are transcendental manifestations of the Lord's internal pleasure-giving potency." (Caitanya-caritamrta Adi 1.5)
"That which is beyond imagination, heavy with wonder and relished in the heart shining with goodness - such is known as rasa." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.43.17 purp.)
"The wonderful characteristics of the gopis are beyond imagination." (Caitanya-caritamrta Adi 4.187 purp.)
2) NA PARAYA 'HAM: [In #2a the Introduction to Na Paraye 'Ham states that our worshipable acaryas did just as the author did, and that he is simply following their footsteps.]
2a) "In Na Paraye 'Ham, following in the footsteps of the acaryas I have also introduced descriptive passages to further illustrate the text." (NPH, 23)
BOOK REVIEW: [In the following quote, Srila Prabhupada states that our acaryas have never done so.]
"Vyasadeva, such a learned person, vidvan. Lokasyajanato vidvams cakre satvata-samhitam [SB 1.7.6]. He is vidvan. He has written this satvata-samhita with some mythology, some fiction, some imagination? It is rascaldom to consider it like that. It is not mythology; it is fact. That is Bhagavan. He has wasted his time to describe some mythology? But they have no common sense. And not only that, Vyasadeva has written. Later on all big, big commentators like Sridhara Svami, Vijayadhvaja, Viraraghavacarya, Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, Sanatana Gosvami, many. They have never said that this is mythology. Never said. Never said." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.7.49-50 - Vrndavana, October 7, 1976)
3) NA PARAYE 'HAM: [In #3a, b,c, and d, Na Paraye 'Ham states that especially Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura invented pastimes.]
3a) "Then the question arises, 'Have the previous acaryas utilized this technique?"
Yes, I shall cite the example of Bhaktivinoda Thakura's writings as a precedent for creative techniques in Na Paraye 'Ham." (NPH p.21)
3b)"Devotees may argue that the person and incidents in these books were revealed to the Thakura by dint of his perfect spiritual insight - we are simply unfamiliar with them. That may be a valid sentiment, but there is no evidence to support it. In the vast majority of books Bhaktivinoda Thakura did not refer to such revelations. In fact, he did not indicate that his books were anything other than they appeared to be - original literary compositions expounding on the siddhanta of Vaisnava philosophy and science." (NPH p.21)
3c) "R30;Bhaktivinoda Thakura did not indicate that they were anything but spiritual literary compositions in which he employed modern literary devices - combining history, philosophy, prose, and fiction for the purpose of transmitting Lord Caitanya's teachings." (NPH p.22)
3d) "In books like Hari-nama-cintamani, Prema-pradipa, Navadvipa-dhama-mahatmya, and others, Bhaktivinoda Thakura introduced a variety of original writing techniques. In some (Hari-nama-cintamani) historical personalities in non-historical events present the Thakura's teachings. In others (Prema-pradipa) non-historical persons and non-historical events are combined to do the same. In still others (Navadvipa-dhama-mahatmya) historical personalities act within historical events to present the teachings of the Thakura. (NPH p.22)
BOOK REVIEW: [The following are quotes from Sri Navadvipa-dhama-mahatmya by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura himself, wherein he states that the pastimes therein were revealed to him by Sri Nitai and Srimati Jahnava devi, and that They are manifesting Their factual pastimes to the world through him]
"Aspiring for the shade of the lotus feet of Nitai and Jahnava, Bhaktivinoda reveals these confidential topics [the pastimes of Lord Nityananda and Srila Jiva Gosvami.]"
"Bhaktivinoda, within whom the ever worshipable Jahnava and Nitai have appeared, sings the glories of Nadia and the sweetness of the devotees while tasting transcendental flavors."
4) NA PARAYA 'HAM: [In #4a and b, Na Paraye 'Ham specifically says that Jaiva-dharma is a novel, in which Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura invents dialogues between real associates of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and fictitious characters who are in the role of the associates' pure disciples.]
4a) "Among these books, Jaiva-dharma most closely parallels the format of Na Paraye' Ham. Jaiva-dharma is the Thakura's magnum opus, an exposition of Vaisnava philosophy presented in the form of a novel." [NPH p.22]
4b) "Bhaktivinoda Thakura makes his literary characters interact with and learn from historical members of Lord Caitanya's entourage. For example, in the latter part of the book, the historical acarya Dhyanacandra Gosvami gives instruction to the non-historical heroes Vrajanatha and Vijaya-kumara. This technique is identical to the one I have used in Na Paraye 'Ham." [NPH p.22]
BOOK REVIEW: [The following are quotes from Srila Prabhupada and Srila Narayana Maharaja stating that the dialogues and history in Jaiva-dharma are not imagination. They are revelations of factual histories and factual personalities.]
"First of all we should know that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura is an eternally liberated soul. Not only that, he is the direct manifestation of Srila Gadadhara Pandita. He is Saptama Gosvami. Whatever he has written is samadhi bhasya, written in trance, and everything is true. One may say that the personalities Vrajanatha and Vijay Kumar are imagination, but this is wrong. They actually exist and are real. All the scriptures, like Srimad Bhagavatam and the books of the Gosvamis, have manifested in samadhi or trance, and so is Jaiva-dharma. Jaiva-dharma is the essence of all the doctrines of our Sri Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy. If one considers that it is imagination, then Srimad Bhagavatam and Sri Ujjvala Nilamani and all the books written by our Gosvamis are also imagination by this definition. A person who claims this is an aparadhi, a great offender." (Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja)
"Those who do not accept Jaiva-dharma are committing a big offense, and one who states or writes that Jaiva-dharma is the imagination of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura will bring about only misfortune for himself. Also, one who reads the books that state this misconception will be devastated, for sure." (Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja)
[Referring to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura's words on the first page of Jaiva-dharma, Srila Prabhupada said:] "So especially in India, the atmosphere is very good. It is especially meant, within this universe, this plot of land known as Bharatavarsa, India, is the most sacred place within this universe. And of the whole land Bharatavarsa, in Bengal, it is very sacred. And the whole of Bengal, this Nadia is very sacredThis is the statement of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Not that I am manufacturing. We cannot manufacture anything, but we can repeat the words of our predecessors. Bhaktivinoda Thakura, in his Jaiva-dharma, or in Caitanya-siksamrta, he has stated like that." (Srila Prabhupada's lecture in Mayapura, Apr. 8, 1975)
"You can write, but one cannot take it very seriously. If any Vaisnava is writing a song about Krsna, that should be from one who himself has realized Krsna, just like our great saints and acaryas like Madhvacarya, Ramanujacarya, Rupa Gosvami, the six Gosvamis, Bilvamangala, Bhaktivinoda Thakura, like that. They are self-realized souls, and therefore if they write something song about Krsna, that is perfectly from the transcendental platform, without any tinge of mundane influence or nonsense imagination. Unless someone comes in the category of these great leading Vaisnava personalities, his manufacturing some songs will be misleading to himself and to others." (Prabhupada's letter to Billy Reyburne, 3 December, 1972)
[The history is true, the dialogues are true, and the philosophy is also true in Jaiva-dharma.] "Some persons did not want to publish Jaiva-dharma because they claim that the living entities have come from Vaikuntha and now they have become fallen and forgotten their eternal relationship with Krishna. In Jaiva-dharma this idea and many other misconceptions are clearly refuted. The living entities are coming from the tatastha shakti and have never been in the spiritual world." (Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja)
[The author of Na Paraye 'Ham states that Vijaya Kumara is a fictitious character, but Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura himself glorifies Vijaya Kumara at the very end of Jaiva-dharma in this way:] "Who but Vijaya himself could understand the movements of his bhajana and the transcendental bhava of his heart? . . . While he was chanting harinama, tears constantly rolled down his checks, his throat became choked, and the hairs of his body stood erect. Within a short span of time, he attained perfection in his bhajana and Sri Krsna most graciously bestowed upon him the adhikara to render seva in his aprakata-lila. Like Brahma Haridasa Thakura, his bhajana-deha (the body with which he performed bhajana) was buried under the sands of the beach at Puri."(Jaiva-Dharma p.868)
5) NA PARAYA 'HAM: [In #5a and b, Na Paraye 'Ham states that Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura also wrote imaginative dialogues between Krsna and the gopis, in order to express philosophical points.]
5a) "In His Sarartha-darsini commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam, Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura explains verses by embellishing them with descriptive dialogues. He does the same in his Sarartha-varsini commentary on Bhagavad-gita. This approach has proven an attractive and effective teaching method. Rather than labour through lengthy philosophical dissertations, the reader hears an entertaining discourse, made even more attractive by the presence of its exalted speakers." (NPH p.23)
5b) "In the same way I have used the methodology of Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura to clarify the words spoken by Krsna or the gopis. Instead of using my voice to elaborate upon their words, I have let the voices of the original characters do the elaborating. I request the reader to accept this practice as a bona fide literary device." (NPH p.24.)
BOOK REVIEW: [In the following quote, Srila Prabhupada states that Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura never made up Krsna's conversations. He is a pure devotee, and therefore he only spoke or wrote what Krsna told him, or what he personally heard Krsna say.]
"When a pure Vaisnava speaks, he speaks perfectly. How is this? His speech is managed by Krsna Himself from within the heart. Srila Ramananda Raya accepts this benediction from Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu; therefore he admits that whatever he was speaking was not derived from his own intelligence. Rather, everything was coming from Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu." (Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 8.200 purp.)
[In his siddha-deha, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura is a maidservant of Srimati Radhika. There is no need for him to invent pastimes. Rather, only someone in his category can understand and broadcast the factual pastimes of Radha and Krsna.] "The pastimes of Radha and Krsna are very confidential. They cannot be understood through the mellows of servitude, fraternity or parental affection." Actually, only the gopis have the right to appreciate these transcendental pastimes, and only from them can these pastimes be expanded." (Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 8.201-2)
"So this is the person who has received the authority to draw mercy water from the ocean of mercy of Krsna. Saksad-dharitvena samasta-sastraih. And what Krsna said five thousand years ago, the same thing Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, same thing. There was no change, as there was no change between the statement of Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura and Narottama dasa Thakura. Sadhu sastra. As sastra, there is no change. Not that "Modernize. The sastra should be changed." No. That is nonsense. That is not sastra. Sastra cannot be changed. Naturally we have to accept the statement of Srimad-Bhagavatam as it is because it is so accepted by spiritual leaders like Sridhara Svami, Jiva Gosvami, Visvanatha Cakravarti and others. The Vedic process is to follow in the footsteps of great authorities, and that is the only process for knowing that which is beyond our imagination." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.7.13 purp.)
6) NA PARAYA 'HAM: [In #6a, b, and c, Na Paraye 'Ham states that it sometimes has Krsna saying things that perhaps He never said, but are consistent with Krsna conscious philosophy.]
6a) "Someone may challenge, 'You are putting words into the mouths of Krsna and His eternal associates.' To this I humbly respond, 'If those words are consistent with Krsna's teachings, or if they have been recorded by authorities as having been spoken by Him, what is the harm?' (NPH p.24)
6b) "Repeating Krsna's ideas in different words is a standard practice employed by all preachers. In explaining the verses of Bhagavad-gita, do we not in effect say, 'Krsna meant this!' and 'Krsna said that!' Indeed, in our preaching we often paraphrase Krsna's words in a humorous or modern context. For what purpose? To make it more understandable and attractive to the audience. (NPH p.24)
6c)". . . Instead of using my voice to elaborate upon their words, I have let the voices of original characters do the elaborating. I request the reader to accept this practice as a bona fide literary device. ( NPH p.24)"
BOOK REVIEW: [Srila Prabhupada states in the following quote that a Krsna conscious speaker or writer will only repeat Krsna's actual words.]
"So this is the person who has received the authority to draw mercy water from the ocean of mercy of Krsna. Saksad-dharitvena samasta-sastraih. And what Krsna said five thousand years ago, the same thing Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, same thing. There was no change, as there was no change between the statement of Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura and Narottama dasa Thakura. Sadhu sastra. As sastra, there is no change. Not that 'Modernize. The sastra should be changed.' No. That is nonsense. That is not sastra. Sastra cannot be changed. 'Circumstantially, it will be changed, seasonal changes.' No. That is not sastra.
"Sastra means it is perpetual. What Krsna said five thousand years ago or Krsna said some forty millions of years ago to the sun god... Imam vivasvate yogam proktavan aham avyayam [Bg. 4.1]. He says, "I am talking to you that puratanam yogam." Not that "Because it has passed millions of years and now it is a different time, so I will have to change." No. He said, "I am talking to you that very old system." Is it not? Just see. The sastra cannot be changed. God's word cannot be changed. Then what will be the difference between God and ourself? He is always perfect. He is always perfect. What He said forty millions of years ago, what He said five thousand years ago, that is also correct up to date. That is sastra. Not that "So many years have passed and it has become old. Now let us reform it and put it into new way." (Prabhupada's lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.6.8, given in Vrndavana on Nov.30, 1976 )
7) NA PARAYE 'HAM: [In #7a, Na Paraye 'Ham states that Krsna's pastimes can be written as allegories.]
7a) "The story line is meant to generate a more readable literature. Devotees, especially in modern times, are less inclined to read straight philosophy than an attractive story that illustrates points of philosophy. If by reading the latter they become versed in the principles of krsna-tattva, surely our purpose in spreading Krsna consciousness is served." (NPH p.20)
BOOK REVIEW: [Srila Prabhupada's quotes below state that only on rare occasions do the sastras present scriptural allegories, but never in the case of Krsna's pastimes or the pastimes of His associates. Moreover, in those allegories, all the characters are fictional or allegorical. Sastra never mixes real and imaginary.]
"Because sometimes in the original Vedas the subject matter is too difficult for the common man to understand, the Puranas explain matters simply by the use of stories and historical incidents." (Teachings of Lord Caitanya, 25)
"Just like now we are explaining in 4th Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam the story of King Puranjana. Just like the living entity is living within this body, and the body is described there as city with nine gates, the intelligence as the Queen. So there are sometimes allegorical explanations."(Prabhupada's letter to Krsnadasa - Vrndavana, Nov.7, 1972)
"There are many similar stories in the puranas for self-realization. As stated in the Vedas: paroksa-priya iva hi devah. There are many stories in the Puranas that are intended to interest ordinary men in transcendental subjects, but actually these refer to real facts. They are not to be considered stories without a transcendental purpose. Some of them refer to real historical facts. One should be interested, however, in the real purport of the story. Indirect instruction is quickly understandable for a common man. Factually, the path of bhakti-yoga is the path of hearing directly about the pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead (sravanam kirtanam visnoh [SB 7.5.23]), but those who are not interested in hearing directly about the activities of the Lord, or who cannot understand them, can very effectively hear such stories and fables as this one narrated by Narada Muni (the story of King Puranjana)." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.28.65 purp.)
8) NA PARAYE 'HAM: [In #8a, Na Paraye 'Ham states that Srila Prabhupada encouraged the writing of books like Na Paraye 'Ham.]
8a) "Srila Prabhupada did not do it. His literary calling was mainly translating and commenting on sastra. However, he did instruct his disciples to write according to the teachings and example of the acaryas." (NPH p.20)
BOOK REVIEW: [It is true that Prabhupada wanted his disciples to follow the example of the acaryas, as stated in his many, many quotes above, and in those quotes he says that the acaryas never invented pastimes.]
CONCLUSION: This article has given quotes from sastra to show that an attempt to write about Krsna's pastimes, or the pastimes of His associates, by combining the real and the imaginative, can only produce an unauthorized book with a different Radha and Krsna than the Radha and Krsna sastra teaches us to serve. Na Paraye 'Ham is based on a misconception about our acaryas and about Srila Prabhupada, and has thus unintentionally stated that they are also unauthorized.
The purpose in writing this article is to defend the integrity of our Gurudeva, Srila Prabhupada, and his guru-parampara, and also to inform the respected innocent readers for their consideration.
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