Reply to Rocana dasa's speculation
about chanting mantras and
preaching in South India
Dear Sri Mukunda dasa
Please accept my obeisances
All Glories to Srila Prabhupada
With regards to the article posted on the Sampradaya Sun and the comments of the editor, concerning Acyutananda Maharaja and my preaching in South India, enclosed please find a few observations. There are substantial and misleading misrepresentation of facts in that article. There are several issues which should be considered:
1. First of all the Editor was not there, I doubt he really knows what really went on in the South Indian preaching specifically between 1974-1976. His comments are based on speculation, not facts.
2. You may note that the way we chanted mantras and slokas was fully approved by Srila Prabhupada. Specific examples will follow.
3. Personally, I say that no one can truly imitate and duplicate the way that Srila Prabhupada chanted mantras and slokas. That was unique and very special, straight from Goloka Vrindavana. For the record, it should be carefully noted that Srila Prabhupada chanted certain Slokas such as the 1966 Vande ' Ham with mrdangas and kartalas in a Kirtana/Bhajana style, and at other times, he chanted the Vande' ham and the mangala carana prayers in a unique sloka melody style.
4. On several occasions, I chanted slokas and mantras directly in front of Srila Prabhupada's physical, living, breathing, manifested presence and everytime, he liked it and approved it.
5. Mantras such as Brahma-Samhita, Bhagavad-Gita, and Srimad-Bhagavatam Slokas were also chanted and quoted in front of Srila Prabhupada and he liked it and approved of it.
6. Vedic mantras such as the Purusa Sukta, Sri Sukta, and other Vedic mantras were also chanted during Abhisekas in front of Srila Prabhupada and he approved of it. In the Sri Caitanya-Caritamrta, Srila Prabhupada states that all devotees should chant the Purusa Sukta while doing deity worship.
7. In 1974 on a morning walk in Vrindavana, Srila Prabhupada heard the Suprabatham coming from the loudspeaker of the Ranganatha temple. At one point, he directly turned and told me to learn to chant Brahma Samhita like that. I tried.
8. For the Mayapur festival of 1976, a Sanskrit scholar and Vaishnava Pandita named Ananta Rama Sastri, came to Mayapur dhama, met with Srila Prabhupada and composed a string of 23 Sanskrit prayers named Bhaktivedanta Stotram. Directly in front of Srila Prabhupada, before Srimad-Bhagavatam class, he would chant three of four slokas from this hymn, in a unique North Indian style melody. On several occasions, I chanted some of these hymns in front of Srila Prabhupada. He approved of it and liked it. Later in the fall of 1976, after Srila Prabhupada told me to stay in Vrindavana and teach children in the Gurukula, I trained the children to chant these slokas with that melody. He liked it and approved.
9. In August of 1976, for the opening of the Radha Madan Mohana temple at Janma Astami in Hyderabad, South India, Srila Prabhupada had requested us to arrange for Ramanuja South Indian Vaisnava brahmanas to come and perfom the opening ceremonies. We did, and Srila Prabhupada was pleased with their service and chanting. He personally told me to continue to learn mantras from the Ramanuja Vaishnava brahmanas.
10. In the early fall of 1976, Srila Prabhupada heard me chant the Brahma Samhita, South Indian style in Vrindavana. He then called me to his room and told me that I should stay in Vrindavana and teach the Gurukula children how to chant like that.
11. In the late fall of 1976, there was an assembly of dignitaries and devotees in the Vrindavana temple, Srila Prabhupada asked me to speak and to begin by quoting a few slokas. I did. He liked it and approved of it. The tune I used was a South Indian style tune.
12. In August of 1977, Srila Prabhupada personally called me to his room and requested me to go to Fiji to conduct a 4-day temple opening ceremony of the Sri Radha Krishna temple in Fiji, and chant the Vedic mantras I had learned in South India etc... I did and when I came back to Vrindavana he approved and was pleased with it.
13. Neither Acyutananda and I have ever said anywhere that the way we chanted slokas and mantras was the best way or the only way. Because Srila Prabhupada liked it and approved, we chanted like that. As for the point of chanting differently than Srila Prabhupada, it may be noted that for Vedic mantras, they are supposed to be chanted with specific meters, intonations etc., we learned a few to the best of our limited abilities and used for Srila Prabhupada's service. For non-Vedic Mantras, such as slokas from Bhagavad-Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam and other hymns, as previously stated we chanted and Srila Prabhupada liked it and approved.
14. As for the issue of preaching differently than Srila Prabhupada. "They also began to preach differently from the way Srila Prabhupada preached". As previously stated: (i) the Editor never directly heard; (ii) or witnessed our preaching; (iii) he does not give any actual specific examples of what he is referring to. So I do not know what he means. However, the fact is that Srila Prabhupada directly heard our South Indian preaching on several occasions and he was pleased with it.
15. With regards to allegations from the Editor that the lecture given by Srila Prabhupada in Nellore, India on January 8, 1976, may have been referring to, or implying that Srila Prabhupada "that this lecture may well have been a subtle warning to Yasodanandana and Achyutananda Swamis to be very careful of who they associated with in South India. They had taken on a lot of the characteristics of the Ramanujacarya Vaisnavas, who are not in our Sampradaya, in the way they chanted the mantras, etc"
I fail to grasp the Editor's logic. What subtle warning? Srila Prabhupada's preaching is for the whole world, and for all of his disciples. Everyone of his lectures is for all of us to correct, improve and become purified. Srila Prabhupada gave individual guidance and chastisement in his letters and private conversations
Regarding our preaching methods. Here are a few facts for the Editor's edification. (i) We simply preached about Lord Krishna being the Supreme Personality of Godhead; (ii) Lord Caitanya as the yuga avatara; (iii) Hari Nama Sankirtana as the actual method of self realization in this age; (iv) we consistently requested everyone to chant Hare Krishna and hear Srimad-Bhagavatam; (v) we repeatedly presented Srila Prabhupada as the bona fide representative of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu; (vi) explained the wonderful activities of ISKCON all over the world; (vii) made life members as per Srila Prabhupada's programs and directions; (viii) solicited and obtained large donations for the building of the Madan Mohana temple in Hyderabad from well wishers; (ix) everytime we held a program, we had a special session where we presented Srila Prabhupada 's books and requested everyone to buy them. We distributed thousands of Srila Prabhupada's books and made life members and raised money given to Srila Prabhupada for his temples in India.
As for the alleged deviation in style, (i) we profusely quoted from Srila Prabhupada's books; (11) gave consistent references from Bhagavad-Gita; (iii) Srimad Bhagavatam; (iii) Sri Caitanya Caritamrta; (iv) and numerous quotations from Srila Prabhupada books and unrevised purports. Srila Prabhupada was aware of our preaching method and our style because be personally witnessed it several times. He approved of it and encouraged it. We had not taken on characteristics of Ramanujacaya Vaishnavas. That is another speculation.
As for the issue of preaching trends being different than the way Srila Prabhupada preached continuing in ISKCON today, I cannot speak for what is being preached in ISKCON today. Acyutananda and myself had nothing to do with the post 1977 ISKCON style of preaching. An entire book could be written about many of the "different styles of preaching of the post 1977 ISKCON." That is a different topic altogether.
We did our service to Srila Prabhupada as best as we could, under difficult circumstances and someway or other Srila Prabhupada was pleased with it.
Yasya prasadad bhagavat prasado.
Yours in Srila Prabhupada's service.
Ys Yasoda nandana dasa