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Those Nasty Mayavadis
Roger: Hi, James and Sundari.
Do you have plans to ever do a commentary or teaching on the Isa Upanishad? I recently had a lively debate with a Krishna devotee friend (I think it was a small crisis for her) which showed her the “impersonalist” argument is far more compelling than represented in the Hare Krishna materials. The devotees have been instilled with a contempt for the world and the people in it in favor of the “transcendental” pastimes of Krishna in the Spiritual Sky. We Vedantins are regarded as blasphemers under the spell of demonic influences, so I generously deconstructed, one by one, each of her assertions in terms of my understanding of Vedanta. She repeatedly took refuge in the explanation that the Spiritual Sky is different, the rules don’t apply there because it’s “transcendental” and you can’t understand it unless you’re qualified and love Krishna. To me that translates into “you can’t understand it unless you’re brainwashed and then you’ll accept it unquestioningly.”
But she did offer scriptural proof to back herself up: Sri Isopanishad. I had heard of it, never read it and was pretty sure no Upanishad says Krishna is the Supreme Personality of the Godhead but I felt I’d better look into it. It turned out to be Swami Prabhupada’s translation and commentary on the Isa Upanishad, and every single line mentions Krishna. I looked up three other commentaries on it (most notably, Sri Aurobindo’s) and none of them even mentioned Krishna at all! I emailed her this discovery, which I suppose was rather stunning, because the only exposure she’s ever had to Vedic knowledge is from the words of Prabhupada, a corrupt source of information, in my opinion. But I also thanked her for introducing me to a scripture that challenged my fixed ideas and filled me with a desire to understand it better. Aurobindo’s commentary is confusing, with too many words and concepts not adequately defined. Ideal would be your commentary but in lieu of that, can you recommend one? This little story represents the greatest spiritual difficulty I’ve had in a long time. That would be to say, I’m content as the dust settles and the air clears from the quiet explosion that destroyed self-ignorance. I have no further questions, only…
~ Love, Roger Hornaday
James: Hi, Roger. Sorry, same old story – busy as hell – so apologies for the delay. Yes, the dvaitis (dualists) call us mayavadis, a term that reeks with contempt when it rolls off their quasi-Vedic lips. They hate Shankara and Vedanta and loathe non-duality in every way. No, I don’t have plans to write a commentary on the Isa Upanishad. Prabhupad interprets everything in dualistic and experiential terms because he was not a realized soul, just a fanatic devotee of Krishna. I suggest you look on Paramarthananda’s website. I think he has done a commentary. And Chinmaya did one too. Perhaps Dayananda as well. Forget Aurobindo. He didn’t have a clue. Krishna Consciousness devotees are the storm troopers of the Vedic religion. They are not bad people, just unbelievably tamasic, intellectually – closed-minded in all the ways that religious people are closed-minded. It is impossible to communicate with them. The first verse of the Isaopanishad says, “All this is pervaded by the Lord…,” meaning consciousness. If it is understood properly, it means that the devotee is the Lord also, but this fact is lost on them. They are just like Christians who when confronted with the Biblical statement that God is omnipresent are unable to accept their oneness with God. All we can do is pray for them. ☺
~ Love, James