Search & Read
The Hare Krishnas’ Mistake
Roger: Hi, James. Regarding your chapter in which you discuss secondary devotion in the mode of tamas, I have a Hare Krishna friend who seems to fit that description and I’ve been perplexed for several years about that religion. It is part of a Brahmanic sampradaya (dvaita), apparently. I’m 59 and in all my years I’ve never read any accounts of enlightenment that claimed there was a deity who was to be eternally worshipped and to whom we are the eternal servants. My question: Is it possible to have the knowledge “I am actionless awareness” and to interpret that reality in accordance with the Brahmanic Vaishnava cosmology?
The Hare Krishna religion appears to have the weight of some scriptural authority, so how can it make dualistic assertions? I’m not on the fence about this, but I feel my understanding would be broadened if I understood how a Vedic lineage can be founded on the belief in an external deity. I’m not inclined to think they were all a bunch of fools, so I’m intrigued as to how such a divergent view can survive enlightened self-knowledge!
~ With highest respect, Roger Hornaday
James: The Hare Krishnas, as you note, are dvaitis, dualists. They do not accept that the Gita, the Vedas, etc. are moksha sastras scriptures on liberation. They more or less hate non-dualists, which they contemptuously call maya vadis, a dig at Shankara. Their view comes from a literal interpretation of a verse in the 15th chapter of the Gita where it uses the phrase “uttama purusha” to describe the self. This means “ultimate, or supreme, person.” It actually refers to limitless awareness, but they got confused by the symbolism.
The Vedas have two parts, the karma kanda and the jnana kanda. The karma kanda (section) is for dualists who are seeking security and/or pleasure for a successful life here and dharma for the purpose of getting to heaven. If you follow vaidika dharma you get punya, merit, and you get to heaven.
The jnana kanda is for inquirers who want liberation. So there is no contradiction. Usually, after a few lifetimes, dualists become interested in the jnana kanda because they come back from heaven over and over because it is in samsara. But some even have it that you can get moksa in heaven from Brahmaji. It is called krama mukti. The Vaishnavas do not even accept krama mukti. Their view of the highest attainment is samipya, “closeness or nearness.” “We do not want to be Krishna,” they say. “We want to taste Krishna.” It’s a great idea but they do not realize that they are tasting Krisha all the time because reality is non-dual awareness and Krishna is just a name for non-dual awareness, the self. They are not the sharpest knives in the Vedic drawer and it is lost on them that you can taste and be Krishna at the same time. They are totally attached to their bodies and the idea of enjoyment.
In any case, the Sanatana Dharma has something for everyone, the vaidikas, who are actually samsaris looking for success in the world and/or heaven, and the inquirers, jignasus, who know there is no moksa in samsara and go for the jnana kanda, the Brahma Sutras, Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the commentaries of the non-dual jnanis which are only about moksa.
What is really funny is that Krishna, whom they worship, continuously criticizes them throughout the Gita, but they are so thick they do not get it. I know a lot about it because I was a Krishna bhakta for a long time and I still have a great fondness for Vishnu.