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About The Title "Unconventional Teachers"


This section discusses the reason for titling our article and website "Unconventional Teachers." All of the self-realized acaryas in our disciplic succession - from Lord Brahma to Srila Vyasadeva to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to Srila Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada to his pure followers of the present day - are universal teachers and "unconventional teachers" at the same time.

We conditioned souls inevitably try to "freeze" the teaching of an acarya in order to promote it in the manner of a marketable commodity. However, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saravati Thakura strongly challenged the conception of fixed rules that were to be applied to everyone at all times.  He favored the very personal, adhikara-specific, unconventional guidance of a living acarya - a point which is often hard to appreciate for today's self-taught, multi-media, distance learning generation. The following excerpt is from Srila Sarasvati Thakura's article, "The Killing of Putana" (printed in the January l932 edition of The Harmonist, or Sree Sajjanatoshani):


"The Supreme Lord Sri Krsna Caitanya, in pursuance of the teaching of the scriptures, enjoins all absence of conventionalism for the teachers of the eternal religion. It does not follow that the mechanical adoption of the unconventional life by any person will make him a fit teacher of religion. Regulation is necessary for controlling the inherent worldliness of conditioned souls. But no mechanical regulation has any value even for such a purpose.

"The bona fide teacher of religion is neither any product nor the favorer of any mechanical system. In his hands no system has likewise the chance of degenerating into a lifeless arrangement. The mere pursuit of fixed doctrines and fixed liturgies cannot hold a person to the true spirit of doctrine or liturgy.

"The idea of an organized church in an intelligible form indeed marks the close of the living spiritual movement. The great ecclesiastical establishments are the dykes and the dams to retain the current that cannot be held by any such contrivances. They, indeed, indicate a desire on the part of the masses to exploit a spiritual movement for their own purpose. They also unmistakably indicate the end of the absolute and UNCONVENTIONAL guidance of the bona fide spiritual teacher." (emphasis is ours)


By describing spiritual guidance as "unconventional", Srila Sarasvati Thakura, the universal teacher himself, teaches that any one specific statement of his, such as "Do not read Govinda-lilamrta" is NOT universally applicable at all times, all places, in all circumstances and for all audiences. We cannot believe that our most respectful superior Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja would quote his Guru Maharaja as saying that such a statement universally and eternally applies to all.

We all agree about the necessity for caution with rasa and extreme caution with rahasya. But the non-publication of rasa-sastra by one acarya does not preclude the publication of rasa-sastra by another. Srila Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada clearly regards preceptorial guidance as UNCONVENTIONAL and therefore not subject to the formulaic compression of the simplistic motto.

 Regarding the title "Unconventional Teachers," three syllables are identical in syntax to Universal Teacher. Un + ve + al are common to both Unconventional and Universal. Unconventional Teacher is immediately recognizable as an elaboration of Universal Teacher. The words "unconventional teachers" was inspired by the above-mentioned article written by Srila Sarasvati Thakura himself.

This eternal principle of unconventionality gives rise to the apparent differences in the approaches of all authentic acaryas - although there is no difference in their message or mission. If only universal teachers could be cloned from the stem cells of a few contextual phrases, we would not have to rely on prayer, introspection and the causeless mercy of Sri Krsna to find genuine guidance on the path to Goloka Vrndavana.

Who can deny that there is a speciality in the presentations in each of our acaryas? The perfect acaryas preach according to time, place, circumstance and audience. According to these four, our acaryas employ various strategies in their preaching. For this reason, no one can demand a fixed, homogeneous meta-narrative.

We find that the same audience receives different instructions from an acarya as that audience matures in bhakti; there are so many examples of this.

Srila Sukadeva Gosvami was speaking Srimad-Bhagavatam to Maharaja Pariksit, who was a resident of Dvaraka and Sri Krsna's relative there. In order to encourage him, Sukadeva Gosvami appeared to express the idea that Lord Krsna is the true son of Devaki and Vasudeva and was carried by him to the house of Yasoda devi, who had just given birth to a baby girl. Later, because Srila Sukadeva Gosvami wanted Maharaja Pariksit to come to the understanding that Sri Krsna's real parents are Nanda Baba and Yasoda-devi, he uttered verses containing the words "pasupangajaya" and "jayati te'dhikam janmana vrajah" in the 14th and 31st chapters of the Tenth Canto. This is all explained in the Tenth Canto commentaries of our previous acaryas.

Our Srila Prabhupada, a follower of Srila Sukadeva Gosvami, did a similar thing. In Nectar of Devotion, one of his earliest books, he wrote that Nanda Maharaja is the foster-father of Sri Krsna. Then, in his Tenth Canto translations and commentaries, as well as those in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, he established that Krsna is fully the son of Nanda Baba and Yasoda-devi, and only partly the son of Vasudeva and Devaki.

Here is an example which shows that different acaryas will say apparently different things to different audiences of different qualifications - while there is really no contradiction in their ideas. The example is given by Srila Sarasvati Thakura himself, from his article that was printed as the Foreword of Srila Narayana Maharaja's edition of Sri Gita-govinda: "Sri Sukadeva's hesitation to divulge the secrets of the Vedas is well founded. The conduct of Sri Jayadeva Gosvami in speaking without reserve is equally in order if we remember that his book cannot be understood at all by those who are lacking in the highest spiritual culture."

Another example: Srila Rupa Gosvami and Srila Jiva Gosvami are always of the same opinion. Srila Jiva Gosvami is always under Srila Rupa Gosvami's guidance. Outwardly, externally, it sometimes seems that they have different opinions, but they are actually never of different opinions. It appears outwardly that Srila Jiva Gosvami tried to establish svakiya-vada, the idea that Radha and Krsna or Krsna and the gopis are married, whereas Srila Rupa Gosvami clearly established that Sri Krsna and the gopis are paramours (parakiya-vada).

Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has reconciled this. He has explained in great detail how Srila Jiva Gosvami is actually saying the same thing as Srila Rupa Gosvami. We can therefore understand Srila Jiva Gosvami through the viewpoint of Srila Cakravartipada. Moreover, Srila Jiva Gosvami himself has clarified this in his own commentary on Ujjvala-nilamani. There he states that he was explaining something for the sake of unqualified persons who could not understand the superiority of parakiya-rasa, but that his own personal conclusion was the same as that of Srila Rupa Gosvami.

In the same way, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Pujyapada Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja, Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja, Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, and our Guru Maharaja Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada are all in the same line. Outwardly, to some, it may sometimes be seen that they have different opinions, but really this is not so. Those who are not on their level see circumstantial, outward, and apparent differences in opinion. In so doing, such persons may criticize one acarya and glorify another - but wrongly, not understanding either of their actual moods and siddhanta.

As quoted above from Srila Sarasvati Thakura's article, "The mere pursuit of fixed doctrines and fixed liturgies cannot hold a person to the true spirit of doctrine or liturgy." Or, stated otherwise, "You cannot be my follower simply by quoting me to everyone."

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