In religion, the stakes are much higher and for good reason: spirituality is a quality shared by humanity in general and the yearning for transcendence is universal. Our conscience is an innate quality born of our unique cerebral capabilities, the byproduct of which is our capability to see ourselves objectively. For some, this leads to the impression that we are embodied spirits. Those of us who share this belief that we are souls sent here on a mission by our Creator find our consciences guided by His presence, be it the Paramatma or the Holy Spirit. These shared agreements notwithstanding, the notion that the Hindu religion is a primitive, barbaric faith peopled by idol worshippers of every description dominated Western views of the subcontinent until the late 19th century. If not for the courageous efforts of the great Bengali Hindu reformers, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and his disciple, Swami Vivekananda, this view might very well have remained unchallenged to this day.
As a student of religion who spent her teenage years and most of her young adulthood as a disciple of the Gaudiya Vaishnava guru, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, it never fails to amaze me how he reviled the fellow Indian mystics who not only introduced Hinduism to the West. Moreover, if not for their combined efforts, the receptivity of his ideas to these foreigners would have been virtually nil. In other words, my guru stood on the shoulders of the giants of modern Hinduism and had the temerity to declare that he and the cult peopled by his mostly-Western followers superseded all of them. If not for the obfuscation and outright lies that the ISKCON/Hare Krishna movement has perpetrated on a sizable portion of the Hindu public in India and abroad, I would never have spent so much time expounding on how Bhaktivedanta Swami dismissed the legacy of such great Indian patriots as Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, and Maharshi Dayananda Saraswati. However, the truth must be told and I hope that my words reach their intended audience.
How appalling, therefore, to learn that the Hare Krishna guru, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, who, as I have stated, could never have attained an iota of his preaching success in America and abroad but for the great Indian pioneers who cleared the path before him, openly insulted them. For example, he dismissed the Ramakrishna Mission as “simply bogus propaganda” and its founder, Swami Vivekenanda, as a “rascal, claiming that he had “ruined the Vedic culture.” He was so incensed at the thought that his godbrother, Bon Maharaj, had been influenced by Vivekenanda that he claimed that their guru, Srila Bhaktisiddanta Maharaja, called Bon Maharaj a “black gorilla.” This fear of competition from even his own godbrothers led Bhaktivedanta Swami to issue a letter (dated 3 September, 1975) forbidding his disciples from having any dealings with any of them. Similarly, he dismissed the Arya Samaj founded by Maharshi Dayananda Saraswati, claiming in 1971 that “the Arya Samaj movement started in India but it is now dead and gone” and that “the atheistic Arya Samaj does not believe in the Bhagavad Gita.” The latter assertion is utter nonsense: of the 21 Shastras accepted by the Arya Samaj, the Mahabharata is one of them. As for the statement that this world-wide movement with 10 million followers was in 1971 “dead and gone,” all I can say that some comments are too ridiculous to deserve any kind of serious response.
|Maharshi Dayananda Saraswati|
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