Prabhupada quotes largely from the Puranas so how can we show that our sampradaya is based on shruti?
Transcription by– Keshavgopal Das & Ambuj Gupta
Question: Prabhupada quotes largely from puranas and puranas don’t match, they vary. Then how do we base our sampradaya’s teachings on scripture?
Answer: Firstly, it is not the Prabhupada quotes exclusively from puranas, he quotes from the Upanishads also quite a bit. If he quotes from puranas, he quotes largely from Srimad Bhagavatam. Now if we see Prabhupada’s books, Prabhupada is writing to a moral audience. Every acharya writes to his audience. When he is writing to his audience, he is not addressing audience primarily of Vedic scholars. He is presenting the eternal message in a way that it is intelligible to the contemporary audience. Therefore he quotes certain set of scriptures.
If you see the previous acharyas, none of them have written books while travelling. Normally they would travel and preach and then they come back at one place there they would have the granthalaya and from there they would write. But Prabhupada is travelling and at that time he was writing, that itself indicates he had a significant command on verses. He was able to write so much is significant. But if we want more of the scriptural authenticity of the Gaudiya sampradaya, if that is a specific interest of any particular devotee then one needs to read Govinda Bhashya by Baldeva Vidhya Bhushan because that is where the essence of the Upanishads is being clarified. He rarely quotes from the puranas. Mostly quotes from the Upanishads only. Similary there are sandarbhas which are given by Jiva Goswami, there also he is establishing the scriptural foundation of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. So these are also available. These are advance books.
There are two different roots for our coming. One is that we come from the modern educated mind set where we have certain set of questions which come up and most people come from that background. That’s why the main stream education within ISKCON is focusing on addressing that. But the specific devotees who are coming from specific background where the specific questions are needed to be addressed then they can discuss certain books like Govinda Bhashya.
If we study Govinda Bhashya it will be challenging because understanding itself is difficult. What I would suggest at this stage, it’s better to take specific points. Which points in the philosophy one feels debatable and one addresses those points one by one. There are devotee scholars who can help in this. Is this point authorized, what is the authenticity of this point and that way we can deal with the issues.
But I would say that it is not just the question of the specific details, if we see that Prabhupada books, there potency has not been acknowledged even by other scholars. There are scholars who talk highly about his books and there are others who do not talk highly. Now why do not they talk because it is not just the word of scriptural scholarship, but it is catering to the contemporary audience. If a scholar writes a popular science book for a lay audience and same scientist may write books in scientific journals. Now the essential content will be the same but the standard of references, the level of technicality that will be in a journal will be much more then what will be in the popular science book. This is not exactly accurate example because Prabhupada books are not just popular science. But he also gives good amount of references. But definitely writing a book for a general audience, he will not go into the technicalities of the subject because that is for other fellow scholars.
Those sort of books are also written in our sampradaya for example by Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur, Baldeva Vidhyabhushan etc. Prabhupada’s books will give us some glimpse of the scriptural basis of Gaudiya vaishnavism. But if we want more then we read specific books also. Through that we can get scriptural foundations. Prabhupada’s books do contain some references but he also wanted to introduce devotees to our sampradaya. If some devotees feel a specific need for reading such books or understanding deeper issues, the best way to do is consult current devotee scholars and get the answers. Once you get more stabilize then one can directly study those specific books like Govinda Bhashya. Thank you.