When everything is in Prabhupada’s books, what is the need to read other books either by ISKCON devotees or previous acharyas?
Transcribed by: Argha Maji
Question: When everything is in Prabhupada’s books, what is the need to read other books either by ISKCON devotees or previous acharyas?
Answer: There is a questionable causal connection between the two parts of this question, a and b. So Prabhupada himself said at times, “Everything is there in my books.” But did he ever imply by that, that there is no need for us to read other books, especially previous acaryas’ books or the books that he wanted his disciples to write. Did he ever say that the Back to Godhead which his disciples were writing or during his time the book that HH Bhakti Swarup Damodar Maharaj wrote a book called “Scientific Basis of Krishna Consciousness”, were forbidden for his disciples to read. Prabhupada himself didn’t lead that point a means point b. That everything is in my books means that the preceding or subseding books don’t have to be read. In fact to the contrary, Prabhupada appreciated the fact that devotees wrote articles in BTG and he appreciated those devotees who had literary inclinations and wrote books. And especially when they wrote books which are properly according to siddhanta, he was very pleased and personally displayed the book to other disciples and to guests and he appreciated those books. And as far as previous acaryas books are concerned, Prabhupada for serious students he definitely wanted the previous acaryas books to be read. So in the purport of SB 1.1.1, Prabhupada mentions that serious students of Bhagavatam should study the commentaries of previous acaryas and its interesting that he doesn’t even restrict himself to Gaudiya acaryas, he goes to other non-Gaudiya acaryas also who have commented on the Bhagavatam and mentions their names also. It is not that because everything is in Prabhupada’s books, there is no need to read anything else. That’s a wrong inference. Now going further, what does the statement, everything is in Prabhupada’s books mean? It essentially means that Prabhupada’s books contain all the information for us to go back to Godhead. But then Prabhupada also told us that devotee is more concerned about serving Krishna than about going back to Godhead. So now if for our service to Krishna, we need to know some specific subjects more, its not wrong. It is no minimisation of Prabhupada’s books to say everything about every subject or everything for that matter, Gaudiya Vaishnavism also cannot be included in one human being’s books. Krishna is infinite, His glories are infinite. And even Ananta-Sesa speaking with thousand hoods since time began has not been able to exhaust Krishna’s glories so how can we say that, everything is there in Prabhupada’s books if we talk about everything in a literally everything sense where everything means everything about Krishna’s glories. No, it doesn’t mean that. It means everything for us to go back to Godhead. But then if some devotee wants to study a particular book deeply, if somebody wants to study Bhagavad Gita deeply and then there are Prabhupada’s followers who have written books on the Gita, there are previous acharyas who have written books on the Gita, and studying these books can help us and Prabhupada will be happy if we understand the Gita more deeply by studying previous acharyas books also. And so with respect to Bhagavatam also. Or somebody wants to do a specific kind of outreach, somebody wants to do scientific outreach or somebody wants to do some outreach to academic audiences, those who study religion as a subject, then reading specific books that devotees have written for that kind of audiences will be of enormous help. So we shouldn’t think this as a minimisation of Prabhupada’s books rather we should see that Prabhupada has given us, has connected with a whole tradition, that is ancient as well as current. We can’t reduce the tradition to Srila Prabhupada alone. It is ancient means it goes back far to hundreds and thousands of years and it is also current. So Prabhupada did not want ISKCON to be personality cult. He wanted us to be part of Gaudiya tradition. And that means we be acquainted with the larger tradition. Now of course, those devotees who do not have the needs of preaching to specific audience they can read Prabhupada’s books and others should also read Prabhupada’s books also. But if somebody doesn’t want to read anything other than Prabhupada’s books, that is wonderful. But if somebody says, “Nobody should read anything other than Prabhupada’s books that is not wonderful, that is incorrect understanding of what tradition stands for.” And we also have to recognise that different devotees have different kinds of needs. Some devotees will be more intellectual and they need more intellectual presentations of Krishna Consciousness. So they will find within the tradition, the room for dovetailing and utilising their intellectual propensity. So therefore we need to recognise our own particular situation and find out we can be nourished in Krishna’s service and accordingly we satisfy our intellectual needs never minimizing Prabhupada’s books but never minimizing the current and ancient tradition in the name of glorifying Prabhupada’s books either also. A balanced attitude with a broad understanding that every devotee can find out how one can be best nourished in Krishna’s service and accordingly take nourishment. That is what we need to do to grow in our devotional service. So Prabhupada’s books are like a vast ocean and there are many many jewels in that ocean. And devotees can dive and extract the jewels from there. At the same time Krishna’s glories are not limited to that ocean alone. There are other oceans also in which Krishna’s glories are there and diving in those oceans also for specific purposes, either specific outreach purposes or individual needs, then that is perfectly okay because we are connecting with the tradition, learning from the tradition and living the tradition and expanding the tradition that Srila Prabhupada gave his life to expand. Thank you. Hare Krishna.