On Resolving the Apparent Contradictions

By Kailasa Candra dasa

“One who is satisfied by that which is provided by Destiny
is fit for liberation from this material existence.”
Srimad-bhagavatam 8.19.25, verse

Although it was not considered so back in the day of Srila Prabhupada’s manifest preaching mission, an understanding of one tattva in particular—which all of his devotees back then were completely satisfied by--is now considered “controversial.” Apparent contradictions have surfaced in what Srila Prabhupada said and wrote about this ontological truth. The reason for this disappointing development has been, and continues to be, the infiltration of unauthorized opinion into Srila Prabhupada teachings. 

“The genuine guru has only one opinion, and that is the opinion expressed by Krishna, Vyasadeva, Narada, Arjuna, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and the Gosvamis.”  Science of Self-Realization: Choosing a Spiritual Master--What Is a Guru?

“Real guru will not talk differently. Some guru says that, "In my opinion, you should like this." And some guru will say, "In my opinion, you'll do this." They are not guru; they are all rascals. Guru has no "own" opinion. Guru has got only one opinion, the same opinion which was expressed by Krishna, Vyasadeva, or Narada, or Arjuna, or Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, or the Gosvamis. You'll find the same thing.” Lecture: What is a Guru? London, August 22, 1973

“But later they followed two different opinions, as ordained by Providence.   . . . Any opinion different from the opinion of the spiritual master is useless. One cannot infiltrate materially concocted ideas into spiritual advancement. That is deviation.”  Cc. Adi, 12.8 verse; 12.9 purport

What was his opinion?  We all knew very well what he told us (and he still tells us) throughout his purports, letters, lectures, room conversations, and morning walks.  He told us that we were all once with Lord Krishna in a loving, direct relationship.  He told us that this Truth is now covered.  He told us that, if we did not deviate from him, we could one day surpass the flawed perceptions of our senses, the limited reasoning of material cause, effect, and occult knowledge, the realization of brahma-jnana, and even the initial joy of perfect samadhi to gain the ultimate benediction of aprakrta revelation.  That benediction would directly reveal and revive our original position as an eternal loving associate of Krishna in the spiritual world, Goloka Vrindavan. That would be divya-pratyaksa, as per Bhagavad-gita 9.2.: The direct perception, through purified and perfected spiritual senses, of our eternal Lord, His divine abode, and our original relationship (svarupa-siddhi) with him.  It is the promise of this perpetual bliss that the dreadful apa-siddhanta now impedes for some, but which, for others, continues to motivate us in our intense devotional service to Srila Prabhupada.

We must not allow any apa-siddhanta against his conception to cover over that which we believed before its introduction. In order to reject all such apa-siddhantas, we must see and accept only his opinion.  Then, eventually, we can realize why his opinion on everything—and especially on this particular tattva--is the Absolute Truth.  Being able to accept his opinion, however, is dependent upon individual adhikara or eligibility.

If we investigate the source of the conflict relating to this tattva, we shall invariably find personal interest (“the poison is personal ambition).”  Fixed as they are in substantive differences, from where do the conflicting opinions spring? To realize this we must first attain the right attitude.  That right attitude is, and must always be, rooted in sattva.  The sattvic attitude entails being able to recognize that which is truly progressive from the spiritual perspective. This right attitude entails also having a negative attitude toward that which disguises itself as Krishna Consciousness--when, in fact, it is biased “preaching,” serving only to cover consciousness.

Conditioned souls do not know the Absolute Truth.  They have not yet realized brahman.  Certainly they are not self-realized in the true sense of the term, i.e., they have not realized Paramatma, what to speak of the source of the Supersoul, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan.  As such, the conditioned sadhakas must try to know the gradations or levels of their given sources of authority when resolving all the apparent contradictions they must invariably confront. 

The Six Enemies of the Mind

“The mind is always accompanied by six enemies—namely, kama, krodha, mada, moha, matsarya and bhaya—that is, lust, anger, intoxication, illusion, envy and fear.”                                           Cc. Madhya 11.10, purport

Spiritual life is undoubtedly difficult.  The difficulties come in many forms.  One of the biggest difficulties comes in the form of what Western psychologists call cognitive dissonance, which is nothing but the interaction, invariably working at cross-purposes, of the six enemies of the mind. Moha is illusion or delusion, and sammoha means an intensification of that bewilderment. Asammohah, as per Bhagavad-gita 10.4, is freedom from doubt and delusion.  As such, there is an intrinsic relationship between doubt and one of the six enemies of the mind, viz., moha.  Profound doubt, in particular, inflames another of those enemies, namely bhaya or fear. 

These inimical elements are often a response to apparent contradictions within the statements of the self-realized spiritual master. Cognitive dissonance inflames doubt, which inflames fear--and sometimes guilt.  In order to secure freedom from this, a devotee may resort to compulsive behavior.  This is just what the cult pushing the apa-siddhanta (via apparent contradictions) is looking for from its potential victims.

One source of doubt is intelligence.  Intelligence used in the service of the Lord is buddhi-yoga, and this is our process.  When integrated into buddhi-yoga, doubt not only does not harm us, but, on the contrary, it helps us.  Still, that doubt must be resolved.  However, the other variety of doubt is a product of sin.  Sin is rooted in nescience, avidya. In other words, due to papa-bijas or karma-vasanas, the devotee is ineligible--does not have the necessary adhikara--to pierce through the cognitive dissonance created by apparent contradictions.

Compulsive behavior often triggers entanglement in vikarmic sequences, which are very dangerous for anyone on the path of liberation. The bewildered conditioned soul, engaged in compulsive behavior, makes mistakes and conceives various illusions about what is the Absolute Truth. When these illusions are then pushed, that is cheating.  Such cheating becomes the new standard, creating an unauthorized personal interest.  Vikarmic sequences often implicate him in intrigue, treachery, and betrayal, usually expressed in the form of vaishnavaparadha. 

When it devolves to this point, there is almost no way out.

As such, from the very beginning, buddi-yoga helps us not to fall victim to apparent contradictions.  There are not contradictions in the statements of the Spiritual Master.  The issue is adhikara: Qualification or eligibility for realization of the Truth regarding the so-called contradictory topic. The bhakti process is not a conflicted science, and there is no need for frustration or hysterical responses, which are always counterproductive. 

If we experience cognitive dissonance, this is because we have not yet developed the required spiritual power or adhikara, in spite of the seva we have previously rendered.  We need to render more seva.  We need to decrease our aparadhas.  We must resurrect the attitude that we had from the very first: To cultivate sattva, which will help to make the illusions of the apparent contradictions fall away.

Now, in order to transcend the influence of apparent contradictions—and integral to the process of doing so—we must secure a better understanding of the levels of authority in the statements of the Spiritual Master.

U.M.A. Gooma

Let us take a look at one such self-described guideline:

“In summary, a quick chart of the levels of authority we might accord to the materials in this VedaBase, starting with the highest, could look something like this:

Books; Legal documents and similar papers

Again, this is merely a guideline, not a cast-iron standard. Letters and conversations may often give significant, even invaluable, knowledge and guidance not to be found anywhere else. And for the person to whom Srila Prabhupada originally directed his words, they might be the most important words in the world.”          Bhaktivedanta Swami VedaBase Front Matter

Notice, “Legal documents and similar papers” are in the highest position, tied with the books for the topmost rung. The legal docs are equal to Srila Prabhupada’s translations and purports.  This assertion is dubious.  The inherent bias in it is ultimately not difficult to figure out.  The inherent bias is contained in the acronym: U.M.A., or, to be more explicit, “ultimate managerial authority.”


Before proceeding further, let us consider blowback.  Usually, it comes in the form of psychic backlash that pushes a devotee into the devolutionary cycle (initiated by apparent contradictions) as detailed above.

We had every reason to expect that our recent article on the origination of the jiva would initiate a backlash, and we have not at all been disappointed. After producing A Closer Look at Siksa-Guru, we also expected a crack-back.   As far as we are concerned, all of the backlashes to these articles have had one thing in common: They were more intense, personal, inflammatory, and severe than expected. 

Here, let us concentrate on the responses by the neo-Gaudiya cult to our article about origination. We will not allow their animosity to intimidate us, because it is rooted in an imaginary attitude of service to Chaitanya Vaishnavism.  Although originally initiated by Srila Prabhupada, the neo-Gaudiya devotees have responded to the guru-bhoga of the commissioners in the wrong way.  The neo-Gaudiya cult fell into guru-tyaga; they have left His Divine Grace.  Open your eyes, prabhus, and see that they are pushing an apa-siddhanta opposed to Prabhupada’s teachings on the origination of the jiva. Krishna Consciousness ultimately means to see as the Supersoul sees. If the way we see their antagonism matches (or approaches) the way He sees it, then it demonstrates that the neo-Gaudiyas may have a great deal to lose when their apa-siddhanta fails.

They are pushing an imaginary interpretation of jiva tattva, free will, misuse of free will, and the inherent desire of the spirit soul to revive his original rasa or relationship with the Lord in the spiritual sky.  Their cult accepts this new view. Everything they are doing, and everything they stand for, will be futile if and/or when this imagination is defeated. 

They have a deep-rooted, personal ambition to counterattack anyone who dares to present the siddhanta as Srila Prabhupada presented it. Still, we must remain unswerving in our commitment to the genuine siddhanta—and we are doing this by continuing to preach the Truth.  Unswerving does not necessarily mean free from cognitive dissonance.  That is very difficult for an uninitiated devotee; it is tough to attain even by an initiated disciple in the parampara, especially a devotee of Western birth.  Cognitive dissonance will decrease as progress is made up the ladder toward brahman realization. At brahma-nirvana, all of it is gone.

Cognitive dissonance and doubt are not eliminated by reactive behaviors, i.e., trying to forcibly obtain freedom from them by exploiting manipulative angles for the purpose of capitulation and the pyrrhic victory such temporary satisfaction yields.  Such an aggression is conjured up by the mind under the influence of ahankara, and it exponentially inflames entanglement.

Beyond the Hood

The current Western world of devotees contains many imaginary siddhantas and personal ambition (within various cults of choice).  They all practice a zero-sum game.  This jabber about “cooperation” rings hollow; all too many of these occultists are trying to chop the opposition off at their knees. This disintegrative brotherhood of unauthorized cults and sects is shot through with mendacity, deception, obfuscation, insidiousness, cunning, aparadha, audacity, triumphalism, intimidation, word-jugglery, contempt, bias, sectarianism, cynicism, and unrelenting competition. In the guise of a brahminical brotherhood, actually there is no honesty or forgiveness whatsoever integrated into it.  There cannot be.  These fanatics are not themselves satisfied, so how can they be satisfied when they bewilder someone by seducing him or her to join them?

They engage in word jugglery simply to create doubt. The Machiavellian dictum of whatever-works-to-get-the-result and hiding their actual goals are intrinsic to the “preaching” process.  Satan is the dissembler, the initiator of obstacles.  Satan means nescience. Satan influences followers to preach the cause of his many brotherhoods in a way that such proselytizing appears to be godly or sincere.  Since there is no Real Truth underlying all such “devotional service,” there will certainly be no real forgiveness afforded to anyone cracking under its weight.  To put it another way, anyone who joins one of these groups is not going to attain forgiveness when he finally gets jolted and wants to escape the fearful influence. 

Appearance of Forgiveness

Only a genuine brahmin, under the influence of a practical brahminical or sattvic process, can actually forgive, uplift, and enlighten a bewildered devotee.  This is because the genuine brahmin is actually on the godly path, even if superficially he may said to be not completely “pukka.”

There will be the appearance of forgiveness to someone who betrays one unauthorized cult and compulsively hooks up with a competitor, but no actual freedom from reaction.  Doubt will appear eliminated for a short time, but then much worse doubt--bewilderment of an almost intractable variety--will surface soon after. As such, from the very beginning, best not to engage in compulsive behavior, so there will be no need to seek forgiveness for it. 

If some powerful “godbrother” whacks and cracks a weaker devotee, that chela is kept in submissive bewilderment—but encouraged to think that he is no longer bewildered.  This deception affords continual control.  The masters of pseudo-spiritual war, expert in the arts of deception and distraction, are not weak. Having yoked themselves to the seductive energy of the rittviks, or the neo-Gaudiya camp, or the fabricated, so-called “ISKCON,” they will not change:

“We know that all this word jugglery springs from the imagination of Sankaracarya, and yet, because we belong to his sect, we accept it, although it does not satisfy us.” Cc. Adi 7.136

On Resolving the Apparent Contradictions

After much research and applied intelligence into this important area, here is a suggestion for a superior understanding of these levels.  The lowest level of this ladder appears to be contained in letters or legal documents that the guru has neither dictated nor personally penned.  If a legal document or letter is written by one (or some) of his disciples, and the Spiritual Master simply signs it (“approved”), the authority contained therein is automatically trumped by any other documentation or spoken word directly from him, in terms of obvious contradiction.  Without such an obvious contradiction to the “approved by” document, its authority stands as is.  This can be considered Level Five Authority.

Next, or the second lowest level of authority, would appear to come in the form of words (either spoken or written) to a specific disciple relating to his or her specific situation.  This is especially the case when that disciple is in danger of leaving Krishna Consciousness altogether, i.e., losing his or her link to the guru-parampara.  Call this Level Four Authority.

Creating artificial levels of the Spiritual Master’s authority--between platform lectures and room conversations, or between letters and morning walks, or between or amongst any of these with the translations and purports in his books—can only be Maya.  What the Spiritual Master directly says or writes in connection with the tattvas—in all formats—is essential, potent, and absolute. There can never be any actual contradiction in any of those explanations—in any format--at any time.

The management form of the mission only assists this abovementioned essence of the Krishna Consciousness movement. Management is always subordinate to the essence of Krishna Consciousness advancement by the devotees of the Hare Krishna movement. From this perspective, the next level of authority is legal documentation directly ordered and/or penned by the Spiritual Master.  It can be considered Level Three Authority.

As already explained, a higher level of authority is the essence of the mission itself, realization of the transcendental tattvas of Krishna Consciousness and attainment of pure, realized Krishna Consciousness by the devotees. We propose that the guru’s writings, speeches and general talks, the generic explanation of the Absolute Truth, constitute this higher level.  We can thus call this Level Two Authority.

However, the highest transcendental level of authority is revealed when the Spiritual Master explicitly, specifically, and usually in a concise but detailed manner, explains the meaning of any particular tattva or topic or controversial issue. In the process, he directly removes the apparent contradictions.  Here is when he most effectively resolves threadbare the difficult passages. His purports sometimes contain these explicit explanations.  His Q&A after a lecture, the lecture itself, a room or personal conversation, a letter, or a morning walk also often contains such explicit explanations.  We can thus accord this the highest Level One Authority.

Analogies can be helpful to focus on the Reality, just as focusing on nearby branches helps us to see the hidden lunar globe.  Contradiction means rascal.  In order to overcome and resolve contradictions, let us apply the analogy of attorneys and jurisprudence in court. All the laws of America--at the national, state, and local level--represent the foundational principles found in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Do the lawyers cite the Constitution or Bill of Rights in court proceedings?  Rarely.  Are even the laws directly applicable to the case emphasized during most of the proceedings? No. Instead, the lawyers relate mundane facts, along with the precedents and opinions of the court in setting recent rulings.  The facts and commentaries on previous verdicts--underpinning the original laws applicable to the case--hold the real power in swaying the court to rule in any particular contest. 

In the same way, the shastra itself can be compared to the Constitution, ancient commentaries (generally in Sanskrit) on the shastra can be compared to the Bill of Rights, relatively recent generic commentaries (including even Srila Prabhupada’s purports) can be compared to modern decisions by the court. However, Srila Prabhupada’s explicit and detailed explanations (in all formats) on the subject of choice are comparable to the arguments that the attorneys actually rely upon and present in order to convince the judge to rule conclusively in their favor.  

So, with a straw between our teeth, kindly consider this summary of levels of authority, from highest to lowest:

1)     Explicit, specific, and often detailed explanations on particular tattvas;

2)     General explanations of the tattvas;

3)     Presentations connected to management, including legal documents;

4)     Personal instructions for disciples in particular circumstances;

5)     Documents created by disciples, with only tacit approval from guru

The highest levels, especially Levels One and Two, are actuated by the guru through all the media of translations, purports, platform lectures, room conversations, letters, and morning walks.  Level Three is never actuated in the form of translations and usually not in the form of purports; it is often found in the form of documents and letters.  Level Four is usually in the form of letters, room conversations, or private conversations, including telephonic conversations; Srila Prabhupada used this last-mentioned medium sparingly, however.  Level Five is self-explanatory. 

This brings us to other factors connected to these five levels.  These factors are:  1) Context, 2) Coherency, and 3) Chronology.

What is the general context of any verse, purport, letter, or conversation?  What is the Spiritual Master, in context, trying to emphasize?  In relation to the context, the apparent contradiction should be resolved.

Everything that the guru says is coherent; there is not only coherency in his presentation of the overall philosophy and teaching, it is in everything he has written and spoken.  When something appears to contradict that consistency, then the apparent contradiction should be resolved in terms of the coherency of the teachings as a whole.

When there is a blatant contradiction in an order, then the order given most recently by the guru trumps the previous order.  Contradictory orders are resolved in consideration of context and chronological sequence in terms of the backdrop of all of his teachings.  Orders are in terms of judging by the results, i.e., genuine judgment.

The Guru’s Explanation is Wanted

The guru-parampara is required in order to understand the shastra.  For example, the shastra, although perfect, can be cryptic and concise; the best example of this principle is the Vedanta-sutra.  A bona fide spiritual master is required in order to explain each terse verse of the Vedanta-sutra, as well as the Upanisads, the Puranas, the Itihasas, etc. On this basis, his explanations and purports are often more valuable and, therefore, higher than the original shastra itself--although all of these are absolute.

We should repent when we deviate from his message, from his teaching, and from his orders.  We should repent and seek his forgiveness.  We should only associate with devotees who have this demeanor.  We should not affiliate ourselves with any of the unauthorized brotherhoods, all of which are in the process of subverting either his philosophy or his orders.  We should clearly see how they operate.  We can come to this realization by overcoming apparent contradictions and cognitive dissonance.

The most recent Sampradaya Acharya in our line remains Om Visnupada Paramahamsa Parivrajakacharya 108 Sri Sriman His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.  May that supreme teacher instill satisfaction in your heart of hearts.  OM TAT SAT.  Hare Krishna. 

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Quotes from the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada are copyright by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust