Re: Chris Butler, Jagad Guru, Science of Identity
Date: January 05, 2024 09:21AM
The term Avadhuta or "Paramahamsa." in Sanskrit is often used to (justify) odd behavior in so-called saintly figures. We've all heard the tales of assorted holy personalities that behave in seemingly unsaintly ways but still get pegged as saints.
I always struggle with this aspect of these cults. They, on the one hand, ask that all manner of rules and ideologies be followed, but then there are the "exceptions." and it's usually just something that amounts to charisma and ability on the part of these "mad saints" to continue exhibiting bipolar-like, schizophrenic, or otherwise mental-illness spectrums but because it has some element of whatever god they believe in cranked up to 11, it miraculously "ok".
Authority is assigned in these cults by groups of people agreeing on sets of ideals and rules surrounding either a set of scriptures or personalities. Those same groups of people that create the dynamic of authority surrounding these things will then also dictate the punishments for those who go against the agreed-upon symbol of authority.
So effectively, if a group of people agrees that money is worth something, or Hitler is awesome, or Butler is the ticket to god—then that's what everyone follows. Those that do not subscribe to it, or even show ample proof or call out specific oddities that would never be considered as sustainable and functionally "normal" for society (An entire world shaving their head and jumping around singing random Hindu songs or supporting a reclusive white dude in Hawaii), are considered by the group as a "threat". No matter how dysfunctional the cult gets, they stand by and use the mechanism of fanatical adherence to what simply amounts to be agreed-upon symbols of authority.
Inherently, singing Sanskrit words like "Krishna", which means black, has no power. There is no verifiable mechanism by which "offering" food to a plastic, stone, metal, or wood statue of an interpretation of some mythical god has any conversion properties to make it a "purified" food.
So, really, after all the circumambulating of Tulsi plants, rambling on plastic japa beads, and any number of useless rituals, is it any surprise that in 40+ years, an adherent to this cult has not made any substantial or verifiable "advancement"? OR that such rituals simply fall away after some time, and the average 40+ year adherent simply develops or makes up their own "seva" and their own versions of the rituals that basically appeal to them or are more in line with their sustainable expression?
This then begs the question: Aside from a sense of "belonging" that such groups provide (as long as you follow their rules and ideology), and the inherent joy that one gets from activities like singing, dancing, eating food together, etc—What iota of benefit does it serve to believe that crazy-ass Siddhswarupananda, who told you that you're not the body and should worship a blue hindu puranic diety, is some conduit to "salvation"?
I read ISKCON versions of Bhagavatam or Charitamrita, and they are not any different from many pre- and post-ISKCON available versions of these texts in wide translation since colonial India. Books like Reincarnation Explained and Who Are You (suspected to have been mostly authored by Tusta Krishna Das anyway) don't offer a unique spectrum of information compared to any other Eastern texts. Not to mention, as I've suggested before, there is no realistic and sustainable or functional way to actually practice the ideology of Atma-vidya. You can say Aham Brahmasmi all you want. Still, it will not change that you are fundamentally a physical, material being with a material mind and material senses. As long as you have a brain in between your skull, you can self-talk/be conscious/aware. YOU NEED THAT PIECE OF GRAY MATTER BETWEEN YOUR EARS to make sense of ideas like atma-vidya.
I understand that it can be a useful coping mechanism for many to "disassociate" and pretend that they are some "eternal soul", but realistically, are you not mostly just bullshitting yourself?
And is it that horrible to imagine that life and consciousness developed incremental complexity? Systems organize, adapt, and express all manners of evolved functions ALL THE TIME. And that in itself is pretty darn wonderful without pretending that you are a 12-year-old cow-heard village girl from medieval India who helps a blue (so random) god have dalliances with his aunty? Or a cowherd boy, a parent, a friend, or a blade of grass in some fictional "cow heaven" some poet invented? Again, this is not a critique of "god" or the existence of a higher "source" or power. Just a rational observation using my god-given brain, if that suits better.
The above sounds like the thinking of simple people from a long time ago that had nothing to do with modern reality and knowledge. We don't have to say that "god", meaning a higher creative source, does not exist. We do not have to throw the baby out with the bath water just because we admit that this particular god is a load of cultural nuance. A relic of myths and stories written for amusement, as vehicles for wisdom, ritual, ethics, and morals... BUT, we have absolutely earned the right to dispose of old-world ideas that no longer serve a purpose beyond giving "authority" to that which has none.
Faith, generally, at least in cults like this, asks us to isolate our information sources and only read and follow the words of some very fractional ideology. This may work within a very small dynamic (100-1000 people max), but ultimately cracks and splinters.
But to answer your question XKRISHNA, yes, definitely, this cult dictates that Butler is the "one" and his words are final. HOWEVER, I have noticed that Bodhayan maharaj, a Gaudiya Math guru, has been invited on occasion to speak at SIF centers, for example. This 100% would not be allowed back in the day. so perhaps, as I have observed, the dynamic has fractured and devotees want to hear from others and acknowledge that Butler is not the only "one". OR, which is more likely and has also been explained on this forum: Bodhayan has probably NEVER met Butler in person. The so-called seeming inclusion of ISKCON and Gaudiya Math members in assorted SIF centers has likely resulted from a calculated effort to gain support for Tulsi Gabbard from the wider "Hindu" community. Also, the history of the founding of the so-called WVA, World Vaishnava Association (which is a misnomer since it pretty much only included Bengali/Chaitanya Vaishnavas—and not the well-established Vaishnava sects of India and abroad) was a way for SIF to try to find a "place" in the larger, growing Gaudiya cults around the world. As the internet started to gain traction, Butler quickly realized that his image would be exposed eventually and that he needed to "fit in" to the larger context of where the global cult of Gaudiya vaishnavasim was heading. what better way than to send Tusta Krishna Das, his right-hand man, to India to vouch for Butler to become a founding member of the WVA? What with some modest donations and never needing to actually show up in person (while ancient gaudiya gurus from all around the globe made it to the founding ceremonies even in their 100th year). Where was Butler while his brain-cancer-ridden proxies were showing up in jeans on the other side of the globe to represent the representative of god on earth? Well, he was surfing and watching Wai Lana do downward dog of course! What else?