H.G. Matsyavatar Das

Monday, 9 February 2009

The Apologists

By Matsya Avatara Dasa

To the philosophical and theological attacks the early Christian preachers underwent, the Church reacted seeking refuge in Saint Paul's teachings, supporting all their philosophical and theological implications and establishing, since the end of the first century, the apologetic school (*1), which later became a science in the Christian tradition. The apologists began their action to rebut the accusations of Hellenic and Pagans, producing important works, especially during the second and the third century AD, by which they sustained and exalted the spiritual, moral and ethical values of Christianity. After the year 313 AD, when Christianity was recognized and accepted by the State, the apologists continued their work, but in a necessarily different way, devoting to promote and plead the worth of the Christian theses to the advantage of the emperor and the learned classes of the empire, obtaining great results

( conversions of renowned philosophers and so on ). The necessity to defend their own belief, contributed to create the favorable condition for the birth of a large literature, called apologetic, by which to preserve, strengthen and glorify that particular doctrine. This literature not only protected Christianity from the criticism of the learned class of the time, but also increased the faith of the Christians themselves; as a matter of fact it is obvious, without entering into the merits of its actual spirituality, (*2) that such school was an instrument for the conquest of consciousness, which lasted about two millenniums.

Then like nowadays, spirituality has to be defended with adequate means. At that time Hellenic and pagans had their theories, today, atheists (scientists and philosophers), impersonalists and nihilists have theirs. We, as followers of Srila Prabhupada, would like everyone to accept the Gaudya Vaishnava tradition, and in particular, the message of our beloved master. If we are able to learn from history, we can see that our past Acharya (Ramanuja, Madhva, Sridhara, Jiva Goswami, Baladeva-vidyabushana, Vishvanath chakravarti and others), defended their siddhanta as well, creating the structure of an apologetic school, with means that were allowed at their time. Today, for the defence and spreading of the Gaudya Vaisnava doctrine and all its theses, we have again to save, consolidate and dignify the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and in particular the emeritus literary work of Srila Prabhupada, recovering and taking up their achievement to fortify the bases of a large future credibility.

After the first years, during which disciples and followers of Srila Prabhupada have showed an appreciable and dynamic enthusiasm for his books (apart from rare juvenile exceptions), translating, printing and spreading them all over the world, today, due to the diffusion of the movement and its deep penetration in the social structure at worldwide level, foreseeable reactions are taking place, and though many of them are absolutely positive, some of them are very critical, with touches of open negativity and some even accuse Srila Prabhupada of "new hinduism" and of manipulating the traditional texts through his translations.

Since such criticism mostly comes from the so called cultured classes, in this historical period of the movement growth, we have to suppose the danger of an intellectual isolation and a consequent rejection. Today Srila Prabhupada's books must be seriously defended, in a critical, rational, scientific way, with systematic exegesis works, to take into considerations the most various points of view: the spiritual, the social, the psychological, the political and the economical ones, in order to make the values present in these books shine with their best splendour.

As long as there is the possibility to benefit from the living testimony of Srila Prabhupada's disciples, an almost total recovery of his teaching, of his physical presence among us, of his work, can be carried out. There is the need of a quick revival and development of an apologetic school for the Gaudya Vaisnava doctrine, based on a deep study, explanation and estimation of Srila Prabhupada's books with sound connections to the most important works of our above mentioned tradition and large references to the Vedic tradition in general.

This action, which has to be coordinate and continuous, cannot be accomplished without a precise strategic plan, a project which, in order to exist, must be put in an institutional form (Foundation, University or the like) which will make this design concrete, just as the body fulfills the intentions of the jiva.

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