Article by Upendranath Dasa
Authoritarian Dynamics in Religion, How Corruption Begins to Take Hold and Spread
Turning now to the practical outcome for the individual who has reaped the fruit of humanitarian religion, we find an empowering picture.
The person who has attained inner strength, and integrity, often may not be successful as his scrupulous neighbor, however, he will have security, judgment, and objectivity, which will make him much less vulnerable to changing fortunes, and opinions of others, and will in many areas, enhance his ability for constructive work.
Such a person, no matter the particular religion he professes, lives by a moral compass which he will not subvert to any group dynamic that contradicts his inner sense of good and evil. He may live with the herd; however, he is not dominated by the herd. This essentially forms the common core of all genuine religious teachings as far as how the practitioners perform in this world.
The following is an approximate description of this common core:
- Man must strive to recognize the truth and can be fully human only to the extent to which he succeeds at this task.
- He must relate himself to his fellow man lovingly.
- Man must know the difference between good and evil; he must learn to listen to the voice of his conscience and to be able to follow it.
“Love” is not something apart from Krishna consciousness. It is the capacity for the experience of concern, responsibility, respect, and understanding of another person and the intense desire for that other person’s growth.
This results in a willingness to extend oneself on another’s behalf, and to even take great risks for that person. This is exemplified in the way Srila Prabhupada risked everything for us, including his health, by reducing sleeping, so he could write books, taking on the huge burden of the society, and travelling with hardly a real break for ten years. This is love that comes from strength, not from weakness. Love is service to the be-loved.
A brilliant thumbnail description of the saintly person that sums up the result of the humanitarian religious dynamic:
“This figure is the man who lives in faith, who has given over the meaning of his life to God and lives his life centered on God’s energies. He accepts whatever happens to him in this visible dimension without complaint, lives his life as a duty, faces his death without a qualm . . . no task is too frightening to be beyond his courage. The great strength of such an ideal is that it allows one to be open, generous, courageous, to touch other’s lives and to enrich them and to open them in turn. As a saintly person has no fear of life and death trip to lay on to others, he does not cause them to shrink back upon themselves, he does not coerce or manipulate them.”
The last three items—causing people to shrink back on themselves, coercing them, and manipulating them—are the authoritarian dynamic, instilling fear and trembling. The rest describes Srila Prabhupada. It is the humanitarian dynamic in a nutshell.
Srila Prabhupada embodied these traits—openness, generosity, courage, the ability “to touch other’s lives and enrich them and open them in turn”. It is unimaginable that Prabhupada would cause anyone to shrink back upon himself or herself. This is what we should experience or be heading towards in the life of Krishna consciousness. Authoritarian religion does not result in such empowerment; rather it disempowers, it enfeebles, it causes people to shrink back upon themselves. And in our case it produces that result in Prabhupada’s name. In this way we can subvert the very ideals that Srila Prabhupada stood for.
Keeping in mind that the authoritarian dynamic ultimately cripples the individual psychologically, how does one know that the authoritarian dynamic is being enacted on oneself? By the subjective feeling that is produced inside. If the consistent pattern of dealing with someone produces fear and trembling, if one is shrinking back (or expected to shrink back) upon oneself, then one is definitely caught in an authoritarian relationship, with all the aforementioned dangers to one’s development of reason.
On the other hand, if one is encouraged to be open; generous; if one feels enriched by the unfolding of his powers of reason; if one feels energized from transactions in a relationship, that is the humanitarian dynamic at work.