Article by Upendranath Dasa
Saragrahi.Org’s Specific Vision About Free Speech And Civility
I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend with my life, your right to say it
In relation to free speech a wise man said:
“I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend with my life< your right to say it.”
This attitude is profound. It attends to one of the most basic needs in thinking persons, and demonstrates genuine respect for the individual in spite of whatever differences there may be.
The following is taken from an article posted on the “Old Saragrahi.org”, in which this became an issue for some. It expresses the sincere mood of a person resisting, and protesting oppression; a person setting boundaries in order to avoid being violated:
This individual wrote:
“You want me to walk to your tune, and that is what I protest and resent, far more so than your point of view; for however you may justify it, the end result is that you, and the civility brigade, want me to function according to your lights, your realization, trying to make decisions for me, that are my call to make. Meanwhile, I want to function according to my realization. You are trying to dictate to me, and at the same time you imply, that you desire free speech. Well then, why do articles by you and others try to make me conform to your conception about how I ought to speak? Is that free?”
The “New Saragrahi.org” facilitators wish to express this website’s specific vision and position about free speech and civility.
If we fail to honor this basic need of thinking men, are not we being uncivil?
Put another way, if on the plea of preventing feathers from being ruffled, we establish rules that deny a person the right to exercise his individuality, “are not we ruffling his feathers?
And, ironically, in denying a person the right to speak as he chooses, “are not we, while deliberating on the most personal philosophy, behaving impersonally?
And preaching that is inspiring to the madhyamas, may ruin the faith of the komalas. Moreover, Bhaktivinoda, holds that most of the shastras, and tikas (commentaries), etc. have been written for the komalas, or at least largely with them in mind.
Now, both of these types of seekers are eligible for Krishna bhakti. Let us be clear on this point, and soon we will cite Srila Prabhupada on this very point. However, having said that, let us point out that these two types, are not equally eligible for bhakti. Yes, the komala shraddha folk, are not as eligible for bhakti as the madhyama.
Bhaktivinoda considers the madhyama on a better footing of eligibility, than the komala shraddhas. Hence his choice of “tender faith” to classify them.
However, at any given moment in time, the komalas invariably outnumber the madhyamas. And there is a tendency for them to think that because of numerical majority; that they have a better take on eligibility. They filter philosophy, so that they translate their simple faith into a virtue. They think
“We do not believe in all this rationality and so forth. We already love Krishna so much. We already accept so many things in the shastra. We do not have all these doubts and questions. We are fixed up.”
They speak and quote the high-minded words of others, without an iota of realization, and would cut a comical figure, if they were not so tragic in their skewered understanding. Comical, because they remind the madhyama of a child putting on his father’s shoes, coat and hat, and bumbling along trying to look, sound, and act as an adult, but ending up only as an amusement.
But they become tragic, because they are really stuck in that komala place. “Soft faith”. Whereas the madhyama attains “firm faith” because of understanding with clear logic and reason, based on the shastra. The madhyama has unshakable faith.
Komalas tend to make a mess of the scriptural reasoning in order to bolster their belief, their blind faith, which they also manage to convince themselves, is not at all blind, but the real thing. Despite (or because of) this ability, to twist their perceptions, Bhaktivinoda calls them persons of tender faith, komala shraddha.
A madhyama, seeks other madhyamas for association to discuss the Absolute Truth on the basis of Bhagavad-gita 10.9,
“The thoughts of My pure devotees’ dwell in Me, their lives are fully devoted to My service, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss from always enlightening one another and conversing about Me.”
Hence, madhyamas will canvass far and wide. Madhyamas will give a chance to people, to find out if they are komalas or madhyamas by inclination.
In the end, however, the madhyamas focus on exchanges with other madhyamas, rather than harm the faith of the komalas, who may pitch up from time to time, and even want to float arguments for blind faith, which some are more adept than others at hiding.
They usually try to present their anti-rational stance, as a superior understanding of God, superior faith and so on. Meanwhile, God Himself is saying, “The topmost devotee has faith that is not blind.”
Caitanya-caritamrta 22.66, Lord Caitanya says,
“‘One who is expert in logic and in understanding the revealed scriptures, and who always has firm conviction and deep faith that is not blind, is to be considered a topmost devotee in devotional service.”
This website thinks so.
“Free, is that I say what I think, and you are free to read it or not.” It keeps intact everyone’s freedom of expression, and if the faint-hearted find it threatening, let him or her observe and learn to deliberate more before speaking.
Saragrahi.org has a specific vision about free speech and civility.
To call a point of view “shallow sentiment”, for example, is neither uncivil or a personal attack. It is either true or untrue. That is all. Moreover, it simply calls for us to hold it up against the backdrop of our philosophy and reason. It is not, that our ruffled feelings, become the yardstick, for whether the remark is exactly suitable and appropriate or not. Actually, we should feel embarrassed at our foolishness, and somewhat thankful, that it was exposed, rather than focusing on “how” it was done. How I felt and so on. That is actual Vaishnava.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura made a distinction between those he considered madhyamas and komalas. In a nutshell, the komala shraddhas (those with tender faith), tend to be very literal and simplistic, in their spirituality, cleaving to tradition and so forth. And the madhyamas, well they tend to require a rational basis for their beliefs. They find great appeal in statements such as “worships Me with his intelligence.” They get inspiration from things such as “speaks with logic and reason based on shastra and has faith that is not blind.”
Therefore, Bhaktivinoda reckons that preaching that is inspiring to the komalas, does not inspire the madhyamas, who find it somewhat infantile, at least some of the time.