Sweet Tone and Other Considerations
“If I Become Involved in Someone’s Likes and Dislikes, I Cannot Possibly Write the Simple Truth.”
Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami writes in Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 2.86,
“If I become involved in someone’s likes and dislikes, I cannot possibly write the simple truth.”
Vidura to Dhrtarstra, Mahabharata 5.1.5,
“O king, the flatterers who speak sweetly are available in abundance. Rare is the speaker of sharp but beneficial words, and rare is the hearer who heeds them”
Mention of truth-saying in the Preface gives rise to the need to make an important distinction—between the preacher of virtue, and the truth-Sayer—which is often confused. The discussion of this distinction, however, is in the chapter “Truth-Sayers Versus Preachers of Virtue.” For now, it will suffice to say that lacking an understanding of this distinction, some readers believe I should change the tone of the Our Mission books, make it “sweeter.”
Following in the footsteps of Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja, here and in other places in this volume, I respond to some of my critics. If I become involved in someone’s likes and dislikes, I cannot possibly write the simple truth. Flatterers who speak sweetly are available in abundance. Rare is the speaker of sharp, but beneficial words, and rare is the hearer, who heeds them. You can say that Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, and Vidura Prabhu, “have got my back”.
Sweet tone is a nice sentiment, no doubt. So too is the idea of living in a tax-free state. Considering the situation, ISKCON is in, however, with leaders alienated from themselves; leaders who believe truth is not the issue; when we have rampant denial on several levels, along with the Little Prabhu syndrome; when we have problem-solving in the mode of passion and mundane men in the dress of Vaisnavas, when we have “power over” instead of “power to” dealings and devotees more oriented toward “having” than “being;” why emphasize “sweet tone?” I personally have experienced, all of the just mentioned negative leadership behaviors in my history in ISKCON.
If we are realists, the very nature of the message, that we have a mess on our hands, is not at all sweet. What will sweet tone do but deny us the sense of urgency we all ought to feel.
What is sweet about the revelation that anti-Krishna conscious dynamics prevail in ISKCON, and that this puts devotees into the deadliest of illusions, namely the illusion of progress out of illusion?
What is sweet about the fact that failure to address this problem constitutes a willful swindle, as ISKCON keeps on presenting Prabhupada’s books to the public and enticing people to give their life, wealth, intelligence, and words to the institution in his name?
What is sweet about the wreckage of peoples’ lives, and the high rate of devotees’ leaving, because the institution persistently fails to give them the right experience—that of empowering personalism?
What is sweet about ISKCON becoming a destructive cult in which socioeconomic pressure is openly used to manipulate and control others?
What is sweet about devotees having confused “authority” with “authoritarianism”?
What is sweet about devotees fostering crippling dependency instead of independent thoughtfulness?
There is nothing sweet about these facts. So, other than swindle or to prolong our own self-deception, why try to put it in a sweet package?
Why play “happy family?” Why take the long scenic route in an emergency?
Why not say it, present the evidence for it, and make a concerted effort to solve the problem?
When Harikesa Swami asked a godbrother why he had left the society, (but not the path of devotional service), after more than 25 years of steady service, the answer was,
“I do not like the atmosphere.”
To this Harikesa Swami replied,
“The atmosphere stinks!”
He could not put it sweetly himself. By “atmosphere” he means the dynamics within our society, which is precisely what we have been showing in these Our Mission books, and why we have such a stink atmosphere.
Where is the integrity in greater concern for form over content, by whining about “sweet tone,” which has saving face as its primary aim? How will saving face get us out of our difficulty?
Prabhupada’s prescription, is that we should completely reject those whose influence is destroying his mission from within. This calls for hard-headed realism on our part. Why do we keep confusing a soft head with a soft heart?
I can address the “tone” question in other ways. The accompanying cartoon is one example. It makes a salient point. The dynamics are oppressive and when one raises his voice in protest, that is held against him with “See how he talks to us (or about us).” This is a hopeless situation unless one has the courage to go on raising one’s voice. We must remember that solutions in sattva-guna, are poison in the beginning. One has to have the strength to delay gratification during this stage, until the nectar comes.
Another way to address the issue of tone, is with this question: Why on earth do devotees make an issue of “the tone”, after Srila Prabhupada has said so clearly that to speak the truth “only when it is palatable to others” is not truthfulness, that “the truth should be spoken in a straightforward way, so that others will understand actually what the facts are.” He then concludes with a clear declarative statement: “This is truth.” He spelled it out that the ultimate consideration is not “the tone”, but the truth, “the facts.” How can his followers, have such resistance to this precept?.