“We Have a Serious Problem. The Thing to do is Make a Stark Assessment of it, and Establish the Solution and Then Apply It”
ISKCON has a serious problem. The they want to do the right thing; they would make a stark assessment of it and ascertain the solution and then apply it. What does “sweet tone” have to do with the issue? Some believe divine intervention will save ISKCON. Others simply accept the situation with, “Prabhu, there’s always problems in the material world,” which is neither a brilliant insight nor was it Prabhupada’s formula for problem-solving. Some even think it does not matter what dynamics ISKCON practices, as long as we distribute books and chant Hare Krishna. ISKCON says that the mission of Srila Prabhupada is a thoroughgoing success as it now stands.
All these types are living ostrich philosophy. The Our Mission books are intended to alert concerned ISKCON members of the horrid effects of authoritarianism, blind following, bureaucracy, and alienation from self—in short, cult dynamics.
The books are meant to inspire them, to take responsibility, for the legacy of Srila Prabhupada, and to apply the principles of problem-solving: Delaying gratification, responsibility, dedication to the truth, and openness to challenge, which were discussed in the first volume. The first step would be an unflinching look at the institution to define the problem.
There are numerous details, but the long and short of it all, is that ISKCON has deviated from the parampara. Our duty to the parampara is not just a matter of faithfulness to the teachings of Lord Caitanya; we must also preserve the right dynamic, or atmosphere in which, sadhakas can make authentic progress in spiritual life, by becoming thoughtful and wise, and free from doubt and delusion. Parampara also means passing on the true spirit, and intent of our acaryas. The experience of Krishna consciousness is the goal, not the mere having of a religious institution. The world already abounds with utterly useless boil-blowing religious institutions.
The true experience Krishna consciousness has been neglected, by assuming that it is automatically present, if we attend to institutional goals of opening temples, and distributing books, and initiating newcomers, and maintain the external spiritual standards. These Our Mission books prove that ISKCON’s naïve assumption is a mistake, that in the resultant authoritarian scheme neither the perpetrators nor the victims thrive spiritually. Hence, we have only the illusion of progress out of illusion.
After more than 50 years, this cannot be sweet news no matter how it is packaged. And ISKCON ought to consider that the news is especially bitter to those directly or indirectly responsible for the problem; THE LEADERS. Unless one refrains from speaking the rude truth by silence, or by watering it down, whoever has massive resistance to hearing the truth, will find it bitter, harsh, unpalatable. Preaching virtue alone, or watering things down, or being silent, may raise one’s popularity, but neither of these will bring a solution. usual.
How, for example, does one yell “FIRE!” sweetly? Of course, it is possible to grab a violin, and between the bars of a serenade, and with a twinkle in one eye, try to announce melodiously “The building is burning, do something, do something,” but that is not very convincing, is it? Who will believe the urgency of the situation and be galvanized into action by such a “sweet” presentation?
Just as one does not put on a white dinner jacket to crawl under one’s car, so a message should be dressed in appropriate language. The more urgent the situation, the less latitude there’ll be for sweet tone. And when there is rampant denial of the central cause of the problem; too much rajas and tamas in the ISKCON society, then sweet tone becomes an even more remote possibility as the situation becomes more urgent. Indeed, those who insist on sweet tone become suspect.
Conventional wisdom says that “sweet tone” means that people will be more receptive. Moreover, this does not make sense. When people lay down a condition, that they will not heed a message, unless it is sweet, compliance with which effectively allows them to avoid facing a problem squarely; how is that more receptive? Rather it prevents an accurate diagnosis, without which we cannot make an accurate prescription. If the doctor diagnoses cancer, but prescribes for a mild case of stomach cramps, for fear that his not being sweet will disturb the patient, beyond the risk of a malpractice lawsuit, what will be the value of such sentimental sweetness?
“But” someone wrote, “the people who need to hear your message ignore it because your tone seems like a personal action or that will cause outrage or offense.” Yes, the tone is a personal affront for those who have vested interest in the present system. No authentic analysis of our situation can avoid this effect. When those who have been unaccountable for a long time are finally made accountable, it always feels like an affront to them. As one ISKCON leader, referring to his peers, put it, “Their security is threatened.” This condition is unavoidable if we are to truly analyze the problems and address them. The astringent burns the wound, but it will disinfect as well.
The leaders’ first duty is to establish the kind of atmosphere that permeates the society. It should be a sattvic atmosphere, and this they have failed to do. And because the game in ISKCON is to hold the leaders in a sort of awe, whether deservedly or not. Naturally anyone who is going to show how they have flubbed their responsibility to Srila Prabhupada will be taken as some sort of affront, for not going with the flow. That person will be scapegoated, unless he serves their agenda, or says things in such a way that no real damage is done to the status quo, and at the end of the day, we get business as usual.
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