Aspects of Vaisnava Theory & Practice
Rasing Our Spiritual Standards
Chapter 10
The Conscience of ISKCON “II”
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Part 1

A Body Serving as a Conscience for ISKCON Will be Highly Effective for Upholding the Purity and the Integrity of our Institution

Besides the benefits mentione6d previously, a body serving as a conscience for ISKCON will be highly effective for upholding the purity and the integrity of our institution. We cannot deny that in proximity to the material energy, it is hard to keep ourselves pure. We are vulnerable. Moreover, Prabhupada’s mercy is such that he has given us so much bounty, we have a high degree of facility for service, hence opportunity for gross and subtle sense gratification in the name of devotional service. The two—facility for service and opportunity for sense pleasure—can be an intoxicating mixture. There is immense risk.

When we take into account the view of experienced psychoanalysts about the human capacity for rationalization, which means that the persons rationalizing are not even aware of their true motive, and our principle of Yukta-vairagya [1], the situation is tailor made for us to be victims by rationalizing sense gratification. The subtle variety of sense gratification is especially dangerous—puja, pratistha, etc. We can go very far along that road in the name of Yukta-vairagya. We can become adept at dovetailing sense gratification in the name of Krishna consciousness and be stuck in that role for years, nay, lifetimes.

This is one of the anarthas (unwanted-things), Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura described in Madhurya Kadambini, Anarthas Caused by Bhakti Itself:

“The preacher of Krishna consciousness has to deal with increased fame, fortune, and following. While we may be sincere enough to refrain from gross falldowns, it may well be that we have subtle falldowns. So subtle, that no one around us may perceive it, especially if we surround ourselves with people not able to make a critical evaluation of the subtle signs. Rationalization means that our anarthas are so subtle that the victim cannot perceive it.”

I saw an example of this—surrounding oneself with people who cannot give us solid critical feedback—in the Kartika season of 1994. At that time, concern about the devotees visiting Narayana Maharaja (a self-proclaimed ‘rasika-guru”), had reached a peak.

The tension was getting unbearable, so a meeting was called to get the spokespersons for that group to clarify their position and perhaps establish some common ground of understanding. This was by no means a bad idea. This sort of procedure should be practiced more. In this instance, however, the implementation was a complete and utter failure, because the spokesperson for the group in question demanded the right to decide who could attend the meeting. They obviously wanted to control the proceedings and stack the meeting with people who would not give them any effective critical feedback. As transparent as this ploy was, it worked.

Moreover, they did not stop there—the meeting was taped, and they stipulated that they would transcribe the tapes, edit them, and then turn over the transcripts. They exploited their seniority by using the respect we afford them, to manipulate the hearts and minds of their own godbrothers, in order to have their way in the society. This shows a lack of integrity. Dealings and examples like this cannot strengthen ISKCON. Either it disgusts some, or it becomes the example for others to follow. Both outcomes are undesirable.

Do not be surprised that in the odd dynamics of ISKCON, And the way ISKCON applies the principles of Vaisnava etiquette, I will be faulted for mentioning this event. Why? Because all discussion of truth, humility, detachment from honor and dishonor and so on aside, we value saving face more than coming clean. ISKCON, From the top ranks down, Functions in such a way as to permit this to go on—something I find profoundly baffling. We are supposed to be men of exemplary character, role models for the rest of the world and our society. Can we exhibit basic integrity, which nondevotees—whom we criticize daily—can often muster? And we have no misgivings about complicating the issue with “Vaisnava aparadha”, and a whole range of philosophical concepts that, rather than serving to clarify things for everyone, and discouraging similar transgressions, only serve to blur the issues. And then we call this murky business Krishna consciousness.




Foot Note:

[1] Yukta-vairägya—befitting, real renunciation, in which one utilizes everything in the service of the Supreme Lord.

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