Aspects of Vaisnava Theory & Practice
Rasing Our Spiritual Standards
Chapter 11
The Conscience of ISKCON “III”
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Part 2

The Sacrifice One Makes for the Sake of the Many

Having devotees serving as a conscience for our society means some of us may have to curtail our present modus operandi. This should be viewed as the sacrifice one makes for the sake of the many. The service will go largely unsung, for those who opt to be loyal opposition will not be popular, however, the service is certainly much needed (long overdue). Nobody likes to be unpopular; but the crucial need for some devotees, a little removed from the day-to-day push and pull of administration, to serve in an advisory role for our society is clear and vital.

Naturally such persons cannot consider it their immediate duty to fall in line with whatever the prevailing view is. Such persons cannot be bought and sold. The decision to fall in line with anything should only come after careful scrutiny. Most devotees want to cooperate. Most devotees know we will accomplish more by team effort than otherwise. Moreover, most devotees want to work in an atmosphere of persuasion rather than force.

One reason it is so easy to discourage critical thinking is that we are social animals. It is the sheep side of humanity’s dual nature to cling to the popular view, the consensual view, for human nature is inclined to groupthink. We do not want to be isolated from the herd. Hence blind following is not difficult to establish and maintain. It is, after all, the line of least resistance; it is also the line of least growth.

Many organizations hire consultant firms to come in and observe and give objective input on the organization’s performance, because it is well-known that it is difficult for objective input to come from within, particularly from those who are caught in the ebb and flow of the day to day affairs of the organization. Since we would not hire consultants for ISKCON, the alternative is to engage people within ISKCON that are not attached to the issues.

This proposal is so valid that none will refuse to see the need for this service, especially in light of our history since Srila Prabhupada’s maha-samadhi. Only the corrupt will be threatened or affronted. Those who are selfless, or sincere about becoming selfless, will have no problem with it. None at all. They will welcome it, and will never object to being held accountable for their words and deeds. They will appreciate that the society needs this conscience, and it is not intended to work against them, but to preserve the integrity of ISKCON. The practice works for everyone.

However, I can hear loud protestations that,

“Prabhupada already has the GBC as ‘the ultimate managing authority’ for ISKCON. There is no precedent for what you are proposing.”

Prabhupada personally filled that role when he was present. By his many exhortations to “consult,” and by his statement (when there was a case of corruption in the New York temple), that the senior men should have said something.

He endorsed the concept that senior men have a responsibility for what direction the society takes. He endorsed it when he spoke of boiling the milk. Support for this kind of consultation is the way varnasrama is supposed to function. As a footnote to this idea, we should also broaden the definition of “senior” to include not just men and not just Prabhupada disciples.

Srila Prabhupada did not make a body to be the conscience because he expected us to do it ourselves, just like he expected the original eleven to be “regular guru”. We botched it up by trying to be super guru, they imitated Srila Prabhupada.. Not that necessarily we must make an official body complete with titles and so on to do this consultative role, for that may become yet another arena for political maneuvering. Ideally it should come about as a natural result of us practicing collegiality, which is a Vaisnava principle we have failed to enact. Love and trust breeds collegiality, and collegiality breeds love and trust. We have created a society with tiers, with various symbols of exclusivity, in which some are accountable and some are not. This naturally works against the practice of genuine collegiality, for collegiality requires, among other things, a certain degree of openness. There is no need to form a body to establish collegiality. That can work against the very principle of the thing; it may cause yet another tier of exclusivity. One of the elements of the downfall of the brahminical class in India was their exclusivity. People resented it. And rightly so. Collegiality is primarily established by an open climate being present and self-evident. Probably one of the most effective ways to bring it about is for our leaders to openly exhibit care and concern for the welfare of every devotee—big, small, old, new, disciple as well as non-disciple, etc. Recall the definition of love from an earlier chapter:

 “A capacity for the experience of concern, responsibility, respect, and understanding of another person and the intense desire for that other person’s growth.”

Implementing this is a matter of individual commitment. Since an entire chapter is devoted to discussing collegiality let us leave the topic aside for the moment.

As stated earlier, we are proposing implementing varnasrama, a brahminical body to act in a counseling and consultative role for those in administrative services. It is plain to see that the GBC role is an executive one, in other words a ksatriya function. It becomes even clearer when we call to mind Srila Prabhupada’s wording “ultimate managing authority”. That means the service by its very nature is an executive one, hence governed by the mode of passion. The question then comes, in terms of the strict science of Krishna consciousness, who is fulfilling the role of the brahmanas, the mode of goodness, in the way our society presently functions?



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