Aspects of Vaisnava Theory & Practice
Making a "Case" for the Reconstitution of Srila Prabhupada's "Mission"
Rasing Our Spiritual Standards

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Chapter 12
Congeniality and The Three Modes

Part 1

“In an authoritarian System Groupthink is Practiced Instead of Collegiality”

“In an authoritarian system groupthink is practiced instead of collegiality,

“Collegiality means, Companionship and cooperation between colleagues who share responsibility.”

The essential dynamic in groupthink is that in a group, one man, or sometimes a few, do all the thinking, and the rest follow without subjecting any of the ideas or policies, to critical examination. Generally, in groupthink the ratio of those who think is significantly less than those who follow. The thinkers are responsible for having all the chips and the rest fall in line. If the followers have an independent thought, they are never welcome to air it. In other words, at the heart of groupthink, is no think.

Collegiality is just the opposite—everyone thinks, confers, and discusses. At least everyone who has the inclination is made to feel welcome and not perceived as a threat to the status quo. Ridicule and one-upmanship are absent in collegial dealings. Instead, it is open, sober, encouraging. Even if some persons are reluctant to think for themselves, at least the atmosphere of collegiality would not pressure them to stay that way.

Where is collegiality expressed in the sastra and how does it relate to the three modes of material nature? Srila Jiva Gosvami has described three kinds of spoken transactions and they correspond to the three modes of nature. At the bottom, in the mode of ignorance, is jalpa. This is a discussion in which one is not interested in what is said by others, whether it has some truth or not, because one simply wants to be heard. One wants to talk for the sake of talking. Any other view or contribution is of no interest. Reference to the sastra is also not important. Basically, one wants to talk because he is wooed by the sound of his own voice. He feels empowered when he has the floor.

Then there is vitanda. Here the object is to win. Truth is not important. Winning is all. The sastra may be used, but the fulfillment of the spirit and intent of the sastra is not the primary aim. Quoting sastra is a rationalization for some irrational scheme. For the vitandi debater sastra is simply one of his many tools for winning, a means to his end. If he is wrong and he wins he is happy, for winning surpasses the rightness or wrongness of his position. Truth is of no consequence to him. The vitanda transaction is in the mode of passion.

Finally, in the mode of goodness, there is vada. Here the object of all participants is to unearth the truth or find out the best alternative out of many options. This implies that the participants do not hold their particular view as the foregone conclusion and the only acceptable outcome to the discussion. They are willing to adjust and amend their view until something cogent and mutually satisfactory, based on sastra, is worked out. This is collegiality. Webster’s defines collegiality as “cooperative interaction among colleagues.” Colleagues means “fellow worker.” That circumscribes everyone in ISKCON. Everyone is a worker for the same mission, that of Lord Caitanya. There may be different roles, however, collegial dealings can still be there. For example, a senior devotee interacting with a brand-new devotee can still have collegial dealings even though the fundamental etiquette is that the senior role is primarily one of instructing, and the junior role is one of serving those instructions.

Moreover, there is still scope for discussion, for hearing another’s view, and really attending to that person’s needs. To lead is to serve. We need to practice this more widely in our society.

Our definition of collegiality can be put like this: cooperative interaction among everyone in ISKCON, which Srila  Prabhupada wanted. For some of us cooperate means,

“I tell you what to do and you do it.”

However, that is not collegiality. The definition of cooperation that works with collegiality is,

“Cooperation is a two-way street.”

This puts us back with the definition of collegiality: “Cooperative interaction” or one might say “interdependent action” among everyone in ISKCON. This is just another way of saying personalism. Personalism is at the very heart of Krishna  Krishna  consciousness. Personalism is Krishna consciousness. We can conclude then, that to the degree we lack in practicing collegiality we establish or settle in a comfortable, safe, or secret place, impersonalism. We are lacking in the healthy humanitarian dynamic. We are not bringing out the best in each other.

The solution to our problem on all sides is to practice collegiality. To do that requires us to live by the character ethic—principles such as integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty, and the Golden Rule. Without the character ethic as an integral part of one’s life, sooner or later our relationships slide to hell. Love and trust is easy, not because the opposite party has on a dhoti, tilaka, and is shaved up, but because we believe in the basic good character of the other person.

If I try to use human influence strategies and tactics of how to get other people to do what I want, to work better, to be more motivated, to like me and each other—while my character is fundamentally flawed, marked by duplicity and insincerity—then, in the long run, I cannot be successful. My duplicity will breed distrust, and everything I do—even using so-called good human relations techniques—will be perceived as manipulative. It simply makes no difference how good the rhetoric is or even how good the intentions are; if there is little or no trust, there is no foundation for permanent success. Only basic goodness gives life to technique.

One does not have to wait for legislation to put the character ethic and collegiality to practice. One simply has to appreciate that this is one with Krishna consciousness and go for it. Practice it in your own circle as much as possible. It is a symptom of the mode of goodness and only from the mode of goodness that one can achieve pure goodness. Srila  Prabhupada stresses sattva guna as requisite for attaining transcendence:

Lecture, Cc. 1971, Gorakpur:

“Unless one comes to the platform of sattva-guna, there is no question of perfection.”

Caitanya-caritamåta Antya 3.222 Purport:

“If in all one’s activities he strictly adheres to the mode of goodness, he will certainly develop his dormant Krishna consciousness and ultimately become a pure devotee of Lord Krishna.”

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