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 2

“We Have to Give Up the Association of Rajo-guna and Tamo-guna. Then There is Question of Progress. Otherwise, it is Simply a Bluff

Lecture, Srimad-Bhagavatam 1974, Calcutta:

“So, we have to give up the association of rajo-guna and tamo-guna. Then there is question of progress. Otherwise, it is simply a bluff.”

Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.24 purport:

“Except Visnu, all separated forms are manifested under the conditions of material energy, and therefore the forms of material energy cannot help anyone to rise to the platform of sattva, which alone can liberate a person from material bondage.”

The platform of sattva alone can liberate a person from material bondage”. The sooner we practice collegiality, sincere collegiality, the sooner we will be in the mode of goodness.

Our society is ailing, somehow going on, but ailing. As long as we do not practice collegiality as part of the basic dynamic of ISKCON then our society will continue ailing. The absence of collegiality means ISKCON, though its philosophy is transcendental, is not functioning even in the mode of goodness. It is influenced either by ignorance or passion. Neither of these are satisfactory alternatives, for the simple reason that the Supreme Scientist, Lord Krishna, has declared that actions in the mode of ignorance result in foolishness and actions in the mode of passion result in grief.

Aloofness, smugness, scoffing, looking the other way, none of these are apt responses to the diagnosis. These responses simply underscore the problem. They are rationalizations. Coming to collegiality and subsequent addressing the issues is the only healthy and substantive response. It is the farsighted response. Many devotees have appreciated The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which, is subtitled Restoring the Character Ethic. The author lists “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” as one of the seven habits. This is another way of saying collegiality. Widespread reading of the Seven Habits promises that the practice will soon follow.

We should be consistent in our philosophy and in our actions. Among our GBC resolutions, for example, under the sub-heading Management and Administration, we find the following statement and list of items:

  1. Management and Administration.

To ensure that the leadership of ISKCON is characterized by,

  • devotion to guru and Krishna,
  • b.. spiritual purity,
  • compassion,
  • integrity,
  • commitment,
  • consistency,
  • competency,
  • accountability,

And to ensure that the devotees and assets of ISKCON are appropriately engaged, protected and increased.

Additional items that would be good on this list are:

  1. teaches by example
  2. high degree of scriptural knowledge
  3. collegiality

The proposal in the last three chapters and other parts of this book seek to inspire us to put in place mechanisms to fulfill the items listed here. If and when we fail to be consistent in such standards and someone points it out, whoever that someone may be, even a non-Vaisnava, we should be honest enough, have enough character to face it. That will purify us and it will be a good example for others. Our present habit of skirting the issue and attacking the man is not a solution; it exacerbates the problem.

An element of irony appears here in that we have an anti-intellectual climate in our society, when we are allegedly mandated to be intellectual. We are meant to be the intellectual heads of the social body, but we either malign our colleagues who have a different intellectual bent than us, or we create a closed circle, an “intellectual mafia,” from which others are excluded unless they first kowtow. This dynamic is far from the mode of goodness, what to speak of transcendental goodness.

Someone may say, “Wait a minute, what are you talking about? We did have some major problems, but we had a reform movement and now things are more or less going well in our movement. You are too cynical.” Things did come to a head in the mid-eighties and we had a reform movement, but it was not far-sighted. Reform was conducted in the mode of passion. Instead of systematically reviewing all the areas in which we needed to reform, many of the reformers were satisfied by becoming gurus.

The problem before reform was that we had gurus who had gone absolute. How to avoid that recurring was never addressed as part of the reform procedure. How to have an overall better dynamic within the society was never addressed. Perhaps we assumed that dismantling the Zonal Acarya system would achieve a better dynamic, but such was not the case. As a result, many devotees in the USA distanced themselves from the movement after the reform. I was one of them.

Because this distancing occurred close to the demise of the Zonal Acarya system, some say the heart of the problem of devotees leaving the temple communities was a direct result of the demise of that system. This is a mistake. Many temples are almost empty because devotees were disappointed when the mostly authoritarian dynamic remained.  Now in the USA, at the least, they are empty. except for only Indians. (In India, that is what they do.  It is their custom to go to temples and give their money) 

The reform movement gave them hope that the dynamics within our society would improve. When such a change did not happen, their hopes were dashed. Many opted to fend for themselves. The result: A godbrother coming from USA told me, “New York temple is like a boardinghouse”. Another devotee reported, “ISKCON in America is devastated. So many temples are desolate.” While devotees may not have the language to express the problem so pointedly—that the core of the problem is our poor dynamics—instinctively they know that the true dynamics of life in ISKCON should be collegial. It should be personalism in practice. The crux of our problem is the near absence of collegiality since Srila Prabhupada’s departure.

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