Aspects of Vaisnava Theory & Practice
Rasing Our Spiritual Standards
Chapter 13
Our Mission
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Part 2

Prabhupada’s Vision is Not an Impossible Dream

Prabhupada’s vision is not an impossible dream. Our success depends on us becoming very, very Krishna conscious, which means we must consistently exhibit the symptoms of the mode of goodness. That, in turn, will impress upon society that we are honest men, men of impeccable character and integrity, Ideal men”. Society will take notice of us and Prabhupada’s vision will be fulfilled. The responsibility falls on us to set the standard for others to follow. We must not simply think we are better because they are “meatheads” etc., but we must show a better alternative; a positive example is required, one demonstrably more positive than what we currently have.

Srila Prabhupada explains how the public should think of us:

Letter to Rupanuga 1975:

“Regarding the controversy about book distribution techniques, you are right. Our occupation must be honest. Everyone should adore our members as honest. If we do something which is deteriorating to the popular sentiments of the public in favor of our movement, that is not good. Somehow or other we should not become unpopular in the public eye. These dishonest methods must be stopped. It is hampering our reputation all over the world.”

But we did not follow this. In the pursuit of glory, we practiced every town and pillage. Who will adore us for that? Example is better than precept. The public should adore us, and no doubt they will, when each of us decides to be a model of integrity. We do not even have that credibility with each other after thirty years, what to speak of with the public. Some devotees told me that in the USA when we hired business consultants to advise us about fund-raising, the upshot of their research was that we can’t do big-time fund-raising as a charitable institution because ISKCON does not have a good image.

Considering that one of the seven habits of effective people (which applies with equal force to organizations), is to begin with the end in mind.  Even by now, we should have our end in mind; but we do not. If our end is to become the head of the social body, what are we doing in a proactive way that will lead progressively to that end? Are we preparing ourselves for such an eventuality?

Srila Prabhupada makes this point in New Orleans in 1975:

“In this way organize. Avoid machine. Keep everyone employed as brahmana, as ksatriya, as vaisya. Nobody should sit down. Brahmanas, they are writers, editors, lecturers, instructors, worshiping Deity, ideal character. They have no anxiety for food, for clothing. Others should supply them. They haven’t got to work. Sannyasi is always preaching, going outside. In this way keep everyone fully engaged. Then it will be ideal.”

By his purports and statements such as this, he clearly intended us to work on the varnasrama setup. A GBC man challenged me to show where Prabhupada said that fifty percent of his work was done and that the other fifty percent was to establish varnasrama. Although I could not find the exact quote, it is clear from the philosophy that varnasrama is one of our priorities. 

It is also clear considering the present circumstances in our society, we need varnasrama in order to maximize the utility of people and resources. We also need it for devotees to be happy by being engaged according to their natures. The essence of this is to direct devotees or simply allow them to be engaged according to their guna and karma when they show the inclination.

Establishing varnasrama is one of our highest priorities and, from the above references, one of our most important goals in that connection is for ISKCON to develop an intellectual class. We should not just assume we are the intellectual class; we have to develop it. Let us take a quick look at what actually goes on.

As previously discussed, we do not practice collegiality within our society. It follows, therefore, that since collegiality, the mode of goodness, does not permeate our society, we have not to date, established a functioning intellectual class. That is a mistake, but what are we doing about it? If we have not done it, one reasonably assumes that we are at least working on it. Let us see if the assumption is supported by the facts.

With a few exceptions, anyone who wants to live as a brahmana in ISKCON may as well go and bang his head against a pillar or stone wall, for that will be far less agonizing. By “live as a brahmana” I mean that he has got the inclination to be, as Prabhupada said,

Brahmanas, they are writers, editors, lecturers, instructors, worshiping Deity, ideal character. They have no anxiety for food, for clothing. Others should supply them. They haven’t got to work.”

Such a person among us as Prabhupada describes is generally looked upon as unproductive, one who has not understood Prabhupada’s teachings, and a burden. Heaven help him if he has a family in the bargain. And because he thinks for himself, he is also considered a threat. In short, a brahmana in a society meant to develop an intellectual class is often considered a disturbance. In many cases, those who are the most able to shoulder this service, are given the lowest priority, by the management. Indeed, one has to be extremely wary, if he is attracted to being a brahmana, in our “brahminical” society. He has to have survival skills on a par with the jungle animals, or the cat’s proverbial nine lives. Or he has to work his way into a management niche, so he has security, and then he may try to carry out brahminical interests. This dual responsibility, of course, hurts his management performance. If he gets swept away by management responsibilities, then his brahminical interests must suffer.

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