In preaching Krishna Consciousness There Can be no Question of Compromise, But There is Tact
So, arguments and reason are used by the first-class devotee, but it must be “on the basis of revealed scriptures.” The standard while speaking in spiritual circles is that one quotes sastra to back up his statements. The statements of guru and sadhu can support the sastra, but they cannot contradict the sastra. Now if a bona fide guru or sadhu circumstantially speaks something that is at variance with the sastra, that will be on account of his tact in the preaching field. I once overheard Srila Prabhupada tell a godbrother,
“In preaching Krishna consciousness there can be no question of compromise, but there is tact.”
Such tactful preaching, lacking sastric support, cannot be taken as the siddhanta. It is not that whatever guru says becomes the siddhanta. The siddhanta exists and the guru repeats it. If and when he speaks something other than the siddhanta, according to precedents in our parampara, that is taken as the Acarya’s preaching method.
Another point is that in the line from Caitanya Mahaprabhu, logic is very important. Srila Prabhupada states (Lecture Srimad-Bhagavatam 1971):
“Naya-kovidah means nyaya-nipuna. Bhagavad-dutas, those who are gosvamis, they place everything with nyaya, or logic. Their instructions are not blind, dogmatic. Naya-kovidah. Everything, what is said by Krishna or His representative, they are not dogmas. Those who are not representative of Krishna, they will say simply dogmas. Just like in every religion there is a dogma. But in Bhagavata religion, Bhagavata-dharma, there is no dogma. Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s Bhagavata-dharma, the Caitanya-caritamrta’s author, Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, says, therefore, that caitanyera dayara katha karaha vicara. Vicara means you just try to understand the gift of Lord Caitanya by logic, vicara. Do not follow blindly. Following blindly something, that is not good. That will not stay. But one should take everything with logic. But the servants of God, they put everything in logic. Caitanyera dayara katha karaha vicara. If you study the Caitanya’s philosophy with logic and argument… Do not go by sentiment.”
Here Prabhupada equates dogmatism with sentimentality—beliefs, doctrines or creeds that have not been critically examined to see if they are ill-founded or hold genuine merit by being based on sastra. Ironically this failure to critically examine the belief, doctrine or creed, is the very attraction of dogma. The whole psychology of a dogmatist is an escape from the responsibility to critically examine his beliefs, to see if they hold genuine merit, to see if they are logically consistent. Indeed, he dreads doing it, for they may not prove coherent. In the clear light of rational thought, and sastric evidence; he may find he has to give up his cherished beliefs. Since he has pre-determined not to do so, he shuns critical examination the way vampires fear sunlight. His wonderful solution is to remain blindly attached to the idea and use every other means—except rational analysis—to keep his conviction.
Once we leave aside rational analysis, however, our options are usually might, force. The dogmatist rationalizes this use of force by claiming greater loyalty to the cause (which may not be at all the fact), but his shrill claims serve to blur the issues for the mass of devotees. His tactic of claiming greater fidelity to the spiritual master by accusing others of minimizing or relativizing Srila Prabhupada does not serve to bring out the philosophical truth; rather it makes the truth more difficult to discern.
Underlying the rhetoric of the dogmatist is an escape from freedom, a rejection of the responsibility to think, to grow, and to understand. Fromm has brilliantly traced out the psychology of this shirking of responsibility to think for one’s self in Escape from Freedom. Once this irrational motivation—rejection of the responsibility to think, to grow, and to understand—is rationalized there is no limit to what could be justified.
A will to escape from freedom is the underlying cause of the success of most personality cults and totalitarian or authoritarian social and religious systems. This is the most insidious aspect of the extreme dogmatist—he is not only blindly attached to being irrational, but he is convinced that others must follow his lead. He is willing to think for them.
Taking into consideration Srila Prabhupada’s definition of asammoha and the excerpt from his letter to Karandhara quoted in the chapter on authoritarian and humanitarian dynamics, one immediately appreciates that dogmatism is antithetical to Krishna consciousness. In Krishna consciousness, thinking for ourselves, according to sastra, is our foremost responsibility. Training and association in Krishna consciousness is meant to foster this ability. We have to learn to respect this ability in others. That would lead us away from dogmatism and into collegial dealings.
So where does “authority” come in? Authority means the sastra, and who represents the sastra is also authority. Without sastric support one cannot claim authority. When an “authority” says, for example, “I do not care whether it is Krishna conscious or not, it is what I want” that is not authority speaking.
(Note to Reader: Yes a GBC, Sannaysi, and Guru did say this, Kundali Prabhu did not make this up, I also witnessed this outrageous statement.)
One cannot be obliged to follow or “cooperate out of love for Srila Prabhupada” with such authority. Cooperate means cooperate with the Krishna conscious wishes of the authority. Blindly following is also cooperation, but it is not Krishna conscious. That is a significant part of “consciousness” in the term Krishna consciousness, indicating open-eyed awareness, not blindly following.