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 14
Dogma Verse Science

Part 4

“The False Security of Running With the Herd.”

The tendency in institutional communal life is to relegate the responsibility for being open-eyed to someone else and slip into the false comfort of blindly following. This gives us the false security of running with the herd. This dynamic, however, goes against the fundamental tenet of Krishna consciousness, which is personalism. In terms of developing, one’s Krishna consciousness, this pattern of interactions is bad for both the leader and the subordinate. It can even become mentally unhealthy.

Unfortunately, we see that sometimes, rather than encourage each other away from this tendency, we are only too happy to encourage it and to call that Krishna consciousness. And we misapply concepts in the Krishna consciousness philosophy—such as authority, surrender, the absolute role of the guru, cooperation, and so forth—to foster the idea that being a good devotee means to stifle our discriminatory powers, to make our discrimination muscle flaccid, even atrophied.

At best (thinking in terms of varnasrama) we may say it is the role of brahmanas to do this. Non-brahmanas, by their very guna and karma, generally will not be so inclined. Nevertheless, it is the prerogative of every individual to examine the philosophy from different angles of vision, because, at heart, Krishna consciousness is all about becoming independently thoughtful men and women, and from that position cooperating in the preaching mission of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Hence participation in the society is voluntary.

Indeed, being a brahmana (an intellectual), and being a dogmatist at the same time go ill together. Being a dogmatist is an instant disqualification from being a brahmana, for a brahmana’s nature is to teach, to instruct, to enlighten others. That is at the core of his nature. A dogmatist is not interested in that. He likes to lay down the law. His demeanor is “My way or the highway.” Srila Prabhupada often equated the word brahmana with mahatma, which he translated as “broad-minded”. One cannot be a dogmatist and broad-minded at the same time.

One significant point about Krishna consciousness being a science is that there is no philosophical question we cannot answer on the basis of guru, sastra, and sadhu. The idea that we should accept dogma or “the party line” as conclusive philosophy in place of a scientific answer that squares with guru, sastra, and sadhu, runs counter to the precise science of Krishna consciousness. Any philosophical conclusion that cannot be backed up by sastra we reject as utpata, a disturbance. This is the Vaisnava principle, sruti smrti puranadi pancaratra-vidhim vina aikantiki harer bhaktir utpatayaiva kalpate. Any philosophical conclusions not supported by sruti smrti Puranas and pancaratra is simply a disturbance in society.

This stifles growth of the individual and the institution. It stifles initiative. It stifles personalism. It stifles Krishna consciousness. When all is said and done it is unscientific. What began as nectar turns out to be poison. It is the mode of passion. Better to have faith in the science and stick with it. It may be poison in the beginning, but it will be nectar in the end. That is the opinion of the supreme scientist, Sri Krishna.

Any conclusion that can be supported by sastra we accept—even if it seems to defy logic. That is the science of Krishna consciousness, which is based on sabda brahman, which is the topmost pramana, or proof. Srila Jiva Gosvami has argued this point lucidly in Sri Tattva-Sandarbha, showing conclusively that Srimad-Bhagavatam is the ultimate pramana

The trouble is that one wrapped in dogma has the merit of appearing loyal, of seeming totally dedicated. Therefore, one has to take responsibility to discriminate, to sift the data, so one will not get swept away by dogma, because dogmatism, by its association with totalitarianism, is destructive. A sincere candidate for Krishna consciousness will not confer the responsibility to sort things out on someone else. Though we say guru’s authority is absolute, for example, still, his absolute authority rests on sastra. Guru cannot claim authority that is not grounded in sastra. One who does so is not guru..

Ultimately, dogmatists are a menace to society, because they enact an authoritarian dynamic. One of their symptoms is that they are never open to challenge. Another symptom is that they like to define reality for others. This stifles growth of the individual and the institution. It stifles initiative. It stifles personalism. It stifles Krishna consciousness. When all is said and done it is unscientific. What began as nectar turns out to be poison. It is the mode of passion. Better to have faith in the science and stick with it. It may be poison in the beginning, but it will be nectar in the end. That is the opinion of the supreme scientist, Sri Krishna

Dogmatism is never constructive. It is a sign of fanaticism, which is a sign of sentimentality. This may come as a surprise, because generally we associate sentimentality with a wishy-washy, touchy-feely, malleable sort of disposition, whereas fanaticism we associate with rigidity and brute force. Yet because both rest on emotions, both are rooted in sentimentality. Emotions means feelings and conclusions that are not rational, not supported by the facts—sentimentality. Prabhupada equates the two, sentimentality and fanaticism, when he says “this (Krishna consciousness) is not a sentimental fanaticism”. So, the dogmatist is a sentimentalist hiding behind a rigid demeanor to compensate for his sentimental beliefs that he fears putting under critical scrutiny.

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