“Censorship in the Form of Book Banning Without Adequate Dialogue is at Once Symptomatic of Four Negative Signs”
Opinions become dangerous to a state (or an organization) only when persecution makes it necessary for the people to communicate their ideas under the bond of secrecy. (British House of Commons, 1797)
In the chapter called Our Mission, the anti-intellectual atmosphere of ISKCON was discussed and it was shown that Srila Prabhupada’s desire was to establish intellectual heads of society. In other chapters, we discussed dogmatism, the authoritarian dynamic, and the absence of collegiality, and how that was in conflict with true Krishna consciousness. Censorship in the form of book banning without adequate dialogue is at once symptomatic of four negative signs,
- And a lack of collegiality.
Historically two types of books have suffered bans, licentious or pornographic books, and books that express intellectual ideas that are unpopular for the moment. These intellectual books fall into three main categories: scientific, political, and religious. The justification for religious censorship was usually on the grounds that the idea being expressed is heretical. Sometimes heresy was broadly defined. In one vital instance, when the bishops of the Roman Church wanted to strike down a political opponent, Origen, they excommunicated him. With the man went the ideas he favored and so transmigration of the soul was removed from Christian theology.
Sixteen hundred years later, Christianity’s inability to reconcile the doctrine of God’s mercy with that of eternal damnation of the soul has compromised the Christian faith in the minds of most intellectuals.
The bishops probably had no idea how their expedient act, sixteen hundred years earlier would affect their institution way into the distant future, in this case, with no end in sight. The purport is that censorship, especially when enacted rashly, can be dangerous.
The topic is relevant, because a book was banned to the entire society by the GBC body at the Mayapur meetings in 1995.
(Note to reader: Not only was “In Vaikuntha Not Even the Leaves Fall” was banned, all of the works by Kundali Dasa were banned; no worries, they are available on this website, for your consideration, and personal evaluation as to if they are Krishna-consciousness or not. You are now reading the a series of books Kundali Dasa published in Vrindavana India in 1995, by the title “Our Mission”. Not only were the books banned, Kundali was banned from preaching in ISKCON Temples as well.)
The reason for the ban and the subject of the book notwithstanding, the very act of censorship raises a number of questions that deserve careful consideration: Is ISKCON a closed or open society? What does our leaders’ banning of a book implicitly and explicitly communicate to us? From the point of view of history, what sort of societies practice censorship? Again, from the point of view of history, what has been the general fate of the banned books? And finally, is there an alternative to censorship?
I will take each question and discuss them in order.