Aspects of Vaisnava Theory & Practice
Rasing Our Spiritual Standards
Chapter 16
A Prediction
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Part 2

Well, 1975 to 1996 (Now 2022), is a Good 20 (Now 47) Years, so Why Bring up the Unpleasant Past?

Logic on the one hand and good character on the other. Therefore, back in 1975, in a letter to Rupanuga prabhu, Prabhupada wrote:

“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.”

“Everyone should adore our members as honest.”  However, let us digress slightly here to make an important point. It is imperative that we get a reputation as being honest, and the only way to do that, is by factually being honest. Since charity begins at home, we must be honest with each other for a start. Unless such honesty becomes the consistent expectation of devotees, we will never realize the love and trust among devotees which we sometimes rhapsodize about. 

Srila Prabhupada used to say that the reason there are injunctions in the Koran against people having sex with their mothers is that they were having sex with their mothers. Similarly, the above words of Prabhupada were necessary because devotees were being dishonest and unscrupulous in their techniques. Considering all the preaching Prabhupada did about the character and conduct of a Vaisnava, this letter should never have had to be written. Prabhupada mentions that it was a controversy, implying that to some devotees it was not even a clear-cut issue that such dishonest techniques should not be done in the name of Krishna consciousness. If, however, one looks upon Krishna consciousness as a vehicle for garnering name, fame, and distinction, then resorting to such conduct in the mode of passion is easily explainable.

In an organization openly dedicated to developing saintly character, the letter is a shameful commentary on what we were doing between 1966 and 1975. We were not getting the message. It says a lot about the caliber of devotees we were.  Moreover, sad to say, despite the existence of the above letter, 1976 saw no improvement in the book distribution techniques. Indeed, the questionable techniques only stopped when the public put its foot down.

 Without such a backlash from the public those techniques would probably still be in force.  

Someone may say,

“Well, 1975 to 1996 is a good 20 years, and it is 2022, and you can add another 26 years to the 20; so why bring up the unpleasant past?”

Some devotees may condemn this by saying,

“You are being fly-like, seeking the sores’

Perhaps they have a point. One might be happy to let the past sleep, if we learned from it, if the dishonesty had ceased. In some parts of the ISKCON     world fraudulent collecting techniques are still in place.

When Lord Caitanya visited Mathura [1], said that, the behavior of a devotee, establishes religious principles. In other words, conduct reveals character. Then what is the hope of becoming Krishna conscious for those involved in dishonest or misrepresentational, money-making, schemes? How can we hope to attract the intelligent class of men when we either allow or practice dishonesty? People may not know the detailed science of Krishna consciousness, but they do know that spiritual life entails honesty. They expect good character, and a better than average standard of integrity from people who profess to be on the spiritual path. What intelligent man or woman, for example, will want to surrender to Krishna by selling stickers under false or at least questionable pretenses? Only certain types of people would agree to do that in the name of Krishna consciousness.  However, intelligent, self-respecting persons would have a great deal of trouble with it, and they should.

People who lack character may have no problem with misrepresentation and swindles, but that works against our objective, which is to show to the world that being a devotee of Krishna, in our Krishna consciousness movement, means that one is visibly becoming a person of trustworthy character—a saintly person. We do not want, for our mission, what Orwell[2] implied when he said,

“As with the Christian religion, the worse advertisement for Socialism is its adherents”.


[1] Mathura—Lord Krishna’s abode, and birth place, surrounding Våndavana. At the end of Lord Krishna’s manifest lila, Vajra, His grandson, was put in charge of this sacred city. Lord Krishna displayed His pastimes after leaving Våndavana. It is also the name of the district where Vraja (Våndavana) is located.

[2] George Orwell – Eric Arthur Blair (25 June 1903 – 21 January 1950), known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic. His work is characterized by lucid prose, biting social criticism, opposition to totalitarianism, and outspoken support of democratic socialism.

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