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 6
Srila Prabhupada’s Warning and The Lessons of History

Part 10

“Mode of Goodness: Learning the Lessons of History”

In the Srimad-Bhagavatam Eleventh Canto, one of the symptoms of the mode of goodness listed in the Lord’s instructions to Uddhava is “study of the past and the future”

There are a number of implications from this. One that is relevant to this discussion is that by studying the past, we can ascertain where things went wrong and plan for the future. Intelligence means that we plan a future that takes into consideration the mistakes of the past, and avoid making the same mistakes again. At least we can make an attempt to minimize them. The practical logic of this is inescapable. The fact that the sastra lists this practice as a symptom of the mode of goodness, makes it imperative for us to take such a sensible approach to our practice of Krishna consciousness, both individually and collectively.

However, ISKCON experience speaks differently. In our society we rarely ever learn from history. Therefore, it is appropriately said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

It is said,

“History repeats itself,”

However, what should be said is,

“Since we do not learn from our mistakes, therefore history repeats itself.”

In this connection, a godbrother once told me an amusing anecdote from his college days. He had a history professor who was a bit proud of his subject, so inscribed on his door were the words,

 “Man learns from history.”

A friend, decided to do a “prank” and changed the sign to read,

 “What man learns from history is, that man does not learn from history.”

This pessimistic view has more than a grain of truth in it. Nevertheless, inasmuch as we aspire to be the intellectual heads of society, brahmanas, it is hoped that we can rise above this conditioned trait. To develop the capacity to reflect on the past and extract what useful information we can, is to offer something better than a mere recycling of the past—complete with blunders and all.

Is ISKCON—despite our book distribution, ratha-yatras, huge temple projects, and so on—in danger of losing the true dynamic spirit of Krishna consciousness and reverting to mere formality? That we have to find out by careful scrutiny, by organizational self-examination.

Judging by certain symptoms, the danger is very real indeed. It will be very pleasing to Srila Prabhupada if we focus on addressing our problems, because the only way to get rid of a problem is to solve it.

As Prabhupada writes in Purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.28.48,

“The perfect disciples of the acarya try to relieve the situation by sincerely following the instructions of the spiritual master.”

The most important measure of success is how you treat people—your friends, family, coworkers, and even total strangers.

Quotes that are applicable to Chapter 6:

  • The vulgar man is always the most distinguished, for the very desire to be distinguished is vulgar.
  • The responsibility of leadership is to serve and not to dominate.
  • A politician divides mankind into two classes: tools and enemies.
  • Between indecision and a wrong decision better to risk a wrong decision. A wrong decision can be adjusted but indecision is hell.
  • Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.
  • Men in general judge more from appearances than from reality. All men have eyes, but few have the gift of penetration.
  • Two things indicate weakness–to be silent when it is proper to speak and to speak when it is proper to be silent.
  • Character is what you are in the dark.
  • The use of force alone is but temporary. It may subdue for a moment; but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again: and a nation is not governed, which is perpetually to be conquered.
  • The most important measure of success is how you treat people—your friends, family, coworkers, and even total strangers.
  • The vulgar man is always the most distinguished, for the very desire to be distinguished is vulgar.
  • The responsibility of leadership is to serve and not to dominate.
  • Pride, perceiving humility honorable, often borrows her cloak.
  • A politician divides mankind into two classes: tools and enemies.
  • Between indecision and a wrong decision better to risk a wrong decision. A wrong decision can be adjusted but indecision is held.
  • Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.
  • Men in general judge more from appearances than from reality. All men have eyes, but few have the gift of penetration.
  • Human improvement is from within outward.

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