“Blind Following, And Death of the Spirit”
One of the principal symptoms of this corruption, this diverging from the basic mission of a religion, out of concern for the consolidation of power, is the development of an extreme emphasis on authority, emphasis to the extent of disregard for the individual. This occurs not as a doctrinal tenet of the group, but as a feature of the human reality within the organization. This goes on in the background of the philosophy, stifling critical thinking, reason, and engendering blind adherence. It is difficult, if not impossible, for the inexperienced devotee to see how Krishna consciousness may be misapplied by such undue emphasis, and slipping almost imperceptibly into authoritarian dynamics, which is not the real flavor of Krishna consciousness. The real dynamic of Krishna consciousness, personalism,
Although Prabhupada used different language, in the following conversation excerpt; he describes the same phenomenon that can be called, “the tragedy of all great religions”.
Conversation, May 2, 1976 Fiji:
“Srila Prabhupada, what about, say, many of your Godbrothers? They also have disciples, and they also are properly initiated by a proper spiritual Krishna master, and they give the Hare Krishna mantra.”
“The thing is the spirit, real service of preaching, stopped. Formality is going on, but the real business. . .. Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s movement means amara ajnaya guru hana tara ei desa. That is stopped. Do you follow? The formalities are there, but the real life of Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s movement is preaching. Otherwise, why Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, amara ajnaya guru hana tara ei desa. Tara means preaching. Yare dekha, tare kaha Krishna-upadesa. And that is stopped. They are satisfied if they could construct one temple and beg some rice from the neighborhood: ‘Sir, we have got some temple,’ that’s all. They are satisfied. The spirit of preaching forward—papi tapi jata chilo, hari-name uddharilo—that is stopped.”
This death of the spirit and the mere keeping of formality is an extremely subtle danger. We may think we are being led out of maya to Krishna. However, if the spirit is deceased, we are really going nowhere. It is the ultimate maya: that the devotees in ISKCON think they have all the outward signs and features, of dynamic spiritual life. In addition, they also believe that attainment of the goal is certain, but on the spiritual platform—indifference.
Elsewhere Srila Prabhupada called this mere keeping of formality “churchianity”. He preached against churchianity developing in the name of Krishna consciousness.
Lecture Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.19—Los Angeles, June 15, 1972:
“Just like Prthu Maharaja, the king. We were discussing. So, the Krishna consciousness movement comprehends all sides of life. It is not that a stereotype ‘churchianity,’ weekly going to the church and come back and do all. No. It is embracing all sides of our life.”
Room Conversation—September 18, 1973, Bombay:
“If we do not follow strictly our regulative principles, routine work, then the whole scheme will be failure. Then, instead of Christianity, it will be “churchianity.” You know this word, “churchianity?” You know? Yes. Everywhere this churchianity is going on. And the real aim is how to enjoy sense, under different cover.”
Morning Walk—December 12, 1973, Los Angeles:
“The Deity worship program is meant for us to keep us safe. If we neglect Deity worship, we shall also fall. But that is not the all duty finished. Arcayam eva haraye pujam yah sraddhayehate. Arca means Deity. If anyone is worshiping the Deity very nicely, but na tad-bhaktesu canyesu, but he does not know anything more, who is devotee, who is nondevotee, what is the duty to the world, sa bhaktah prakrtah smrtah, he is material devotee. He is material devotee. So, we have to take the responsibility to understand who is actually a pure devotee and what is our duty to the people in general, and then you make advancement. Then you become madhyama-adhikari. Madhyama-adhikari, advanced devotee. Just like these people, either in India or here, they remain simply churchianity, going to the church without any understanding. Therefore, it is failing. It is now… Churches are being closed. Similarly, if you do not keep yourself fit to preach, then your temples will be all closed in due course of time. Without preaching, you’ll not feel enthused to continue the temple worship. And without temple worship, you cannot keep yourself pure and clean. The two things must go on, parallel. Then there is success. In modern time, either Hindus, Muslim or Christian, because in these places there is no teaching of philosophy, therefore they are closing, either mosque or temple or church. They will close.”
One of the hallmarks of churchianity is blind following, which is one of the symptoms of death of the spirit. Krishna consciousness philosophy lays stress on submission to authority, and this is often mistaken as an endorsement of blind following. This is a serious mistake, because blind following is not part of Krishna consciousness.
“Just try to learn the “truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.”
“… Inquiries and submission constitute the proper combination for spiritual understanding. Unless there is submission and service, inquiries from the learned spiritual master will not be effective. One must be able to pass the test of the spiritual master, and when he sees the genuine desire of the disciple, he automatically blesses the disciple with genuine spiritual understanding. In this verse, both blind following and absurd inquiries are condemned. Not only should one hear submissively from the spiritual master, but one must also get a clear understanding from him, in submission and service and inquiries. A bona fide spiritual master is by nature very kind toward the disciple. Therefore, when the student is submissive and is always ready to render service, the reciprocation of knowledge and inquiries becomes perfect.”
Here Srila Prabhupada clearly endorses authority and submission, and at the same time he declares that blind following is “condemned”. There is no contradiction here.
In another purport, to Bhagavad-gita 10.4-5, he writes:
“Asammoha, freedom from doubt and delusion, can be achieved when one is not hesitant and when he understands the transcendental philosophy. Slowly but surely, he becomes free from bewilderment. Nothing should be accepted blindly; everything should be accepted with care and with caution.”