Aspects of Vaisnava Theory & Practice
Rasing Our Spiritual Standards
Chapter 8
The Answers Lies Within
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Part 2

Deeply Buried Irrational Motivation is Never Obvious to the Individual Harboring It

As we have seen, such deeply buried irrational motivation is never obvious to the individual harboring it, because the subconscious dresses our irrational drives in rational clothes and presents it to our conscious mind. This imitation of reason would be even more bewildering, were it not for the fact that we are conditioned to it. It becomes second nature. The rationalizing person,

“Not only wants others to believe his rationalizations but believes them himself,”


 “The more he wants to protect himself from recognizing his true motivation the more ardently he must believe in them”.

This capacity to rationalize our true motives is one of the most puzzling phenomena in the material world. It is frightening for one who appreciates this peril of the mode of passion. Later in Heading entitled “The Double Standard” you will read about Jeb Magruder involvement as one of the participants in the Watergate break-in. Jeb Magruder’s testimony, that he subverted his character to the character of the group—37 others, all educated. Thus, Jeb admitted,

“We did not come to Washington to commit crime, but we did”.

The import is that one person or a whole group can be rationalizing a certain behavior and not be aware of it. It is a kind of mental figure-8 loop. The whole group is rationalizing, and wanting to protect itself from recognizing the true motive driving it, the more ardently it believes in the rationalization. It becomes a tightly wound downward spiral for the group. Generally, time is all that’s required for this trend to come to its natural disastrous end.

“If people do not know they are “rationalizing,” one may rightly ask, “how can we blame someone for rationalizing?” It is not a question of blaming anyone. It is a matter of getting to the heart of the problem. It is a matter of taking responsibility for the problem and solving it. To do that we must first answer the question, who owns the problem? The answer to that is not simple. In a group such as ISKCON, to some extent, we all do, just as the captain and the crew has a problem when the ship is in danger. The bulk of the responsibility, however, falls on the leaders. In an organization, problem-solving is the first duty of leadership. There will surely be more pleasurable activity (frosting), but the sattvic way is to solve problems up front and enjoy the frosting last.

It is true that persons in the grip of rationalization cannot tell that they are the prisoners of their irrational passions from a subjective point of view. That has been proven in clinical research. Previously, they were compared to persons influenced by a paranoid system—they may be perfectly rational in all aspects of their life except in that one place where their rationalization has taken hold. Although the person cannot tell, that does not mean others cannot tell. If rationalization is going on, it can be determined from a few different points of analysis.

For example, a Vaisnava is supposed to be above the modes of nature.



Falling short of that, a Vaisnava should be at least in the mode of goodness, because a Vaisnava should at least have the brahminical qualifications,

  • Peacefulness.
  • Self-control.
  • Austerity.
  • Purity.
  • Tolerance.
  • Honesty.
  • Wisdom.
  • Knowledge.
  • Religiousness.

In Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.24,

“Firewood is a transformation of earth, but smoke is better than the raw wood. And fire is still better, for by fire we can derive the benefits of superior knowledge [through Vedic sacrifices]. Similarly, passion [rajas] is better than ignorance [tamas], but goodness [sattva] is best because by goodness one can come to realize the Absolute Truth.”

Certainly, those we regard as elevated Vaisnavas should have such minimal qualifications.

Rationalization, however, is a symptom of the mode of passion. It is the responsibility of a Vaisnava who has symptoms of the mode of passion to develop the qualities of goodness. He cannot remain where he is, and credit himself for being somewhere else, and neither should we. It is not a scientific understanding of Krishna consciousness if we assume that because the dress and other external requirements are met, we are automatically on the transcendental platform. One must develop the appropriate symptoms. A Vaisnava’s duty is to be introspective or self-examining, so he can root out the symptoms of the lower modes and exhibit those of the highest mode. In sattva guna the grip of our irrational passions slackens and one is equipoised enough to identify them and weed them out. That is not possible in the mode of passion.

Though every devotee is responsible to develop the sattvic qualities, the greater share of responsibility falls on the leaders to exhibit them. If they rise to the occasion, they are acting with integrity towards their service. The mass of devotees will naturally feel inspired and beholden to such leadership that commands their respect. The devotees know that they must cooperate for pleasing Srila Prabhupada, however, they naturally do not want to do so by going against their own intelligence. They should not be faulted for that. They want to cooperate, like Arjuna, when their illusion and doubts are dispelled.

It is not, therefore, a question of laying blame here or there. It is a question of discriminating and showing our love for Srila Prabhupada by cooperating with that which is truly Krishna conscious. If by careful analysis we find that symptoms of personal ambition are present, which is the greatest threat to our mission, then how can we wholeheartedly cooperate? We can cooperate with a person who is embracing the struggle to become Krishna conscious. As Prabhupada said in Purport to Bhagavad-gita 10.4-5:

“… Nothing should be accepted blindly. Everything should be accepted with care and with caution. …”

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