Aspects of Vaisnava Theory & Practice
Rasing Our Spiritual Standards
Chapter 8
The Answers Lies Within
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Part 3

Authoritarian Dynamics Should be Questioned

One sure way we can discern if things are acceptable or not is by the dynamics. Authoritarian dynamics should be questioned. It is a problem to be addressed. It is true that persons who are rationalizing do not know it, but others can know it. As those rationalizing makes their way through life, they leave telltale signs behind them. Their condition is like the person with a spot of dirt on his face; he cannot see the spot but others can. As Srila Prabhupada says in the Caitanya-caritamåta Madhya 16.72 Purport:

“An intermediate devotee can identify the nondevotee or motivated devotee. The motivated devotee or the nondevotee are on the material platform, and they are called prakrta. The intermediate devotee does not mix with such materialistic people.”

That spot will be symptomized by the qualities discussed here and previously. It means that we are functioning in the mode of passion, wherein one justifies one’s actions by one’s might.

Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.25.3:

“Mind and sense control, tolerance, discrimination, sticking to one’s prescribed duty, truthfulness, mercy, careful study of the past and future, satisfaction in any condition, generosity, renunciation of sense gratification, faith in the spiritual master, being embarrassed at improper action, charity, simplicity, humbleness and satisfaction within oneself are qualities of the mode of goodness.

Material desire, great endeavor, audacity, dissatisfaction even in gain, false pride, praying for material advancement, considering oneself different and better than others, sense gratification, rash eagerness to fight, a fondness for hearing oneself praised, the tendency to ridicule others, advertising one’s own prowess and justifying one’s actions by one’s strength are qualities of the mode of passion.

Intolerant anger, stinginess, speaking without scriptural authority, violent hatred, living as a parasite, hypocrisy, chronic fatigue, quarrel, lamentation, delusion, unhappiness, depression, sleeping too much, false expectations, fear and laziness constitute the major qualities of the mode of ignorance.

 Now please hear about the combination of these three modes.

Humanitarian dynamics are in the mode of goodness, wherein one justifies one’s actions by persuasion, on the basis of sastra, as per Prabhupada’s example in dealing with us.

If we, particularly the leaders, have no ulterior motive, the negative symptoms of the mode of passion would not affect our society overall, although they may be present from time to time. As long as we do not manifest the determination to be selfless, however, ulterior motives will harass us in the form of rationalizations; we will rationalize when we believe we are expressing truth. And to avoid facing that irrational drive, we will more ardently pursue our imitation of rational reasoning on the aforementioned figure-8 loop. To avoid this condition, it is imperative that we make an all-out bid to be situated in sattva guna, without waiting for some disaster or crisis to inspire us. Procrastination is an even lower mode of nature than raja guna.

Owing to the power of rationalization, the personal ambition motive is not obvious to the individuals under its sway. Nevertheless, personal ambition open, generous, opens others and enriches them; if he is just, truthful, and so on, he is a saintly person. That is the humanitarian dynamic at work. That is personalism.

That is Krishna consciousness. Prolonged contact with such persons produces a positive effect within us. A significant proportion of the time spent in their company will be relaxed, anxiety-free. We will feel Vaikuntha consciousness. More than that, we will feel encouraged to grow, to unfold our powers of reason. We will develop confidence, enthusiasm, and so forth. Such a saintly person commands our respect; he does not demand it.

On the other hand, someone who causes us to shrink back upon ourselves, who coerces us, intimidates and manipulates us, instills fear and trembling, whose association makes us feel tightly wound with anxiety, who demands our respect and does not command it, is not only an authoritarian type—he or she is not a saintly person. That is the authoritarian dynamic. That is the opposite of personalism. That is not Krishna consciousness. Prolonged contact with this person will produce a negative result within us. We become enfeebled, lost to ourselves, lack confidence, and so on. We may even develop neuroses.

Like humanitarian dynamics, authoritarianism may appear to have the same symptoms. Recall that the difference is not in the appearance of things, but in how one feels subjectively. These dynamics produce different results. Inasmuch as a saintly person must have symptoms of sattva guna, those who are authoritarian cannot be saintly persons, because they are in the grip of the mode of passion. More likely they are the mundane persons in Vaisnava dress that Srila Prabhupada warns us about in the Caitanya-caritamåta. He said we should neglect such persons. Upeksa. He said that when Srila Narottama dasa Öhakura says chadiya Vaisnava-seva nistara payeche keba, that one must serve a Vaisnava,

“He is indicating an actual Vaisnava, not an envious or jealous person in the dress of a Vaisnava”.

This is not to imply that any person or number of persons are not devotees. However, if we are not careful and get caught in the grip of our irrational passions, then we can be victimized by personal ambition. If we are leaders, others can be victimized along with us. Therefore, Srila Prabhupada considered personal ambition the greatest threat to the smooth sailing of our ISKCON ship. We have to know the signs of this danger and be on the lookout for them. The responsibility falls primarily on the shoulders of the leaders, however, on a ship the ordinary sailors also know the dangerous signs on the sea and assist the captain by being on the lookout as well.

To protect ourselves we must be dedicated to the truth; we must self-examine; and we must be open to challenge. This is good for us individually and collectively. These practices are sattvic. They come under the quality of wisdom.

Some additional ways to detect the presence of personal ambition: by the quality of life the mass of devotees experience and by the outcome. If the society flourishes, that is one result. If it becomes dilapidated and ultimately dies, that is another result. Becoming dilapidated and ultimately dying does not mean the institution ceases to exist. From Srila Prabhupada point of view, even if we exhibit certain symbols, but the spirit of genuine personalism is dead, if we are reduced to mere formality or churchianity, that is death. A body may exhibit certain essential bodily functions—breathing, eyes blinking, moving limbs, etc.—for a long time, yet still be in a badly diseased condition, practically dead.  Similarly, we may exhibit certain signs of flourishing, but authoritarian dynamics are a sign of bad institutional health. Not finishing Prabhupada’s Samadhi in eighteen years is a sign of bad health. The condition of ISKCON in the USA is a sign of bad health. Under-manned temples are a sign of bad health. These and other problems not mentioned here are to be addressed. When we do, that will be a sign of ISKCON’s health taking a turn for the better. Indeed, our cooperating to address these problems is the true meaning of Srila Prabhupada’s request to show our love for him by cooperating.

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