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 8
The Answers Lies Within

Part 4

“It is Easier to Determine Our Condition Than We Realize

It is easier to determine our condition than we realize. If one’s subjective experience of life in ISKCON falls more in the category of authoritarian dynamics than a humanitarian experience, then one knows immediately that the problem, with its attendant dangers, is upon us. Anyone can immediately determine that by asking:

  • Am I, in the name of Krishna consciousness, shrinking back on myself and losing my power of critical reason, or am I growing, my power of reason unfolding?
  • Am I becoming open, generous, courageous, able to touch other’s lives, to enrich them and open them in turn?
  • Must I go to my authority for every single decision in my life?
  • Am I afraid to approach my authority to ask questions or seek feedback on my ideas?
  • After talking with my authorities do I feel more confused and frustrated or do I feel clear-headed and free from doubt?
.

If you cannot answer these questions yourself and you have to ask someone how you feel, you are already caught in the authoritarian dynamic, for you are already out of touch with your subjective feelings. That is one of the results of the authoritarian dynamic. If being out of touch with ourselves is the case, we must ask what will be the outcome of such a negative dynamic both for the individuals and for the group?

If this negative outcome is the case, there is only one solution—be proactive and address the problem. Living with it is not healthy; running away is also not healthy. Recall that problem-solving is the symptom of health, and except for solving it, there is no other way to get rid of a problem. Problems are never solved by applying the same mentality that created them. Recall further, that the mode of passion solution (instant gratification), is poison in the end.

On the other hand, the mode of goodness solution (delaying gratification), is nectar in the end. We must keep our eye focused on the outcome.

We should note, however, that it is possible for two people within the group to experience the opposite dynamic. One may experience an authoritarian dynamic and the other a humanitarian one. We have two things to consider, therefore: the overall dynamic that typifies the organization and our individual experience.

Another symptom of the humanitarian dynamic is collegiality. In the authoritarian setup there is no question of collegial dealings, though sometimes there is a pretence of one. The real item, however, is not difficult to distinguish from the pretense, because in genuine collegial dealings the conclusion is reached by discussion and persuasion. In authoritarian dynamics the conclusion is foregone and all discussion is a token gesture.

If one’s experience of the ISKCON dynamic is collegial, then one may safely conclude that the humanitarian dynamic is present in one’s sphere and all is well. One should still look at the overall picture as well, because, given time, that can affect one’s personal sphere. 

 Collegiality is discussed in detail in the chapter called Collegiality and the Three Modes.  There are other ways to figure out if we are laboring under an authoritarian system. Consider these questions:

  • While we are making devotees, are we keeping a significant number of them in our fold or do we find that old devotees are largely alienated and we need to replace them with fresh fodder?
  • Are we having large numbers coming through the front door while large numbers exit via the back door?
  • And, of those that stay, are they happy? Will they remain happy, or do we see that new, innocent devotees are pretty happy, and with time they become uninspired, negative, unproductive, lost?
  • Is there a general sense of “We are all in this together,” or do we have the elites and the masses, the aristocrats and the proles, the haves and the have nots?
  • Does the individual devotee have a general perception that the dynamics of the society is aimed at bringing out the best in him or her?
  • Are the devotees becoming firm and free from doubt, open, courageous, and confident in their powers to distinguish truth from illusion?
  • Is their power to reason unfolding, or are they being trained up in dependency, blind following, fear to question and to express doubt?
.

Every devotee’s honest answer to the above questions based on his or her experience in the society will determine if he or she is handicapped by the authoritarian dynamic or not, whether he or she is heading to a new Promised Land or going to join the nitya-lila of Krishna.

We have still other considerations that can help us to determine the current overall trend in ISKCON, whether it fosters authoritarian or humanitarian dynamics. We have, for example, a resolution (ISKCON Law) that forbids devotees from reading certain kinds of books, and one that prohibits “going outside”. Such laws indicate a trend towards the authoritarian dynamic, because in the humanitarian dynamic, the atmosphere will generally be so nice (After all, “It is joyfully performed”.) there should be no need to formulate such laws. The simple desire of the leaders should be enough. That would be the humanitarian dynamic, wherein one is encouraged to take responsibility for oneself and one’s decision-making. Devotees should identify so strongly with ISKCON that they voluntarily adhere to Srila Prabhupada’s wishes in this regard. They should feel so much love and trust, so much shelter in ISKCON that they would not dream of going elsewhere for shelter. Then we would not need legislation to elicit loyalty and commitment. Before we make such legislation, we should ask ourselves,

“Have we done our part to give shelter within ISKCON?”

As far as the law restricting reading material, who will police and enforce this law? Are the lawmakers following this law? Why make laws that are unenforceable? This type of lawmaking only serves to show the spirit and intent of the lawmakers. It serves to create outlaws. We also have a law banning books, which is yet another negative symptom. 

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