Aspects of Vaisnava Theory & Practice
Varieties Of Dysfunctional Experience
Chapter 1
The Healing Process
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Part 2

My purpose is not to make ISKCON more pain free, but to assist the individual and thus the group organism to be healthier, happier, and more vitally alive 

People who have worked at healing organizations understand all the above points up front, which we may summarize as follows:

1. The group may be looked at as an organism.
2. The principles of individual psychology can be applied to the group organism.
3. As with individuals, the tendency in a group is to be in denial about a neurosis, which is usually developed to compensate for some other problem (usually quite painful) that the individual or group is in denial about.
4. In most cases, crisis is the mechanism that shocks the individual or group out of denial and into healing; hencecrisis is the birth pains of new developments.
5. Healing is often much more painful than the disease itself.
6. To attain and maintain a genuinely healthy state in the group organism, we need to live by these two guidelines:

 (1) The capacity on both the individual and group level to distinguish between necessary, legitimate (healthy) suffering and that which is unnecessary or excessively convoluted.

(2) The willingness to bear–to meet head-on and to work through–that suffering which is a proper portion in both our individual and collective lives.

7. We need not bury our mistakes, but reflect on them minutely, perform autopsies if you will, and learn from them.

8. The basic unit of the group organism is the individual, just as the single cell is the basic unit of the human organism. Attending to the individual growth and well-being (personalism) automatically fulfills the group’s health and well-being; whereas attending to the organization’s priorities (impersonalism) does not automatically ensure the individual’s well-being.

In presenting this book I want to state my purpose by taking the liberty of rewording a passage from the aforementioned A World Waiting to be Born: Civility Rediscovered, which is full of prudent ideas for understanding and improving group dynamics:

My purpose is not to make ISKCON more pain free, but to assist the individual and thus the group organism to be healthier, happier, and more vitally alive. To that end, it is necessary that we become more conscious, not only of the varieties of dysfunctional dynamics, but of the nature of organizations as well. And realize that, unlike the superficial mode of passion solutions we use to smooth ruffled feathers or solve problems, genuine personalism is a form of healing behavior that often demands painful honesty and the scalpel of candor.

Regarding the “scalpel of candor” it is necessary to devote a few paragraphs to the concept that the truth hurts, but it heals. We have compared the organizational organism to the individual, which is a very effective way to think of the group, but there is one important distinction between the two and it works to the disadvantage of organizational healing. As a group is made up of people, when there is a problem that needs healing, it is possible to focus on blaming rather than on the problem itself.

In individual healing, one does not blame one’s fingers for having arthritis. In healing the group organism, however, it is typical that the department or division of the organism where the problem is concentrated gets blamed for the ailment. This creates a friends and enemies type division within the group organism and, as the saying goes, an organism divided against itself cannot heal. 

The blaming trap is difficult to avoid in organizational healing, however, because the act of diagnosing itself may be perceived as laying of blame. The reason is simple. It is impossible to diagnose in the group organism without the person or persons behind the problem getting fingered, as we shall see. That’s because just as in individual healing we must diagnose by thoroughly examining the ailing organ, so we cannot diagnose the group organism without thoroughly examining the infected part.

The only positive attitude to have, is to hold healing the group, above all other considerations, by readily admitting the problem, when the diagnosis exposes our contribution to the problem. Instead of allowing the diagnosis to polarize the group, thus creating a bigger problem, we can all see the situation as a growth opportunity for the group. Being “exposed” can be the birth pains of new developments. It all depends on our orientation.

In treating a boil, if one fails to cut the infected area and squeeze out the infection, perhaps for fear of the patient’s rejection, one cannot be considered a merciful man. Similarly, despite the social rationalization and convention, that organizational “dirty laundry should not be aired”, the person fixed in attempting to heal the group organism, has to transcend convention and air the laundry of the group organism, for such airing is the equivalent of squeezing out the infection. Trying to treat the problem, yet hide the dirty laundry, is like extracting the pus but leaving the core infection inside.

Those concerned about healing the group organism, therefore, must have the courage to be a truth-sayer. In ISKCON, however, those whom truth-saying is likely to expose, along with those too fearful to stand up for truth, like to say that truth-saying is offensive. They forget, conveniently, the adage that “The truth hurts but it heals.” All our acaryas preached virtue, yet they were also truth-sayers. In this regard, Srila Prabhupada has explained the principle in Bhagavad-gita (10.4-5 purport):

Satyam, truthfulness, means that facts should be presented as they are, for the benefit of others. Facts should not be misrepresented. According to social conventions, it is said that one can speak the truth only when it is palatable to others. But that is not truthfulness. The truth should be spoken in a straightforward way, so that others will understand actually what the facts are. If a man is a thief and if people are warned that he is a thief, that is truth. Although sometimes the truth is unpalatable, one should not refrain from speaking it. Truthfulness demands that the facts be presented as they are for the benefit of others. That is the definition of truth.”

On another occasion Prabhupada made the point that the satyam is not always priyam.

On yet another occasion, when Tamala Krishna Gosvami asked Srila Prabhupada about Srila Sridhara Maharaja’s response to some criticism in a Caitanya-caritamrta purport, Prabhupada said, “He cannot make any comment. These are facts.”

On this principle, in The Varieties of Dysfunctional Experience, in-depth analysis (surgery) of ailing sections of the group organism is performed and facts presented for the benefit of others.

However, considering that surgery is impossible without bloodshed, those psychologically too delicate to withstand the sight of blood (or philosophically opposed to hard-headed realism) are forewarned that in this book, the scalpel of candor, makes some precise incisions, and the blood flows.

Future volumes will focus on suturing and convalescence.

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