Aspects of Vaisnava Theory & Practice
Varieties Of Dysfunctional Experience
Chapter 2
Why Emphasize Dynamics?
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Part 3

Enlightened leadership welcomes observations or suggestions from senior members of the society by soberly and empathetically hearing, considering, then investigating if necessary

Enlightened leadership welcomes observations or suggestions from senior members of the society by soberly and empathetically hearing, considering, then investigating if necessary. Of course, requires an investment of time. But problem-solving takes time. And the primary business of institutional leadership is problem-solving, not avoiding the challenges to create an artificial peace. Here is Srila Prabhupada talking about problem-solving (Hamburg 1969):

The rabbits, when they face one danger it understands that “Now my life is in danger.” He closes his eyes. He thinks that the problem is now solved. And peacefully he is killed. Similarly, the problems are there, but we are closing our eyes. “Oh, there is no problem. We are very happy.” So, this is called maya. The problem is not solved, but they are thinking their problem is solved by closing the eyes.

The worst leaders do nothing at all; bad leaders wait for a crisis; and the best leaders always try to nip problems before they bloom. They know that a healthy organization is not one that is problem free, but one continually addressing its problems at first notice.

Devotees deserve a responsive hearing of their problems and complaints. To lead is to serve and it is by feedback that we do a better job of leading. As soon as leadership sends a signal that it is taboo to question, to disagree, to express concern, and, if necessary, to speak out, we have stumbled onto the minefield of dysfunctional dynamics–specifically a species of impersonalism, in which persons are treated as things. On the path of bhakti, treating persons as “things,” whether done wittingly or unwittingly, is offensive. It is evil.

Further, it reveals the perpetrator to be a kanistha bhakta, if a bhakta at all, because one hallmark sign of spiritual advancement is the consistent display of personal consideration for everyone, not just disciples or potential disciples. Indeed, an advanced devotee is personal towards all living beings. To be “advanced” and yet incapable of practicing such personalism is a bluff, cheating. It means that the emperor has no clothes.

As we shall see, authoritarianism, which is manifestly impersonal, runs counter to our ideal of personalism. My concern, therefore, is this: Can we achieve personalism by practicing impersonalism? The answer has to be no. It is not any more feasible to achieve personalism by practicing impersonalism than it is possible to learn swimming by practicing cooking. This singular consideration is all the motivation we need to attend to our dynamics.

By the wrong dynamics we achieve the very opposite of what we set out to realize: Instead of us growing to full realization of courage, generosity, openness, a firm disinclination to exploit others, freedom from doubt and delusion, and a capacity to touch others’ lives and to open them, we produce a shrinking back upon ourselves, a crushing of the human spirit, we produce fear and trembling, and humiliation misconstrued as humility. We produce the fully automated organization man, out of touch with his own self and out of touch with others. Rather than empowering each other, we disempower. In short, we get the most insidious form of maya: the illusion of progress out of illusion.

Freeing ourselves from this particular illusion is an arduous task. We cannot console ourselves by simply blowing on the boil. Either we lance it and squeeze, or remain deluded and bluff, cheat, swindle. However, Lord Caitanya wants para upakara not swindle.

Many symptoms of our dysfunctional group dynamics are discussed herein with the aim to raise our awareness of this problem. I include symptoms that I have personally experienced, and, I have sometimes practiced myself. I also include those symptoms I recognize from discussions with devotees about their experiences. It is possible, therefore, that there are symptoms you have experienced that are not mentioned here. However, the specific kind of dysfunctional behavior you may be caught in is not so important. More important thing is to recognize that it is dysfunctional or crazy-making, and then to address the problem or get out of the situation, because your sanity is your most precious asset for becoming Krishna conscious.

In researching this subject, I came across lots of material from anti-cult literature that apply to us. If we attend to their valid criticisms of our dynamics, we can minimize the possibility of lawsuits against the society. In a group or an individual, the healthy and rational response to criticism is self-examination. The anti-cult people can actually serve our cause by calling to our attention the areas in which we are slipping from personalism to impersonalism. In the sense that it can aid in improving our performance, those who criticize us are our friends. A devotee learns to see everything as impetus to progress, to growth, to self-improvement.

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