“What is Sadhu and What is Truth”
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta on the Real Sadhu, wrote in Sri Cait any a’s Teachings:
“There are many things which we do not disclose to the sadhu. The real sadhu makes us speak out what we keep concealed in our hearts. He then applies the knife. The very word “sadhu” has no other meaning than this. He stands in front of the block with the uplifted sacrificial knife in his hand. The sensuous desires of men are like the goats. The sadhu stands there to kill those desires by the merciful stroke of the keen edge of the sadhu’s knife in the form of unpleasant language. If the sadhu turns into my flatterer, then he does me harm; he becomes my enemy. If he gives me flattery, then we are led to the road that brings enjoyment, but no real well-being.”
Srila Prabhupada on Satyam (Truth) in a Bhagavad-gita 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.”
In a letter to Sumati Morarji, Srila Prabhupada wrote:
“They (devotees) speak only the satyam (truth) although it may not necessarily be priyam (sweet).”
Considering the urgency of our situation, which Varieties of Dysfunctional Experience amply, proves an abstract or roundabout approach is inappropriate. In a fire, one does not first shower, shave, put on his best suit and then go around whispering to all the tenants,
“Excuse me, but I think perhaps there is a fire on at the moment, and it is probably a good idea to evacuate the building before the smoke and flames get you.”
No. One yells, “Fire!!!”
Within a few chapters readers will agree that there is ample reason to yell fire. I am not sure what kind of tactful delivery would have pleased my GBC godbrothers, and still state the truth lucidly, logically, and undeniably. In my experience, spanning 23 years of involvement in ISKCON, tact is often confused with Vaisnava etiquette, then insisted upon, and then the issue sidestepped. Tact gets in the way of truth, and real Vaisnava etiquette is to cleave to the truth. What must one do to elevate the truth, so that it is prominent and visible to all willing to look in its direction, and speak it with candor?
Still, accepting the complaint about delivery, rational men do not use “the delivery” as a valid reason to sidestep facts, for they consider content more vital than form; and Vaisnavas are supposed to be the most rational people. We do not become the most rational, by acting irrationally. Squabbling over the delivery, at the total neglect of the content, is like refusing to leave the burning building, because one did not like the manner in which someone yelled fire. It is a sign of insincerity.
Yet Krishna says every endeavor is covered by some fault, so I accept in principle that the fault in this case could have been the delivery.
Still, I fail to see how that justified the GBC’s attempt to ignore the content. What will denial get us?
Worse, they attempted to punish the author. All this simply underscored the central point of the book—that we have an atmosphere of dysfunctional or irrational authoritarian dealings in our positive alternative society, and that the problem is from the top down. Had we actually invested time in the issues of my concern, instead of attacking me, there would have been no need for this volume, and the succession of volumes I have planned, so I can unburden my heart of what I understand about the danger of authoritarian dynamics.
In light of these considerations and the GBC’s failure to specify what was wrong with the delivery, reading between the lines, I had to conclude that the delivery was perhaps not the issue at all, but the truth of the analysis. Problems are not solved by ignoring them, or getting rid of the person who pointed to the problem. When the boy said the emperor had no clothes, vanquishing the boy would have done nothing at all to strengthen the emperor’s case. Indeed, it would have reflected badly on him, unless, of course the whole kingdom was already dysfunctional.
Interestingly, protest about “the delivery”, also says some-thing about our inconsistent dynamics. Had the book been a volume of praise of the GBC—even excessive praise, which Prabhupada says in Caitanya-caritamrta is “another kind of blasphemy”—I have no doubt it would have been welcomed, hailed in the GBC Journal, ISKCON World Review, the Prabhupada Toshani, and other forums. We would not have heard a word about “the delivery.”
In other words, praise is acceptable, even if excessive. Yet valid criticism, as shown by the favorable response to Our Mission from all around the world, is not permissible. We know, instinctively, that an individual who can only hear praise is unbalanced. What can we conclude about an organization with the same symptom? One observer has remarked that in organizations where wave making is not tolerated, only person of mediocre ability. rise to the top. A disappointing consideration, if true for us. After all, ISKCON is meant to cause a revolution in the hearts of men.
The widespread favorable response to Our Mission conveyed something I did not address in that volume; that our leaders are alienated from the rank and file of our society. They are out of touch. The way of such alienation is traced out in the chapter “Alienation as Self-estrangement.”
There are always two sides to a story. In contrast to the resistance from the GBC, several hundred devotees from all corners of the world, some GBC men, and temple presidents included, did not agree with the official story of the GBC. They thought the book was a valuable and timely contribution. A GBC man confided to a friend of mine that “Every word in Kundali’s book is true.” Another said that “Every devotee should read this book. I did not feel threatened by it at all.” Privately he told me he wanted to see everything that I write.
While in Mayapur to face a GBC committee, without being told that I was on trial, and with no formal charge, on many consecutive days, a temple president came up to me from behind and said, “Stick to your guns, Kundali. Stick to your guns.” Another temple president wrote:
“As you have said, ISKCON does not sufficiently practice self- evaluation—in fact it seems that many of our leaders are not comfortable with the idea of such analysis. Personally, I welcome it, and I found that all points you made found great resonance within me. I feel great relief that someone has had the presence of mind and “guts” to state so keenly these observations—many of which I had also made, but would not have known how to articulate it so well.”