Aspects of Vaisnava Theory & Practice
Varieties Of Dysfunctional Experience
Introduction Part 2
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It is irrational to damn the source of an utterance rather than judge a thing on its merit

I received a letter from a godbrother whom I’d never met. He wrote:

“The last ten years of life in New Vrindavana has been very difficult. When the whole thing fell apart completely three years ago, there were only three ways to deal with it. One, to go on in a malaise as many devotees have been doing for years. Two, to take even greater shelter of the maladies that put us here in the first place. Or three, taking a deep, often painful, look at yourself. If a devotee chose to look deeply at himself, what he saw for the most part he did not like. And clearly where we are at personally has been greatly affected by the paradigms we have come to accept as part of this movement.

I am in the process of reading your book, and I find that you also have chosen the path of the deep hard look. As I began reading it, I thought that certainly you must have been sitting somewhere in my living room over these last few years writing down almost word for word the discussions I have been having with God brothers. Your preface and introduction alone contained more than I have found in all of the literatures put out by any of the various devotees worldwide. Not only have you honestly searched out the sources of the society’s dilemma, but have been strong enough to begin the process of bringing it to the attention of the devotees.”

One more, again from a God-brother who I have never met:

“I felt that if I was a writer, I would have written a book similar to yours. What you have said is clear, intelligent, based on logic, and reason.”

Vegetarians have no monopoly on truth, wisdom, practical matters, or even character. Hitler was a strict vegetarian. Many Mayavadis are also, yet they are the greatest offenders to Krishna.

I know many vegetarians—who chant japa and wear tilaka— but lack integrity and a moral compass, who lie and manipulate others as a regular daily function, who have a capacity for making such unsound arguments, that many meat-eaters in a similar position would cringe with embarrassment to hear them. I have had the depressing experience of meeting such people among the leaders at the very top of ISKCON. So where does that leave us?

It is irrational to damn the source of an utterance, rather than judge a thing on its merit. The ad hominem attack is a fallacy, but ISKCON leaders never miss a chance to use it. Intelligent persons know instantly that its use shows lack of integrity. If a meat-eater, murderer, thief, and womanizer say that the sky is blue, must we feel obliged to disagree because of his vices? Or must we put the self-evident truth, on hold pending a quote from Bhaktivinoda? Krishna-dasa Kaviraja cites Pingala, a prostitute, to establish the highest point in our philosophy, love in separation. 

And recalling her truthful words, put Lord Caitanya into ecstasy. So, do we scoff at her, and reject Him and the Bhagavatam for quoting a harlot?

Finally, I am not a meat-eater. I may quote anyone in order to make a point, but the point is being made by me. Thus, when someone hides behind these fallacies, we should counter by insisting that they forget about the speaker, and stick to the point, for I suspect that had I quoted only vegetarians, they would have voiced some other fallacious excuse to sidestep the issues at hand.

An alternative would be to insist that if we reject out of hand, the thoughts of meat-eaters, then let us be consistent. Let us not buy their cars, paper for printing books, telephones, computers, food products, clothes, etc. Let us not learn from them in all spheres of knowledge. Let us quit their colleges, and universities. Let us not fly in their airplanes, use their trains, taxis, electricity, nor live in their buildings. Let us not see their doctors and dentists. Let us reject meat-eaters across the board, and not even accept their money or their ideas about management. Let us quit preaching that utility is the principle. Let us live in a bubble, and if we have to go through generations of trial and error to re-invent the wheel, then so be it. Why be inconsistent?

I have a problem with this proposal. Foolish consistency, it is said, “is the hobgoblin of little minds.” The converse, however, foolish inconsistency, is no better alternative. Both versions are irrational and can only make our predicament of bad dynamics worse and make ISKCON even more unattractive to intelligent people.

The conclusion of all these considerations, is that the preacher of Krishna consciousness should simply preach for the honest person, the man and woman of integrity, whenever they may grace the earth. History shows repeatedly that in those whom the need for illusion is deep, the news of disillusionment will not be heeded, even if uttered with the voice of ah angel. But in our noble lineage, our acaryas have set a standard of risking all, despite the folly of others. They did not blow on boils; they lanced them and squeezed. Sometimes it is a thankless task. Prabhupada sometimes said that preaching is like throwing a brick: You can tell those who get hit, because they cry the loudest.

As for my quoting nond-evotees, who are experts on organizational self-examination, psychology, etc., I make no excuses. I have learned from Prabhupada that “utility is the principle,” that we take gold from a filthy place, and so on. Besides, common sense dictates that there is no merit in trying to re-invent the wheel in areas where others are years ahead of us. It is inconsistent, hence irrational, to take management wisdom from Stephen Covey, and advice from non-devotee experts on architecture, legal counsel, health, and so on, yet in the next breath criticize me for tapping other sources according to my interests, nature, and propensity.

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