I have come to appreciate that the situation in our society is far worse than I thought when I wrote Our Mission (Raising our Spiritual Standards)
Please accept my obeisances at your feet. All glory to Srila Prabhupada. It is with a heavy heart that I present this book. After many months of research in group dynamics, I have come to appreciate that the situation in our society is far worse than I thought when I wrote Our Mission. Knowledge brings with it a heavy burden. Can one be aware or awake to some detrimental circumstance and not do all in one’s power to make others aware as well?
According to Lord Rsabhadeva, no gentleman can do that. With no pretensions of modesty, it is a fact that I am a far cry from being a gentleman; but I want to become one and I believe it is only possible by practice. Therefore, if I am to live with my conscience, I see no choice but to present this knowledge to the worldwide community of devotees. As shocking as some of the ensuing discussions are, this represents less than half of the original manuscript; and anecdotal materials used herein are significantly less than I could have supplied.
My credo in writing this book is as follows:
In striving to raise awareness of our dysfunctional dynamics, and the resulting inadvertent sham, and in advocating keener discrimination on the part of the devotees in general, I do not imply that any specific leaders and practitioners in our movement are consciously dishonest or intend to deceive the public or each other. I believe that many of our leaders intend to do good and believe in the usefulness of their efforts.
Yet, as someone said, there is not merely conscious and intended swindle. The socially more dangerous sort is the one in which the performers honestly believe their way is the optimum way or that we should trust them to find it and therefore need not apply our intelligence to the problems. Just trust them and follow (“Cooperate for Srila Prabhupada”).
To counter this most beguiling form of swindle, certain things have to be said; indeed, even at the risk of being taken as personally attacking well-meaning people.
Preachers of Krishna consciousness must always take such risks, because it makes all the difference between whether we lance boils or blow on them. Even a very intelligent patient, irrevocably certain that lancing is the only way, may still flinch at the sight of the scalpel; but the good doctor cuts anyway. Later the patient appreciates his seeming callousness. Preaching, like medicine and soldiering, is not a calling for the fainthearted.
To be saintly, or to become saintly, one must be prepared to use sharp words to cut attachments. There is no value in preaching, so everyone loves us, at the risk of blurring the truth, whether the topic is the agony of this world, or the ecstasy of the spiritual world. Persons of integrity value truth above all considerations. This is surely the import of the tad vag visargo verse of Bhagavatam. Prabhupada said that to cut the mind from attachment, it is necessary to use ukti, sharp words. Thus, while a saintly person—or in my case merely one trying to be saintly—tries to speak palatably, ultimately, Srila Prabhupada taught, when he speaks there is “no mercy.” He speaks the unadorned truth, and that is real mercy. Thus, it is said, “means to cut.” Not the individual, but the illusion.
Illusion does not present itself in stark contrast to truth. Most times it is entwined with the truth. To enable you, dear reader, to recognize the truth, you must also know the varieties of dysfunctional dynamics. Alas, it is not possible to accomplish my goal without some peeling away the layers covering the truth. The operation can be messy, but it must be done, for therein lies the path to health.
My purpose is to make you baffle-proof, so that you will not enact irrational behavior on anyone, and will not allow it to be enacted on you. This simple provision will upgrade the atmosphere in our society beyond words. I advocate hard-headed realism. This practice turns around a will not to deceive, and not to be deceived.
There will always be some flaw in every enterprise in the material world, and ISKCON is no exception. In The Varieties of Dysfunctional Experience, I am not making a plea for instant perfection, and a peaceful ISKCON. The aim is not idealism—a total elimination of all irrational occurrences—but realism. The difference is one of degree. Do we have primarily irrational, dysfunctional dynamics, and secondarily rational, sober dealings, or vice versa?
Let is recast the question: Do we want ISKCON to operate primarily in rajo guna or sattva? Some would prefer that I should say we should operate in pure goodness, and indeed we should, but realism calls for us to take this journey in stages. Herein the reader will find that we are so far off the mark, it would be romantic, from where we presently stand, to hope for something beyond sattva-guna. Thus, the central aim of this book is to alert us to the downside of having a predominantly rajo guna atmosphere in our ISKCON society, which translates into a power- driven administrative and social system, endless politics in the fight for survival, acquisitiveness, self-estrangement, one- upmanship, hegemony over the lives of others, and the culture of herd consciousness, the natural enemy of independent thinking.
In my attempt to address this problem and to encourage the society as a whole to operate more in sattva guna, I was not prepared initially to meet the resistance that I am getting. I did not want to believe the depth of the problems caused by rajas and tamas. Experience, however, is changing my stance from extreme idealism to hard-headed realism. In that sense, I am growing, and no I do not regret the discovery of how difficult it is to pop the bubble of illusion in our society.
Because of-my stance of loyal opposition, I have been accused of being against the GBC. This is a misunderstanding. To be “against” the GBC is tantamount to accusing me of deserting my spiritual master, for the GBC is his scheme for running ISKCON. I am not against the GBC. I have never been against the GBC; and I will never be against the GBC. If I must be described in terms of what I am against, I am against maya. If that manifests as being against the GBC, one possibility is that perhaps a closer look at the GBC is in order.
Personally, I rather be described in terms of what I am for, than what I am against: I am for encouraging independent thinking, within the parameters of the parampara philosophy; I am for I radical increase in rational thinking, and conduct, both with ‘devotees and with the world at large; I am for honesty, integrity, straightforward dealings, and accountability of the leaders for the things they say and do; I am for collegial dealings and consensus leadership; I am for the GBC serving as a mechanism to empower individuals to become self-trusting and self-possessed human beings. I am for a GBC body that serves, rather than subverts, the parampara philosophy. The list is long but one gets the drift.
In a nutshell, I am for every devotee to have this attitude: That 1 shall not deceive anyone, and 1 shall not be deceived by anyone.
The foremost implication of this attitude will be that one examines everything. One accepts or rejects nothing blindly, starting with this book. If I say things that do not stand up to the critical examination of reason, in light of the philosophy, I expect, in the spirit of the mad-gata prana verse, to be challenged. And I hope that in the ensuing rational discussion, by book, by letter, or by personal contact, I can hold my position from all angles of vision. If not, then I am ready to concede to a better understanding, if within some reasonable period of time, I fail to have the suitable reasoning to defend my position. Please, dear reader, do not mistake my confidence for intractability.