A week or so ago I wrote about complaints against Indian devotees bringing in outside influences in ISKCON. Then I wrote that Western devotees aren’t principally better because they bring Western influences into our Bhagavatam classes. A few days ago I saw the proof with my own eyes.
It was class by a Western devotee who, during the course of a lecture, realized that he is not up to date with current Indian “spiritual” practices. He was a bit surprised at himself for that but quickly found an explanation – when in India he never ventures outside ISKCON temples. I’m sure the mataji who complained about non bona fide stories was glad to hear that.
I thought to myself – this is the proper way to visit India. Just stick to ISKCON properties and ISKCON association. This is a very senior devotee with several decades of practice and he might even be on some GBC committee now. I’m not saying I want the same kind of position within ISKCON or the same level of recognition, I’m saying it would be a very good idea to follow in his footsteps regardless of rewards.
Unfortunately, only a couple of minutes later, just after I was contemplating his exemplary behavior, he slipped and committed the mistake I earlier ascribed to Westerners. This time it wasn’t about some wonderful invention or social practice, it was about Shakespeare. Somehow the connection was made and the devotee felt his listeners were not up to scratch on Western classics so he gave a synopsis of an entire play. It didn’t even properly illustrated his point and it took most of the remaining time.
When he finally finished with it he realized it was too late and issued apologies for not telling about Lord Jagannath as was requested by temple authorities. His excuse that we can hear about Jagannath pastimes some other time from some other speakers didn’t really cut the mustard, so to speak. This is what our Bhagavatam classes are for – to hear about Lord’s plays, not Shakespeare’s.
Don’t take me wrong – I do not blame that devotee in the slightest degree, I have no reason to doubt his devotion, dedication, or purity. It was a natural thing to do – we all have to act according to our nature, and when we act according to our nature we have to somehow connect it to Krishna. He connected his story, and it was an explanation of Prabhupada’s quote from the play. Srila Prabhupada knew the background and so did the person he quoted it to but many of us don’t, so an explanation is not out of place.
What I’m getting at is that unless we have a messenger straight from the spiritual world we can’t expect people to avoid following their nature and sharing their experiences. As long as they connect them to Krishna I don’t see a problem. In fact one of the reasons behind this very blog is to try and connect thoughts that occupy my mind for most of the day with Krishna.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but we should never stop trying and we should never blame other devotees for their apparent failures.
He couldn’t have said what he said without permission of the Lord, and if Krishna is okay with it, who am I to complain?
There’s no other way to become a devotee than through deep, heart-felt appreciation for other vaishnavas’ service. Everything else we see in their behavior is like foam on the surface of the Ganges, just ignore it.