Vanity thought #828. KC and “Caesar’s wife”

Srila Prabhupada often said that a vaishnava must be a perfect gentleman. This means that we are allowed to be judged by material standards of propriety and that we should exceed them. There are plenty of “good qualities of a vaishnava” lists that assure us of devotee’s status on the material scale of goodness.

There’s one case, however, where we diverge from what is expected of a perfect gentleman. I’m talking about “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion” attitude. Originally it was said by Julius Caesar who, despite presenting no hard evidence of his wife’s adultery, said that even public suspicion is enough grounds for divorcing her.

Now it came to mean that our public servants must be held accountable to higher standards and dismissed for any suspicion of impropriety. We are taught to think that this is a good, democratic thing to do.

Well, Lord Ramachandra banished Sita to the forest when He heard people using her example to admonish unfaithful women but otherwise this is not how we should treat out authorities. Despite the logic that “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion,” a devotee should not be disturbed by the activities of his spiritual master and should not try to criticize him. This is straight from Srila Prabhupada’s purport (CC Adi.3.11).

That purport is so good that I’d just paste the rest of it here.

A devotee should be fixed in the conclusion that the spiritual master cannot be subject to criticism and should never be considered equal to a common man. Even if there appears to be some discrepancy according to an imperfect devotee’s estimation, the devotee should be fixed in the conviction that even if his spiritual master goes to a liquor shop, he is not a drunkard; rather, he must have some purpose in going there. It is said in a Bengali poem:

yadyapi nityānanda surā-bāḍi yāya

tathāpio haya nityānanda-rāya

“Even if I see that Lord Nityānanda has entered a liquor shop, I shall not be diverted from my conclusion that Nityānanda Rāya is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”

Not to forget, however, is that this applies only in certain circumstances, the beginning of that purport makes it clear.

“Dāmodara Paṇḍita was a great devotee of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Sometimes, however, a person in such a position becomes impudent, being influenced by the external energy and material considerations. Thus a devotee mistakenly dares to criticize the activities of the spiritual master or the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”

Couple that with “imperfect devotee’s estimation” and the idea appears not so shocking anymore.

However, even if our estimates are right, criticizing our guru is still strictly forbidden, there’s no escape around this rule. We can offer respect to a wayward guru from a distance or, if a guru has become inimical to vaishnavas, he can even be rejected, but that is still not an excuse to criticize.

Most of the time we should rather suspect our own imperfection. Srila Prahbupada gives an example of guru going into a liquor shop here, meaning that even this kind of activity can possibly be misconstrued, what to speak of various gossip floating around ISCKON that looks like big distortion of reality even without giving any benefit of doubt to the victims.

Best policy is to take this rule as absolute, don’t criticize. We don’t have to follow obviously erroneous instructions but even if we do the downside would be negligible comparing to committing a guru aparadha.

In practice it means we should take “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion” in a literal sense – we cannot even suspect Caesar’s wife, not how Caesar himself intended it to be understood.

This attitude, sadly, will be unacceptable in the modern society which encourages everyone to look for everyone else’s faults. We’ve been raised on quotes like this: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” and so we cannot remain indifferent to other people’s faults, we are culturally conditioned that way, we see everyone around us as a potential target to be judged and corrected, we assume it as some sort of a mission.

I think it’s not difficult to explain how we became this way. First of all, we are children of a enlightenment that rejects any possibility of God’s control over human affairs. Therefore if you don’t correct others, no one else will do it. You can’t leave it up to God, it would be irresponsible.

Secondly, it’s Kali Yuga, all that is necessary for the evil to triumph is give it some time. It grows on its own. With a bit of an effort you can stamp out obvious transgressions but it’s a bit like a whack-a-mole game, you can entertain yourself while your money lasts but there’s no higher purpose behind it.

To counteract the influence of Kali Yuga we must chant, to chant we must become devotees, and to become devotees we must stop looking at our gurus with critical eyes. If we tell ourselves that we can correct misdemeanors in ISKCON by criticism we are delusional, we don’t understand the very basic things how spiritual progress happens – by the mercy of guru and Krishna, not by criticizing or being correct.

Simple point, hard to restrain ourselves, even harder to avoid criticism sounded by others, but we must stay firm. No vaishnava aparadhas in our presence, if we sense it’s coming, we must leave. Our hearts cannot be exposed to that kind of thinking.

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6 comments on “Vanity thought #828. KC and “Caesar’s wife”

  1. Hare Krishna.
    You seem to have mangled your understanding of Vaishnava guidance and reciprocation. Firstly, I agree that a guru should never be criticized due to the fact that a disciple should accept an uttama adhikari spiritual master. This is the type of spiritual master Srila Prabhupada is referring to in the quotes you presented. If on the other hand, a disciple accepts an unqualified and unauthorised person as guru we can expect nothing but the chaos that both you and I have seen repeated over and over within Iskcon, to the detriment of tens of thousands of devotees.
    I fully agree that one shouldn’t criticize with the intent of doing harm to anyone. On the other hand, if we are able to give sensible advice to assist others, ourselves, and society in general, it is our duty to point out deviations and negligence that will otherwise corrupt the society and damage or destroy lives. It must be presented humbly and with sincerity. True humility means to accept you may be disliked for speaking the truth as given by the Acharyas, and not some kind of sentimental acceptance and meek complicit invention as presented by your good self (who should know better by now). Aparadha is to criticize unnecessarily…love is to assist those who are lost and delusional. It’s time for you to grow up and start assisting others, rather than championing the corruption that has caused so much damage to Srila Prabhupada’s society and reputation. Excuse me for speaking strongly, even though I already know the mentality of your good self and my words have fallen on deaf ears and stimulated your argumentative nature, but I had to at least try.

    • Let me stop you right at the beginning – there’s nothing in that purport to suggest one can criticize his guru if his guru is not an uttama adhikari. You cannot criticize your guru, period. If you cannot accept this dictum then I see no point in addressing a multitude of other issues you raised here because they all stem from accepting guru as being beyond reproach, being as good as Krishna. If you can’t get that relationship right, you won’t get any other relationship right, too.

  2. The reason there is nothing in the purport regarding non uttama adhikari gurus is because the purport is referring to uttama adhikari gurus and the Lord Himself, not to conditioned souls. I certainly agree that one should never criticise a guru, liberated or otherwise. Of course as Srila Prabhupada mentions many times if someone claims to be a guru but doesn’t act properly as such, they are not and never were a real guru…the only exceptions being fully liberated souls who are justifiably beyond reproach.
    I didn’t advocate criticising anyone in my post. I did advocate assisting others, oneself, and society in general by a proper and considerate expose of deviations, negligence, and corruption that will otherwise be allowed to fester, over time resulting in the multitude of problems that you are reticent to address.
    I don’t believe in harming anyone, guru or otherwise, and am only representing honesty and accountability in my post. I don’t want anyone to think they need to leave the shelter of Srila Prabhupada, regardless of faults, of which I for one have many. But I won’t stand idly by and watch first hand the decimation of Srila Prabhupada’s movement by corrupt and motivated conditioned personalities who seem to care so little about the harm they have done to others, simply to defend an uncaring and unrepentant status quo.
    Criticism is a word that is bandied about way to freely in ISKCON, in order to silence any vaishnava dictum that opposes the current fiasco situation that any honest devotee can see all too clearly. It is not criticism to assist verbally or by ones actions those who have been hurt, betrayed, and abandoned, especially if both the perpetrator and victim are benefitted. In fact, it is what soft hearted vaishnavas are famous for. The alternative is to become complicit by allowing continued splintering and dissolution of what was once a movement to be proud of.
    I also realise that our becoming fine examples of the ideals we uphold will assist change…with honesty, accountability, and concern for others key elements of those ideals.

    • “The reason there is nothing in the purport regarding non uttama adhikari gurus is because the purport is referring to uttama adhikari gurus..” – doesn’t make any sense. The distinction is just not there, don’t try to make it up.

      “I did advocate assisting others..” – you have a funny way to showing it when you talk about “corrupt and motivated conditioned personalities” and when you imply that anyone who sees things differently from you is dishonest. Thanks for the help but no thanks.

      Unless you are guru, a father, or a managerial authority you don’t have permission to criticize and correct others. It’s not your responsibility, “mind your own business”, so to speak. If you barge into another department and start lecturing people working there on how to do their jobs their boss will come out of his office and tell you to get lost or take it with him.

      So, in way, when you volunteer to lecture others on what to think and what to do you are assuming a position of their guru. All by yourself, without any authorization. By your own logic you should be rejected.

      If you say “but listen to my advice, it’s solid!” – we’ve heard you the first time, not convinced, leave us alone.

  3. My words are there to assist those who wish to mature in their spiritual life, free from the mind control techniques, mental, and physical abuse of (some of) those in power. I advise devotees to use discrimination and intelligence, as directed by Srila Prabhupada, rather than the blind following that has led to much chaos and fracturing of ISKCON. I never tell others what to think or do, but rather, let them know they are supported by a caring friend, by Srila Prabhupada, and by voluminous quotes from bona-fide shastra.

    Are you not lecturing others on what to think and what to do, assuming the position of a guru, without any authorization? You said it first…you should be rejected. Very sad to know that older devotees are still clinging vainly to failed methods of power and control, although already disgraced and shamed in their own society and the broader community.

    You have failed to respond to any of my concerns about the ISKCON society, apart from trying to “criticize” me in many ways. I don’t mind that you are not convinced. I didn’t reply to help you… I wrote to assist those you are misleading. Thanks for the opportunity. I won’t reply again. You don’t respond in vaishnava fashion.
    All the best in your continued service.

    • The difference between you and me is that I don’t canvass for followers even on my own blog while you are on a mission to become a self-anointed guru.

      I’ve already told you that your extremist views are not welcome here, you yourself said it was your last attempt to try and convert me, yet here you are again. As unwelcome as ever, I might add.

      You know the reason why I don’t want you here – your constant insults towards GBC, ISKCON gurus, and myself. Last time you visited this blog you described it with such juicy quotes as “adulterated and compromised garbage”, “double speak and defence of rapists, murderers, child molesters”, “mindless article”, “warped leadership”, “your implication in covering up many offences over many years”, “you are too far gone to ever return to sanity”, and it’s hardly any better on this visit.

      You might abstain yourself from direct insults for a comment or two but it’s the attitude that is poisonous. Unless there’s a change in attitude – take your fire and brimstones elsewhere.

      You say criticism is a word that is bandied around too freely in ISKCON. I can see how it might appear very often in your presence but if you don’t criticize anyone yourself you don’t get to hear it nearly as often.

      On a positive note – if one has the need to offend and insult others he should find the way to express it with minimum damage. That’s where talks about “proper criticism” and “assistance” might come handy, but it should be more than just talk and you should practice it in restricted areas. This blog is not such an area, find a better place elsewhere.

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