Yesterday I mentioned The Journey Home book by HH Radhanatha Swami and it refused to let my mind go. This book created a lot of controversy in our community and has become a corner stone of criticism in regards to that particular devotee and, by extension, the rest of ISKCON, because Radhanatha Swami sets direction of our preaching in many areas and in many respects.
This time people used it for a bit of fun, pretty harmless, considering the amount of vitriol being expressed towards it in the past couple of years.
On the surface they have a solid case – backcover of that book uses promotional blurbs from some very questionable people, certainly not devotees.
There could be an easy answer to that – Srila Prabhupada’s books also don’t feature endorsements from devotees on the cover, only scientists – sanskritologists, historians etc. There’s, however, a big difference between those scientists, who are respectable members of academic community, and niche individuals like Ram Dass who dabble in gay porn as well as oriental pseudo spirituality. There’s an endorsement by David Frawley who tirelessly works on promoting Indian culture and history but he is a pop-scientist who is not taken seriously anywhere in academic circles. In short – Srila Prabhupada wouldn’t have wanted those names attached to his books.
On the other hand – if Radhanatha Swami could use his pre-Prabhupada connections to get access to a larger audience than available to “pure” ISKCON and reach to the crème de la crème of Western society – presidents, parliaments, top level bankers, then why not go for it?
To reach these kind of people, actually much lesser than who Radhanatha Swami preaches to, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati went as far as serving them meat and liquor, so the precedent is there.
There are allegations that he presents a diluted message comparing to Srila Prabhupada but this argument is somewhat groundless. One has to preach according to time, place, and circumstances, but, more importantly, according to the level of the audience. This is how Srimad Bhagavatam was presented to the sages of Naimisharanya, without mention of Krishna’s consort, for example, so the precedent, again, is there.
Will it all spectacularly backfire one of those days? Possibly, but what the loss would be at the end of that day?
People have been given message of the Vedas, they might not understand it, they might not appreciate it, they might forget it, but it’s still something that will stay with them forever, life after life, there are no regressions there. If there are any positives to Radhanatha Swami’s preaching they will always be there.
On the minus side maharaj himself might suffer a setback, as happened with unorthodox preachers in our society before, but will it really be a loss?
Let’s say maharaj is forced to deviate from pure message now, by dint of taking on these opportunistic preaching engagements, if he blooped he would have to stop doing that – how’s that a loss? He would finally get a chance to stop talking about “love” and “compassion” and all other crap that attracts this kind of people and concentrate solely on Krishna consciousness. How’s that a loss? He’d probably rejoice at the opportunity.
For the rest of us it would be a lesson in what not to do and this hypothetic falldown would only strengthen our faith in Srila Prabhupada. We would become more attentive to deviations and our appreciation for strictly following in the footsteps of our acharyas would only grow. How’s that a loss?
If we consider probability of such falldown we will have to admit that so far maharaj seems to be impervious to supposedly contaminating influences. His personal behavior and sadhana are spotless, fact acknowledged even by his critics, his preaching grows day by day, so he must be under the protection of Lord Chaitanya.
This is something ISKCON critics usually dismiss out of hand – that our devotees CAN be placed under personal care of Krishna. They see us as operating in a godless world, strictly under the influence of karma and modes of nature, they don’t leave any space for Krishna’s care or interventions. This is a rather atheistic outlook on life even though our critics would be surprised by such accusation.
What usually happens is that Krishna places us under His protection, we get cocky, stop following our guru, develop material attachments, and eventually lose our protection and fall from our position. This, however, is what it looks like externally. As spirit souls Krishna never abandons us and He never returns us back into the kingdom of maya, he never leaves us at the mercy of our karma and we never become non-devotees. We get our lessons, sure, but we get them from Krishna personally, we will never ever have to face maya alone and she will never ever have a full domain over our fate.
Devotees, however fallen, can never ever be compared to ordinary materialists, their connection with guru and Krishna never breaks, lifetime after lifetime. I don’t know why our critics never see ISKCON devotees that way.
So what if Radhanatha Swami bloops? So what if he loses his prestige, thousands of followers desert him and he stops flying around the world and meeting great world leaders? So what if they remove his pictures from the altars and his disciples seek re-initiation elsewhere? None of those things are conducive to devotional service anyway, good riddance.
In fact, it would be his greatest opportunity to prove his devotion finally and unequivocally, Krishna would have absolutely no doubts about his motivations then. We, the fools, might point our fingers and deride him but that is perhaps the greatest service someone could do to us – destroy last vestiges of our false ego.
It would be a good thing.
Preaching, any preaching, presents great many pitfalls and creates great many enemies and critics, yet it’s still the most glorious service in the universe. Even pitfalls are placed there only for our purification, experiencing them is unpleasant but spiritually enlightening.
There are no downsides at all.