Vanity thought #899. Intractable problems – ISKCON

It’s easy to understand why the rest of the world is at each other’s throats. Even when they had religious principles they couldn’t live peacefully together but now they make up “rules” as they go and no one is going to make sacrifices for the sake of anything, and so they clash.

Why do we have the same problem in ISKCON? Not so much in ISKCON but in our post-Prabhupada society. It’s interesting – no one, except for a few fringe groups like maybe Sidha Svarupa and Tripurari Swamis, argues against Prabhupada’s order to stay in ISKCON but what they say instead is that Prabhupada surely didn’t mean ISKCON in its current incarnation.

In the same vein, ISKCON is full of well-wishers, but well wishers who can’t stand our current culture and our current GBC. What happened?

Unlike demoniac society at large, we know what is right and what is wrong and we have no disagreements over our siddhanta. Even those who left Srila Prabhupada’s shelter altogether have no arguments over Bhagavad Gita, for example. I don’t think they have arguments over Srimad Bhagavatam and even Chaitanya Charitamrita either, it’s really esoteric stuff that they claim to know better than us.

We’ve got rittviks, of course, but even they don’t challenge our common principles of guru parampara and guru-disciple relationships, they just implement them in a weird way, like an apa-sampradaya.

So, why can’t we co-exist peacefully? I’m not saying we should, I am asking why it doesn’t happen. We should keep all those deviants at an arm’s length, that’s beside the point, the point is – why do we have all those deviations?

I’m not interested in details, who did what wrong where and when, I’m interested in the driving force behind our disagreements.

It’s all due to Kali Yuga, of course, but we are not supposed to fall prey to Kali, we are supposed to be protected, so where does he sneak in?

One answer is our lack of purity. Money, power, fame – all those things are conduits for lower gunas. They bring up unfavorable karmic reactions and make us suffer and they lead to gross misbehavior and falldowns. Fallen leaders spoil the entire society, as Chanakya Pundit used to say – one good son can glorify the entire dynasty while one bad son can completely ruin it.

This is understandable, but bygones are bygones, all the bad apples have fallen off our desire tree already, second generation has taken over, untainted by the scandals of the past, yet still there’s no peace. Why Many of the current issues are unrelated to our past mistakes, we are keeping ourselves up to date here, so what gives?

I’m afraid there’s another force at play here, and it’s a philosophical one. We put too much faith in Srila Prabhupada. Blasphemous words, but let me explain what I mean by that.

Our disagreements are due to, well, disagreements. We don’t have a common understanding, we can’t agree on what is right and what is wrong. We agree on our siddhanta but when it comes to acting on it our opinions are all over the place. Why? First answer would be because we do NOT follow Srila Prabhupada but follow all those different gurus and GBCs, some are strict traditionalists, some are libertarians, some display impersonal tendencies, some are fascinated by material progress of the world around us and some are deep into Krishna katha, and there are plenty who do not follow anyone in particular, no wonder we can’t agree on anything.

On the second thought, however, it all comes to us putting too much faith in Prabhupada, I say. We all agree that he was a perfect acharya and we all agree that we should follow him as closely as possible but thing is, he is not around anymore. The reality is that no matter how much faith we profess we have to make our own decisions, and because Srila Prabhupada is everyone’s guru we all feel equally qualified to make them.

Now everyone can say that he follows Prabhupada, find a couple of sentences to support himself, and go and preach to everyone else the correct way of serving Krishna. We think that by deferring all our decisions to Prabhupada’s instructions from the time he was present we will achieve unity but Prabhupada is not here to straighten us out anymore. What happens instead is that we slap a label with his name on our own ideas and because it now comes from Prabhupada we are not going to even consider the possibility of us being wrong.

What happens is that by declaring full allegiance to Srila Prabhupada we refuse to accept any other authority and because Prabhupada cannot correct us we, in effect, live without following any authorities whatsoever, just our own interpretations of the rule book.

The idea that one has to follow his guru no matter what and often against his own judgment is so passé. When Srila Prabhupada was present no one dared to contradict him, do it first, justify it later, if ever. Now, however, everyone is his own master, everything must past stringent quality control in our own heads and we are not going to follow anyone unless we approve of their behavior, which is the exact opposite of surrender.

And if anyone objects – they are not objecting to us, they are objecting to Prabhupada, because that’s where we get our ideas from, as we tell ourselves.

By making Srila Prabhupada the pivot point of all our lives we actually bring anarchy and disorder to our society. Strange but true.

In this sense ritviks have already won. We’ll never admit it, of course, but there’s not much difference between us, just in rituals.

We claim to represent Gaudiya vaiṣnavism but what kind of vaiṣnavas are we if we can’t publicly announce our dedication to any particular guru? You’d be laughed off and ostracized for putting faith in anyone else but Prabhupada himself. Some people consider it their life’s mission to chase devotees and tell them to abandon their gurus and follow only “pure” Prabhupada.

The fact is, Prabhupada is gone. He lives in his books but we are not Christians, we have to go and surrender to a living breathing guru who will not be afraid to chastise and punish us whenever he feels like it, because that’s the meaning of surrender.

I often refer to Prabhupada myself – he said this, he did that, but the truth is – I know nothing about him. I read his books but understand him only through the teachings of my guru. I’m not qualified to read them on my own and glean my own understanding, nor do I strive to qualify for that. I will be damned if I ever try to approach Srila Prabhupada directly, bypassing interpretations of my guru.

Contrary to what we usually say to each other, I wasn’t saved by Srila Prabhupada, I was saved by his disciples, or even disciples of his disciples and so I will never be elevated to his company, nor do I want to be elevated to his company, I’m perfectly fine where I am, serving servants of his servants.

Well, I’m not fine at the moment but this IS my place, perfection of my life lies here and nowhere else.

Moreover, I propose that if we all had this attitude we’d have nothing to argue about because then we’d all be right by Krishna instead of being right by ourselves, which leads to endless conflicts. This is a bit bold statement to make and it probably should be left for another day.

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