Vanity thought #1058. The Right Thing?

Those of us who grew up in a western tradition absorb the idea of dichotomy, good vs evil, with our mothers’ milk. We all know that there’s the “right thing to do” and it must be done no matter the cost, for good must always triumph over evil, that’s what God is there for.

Everything in our lives is polarized – things are either good or bad and these two adjectives are two fallback choices when we run out of words. It was “good”, or it was “bad”, with a few variations such as “awesome” or “awful”. When confronted with something we can’t easily classify as good or bad we pause and say things like “Well, it was … different” or express our uncertainty in some other way, which leaves everyone wondering how could it not be simply good or bad, which everyone understands.

Our initial reactions to any person or event also always fall into one of the two categories. If we are uncertain, we can say “some of it is good, some of it is bad” but it’s still describing the thing in terms of duality, it’s just mixed.

When we say “mixed” we mean coexisting qualities of good and bad, not an actual mix like we see with mixing colors – who would ever guess that green is a mixture of yellow and blue? We don’t see green as interchanging streaks of yellow and blue but when we assess people or events we break them down into good and bad elements, we don’t see one “color”.

Of course this distinctive feature is not unique to only westerners and not all westerners see things like that all the time but, I believe, it’s an underlying assumption of our outlook on the world – we want to see the world in terms of good and evil.

Notice how all kinds of opposites can be easily sorted into good-bad dichotomy? Light – good, dark – evil. Day – good, night – bad. Big – good, small – bad, and so on. Cold is bad even though hot is not necessarily so.

Our books also speak of duality as the distinctive feature of the illusion, our minds and senses have binary responses to sense objects – like and don’t like. Yet, we, as westerners, take it a lot further than that, and I blame the religion.

Christians and Muslims are extremely intolerant towards other religions, there’s only my way or highway. You either serve the “good” god or you serve Satan and your only destination is hell. That’s one of the reasons why Christians like to preach and convert others – without them the whole world is doomed. Muslims are not so dedicated to preaching but these days they convert far more people than Christians and for the converts the rest of the world immediately turns into infidels.

It’s totally different in India. There’s no such religion as Hinduism, strictly speaking, as it’s an amalgamation of a myriad different and often incompatible beliefs, and then there are Jains and Sikhs and Buddhists. Everyone is doing his own thing and everyone is doing right but his own gods, good for him, and so there’s no mutual hatred.

We, as ISKCON, appear to be extremist in our insistence only on Kṛṣṇa and Lord Caitanya but we are nothing like Christians in this regard. All we say is that all other paths are just slower and less reliable. Some are inimical to devotional service and so they are unacceptable to us but we don’t force what is good for us on everybody else. Kṛṣṇa fulfills everyone’s desires, if He arranged something for demoniac people we do not argue. We might go on and on about māyāvāda but we address its founder as Śrīpāda Śaṇkārācarya, a honorific title, and we know that he propagated his philosophy on Lord’s orders.

But, if anyone says that we are as intolerant as Christians we could accept it because we ARE Christians in our fundamental beliefs. We might not profess Christianity in any shape or form anymore but we still speak in the language of good and bad and necessity of sacrifices, and the need to do the “right thing”. We just can’t help it.

Those of us who spent more time in India have probably shaken off this heritage but look at our current discussions – whatever the subject, whatever the solutions, they are always described in absolute terms. “This will ruin ISKCON, that is completely unacceptable, this is what we need, that is absolutely necessary, these people should be given all respect and service, those people should not be even looked at. Always chant the Holy Name, don’t even speak the name of that person in public.”

Take any issue, it always ends up like this. Female gurus are either doom or our only savior. If we let these women initiate our whole society will go down the drain. We’ll make complete mockery of varṇāśrama dharma and all our devotees will be raised on wrong values, completely entrapped by māyā in a form of a female sannyāsī, which is an unheard of, impermissible thing. The Earth itself will part and swallow us alive along with all our books and temples.

If we don’t allow women gurus our society will fall apart, so many devotees will leave, their spiritual lives being unfulfilled. We’ll commit inexcusable offenses at the feet of the most exalted vaiṣṇavīs and we will never recuperate. Our preaching will stop, people will not listen to us, rightfully calling us Taliban misogynists. Kṛṣṇa will stop listening to our chanting, too, for how could He listen to hypocritical cries of those inimical to His devotees?

Same thing with gay devotees – there should be no such thing as gay devotees, we can’t even talk about gay devotees, Śrīla Prabhupāda was very clear about it, all those supporting this idea must be rejected, absolutely and unequivocally, they should be stripped of their positions and titles and probably banned from the society until they recognize the error of their ways.

On the other hand, a devotee who rejected his guru cannot say anything right, everything coming from his mouth is poisoned, his intelligence is stolen by māyā. If there are arguments against gays, they should not be heard from him.

Or take Rādhānātha Swāmī – he is either devil incarnate sent to destroy ISKCON or he is the purest of all the devotees currently present in this world. I mean I don’t even know how to safely mention his name so that one of the two camps don’t turn on me.

Why is this atavistic obsession with the “right thing”? Why does it always have to be “right” and “wrong”? Where is the source of this division? Kali Yuga, of course, the age of quarrel, but that’s not all. We separate things into “right” and “wrong” even when there are no visible opponents present.

I’m telling you, it all comes from Christianity, but I don’t have time to tell you how and why. I thought I could explain it today but this post is getting long as it is, too late to start a whole new topic. At least I hope the importance of this little delusion of ours has become a bit more clearer


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