Vanity thought #1093. Micey Lions

I don’t know if “micey” is a proper word, I’m meaning to expand on our faceless position in the army of Lord Caitanya. In the big scheme of things we are nobodies, well most of us, not all. Most of us are just a background for the best of the best to shine in their service to Kṛṣṇa. Those extraordinary devotees wouldn’t be extraordinary if it wasn’t for a bunch of us to compare favorably to.

Ultimately, however, we are all mice in the presence of our ācāryas, let alone Kṛṣṇa Himself. Even the mightiest of us cannot compare to the power of our guru, for example. No matter what we do, not matter what we achieve, our guru will always be infinitely more powerful. All we can do in our lives is to project his opulences and energies. He, in turn, channels the power of his predecessors, and so it goes all the way up to Lord Caitanya.

As I said yesterday, being mice is nice. It doesn’t mean that it’s a better position than those of  Kṛṣṇa’s closest confidantes but being humble and unremarkable has its own advantages. Maybe not so much in the spiritual world but down here it’s definitely a plus – it’s what enables us to chant Kṛṣṇa’s names offenselessly and without interruptions.

The moment we lose our concentration is also the moment we lose our humility. What happens is that we forget the huge gap between us and Kṛṣṇa, forget our fallen position, forget the power of illusion, and plunge into enjoying either our senses or powers of our mental speculations.

When we do that we assume that the Holy Name will carry us through anyway, a little distraction is not going to be fatal. This is an offense, of course – any materialistic activity is an insult to Kṛṣṇa as it is and hoping that Kṛṣṇa will not only overlook it but also clean up our mess is double insulting.

This would never happen if we remain humble and never forget our constitutional position, that we see ourselves as “mice” – lower than the blade of grass.

Unfortunately, the nature of mice is such that sometimes they want to become lions, and we are no exception.

This weekend saw a flurry of articles on Dandavats about GBC strategic planning committee. With all the attached documents and references this easily goes into several thousand words. I’ve read some of it, didn’t understand anything.

It seems these devotees there are doing all the right things – strategizing the potential, building the capacities, strengthening core competencies, nurturing effectiveness, and spamming everyone in your address book with their emails. There’s no way they can fail in whatever it is they are set out to do. They are built for success.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words – here they are:

When I was talking about individualism and collectivism a couple of days ago I didn’t mention some of the popular tests. Individualistic Westerners, for example, tend to look straight at the center of the picture and then gradually take in the surroundings. Collectivist Asians, otoh, start from the sides, work out relationships between all the elements and people, and then proceed to assess whoever is in the center.

I don’t know if this was applicable here but all I could see in the above picture is the giant word “Leadership”, and after that I forgot to look at the people at all.

These devotees here want the taste of leadership. They want to project power, energy, optimism and whatever else is expected from the leaders. They want to display all the good qualities in sufficient quantities to attract and retain followers. I’m sure they want to inspire and lead by example and probably assert their authority by pulling the rank from time to time, too. Power needs to be projected and respected, occasionally feared, so it’s okay.

I once listened to a class by a devotee who attended one of those leadership seminars. He spoke about its importance as if it was an axiomatic truth, as if everything should be judged by how it looks in the eyes of the “leaders”.

Are they getting carried away? What do they have to say for themselves here?

Typically, the answer is that real humility should never shy real power. Humble doesn’t mean weak. Real humility is engaging everything in Kṛṣṇa’s service and if that service demands leadership then that’s what a devotee should enthusiastically embrace.

From this angle, serving in a leadership position is a lot harder than sitting at the back of the room – these devotees take enormous responsibilities in their service, they have no time for themselves, and so leadership demands total surrender and absolute purity, especially in ISKCON where punishments for transgressions are harsh.

I don’t mean institutional punishment, I mean karma. When we offend Kṛṣṇa or His devotees we fall very very hard and very very fast. This means those who stay and perform at the top level are real saints and they can do so only with Kṛṣṇa’s blessings.

Cynic in me thinks that this recognition of superior devotion is another driving force behind the desire to be leaders, an icing on the already tasty cake. If you are a leader, not only do you have all the best material qualities but also superior level of devotion and special Kṛṣṇa’s protection. Who’s going to refuse that?

And yet I can’t help but think that despite all the legitimate reasons to become a leader, the ultimate driving force is pride and desire to control others, even if with Kṛṣṇa’s blessings.

Leadership is the quality that allows mediocrity to pontificate on anything under the sun and demand to be taken seriously. Sorry to say, but even our devotees are not immune to such temptations. Even in our society we establish authority by how well we can criticize someone else.

Just look how it goes – traditionalists criticize liberals and that’s how they attract followers. Liberals attack conservatives and that resonate with their own followers, too. Being “for” something also helps but mostly we group by being “against” something else. That’s just the nature of the material world.

So, should all this leadership mania be rejected as non-devotional? Of course not. Thank God these people have a legitimate outlet for their desires. By engaging themselves in this type of service they purify their hearts and also fulfill a very important role – we do need leaders, after all.

Some of the devotees in the picture are also well known for their genuine humility and purity of their consciousness. They aren’t even leaders themselves but Kṛṣṇa shines through them and so everyone naturally wants to follow. Those devotees are the best.

I’m not passing a judgment here, just making an observation – faults like the ones mentioned above can be found everywhere, all we can do about it is to identify them and hope that knowing them would help us avoid our own pitfalls. This rarely happens in real life but I still have hope.

The saddest thing about wanting to lead is not in these potential faults, it’s in that I have absolutely no desire to share in their joy of leadership whatsoever. There are so many devotees being so enthusiastic about something and I lost the ability to appreciate and participate.

Now that’s a real worry.

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