I’ve been talking about rogue saṅkīrtana methods for two days now without actually touching the subject. Today’s the day, I thought, but then there’s still stuff that needs to be kept in mind before we address the real issue.
This is not unusual – we always need the right circumstances to ask our questions. There’s a school of thought that once you figure out the right circumstances the questions become self-evident or irrelevant. Quite often we don’t really need direct answers, we need to understand the situation better and that would be more than enough.
There’s solid logic behind it – our questions reflect our level of knowledge and realization. If we step up a grade we won’t be asking the same questions again. Generally, we think that we’ll increase our understanding by hearing answers but that is not always true, there are other ways to light up our brains and hearts and they might be more efficient and more relevant to our overall progress.
In the case of accusations against saṅkīrtana devotees all those other means were tried first. There’s like a checklist of things to do BEFORE the “problem” is even heard. Instead of answering the questions the authorities ask they own. “Have they surrendered to their guru or do they want to do their own thing” should probably be the first question on that list. If the answer is yes, then the next question would be about actually following instructions of the guru in addition to verbally proclaiming loyalty. If that checks out, too, next would be to make sure the instructions are followed perfectly. If that doesn’t expose an underlying problem the authorities could take a step back and ask if the petitioners follow instructions appropriate for their situation and not just whatever they heard god knows where.
It might sound bureaucratic but it’s the reality of life – if there are accusations that our guru given method doesn’t work we are not going to accept them at the face value. Bottom line that we will never concede is that our method works. Period. The problem must lie somewhere else and we should try to determine where.
Of course it won’t please the petitioners but such is life. They might think highly of themselves but they must have missed something in their analysis if they arrived to “it doesn’t work” conclusion about Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
One might want to expose their errors gently or attack them with full force but errors must be found and explained, there’s no way we can accept that Śrīla Prabhupāda’s instructions are imperfect.
This subtle introduction of Śrīla Prabhupāda is a well known rhetoric trick that we should apply with great caution. Questions that we consider as attacks on our method or on our devotees are not originally directed at Prabhupāda himself. It’s in our defense that we present Śrīla Prabhupāda as a target. We ourselves assume the role of authorized agents so that an attack on us becomes an attack on Prabhupāda. Is it always the truth, though?
We can also run by our authorities and get their support, or, as was during Śrīla Prabhupāda’s presence, get his approval, which we then use as the strongest argument ever. The problem is that our presentation and our plea for support do not accurately reflect original concerns of the petitioners. They would feel cheated and forced to admit to something they never said and never thought. We would make them feel guilty about something they had never done. We win, they lose, saṅkīrtana mission goes on, every thing is okay, right? Doesn’t really work.
Next we’ll appeal to Prabhupāda’s omniscience. He was a mahā-bhāgavata devotee, he knew everything. Curse on those who doubt his abilities! It means we can lie to him, misrepresent the situation, and then use his answers to squash our enemies. His answers are absolute, right? They do not depend on our lies, right? They are not conditioned by our duplicity, right?
I don’t think so.
Śrīla Prabhupāda, as our current gurus, are jīvas, not God. They are not omniscient and they are not all-powerful. As God’s representatives they can be infused with perfect knowledge and necessary powers but it would be strictly according to Kṛṣṇa’s will.
We expect Kṛṣṇa to do something for us, address our concerns, but He knows past, present, and future in full. He sees the big picture and offers solutions to our long term concerns we don’t even realize need to be solved. Therefore our guru’s or Śrīla Prabhupāda’s answers might be dictated by Kṛṣṇa but it doesn’t mean they are answers to OUR questions, they are steps taken by Kṛṣṇa according to HIS plan, not ours.
So it’s possible to cheat Śrīla Prabhupāda and get him to approve some nonsensical things but if we examine his words closely we will always find that he wasn’t talking nonsense and his words are always perfect within his frame of reference – Kṛṣṇa is God and we all must serve him unconditionally. We ourselves cleverly substitute this frame of reference with our own and make Prabhupāda’s words mean something that he didn’t.
Take this “by hook or by crook” example. He meant that every living entity must be brought into Kṛṣṇa’s service. Doesn’t matter how. This particular end always justifies the means. We take it to mean something else, however, something more specific, like we can sell a book by any means necessary.
We quietly substitute “service to Kṛṣṇa” with “possession of a book”. Generally, reading our books IS a service to Kṛṣṇa but in some cases it just isn’t so. Service must be ānukūlyena, favorable to the Lord (CC Madhya 19.67), and if we manage to antagonize the person, trick him into paying us for the book, he might not be very favorable to its subject. It happens.
People must approach our books in a proper mood, with sufficient respect and an open mind and this attitude must be generated by the presenter, the book distributor. If he fails and people feel aversion instead of respect – where is the service?
We might say that it’s all ajñāta sukṛti, no harm done, but consider that Śrīla Prabhupāda didn’t approve of giving our books away like Christians do with Bibles. He said that people must value and cherish our literature and that would put them in the right mood when they read our books. How does “by hook and by crook” stacks against this very well known injunction?
Obviously, not very well.
Finally, I addressed one of the problems presented by Siddha Svarūpa’s group. Hopefully, there will be more to follow but I can’t promise anything, it’s been going much slower than I expected.
To sum it up – sometimes we abuse our position as conduits between warring parties and Śrīla Prabhupāda, or GBC, as the case may be, and then we cash on “infallibility” of our authorities. We feel vindicated, our enemies subdued, but the real problem remains. There’s still the disconnect between what our “enemies” were asking and what Śrīla Prabhupāda or GBC has answered.
If our “enemies” accept the outcome as some sort of karma or a cleansing ritual they will come out strong and pure, not to fight us but to serve guru and Kṛṣṇa, and what we do we get for our duplicity? Permanently stained hearts, that’s what.
Therefore we should be very careful with declaring a victory. Victory should go to the congregational chanting of the Holy Name, paraṁ vijayate śrī-kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtanam, not to us and our petty politics. We love to see “deviants” punished and ourselves as being on the righteous path but that has nothing to do with saṅkīrtana, it’s just self-gratification and it must be rejected.