Continuing from yesterday – what should devotees do if they happen to be offended by blasphemers? I’ve seen two articles on the subject, both offered unsatisfactory answers to this question, imo. On the plus side, one of them offered a rare insight into how devotees should deal with personal offenses and historical anecdotes from the early days of our society were priceless.
In general, however, both went along with the prevailing western view that blasphemy should be accepted and tolerated. One devotee argued that when different religions co-exist in the same space some sort of the blasphemous comments are unavoidable and killing people over it is impractical. In modern age it’s called multiculturalism which is incompatible with intolerance.
It’s all fine, but nowhere in the world multiculturalism means freedom to offend participating cultures! Multiculturalism means exactly the opposite and legally outlaws any kind of offensive treatment, it is meant to be build on mutual respect, not freedom to mock other people’s beliefs.
Does it need to be explained?
It’s one thing for the atheists to get carried away with their rhetoric and become totally hypocritical in their pursuit of freedom of speech, but what’s wrong with our devotees? We should be able to see it through but some of us don’t. This is disappointing.
Another article gave an example of devotees successfully challenging blasphemers in court, when one rock band superimposed cat’s head on Kṛṣṇa’s body on one of their album covers.
Great, because we won. In case of anti-Muhammad cartoons, however, the courts didn’t help and Charlie Hebdo editor was acquitted. The cartoons, in their entirety, were also far more offensive than anything done to Kṛṣṇa so far.
I don’t think any Muslim who felt strongly offended was pacified by that court decision. There’s also the question of Sharia law which Muslims put above secular legislation, especially in religious matters. Practically, there was nothing they could legally do in France but resentment meant that someone decided to take matter in their own hands.
We shouldn’t even mention our little victory as an example for Muslims to follow. Granted, humility and patience is a good advice but it’s also out of place. Yes, ISKCON devotees learned their acceptance in some of the westerns countries the hard way but our experience is incomparable to Muslims’. In France, Muslims have grown to 10% of the population and they started about the same time as Hare Kṛṣṇa movement, who are we to teach them lessons on how to behave in the society?
The point that it wasn’t just God that was the subject of blasphemy but Muhammad also went missing. I have no idea what devotees would do if Śrīla Prabhupāda was mocked in the media in the same way, it’s unthinkable. Some of those Muhammad cartoons were really gross, with 18+ rating.
Both articles discussed examples from history, Kṛṣṇa’s patience with Śiśupāla, for example, or Lord Nityānanda’a patience with Jagāi and Mādhāi. The fact that Lord Caitanya wanted to cut off their heads, however, wasn’t mentioned. Was Lord Caitanya wrong in His anger?
There were also examples of Dhruva Mahārāja and some more from Kṛṣṇa’s time, and they all ended with lessons in tolerance and forgiveness.
I just don’t understand why the immolation of Satī wasn’t mentioned at all. If there’s one prime example on devotees dealing with blasphemy it’s Satī, it has five chapters dedicated to it in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. How could devotees talk about blasphemy and avoid it altogether? I don’t believe any research on the subject would turn only examples of forgiveness. Was contradictory evidence summarily dismissed to fit with “west is the best” agenda? I don’t know what to think, I should probably swear off reading certain sources ever again.
Blasphemy also has its own category page on Vaniquotes in case one wants to find out everything Śrīla Prabhupāda wrote or said on the matter. One could immediately see that forgiveness and humility there are prescribed only in case of personal offenses but they have no place in defending honor of other devotees and our ācāryas.
There’s this very telling entry, for example:
Humility and meekness are not appropriate when the acaryas are blasphemed
It’s from the purport to Caitanya Caritāmṛta, so a pramāṇa par excellence. The exact sentence is a bit longer but the point is the same (CC Adi.10.85):
..humility and meekness are appropriate when one’s own honor is insulted but not when Lord Viṣṇu or the ācāryas are blasphemed. In such cases one should not be humble and meek but must act.
How to act? Well, in Satī’s words (SB 4.4.17):
If one hears an irresponsible person blaspheme the master and controller of religion, one should block his ears and go away if unable to punish him. But if one is able to kill, then one should by force cut out the blasphemer’s tongue and kill the offender, and after that one should give up his own life.
Muslim terrorist brothers did exactly that, btw. They killed the offenders and then gave up their own lives, committing “suicide by the police”, as they call it now. We should think twice before blindly condemning them.
Purport to that verse gives a few more details, like that a brāhmaṇa should block his ears and leave and not kill himself because that would be the sin of killing the brāhmaṇa. Kṣatriyas have the inherent responsibility to punish the offenders, while vaiśyas and śūdras should immediately give up their bodies.
Okay, we might not be obliged to follow this advice these days but the main point is that blasphemy should not be tolerated and should be opposed still stands. For us, there’s one particular advice from Śrīla Prabhupāda (letter):
I have heard that in some of the airports they are making announcements telling the people not to purchase our literature. This is impeding our religion and is therefore blasphemy. This cannot be allowed. You should take this to the courts; let people know what they are doing. They cannot impede our right.
Announcements telling people not to purchase our books was considered blasphemy and Śrīla Prabhupāda demanded immediate action, through courts.
Or how about this purport (SB 4.14.32):
One should not at any time tolerate blasphemy and insults against Lord Viṣṇu or His devotees. A devotee is generally very humble and meek, and he is reluctant to pick a quarrel with anyone. Nor does he envy anyone. However, a pure devotee immediately becomes fiery with anger when he sees that Lord Viṣṇu or His devotee is insulted. This is the duty of a devotee. Although a devotee maintains an attitude of meekness and gentleness, it is a great fault on his part if he remains silent when the Lord or His devotee is blasphemed.
There’s more to be found on the righteousness of such anger and how it constitutes legitimate devotional service, it’s how anger should be engaged for Kṛṣṇa. Is there any point in repeating it though? These things should be the first on one’s mind when contemplating devotees’ attitude to blasphemy and, as I said, I don’t think they were omitted due to ignorance, but I do not wish to criticize authors of those articles, so I better shut up. I’ve said enough, I think.