So they’ve decided to beat Haridāsa Ṭhākura into submission and either force him to recite Koran instead of Hare Kṛṣṇa or die. There was a condition, however – if Haridāsa survived the beatings the Muslim king would accept Haridāsa as a saint.
In one of the purports to Caitanya Bhāgavata Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvati doesn’t spare words of condemnation for this king but we can see that in some ways he was more advanced than many of our present rulers. He agreed to listen to Haridāsa’s explanation first. These days people make up their minds according to their ideology and do not listen, maybe only to immediately discredit their opponents. Space that is supposed to be used for exchange of opinion, the media, has been taken over by governments to blast their propaganda.
One could say that in the west governments do not own the media but it’s only partially correct. Corporations that own media also own politicians. Media control largely follows political divide and so the current mantra is to pump out as much propaganda as possible and let the viewer decide, meaning there won’t be an exchange and careful consideration of opinions in public. The “truth” needs to be established in the mind of each viewer personally and it’s actually much easier because general public does not have neither time nor necessary knowledge to carefully consider issues, they just go with whatever attracts their attention, not with arguments.
So the media has been dumbed down, overloaded with emotionally strong news, like violence, and it catches people by anything else BUT honest debates. This leads to an interesting question – does the ability to produce “professional” new programs indicates God’s blessings behind it?
A while ago I argued that because ISIS got control over their territory they consider it as recognition by Allah himself. Muslims who oppose ISIS got nothing to show for it, they are just servants of the atheists who’d say anything for the merciful glance from their masters.
Can this argument be applied to something like MSNBC and Fox News? If they manage to attract large numbers of viewers, wouldn’t it mean there’s some real power backing them up? All power in this world originates in Kṛṣṇa, even demons draw their strength from Him. Would it mean that because Fox is bigger it is closer to the “truth”?
Of course not, but the reason for this answer isn’t so clear. I think it’s because neither media nor demons are actually after the truth, not ISIS is after Allah’s recognition. They all have much more mundane, materialistic goals. Getting hands on land means they want to control the land. Getting big audience means they want big audience. Once we see that the desire is strong enough we can be sure that the material nature is about to arrange for its fulfillment. “Truth” has nothing to do with it.
These people foolishly think that truth or Allah’s mercy can be obtained by material means, that if they get the land they’d surely get the mercy, but that’s not how it works. The Lord does not manifest Himself to those who approach Him with ulterior motives, He is conquered only by pure, unadulterated bhakti. Allah’s mercy is not some material quality and neither is the truth.
Real knowledge is part of the Absolute, too. Whatever MSNBC thinks is only an illusion. They might very well believe that their knowledge is real truth but it isn’t. They can’t possibly see the world for what it is and see people’s motivations as driven by the modes of nature according to the direction of their karma and, ultimately, the Supreme Lord.
The Lord lies down the rules for us to follow, ie varṇāśrama, but we can do so only when we know our actual situation. These days no one does and everyone acts out of ignorance. Ignorance can be bought with money, no problem, so when MSNBC and Fox News slug it out the prize is delusion and the result is leading their viewers to ruin. Good luck to them.
The Muslim king from Caitanya Bhāgavata, otoh, was ready to learn the truth, the actual truth. He didn’t exclude the possibility that Haridāsa Ṭhākura was a real saint and really carried with him the mercy of the Supreme Lord, who certainly must be the same for both Hindus and Muslims.
When it was all over and Haridāsa survived the ordeal the king changed his mind and bowed down to Haridāsa’s lotus feet. Originally, I planned to talk about the beatings themselves but I got caught up in the perspective of the king, sorry.
What the king also said was: “All the so-called yogis and jñānīs simply speak big words, but you have actually attained perfection”. This is significant and the same reasoning applies to modern day, too. Everybody speaks a lot and everybody makes or at least implies big claims, ISKCON not excluded. What people, honest people, want to see, however, is actual perfection.
We can look at ISKCON critics and easily conclude that all they have is big mouths. They go to great lengths to discredit BBT edits in Prabhupāda’s books but finding faults in others is easy. When they try to distribute their “original” Gītas they can’t. Simply can’t. ISKCON devotees with our allegedly “inferior” Gītas distribute hundreds or thousands books per day and attract hundreds of thousands devotees. “Purists” can only show a few hundred clicks on their next installment of “How BBT got it all wrong” articles.
Ṛtviks got something to show – big temples, awesome full-length animated films about Kṛṣṇa, now they are planning to build a huge skyscraping tower in Vṛndāvana. Does it mean they have Lord’s mercy behind them? In as much as collecting donations and completing big projects go – yes. In terms of making devotees and changing people’s lives – not so much. Outside of Bangalore ṛtvikism is nearly dead, and that Bangalore leader behaves in a highly inimical matter towards devotees, which means he got only some temporary powers but his heart still has a long way to go towards attaining devotion.
Within ISKCON we can also easily find examples of unsubstantiated claims. We talk about pure love of God, relationships with Kṛṣṇa, “real” structure of the universe etc. but the fact is none of us knows anything about any of these things first hand. Or those who do do not speak of them in public and do not rally the troops. We go on strictly on the faith in our ācāryas. We have Haridāsa Ṭhākura, for example, as proof of the potency of the Holy Name.
It doesn’t mean we don’t have any realizations whatsoever but ours are much more modest in size compared to what is disclosed in our literature, and I’m not sure how confidently we can speak of what we think we know personally. Haridāsa Ṭhākura could state with absolute certainty that he was acting on the inspiration of the Supreme Lord because that’s how he saw his life. We can only repeat these lines like parrots and, at our best times, realize that we are acting under the influence of the modes of nature and then try to extract ourselves from their influence, as we very well should.
The difference with Haridāsa Ṭhākura, however, is that he didn’t see activities of Lord’s external energy as needing any improvement. He neither fell of the illusion nor rejected it. He just saw it for what it was – Lord’s faithful servant acting on Lord’s orders. We still see it as separate and even as our enemy.
Do we need a living example of spiritual perfection like Haridāsa Ṭhākura was, or like Śrīla Prabhupāda? It would be nice for preaching, of course, but there’s also an argument that we have enough information to develop strong faith as it is, our problems are not in the lack of proof but in our inability to accept it. We don’t really need the “special” mercy if we can’t deal with the regular one, which is already pretty great and more than enough for our immediate goals.