I spent past couple of days discussing peculiarities of the modern generation and why some of the traditional methods of preaching might be inapplicable anymore.
It worries me because these are the methods I learned to value when I was growing up and they were valued by Śrīla Prabhupāda and previous ācāryas. If I could use them, I thought, I could try and preach. Turns out they have become outdated and so have I.
Not that ability to argue and appeal to logic was all I ever needed to try and convert someone to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. They are only the tools and they could be useful but the decisive factor is purity and sincere desire to serve the mission of Lord Chaitanya. Lacking those all my intelligence and wisdom is absolutely useless. Without mercy of Lord Caitanya no one can preach, no matter how skillful he might appear externally.
Another point to always keep in mind is that no matter how learned one appears to be, or thinks himself to be, there are always people far smarter than you and they can bring their own unassailable arguments that would totally destroy you. I, for example, can sometimes put up the pretense that I know something about science or physics and I occasionally happen to impress less knowledgeable people but in the company of actual scientists I’m not just a nobody but a fraud and would probably be laughed off without mercy.
Good thing scientists are not into belittling people and generally have enough patience to listen and try to make sense even out of most ridiculous arguments. They might understand that I’m totally wrong but they are thinking if they could somehow fit my arguments into their views and make some sense out of them. In the end they might be even thankful for the opportunity. I wish we had the same maturity in relationships with our devotees, be less judgmental and more open-minded and inquisitive.
Kṛṣṇa is unlimited, all kinds of contradictory things can find their place in Him, so even if someone does or says something clearly wrong, there are ways to look at it and make it useful and advantageous for Kṛṣṇa consciousness. If scientists are open to all sorts of ideas in order to expand their horizons, why can’t we?
But I digress.
Where was I? Ah, yes – some old ways don’t work on the millennials, so what? There are other ways that do, and it might turn out that it’s our own attachments to doing things in a certain manner that stop us from continuing preaching. I’m one of those old dogs that can’t be taught new tricks and so I have become useless but that shouldn’t stop able people from continuing with our mission.
So, what works? If youngsters don’t indulge in vigorous debating to expand their knowledge, what do they do instead? They watch videos.
It’s hard to believe that youtube is only ten years old, it seems it has been with us forever and for the younger generation it has effectively replaced the TV. Whatever they want to watch, they do it on youtube, and if it’s not on youtube they probably won’t even bother. What do they watch there? Movies? TV shows? National Geographic of History programs? No, no, and no. They watch their fellow youtubers talking about things. For hours non stop.
The most popular person on youtube is some Swedish dude with online handle PewDiePie. Unlike wordpress, a blog platform for hopelessly antiquated people like me, PewDiePie is a video blogger. He just films himself talking about games, no reading necessary. There must be something mesmerizing about his voice and persona that people tune in to his youtube channel and listen for many hours. They are not even playing the games themselves, they just listen to this PewDiePie describing doing it.
This is even more pronounced with commentary on well established games like Minecraft or even FPS like CoD. Instead of playing themselves people sit and watch other people play on their computers and give a running commentary. That’s how they learn to play, that’s how they learn the game, that’s how they get a taste of it. That’s their association.
What we need to do, as Lord Caitanya’s foot soldiers, is to find a way to get these people glued to our video blogs instead. If they like to sit and watch youtube we must find a way to get our association there, watch Kṛṣṇa and His devotees doing things and talking about them. They should get our taste for devotional service.
Why can’t we do it? First thing first – we need to have a taste ourselves, and this taste should be strong and contagious. If we don’t have a taste for service to the Lord, any taste related to Kṛṣṇa would do, too. There’s no reason why we can’t talk about cooking prasādam, for example. People love to watch cooking channels, too.
We don’t have Kṛṣṇa related videogames comparable to Minecraft but I suspect it’s possible to build temples in that game, too. For a while Second Life was popular and there one could build a virtual Goloka with all the trimmings and people would come and visit it and spend their time there.
Like with all other things, in order to do that successfully one must be interested in the medium himself. I, for example, can’t do facebooking no matter how useful that platform could be for preaching. My distaste for it is very difficult to overcome and Kṛṣṇa apparently gave up on ecouraging me.
Perhaps a better way is to adapt what devotees already like doing instead of cheering them to start something new. If they like to give online classes, for example, they can build on that. There’s one devotee who daily puts up Q&A and some of his videos reach hundreds of thousands of views. He is all over the place, he’s got a blog, a twitter, and a facebook account, whenever he produces new content his subscribers are pestered with announcements and have no choice but to click and watch, listen, or read – he covers every possible way to talk to his audience.
Then there’s Caitanya Caran Prabhu, who I recently called “Chatterbox Caran”, which was probably uncalled for, but he just never stops talking and never pauses to think for more than a few seconds. His videos routinely get hundreds of views and they are everywhere. The latest one is nearly two hours long (3 views as of now) and, like any “good” video blogger you get to watch him doing things on the computer, scrolling and clicking, and talking. It’s just spending time in association with Caitanya Caran, exactly what I was talking about earlier.
I think he went a bit too far when he formatted his review of the movie PK in an e-book format and put it up on Amazon for $5 but that’s probably just an odd one out, he won’t get any money out of it and won’t do it again. I also would love to see him getting a feedback on his explanations and responding to potential criticism but that is so old school. He is not there to argue with people and as long as the basics of his presentations on Kṛṣṇa consciousness are correct any potential inconsistencies can be overlooked in favor of associating with a devotee.
Overall, despite grumble from conservative quarters, there are plenty of opportunities to preach to this attention deficient generation and in some ways it’s even easier with them, and it should be more productive, too, as they lack an adversarial attitude.