While we organizationally procrastinate the world is rolling on and devotees sail along with it. We can’t set up authorized Hare Kṛṣṇa apps even for easy reading our books, someone else come to fill the void, for example, and this happens in other areas of devotional life as well.
In the last two posts I presented the problem – we are firmly anchored to our past, to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s presentation of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, but as time moves on it gradually becomes irrelevant to the modern lifestyle. “Easy Journey to Other Planets” might have offered a fresh perspective fifty years ago when everyone was enthralled by the race to the Moon but, come on, the book starts with discussing Noble Prize awards of 1959…
Spiritually there’s no decay but material luster is disappearing rather fast. Demands to add footnotes on rape is another sign of tradition getting out of touch with modernity. Prabhupāda’s exposition of feminism was acceptable for the middle of the last century but now we have our own devotees screaming in agony over being caged. Their pain is real and they WILL find a way to relieve themselves, but we are not ready to accommodate them, at least philosophically, and no one dares to offer a fresh take on the situation without compromising the essence of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Likewise, GALVA project seems to be very popular with gays but we still pretend they do not exist and have no place in our society as practicing homosexuals. That’s like closing the door to up to fifteen percent of world’s population while raising giant “House for the whole world to live in” banners.
These examples are not only signs of our institutional inadequacy but also signs of how the world is going to operate regardless of our readiness. GALVA people have invented their own explanation of śāstra. Female devotees have justified their own cravings for power and fulfillment. Scientifically minded devotees find Kṛṣṇa conscious interpretation of the latest advances in science. Hardly anyone is waiting for the GBC or for the emergence of the next self-effulgent ācārya.
If there’s a problem then we might not be the ones offering the solution, Kṛṣṇa is, and He works in mysterious ways, just like when no one expected Śrīla Prabhupāda to rejuvenate the Gauḍiyā Maṭha. This doesn’t mean that every new interpretation of sāstra is genuine and every lone wolf is the next sampradāya ācārya but if we ever paid attention to how the world works, the revolution is in the works and it’s only a matter of time before the next paradigm shift happens.
There’s a genuine need for changes and there are plenty of grassroot, even if half-arsed solutions, and it’s only a matter of time before Kṛṣṇa responds and empowers a devotee to be the agent of change. The fact that all these changes are driven by devotees makes the emergence of the next ācārya even more certain. Maybe it’s not the time yet and we are still twenty-thirty years away but it will happen, our sampradāya will never be barren of ācāryas.
Now is not the time to speculate about the details, though. The “progress” we need to respond to is the work of the lower modes of nature so I, personally, don’t think that the next pure devotee will emerge from the ranks of iPhone wielding kids with attention span of a goldfish. Nor do I think that gay devotees will offer a solution to homosexuality in our movement. Nor that the next ācārya will be a liberated woman.
The Lord will have to empower someone and He usually picks the best of the best. Lord Caitanya opened the way to self-realization for śūdras and mlecchas but was a brāhmaṇa Himself. Or Śrīla Prabhupāda was a hero for hippies but his own upbringing was exemplary and he had no affinity for hippie lifestyle whatsoever. Or Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta introduced wearing leather shoes and driving around in posh cars but no one would ever think of him being attracted to these things personally.
Speaking of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta – he got the ball rolling. Leather shoes and cars were a no-no for a sannyāsī before him. Śrīla Prabhupāda broke another rule – about traveling across the sea. I guess there was no specific rule about flying around the world but Prabhupāda did it fourteen times. Flying has become the preferred mode of transportation in our society since. Who know what rule the next ācārya will break? We can only be certain that he will break some and do something unthinkable for us at the moment.
Well, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta sent two sannyāsīs to England so Prabhupāda was not the first one to travel overseas, and this case should give us the clue that the next transgression won’t be totally unexpected. More likely our reaction would be “I knew this would happen, but why didn’t I think about it myself?”
Empowered by Kṛṣṇa, devotees are unpredictable. We think we know everything in this world and we got all the options covered, and that is true – but only for options visible to us. Our conditioning prevents us from seeing options visible to the Lord and it’s likely the Lord will take one of those that are still unseen, otherwise we would have done it ourselves.
We are trying to affect the change from the platform of our conditioning but that is not likely to be enough, it would only show to Kṛṣṇa that His devotees want something. The success will come from His blessing and it will be delivered from a transcendental platform, outside of our illusion. We can’t see it until it hits us in the face – by definition.
Where does it leave ISKCON and GBC? Hopefully still in the race. Hopefully we won’t fade away like our predecessor institution, and I seriously doubt Prabhupāda’s position will ever be eroded or that his books will stop being distributed and accepted as law books for the next ten thousand years. I mean people still value Bible and that book is thousands years old, age is not the problem. Current interpretation is.
I think we should be prepared for Prabhupāda to be explained to newcomers instead of giving him straight. Our Bhāgavatam classes will be explanations of what Prabhupāda meant in the purports fifty years ago and what it should mean now. We are already doing that, only fist generation ISKCON devotees can claim to speak for Prabhupāda, everyone else speaks for their gurus, and we have some who are second generation devotees themselves. They’ve never seen Śrīla Prabhupāda and in some cases they were raised by gurus who have since left the movement.
It’s not that they do not represent Śrīla Prabhupāda anymore but they have become a genuine transparent via medium themselves, just as Śrīla Prabhupāda wanted. Twenty-thirty years from now they’ll become the only gurus available and they will present their own interpretations of our founder ācārya. That’s just inevitable, just as devotees in GM have their own images of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī. Their memories are not wrong but they are different and enriching.
What GBC should do is prepare for this impeding paradigm shift, prepare themselves and prepare the rest of the society. We can’t become envious of the next ācārya, for example, and go down GM path to obscurity. OTOH, we can’t expect old dogs to learn new tricks and by that I mean that the current GBC leadership might not be able to accommodate changes at all. Instead of reinventing themselves they should have a reliable programs of transferring power to new generations of devotees and that they should trust the new leadership.
The way GBC is organized they are not that different from corporations, and corporations have learned to deal with generational and institutional changes no matter where they are coming from. As long as the principle is there, serve Kṛṣṇa for us and serve mammon for them, we should do fine. I, personally, have trust in spiritual maturity of our leaders, they won’t let their vestigal attachments ruin our society.
As long we rely on Kṛṣṇa everything will work out okay.