Yesterday I claimed exclusivity to our particular brand of worship while at the same time embracing all other forms as worthy of deep respect. Such an attitude on a material platform would be extremely patronizing but I stand by it.
Basically, it not only puts its own tradition above all others but makes other traditions into simple derivatives, denying them any independent value. It’s arrogant and disrespectful regardless of external expression of humility. It’s as if telling people that their lives are meaningful only because YOU are talking to them, it’s their relationship to YOU that brings them any dignity and without this connection to YOU they are worthless. It’s not them who you respect, it’s their connection to you. Without you they are nothing. If you hear someone talking like this you’d immediately interject – “Who do you think you are? God?”
Right, and that’s why I stand by my claim – we are speaking for God, and if we are speaking for God we can’t talk in any other way. Nobody in this world has any value without relationship to God, or, to put it in a different way, no one has any value that does is not derived from their relationship with God, however distant. People do not have any other sources of splendor but God, other sources can’t exist by definition, for it would mean there are two and possibly more Gods out there.
Not conveying this point clearly might be the biggest fault in our preaching. Ordinarily, in a modern discourse, one must treat his counterpart as equal, no matter where they are coming from. That’s why people say things like “I’m not going to dignify this nonsense with an response” – because giving an answer means you participate in a discourse and participation means equality. If we do not explicitly embrace this equality we would be immediately condemned in harshest terms as preachy and sectarian and whatever we say would be immediately rejected. We are very afraid that this would happen and therefore engage with people on their own “democratic” terms. There’s no democracy in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, however, no one is created equal but everybody is either a master or a servant, and being a master is seen as a service, too. And then, of course, there’s Kṛṣṇa Himself who is the Supreme Autocrat.
When we accept people’s unspoken assertion that they have their own sources of strength, knowledge, and convictions and agree to treat them as such, as if it was true, we willingly place ourselves into an illusion that something in this world has existence independent of Kṛṣṇa. It’s an easy mistake to make because that’s how we all see the “reality” but it isn’t a Kṛṣṇa conscious view and it is not going to bring people any closer to Him.
I would argue that it’s the opposite of saṅkīrtana and that it’s a soul killing activity. We are not doing anyone any favors, let alone guru and Kṛṣṇa, by accepting the world and people in it as separate from Him. It’s exactly what we should change, not embrace in the name of democracy, political correctness or a childish desire to be liked. That last one is probably the most common cause of this failure – we do not depend solely on Kṛṣṇa ourselves and seek affirmations from others. If they like us it’s good, if they don’t like us it’s bad, and our views should be aligned with their reactions. It’s a mockery of what Kṛṣṇa consciousness should be and we won’t have any as long as we maintain this attitude.
The problem for us is that we don’t see others as dependent on Kṛṣṇa in every which way. It might be true, we might accept it intellectually, but we don’t see people that way. What can we do? Imitate paramahaṁsas? Obviously not, we’d be spotted right away. The correct answer to “what can we do” question is to become paramahaṁsas and there’s no other way. Well, actually there is, but, if we think about it deeply, it’s just redefining what paramahaṁsa means.
We can display perfect Kṛṣṇa consciousness without having any of it ourselves if we strictly follow the orders of our guru. We simply repeat the words, become the perfect messengers, and voilà – people would get Kṛṣṇa consciousness for real, even better than us. That’s what Śrīla Prabhupāda told us to do – simply repeat what we have heard from him and everything will be successful.
We can see it as a temporary solution until we find our own footing but if we listen to Prabhupāda’s recipe for his success it’s exactly the same – he simply followed the order of his guru and simply repeated what he heard from him. He even called our Gītā “as it is” – as it’s heard from the authorities. It’s not a temporary crutch but the most mature understanding of how Kṛṣṇa consciousness works, how it transfers from one soul to another.
Maybe there’s a stage in the middle where we think that we got it, we figured it out, we know how to preach, but it’s this understanding that is temporary and it needs to be given up. Kṛṣṇa Himself will surely take it away for own sake because it’s delusional. All power, all knowledge, all preaching strength comes only from Him and only through His authorized channels. When we lay our claim to this power we make it into a stolen property and karma will eventually catch up with us for doing that.
So, if we think about it, strictly following the orders of the guru and simply repeating his words IS a paramahaṁsa platform. It might not look like much but it is. The problem is that we might only appear to be strictly following, or that this following is temporary – as long as it aligns with our own interests. When we want something else, like association of the opposite sex, we forget about it. One must be a paramahaṁsa to be able to strictly follow at all times – it’s a catch 22.
However, temporary or not, but simply repeating the words of our guru does have an effect, and this effect does not depend on us but on Kṛṣṇa Himself. Who are we to stop it? It’s not in our power to control it – as long as we serve as messengers. We can always cut the pipe, of course, but it’s not control, it’s only a refusal to serve.
In short – we can and we must speak for Kṛṣṇa and anything less than that is māyā. “But what about..?” – someone might say. Nope, it’s still māyā. You either speak of Kṛṣṇa or it’s māyā, there’s no third option. The problem is that we need to see each and every case for ourselves first and learn from our own mistakes, and it takes time. I’m pretty sure that at the end of our lives we’ll realize that we should have simply followed what Prabhupāda said all along and all our attempts to reinvent the bicycle were a waste of time.