I was planning on continuing with tattvavāda accusations but something in my mind was too restless so I ended up clicking here and there on the internet. After about an hour I felt guilty and went to dandavats but that wasn’t enough so, feeling even guiltier, I went to check Samparadaya Sun. Turns out they have a letter from Siberian devotees complaining about another musical number. Here’s the letter and here’s youtube video in question.
The video is in Russian, all the comments are in Russian, too, but from the looks of it there’s absolutely no connection there to Kṛṣṇa consciousness and the poster, the daughter in their duet, has uploaded quite a few of the performances on that Russian show. It looks like a version of American Idol.
The songs they sing don’t mention Kṛṣṇa but they do wear tulasī beads on their necks. The letter tells us that TV audience knows they are Hare Kṛṣṇas but that was probably disclosed on another occasion. The video is edited to show only their performances and judges and MC talking about them, at the end they lost but from all their other uploads it appears they have advanced quite far and with only a couple of competitors left were pretty close to the final.
In their second song they wore pretty strange outfits and, perhaps, it was their dancing that reminded Siberian devotees of Michael Jackson, though they are obviously nowhere close technique wise.
It seems like a slam dunk, unlike previous complaint about Mahāviṣṇu Svāmī I wrote about a few days ago. Is it, though?
The big difference between these two cases is that Viṣṇutattva Prabhu is not a sannyāsī but a householder. As such he can have practically any job he wants, save for a butcher and a few other professions closely connected to breaking principles. For non-initiated even those occupations are not obstacles to beginning their chanting. One has to work to support his family and quite often it’s not a matter of choice but karma. Actually it’s always karma but sometimes we feel like we have a choice.
This is a touchy question because we expect our devotees to lead clean lives but in this day and age it’s often an impossible requirement while chanting absolutely must go on for everybody. We normally assume that if one is sincere in his devotion then Kṛṣṇa would make arrangements for that person and free him from shackles of bad karma pulling him down. What if that person is not sincere? That’s the thing with bad karma – it affects our sincerity, so what then? Forbid him from chanting? Rub his nose in his own sins?
Perhaps we should accept that devotees are really rare souls and if they also can follow four regulative principles it must be a really special arrangement between them and Kṛṣṇa. We can’t expect ordinary people we meet on the streets live up to our high standards but they still can start their chanting and reading about the Lord. Their progress is not entirely in their hands – they have both karma and Kṛṣṇa as components, too.
If that wasn’t true and we were fully in charge then all of us should be able to easily take sannyāsa and be done with our material engagements altogether. In our lives it is, however, patently impossible, even with all our chanting and Kṛṣṇa’s help. We should realize that for other people it might be equally impossible to follow four regs, too. And yet everyone must be encouraged to chant and if they do that we must accept them as devotees. We cannot reject anyone who chants the holy name.
Ok, the point is that we can’t forbid Viṣṇutattva Prabhu from pursuing his music career, it’s his karma and he can’t get away from it, and he doesn’t appear to break any regulative principles while doing it so there should be no problem with it whatsoever.
There would be no case if he was an accountant or a teacher or a security guard at the mall but when he sings it somehow becomes a problem. Why?
Because he is a regional GBC secretary for Siberia. That’s the only reason. There’s no problem with his singing in his role as a father and as a regular devotee but we expect better from GBC authorities. Siberia isn’t a small place, there could be thousands of devotees in his zone, so he is in charge of spiritual health of plenty of people depending on him for spiritual guidance. Of course they also have their own gurus but in our society spiritual responsibility is shared between a guru and an institution, and not only shared but has to go hand in hand without any friction.
That’s where we can have a potential problem – comparing to a guru, who is probably a traveling sannyāsī, this singer cum GBC secretary looks utterly materialistic and fame seeking. To be honest, I’d avoid such “stars” as a matter of principle because their association is extremely polluting. I’m not aware of any direct injunctions but in terms of fame they are more or less on the same level as local kings from Lord Caitanya’s time and Lord Caitanya famously avoided them by all possible means. The only time He allowed the king to approach Him was when the king took a broom and humbly swept the ground in front of Lord Jagannātha’s chariot. When the king became a sweeper he earned the qualification to approach the Lord, when he stayed as king he wasn’t allowed anywhere near.
Where was I? Ah, yes, ordinarily people seeking TV fame are shallow and self-absorbed, or rather they seek a certain kind of relationship with others where they need to be admired by as many people as possible. This attitude is clearly polluting because it projects wrong kind of values that we must cleanse from our hearts.
Having said that, I don’t think we have any specific requirements for regional GBC secretaries that would prohibit them from having singing careers. Maybe there’s a paper somewhere according to which Viṣṇutattva Prabhu could be disqualified if his behavior came under review but I bet it would come against all his activities as a devotee and as a leader of devotees in his zone. Lots of them apparently have no problem with his participation in this singing competition and think he performs his spiritual duties just fine.
What are we going to say to that? That they are ignorant and don’t know any better? That could be the case, too, but then we are talking about relationships between them and Viṣṇutattva Prabhu and the fact is it can’t be easily broken and one party to it can’t be easily substituted by someone else. I’m tempted to say that they deserve each other and they might not make quick progress but they’ll eventually get there – together.
In short, I don’t think letter writers have a strong case here but their concerns have to be acknowledged and addressed, too. I don’t know how, if I did I would be on GBC instead of in front of my monitor shouting my mouth off. Maybe Viṣṇutattva gets sanctioned or reprimanded, maybe he’ll realize that this music business interferes with his devotional life and he drops it voluntarily.
We don’t see any more of Radhanatha Svami’s videos singing along with karmīs and māyāvādīs so that somehow sorted itself out without making any noise about it, it could probably work the same way in this case, too. I hope it will.