I think it’s essential to regularly change subject of one’s inquiry because it would protect us from unnecessary attachments. The only unchanging subject should be Krishna. Everything else in this world is touched by illusion and potentially dangerous. In discussing Sankhya, for example, we unavoidably step outside of what is given in Bhagavatam and even while we remain tethered to it we are still in a dangerous territory where we can easily fall victim to attractions of logic, reason, and our perceived rationality.
On our own we can see the world through Krishna conscious lens but when we engage with others and try to convince them of the errors of modern science we resort to using their own frame of reference and their own rules. This forces us to think like them and our Krishna conscious vision easily gets lost. Sankhya or not, we can’t reason people into accepting God.
Alternatively, our conviction in Krishna consciousness comes from being exposed to direct manifestation of the Lord in the form of the holy name or deities or through the words of our guru. This perception is primary and overrides all logic and reason. This argument follows from Sankhya where cit aspects of our being is subordinate to ananda, We don’t need logic to experience “good”, though we might need it to reconcile out feelings with the rest of the world around us.
Explanations of Krishna consciousness are no different from explanations of criminals in this respect. We justify our behavior to the public and so do they. We know Krishna consciousness is “good” and they know that their crime felt “good”, too. In both cases no one believes us because they have different perceptions of morality. We resort to justifying Krishna consciousness on the basis that it stops people from drug abuse or sexual misconduct but it does not convey the actual taste of serving the Lord. Criminal defense attorneys will equally find acceptable excuses like the need to provide for one’s family instead of admitting that stealing felt perfectly good on its own. We both try to appeal to what others consider good and moral instead of talking about our own perceptions of morality.
The point is that in order to preach we need to give people the same taste for God and “good”. We can’t express God in terms of sense gratification or renunciation, which are the only terms familiar to non-devotees. This means that whenever we argue science on its own ground we are not doing any preaching. At best we can seed some doubts but if they find someone who can restore their faith in science then all our efforts would be in vain and next time the same approach won’t work at all. They’ll know that proper authorities can easily refute our “conspiracy theories” and they won’t take us seriously.
Only actual taste of Krishna consciousness can open people’s eyes to reality, everything else can at best prepare them to take this opportunity when it arises.
Anyway, this isn’t what I was going to rant about today, but rather troubling developments over at Dandavats. It’s our official ISKCON’s site rather than a project by some individuals and so we expect it to maintain some standards. In fact, just as with Prabhupada’s books, we should learn to see the rest of the internet through Dandavats’ eyes. Of course, no one puts Dandavats on the level of our books but it’s perfectly reasonable for us to expect the site strictly follow our philosophy and serve as an authority on internet related matters.
What kind of content should be acceptable, which views and attitudes, what kind of discourse is encouraged and what is forbidden. How the site is moderated? What is the proper balance between news and articles on philosophy? How much space should be given to personal realizations? How much connection with the outside world should be visible?
All these questions are answered in Prabhupada’s books but mostly in principle. How they should be answered on the website is up to us, we ourselves have to accept the responsibility and make sure we do no deviate and do not take up the role of the acaryas.
Prabhupada’s books are all about Krishna related matters but sometimes he finds place for examples from the outside world, even more so in his lectures and conversations. He uses these examples as springboard to providing Krishna conscious answers to everyday problems and he does so without taking sides between capitalists and communists. We, on the other hand, often side with some materialistic views against others. Some see themselves as progressives and others as traditionalists and then our responses to female gurus or homosexuality issues are often driven by these positions in outside world rather than by pure Krishna consciousness. The very fact is that these became issues at all is the sign of external world intruding into our devotional lives. Veganism is another such issue.
Ideally, our official website should not fall for this but it happens. Srila Prabhupada also gave us principles of civilized Vedic debates where one should first of all represent an authority and not speak on his own but we often do not follow this and advance our own understanding of issues instead. Dandavats is actually pretty good in this area but there are exceptions, too.
Srila Prabhupada also showed us the kind of questions acceptable in vaishnava community and, most importantly, that they should be asked with proper attitude rather than be challenging. Once again, Dandavats is exemplary in this regards and it trains devotees to follow certain rules of a discourse. On the other hand, they don’t seem to be interested in devotees’ comments. After site redesign a few months ago comment section has been moved to the bottom of the page and I bet most visitors don’t even know it’s there. It looks like this is what site designers wanted rather than a simple oversight. Perhaps they don’t have the manpower to moderate active discussions, perhaps they don’t see much use for them at all. None of the articles that I read there have any comments either and I don’t recall article authors ever answering readers questions. It’s not like the Bhagavatam class where questions are a must and speaker ignoring them is unthinkable – we learned this from Prabhupada but don’t follow it outside actual Bhagavatam classes.
There are other aspects which I think need improvement on Dandavats and some of them are troubling for me. This rant will probably continue tomorrow.