This is too bold a title. I don’t mean people having conversations with Srila Prabhupada and gems of his wisdom, I’m talking about me running my own monologues in my head and imagining Prabhupada’s responses.
Why do I do that?
Well, I can’t help but notice that times have completely changed since Prabhupada’s appearance on the planet. Everything has been upgraded, replaced and improved, every facet of society, every bit of understanding. We don’t notice it much when we associate with each other but if you had a chance to talk to a person from a different era it would make an interesting conversation.
Why don’t I take it all the way back to, say, Gaura Kishora Dasa Babaji, or even Lord Chaitanya Himself? There’s a reason – they were all products of a completely different culture. Some of the previous acharyas tried to extend their mercy to mlecchas like us but it was only Srila Prabhupada who had a real, direct experience.
It was only Srila Prabhupada who actually made westeners into devotees and so he has a special place in our hearts and in history, so reporting back to him first is only natural.
I suppose meeting Bhaktivinoda Thakura would be interesting, too, and Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, on the account of them realizing importance of preaching in English to reach to the fallen souls of the western world. In their days English were the lords, the golden standard of human achievement. Some say our GBC is actually modeled after management of the British Railway company in India, whatever it was called.
Well, look at the English now – four days of total rioting and anarchy, some society they have build there. Personally, I can’t remember this scale of looting just for the fun of it, without any particular cause.
So, if I were to report to Prabhupada the state of humanity thirty years after his passing, it would make some unexpected turns, in light of these recent events. We also have Greece that had its share of riots over economic mismanagement, we had Norwegian gunman killing almost a hundred people in cold blood just to teach them the lesson about about protecting the purity of their nation, we had American lawmakers driving their country to the brink of collapse simply because they could, we had Arab spring, we had the effective end of American manned space exploration, we had Japanese tsunami with subsequent nuclear disasters – we had a whole lot of things to tell Prabhupada about the world.
His response? I guess we can easily imagine him driving the unpalatable truth about godless civilizations being doomed to all kinds of calamities. Thus we can also imagine ourselves walking beside Prabhupada, hurrying to keep step with him and nodding to his every expositions of the faults of the world around us.
Well, I’m sorry to admit, but that leaves be somewhat unsatisfied and unfulfilled in my purpose.
There are several reasons for this. First, I, the product of ADD generation, want to hear something new and original. Second, the world has changed, the way we address the world should change, too. Third, no matter what happens with the world, our message should stay the same and our talking points, the soft spots we are looking for in people’s hearts, will never change.
Each reason has its own merits and its own doubts. If my dissatisfaction (see how I subtly moved myself from doubtful to opposing camp!) is the product of my own restlessness and lack of spiritual maturity, should it be addressed or ignored? On one hand I know that if I were a bit more dedicated, a bit more surrendered, I would never had these doubts in my head. Everything Prabhupada said forty years ago is absolute and so has direct and practical application to our lives now.
That is true, but forty years ago Prabhupada had no problems addressing what was considered important then – science, technology, unprecedented rate of material progress etc. He addressed people’s current needs and doubts then instead of sticking strictly to examples from Lord Chaitanya’s times and Mahabharata. He knew that those stories have little relevance to the westerners who had their questions about their own surroundings and couldn’t easily relate to flower airplanes and some magic bow shooting thousands of arrows at the same time. People of that age had memories of World War II and Hiroshima, it’s not quite the same as hearing about Kurukshetra and brahmastra.
My point is that if Prabhupada accommodated them then why not expect him to accommodate our modern concerns now? I must say first, though, that his mission on this planet is over, it is purely a mental exercise. If I want real answers I should expect Krishna to send someone new to dissipate my doubts and fears. If Krishna doesn’t do it, it’s probably because we still have the capacity to manage ourselves, we don’t need extra help yet, it’s our chance at doing something useful for the humanity.
So, while I could make it easier for myself and join in the chorus of well-deserved condemnation, I want to present a different view of the world. I would even dare to say that all those man made disasters is a straw argument. We, the people of the twenty first century, do not see our society as on the verge of collapse. Yes, defaults and slow growth and riots do worry us but they should be put in perspective. In pure money terms, British Royal wedding cost more to that country than four days of looting.
I would rather talk about that – do we need to support or condemn the present day monarchies? We know they are nowhere near the desired standard but what would be better for the future – keeping them or dismantling them altogether? It doesn’t directly affect any of us but it affects the atmosphere in the society as a whole, it affects our value structure. Will people become more sinful and thus more difficult to save?
In Prabhupada’s days we, the ISKCON, had a very very limited reach and were very very isolated from the rest of the world. We were just learning to walk and not wet our pants. Some ill-intentioned individuals might say that not much changed since but we will ignore their sarcastic remarks for the moment.
Isn’t it the time that we, as a society, came out of our temples and engage the rest of the world in running it? We might not be ready yet, but what should we start from if not forming reasonable and mature opinions on the society around us? “All them demons will go straight to hell” is not an example of a reasonable and mature opinion.
So, what should our views be on the developments of democracy, on the fate of monarchies, on global warming, on the globalization itself? On Arab-Palestinian conflict?
Yes, we could say that no one but God owns the land and if everyone accepts it they would live in peace, but they don’t accept it, that has been tried, so they remain at war and that war has influenced the rest of the world on the scale no other present conflict had.
When there were massive protests against Iranian election results two years ago everybody had to take a stand, the whole world was watching. Where were we? Were we on the side of the regime trying to protect the religion or on the side of the protesters fighting for democracy and freedom? Were we on the side of Muslim clerics forcing their dogmas on everyone or on the side of the progressive Iranians with their drug parties at their underground discos?
Yeah, well, we were transcendental, as always. That is fine, but I don’t think we can hope to change the world by being transcendental to its problems. We say Krishna will take care but we refuse to take any personal responsibility. How is Krishna supposed to take care if not through our agency?
Is the crux of the problem that we are not good enough to execute His will? Do we really have the right to blame the rest of the society for their lack of spirituality if we do not possess it ourselves, not in the amount necessary to demonstrate to the world that Krishna Consciousness really works at solving problems?
These are the kind of questions I would pose to Prabhupada if I had the chance.
Or maybe not. It would be a waste of time. I know the answers, more or less. Answers are obvious once you figure out the right questions.
What I really need from my imaginary talks is to develop even a small bit of unflinching faith and devotion, everything else would just follow.
Everything starts with devotion, it’s the only blessing we ever need, and if I can get infected with it by listening to Prabhupada blasting the materialistic civilization for the hundredth time over, it’s worth sacrificing interests of my mind.