I’m catching up on weekend posts, this one should count for Sunday. As I said in last article, we had a family gathering and I couldn’t find time to write this blog and I hate weekends for this. There was a time when I could squeeze a post virtually out of nothing, even type it up on a mobile phone screen, but not anymore. It feels below the standard, below the level of attention it deserves. Even if the standard is arbitrarily set by myself it doesn’t mean I can easily lower it because I imagine it as as service to the Lord and therefore I can’t change anything without a good excuse. Not being in the right mood is not an excuse in my understanding and so I’d rather wait for the right opportunity than get away with half-baked, shorter articles.
That’s the thing I mentioned yesterday – we tend to do things entirely on our own and assume that they are accepted by the Lord. When guru micromanages our lives he can give us instant feedback and correct us but, generally, in our tradition that is not the norm. Our ācāryas were usually left to their own devices, guided by their own understanding. Following in their footsteps we dedicate all our service to our guru but being informed that the service is accepted should be considered a luxury. In pre-GM and pre-ISKCON times there was no local management to act as guru’s proxies, everything was done in one’s heart.
I’m not going to pick up the phone and ask someone in charge to read my posts to make sure my “service” was accepted. It would have been the norm if I worked for an official ISKCON blog but such arrangements are impractical anyway. It’s okay for temple devotees to be always overseen but not for the large congregation. We can’t build ISKCON’s bureaucracy to act as a clearing house for all service done by all devotees everywhere, Kali yuga would corrupt it in no time. Either those put in the position to check everybody’s service would start acting selfishly or those who would feel their efforts were under-appreciated would revolt.
In Vedic times brāhmaṇas were perceived as receptacles of service on Lord’s behalf, whatever one wanted to give to Viṣṇu he was supposed to give to brāhmaṇas. Maybe one day ISKCON would evolve to this level, too, but I don’t see it happening in my lifetime. We don’t even entertain the idea that some of our devotees could live outside of the temples and be totally dependent on donations from the congregation. There are devotees who serve the congregation in usual brahmanical occupations, like astrology, but they get renumeration for specific service, casting horoscopes in this case, not simply for being brāhmaṇas. No horoscope, no donation. That’s being brāhmaṇas by trade, not the same thing.
Our society is not ready to see every devotee with brahmanical initiation as Lord’s mouth. Just visit any of the Hare Kṛṣṇa websites to see that we eagerly exclude a great number of devotees for slightest transgressions. On ISKCON side there’s at least the authority of the institution to justify our actions but among those who are “independently thoughtful” there are no authorities at all and no one deserves to be fed simply for being a brāhmaṇa, except maybe a couple of people who publicly agree with your views on the internet.
Seeing that level of vitriol directed even at sannyāsīs makes it implausible for our devotees to rely on the congregation for support. No one is going to give donations to your family simply because you got brahmanical thread from ISKCON’s “rubber-stamp gurus”.
Even if people understand your situation and are willing to help they would do it as a help to YOU. They don’t see it as THEIR duty to the Lord, they just don’t. They think the Lord accepts their service directly and they don’t have to pass it through brāhmaṇas at all. They also happen to be wise enough to teach the rest of our society the right philosophy and act as moral guardians in post-Prabhupāda time, not that anyone’s listening, but that’s how they see themselves.
In Vedic times it would have been unthinkable. I would go even as far as to say that if we consider the Lord as the proprietor and the sole enjoyer of everything in this world it means that He does so through the brāhmaṇas, not personally. You can’t feed the deity and then feed yourself without making sure that every brāhmaṇa in your reach is fed, too. You can’t have the deity satisfied but the brāhmaṇas hungry, that’s not how you should serve the Lord at all.
I will not break any news if I say that we, that our ISKCON and near-ISKCON householders, are not calling for everyone outside our door three times to come and take prāsadam we offer in our homes before we consider it’s our turn to finally sit down and eat. That rule says everyone, not only brāhmaṇas, and not only twice initiated devotees in good standing with ISKCON authorities, though that would be a good start.
I can easily demand this standard because I don’t know of any such devotees for many many kilometers in any direction from my house, I’m safe here. If I lived in one of the devotee communities that sprang around our temples, and especially in Vrndāvana and Māyāpura, I wouldn’t be so determined about it, that’s for sure. It’s easy to be a hero in my position.
It’s not that we don’t know these things, we just can’t wrap our heads around actually doing them. We don’t know where to even start, which means that there’s a legitimate reason for the absence of such practice. In fact, I’d say that the absence of this practice means that it’s not how the Lord wants us to conduct our affairs. When we are ready it would seem natural just as any other things we do in our service. I don’t think it’s a matter of minor tweaking of our attitudes or even a matter of “brāhmaṇa feeding revolution”. Kali yuga should substantially release its grip over our society before we reach the required enlightened level.
There should be no questions about brāhmaṇas qualifications in our minds, for example. We can’t force people to feed the Lord through receptacles they cannot see as trustworthy, that won’t work, they’ll rebel. We also have to become clear what “brāhmaṇa” means for us. Right now every devotees is expected to receive a second initiation regardless of his actual varṇa qualities, and we have a good reason for that, but that would also mean we should feed ALL devotees regardless before we can sit down to eat ourselves, even those without second initiation – because they are all dear to the Lord already and only time separates them from eventually reaching the formal status. You can’t give prasādam to one devotee and overlook the other anyway.
Sadly, we would rather see devotees being personally cared for by the Lord Himself, because He is the Rich and Mighty One, we would rather not see it as OUR duty and service. We’d rather them have their own sources of food and income, we don’t them to be our eternal dependents, especially householders among them. All brāhmaṇas were expected to be householders in Vedic times and having a wife and a house was not an excuse to tell them to go feed themselves but times have changed. We’d rather offer food to the small form of the Lord deep inside our homes, in our well-guarded dens, where no one but the Lord can have it without taking even a bite out. Then we would consume it ourselves, quietly, preferably without Lord’s external receptacles ever hearing about our feeding time.
Oh, we are such hypocrites, but what can we do? It’s in our nature, and it’s one of the reasons why we would never be allowed to come anywhere near the Lord while still in our material forms. We can imagine serving Him in any variety of ways but that would always remain only our imagination. Hopefully, it’s the intent that counts, otherwise we are doomed.
This should make one appreciate chanting of the Holy Names even more because it is ALWAYS accepted by our guru and the Lord, our sixteen rounds are sacred in this way. It’s the only service we can have absolutely no doubts about and it’s the only service we took a vow to perform until death, all other vows were NOT to do something.
While we chant the Holy Name all the problems that should worry us otherwise simply disappear. Great, isn’t it?