The Heart of the Matter

Many ISKCON’s swamis wear sannyasi cloth but they do not live like renunciates. They live life of comfort and control large sums of money. They are regularly caught in illicit relationships and many have large female only following. Plus female secretaries and female servants etc etc. Check’s Hanuman’s Vasanas site for details. They should probably give up the pretense, get married, and live honestly.

Things are getting better now, but we have a long history of these renunciates spreading their dharma on young people who were never meant for this kind of life. They taught devotees that marriage is a falldown and women are not only to be avoided but despised and publicly denigrated in Srimad Bhagavatam classes. This ruined ISKCON experience for women, for their children, who often grew abandoned by these renunciates, and for young followers who grew up totally unprepared for actual life, and who denied their own nature in pursuit of “devotional glory”. Eventually they all got married or worse, and so the whole brahmachari experiment obstructed their natural progress.

This preaching was actually violence against them, and, sure enough, it was accompanied by physical violence against women and children, too, and almost always by psychological violence leaving women, but also men, with deep psychological traumas. Everybody can see that now and everybody understands that this preaching is not a genuine service to Krishna but that it rather defames the Lord, Srila Prabhupada, and his movement. They gave Hare Krishnas a bad name.

These preachers are not real devotees because real devotees have no enemies and are loved by all – like Srila Prabhupada. These devotees instead created enemies everywhere, and now we see ISKCON conservatives, who follow in the same mood, breaking friendship with more liberal part of ISKCON. Relationships between devotees are ruined. And yet they claim to be the true followers. Have they got no shame?

And what is the value of their renunciation? Do they think that by wearing saffron they become detached? Do they think that the dress makes a devotee? They wear it with such pride, and even if they wear white they still make sure everyone knows how devoted and pure they are. Real detachment does not come this way. It naturally comes as a result of real knowledge, real devotion, and it cannot be imitated.

Having said that, no one would argue that material enjoyment is the cause of all suffering and it has to be given up, but this has to be done carefully and responsibly. One has to know what he is renouncing and do it in full knowledge. Not like a young, fired up brahmachari swearing off women and declaring sex as disgusting, just because one acharya who lived a thousand years ago composed a verse with “I spit at the thought”. It was true for that acharya but we cannot imitate. For vast majority of us the path of gradual advancement is prescribed instead. Trust me, it won’t take long to realize that living with a woman (or a man) is not as peachy as it feels in the beginning. You won’t need anyone to tell you how detestable married life can be, that would be your own realization and it will be far more valuable. You won’t attain the same level of understanding and detachment simply by listening to others.

We should rather take example of Bhaktivinoda Thakura or even of Srila Prabhupada who fulfilled all their married obligations faithfully. They worked, the provided for the family, they raised children, and they didn’t renounce these duties prematurely. One should be a proper grihastha and follow all the rules, perform all necessary samskaras related to raising children, serve the devotees, serve the community – this position is actually glorious. Grihasthas are the backbone of devotional community and their service pleases Srila Prabhupada, Lord Caitanya, and Krishna. We have many many instances of married devotees being as appreciated as anyone else. Instead, our renunciates blame them and it’s really really insulting. Srila Prabhupada corrected this attitude once already during the infamous 1976 GBC meetings and the turmoil caused by overzealous Radha Damodara Travelling Sankirtana devotees.

It took our society many years to heal the wounds of those few years in mid-seventies. Eventually, our women have recovered, our children have recovered, philosophical distortions were corrected, women and children were put under protection and accepted as fully fledged devotees capable of all kinds of service. We thought we put these years behind us, but the same ideology is rising its ugly head again, and it’s just as inauspicious now as it was then.

What should be the answer? Well, we can take it from SB 6.5.43 – because all the above paragraphs were paraphrasing the previous verses, SB 6.5 36-42. These were the reasons given by Daksa before putting a curse on Narada Muni. Let me repeat that – these are the reasons Daksa had given for his cursing Narada Muni.

And you all thought was speaking sensible things, right? I’m shocked myself.

As a last resort, if we are really really attached to these arguments, we can try to take Daksa’s side in the dispute, but that would be a total distortion of Srimad Bhagavatam. The entire Sixth Canto describes this kind of conflict – Yamadutas with their rules against Vishnudutas, Daksa against Narada, and then Indra against Vritrasura. Bhagavatam’s side is very clear here – it’s not Daksa’s. Moreover, this is where the heart of Bhagavatam lies – Sixth Canto is described as its chest.

I’m not saying that fanatical renunciates should be declared as winners either. This description is only one way to look at them. Narada’s self-perception and his actual situation were different from how Daksa saw him, it’s important to remember that. Trying to catch Narada Muni’s actual mood, not Daksa’s description of it, is what should set our hearts straight, too.