Putting Things in Perspective
BY: YADUNANDANA PADA DASA
Dec 15, USA (SUN) In a recent article, Prahlad Maharaja Prabhu correctly described various popular approaches to dealing with difficulties within ISKCON. However, there are certain relative truths that need to be considered by all for the equation to be complete.
Because we live in a dualistic dimension where “one man’s food is another man’s poison”, any approach is bound to dissatisfy someone, somewhere! That is to say, in our quest for love and God we have to remember to forgive those who ‘trespass against us’, because not everyone who is causing us distress is doing it intentionally and with malice. Some may just be trying to put food on the table while others may just be as unconscious as we are about others in our way.
Additionally, there exists without a doubt a Chosen People Syndrome, which states that “I can do no wrong because I am guided by sadhu and sastra and somehow, by some fortune, I have been chosen and allowed to serve in this mission, which is lead by Mahaprabhu and therefore is pure in all respects”
Then of course, we have the Tower of Babel phenomenon illustrated in Genesis 11:1:9:
“"they said: Come, let us make a city and a tower, the top whereof may reach to heaven; and let us make our name famous before we be scattered abroad into all lands. The work was soon fairly under way; and they had brick instead of stones, and slime [asphalt] instead of mortar. But God confounded their tongue, so that they did not understand one another's speech, and thus scattered them from that place into all lands, and they ceased to build the city.”
The story of the Tower of Babel drives home a relevant and logical point that should be simple common sense. The more you strive for the nonmaterial through material means, the more you are destined to become confused and the distanced from your goal. Collectively, as with the people of Babel, this means arguing, fighting, and miscommunication.
But, empirically at least, we all know these aforementioned truths. Right?
Perhaps not! We still forget to forgive, we still witness the Chosen People Syndrome, and we see fighting and miscommunication all around us, and it just doesn’t seem like we’re trying really hard to overcome it.
When you ask someone to stop doing something that is inconsiderate or hurts you in some manner, whether it be making noise or disrespecting your rights, the kind and Godly (monastic) reply is be accommodating-to actually go out of their way to serve and accommodate the requests of others. Ignoring such requests, or not wanting to hear them, is selfish, uncaring, and arrogant. That may be acceptable to the atheists, as they are not breaking any of their own rules or being hypocritical in any manner by their standards. However, anyone who believes or claims to believe in God but does not (when within their power) serve the needs of others, especially at their grieving requests, is clearly not a Godly or monastic person.
When I decide to close down Isthagostis because “I don’t want to hear it,” or “I have no time for this,” or “There are too many complaints,” etc., then I am not a devotee of anything but my own self-serving agendas. Here is a case in point. Recently an ISKCON head priest had instituted offering pooja to Radha Krsna first, then Jagganatha, then Gaura Nitai, and then Srila Prabhupada. The entire community was very upset and was pleading with him to revert back to the order Srila Prabhupada had standardized. His response was, “This is not a democracy, this is a monarchy and I am in charge.” Eventually, so much noise was made by the community that he was forced by higher authorities to return to Srila Prabhupada’s standards.
Whether you or I are behaving like this priest, or simply not heeding our neighbors’ plea for less noise (and everything in between), by making that personal choice, we are willingly not saintly, or monastic, or devotees. As Prahlad Maharaja Prabhu kindly points out in his article, Srila Prabhupada elaborates in the purports to SB 7.5.30-32 that, “The spreading of Krsna consciousness cannot happen by any mundane effort or by persons implicated in mundane life”. This does not mean, however, that if you are roller-blading on the weekends, or you are implicated in grhasta life, or even making money and keeping it for your kid’s college education, that you are disqualified for helping to spread this mission. What it actually means is that if the effort itself of trying to spread the mission is selfish and mundane in intention, disregarding others in any manner whatsoever, and/or clouded over by personal goals for mundane comfort or status, then that effort is in itself material and will not bring any significant spiritual result.
If you or I are not willing to selflessly see Krsna in everyone, especially our god brothers and sisters, then we fall into a very clear category. Likewise, if we are not willing to hear them out democratically, then again we fall into a very clear category. And, if we are not willing to learn how to respect the devotees by at least allowing voting and Isthagosti on issues that are of ‘grievance status’ or that are allegedly hurting our members and our society, then we once again fall into that very clear category. If we are in this category there is no mission for us; there is no seva. It is only material and we are just ordinary people.
I know I am.
kascid yatati siddhaye
yatatam api siddhanam ß (yatatam api ) “indeed of those endeavoring”*
kascin mam vetti tattvatah
"Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth."
* (“yatatam api” ) “ indeed of those endeavoring” means that even out of those endeavoring, only one (1) achieves perfection. So, one out of thousands endeavors for perfection, and of those who endeavor only one (1) achieves perfection, and of those who achieve perfection barely one knows Krsna. This places yet another level of exponential growth to the equation: A devotee is much more rare than we may have thought.
My point in brief, in 1975 Srila Prabhupada sat on his New Dvarka vyasasana before giving a lecture and after looking carefully around the room at the beautiful sarees, pleated dhotis, perfect tilaks, bangles, and nose rings throughout the room, he said, after clearing his throat, “Just because you have nice dhoti and saree does not mean you are devotee.”
So those of us who have the Chosen People Syndrome may want to reassess.