From The Archive: Compromise – Modern Secularism Vs Vaisnava Dharma

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Krsnacandra Dasa – Vrndavan: What is Community Development? This is question that needs to be asked. When we look at the programmes and policies that the ISKCON leadership are implementing, we need to ask the question whether or not they will develop our devotional community or will they be detrimental to the development of a spiritual society.

ISKCON is the International Society for Krsna Consciousness. First was must ponder what is a ‘society’.

Wikipedia : “A Society or a human society is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations such as social status, roles and social networks. Human societies are characterized by patterns of relationships between individuals sharing a distinctive culture and institutions. Without an article, the term refers either to the entirety of humanity or a contextually implicit subset.”

Used in the sense of an association, a society is a body of individuals outlined by the bounds of functional interdependence, possibly comprising characteristics such as national or cultural identity, social solidarity, language or hierarchical organization. Like other groupings, a society allows its members to achieve needs or wishes they could not fulfil alone. Independent of, and utterly irreducible to, the qualities of constituent individuals; it may act to oppress. The urbanization and rationalization inherent in some, particularly Western capitalist, societies, has been associated with feelings of isolation and social “anomie”.

More broadly, a society is an economic, social or industrial infrastructure, made up of a varied collection of individuals. Members of a society may be from different ethnic groups.

The term society is currently used to cover both a number of political and scientific connotations as well as a variety of associations.

The development of the Western world has brought with it the emerging concepts of Western culture politics and ideas, often referred to simply as Western society. Geographically, it covers at the very least the countries of Western Europe North America Australia and New Zealand and sometimes also includes South America and Israel. The cultures and lifestyles of all of these stem from Western Europe. They all enjoy relatively strong economies and stable governments, allow freedom of religion, have chosen democracy as a form of governance, favor capitalism and international trade, are heavily influenced by Judeo-Christian values, and have some form of political and military alliance or cooperation.”

Srila Prabhupada established ISKCON as a Society that is here to facilitate sat sanga in in order for people to develop their Krsna Consciousness together. He built a house in which we all can live. Now it is up to us to make that house a home. A home where; sadhu sanga and bhajana kriya is nicely facilitated, in order for us to begin to delve into our anarthas which each other in loving relationships and begin the work of anartha nvritti.

Not to turn ISKCON into a society that embraces secular systems and encourages modern liberalistic thought and practice.

How is it possible for a person to become more Krsna Conscious if they are educated in the secular process and have secured employment in the secular workforce? How will our leaders be able to give sadhu sanga when they have PhD’s and mundane degrees in their old age? How will we be able to offer our own home grown fruit and vegetables and milk from our own cows when we are all educated, work and live in secular society?

We need to ask the question whether the ISKCON Leadership has the ability knowledge and desire to establish a Vaisnava Society or are they more interested in homogenizing ISKCON into the western secular world.

 

Compromise – Modern Secularism Vs Vaisnava Dharma

Dear Maharaja’s and prabhu’s. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

In modern times the term compromise is understood to be the synthesis of differing views or attitudes etc to form an acceptable interaction between various conflicting parties via a process of negotiation. This is a concept that has taken a prominent role in contemporary secular society. In the broader sense compromise is where solutions to problems are achieved via either arbitration or negotiation. The former meaning, where an ‘arbiter’ is used, comes from the archaic Latin ‘root meaning’ of the word compromise, where both parties accepts the decision of an arbiter. However, in the secular world the latter meaning, a process of negotiation, is more widely used.

As the years unfold, scientists, academics, moralists, religionists, philosophers etc become more and more secure in their belief systems as they seek to aid man in adapting to evolving trends and methodologies in order to make a safer and more efficient society. This process is how the concept of ‘compromise’, usually the latter meaning, affects and impacts on the development of human society.

The process of decision making is usually where the more intelligent, practical, moral, ethical or forceful opinion is accepted over ’so called’ inferior opinions. This process is easily demonstrated in the field of science where a scientific hypothesis when posited is considered under ‘Poppers Law of ‘Falsifiability’ and is then either accepted or rejected by the scientific community. This law loosely translates as the process of ‘If the hypothesis can be disproved – by scientifically accepted methods ‘ then it is rejected and if it is not able to be disproved it is accepted as a theory.’ In this way science makes advancement and builds its knowledge base.

In the socio-political communities the processes of decision making varies. They range from ‘top down’ Despotic regimes to ‘bottom up’ Democratic systems. The Democratic system is in the majority in human society. Here the decision making process is by ‘vox populi’ where the higher percentile averages of voting public make the decisions. Here, it is by precedent and laws, that society makes advancement.

The basic tenet of the various processes outlined above is ’sophistry’. Where one view can be accepted as the predominant view over other views due to either intellectual / practical or sentimental considerations.

An individual’s view can be changed, modified or consolidated by the influence of the considerations described above. For example: In post-9/11 US Gallup polls were conducted, to gain the people’s views on Capital Punishment and to seek people’s views on whether the US should ‘nuke’ Iraq, to eradicate the perceived threat of Iraq’s ability to make and use weapons of mass destruction.

The percentage of people ‘for’ capital punishment for rapists / murderers etc had dropped since 9/11 and the percentage of people ‘for’ the ‘nuking’ of Iraq- (innocent women and children included) was 29%, that is over one quarter of people were in support of using nuclear weapons against Iraq much more powerful than the ones that the US used against Japan.

The question here – is this a case of simple compromise where people made two mutually exclusive decisions based on sentimental / intelligent / moral/ ethical or practical terms? Or is this a simple case of mass stupidity?

How can this be a simple case of mass stupidity when the average person has been educated by a society that has been created by intelligent / western educated majorities? All of whom are graduates of the American education system.

The decision to nuke Iraq by the voters is of course not done without precedent, for the US is the only country that has used weapons of mass destruction, namely nuclear bombs, on another country.

The process of ‘vox populi’ is very infectious as seen above. Thus we saw sentimentality, taking precedence over the practical and/or intellectual considerations of the general population.

The Media in all its forms are very important ‘normalization’ tools. Here governing bodies can manipulate the masses by using multimedia process in order to appeal to the individua’ls sentimental mind as opposed to rational mind.

The rational mind seeks to protect the life of one’s child, spouse, sibling, friend or fellow human being. In the case of one’s child, spouse or friend being raped and murdered the natural response for the average person would be to have the culprit be given the death penalty. If one was to witness the act then one may, according to the circumstance, enact that death penalty on the spot in order to protect the victim whom they care about. However, once emotionally detached from the victim then it now appears easy to protect the living, in this case the perpetrator.

The societal trend is to abolish the death penalty. It is seen as being more civilized and therefore advanced. Yet how is this so? How did a society come to this conclusion?

As we progress and advance in so called modern society we are seeing more and more lenient punishment for the perpetrators of crime. Lawmakers influenced by public opinion modify laws in order to ensure that the rights of the criminal are more important than the rights of the victim. Therefore we are seeing punitive measures being increasingly watered down.

Recidivist rates increase and jails become overcrowded, therefore more criminals are released early by probationary boards. Yet crimes become more and more heinous. Children begin entering into the more heinous crime bracket and we call this advancement.

The average citizen is reluctant to report crime for various reasons that are usually based on fearfulness of retaliation by the ’soon to be released’ criminal.

It is more like the system has turned upside down. The mentality of the citizen becomes more like a ‘criminal mentality’ as opposed to an empowered citizen. Why punish the criminal? Why report the criminal? Why get involved?

But is this really the mentality of criminals? What happens to a child molester in jail? What happens to a child murderer in Jail? They are usually isolated for fear that other criminals will kill them. Yet the law protects them. The same law, the average citizen, has voted for.

This is one of the results of compromise based on sophistry.

Decisions are based on an emotional imperative, desire. So in a hedonistic society where a person’s desires are stimulated and encouraged we see an increasing number of decisions made out of over stimulated desires, derived mainly under the modes of passion or ignorance.

When a person enters into mainstream ‘normalization’ processes such as the educational system (School) they more or less knowingly fall prey to the predominating trend or point of view.

The students are “schooled” to confuse process and substance. Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed. The student believes that more educational process equals better results; or, escalation leads to success.

The pupil is thereby “schooled” to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a degree with competence, and fluency with being independently intelligent. The curriculum becomes a systematic and ritualistic (test / degree / diploma) process in order to judge ones worth, inside the school system as well as where they fit into the consumer based bureaucratic workforce.

Ones imagination is “schooled” to accept service or a position, in a place that mainstream society values. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for community development, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work.

Health, learning, dignity, independence, and creative endeavor are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends. Further that any improvement in their results will be entirely dependent on the allocation of more resources to the management of hospitals, schools, and other agencies in question.

Institutionalization of values leads inevitably to physical dis-ease, social polarization, and disempowerment (psychological impotence). This leaves the individual in a highly susceptible state and therefore easily influenced by institutional values.

This process is accelerated when material needs are transformed into demands for commodities; when health, education, personal mobility, welfare, or psychological healing are defined as merely the result of services or “treatments by agencies.”

Rich and poor alike depend on schools and hospitals which guide their lives, form their world view, and define for them what is legitimate and what is not. Both view healing oneself as irresponsible, learning on one’s own as unreliable, and community organization, when not funded by those in authority, as a form of aggression or subversion. For both groups the reliance on institutional treatment renders independent accomplishment suspect.

In the past it was the normal thing to be born and to die in one’s own home and to be buried by one’s friends. Now to begin and end life at home become signs either of poverty or of special privilege. Dying and death have come under the institutional management of doctors and undertakers. Society dictates that a student is put through a process that conditions them to accept and value institutional life as the best and only way of life.

The student graduate is one of the best “consumers” for this corporate/institutional/consumer world that we live in. This is noticeable in second and third world countries where the difference between the educated and the villager is more pronounced. The graduate is a much better consumer than the villager.

In the sixties there was a move amongst the younger generation and many intellectuals to opt out of the mainstream ‘normalization’ system and thus the hippie generation was born. They mainly stood for Nuclear Disarmament (Hence the ubiquitous peace symbol) as they saw weapons of mass destruction as the zenith of consumer culture. Here adherents understood the problems of the “system” and rebelled against it.

Modern consumer based culture became manifest at the dawn of the “industrial revolution” in the late 18 hundreds in Britain. This is when “machines” became more important than humans in the workforce. It also meant the rapid increase of production. With that demand increased as did availability. With increasing demand (consumers) and subsequently production, capitalism increased exponentially. This increased the need of having people trained to fit into the roles within the production side as well as the demand.

For consumer culture to be efficient then it needs absolute control of the consumers and the best way to achieve this is to set up a system that produces controllable consumers. Thus the life of a consumer had to be institutionalized from birth to death and the best way to achieve this is to instill values into the consumer such as the ‘work ethic’ etc that ensures compliance to the system.

The exponential increase in Credantialism and Professionalism has led to a ‘deskilling’ of the individual who is trapped in a disempowering consumer based culture that is grounded in secularism which leaves no room for true spiritual thought.

Thus the Hippies opted out of the work force, refusing to accept institutionalized positions as they saw it was the only way to break the cycle. They were thinking that by the use of ‘passive resistance’ they could achieve both: awareness of the problem in consumers and/or a ‘revolution in thinking’ that would lead to creating a better society.

Many social commentators of the sixties and seventies considered that monies saved from say the school system could be diverted back into the community in the form of training centers that were apprenticeship based and aimed at teaching children and adults in a more “experiential” way with emphasis being placed on ability and aptitude.

Srila Prabhupada arrived in the US at the dawn of the Hippie movement. He offered a profound replacement for mainstream institutionalized consumer based culture. The Vedic Culture. A system that’s epistemology was based on the instructions of the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna Himself and not man-made de-constructions.

Krsna Himself constructed this super-excellent system for perfecting life; however, humans have been busy changing this absolute system for relative systems since time immemorial.

The “idea” of compromise, as it has been presented in this essay, is redundant in the Vedic system. In the Vedic system the ‘former’ meaning is utilized, where views of Sastra, Guru and Sadhu are accepted when they align. Guru or Sadhu makes the knowledge of Sastra readily available and understandable to the general population.

ISKCON is a spiritual organization that is here to teach the absolute truth as given by Sri Krsna Himself and explained by the disciplic succession. It teaches by use of “religious principals” a moral and spiritual way of life. Srila Prabhupada has further explained the principals of the disciplic succession in a very practical manner for us to use in order to live our life together in Krsna Consciousness.

There is no question of compromise in the “relative” sense. Srila Prabhupada has given us instructions on both mundane and supramundane matters from the “absolute” sense. Thus we can readily find instruction on all aspects of devotional life to aid us. We also can find in the form of another devotee, who is also attempting to follow Srila Prabhupada, a practical aid (Siksa) to help us understand and practice our Krsna Consciousness.

Difficulty comes when devotees who, failing to understand Srila Prabhupada and therefore weak in their spiritual resolve, become influenced by secular trends and methodologies by being “enamored” and “valuing” institutional consumer culture. This is especially noticeable when the devotee is in a leadership position. Their advice and support is tainted with institutional jargon and perspective and contradictory, thus ultimately confusing as it conflicts with the higher Vaisnava philosophical view point.

In all religious movements we see both the mundane influenced and Sastrically influenced devotee attempting to work side by side. They eventually form into two distinct streams: the Traditionalists and the Modernists.

The Traditionalist devotee is someone who understands the process as described by the spiritual preceptors under the authority of Scripture and thus seeks to adhere to its tenets as closely as possible. The Modernist seeks compromise by “blending” modern trends and methodologies with traditional ones in the understanding that their opinions or views are for the betterment of the society. Another term for the modernist is ‘Latitudarianism’ as this meaning pertains more accurately to the adherents of this attitude within our movement

We must be very careful not to change the principals that our Archaryas have laid down. When we attempt to “change” or “adapt” specifics in regard to the implementation of the philosophy or its practice, we must first ascertain if these changes are based on correct Vaisnava or Vedic principals.

For example with the education of our children and adults it is extremely vital that we do not accept the modernistic secular idea of using the western educational curriculum and syllabus process. It instills in our devotees values of mainstream consumer culture and not Vaisnava spiritual culture and is therefore diametrically opposed to the instructions of our spiritual master Srila Prabhupada in other words it is considered guru aparadha.

Most of the changes that ‘Latitudinarian’ devotees promote are in regard to secular considerations and/ or sensibilities, therefore they are specifics of secular principals and not appropriate for inclusion in our Vaisnava tradition.

There is no place in Vaisnava society for Latitudinarian thought and practice that is born out of speculative ideas from contemporary secular society which makes the assumption that spiritual thought and culture is evolving and therefore it can be modified by what they believe is the best and most appropriate ideas and programs of modern thought.

History attests that so called modern thought changes as newer and newer views, opinions and attitudes become manifest from the minds of mental speculators/philosophers. The modernist believes that views, opinions and attitudes “evolve” as society “evolves” therefore modern thought is more civilized as it has evolved by the processes outlined in this essay and is therefore more ‘advantageous’ and appropriate than traditional thought.

Yet in the Vedic Scriptures we find that many if not all these views have been postulated over the history of the material manifestation and are not necessarily “new”. They have predominated as time, place and circumstance change, in the relative world of the non Vedantist.

The Vedic views, opinions and attitudes remain the same after all this time. It’s adherents accepting them and making advancement. While the other views and opinions are in a constant state of flux. The latitudinarian view while seemingly advantageous will only be temporary as will the devotional lives of the modernist devotees, unless of course they begin to understand and accept the truth in what Srila Prabhupada and the previous Acaryas have given us and try and maintain their life in the service of our more spiritually advanced preceptors.

ISKCON must seriously look at this issue. We must ascertain where we are developing our movement by using consumer based mainstream cultural principals and therefore processes and make the necessary changes. This may seem like a drastic step but we must remember that these processes are ‘a 180 degree turn around’ from the direction that Srila Prabhupada and the previous Archaryas intended or instructed.

Mainstream consumer culture is very aware of the potency of “school” to shape a child’s world view, values and future and so should we. Our children must learn to devalue Credentialism and Professionalism or other governmental secular normalization procedures and processes and value true spiritual progress.

Monies, manpower, resources and buildings need to be redirected to look at finding training and employment or service within our own communities which are according to our own samskaras, procedures and processes.

Srila Prabhupada did not want us to focus our movement to “Krishnaizing” the mainstream consumer based culture he wanted that we create our own spiritual, agrarian culture whose economic base is to be primarily ‘Book Distribution’ and ‘Life Membership’ (Book Distribution). For this, mainstream consumer based culture has no idea.

So please forgive my mistakes and sometimes the “force” of my presentation. I have tried my best to present this essay as balanced as possible and hope that I have not offended anyone in the process. I sincerely pray that you think about what I am saying.

Yours in the service of Srila Prabhupada and Sri Sri RadhaSyamasunda,

Krsnacandra dasa

Vrndavana Dham

July 2005 Revised 2008

 

*This is a comment I posted on the Dandavats.com article I wrote above in an attempt to steer the subject matter back to the points that I made in my essay. However, it appears that the commentators on my post were more interested in discussing subject matter that only distracted from my essay. I therefore concluded that these individuals were basically ISKCON Apologists and only being obstructionist.

Dear Prabhus

I have been reading your comments and felt I needed to comment.

Having a professional background in Psychology I have worked in the fields of;

Juvenile Justice – Juvenile Prison Manager / Court: Representation / Remand Center: Supervisor / Family Counseling / Child Abuse Intervention and Counseling
(Under the “Community Development Model”) Substance abuse – Residential: Assistant Director / Outpatient Counseling: Director
(Under the “Cognitive Behavioral Model”)

I have also been professionally trained as a Homoeopathic Doctor.

The reason why I felt the need to explain this is due to the fact that I have some understanding of the way the secular world operates and we as devotees operate.

I have no problem with devotees who work professionally or otherwise in the secular world. I did for many years. But the last 11 years I have given up professional life and have devoted my time and skills to doing seva. Most of that time in Sri Vrindavan Dham.

The reason why I wrote the essay on Compromise is due to watching ISKCON develop over the years and I hoped to put some perspective into this. I have no problems with discussing the subjects that you have mentioned in your comments.

However, I am presently more interested in how we are changing the way in which ISKCON itself operates. For example over the last ten years we have seen an increasing amount of senior devotees going to university to obtain secular qualifications and/or training. When Srila Prabhupada wanted that we make professionals into devotees. Not the other way around.

Sure an individual must do the needful but it is vitally important that the senior devotees such as Sanyasis, Gurus, Senior Administrators and Advisors maintain strictly the principals that Srila Prabhupada clearly outlined.

The other issue is that I believe that we have to be extremely careful that we do not try and recreate what is happening in the secular world with regards to incorporating policies and programmes that are designed for the modern secular world.

My main professional experience is in the philosophy of Community Development. Are you familiar with it? This philosophy attempts to develop strategies in working with the community in ways that empower the individual as opposed to disempowering them. This, in a way is a radical way of seeing intervention and case work.

In simple terms it is this: We the professional do not see that we have the answers and the patient / client / NGO etc has to listen to us. We, the professional see our role as a form of cooperation. We try and meet the needs of the person without taking control. We work with them to provide support and encouragement. We had to change our attitude as well. The person ‘had’ a problem, and not that the person ‘is’ a problem. Another change was to talk ‘with’ a person as opposed to talking ‘to’ or ‘at’ the person. The person also has a family and friends who loved and cared for them. We let go of the total control of the person and networked with their family and friends.

Okay this is rather simplistic but it will have to do for now.

What happened in Australia in the early eighties was that this model changed the face of the country. Millions of dollars were spent on simply changing the atmosphere and decor of Government departments and the retraining of professionals, managers and office workers in order to change their attitudes etc. For example – the Police Department – The criminal was innocent until proven guilty, Serve and protect…

Welfare departments changed to Community Development departments. They became more personal. So did Social Security etc. In the state that I was working I was also responsible for training managers in the new philosophy.

In ISKCON today we are seeing the establishment of mega departments. These department are “fully loaded” with training packages that are ‘cutting edge’ corporate training practices and are philosophically supported by Academics. Departments like this tend to impersonalize and structure the care and welfare of devotees no matter what they may profess.

The reason why I wrote the essay was to open up discussion on this to see if this is the way in which Srila Prabhupada intended that we develop his movement. What to speak of what is the best secular system to use? Secular theories are constantly changing and statistically speaking secular educational philosophies and models are the most volatile.

ISKCON currently uses the government curriculum and syllabus in our schools. Yet there are many different systems to use, for example Rudolf Steiner. This later model is not based on ‘intensely pressurized memory recall’ but on bringing out the inner nature of the child and encouraging the child to love the learning process at the appropriate time in their lives. They also try and make sure that there is one primary teacher who follows the child through till they finish. This is very close to the way in which the Vedic system operates.

Just come to India and see how the children in the Indian schools are tortured with vast amounts of memory recall subjects and excessive homework schedules which they have to begin as early as three years of age in order to be able to successfully undertake the rigorous Indian educative process.

I remember when I went to school – one and half hour examinations only came in years 9 – 12. Now little kids as young as eight are doing exams in blocks of ten with each exam lasting one and a half hours. Just come and see for yourself.

India is rapidly westernizing with the educative and employment process lost in Credentialism and Professionalism. With practically no employment for most of its people, young Indians are staying for extended periods of time in higher education with the vein hope that the more credentials they have the better chance they will get a job.

Here like in Australia they have 12 years of schooling with the last year being for entrance to higher education. Now as in the Australian experience even a person who works behind the counter of a fast food joint must have year 12!

I say what about we do what Srila Prabhupada wanted?

An example that may clarify my points better, although it may be a little obscure (sorry) is Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur’s Jaiva Dharma. One can look at this masterful work in many ways. I have made a point of studying this book with great care and attention and I can see it in two ways. One way is that it is an incredible philosophical treatise and the other is that is it a wonderful and sweet example of Vaisnava culture and etiquette. This later way is the main way I like to see it. How sweet are the interactions between the Vaisnava’s! How beautiful is Godruma!

We have a choice how to develop our movement and how we see Srila Prabhupada and his instructions.

I personally do not believe that institutional ISKCON should develop along the lines it is presently developing. We need to change the way we are thinking. The Agrarian Culture is a beautiful culture and we will never achieve it if we become too institutional in the prosecution of Krsna Consciousness. Sure the balance must be there but I believe that the scale has already tipped too far in the bureaucratic way to be healthy for our good.

Reading your comments I see that you are both very scholarly and thoughtful, we need devotees such as you to look into this very carefully and thoughtfully.

Please forgive me for being long winded but thank you for commenting on my essay and allowing me to speak some more.

Yours in the service of Srila Prabhupada,

Krsnacandra dasa