The social media has become extremely popular among masses today. One among the different jargons that are used is “like” or many versions of it in different social media websites. It is a common practice to write something for the world to see and be anxious about how many likes we get. “How many likes” is a common concern for all today. The concept of likes existed throughout the history of human race. Humans have always been anxious about the likes they get on the activities they perform. This is spread across all categories of people and all age groups. In fact, getting likes is an aspiration of the soul. I can recollect the first experience my daughter had when she took help of my hands to stand up. She was also concerned as to when will I like her act. When I appreciated her, she became extremely happy.
Although likes has always been a concern for humanity, there has been an inherent change in the nature of likes that are expected. This is due to the cultural changes across the world. One simple example that we can think of is that of youths visiting temples or attending spiritual gatherings. Their mothers aspire that the children visit temples. But their friends desire otherwise. So, if a young one visits a temple, he or she will get a like from the mother but not from others. But if one doesn’t he or she may lose the mother’s like but may get likes from a large number of people. So, the quantity of likes has overpowered the quality of likes. “How many likes” has become a more important question than “Who likes”. This can be seen everywhere including spiritual institutions like the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). For instance, a friend of mine was telling me that the best thing that ISKCON has done is the program to feed poor children. Unfortunately, our founder Acharya thinks otherwise as indicated in the following quotes:
What is more public welfare than Krishna Consciousness? To awaken everyone’s original consciousness is the best public welfare in the whole world.
[Letter to: Yasomatinandana — Bombay 9 January, 1976]
We say that we should not…we are not simply supplying food. Anyone who is coming, he is getting spiritual education. Not that it is a free hotel [restaurant]. No. It is not that. We give them spiritual education. You come here, you take your shelter, you take your food and learn how to be first-class man. That is our program. Don’t be implicated in sinful activities. Be God conscious and live here with us comfortably, take your food.
[Conversation with Clergymen — June 15, 1976, Detroit]
If one tries to spread Krsna consciousness all over the world, he should be understood to be performing the best welfare activity. The Lord is automatically very pleased with him. If the Lord is pleased with him, what is left for him to achieve?
By this attempt, we may get likes from a large section of the society like my friend, but we run a risk of missing an opportunity to get a like from Srila Prabhupada. Since we remain in the consciousness of “how many likes” and loose the focus of “who likes”, we tend to move towards a conclusion that everyone is the same and there is no much difference between two people who like. What is the difference between ten fellow workers liking some job and one manager liking it? That one like can give us a promotion but the 10 likes may not. The primary reason for this is that every associate in office or factory has a different portfolio and so all of them can’t be treated equally. Similar thing applies to spiritual practices. If we fail to discriminate between the likes, we run the risk of slipping into an impersonal perspective due to us eliminating the variety that exists in society due to the different portfolios. A broad classification of personalities that we are aware of is Krishna, spiritual master, saintly persons, devotees, non-devotees. If we fail to discriminate between the type of likes we get among the different classes, we may end up in an impersonal outlook of human society. Prabhupada’s pranam mantra contains the words “nirvisesha sunyavadi paschatya desa tarine”indicating that his mission is to deliver the western world that is full of impersonalism and voidism. One may wonder that both impersonalism and voidism are sects originated in India and have nothing to do with the western world. But our consciousness of considering “how many likes” as more important than “who likes” clearly indicates how much we are affected by impersonalism as we fail to discriminate between the two persons that are hitting “like” for our actions. Just like the son who doesn’t go to temple fails to discriminate between the mother’s like and others likes, we are more concerned with “how many likes” for our acts than “who likes”. In the preface to Bhagavad Gita, Prabhupada writes:
“We hope, therefore, that people will derive the greatest beneﬁt by studying Bhagavad-gītā As It Is as we have presented it here, and if even one man becomes a pure devotee of the Lord, we shall consider our attempt a success”.
Prabhupada could have written that he has presented “Bhagavad Gita as it is not” and he hopes that he gets as many likes as possible for it (in sense there can be as many people who appreciate it). But instead, he presented Bhagavad Gita as it is and he mentioned that his attempt will be a success if one man becomes a pure devotee of the Lord. This clearly indicates that Prabhupada was more concerned about “who likes” than “how many likes”. Prabhupada could have presented Bhagavad Gita to get more likes, but he would have missed on the few pure devotee of Krishna whom he got by presenting Krishna’s message as it is. The fact that the concept of likes is not a recent innovation can be known from a bhajan composed by Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura wherein he says:
yasya prasādād bhagavat-prasādo
yasyāprasādān na gatiḥ kuto ‘pi
By the mercy of the spiritual master one receives the benediction of Kṛṣṇa. Without the grace of the spiritual master, one cannot make any advancement.
The above verse indicates that Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakura is also concerned about likes he gets but is giving importance to the likes of spiritual master than others. He also boldly declares that one cannot make any advancement irrespective of as many likes if one fails to get a like from the spiritual master. Vedic culture being a personal culture unlike the western one trains its members in the consciousness of “who likes” unlike its western counterpart that is more worried about “how many likes”. Failing to get trained in this may gradually make our society impersonal. If we fail to get likes from Srila Prabhupada and Krishna, then the likes of the whole world are useless for us as they would never give us Krishna prema.