DIFFERENT UNDERSTANDINGS OF SRILA PRABHUPADA’S TEACHINGS

GBC Resolution #313 – Harmonizing our Preaching Efforts

Whereas the GBC Body accepts that many different understandings of the teachings of Srila Prabhupada and sastra, and many different understandings of what constitutes effective preaching, exist amongst ISKCON devotees, and this, in general, is a healthy situation;

Whereas when one ISKCON devotee’s preaching efforts, however well-meaning, are seen to work at cross purposes with the preaching efforts of others, it is the responsibility of ISKCON’s leadership to step in and take regulative action that it considers will be most favorable for the fulfillment of the objectives of ISKCON; read more

Is India the Rape Capital of the World?

Even before but more so after the sensational Nirbhaya gang-rape case of December 2012 India has been portrayed as the rape capital of the world where violence against women is enshrined. But what do the numbers tell us?

Other countries in fact have much higher rates of rape than India, but the media for their own reasons sensationalize the ones in India – more on that later. According to this “country-by-country rape statistics”[1] India has one of the lowest rates of rape in the world something one would not know if one listened to the media reports. It proves the adage “don’t believe everything you read in the paper.”

The rate of rape is determined by dividing the total number of reported rapes by the total population and the units of measure are the number of rapes per 100,000 people. Thus even though India may seem to have a rather large number of rapes reported in any given year but considering that India has a population of 1.3 billion people the rate of rape (number of rapes divided by 1.3 billion) becomes very small. And even if as some people claim that many rapes go unreported that even if we double or even triple the number the rate would still be low compared to many so-called First World countries. read more

“How many likes” or “who likes”

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. read more

LEADING WITH SHASTRA

Dear prabhu, while you are an historic devotee who has done tremendous service for Srila Prabhupada, the way you understand and explain spiritual subjects is not the way that Srila Prabhupada told us to understand them. If we consider the way Srila Prabhupada himself explained them, whether in his books or lectures especially, he lead with shastra; only seldom did he quote his own Guru Maharaja. But most of us don’t do that. In these debates we tend to either quote Srila Prabhupada at length or quote from our own experience of him and seldom quote from shastra. And there are many reasons why this leads to innumerable misunderstandings.

Consider the case when we happen to speak with devotees who do not belong to our sampradaya. For example, Sri Vaishnavas. When we discuss spiritual subjects with them, we don’t quote Srila Prabhupada at length, we quote shastra at length and then may sometimes add the support of our acharya, Srila Prabhupada. Otherwise, they will not accept what we say, even if it is right. And we can’t blame them for that. We would do the same if they started bashing us over the head with quotes from whomever their current acharya is.

So the first point here is that when we lead with shastra, then that evidence has wide authority, more so than any other kind of evidence. Srila Prabhupada wanted to present the teachings of Lord Krishna in the most authoritative way, which is why he placed so much emphasis on shastra in his own presentations. read more

Bamboo Skyscrapers

H.H. Hridayananda Goswami’s Krishna West project is based on the simple idea that if you remove the non-essential, Indian cultural trappings of present-day ISKCON from its spiritual essence, then ISKCON will be restored to its former potency and once again become the dynamic preaching movement with high levels of recruitment it once was. According to the Krishna West mission statement, they “do everything possible to make bhakti-yoga easy, relevant and enjoyable for Western people, without in any way compromising, diluting, or diminishing the purity and power of a glorious ancient tradition.”And they aim to do this “by offering the essential spiritual teaching and practice in its entirety, without requiring students and practitioners to embrace a new ethnicity composed of non-essential Eastern dress, cuisine, music etc.” Therefore they say they are giving the people in the West “the chance to practice genuine bhakti-yoga within an external culture that is comfortable and natural for them.” The big idea behind Krishna West is that bhakti is internal whereas culture is external, and their aim is to establish a complete and mature Krishna conscious community on this principle.

In some respects, Krishna West’s approach to preaching is no different from other long-standing bridge-preaching programs like spaghetti night at the local university or the successful loft program pioneered in Australia, whose focus was to create a “hang-out” for young people so they could feel comfortable, make friends with devotees and eventually become devotees. The idea is that there is a kind of cultural rift that prevents people who would otherwise like to become devotees but due to cultural attachments won’t. Therefore, as its name implies, the program tries to “bridge” that cultural divide and make it easier for them to cross over to Krishna consciousness. Successful bridge-preaching programs generally have to deemphasize certain aspects of ISKCON’s internal culture in order to be effective.

But Krishna West is different from these past and on-going bridge-preaching projects in that it aims to establish a fully Krishna conscious society on the idea that culture is external to bhakti, that it is irrelevant. Bridge-preaching before Krishna West had always operated under the assumption that once one becomes serious about Krishna consciousness, he, or she, will automatically warm up to ISKCON’s internal culture. Krishna West, however, rejects this assumption. Because they say that culture is external, encouraging others to adopt some other culture foreign to their own tastes should be discouraged and considered undesirable. Since they regard culture as external to bhakti, they consider culture to be just as irrelevant in the mature stage of Krishna consciousness as it is in the beginning. The Krishna conscious community envisioned by Krishna West is therefore bridge-preaching scaled up from a peripheral outreach program to an extensive, fully mature, Krishna conscious society, but one in which culture is considered irrelevant to Krishna consciousness. read more

Where Do the Fallen Souls Fall From?

When we hear that we live in this material world because we are “fallen souls,” it’s natural for us to ask, “Where have we fallen from?”

Srila Prabhupada says that as living souls we are all originally Krishna conscious. But what does that mean? Were we all originally with Krishna in the spiritual world? And if so, how could we ever have fallen? InBhagavad-gita Lord Krishna says, “Once you attain to that spiritual world, you never fall.” So how then could we have fallen from there to begin with?

Some have tried to work around this problem by suggesting a different idea: We fell not from Krishna’s personal abode but from the brahmajyoti, the effulgent light that surrounds it. As stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam, yogis who seek the impersonal aspect of the Supreme may merge into that effulgent light—only to fall back later to the material world. Perhaps, then, we originally fell from the brahmajyoti. read more

Covering The Head Has Nothing To Do With Muslims

This is a response to a comment made by Gaura Keshava Prabhu in which he espouses the opinion that head covering by North Indian women is an imposition from Islam.

The theory that North Indian women cover their head with a sari because of Islamic influence is not a sound idea for several reasons. There are places in North India that had very little or no Islamic political domination yet the women cover their heads with sari. And there are large swaths of South India that were under Islamic domination for centuries and the women there don’t cover their heads with saris.

Nepali lady with head covered at marriage read more

Nothing Can Taint The Words Of Srila Prabhupada

Q: Prabhu, how to distribute books if they are stolen from us by treacherous generals? You see, I’m angry. Isn’t spiritual knowledge so delicate in its conveyance? Don’t we become camp followers by spreading knowledge that has already tainted spots? Isn’t that a trap for others and ourselves? Prabhu, kindly help this lost soul in his confused state, that does not know what to be done and what not to be done.

A: Dear Bolo Gauranga Prabhu, whoever you are. Please accept my most humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Assuming that your “anger” is powered by real concern for the purity of Srila Prabhupada’s movement and the maintenance of His legacy, I can only say that such purity would be certainly far more effectively protected if book distribution would be worldwide considered absolute priority as it was the case during Srila Prabhupada’s presence. And so I can only answer as follows: read more