Kaunteya Das wrote:
Recently, Sarva-drik Prabhu wrote:
“One small request . . . Best to keep the discussion civil. Savaging the opposition (although ultimately we are all on the same side) with inflammatory name calling as “deviant, half-baked, pseudo-Vedic, neo-Smarta,” etc. isn’t helpful.”
In private, a very senior Srila Prabhupada disciple and GBC member also wrote to me: “I would encourage you in the direction stated above by Sarva Drik.”
I believe Sarva-drik Prabhu’s request is inspired by a sattvik, upright spirit and so I wish to pursue it.
I agree that we shouldn’t debase the dialogue by gratuitous insults.
Personally, I do not see anything not “civil” about calling a spade a spade. In fact, euphemisms and periphrases often tend to cloud meanings and obstruct communication.
Sorry for the graphic illustration, but we may call an excrement “fully digested foodstuff” or “physiologically processed nourishment” – but it will still look and smell the same.
But, since Vaisnavas have requested it, I am open to suggestions for more “civil” (respectful, courteous) expressions.
I believe this is no trivial matter, because as we start addressing the issue of foreign influences in ISKCON, it’s important to fine-tune terminologies so that we all know what are we talking about.
I am going to list – and define – some expressions that I have been using.
I invite suggestions for better terms, so that we may adopt them in future communication. But, please, keep in mind that we are dealing with specific historical realities and technical socio-theological concepts.
Therefore, suggestions should be precise and convey the exact intended meanings.
Deviant: someone departing from accepted standards and norms; a person who differs markedly from what is considered normal or acceptable. In our case, contravening the standards, views, and attitudes espoused by Srila Prabhupada and Gaudiya-vaisnavism in general (e.g., distinctly and unauthorizedly modifying initiation practices).
Pseudo-Vedic: persons who claim allegiance to and advocacy for Vedic culture and Vedic parameters but who ignore and/or misrepresent the true import and definition of what’s “Vedic” and/or promote “Vedic” standards and norms incompatible with the practice of Caitanya-vaisnavism and/or opposed to Gaudiya-vaisnava philosophy (e.g.: promoting illegal and/or impractical customs, such as polygamy or child marriage, when banned by the state and/or in absence of the required social and cultural conditions).
Apa-sampradaya (directly from Srila Prabhupada): “One who is in the line of disciplic succession cannot manufacture his own way of behavior. There are many so-called followers of the Vaiṣṇava cult in the line of Caitanya Mahāprabhu who do not scrupulously follow the conclusions of the śāstras, and therefore they are considered to be apa-sampradāya, which means ‘outside of the sampradāya.’ Some of these groups are known as āula, bāula, kartābhajā, neḍā, daraveśa, sāṅi, sahajiyā, sakhībhekī, smārta, jāta-gosāñi, ativāḍī, cūḍādhārī and gaurāṅga-nāgarī. In order to follow strictly the disciplic succession of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu, one should not associate with these apasampradāya communities.” (CC Adi, 7.48, purport)
Neo-smartas: Persons who are formally in ISKCON, even in positions of leadership, but who promote the attitudes and ideas typical of the smarta apasampradaya (e.g., obsessively focusing on birth considerations in defining the value and/or potential of a devoted soul).
Response to Kaunteya Das’s letter by Antardwip das:
Dear Kaunteya prabhu,
You mention that, ” In private, a very senior Srila Prabhupada disciple and GBC member also wrote to me: “I would encourage you in the direction stated above by Sarva Drik.”
Then you say, “I agree that we shouldn’t debase the dialogue by gratuitous insults”
And immediately after the above statement, you justify your name-calling by saying excrement is still excrement whatever you call it. And it is clear you are referring to the vaishnavas who disagree with you – a totally gratuitous insult. Here are your words: “Personally, I do not see anything not “civil” about calling a spade a spade. In fact, euphemisms and periphrases often tend to cloud meanings and obstruct communication. Sorry for the graphic illustration, but we may call an excrement “fully digested foodstuff” or “physiologically processed nourishment” – but it will still look and smell the same.”
You have not understood the meaning of the word “civil”. You say you do not see anything not “civil” about calling others derogatory names if you feel the offensive name is true, but that is the definition of IN-civility (or uncivility – there is a slight difference in meaning). If we simply look “civility” up in a dictionary, we will see that in this case when name-calling-terms are totally subjective and offensive to the recipient (as opposed to factually true incivil comments such as “Northers Irish people talk as if their mouths are full of potatoes” or “Eskimoes hardly ever wash” which are true, but also offensive to the recipient). Incivil speech refers to true statements which offend others, and is even more so when the terms are subjective as yours are. Those discussing with you may be – in your – opinion pseudo, neo-vedic, apa-sampradaya, neo-smarta – but that is “your opinion” and arguably wrong. It is not a fact on the same unarguable level that a spade “IS” a spade, or excrement “IS” actually excrement. There is a distinction between your personal ‘truth’ and reality. Incivility is when you make impolite or offensive comments – EVEN if they are true, and especially if they are not (slander). Your approach to discussing a topic by needing to have derogatory names for your opponents to discredit them instead of letting your arguments win the day – it is what politicians like Donald Trump do (Little Marco, Lyin’ Ted, Sleepy Joe etc), or from the other side extremest-republicans, mysoginistic-republicians or isolationist-republicans.
This approach is certainly incivil, and as such your listing at the bottom of your email is redundant if, as you say, you want to participate in a civil, non-divisive discussion. Redundant why? Because creating derogatory names for opponents does not address any arguments being put forward. For instance, one person may say, “I think Paris is further from Madrid than Geneva”. It is not a counter argument to say, “Well, you are a neo-metric denier”. The correct term for addressing vaishnavas in discussion is not pseudo, neo-vedic, apa-sampradaya, neo-smarta, it is prabhu. And we are their servant.
You argue, “In fact, euphemisms and periphrases often tend to cloud meanings and obstruct communication.” This is true, but nothing to do with the point you are addressing which is about civil discourse. Name-calling and insulting definitely obstructs communication, being civil aids communication. This is not my subjective opinion. Are you suggesting that addressing those you disagree with as “prabhu” instead of “Neo-smartas” will cloud meanings and obscure judgement? That does not make any sense. In no way is calling initiated devotees following properly, prabhu, a euphemism. It is obligatory.
Civility is so important, Srila Prabhupada states in Sri Isopanishad that the first step in acquiring knowledge is to become a perfect Gentleman.
“As advised in Chapter Thirteen of the Bhagavad-gītā (13.8–12), one should culture knowledge in the following way:
1. One should become a perfect gentleman and learn to give proper respect to others.”
Gainesville Florida exchange:
Interviewer: How would I recognize a true follower of the Krsna consciousness movement by his behavior? What would his traits be? What would his outward expressions be?
Srila Prabhupada: He’d be a very perfect gentleman, that’s all. You could not find any fault in him.
So please – your terms (pseudo, neo-vedic, apa-sampradaya, neo-smarta) at the bottom of the message are subjective, and sanction tit-for-tat exchanges, avoiding real discussion and diverting issues to divisive camps instead of bringing devotees together. Please follow the advice of the Srila Prabhupada disciple you mentioned, and you will be taken seriously, you will melt the hearts of others, the conversation will keep focus on the issues, and your humility in doing so will set an example for the rest of us,