It Looks like a Complete Zoo or Circus! (02/21/11)
Thank you very much for your replies to my questions. They were prompted by the attitude that seems to be common to many Iskcon devotees: “It doesn’t matter that my guru is not pure, or that he has fallen, because we have Prabhupāda.” Or: “Initiation is not essential for advancement. Anyone can chant the Holy Names.”
It is true – “Anyone can chant the Holy Names” but initiation (dīkṣā) is not simply a formal ceremony. Initiation is an internal connection opening the way to being accepted into Kṛṣṇa’s own family. Hari-nāma dīkṣā is also similar in that the potency of the Holy Name is also received at that time. For the Name to be pure it must be descending and not simply generated by our own endeavour.
They say they are connected to Prabhupāda, but that may be like saying you are engaged to Madonna. When the fact is that Madonna may not even know who you are. Here is an example – In 1969 myself and a group of would-be devotees ‘accepted’ Śrīla Prabhupāda as our guru. We were trying our best to follow Prabhupāda via his books and lectures and in our heart he was indeed our guru. This created quite a disturbance in the Iskcon Honolulu temple. The temple president wrote to Prabhupāda and informed him that we claimed him as our guru. Prabhupāda wrote back and said that it was nice that we read his books and chanted Hare Kṛṣṇa but that we were not his disciples. Of course, this shocked us out of our lack of surrender and we then came forward and formally accepted Prabhupāda as our guru and he accepted us as his disciples.
So, in many cases one’s claim to “we have Prabhupāda” is just an excuse not to surrender. Mostly Iskcon nowadays has a ‘sour grapes’ philosophy. Because they have lost their purity they now say it isn’t important — only Prabhupāda is pure. They are beginning to sound like Christians — only Jesus is pure!
Your reply has created a doubt in my mind as to my own sādhana/bhajana (if my feeble attempts at spiritual upliftment can be so called). I am an undeserving gṛhasta disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda; most of my time is taken up with family maintenance etc. Our household Lords are Śrī Śrī Gaura-Nitāi and Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Gokulānanda. We do not go to the local Iskcon temple and virtually speaking have no devotional association outside of the family. When reading devotional books I try to do so in a prayerful mood, hoping that by doing so I will have the association of Śrīla Prabhupāda, or Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja, or Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Mahārāja through their teachings. I am always looking forward to closer association and service, but until the day comes that I can give up my family responsibilities that is a long time off. What advice can you give me please?
Well, you know better than I do that family life consumes most, if not all of one’s energy and other than a little saṅga at home, one’s devotional life is ‘on the back-burner’. Or let us say “the fire is turned down to simmer.” In any case, you are in the proper line and when unable to engage more fully in Kṛṣṇa’s service, it is beneficial if you can appreciate those that are more fully engaged and if possible offer them some assistance. Once Prabhupāda said that if one cannot engage in the saṅkīrtana movement, then he can make advancement just by appreciating those that are engaged in saṅkīrtana. Proper appreciation can go a long ways.
Reading is also very good as you know, and being free from ‘society consciousness’ saves us from the ghastly limitations of such. Probably in your situation the danger is in not becoming so liberal that you accept the wrong philosophy and practices. For keeping on the right track, association is necessary even if it is from a distance. The path is very broad (all-encompassing) and very narrow (tightly focused) at the same time — “He walks and He does not walk.”
You must have gleaned by now that I do not have a very high opinion of some of the so-called Vaiṣṇava groups out there in the world today. It sometimes looks like a complete ‘zoo’ or ‘circus’ to me. In fact, it is often embarrassing to be identified with some so-called Vaiṣṇavas or even as a Hare Kṛṣṇa. In many ways, I am quite like you. I live in a non-biological family situation – meaning I live with a small group of godbrothers, godsisters and disciples. For me, numbers means nothing — quality is everything!
Hope this meets you well.