Quotes by Swami B.G. Narasingha Maharaja on the topic of Society Consciousness & Institutions. These are quotes and excerpts that have been extracted from articles, lectures and letters by Swami B.G. Narasingha.

WE DON’T CARE FOR THE IGNORANT OPINIONS OF THE MOB!

They say that the average mentality of the mob is that of a three-year old – the mass opinion. We have a slogan, “No amount of darkness produces light, and no amount of ignorance produces knowledge.” You can have so many ignorant fellows together, but when you put all their ignorance together it still comes to ignorance. You cannot add one madman after the other and finally come up with sanity. Madness produces madness. Darkness produces darkness. We do not care much for the opinion for that section, but rather the criterion of our knowledge, the criterion of the standard of our humility and other such things is drawn from the higher thinkers.

COMPETITION MUST BE DEVOID OF ENVY

We cannot all live under the same anything. Individuality and group consciousness, to a certain extent, is inherent in any living being here in this world even right down to the insects, because in the spiritual world everyone is an individual and there are groups. So when this is reflected, the groups will also be here even in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. What do you call that? Spiritual competition! There is spiritual competition, but spiritual competition means devoid of envy.

PROPAGANDA – BUT FOR KICKING OUT DEVOTEES

So many of our godbrothers and godsisters left – most were pushed out or simply left because they could not tolerate any longer what was happening. Once they were outside the gate the simplest thing for the leaders to do was to demonize these devotees. Propaganda has always been their strong point but unfortunately that expertise has been turned against its own members and well-wishers….the only reason we don’t hear about senior godbrothers and godsisters being ousted these days is because there are only a handful left — most were thrown out ages ago by foolish leaders.

SIZE ISN’T EVERYTHING!

Those who are lazy to understand proper siddhānta (philosophical conclusions) or who maintain improper philosophical understandings (apa-siddhānta) can never be free from anarthas and thus can never progress properly in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Such persons often think that simply by serving the institution of the guru that they are serving Kṛṣṇa and thus will automatically go back to home, back to Godhead. They judge the success of their endeavors simply by measuring size, material opulence, temples, Deities, devotees, and members with no concern for proper philosophical understanding.

TRUTH AND FORM

Overall, we are to concern ourselves with the substance of everything. There is Kṛṣṇa consciousness and there is the society. The society is a vehicle. Our business is to always follow the thread of the spiritual conception. Our business is to follow Kṛṣṇa consciousness, not society consciousness. But if the two come into conflict, and we follow the truth of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, definitely that will give birth again to some form, some other vehicle – because that is where the vehicle came from to begin with. But if you depart from the truth and simply go with the vehicle, it may go with the speed of mind for eternity, but there’s no guarantee whatsoever that it will ever produce the truth again. Depending on the degree of separation from the truth, you may not even be able to glimpse even an aspect of the truth. If it goes far enough away, all is lost…

SOCIETY CONSCIOUSNESS & KṚṢṆA CONSCIOUSNESS

There is a difference between a society whose business it is to spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness and a society that tries to make a monopoly of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. And therein lies the problem – the emphasis is too much on the ‘society’ aspect and not enough on the ‘Kṛṣṇa conscious’ aspect.

NEOPHYTES LEADING THE MOVEMENT

We have become a “feel-good society’ that prides itself in the number of devotees, big buildings, big festivals, numbers of books distributed…all external achievements. Basically the movement is led by the sentiments, feelings and desires of neophytes.

WHEN A RELIGION BECOMES A CULT

We were researching narcissism a few days ago and _____ found an article which was about how a bona-fide religious institution or community can become a cult. It was a very interesting read. It mentioned many points, but a few really stuck out. One was that the leaders become elitists. They create this idea that they knew their founder better than anyone else so that makes them superior. They may not have even met him, or they had little association with him, or they just didn’t understand what he was really about – but they knew him! They figured him out! So when they speak, its as good as him speaking.

Then the next point was that they make the founder to be like some cold, heartless statue. He becomes this inaccessible thing. Basically they just recreate him in their own image. Then another point was that they have to paint anyone who disagrees with them as black as possible – that’s how they manage to keep control of the rest of their members. Then they stop listening to any voice of reason and they start to believe in their own propaganda. And that’s the biggest danger! But it’s not that they are just some evil asuras or rakṣāsas who want to destroy the movement – they hoodwink themselves into actually believing that they are doing the right thing, It’s like self-hypnosis.

So basically what started off as being something very pure and innocent eventually becomes an institution run by a few guys who want to be in power and are extremely insecure. This is exactly what happened in early Christianity at the time of Constantine, and it also happened in the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement.

VAIṢṆAVAS ARE ONLY IN OUR SOCIETY!

When you are riddled with society consciousness, you have trouble accepting those who are real Vaiṣṇavas outside your group as any kind of authority. You don’t consider them to be Vaiṣṇavas. If you do consider anyone outside of your group as a Vaiṣṇava, then we’d have to ask, “So what is a Vaiṣṇava? A Vaiṣṇava is a representative, an agent of the Supreme Lord. They are the shelter-giving agency of the Lord for the fallen souls. So why can’t we associate and be with them?” Because they think that “Vaiṣṇavas are only in our society! A spiritual authority can only be in our society!” And they refuse to recognise a real Vaiṣṇava.

OUR CAMP…

W e are in the camp of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, and Prabhupāda is in that camp, Śrīla Purī Mahārāja is in that camp, Mādhava Mahārāja is in that camp, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja is in that camp, Keśava Mahārāja is in that camp, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura is in that camp – that camp is not ISKCON, it’s not Gauḍīya Maṭha, it is not any of these things. It is a serving aptitude, a serving mentality, it is a quality if love for Kṛṣṇa.

OUR CAMP IS NOT INSTITUTIONAL

P reviously (when I was in Iskcon) I thought that the institution was your ‘camp.’ You have your institution in the spiritual world. But that’s not our camp! That doesn’t even exist! In fact, you know why any of these societies exist? Because ‘Uncle Sam’ says they have to exist – if you want to rent a house, open a bank account and be tax-exempt! Otherwise they don’t have to exist. And you know who started it in India? The British! You had to register all your activities and the Gauḍīya Maṭha became registered. And before that, there is no “registered” – there’s a paramparā! Institutions are just part of a modern thing. Our camp is not institutional and its not that we should always find our sādhu-saṅga within the institution.

THE EXTERNAL MISSION OF THE GURU

I f we only consider the guru’s mission externally, thinking it is just a piece of land with a signpost, a bunch of buildings, a temple with Deities, or a government registered society, then we haven’t caught the essence of what he came to give. We are just like bees licking the outside of a jar of honey.

SORRY DUDE, YOU CAN’T ENTER GOLOKA!

S elfishness and fear are both connected. They’re born out of a sense of false proprietorship. Everyone in the world lives under this illusion. They have fear about their land, their property, their family, their friends, their community, their country – even their mission. Mine, mine, mine! So even devotees are not free from this mentality either – we also have to be careful about cultivating that mood, that sense of selfishness. “Our” mission, “our” āśrama, “our” society. Actually, there’s only one mission – the mission of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. All these other missions, societies, institutions that we’ve created are just there for government recognition. But all Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas belong to one society – the society of Mahāprabhu. That’s why all this fighting about who belongs to which society, who left which mission and started this one, that one – its all ridiculous. You think Kṛṣṇa really cares? “Oh, you’re from that mission? Sorry dude, you’re banned! You can’t enter Goloka!” That sounds crazy, right? That’s because it IS crazy! Who are we to judge who goes back to Godhead?

But our main concern should be the siddhānta – who is preaching the right siddhānta according to our gurus, our Guardians. That’s the real benchmark. That will determine which devotees we will associate with. Everything else is just management and that’s all temporary. That’s all connected to this world. But when we stress management and society consciousness over proper siddhānta, we’re gonna get into deep trouble.

KṚṢṆA’S NOT LOOKING AT YOUR SIGNBOARD!

I skcon, Gauḍīya Maṭha, my mission, or anyone else’s mission – these are not eternal principles. All these societies are created to facilitate service. Like everything else in this world, they all have an expiry date. The only eternal principle is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. That’s why all this ‘society consciousness’ is so ridiculous – “Oh, our mission is the best! Anyone not under us, not following us, is bogus!” Kṛṣṇa’s not looking at which mission you’re in – He’s looking at what service you are doing, how surrendered you are. He’s looking at the heart – not what it says on your signboard outside your āśrama or temple!

TOILET PAPER FRIENDSHIPS

F irst the leaders threw out whoever didn’t agree with them. Then, when other devotees saw that and questioned it, the leaders lied, bullied and threatened them – “You have to listen to us! Only we represent Prabhupāda! If you leave the society, you’re leaving Śrīla Prabhupāda!”

Well, any so-called ‘leader’ that has to resort to lying, bullying and threatening Vaiṣṇavas isn’t a leader! And now, years later…? Where did all those leaders go? Look around – most of them are gone. You think that’s just a coincidence?

When they threw us out, I lost every ‘friend’ I had overnight. Not one person called me or wrote me a letter – nada! As I told someone recently, “Those sort of friendships are like how the non-devotees use toilet-paper – totally dispensable!” Its better to surround yourself with people you can really rely upon, even if its just one or two friends.

YOU ARE ‘USING’ PRABHUPĀDA!

R ecently, I had some email exchange with our godsister, _____ about the Rādhā-Dāmodara case. So I gave her an example of something Prabhupāda said to make a point, and she wrote back and said, “You can’t say that! You are USING Śrīla Prabhupāda!” Well, I almost fell off my chair laughing! USING???? I thought that was what we did – we quote guru, sādhu, śāstra, right? I was trying to make a philosophical point and quoting my guru, but she couldn’t hear it from me because I am not in her society. Anyhow, I never responded – what can you say? Some people are like that – small-minded. If you’re not in their society, you’re not allowed to quote your own guru! And if you do, you must have some evil ulterior motive…

THERE ARE NO HUNGRY DAYS IN KṚṢṆA CONSCIOUSNESS

O ur Guru Mahārāja requested, “Don’t be self-decievers! Don’t cheat yourself!” In the name of a lifestyle and society consciousness, you will just reproduce the very things that you walked away from. You have to keep the ideal in mind. You left the world. You didn’t care what anybody thought – you just left it! So every once in a while, everybody has to redo that again, because things like that cling onto us as we go along, and it happens many times.

When we’re just taking to the Holy Name, then it’s a transcendental movement, but when you lose sight of the ideal for which you came, then it becomes a religion in the mundane world. It is no longer a transcendental movement or a philosophy or anything like that. Then it becomes Judaism, Christianity etc. So we have to keep the goal in mind and remember to just practice what we’ve done so far, and then continue in that way with faith in the Holy Name. The Name has taken us so far, and we see that it has been so kind to us. There are no hungry days in Kṛṣṇa consciousness actually. There are no shelterless days.

EVERYTHING CAN BE DESTROYED FROM INSIDE

W e should always remember that Śrīla Prabhupāda said that nothing from outside could damage his movement, but from inside, everything could be destroyed. So rather than blaming others for our woes, we should learn to be more introspective, tolerant, patient and appreciative of others. After all, this life isn’t “forever” – we all have to die someday.

THE SHORTCUT TO EXCOMMUNICATION

D uring the Dark Ages in Europe, if one crossed the Church, or voiced any type of dissent, it was as good as signing one’s own death warrant. There are similarities between the Church and the Hare Kṛṣṇas, though things are not as severe now as they were then. To criticize leadership in the Hare Kṛṣṇa Movement has always been the shortcut to being ostracized, ridiculed, isolated, even excommunicated — everything just short of being hung, drawn and quartered. You know… “Give the dog a bad name, then shoot him!”

SOCIETY CONSCIOUSNESS ON STEROIDS!

Ś rīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja used to say that you can’t hold the Infinite in your fist. In the same way, you can’t claim ownership over your guru! He’s not your possession that you have a monopoly over. This idea that some people have that, “He’s ours! You can’t print Prabhupāda’s books, you can’t use his picture, you can’t quote him, you can’t, you can’t, you can’t…” It’s such a sick, controlling mentality! What they’re basically saying is that, “Unless you are in our society, in our club, under our thumb, you’re not really his disciple – at best you’re half a disciple!” It’s society consciousness on steroids! Who the hell are you to tell me if I’m his disciple or not? Who’s a disciple or not – ultimately that’s the guru’s decision, not yours! Do you really think Kṛṣṇa even cares which society you belong to? Whether it’s Iskcon, Gauḍīya Maṭha, Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava Society – that’s all irrelevant in His eyes. Kṛṣṇa is looking at the heart – not your signboard.

JUDGE, JURY AND EXECUTIONER!

W hen Prabhupāda left this world, there were some persons who couldn’t even shed one single tear for him – not one! They literally felt nothing – totally empty! Just dry people with no hearts. And now those same people are telling me that I left Prabhupāda because I’m not in their little club. They arm themselves with a few quotes and suddenly wanna play judge, jury and executioner on behalf of Śrīla Prabhupāda, as if they’re the only ones that represent him. Just see the fun! Their ‘logic’ is that because they don’t like me, then how can my guru like me?

GOD IS NOT AN INSTITUTION!

W hat do Prabhupāda’s books tell you to do? His books tell you to find the proper association of devotees, and particularly to find a devotee to whom you can surrender to, whom you have faith in – that this person knows Kṛṣṇa and can guide me Back to Home, Back to Godhead. If you haven’t come to that, then it doesn’t matter where you are, or what temple your in, what job you have – pack your bags and move today, because life’s clock is clicking down! If you don’t come to that wholesome shelter in your life, you human form of life has more or less been stalled. Maybe not wasted, because you chanted, you did things, you worship the Deity, and took prasāda and so many things, but if all that doesn’t culminate in that connection, then you can never surrender. Surrender can not be done, just to the object of the deity, or the general plane of service, through the guru’s institution even. Śrīla Purī Mahārāja has written, “Without surrender to the desires of the guru, simply serving His institution for lifetimes does not produce the desired result.”

God is not an institution, institutions are established to help us reach Him, understand what He is, disseminate that basic knowledge of what He is, and how to approach Him. Institutions are not just for themselves – they have a purpose.

KṚṢṆA IS NOT UNDER THE POWER OF ANY VOTING COMMITTEE!

S ometimes devotees do not understand how one can have a śikṣā-guru (instructing guru) outside the formal institution of his guru. Such disciples do not understand that the guru-tattva principle does not come under the consideration of any institutional consideration or society consciousness. Kṛṣṇa is independent of any social consideration and He sends His representative to save the fallen souls as He sees fit. Kṛṣṇa is not under the power of our voting committees.

NO HATRED IN DIVERSITY

I am not for the Unitarian Kṛṣṇa Conscious Church – I am for the church of variagatedness and difference. Based on that, I choose my association. I think that variagatedness breeds a very strong and healthy spiritual environment. We are not followers of the ‘Rodney King philosophy’ – there was a man in America called Rodney King who was beaten up and then there was a riot in Los Angeles. So he went on TV and said, “Can’t we all just get along?” Well the answer is, “No Rodney, we can’t!” We can’t because there are differences. Everyone is not the same; therefore we can’t all live the same. Why isn’t everyone wearing sannyāsa-veśa? Because everyone can’t do it. Or why is it that everyone isn’t a brahmacārī? Why doesn’t everybody become a householder? Because it is not ‘one thing for everybody’. There doesn’t have to be hatred in diversity. There should be harmony and appreciation – but there is diversity and we can’t erase that. There’s life in diversity.

THE INSTITUTION CAN BURN TO THE GROUND!

The main thing is self-realisation – not this institutional BS that goes down! “We do this because of the institution!” Where’s the self-realisation? To hell with the institution! Self-realisation will birth a million institutions. And you know what? An institution will not birth one child of self-realisation EVER! Think about it! The institution could burn to the ground, but if we can save the knowledge and the devotees, a glorious thing will continue to grow and will rise from the ashes like a phoenix. But if you destroy the siddhānta, the institution can never reproduce pure devotion. It doesn’t exist.

FOR THE GOOD OF THE SOCIETY…

How many of our godbrothers and godsisters like you and _____ have been kicked out by the “powers that be” for the ‘good of the society’? Hundreds? Thousands? The leaders can’t tolerate any type of dissension – they can’t even talk to the people they kick out – they’re afraid to. They’re even afraid to forgive them because they’re afraid it will make them look weak! Instead they’ll send some official letter telling them how they “really appreciate all your service over the years, but we can no longer accommodate you.” Sometimes, not even a letter – they just get the boot! Its impersonal, its deplorable, and Śrīla Prabhupāda would be disgusted and heartbroken. So many valuable devotees with something to contribute. Everyone could be working together, serving Prabhupāda and making a difference in the world – but there’s too many people on top with an agenda who are on a power trip – so its the usual, “my way or the highway” mentality, and all in the name of Śrīla Prabhupāda, thinking that they are “saving the society!” Very sad…

THE BLAME GAME

The leaders blamed Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja for so many problems that they created. They blamed him for the zonal ācārya system and they blamed him for so many devotees leaving Iskcon. “Oh, just see! If it wasn’t for Śrīdhara Mahārāja, these devotees would never have left and would still be serving in Iskcon.” What they can’t understand is that the reason why those devotees left in the first place was because the leaders were weak. They wanted to control everyone under them. And they’ll argue, “Would Prabhupāda be happy that you left Iskcon?” Well, would Prabhupāda be happy that you created such a hell that those devotees couldn’t stay in Iskcon?

Prabhupāda saw the fighting in his Guru Mahārāja’s mission and he left! And sometimes that’s necessary – when the society that the guru created becomes a shadow of what it was in his lifetime, some devotees go elsewhere to find spiritual substance. But the leaders can’t see that. In their minds, that’s like treason. They think that everything is great! “Everyone should be united – but under us! Just stay on the boat and you’ll be fine!” They can’t see their own mistakes, and if they can, they don’t have even a drop of humility to admit to them. So instead they play the ‘blame game’ and point the finger at Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja. That’s a sign of a serious weakness and its an offence.

THAT’S NOT DIVINITY

Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahāraja said, “No amount of darkness produces light, and no amount of ignorance produces knowledge.” So you can’t get conditioned souls all getting together and the culmination of that is divinity. That is not divinity. That’s not a philosophy – that’s a power-move!

WHAT IS ISKCON?

What is it to be ‘in’ Iskcon? I’m in – and I’ve always been in and I never left. These are only terminologies. Our guru is Iskcon, his teaching is Iskcon, our love for him and his love for us – that is Iskcon. I’m in – I’m in for the duration, never to leave! The buildings…anyway, somebody owns it, somebody else owns it, somebody’s in charge and you get your walking-papers, you’re in charge, you give him his walking-papers…so what is Iskcon?

TRUTH AND FORM

Overall, we are to concern ourselves with the substance of everything. There is Kṛṣṇa consciousness and there is the society. The society is a vehicle. Our business is to always follow the thread of the spiritual conception. Our business is to follow Kṛṣṇa consciousness, not society consciousness. But if the two come into conflict, and we follow the truth of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, definitely that will give birth again to some form, some other vehicle – because that is where the vehicle came from to begin with. But if you depart from the truth and simply go with the vehicle, it may go with the speed of mind for eternity, but there’s no guarantee whatsoever that it will ever produce the truth again. Depending on the degree of separation from the truth, you may not even be able to glimpse even an aspect of the truth. If it goes far enough away, all is lost…

WE ALL GO BACK TO GODHEAD TOGETHER OR NOT AT ALL??

I read something in a BTG article recently where the author wrote that, “Previously it was an individual concern, but now we all go back to Godhead together, or we don’t go back at all!” I was like, “What the heck are you talking about? We’ll all go together or we won’t go at all? Since when? Then I guess we’re not going – because there’s always a party-pooper who doesn’t wanna go!” This is a foolish philosophy.

RUNNING WITH THE JACKALS

B eing in some Vaiṣṇava missions is like running with jackals – when you don’t keep up with them, they turn on you!