OUR MISSION PART ONE.
  • June 2004
    Mangalacarana

    om ajnana-timirandhasya jnananjana-salakaya
    caksura unmilitam yena tasmai sri guruve namah

    nama om visnupadaya krsna presthaya bhu-tale
    srimate bhaktivedanta svamin iti namine

    namaste sarasvate deve gaura-vani pracarine
    nirvesesa sunyavadi pascatya-desa-tarine


    My sole desire is that I live out my life in a way that honors you, Srila Prabhupada, my savior, and eternal master. You are the bringer of Krsna bhakti to all the world. You delivered me from impersonalism and voidism. You gave me light in a world of darkness. At an advanced age you set the Krsna consciousness movement in motion and then left it to your disciples to carry out the fulfillment of your vision. I cannot hope to repay you even if I served you for lifetimes with my body, mind, and words.

    I am insignificant, but somehow you've left me this legacy and I simply pray at your lotus feet to find within my heart the strength and desire to shoulder this responsibility every moment of the remainder of my life. Pleasing you is the only measurement of success for me. Failure to please you is failure on all counts. If there is but a spark of sincerity in my breast then I pray at your lotus feet that you will fan that spark into a blazing flame that no amount of obstacles and discouragement can snuff out.

    I pray to be unflinching in serving the spirit of your mission and unflinching in preaching the philosophy without adulteration. I pray to be empowered to represent you with unflinching integrity just as you showed by your personal example. I pray that I may unflinchingly dedicate my life to service, truth, justice, and love. I am confident that all this is possible by your mercy. Hare Krsna. All glory to you, Srila Prabhupada.

    Preface


    Dear Reader:

    Hare Krsna. Please accept my humble obeisances at your feet. All glory to Srila Prabhupada.

    I had many reservations about writing and presenting this book. In the end I decided to do it. My reasoning was like this: Daily I pray to Srila Prabhupada to make me unflinching in the preaching field. Whenever I was going through periods of heavy self-doubt about presenting this book to the society of Vaisnavas this thought came to me—that if I did not present the book, then I would be flinching. After years of praying to be unflinching I realized I could not flinch. Prabhupada guided me to write this book and I present it to all as a duty to him.

    This book is not another rah-rah tract about the centennial. It is not another self-congratulatory publication about preaching and the mission of Lord Caitanya and how ISKCON will take over the world. This book is about problems we face, or rather problems we don't want to face. If you are the sort of person who doesn't like to face and discuss problems, then best to put this book down.

    It is very important for me to clear the air on one point. People may say that this book is against Srila Prabhupada, against ISKCON, and against the GBC. Actually, nothing can be further from the truth. I am gravely concerned about the direction our society is taking, because as it now functions this is simply not the movement that I joined. I joined ISKCON to learn the art of selfless service; not the art of every man for himself. I am especially concerned about the fact that to an extent we are not living lives of integrity. We are not living in a way that would make intelligent persons want to commit their lives to this mission. This is the opposite of what Srila Prabhupada had in mind. I am for Srila Prabhupada. I am for the genuine success of his mission—to have an organization that is a positive alternative to material life and gives us the association to become pure devotees of the Lord. To realize this, we have to orient ourselves to addressing the problems and obstacles that are between us and our goal.

    Back in the mid-eighties, I was a frequent attendant at the series of North American Temple Presidents and Prabhupada Disciples meetings that were held in Towaco temple, New Jersey. Those meetings led to the attempt at reforming the society by disbanding the Zonal Acarya System and thereby pulling ISKCON back from the brink of disaster. One of the things I observed in those meetings was the wonderful way in which sober devotees, by pooling their ideas, often came up with great Krsna conscious ideas. This began with one person expressing a point of view and proposing a solution. Then that would get discussed and invariably amended until we had something that met a consensus.

    This procedure took time, but it was truly wonderful to see how Krsna worked through our cooperative effort and the resultant commitment we all felt to the conclusion. Gradually, we mustered enough conviction, gravity, and courage to confront the North American GBC at a meeting in New Vrindavana, which led to a resolution to call a full GBC meeting with all Srila Prabhupada's disciples from around the world to New Vrindavana to discuss the main problem confronting our society. That historical event was the death note to the Zonal Acarya System.

    Unfortunately, the main problem confronting our society was not addressed. The main problem confronting our society was not the Zonal Acarya System. The main problem was the authoritarian dynamics within our society. The Zonal Acarya System was merely a symptom of the problem. Somehow we had failed to distinguish clearly between these dynamics and the true Krsna conscious dynamic and so we failed to recognize the real problem.

    Years of observing the dynamics within our society has led me to consider it as inefficient, counterproductive, and sometimes resulting in neuroses among our members. After years in the Krsna consciousness process an alarming number of devotees seem not to improve their basic character or undergo a change of heart that makes them more balanced, sattvic human beings. Some seem to get worse. In my preaching work I am often approached by devotees for counseling and I am alarmed to see how many have been handled with rigidity rather than the personal consideration which Srila Prabhupada exemplified. This makes me leery of something within our institution. It can't be the philosophy; it has to be our application of the philosophy, but the quality of the human experience within ISKCON, judging by the results, if we are to be honest, is not what is described in Prabhupada's books.

    The matter came to a head for me recently when I had a talk with my twelve-year-old son about his becoming trained up in the philosophy of Srimad-Bhagavatam. I thought about his taking to asrama life under the guidance of ISKCON management, and I realized I had a dilemma: I could not picture him in any asrama in the movement where he would grow up to be a stable and balanced human being. Experience simply did not instill that confidence in me. If we could not offer him a sattvic atmosphere how could we offer him pure Krsna consciousness?

    In fact I fear for the boy's mental health. I began to consider that if I would not recommend asrama life to him with a clear conscience, who can I recommend it to? My answer was no one. But I want to preach Krsna consciousness. What shall I recommend to those whom I attract? What shall I recommend to those already here? So many come to me for advice and counseling. I want to help bring out the best in them, to give them hope, confidence, and so forth. I want to do so based on my own firm conviction about our society, not just a kind of party line, official doctrine.

    I thought and thought about this, and I prayed to Srila Prabhupada for guidance. The answer that came to me is that I must address this problem. If I am not part of the solution then I am part of the problem. I decided to tackle this problem according to my capacity, which is to write, hence this book. Some say that a problem is like a disease—fifty percent of solving a problem is first knowing what the problem is. What I have to offer, my contribution, is to create awareness of the problem.

    My singular purpose in writing this book is to generate open discussion about issues confronting our society, similar to the type of discussions I experienced in Towaco. Maybe we should have meetings, but I am not one to call or to organize them. My hope is that this book will help spark open discussion of the issues and the meetings may follow.

    Naturally, given the present dynamic in our society, my humble attempt may be taken as brash, outlandish, controversial, even offensive, perhaps because issues are not discussed openly. We specialize in putting a happy face on everything, "for the preaching." This would be okay if we were oriented towards addressing our problems and finding lasting solutions; but we are not. We are oriented towards cosmetic solutions and we thrive on good news. Hence problems are usually neglected until they reach the status of crises. Then a hasty solution is applied, which is the mode of passion—nectar at first but poison in the end. To address this and all the concomitant problems in our society we need to pool the talents of more than the leaders. We need to call on the whole society.

    In this centennial year it would be sterling service to Srila Prabhupada to focus on addressing the internal problems we face. A more smoothly plying ISKCON ship would be a wonderful offering to him. Just focusing on good news will not automatically remove the problems. From one view good news and big media events look glorious. If, however, the infra-structure of ISKCON is straining, our focus on good news and media events is really a symptom of hiding our head in the sand.

    I remain your servant,

    Kundali dasa

    Introduction

    A godbrother who read The Nectar of Discrimination, first volume, upon learning that I wanted to write fiction as my ultimate literary ambition, discouraged me. He said I would make a more vital contribution by writing the sort of books that cause us to take an objective look at ourselves, books that inspire a self-examining approach to Krsna consciousness. I confided to him that indeed "one of my service desires for Srila Prabhupada is to write books that serve as a conscience for ISKCON." He encouraged me to do that. In this book I try to respond to his encouragement.

    This endeavor may not endear me to those devotees who have a vested interest in keeping the status quo, but it is long overdue. All healthy, well-run organizations review their performance and try to assess how efficiently they are moving toward their goals. And it is not a job for one man. Anyone who cares about the direction of our movement, the quality of life in our society, about the stability and health of our community, about whether we are achieving our aims and so forth, should consider doing this work along with their other service responsibilities.

    Many devotees have read and appreciated Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, full of practical guidelines for refining one's performance in life. These seven habits apply equally well to organizations. Much of what I'm proposing in this book comes under Habit 7: Sharpening the Saw. This habit, Covey says, surrounds the other six; it makes all the other habits possible. Here is his pithy description of Habit 7, under the subtitle, "Four Dimensions of Renewal":

    Habit 7 is a personal pc. It is preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have—you. It's renewing the four dimensions of your nature—physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional. Although different words are used, most philosophies of life deal either explicitly or implicitly with these four dimensions. Philosopher Herb Shepherd describes the healthy balanced life around four values: perspective (spiritual), autonomy (mental), connectedness (social), and tone (physical). George Sheehan, the running guru, describes four roles: being a good animal (physical), a good craftsman (mental), a good friend (social) and a saint (spiritual).

    "Personal pc" refers to one's principle center, the place where one's personal values are rooted. The point is quite simple to grasp. It is not so easy to apply. That is true with most worthwhile principles in life. However, inasmuch as the character and performance of an individual can improve in these four dimensions, similarly, the character and performance of an organization can improve. Sharpen the saw means "expressing all four motivations. It means exercising all four dimensions of our nature, regularly and consistently in wise and balanced ways." How this can apply to an organization is described thus:

    Sound motivation and organization theory embrace these four dimensions or motivations—the economic (physical); how people are treated (social); how people are developed and used (mental); and the service, the job, the contribution the organization gives (spiritual).

    Here are two instances of Srila Prabhupada giving credence to the above ideas (Bhag. 1.9.49 purport, italics mine) :

    Maharaja Yudhishthira was not a mere tax collector. He was always conscious of his duty as a king, which is no less than that of a father or spiritual master. The king is to see to the welfare of the citizens from all angles of social, political, economic and spiritual upliftment.

    Bhagavad-gita is spoken by the Lord so that human society can be perfectly organized from all angles of vision—politically, socially, economically, philosophically and religiously. (Cc. Mad. 19.167 purport).

    In both quotes Prabhupada is stressing how we need to maintain a certain dynamic, a sense of constant renewal—a sharpening of the saw. As individuals we are responsible for this in our own lives, but as an institution the responsibility falls more on the leaders to inspire and maintain this dynamic, primarily by doing it themselves (yad yad acarati sresthas).

    Covey begins the chapter on sharpening the saw with a little story which sounds terribly familiar. In just a few lines this story demonstrates a man working stupid instead of working smart, a man working in the mode of passion:

    Suppose you were to come upon someone in the woods working feverishly to saw down a tree. "What are you doing?" you ask.

    "Can't you see?" comes the impatient reply. "I'm sawing down this tree." "You look exhausted!" you exclaim. "How long have you been at it?" "Over five hours," he returns, "and I'm beat! This is hard work." "Well, why don't you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen the saw?" you inquire. "I'm sure it would go a lot faster." "I don't have time to sharpen the saw," the man says emphatically. "I'm too busy sawing."

    This gives a good idea of Habit 7. We must take a hard look at ourselves and point up any inconsistencies between the philosophy and what we say and do. We must be the kind of people who take the time to sharpen our organizational saw. We should all feel that responsibility. It is a symptom of the mode of goodness as the little story illustrates. This book is my attempt to serve as a catalyst for us to sharpen our organizational saw. My hope is that others will follow my example and present their angles of vision on the events, issues, and dynamics of our society. In this way we churn our understanding of Srila Prabhupada's vision and keep it ever-fresh.

    The result will be that by churning more and more our understanding of Srila Prabhupada we extract nectar the way nectar was extracted by churning the milk ocean with Mandara mountain. Of course, in that example the poison had to be extracted first. We may find that a similar progression is necessary in our churning of Prabhupada's teachings and attempting to upgrade our performance as a group. But that is okay, because Krsna taught us the principle that happiness in the mode of goodness begins as poison and ends as nectar. We must have faith in Krsna's words. That will give us the strength to delay gratification until real nectar comes. He also says that the mode of goodness "leads to self-realization".

    The idea underlying this—that some of us serve as a conscience for our community—is not an outlandish one. The world over, newspapers and other periodicals fill the same role in mainstream society in the form of editorials and letters to the editor. Thinkers write books and essays in which they reflect back to society the impact of the dynamics, policies, and practices in different spheres: political, cultural, ethical, and so forth. This sort of feedback from the marketplace of ideas is of critical value to any community. Indeed sociologists have found that while imperfect, there is in fact no better testing ground than the marketplace of ideas for leaders to know if the policies and practices they implement actually serve the community needs. The social philosopher J.S.Mill put it well when he wrote:

    . . . unless it (a philosophical idea) is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. . . the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct;. . . preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.

    Mill is talking about philosophical truth, but the same applies to group policy and practices and accepted social dynamics. As far as the matter of a minority having a dissenting opinion from the group, Mill covered that eloquently:

    If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.

    . . . If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and liveliness of truth, produced by its collision with error.

    That is what transpires in the marketplace of ideas, "the collision of truth with error." And for those of the central conviction that truth will win out, this is altogether a healthy and desirable thing. At the very least this collision produces a "clearer perception and liveliness of truth". The marketplace of ideas is the only way to be sure that the policies that are implemented are in fact appropriate and successful.

    Sadly, in our ISKCON, we lack that marketplace, such mechanisms for critical feedback. We don't just lack it, we resent it. This works only to our detriment. We relish praise and abhor criticism in all forms. We are prey to the maxim which states that most people would rather be ruined by praise than be saved by criticism.

    However, as a concerned member of ISKCON, I have been inspired to present this book to the community of devotees in an attempt to remedy the above-mentioned imbalances. I feel that Srila Prabhupada is responsible for this inspiration. I am eager, therefore, to know how it is received by the mass of devotees. Any critical feedback from my readers is welcome. I also welcome any information that may serve as material for other books of this type.

    There is a little known fact, the disclosure of which I believe will help my readers to appreciate my concern over the state of ISKCON today. In the Preface I mentioned the meetings that used to be held at our center in Towaco back in the mid-eighties. Those meetings brought about the solidarity that brought about the reform movement which brought about the demise of the Zonal Acarya blunder. The little known fact is that I was the co-author of the paper that resulted in a unanimous decision by that group of godbrothers in the Towaco meetings to confront the North American GBC about the state of our movement.

    The paper was called "Learning from Our Mistakes." I felt too nervous to address the whole society so Trivikrama Swami, the co-author signed the paper, and it was circulated to many temples. My point in bringing out this fact at this time is that as a person who had a front-row seat in the reform effort, I am concerned that we have not learnt what we can from our mistakes. But this time the issues are not as clear, not as easy to diagnose. In this book I attempt to give a clear definition of the problem.

    I believe that in essence the problem is the same as we had in the Zonal Acarya days—poor dynamics in the way we deal on an interpersonal level, particularly in the dynamics between the mass of devotees and those in positions of leadership—but this time it is more diffuse. Last time it was easier to see where the problem originated. Nevertheless in our current dynamics the authoritarian element far outweighs the human element. The practice of persuasion over force is lacking and so is the element of collegiality, which Ravindra Svarupa prabhu so nicely discussed back in the mid-eighties in one of the papers he presented on the state of affairs in our society. That topic, collegiality, again needs to be brought into focus, understood, and applied. Those who missed that paper of Ravindra Svarupa can read about collegiality in Chapter Twelve.

    This is how the book is structured. The first four chapters discuss the elements of problem-solving based on the popular book by M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled. Like many devotees, I am finding out that there is real validity to "utility is the principle." We can appreciate and apply much of Peck's views though his work is not sastra. One can learn a lot about practical matters from those who have spent time understanding their particular field and then perfect that knowledge by adding Krsna consciousness.

    Peck stresses that a human being must grow in spirit in order to feel satisfied with himself or herself. One must be oriented towards facing and solving problems, because life is full of them. To do that, certain predictable elements are required. (1) One must have the capacity to delay gratification, which is another way of saying that one must seek happiness in the mode of goodness. (2) One must take responsibility for one's life, taking responsibility for problem-solving. (3) To be successful at problem-solving, one must be dedicated to the truth. (4) Subsequently, one must be open to challenge. So the first four chapters cover these four topics and show how each element is indeed part of Krsna consciousness. We come to see how they are not only true for an individual, but also for an organization. As a preaching mission we want to grow in spirit—both in size as well as competence.

    In Chapter Five the value of criticism is discussed. To be open to challenge it is necessary to hear honest feedback. In ISKCON the word criticism has only a negative connotation, but there is a positive connotation as well. Criticism really means to evaluate the positive and negative merit in a thing, event, or person. Indeed we often quote Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, "One who criticizes me is my friend, one who praises me is my enemy," but in practical life we rarely apply his advice. Inasmuch as the value of criticism is often overlooked in our present societal dynamic, the tacit result is that critical thinking is curtailed. People's minds, instead of becoming keen-edged, more aware, more discriminating, become enfeebled in the name of Krsna consciousness.

    Chapter Six is about some of the key things Srila Prabhupada warned us about with respect to ISKCON and it traces some of the historical patterns that has been established in group dynamics—whether the group is political, religious, or social—once the founder is gone. Chapter Seven gives a comparison between the two types of religious group experience—authoritarian and humanitarian. These chapters alert us to the perils an institution such as ours should be on the lookout for. In this chapter the power of rationalization, one of the great psychological discoveries, is also discussed.

    In Chapter Eight a number of guidelines are given to encourage the reader to ascertain what sort of dynamic he or she has experienced in ISKCON and what is the overall dynamic of the society. Additional discussion on the power of rationalization is presented. Chapters Nine, Ten, and Eleven feature a proposal how we may begin to implement varnasrama in the leadership structure of our society. The remaining chapters are mostly an analysis of various dynamics in our society, which are symptomatic of some of the problems we have and need to define and address.

    Readers may be disappointed that I do not offer solutions to most of these problems that I attempt to define. That is because I do not consider the solutions a one-man job. As with the aforementioned Towaco meetings, I believe that many devotees will offer parts of the solutions and these will meet a certain consensus. It is not a job for one man. We need to meet and define the problems and then work out the solutions as a group. Should we get to the stage of pooling our ideas, I am willing to participate and offer what ideas I may have. I don't have the solutions to our society's problems, but I am committed to offering my life to problem-solving.

    In the meantime, the following ideas are offered in the prayerful hope that they serve in some way to inspire solutions, though they may fall short of the mark. I have faith in the power of Krsna that if we take a stand against Maya, like Dhruva Maharaja fighting the Yaksas, He can act through the assembly of sincere Vaisnavas and so placing my full faith in that process I am presenting this book, not as a conclusion, but as a beginning, a spark.

    We may not be able to change everything we face; but we cannot change anything unless we face it.— Lewis Mumford

    The worth of a state, or any organization in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it.—Anon

    You have not converted a man because you have silenced him. —John Morely

    One of the great attractions of patriotism—it fulfills our worst wishes. In the person of our nation we are able, vicariously, to bully and cheat. Bully and cheat, what's more with a feeling that we are profoundly virtuous.— Aldous Huxley

    He who will not reason is a bigot; he who cannot is a fool; and he who dares not is a slave.— Sir William Drummond

    He who decides a case without hearing the other side, though he may decide justly, cannot be considered just.— Seneca

    Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.— Samuel Johnson

    The only tyrant I accept in this world is the still small voice within me. —Gandhi

    The confidence which we have in ourselves gives birth to much of that which we have in others.—La Rochefoucauld

    (The) Krishna Consciousness Movement is for training men to be independently thoughtful and competent in all types of departments of knowledge and action, not for making bureaucracy. Once there is bureaucracy the whole thing will be spoiled. There must be always individual striving and work and responsibility, competitive spirit, not that one shall dominate and distribute benefits to the others and they do nothing but beg from you and you provide. No. (Letter to Karandhara 1972)
  • June 2004
    The is all very nice except about ten years ago Kundali chastised me for "not advertising a living guru -- as he is doing." At the time he was working with three or four Gaudiya Matha folks, but he failed to tell us which one was his "living guru." He also said our idea of worship of a pure devotee is "bogus ritviks," since he does not agree that one should worship a pure devotee and he had worked with the GBC for ten years promoting deviants as gurus.

    Anyway I said fine, we will advertsie your living guru if you can tell us his name, show us his books, and prove he is bona fide. This was ten years ago, and to date Kundali has never given us the name of his guru? So, first of all he is a mayavadi since one has to at least know the name of your guru, says Srila Prabhupada. So, once he gets a "living guru" he can then tell us who he is, but since he has no guru, he is "rudderless" says Srila Prabhupada. You need to know your guru's name, that is the basic qualification for any debate, he has never been able to figure out whether he has a living guru or not, in ten years? That means he has no idea what he is talking about since in Vedic circles, one has to cite who is his guru, before the debate starts? Kundali starts the debate, and forgot to figure out who is the guru? First, you have to accept a guru, that is the whole idea, thanks pd
  • June 2004

    pada:

    The is all very nice except about ten years ago Kundali chastised me for "not advertising a living guru -- as he is doing." At the time he was working with three or four Gaudiya Matha folks, but he failed to tell us which one was his "living guru." He also said our idea of worship of a pure devotee is "bogus ritviks," since he does not agree that one should worship a pure devotee and he had worked with the GBC for ten years promoting deviants as gurus.

    Anyway I said fine, we will advertsie your living guru if you can tell us his name, show us his books, and prove he is bona fide. This was ten years ago, and to date Kundali has never given us the name of his guru? So, first of all he is a mayavadi since one has to at least know the name of your guru, says Srila Prabhupada. So, once he gets a "living guru" he can then tell us who he is, but since he has no guru, he is "rudderless" says Srila Prabhupada. You need to know your guru's name, that is the basic qualification for any debate, he has never been able to figure out whether he has a living guru or not, in ten years? That means he has no idea what he is talking about since in Vedic circles, one has to cite who is his guru, before the debate starts? Kundali starts the debate, and forgot to figure out who is the guru? First, you have to accept a guru, that is the whole idea, thanks pd
    Here I am thinking this article seems nice and again here we have another person who wont give the whole truth, thanks pada maybe I should get intouch with you first before I post anymore,or maybe I should stop.