Friendly debate is not disrespectful
by Ananda das
Posted June 15, 2003


Mr. Shah may have mistaken disagreement on small issues for fighting or
hatred. While debates can become vigorous, they are always couched in terms
of mutual Vaisnava respect. Srila Prabhupada did not want us to become
unthinking robots, but to exercise our brains to develop a better, more
realized understanding of our philosophy.

Debate does not mean that the debaters are unkind, only that they have a
sincerely held difference of opinion. Each participant attempts to ground
his or her comments on sadhu, guru and sastra.

Chakra's mission is not to declare one side the outright winner, but to
allow both sides to express reasoned opinions, and then let the community of
devotees determine for themselves who has made the more convincing case.

Chakra has sometimes provided a forum to disadvantaged groups which have not
found a receptive hearing elsewhere; if official ISKCON publications and
websites better served this function, the debate could have been conducted
there. Unfortunately, some mistake Indian customs for Vedic culture, and
desire artificially to roll back reforms Srila Prabhupada introduced; I am
heartened to see Chakra's commitment to establishing equal, non-exploitive
relationships among devotees.

Finally, if Chakra exposes an issue like tax evasion on the part of a very
few devotees, it is not to humiliate them but to correct their behaviour.
Krsna consciousness is transcendental to all material dharmas, but a person
who has never followed ordinary rules of civil behaviour can scarcely claim
to have gone beyond them. Please do not become discouraged; those who debate
certain contentious points are nevertheless in agreement on most everything
else. We all have more in common than divides us.