Chakra Discussions

Friendly debate is not disrespectful

by Ananda das

Reposted June 20, 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.