Chakra Discussions

Wisdom lies in compromise

by Kanakabja das
Bhaktivedanta Manor, UK

Posted November 5, 2004

I have read Anantadeva prabhu's article with great interest and felt impelled to share a few further thoughts that might help him to see the issue from a different angle.

The issue seems to be that courses on Bhakti topics such as Bhagavad-gita or Srimad Bhagavatam cost money, while, as evident from the quotes posted, Srila Prabhupada was against such a practice and it doesn't seem right from a traditional Vedic perspective -- Brahmins depend on charity and do not take salary. I don't think that there is an argument about that at all. The quotes are very clear.

However, let us try considering a role of a 'brahmin' in ISKCON. There are several educational institutions within ISKCON, such as VIHE, VTE or MIHE. Devotees running those institutions are trying very hard to provide high quality educational material and courses to the devotees. To get that done, they have to develop course materials and curricula, as well as train the teachers. Teachers also need to live, eat and pay their travel costs, etc. -- the list is long.

Knowing quite a few devotees working actively on those projects, and having been involved myself, I have good insight into what it actually takes to offer a good-quality seminar. All the things mentioned above cost money.

The ideal situation would be if our Society had funds to financially support these activities; however, the reality is that this doesn't happen to the degree necessary to cover everything required. That leaves one option: money has to come from the students. It would be great if voluntary donations from the students covered all the costs needed, but it doesn't seem to work nowadays. If we asked anyone with experience in that field, we would find ourselves unable to cover even a portion of travel costs with 'generous' donations. It's kind of sad, but it is reality.

We therefore have two remaining choices: charge fixed fees for the course or accept some other employment and let devotees be happy with the Bhagavatam class.

In the ideal Vedic society, Brahmins were fully maintained by Kshatriyas; it was the duty of a Kshatriya to tax Vaishyas and give that money to Brahmins for their daily needs. Unfortunately, we are very far from that ideal today and devotees are struggling very hard to provide education to the members of ISKCON.

I do not believe there is a single teacher in ISKCON who got rich and made a business out of teaching. How many can we find who can actually pay for their daily basic needs?

It saddens my heart to see that their hard work is so little appreciated. This is why so many of the very qualified devotees in our Society gave up on educational development within ISKCON and got jobs outside -- jobs that can pay for their bread.

It all comes down to recognising what the principle is, what the goal is, and how to apply all of that today so the goal can be reached. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati went to preach to Calcutta, although Gaura Kishore das Babaji had clearly instructed him not to stay in Calcutta, and Srila Prabhupada adjusted so many rules practiced within the Gaudiya Math in order to spread Krishna consciousness.

We have to use common sense and, if two principles are unattainable at the same time, we have to choose the more important one. I hope this makes some sense.