Unity in Diversity
by Padmapani Dasa
Posted November 24, 2002
On July 29, 1971, Srila Prabhupada was interviewed on television at the University of Gainesville in Florida (which His Divine Grace described as "a remote corner of the world, thousands of miles from the birthplace of Lord Caitanya"). At one point, Srila Prabhupada was asked the following question:
Interviewer: "How would I recognize a true follower of the Krsna consciousness movement by his behavior? What would his traits be? What would his outward expressions be?"
Srila Prabhupada: "He'd be a very perfect gentleman, that's all. You could not find any fault in him."
What's particularly striking about his reply is that Srila Prabhupada never mentioned any external symptoms such as dress, title, social position, or even what religious or spiritual practices one followed. His evidence was the result -- or fruit -- of spiritual advancement. As he often said, "You can judge a thing by its result."
Earlier in the conversation, Srila Prabhupada informed the interviewer that, "We are not concerned with how one man deals with another man." Rather surprised, the interviewer asked, "Isn't that part of your Krsna consciousness movement?" Srila Prabhupada replied, "No, this is not important because we know that as soon as one understands how to deal with God, he will automatically deal very nicely with others."
In the early seventies, I remember hearing a conversation where Srila Prabhupada warned the devotees about the dangers of "party spirit." He said it could ruin everything. At the time, who could have imagined the possibility of Prabhupada's movement splitting into various factions? It was simply inconceivable. Obviously a lot has transpired over the years since then. Who can deny that we haven't had our ups and downs, and that we haven't made mistakes along the way? We've all gone through changes, but hopefully, we've matured and gained some wisdom as well. For most of us, our youthful idealism has given way to a more reserved attitude in our views and dealings. There are probably few among us who haven't spent many sleepless nights trying to figure out how we can actually get it right for Srila Prabhupada. How many times did he instruct us all to get along? But how in the world are we going to do it?
While leafing through a selection of Prabhupada's letters recently, I came across the following statement:
"Although there may be some difficulties within our society, these things are not very important. What is important is that we should simply fix our mind on Krishna's Lotus Feet. This is His instruction in the Bhagavad-gita. So we associate with one another so that we can assist each other in hearing and chanting about Krishna. That is the purpose of our Society." (Srila Prabhupada letter, November 22, 1974)
Here, in a short paragraph, Srila Prabhupada dispels all illusions as to what is important and what isn't, proving once again that "discretion is the better part of valor." It is said that a swan is able to extract the milk (or essence) from a mixture of milk and water. Since Prabhupada is forever the supreme swanlike devotee, his words, books, letters, and conversations all contain the very essence of truth. And the truth is always simple, never complicated:
"I am glad to understand that you are living and working peacefully with the others there. This is required. If we also fight and preach Krishna consciousness, what will people say? Therefore Lord Caitanya has stated: trnad api sunicena taro api sahisnuna. Another symptom of a sadhu or spiritually advanced man is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam by Lord Kapila: titiksavah karunikah suhrdah sarva dehinam. (3.25.21) The symptoms of a sadhu is that he is tolerant, merciful, and friendly to all living entities." (Srila Prabhupada letter, December 8, 1974)
Lord Krsna Himself confirms in the Bhagavad-gita that a wise person (panditah) sees every living being with equal vision (sama-darsinah). He or she makes no distinctions on the basis of bodily identification or designation. Srila Prabhupada said that when making an analogy, one should gather together as many similarities as possible to draw a conclusion. Using this logic, we can factually understand that we all have so much in common. We are eternal spirit souls, part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. In the process of transmigration from one body to another, we have reached the human form of life. In this particular lifetime, we have come in contact with Srila Prabhupada, a pure unalloyed devotee of Krsna, who is described in the scriptures as the "mercy incarnation of the Lord." We have each adopted (to one degree or another) the process of reviving our true spiritual nature through the practice of Krsna consciousness as revealed to us by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada. These similarities alone far eclipse any temporary differences based on natural variety. As Prabhupada clearly advised: "To have some little disagreements among yourselves is not very unnatural because we are all individual beings. But as we are working on behalf of Krsna, we should always forget our personal interests and see to the prime cause."
So ultimately, it's this "prime cause" or higher vision of Krsna consciousness that we are after. Differences are there, most certainly, but they pale in comparison to the wonderful spiritual commonalities that we all share. By focusing on these simple but eternal truths so kindly revealed to us by Srila Prabhupada, we can look forward to further progress in Krsna consciousness, both individually and collectively.
(Excerpt from The Prabhupada Connection website, Editorial, Notes #4, by Padmapani das)