Varnashrama and the exodus from ISKCON
Posted May 4, 2004
Iskcon has not implemented what Prabhupada wanted, lets examine.
Satsvarupa: Introduced starting with ISKCON community?
That is clear enough, but another devotee asks again the same question.
Hari-Sauri: Varnasrama system is beneficial. Where will we introduce the varnasrama system, then?
Prabhupada: In our society, amongst our members.
Hari-Sauri: But then if everybody's being raised to the brahminical platform...
Prabhupada: Not everybody. Why you are misunderstanding? Varnasrama, not everybody should become brahmana.
Prabhupada tells Him what is the difficulty ?
Hari-Sauri: No, but in our society practically everyone is being raised to that platform. So then one might ask what is...
Prabhupada: Everybody is being raised, but they're falling down.
Hari-Sauri: So then we should make it more difficult to get brahminical initiation. After four or five years.
Prabhupada: Not necessary. You remain as a ksatriya. You'll be happy.
Hari-Sauri: No need for even any brahmana initiation, then...
Prabhupada: No, no.
The devotee is missing the point He is thinking in terms of making the standards higher while Prabhupada is speaking the opposite intent.
Satsvarupa: Today you've been saying that the Vaisnava is the highest, above the brahmana. But then we've also understood that everyone in ISKCON is a Vaisnava.
Prabhupada: Yes. Vaisnava everyone, even if he's not brahmana. Jivera svarupa haya nitya-krsna-dasa. But you have to gradually bring him to th at pure consciousness that "I am servant of Krsna." Here the bodily conception is going on, "I am American," "I am Indian," "I am this," "I am that."
Satsvarupa: If in our society we say, "Srila Prabhupada wants some to be sudra..."
Prabhupada: No, no, no. I don't want. I want everyone to become Vaisnava. But because he's a sudra, it is not possible to bring him immediately to the platform of brahmana, or Vaisnava. Therefore falling down. Therefore the system must be present. But even if he remains a sudra, he's a Vaisnava.
Again the devotee misses the point He is thinking in terms of giving people roles to play or positions to fullfill while Prabhupada is speaking on a different topic, He is making it clear that the standards of Brahmana behavior that He insitituted needs to be changed in order that Iskcon not become a place of people artifically acting trying to be what they are not.
Hari-Sauri: So we'd have to completely revise the whole system that we have now.
Prabhupada: No. Whatever we have, that is all right. But we see by experience that they're falling down. Why falling down? Because he was not fit for the position, therefore he has fallen. Better remain in his position and become perfect. Why artificially bring them? There is no need.
So here we get to the crux of the problem, Clearly this has been misunderstood to mean business as usual, the devotee is still thinking in terms of changing Iskcon into a different thing altogether, Prabhupada says no you dont have to change what is there you have to stop imposing artificial standards on the people, why artificially impose brahmana standards of everybody he aks, there is no need he replies. But still the devotees don't get it they are thinking in terms of some kind of shift of activity for Iskcon when Prabhupada is speaking about a shift of priority from imposing brahmana standards on everyone to ending that.
Hari-Sauri: At this time should we try to introduce it in our centers or not?
Prabhupada: Always we shall try. Human society will be always there. We have to serve them, para-upakara. We have to keep them in the right position.
Hari-Sauri: I just remember two or three years ago there was a thing... A pamphlet came out about introducing the varnasrama system in the society, but actually nothing came of it.
Prabhupada: Yes. That time was not right. Now you can do something.
Since they are not getting what He means Prabhupada explains.
Every business is important. Brahmana business is important, ksatriya... Just like the body. Head is important; the arm is important; the belly is important. They must be kept in order. Just like I am in trouble because my belly is not working. Digesting power is not good. So in spite of brain, hand, and leg, I am diseased. If any part of the society remains diseased, the whole society will suffer. Therefore they must be maintained in correct order. You cannot say if there is some trouble in the leg, "Neglect the leg. Take care of the brain." No. Brain will be taxed due to the pain in the leg. This is nature. Therefore everyone should be kept in order. Then things will go on. That is varnasrama.
So here he explains that what Iskcon had been doing was that everybody was acting as brahmana, following strict rules of renunication imposed on everybody regardless of their nature, Now He is saying it is time to change Iskcon into the traditional vedic society where no strict rules are applied across the board in order for someone to be accepted, Iskcon had been created as a strictly almost monastic renunciate society, that was for the purpose of rapidly focusing everyone from western backgrounds on the basics of the religious tradition and get that set up, Now is the time He was saying to change these attitudes and shift into the traditional vedic mode, there is no rush to set up centers and fix people up in the philosophy anymore so now we need to start treating everyone in the traditional manner, WITHIN ISKCON, He makes this quite clear that He wants Iskcon to change from artifically imposing restrictions of who can participate based on the highest standards of brahmana priests to the traditional vedic society which had no restictions or impositions. This is what He was talking about, it wasn't that He was trying to create a type of "you are sudra, you are this or that " kind of attitude , which is what the devotees were thinking, rather He was saying that Iskcon needs to accept people without trying to impose upon them artifical standards of behavior, then these people will not fall back into material life, then they will stay within Iskcon.
But the devotees misunderstood, they were thinking in terms of creating a new kind of artifical system instead of getting rid of the old artifical system.
Prabhupada clearly was speaking about changing the culture of Iskcon away from imposing standards of behavior and enforcing rules and regulations across the board on everyone, this is what needs to be changed, this is what keeps people leaving and or not participating, it is the artifical imposing and enforcement of the highest brahman standards on everyone, and this is EXACTLY what Prabhupada wanted to change, by simply changing that then varnashrama within Iskcon will naturally take off, simply because instead of leaving Iskcon due to not wanting to live a life of harsh restrictions combined with the culture of stigmatizing those who do not follow those rules , the devotees will stay and want to work utilizing their abilties for the Vaishnava society as a whole. It's impossible to create what Prabhupada wanted if you misunderstand what He wanted, and it is impossible to change Iskcon the way he wanted unless the artificially imposing of and enforcement of the highest standards is ended as He wanted, then people will naturally be attracted to live in vaishnava communities creating real varnashrama without some artifical imposition or outdated
form of Iskcon as Prabhupada himself called it.