Chakra Discussions

Varnashrama and the exodus from ISKCON

by Sankirtana das

Posted May 18, 2004

Solutions for the lack of Prabhupada's desire being fulfilled within ISKCON...

In response to Shiva dasa's proposal

As I get it, this devotee is suggesting to not impose "harsh restrictions" on the different types of devotees. Restrictions and standards, such as the four regulative principles, should not be for every one. He says that this is what Srila Prabhupada envisioned and if that would be done, we would be able to keep everyone happily engaged within the Krishna Consciousness movement.

Here my understanding:

In principle, the suggestion is valid: If one can not follow the regulative principles of Bhakti Yoga (64 rules and regulations), one can still be drawn to this perfectional stage by working for the Supreme Lord. (Bg 12.9-10)

Shiva dasa writes: "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 don't 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."

My comment: Shiva dasa rejects the imposing of 'brahmana standards' on one and all. Yes, I agree, not everyone is meant to act as a brahmana. However, it does not mean that therefore one is OK to break the basic standard of moral life, namely no intoxication, gambling, illicit sex and meat eating. That standard of ideal character should be followed by all.

Prabhupada: Therefore, what I have written, that?
Brahmananda: "As there are different sections of educational institutions, there must be one institution how to train up perfect brahmanas with ideal characters as above mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita. If there is a section of people of ideal character, say 5 percent, the other 95 percent, by seeing their example, will follow. In other words, a section of the society must be of ideal character. That is essential."
Prabhupada: So therefore this varnasrama college is very essential.
Governor: Both intensive and extensive training.
Prabhupada: Yes. Proper training. It may be extensive and intensive... Doesn't matter.
Governor: You said 5 percent and 95 percent.
Prabhupada: Ninety-five percent may remain non-brahmana. But this 5 percent, if they are strongly brahminical, then others will follow. Ekas candras tamo hanti na ca tarah-sahasrasah. You have got millions of stars. Nobody cares for them. But people are looking after "When the moon will rise? When the moon will rise?" That one moon is sufficient than millions of stars. So this is the suggestion. (April 20th, 1975)

The theme of Varnasrama and how to implement it was discussed at several occasions when Srila Prabhupada was still physically present. Srila Prabhupada proposes the establishing of Varnasrama colleges with strict training for all classes. He says that this is the first step to implement Varnasrama. Devotees should educate (train) others and engage them according to their nature. That should be done in every center. As far as the standard of following the four rules is concerned, Srila Prabhupada seems to be again saying something else then Shiva dasa proposes. Here some excerpts from Morning walks in Vrindavan, March 12th and 14th, 1974.

"The varnasrama college has to be established immediately. Everywhere, wherever we have got our center, a varnasrama college should be established to train four divisions: one class, brahmana; one class, ksatriya; one class, vaisya; and one class, sudra. But everyone will be elevated to the spiritual platform by the spiritual activities which we have prescribed. There is no inconvenience, even for the sudras."

Hrdayananda: "So we should encourage people, young people, young students to come to our college."
Prabhupada: "They'll automatically come if you are ideal. Because they are being forced to poverty. So when there is a question of poverty, they'll comeI.."
Hrdayananda: "So they should be trained to rise early and so on."
Prabhupada: "Yes."

Hrdayananda:" So just to clarify, Prabhupada, I want to make sure I have it very clear, that if someone comes to our varnasrama college, even though this may be preliminary help, in general-you've made some exceptions-but in general, when they come to our college, they have to follow the four regulative principles, also learn something about Bhagavad-gita and then, side by side, they learn...
Prabhupada: Four regulative principles compulsory."

A better proposal than what Shiva dasa suggest for establishing varnasrama-dharma in ISKCON and even in the society at large, is in my humble opinion, to first of all take the first step and do everything needed to form a proper community of brahmanas. According to Bhagavad-gita (18.42), two of the traits evinced by brahmanas are jnana and vijnana, that is, they have genuine knowledge of the Absolute Truth and they posses the wisdom to apply that knowledge appropriately. As I write this I am happy to report that a movement is gaining strength among the devotees of ISKCON to make our organization primarily dedicated to education and training. If we continue in this way, I am sure we will become eligible to receive Prabhupada's legacy and empowered to convey it to the rest of humankind.