Chakra Discussions

Varnashrama and the exodus from ISKCON

by Pawan Deshpande

Posted May 19, 2004

Hare Krishna Shiva Das Prabhuji,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

I read the complete article on Varnashrama Dharma Part I and Part II. It is a nice article. I had some concerns over what you wrote there. First I would like to quote what you had written in your article. There are 2 places where you mentioned 4 regulative principles and "sense gratification".

Listing 1: "First we need to change the culture of Iskcon's attitude towards the Vaishnava community at large, It is a given that to work within the Iskcon structure the requirements are there that one lead a renounced lifestyle of following the 4 regulative principles (or be seen to be doing such) and to renounce all or any kind of "sense gratification" such as entertainment from media including movies, television, theatre, concerts and the like."

Listing 2: "So first off this is a major problem that needs to be dealt with in Iskcon by the leadership, You cannot continue to demand submission to the 4 regs and no "sense gratification" and it's resulting stigmatizing effect."

This in my opinion is not what is needed. If you removed the 4 regulative principles and sense gratification then we are directly under the influence of Kali yuga. I really dont understand how you came up with the idea of stopping the 4 regulative principles. They are called regulative principles and not restrictions or forbidden things for that matter. In the Srimad Bhagavatam it is said

"striya suna pana dyuta yatra papas catur-vidha" ( illicit sex, meat eating, intoxication and gambling are the places of kali in kali yuga).

Did you forget this point prabhuji?

And as far as introduction of the Varnasrama dharma is concerned, a brahamaNa, kshatriya, vaishya and kshudra all can lead their lives by following the 4 regulative principles. It is not said anywhere in the shastras that if you are a kshatriya, vaishya or kshudra you have all the rights to eat meat, have illicit sex, indulge in intoxication or to gamble on Sri Krishna's property. How can you think like that?

In the Bhagavad Gita Lord Sri Krishna says "chatur varNam maya sristam, guna karma vibhagashah". The four varnas are according to quality and work. Where it is said that if you have less than brahminical qualities, you are given a license for sense gratification?

And you have mentioned about movies, television, theatre, concerts, etc. All these are various devices for sense gratification. What do you think is shown in todays Television and movies. They are based on what is not. They always show that you drink this and you will be happy, you do this and you will be happy, you eat this and you will be happy. Its all allurments for sense gratification. And if a person is not strong enough to resist these temptations, he will definitely fall down from his position.

There may be problems with leadership with ISKCON but, as far as the devotee is concerned, he should not look at the politics of the organization. If you are getting involved with mismanagement in ISKCON then, it also one kind of Sense gratification. You are gratifying your senses on the mental plane. Prabhuji, maya is very strong. She comes to the state where she can affect your belief system. You have mentioned the word "Change" in your Listing 1. Change is not good as far as the 4 regulative principles and Sense gratification are concerned. These 2 things must be strictly enforced in the ISKCON society.

And who joins the ISKCON society? A person who is searching for solutions for his real world problems. A person who is disgusted with this material sense gratification. And for such a person, the 4 regulative principles and ban on Sense gratificaition is a must. Otherwise there is no need to join ISKCON in the first place. Lord created this material world because we wanted to enjoy like Lord does, which is not possible in the spiritual world. Then, he gave us the instructions (Vedas) to return back to godhead after our so called enjoyment is over. Then, anything we do in this world is just one kind of Sense Gratification. Nothing more than that.

As far as the Varnasrama dharma is concerned, it is already there in ISKCON. It is always there in any organization, home, community, nation or this whole material world. But, it is in a subtle form. To give you a concrete example, You see any ISKCON temple, there will be preists who are the brahmanas, there are the temple presidents who are the kshatriyas, there are members of the congregation who fund the various festivals, they are the vaishyas and there are the temple workers or the devotees who become the workers of the congregation from time to time. Varnasrama dharma is already there. And if a person is not feeling that he is improving, then he can always remain in his own position and serve the lord. For example, the temple president can just take care of the temple very nicely, arranging the funds, looking after the cooking, distributing the books etc. If he is not advancing to the pure brahminical qualifications then he can always do whatever he was doing earlier. I am not into ISKCON fulltime. I give donation to the congregation (whatever I can) from time to time. And I think I am a vaishya. By my small contribution, I am serving the lord. This is real varnasrama dharma. But still I am doing my chanting rounds, following the 4 regulative principles and making my sense gratification lesser and lesser day by day. If one day I feel myself to have improved then, I will go the next stage in varnasrama dharma or stay where I am for the rest of my life.

I can understand your concerns over implementing the Varnasrama dharma. But prabhuji, in this kali yuga, everybody is a sudra, we cannot help it. And it will be a foolish effort on our part if we try to repair the whole society or world. First we should try to improve our situation. The Supreme lord is there to take care of the whole world. He is almighty and supreme powerful. This world is going on by his will alone. It is our duty to beg to the lord to get out of the clutches of maya . Lord is definitely helping us by telling his words, sending his associates and leaving his knowledge behind for the benifit of the fallen souls like us. The 4 regulative principles and the ban on sense gratification are the boons given to us to free us from the clutches of this material world and go back to GODHEAD.

Please forgive me Prabhuji if I have offended you in any respect. For, I am the servent of the servent of the humble cows of vrindavana.

Pawan Deshpande.