A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
by Niscala devi dasi
Posted December 8, 2002
It was wonderful to read "Healthy Discussions." , by Bhaktin Miriam, someone daring to think independently and helping to fulfill Srila Prabhupada's intent for ISKCON: "This Krsna Consciousness movement is for training persons to be independently thoughtful." When Srila Prabhupada designated the GBC as the "ultimate managerial authority" in ISKCON, he did not expect us to follow them blindly, as is currently presumed. Logically, if blind following of even the guru is condemned by him in his purport to Bg (4.34), it follows that he would even more strongly condemn blind following of a managerial authority, which in varnashrama categorization is the ksatriya. Particularly if one is capable of independent thoughtfulness, which is the quality of a brahmana, it would go against one's duty in varnashrama, Krsna's blueprint for humanity, to follow a managerial authority blindly! Actually, one's duty would be to advise those managers on the basis of truth, and correct them if they are lacking in this quality, as Miriam has found them to be.
I thank her for upholding the qualities of truth and courage as well as her duty in varnashrama, as it is a step in the right direction and a good example for us all. Srila Prabhupada told us that we must develop varnashrama in ISKCON "to bring our members to the mode of goodness". This is the remaining instruction of Srila Prabhupada's that we have not begun to fulfill- the real "final order". Of course, numerous committees and meetings have been held and formed about how to implement varnashrama, but little progress has been made because they are barking up the wrong tree. Varnashrama is not organized by committee or meeting, but by qualification of the individual (Bg 18.41). If one values truth and morality over gratification and flattery, then one is a brahmana by nature and should act as one, by giving advice, by word or letter, to bring about the sanity of the mode of goodness in the social body. If one is absorbed in control, one is a ksatriya; in profit, a vaisya; and if one is none of these, but prefers to be guided, one should know one is a sudra. These are all easily identified, clearly recognizable qualities- both in oneself and in others. If one who has the qualities of a certain varna, acts in that capacity- presto! We have varnashrama, as that is exactly what it is, nothing more, nothing less.
The trouble we have in implementing this simple, natural formula, is a mistaken understanding in ISKCON- that is wrong or offensive to give truthful criticism to senior Prabhupada disciples- seniority being based on time and position in the movement (which is itself a fallacy, so it is a fallacy built on a fallacy). Indeed we are led to believe it may be "vaisnava aparadha", mistaking the function of the brain of the social body, which is to give advice, to be harmful! This is amazing since most of us know the words of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, describing his critic to be his best friend. He was a genuinely superior person in terms of spiritual advancement- was he recommending that his contemporaries commit vaisnava aparadha?
Another consideration.Did Lord Rama consider the washerman's criticism of him offensive? No. Acting as the ideal managerial authority, he welcomed advice from anyone, what to speak of advice from persons of truth and integrity. Especially as vaisnavas we are supposed to exemplify humility, and be able to "take gold even from a dirty place". Bilvamangala Thakura, for example, took the advice of a prostitute, and benefited from it immensely. He did not consider it offensive because of her position in society. Truth, wherever it is to be found has value. No one should be refrained from speaking the truth under fear of aparadha, or other illusion.
Indeed, any society in which criticism is considered to be offensive is only a paradise for fools, for such an attitude stagnates one's progress. ISKCON is presently in this place of stagnation, strangled by a mistaken understanding of aparadha and other concepts. The only hope we have is that we each individually learn to think clearly, independently of all this rife. We each have a certain quality to our nature and certain work is consequently required of us in Krsna's blueprint society. If we neglect our God-given duties and follow another imposed duty, we create chaos by compliance with what is not right. Reform, contrary to popular opinion, is never solely the responsibility of people in position, as they are prone to be corrupted by power. It is this very misconception of the nature of reform, which has made it a difficult thing to attain, and consequently our progress towards a varnashrama society has been virtually nil, despite it being the only natural way to be.