Order Fulfilled by Balance
Posted July 10, 2005
We often hear that it is our duty to follow the instructions or orders of the spiritual master, and that by doing so, one pleases Krsna. The problem is that while the message is one- the awakening of love for Krsna through service- the instructions on how to do that are many and sometimes contradictory. Hence the devotees are divided in their application of those orders. Some prefer to follow one particular set of instructions and hail them as the most important, and others disagree and advance their own adopted instructions as the most important. Then it becomes a battle of the egos, with neither side willing to admit defeat. Finally the dear Big Brother GBC steps in and gives us the "Final Conclusion" via their "Sastric Advisory Committee", and all fights are over and ISKCON becomes a paradise of peace and tranquility. (SIGH) Isn't it just wonderful to have other people think for us?
But wait a minute. While that may seem very wonderful and we can all get along fine, Srila Prabhupada did make this curious statement: "this KC movement is for training men to be independently thoughtful". Hmm, well, maybe he made a mistake. After all, he stressed submission to authority didn't he? So anyway let's just put it down to a typo. Oops there it is again in the purport to tad viddhi pariprasnena... "in this context, blind following and absurd enquiries is condemned"...Hmmm...if one can't even blindly follow the guru, the representative of God Himself, what to speak of the GBC, the representatives of Srila Prabhupada (hopefully)?
Logically, if one is not supposed to blindly follow even a self realized soul who is above the propensity to make mistakes, the warning is amplified in respect to following a group who does have that propensity and has amply shown it from day one when they got into absolute power. Even the infallible Lord Krsna requested Arjuna to not follow Him blindly, but instead after due deliberation, after thoughtfulness, weighing his own original arguments against that of his guru and deciding himself the conclusion.
So we have on the one side instructions to not follow blindly but apply one's reason and intelligence, and on the other hand, we also have various instructions to follow authority. Now, it is very attractive to follow authority blindly, because it creates a utopia of unquestioned submission. Hence, most of the classes given by the managers of our temples stress this side only, but in doing so they are neglecting other instructions, just as important.
Achieving a balance in this respect can be expressed as follows. Submissive enquiry is essential, for by doing so one is open to learn, whereas when one has an attitude of challenge, one is more interested in defeat and gratifying the ego, the sense of "being right". Therefore, the best attitude in approaching authority, exemplified by Lord Chaitanya, is to consider oneself a fool. If one has this attitude, then one can learn to see things from a different point of view than one's own- one becomes mahatma- broadminded. However, if the "authority" is misrepresenting the philosophy or simply not making sense, he should be questioned, and if by questioning one is not satisfied at heart, then one is not required to follow, for to do so is the very definition of blind following.
Unfortunately, the GBC have taken away this option. They have made following not a matter of conscience or intelligence, but legality. According to ISKCON law, it is simply not legal to disobey a GBC resolution; hence they have every right to exclude you from the temple as a punishment if you do. Curiously though, they have declared themselves to be a brahminical body, a class of that type of person who by definition has given up the controlling propensity Ð that quality of the ksatriya. "Doubt is a function of intelligence" and Krsna Consciousness is for the most intelligent, we are told. But if one has started to doubt, one will be troubled and not just by the GBC legislation; indeed, it is far more comfortable to pass the responsibility to analyze things onto someone else, along with the responsibility to choose who that someone should be. Krsna Consciousness is a razor's edge, but we want to turn it into a soft cushion. We want to do what is easy, what assures our security, but not necessarily what is right. We want to be Arjuna at Chapter one, not eighteen.
More related controversy on the razor's edge: It is not possible to approach Krsna through the intelligence; only through bhakti- devotion- is it possible. Misunderstanding this, many devotees sentimentally express themselves as "into the heart -not the head". They describe those who hold the opposite view as jnanis, intellectuals, mental speculators, but not devotees. In the Gita, on the other hand, "buddhi yoga" (yoga of the intelligence) is given as a synonym for bhakti. Moreover, Lord Chaitanya stressed that everything one possesses must be used for the service of the Lord. His devotee biographer Krsnadas Kaviraja advised us to use logic- implying intelligence- to understand Lord Chaitanya's teachings. Srila Prabhupada stressed the same, in lectures and personally, in sharp reprimands to "use your brain!".
It may be asked that if intelligence can be used in the Lord's service, why then is it described as useless in approaching the absolute truth? The answer is clear- intelligence devoid of the motivation for achieving bhakti, devoid of a service attitude and devoid of reference to sastra, is useless. Simply by speculating or flexing the mental muscles, one can never understand Krsna Consciousness; it is a closed bottle. But by using the intelligence, mind, senses and so on, in Krsna's service, the Absolute Truth is fully revealed. It is not that because one is so intelligent that he has understood the Absolute Truth, but that he has been so willing to use all that he has- including intelligence- for the purpose of the Lord's pleasure. "One who studies this conversation, worships Me with His intelligence..."
Intelligence devoid of bhakti is not only useless, it is an impediment to bhakti, as it generally makes one proud, self-assured and unappreciative of the various snippets of wisdom that others can give. It is another opulence, which like money or power will only cause degradation if one has no motivation to use it in the right way. But if only one has a little sense of at least wanting to be devoted to the Lord, it is a wonderful and powerful tool to use to this end. Through reason one can see the futility of materialistic pursuits, and of a life dedicated to gratifying the senses, personal and extended. Through reason also, one can see everyday the fingerprints of God, the proof before one's eyes of a Creator with a sense of artistry, invention and even humour (think of the camel). Thus, God is a person, a mischievious brilliant and unlimitedly powerful one, and oh blue boy doesn't Lord Krsna fit the bill? Thus through reason, one gains a sense of unshakable faith, and from there, one will never depart from this path, at least so long as one has sanity.
This raises another razor like controversy- that Krsna consciousness is all about mercy-either of Krsna, guru, the advanced devotee or the mahabhagavat, depending of course on what group one belongs to. Usually, it is the conviction of the same group that are "into the heart not the head". But if they are asked to explain what mercy means, they usually either resort to dictionary definitions or flights of sentimental besottedness such as "his smile" or "that look in his eyes" or "just being in his presence I can feel something!" However, if we refer to the guru disciple transactions in sastra, the mercy of the guru is manifest in the shape of instructions and service. Those instructions help one to distinguish between reality and illusion- it is engaging the mind of both the attentive listener and the rational speaker in service to the Lord. Then because all the senses must be used in service of God (or else they will serve illusion), there is practical engagement also. Thus one attains a spiritual body even without leaving the present one- by total absorption in spiritual consciousness.
Of course, the Lord is not limited in the way He chooses to give His mercy. He can elevate even the most duplicitous and envious person- such as Putana. This is however, the exception to the rule, and in this respect, Srila Prabhupada advised that we must not stay unqualified and expect that mercy will do everything. We must do everything we can- engaging mind, body, intelligence, facility and so on, in devotional service, then the Lord will certainly carry whatever we lack. He will give us the intelligence needed to approach Him, to weed out our various gross and subtle anarthas which take the shape of illusions and weaknesses of the heart, (as described in great detail by Bhaktivinode Thakur in Bhajana Rahasya) This is the normal course that mercy takes- the rule rather than the exception.
But when we consider ourselves exceptional- which is a maniferstation of ego- and when we are lazy- a manifestation of Kali Yuga, we think that we qualify for the easy and exceptional road. Sometimes this illusory false ego platform is disguised thus: "Prabhu, Lord Chaitanya is the Savior of the most fallen, and I am the most fallen, sooo..." Srila Prabhupada saw through this farce and responded thus: "You are not the most anything!" Thus the guru teaches by example- helping us to see through false showbottle spirituality by showing us how he does it himself.
Actually, humility is to consider oneself, in all reality, as merely
one tiny conditioned soul who is but one step from being in total
illusion. With such an attitude, one will try with all one's ability
to make that one step strong, knowing that maya can at any time
bewilder the intelligence. We must, in the words of St Augustus "Pray
as if everything depends on God. Work as if everything depends on
you". Thus the concepts of "constant endeavour" and "dependence on
the mercy of the Lord" are not the opposites they appear to be, but
are reconciled in the heart of that devotee who has carefully uprooted
all egotistical sense of being independent, as well all laziness for
spiritual life, and has sought only the pleasure of the Lord through
cultivation of the submissive service attitude.