Chakra Discussions

Avoid Misunderstanding of Bhakti

by Gaurav Mittal

Posted June 28, 2011

Re: "Criminals in Vaisnava Dress Deserve No Respect," by Niscala dasi, Chakra, June 19, 2011.

Child abuse is a symptom of bigger philosophical problem in ISKCON. It is difficult to comprehend how a society could allow such cruelty. There are some philosophical misunderstandings which have resulted in child abuse in the past. If these understandings are not fixed, then the abuse will likely continue in some other form, and ISKCON will not be able to become a society of true devotees. Here are some examples of these philosophical issues.

I don't believe that the majority of ISKCON members are able to see the presence of Krishna in everyone. Sometimes they don't even philosophically accept it. Devotees sing these prayers every day: ito nrsimha parato narsimha.... These prayers mean: "Nrsimha is here and there. Wherever I see and go, Nrsimha is present. He is outside, and He is inside me. I take shelter of Lord Nrsimha." Lord Kapila also describes a person who cannot see the presence of Krishna in everyone as a failure in bhakti. In my opinion, at least some ISKCON devotees are at the level where their attempts in bhakti have failed.

I would recommend to Niscala prabhu that she read the following verses carefully and decide for herself. Srimad Bhagavatam 3.29.21-27: "I am present in every living entity as the Supersoul. If someone neglects or disregards that Supersoul everywhere and engages himself in the worship of the Deity in the temple, that is simply imitation. One who worships the Deity of Godhead in the temples but does not know that the Supreme Lord, as Paramatma, is situated in every living entity's heart, must be in ignorance and is compared to one who offers oblations into ashes. One who offers Me respect but is envious of the bodies of others and is therefore a separatist never attains peace of mind, because of his inimical behavior towards other living entities.

"My dear Mother, even if he worships with proper rituals and paraphernalia, a person who is ignorant of My presence in all living entities never pleases Me by the worship of My Deities in the temple. Performing his prescribed duties, one should worship the Deity of the Supreme Personality of Godhead until one realizes My presence in his own heart and in the hearts of other living entities as well. As the blazing fire of death, I cause great fear to whoever makes the least discrimination between himself and other living entities because of a differential outlook. Therefore, through charitable gifts and attention, as well as through friendly behavior and by viewing all to be alike, one should propitiate Me, who abide in all creatures as their very Self."

The above verses are quite important. They clearly state that those who hurt people around them waste their efforts at bhakti. Based on these texts, what you can say about Dhanurdhar, Bhakti Vidya Purna and other child abusers — or about other ISKCON members who knowingly lend support to their continued preaching activities?

ISKCON philosophy tends to have a critical attitude towards non-ISKCON people around them and does not encourage its members to see goodness in them, but those who are focused on criticizing others will not work on improving themselves. If you see the presence of Krishna in everyone, then you will be filled with love and respect towards everyone. Instead ISKCON devotees often characterize those outside the society as rascals, karmis, atheists, mayavadis, etc, but when there is need to apply positive criticisms to help themselves within the society, they tend to discourage it as vaishnava-aparadha. Thus they do the opposite of what one is supposed to do.

ISKCON philosophy occasionally expresses disregard for morality, while the Vedic scriptures do not disregard morality. A true devotee follows the code of morality like compassion, non-violence, truthfulness, etc. The atmosphere in ISKCON has sometimes been to disregard morality for the greater good, i.e. Krishna consciousness. This started with book distributors who sometimes lied to the public while distributing books. What society sees its number of books sold and does not see how they are sold? This happened, by the way, when Prabhupada was alive.

I have seen pseudo-devotees who have cheated in the name of Krishna consciousness or borne disrespect towards codes of morality. While perpetrators are heedless of the harm they do through gross acts of immorality like child abuse and sexual abuse, other members of the society have sometimes been willing to ignore such moral transgressions. Some people even search out some Prabhupada quotes which appear to support such disregard for morality. You need to ignore such quotes or to consider them wrong, just based on the teachings of the Bhagavatam and the Bhagavad-gita.

The Bhagavatam is quite clearly against torture, declaring (10.2.22 and 12.2.41) that persons who inflict suffering on others will go to hell. Vaishnava-aparadha includes hurting devotees. Children were devotees. How can they expect such vaishnava aparadhis to be devotees?

It is easy for a society to remove child abusers, but who is going to remove ISKCON members who implicitly or openly support their continued presence? I consider the supporters of child abuse by criminals in the garb of devotees to be more dangerous than the offenders themselves. Most of us know that Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami is a past child abuser. We can protect ourselves from him, but how can one protect oneself from his supporters?

The focus of many ISKCON devotees can be very superficial at times, where they judge people externally and, many times, in a wrong way. People have been discouraged from being honest, and some are even ostracized if they express doubts about Prabhupada's philosophy. No one can deviate from a regard for Prabhupada as "perfect and pure."

What is impact of such a philosophy? People will use Prabhupada's occasional errors and misstatements to abuse the members. Prabhupada has said right things most of the time, but he has also said wrong things or those which can be misinterpreted. Devotees are forced to accept wrong things, even mental and emotional abuse, from devious or agenda-driven preachers. Especially the devotees who don't have full understandings of Srila Prabhupad's teachings can be misled easily.

A good example is a debate at about Urmila prabhu's giving lectures. People were quoting Prabhupada back and forth. Each group was disregarding the other group's quotes. But they could not say the truth: that Prabhupada was wrong in some quotes. The same applies to quotes from Prabhupada towards women, for example the myth that women like getting raped. You need to accept that such statements are simply wrong, instead of trying to justify them as being somehow correct. What is wrong will always remain wrong, no matter who said it. Devotees need to look within and also to see what is right. Most of the time, Paramatma guides us correctly. If something seems wrong to you, don't accept it.

ISKCON devotees have been known to spend excessive time criticizing mayavadis, rascals, atheists, karmis, etc. It appears to be a main part of some devotees' philosophy. Then they will waste their time on discussing guru-tattva. They have, I think, a wrong understanding of guru; therefore, people are not satisfied with their understanding. They remain confused. Some waste their time on other useless topics like Prabhupada's being the pure and perfect devotee, while failing to focus on true teachings.

All such discussions are useless. What does Prabhupada want? He wants you to realize the truth. What is the truth? I have found truth to be simple. If I realize some simple concepts, I can realize the truth.

Here are a few simple truths. Whatever you are, you are Krishna's. Krishna is yours, no matter how He treats you. You are not this body. You are part of Krishna, and you are sat, chit and ananda. Krishna is in everyone, everywhere, at all times and at all places. Remember Krishna, seeing this world as a manifestation of Him.

Obviously, both I and you can create a bigger list. You will have your own list based on shastra. What I am saying is that you need to focus on basic realizations and to work on accepting those truths, practising them and truly giving your life to them. If we don't even accept these truths, being busy with other useless things, it becomes a main cause of lack of spiritual realization.

Prabhupada's books have truth, but in places they also deviate devotees from truth by useless criticisms, etc. In my opnion, devotees need to reinterpret his books and use them to strengthen their bhakti. Otherwise, ISKCON will not be able to elevate its members to the pure platform. This is a harsh truth, though hard to digest for some narrow-minded devotees.

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