Community Improvement Survey
Posted March 17, 2011
I was recently offered to take part in an anonymous survey for improving our local ISKCON community. I had some ideas about that, which I am posting here for discussion, as I think the problems our local community is having, are not unique. It is also a universal discussion, in that I am not aiming to provide a solution to any specific problem, or to problems in general, but to change our approach to how we deal with problems. As it is said: "problems do not go away by ignoring them", and I might add: "...or even by chanting Hare Krsna" for there are some problems, most of them, actually, that Lord Krsna wants us to face, and solve as a service to Him. Even in Krsna's pastimes, He wanted Arjuna to do the fighting- not for ambition, but for Him alone.
1. What are the strengths of the local community?
The location, the size- both of land and number of devotees, and the respect, in general, given to Srila Prabhupada.
2. What are the weaknesses of the local community?
The specific lack of respect and value for Srila Prabhupada's teachings and instructions regarding the farming communities in ISKCON.
3. What practical suggestions do you have for improvement?
The introduction of the vision of Srila Prabhupada in respect to the farming communities- i.e. the introduction of varnashrama, which is to give service (karma) according to one's natural qualities (guna). Examining the books of Srila Prabhupada, various examples are there of the qualities inherent in the ksatriya, such as Pariksit, Rantideva and Arjuna. They were prepared to enter fire or cut off their flesh in order to give complete protection and shelter to the most vulnerable and needy. It is described that the ksatriya had the same loving care and concern for all members of his community, as he had for his own family members. If anyone had any problem or anxiety at all, in the community, they could go to the ksatriya, who was foresworn to help anyone in difficulty.
So we need leaders who are prepared to put aside everything, to hear the problems of any distressed member- and go to all lengths to relieve their distress...that are never too busy- busy for what? Their only meaning in life is to serve those in need. They have the natural aptitude to care for others, and so for them, it is a joy to be able to do so.
4. Do you have any other suggestions?
Besides having a ksatriya as leader, which is to put whomsoever is most concerned about others welfare, in charge of others welfare- which is the natural order, we also require brahminical guidance for that ksatriya, on the basis of the guna of the brahmana- detachment, spiritual vision and truthfulness. Those who are unafraid to give truthful, painful and penetrating feedback to those in power, who are peaceful and unambitious for power themselves and who thus refuse to take favours from those in leadership positions, have the natural qualities of the brahmana, and are valued by the ksatriya for their wise and unambitious feedback.
We need only ksatriyas and brahmanas in leadership positions, so that the devotees feel happy in all respects. Physically and psychologically, the ksatriya gives all protection from distressful situations, and spiritually, the brahmana instructs for the progressive development of spiritual bliss. If we instead have vaisyas as leaders, we have what we have now- people concerned with money, bills, debts and so on- in the case of Sydney temple, charging $8 for the Sunday feast, which is reportedly of mean proportion and quality, compared to elsewhere.
Modeling the perfect leader, Srila Prabhupada was once asked if a certain temple that was badly in debt should start charging for the Sunday feast- he recommended instead Harinama- he always advised "Don't worry about money, Krsna will provide!" He modeled the perfect ksatriya by being always approachable for those in difficulty and going out of his way to help them, and by giving shelter even to those unable to follow the four regulative principles, by instructing us to introduce varnashrama so that they do not have to leave, or lose hope, or continue to pretend to be pukka brahmanas, or live in guilt, but be perfect in their natural position.
Varnashrama on many fronts can make devotees happy to be in the Krsna Consciousness movement, and unwilling to leave it, and seeing so many joyful devotees, and a loving atmosphere where everyone is cared for and valued, others will be encouraged to join. This message will be uninteresting to those who have ambition to stay in power, despite the fact that it recommends following the instruction of Srila Prabhupada, whom they tend to revere on only the ethereal or theoretical platform, and more as a matter of form, rather than one of true faith and integrity.
End of survey
In dealing with community problems, it is essential to analyze what we consider to be a problem in the first place, for this gives us a clue on how to implement Srila Prabhupada's solution- varnashrama. Ask yourself that question, and if you think: "financial, our problems are financial, we need to make more money", you are probably a vaisya. If you think immediately: "the devotees are having difficulty, we need to help them", you are probably a ksatriya. If you think: "who cares? I have my own problems", you are probably a sudra, and if you think : "the devotees are having spiritual difficulties, how can I inspire them?", you are probably a brahmana*. Varnashrama simply means giving the service or karma, to those with the natural qualities, or guna. It is very simple, if only attachment to position, or ambition to achieve it, is put aside, in favour of following the instructions of our purportedly beloved founder-acarya, Srila Prabhupada.
*This topic is dealt with in more detail in my book: "Varnashrama, the Eight-Petalled Lotus" which can be ordered by emailing me at: niscala_dasi (at) yahoo (dot) com (dot) au
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