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What Does Too Much Democracy Look Like?

Wednesday, 21 December 2011 / Published in Articles / 3,733 views

By Sita Rama dasa

Today, most people in the Western world equate democracy with fairness and justice; these words are interchangeable in common speech. A modern progressive would consider it odd to question if something is “too democratic.” However, if one reads Richard Hofstadter’s classic book, “The American Political Tradition” they will learn that the U.S. Constitutional Assembly was dominated by fear of too much democracy. Devotees should also understand that too much democracy is dangerous and counteract the influence of intellectuals who are determined to create a totally democratic world.

If one googles: Richard Hofstadter – “The founding Fathers: An Age of Realism” they will find a downloadable pdf of the first chapter of the book mentioned above; it shows the attitude of the founding Fathers. Here are a few quotes from the constitutional assembly:

[ Edmund Randolph, saying to the Convention that the evils from which the country suffered originated in “the turbulence and follies of democracy,” and that the great danger lay in the “democratic parts of our constitutions”; Elbridge Gerry, speaking of democracy as “the worst of all political evils”; William Livingston, saying that “the people have ever been and ever will be unfit to retain the exercise of power in their own hands”; George Washington, the presiding officer, urging the delegates not to produce a document of which they themselves could not approve simply in order to “please the people”; Hamilton, charging that the “turbulent and changing” masses “seldom judge or determine right” and advising a permanent governmental body to “check the imprudence of democracy”; —-all these were quite representative of the spirit in which the problems of government were treated.]

However Hofstadter explains the Founding Fathers also feared taking all power away from the people:

[If they feared the advance of democracy, they also had misgivings about turning to the extreme right.” Mason admitted “that we had been too democratic,” but feared that “we should incautiously run into the opposite extreme.” Washington, who had already repudiated a suggestion that he become a military dictator, agreed, remarking that “we are apt to run from one extreme to the other.” Hamilton cited a clergyman: “Let it stand as a principle that government originates from the people; but let the people be taught…….that they are not able to govern themselves.]

In a Democracy each issue is voted on by all the people. The U.S. was not designed in this way. We vote for representatives, who then make the decisions, we are therefore a Republic. But people consider democracy sacrosanct and want to increase it as much as possible. They are blind to the fact that it is dangerous if taken to an extreme. I will present one of many examples of this.

I just began a MA in negotiation and conflict resolution (NCR). I plan to use what I learn to serve ISKCON. NCR implicitly and explicitly increases democratic processes; it allows people in general to have more power over decisions that affect them. I do not think democratic procedures are bad per se if the limits are recognized. But, as in most schools of thought, the leaders in the NCR field consider it a panacea. I was just reading an assignment which described global mediation as a process of Democratization. It described the goal of a world where “mediation is the core of good governance.” In essence, it envisions a world where the center of control is the mediator/ facilitator and power issues are resolved, not by laws enforced by governments, but by agreements made between conflicting parties. In other words, the facilitators/intellectuals will be in control of the world.

How far the world proceeds toward this ideal remains to be seen but it shows that intellectuals have explicit plans to increase their control over the world and it is likely, as time goes on, that people’s values will simply be ideals imposed upon them by the intellectual powers that be. Frankly this has already taken place to such a degree that even some devotees, after decades in the movement, still consider secular values and “scientific” truths more valid then the teachings of the Vedas.

Of course the intellectuals are the natural heads of society. But in Brahminical culture the intellectuals surrendered to the higher power of the Vedic teachings and they did not consider themselves fit to put forward their own secular mental concoctions as absolute values. They taught the ruling class how to govern as just servants of all the citizens. Although the rulers were servants of the people, and people had inherent rights, the rulers were not dominated by the people. The system that secular intellectuals want is one where their misguided values dominate ethical ideals. They want to use the force of the masses to overrun and obscure governmental control. And then they will essentially have complete control by persuading people that the values they have imposed on them have actually sprung from the convictions of the masses. The control is invisible so it will be hard to counteract when it become tyrannical.

It is hard for me to envision ISKCON mitigating this by converting mass numbers of College professors to Krishna Consciousness. And I object to the strategy of some devotees who try to water the philosophy down to make it more acceptable to the “highly educated” At the same time I cannot see ISKCON changing the world when ideals are so strongly dictated to them by secular educators. The solution is that devotees must become the educators. I do not mean devotees who live in Temples need to increase their influence by moving out and getting PhD’s. But what about the growing number of highly educated people who continue with their external occupations? What if parents could encourage their devotee children to become physics professors instead of a software engineer? What if instead of becoming a lawyer one becomes a professor of history, or political science, philosophy, etc? The number of devotee professors would increase exponentially if ISKCON adopted an overall conviction that this is a valuable service and the sons and daughters of devotee professors began to see being a professor as a higher goal then being a professional. After several centuries or even say a thousand years of this, devotees may become the dominant force in secondary education throughout the world. This would curb the influence of Kali Yuga, whereas if the secular intellectuals continue to increase their power, Kali Yuga will advance proportionality.


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    sdmuni108 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    There’s a long tradition among American intellectuals analyzing the relevant merits of democracy in the USA. Hofstadters work is a classic example.

    Having said that, it does appear that it is the western style democracies, if not the US in particular, that is making the world save for Gaudiya Vaisnavism. If only in a contemporary realpolitik way.

    In the early days of the American republic, only the landed and mercantile class could be assured of having an educated vested interest in the success of a stable society. With the opening up of universal male suffrage during the Jackson era, the tenor of American democracy shifted significantly. In our times, at the very least a high school education is assured to every citizen, as well the right to cast a vote.

    If Iskcon is a brahminical institution, and if the first duty of a brahman is to offer education to the public, then perhaps that is a strategic initiative to consider.

    Which could then beg the question: what is most valuable part of a human education? Perhaps that part is Iskcon’s unique contribution.

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: -11 ) says:

    In the State of California we have a clear example of “too much democracy,” which is keenly felt by many citizens.

    Sometime in the early 20th century, in order to counterbalance a legislature that might be too heavily influenced by wealthy special interests, the State constitution was amended to have direct ballot initiatives that the general electorate could vote for, rather than relying on their elected representatives to make laws.

    The way it works is, anyone can draft a proposed law, then comply with regulations for getting the proposed “initiative” on the ballot, including getting the prescribed number of signatures on a petition, and then there is an up or down vote by the general electorate.

    It might sound good in theory, but the moneyed special interests are naturally the ones most expert at manipulating this process. Whenever some grass roots initiative threatens to get on the ballot, the effected industrial interests will put on several other confusing alternatives, and pay for lots of advertising to make sure people (usually) vote their way. The industries can also bypass the Legislature themselves. It is easy to get the petitions signed by an army of paid signature-collectors who stand in front of grocery stores and movie theatres getting $1 or $2 per signature.

    So, the so-called “Progressive” reforms such as the statewide initiatives, referendums, recall elections and district-wide elections (curtailing the power of urban immigrant ‘ward bosses’) may have only changed the rules a bit, but still has left those with the most money and most focused interest on speecific issues with a better chance of playing the system to their own advantage.

    Still, such democratizing measures in our California constitution, though not the great leveling influences they were designed or expected to be, do limit the ability somewhat of robber barrons and dictators to actually blatantly take charge of the government: they may still be more powerful than the average citizen, but they do have to play the game and somehow appeal to the voters (or mislead them by appealing to their interests and concerns).

    Saintly kings should not be conceived of as similar to modern tyrants and fascist dictators, either: “…before installing his beloved son Dhruva on the throne… [King Uttanapada] consulted his ministerial officers, considered the opinion of the public, and also personally examined Dhruva’s character.” [SB 4.9.66, Purport]

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    Sita Rama 108 ( User Karma: -8 ) says:

    I have no objection to it, but want to point that I did not request Dandavats to place any photo along with my article. It is not me, it is Richard Hofstadter. However, there is a striking resemblance between his eyeglasses and mine.
    Sita Rama das

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    Kulapavana ( User Karma: -20 ) says:

    Too much of any one thing can have detrimental effects, that is not a great discovery. Too much sugar is as bad as too much salt. Ultimately it is the practical effect, or practical experience, that allows us to determine the value of a particular arrangement.
    The managerial authority – whether a king or democratically elected official or body, must be held accountable for the EFFECTS of their rule. It is as much a Vedic standard as common sense. We can argue which system of government is theoretically better, but ultimately all authorities must be judged by the result.
    Prabhupada: “You can say, I can say my method is very nice. You can say your method is very nice, but we have to judge by the result.” Television Interview – July 4, 1971, Los Angeles
    “It is also said, phalena paricīyate: one’s success or defeat in any activity is understood by its result.” SB 8.9.28, Purport
    The popularity of the democratic system of government in our times stems from many centuries of practical experience – in other words, it produces better results, at least most of the time.
    We can sing the praises of saintly kings of the Vedic era but there are none available to us today. And that is a practical and historical experience of our movement, not just my opinion. So we have to make due with what IS available in our communities – a sizable group of mature devotees. When Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and Srila Prabhupada favored the GBC management option over a singular acharya they clearly opted for the more democratic solution. Yes, we should work towards building varnashrama based communities, but we should concentrate on what is available here and now. I have personally experienced many situations where abandoning democratic process among the devotees produced very negative results. I am much more inclined to trust the collective wisdom of local devotees then authoritarian edict of any one person, however qualified they may seem at the moment.

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    vishnujanadasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dandavts Sita Rama Prabhu. This article hits right on the mark. Very realistic and perceptive. Thank you for sharing your insights and realizations.

    Due to the manipulation of today’s democratic governments, the rights and laws governing the world’s democracies, particularly America’s, are being stripped away. A bill was just signed into law by the president to indefinitely detain citizens without trial, which directly abrogates the U.S. constitution. That constitution is what made America prosperous. It is why other countries looked to the U.S. as a constitutional role-model, and it is what allowed us to preach so widely and freely.

    Of course Lord Krishna is the ultimate permitter and controller.

    The proposal that ISKCON devotees should attain to educational positions is a very good idea. Considering the currant uncertain and declining political and economic climate though, the time window proposed may be too long. It reminds one of the example of Christianity’s long and slow progressive spread and influence, and this may be the case with Krishna Consciousness. Or, one could also give the example of Islam, which, contrary to Christianity, spread extremely rapidly within only a few generations.

    We, however, need not resort to the sword, but to the simple grass-roots method used by Lord Chaitanya and Srila Prabhupada: Harinama Sankirtana and transcendental book distribution. These are simple, practical, and able to be performed by anyone.

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    Sita Rama 108 ( User Karma: -8 ) says:

    Dear Kulpavana Prabhu, I just want to make it clear that nothing I said advocates abandoning democratic processes among devotees or society in general. As stated above I am in a MA program for Conflict Resolution which increases democratic processes and I want to eventually use this in service for ISKCON.
    We need to define our terms for this conversation. No nation existing right now is technically a DEMOCRACY where every issue is decided by popular votes. Based on this I cannot accept your accept your statement that current Democracy’s produce the best results. The only nations that ever came close to being Democracy’s were small City states in and around Greece. The voting citizens had time to gather and vote on every issue because they had a great number of slaves performing the labor needed for their society to function. We live in a REPUBLIC.
    The above is not a criticism of the current Republican form of government. Rather it is a criticism of those who want to go to from this point to the Utopian extreme of democratic world ruled exclusively by consensus.
    We can theoretically say any extreme is bad. But it follows we must see the dangers of too much democracy. We are all aware of dangerous edicts from one authoritarian person whether it be within ISKCON or society at large. But we need to discover the dangers of values imposed by unnamed groups of secular intellectuals who advocate impractical democratic utopia’s.
    There is no such thing as a leaderless organization, much less a leaderless country- governed exclusively by consensus. Intellectuals advocate this unattainable goal because they are averse to authority and at the same time desire to be the authorities. A leaderless society is as Utopian, and in many other ways similar, to a classless society. One wants to abolish class the other want to abolish authorities but in both cases the ones advocating the impracticable change wind up on with the most power(until the system collapses). The real motivation of those who advocate these Utopian ideals should be clear to any devotee.

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: -11 ) says:

    “What if parents could encourage their devotee children to become physics professors instead of a software engineer? What if instead of becoming a lawyer one becomes a professor of history, or political science, philosophy, etc? The number of devotee professors would increase exponentially if ISKCON adopted an overall conviction that this is a valuable service and the sons and daughters of devotee professors began to see being a professor as a higher goal then being a professional.”

    The topic of higher education for devotees is an interesting one. I think it would be wonderful to see leading professors of History, Philosophy, Physics, Psychology and so on who were pure devotees, and who used their training in these secular, empirical subjects to promote Krishna consciousness. BI could be a think-tank or research institute for such scientists.

    There are many other fields also in which accomplished devotees could do great things for Sri Sri Nitai-Gaura’s sankirtan movement, such as … becoming elected officials, becoming experts in publicity and media relations, becoming expert in poetry and literature, in music, dance, theatre and the performing arts, film and television and radio, and business, vegetarian cooking…. pretty much anything a devotee is interested in can be used nicely in promoting Krishna consciousness.

    However, the danger is that in the secular world, and even in the university environment, there are plenty of opportunities to be distracted from one’s sadhana and one’s dedication to becoming a pure devotee. Most of what a History professor or Philosophy professor has to do to advance his or her career and satisfy the University and department administration is going to be tedious and boring to a devotee, if not downright threatening to engulf one in worldliness.

    Yet, we do have some serious devotees who are scientists and college professors, and it does make a positive difference.

    It seems that Srila Prabhupada’s idea for gurukula was to train up people of ideal character who could become professional preachers of Krishna consciousness without being concerned for fitting into the mainstream economy. At least that is the impression I got long ago from reading some of Srila Prabhupada’s guidelines on the subject.

    The main thing is always that we somehow become a pure devotee, and then we can put the “one” of Krishna in front of the many talents and abilities we have, which otherwise will remain to be just so many zeros.

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    Sita Rama 108 ( User Karma: -8 ) says:

    Akurannatha Prabhu,
    I am grateful for your comments. I share the same concerns you do that is why I mentioned that this is especially suitable for the growing number of highly educated devotees who are becoming initiated but continuing with their external occupations. Such people are inured to the materialistic/atheistic spirit that permeates academia. They will also have a realistic understanding of social/political realities and how Krishna Consciousness can be effectively injected into them.
    As I mentioned I do not recommend this is for those who have lived for many years in Temples. But it seems the majority of devotees are now living outside and plenty of them are highly educated. A shift that would not be a drastic change of their path could be seen as a preaching strategy.
    I am against trying to bend people to fit into any scheme. There is an example of a MIT graduate student (PhD. program in chemistry) who recently became a serious devotee. What her course will be remains to be seen, it depends on personal factors, There are many possibilities and the right one for her will ultimately be revealed by the Grace of Krishna. I guess what I mean to say is we can have a strong conviction about an idea in general without feeling the need to jam in down peoples throats.

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    ron conroy satyahit ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Speaking about spreading Krsna Consciousness broadly, lately always has methink of television as the tool for educating people in diet,health,philosophy and morality . A devotee is compassionate to others.
    What broader tool could there be ? This would be the rhinorserous Srila Prabupada talked of. Certainly a tremendous amount of planing,filming,co-operation and money would be required for a 24/7 channel, if even permitted . What better way to oppose maya en mass and massively.
    satyahit das

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    Kulapavana ( User Karma: -20 ) says:

    Dear Sita Rama Prabhu,
    My main point was that a value of any form of government has to be determined by studying the practical effects it has on the welfare of it’s citizens, and that government must be held accountable for these effects. Lack of accountability will ruin absolutely any system of governence, and when the effects of governance are not good, people will vote with their feet and leave such a community. It happens all the time.
    Direct democracy where all citizens get to decide what happens to their community may not be practical in very large communities or modern countries, but I was focusing on our own communities of devotees, which are still very small, and where direct democracy is a perfectly viable option.
    We should be primarily concerned with proper governance in our own communities. We can only expand if people feel inspired to join by studying the good results these communities generate. Without such a practical proof that we indeed do know what is good for society in general, we are just another purely theoretical promise of a better tomorrow.

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    Sita Rama 108 ( User Karma: -8 ) says:

    Dear Kalpavana Prabhu,
    Thank you. I do know there are Temples where there is a “governance system” instead of a Temple President. I know of no reason to object to this. I believe Asian businesses also have flat hierarchy’s and this seems to be relativity functional. But a large nation has areas such a law enforcement and the military where orders must be followed without a voting on them.
    But various structures requiring different modes of leadership is not the real point. The consensus within ISKCON or a society of Brahman’s is not comparable to world wide democracy because the Brahman’s accept the Transcendental Autocrat as the ultimate authority. Their sense of self that trickles down to practical values is not produced entirely from their own illusory views of reality as those within secular academia are. They do not consider themselves fit to be the controllers of the world independently of the Supreme Controller as the secular academics do. Rather their objective is to promote a force other than themselves as the highest authority.
    It is something of an over simplification but the secular academics recognize that the injustices and conflicts of the world revolve around different identifications; race, sex,class,etc. But they have no scientific knowledge that the real self is above these false identifications.. So they attempt to solve the problems by artificially negating the differences. Some of these attempt’s have, for the time being, produced a more civilized world but they are doomed to fail as these ideas are expanded to the logical conclusion and they attempt to use them as a panacea in all aspects of life. We need a concept of absolute equality but attempting this without knowing that equality is based on the spirit soul creates a path to impracticable Utopian concepts.The academics will always have great influence on shaping peoples world view so we need academics with knowledge of the spirit soul to save the world from progressing into solutions based a futile attempt to negate illusion rather than on transcending it.

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    Puskaraksa das says:

    Dear Sita Rama Prabhu

    In regards to the drawbacks of democracy, you could also have quoted a British professor named Alexander Fraser Tyler who wrote:

    “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can exist only until the voters discover they can vote themselves largesse (defined as a liberal gift) out of the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy, always to be followed by a dictatorship.”

    Even though his views are pessimistic in regards to the future of any democracy, we can still see that many of the current problems met by indebted countries, states and cities are due to the fact that they have lived on credit and spent beyond their means, part of it being due to promises meant to attract voters. Hence, democracy decays when it falls prey to the allurements of demagogy!

    However, we must keep in mind that the form of democracy which is the most criticized is direct democracy (which you could portray as too much democracy), and not indirect democracy where elected representatives decide in the name of the people. Moreover, most countries functioning through an indirect democratic system have set up a constitution which protects the rights of the citizens by law, be they republics or constitutional monarchies.

    Nevertheless, the same people who were not in favor of direct democracy, were generally not in favor of royalty either, as per the history of monarchy in different countries. Thus, John Adams [second U.S. President] wrote: “Unbridled passions produce the same effects, whether in a king, nobility, or a mob. The experience of all mankind has proved the prevalence of a disposition to use power wantonly. It is therefore as necessary to defend an individual against the majority (in a democracy) as against the king in a monarchy.” Similarly, Alexander Hamilton [first Secretary of the Treasury] wrote: “We are now forming a republican form of government. Real liberty is not found in the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments. If we incline too much to democracy, we shall soon turn into a monarchy (or some other form of dictatorship).”

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    Puskaraksa das says:

    Besides, succession becomes an issue in a monarchy, which is a form of government in which the office of head of state is usually held until death or abdication, is most often hereditary, and usually accords official pre-eminence to members of the reigning dynasty. However, in some cases, the monarch is elected. Even in antiquity, the strict hereditary succession could be tempered by systems of elective monarchy, where an assembly elects a new monarch out of a pool of eligible candidates. These exceptions make it difficult to come about with one single definition of “monarchy”.

    Hence, we can see that there is a long way to go for people to resolve to go back to being ruled by a king, when most countries have either given up monarchy or considerably reduced its power and influence. Currently, 44 sovereign nations in the world have monarchs acting as heads of state, 16 of which are Commonwealth realms that recognize Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state. All European monarchies are constitutional ones, with the exception of the Vatican City, but sovereigns in the smaller states exercise greater political influence than in the larger. The monarchs of Cambodia, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia and Morocco “reign, but do not rule” although their is considerable variation in the amount of authority they wield. Although they reign under constitutions, the monarchs of Brunei, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Swaziland appear to continue to exercise more political influence than any other single source of authority in their nations, either by constitutional mandate or by tradition.

    Therefore, your analysis in regards to the need of educating people is a correct approach. To that, we also have to add the precept of preaching by example, by setting up the varnashrama system and in that regard, training up a class of competent ksatriyas. This will enable us to showcase a proper organization of a God centered society, where everyone fits in his/her natural position, in a selfless spirit of Krishna consciousness…

    Till then, if we can’t change the world, we can at least work on changing ourselves and becoming part of the solution, versus being part of the problem!

    Hare Krishna

    Yours in service
    Puskaraksa das

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    Kulapavana ( User Karma: -20 ) says:

    Sita Rama Prabhu writes: “It is something of an over simplification but the secular academics recognize that the injustices and conflicts of the world revolve around different identifications; race, sex,class,etc. But they have no scientific knowledge that the real self is above these false identifications.. So they attempt to solve the problems by artificially negating the differences.”
    I agree with your analysis. Religions in the Western world have been a very divisive factor ever since the Abrahamic religions made their appearance on the scene, stirring up one population after another. So the academic approach is to base universal equality on the idea of humanity in general and equal rights of every human being in particular. That is a very tangible and unquestionable material reality, unlike the much more esoteric idea of a spirit soul. Thus I’m not sure that it is going to be an easy sell on our part trying to convince academic circles to change their basic platform to a soul-based equality. Maybe it will happen eventually, when the needs of all forms of life are recognized and respected. Still, even then it would be much easier to simply adopt a view that all forms of life have inalienable rights.
    As to the risk of ‘artificially negating the differences': I see, sometimes even in our own movement, that there is an arguably more serious risk of artificially promoting the differences between people, which in effect ends up amounting to an abuse of certain groups of people. There are passages in our literature which seem to side with slavery for example, however benevolent the intent of such arrangement might be. Good luck trying to pass that off (to academics or people in general) as a responsible governance.

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    Sita Rama 108 ( User Karma: -8 ) says:

    Dear Kalpavana,
    A secular concept of inalienable rights of all life will never be effective because people remain entrapped in the bodily concept. Because of our need to enjoy we must try to exploit matter and other living beings. A concept of overcoming material, exploitative, enjoyment by experiencing the higher enjoyment as a spirit soul must be accepted. This is a tangible experience and the change in activities of a person experiencing this enjoyment is observable by others.
    You say it is not going to be easy to get academics to change their platform to a soul based equality. I made that same point in my post. That is why I recommend devotees who are highly educated and in professional occupations instead become academics.
    Promoting the differences between people is the antithesis Krishna Consciousness. If this is not clear to a person they have not taken the first step in devotional service, although they may claim to be a devotee.
    I have never heard an academic or any other person claim that ISKCON is in favor of reinstating slavery, such a claim is so preposterous no reasonable person would take it seriously.
    As long as there is no scientific knowledge of the soul they will be abuse based on promoting artificial differences and also on negating artificial differences. I believe certain people were abused under Stalin, based on a world view that artificially negated differences.On the other hand, Anti slavery in America was spearheaded by Quakers not secular academics, and Martin Luther King Junior was not a secular academic. So the idea of abuses in the name of Abrahamic Traditions versus secular academic ethics is an either or fallacy.

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    Sita Rama 108 ( User Karma: -8 ) says:

    The mind is easily confused by topics of ideal Vedic societies. As conditioned souls we believe we can enjoy material existence although we are surrounded with evidence to the contrary. Thus everyone also imagines that a problem free material society is somehow possible. If we are too much influenced by this illusion it will make us deaf to the real message of the Vedas and we will hear something entirely different from what is being said.
    Correct hearing means to understand that even a perfectly organized Vedic Society (where all material needs are easily met, there is no crime, etc) is a place of suffering for one in material consciousness.
    B.G. 8:16- From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunté, never takes birth again.
    We are not proposing a problem free society; we are advocating a society where knowledge of the process for transcending material miseries is widely available.

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    JivaGoswami ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Sita Rama-ji,

    Your picture on this post looks quite distinguished now that you’re going to grad school!

    As the committees for the Declaration and the Articles of Confederacy before it, the US Constitutional assembly was, by my understanding, dominated by the fear of a monarchy or anything that smelled like it. Our (US) current form of government has quite a few inefficiencies in part due to this fear. Actually, a government with a very strong executive is much more efficient and effective. However it is clear to me that a strong executive type of government does not work, and I believe never will.

    Yet protection of minorities from majorities, one of the clear deficiencies of “democracy”, was an important goal. The weak, ineffectual government of the Articles of Confederacy was replaced with the much stronger, much more centralized government of the present Constitution. Issues of individual property rights and uniform monetary policy from situations like the Shay’s Rebellion, is part of what prompted the call for a new constitution/government. Along with the problems of not being able to levy taxes and pay pensions (a primary contributor to the Shay’s Rebellion in fact).

    Even our first Libertarian president, Jefferson, argued for a stronger central government prior to his presidency.

    Oh, and getting more PHDs and professorships as a preaching method is a bad idea in my opinion. Devotees who need to maintain themselves and their families can be encouraged, even institutionally, to do that as an extension of their natural inclinations. Why be a ditch digger if you can be a professor? Going to school means you want to get a job. Brahmanical preachers, especially sannyasis, should just be preachers and sannyasis. College professors, which is way, way different than being a brahmana, can be the college professors.

    Not that devotees with degrees and training shouldn’t work within the society, but degrees and training do not equate to brahmanicality nor even intellectuality. A PhD is usually smart and focused, but that’s about it.


    Jiva Goswami dasa

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    Sita Rama 108 ( User Karma: -8 ) says:

    Dear Jiva Goswami Prabhu,
    Thank you for reiterating my point regarding the Founding Father’s fear of too much democracy.
    It has already been stated more than once that this is a suggestion for devotees who maintain careers as highly educated professionals. Obviously some devotees should be “just” preachers or sannyasis. A person’s position depends on their individual characteristics.
    You say, “A PhD is usually smart and focused, but that is about it”. This statement doesn’t acknowledge that professors have tremendous influence on the worldview and ethics of people in general. I assert; for a rational dialogue both parties must acknowledge this fact.
    Before moving into the Temple at age 18 I was a high school drop out with a drug abuse problem. After practicing celibacy and studying Srila Prabhupada’s books for some time, by Krishna’s Mercy, I became more philosophically intelligent than most college professors. This is the case for most devotees, what to speak of sannyasis. But still the combined influence of devotees is a minute fraction of that exerted on the people by academics. This is not because academics have superior intelligence; it is simply because they occupy positions that allows them to greatly influence the formative minds of the world’s future leaders. So devotees who are most intelligent by Krishna’s Grace should occupy positions of those who have the most influence on society. I see no grounds for the argument that this is a bad idea.
    Sita Rama das

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    Puskaraksa das says:

    In regards to the last point raised, concerning getting a degree, a master or a PhD, I think it is very personal.

    It all depends on one’s motivation, one’s aptitudes, one’s needs and one’s instructions…

    If one wishes to serve Guru & Krishna in this way, has the necessary qualifications, needs it for his family maintenance and/or his preaching and does it in accordance with one’s guru’s instructions, then why not ?

    In a broader sense, having qualified devotees being able to interact in different spheres will certainly be conducive to spreading Krishna consciousness…

    What best example could we give, for instance, than Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur who initiated preaching Krishna consciousness out of India, wrote so many books and still filled an important role in society, while acting as a judge (which certainly required him to study law…)?

    Hence, I guess we should try to encourage devotees in their seva (rather than take the risk of discouraging them, unless they are obviously in Maya).

    Hoping this finds you well, I wish you a – fascinating and all attractive – Krishna conscious New Year 2012…

    Krsne matir astu
    Puskaraksa das

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: -11 ) says:

    “Not that devotees with degrees and training shouldn’t work within the society, but degrees and training do not equate to brahmanicality nor even intellectuality. A PhD is usually smart and focused, but that’s about it.”

    Of course it is true that the scientists and college professors and literary lions and influential critics of today are not real brahmanas, embodying the qualities of samo damas tapah saucam ksantir arjavam etc.

    However, as Sita Rama Prabhup points out, they are occupying a position in the social body that is homologous to the position of real brahmanas in a real varnasrama society.

    I think it was Hare Krishna dasi who used to point out quite articulately that in Srila Prabhupada’s discussions about varnasrama society he was sometimes emphasizing that these divisions of labor exist in some form within every civilized human society, and at other times he emphasized that one’s actual varna depends on one acquiring the true qualities and actions of such caste, and therefore we can say that in Kali yuga everyone is, by qualification, a sudra, with only a very few exceptions.

    These are two distinct approaches. Clearly, the meat-eating scientist who denies the existence of a spiritual dimension and only believes in the physical universe described by modern science is not a brahmana. A real brahmana is a spiritual scientist who has jnana, vijnana, etc.

    Nevertheless, we can see as sociologists that there are people who do the work of intellectuals rather than being men of action or being devoted to producing wealth (or merely serving and manufacturing things). The intellectuals, being more devoted to valuing knowledge and truth and communicating such ideas and values, can be seen to have some characteristics associated with real brahmanas, even though they are really sudras by qualification who are doing the work of brahmanas in society.

    But because of their strategic position, it would be great to see some actual, qualified brahmanas occupying the influential positions of intellectuals in modern society. We could expect that real brahmanas who have clean and pure habits ought to really excel in the academic environment due to their being a lot smarter, wiser, more perceptive and more articulate than the dull sudras who are accepted today as talented intellectuals.

    (I do not mean to insult our modern Nobel laureates, but I believe they will be the first to acknowledge the amazing, razor-sharp intellect of true brahmanas.)

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    JivaGoswami ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I’m a non-academic who works with PhDs, MDs and MD/PhDs all day, every day at a major university. Few could be mistaken for brahmans by any standard (and not just because what they eat, etc.). Not that they’re bad people, they just regular people who are smart and focused. I had a really good auto mechanic once who was quite similar. I suppose that my medical department and college are tilted towards more “practical” and less theoretical work. Maybe if I worked in a philology or a theoretical physics dept, I might feel differently.

    Some professors/PhDs are intellectuals, some intellectuals are professors/PhDs. A few professors have a tremendous amount of influence, most only have a little influence. Hardly any professors are a Krugman or a Chomsky.

    It is my opinion from an admittedly limited observation that attending university for the sake of preaching doesn’t lead to more preaching. It leads to less preachers, and sometimes less devotees. Studying law isn’t likely to beget more Bhaktivinoda Thakurs. More than once I’ve sat and eaten lunch on campus with vaisnava preachers turned students who have lost faith on a very deep, possibly irrevocable level. I’ve also spent time with a prominent vaisnava going to a prominent school (and I’ll stop right there).

    Again, if an individual vaisnava is academically inclined and and can do that kind of work, all the better. But in my opinion, it should be a path of *work*. For the few who might prove to be the exceptions (including at least one of the writers on this thread), good for them!


    Jiva Goswami

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    Sita Rama 108 ( User Karma: -8 ) says:

    Thank you Akuranatha Prabhu and Puskaraksa Prabhu,
    I think it is pretty easy to see that societies consist of some people who are dependent on capitalists for employment, for capitalists to conduct business they need the protection of laws created by politicians, and politicians base their ideology on intellectuals/ philosophers. Of course there is a little difference in Communism but Marx came up with the ideology, and the politicians enforce it.
    The concept of the self derived from philosopher’s trickles down to laws and ethics. Of course John Locke had a great impact on the thinking of the Founding Father of the USA, particularly the idea that when a person mixes their labor (and sweat) with the elements of the Earth they own the products of their labor. Although Locke was an empiricist his philosophy does not acknowledge the observable fact that the Earth, agricultural processes, and biological processes that make the body function, were not produced by the living being. He considers the living being to be the owner of the body and this reifies the concept that the self and the body are the same. Naturally this leads to a totally materialistic culture.
    We are not just name calling when we say most intellectuals are less than sudras, it is an accurate description of a people who cannot understand the simple concept that the consciousness is distinct from matter. I have found this to be the case with almost all my psychology professors although their whole world is to research concepts of the self. And it is not that complicated; I am conscious of my thoughts so my consciousness must be distinct from the mind! It is NOT that “I think therefore I am”; it is “I am, therefore I am”. As devotees, if we begin to think the statement, “we are not these bodies” is simply a cliché and we cannot continually give fresh examples to support this truth we are philosophically stagnant and will not see how much people are controlled by their concept of self and subsequently by intellectuals who spread erroneous self concepts. So it all goes back to that that one statement, “We are not these bodies Prabhu!”

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    Kulapavana ( User Karma: -20 ) says:

    Srila Prabhupada says: “Brahmana means the most intellectual, most intelligent person. Intelligent means one who knows, who has got sufficient knowledge. So brahmana means he has got sufficient knowledge even up to the understanding of the Absolute Truth. Brahma janatiti brahmanah. So that is first-class men, brahmana. So intellectuals or very intelligent class of men, these are everywhere, all over the world. You may call them brahmana or not, but a class of men, very intelligent, that is available in every part of the world. So brahmana means the intelligent class of men. And ksatriya means they are less than the brahmanas. And vaisyas means less than the ksatriyas. And sudras less than all of them. It is a question of intelligence.” Bhagavad-gita 4.13 Class, Bombay, April 2, 1974

    Intelligence, by definition, is the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations, as well as the ability to apply knowledge in order to achieve desired outcome as measured by objective criteria. Thus it is something entirely practical and verifiable. You may claim to be intelligent, you may claim to have the best solution to the problem, but without a practical demonstration it is all just empty words. So devotees should be able to provide a practical proof of their intelligence by creating their own ideal society. First lets create our own small garden that will be so wonderful, others will try to copy it. Nobody goes to a homeless man on the street to learn about building a successful life. If we claim to be most intelligent we must be able to prove it in a practical and tangible way. And yes, it all starts with leadership or governance. Whether democratic, republican, or autocratic – it must produce the desired auspicious outcome, or risk being considered less than intelligent.

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    Sita Rama 108 ( User Karma: -8 ) says:

    Dear Jiva Goswami Prabhu,
    I will repeat one last time that I never said anything about attending college for the sake of preaching. I suggested that highly educated devotees who maintain professional careers could instead becoming academics.
    Your testimony regarding devotee preachers becoming students and losing faith in a very deep, possible irrevocable, way shows the influence of college professors and contradicts your statement that only famous professors like Chomsky have great influence. Another thing to consider is I come from a rural working class community yet the last High School graduation I attended 90% were enrolled in some sort of secondary education. If we consider the fact that a trained devotee loses faith by attending college and the fact that 90% of people also attend college we must conclude that the influence of secular academics is extremely negative on society at large in terms of spiritual understanding.
    But those who become devotees AFTER attending college for many years have overcome this negative influence and as professors would have as much positive influence as secular educators have negative influence.
    Of course I attended college after becoming a devotee but level of faith in the Vedas and Acharya’s compared to my faith in empirical data can be seen in two of my previous posts, “Srila Prabhupada May be Correct Although He Appears to Contradict Empirical Data” and “Are we more intelligent Then Srila Prabupada!” Basically the more I studied science, history, etc, the less faith I had in academic knowledge. In my case this is probably due to the psychological tendency ( which is empirically supported) that people, with slight modification, withhold the world view they acquire in young adulthood throughout their life, and I studied nothing but Krishna Consciousness between the age of 18 and 40. It is not that I have great spiritual realization it is simply that you can’t reteach and old dog.

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    Sita Rama 108 ( User Karma: -8 ) says:

    Kalpavana Prabhu,
    No example can be proof to someone else. It can be compelling evidence to aspire for the same thing but the proof comes only from personal experience.
    We have unlimited examples for people to copy. Some of the most compelling ones are people who live in Cities and continue with their external lives in which they were previously miserable but are now peaceful and deeply satisfied by practicing Krishna Consciousness.
    If you want to build a small garden so wonderful others will want to copy it who will object?Personally I am not so inclined to this idea for a couple of reasons. One is from history: During the Great Depression when people were destitute and starving Roosevelt started a back to nature program to set up urban people in self sufficient rural communities but the project stopped because too few people were interested. So if that is the kind of thing you are suggesting there is little chance for it becoming wide spread at least in the Western world. I believe in India we are having success with this sort of thing but I doubt large numbers of highly educated professional devotees are going to give up their careers and live off the fat of the land. However a change form educated professional to academic is realistic. Arjuna also wanted to go live in a small garden but it was not recommended by Krishna.
    Another point is wonderful gardens in this material world are anything but ideal. We want to teach people that no matter how, so called, ideal a material situation is it is nothing but a source of suffering if we are attached to enjoying it. Krishna Consciousness is a state of transcendental consciousness it is not dependent on a Utopian, wonderful garden.

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    Kulapavana ( User Karma: -20 ) says:

    Dear Sita Rama Prabhu, the garden in my example is merely a metaphor for creating something tangible as a proof of our skill. If you are trying to convince others that you are an expert in a particular field, you have to be able to prove it in a practical way. This conversation started with discussing governance, which is a very practical and tangible subject matter. I brought up a point about being able to demonstrate our skill in governing by governing our own communities in a way that produces objectively good results. A professor of economics who cannot balance his own checkbook or manage his own financial affairs successfully is a fraud, pure and simple. He might be able to delude some naive students by presenting all sorts of complicated word jugglery, but he will not fool people who understand economics. In the same way we have to become practical experts in all the areas where we claim to excel in knowledge and understanding.

    Yes, it would be wonderful to have many devotees pursuing academic careers in order to infuse the world with Krsna conscious ideas, but I’m not convinced that this is the best way to impress the world with Krsna consciousness unless our own communities actually embody those ideas, showing them to be practical and workable. “The proof of the pudding is in the eating” – another one of Srila Prabhupada’s favorite sayings.

    And despite working every day as a scientist (in applied chemistry), I do have a very nice garden where I live. I would never dream of pretending to be a good gardener without having a good garden to show for it.

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    Sita Rama 108 ( User Karma: -8 ) says:

    Kalpavan Prabhu,
    I agree but we are developing a false dichotomy. You say you would not claim to be a good gardener if you did not have a garden to show for it. This shows honesty. When preaching we do not say we are personally good we say the process is good. What we have to “show” for partaking of the good process is our personal experience of spiritual pleasure and understanding. If a person has no spiritual experience to “show” from their practice of Krishna Consciousness I would agree that they should not focus on preaching until they can personally testify to the positive results.
    I do not deny that if we are actually developing transcendental consciousness it will manifest in our dealings with each other and those we come in contact with. We need to show that the philosophy is real by having a well organized society comprised of well wishing devotees.
    But even if a person becomes attracted to a nice Vaisnava Community(and they do exist although some may be less ideal than others) this is not sufficient if a person does not develop an internal conviction of the philosophy through personal experience. I do not believe any current member of ISKCON or any ISKCON community is infallible; thus if ones conviction is not based on the philosophy and perfect example of Srila Prabhupada they are not on the most stable grounds. On the other hand someone who has a personal conviction will continue to have the conviction that they are not the body, that Srila Prabhupada is on the absolute platform and that Krishna is God even if ISKCON totally disintegrated.
    So we have to work at creating a better society but we must realize that a better society is the result of members increasing personal understanding of the philosophy. We can’t say light is not a wave because it acts like a particle and we can’t say that we have to stop stressing the philosophy because we are not acting on the level of those who understand the philosophy. So I agree with you that ISKCON must come to a certain level but disagree that we cannot do what I suggest until ISKCON comes to that certain level. If one has a little understanding it expands when they share that understanding with others. so preaching is the best way to make us better citizens of ISKCON. If we had to wait until we think we are advanced before we preach then we should never preach because we never should consider ourselves advanced.

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    bhaktarach ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Prabhuji, thank you for this very enlightening article on a subject that we all either ignore completely or think falsely that we understand. I do have a question to pose to you: How can ISKCON devotees contribute by becoming teachers/professors besides just being people in Krsna Consciousness that the students can associate with?

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