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Mundane welfare work in iskcon

Thursday, 26 July 2012 / Published in Blog thoughts / 5,201 views

Murari Das: Mission Drift

Over time, there has been an increase in ISKCON, in activities which although not supported by Srila Prabhupada, have been gradually creeping into ISKCON and which now are gradually becoming the main focus of attention, activity and donations. I am referring here to mundane welfare work.

Specifically, I refer to the new zeal and enthusiasm by which devotees are rushing to establish

· Schools teaching mundane subjects

· Hospital and medical- aid-oriented activities

· Centres for feeding the ‘disadvantaged’, ‘malnourished’ and ‘victims of disaster’.

All of these were not only never done during Srila Prabhupada’s time but also regularly denounced by His Divine Grace. In numerous lectures, purports, conversations and letters, Srila Prabhupada would explain how Krsna consciousness was the highest welfare work and how all other mundane philanthropy and altruistic activities were incomplete, misguided ways of loving and serving all.

What is more public welfare than Krishna Consciousness? To awaken everyone’s original consciousness is the best public welfare in the whole world.

[ Letter to: Yasomatinandana — Bombay 9 January, 1976]

At the present moment groups of people are engaged in welfare activities in terms of society, community or nation. There is even an attempt in the form of the United Nations for world-help activity. But due to the shortcomings of limited national activities, such a general mass welfare program for the whole world is not practically possible. The Krsna consciousness movement, however, is so nice that it can render the highest benefit to the entire human race.

[Krsna Consciousness Is All-auspicious, NOD]

If anyone is charitably disposed, it will be very good for him to give charity only to Krsna, who is the Supersoul of everyone, regardless of his particular body or individual personality. Krsna is present as the Supersoul in every living being, and if we can satisfy Him, then every living being will automatically be satisfied.

[Krishna Book 74: The Deliverance of Sisupala]

Should a devotee engage in such activities? The simple way to know this is to see whether it is pleasing to Krsna? Srila Prabhupada would quote from Bhagavad-gita about how to best please Krsna;

Here is an explanation of how those engaged in activities for the welfare of others are very quickly recognized by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Lord says in Bhagavad-gita (18.68-69), ya idam paramam guhyam mad-bhaktesv abhidhasyati. .. na ca tasman manusyesu kascin me priya-krttamah: “One who preaches the message of Bhagavad-gita to My devotees is most dear to Me. No one can excel him in satisfying Me by worship.” There are different kinds of welfare activities in this material world, but the supreme welfare activity is the spreading of Krsna consciousness.

[SB 1.5.18 purport]

If one tries to spread Krsna consciousness all over the world, he should be understood to be performing the best welfare activity. The Lord is automatically very pleased with him. If the Lord is pleased with him, what is left for him to achieve?………

Srila Prabhupada in the above quote highlights Krsna’s words in chapter eighteen of Bhagavad-gita on how to please Him. Not surprisingly, His Divine Grace has outlined that very same activity as the main focus (or rather, what should be the main focus) of the worldwide spiritual movement He established: Preaching of the Bhagavad-gita.

If we want to please Krsna, we have to follow the activity that he wants us to do and do what he wants of us. Otherwise that is not Bhakti. Bhakti means serving Krsna the way that he wants to be served.

That is bhakti. Anukulyena krsnanusilanam. Anukulyena. Anukulyena means what is favorable, what Krsna desires. Just like Arjuna. He did not like to fight. He wanted to be a very nice, nonviolent gentleman. But Krsna was inducing him, “You fight.” Then later on, he agreed: “Yes, karisye vacanam tava [Bg. 18.73].” This is anukulyena. “Krsna wants it. Doesn’t matter whether it is violent or nonviolent, Krsna wants it. I must do it.” This is called anukulyena, not against the desire of Krsna, but in favor of Krsna. This is called anukula, anukula-seva. So anukulyena krsnanusilanam bhaktir uttama [Cc. Madhya 19.167]. That is first-class bhakti. Not that “If I like it, then I shall do it.” That is not anukula. That is pratikula. You like or not like, that doesn’t matter. Krsna likes it,; you must do it. That is anukulyena krsnanusilanam.

[ Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.18 — Calcutta, September 26, 1974]

We may have another idea about what we want to do to serve Krsna and benefit society but Srila Prabhupada makes it clear what the highest welfare activity is and how to please Krsna.

Only a person who is fully in Krsna consciousness can be said to be engaged in welfare work for all living entities. When a person is actually in the knowledge that Krsna is the fountainhead of everything, then when he acts in that spirit he acts for everyone.

[Bg 5.25 purport]

At the present moment groups of people are engaged in welfare activities in terms of society, community or nation. There is even an attempt in the form of the United Nations for world-help activity. But due to the shortcomings of limited national activities, such a general mass welfare program for the whole world is not practically possible. The Krsna consciousness movement, however, is so nice that it can render the highest benefit to the entire human race.

[Krsna Consciousness Is All-auspicious, NOD]

The highest perfectional project of philanthropic activities is to engage everyone in the act of preaching bhakti-yoga all over the world because that alone can save the people from the control of maya, or the material nature represented by kala, karma and guna, as described above. The Bhagavad-gita (14.26) confirms this definitely.

[ SB 1.13.46]

What is more public welfare than Krishna Consciousness? To awaken everyone’s original consciousness is the best public welfare in the whole world.

[ Letter to: Yasomatinandana — Bombay 9 January, 1976]

As mentioned in the last quote above, Srila Prabhupada repeatedly said that preaching Krsna consciousness is the highest welfare work one can be engaged in. This is the most pleasing to Sri Krsna and thus satisfies all living entities.

Here is an explanation of how those engaged in activities for the welfare of others are very quickly recognized by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Lord says in Bhagavad-gita (18.68-69), ya idam paramam guhyam mad-bhaktesv abhidhasyati. .. na ca tasman manusyesu kascin me priya-krttamah: “One who preaches the message of Bhagavad-gita to My devotees is most dear to Me. No one can excel him in satisfying Me by worship.” There are different kinds of welfare activities in this material world, but the supreme welfare activity is the spreading of Krsna consciousness.

[SB 1.5.18 purport]

If one tries to spread Krsna consciousness all over the world, he should be understood to be performing the best welfare activity. The Lord is automatically very pleased with him. If the Lord is pleased with him, what is left for him to achieve?………

The best welfare activity is raising people to the platform of Krsna consciousness, since the conditioned souls are suffering only for want of Krsna consciousness……

All the sastras conclude, therefore, that spreading the Krsna consciousness movement is the best welfare activity in the world. Because of the ultimate benefit this bestows upon people in general, the Lord very quickly recognizes such service performed by a devotee.

[SB 8.7.44]

Preaching work is described as paropakära, welfare activity for others. Those who are ignorant of the benefits of devotional service must be educated by preaching.

[SB 10.31.9]

Regarding other type of welfare work? They cannot be effective as people are destined to suffer or enjoy according to their Karma.

There are different kinds of welfare activities in this material world, but the supreme welfare activity is the spreading of Krsna consciousness. Other welfare activities cannot be effective, for the laws of nature and the results of karma cannot be checked. It is by destiny, or the laws of karma, that one must suffer or enjoy. For instance, if one is given a court order, he must accept it, whether it brings suffering or profit. Similarly, everyone is under obligations to karma and it reactions.

Of course as devotees we don’t like to see anyone distressed even if it is result of their Karma, and instead want to alleviate their suffering. But one cannot really help someone by helping the material body, the outer covering. We should desire permanent benefit for someone and help them spiritually. Therefore, His Divine Grace set out clearly what our duty as his followers should be and He proclaimed that as the ‘highest welfare work in the world’. What are those activities..

What is the busyness of these Krsna conscious students? They are busy in chanting Hare Krsna, in distributing knowledge in Krsna consciousness. Therefore they are doing the best welfare work in the world. Other welfare work will be finished as soon as this body is finished. But these welfare activities will not be finished. If one hears one day, one minute, one second, this vibration of chanting, it will act someday.

[Bhagavad-gita 5.17-25 — Los Angeles, February 8, 1969]

We are supposed to be Prabhupadanugas and Rupanugas. Are we really following these great personalities or our own ideas of how to please Krsna? Is something wrong in the direction we are going towards? An impartial study of the main activities of many of our projects in ISKCON will reveal them to be based on mundane welfare activities which are not what our Acaryas taught. I would like to investigate Srila Prabhupada’s opinion on three particular activities; Schools, hospitals and feeding the poor.
Schools, Hospitals and Medical camps

In Srila Prabhupada’s time there was not a single school teaching mundane syllabus, or hospital, opened and nor was there ever a plan or talk of opening such institutions.

ISKCON was setup to do the highest welfare activity of preaching Krsna consciousness. By that single activity all auscpiciousness would follow and all problems would be solved. Thus he rejected the idea of members of ISKCON getting into ‘social work’ or other work except directly preaching Krsna consciousness, since that was the only thing lacking in the world according to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur.

We are not social welfare worker or political worker. We are worker for Krsna. [break] …in this world that people are suffering for want of Krsna consciousness. Let us try to make them Krsna conscious. That is our only interest. Otherwise we have no interest in this material world.

[Morning Walk — January 10, 1974, Los Angeles]

If we indeed decide we want to help people by giving them free medical aid in one form or another, then what about the medical aid for the animals? What about medical aid for other people whom we can’t reach out to, for example in other cities or countries? We want to help people and do some good but we can’t help all living entities in all places. We end up merely helping a small group of students in a school with free food or feeding a few villages here and there. However, when we serve Krsna the benefit goes to all living entities in the creation and only then can we say we served everyone without discrimination.

You can open a hospital for the human being but where is your hospital for the tiger? Can any man open a hospital for the tigers, for the snakes? And why not? You are compassionate with living entities. Are they not living entities? This is the frailty of imperfect knowledge

[Bhagavad-gita 5.17-25 — Los Angeles, February 8, 1969]

Therefore, the best thing would be to directly engage in Pure Devotional Service. If we are not able to and rather feel inclined to spend our money on charitable work, then we should give the charity to Krsna as mentioned in Bhagavad-gita Chapter 9 Text 27.

They are very much puffed up, that “We are doing this, opening hospital and school, and philanthropism, nationalism.” Is there any such thing in the Bhagavad-gita? Is there any advice that “You open hospital, school and do this philanthropic work”? No. If you have got anything to give in charity, you are charitably disposed, Krsna says, “Give it to Me. If you are so rich and if you have got this good intention to give in charity, give it to Me.” Yat karosi yaj juhosi yad asnasi yat tapasyasi dadasi yat [Bg. 9.27]. Dadasi yat means “whatever you give in charity.” Kurusva tad mad-arpanam: “Give it to Me. Yes, I am expanding My hand. Come on.” But they have forgotten Krsna or Krsna’s advice, and they remain puffed up, that “I am engaged in this activity, that activity, this activity.” Thousands of millions of such activities may be very good in the estimations of the fools and rascals, but it may not be accepted by Krsna. That is the crucial point. But our point is that unless accepted by Krsna, it is simply srama eva hi kevalam [SB 1.2.8], simply waste of time. Our philosophy says. We have to satisfy Krsna. We haven’t got to satisfy ourselves that “I am doing very nice work in this way.” So all these people, they are manufacturing concocted ideas.

[Bhagavad-gita 2.2 — London, August 3, 1973]

In this next quote Srila Prabhupada gives His opinion on eye care and where it fits in our duty as preachers of Bhagavad-gita as it is;

In Bhagavad-gita there is no such statement that you take care of the eyes of the people. There is no such statement. That is your manufactured idea. But we are preaching Bhagavad-gita as it is. That is the difference. Our preaching is that instead of giving relief to the eyes, give him relief in such a way he hasn’t got to accept any more this body with eyes. You cannot make a solution of the problem. Somebody is taking care of the eyes, somebody’s taking of the finger, somebody of the hair, somebody of another, genital, and so on, so on. This will not solve the problem. The problem is, as it is said in the Bhagavad…, janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi-duhkha-dosanudarsanam [Bg. 13.9]. This is intelligence. As soon as you take birth, then you’ll have eyes, you’ll have eye trouble, vyadhi. Janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi. If you accept janma-mrtyu, then between janma-mrtyu there is vyadhi and jara. You have to accept. You may give some relief, but you have to accept. So that is not solution. The solution is how to stop this janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi. That is solution.

[Room Conversation — January 8, 1977, Bombay]

The point being made in the quote above is that these are patchwork, temporary solutions for the suffering condition of the living entity in the material world. We need to go to the root cause and help persons to be free of the material body completely, by Krsna consciousness. Otherwise we didn’t really help the living entity by giving him temporary reprieve from some suffering condition.

No one knows where compassion should be applied. Compassion for the dress of a drowning man is senseless. A man fallen in the ocean of nescience cannot be saved simply by rescuing his outward dress — the gross material body. One who does not know this and laments for the outward dress is called a sudra, or one who laments unnecessarily. Arjuna was a ksatriya, and this conduct was not expected from him. Lord Krsna, however, can dissipate the lamentation of the ignorant man, and for this purpose the Bhagavad-gita was sung by Him.

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 2.1

It’s not that there were no opportunities in the form of manpower or funds for ISKCON to have opened a hospital during Srila Prabhupada’s time. As we can see below the opportunities came, but Srila Prabhupada did not want to ‘waste the valuable time of human life’;

Hrdayananda: You’re the only one, Prabhupada, who dares to criticize hospitals and schools. (laughter)

Prabhupada: Yes, so many people came to request me… Even Dr. Ghosh. Eh? You know.

Satsvarupa: He wanted you to open a medical dispensary.

Prabhupada: “No, no, we are not going to waste our time in that way.” I frankly told him. We have no extra time to waste like that. What he thinks very big project, we say it is waste of time. (laughter)

Jayatirtha: Yes.

Hrdayananda: Jaya. It is a completely revolutionary idea.

Prabhupada: Yes. I cannot allow anyone he’s waste his valuable time of human life.

Guru-krpa: You said before that the more hospitals they open that means the more people have to become sick.

Prabhupada: That, more… Yes.

Guru-krpa: To get in the hospital.

Prabhupada: They are very much proud, “We have opened fifty hospitals.” That means fifty thousand people have become sick. “We have increased so many beds.” That means so many people have more increased their disease. But they’re proud of doing this.

[ Morning Walk — July 9, 1974, Los Angeles]

This is the Lord’s last instruction in the Bhagavad-gita (18.66): sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja. “Give up all other processes and just surrender unto Me alone.” Unfortunately, foolish men have misinterpreted this prime teaching and misled the masses of people in diverse ways. People have been urged to open hospitals but not to educate themselves to enter into the spiritual kingdom by devotional service. They have been taught to take interest only in temporary relief work, which can never bring real happiness to the living entity

[ — Iso mantra 14]

With reference to devotees opening hospitals or carrying medical procedures, some argue that it is good preaching. But if we are really keen on preaching then what better way to preach to take a bag of books and distribute them instead? Didn’t Srila Prabhupada mention time and time again how that is the best preaching? The benefit of this for the recipient of the books and the preacher would be far more than by preaching through the medical method. Also this act serves and satisfies all living entities simultaneously by virtue of it being highly pleasing to Sri Krsna.

At any rate, why should we be so concerned doing this or that activity to look good in the eyes of the public? Or as Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami would say, as spiritualists we shouldn’t be so concerned with pleasing the janata but rather pleasing Janardana. This point is echoed by Srila Prabhupada;

We do not depend on the public opinion — “This is good” or “This is bad.” Our “good” “bad” is: if it is favorable for spreading Krsna consciousness, it is good; otherwise bad.

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Room Conversation — January 21, 1977, Bhuvanesvara

Regarding education, Srila Prabhupada would continually lambast the modern system of education as the perpetrator of the materialistic demonic way of life even refusing to term it ‘education’. The familiar terms repeated again and again were slaughterhouse, killer of the soul, making asses out of people, etc. These were the places where young children met their spiritual death, lost their spiritual inclinations and were trained to be sudras.

Prabhupada: Yes. The modern education means to create dogs. The dog goes door to door and moves the tail, “Please give me if you have anything.” So this educated person with application goes, and they say, “No vacancy. Get out.” Therefore they are dogs. Educated means dogs. They are creating dogs. In Vedic culture no brahmana will accept any job. No ksatriya will accept any job. No vaisya will accept any… Only sudras. Only sudras.

[Morning Walk — November 17, 1975, Bombay]

This modern education system is one of the roots of this misdirected civilization. The establishment of factories, industries and concrete jungles in the form of cities is reinforced by this system. After going through that educational system, ones higher faculties of intelligence, spirituality and emotional balance are eroded and replaced with many negative qualities. It thus becomes difficult for the children to be peaceful in a rural or country setting. By propagating this modern educational system ISKCON is actually working against the very goal of trying to encourage the ‘simple living and higher thinking’ mode of life so suitable for the practise of Krsna Consciousness.

Prabhupada: Gurukrpa Maharaja, what is the benefit of this modern education?

Gurukrpa: No benefit. It makes them an ass.

Prabhupada: Making them demons, that’s all.

Gurukrpa: They become puffed-up, thinking they know something. They don’t know anything.

Prabhupada: Not only that, modern educated youths, they are not inclined to come to the farm. So they’re giving up their own father’s property, farm. They do not come back from city. The farmers’ children go to cities for education, and after so-called education the rascals do not come. Here also and in your country also, America and… They want city life and enjoy restaurant and prostitute

[Morning Walk — January 24, 1977, Bhuvanesvara]

Celibacy, yes. Life of celibacy, controlling the sex desire. This is tapasya. Tapasa brahmacaryena samena damena va [SB 6.1.13]. These things are education. And what is this nonsense education how to become a big mechanics of motorcar parts? This is not education. This is sudra, sudra education. It is not education.

[ Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.50 — Detroit, August 3, 1975]

That is real education. We want that you learn from Bhaktivinoda Thakura, you learn from Vyasadeva, you learn from Narada. But why you are learning from Freud, from Darwin and such rascals? Education means you should learn from a person who is authorized, who is without mistake, without illusion, who does not cheat, just like we are learning from Krsna. That is education. And if you learn from rascals and fools, then what is that education?

[ Morning Walk — October 18, 1975, Johannesburg]

Therefore people are restless. He is hungry. What he will do, his cars and this shirt and coat and big building? Why they are committing suicide? Because he is not happy. There is no food for the spirit soul, what he is actually. Is that education? That is not education. So Bhaktivinoda Thakura is right when he says, jiba ke karaye gadha: “This material education means making people more and more asses.” That’s all. He is already ass because he’s in this material world and the so-called material education means keeping him in that condition more and more.

[ Morning Walk — October 18, 1975, Johannesburg]

If this was Srila Prabhupada’s opinion about ‘modern education’, why are we opening more and more of these slaughter houses in the name of ISKCON? We want to help the dham-vasis, so we build schools and enrol them! And what will happen to these children 10 years from now after they go through this school system? Will they really want to continue their ‘simple living’ in Vrindavan and Mayapur with cows and the land? Or will they goto the city to get sudra job as a secretary, engineer or sales girl? Or perhaps raze the agricultural lands in the Dham to make way for shopping Malls, offices and luxury apartments? We are supposed to be moving towards Varnasrama gradually and so the best thing is to be trained in our roles from a young age. The spirit of trying to help the dham-vasis is highly commendable. But we have to see whether we are really helping them by putting them in these demoniac systems of education. When it was suggested that ISKCON establish a school for educating girls, Srila Prabhupada said it was a mistake.

Tamala Krsna: So we’re… I thought there were girls in Vrndavana now. They said that they’re going to have the girls’ gurukula behind the boys’ gurukula. Gopala was talking about that.

Prabhupada: No, no, no. No girls.

Tamala Krsna: It should be in another city or somewhere else.

Prabhupada: Yes. They should be taught how to sweep, how to stitch…

Tamala Krsna: Clean.

Prabhupada: …clean, cook, to be faithful to the husband.

Tamala Krsna: They don’t require a big school.

Prabhupada: No, no. That is mistake. They should be taught how to become obedient to the husband.

Tamala Krsna: Yeah, you won’t learn that in school.

[ Morning Conversation — April 29, 1977, Bombay]

Yet now years later we are doing that very same thing Srila Prabhupada didn’t want. Right in the holy dham!

The whole plan was to establish Gurukuls for the ISKCON members to send their children to where we could control the environment and instil spiritual values from a young age.

You follow that, brahmacari gurukula, that I’ve already explained. That should be done. Don’t bring any new thing, imported ideas. That will not be helpful. It will be encumbrance. “My experiment with truth” — Gandhi’s movement. Truth is truth. “Experiment” means you do not know what is truth. It is a way of life, everything is stated there, try to train them. Simple thing. We are not going to teach biology or chemistry. They are not going to… Our students are not going to… Our students should be fit for teaching Krsna consciousness. By their character, by their behavior, by their knowledge, that is wanted. Biology, chemists, physicists, and mathematician there are hundreds and thousands. We are not going to waste our time that Gurukula should produce a great grammarian, a great geologist, biologist, don’t want that. There are many other educational institutions. If you can get a good driver of your car, so what is the use of wasting your time to learn driving? Is it not? If you have got important business, you can do that. Why should you waste your time to learn driving? Better employ one driver, pay him some fare.

[ Ref. VedaBase => Room Conversation — July 31, 1976, New Mayapur (French farm)]

When I say ‘Gurukula’ here I refer to an institution based on the Vedic spiritual system of education. Not mundane schools teaching mundane syllabuses with a token amount of time allotted to the odd Kirtan or Gita sloka here or there. Strangely though, even though our education system has undergone a metamorphosis into mundane institutions we have retained ‘Gurukula’ in the names thus serving to try to convince others and ourselves that we are indeed running Gurukulas.

A lot of us have come to Krsna consciousness after going through the materialistic system of education, work, etc, and thus found it difficult to take up the process. We have an opportunity to mould the next generation favourably. This is the first education required: Good character. It will give the children a very good start in life. But by again putting them in the ’slaughter houses’ we are spoiling their opportunities for becoming Krsna conscious.

There is a Bengali proverb, gancai noale vas, mas korbe tans tas(?): “When the bamboo is green, you can bend it, but when it is yellow, dried, it will crack.” So education begins from the very childhood. That is education. Therefore gurukula is required. It doesn’t require how much he has learned ABCD and grammar. No. First of all character. That is gurukula living. Let him become danta, guru-grhe. Brahmacari guru-grhe vasan dantah. How to become sense controller, that is first education.

[ Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.12.2 — Bombay, April 13, 1976]

So this was the plan: establish the Gurukula system of education. Not just in one or two places, but all over the world. Not schools.

You have some experience now with Gurukula, so your full-time engagement should now be how to organize the Gurukulas all over the world. Do it very nicely and thoughtfully. So far your plans are concerned for the same, you can have them conjointly approved with the other GBC. In this way, you may make the Gurukula program your portfolio and organize it throughout the world.

[Letter to: Jagadisa — Honolulu 6 May, 1976]

Now, there were some problems, no doubt when there was a drive to try and establish the Gurukula system. But that doesn’t mean we abandon the whole project. That means that we address the problems. If I have an eye problem, I try to get it checked up and then administer some medicine to heal it. But a less intelligent person will just pull the eye out.

At the time when we were having problems with the Gurukula, just after Srila Prabhupada’s departure Devotees leading the movement had neither the depth of knowledge nor shraddha to afford a causal explanation for ISKCON’s failed experiment with gurukula in terms of our siddhantas as received through the parampmara. Therefore, they fell back onto mundane psychology and mundane educational theory to explain the failure because that was what they knew best and had faith in. Now that many of our ISKCON members have attained deeper knowledge and realizations in our philosophy and its practice we need to work towards re-establishing these Vedic institutions of learning once again.

Establishing Gurukulas was one of Srila Prabhupada’s main plans for ISKCON and as followers of Srila Prabhupada and taking shelter in his movement, it behooves us to make efforts to carry out this instruction.

Just imagine what a great asset it will be to our movement to have children brought up the way Srila Prabhupada wanted in the proper system of Vedic Gurukula. Some work and dedication is required but the results will be phenomenal.
Feeding the Poor

There is no doubt that Srila Prabhupada wanted Prasadam to be distributed profusely without discrimination. His Divine Grace is also having been quoted as saying that what was the use of a temple of there was no Prasadam distribution. We also have practical experience how people change just by Prasadam distribution and also begin to become attracted by the Sankirtan movement. How is this so? Srila Prabhupada explains how Prasadam helps to give spiritual intelligence by which one can understand transcendental subjects.

One thing though is that His Divine Grace did not want is for us to start running after poor people to feed. He mentions that actually everyone is poor, spiritually and we shouldn’t make discrimination. Also the temple should be the via medium for Prasadam distribution, not that we start roaming around here and there with the specific purpose of just feeding people prasadam instead of preaching Krsna consciousness which is the necessity of the moment for everyone. The idea was that we welcome all persons whether rich or poor and give them prasadam as well as preach to them or induce them to chant the holy name. It was in essence a direct effort to make persons Krsna conscious by preaching. If someone was so hungry that he couldn’t properly give aural reception to the message, then we invite them all to come and take prasadam in the temple and then we preach to them.

Temple worship means you must distribute prasadam… You should… To the poor. Everyone is poor. Not that the rich man is not poor…

So there is no question of, if one is financially poor, he should come to the temple. Everyone should come to the temple and ask for prasada. That is required.

So paratma-nistham. The sannyasi should worship the Deity in the temple and feed the poor. Poor does not mean that one who has no legs, no ears, or no… Poor… Everyone who is spiritually poor, he should be given prasadam. By eating, prasade sarva-duhkhanam hanir asyopajayate……

[Sannyasa Initiation Lecture — Calcutta, January 26, 1973]

Prasadam distribution means distributing the results of Yajna. Not going out to feed hungry or poor people. By taking such remnants one is purified of past sinful reactions according to the Bhagavad-gita. Is it that only poor people require to be purified of past sinful reactions? Is that rich man not also in material existence and requiring purification of his existence in order to become Krsna conscious?

So far prasada distribution, it is not a question of rich or poor. That will be Karma Kanda. Our program therefore is that we offer prasada to everyone. Make our temple so nice that everyone who comes is offered some prasada. Not that we are after poor men. It is nice that we are feeding 200 daily, but gradually try to increase. But do not advertise, we shall be self-advertising. And do not go to poor areas, this is not our philosophy. Our philosophy is prasada distribution, without discrimination rich or poor. — Honolulu 15 May, 1972

It is not poor-feeding. It is distributing the resultant action of yajna. This worship is yajna. So yajna-sistasino… If you feed some men, not the so-called poor, everyone, then they’ll be freed from their sinful activities…

[Sannyasa Initiation Lecture — Calcutta, January 26, 1973]

This issue of Prasadam distribution has now been misused and misconstrued. The general public, being without the knowledge of Srila Prabhupada’s books think that the best thing one can do is to go and feed poor people. This is not true and some devotees who know it is not true still do it. Why? It appeals to the general public and therefore makes a good impression on them. Thus, if we say that we are collecting donations for feeding poor people, it would be much easier to collect funds. And experience shows that it is easy to collect money in the name of feeding the poor.

But as mentioned in an earlier quote by His Divine Grace, in carrying out duties and running institutions, we should not be so anxious about public opinion. The mass of people are ill-informed about what constitutes a ‘good deed’ or what is the best thing a spiritualist can do to benefit a soul in this world. So can we really start trying to pander to the public?

The second group of devotees think that going all out and putting so much effort to feed people who are hungry, suffering from malnutrion, poor, disadvantaged etc is actually what Srila Prabhupada wanted. Yet there is no single quote to support this idea. And yet there are so many quotes saying that we shouldn’t just go out and simply feed people. We are meant for giving spiritual knowledge and this knowledge and our system is lecture, kirtan and prasadam, collectively.

We say that we should not…, we are not simply supplying food. Anyone who is coming, he is getting spiritual education. Not that it is a free hotel [restaurant]. No. It is not that. We give them spiritual education. You come here, you take your shelter, you take your food and learn how to be first-class man. That is our program. Don’t be implicated in sinful activities. Be God conscious and live here with us comfortably, take your food.

[ Conversation with Clergymen — June 15, 1976, Detroit]

If we open a branch in Madras, actually there are so many poor children there. Spiritual education and food, that is proper. Simply supplying food is nonsense. Spiritual education means just to inject in their ears about our philosophy, externally they chant beads, wear tilak, without any discrimination of Hindu or Muslim or anything.

[ Letter to: Gurudasa — Honolulu 13 May, 1972]

Today we see how teams of devotees rush of to disaster zones; floods, droughts etc. collecting huge sums of money and using temple resources to perform welfare work. If we have some facility and there are some people nearby having a problem, we may help out since we have facilities. But to make elaborate plans to manage, collect and administer an organization in the name of ISKCON only for the specific reason of feeding poor people or going to disaster zones wasn’t the aim of ISKCON. Rather Srila Prabhupada termed it Karma Kanda (see above quote).

Even if we want to help, how many will we help?

Guest (1): But Gurujé, giving those who are in need, is not giving to God?

Prabhupäda: That is your philosophy. That is your philosophy. Everyone is needy.

Guest (3): Now people… There are drought conditions, people are starving. Cattles are dying. There are no rains.

Prabhupäda: Yes, because they are not God conscious, they are thinking like that. Now, suppose in the hospital, there are many patients. They are starving, many patients in the hospital. Do you know that or not? So why don’t you give them food? They are starving. Why? Why don’t you go to the hospital and you’ll find hundreds of patients, they are starving… So similarly, why you are bothering? You are not bothering the hospital because you know that is right, they are starving. That is the physician’s prescription. They must starve. So if you know God, then you will understand that you cannot help anyone. They are put into the starving condition under certain condition. So you cannot help them. You are simply thinking that “I will help.” There are hundreds and thousands, millions of people starving. What you can do? ….. What you are doing for them? What you can do? You are simply thinking falsely. What you have got to give? Just oil in your own machine. Try to understand God, instead of thinking foolishly, “Oh, what I shall do, this? What I shall do, that?” First, of all try to understand the situation.

[ Room Conversation — September 19, 1973, Bombay]

Srila Prabhupada stressed, time and time again how the real solution to overcome this problem of lack of food due to lack of rain (or any other natural disasters), was sankirtan yajna and not food distribution at disaster zones.

We are, of course, making arrangements to feed the poor on account of scarcity of rain. That’s all right, you are doing, but if there is no rain, how long you will go on with this philanthropy work? That is our question. How long? What stock you have got in your store, so that you can continually, you can go on? What you, what is the answer? You must have rain, and produce grain. Now you have got some stock of grain, you are distributing. That’s all right, you have got money, that’s all right. But when there will be all stock finished, and still there is no rain, what you will do? Because rain is not in your hand. Rain is not in your hand. It is in higher authorities. So what you will do? But the process is given there in the Bhagavad-gita, yajnad bhavati parjanyo parjanyad anna-sambhavah. Yajna, but they will not take the yajna. They have made a vow, (indistinct). No, we are not going to make any yajna. We are requesting, that you are distributing, at the same time perform yajna. Yajna, not that you have to expend so much money. Simply this sankirtana-yajna. Yajnaih sankirtana-prayair yajanti hi su-medhasah [SB 11.5.32]. Simply chanting. You are distributing food, that’s all right. Why not allow them to chant Hare Krsna mantra? What is the loss? But they’ll not accept it. They’ll not accept it. This is the dog’s obstinacy, against Krsna consciousness.

[The Nectar of Devotion — Bombay, January 8, 1973]

This is the Lord’s last instruction in the Bhagavad-gita (18.66): sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja. “Give up all other processes and just surrender unto Me alone.” Unfortunately, foolish men have misinterpreted this prime teaching and misled the masses of people in diverse ways. People have been urged to open hospitals but not to educate themselves to enter into the spiritual kingdom by devotional service. They have been taught to take interest only in temporary relief work, which can never bring real happiness to the living entity.

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Iso mantra 14

At present so many resources are being applied to just feed people, and many persons who joined this movement for transcendental knowledge are now finding themselves going to ask for donations to feed poor people. Book distribution our main activity has now taken a back seat in many temples since it is not so profitable and might disturb people, whereas it is much easier to ask for funds for feeding the poor. What kind of effect will this have on our Krsna consciousness?

In 1972 T. L. Kapadia, Secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Relief Fund Committee, wrote to Çréla Prabhupäda asking for assistance for the drought in their state where there are ..”many who are on the verge of starvation”. All they wanted was for a collection to be done at ISKCON’s programs in the name of the drought. Srila Prabhupada reply?

“…if you want to perform relief work simply by collecting funds, I think that it will not be successful. You have to please the supreme authority, and that is the way to success. For example, due to the performance of saìkértana here, the rain has begun to fall after a drought of two years.”

Srila Prabhupada implied here that the real solution was not to make an effort to go out and collect to feed these people but to instead try to please Krsna by Sankirtan yajna. Their and everyone’s suffering condition in all circumstances was due to their lack of God consciousness. His Divine Grace then finishes off his reply by calling on

“….the leading men of India to accept this movement very seriously and give us all facility to spread this movement throughout the world. Then there will be a very happy condition, not only in India but all over the world.”

This reply is consistent with Srila Prabhupada’s view on this issue in every instance when He expressed his opinion on this matter. The only way to permanently stop all suffering and problems in this world is to spread the Sankirtan movement and that is our only function in ISKCON. Srila Prabhupada would say how his Spiritual Master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur would say that the only thing lacking in this world was Krsna consciousness (not hospitals, not education facilities, not food supplies).

So what is our duty towards the poor and hungry people as ISKCON members? Shall we form organizations to feed all the poor people?

Poor people, so far concerned, that… Are we not taking care of the poor people? That is automatically taken. Who is poor? A man who is poor in knowledge, he is poor.

Poor means poor in knowledge…..Why you are concerned about the poor? Who is poor? Poor means who has no knowledge. He is rascal. He is poor. Poor means poor in knowledge. Otherwise nobody is poor. Everyone is getting his food according to his karma. Karmana daiva-netrena jantur deha upapattaye [SB 3.31.1]. These are wrong theories. Wrong means because they are rascals, they are putting something rascal, idea. ….. We want to stop all this nonsense. That is our mission.

[ Second Meeting with Mr. Dwivedi — April 24, 1977, Bombay] Why Krsna consciousness is the highest welfare activity

Quite simply put, the root cause of all suffering is forgetfulness of Krsna. So the best welfare work is to revive Krsna consciousness.

The sufferings of humanity are due to forgetfulness of Krsna as the supreme enjoyer, the supreme proprietor, and the supreme friend. Therefore, to act to revive this consciousness within the entire human society is the highest welfare work.

[Bg 5.25 purport]

Any effort, short of trying to directly awake a person’s innate Krsna consciousness such as alleviating poverty, feeding them, ‘educating’ them is not really a help to them since they are doomed to take birth again and enter another body which will continue to give them suffering. This means we didn’t really help them at all. So only that effort which is aimed at making them Krsna conscious is actual help.

The most important point to understand for anyone wishing to do the best welfare work for all living entities is that Krsna is the root of all living entities. Just as watering the root of a tree is the only way to benefit the whole tree, similarly, serving and pleasing Krsna directly is the only way to serve and please all living entities in the creation.

On many occasions when asked why we don’t do social welfare work or similar activities, or just to explain the all inclusive nature of Bhakti as a service to everyone, Srila Prabhupada would use this verse beginning with ‘yatha taror mula..’ in other words SB 4.31.14.

As watering the root of a tree immediately distributes water to every part of the tree, so an offering made to Krsna, or any action done for Krsna, is to be considered the highest welfare work for everyone, because the benefit of such an offering is distributed throughout the creation. Love for Krsna is distributed to all living entities.

[ KB 81: The Brahmana Sudama Blessed by Lord Krsna]

Woman Guest: Does the Krsna movement recognize other types of service to human beings like the social workers? Teaching…

Prabhupada: Yes, this is best service to human beings, to make them Krsna conscious.

Woman Guest: Is there room in the movement for other persons who are indirectly serving Krsna rather than chanting Hare Krsna all day?

Prabhupada: No, the process is, just like if you pour water on the root of the tree, the water is distributed to the leaf, branches, twigs, and they remain fresh. But if you water on the leaf only, the leaf will also dry, and the twig will be also dry. If you put your foodstuff on the stomach, then the energy will be distributed to your finger, to your hairs to your nails and everywhere. And if you take foodstuff in the hand and do not put in the stomach, it will be useless waste. So all this humanitarian service has been wasted because there is no Krsna consciousness. They’re trying so many ways to serve the human society, but they’re all being frustrated in useless attempt, because there is no Krsna consciousness. And if people are trained to become Krsna conscious, then automatically everyone will be happy.

[ Arrival Lecture — Gainesville, July 29, 1971]

It is impractical and impossible to serve everyone and all living entities who are suffering, there are countless living entities all over the creation. But, since Krsna is the fountain head of everything, when we serve Him then that service is distributed to all living entities. In this way we can serve not only all humanity, but all living entities simply by practising and preaching Krsna consciousness. Without that, the so called humanitarian activity is a waste as Srila Prabhupada says in the following quote,

Just like, taror mula-nisecanena, if you supply water on the root of the tree, the water is immediately transferred to the branches, to the leaves, to the flowers, to the fruits — everywhere. Everyone knows it. It is scientific. But if you supply water to one leaf, or thousand leaves, it does not mean that other leaves are also getting the benefit. So, at the present moment, people are captivated for human welfare activities. Oh, what human welfare activities they will do? It is not in your power. You can do something, but very limited. There are living entities, they are not only human beings. There are 8,400,000’s of living entities, and the human living entities they are only minute portion. They are only 400,000’s these, only. Other living entities, they are eight million. That is not very difficult to understand. If you take a census of the living entities in the city of San Francisco, then the census of the human being residing in this city, they will be very, a small number in comparison to the birds, bests, aquatics, ants, and so many other living entities, so many other living entities. So, suppose a portion of human living entity you serve, then what is the value of service? What is the value of that service?

Therefore, the Bhagavata says, just like watering the root of the tree you can serve all the leaves, flowers, branches, and everything of the tree, just by supplying foodstuff to your stomach you can serve all the limbs of your body, similarly, simply by loving Krsna you can learn how to love everyone. If you don’t love Krsna, and if you love the whole universe, it is still imperfect. Imperfect. And, because we are not loving Krsna, therefore we are sectarian.

[ Sri Brahma-samhita, Verse 34 — San Francisco, September 13, 1968 (New-2003)]

Therefore, Krsna consciousness is the way to have compassion on all living entities. There is no other way that one can do the maximum good for all living entities.

You can open a hospital for the human being but where is your hospital for the tiger? Can any man open a hospital for the tigers, for the snakes? And why not? You are compassionate with living entities. Are they not living entities? This is the frailty of imperfect knowledge.

[Bhagavad-gita 5.17-25 — Los Angeles, February 8, 1969]

So our goal should just be to practise and preach, preach, preach Krsna consciousness. Just by practising Krsna consciousness all other obligations and works are fulfilled. This is the definition of ‘faith’ according to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

‘sraddha’-sabde — visvasa kahe sudrdha niscaya

krsne bhakti kaile sarva-karma krta haya

“Sraddha is confident, firm faith that by rendering transcendental loving service to Krsna one automatically performs all subsidiary activities. Such faith is favorable to the discharge of devotional service

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Madhya 22.62
Why people are attracted to doing welfare work.

Welfare work is generally not meant for sadhus. Sadhus or devotees are immersed in devotional service as mentioned in Bhagavad-gita 9.30 and they simply distribute transcendental knowledge and try and bring the fallen souls back to Godhead. This has been the case for all Acaryas in our line from time immemorial.

Suppose he begins in philanthropic work, some hospitalizing or opening educational institution. That is nice, but these things are being done by the government and many philanthropic persons. That is not the duty of a sannyasi. A sannyasi, a renounced order of life, his main business is to spread Krsna consciousness, or God consciousness. That is his real business. But if one has not the taste what is Krsna consciousness, simply accept sannyasa, then he will do all this nonsense work.

[ Bhagavad-gita 3.1-5 — Los Angeles, December 20, 1968]

The greatest philanthropists are those transcendentalists who represent the mission of Vyasa, Narada, Madhva, Caitanya, Rupa, Sarasvati, etc. They are all one and the same. The personalities may be different, but the aim of the mission is one and the same, namely, to deliver the fallen souls back home, back to Godhead.

[ SB 1.4.17, SB 1.4.18, SB 1.4.17-18 purport]

In the quote above Srila Prabhupada mentions the name of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur as a true follower of and a personality dedicated to the mission of Srila Vyasadeva. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur wrote

The thousands of karmis who have opened innumerable hospitals, old age homes, centers for the poor, and schools, and the thousands of jnanis who have undergone meditation and severe austerities, are insignificant compared to a single kanishta-adhikari Vaishnava once ringing the bell before the Lord’s deity. This is not sectarianism, but plain truth. Atheists are wholly incapable of realizing this; thus they become either direct or indirect blasphemers of devotional service, or adherents to the doctrine of harmonistic all-inclusiveness (Amrta Vani 102 – 3; Sri Srila Prabhupadera Upadesamrta 174).

[From Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Vaibhava, page 421]

However this deviation of sadhus opening mundane welfare institutions began with Mayavadis. After giving up the world as ‘false’ they were not able to get a taste in spiritual life and so came back to the material plane to do philanthropic work. As Srila Prabhupada would quote often;

There are many jnanis or sannyasis who, after taking sannyasa and giving up the world as false, return to the world to engage in politics or philanthropy or to open schools and hospitals. This means that they could not attain the real Brahman (brahma satyam). They have to come down to the material platform to engage in philanthropic activity. Thus they again cultivate desires, and when these desires are exhausted, they desire something different.

[ Madhya 19.149]

So why are people attracted to doing mundane welfare work? The desire and inclination for mundane welfare work is a characteristic of the conditioned state of life.

According to text 13 – 15, chapter 16, Bhagavad-gita wherein Krsna describes the nature of the demoniac personalities, one of the demonic tendencies is yakshye daasyaami modishya, “I shall perform sacrifices, I shall give charity, and I shall rejoice.” Even demons give charity. But they are attracted to it because of the ishvaro ham aham bhogi vice. Therefore mundane charirty and welfare work not is necessarily a sign of a pious or religious person.

On the pure spiritual platform one is desireless, in other words, he desires only to serve Krsna and eschews all mundane activities. When that higher taste is absent one is attracted to the lower taste of mundane activities.

But those who have not advanced to such knowledge, oh, they think, “Oh, this material enjoyment is very nice. Let me taste it and let me do business in my sannyasi life, and stealthily and privately, let me enjoy.” These things are going on. That means they have no taste. They come to hospital-making or this philanthropy.

[Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 7.108 — San Francisco, February 18, 1967]

Srila Jiva Gosvami has explained this desirelessness as bhajaniya parama-purusa-sukha-matra-sva-sukhatvam in his Sandarbha. This means that one should feel happy only by experiencing the happiness of the Supreme Lord. This intuition of the living being is sometimes manifested even during the conditioned stage of a living being in the material world, and such intuition is expressed in the manner of altruism, philanthropy, socialism, communism, etc., by the undeveloped minds of less intelligent persons.

[ Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.11-12 — Los Angeles, May 29, 1972]

Srila Prabhupada said very clearly where philanthropic, altruistic and humanitarian work stood. These were different guises of maya. These were avenues for sense gratification. By thinking that ‘I’ am helping these people, ‘I’ am their provider, we usurp the position of Krsna.

The show of religion, austerity, penance, humanitarianism, philanthropy, politics, science — everything is aimed at realizing some material benefit.

[KB 60: Talks Between Krsna and Rukmini]

In politics, social service, altruism, philanthropy, and ultimately in religion or even in salvation, the very same tint of sense gratification is ever-increasingly predominant.

[DWT 5: What the Senses are Meant For]

When one thinks that he is the best friend to his countrymen, to society or to humanity and he engages in various nationalistic, philanthropic and altruistic activities, all that is just so much concentration on sense gratification.

[SB 3.27.5 purport]

Those who are puffed up by the mode of passion try to lord it over material nature in various ways. Some of them engage in altruistic activities as if they were agents appointed to do good to others by their mental speculative plans. Such men accept the standard ways of mundane altruism, but their plans are made on the basis of false ego.

[ SB 3.5.29 purport]

Material enjoyment includes activities such as great sacrifices for auspicious activity, charity, austerity, elevation to the higher planetary system, and even living happily within the material world.

[CC Madhya 12.135 purport]

Therefore, Mundane welfare work is a form of sense gratification, which is an obstacle to Shuddha Bhakti. Specifically it is Karma-misra bhakti. Bhakti mixed with the desire for some personal gratification as opposed to wholly gratification of Krsna’s senses. The real welfare work is outlined below by His Divine Grace;

Philanthropy is when one becomes interested in Krsna’s interest, that is real philanthropy. Otherwise it is all kama.

[Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.7 — Vrndavana, October 29, 1976] Conclusion

When an organization or society is set up, it is done so to fulfil a particular goal or aim which is set out by the founder person or group. If certain practices are carried out by any member under the name of the society which is not part of the society’s aim then they are either asked to desist from such practice, or to if they are adamant to continue, then to carry it out under a different name. In extreme cases members are disqualified from the society.

ISKCON was set up for the purpose of spreading spiritual knowledge to society. The specific aims of ISKCON are given in the ‘7 aims of ISKCON’. None of those aims is ‘philanthropic’ activity.

What is the busyness of these Krsna conscious students? They are busy in chanting Hare Krsna, in distributing knowledge in Krsna consciousness. Therefore they are doing the best welfare work in the world. Other welfare work will be finished as soon as this body is finished. But these welfare activities will not be finished.6

It is clear that Srila Prabhupada not only didn’t approve certain ‘mundane welfare’ activities but also termed them as useless activities which give temporary relief at best. These activities crept into our movement very gradually. In the beginning there were some exceptions here and there. But over time this seems to have become the main activity for many ISKCON centres. Instead of spreading spiritual knowledge or the holy name by way of book distribution, programs and harinams the full time occupation has become to go and feed people, look after their health or to ‘educate’ them or to go out and collect for these activities. But as mentioned in the last quote above, these are all temporary solutions and fixes. In a sense, we cannot really call all these activities ‘welfare’ as real welfare is to remind everyone of their eternal relationship with Krsna and all else is violence towards the living entities.

Material activities that are promised by so many politicians, sociologists, philanthropists, etc., do not produce very good results because the politicians and philanthropists have no transcendental vision; they do not know what is actually beneficial for human society. Ahimsa means that people should be trained in such a way that the full utilization of the human body can be achieved. The human body is meant for spiritual realization, so any movement or any commissions which do not further that end commit violence on the human body.

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 10.4, Bg 10.5, Bg 10.4-5

To carry out these activities under the banner of ISKCON is disrespectful to Srila Prabhupada and a diversion from the main mission of ISKCON. This is Mission Drift. It is a deviation of our duty towards Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON.

There are so many people doing these activities of temporary relief yet only one organization has been formed purely for propagating transcendental knowledge to awaken our God consciousness. But if ISKCON also starts doing these mundane philanthropic activities, then who will spread Transcendental knowledge in order for the jivas to go back to Godhead (thus eliminating the need for welfare activity for them forever)? Srila Prabhupada mentioned how the Gaudiya Math lost its potency for preaching due to having diverted from the instructions of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur. Is this the destiny for the present day ISKCON also now, as we are also now drifting away from the instructions of our founder Acharya ?

According to Srila Prabhupada, the aim of ISKCON in spreading Krsna consciousness is the actual welfare activity. No one should feel that just by spreading Krsna consciousness and not doing any other activity, something is lacking. This is the highest benefit for all


All decent men want to give service to humanity, only thing is they do not have information really what is that service. Hospitals, feeding the poor, Red Cross, these are service to the bodies only, not to the man. Service to humanity means jnana. By giving people knowledge, jnana, that is the highest service to humanity. So we are performing the actual welfare work of society by informing everyone through our literatures who is God, who they are, and what is the relationship. In this way everyone who hears our message gets the opportunity to fulfill his actual position as human entity and become delivered from the clutches of maya……..

So you may understand it that by disseminating our Krsna consciousness propaganda anywhere and everywhere, by selling books, by making publicity, newspapers, television, so many ways there are to spread Krsna consciousness information, you may know it that by utilizing our energy in this way to give everyone access to the Absolute Truth, that is the real understanding of desire to serve humanity.

[ Letter to: Ramesvara — India 9 January, 1973]

In writing this article my main aim was to argue that we have to take a serious look at where our movement is heading. So many new ‘schools’ are being opened, ‘food’ distribution is going on and ‘medical aid’ activities are expanding, but we have to ask if that is what we are supposed to be doing. We need to seriously go back to and properly study the teachings of His Divine Grace in order to see what our movement was setup for. I hope this article managed to convince devotees that simply by practising and preaching Krsna consciousness as Srila Prabhupada did, we can gain all perfection and solve all problems of the world. There is no other way to reach Krsna or to do the ‘highest’ benefit for all living entities in the creation.

If we decide to gradually do away with Srila Prabhupada’s guidance on what our activities should be, and instead go our own way, then we won’t make advancement, as advancement is made by following the instructions of the Guru and pleasing Him; …yasya dev e para bhaktir yatha deve tatha gurau…, …yasya prasadad bhagvat prasado. Further, as mentioned earlier by giving up the instructions of the Guru all potency for preaching will be withdrawn as a happened to ISKCON’s predecessor according to Srila Prabhupada. The instructions given to us on what our activities should be were simple, and they are all there in Srila Prabhupada’s books;

So all instructions are there. If you read it carefully, you get. But don’t manufacture in your own way. That will not be successful. Yah sastra-vidhim utsrjya.

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Room Conversation with Alice Coltrane — July 1, 1977, Vrndavana

Lastly, being the Transcendental personality that he is, it seems that Srila Prabhupada knew how some members of his society would veer into mundane welfare work after his disappearance. This is evidenced in the section below from a purport of Srimad Bhagavatam where-in he begins by giving a hint of His transcendental status, and His mission;

Whenever an acarya comes, following the superior orders of the Supreme Personality of Godhead or His representative, he establishes the principles of religion, as enunciated in Bhagavad-gita. Religion means abiding by the orders of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Religious principles begin from the time one surrenders to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is the acarya’s duty to spread a bona fide religious system and induce everyone to bow down before the Supreme Lord. One executes the religious principles by rendering devotional service, specifically the nine items like hearing, chanting and remembering. Unfortunately, when the acarya disappears, rogues and nondevotees take advantage and immediately begin to introduce unauthorized principles in the name of so-called svamis, yogis, philanthropists, welfare workers and so on. Actually, human life is meant for executing the orders of the Supreme Lord, and this is stated in Bhagavad-gita (9.34): “Engage your mind always in thinking of Me and become My devotee. Offer obeisances and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.”

The main business of human society is to think of the Supreme Personality of Godhead at all times, to become His devotees, to worship the Supreme Lord and to bow down before Him. The acarya, the authorized representative of the Supreme Lord, establishes these principles, but when he disappears, things once again become disordered. The perfect disciples of the acarya try to relieve the situation by sincerely following the instructions of the spiritual master. At the present moment practically the entire world is afraid of rogues and nondevotees; therefore this Krsna consciousness movement is started to save the world from irreligious principles. Everyone should cooperate with this movement in order to bring about actual peace and happiness in the world.

[SB 4.28.49 purport]

“The perfect disciples of the acarya try to relieve the situation by sincerely following the instructions of the spiritual master.”……….At least those who recognize the pure path should continue to serve in ISKCON as Srila Prabhupada ordered and try to avoid getting influenced by these activities and convincing others by trying to understand philosophically why these activities are wrong.

If there is still a doubt that Krsna consciousness can really solve all problems of the world without resorting to other separate endeavours then below is a quote from a letter in which Srila Prabhupada lists the social ills which ISKCON as a movement had managed to combat in the short time that it had begun. It is important to note that at that time there were no ISKCON schools, hospitals, medical aid camps, feeding the poor efforts etc.

The phenomenal growth of ISKCON reflects a basic worldwide need for the type of instruction and training the Society offers. Heads of state, government officials, clergymen, professors and scientists, as well as professional men and businessmen the world over have commended the Society for its substantial, practical work in combating drug addiction, mental disorders, racial conflicts and the general moral decline of today’s youth, as well as hunger and disease wherever they are found.

[ Letter to: Life Member — Unknown Place 5 April, 1972]

Your servant

Murari Das


  1. 0
    Sitalatma Das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    In the book “Bhaktisiddhanta Vaibhava” there’s a story illustrating this article.

    In 1931 there were huge floods in Midnapur while Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and his disciples were raising funds for the upcoming Theistic Exhibition in Calcutta. That upset many prominent Bengalis who thought flood victims should be attended first. In response to the complaints Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati basically told them what is expressed in the quotes in this article. Bhava-sagara, the ocean of material existence, is worse than any other flood and deserves the highest priority status.

    Over a million people visited to the exhibition, btw. A mllion people! That is huge preaching.

  2. 0
    Sitalatma Das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I think it would be unfair to ignore some of the other things Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati did that lend support to arguments for food distribution or opening hospitals, all from the same book.

    He reprimanded some of his grihastha disciples for not giving alms to temple beggars, his argument was against cultivating niggardness that could harden their hearts when it comes to Krishna’s service, too.

    Temple festivals often included specifically feeding the poor, not just the guests, and occasionally the poor were even given bhoga to take home.

    One time some villagers raided the Math and took away some bhoga. Instead of condemning them Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati told his disciples that thieves came for prasadam and for them everything in the temple was prasadam already. He ordered a devotee who apprehended one of the burglars to go and deliver ten baskets of mangoes to the village himself, not quite what everybody expected.

    The above mentioned Theistic Exhibition actually consisted of two parts – a regular show with dancers, singers, gymnasts, magicians and what not and that part was separate from the spiritual half of the exhibition.

    Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati apparently didn’t mind if his printing house made money on the side and even taught his disciples how to take outside orders.

    And he actually run a leper colony, though he insisted that all the residents were devotees.

    Still, Murari Prabhu makes a valid point – Srila Prabhupada’s views on this look indisputable.

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    pustakrishna ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I shall try to offer something of value in this discussion without being self-serving…I hope. When I first joined in the early days of the movement, I was just completing my undergraduate degree and was accepted to medical school. Krishna literally intervened in that program and I was off to serve in East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) where the 1971 war broke out. Just over one year later, His Divine Grace gave me sannyas and after a year in western Europe doing sankirtan, he sent me to South Africa. An article appeared in the Johannesburg newspaper how I gave up medical school to help save souls. That was true. I gave the example how if one sees a drowning man, he would be foolish to simple save the man’s clothes and let the man drown. I agree with that fully.

    When one is living in the world, it does not mean that one forgets Krishna or their Gurudeva, and one can even find many opportunities to preach in a spiritual manner on a more or less daily basis. Remember that Srila Prabhupad had a business for almost 30 or more years but he continued to engage in preaching and publishing. Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur was a magistrate but he certainly was one of the most productive of modern day vaishnavas. Grhe tako vane dako…we find ourselves in many different situations, but the dharma is always the same. Always remember Krishna, never forget Krishna.

    Now, those were individual concerns. But, the activities and mission of the ISKCON is meant to be focused. I agree with Murari das in his presentation. ISKCON should promote the premise that Krishna can be served through devotional service by any of the nine forms of devotional service, beginning with hearing. If the ISKCON society will compromise, then there may not be a proper beacon to follow. The “acharya-ship”, ie practical example of Krishna consciousness in the world, might be diluted or lost.

    However, it is very important that the bhaktas do not become proud of their position. That will be counter-productive. It is a fine line. Someone will say that you denounce those who build airplanes, but you do not hesitate to fly in them. I know that Srila Prabhupad taught that everything can be utilized in Krishna’s service, and that is yukta-vairagya. I know that I have helped many of my patients spiritually, without a doubt. But, I also know how much energy is involved in doing what I do as a physician and surgeon. Do not always judge a book by its cover. Pusta Krishna das

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    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: -2 ) says:

    Part One:

    I hope there is no confusion in discerning the difference between so-called mundane services and serving our fellow devotees. If we develop health and similar facilities for the benefit of our devotees, then this indicates a madhyamas tendency.

    Costs may be incurred, but such needful expenditure is pleasing to the Lord. Whether devotees are out on the ‘front lines’ or performing other of the various important services for our mission, our combined sense of “manadena” should be reflected in service and care. Srila Prabhupada says:

    “…So the kaniṣṭha adhikārī, in the lower stage, he thinks that he’s worshipping the Deity very nicely, he has realized Kṛṣṇa. No. Na tad-bhakteṣu cānyeṣu sa bhaktaḥ prākṛtaḥ smṛtaḥ. We have to make further advancement. Kṛṣṇa does not mean alone. Especially Kṛṣṇa’s devotees. They are always with Kṛṣṇa. Therefore when we can recognize a devotee of Kṛṣṇa and offer him the respect as devotee of Kṛṣṇa, that is further advancement.

    In the madhyama adhikārī, or in further advancement of devotional service, one can see four categories.

    īśvare tad-adhīneṣu bāliśeṣu dviṣatsu ca prema-maitrī-kṛpopekṣā sa bhakta madhyamaḥ

    Īśvara. When we are further advanced, we do not see only Kṛṣṇa, but we see His devotees also. We can recognize, “Here is a pure devotee of Kṛṣṇa.” But in the lower stage, a, the devotee’s concerned with the Deity worship, but he does not take much care of the devotees. But when one is advanced further, he can see Kṛṣṇa and His devotees also. Īśvara tad-adhīna. Tad-adhīna means devotees. Devotees are always under the service of Kṛṣṇa. So anyone who is giving service to Kṛṣṇa, we should take care of them also. We should offer our respect in… You’ll find in Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, it is stated somewhere, that if, if a devotee is coming, then another devotee who is engaged in worship of the Deity may stop Deity worship for the time being and should go immediately to receive the devotee. So Kṛṣṇa also says, mad-bhakta-pūjā abhyadhika. Kṛṣṇa is satisfied more when a devotee worships His devotee. Kṛṣṇa says, “If one is worshiping Me and one is worshiping My devotee, then the person who is worshiping the devotee, he’s more important than the person who is worshiping Kṛṣṇa.” (Vṛndāvana, October 23, 1972)

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

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    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: -2 ) says:

    Part Two:

    Worship of devotees does not just mean offering flowers and flowery words. There are physical and emotional needs as well, which require effort and resources. If a society fails to look after its members and instead focuses more on preaching and fund-raising, minus simultaneous devotee care, means that kanisthas is rampant.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

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    pustakrishna ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The best service one can give to the bhaktas is service itself. If you can engage the bhaktas in devotional service, you are giving nourishment to their souls, and you become most dear to Krishna…by practically sharing and teaching the science of surrender to the aspiring bhaktas.

    Interestingly, we can also take a most broad approach, with understanding that all living entities are part and parcel of Krishna. Thus, by watering the root of the tree of Krishna, we may be assumed to be giving service and nourishment to everyone through that connection. That means preaching and engagement. Srila Prabhupad therefore said many times that Krishna consciousness is the greatest welfare activity for the human society. I think that many of the material bodily endeavours that some bhaktas have gravitated toward may be designed to promote good will between the public and ISKCON, or it may simply be that such devotees are dovetailing their propensities in serving Krishna. Food production may be similar, with the produce offered to Krishna. It is not such a black and white issue. And, we hope that bhaktas will avoid pride in all circumstances, if they consider themselves more “renounced” than others. That might be counter productive. Subtle point.

    I recall my former days when I was managing temples in the US and S. Africa, when devotees had needs, I would try to supply those as best I could. We do not want to see leaders buying expensive watches while rank and file devotees have basic needs. We have seen the extreme renunciation of Srila Sanatan Goswami, and Sri Raghunath Goswami. We are encouraged to try to follow in the footsteps of the Goswamis of Vrindaban. It is not an easy thing given the comfort we are accustomed to in the developed countries. But, it is the beacon for us to look toward, to medidate upon, and to try to approach.

    Murari das Prabhu has written an interesting and thought-provoking article. In a practical way, although Srila Prabhupad promoted preaching and not mundane service, he definitely made many endeavours for the disciples and newcomers. Remember, the Guest house in Mayapur was constructed first so that the bhaktas would have a place to stay on pilgrimage. Pusta Krishna das

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    pustakrishna ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    It is very interesting to note that other established religions of the world like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam promote charity (food, clothing, shelter) for the poor. In one sense, it is affirmation that God is the Proprietor (owner), Benefactor for all. Iskcon must not be misery with its charity either. Service to the needy has become a hallmark of the Food for Life program throughout the world. When disasters have come, sincere bhaktas have tried to offer help, materially and through offering them prasadam…spiritually as well. I recall that when the earthquake struck in Haiti, there were a group of devotees who braved very difficult circumstances and local government red-tape, to try to give relief to these people.
    Some religious traditions promote the ideal that you receive God’s grace when you provide mercy and compassion to the least of God’s creatures, the helpless and suffering. We must not possess a haughty posture that what Krishna has given to us is only meant for a select few. We say that the storehouse of mercy is such that even when distributing it, it mystically becomes refilled, ie by distributing the spiritual wealth, we do not find that it has diminished, but becomes overflooded again.
    ISKCON should try to become relevant to the world in every way. Providing guidance spiritually, socially, and in managing resources with spiritual intelligence. All such endeavours can be dovetailed with service to God, Krishna consciousness. We always have the consciousness that watering the root of the tree provides all the tree with benefit. But, it does not define that watering the root of the tree is exclusively done only by chanting and hearing. Other forms of work and service for the benefit of the parts and parcels of Krishna, for the satisfaction of Krishna, are desirable. Pusta Krishna das

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    Murari Das says:

    Instances of Prasadam distribution by Srila Prabhupada and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur to the poor or needy

    There might have been some instances where prasadam was distributed to poor or needy people but if we study the situation and the quotes, we will definitely find that it was for the spiritual elevation of those souls .

    Also of course if I am walking on the road or in a train and I see a beggar or a poor person come up to me, then I will give some prasadam to them as this is auspicious for them. I would also give prasadam to a person who is not materially poor or not needy as everyone in the material world requires spiritual elevation.

    In private, grhasthas may also distribute prasadam and devotees travelling and moving around would do good to always carry prasadam for distributing among people they meet.

    The argument here however is that establishing an international organisation for distributing prasadam, collecting donations for it, using temple resources and promoting this organisation for poor and ‘disaster victims feeding’ under the banner of ISKCON is incorrect as this is not the aim of the ISKCON (see: The seven aims of ISKCON).

    Your servant,
    Murari Das

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    tattvavit das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Part 1:

    Kudos to Murari Prabhu for hitting the nail on the head. Like many
    enthusiastic engagements started after Srila Prabhupada’s departure,
    opening of hospitals and schools etc. does seem to be drifting away
    from the core principles of ISKCON.

    He also very sastrically proved that Krishna expects us to preach His
    message directly; hinting directly at activities like book
    distribution to achieve this goal. I felt especially vindicated, being
    engaged in book distribution myself, almost every day, for the past 15

    But over the years, one essential aspect of book distribution that I
    have picked up is that you have to open up the hearts of the people to
    whom you are showing the books. They will rarely listen to a devotee
    who appears like a salesman – focused on his goal of passing out as
    many books as humanly possible. Even transcendental knowledge is of no
    value to the conditioned souls who usually measure things in terms of
    “WHATS IN IT FOR ME?” By being empatetic to others difficulties or
    suffering (eventhough these sufferings are usually mundane) the book
    distributor will be able to break down the ice and the conditioned
    soul will be receptive to receive transcendental knowledge – which is
    the only way of alleviating his suffering.

    And we see this being practised by our acharyas also. It is mentioned
    that when Sanatan Goswami was visiting homes of different Vrajvasis,
    he would enquire from them about the marriage of their daughters,
    their crops etc. These enquires were apparently mundane. But when he
    left the village, the villagers, who were by now thoroughly attached
    to Sanatan, were shedding tears. Thus by giving transendental
    knowledge and enquiring about their welfare on a personal (almost
    mundane level), Sanatan was establishing that he was a very caring
    person which endeared him more to the villagers.

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    tattvavit das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    part 2:

    Also I am reminded of the time in the 70s when during a rath yatra
    parade, devotees used the canopy of Lord Jagannath to save a woman who
    jumped out of a burning building. This act of the devotees received
    positive publicity in the media. At first glance, it appears like a
    publicity stunt – devotees using sacred parapharnelia for saving the
    material body of a distressed person. And it does appear thoroughly
    mundane. But Prabhupada for days applauded the devotees quick thinking
    in rescuing the woman and appreciated the media coverage of the
    incident. Why didn’t he dismiss the whole event as an unnecessary
    distraction from direct glorification of the Lord?

    Bhaktivinod Thakur more clearly establishes the importance of caring
    for our less fortunately placed brothers and sisters:

    “Those who think that devotion to God and kindness to the jivas
    [souls] are mutually different from each other, and perform
    accordingly in their life, such persons will not be able to follow the
    devotional culture. Their performances are only a semblance of
    devotion. Therefore, all the types of beneficence to others — like
    kindness, friendliness, forgiveness, charity, respect, etc., are
    included in bhakti. Among these, according to the triple categories of
    the recipients. viz., high, medium and low, the actions of respect,
    friendliness and kindness are the very form of love and the
    characteristic portion of bhakti: Charity of medicines, clothes, food,
    water, etc., shelter during adversities, teaching of academic and
    spiritual educations, etc., are the activities included in the
    devotional culture.”
    –Tattva Viveka-Tattva Sutra-Amnaya Sutra- A Comprehensive Exposition
    of the Spiritual Reality by Bhaktivinoda Thakura [Tattva Sutra portion
    (sutra 35)]. Sree Gaudiya Math, Madras. English translation by
    Narasimha Brahmacari. pp. 185-6.

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    tattvavit das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    part 3:

    Of course these arguments and counter arguments are unceasing. Hence
    the one of the ways of evaluating an action is by seeing the
    result…phalena pariciyate…

    1) Schools
    Yes it is an established fact that Prabhupada called modern education
    a slaughterhouse – and for this end he tried to establish the Gurukul
    system. But the stark reality is that most Gurukuls in Iskcon aren’t doing well.
    In other words, modern education is not an
    option to be pursued. But Iskcon is unable to give a viable
    alternative to most of the next generation. That being the case, aren’t the kids of our movement not
    entitled to learning? A group of concerned devotees who have considerable
    experience in the education field therefore get together to begin a
    school. Yes this is not the best solution – it is just a stop gap
    arrangement – before the Gurukuls are firmly establised. Their
    devotional background helps them to present even modern educational
    concepts through the perspective of unalloyed devotional service to

    But let’s focus on the result. Reports are that many students of these
    schools, from families with no connection to devotional service, are
    eagerly accepting many devotional practices. These kids are forcing
    their parents to go vegetarian, offer their food to Krishna, worship
    deities and chant the names of the Lord. Can we deny that these so called mundane
    schools are changing the life of many families in an extraordinary
    way – perhaps even more drastically than receiving a book from an
    uncaring devotee.

    2) Hospitals

    The principle of yukta-vairagya is explained by Rupa Goswami in his
    Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (1.2.255): “When one is not attached to
    anything but at the same time accepts anything in relation to Krishna,
    one is rightly situated above possessiveness.”
    Thus the same medical science that often increases people’s bodily
    consciousness opens unparalleled opportunities for raising them out of
    that bodily consciousness. When patients in distress and need are
    treated with competence and care by devotee-doctors in a devotionally
    surcharged atmosphere, they become inspired to adopt the spiritual
    culture that has subtly acted on their hearts while the medicine was
    acting on their bodies.

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    tattvavit das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    part 4:

    Yes, it is quite possible that engagement in humanitarian compassion
    can distract devotees from devotional activities. But the fact is
    far from the devotee-doctors losing their devotional purpose and
    perspective, non-devotee patients are becoming surcharged with Krishna
    consciousness. Every year, hundreds of patients get devotionally
    charmed by the soothing spiritual atmosphere of such hospitals and the
    loving concern of the devotee-doctors. They come to these hospitals to
    treat their body; they go back with both their body and their soul
    treated. In fact, many Iskcon leaders who expressed concern initially
    with such apparently mundane projects, on seeing how much such
    devotional hospitals were so pregnant in its potential to attract
    people to Krishna, have subsequently changed their opinions
    completely. They have now become often vocal supporters and even
    proponents of the project.

    3) Feeding the poor

    Prasadam distribution is not only for the poor people. At all our
    temples, nobody will deny that even the rich man is happily offered
    the Lord’s sanctified food. But generally a materially opulent person
    is too proud to accept such a diving blessing from the Lord. he doesnt
    understand the value. Hence the general impression that these programs
    are being carried out for only the poor. And the people who are humble
    enough to accept prasadam get unlimited devotional credits.

    My understanding is that actually a lot of responsibilty lies on the
    shoulders of the leaders driving these projects. They should have no
    illusions about these projects. If they identify themselves as social
    workers trying to make this world a better place – they and their
    projects are doomed.

    But if they always see themselves as devotees dovetailing their
    worldly propensities and professions in Krishna’s service in such a
    way that they can create at least ajnata-sukriti (unknowing spiritual
    credits), if not bhakti, among people who would otherwise never have
    come in contact with Krishna. In such a case, the possiblities for
    attracting conditioned souls to bhakti is unlimited.

    And as per the brilliant disertation by Murari Prabhu, this is what
    Lord Krishna actually wants – get as many souls as possible to His
    lotus feet.

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