By Kesava Krsna Dasa
Some devotees are concerned that Iskcon‚Äôs overall preaching has gone ‚Äėsoft,‚Äô thus compromising true standards. They say we must be more ‚ÄėStrong‚Äô, ‚Äėheavy‚Äô and ‚Äėbold.‚Äô Sentiments of ‚ÄúSee how Srila Prabhupada flayed those mayavadis‚Ä¶ and how he blasted that individual‚Ä¶ and oh how he smashed that perception‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ add excitement to the cause. Let us examine what it really takes to be ‚Äėheavy.‚Äô
There is excitement in reading of Lord Chaitanya‚Äôs conversion of Sri Prakasananda Sarasvati and his many followers, His tactful defeat of Keshava Kashmiri, and His extremely patient transformation of the heart of Sri Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, what to speak of the martial-like preaching exploits of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur.
It would be prudent to note how most of the above was aimed at the deeply entrenched ‚ÄėHindu-Vedantic‚Äô mix of pancopasana and other diversions created by their own countrymen, and who are the real unscrupulous thought-leaders of innocent people. Srila Prabhupada came West and worldwide to encounter additional preaching challenges.
If we read Srila Prabhupada‚Äôs transcribed conversations, we shall notice how much of Srila Prabhupada‚Äôs heaviness or disdain was reserved again, for his fellow countrymen who advocated twisted versions of Vedic thought. He would partially agree with, disagree or dismiss certain philosophical trends pursued by major thought-leader philosophers as recorded in Dialectical Spiritualism.
Srila Prabhupada and his Guru Maharaja are pure Vasinavas. Just as the precepts of Bhagavata Sastra are self-evident, so the words and actions of person Bhagavatas are also self-evident. The way they preach is very different to the way we try to preach, having not yet attained true Bhagavata status. However, simply by hearing and repeating from higher authority we can preach what we know. Whether to enhance what we know with ‚Äėstrong,‚Äô ‚Äėheavy‚Äô or ‚Äėbold‚Äô backing should be determined by our spiritual qualifications, or lack of them.
It is really a misnomer to use terms such as ‚Äėstrong,‚Äô ‚Äėheavy‚Äô or ‚Äėbold‚Äô in the context of spiritual improvement and standards. Why? Because what we perceive as ‚Äėstrong,‚Äô ‚Äėheavy‚Äô or ‚Äėbold‚Äô in the words and activities of self-evident pure devotees is their natural disposition from another plane of existence. That disposition is augmented by force ‚Äď the force of purity. That force can change hearts with either soft flower-like words or thunder-like velocity ‚Äď both are the same for them.
For any of us to claim that it is advantageous to change hearts and minds with ‚Äėstrong,‚Äô ‚Äėheavy‚Äô or ‚Äėbold‚Äô words means that we have added relative values to a plane we are tying to reach. This does not match up to the natural ‚Äėheaviness‚Äô of self-evident truths spoken by pure souls. What is that natural ‚Äėheaviness?‚Äô
‚ÄúSo tad-vijnanartham, if you want to understand spiritual knowledge, then you have to approach a guru. Guru. Guru means weighty, I mean to say, one who has got better knowledge. Heavy. Guru means heavy, heavy with knowledge. And what is that knowledge? “I have got so much knowledge.” No. Transcendental… Tad-vijnana. Tad-vijnanartham sa gurum eva abhigacchet, samit-panih srotriyam brahma-nistham [MU 1.2.12].‚ÄĚ (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.25.4 — Bombay, November 4, 1974)
One qualification is given ‚Äď a pure soul is naturally ‚Äėheavy‚Äô or ‚Äėweighty‚Äô with Tad-vijnana in terms of what has been faithfully heard ‚Äď srotriyam. We can all hear and repeat faithfully. That faith has added potency when spiritual qualifications are met. What are they? The excerpt from the above Srila Prabhupada lecture continues:
‚ÄúThat heaviness is brahma-nistham, how much one is attached to Brahman, Parabrahman, Bhagavan. That is guru’s qualification‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ
What is that ‚Äėbrahma-nistham‚Äô and why is it important here? Because, by trying to be ‚Äėstrong‚Äô or ‚Äėheavy‚Äô without this spiritual qualification, means that we will rely on the modes of material nature to be our strength and heaviness. There is a big difference between natural heaviness and coerced heaviness. Srila Prabhupada continues:
‚ÄúTherefore it is said, srotriyam. Srotriyam means “who has heard from the parampara system.” Srotriyam… And the result is brahma-nistham: “He is firmly fixed up in the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” Brahma-nistham. He has no other business. This is two qualifications‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.25.4 — Bombay, November 4, 1974)
What does it mean to be ‚Äúfirmly fixed up‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ with ‚ÄúHe has no other business?‚ÄĚ He is indirectly saying that any of us who struggle with anartha-nivritti which is a sub-nistha level, cannot be naturally heavy with tad-vijnanam. This is important because when devotees who are struggling with their anarthas are encouraged to be ‚Äėstrong,‚Äô ‚Äėheavy‚Äô and ‚Äėbold,‚Äô without being properly ‚Äėfixed-up,‚Äô then these same triple attributes will more than likely be influenced by the gunas.
Even if the - srotriyam - hearing requirement is met nicely, the lack of true steadiness will still infiltrate. For this reason, it is better, when preaching, to simply be as we are, and to always leave a good impression with whomever we meet. False aggression is suspected by intelligent people to be a show of insecurity. And if we add ‚Äėhatred‚Äô ‚Äď even of mayavadi concepts ‚Äď this will further inflame an unsteady temperament.
What does it mean to be ‚Äėbold‚Äô in preaching? Since this word is synonymous with the word courage, we can assume that ‚Äėbold‚Äô means not to put on an unreal ‚Äėstrong‚Äô and ‚Äėheavy‚Äô show of preaching, but rather to adapt to unlimitedly varied challenges. ‚ÄúŇöukadeva GosvńĀmńę said: My dear King, the servants of Lord ViŠĻ£ŠĻáu are always very expert in logic and arguments.‚ÄĚ (SB 6.2.1)
Currently when many governments and sports bodies enact laws discouraging hate speech and related abuse ‚Äď many of which were not even thought of during Srila Prabhupada‚Äôs time - and when people are suspicious of ‚Äėend-is-nigh‚Äô stereotypes and hate mongers, we certainly need to refine our preaching. The only way people will subscribe to hatred is by force, fear, and intimidation ‚Äď not love. Trying to be unqualified ‚Äėheavy‚Äô will be counterproductive. The modes will direct our heaviness at the sinners rather than at the sin itself. Not to mention the fact that one can desire a ‚Äėheavy‚Äô reputation behind the heaviness ‚Äď it is exciting.
‚ÄúWe actually saw during the partition days in India that although Hindus and Muslims were living together peacefully, manipulation by politicians suddenly aroused feelings of hatred between them, and thus the Hindus and Muslims killed one another over politics.‚ÄĚ (Purport to SB 6.2.5-6)
Fixed-up steady Vaisnavas are naturally happy and secure. This is what the innocent masses want to see and hear from. They want assuring alternatives to their problem-riddled lives, and because unscrupulous thought and religious leaders mislead them, they deserve our sympathy and love, not more ego censuring.
‚ÄúPeople in general are not very advanced in knowledge by which to discriminate between religion and irreligion. The innocent, unenlightened citizen is like an ignorant animal sleeping in peace with its head on the lap of its master, faithfully believing in the master‚Äôs protection.‚ÄĚ (SB 6.2.5-6)
Innocent and unenlightened citizens who want peace in their lives and have good intentions, require ‚Äúsa-ghrnah‚ÄĒwho has a soft heart for the good of all people (SB 6.2.5-6)‚ÄĚ But the same devotees may charge that it is easy to be soft on people. The converse can be argued that it is easier to simply be blunt and heavy with people while preaching, because that way one will minimise the quality of debate and meaningful enquiry.
This is the case say, for some class of people who call themselves agnostics but are yet waiting to be convinced if genuine and assuring truths bear upon them. They subscribe to humanist well-being and are fed up of religious squabbling and hatred. Most of their frustration is aimed at Abrahamic religious traditions. There is surprisingly little exposure to Vaisnavism, or none at all, and they are usually influential people who will engage in intelligent debates. Can we imagine these types of people to be attracted to intellectually numbing ‚Äėstrong‚Äô and ‚Äėheavy‚Äô ‚ÄúGive them the sauce‚ÄĚ missives?
Before generalised judgement is passed on to many sincere devotees who are polite but bold, soft-hearted but strict upon themselves, loving to all but heavily fixed up, should do well to find out why they need to be ‚Äėstrong,‚Äô ‚Äėheavy‚Äô and ‚Äėbold‚Äô when in fact these same triple qualities are self-evidently abundant in happy, steady, self-assured fixed up devotees.
‚ÄúTherefore the devotee gradually realizing that, ‚ÄúYes, I am offering this flower directly to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. I am offering the food directly to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.‚ÄĚ He is eating. He is perceiving. He is taking the prasńĀdam. He‚Äôs advancing. He‚Äôs chanting Hare KŠĻõŠĻ£ŠĻáa mantra. It is self-evident. PratyakŠĻ£ńĀvagamaŠĻĀ dharmyam. This devotional service is directly appreciated. You haven‚Äôt got to take certificate from others.‚ÄĚ (Bombay, October 9, 1973)
Such simplicity as this, when performed happily ‚Äď su sukham ‚Äď and when presented to the public as a happy, jolly smiling face, backed with substance and self-confidence, is far more effective than taking oneself too seriously, and expecting the whole of our devotee community to comply with one‚Äôs own ‚Äėstrict‚Äô standards. Even Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, serious and ‚Äėheavy‚Äô as he was, was full of humour.
Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa ‚Äď GRS.