Gold from a ‘dirty’ place – the football field
By Praghosa dasa
I recently read a letter which was eloquently penned by Bhakti Charu Maharaja which really struck me, so much so, I became inspired to write a few words about it. It struck me for a couple reasons, one the simple essence of Maharaja’s letter being the glorification of other devotees, which is always an inspirational meditation to see in action, one devotee glorifying other devotees. The other aspect that I found equally, if not more eye-catching, was an analogy that Maharaja used.
He was focusing on Srila Prabhupada’s request that we should all regularly discuss the principle of unity in diversity. It is interesting to note that diversity more or less takes care of itself, we are all individuals and we all are naturally diverse to one degree or another. For sure in the history of the world there have been attempts to quash diversity but in ISKCON’s current stage of development diversity seems to be alive and well. Whether unity is as healthy is certainly open for debate and I’ll take the liberty of suggesting that unity has some way to go before catching up on the health of the diversity which exists within ISKCON.
The example Maharaja gave was one which ISKCON could look to for assistance in its pursuit of greater unity and it was an example from the football world.
Any regular traveller will know that during the world cup every screen in every airport was practically showing the matches wall to wall. As a previous footballaholic, playing the game since before I can remember both on the streets where I grew up, in the parks, in school (where I held the ‘keepy-up’ record for 4 years in a row, over 1,600 times!) and eventually in a more organized way as a member of a well known football club which also had Liam Brady on their books (remember him?), it was tough passing by all those airport screens!
Back though to the example/analogy – Maharaja pointed out that football teams generally show great unity and even though the strikers or the creative midfield players get all the glory and the most money, when a goal is scored all the team, substitutes, coaching staff and fans celebrate will equal enthusiasm. They show little or no envy toward the goalscorer or stars of the team. Of course we know, as Prabhupada often pointed out, there is extended identification and sense gratification and reflected glory, still their unity remains impressive and something Maharaja suggests we can learn from.
As aspiring bhaktas we are regularly challenged with dealing with such anarthas as envy, arguably the most corrosive of all anarthas. How often do we find ourselves struggling to genuinely glorify the achievements of other devotees? And in equal measure find ourselves envying the achievements of other devotees? Assuming these football players are not chanting 64 rounds of pure japa before they run out onto the pitch, we can conclude they are not free from the pangs of envy but somehow or another in the pursuit of team glory they are able to set it aside for the greater good. Again how beneficial would that be for Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON if we were able to do the same.
It is also interesting to note that we are never alone, the Supersoul is also with us accompanying us everywhere. He knows our true thoughts and motives and as much as we may be attracted to the thought of ‘nobody knowing where we are, how near or how far’ it simply is, and never will be, the reality. Indeed, to ever allow ourselves to think we are alone, shows a real lack of faith on our part and a tendency toward impersonalism.
It is said that the highest principle of ethics is: ‘doing the right thing always even when we are alone’. While we know what the intent of that principle is, the simple fact is we are never alone and therefore how appropriate, with the help of the ever present Supersoul, to nurture the mood of rejoicing in the success of other devotees for the greater good of the ISKCON team, as well as for us all individually, ultimately personifying trinad api sunicena taror api sahisnuna amanina manadena kirtaniyah sada harih
Below is Maharaja’s letter:
Yesterday I arrived in New York from Europe. A disciple of mine who came to receive me in the airport, an IT specialist from New Jersey, informed me about his attending a very wonderful program where Radhanath Maharaja addressed about 300 doctors. In his presentation Maharaja admitted the efficacy of allopathic treatment and at the same time spoke about the profundity of Ayurveda. And he urged the doctors to take advantage of both. Very joyfully this devotee informed me about the success of this program and how practically every participant became enlivened by it.
He also told me about various other programs that Radhanath Maharaja conducted in the recent past in America – addressing the software tycoons in Silicon Valley; addressing the top executives of google, HSBC and Ernst and Young; speaking to highly successful individuals from various fields.
I began to wonder why we are not being informed of these achievements of Radhanath Maharaja. May be Radhanath Maharaja, due to his very humble disposition, does not want his achievements to be broadcasted, but for the benefit of our devotees and overall inspiration of our
entire society, it should be properly broadcasted and appreciated. I know for certain if Srila Prabhupada were here at this time, he would have been so happy to hear about these achievements. In this respect I have seen how expert Tamala Krishna Maharaja was. Whenever something remarkable happened he would immediately report to Srila Prabhupada and Srila Prabhupada would be so pleased. I remember how Tamala Krishna Maharaja used to read out the letters of Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja and how eagerly Srila Prabhupada used to wait for them.
Once in Vrindavan, Srila Prabhupada told me how envious his godbrothers became about his success. Then Srila Prabhupada mentioned that this tendency is naturally there because the god-brothers tend to see each other almost on the same level. Therefore if one god-brother becomes very successful in preaching or achieves something wonderful then it becomes difficult for them to acknowledge that. However Srila Prabhupada also pointed out that the Vaishnavas are different. They love to sing the glories of other Vaishnavas. They can do that because they are non envious. – “nirmatsara.”
We all know how much Srila Prabhupada wanted us to function in a spirit of unity. He often mentioned about unity in diversity. We know that in an institution like ISKCON so many devotees with their diverse nature and characteristics have to function together. Therefore this unity in diversity is the only way to work together for the benefit of our preaching mission.
The other day a devotee in a class asked me what this “unity in diversity” actually meant. I gave the example of a football team. Different players are playing their respective roles – some are defending the ball from entering their goal and some others are aggressively trying to put the ball in the opponent’s goal. All the members of the team are playing differently but they are united as one team. In the game when someone scores the goal, he gets the credit. Everyone cheers his achievements but the entire team enjoys the glory of victory.
It is important that In ISKCON we also function in that way. When someone achieves success in his preaching mission and the world recognises and appreciates that then let us also consider that to be our victory and rejoice. Those who are good at scoring goals, let us give them all the support to lead us into victory.
I am confident that if we can successfully do that then our mission will spread in leaps and bounds all over the world.