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Gold from a ‘dirty’ place – the football field

Tuesday, 19 August 2014 / Published in Articles, Editorial, Praghosa Dasa / 7,169 views

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.

Song of Srila Prabhupada's glorious victory
Forever Your Servant

5 Responses to “Gold from a ‘dirty’ place – the football field”

  1. Pusta Krishna das says :

    Glorification to the Center, Sri Krishna, is always desirable. The question of quality is of utmost importance. Quantity will vary as Krishna is the Cause of All Causes. We are merely passengers through this world of His. Thus, one must avoid envy of others who have a different role to play in the Sankirtan Movement. We have been told that we should aspire to follow in the footsteps of the Six Goswamis of Vrindaban…Lord Chaitanya’s dear and empowered disciples. They were empowered to write on the topic of Krishna consciousness. Some were more focused on specific aspects of devotional service, like Srila Raghunath das Goswami.

    Every endeavour in this world, Sri Krishna says, is covered by some flaw, perceived or otherwise, just as a fire is covered by smoke. But, one should not therefore give up all endeavours for fear of having some flaw associated with our devotional activities. Especially when there is obvious success in reaching a specific class of people, as Sripad Radhanath das Swami has had, it is preaching work in the spirit of Srila Prabhupad in the service of Lord Chaitanya. Perhaps someone would have done it in a different manner. But, the opportunity to preach Krishna consciousness is sanctioned and permitted by the Lord. It cannot be forced by our ego. Thus, it is worthwhile to recognize the success of others, and not to be concerned so much with our own success or failure even. That is in Krishna’s Hands…and our business is to continue to try to distribute Krishna consciousness, if even for our own purification. The fruit of such preaching is in Krishna’s power, and we do not know what seeds of bhakti we may be distributing for these souls for their future lives. That is sukriti.

    The verse quoted above by Lord Chaitanya implores us to be humble, tolerant, and to give honor to others…especially to vaishnava preachers. In that way we will be better able to remember the Holy Names constantly. These are the stepping stones to love of God which is our ultimate goal as bhaktas.

    Pusta Krishna das

  2. Nrsinghadeva dasa says :

    So far as your question about controversy amongst the disciples . . . that is a fact. But this controversy is not material. Just like in a national program, different political parties are sometimes in conflict and make propaganda against each other, but their central point is always service to the country. Similarly, amongst the disciples . . . there may be some controversy, but the central point is how to preach the mission of His Divine Grace. If the central point is fixed up then there is no harm in such controversy. Every individual being must have his opinion; that is the significance of individuality, but all such differences of opinions must coincide in Krishna. In the battlefield of Kuruksetra were Arjuna and Bhisma who were fighting with one another, and because Krishna was on the side of Arjuna, sometimes Bhisma pierced the body of Krishna also with arrows. But still they remained the greatest devotees of the Lord.'”
    (Srila Prabhupada’s Letter to Mandali Bhadra, July 28, 1969)

  3. Raja Gopala das says :

    “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.”

    SP obviously spoke only about non liberated, bewildered disciples of BS.

    “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.”

    Indeed Vaishnavas love to glorify the activities of other Vaishnavas. It also happens that non liberated Vaishnavas glorify the activties of other non liberated Vaishnavas. There are many examples of that within Iskcon. If this activity is done for purification of one’s existence one makes further progress to the desired goal which of course is para bhakti. Who is the ultimate judge of all these activities? Lord Vishnu, no one else.

  4. Pusta Krishna das says :

    These are important ideals to understand and follow. The parampara system highlights that one must not become an obstacle to understanding or experiencing Krishna, but is rather a “transparent medium” for Krishna. Lord Chaitanya has emphasized the importance of “amanina manadena”, becoming nondesirous of honor for oneself, and ready to give honor to others. The spiritual nature is all Krishna conscious. One is not self-conscious…being part and parcel of Krishna, the purified souls with partial expansion of Krishna’s senses, are engaged in a loving relationship with Krishna. Nothing is kept for one’s self, as all love flows to Krishna, and the back-forth flow of loving sentiment is predominated by rasa. It is not an intellectual phenomenon, being on the plane of pure consciousness. This is the highest plane that a jiva soul can aspire to.
    Krishna is the Creator. We are not meant to be envious of Krishna’s creative capacity (perhaps lusting to become a demigod or such), but rather to follow in the footsteps and examples of bhaktas who are expressing love and service for vaishnava and Krishna.
    Srila Prabhupad would express that some of his godbrothers did not have the intelligence to preach Krishna consciousness, but were too interested in a comfortable life in the ashrama. This was not true of all his godbrothers, it should be noted. Also, we must not become angry if other gaudiya vaishnavas come to the West to preach Krishna consciousness. That is desirable but, it must not be expresses as a “fishing expedition” for Srila Prabhupad’s disciples and followers. There were a few occasions during Srila Prabhupad’s time when some of his disciples went to India, and were reinitiated by other gaudiya vaishnavas, sometimes after these individuals harshly criticized Srila Prabhupad. Mostly, these individuals became infected with prakrita-sahajiya ideas, whereby they thought of themselves as spiritually evolved even though they were still very much conditioned souls. Srila Prabhupad gave ABC through to XYZ…and all the vision that we might need to understand things as they are. We cannot fully know who a godbrother or godsister is to Krishna, as He is the Lord of everyone, and we can have a personal relationship with Him regardless of our known history. Give honor to others liberally…a safe position and one that is advised by Lord Chaitanya Himself, if one wants to be qualified to take the Holy Names constantly. Pusta Krishna das

  5. Nrsinghadeva dasa says :

    The maturity of a society or individual is measured by how it deals with critics. To rule out criticism is a sign of fear or lack of faith. Truth does not need to be defended. It is sva-pramanya (self-luminous). A sincere searcher on the way home invites other opinions, wants to consider them thoroughly and will then make a decision in his heart. Only children have to be protected from unorthodoxy.

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