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Why is it so difficult to find people who will take responsibility?

Wednesday, 12 June 2019 / Published in Articles / 10,199 views

Answer by Niranjana Swami

[Question]: Managers have to deal with some unpleasant things like problems and financial crisis or whatever, and then if they get more in to spiritual life, they are generally losing inspiration for dealing with these things. Why is it happening? It’s one way or the other way—why is it happening like that? Devotees in general, they don’t feel inspired to take up responsibility to be involved in all these external engagements. Why is it so diffucult to find people who will take responsibility?

[Niranjana Swami]: Management is a headache. It can be a very big headache. But I’ll tell you why I’ve taken up such a responsibility for so many years. It’s because I see it in relationship to serving Srila Prabhupada’s mission; because, I’m one hundred percent convinced that Srila Prabhupada wanted an institution. Institution means headaches. There’s just no way around it. I saw Prabhupada take those headaches. And I saw many other leaders, under Srila Prabhupada, taking those headaches. And, although it’s more than twenty-five years after Srila Prabhupada’s departure, I still see many of my godbrothers who take those headaches for one reason only—it’s a burden of love. That’s the only thing. It’s a burden of love for the spiritual master.

As we spoke about he other day, Srila Prabhupada’s vision for spreading Krsna Consciousness was through an institution. Where did he get that vision? From Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. And although Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura had given the instructions to form a GBC—to organize an institution—Srila Prabhupada made it clear in his books what happens after his departure.

There are some many elevated followers of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, but they neglected something—something that Srila Prabhupada didn’t neglect. We hear it all the time; but if we really want to appreciate it and realize the full glory of what Srila Prahbupada did, we have to take that burden of love. You’ve got nectar. That’s one thing that you have to appreciate. You’ve got nectar. Other devotees may never be able to appreciate that.

They may appreciate so many other gifts that Srila Prabhupada has given us. Srila Prabhupada has given us the holy name. He’s given us the association of Vaisnavas. He’s given many wonderful things. But Srila Prabhupada’s gift to this world is that he’s left behind an institution; and he asked his followers to please at least maintain it after he’s gone. Srila Prabhupada left behind this burden of love. Any devotee who has the great fortune of sharing that burden will get some sweet nectar. They will get Srila Prabhupada’s mercy.

Therefore, we have to make devotees realize that. Prabhupada wasn’t so inspired to see devotees going off chanting in the forest; simply wanting to go off to some secluded place to chant Hare Krsna all day. He spoke about that some many times.

There are many examples; like the famous bhakta who went to Radha Kunda. He went there, following the babajis, simply chanting 64 rounds a day. His name was Bhakta Richard. Srila Prabhupada said, “Some day, when Bhakta Richard becomes advanced enough, he’ll leave Radha kunda and come back and preach in our movement.” He said, “When he becomes advanced enough.” [Maharaja laughs]

So, devotees need to hear this. They need to be inspired. If a devotee really wants Prabhupada’s mercy, they’ll take up some responsibility in his mission.

I’ll never forget the time, when I was a book distributor for many years. I used to do traveling sankirtana. Srila Prabhupada made a statement; he said, “Devotees who travel in vans and distribute books, they get my extra special mercy.” And, I was already traveling and distributing books, and sometimes when we were distributing—in those days we were distributing for ten hours a day. When I heard that Srila Prabhupada said that he’s ready to give extra special mercy, I was thinking, “I’m getting so much mercy now, and Srila Prabhupada wants to give some extra special mercy!” He drove us literally crazy. [Maharaja laughs]

The devotees were just thinking: “Where’s that extra special mercy?! We want it!” Ten hours wasn’t enough. We wanted that extra special mercy. And Srila Prabhupada’s going to give mercy. To hear about it was just like, “Wow! I want some of that mercy!”

So, Srila Prabhupada taught by his example. He took the headaches. He took the big headaches. He was managing this whole movement. For any problems that were going on, they went to Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada would deal with it. He would translate Bhagavatam, he would give class everyday, and he would deal with all the problems that would come. And then when everyone would see how much Srila Prabhupada was doing for them, they wanted: “Srila Prabhupada, can I do something to relieve your burden?” It’s just natural. When somebody takes up a burden of love and shows through that burden of love how he’s caring for others, then others want to help him. So, maybe devotees don’t want to help. But, they’re missing out on the mercy.

But still, he shouldn’t take on all that responsibility and sacrifice your sadhana. Srila Prabhupada didn’t want that. So certain things won’t get done. You have to be convinced that “If I’m krsna conscious, somehow, it will get done. Somehow.” And it will get done better than if—like the expression—if I run around like a chicken with my head cut off.” [Maharaja and devotees laughs] It just doesn’t work that way. We think “Yeah, I’m getting so much done, so much done, so much done. And there’s so much more to do, so much more to do, so much more to do.” There will always be something for a manager to do. There will always be some problem. Don’t worry.

So, you may think, “Well, I have to get this done.” Srila Prabhupada wanted us to take up this burden of love, but he didn’t want us to sacrifice our spiritual life. And he was always right there, like a loving father. Whenever he saw any of his spiritual sons or daughters over-burdened, he was like a loving father. He understood.

Saved, Happy Ox (2 years later)
Choosing to Fall Down

3 Responses to “Why is it so difficult to find people who will take responsibility?”

  1. Tamoharadasa says :

    I recall reading how rare is full engegement in devotional service. Even rarer, almost unobtainable, is to be in anxiety for Krsna’s sake. We currently have many anxieties for the sake of this Movement, so we are overly blessed. Anyone who takes on the anxieties of management and preaching will definitely be recognized by Srila Prabhupada.

    The word which Maharajah has used, “instituution” is perhaps a litle unfortunate, as it is somewhat unnerving for those of us who have learned not to trust same. I myself prefer the word “movement”, which doesn’t have the connotations of conservatism and “group-think” which most of us have encountered in our modern cultures, and which we have largely rejected. The word “movement” is suggestive of an organization of independently thoughtful servants, adaptable and fluid. “Institution” sounds rigid and uncompromising. Anway, I supoose that’s MY anxiety!

    Hare Krsna, Maharajah; it is very nice to see your article, and I hope for more. Obeisances at the feet of the Vaisnava.

  2. Akruranatha says :

    Good point, Tamohara Prabhu.

    Even though labels like “institution” are just “words”, the words we use affect perceptions. Politicians are famous for choosing words to shape public sentiments. They actually conduct surveys to find whether certain phrases and labels will help them pass or kill proposed legislation.

    The word “institution” has a negative connotation too easily exploited by those distrustful of ISKCON and its leadership. An “institution” is usually perceived as cold, impersonal, bureuacratic and materialistic. Hospitals and prisons are “institutions”.

    Kirtanananda used to describe the residents of the New Brindaban community as “inmates”, which I am sure is a word he borrowed from the Christian monastic tradition, but to the modern ear it reminded us of another kind of “institution”. Who wants to write home and tell their friends and family they are “inmates” in an “institution”?

    “Movement” is good. “Society” and “community” and “mission” are also words with positive connotations.

    Administrators of societies and communities are percieved as doing something valuable. Administrators of “institutions” may be perceived as bloodless old bureaucrats whose loyalty is only to the bottom line.

    We really are a society of devotees. Humans are social animals, and hermits who withdraw from society are often suspect. Mystic yogis withdraw to practice meditation in seclusion, but devotees withdraw from materialistic society to find their place in a spiritual society whose mission is to serve and glorify Krishna.

    Nanda Maharaja and his brothers were administrators of a society of cowherders. We cannot imagine the problems they faced, with big demons coming all the time and threatening their communities. As village chiefs they had so many anxieties for protecting their people.

    Similarly, those in ISKCON who have the thankless task of getting the paperwork done, of making sure the bills get paid and the beans get counted, of overseeing the construction of buildings and the operation of schools and sankirtan parties, will find relief by remembering that they are serving Krishna and his people, rather than “institutions”.

  3. sita-pati says :

    Based on my personal experience to this point I find that there are the right number of people who are willing to step up to the challenge.

    I believe the “institutional” angle that Tamohara mentions is the right one. Srila Prabhupada engaged youthful people in expanding a dynamic movement, not maintaining an institution, and it worked.

    In terms of maintaining, broader forms of leadership, including leadership teams, and the recognition of a community, create an environment in which people are able to contribute their strengths to leading. The idea of a temple and a congregation with a single empowered avatar leader who does everything and is responsible for everything is diametrically opposed to this.

    No one wants to jump onto a sinking ship or try to pick up a burden that is too heavy to bear.

    “Training devotees up” to be passively and blindly submissive to leaders who tell them everything leads to a bottom heavy society where leaders are burned out due to “reverse delegation”.

    While Prabhupada might have used the word “institution” (did he?) what he meant was “organization”. As Tamohara, “institution” for us means something negative, and Srila Prabhupada did not want something negative. He wanted organized Krishna Conscious society – ISKCON. So we should use social organization methods. Within societies there are institutions, but a society is not an institution.

    If we recognise and serve the developing community using community leadership, and understand that this is a voluntary movement so we cannot use force or management structures to “make things happen”, then I think we’ll find no shortage of people willing to take responsibility. People are doing it all the time in so many spheres. Especially the youth are looking for somewhere to make a contribution and make a difference.

    So the question might be rephrased: “How do we act in such a way to inspire and engage people’s natural desire to be productive, contribute, and help?”