So and so prabhu distributed x number of books and collected y laksmi points – JAYA!!!! Devotees are very generous in their glorification of others’ deeds. After all, to brave the hostile opposing elements and give a book to someone – a matchless gift – certainly deserves credit.
Besides the full-time temple devotees, congregational members also contribute their fair share to help maintain one temple or another. The sankirtana effort is nearly always conducted in the spirit of competition, a Krsna-centered good natured yajna-will-do to help purify our existence. Is there a necessity for competition? Will the book scores decline rapidly if we did away with the same?
If ‘books are the basis’ is interpreted to mean pushing out vast quantities of BBT literature, and not much else, then our foundational intrinsic worth will be a shallow one. If it is, as Srila Prabhupada had worded it, a basis for study, and the source for the entirety of Iskcon’s subsistence and future survival, then we are attuned to his transcendental mood.
This same frame of mind envisioned a world without competition. For example, in [TLC ch. 23] Srila Prabhupada states:” Because everyone in the material world is envious, there is competition. The devotees of the Lord are not only free from all material envy, but they are kind to everyone in an attempt to establish a competitionless society with God in the centre.”
Of course we are well aware that Srila Prabhupada described the healthy non-envious competition in the spiritual world as worthy of emulation. He also said on occasions that competition has to be there – for the sankirtana devotees – but Krsna-centric. So is Srila Prabhupada speaking of hale and hearty competition within a competitionless environment? Or do we understand him to mean ‘no competition’?
We need not be reminded that even the high-minded demigods are prone to envy and competition. The competitive spirit of Lord Indra caused him to begin a bogus sannyasa order by which he disrupted King Prthu’s centennial fire sacrifice which could have earned him Indra’s throne. The contest between brahma-tejas and Siva-tejas, manifested respectively as the Rbhu demigods pitted against Virabhadra, tells us that not all is pure up there.
If within our ashramas worldwide – where many spiritual practitioners struggle to attain a measure of nistha – can we reasonably assume there will not be even a hint of jealousy or motivation when competition is encouraged? So much for Krsna-centric ideals, can the transcendental ethic prevail? [SB 4.5.4 purport] says: “Although pure goodness, or suddha-sattva, is the basic principle in the spiritual world, pure manifestation of goodness is not possible in the material world.”
I remember years ago during an extended oil painting Christmas marathon I was deputed to be the scorekeeper. I made a large bar chart and placed it prominently for all to see. Above every devotee’s name the bar would rise. The race was on. The competition was intense. Sometimes when I did not timely update the tallies I was frequently asked “Why didn’t you put my score up?” This gave me an insight into the stimulus or otherwise, of certain individuals. Could the same be said for book distribution too? Was this exercise a quick-routed path to Sri Krsna-prema, or a jolly natured urge for name and fame?
My worry is; what are the spin-offs from competition, or rather, the side effects? Does it not create dualities such as ‘big devotee, small devotee’ disorder? Or keeping up with the Jones’s – or should it be – keeping up with the dasa’s? Such thinking hardly resonates with a competitionless outlook.
In the field of devotional service smallness is as glorious as bigness. The impossible determination of the small mother sparrow to reclaim her eggs taken by the ocean, earned her the favor of Sri Garuda. The spider that threw tiny grains of sand onto the bridge to Lanka, and was mocked for his effort by big bodied co-workers, was nonetheless favored by Lord Rama who chided the others. We have to discard the western condescending view of servility and authentically marvel at the devotee dish washers, mechanics, cleaners and the rest for their rare and glorious deeds.
I would venture to say, that those whose task it is to find prospects for future leadership within Iskcon, should not pay attention to those who are motivated, but rather study those among us who are competent background devotees not too keen on the limelight. If they are difficult to identify, then research should be done. These types of devotees will, if requested, rise to the occasion to become leaders; if they had a balanced upbringing, all the better.
In British politics, I remember how Mrs. Thatcher rose to stardom by her ability to tame the rampant unions, and extol her brand of free enterprise carefully assuaged with the term – caring capitalism. Since devotees are caring by nature, can they transcend competitiveness with sattva-guna? Or do the various problems which confront us as Iskcon members, stem from the competitive edge? I think they do. The servant of the servant of the servant ethic remains more of a rare poetical adornment than a genuine fact of life in many cases.
We are moving into an era of more caring attitudes forged by new management techniques, reminders from kindly devotees, and the sheer need to go forward as a movement, based on naturally occurring loving exchanges between us. Sattva-guna objectives will be our saving grace in sustaining Iskcon. Is the passionate competitive spirit compatible with the goodness mood?
There is little doubt that temple authorities may question the dropping of contests for fear of laksmi generation purposes. What if quality as opposed to quantity were enhanced? For instance, I remember doing book distribution with some senior sannyasa devotees. I was struck by the amount of time they spent with each individual interested person. It seemed a big book score was the last thing on their minds. Quality time meant increasing the chances of making quality recruitment, and quality recruitment meant quality service to Srila Prabhupada and fellow devotees.
This quality is what Srila Prabhupada meant in terms of competition within a competitionless society. Only when we have reached an acceptable level of spiritual achievement can we raise the bar. [SB 1.1.2 purport] says: “In the material world there is keen competition between animal and animal, man and man, community and community, nation and nation. But the devotees of the Lord rise above such competitions. They do not compete with the materialists because they are on the path back to Godhead where life is eternal and blissful. Such transcendentalists are nonenvious and pure in heart.”
For those who doubt the efficacy of ‘books are the basis,’ are blocking out the future import of this dictum. Srila Prabhupada knew that when increased quality developed among us, as they are beginning to nowadays – and when we in turn spend quality time with those we preach to – will generate quality results in huge and unexpected ways. We must forget about the JAYA’s and recognition.
Ys Kesava Krsna dasa – GRS.