By Ameyatma das
Please Accept my worthless obesiances at your feet. All glories to ISKCON’s Founder-Acharya, HDG AC Bhaktivedanta Swami - Srila Prabhupad.
I am writing this article in response to Karuna Das’s article
(http://www.dandavats.com/?p=3917) “Varnasrama”, and to a number of VAD related articles appearing on Dandavats.com. Rather then just write a comment, I have decided to write a quick article instead.
I first heard the Vrndaban Varnashram Morning Walk tapes of 1974 when they first arrived from India. I was working with Krsna Kanti prabhu at the time in the Golden Avatar studios, and when the tapes arrived I had the service of opening them, placing them on the tape deck and making a master copy duplicate. As I did this I was the very first to hear those tapes when they arrived in the US. (By Krishna’s arrangement, those were the only tapes were the first and last that I performed that service as I joined the BBT art department just after this).
In those talks Srila Prabhupad gave the instruction that he wanted Varnarshram dharma established in all of his temples, immediately, he said. That was 33 years ago, and still today this instruction has not manifest.
I also noted from day one that it seemed devotees who were there with him did not grasp a clear understanding of what Srila Prabhupad was saying, and I admit that I also did not understand it clearly myself the fist time I heard the tapes. Ramesvar immediately had the BBT publish a book on the transcripts of those tapes. And I made myself a personal set of tapes from the original unedited tapes which I have to this day. The recordings took place over many days, 3-4 or so.
9 years later in 1983 I was speaking privately with Ramesvar and asked him why the ISKCON temples have not implemented those instructions? Why Varnarshram Dharma had not yet been established. He immediately snapped back, paraphrasing from memory, “How can we establish VAD when the GBC have no idea what that means?” And he refused to discuss the idea any further.
Then, about 10-12 years ago I was digitizing my cassette tapes and I rediscovered the Vrndaban VAD Morning Walk tapes and this time when I played them I grasped a very clear, crystal clear, understanding of the very simple thing that Srila Prabhupad was saying that seemed to allude everyone all these years.
What I see has been misunderstood: What I see has been misunderstood was that everyone was thinking how to apply the Varnas to them brahminically trained current members of ISKCON. From the day he spoke and for decades afterwards when devotees would discuss how to implement VAD one major contention was: So many ISKCON devotees are already initiated as Brahmana, how can some now become ksatriya, vaishya and especially sudras? In fact, Ramesvar asked me that same question when I raised the topic with him years ago. Since the majority members of any society is sudra, how can we institute VAD in our temples where the entire membership population is to be trained brahmanas? This has been a puzzling issue. Some devotees wanted to become ksatriya, or vaishya, but, few were running out demanding to be known as sudra. After all, we had been trained by SP to become Brahmanas. And, the GBC were also asking, “How can we force many brahman initiated devotees to now become sudra?”
What I finally realized, 20 years after first hearing those tapes, was that this is not what SP was asking us to do. He was not asking us, his direct followers, to take up the different varnas. No. Not At ALL. As he always said, ISKCON was established to train up a class of first class men, Brahmanas, who will lead the society. What I finally grasped was that what Srila Prabhupad was asking us to do was really very simple.
He had trained us to become brahmanas, and brahmanas are the teachers for society. As teachers he wanted us to established VAD based “Colleges” in our temples. Colleges or schools where the Brahminically trained teachers would then teach others their Varnas.
What would this have meant if, back in 1974, we had actually implemented the VAD based schools that SP instructed we open in each of his temples?
What would have happened is that not very many new members would have been trained to become brahmana after that date. Rather, those whom SP had more personally and directly trained to become brahman would have been acting as teachers in the schools and would need to evaluate each new member to see where their propensities lay, then, in cooperation with that new member, they would send them to the appropriate department and that new member would be trained in his appropriate varna.
If the new member desired to work on the farms doing manual labor, then they would be trained by the appropriate Brahmana who had knowledge in those varnas and would be sent to our farms to work as Vaishnav Sudras. If they were inclined to take up art and crafts, then they would be trained by the appropriate brahmana in the shilpa arts (which is sudra class) and engage in cottage industry arts and crafts. If inclined toward construction and building, or jewelry making, black or gold smithing, dance or drama, again, these are all sudra arts, they would be trained by the appropriate brahminically trained teachers. Those who were inclined to take up cottage based business, become land holders and protect the cows, they would be trained by the appropriate Brahman devotee to become Vaishya Those whose inclination was as protector of the society, who desired to administer the arm of the law, they would be trained by the appropriate Brahmana initiated devotee and be trained as Ksatriyas. Eventually society would see that a ksatriya who was properly trained and graduated from our temple universities will make the best government leaders and those graduates would find themselves in demand being elected as Senators, Governors, and even Presidents of their nations. Then, those fewer new members who were inclined to shastric studies and puja, or teaching, or as doctors and medicine, they would be trained as brahmanas.
Thus, if ISKCON had implemented that VAD school instructions as SP told us to do at the time, back in 1974, then a majority of the new members since that date would NOT have been trained to become brahmanas, but would have been trained to take up the varna they were best suited for, and our farming communities would be over flowing the trained vaishyas and artisans and craftsmen able to build sustainable communities. Even though the majority would be trained in Sudra arts and crafts and labor, each and every new member would become Vaishnav. Devotee of God. Even if they worship God as Yaweh or Allah, they are more then welcome to come and study in our schools and be trained by brahmana Vaishanvas.
This is the clear vision that I have imbued from study of SP’s teachings on VAD.
That is how we are to establish VAD. Via schools, via training. SP trained a class of Brahmanas and he gave us the duty to teaching the mass society as the “Teachers”, as the brahminical heads. And, not all, in fact, only a small fraction, of new members would be trained to the brahminical standards after we implement the VAD schools.
Hoping this meets you all in good health. Aspiring to become your most humble and worthy servant, the lowly ameyatma das