By Jagadbandhu das
Recently, I came upon a nice discussion between Sripad Keshava Krsna and Pusta Krishna Prabhus about the difficulties which naturally entail ascertaining, training and sustaining real and pragmatic leadership and management within a religious institution. It was suggested that perhaps many would be unable to recognize the truly spiritual nature of personalities such as Srila Gaura Kishore Das Babaji Maharaj as possible ideal candidates for spiritual leadership. The question was also raised as to whether or not reluctant leaders might not be a better choice for candidacy. And that because of the history of fruitless varnashram discussions we should possibly be willing to settle for the best current demonstration of governing human civilization. For the time being.
It would be very good if the right type of pragmatic/progressive varnashram discussion were continued by deeply committed actual participants under the truly impartial and capable guidance of real brahmanas (those who have actually realized Brahman and therefore attained the brahma-bhuta platform of equal vision). Personally, my own firm conviction is that there is no other socio-religio-economic system that even remotely compares in terms of achieving perfect world harmony for the real benefit of everyone. And now is the time. Sometimes if not for the last minute, nothing would ever get done.
Perhaps we might completely disregard apparent external qualification for manifest spiritual authority and therefore consider Srila Gaura Kishore Das Babaji Maharaj himself as an ideal example of perfect spiritual leadership. If spirit is truly our prime concern. And he was well-known for his reluctance to accept even Srila Saraswati Thakur himself as a student. Possibly, we might consider that any temple within the real line of Srila Saraswati Thakur which lacked the vision to see what truly spiritual benefit might be mutually derived from such reluctant transcendental guidance can‚Äôt have much real spiritual benefit for anyone. And that leadership and management aren’t exactly the same thing.
Leaders guide, whereas managers organize order out of chaos under hopefully good guidance. In the varnashram social model, the administrators manage society under the capable guidance of wisely impartial intellectuals in the earnest attempt to achieve mutual benefit and harmony in a God-centered civilization (wherein all souls cooperate to satisfy the Center of the Complete Whole).
False or insincere (impure) leadership is indeed a very serious problem for any ostensibly spiritual society reputedly inspired by the genuine Teachings of a Truly Great Soul. Have we contemplated that false leaders must by necessity first become false followers? Or that all souls are ultimately good when liberated from their ill-considered motivations to exploit God, the Saints, the Teachings and all others for their own widely misconceived emotional notions of ‘transcendental” satisfaction and privileged subjective priory? And that even a once clear stream may become polluted without completely losing potentiality for healthy renewal?
Many times within world history corrupt governments, secular or “spiritual” are aggressively replaced with popularized successors willfully chosen by the justifiably dissatisfied general populace, who then unfortunately only succeed to prove through personal example to be largely inferior to the initial bureaucratic usurpers of the original Divine inspiration. Much to the collective aggrievement of the Great Spiritual Teachers, sincere seekers and honest followers throughout perpetuity. How many more times must this happen before we really learn our lessons together?
We have heard much about purity (sincerity) needing to be the driving force behind mandatory changes for the real benefit of all participants and the genuine fulfillment of the true purport of real Divine Guidance and spiritual leadership. Have we contemplated the nature of potentially inherent incorruptability (i.e. a natural aversion to selfish exploitation), which is a required component of the individual character of any erstwhile religious leader? If not, how will the shameful history of rampant religious hypocrisy blossoming into full blown abusive charlatanism be prevented from tragically repeating itself, time and again, until the end of days? And how will subsequently additional wrongs automatically hope to make anything right?
Please consider the following quotes from Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada which I strongly feel concisely encapsulate his own view of how real spiritual leadership and management might manifest within his sacred mission:
“Please accept my blessings. Now you must arrange in each temple there must be sufficient stock of prasadam for distribution. You can keep first-class cooks, two or three, and they should always be engaged. Whenever any guest comes, he must get prasada. This arrangement must be made, that the cooks prepare ten-twenty servings at a time, of puris and sabji, and you can add halavah and pakoras, and the visitors must be supplied immediately. Whenever a gentleman comes, he must be served. As the twenty servings are being distributed, immediately the cooks prepare another twenty servings and store it. At the end of the day, if no one comes, our own men will take, so there is no loss. You cannot say, ‘It is finished. It is not cooked yet. There is no supply for cooking, etc.’ This must be enforced rigidly. The temple is managed by Srimati Radharani, Laksmiji; so why should there be want? Our philosophy is, if anyone comes, let him take prasada, chant Hare Krishna and be happy. Everything is being supplied by Krishna, Krishna is not poor, so why should we deny them? This should be done at any cost. There is no difficulty, it simply requires nice management. At the end of the day you may sell or give away. If we believe that Krishna is providing and maintaining everyone, then why should we be misers. This means losing faith in Krishna and thinking that we are the doers and suppliers. We are confident Krishna will supply! Let the whole world come, we can feed them. So, please, do this nicely, begin at once.” (Srila Prabhupada letter to all ISKCON, 1-18-1977)
“Yes, preaching is more important than managing. Just because you are preaching nicely and distributing so much prasadam, the management will follow like a shadow and Krishna will send you no end of help.” (Srila Prabhupada letter to Satsvarupa Maharaj, 11-21-71)
Real leaders in a movement consumed by prasadam distribution will be factually representative of the true temple manager, Srimati Radharani. It’s this type of real quality guidance and leadership that we all really need. And not mere external bureaucratic administration, however expert. Real leaders also are not overly anxious to accrue followers (or earn money!). In fact, real leaders do not even require the endorsement of apparent followers to validate their own natural imperative. Or followers of any kind, whatsoever, at all. And yet there are those disposed to consider that a ‘good’ management system can automatically create by itself, good governance and true leadership. And real followers.
The real thing that drives the true dynamism of any ostensibly religious body is it‚Äôs true inner heart and soul. Doubtless, organization and order are indeed useful and necessary. But in the same way that form and function should support and serve actual inner substance. And the promotion or cultivation thereof. Within everyone.
It‚Äôs certainly reasonable to expect and hope for sincerity and utmost integrity as a prerequisite for true leadership. However, individual conscience itself (or what Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur refers to as ‚Äú‚Ä¶the peace of conscience‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ) is the introspective gauge by which all might harshly judge their own inner sincerity, integrity and motivations. By subjective conscience, the greatest leaders of our Sampradaya such as Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhupada and even Mahaprabhu Himself reckoned Themselves unqualified to lead and were therefore extremely reluctant to do so while continuing to perceive Themselves as eternal fools at Sri Guru‚Äôs Sacred Lotus Feet.