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Dandavats! All Glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga!

Leadership Crisis

Sunday, 05 August 2018 / Published in Articles / 6,040 views

By HH Bhakti Raghava Swami

A few years ago, while pursuing my postgraduate studies at USM in Penang, I happen to glance over the front page of the local newspaper to read the following headlines in large capital letters: WANTED: LEADERS. The statement was being made by the then Prime Ministry of Malaysia who was expressing his dismay at the lack of leadership within his country, especially in the context of educational institutions who seemingly were not able to produce highly qualified leaders. Not only was he pointing to a leadership crisis within his own county, but indeed, if we analyze most countries and most organizations around the world, the lack of such qualified leaders is rampant in present day society, the consequences of which can be witnessed by the ever increasing anomalies we find in all spheres and at all levels of modern day life. More recently, a similar concern was expressed by the Minister of Education in India when he officially stated that 75% of students graduating from universities were ill-prepared and ill-suited to take up their designated career. Where today can we thus find qualified leaders? And where today can we find the training and education to bring individuals to such proper standards of leadership?

Leadership and Dependence
Within the Vedic culture, anyone who had dependents was considered a leader. Therefore, not only the Kings or Heads of State (ksatriyas) were accepted as leaders, but those having dependents in the other varnas, such as the brahmanas and vaisyas, were also regarded as leaders. According to the Vedic social system of daiva-varnasrama, the majority of people (sudras) are meant, by nature and by disposition, to serve under the able guidance and care of either the brahmanas, ksatriyas or vaisyas.

Leadership and Governance
Within the context of setting up and coordinating communities in keeping with the principles of daiva-varnasrama, the main leadership falls upon the head of householder ksatriyas, either at the level of villages, states, countries (kingdoms) or the world. Governance is a vital principle within the Vedic society and is the specialized domain of the ksatriyas who are meant to rule their citizens as loving fathers. As we begin to consider implementing principles of daiva varnasrama, the themes of leadership and governance take on a more significant role.

Varnasrama Development and Governance
In analysing the four-fold vision given by Srila Prabhupada, as outlined in his essay Conceptions of Gita Nagari, to help transform our present misdirected society towards a global Krishna conscious nation, it is only when we begin to closely consider the fourth division of varnasrama do we begin to see the need of implementing a God conscious leadership within society at large. There are certainly leadership elements in the first three divisions identified by Srila Prabhupada namely, 1) the Sankirtan Movement based on the holy names and book distribution, 2) the Temple Worship Movement and 3) the Spiritual Initiation Movement. However, these first three divisions remain largely confined to those having brahminical duties. All these three divisions are meant to be headed by brahmanas for it is the primary duty of brahmanas to 1) study the Vedic literatures and spread their glories through both the chanting of the holy names and the distribution of transcendental literatures [brhhat mrdanga], 2) to perform yajnas by installing deities and worshiping the arca-vigraha form of the Lord in temples and in homes of householders and 3) to encourage the involvement of various congregational members preparing them to become connected in guru parampara through training and educational programs. At present, to a large extent, all of these are intimately connected with our city temple preaching activities. However, when we enter the larger realm of varnasrama development, not so much within our city temples but rather within the rural setting of village communities, we are confronted with concepts of leadership and governance at various levels and hence the need for effective training and education.

Standard Training and Education
Such type of leadership will only possible if we implement the standard Vedic training and education as recommended in our sastras from an early age. When the varnasrama system was in order, generally, young boys from both brahmana and ksatriya families would receive this specialized training in the educational system of gurukula. However, anyone who displayed the natural tendencies and qualities of a brahmana or ksatriya could also avail of this training and education. It is keeping this vision in mind that Srila Prabhupada wanted his disciples to implement the Vedic educational institutions of both Gurukula for the younger boys and of Varnasrama Colleges for the older ones.

Standard Qualities of Leaders
Our Vedic literatures give us clear and specific information about the qualities needed for a good leader. From the perennial teachings of the Bhagavad-gita we find the following seven qualities of an ideal leader outlined:
sauryam tejo dhrtir daksyam yuddhe capy apalayanam
danam isvara-bhavas ca ksatram karma svabhava-jam
“Heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity and leadership are the qualities of work for the ksatriyas.” (Bg. 18.43)
From the Srimad Bhagavatam, the following ten qualities are given:
sauryam viryam dhrtis tejas tyagas catmajayah ksama
brahmanyata prasadas ca satyam ca ksatra-laksanam
“To be influential in battle, unconquerable, patient, challenging and charitable, to control the bodily necessities, to be forgiving, to be attached to the brahminical nature and to be always jolly and truthful—these are the symptoms of the ksatriya.”
We find another important instruction given in the Srimad Bhagavatam by the great King Rshabadava to his 100 sons headed by Bharat Maharaja:
gurur na sa syat sva-jano na sa syat pita na sa syaj janani na sa syat
daivam na tat syan na patis ca sa syan na mocayed yah samupeta-mrtyum
“One who cannot deliver his dependents from the path of repeated birth and death should never become a spiritual master, a father, a husband, a mother or a worshipable demigod.” (SB 5.5.18)

In the purport to this verse, Srila Prabhupada explains:
“Ordinarily, the spiritual master, husband, father, mother or superior relative accepts worship from an inferior relative, but here Rshabhadeva forbids this. First the father, spiritual master or husband must be able to release the dependent from repeated birth and death. If he cannot do this, he plunges himself into the ocean of reproachment for his unlawful activities. Everyone should be very responsible and take charge of his dependents just as a spiritual master takes charge of his disciple or a father takes charge of his son. All these responsibilities cannot be discharged honestly unless one can save the dependent from repeated birth and death.”

Thus, leadership within the Vedic culture carries a heavy responsibility. We can therefore better understand why so much preparation would go into training both the young boys and the young girls before entering householder life. Similarly, anyone who would envision becoming either a brahmana or ksatriya would likewise have to undergo many years of training and education. To become a parent is a life-long responsibility, at least until the children are grown up and can start their own family life. Likewise, to become a leader for a much larger family, either a village, a state, a country or the world is even more demanding and requires the highest of qualifications. Until these instructions given by Srila Prabhupada to establish both standard Gurukulas and Varnasrama Colleges are taken up more seriously, we can expect to continue witnessing a leadership crisis around the world.

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3 Responses to “Leadership Crisis”

  1. Yugal Kishor Dasa says :

    Maharaja, thanks for the time you take to address this important issue that Srila Prabhupada wanted us to implement. Your article does spark the much needed discussion about daiva-varnashrama.

    The way it looks to me, daiva varnashrama necessarily involves the politico-social dimension as well as the theological dimension of the human condition.

    Varna corresponds to the politico-social dimension of societal life, and ashrama to the theological aspect of human life.

    To make the theme clearer to your readers, I would recommend that you define beforehand the terms brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaisyas and shudras from both dimensions or realms of discourse, i.e., the socio-political and the theological.

    Overall, your article does not give any credit to the shudra class. This is more evident in your Leadership and Dependence paragraph, wherein you omitted (consciously?) to mention that members of the shudra class also function (today) as “natural leaders,” when they take up the role of parents and/or elders of their own shudra clans or families.

    A lot of the time, especially in ISKCON, we use the term shudra mostly in a pejorative sense. Thus, consciously or unconsciously, we strip the shudras off of any good qualities they may indeed possess; natural leadership being one of them.

    I do not see and cannot reason that all shudras are always bad and in darkness, so much so that they must be told what to do at all times.

    Being a shudra does not necessarily mean that they are scoundrels, and so bad that they can’t be natural leaders of their own families or dependents. After all, Sri Krishna (Gita 9.32) has stated that shudras are also candidates for self-realization.

    I would even add a third dimension to the discussion of finding and defining appropriate terms and meanings to the four varnas: that is the psychological dimension.

    Consider the following scenarios: Someone can be a brahmana by birth and even by initiation and by psychological disposition, but work in a shudra occupation (socio-political dimension).

    Or someone else can be a brahmana by birth and by initiation, and have the occupation of a brahmana, but his psychological disposition and behavior points to the attributes of a shudra.

    Ideally the psychological and the theological dimension should reflect the true nature of a man who is brahamana.

    Yours in the service of Srila Prabhupada,
    Yugala Kishor dasa

  2. vrinda says :

    Hare Krishna Yugal Krishna prabhu,
    Please accept my humble obeisances
    All Glories to Srila Prabhupada
    All Glories to Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga

    It is certainly encouraging to see your interest in the varnasrama dharma. The questions that you have raised are quite pertinent. While Maharaj would answer them, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that originally His Holiness’ article had appeared in the newsletter- THE EIGHT PETALS. ( The issue for that month had a focus on “Administration”. So the article is very much contextual here. By brining out the aspects of administration and leadership, instead of mitigating the importance of other classes or varnas as it may appear here, it just attempts to explain “kshatriya” class better. Hope it clarifies a few of your doubts.
    Yours in the service of Srila Prabhupada,
    Vrndavanlila dd
    Editor- “The Eight Petals”

  3. Puskaraksa das says :

    BG 2.8, Translation and Purport:
    I can find no means to drive away this grief which is drying up my senses. I will not be able to dispel it even if I win a prosperous, unrivaled kingdom on earth with sovereignty like that of the demigods in heaven.

    Although Arjuna was putting forward so many arguments based on knowledge of the principles of religion and moral codes, it appears that he was unable to solve his real problem without the help of the spiritual master, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa. He could understand that his so-called knowledge was useless in driving away his problems, which were drying up his whole existence; and it was impossible for him to solve such perplexities without the help of a spiritual master like Lord Kṛṣṇa. Academic knowledge, scholarship, high position, etc., are all useless in solving the problems of life; help can be given only by a spiritual master like Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, the conclusion is that a spiritual master who is one hundred percent Kṛṣṇa conscious is the bona fide spiritual master, for he can solve the problems of life. Lord Caitanya said that one who is master in the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, regardless of his social position, is the real spiritual master.

    kibā vipra, kibā nyāsī, śūdra kene naya
    yei kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā, sei 'guru' haya
    "It does not matter whether a person is a vipra (learned scholar in Vedic wisdom) or is born in a lower family, or is in the renounced order of life-if he is master in the science of Kṛṣṇa, he is the perfect and bona fide spiritual master." (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 8.128) So without being a master in the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, no one is a bona fide spiritual master.