Raya Nitai dasa:
â€śOn the top of the mango tree there is a very ripened fruit, and that fruit has to be tasted. So if I drop the fruit from up, it will be lost. Therefore it is handed over, after one, after one, afterâ€¦ Then it comes down. So all Vedic process of knowledge is taking from the authority. And it comes down through disciplic succession. Just like I have already explained, Krishna gives the knowledge, perfect knowledge, to Brahma, and Brahma gives the knowledge to Narada. Narada gives the knowledge to Vyasa. Vyasa gives the knowledge to Madhvacharya. Madhvacharya gives the knowledge to his disciplic succession, later on, to Madhavendra Puri. Madhavendra Puri gives that knowledge to Isvara Puri. Isvara Puri gives that knowledge to Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Lord Caitanya. He delivers that knowledge to His immediate disciples, six Gosvamis. The six Gosvamis deliver the knowledge to Srinivasa Acharya, Jiva Gosvami. Then Kaviraja Gosvami, then Visvanatha Cakravarti, then Jagannatha dasa Babaji, then Bhaktivinoda Thakura, then Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja, then my spiritual master, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. Then we are distributing the same knowledge.â€ť(Sri Vyasa-Puja â€” New Vrindavan, September 2, 1972)
Indulgence in trendy conspiracy theory speculation is diametrically opposed to Krishna consciousness. Hearing about any subject matter, especially conspiracy theories from people who are riddled with so many defects, is corrosive to the development of pure devotional service.
â€śIf you hear from adhiranam, those who are not controlled, then it is useless knowledgeâ€¦Simply we have to hear from a person who is dhira, who is not agitated by the six kinds of agitating agents. That is the process of Vedic knowledge.â€ť(Sri Isopanisad, Mantra 10 â€” Los Angeles, May 15, 1970)
A pragmatic preaching approach based on promoting modern conspiracy theories is ruining ISKCON. Some devotees that have little faith in guru, sadhu, and shastra submit themselves to the whims and repulsive speculation of modern conspiracy theorists in order to preach Krishna consciousness. Devotees may become involved in this because they have acquired a particular type of conditioning from the material modes of nature. Not only have these kanista adhikaris been unsuccessful in training new devotees to understand the most confidential matters regarding devotional service, but they themselves have stooped to the lowest of lows by adopting attitudes that deride and belittle the saintly ISKCON devotees who have dedicated their lives to propagating the holy names of the Lord. These neophyte devotees exhibit material conditioning by developing the underlying psychological and ideological thought patterns common amongst all conspiracy theory speculators.
There are two processes for acquiring knowledge. The devotees receive knowledge through the guru-parampara system. This is also known as the descending method. The other process entails speculative research conducted with imperfect senses. This is also known as the ascending method.
â€śThere are two ways of acquiring knowledge, aroha-pantha and avaroha-pantha. Knowledge coming from the authorities, that is perfect knowledge. And knowledge acquired by experimental knowledge, that is not perfect.â€ť(Lecture on Bhagavad-Gita 2.13 â€“ Hyderabad, November 19, 1972)
The conditioned living entity, being fond of the ascending process, is conspicuous by four innate defects:
- The propensity to cheat
- The tendency to commit mistakes
- The possession of imperfect senses
- The tendency to be in illusion
â€śWith all these defects, we cannot accept anyoneâ€™s knowledge. This is Vedic process. This is called parampara system, disciplic succession. We receive knowledge perfectly from the Supreme Bhagavanâ€¦ Those who are in this material world, they have got four defects: They commit mistake, they are illusioned, and their senses are imperfect, bhrama, pramada, vipralipsa, and theyâ€™re cheaters. Becauseâ€¦ Just like modern-day scientists and philosophers, they propagate so many branches of knowledge, but when, on the crucial point, they are caught, they say, â€śI do not know perfectly. I do not know perfectly. We are trying to know. In the future, we shall tell you the perfect.â€ť But if you are not in perfect knowledge, why should you take the post of a teacher?â€¦ There are so many other books we can read, so many theories, so many philosophers, big, big philosophers. But we cannot take them because they are defective. The author is sure to commit mistake. He is illusioned. Because his senses are not perfect, therefore imperfection.â€ť(Lecture on Bhagavad-Gita 2.2 â€“ London, August 3, 1973)
The devotees, through submission and service, receive uncontaminated knowledge by hearing from proper authorities. A devotee of Krishna is recognized by their deliberate privilaging of the process of acquiring knowledge through the bonafide chain of masters and disciples. Any other processes of acquiring knowledge are discarded by the devotees. If so called knowledge is contradictory to or becomes an impediment on the progressive path of bhakti-yoga, then it is to be given up.
Authorized Conspiracy Theory Indulgence
Srila Prabhupada was one of the first people to call the bluff of NASA and proclaim that the Apollo moon landings were an elaborately orchestrated hoax.
â€śWhen scientists say that they travel to the other side of the moon, men believe these stories blindly because they have accepted the modern scientists as authorities. The authorities speak, and the people in general believe them. But in the case of Vedic truths, they have been taught not to believe. Even if they accept them they give a different interpretation. Each and every man wants a direct perception of Vedic knowledge, but foolishly they deny it. This means that the misguided man can believe one authority, the scientist, but will reject the authority of the Vedas. The result is that people have degenerated.â€ť(Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.9.18, purport)
Devotees interested in dovetailing their propensity to indulge in conspiracy theories are authorized to use this moon landing hoax in their preaching. They are authorized because this concept is heard from proper authorities in the disciplic succession and based on information acquired by studying the bonafide Vedic scriptures.
â€śAscending process is not recommended in the Vedic process of knowledge. Vedic way of receiving knowledge â€“ by aural reception, by submissive aural reception from the spiritual master to the student. This is the way.â€ť(Lecture on Bhagavad-Gita 9.15 â€“ New York, December 1, 1966)
Another conspiracy that devotees point out in the process of preaching is that many unscrupulous people have edited and changed the Bible according to their own whims. Secular government officials, rouge kings, sectarian religionists, and atheistic demons who deride the concept of disciplic succession have turned the once holy scripture into a book that propounds a philosophy that has a many holes as Swiss cheese. The oldest known Bible has 15,000 differences from the one that you may find in the nightstand drawer at the Holiday Inn.
People who are attracted to intrigue and scandal will enjoy hearing of the Pandavasâ€™ gambling match or how Lord Rama was cheated by the demon Ravana, who stole his consort Sita. These histories not only pacify our desire to indulge in hearing wonderful dramatic accounts, but they also have the added effect of bringing us closer to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Devotees are not concerned with modern political deception, the â€ťnew world orderâ€ť, or any number of other irrelevant shifts of the material world. Srila Prabhupada said that if the bombs begin to fall, the devotees see these bombs as the mercy of Krishna. Therefore, whatever occurs in this material world is of little concern for a devotee of Krishna.
Conspiracy theorists within ISKCON would like to have you think that the underlying psychological and ideological conditioning common within the secular conspiracy theory community is left out when contemplating ISKCONâ€™s internal issues. On the contrary, those devotees who are conditioned to dabble in or promote conspiracy theory concepts often fail to abstain from treating ISKCON or itâ€™s members as a mundane object of conspiracy theorizing. Adopting blasphemous psychological and ideological attitudes toward ISKCON and itâ€™s members is harmful to the devotees involved in doing so and may lead to Vaisnava aparadha. These attitudes often lack the proper submissiveness required to advance in devotional service.
Criticizing mundane secular demons and maintaining a faultfinding attitude toward devotees have to be kept separate. Sometimes senior devotees, who rationalize using conspiracy theory ideas as part of a pragmatic preaching approach, direct new members of ISKCON to view offensive ritvik or disgruntled devoteeâ€™s websites. The new devotees are immediately immersed in an ocean of blasphemy and faultfinding.
One ritvik site that is extremely blasphemous posts articles deriding ISKCON leaders in an obscene and tasteless way. This propaganda site also mirrors conventional conspiracy theory sites in propagating similar types of conspiracy ideas upon ISKCON as are seen in the greater secular society. ISKCONâ€™s management is made out to be the â€śevil empireâ€ť and members of ISKCON are urged to revolt against the â€śinfiltratorsâ€ť and â€śself-made charlatan gurusâ€ť. These ideas mirror some of the modern conspiracy theory attitudes that are directed toward politicians, corporations, and governments.
Defects of Conspiracy Theories
Mainstream conspiracy theories are riddled by the four defects of conditioned souls in many ways. Conspiracy theories directed toward governments are skeptical and weary of the politicianâ€™s intentions, but conspiracy theorists offer only extreme or fearful criticism and no real solutions. Sensationalism and exaggeration run rampant in modern conspiracy theories. Blame is put on individuals, not karma or Kali-Yuga, and theorists donâ€™t want to admit the futility of democracy. Some less convincing arguments supporting particular theories are lumped in with more convincing arguments supporting other theories in an attempt to legitimize all arguments. All conspiracy theories and theorists seem to have something against authority. Sometimes not all of the truth is given and some contradictory ideas are particularly withheld. Speculation is essential in the formulation of any good conspiracy theory. Theories often instill a sense of fear and attachment to material possessions. Some conspiracy theories are built on blatant lies. Conspiracy theorists often â€śflip-flopâ€ť and take both angles, as with the global warming issue. Conspiracy theories are often propagated in poor taste, as with the showing of victims in times of despair. Conspiracy theorists often rely on bogus modern scientific evidence to back up their ideas. Conspiracy theories often speculate on motives, rather than look at hard evidence. Theorists tend to disagree on specifics, as in the case of the plethora of 9/11 theories.
â€śTherefore one astronomer is placing some theory. After some years, that is made null and void; another theory is presented.â€ť(The Nectar of Devotion â€“ Vrindavana, November 5, 1972)
The mentality of someone enamored by conspiracy theories is distinctly different from the Krishna Conscious mentality. â€śAppearances deceiveâ€ť and â€śconspiracies drive historyâ€ť are underlying mentalities of conspiracy theorists. They are always looking for an â€śenemyâ€ť who will gain power, fame, and money.
There are two main types of conspiracies. Event conspiracies revolve around an individual occurrence, while systemic conspiracies are often made up of smaller events that have a broader goal.
Problems with Conspiracy Theories
Most modern conspiracy theories have little or no value to devotees of Krishna. They may be accurate or inaccurate, or important or unimportant in a material sense, but for devotees almost all conspiracy theory subject matter is irrelevant to our Krishna Consciousness. One popular conspiracy theory proposes the idea that bar codes are designed to manipulate and control society at large. They cannot, however, control the devotees who are fully surrendered to the will of Krishna. Some theorists propose the idea that an alien reptile race is secretly ruling the world. Another weird idea is that the Microsoft Wingdings font is a secret anti-semitic code system. One of the most ridiculous conspiracy theories is that Paul McCartney died in 1966 and the concert performer that we know and love today is simply a fake. Itâ€™s time to stand up against the nonsense Beatles fans!
Some of these theories, which are based on unbridled speculation are simply a trick by Maya to draw us further away from surrender to the supreme Lord. Although one of the most popular mainstream conspiracy theories, the moon landing hoax, is supported by statements made by Srila Prabhupada, there is another contradictory theory that states that the Nazis had a base on the moon. Devotees know that this popular theory is completely bogus. Devotees can see right through it because we accept the authority of shastra and statements made by Srila Prabhupada to be faultless.
â€śBut you read Bhagavad-Gita or Srimad-Bhagavatam, you understand immediately what is this moon planet. It is said in the Bhagavad-Gita naksatranam aham sasi. Sasi means this moon planet. You immediately understand that this moon planet is one of the stars. Just like the constitutional position of other stars, you understand the moon is like that. And they are searching after whether in the moon planet there is life or not, there is living condition or not. But you open Srimad-Bhagavatam, youâ€™ll find the description on the moon planet, how they are living, what is the constitution of the living creatures there. The soma-rasa, you have heard this word. The soma-rasa is beverage in the moon planet. So everything is there. And who can go there, and how one can go there. So this is perfect knowledge, to hear from the authorities.â€ť(Lecture on Bhagavad-Gita 4.5 â€“ Montreal, June 10, 1968)
One popular conspiracy theory states that Jews are secretly trying to dominate the world, but what the conspiracy theorists donâ€™t realize is that the reason every living entity comes to this material world is to try to lord it over nature in the attempt to become God. Conspiracy theorists also fall into this demonic category. In fact, according to conspiracy theorists, every religion is pegged, at one time or another, as having tried to dominate the world. In general, conspiracy theorists seem to be devoutly atheistic and deny the existence of god. They deride pious religious people as being fools for believing in god. Do devotees really want to align themselves with such outspoken atheistic people?
Pragmatism Gone Bad
Preaching based on speculative conspiracy theories is weak. Devotees who want to preach Krishna consciousness all over the world should follow the proper etiquette of speaking only what they have heard from guru, sadhu, and shastra.
â€śOur process of knowledge, Vedic process of knowledge: tad-vijnanartham sa gurum eva abhigacchat. Their knowledge should be taken from the authority. Do not manufacture knowledge. Because how you can manufacturer perfect knowledge? You are imperfect.â€ť(Lecture on Bhagavad-Gita 2.13 â€“ Hyderabad, November 19, 1972)
Setting the right example by following this etiquette is the most effective way of preaching. Devotees need not impress the public with useless mundane scholarship, nor is it advisable to instill more and more fear in the minds of already fearful people. Devotees should give hope to the innocent by chanting the glories of Lord Krishna, just like Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Sometimes devotees present conspiracy theories to the public in order to bridge the gap between the material and spiritual. They may think that the conspiracy theory realm may provide a gateway to Krishna Consciousness. Hippies promoting the glories of L.S.D also hailed the drugâ€™s effects as gateway experiences to Krishna Consciousness. Srila Prabhupada objected to this kind of idea and forbade his followers from indulging in taking L.S.D. Some people challenged Prabhupada, saying that he had never taken L.S.D., and therefore, he could not possibly know about itâ€™s properties as a gateway drug. Srila Prabhupada discounted this idea by declaring that L.S.D. was simply producing hallucinations that were being mistaken for true spiritual experiences. Conspiracy theories are similar in the sense that they are now being propagated by devotees to other devotees as something essential for progressing in Krishna consciousness. Conspiracy theorists within ISKCON are not only using speculative ideas to preach to the public, but are also forcing speculation on the already existing devotee society, thus contaminating ISKCONâ€™s pure message.
â€śIf we change, if we become so rascal that â€śWhat has spoken in the Vedic literature, there is beyond, something,â€ť then we are rascal. There is no beyond. This is perfect knowledge.â€ť(Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.9 â€“ Honolulu, May 10, 1976)
Atheistic Conspiracy Theorists
Devotees cannot afford to sacrifice their own Krishna Consciousness by aligning themselves with mainstream conspiracy theorists. Conspiracy theorists are essentially atheistic in their approach to understanding reality. They sometimes go as far as to openly declare religion and the idea of god to be a conspiracy in and of itself. I have not heard of any mainstream conspiracy theorists that accept the guru-parampara, shastra, or ISKCON as authority. In fact, most conspiracy theorists would consider ISKCON a material organization that is out to manipulate and control the secular world for evil purposes. This idea is diametrically opposed to Srila Prabhupadaâ€™s seven purposes of the establishment of ISKCON. Some conspiracy theorists are so determined to undermine God that they claim that Jesus Christ is a fictional character. This is a popular modern view held by some theorists. Many modern conspiracy theories are associated with anti-semitism. Conspiracy theorists in general, seem to want to propound the idea that god is not the ultimate controller. These theorists know nothing of the detailed information given in authoritative scriptures like Bhagavad-Gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. Conspiracy theorists are clueless as to how the external energy of Krishna is completely manipulating their every thought, word, and deed. They fail to realize that Maya is the ultimate conspirator, of which they are the ones being conspired against.
The Choice is Easy
Conspiracy theories are one of Mayaâ€™s tricks to keep the sinful living entities ensnared in the cycle of birth and death. Conspiracy theorists are so puffed up and think that they know everything, but the fact is that all of their knowledge has been stolen by illusion. They should give up all of this mental speculation and submit to the will of Krishna and Krishnaâ€™s bonafide representative. The Krishna Conscious guru will be able to enlighten all of these demonic mental speculators and offer them real solutions to all of the problems of existence.
â€śWe cannot expect perfect knowledge from the imperfect person. So our process of knowledge is different. Our Vedic process of knowledge is that one has to accept a guru, a spiritual master, who has received knowledge from another perfect spiritual masterâ€¦So the best knowledge, Heâ€™s giving, Krishna Himself: Bhagavad-gita, Heâ€™s coming personally to give knowledge. But we are so unfortunate, we are not accepting the knowledge given by Krishna. We are hankering after some other knowledge given by some defective human being. A human being cannot give us any perfect knowledge. Therefore all the scientistsâ€™ statements, all the philosophersâ€™ statements, they are simply theories; they are not fact. Because the knowledge is not perfect.â€ť(The Nectar of Devotion â€“ Vrindavana, November 5, 1972)
Devotees need to make a choice. They can either rub elbows with the poor mental speculators in the name of a pragmatic preaching approach, or they can take full shelter of Srila Prabhupada and transcend the influence of Maya. Hopefully, ISKCON does not become a haven for mundane mental speculators. Every devotee should be careful not to become implicated in the conspiracy theory illusion.