Comments Posted By Karuna Purna dasi
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It might not be totally pertinent commenting on the statement “I have given the best years of my life to ISKCON” that you mentioned in your article when hearing two devotees conversing. However, as it is a phrase that we hear often amongst some devotees, I would like to make a couple of observations on the subject as well as on our institution.
First, those devotees speaking in this way, they might want to define what they mean by ‘best’. As far as my conditioned and short memory goes, most of the fellow bhaktas with whom I joined ISKCON, about three decades ago, shared a rather pathetic common denominator. Regardless of the socio-economical and cultural family background that we came from, we followed a similar pattern.
We were all in our late teens or very early twenties, with no more preparation for life than secondary school, some not even that. At best some had an initial and unfinished, hence useless, university studies, and the majority of us were coming from an unhappy and more or less dysfunctional family. We also shared the fact of being unemployable in the professional world mostly because we were unwilling and in all, we had very little idea of what to do with our life. The reality is, therefore, that we had nothing to offer to Srila Prabhupada, However, in ISKCON we found the spiritual knowledge that without Srila Prabhupada we would have never known. In addition, within ISKCON we had the opportunity to interact with other like minded devotee fellows, we learned to be clean, to sell books and paintings when we went on sankirtan, we learned to do Deity worship and most importantly, we had a jolly good time with our Godsisters.
Men had more opportunity than us, females, to put their hands on trying to manage different areas of our society. The problem was that without proper education and training, the management was only an attempt which unfortunately, in my humble opinion, we still suffer today from in our society. Otherwise the result might have been a better team group work skills rather than the vertical structure that we still see in our temples nowadays, a more flexible and dynamic approach to work and finally, better results. This does not mean however that there has been no good result.
Institutions despite their shortcomings do not necessarily rhyme with sclerosis, lack of organisation or socialist system. There are hundreds of institutions ranging from sportive, commercial, academic, religious, social etc which are organised in a very modern, progressive and effective way in spite of having started in some cases as a family business. Without wanting to be critical but just pragmatic, in my opinion, a further problem within ISKCON is that there is not a formal and constant professional training to their leaders which always includes interaction and working with members of society at large. This is understandable as devotees, we don’t like and should not associate with karmis, but in that case we cannot have the level of professionalism that they have.
Taking Srila Prabhupada’s quote that you used: “We have a mission to cultivate all over the world, we have to print and distribute books and open centres and train devotees, and we cannot do that unless we are very organized and efficient. If we are to conduct a mission to save the fallen souls, which is the desire of Lord Caitanya and the previous acaryas, then we have to organize the sankirtana movement very nicely” GTA 9 I think that Srila Prabhupada in this quote said it all very clearly. Srila Prabhupada proved to be a much organised person and by his letters and results we see that he was really ‘on the ball’. Left aside that Srila Prabhupada was empowered by the parampara and Caitanya Mahaprabhu, from a very practical point of view, Srila Prabhupada had been a business man all his life.
Therefore, it could be said that ISKCON management remains very limited in their knowledge of running a ‘spiritual multinational society’. The unclear goals and organisation reflect on our society starting from the Mayapur GBC meetings that we all have access to daily on the different devotee websites, down to temples, departments and individuals. Please do not think this is a criticism towards our dear ISKCON, which brings the devil out of all of us at times. However, sadly, some devotees, frustrated with our politics and lack of efficient management go to other maths covered by the thick layer of illusion that makes them think that things will be better in a ‘cousin’ society whose particularity is that it has not reached yet the size of ISKCON. In my humble opinion, put three thousand more people in those maths and wait thirty years and then we will be able to compare as one can only compare comparable things. In any case, the reality is that so many devotees leaving to other maths, come up with the ABC philosophy, only, after the original discontentment with ISKCON leading them, sadly, away from the shade of Srila Prabhupada’s lotus feet.
A very minority of us, for various circumstances, had to confront ourselves to the working world where at the same time as having to suffer the unpleasant company of abhaktas daily for many years, we made the most of it by learning their techniques for running successfully their companies, institutions or departments. The above leads me to say firmly that, for some of us, if when we arrived in ISKCON, we had nothing to offer to Srila Prabhupada, now, thirty years later we might be able to offer a very humble contribution into this movement. It is also true that material qualifications might be a big obstacle in devotional service.
That is why I take this opportunity to ask for the benediction of the assembled devotees so that I remain humble in serving in Srila Prabhupada’s movement. That is why I think that for those of us who had this opportunity, the best years of our life are not gone. On the contrary the best years of our life, are still to come. As for my personal experience, my contribution to ISKCON has not started yet. As you said: ‘any group is fully entitled to make its own mistakes and learn from them accordingly’, but let’s learn for real. One of the reason why some professionals, working in the private sector, are eager to improve in their work is because their financial situation hence maintenance of their family is challenged if they fail to perform according to a plan.
Perhaps that is one of the points that could be addressed within ISKCON somehow, although I see some difficulty as well. It would be pointless paraphrasing you, but as you said: ‘Service can protect us both from the temptation to exaggerate and highlight the spots on the moon of other devotees, as well as keeping at bay the black spots on the sheet of our heart’. Finally, in response to those protesting about having left in ISKCON the best days/years of their live and as far as I am concerned, the best days of my live still lie ahead and I beg Srila Prabhupada that he will allow me to stay at the shade of his lotus feet in the association of his devotees.
Karuna Purna dasi
» Posted By Karuna Purna dasi On Apr 14, 2007 @ 9:54 am
Srila Prabhupada’s ABC philosophy
By Karuna Purna dasi
The last few days I was thinking of the ‘ABC theory’ that some of our Godbrothers and sisters profess nowadays when they go to other maths. They claim that Srila Prabhupada gave only the ABC of spiritual life, implying thus that there is more for us to be learned. I would like to make some observations on the subject and share my views with the assembled devotees.
Isvara das’ comment 1 on ‘Who Says Srila Prabhupada Only Gave Us The ABC’s?’ posted April 9th, , states that ‘The realisation of it all depends on our level of faith’. I would add however that I also learned and understood that Krsna Consciousness is a descending process and that our level of realisation depends only on guru’s and Krsna’s mercy bestowed upon us to advance in Krsna Consciousness and to go back to our original position as servants of Krsna. A series of elements ranging from following a good sadhana, reading our main books: Srila Prabhupada’s writings, trying to serve the devotees as much as possible etc. will not necessarily result in a devotee’s spiritual advancement and further level of realisation. My understanding is rather, that by following the sadhana, chanting attentively, following the principles etc. one attracts guru and Krsna’s attention who then will bestow His/Their mercy upon us, thus allowing us to see Him/Them and realise A: that we are not this body, C: that we are Radha and Krsna’s eternal servants and B: that in order to serve Radha and Krsna we need to serve Their devotees under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master.
Srila Prabhupada gave C: the goal of the process, A: our starting point as conditioned humans and B: the different stages of devotional service. In addition, Srila Prabhupada gave the methodology to progress towards the goal: To receive the Lord’s mercy and serve Him in our eternal constitutional position at the end of this lifetime. So, from the scholastic point of view there is no fault. This point, I will develop next.
From my neophyte perspective, it is my opinion that Srila Prabhupada gave all the information that we needed with regards to humans to obtain Krsna’s mercy and go back to Godhead. Srila Prabhupada started giving from the basic teaching that we are not this body followed by the more difficult to realise ‘I am not this mind’ that I personally have to hammer in my head daily. Furthermore, Srila Prabhupada gave us gradual knowledge together with an access to the most intimate relationships of Krsna in a parental mood with Mother Yasoda as we all relish during Kartika time. Then Srila Prabhupada presented us with the Lord’s most intimate pastimes with Radharani and the other gopis. Srila Prabhupada therefore presented the beginning A to the final goal Z and all the stages in between. Arguably, there might be some details that Srila Prabhupada didn’t think important to mention in his books, but do we need anything more than Lord Gauranga’s mercy to revive our love for Radha and Krsna? This takes me to the next point.
It is not a question of faith but evidence, that Srila Prabhupada was the only person on this planet empowered to spread Krsna Consciousness outside India. The result of the empowerment is that he is succeeded. By the same logic we can say that as Srila Prabhupada was guided, he knew exactly at what moment to arrive in the West, what strategy to use and how much or what to write on his books on the mission of spreading Krsna Consciousness.
Coming back to the initial point on faith and regardless of ABC, Srila Prabhupada said to Yogeswara in Paris that when we will pass away, we will recognise him in the spiritual world and that, is all we want. And yes, I have firm faith that I will see Srila Prabhupada. There are no more letters in my neophyte’s alphabet than A, B and C. And yes, this is my only hope and certainty in life. Thanks to A, B and C I will see Srila Prabhupada when I leave this body, and that I will also see Krsna tending and milking His cows, if He allows me.
In conclusion, it is my humble opinion, that the ABC philosophy is an offence not only to Srila Prabhupada as, after all, he is the only person who can claim success in coming to the West at his age to fulfil the instruction of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. The ABC philosophy is furthermore an offence in particular to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta himself who empowered Srila Prabhupada as he gave him the instruction. It is a further offence to Srila Bhaktividoda Thakura who predicted that Krsna Consciousness would be spread through the world and finally to Caitanya Mahaprabhu who wanted Krsna’s glories spread in every town and village. Srila Prabhupada pleased the parampara and the Lord as he completed his mission successfully and that is all that matters. The incomplete ABC philosophy that some Vaisnavas seem to argue is, in my opinion, due to frustration against ISKCON resulting in an unadulterated and a most pure form of envy and offence.
However, not withstanding the precedent, I share Radhika Seva dasi’s opinion. Fighting with those devotees who chose to continue their devotional service in
other maths serving other masters will not lead anywhere. On the contrary the risk is there to commit offences in all directions. Perhaps a solution would be to
respect their choice and in the meantime it might be an idea trying to reflect on the reasons that took those devotees to look for greener pastures outside ISKCON.
Karuna Purna dasi
» Posted By Karuna Purna dasi On Apr 13, 2007 @ 9:15 am
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So, what do we eat then?
By Karuna Purna dasi
‘I think that all chocolate should be offered to Krishna, outside the temple environment. This will be favourable to making advancement. And that advancement should lead us to giving chocolate up’ (Sita Pati das, Chocolate, the nectar for which we are always anxious, Dandavats, 1/02/07).
Dear Sita Pati,
I read your article which I found rather inspiring up to the point where you write the quote above. I am sorry prabhu, I really cannot relate to what you say. In my humble opinion, devotees are supposed to eat what Srila Prabhupada told us to eat: Krsna Prasadam. Hence, we should eat whatever has been accepted by Srila Prabhupada and Krsna.
However, if a devotee eats any food prepared by non devotees, as you said made by karmis, yogis , jnanis or machines, that is her/his choice. If Srila Prabhupada hence Krsna would not eat certain food, why bother offering it? I would even be pushed to say that it is, arguably, offensive (at least for me). How can you force Srila Prabhupada to eat something that he doesn’t want to eat? In other words, how can you offer chocolate, karmi yogurts made with ‘we don’t want to know’, crisps or any other food sold in shops?
In my opinion, if any devotee chooses to eat foodstuff that Srila Prabhupada or Krsna don’t eat, that is the devotee’s prerogative. However, trying to clean your consciousness by offering it, that is something else. In fact, in my opinion, chocolate or any of the food mentioned above would never be prasadam simply because Srila Prabhupada and Krsna do not eat it. How can we offer it then? and furthermore how can we pretend that it is prasadam? Therefore, how can we eat it as bonafide adding that by eating it we will make advancement and eventually give up that particular food?
I personally find your statement going a bit wild in the field of the imagination. I have also worked, for the past twenty years, and I still do, full-time with karmis. I admit that lunch time can be rather tricky, having to explain every day of the year to the same people why we are vegetarian. That is one of the reasons why five years ago I decided to start working from home. Believe me, it is a solution, and you may even treat yourself, if you have the time being self-employed, to the luxury of having a ‘siesta’ if/when you need it. :)
Karuna Purna dasi
» Posted By Karuna Purna dasi On Feb 6, 2007 @ 11:19 am
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