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Comments Posted By Sitalatma Das

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Bona-fide Study Rests The Case; We Fell From Love!

Re sentence from purport to Sri Isonapishad, mantra 16 – it looks clear only when read in isolation. If one reads it in full context, however, the idea that jivas are originated in Brahman looks completely out of sync because the topic of jiva origin itself does not belong there. It’s also highly unlikely that Srila Prabhupada would have dropped such a bombshell and didn’t elaborate on it at all.

We can argue about the meaning of the sentence itself but, perhaps, we should check the proper understanding of this and the previous sloka, which specifically deal with Brahman and brahma-jyotir, against the conclusion given in the next purport (17) where Srila Prabhupada says:

As we have learned from previous mantras, the brahma-jyotir emanating from the transcendental body of the Lord is full of spiritual sparks that are individual entities with the full sense of existence.

Brahma-jyotir is declared as “full of” jivas, not “source of” jivas, and so we shouldn’t hurry to interpret the sentence from purport to verse 16 that way.

It’s a bit difficult to comprehend how “jīva-śakti (living force) is generated as both conditioned and liberated souls” should comply with the stated conclusion but it’s not impossible. Perhaps “generate” here refers to the future destination rather than the origin – we know that after achieving liberation, Brahman, some jivas descend into the material world and some become attracted to devotional service, as per Lord Caitanya’s explanation of “atmarama” verse, so they all have a potential future that needs to be “generated” and then their living force could become manifested.

Maybe it’s not an adequate explanation but the point is not in knowing how to explain it but in accepting Prabhupada’s conclusion first and speculating how it can be true later.

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On May 28, 2014 @ 11:59 am

Thank you Devaki Mataji!

From the WDG book (p.20):

“But, one might ask, how to apply unity in diversity in connection with women dīkṣā-gurus? … One way to have unity could be to prevent women from becoming dīkṣā-gurus but allow them to become śikṣā-gurus; this could be considered as fulfilling both the need for unity (throughout the whole world, only men can initiate) and diversity different roles for different genders). Another attempt at unity in diversity could be to accept the tenet that women can become dīkṣā-gurus but allow them to initiate only in some places and not in others. Both options, however – as this book explains – present serious theological and logistical problems. Another way – we believe a better way – to fulfill the need for unity is embracing the fundamental, overarching principle that women, if qualified, can become dīkṣā-gurus.

Official position expressed in SAC paper uses the word “rare” several times which indicates that FDG is an exceptional, not “overarching” principle.

I wish Kaunteya Prabhu clarified his stance on the issue. It appears that he is seeking parity between male and female gurus and it’s not what SAC paper recommends.

Also, “unity in diversity”, in which name Kaunteya Prabhu’s book recommends to widely introduce FDG, is not important enough to start modifying guru-disciple relationships that are governed strictly by Krishna. Our compliance with “unity in diversity” will not legitimize dīkṣā, only Krishna can do that.

“Unity in diversity is ISKCON’s underlying worldview and theological doctrine – its theory of everything” (WDG, p 19) – it is, but Srila Prabhupada used this phrase as a descriptive term when explaining concepts like acintya-bhedābheda-tattva, not in the modern, post-Prabhupada sense of society building, ie overcoming apartheid in South Africa or EU motto.

Modern sense of the phrase is important and is in line with Krishna consciousness, too, but in this sense it’s the “unity in diversity” that should accommodate receiving proper dīkṣā, not the other way around.

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On Dec 3, 2013 @ 6:13 am

Appreciations of Srila Prabhupada from Direct Disciples

This list has been on Hrishikeshananda Prabhu’s website for over ten years and the original contains his own one sentence contribution which is missing here.

Acknowledgments should be given when copying other vaishnavas’ work.

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On Nov 23, 2013 @ 5:10 pm

The Not-So-Hot Issue: Women Diksa-gurus

From the article – “And therefore I – and perhaps other readers of both genders – find myself scratching my head and asking myself: “If according to Devaki Mataji this is a hot issue and if women’s vision is clouded by emotions and ‘they cannot see things as they really are,’ why on earth she attempted to write this article and provide clarity? If she is clouded, why does she try to instruct the whole world?”

I’m scratching my head, too – this argument is actually counterproductive to pro-FDG agenda!

If Devaki Mataji’s vision is clear than we should accept her conclusion, which is anti-FDG, and if her vision is clouded then it’s a further testament that women should not be be gurus.

Either way, pro-FDG can’t win with this.

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On Nov 22, 2013 @ 10:26 am

That book, “Did Srila Prabhupada Want Women Diksa Gurus?”, has been presented on Dandvats earlier this year. It didn’t go unnoticed and generated over fifty comments. Why plug it in again, ignore all the criticism it has attracted, and supply only glowing blurbs instead?

The gist of that criticism was that the book promotes a biased agenda and the author was not totally honest in constructing his arguments. Now that it’s been promoted again here and in the sister “Hot Issue” thread makes it look like a political ploy to sway public opinion.

It’s hard to believe that Kaunteya Prabhu, apparently the author of both the book and this article, hasn’t read the earlier Dandavats responses. There’s something definitely off about this kind of promotion.

Download for free the book “Did Srila Prabhupada Want Women Diksa-gurus?”

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On Nov 22, 2013 @ 6:36 am

The Hot Issue – Female Diksa Guru

“..So this emotional need and nature impells most ladies to learn how to become selfless servants by raising children. This is an argument for, not against the woman becoming diksa guru, who is the most selfless servant of all. ”

Diksa guru gives a mantra, that’s all, you are talking about selfless mentorship by a siksa guru which is a different role even though most often served by the same person.

In our ISKCON the only diksa that matters is induction into chanting Hare Krishna mantra, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, however, considered gayatri initiation as diksa, and then there were sannyasi and babaji mantras, too.

For women being sannyasa or babaji guru is out of question. Giving out gayatri and sacred threads is marginally supported by FDG proponents but is also unthinkable in India. The main battle is about Hare Krishna and that little bit of magic that happens when you officially get it from a real guru rather than from a sankirtana devotee on the street.

I say magic because it’s completely imperceptible to our material senses, therefore we must be very careful when deciding who gets to perform this magic and who doesn’t. Theoretically, strictly following official GBC policy would give such an authorization but, imo, it would be questionable if setting of that policy was tempered with through political pressure.

Questionable does not mean it has to be rejected, however, if we do not accept GBC decisions as final we would live in perpetual chaos. Still, everyone would love to see consensus when conferring such an important authorization as connecting aspiring bhaktas to parampara, as we understand diksa in ISKCON

Btw, when we search for shastric support to our arguments we should make sure that what we mean by diksa and what shastras mean by diksa is one and the same thing, and it’s also the same thing that FDG proponents want. Ceremonial and spiritual sides of things are not always in sync.

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On Dec 4, 2013 @ 6:45 am

Change the language from ‘I should do’ to ‘I want to do’

It’s not really a choice. The mind is a simple thing, it either wants things or it doesn’t, there’s little we can do about how it reacts to external stimuli. You can’t just order it what to like and what not to like. We can retrain it to like the taste of vegetarian food but it won’t be able to appreciate prasadam component of it. We can retrain it to like getting up early and singing mangala arati but it won’t see the Deity’s transcendental form.

So, if one day our minds become attracted by melodious kirtans or beautifully decorated Deities it would be a great help for the sadhana process but it won’t be real bhakti yet, and if, by circumstance, we get deprived of this particular kind of stimuli our “devotion” will be gone, too.

It’s the intelligence that is supposed to force us to perform sadhana regardless of how our minds feel about it and intelligence speaks in the terms of “should”, not “want”, so we are back to square one.

Our intelligence isn’t perfect either and, as actual bhakti starts growing in our hearts, we, as spirit souls attracted by Krishna, will occasionally be making decisions against our better judgment. Like gopis who left their husbands in the middle of the night but a lot less dramatic. There are plenty of controversies in our movement that suddenly might become too big for our intelligence to handle and we’ll just have to go with our hearts instead of what is considered to be right.

Somewhere along this way there might be a moment when our intelligence gets convinced that becoming a devotee is really the best course to take for our lives and that’s where we realize that we *want* to surrender, not that we *should* because everyone else tells us it’s a great thing to do. Maybe this is what Vraja Bihari Prabhu was talking about in the article but this kind of epiphany can’t be forced either, and from that moment on there will still be plenty of *should* orders coming from our intelligence to our minds.

There are no magic tricks to unlock our devotion, there’s a gradual process of anartha nivritti, chanting and avoiding offenses, there are no shortcuts, save for really special mercy.

This is not to say that the proposal in this article is bogus either, it encourages people to become better devotees therefore there can’t be anything wrong with it, whatever works.

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On Nov 20, 2013 @ 5:24 am

The Great Need to Understand Mental Illness in ISKCON

“..mentally ill person who hung himself “might” get a body better suited for devotional service, or that the person who jumped off the roof of the Amsterdam Temple might have attained Krishna by chanting Krishna while his head crushed into the cobblestone in the street? This approach is truly unacceptable. ”

I’m sorry you feel this way, Pusta Krishna Prabhu, but that’s what is said in Bhagavad Gita.

It is no preclusion from treating mentally ill devotees either. There’s no contradiction there.

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On Nov 22, 2013 @ 10:18 am

How do we tell who are “pop” psychiatrists and who are “real” ones? Medication of mental patients is promoted not by scientists but by big pharma companies who, reportedly, spend twenty to thirty thousand dollars per each psychiatrist on average to entice them to prescribe more and more of their drugs. One big name psychiatrist from Harward Medical school admitted that he received 1.6 million dollars hidden payments from drug companies.

Drugs can obviously be very effective in treating acute symptoms of mental illness but that also means that pharmaceutical companies, who are in business of making money, not curing people, are not interested in treating the disorders themselves, only in continuous managing symptoms.

Jivas are given particular bodies to resolve their issues, not to swipe them under the carpet. In that sense taking medicine to hide symptoms of mental illness it’s not much different form undergoing chemical castration to better follow the fourth reg. Take a pill – problem solved, or rather avoided for the moment. This doesn’ t seem like a Krishna conscious approach.

As a relatively young society ISKCON might not have enough experience in dealing with mental problems and so there’s no shame in learning a trick or two from organizations like NAMI mentioned in the article but continuously medicating ourselves to become better devotees just doesn’t sound right. It’s definitely not in our books.

Biochemical disorders as causes of mental illness is also largely a myth, and you can’t tell healthy mind from a sick one by studying brain images either. Science doesn’t know what makes people mentally ill, in this regard I remembered this video which proposes a reasonable answer to causes of ADHD epidemic outside of biological factors.

In some states up to 16% of children are diagnosed as mentally ill and prescribed medication for ADHD. Are we going to do the same thing with our gurukulis? I imagine they can be as disorderly as any other kids of their age. Are we, on advice of “real” science, going to put them on drugs so that they grow into better devotees?

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On Nov 20, 2013 @ 10:42 am

Even the main article about psychiatry on Wikipedia has a large section dedicated to controversies. In light of what Srila Prabhupada said about psychiatry we shouldn’t dismiss psychiatrists themselves crying “humbug”.

As for progress, there’s one quote there that explains its dynamics:

“..a number of phenomena considered “deviant”, such as alcoholism, drug addiction and mental illness, were originally considered as moral, then legal, and now medical problems. As a result of these perceptions, peculiar deviants were subjected to moral, then legal, and now medical modes of social control.”

In Prabhupada’s time main treatment was psychotherapy but now it’s psychopharmacology. According to the same wiki

“A major reason for this change was the advent of managed care insurance plans, which began to limit reimbursement for psychotherapy sessions provided by psychiatrists.”

And this isn’t even the controversial part, controversy lies with pharmaceutical companies pouring large amounts of money into psychopharmacology and thus influencing how psychiatrists practice their trade. In Prabhupada’s time a psychiatrist would schedule one follow appointment in an hour but now they can easily fit three or four, because all they do is give out prescriptions.

Apparently there is progress, but more in a sense of “change” than in what constitutes actual progress from Krishna consciousness point of view. We don’t need to catch up on it just as we don’t need to catch up on any other scientific theory.

This article’s title says that there’s “great need” to understand mental illness in ISKCON. Is there? Did Srila Prabhupada leave us with incomplete knowledge?

Maybe this need is no greater than the need to use facebook and twitter, or provide devotees with medical insurance in countries where healthcare could be very costly.

There’s also a growing divergence in the comments between what the author recommended – group therapy, and Gauragopal Prabhu’s advocacy of medication.

Incidentally, a few days ago I saw a self-portrait of a very successful Hollywood producer. Instead of a face it was a huge pile of prescription medicine on a table. He isn’t mentally ill but the point is still there.

Perhaps there’s a greater need to maintain healthy skepticism about where modern science and psychiatry is taking us.

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On Nov 19, 2013 @ 6:18 am

“When I read the comments in #17 above, I immediately thought of the radical Islamic terrorists who blow themselves up with a bomb strapped to their chest while blurting out “Allah akbar”, God is great.” – why?

I think this is a good example why we shouldn’t put much trust in our first reactions. There are millions of people out there who think it’s a glorious way to die, but we, as non-Muslims, have been indoctrinated to treat them as “radical terrorists”. It’s a reaction based on our material conditioning.

They might be wrong in their understanding of spirituality but a warrior sacrificing himself in a battle to uphold religious principles and dying with Krishna’s name on his tongue should definitely reach Krishna. I don’t know what they reach by shouting “Allahu akbar”, though.

About mentally ill devotees – we know that suicides are wrong and we know that we should provide them with appropriate treatment. We know what is the right thing to do, they don’t, that’s why they have mental problems in the first place. Their own solutions might be wrong and not in line with neither guru nor sadhu nor shastra nor common sense, but who doesn’t make mistakes even if he has best intentions?

That’s what they essentially are – more wrong than the average. To residents of Vaikuntha, by comparison, we all might appear equally crazy.

Devotion is a function of the soul, not the mind. Remembrance of Krishna should affect the soul, too. Mind is external and most of the time falls under the influence of the gunas. It’s important, yes, but we should see beyond it, that’s all I’m saying. Fixing the mind does not automatically make people into devotees, or even into better devotees. It’s like saying “Oh, Prabhu, your IQ is too low to become a devotee.”

Also, Krishna started his instructions to Arjuna with ashocyan anvashocas tvam – “you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor for the dead.” Literally the first thing he said after being asked to clarify Arjuna’s doubts – do not worry about people dying.

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On Nov 17, 2013 @ 9:10 pm

I think Nama Prabhu’s original objection was to outhand dismissal of Srila Prabhupada’s words as not applicable to this day and age. Then Gauragopal Prabhu himself gave some quotes on how to handle such matters more delicately – by trying to reconcile apparent contradictions and putting various instructions in perspective.

The result would be the same – you still do what you think is right but the second approach is certainly less shocking.

The original “humbug” label remains correct, I’m sure we can find examples of psychotherapy being less than useful for devotees, but it’s not true in all current cases just as it wasn’t an absolute dictum back then.

I also propose that we don’t jump to conclusions with regards to relying on Krishna to treat mental conditions. What we think is “better” from our point of view might not look the same to Krishna. We have no idea where these mentally disturbed devotees landed in their next life, if they were forced to take them at all.

The only condition for going back home, back to Krishna, is to remember Him at the moment of death. You don’t have to be of the sound mind, fully aware of the surrounding world and being certified as a mentally healthy person. It is quite possible that the devotee who jumped off the roof was screaming Krishna while he was falling and Krishna stood by His promise to take anyone who remembers Him while leaving his body back to the spiritual world.

Similarly, the devotee who hung himself might have gotten a body much better suited for execution of devotional service in his next life. Just as it’s better for the murderer to be executed by the state authorities it could be better for the mentally ill people to die and get a whole new body. We simply don’t know, it could turn both ways.

Sanatana Goswami himself was contemplating suicide once so it isn’t such an outrageous idea. He was, of course, stopped by Lord Chaitanya because Mahaprabhu had big plans for him, but what if the Lord doesn’t have any special plans for some devotee with a mental condition? What if He looks at this persons’ circumstances and thinks “Well, his body is absolutely useless, it would be better for him to get a new one.”

We simply don’t know.

We’ve been given instructions to maintain ourselves in good health and not even think of suicides but those are not absolute rules either. Always remember Krishna is the absolute rule, especially at death.

Sometime we take our lives here way too seriously.

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On Nov 15, 2013 @ 5:59 am

The Geocentric Design Of The Solar System

But isn’t Vedic system “Merucentric”? With all the planets, including the Sun, going around Mount Meru?

The scientific view of the universe is just an extension of what is available to our senses, ie how the universe would look like if our eyes could see farther. Vedic sages, I understand, do not perceive the universe in the same way, not through their human sense organs, and so they have a very different concept of distances and spaces.

Maybe one day we will be able to map it out, maybe it’s impossible as a matter of principle.

Any thoughts?

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On Aug 17, 2013 @ 5:10 pm

Criticism and Vaisnava Aparadhe: Is it Really Worth the Risk?

“Do not criticize the ‘criticizer’. For he receives the pāpa of the criticized and in turn gives his puṇyā to those he criticizes.”…According to Atri Muni the dynamics is certainly not worth the risk.”

I hope our ISKON gurus do not think of their disciples in terms of papa-punya trade which sounds decidedly undevotional.

Vaishnava aparadha should be considered a much more serious matter than taking on a few sins by assuming responsibility for someone else’s actions.

Actually, it could be argued that if we are part of the same society we all share sins of everyone else anyway so it’s in our own interest to help clean the house. The goal is to learn to do so without committing offenses and only with spiritual welfare of others in mind, as maharaj said.

Maybe that’s what Krishna wants from us when He provides an arrangement to observe our response.

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On Jun 6, 2013 @ 5:53 am

Strictness is the Strength of ISKCON

Dear Keshava Krishna Prabhu,

I don’t know where you got the idea that I exclude Pundarika Vidyanidhi from ISKCON membership. I was talking about laying policies for our whole society.

Srila Prabhupada didn’t leave us any provisions to accommodate hidden paramahamsas in our midst and we can deal with them on a case by case basis.

Since zonal acharya days we, as a society, have stopped treating our gurus as super pure devotees on uttama adhikari level. Now we treat all our members as madhyama adhikaris who need to cleanse their hearts of their anarthas.

Everyone must attend mangala arati regardless of his position, for example. Hidden Pundarika Vidyanidhis might not need to to but why would they miss this most beautiful and most intimate part of our program? So same rules for everyone.

Strictness, of course, is not all that there’s to developing devotion, and strictness shouldn’t be confused with austerity either.

To outsiders our diet appears very strict but very few of us are actually strict about our diets – if it’s Krishna prasadam we consume it with much pleasure.

Today I got this quote in my inbox:

“If our things have no market in the sense gratification society that does
not mean we are going to change our principles. We are meant for satisfying
Krishna, not anybody’s senses. That should be the principle of our life.”

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Letter to: Jadurani — San Francisco 8 April, 1968

Straight to the point of this discussion.

There’s another famous comparison about diamonds – they are not for everyone and neither is pure devotional service.

When Srila Prabhupada talked about house for the whole world to live in, as Pushta Krishna Prabhu reminded us, I think he meant that we should live there on his terms, not ours. If we don’t like the rules we can live elsewhere. I don’t think it was meant to drag everyone under ISKCON umbrella.

I think studies quoted in this article are very relevant to ISKCON’s direction – empirical research shows that relaxing rules to attract more people does not work for other religious groups, and we don’t have any explicit instructions from our acharyas to do so, too.

What is left in favor of this proposition?

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On Jun 5, 2013 @ 7:08 pm

Our sadhana is quite a bit more than 4 regs and 16 rounds and it does not allow for any kind of liberalism.

Initially the perfection is in following all the rules as strictly as possible and on mature stages the perfection is in following all the rules even stricter and with genuine enthusiasm.

Our acharyas didn’t leave any scope for wannabe Pundariki Vidyanidhis or self-proclaimed avadhutas so let’s not bring them into the equation. Even if such fully liberated devotees truly exist they should not be counted in discussing ISKCON as an institution.

I find it hard to disagree with this:

“People will be willing to accept the scripture as more valid than their personal opinion when they are convinced that what is available through its acceptance (eternal spiritual bliss) is worth much more than the price they pay by giving up their own conclusions as the most valid.”

Change scripture for sadhana and it would still hold true – we should be able to show that devotees who live according to all the rules are much happier than those who indulge in ice cream on the side.

As far as above cited studies go, we should define success first. Ours might be different from theirs.

Do we want to have a society of pure devotees or do we want to rebuild a Vedic society which will come with karmis and jnanis and regulated meat eating and drinking, or do we want something else? Then it will be clear if we want numbers, outreach, or exclusiveness and internal purity, or a combination of thereof.

In Christianity everyone is entitled to exactly the same reward, we, on the other hand, can have people moving from outside to the core through multiple lifetimes. People who leave our movement are not faced with eternal damnation in hell so we don’t have to worry so much about them and their numbers.

What is wrong with accepting that those who can’t strictly follow all our rules will have to take birth again? We can’t promise everyone exactly the same rewards regardless of their lifestyle. We can have millions of people who are not quite strict and don’t expect very much but like to be better devotees anyway. What would the studies say about that kind of society then? I don’t know.

There are no ex-Hare Krishnas, only people taking a bit more time. The studies, however, are based on clear in-out definitions and success in numbers.

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On May 30, 2013 @ 12:15 pm

Bhaktivedanta Manor Honoured at House of Lords with HH Radhanath Swami

Well, yes, there are multiple references to ten thousand year long Golden Age in Srila Prabhupada’s books and conversations but the source is never stated.

The SB 8.5.23 purport has this before already quoted part:

“When Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu appeared, He ushered in the era for the sańkīrtana movement. It is also said that for ten thousand years this era will continue.”

Similarly, in CC Antya 3.50:

It is said that the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement will be prominent within the next ten thousand years, but after that people will all become mlecchas and yavanas.

And then there’s this:

Room Conversation — April 5, 1977, Bombay:
Girirāja: As Your Divine Grace had said, that due to the saṅkīrtana movement an auspicious atmosphere is being created all over the world. So is it not possible that at least for the time being things will improve?

Prabhupāda: Oh, yes. Improve. Not for the time being. For ten thousand years.

Girirāja: Yes. Out of 427,000 years I was taking that 10,000 as for the time being.

Prabhupāda: It is nothing sport.(?)

Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Śrīla Prabhupāda, where is the mention of that ten thousand years?

Prabhupāda: That I have heard it. Maybe in the Bhāgavata. Such a nice thing. Alone in this world I am struggling, and the so-called intelligent persons, they will not come. They have business. Why? If it is actually beneficial to the human society, why I should alone try? I will go on trying so long I’ll live. There will be no checking of…

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On Jun 15, 2013 @ 4:44 pm

“Are you not aware, or do you not believe, that the appearance of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu inaugurates a ten thousand golden years period? Lord Caitanya appeared in 1486 and we are now in 2013, so we already have progressed 527 years into the golden age. ”

Actually, as far as I know there’s no scriptural support for this and there are different interpretations regarding the starting point. Srila Prabhupada mentioned Golden Age only in passing and without any references or any details. So far the only source is a dubious translation of Brahma Vaivarta Purana, and the integrity of the Purana itself is questionable. It is very possible that it has been tampered from the days of Lord Chaitanya.

Neither Six Goswamis nor any other acharyas wrote anything about this Golden Age, our only source is Srila Prabhupada, which is enough, of course, but he was never very clear about it.

I bet most people like the word “gold” in Golden while in reality it might be pain and suffering all around that would urge people to take shelter in sankirtana.

However nice that Golden Age might be, our goal is still returning back to Godhead. Chanting of the Holy Name is fine but it’s better be done in spiritual Navadvipa rather than in the shaky material world, Golden Age notwithstanding.

If there’s no one to preach to here there’s no reason for us to stay, and it’s safer for us to preach to tamasic population than to be swallowed by so called “goodness” of the material world. Queen Kunti begged for troubles and tribulations, who are we to think that, being placed in pleasant conditions, we can remember the Lord better than her?

Attachment to Golden Age might spell our doom.

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On May 14, 2013 @ 6:53 pm

Visakha Priya Mataji, may I ask – why is it the sign of The Golden Age? By what criteria?

Have British people become more religious? Last week Anglicans announced that steep decline in attendances is leveling out but overall the UK is still probably the world leader in atheism. Also, if Golden Age looks anything like 21st century Britain then I’d probably pass.

On that note – who wants to live long enough or who is staying behind to partake in Golden Age enjoyments?

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On May 9, 2013 @ 6:46 pm

International Society for Krsna Consciousness…

what do you think of gadi prabhu’s advice “we should learn to shun the critical…minded, who want to divide rather than unite. They want to point out and reduce the service attitude of others. ”

Why would we want to shun them? If it’s because we don’t want to be criticized then I disagree.

Also, what kind of unity is talked about here? The only unity we must strive for should be based on allegiance to Srila Prabhupada. In this sense those who divide us are disloyal to him, and we have ISKCON official policy on how to deal with such people.

If, however, we are talking about unity based on material diversity than in Kali Yuga, Age of Quarell, it’s a thankless effort. We can try to patch up some differences here and there temporarily but it will never work. Look, we can’t even feed all our devotees from the same kitchen – Indian devotees want their prasadam spicy, westerners want bread, not chapatis, others complain about wrong kind of oil, mixed up dosas, and now we have vegans, too.

This will never end, materialists have been trying to fix this for most of the last century through the UN and affiliated programs but without any success. Their ultimate solution is for everyone to do their own thing and not care for anyone else because caring causes problems. It’s the epitome of impersonalism.

I’d rather have people telling me off because they see me doing something wrong than being indifferent and leaving me to my own devices. I don’t want to be respected for doing nonsense just because respect is the new mantra.

Unity is not our goal anyway, it’s a by-product of our devotion to Prabhupada. Trying to reconcile our material differences is no different from trying to fix all other material problems – fool’s errand and a giant waste of time.

Why not take advice from the same Bhagavatam purport KrishnaLH quoted earlier:

“Whenever pure topics of the transcendental world are discussed, the members of the audience forget all kinds of material hankerings, at least for the time being. Not only that, but they are no longer envious of one another, nor do they suffer from anxiety or fear.”

That’s the only solution.

To Keshava Krishna Prabhu – I get what you are saying but there’s also such thing as prajalpa and it affects all of us. We’d rather not see our seniors engaged in it but sometimes it happens, too, and we’d better leave the room.

Pure topics of the transcendental world is the only safe harbor.

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On May 9, 2013 @ 6:38 pm

“Independently Thoughtful” is another phrase that in conventional English means something like “independent thinker”. It probably means that we should embrace Krishna consciousness on the strength of judgments made independently of Srila Prabhupada himself – our intelligence, common sense, education, history, western philosophy, George Orwell or Ayn Rand.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t (as in the case of Moon landings). Furthermore, it might also lead to judging our actions and ideas by independent values, as in “you’re doing it Orwell style, prabhu” or “think of the cows, prabhu, show some compassion.”

In this sense “independently thoughtful” would be relevant to the current discussion – exposing ourselves to outside influences and then bringing them inside ISKCON. This should be done very carefully as we aren’t acharyas on the level of Srila Prabhupada who could employ everything in Krishna’s service while maintaining highest level of purity.

In reality, however, “independently thoughtful” means nothing like that, Srila Prabhupada used this phrase (only once, to my knowledge) to mean that we should learn to perform our service without the need to be micromanaged. We can achieve that without reading a single page of non-BBT books or newspapers.

In this sense “independently thoughtful” is irrelevant to my point.

By casually reading these lines out of original context one’s mind might simply register that we should become broadminded independent thinkers full of compassion and that’s what Prabhupada wanted but this is definitely not the case, not in the traditional sense.

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On May 3, 2013 @ 9:36 am

A broadminded person is someone whose … thoughts and activities are connected to the Lord’s..

That is not how word “broadminded” is used in English language so request for definition is warranted, and since conventional definition does not apply we should be careful of using it or risk seriously misrepresenting Srila Prabhupada. I would never casually say that Srila Prabhupada was broadminded, for example.

This is why personally I’m cautious about automatically accepting and agreeing with everything that is posted here – often it can mean anything under the sun and I don’t want to endorse whatever people subsequently do or say afterwards.

In this case I would strenuously object if someone would act as if Srila Prabhupada was broadminded in a conventional sense.


No one will become blind by strictly following Srila Prabhupada and by learning to see the world through his eyes (or the eyes of his representatives). Actually this is the only way to obtain knowledge – yasya deve para bhaktir yatha deve tatha gurau…. This is the only way for us to become shastra-chakshu, and this is the only way to achieve unity.

Knowledge coming to us from materialistic sources is inevitably tainted and passing it around will inevitably spread materialistic disease. I’m sorry if someone doesn’t like this fact but it’s true nevertheless.

Case study – “Orwell style”. Is it supposed to be bad? Why? Maybe I want to live my life Orwell style, always under the watchful eye of guru and Krishna.

Who said that Orwell style is bad anyway? Did these people want to develop bhakti? Did these people agree that strictly following rules and regulations of vaidhi bhakti is the best way to live while waiting for causeless mercy of the Lord?

They had completely different goals, why should we accept their value system? Why should we impose that value system on ourselves by introducing it into our discourse and using it as the last judgment in a conversation about direction of ISKCON?

Dear Kesava Krsna Prabhu, please do not take this as personally relating to you, but as devotees we should avoid association of people who subscribe to atheistic values. It’s even more dangerous if they do it subconsciously because such subtle contamination is more difficult to detect and easier to absorb.

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On May 2, 2013 @ 9:48 am

Prabhupada being the greatest broadminded compassionate soul

I’m afraid I’m not sure what you mean by broadminded. One of dictionary definitions of broadminded is “tolerant of opposing viewpoints”. Srila Prabhupada, on the other hand, was a preacher of dharmaḥ projjhita-kaitavo ‘tra – completely rejecting all religious activities which are materially motivated, all-EXclusive, so to speak. In that sense he was anything but broadminded.

He himself often used this word in a different sense. Any person of any background can come to Krishna consciousness and give up all his material aspirations. Everyone should give up his sinful activities, chant Hare Krishna, shave his head, and always wear tilak and vaishnava clothes. No one is excluded. If this is what you mean by broadminded, too, then I agree. Most people would be surprised at this definition, though.

Similarly, conventional meaning of compassion is very different from compassion in Krishna consciousness. For ordinary people it means charity, feeding poor, curing diseases and so on. We, on the other hand, worship Srivasa Thakura who didn’t interrupt kirtan even for the sake of his dying son.

Srila Prabhupada was not compassionate in the same way as Mother Teresa or Bill Gates are. Again, most people will not accept that chanting Hare Krishna is the highest form of compassion and if you tell them that Prabhupada was the “most compassionate” they might get the wrong idea of who he was and what he did.

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On Apr 29, 2013 @ 12:46 pm

Exchanging opinions is overrated. Practically speaking, there’s only one opinion that we should all subscribe to and share – that of Srila Prabhupada. Diversity of our own thoughts is more often than not is the product of our different upbringing, education, and different exposure to the modern civilization. Sharing these materially conditioned opinions is like spreading a disease.

The key, of course, is to determine what Srila Prabhupada’s opinion is. I submit that anyone reading his books would know that this world is not a place for a gentleman and that our goal is to return back home, back to Godhead. ISKCON was created to help people achieve this goal.

It appears from some earlier comments that currently, in addition to being devotees, many of our members are leading enjoyable lives, working for karmis and spending money on shopping, movies, football, and eating in restaurants. This is absolutely NOT what Prabhupada envisioned when he talked about creating vaikuntha atmosphere either in our temples or greater ISKCON. No matter how good it feels – it’s not Vaikuntha.

And yes, KrsnaLH, you are right, having immense fortune of being brought into the line of Rupa Goswami even real spiritual Vaikuntha is not our goal.

Well, then what should we think about re-creating Vaikuntha on Earth?

You gave a nice quote from Prabhupada’s purport but look at the verse itself:

“Whenever pure topics of the transcendental world are discussed, the members of the audience forget all kinds of material hankerings, at least for the time being. Not only that, but they are no longer envious of one another, nor do they suffer from anxiety or fear.”

I submit that the goal here is discussing pure, transcendental topics and Vaikunta like atmosphere is a by-product. The key here is purity, meaning that we must leave all our material pre-conceptions behind, excluded from Bhagavat-katha, and accept only what we’ve learned from Srila Rrabhupada and his bona fide representatives.

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On Apr 29, 2013 @ 8:08 am

A lot of what is said in the article can be turned around and read differently.

If we commit ourselves to following the 3rd Siksashtaka verse then why would we worry about our damaged confidence? On the contrary, we should welcome criticism from other devotees, hoping that it would cut down attachments to our materialistic egos.

Chanting of the Holy Names and bhakti will never be in the center as long as we are so protective of our confidence and abilities, nurturing our self-interests is directly opposite to devotion.

ISKCON is a society FOR Krishna consciousness, right, but it also means that people of all races, nationalities, and genders should give up aspirations brought about by their material conditioning and wholly embrace the purest philosophy as it came down to us from Lord Chaitanya.

We cannot hope to remain worldly enjoyers of all possible colors and somehow be in Krishna consciousness, those two are mutually exclusive. We are not transcendental to the world yet.

All varieties of jivas are welcome to the movement of Lord Chaitanya with all their different capacities but we do not see ourselves as jivas so it’s irrelevant. As embodied souls, on the other hand, we are all the same – enjoyers, envious of God, all our variety is just an illusion.

If we want to build a society that accommodates everybody we will surely fail and it won’t be FOR Krishna consciousness anymore. The only way we can be united is if we put Krishna (and also guru and Srila Prabhupada’s) interests above all and relate to each other not on the basis of material variety but on the basis of congregational chanting of the Holy Name.

ISKCON isn’t about establishing vaikuntha on Earth, it’s impossible, and we will never be free from envy, so it’s more like a transit point, the exit door from the material world. We should be extremely grateful that it’s there but it’s not our destination.

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On Apr 23, 2013 @ 12:05 pm

Why Veganism in Iskcon does not work, part 2

Perhaps the best outcome of this discussion is a tacit admittance that veganism is an anartha in the same class as watching TV or shopping.

Accidentally, that would also explain long and passionate posts in the defense of this attachment. Try to take teenager’s phone away and see how irrationality ensues.

As for Vedic style farms – it’s a catch 22 situation. You can’t start a farm without people and people won’t come unless there’s a farm. Not the first time that happens and usually these things work out themselves one way or another, no reason to panic. Where there is a a will there is a way.

As far as I know, for every person working on a modern farm there are twenty five mouths to feed. This is clearly an unsustainable ratio. I don’t have numbers for varnashrama but, perhaps, it should be one brahmana serving twenty five vaishyas and shudras, not the other way around.

Keeping up with modern day grain production without tractors is impossible and is actually against varnashrama goals, ie varnashrama is not meant to free people for “pursuit of happiness” elsewhere, industrial revolution or sitting eight hours in a cubicle.

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On Apr 10, 2013 @ 10:16 am

This discussion has run its course but there are some loose ends left:

“…unless you are the Ishvara in the heart of every vegan, how can you make such a judgemental statement…”

“… if you surrender to the supreme control of Para Brahman (Isvara), you will not have some axe to grind with “vegans”, or anyone else for that matter…”

In our tradition we must learn to discern between vaishnava and avaishnava behavior as well as differentiate between various classes of devotees, therefore judgments are necessary. Generalizations are also unavoidable in any discussion.

Our acharyas never invoked “not surrendered enough” reason to avoid smashing all kins of misconceptions. They never said “I don’t have an axe to grind” with apa sampradayas, mayavadis, sahajiyas and all other deviants.

I’m just trying to follow their footsteps.

The gist of the article is that vegans do not propose any viable, sustainable alternatives to cow based Vedic agriculture.

Solar powered tractors is not an alternative, and neither is raising cows for their manure but not for plowing the land. I googled around a bit and so far all vegan farms I found are not much more than glorified vegetable patches. They don’t grow rice or wheat or any grains and if they do they use tractors. They think using tractors is better than exploiting bulls.

Finally, following Bbd’s logic in comment #31, I’m not the one responsible for my comments either – they appear “by inspiration & influence of paramatma/antaryami, for whatever reason.”

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On Apr 8, 2013 @ 8:04 am

Mayavadis of Lord Chaitanya’s time also avoided killing animals, and Lord Chaitanya avoided mayavadis. In Prabhupada’s time there were plenty of philanthropists who built hospitals and distributed food, out of compassion, and Prabhupada avoided them, too. He never gave any credit to compassion of those who refuse to become devotees and surrender to Krishna. Why should we?

Several times here vegans were compared to people who can’t take certain food because of their health or body conditions. These two are nothing alike. There’s nothing wrong with accommodating lactose intolerant people just as there’s nothing wrong with cooking less spicy food in Western countries. Same with sick people – their diets are born of necessity, not choice.

Vegans, however, are not going to get allergic reactions to milk and no one would spend three days in the bathroom after eating a bowl of sweet rice at ISKCON temple. The only damage vegans would sustain is to their precious philosophy. They CAN take milk prasadam but they refuse it to pamper their egos.

Do not compare them to Dhruva Maharaja either, it’s ridiculous.

By demanding/expecting/insisting/appreciating clearly marked vegan prasadam they are trying to convert us, to convince us that their view deserves consideration and support and that we should accommodate their ideology.

Their ideology is wrong – the only compassionate gesture towards tortured and mistreated cows is to offer their milk to the Lord, cows do not have any other purpose, they exist for the pleasure of Krishna and it’s actually violence to deny them that service. It might look like compassion on the material platform but it’s violence. Offering their milk would bring them untold benefits in their future lives, and it would bring a lot of ajnata sukriti to their caretakers, however cruel, too.

One can achieve all perfection by engaging in only one process of devotional service but perfection means that one must give up his anarthas. Veganism is an anartha, a thing without value that we are being attached to. I believe all of us know that if you are not actively trying to cleanse yourself from your anarthas you can chant for a very long time without any progress.

Dealing with anarthas is a sensitive matter, most of the time they need to be engaged in service before they go away, but there’s a gulf of difference between purifying anarthas and actively encouraging them, which is what pro-vegan argument ultimately does.

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On Apr 3, 2013 @ 5:13 am

“but are they embracing Krishna prasadam”. They would willingly embrace Krishna prasadam, that is not made of animal products.

That is not what embracing means, it’s cherry picking, it also means some of Krishna prasadam will be rejected.

I think it was clear what “ordinary people” means in this context – meat eaters, and there was nothing in my comment about rejecting non-ordinary visitors.

My question still remains – we know that ordinary people can easily embrace Krishna prasadam without any ideological or philosophical objections. What is the success rate with vegans finally deciding to accept milk because it’s Krishna prasadam?

The following is a straw man argument, please feel free to explain how it is wrong:

Vegans do not believe in Krishna’s ability to purify offered food of all karma and they do not believe that prasadam has any transcendental qualities, they view offering food as a quaint and harmless religious custom, nothing else, ie they don’t believe in Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead at all, they put their own understanding of morality above philosophy of Krishna consciousness.

How often vegans are able to overcome this attitude, which I believe really exists?

Am I compassionate enough, to make it for them?

There are so many things that can potentially go wrong with this. Recently I came across an interesting quote by a Catholic, the essence of it sums up my personal concerns very well:

“For over forty years, the vast majority of Catholic parishes have tilted the celebration of the Mass in a manner that was thought to stimulate God’s Really Awesome People. The Church, according to cultural trends, needed to be a more welcoming and friendly place. So we placed greeters at the doors, and, just in case we were not welcomed enough the first time, we are then invited by the lector to greet our fellow pew-mates before Mass begins. The music melody and attendant instruments are also intended to appeal to us, not God, so that the celebration may feel meaningful for us, the worshippers. Whether God, the object of worship, will be satisfied by our selections is not even given a thought.”

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On Mar 28, 2013 @ 6:29 am

Practically everyone in our movement used to be an ordinary meat-eater who, among other things, accepted Krishna prasadam unconditionally. We KNOW that attachment to meat eating can be overcome fairly easily.

Vegans are past that step already, they can somewhat control their senses, but are they embracing Krishna prasadam like ordinary people do? How many vegans have turned into “normal” devotees? Will they ever? They ideologically object to accepting certain types of prasadam, will that ever change?

Mayavadis are also superior to ordinary people in many ways but what is the value of that superiority if ordinary people can become devotees of Krishna while mayavadis have no chance at all?

Veganism might be a nice step forward at first but if one gets stuck there for years than it’s clearly an obstacle.

Interestingly, apart from solar powered tractors no one has offered any defense of veganism against the main thrust of this article – veganism offers no viable alternative to cow based agriculture and “ISKCON” way. Lots of very critical responses but little substance.

Btw, only a few day ago biggest Chinese solar company filed for bankruptcy, and that is after Chinese competition practically destroyed previously world leading German solar panel industry. The solar boom of a few years ago is now officially a bust, so I won’t put any faith in solar powered tractors just yet.

» Posted By Sitalatma Das On Mar 26, 2013 @ 5:16 am

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