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Mundane welfare work in iskcon

part 4:

Yes, it is quite possible that engagement in humanitarian compassion
can distract devotees from devotional activities. But the fact is
far from the devotee-doctors losing their devotional purpose and
perspective, non-devotee patients are becoming surcharged with Krishna
consciousness. Every year, hundreds of patients get devotionally
charmed by the soothing spiritual atmosphere of such hospitals and the
loving concern of the devotee-doctors. They come to these hospitals to
treat their body; they go back with both their body and their soul
treated. In fact, many Iskcon leaders who expressed concern initially
with such apparently mundane projects, on seeing how much such
devotional hospitals were so pregnant in its potential to attract
people to Krishna, have subsequently changed their opinions
completely. They have now become often vocal supporters and even
proponents of the project.

3) Feeding the poor

Prasadam distribution is not only for the poor people. At all our
temples, nobody will deny that even the rich man is happily offered
the Lord’s sanctified food. But generally a materially opulent person
is too proud to accept such a diving blessing from the Lord. he doesnt
understand the value. Hence the general impression that these programs
are being carried out for only the poor. And the people who are humble
enough to accept prasadam get unlimited devotional credits.

My understanding is that actually a lot of responsibilty lies on the
shoulders of the leaders driving these projects. They should have no
illusions about these projects. If they identify themselves as social
workers trying to make this world a better place - they and their
projects are doomed.

But if they always see themselves as devotees dovetailing their
worldly propensities and professions in Krishna’s service in such a
way that they can create at least ajnata-sukriti (unknowing spiritual
credits), if not bhakti, among people who would otherwise never have
come in contact with Krishna. In such a case, the possiblities for
attracting conditioned souls to bhakti is unlimited.

And as per the brilliant disertation by Murari Prabhu, this is what
Lord Krishna actually wants - get as many souls as possible to His
lotus feet.

Comment Posted By tattvavit das On 23.10.2012 @ 13:23

part 3:

Of course these arguments and counter arguments are unceasing. Hence
the one of the ways of evaluating an action is by seeing the
result…phalena pariciyate…

1) Schools
Yes it is an established fact that Prabhupada called modern education
a slaughterhouse - and for this end he tried to establish the Gurukul
system. But the stark reality is that most Gurukuls in Iskcon aren’t doing well.
In other words, modern education is not an
option to be pursued. But Iskcon is unable to give a viable
alternative to most of the next generation. That being the case, aren’t the kids of our movement not
entitled to learning? A group of concerned devotees who have considerable
experience in the education field therefore get together to begin a
school. Yes this is not the best solution - it is just a stop gap
arrangement - before the Gurukuls are firmly establised. Their
devotional background helps them to present even modern educational
concepts through the perspective of unalloyed devotional service to
Krishna.

But let’s focus on the result. Reports are that many students of these
schools, from families with no connection to devotional service, are
eagerly accepting many devotional practices. These kids are forcing
their parents to go vegetarian, offer their food to Krishna, worship
deities and chant the names of the Lord. Can we deny that these so called mundane
schools are changing the life of many families in an extraordinary
way - perhaps even more drastically than receiving a book from an
uncaring devotee.

2) Hospitals

The principle of yukta-vairagya is explained by Rupa Goswami in his
Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (1.2.255): “When one is not attached to
anything but at the same time accepts anything in relation to Krishna,
one is rightly situated above possessiveness.”
Thus the same medical science that often increases people’s bodily
consciousness opens unparalleled opportunities for raising them out of
that bodily consciousness. When patients in distress and need are
treated with competence and care by devotee-doctors in a devotionally
surcharged atmosphere, they become inspired to adopt the spiritual
culture that has subtly acted on their hearts while the medicine was
acting on their bodies.

Comment Posted By tattvavit das On 23.10.2012 @ 13:22

part 2:

Also I am reminded of the time in the 70s when during a rath yatra
parade, devotees used the canopy of Lord Jagannath to save a woman who
jumped out of a burning building. This act of the devotees received
positive publicity in the media. At first glance, it appears like a
publicity stunt - devotees using sacred parapharnelia for saving the
material body of a distressed person. And it does appear thoroughly
mundane. But Prabhupada for days applauded the devotees quick thinking
in rescuing the woman and appreciated the media coverage of the
incident. Why didn’t he dismiss the whole event as an unnecessary
distraction from direct glorification of the Lord?

Bhaktivinod Thakur more clearly establishes the importance of caring
for our less fortunately placed brothers and sisters:

“Those who think that devotion to God and kindness to the jivas
[souls] are mutually different from each other, and perform
accordingly in their life, such persons will not be able to follow the
devotional culture. Their performances are only a semblance of
devotion. Therefore, all the types of beneficence to others — like
kindness, friendliness, forgiveness, charity, respect, etc., are
included in bhakti. Among these, according to the triple categories of
the recipients. viz., high, medium and low, the actions of respect,
friendliness and kindness are the very form of love and the
characteristic portion of bhakti: Charity of medicines, clothes, food,
water, etc., shelter during adversities, teaching of academic and
spiritual educations, etc., are the activities included in the
devotional culture.”
–Tattva Viveka-Tattva Sutra-Amnaya Sutra- A Comprehensive Exposition
of the Spiritual Reality by Bhaktivinoda Thakura [Tattva Sutra portion
(sutra 35)]. Sree Gaudiya Math, Madras. English translation by
Narasimha Brahmacari. pp. 185-6.

Comment Posted By tattvavit das On 23.10.2012 @ 13:18

Part 1:

Kudos to Murari Prabhu for hitting the nail on the head. Like many
enthusiastic engagements started after Srila Prabhupada’s departure,
opening of hospitals and schools etc. does seem to be drifting away
from the core principles of ISKCON.

He also very sastrically proved that Krishna expects us to preach His
message directly; hinting directly at activities like book
distribution to achieve this goal. I felt especially vindicated, being
engaged in book distribution myself, almost every day, for the past 15
years.

But over the years, one essential aspect of book distribution that I
have picked up is that you have to open up the hearts of the people to
whom you are showing the books. They will rarely listen to a devotee
who appears like a salesman - focused on his goal of passing out as
many books as humanly possible. Even transcendental knowledge is of no
value to the conditioned souls who usually measure things in terms of
“WHATS IN IT FOR ME?” By being empatetic to others difficulties or
suffering (eventhough these sufferings are usually mundane) the book
distributor will be able to break down the ice and the conditioned
soul will be receptive to receive transcendental knowledge - which is
the only way of alleviating his suffering.

And we see this being practised by our acharyas also. It is mentioned
that when Sanatan Goswami was visiting homes of different Vrajvasis,
he would enquire from them about the marriage of their daughters,
their crops etc. These enquires were apparently mundane. But when he
left the village, the villagers, who were by now thoroughly attached
to Sanatan, were shedding tears. Thus by giving transendental
knowledge and enquiring about their welfare on a personal (almost
mundane level), Sanatan was establishing that he was a very caring
person which endeared him more to the villagers.

Comment Posted By tattvavit das On 23.10.2012 @ 13:17

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