Conservative Hindus, like conservative Christians, are wary of
anyone preaching a false gospel.
Hayagriva dasa (Professor Howard Wheeler) authored the 1985 book, The Hare Krishna Explosion. Dr. Vibhakar Mody, Executive Director of the Hindu Alliance praised the book, saying, "Spiritual India meets hedonist America. Cross-culture buffs will love it!"
Hayagriva dasa writes about first meeting A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in 1966:
"I have read that meeting a guru is not an ordinary occurrence and never accidental. Life's paths lead to that junction only after many births. Thrown by our karma into a world at war, my generation went off to kindergarten as the Bomb fell on Hiroshima and inaugurated the atomic age. After the war, nothing seemed impossible for Americans, and most of us began college in the fifties with great expectations.
"...the fifties were not without rebellion... there were beatniks on campus -- only a handful to be sure, but they were noticed. Free from parents, we delighted in adolescent rebellion, encouraged by some professors who considered the God of Christianity dead... My favorite courses dealt with philosophy in literature, and my childhood heroes, the American Transcendentalists and the Catholic saints, were superseded by Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre.
"As the sixties began, and my friends and I were entering our twenties... The world seemed too volatile for us to follow in the footsteps of our parents by dedicating ourselves to lifetime careers, or investing in families and expensive homes.
"Wanting to get at the meaning of things, we began searching, reading mystic poets and investigating scriptures. We studied the Buddhist sutras, Plato, Zen, St. Augustine, the Hindus. We were on the trail of something, but what? Whenever we tried to explain it, we would have to resort to hackneyed definitions. Something earth-shattering was happening, surely. Was this the Aquarian Age emerging? Or did every generation experience the same thing in a different way?
"...LSD had hit the street and excited the media; everybody, it seemed, was dropping acid, taking trips, astral traveling, and reading The Tibetan Book of the Dead. LSD cults were springing up in the East Village and in the Lower East Side. Dropout students and professors were traveling to ancient sun cultures and living with natives, Shaivaites and Huichols, taking hallucinogens, consulting roadmen, shamans, yogis and gurus.
"And now, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami suddenly appears in our backyard, as if the whole chaotic stage had been deliberately, specifically set for him."
Hayagriva dasa writes that Srila Prabhupada agreed with the Christian theologians that man cannot know God by his own efforts, but that God must make Himself known to man; that man cannot reach out to God, but God must reach out to man; that God is known not by speculation, but by revelation...
"'Don't foolishly try to speculate to understand the unlimited. It is not possible. Just become meek and humble and try to receive the message from authorized sources.'"
(Srila Prabhupada similarly said in conversation with Father Emmanuel Jungclaussen, a Benedictine monk, in 1974:
"Any intelligent person can
understand God in five minutes; it doesn't require five hours... Humility
means intelligence. The humble and meek own the kingdom of God. This is
stated in the Bible, is it not? But the philosophy of rascals is that
everyone is God, and today this idea has become popular. Therefore, no one
is humble and meek. If everyone thinks that he is God, why should he be
humble and meek? Therefore, I teach my disciples how to become humble and
And Srila Prabhupada was accepting of other religions, other paths to God. Srila Prabhupada acknowledged that God can reveal Himself in other parts of the world besides India, and leave revealed scriptures. Hayagriva dasa writes:
"'Yes, and we accept as bona fide all religions founded by God. Only God can establish a religion. We accept Christians, Muslim, and Buddhist faiths, etc. but we reject all mental concoctions (speculations) of so-called philosophers and mundane poets...
"'...religion without a rational basis is just sentiment. Philosophy without religion is mental speculation, and religion without philosophy is sentimentalism, or blind faith, or fanaticism...'
"'What about Ramakrishna?' I ask. 'Was he a devotee?'
"'No. He was some mad monk.'
"'Really?' I had always thought Ramakrishna was one of India's favorite saints. 'And Vivekananda?'
"'A rascal womanizer. He said God was daridra-Narayana, the poor man in the street. So the Ramakrishna Mission is opening hospitals and preaching humanitarianism. They will tell you God is in the street starving. What nonsense!
"'Lord Brahma says, 'Chintamani-prakara-sadmasu-kalpa-vriksha.' Krishna is tending the cows, in abodes built with spiritual gems, and He is surrounded by millions of purpose trees and is being served by hundreds of thousands of goddesses of fortune. So He is not a poor man.
"'But Ramakrishna was a poor man.He had so much sex that he became impotent and then worshipped all women as his mother, and even called some prostitute the Holy Mother. What a rascal! Then Vivekananda called him God. But God is not such a cheap thing. We must first understand what God is. He is Bhagavan, the possessor of all opulence. We must learn of Bhagavan from Bhagavan Himself. Any man who says he's God is the opposite -- dog."
Srila Prabhupada's pronouncements are especially interesting in light of Vivekananda's own words:
"O India, this is your terrible danger. The spell of imitating the West is getting such a strong hold upon you that what is good or what is bad is no longer decided by reason, judgment, discrimination, or reference to the sastras (scriptures). Whatever ideas, whatever manners the white men praise or like are good; whatever things they dislike or censure are bad! Alas! What can be a more tangible proof than this?
"...O India! Forget not that the ideal of thy womanhood is Sita, Savitri, Damayanti... forget not that thy marriage, thy wealth, thy life are not for sense pleasure, are not for thy individual personal happiness... forget not that the lower classes, the ignorant, the poor, the illiterate, the cobbler, the sweeper, are thy flesh and blood, thy brothers..."
...it seems Srila Prabhupada would agree with Vivekananda on these points!
Hayagriva dasa writes: "Rabindranath Tagore (Bengali poet and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913), I find out, was also a 'womanizer.' Nor does Swamiji like Hart Crane's 'white wings of tumult' depiction of the bridge of consciousness. 'It's not tumult,' he says, and drops the subject. Emerson? 'He may think like that, but who is he to say?' Whitman? 'Sentimentalism.' Kahlil Gibran? 'Pictures of naked people,' he says, making a face. 'Poets and artists are generally passionate.' William Blake? 'More naked people.' But he approves Blake's verse:
"God appears, and God is light
"To those poor souls who dwell in night
"But doth a human Form display
"To those who dwell in realms of day"
Hayagriva dasa writes: "Swamiji has a small record player someone gave him, but no records. Thinking he would like to hear some music, I browse through my record collection and finally choose sitar ragas performed by Ravi Shankar -- preferable, I suppose, to Bach, or the Beatles.
"When the sitar begins to play, Swamiji smiles a little, and I assume that he's pleased. He sits through the twenty minute raga without speaking. When it is over, I wonder whether to play the other side of the record.
"'How did you like the music, Swamiji?' Stanley asks.
"'That is sense gratification music,' Swamiji answers.
"'Oh?' I'm taken aback. "But it's Ravi Shankar,' I protest.
"'It is sense gratification music,' he repeats unmoved.
"But it's a raga,' I insist, flustered. 'They play it even in temples.'
"'Ravi Shankar is a businessman,' Swamiji says, smiling.
"'Everything's sense gratification,' I pout angrily. 'We can't even play ragas. What are we supposed to do?'
"'You must understand, Swamiji says patiently. If you are a musician, you can play your music for Krishna. That's all right. Arjuna was a warrior, and he fought for Krishna, and that was his perfection. If you are a writer, you can write for Krishna; or a painter, you can paint for Krishna. Whatever you want, you can do. But don't do it for your own sense gratification. Do it for Krishna. Not the work, but the consciousness must be changed.'"
(Srila Prabhupada has given the example that in the hands of a criminal, a knife can be used to kill someone, whereas in the hands of an expert surgeon, that same knife can save someone's life. So the knife is neither good nor evil, it becomes good or evil depending upon the consciousness of the person using it. Similarly, the world, the flesh, wealth, etc. are not evil in and of themselves, if they are used in God's service rather than for one's own personal sense gratification.)
Hayagriva dasa describes Srila Prabhupada's responses to the tumultuous changes of the Vietnam era:
"Civil rights marches. Negro riots: 'What is this nonsense? People are thinking, 'I am black, white, red, yellow.' All this is skin disease. False designations. I am not this body. What am I? Aham brahmasmi: I am spirit soul. Since this knowledge is lacking, they are fighting like cats and dogs, and they will continue until they transcend their skin disease and understand that they are spiritual sons of Krishna, eternally His parts and parcels...'
"NASA's space programs: 'They are trying to reach the moon and other higher planets by material means. Impossible. They will not be permitted entry. Just as you require a visa to enter another country. According to the Vedas, the moon is a higher planet where demigods live in an advanced civilization...This (earth) is a middle planet. The demigods are enjoying themselves in the heavenly planets. Why should they come to an inferior place?'
"Abortion, birth control: 'They are killing the baby in the womb. How cruel! In this age of unwanted population, man is losing his compassion. When you kill a living entity, even an ant, you are interfering with its spiritual evolution. That living entity must again take on that same life form to complete its designated life term in that body And the killer will have to return to pay for damages...'
"Proliferating nuclear tests: 'Let these scientists solve the problems of birth, old age, disease, and death. But this they can't do. Instead they create big bombs to destroy everything out of frustration, This is their solution: Accelerate death.
"'Such people are called demoniac in Bhagavad-gita. Anyway, these atomic bombs are not new. In previous ages, men were so advanced that they could deliver the brahmastra nuclear weapon by chanting mantra only The shabda vibration itself would destroy. Now they labor very hard with these mechanical rockets. And they think they think they are advancing..."
"The war rages on in Vietnam.
"'As long as people are eating meat, there will be wars," Swamiji says. "By eating meat, they are developing the mentality of tigers. And so they go on killing and being killed.'
"'But to find peace, don't you have to believe that any kind of war is wrong?' Stephen Goldsmith asks...He's a young, up-and-coming Jewish lawyer, and he helped Swamiji incorporate the Society.
"'I'm not ready to have children,' Mr. Goldsmith persists, 'But that doesn't mean that I'm prepared to give up sex...It's just that...well, it's been proved dangerous to repress the sex drive. There's a theory that we have wars because --'
"'People are eating meat,' Swamiji interjects. 'We will have wars as long as people eat meat...'
"Srila Prabhupada speaking to reporters in San Francisco, CA in 1967:
"'We welcome everyone, in any condition of life, to come to our temple and hear the message of Krishna consciousness,' he says.
"'Does that include Haight-Ashbury hippies and bohemians?' a reporter asks.
"'Everyone, including you or anyone else,' Swamiji says. 'Whatever you are--what you call an acid-head, or hippie, or whatever--what you are doesn't matter. Once you are accepted for training, you will change.'
"'What is your stand on drugs and sexual freedom?' another reporter asks.
"'There are four basic prerequisites for those entering this movement,' Swamiji says. 'I do not allow my students to keep girlfriends. I prohibit all kinds of intoxicants, including coffee, tea, and cigarettes. And I prohibit meat eating and gambling.'
"'I consider that an intoxicant. I do not allow my students to use that or any other intoxicant.'
"This announcement provokes the reporters to question Allen Ginsberg... poet laureate of the beatniks and now acknowledged patriarch of the hippies...'Well, you might say the Swami is very conservative,' Allen answers. 'That is, conservative Hindu. You might even say he is to his faith what the hard-shell Baptist is to Christianity.'
"'Conservative? How is that?' Swamiji asks, concerned.
"'In respect to sex and drugs,' Mukunda suggests.
"'Of course, we are conservative in that sense," he says. "We cannot depart from Bhagavad-gita. But conservative we are not. Personally, Lord Chaitanya was so strict that He would not look on a woman, but we are accepting everyone into this movement, regardless of sex, race, faith, cast, position, or whatever. Everyone is invited to come chant Hare Krishna. No, we are not conservative.'
Hayagriva dasa describes Srila Prabhupada in San Francisco, CA, in 1967:
"'I think what you are calling 'hippies' are our best potential,' Swamiji says.'Although they are young, they are already dissatisfied with material life. Frustrated. And not knowing what to do, they turn to drugs. So let them come and we will show them spiritual activities. Once they engage in Krishna Consciousness, all these anarthas, unwanted things, will fall away.'
"Swamiji strolls by men playing checkers...past the shuffleboard court, then stops and turns to speak.
"'Just see. Old people in this country don't know what to do. So they play like children, wasting their last precious days, which should be meant for developing love of God. Since their children are grown and gone away, this is the natural time for spiritual cultivation. But no. They play games, or get some cat or dog and lavish their affection on it. Instead of loving and serving God, they love and serve dog. But love and serve they must. (i.e., the natural constitutional position of the living entity is to love and serve God, to be a servant of God.)'
"He shakes his head, and again looks at the shuffleboard court... 'This is most tragic,' Swamiji says. 'But they don't want to listen. Their ways are set. Therefore, we are speaking to the youth, who are searching.
"...The hippies sit quietly, eyes opened wide, surprised not to hear Swamiji advocating sex, drugs, rock and roll, and passivism. They are used to so-called gurus from India telling them, 'Enjoy! Enjoy!'
"'A guru is not some pet, some fad,' Swamiji says. 'He is not a conversation piece. No. One must find the bona fide spiritual master and surrender to him. That is the injunction of Bhagavad-gita. Guru must be followed.'
"'And what has India offered the West? Cheaters offering yoga methods not intended for this age. Maybe one or two people can understand Vedanta or practice hatha-yoga, but not the majority.
"India is the land of tapasya, austerity or penance, but we are forgetting that. Now we are trying to make it a land of technology. It is not surprising that the land of Dharma (religious duty or occupation) has fallen so low. Of course, it is not just India. In this age, the entire universe is degraded.'
"...Swamiji escalates his attacks against sense gratification, insisting in every lecture that spiritual progress is incompatible with drugs, laziness, and illicit sex.
"'Krishna does not tell Arjuna, 'I will fight. You just sit on the chariot and smoke ganja.' No. Although Krishna is God and can easily kill everyone on the battlefield, still He wants His devotee to serve on His behalf. 'Just be My instrument,' He tells Arjuna. 'And fight with detachment.' 'Fighting is Arjuna's duty as a kshatriya or warrior. By fulfilling his duty, he does not incur sin.'
"'What about the draft?' someone asks.
"'Our students are being trained as brahmanas (priests),' Swamiji says. 'They should not be forced to act as kshatriyas, or warriors. Besides, a kshatriya fights on religious principles. Now, people are just dogs fighting over bones. That's all... Wars are always going on. In Kali-yuga, men fight over nothing.'
"'But Bhagavad-gita takes place on a battlefield, and Krishna tells Arjuna to fight.'
"'Anything done for Krishna is immediately spiritual,' Swamiji explains. 'Arjuna's duty as a kshatriya is to fight. If he fights for Krishna, following Krishna's instructions, then his fighting is spiritual. It is his salvation... There is a difference between killing in war and murder. If a soldier kills in war, following the order of a superior, he is decorated. If he kills on his own account, he is hanged. So there is a difference. On the Battlefield of Kurukshetra, Arjuna was following Krishna's orders to kill; therefore he did not incur sin.'"
Hayagriva dasa writes about Srila Prabhupada: "Even on the nights that he does not descend, he listens to the kirtans (song and dance in praise of God) in his room. Afterwards, he smiles and asks, 'It was a good kirtan, yes? The hippies? They are appreciating? Yes, if they take up this Hare Krishna, they will become transformed. And they will transform the world. America is such a powerful country that all the world is imitating. So just take up this chanting, make your country Krishna conscious, and all the world will follow.'"
Hayagriva dasa quotes Srila Prabhupada on the beach at a campfire with his disciples in San Francisco, CA in 1967, responding favorably to a song they've written in praise of the sage Narada:
"'You must write more such songs,' Swamiji tells us, 'songs praising the acharyas, great saintly persons... Oh, there are many songs in the Vaishnava tradition (worship of Lord Vishnu), songs of Bhaktivinode Thakur, and songs of Mirabai.'"
Hayagriva dasa relates an exchange between Allen Ginsberg and Srila Prabhupada in Ohio in May 1969:
"You have Krishna's blessings upon you,' Prabhupada says. 'You are not an ordinary man.'
"'Well, I've stopped smoking. But I haven't stopped eating meat.'
"'Stay with us three months,' Prabhupada says, 'and you'll forget all that... we shall live together. You'll become fully Krishna conscious.'
"'Well, we've a farm now in upstate New York, a vegetarian table, a cow and goats--'
"Economically, if a man has a cow and four acres of land, he has no problems,' Prabhupada says. 'That's the program we want to start... A cow and four acres. Then all the factories will close. There's a proverb that agriculture is the noblest profession, is there not?'
"'And Krishna Himself was a cowherd. And according to the Vedas (Hindu scriptures) a man's wealth is estimated according to his grains and cows.
"'Until the past century, at least, man has been living that way for twenty to thirty thousand years.'
"'Yes,' Prabhupada says, 'Minimize bodily necessities... Simple living and high thinking.'"
In Bhagavad-gita 16.7-9, Lord Krishna says about the demoniac, or the ungodly:
"Those who are demoniac do not know what is to be done and what is not to be done. They say that this world is with no foundation, no God in control.. Following such conclusions, the demoniac, who are lost to themselves and who have no intelligence, engage in unbeneficial, horrible works meant to destroy the world...They believe that to gratify the senses is the prime necessity (or purpose) of human civilization..."
Srila Prabhupda comments:
"...Animal-killing is very prominent amongst demoniac people. Such people are considered the enemies of the world because ultimately they will invent or create something which will bring destruction to all. Indirectly, this verse anticipates the invention of nuclear weapons, of which the whole world today is very proud. At any moment war may take place, and these atomic weapons may create havoc. Such things are created solely for the destruction of the world, and this is indicated here. Due to godlessness, such weapons are invented in human society; they are not meant for the peace and prosperity of the world."
The exact Sanskrit in Bhagavad-gita 16.9 is "ugra-karmanah" which translates as "horrible activities."
Srila Prabhupada considered not just nuclear weapons but modern industry and technology to be "ugra-karma" as well! Hayagriva dasa writes that when Krishna devotees are establishing their first farm community:
"Satyabhama and Shama-dasi spearhead a drive for a washing machine. They convincingly argue that it take too much time to carry the clothes down to the spring and beat them on the rocks. They could render Krishna much more service if all this were done automatically, electrically.
"We agree to allocate fifty dollars, and Paramananda buys a second-hand Maytag washer in Wheeling, WV. Since both the horse wagon and powerwagon are in disrepair, Paramananda, Hrishikesh, Ranadhir and Chaitanya-das have to carry the Maytag on poles for two muddy miles. When they finally arrive at the farmhouse, Prabhupada is amazed.
"'This is called ugra-karma,' he says. 'In Bhagavad-gita, ugra-karma is mentioned. It is extremely hard endeavor that is painful to carry out and leads to no good.' Then Prabhupada laughs. 'Yes, you think you are advancing by these materialistic inventions like slaughterhouses, atomic bombs, breweries and this machine. But it is all ugra-karma, all hard labor, all suffering.'
"All suffering indeed. The used Maytag works only three days before breaking down. Now the defunct machine is referred to as 'Shama-dasi's ugra-karma.'"
(In the late '90s, Tripurari Swami, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and founder of the Gaudiya Vaishnava Society, similarly referred to modern industry and technology as ugra-karma, and spoke of establishing rural farm communities.)
Hayagriva dasa writes: "When Purushottam dasa points out that Mr. Ginsberg represents certain 'hippie values,' Prabhupada says, 'Yes, that may be, but he is appreciating Hare Krishna, and on that point we agree. He is chanting Hare Krishna publicly, and if he goes on, then all these anarthas -- unwanted things -- will fall away.'
"'Who's the most perfect Vaishnava poet?' Allen asks. 'Mirabai?'
"'In India she's very popular,' Prabhupada says. 'Most of her poems are written in Hindi. She was a devotee. She saw Jiva Goswami and wrote many poems... her life was exemplary.'
"'And Ananda Mayima? What is her position?'
""She's not a devotee... You're a recognized popular poet. I take it you're intelligent. You're chanting... This is not sentimentalism, nor bluffing, nor money-making business. You know that from the beginning I came single-handed and chanted. That's all. I never asked anyone for money... You're a popular American leader. If you recommend Hare Krishna, people will join... We welcome all religions. We do not decry any religion. Our point is love of God... That is the test of true religion -- how much have you developed your love of God? ... Yes. Any religion.'"
Hayagriva dasa describes students at Ohio State University in 1969:
"We can no longer hear Prabhupada -- just the chanting, the clapping, the pounding on chairs. As in a dream, I see my students before me dancing and chanting in ecstasy. Sandra Hunsaker, nursing major, clapping, her eyes closed. Jeff Horner, in agriculture, chanting so loud I see blue veins pop in white skin. Pretty, buxom, fresh-scrubbed Marilyn Butler, swaying to Sanskrit rhythms..."
Hayagriva dasa describes Allen Ginsberg speaking before these students at Ohio State University:
"'When ancient rhythms are flowing through everybody's body, then certainly we desire to dance and sing rather than sit frozen. But such is the nature of our conditioning in this Kali-yuga...'
"Allen then draws an ecological picture of Kali-yuga -- part Vedic, part Ginsberg -- as an age of robots, doom and pollution...
Hayagriva dasa describes Srila Prabhupada speaking to these students:
"'We should love God without cause, but we pray, 'God, give us our daily bread'... This is not love of God. This is love of bread.'
"Instant laughter and applause. The students are sympathetic, and Prabhupada does not waste time with dry philosophy. He tells them quickly and frankly their spiritual state."
The next day, Hayagriva dasa writes:
"Allen says that at the previous night's poetry reading, he was telling the students to chant Hare Krishna for president Nixon when he comes for commencement in two weeks.
"'There's a lot of resentment against the President and government,' Allen says, 'from young people who don't like war... So I suggested that they greet him by chanting Hare Krishna.'
"'That's a very good service,' Prabhupada says. 'Nixon said that he wanted to meet some religious leaders, so one of my disciples wrote him, but he never replied.'
"Prabhupada shakes his head as if it were strange indeed that President Nixon didn't reply.
"'Well,' Allen consoles, 'if in this typical university the students greet him by chanting Hare Krishna, he may well invite you.'
"'Yes,' Prabhupada laughs, 'actually I came here thinking that America is in need of something substantial. I'm doing my part, and if the government or the people help, this movement can be pushed forward. Otherwise, it will go on slowly, however Krishna desires.'"
Hayagriva dasa reports a conversation between Srila Prabhupada and Mr. McIntyre, a Wheeling, WV lawyer who has been helping Hrishikesh dasa obtain ministerial status in order to avoid the draft call in Vietnam.
"Mr. McIntyre is young, active, liberal, and already prominent in the local law field. He has read Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita.
"Prabhupada explains varnashrama-dharma (the Vedic social system, or class system). Brahmanas, he points out, are never meant to fight. That is the work of kshatriyas, warriors like Lord Krishna's disciple Arjuna. By fighting, Arjuna could attain perfection, but not by pursuing the dharma of a brahmana. Each caste has its own work. Now Hrishikesh has just received his brahminical thread, so he must ask for exemption from the battlefield.
"Mr. McIntyre agrees. 'For all intents and purposes, he's a monk.'
"Prabhupada begins discussing Vedic law, which was set down thousands of years ago in the Manu-samhita.
"'There it is stated that a murderer should be condemned to death so that in his next life he will not have to suffer the karma of his sins. Therefore when the king hangs the murderer, he is benefitting him.'
"Mr. McIntyre points out that throughout history, official violence has been the standard way of administering justice. 'An eye for an eye.'
"'But that isn't real violence,' Prabhupada corrects. 'The soul cannot be killed. For the administration of justice, so-called violence is permitted. Of course, we cannot kill whimsically. Personally, we don't have the right to kill even an ant. And in any case, that is no work for brahmanas. Now this business in Vietnam is simply dog eat dog. No religious principle is involved. This is typical Kali-yuga fighting.'
"Mr. McIntyre says that many Americans consider the war in Vietnam to be in the pursuit of justice and therefore honorable.
"'And what is this pursuit of justice?' Prabhupada asks. 'We call justice karma. You don't have to pursue justice. It is automatically there. Do good, you reap good results. Do evil, you suffer. We don't have to inflict the suffering. Material nature will do that effectively enough. Of course, to maintain order, the state must administer justice to the people -- reward and punishment. But the state is fallible. Perhaps a criminal goes unpunished, or they punish the wrong man...
"'...It is impossible to escape the fruits of karma. Live like a dog, and for your next life, nature gives you a dog's body. Eat meat, next life a tiger's body. Sex life? All right, become a pigeon or rabbit. Chant Hare Krishna, you get an eternal blissful body like Krishna's. So you may pursue justice, but actually justice is already there.'"
In the late '60s, George Harrison said about the hippies:
"People who live in America and live round there, they told me that most of the original people that came in there with the love and flower thing, well they've cleared out into the country. They're just living in communities of farms or tents..."
John Lennon wrote the song "Sexy Sadie" (which appeared on the 'White Album' released at the end of 1968) about Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
John Lennon explained: "That's about the Maharishi, yes. I copped out and I wouldn't write 'Maharishi, what have you done? You made a fool of everyone...' But now it can be told, Fab Listeners."
Srila Prabhupada was wary of persons misrepresenting Krishna's words in the Bhagavad-gita. On September 14, 1969, after enjoying an Indian vegetarian meal, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and George Harrison met with Srila Prabhupada in John Lennon's estate in England.
Perhaps foreshadowing John Lennon's assassination, Srila Prabhupada said:
"This place (the material world) is not meant for happiness... Everything here is temporary. So you might accept that this material world is a miserable place... This world is asasvatam, temporary. You have to leave...
"Nature is so cruel. President Kennedy thought he was the most fortunate man, the happiest man. He was young, he was elected President. He had a nice wife and children and was respected all over the world. But within a second (Srila Prabhupada snaps his finger) it was all finished. His position was temporary. Now, what is his condition? Where is he? If life is eternal, if the living entity is eternal, then where has he gone? What is he doing? Is he happy, or is he distressed? Has he been reborn in America or China? No one can say...
"In this world, nothing is permanent, nothing is blissful, nothing is full of knowledge. So we are training Western boys and girls in the science of Krishna Consciousness. Anyone can take advantage of it... You should also try to understand it, and if you find it valuable, then please take it up... no one can know the Absolute Truth completely. That is because our knowledge is very imperfect. But still, as far as our knowledge allows, we should try to understand the Absolute Truth...
"The Absolute is so great and unlimited that it is not possible for us to know Him completely; our senses do not allow it. But we should try as far as possible. And it is possible, because, after all, we re part and parcel of the Absolute...
"You are intelligent boys. Try to understand it. And you also have very good musical abilities. The Vedic mantras were all transmitted through music. The Sama-veda in particular, is full of music... Vedic mantras are meant to be sung... This is the proper way of chanting Vedic mantras. Simply by hearing the vibration... Simply by transcendental sound vibration...
"You've been speaking of Maharishi. Hasn't he written some book on Bhagavad-gita?"
John Lennon replied, "Yes, that's the one we've read."
Srila Prabhupada said, "So, why is he using Krishna's book to put forward his own philosophy? Bhagavad-gita is Krishna's book. Why is he taking Krishna's book?
George Harrison said,"Well, he didn't. He just translated it."
"Why?" said Srila Prabhupada. "Because Krishna's book is very well respected."
John Lennon said, "I've also read part of another translation by Paramahamsa Yogananda."
"Yes," said Srila Prabhupada. "All these men take advantage of Krishna's book to lend an air of authority to their own speculations. Vivekananda has done it. Aurobindo has done it. Dr. Radhakrishnan has done it. Mahatma Gandhi has done it. Thousands of them have done it. But why do hey use Bhagavad-gita as the vehicle for *their* ideas?"
George Harrison said, "But Vivekananda said that books and rituals and dogmas and temples are secondary details, anyway. He said they're not the most important thing. You don't have to read the book in order to have the perception."
Srila Prabhupada immediately responded, laughing, "Then why did Vivekananda write so many books?"
When I did bhaktin Tiana's astrological chart in the summer of 1992, I told her she should not feel rejected by our devotional community at ISKCON Berkeley, because: "ISKCON (the International Society for Krishna Consciousness) is far from being the kind of society Srila Prabhupada envisioned. Srila Prabhupada stressed 'simple living, high thinking.' He wanted devotees to live on farm communities, without relying on modern industry and technology -- much like the Amish. He emphasized 'traditional values' -- the girls would be taught cooking and sewing, while the boys would be trained to work the land. "He said young males would study in the gurukula, the school of the spiritual master, beginning at age five, and would remain bramachari (celibate monks) until age 24, when permitted to marry.
"The kumaris (virgin daughters), meanwhile, would marry at age 16, and would be trained to be subservient to their husbands. Marriages would be arranged, and there would be no question of divorce or separation. Devotees would only reside in Kali Yuga cities for preaching and missionary work."
(I repeated these words to a young Hindu-American, Vineet Chander, in an April 1995 letter.)
One of the reasons Srila Prabhupada gave for wanting the girls to be married no later than age sixteen and the boys to be celibate until age twenty-four, is that (as Arjuna says in Bhagavad-gita) women are prone to be misled (seduced?), and must be protected, to prevent varna-sankara ("mixed caste," or illegitimate children).
According to Vedic civilization, only princesses like Draupadi are allowed to select A HUSBAND (not a boyfriend). Srila Prabhupada repeatedly quoted the Laws of Manu as having said that women must never be given independence: they must be protected by their fathers in their youth, by their husbands in married life, and by their sons in their old age.
Srila Prabhupada said that according to Vedic civilization, if an unmarried girl leaves home, or leaves her father's care, even for a moment, no one will marry her. Srila Prabhupada said further, after being forced to tolerate divorce in his own society (ISKCON), that a woman with children, strictly speaking, cannot remarry.
Modern science is beginning to catch on! A politically-conservative-but-socially-liberal pro-life advocate identifying herself as a bisexual witch said several years ago on an email list for Alternative Lifers that our modern secular public educational system contradicts female psychology. She said in past centuries, girls were married at puberty. In mainstream secular American society, young girls are expected to control their senses past puberty, to first get an education and/or a career, and then pursue relationships.
This might explain why teen pregnancy is widespread even when mainstream secular American society allows for easy access to contraception and frank and open talk about sexuality in the schools and in the schoolyard.
Vedic civilization values women as wives and mothers, not as ascetics.
Contemporary Hindu spiritual master Ravindra Svarupa dasa (Dr. William Deadwyler) writes:
"...marriage can also be part of devotional service. Marriage does not confer a license for sexual indulgence. It does not sanction a holiday from religious principles. Rather, according to religious principles sex is meant only for begetting God conscious children...Children born of parents who are free from lust will be exceptionally pure and naturally inclined toward devotional service... Even the sexual union of a man and a woman can be used in the service of Krishna. It is extremely good fortune for a child to be born from parents engaged in self-realization, for from his earliest moments he lives in an atmosphere uncontaminated by lust and greed, and he takes in the principles of spiritual life with his mother's milk."
Srila Prabhupada did not object to the Vaishnava equivalent of a nunnery. Indeed, he established the bramacharini ashram, to protect women and to provide them with an opportunity for service:
"Women should be taken care of-as daughter, as wife, as mother, bas. No freedom. Then spoiled the whole thing. Unwanted children, contraceptive, abortion. Very dangerous. In our society there are girls. They should live separately. They should be given full engagement, taken care of. No mixing. Then it will spoil. Both of them will be... We see big, big workers, sannyasis (monks)... (Name withheld) fell victim.
"The example is given: fire and butter. (laughs) You cannot say the butter will not melt even in fire. Woman is like fire, and man is like butter. So our gurukula should be ideal. Not all these boys... You should take care of these things from the very beginning-if you want actually spiritual life. If you want to progress like animals, that is different thing, as the whole world is doing. We want to maintain an ideal institution. People may see. In Christian idea also, the nuns were separate."
(Vrindavan, April 17, 1977)
Srila Prabhupada similarly writes in The Path of Perfection:
"Yoga does not mean going to some class, paying some money, engaging in gymnastics, and then returning home to drink, smoke, and engage in sex. Such yoga is practiced by societies of the cheaters and the cheated... If one tells you that you can indulge in sex as much as you like and at the same time become a yogi, he is cheating you. If some so-called guru tells you to give him money in exchange for some mantra and that you can go on and engage in all kinds of nonsense, he is just cheating you.
"Because we want something sublime and yet want it cheaply, we put ourselves in a position to be cheated... if we want perfection in yoga, we have to pay for it by abstaining from sex. Perfection in yoga is not something childish, and Bhagavad-gita instructs us that if we try to make yoga into something childish, we will be cheated. There are many cheaters awaiting us, waiting to take our money, giving us nothing, and then leaving."
If we properly present Srila Prabhupada's teachings, people of other faiths will appreciate and respect them.
In 2010, bhaktin Ashley, a young black girl from New York was visiting ISKCON Berkeley, and helping me with book and prasadam distribution (sacramental food: our equivalent of the Eucharist) at the World Vegetarian Festival in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. A passenger riding with us, Robin Silberman, had given a presentation before of a raw vegan Passover Seder at a San Francisco Vegetarian Society potluck. I told Robin that Ashley was a bramacharini, or the Vaishnava equivalent of a nun. Robin respected Ashley for her piety and religious asceticism.
When Srila Prabhupada established the ISKCON Life Membership program (a patronage program aimed at wealthy Hindu families), he indicated that there is a place within ISKCON (the International Society for Krishna Consciousness) for devotees unprepared to lead a life of full-time religious service. Srila Prabhupada was very loving and kind. He wanted everyone -- saints and sinners alike -- to receive the Lord's mercy in the form of books, prasadam (sacramental food), the holy names, and devotional service.
"...if you want to be a family man -- if you cannot dedicate twenty-four hours daily -- then earn money and use it to spread Krishna consciousness... if you cannot earn money, then use your intelligence. There is intellectual work to do -- publication, research, and so on. If you cannot do that, then utilize your words to tell people about Krishna... So where is the scarcity of opportunities? You can serve Krishna in any capacity, provided you *want* to serve." (Chicago, July 1975)
An ISKCON leader in Philadelphia, PA also said in 1982:
"Our long term plan is to develop a congregation... We have that broadness of vision now. So in the core you have full-time devotees who maintain the four regs (regulative principles, or lifelong vows), and chant sixteen rounds (on beads of prayer). Then, expanding out, you have lesser degrees of commitment and involvement, and our preaching should be aimed all the way out...
"You have to keep your standards and preach to these people all the time, but at the same time not drive them away for not living up to them... If our movement is genuinely world-transforming, then it's not going to happen that everyone in the whole world will join our temples and move in. It's going to have to be a broader social movement." (quoted in E.B. Rochford Jr.'s Hare Krishna in America, 1984)
According to the 1982 ISKCON public relations guide, Who Are They?, congregational outreach is now reality. Mukunda Goswami introduces the reader to the Hare Krishna movement in strictly congregational terms:
"You'll probably be surprised to learn that you don't have to wear traditional robes or change your hairstyle or religion to be a part of the Hare Krishna movement.
"You'll discover that Krishna consciousness is much more than a religion. It's a spiritual movement; a universal time-tested process for achieving inner happiness, satisfaction and higher awareness. And you'll meet people from all walks of life who are applying their knowledge, skills, and resources to bring about a better world, beginning with the all-important realm of consciousness.
"The Krishna consciousness movement is a transcendental outreach program unparalleled anywhere in the world."
In the section of Who Are They entitled "A Worldwide Congregation," Krishna's congregation -- legal secretaries, surgeons, biochemists, ordinary folk -- are depicted. ISKCON's Southwestern U.S. Regional Membership Director, Rose Forkash writes:
"With a worldwide congregational membership well over six million, the Hare Krishna movement has a growing responsibility. We are committed both to our rapidly expanding membership and to nonmembers in all walks of life...
"Whatever you do,whatever your age, race, sex, or religious affiliation, the Hare Krishna movement can offer you many benefits. If you do nothing more than chant the Hare Krishna mantra, you're already closer to spiritual success."
In an introductory pamphlet entitled Krishna Consciousness at Home: a Practical Guide, Mahatma dasa cites Bhagavad-gita 2.40, concluding: "The beauty of Krishna consciousness is that you can take as much as you are ready for. Krishna Himself promises in the Bhagavad-gita, 'There is no loss or diminution in this endeavor, and even the slightest advancement on this path protects one from the greatest type of fear."
In Bhagavad-gita 13.26, Lord Krishna Himself speaks favorably of neophyte devotees: "again there are those who, although not conversant in spiritual knowledge, begin to worship the Supreme Person upon hearing about Him from others. Because of their tendency to hear from authorities, they also transcend the path of (repeated) birth and death."
Satsvarupa dasa Goswami suggests that Srila Prabhupada would have preferred that his fallen disciples step down and serve Lord Krishna in a lower ashram, as congregational members, rather than completely fall away and return to sinful activities; just as Srila Prabhupada allows fallen sannyassis (monks) to step down and serve as grihastas (householders, married life). In Prabhupada Nectar 5.31, Satsvarupa dasa Goswami writes:
Prabhupada once spoke... about disciples who fell away from their vows. He said he was simply trying to engage everyone -- fools, rascals, thieves, anyone -- to spread Krishna Consciousness. He said that if a disciple could not maintain himself as a sannyassi (monk), then he should change his ashram, but he should not live as a hypocrite.
Prabhupada then said if the spiritual master continues to accept his fallen disciple, then Krishna would accept him also, and that in time he could again take sannyassa. Prabhupada mentioned how he had allowed two of his fallen sannyassi disciples to become grihastas (householders, married life) rather than send them away. But he said it was a shameful position.
Prabhupada said that his own godbrothers and every sannyassi (monk) in India criticized him for holding brahmana (priest) and sannyassa (monk) initiations in the West, for installing Deities there, and for allowing women to live in temples. He then said that for all of that, he was expanding Krishna Consciousness, and for all their strictness, the others were doing nothing."
Srila Prabhupada himself is revered as a shaktya-avesha-avatar, or empowered representative of God in Vaishnavaite Hinduism. A few days before Srila Prabhupada left the planet in 1977, his godbrother Puri Maharaja said, "You have saved millions of people around the world. You should be called maha-patita-pavana (the great savior of the fallen)."
Like the Ebionite Jesus, the Vaishnavaite Hindu tradition similarly regards Jesus as a shaktya-avesha-avatar, or an empowered representative of God, serving on behalf of the Lord. This is closer to the Judaic concept of the messiah: he's not God, but an empowered representative. However, in Vaishnavaite Hinduism, the shaktya-avesha-avatar serves as an intermediary ("intercessor") between God and man, and is worshipped as though he were an incarnation of God. This is closer to the Christian concept of the messiah.
In the Srimad Bhagavatam, one of the main scriptures in the Vaishnava canon, Lord Krishna tells His disciple Uddhava that the spiritual master is "one with Me" (compare John 10:30 and John 17:21), is to be revered as though he were an incarnation of God, and must never be mistaken for an ordinary man, for he "fully embodies all the qualities of God." (Compare Colossians 2:9)
Scripture teaches that one is saved and freed from all sins when he or she becomes the disciple of a divine master. The guru or spiritual master willingly suffers for the sins of his or her disciples (takes on their karma). In his purport (commentary) on the Srimad Bhagavatam 9:9:5, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada writes:
"The spiritual master, after accepting a disciple, must take charge of that disciple's past sinful activities, and suffer -- if not fully, then partially -- for the sinful acts of the disciple."
In a letter to his disciples Satsvarupa and Uddhava dated July 27, 1970, Srila Prabhupada wrote:
"The spiritual master has got the responsibility of absorbing the sinful reaction of his disciple's life. This is a great responsibility of the spiritual master... To accept disciples means to take up the responsibility of absorbing the sinful reaction of life of the disciple."
Srila Prabhupada similarly wrote to another disciple: "Regarding your question about sufferings of master, you can simply ponder over Lord Christ's crucification." (Letter to Rebatindandan dasa, 12/31/72.)
This conception of the messiah is foreign to Judaism, but familiar to Christianity. In his book, You Take Jesus, I'll Take God: How to Refute the Christian Missionaries, Jewish writer Samuel Levine exchanges letters with a Jewish convert to Christianity. The new convert to Christianity quotes John 15:13, referring to the sacrificial death of Jesus, that there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for others. Samuel Levine responds that suicide is prohibited in the Torah!
(Christians unable to validate the authenticity of their own beliefs from Judaism and the Old Testament, can thus turn to Vaishnavaite Hinduism to substantiate their views.)
And before conservative Christians cry "Moon!" it must be pointed out that the Vaishnavaite-Hindu religious tradition predates Christianity by centuries, if not millennia.
Dr. Diana L. Eck is a professor of the Hindu religion in the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies and the Comparative Study of Religion at Harvard University. She writes:
"The Krishna Consciousness movement is part of an important and distinctive tradition of devotional faith, the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, which began in the 16th century with the great saint Sri Chaitanya, but which participates in a much older movement of devotion dating back to at least the 2nd century BC.
The guru is considered sinless, because he is obedient to the will of God through scripture; following the instructions of his own spiritual master. Thus, there is a living chain of saints and spiritual masters who take on disciples and guide them toward maturity in their relationship with God. Brother Aelred, a Catholic monk and Krishna disciple residing in Armidale, Australia in the 1990s, compared the disciplic succession in Vaishnavaite Hinduism to the Apostolic succession in Catholic Christianity.
Through a guru, one receives God's directions on a deeper, more personal level than one receives through scripture itself. Moreover, it is taught in scripture that the only way to know God personally is through those souls whose relationship with Him is already established. No one comes to God except through a spiritual master. (Compare John 14:6)
Srila Prabhupada may be compared to other Vaishnava acharyas (spiritual masters and founders of institutions) like Madhva or Ramanuja. A guru, or living spiritual master, suffers for the sins of his disciples once they have taken formal vows to follow him. A guru is given the honor and worship Christians ascribe to Jesus Christ -- he is revered as though he were an incarnation of God.
In 1986, when Srila Ramesvara (Robert Grant) fell from his vows, I was told that it's stated throughout the Chaitanya Charitamrita and other Vedic literatures that a guru should only take on a small number of disciples, like Jesus and his apostles, because he has to take on their karma; suffer for their sins. A jagat-guru like Srila Prabhupada could take on ten thousand disciples worldwide, but Srila Prabhupada's own disciples are not qualified to do likewise.
This led me to conclude that the vast majority of worshippers in Krishna Consciousness ought to be serving in the laity, as congregational members, rather than in the clergy, as brahmanas or priests.
In July 1988, the ISKCON World Review (the newspaper of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, or ISKCON) ran an editorial entitled "Flexibility in a Changing ISKCON." It read:
"While striving for pure states of Krishna Consciousness,we face the reality that most future ISKCON members will belong to its 'laity,' rather than its 'clergy.'Even now it appears that most ISKCON members, initiated or otherwise, live outside the temples...
"Today, few temples are large enough to accommodate even the initiated devotees -- especially those with families living in the immediate vicinity... In addition, the movement will have to adjust to the increasing number of members, many of whom may not accept initiation (discipleship) for many years, if at all in this lifetime.
"More defined policies will be needed for congregational members, and more training needed to recruit them. Then there are devotees whose commitment to devotional standards or service may have slackened. They should be encouraged by example and friendship. We should remember that once one returns to strict observance, 'he is to be considered saintly,' according to Bhagavad-gita.
"As distinctions between devotees living in ISKCON centers and those living outside them become less pronounced, and the differences in classifications of congregational members become less important, we tend to regard the 'outside' or nondevotee world from a more compassionate perspective.
"Moving towards the end of this century, we find that the house that Srila Prabhupada built is indeed greater than that of the traditional temple environs. Our capacity to adjust to this fact will help ease ISKCON through its present phase of transition.
In an interview with the ISKCON World Review in September 1988, Rohinandana dasa described the emerging relationship between clergy and laity in the nama-hatta ("marketplace of the holy names") program:
"It's a two-way street. And as one friend requests another, we may also say, 'We need you; it's your temple, and we're your servants. We're trying to keep the temple clean and to a high devotional standard, but financially we're unable to maintain it. We're prepared to live very simply and austerely, so please help us now. When the feel our genuine fellowship, they will be inspired, and their faith in the Krishna Consciousness movement will increase.
"Some people might wonder if more stress on congregational preaching may lead to watering down (diluting) Krishna Consciousness. They might think that unless one gets strict training when they join, the won't make advancement. But it's the temple devotees who have the responsibility of being strict and not watered down. They must keep the spiritual atmosphere strong, then the nama-hatta members will have an example to look up and aspire for.
"Perhaps we were living in a dream, thinking that the temple was the center of the earth. We have to understand that we're small and need all the help we can get.
"If we really concentrate on developing our Krishna consciousness in the temples and congregations, then healthy devotional creepers will grow. I envision many people -- thousands of people -- taking up Krishna Consciousness in their own homes."
Lord Krishna Himself says in Bhagavad-gita 12.8-10:
"Just fix your mind upon Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and engage all your intelligence in Me. Thus you will live in Me always, without a doubt.
"My dear Arjuna, O winner of wealth, if you cannot fix your mind upon Me without deviation, then follow the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga. In this way develop a desire for Me.
"If you cannot practice the regulations of bhakti-yoga, then just try to work for Me, because by working for Me you will come to the perfect stage."
Ravindra Svarupa dasa (Dr. William Deadwyler), recognized even in the anti-cult book, Monkey on a Stick, as one of the leaders of reform in ISKCON, reflects upon Srila Prabhupada's purport to the Bhagavad-gita 12.10 on page 31 of the November 1991 issue of Back to Godhead:
"In commenting on the twelfth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, Srila Prabhupada makes it really clear that the Hare Krishna movement is in principle made up of three groups of people:
"Krishna says, 'Surrender unto Me.' So first are those who are spontaneously attracted to surrender to Krishna.
"Then Krishna says, 'if you can't do that, follow the regulative principles of devotional service.' And in the purport Srila Prabhupada makes it clear what this means: rising early, taking a shower, going to the morning program, and so on, under the supervision of the spiritual master. So those who do this are in the second group.
"Then Krishna says, 'If you can't do that, then work for Me.' And Srila Prabhupada says that this means that at least one should be sympathetic to the propagation of Krishna Consciousness. Every organization requires land, capital, labor, and organization, so you can contribute one of these things. Those who do this are in the third group.
"These three groups make up the Hare Krishna movement. So there's absolutely nothing wrong with the movement's having all kinds of people who aren't following the strict regulative principles. Where we have a problem is with people who have at one time or another taken formal vows to follow the principles of the second group and then found themselves unable to keep them."
Volume 3 of Priti-laksanam: A Forum for Vaishnava Discussion (July 1992), contains a letter from Aditi dasi of ISCKON Berkeley entitled "Concerning Sexuality." She writes:
"I'd like to approach an area in which I think ISKCON must reassess its position. This concerns sexuality and how it affects our concepts concerning community and congregation. Of all the regulative principles, there seems to be one which give most of the people difficulty, most of the time: no illicit sex. And if we see many of our godbrothers and godsisters no longer living in the temple or even associating with temple devotees, it is very likely that this restriction is one of the causes of that separation.
"I think we need to become more mature in our conception of ISKCON. Just as other religions have their priest/priestess hierarchal branches, they also have their lay community or congregation. Although the lay community is encouraged to follow the high standards of the priestly class, they are not rejected if they do not. And from what we see in ISKCON as well as in other celibate (or semi-celibate: sex only in marriage, and only with the deliberate intent of procreation) religious orders, it is a vey difficult position and many are not able to maintain it over longer periods of time.
"When someone was having difficulty in this way, Prabhupada did not say, 'Well you should leave.' He would say, 'Well, perhaps you should marry. But in whatever ashram you are in, please push on this movement. Please be Krishna conscious and give it to others.'"
My friend and godbrother from the San Diego FOLK ("Friends Of Lord Krishna') congregational preaching program, Rankin Fisher, a former Missionary Baptist minister, said that in America one first joins his or her religious institution and *then* proceeds to support it financially and/or through service. He noted that temple authorities really can't turn to their "congregations" (the regular Sunday Feast attendants and festival crowds) for support, because these people have no formal standing in Krishna Consciousness. The "clergy" (initiates) are the only one's who really belong to the movement.
One devotee, a former Ramesvara disciple named Chakravarti dasa, understood what Rankin was saying. "Initiation is comparable to being ordained," Chakravarti observed, "And we've been treating it as though it were a baptism." I told Chakravarti, "I don't want to see the temple become a factory for producing 'blooped' (fallen) devotees."
To the Hindu communities in England, South Africa, Fiji, etc., Krishna temples are their house of worship, they are merely congregants, and the initiated disciples are like priests or clergy.
These designations are external but necessary.
Srila Prabhupada was once asked by a female Indian college student whether he was Dvaita or Advaita.
Srila Prabhupada replied that it makes no difference, because in either case, you still have the different varnas (classes) and ashrams, etc.
Rankin told me he was convinced that Krishna Consciousness could easily become as widespread and influential in the United States as an evangelical Christian denomination of several million people. Rankin said we need only establish a ceremony (not a fire sacrifice nor an initiation ceremony, but rather the Vedic equivalent of a baptism), giving neophyte devotees tulsi beads and japa (prayer) beads, to designate one's entry into the devotional community (without being formally initiated) into a lower echelon of service: a laity. And the laity would consist of the uninitiated and fallen disciples, following at least three of the four regulative principles:
chanting a minimum number of rounds per day
...and the laity would allow for things like birth control, divorce, eating vegetarian bhoga (unoffered food) at home and in karmi (nondevotee) restaurants, sleeping late, going to movies, rock concerts, etc... among congregational members.
Srila Prabhupada said only sudras (laborers, or the working class) divorce and remarry; not the brahmanas, not the priests. And despite the less-than-perfect record on divorce within the Krishna Consciousness movement, Urmila dasi took a stand against divorce (along with polygamy, prostitution and contraception!) in her 1992 book, According to Religious Principles, which details the moral standards for the brahmana or priestly class in Vedic civilization.
Rankin is merely advocating varnashrama-dharma (the Vedic social system, or class system)! This is what Srila Prabhupada wanted to establish after having successfully established a class of brahmanas to guide human civilization. I think also establishing a formal laity would diffuse anti-cult criticism and attacks. In his 1987 book, The Dark Lord; Cult Images and the Hare Krishnas, Dr. Larry Shinn writes:
"It is not surprising that the Krishnas' chanting raises suspicion among worried parents or persons who are unaware of the Indian context out of which this practice comes. Chanting is one way of focusing the mind's attention as Christian monks and nuns who practice the 'Jesus Prayer' know. Since ISKCON began primarily as a monastic tradition in America, and one that demanded complete surrender to the religious path, it is a mistake to compare ISKCON's life and practices with those of Protestant Christianity or Reform Judaism, which do not require -- except in lip serve -- a full twenty-four-hour, seven-days-a-week religious lifestyle.
"Congregational Christianity and Judaism are quite distant from their own monastic traditions that require the undivided attention to the religious life that ISKCON does in its devotional practices. Nonetheless, anticult critics continually insist on viewing the deity worship and chanting of Krishna devotees as fanatical devotion caused by malevolent manipulation."
Srila Prabhupada scoffed at the religious leaders and politicians who talk about "universal brotherhood," yet exclude animals from moral concern. He taught that nonviolence is the first principle of spiritual life (Letter to Bhakta dasa, August 3, 1973) and that the saints and mystics see all living entities with equal vision. We are all equal in God’s eyes—whether one is incarcerated inside the body of a bird, fish, reptile, mammal, demigod, poet, merchant, insect, etc...He taught that social ills such as racism, sexism, caste-ism, nationalism, speciesism, etc...arise because eternal souls falsely identify with their temporary bodies—on the spiritual platform, we are all equal. (Compare Colossians 3:11 and Galatians 3:28)
Srila Prabhupada responded to the Declaration of Independence by saying animals also have the right to life; animals as well as humans are protected in an enlightened civilization. Srila Prabhupada taught that our present civilization cannot be considered human, because of the practice of slaughtering animals for food and sport. He equated eating meat with cannibalizing small children, and candidly told a Catholic priest in London in 1973 that, "Animal-killers cannot understand God. I have seen this. It is a fact."
Srila Prabhupada taught that spiritual life and devotion to a personal God liberate one’s spirit from the bondage of the flesh. On the other hand, "...one who has not heard the message of Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead—even for a moment—he’s an animal. The general mass of people, unless they are trained systematically for a higher standard of life in spiritual values are no better than animals. They are on the level of dogs, hogs, camels, and asses."
In an interview with India’s Bhavan’s Journal in August 1976, Srila Prabhupada commented on the "widespread deterioration of moral values" as follows: "...religion is on the wane...when there is no religion, it is simply animal life...So when the human beings become uninterested in religious things, then they are animals...In human society either you become Christian Muhammadan, Hindu, or Buddhist, it doesn’t matter. There must be some system of religion. Human society without religion is animal society...because religion is declining, the human beings are becoming more and more like animals."
The Srimad Bhagavatam says that one who considers the body to be the self is no better than a cow or an ass. Srila Prabhupada called Hindus who become Westernized "new crows." He said, "Crows eat stool, but new crows eat more stool." (Compare this to the teaching found in the New Testament, where St. Peter likens sinners to irrational brute beasts; II Peter 2:12.) When Srila Prabhupada made candid statements like these, he spoke truthfully. During the 1960s and 1970s, he repeatedly warned young people that if they weren’t careful, they could be reborn as dogs.
A similar warning can be found in the Upanishads:
"Those who are of pleasant conduct here—the prospect is, indeed, that they will enter a pleasant womb, either the womb of a Brahmin, or the womb of a Kshatriya, or the womb of a Vaisya.
"But those who are of stinking conduct here—the prospect is, indeed, that they will enter either the womb of a dog, or the womb of a swine, or the womb of an outcast."
Active participation in devotional life, however, is meant for all of humanity, and is not restricted only to those who follow vows and religiously observe the nonsectarian principles of austerity, mercifulness, truthfulness and cleanliness. According to Srila Prabhupada, this opportunity for love and service is open to everyone:
"...if you want to be a family man—if you cannot dedicate twenty-four hours daily—then earn money and use it to spread Krishna Consciousness...if you cannot earn money, then use your intelligence. There is intellectual work to do—publication, research, and so on. If you cannot do that, then utilize your words to tell people about Krishna. So where is the scarcity of opportunities? You can serve Krishna in any capacity, provided you want to serve."
Elsewhere, Srila Prabhupada explains: "One who isn’t initiated may chant Hare Krishna (and should certainly be encouraged to do so) and serve in his own way, and gradually by doing so he may want to be initiated." (Letter to Satsvarupa dasa 11/14/68)
Introductory classes or lessons would teach the basics of Krishna Consciousness:
vegetarianism, nonviolence and karma
reincarnation: the eternity of the soul
utter frustration in sense gratification
the four pillars of sinful life
austerity, mercifulness, truthfulness, cleanliness
the four regulative principles
the soul's relationship to God
the spiritual platform as the real platform for universal brotherhood
the practical power of the holy names
prasadam: offering one's food to the Deities, sharing and distributing sacramental food
initiation and the path of sadhana-bhakti
arguments against advaita-vedanta (pantheism)
With or without a formal laity, the basics of Krishna Consciousness are already being taught: through introductory literatures, like the paperback books Coming Back: the Science of Reincarnation, Chant and Be Happy, The Higher Taste, etc. And people of other faiths are already being told by Krishna devotees that they can practice the principles of Krishna Consciousness without changing their religion. Just as one can be pro-life without changing one's religion, one can be vegetarian, vegan, nonviolent to animals, etc. in one's own religion. One can chant the names of God found in one's own religious tradition, etc. In his 2004 book, Holy Cow: the Hare Krishna Contribution to Vegetarianism and Animal Rights, Steven Rosen (Satyaraja dasa) even gives instruction on how to prepare a Sunday Feast at home! None of this interfaith and introductory preaching has deterred people from attending the Sunday Feasts at Krishna temples (nor deterred them from accepting initiation, either). Just as Christians have their crosses and crucifixes, temple authorities need only give congregational members tulsi beads and japa beads.
"Honourable men may honourably disagree about some details of human treatment of the non-human," wrote Stephen Clark in his 1977 book, The Moral Status of Animals, "but vegetarianism is now as necessary a pledge of moral devotion as was the refusal of emperor-worship in the early church." According to Clark, eating animal flesh is "gluttony," and "Those who still eat flesh when they could do otherwise have no claim to be serious moralists."
Abortion and war are the collective karma for killing animals. The Krishna Consciousness movement can't side with pro-lifers or pacifists without simultaneously taking a stand against the killing of animals. Nor can the Krishna Consciousness movement be officially pro-life (like so many Christian denominations) without making nonviolence towards animals a requirement of the faith.
In 1992, my friend Tim Parks, whom I met through Life Chain, couldn't understand my trying to convince pro-lifers to embrace animal rights. He saw my trying to make a case for biblical vegetarianism along the lines of the Pharisees trying to trap Jesus in his own words...
...whereas, having researched the long history of animal advocacy within Christianity, I see it as reasonable and as mainstream as someone from a pro-life church discussing sanctity-of-life issues with someone from a pro-choice church.
Pro-lifer Greg Morisoli said Tim and I could just agree to disagree.
Christians have found themselves unable to agree upon many pressing moral issues—including abortion. Exodus 21:22-24 says if two men are fighting and one injures a pregnant woman and the child is killed, he shall repay her according to the degree of injury inflicted upon her, and not the fetus. On the other hand, the Didache (Apostolic Church teaching) forbade abortion.
"There has to be a frank recognition that the Christian church is divided on every moral issue under the sun: nuclear weapons, divorce, homosexuality, capital punishment, animals, etc.," says Reverend Linzey, an Anglican priest, the author of Christianity and the Rights of Animals, and the foremost theologian in the field of animal-human relations. "I don’t think it’s desirable or possible for Christians to agree upon every moral issue. And, therefore, I think within the church we have no alternative but to work within diversity."
(Since the thousands of Christian denominations hold widely differing views on the divinity of Jesus, the afterlife, the Trinity, grace Vs works, drinking, gambling, speaking in tongues, faith healing, nuclear weapons, divorce, same-sex relations, capital punishment, abortion, animal rights, etc... there's no reason they can't be accepting, or at least tolerant of Eastern religions similarly professing a belief in the saving grace of a personal God, welcoming them into the American mainstream.)
Contemporary Hindu spiritual masters have taught us that if one wishes to eat cow’s flesh (or the flesh of any other animal for that matter), one should wait until the animal dies of natural causes, rather than take the life of a fellow creature. This indicates that we are vegetarian first and foremost out of nonviolence toward and compassion for animals, rather than because we follow “dietary laws,” i.e., restrictions on the kind of foods which can be offered to the Deities.
Avoidance of onions and garlic is not limited to Hindus in India following an Ayurvedic diet; there is a tradition of avoiding these foods in China, antedating the arrival of Buddhism. ‘Enjoy’ Vegetarian Restaurant in San Francisco, CA is run by Chinese Buddhists, and they do not serve onions or garlic in any of their preparations. However, they do serve mushrooms!
In Theravada Buddhist countries (Burma, Ceylon, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Tibet, Malaya), although the monks are forbidden to kill animals, they beg for food and are expected to eat whatever is offered them. Contrasting the Mahayana Buddhist countries (e.g., China) with the Theravada, in A Vegetarian Sourcebook, author Keith Akers writes:
“In the Mahayana countries, the custom regarding monks is completely different, reflecting a different attitude towards meat consumption. The Mahayana Buddhist monks do not beg for food at all; they prepare their own food, which is either bought, grown, or collected as rent. The Mahayana monks in China were strictly vegetarian in ancient times and remain so today.
“Dietary abstinence from meat was an ancient Chinese tradition that antedated the arrival of Buddhism. In China, all animal foods, onions, and alcohol were either forbidden or customarily avoided. Animal products were avoided in dress as they were in diet. There was a prohibition on the use of silk or leather (not observed in Theravada countries).
“Not only are the Mahayana Buddhist monks vegetarian, but so are many Buddhist lay people in China. Lay people usually receive a lay ordination, in which they must take from one to five vows. Almost everyone takes the first vow, which is not to take the life of any sentient creature.”
Dr. Thomas J. Hopkins, author of The Hindu Religious Tradition, says:
"Interestingly, one of the earliest archeological evidences of the worship of Krishna is a monument to Krishna erected by a Greek named Heliodorus at a place called Besnagar.
"This monument, called the 'Besnagar Column' or the 'Heliodorus Column,' is usually dated at the mid-second century of first century BC, and was erected by a Greek who was an ambassador to one of the regional courts of India.
"In the inscription on the monument, he describes himself as a bhagavata, a devotee of Lord Krishna. It's interesting that this evidence of Krishna worship comes through the medium of a foreigner who was converted to the worship of Krishna...
"If you look back in history, the two traditions which generally have been access points for foreigners seeking entrance into Indian religious tradition are the Vaishnava devotional movements and Buddhism...
"...the formal brahminical (priestly) tradition... was extremely purist and elitist. But they were accepted by... the Vaishnava devotional movement wherein they could worship Vishnu and Krishna, and they were also accepted by Buddhism.
"And its intriguing when you look at the twentieth century AD, and see which movements have successfully moved into the West -- again it's Buddhism and a Vaishnava devotional movement.
"These two traditions, historically, have been to a very large extent culture-free, in the sense that they have not depended upon a particular cultural setting to make them work... Some traditions have not been able to make that kind of cross-cultural move.
"It's noteworthy that the form of Buddhism that has traditionally been the most exportable -- the form you find in China, Japan, and Korea -- is salvation Buddhism, what you might call 'bhakti Buddhism' which involves devotional worship of Amida Buddha, the compassionate Buddha who grants salvation and elevates his worshippers, who devotionally recite his name, to a heavenly 'Pure Land.'
"...That's the quality that this tradition has had all along. Historically, it has cut across all kinds of caste lines, education lines, regional lines, and national lines... That's why Krishna Consciousness, Vaishnava devotionalism, could be brought to the West in the first place, and why it could flourish among people to whom Indian and Hindu tradition was a completely foreign element.
"Heliodorus presumably was not the only foreigner who was converted to Vaishnava devotional practice. Certainly, there must have been others. The point is that there were no barriers to a foreigner's becoming a Vaishnava.
"If you committed yourself on the path of devotion, if you had real devotion, you were accepted as a genuine bhakta, a genuine devotee. There was no further qualification needed."
Whether or not the Krishna Consciousness movement should tell others to "go vegetarian" or "go vegan" is left to the the leadership of the Krishna Consciousness movement to decide.
There's the story of a woman who brought her young son to see Mohandas Gandhi, asking Gandhi to tell her son to stop eating sugar.
Gandhi told her to come back a week later with her son.
She returned a week later with her son, and Gandhi told the boy, "Stop eating sugar."
When the woman asked Gandhi why he couldn't have admonished her son a week before, Gandhi replied:
"Because a week ago, *I* was still eating sugar!"
In 1996, when I was trying to be vegan, I was dining at a restaurant with my parents and a friend of my father’s from India, who had worked on India’s nuclear program in the 1950s and ’60s.
The Hindu vegetarian diet is lacto-vegetarian, and he saw being vegan as unusual, referring to it as “anti-dairy.” But he quoted Aristotle having made a statement against wine, while admitting in a sing-song Hindu accent, “Still, I am drinking…”
...and he was impressed with me for not wanting to touch even caffeine, saying respectfully, “…you are a pure brahmana (intoxication is forbidden to the priestly class in Hindu society).”
Since its coming West in the 1960s, the Hare Krishna movement has received numerous commendations for getting young people off drugs, alcohol, tobacco and caffeine.
"The combination of our medical care, and the spiritual care from the Hare Krishna philosophy, has resulted in a very powerful tool indeed for the treatment of drug addiction and for this we are very grateful," wrote Fraser McDonald, Medical Superintendent of the Parnell Drug Clinic, in Auckland, New Zealand.
Similarly, Addictions magazine, the magazine of the Washington, DC Area Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Inc., reported that "Krishna Consciousness is one hundred percent successful in stopping drug use among those who voluntarily enter the program."
New Orleans welfare director Morris Jeff said, "You have done good work in establishing a workable alternative to the problem of drug addiction and alienation."
Dr. Gertrude Speiss, a national senator and former mayor of Basel, Switzerland concurs: "The International Society for Krishna Consciousness is very much engaged in the fight against drugs and assists those who have been harmed by drug use. I, therefore, wish this society all the best."
A Christian clergyman in Australia, similarly predicted the Hare Krishna movement would become "the Salvation Army of the 21st century" in this regard.
It makes sense to keep the principle of no intoxication in place!
Far from being respectful of voluntary celibacy and/or sexual restraint, today’s Christians revel in fornication and deride anyone not “getting it” as a loser.
Secular people are more respectful of voluntary celibacy and/or sexual restraint. On a secular television show, One Day at a Time, in the late ’70s, when Valerie Bertinelli’s character Barbara Cooper decided she was going to save herself for marriage, the secular television audience applauded. A couple of years later, when real-life actress Valerie Bertinelli became engaged to Eddie Van Halen, a female disc jockey on a Southern California album rock station merely lightheartedly quipped, “She wasn’t even supposed to get laid."
Even the purveyors of porn respect voluntary celibacy and/or sexual restraint. In a Playboy interview from the late ’70s, so-called “cult deprogrammer” Ted Patrick tried to demonize Krishna Consciousness by saying in Krishna Consciousness sex is only allowed in marriage and only for procreation (celibacy and/or semi-celibacy), perhaps thinking he’d find a receptive audience in porn.
The interviewer merely responded that monks and nuns lead celibate lives, too.
On the other hand, as recently as the 1980s, when a secular bumper sticker emerged saying “The one who dies with the most toys wins,” the Christians responded with a bumper sticker citing Luke 12:15, where Jesus says life does not consist of the abundance of personal possessions. Conservative Christians still claim to be wary of “anyone preaching a false gospel…” Otherwise, why aren't they still following Jim and Tammy Bakker, Jimmy Swaggert, Ted Haggard, etc.?
How can Christians oppose LGBT rights if they’re fornicating?
How can they call Krishna devotees (congregational members, fallen initiates, second-generation devotees, etc.) “dogs” — ignoring the half a dozen different animal words used to describe sinners (dogs, hogs, crows, cows, camels, asses, etc... and with reincarnation in mind!) — for not following the four regulative principles (no meat-eating, no intoxication, no illicit sex and no gambling) and for not chanting sixteen rounds of prayer on rosary beads — the lifelong vows required for discipleship — if as Christians they aren’t even following their own Scriptures?
A meat-eating Christian wrote in to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) website aimed at educating Christians on animal issues:
...and asked: "How can you focus only on some parts of Scripture, while ignoring other parts of Scripture?!"
I dunno. It seems to me, meat-eating Christians do this all the time!
How can Christians revere the apostle Paul for referring to his previous adherence to the Law as “so much garbage” while they deliberately ignore verses from the Pauline epistles like “flee fornication,” “do not make provisions for the flesh to gratify its cravings, etc…?
Boy, they “believe”!
Regarding same-sex marriages: in 1995, when I was traveling with a group of activists, protesting the Republicans "Contract On America," I said that although I couldn't support same-sex marriages, I had no problem with civil unions. This is Jimmy Carter's position today.
In 2004, my friend Dave Browning (1959 - 2007), a conservative, pro-life Republican in San Diego, said he opposed same-sex marriages on the grounds that the definition of marriage (an institution that has lasted thousands of years) should not be changed in the name of political correctness.
When I asked him about civil unions, however, he couldn't raise any objections!
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada opposed same-sex marriage, calling it "most unnatural," on the grounds that the sole purpose of marriage is for God's service, to produce and raise God-conscious children, and not engage in sex merely for sense gratification.
By Srila Prabhupada's definition, contraception, and even masturbation, oral sex, anal sex and many other sexual practices even among heterosexuals would also be considered "most unnatural!"
Srila Prabhupada agreed with a Jehovah's Witnesses tract, The Watchtower, which criticized a liberal clergyman for performing a same-sex marriage.
(I'm mildly amused by the idea of Srila Prabhupada, worshipped by millions of Vaishnavaite Hindus worldwide as a shaktya-avesha-avatar, or empowered representative of God, reading a Jehovah's Witnesses tract!)
Beatnik poet Allan Ginsburg, a homosexual, first heard the chanting of Hare Krishna in India, and was chanting Hare Krishna at peace rallies, beginning in Vancouver, Canada in 1963... two years before Srila Prabhupada arrived in the West.
"Like John the Baptist preceding Jesus," commented my friend Rankin, a former Missionary Baptist minister, in our FOLK ("Friends Of Lord Krishna") congregation in San Diego, who also happens to be gay.
(Our "John the Baptist" turns out to be gay! I think Krishna has a sense of humor about these things!)
At a college preaching program at UC San Diego in 1984, the San Diego temple president commented that "if they (mainstream secular American society) can accept gays (and LGBTs in general), there's no reason they can't accept us (Krishna devotees)."
We can't condone same-sex relations, either, but we should be more tolerant in this area, as one's sexual orientation is determined by one's karma from previous lives, and it's wrong to discriminate against others on the basis of bodily identity.
Political activist and Krishna devotee Pariksit dasa said in the '80s that LGBTs can join the Krishna Consciousness movement, but same-sex marriages are not permissible.
He said, however, discrimination against LGBTs in areas such as employment and housing are unjust because they are based on the bodily concept of life, and the first lesson in spiritual life is that we are not these bodies: we are spirits in the material world.
Social ills such as racism, sexism, caste-ism, nationalism, speciesism, and even homophobia arise when eternal souls falsely identify with their temporary material bodies.
According to Bhagavad-gita 5.18, on the spiritual platform, we are all equal. (Compare to Colossians 3:11 and/or Galatians 3:28.)
In a purport to the Srimad Bhagavatam, Hridayananda dasa Goswami responds to sexual libertines arguing that sex is natural by pointing out that pregnancy is natural -- contraceptives don't grow on trees. Childbirth is natural. It's natural for a child to be raised by both parents: studies have shown the dangers of single-parent households, etc.
My friend and godbrother in the San Diego FOLK ("Friends Of Lord Krishna") congregational preaching program, Michael Molansky, commented upon reading Hridayananda dasa Goswami's words, "In the name of 'natural' sex, they're taking to all kinds of unnatural means to facilitate it."
Akruranath dasa (Adam Bernstein) told me in 1992 that Hridayananda dasa Goswami said, "We have no use for homosexuality," since it can't be used in Krishna's service. Agreed, but this is also true of contraception, and even masturbation, oral sex, anal sex and many other sexual practices even among heterosexuals. It's all based on sense gratification!
Just as the Women's Ministry has addressed sexism within the Krishna Consciousness movement, so also GALVA (the Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association) can address homophobia within Krishna Consciousness.
I told my friend Ruth Enero, and I similarly told my friend Greg, who is gay, when he visited me in the SF Bay Area in 2004, that I don't even have any opposition to same-sex marriages, either... as long as they're civil marriages and/or churches and other religious institutions opposed to same-sex relations aren't forced to recognize them.
In one of his broadcasts from 2004, Sean Hannity warned viewers about a future in which churches that refuse to recognize same-sex marriages lose their tax-exempt status.
Greg dismissed Sean Hannity's words as right-wing propaganda, as did my friend Rose Evans.
Dr. A.L. Basham, author of The Wonder That Was India, said:
"You're engaged in a certain amount of public education as it is. Possibly you should put less emphasis on the priestly side and do more to encourage the lay, fringe membership.
"The feeling of ordinary people is that one can't belong to your movement unless one shaves his head, wears a dhoti, and dances in the streets.
"Obviously, most people don't want to do those things. The movement hasn't adapted itself very much to the customs and habits of the local folk.
"I'm not saying that you should give up any of your fundamental beliefs such as vegetarianism and so on.
"If you can compromise to some extent on some of the less important ones, you might gain more members. You might get more converts if you make a few concessions to the Western way of life...
"It's not for me to decide. This is something your movement must decide for itself...
"The closest parallel which comes to mind is the Salvation Army, which you probably know something about.
"These people started from the 1870s onwards in London and other parts of England, carrying their message on the streets with brass bands, and dressed in unusual uniforms as you are.
"They would stop at street corners, start up the band and sing hymns, preach loud and soulful sermons and urge people to give up drinking and fornication and all these evil things and turn to the Lord...
"They put up with a great deal of persecution. And they sometimes got in trouble with the authorities for blocking traffic, just as you do.
"But in the end it was found that these people were intensely sincere, and they were gradually accepted. Now they are a respected branch of the Christian faith.
"They do a lot of good in the world, much more good than many other Christian movements in the way of positive help to those in need. They are a rather close parallel, in some ways, to your movement."
In 1994, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that most of the second-generation Krishna devotees now lead secular lives. Instead of ostracizing these so-called "Vaikuntha children" (or "children of the spiritual world") for failing to follow all four regulative principles and chant sixteen rounds every day for the rest of their lives, we should encourage them to serve in Krishna Consciousness as congregational members. We can accommodate the fallen in a formal laity.
In other mainstream religious denominations, very few people ever take on the lifelong vows of clergy and become ministers, priests, rabbis, etc. The vast majority of worshippers serve in the laity as congregational members. In Vedic civilization, too, the brahmanas were few in number, but were supported by the rest of society. Congregationalism appears to be a reflection of varnashrama-dharma (the Vedic social system, or class system), consequently, it would be the most effective organizational structure for all branches of Gaudiya Vaishnavaism to adopt.
In the summer of 1995, I wrote to Vineet Chander:
"It's the religious hypocrisy I object to. Either let's all strictly follow what Srila Prabhupada taught, ostracize everyone else as 'dogs,' and demand that everyone get initiated and go back to Godhead 'right now,' or admit in all honesty that Srila Prabhupada has built a house in which the whole world can live and that there's room for divorce, deadheads, potheads, teen pregnancies, etc...
"Falldowns will occur. I don't deny this. I'm not a religious fanatic. Unlike some people, I don't believe in putting hidden cameras in devotees' bedrooms or bathrooms to see if they're having illicit sex, and then excommunicating them at the first sign of falldown. I really do believe in Jesus' admonition:
"'Let he among you who is without sin caste the first stone.'
"In a 1973 letter to Lynne Ludwig, Srila Prabhupada wrote:
"'We cannot expect that all of a sudden your countrymen who are addicted to so many bad habits, will give up eating flesh, taking intoxicants, having illicit sex life, and so many other nasty things, and overnight become great, self-realized souls. That is not possible. That is utopian.'
"We're all on the honor system here. My position is that devotees who haven't been strictly following their vows for long periods of time ought to be open and honest enough to step down and serve in a congregational ashram, just as Srila Prabhupada allows fallen sannyassis (monks) to serve as grihastas (householders, married life). Anything less is hypocrisy."
I'm not advocating "chasing away everyone who isn't perfectly adhering to all the principles." I'm saying the opposite: let's establish a formal laity to welcome those who in previous decades have been dismissed as "fringies" or "blooped" (fallen) devotees; let's make them a permanent part of our movement! A clergy and a laity is consistent with varnashrama-dharma (the Vedic social system, a class system).
We can't compromise Srila Prabhupada's pure teachings, but we can't drive away everyone else for not being able to follow them, either! Two levels of service, i.e., two formal ashrams -- a clergy and a laity -- are the only realistic solution.
Innovations are not new to our tradition. Previous acharyas have allowed sannyassis (monks) to travel by automobile and wear shoes, which was previously unheard of. There is the breaking down of formal initiation into a two-step process of harinama and diksha initation. Srila Prabhupada himself established the bramacharini ashram for unmarried women, and he allows women to serve as priests or pujaris. There is the creation of the bhakta program to train new devotees living in the temple, and the FOLK ("Friends Of Lord Krishna") and Life Membership congregational programs. Again, a clergy and a laity is consistent with varnashrama-dharma (Vedic social system, or class system).
This is the issue that needs to be resolved: we want to accommodate everyone and engage them in devotional service, including those who are not on the platform required for formal initiation of four regs and sixteen rounds, but we can't compromise Srila Prabhupda's pure teachings, either. To me the solution is obvious: two levels of service!
Once we accept the premise that there will be a formal laity, following a lower level of service, then we need only determine what kind of standard the laity should follow. I'm advocating three regs and a minimum number of rounds per day.
Umapati Swami once said, "I've seen everything in this movement!" But Srila Prabhupada said sex life is not forbidden, but hypocrisy is forbidden, and if a disciple could not maintain himself, he should change his ashram, but not live as a hypocrite. Srila Prabhupada allows fallen sannyassis (monks) to serve as grihastas (householders, married life). That would be the point of congregations: acknowledging the reality that already exists. Not being a bunch of hypocrites. We can be open and honest about spiritual life.
Is Krishna Consciousness a purely brahminical (priestly) movement, or should we be establishing varnashrama-dharma (the Vedic social system, a class system)?
My friend and godbrother from the San Diego FOLK ("Friends Of Lord Krishna") congregational preaching program, Glen Smith, now initiated as a disciple of Hridayananda dasa Goswami as Gangeya dasa, said that the second-generation devotees born into the movement resemble FOLK members: they know the philosophy of Krishna Consciousness, but they still have material desires.
I told Gangeya the second-generation devotees should *become* FOLK members! FOLK isn't treated like a genuine ashram within the Krishna Consciousness movement, like the bhakta program or the grihasta ashram. Book distributors look like hypocrites, preaching standards (four regs, sixteen rounds) to the "conditioned souls" neither they nor their children are able to follow.
That was the point I made to Umapati Swami in May 1990: "...even when they're not following the principles, you still consider them devotees." It's as if getting initiated is more important than actually following the regulative principles. FOLK members were told get initiated and go back to Godhead "right now," "no dogs allowed," etc. while looking the other way at initiates not following strictly. A double-standard. This is "rubber-stamping," which Srila Prabhupada would have opposed. And if we apply it to fallen second and third generation devotees, it's a "caste brahmana" mentality, which Srila Prabhupada would similarly have rejected.
And who is a brahmana?
Meat-eating and intoxication are forbidden to the priestly class in traditional Hindu society.
Hayagriva dasa writes in The Hare Krishna Explosion:
"'How can you tell when one is a brahmana?' Hrishikesh asks.
"'By symptoms,' Prabhupada says. 'By birth, everyone is sudra (laborer). So we must look at the symptoms.'
"Prabhupada then tells the story of the boy who went to the great sage Gautama and begged him for initiation.
"'What is your father's name?' Gautama Rishi asked.
"'I don't know,' the boy replied.
"Go ask your mother.'
"The boy went to his mother, who said, 'Before you were born, I was foolish and loved many men. I don't know whose son you are.
"The boy returned to Gautama Rishi.
"'What did your mother say?'
"Since she was a prostitute, she doesn't know,' the boy replied.
"'Oh!' exclaimed the sage. 'You are truthful. You are a brahmana. I will initiate you.'
"'You American boys show tolerance by taking up another culture, which you're not accustomed to since birth. I ask you, 'Don't drink, don't smoke,' things to which you are accustomed. And you're following. This is tolerance, a brahminical qualification.'"
The following dialogue took place at the University of Moscow in the Soviet Union in 1971 between Srila Pabhupada and Professor Grigoriy Kotovsky:
SP: If a brahmana accepts a salary, it is understood that he has become a dog. That is stated in the Srimad Bhagavatam. He can advise, but he cannot accept employment...The Manu-smriti is an example of the standard of brahminical culture...
PK: I am sorry to interrupt you, but to my knowledge all of Indian society in the second half of the eighteenth century was, by order of the British administration, under a law divergent from Hindu law. There was a lot of change. The actual Hindu law that was used by the Hindus was quite different from the original Manu-smriti.
SP: They have now made changes. Even our late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru introduced his own Hindu code. He introduced the right of divorce in marriage, but this was not in the Manu-samhita. There are so many things they have changed, but before this modern age the whole human society was governed by the Manu-smriti. Strictly speaking, modern Hindus are not strictly following the Hindu scriptures.
But our point is not to try to bring back the old type of Hindu society. That is impossible. Our idea is to take the best ideas from the original idea...If one wants to keep his profession and also at the same time understand our movement, that is allowed. We have many professors following our movement. There is Howard Wheeler (Hayagriva dasa), a professor at Ohio State University. He is my disciple. He is continuing with his professorship...
PK: But by creating brahmanas from different social classes of society, you deny the old prescription of the Hindu society.
SP: No, I establish it.
PK: According to all scriptures -- the Puranas, etc. -- every member of one of these four classes of varnas has to be born within it... That is the foundation of all the varnas...
SP: You have spoken incorrectly. With great respect, I beg to submit that you are not speaking correctly. In the Bhagavad-gita [4.13] it is stated, catur-varnyam maya srishtam guna-karma-vibhagasah. "These four orders of brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas, and sudras were created by Me according to quality (guna) and work or activities (karma)." There is no mention of birth (janma).
PK: I agree with you that this is the addition of later brahmanas who tried to perpetuate these qualities.
SP: That has killed the Indian culture. Otherwise there would have been no necessity of the division of part of India into Pakistan... The other day I was speaking in Bombay with a respectable gentleman. I was telling him that Krishna says, "Even those who are lowborn [papa-yonayah] -- stri (women), vaishyas (merchants), and sudras (laborers) -- are also included by accepting Me. By accepting My shelter they are also elevated to the transcendental platform."
Now why have the higher classes of Hindu society neglected this injunction of the Bhagavad-gita?...Why wasn't this message propagated by the higher classes of people so that the so-called lowborn could be elevated? Why did they reject them? The result was that instead of accepting the Muhammadans, the Indians rejected them, and now they are partitioned off. They have become eternal enemies of India.
So for the first time we are trying to elevate persons to the higher position of Krishna Consciousness, even if one is lowborn. Because the soul is pure. In the Vedas it is said that the soul is untouched by any material contamination; it is simply temporarily covered. This covering should be removed. Then one becomes pure. That is the mission of human life...
In a July 1975 interview, reporter Sandy Nixon asked Srila Prabhupada, "Are you attempting to revive the ancient Indian caste system in the West? The Gita mentions the caste system..."
Srila Prabhupada responded:
"Where does the Bhagavad-gita mention the caste system? Krishna says, 'chatur-varnyam maya srishtam guna-karma-vibhagasah: 'I created four divisions of men according to their quality and work.' [Gita 4.13] For instance, you can understand that there are engineers as well as medical practitioners in society. Do you say they belong to different castes--that one is in the engineer caste and the other is in the medical caste? No. If a man has qualified himself in medical school, you accept him as a doctor, and if another man has a degree in engineering, you accept him as an engineer.
"Similarly, the Bhagavad-gita defines four classes of men in society: a class of highly intelligent men, a class of administrators, a class of productive men, and ordinary workers. These divisions are natural. For example, one class of men is very intelligent. But to actually meet the qualifications of first-class men as described in the Bhagavad-gita, they need to be trained, just as an intelligent boy requires training in a college to become a qualified doctor.
"So in the Krishna Consciousness movement we are training the intelligent men how to control their minds, how to control their senses, how to become truthful, how to become clean internally and externally, how to become wise, how to apply their knowledge in practical life, and how to become God conscious. All these boys [gestures toward seated disciples] have first-class intelligence, and now we are training them to use it properly.
"We are not introducing the caste system, in which any rascal born in a brahmana family is automatically a brahmana. He may have the habits of a fifth-class man, but he is accepted as first class because of his birth in a brahmana family. We don't accept that. We recognize a man as first class who is trained as a brahmana. It doesn't matter whether he is Indian, European, or American; lowborn or highborn -- it doesn't matter.
"Any intelligent man can be trained to adopt first-class habits. We want to stop this nonsensical idea that we are imposing the Indian caste system on our disciples. We are simply picking out men with first-class intelligence and training them how to become first class in every respect."
In an essay appearing on page 117 of The Science of Self-Realization, Srila Prabhupada says:
"It is this divine varnashrama-dharma that Krishna recommends, not the caste system as it is understood today. This modern caste system isn now condemned in India also, and it should be condemned, for the classification of different types of men according to birth is not the Vedic or divine caste system.
"There are many classes of men in society -- some men are engineers, some are medical practitioners, some are chemists, tradesmen, businessmen, and so on. These varieties of classes are not to be determined by birth, however, but by quality. No such thing as the caste-by-birth system is sanctioned in the Vedic literature, nor do we accept it. We have nothing to do with the caste system, which is also at present being rejected by the public in India. Rather, we give everyone the chance to become a brahmana...
"Because at the present moment there is a scarcity of brahmanas, spiritual guides...and because the entire world is being ruled by sudras, or men of the manual laborer class, there are many discrepancies in society. It is to mitigate all these discrepancies that we have taken to this Krishna Consciousness movement.
"If the brahmana class is actually reestablished, the other orders of social well-being will automatically follow...The ultimate goal of this movement is to educate people in how to love God...No Christian gentleman will be interested in changing his faith from Christian to Hindu. Similarly, no Hindu gentleman...will be ready to change to the Christian faith...But everyone will be interested in understanding the philosophy and science of God and taking it seriously."
In 1994, when I posted on COM Ravindra Svarupa dasa's statement from the November 1991 issue of Back to Godhead that Krishna Consciousness has no problem with all kinds of people not strictly following the regulative principles (Gita 12.10), but only with disciples who have fallen from their vows, Urmila dasi went one step further and said we don't even have a problem with fallen disciples, either... as long as they don't put themselves on the same level as disciples in good standing.
This is another reason to have a formal laity: to legitimize these kind of relationships between the different types of devotees.
In Acts 15:10, the apostle Paul similarly asks with regard to enforcing Mosaic Law on the gentiles, "Now then, why be a trial to God by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to carry?"
Ultimately, the final verdict for gentile converts to Christianity came from James, the brother of Jesus, who held a leading position at the church at Jerusalem... not Paul, who never even met Jesus! Similarly, the leadership of the Krishna Consciousness movement is going to have to come to terms with the position of non-initiates, fallen initiates, second and third generation devotees, Life Members, FOLK members, etc. within our movement.
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