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Krishna is Trying to Make You Free

Page history last edited by Brajendra 11 years, 3 months ago

The following is a darshan lecture about religious history, Buddhism and preaching, given by Srila Acharyadeva at an end-of-the-semester goodbye party on December 10, 2008. 

 

Listen

 

 

 

Based on our understanding there is a continuous evolution of consciousness from low to high. So rather than sitting around and waiting all day for people to come and say, “Hi, I want to study your philosophy!” we should go down to a lower level and work with people and gradually get them there. That involves ecumenical projects, and bhakti yoga friendly processes like astrology or vastu and all that stuff.

 

 

The issue is, “is it a fact that engaging people at a lower level, in other words, by promoting the mode of goodness as a general term - because goodness means all kinds of general wisdom - does in fact bring them to Krishna Consciousness?” Is it existential determinism where people who come to this goodness will in fact move along to Krishna Consciousness or not?

 

 

There is a case where there was a coinciding of our direct spiritual practices with what for other people was a recognizable social service: we were feeding people. Goodness is the common denominator for all sane spiritual and religious traditions. Historically, if we look at pre-industrial, pre-urban civilization, they don’t have government welfare services. They would provide basic services like storing grains, but there were no social services like public clinics, job training etc. which we take for granted nowadays. It is good for clarity to see to what extent we are re-articulating a pre-industrial model and to which extent we go beyond it.

 

It seems like it is in evitable. If you take a typical religious society like ISKCON or any other – the number of people who are able and willing to directly teach theology or spiritual practices is very limited. What we find is that the vast majority of people in such a society don’t do that and yet they have the ability to cultivate a certain piety and virtue and provide certain services and establish themselves in society as a force for good. If we meet someone from another religion we may not be able, or willing, to deeply study or evaluate their philosophical claims or examine their practices, but what we will see immediately is whether they are good people and how they treat other people. That is the common denominator, the sine qua non. Once you show that you are a good person people may become interested in your philosophy or practice, which leads to a preponderance of virtue in a particular community.

 

 

 

 

If you study the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna is teaching that in this world you can be happy, wise and virtuous without Krishna. He says that happiness comes from virtue, knowledge and wisdom, and that people in the mode of goodness worship the demigods.

 

 

There is a certain generic wisdom, whether it is coming from the Dalai Lama or from the local Hare Krishna devotees which people can experience. It is empirical. In every society there are a certain number of people who are in the mode of goodness and just get it. Krsna Himself says, tatra sattvaà nirmalatvät prakäçakam anämayam (Bg 14.6) that goodness is enlightening. [1]

 

 

So all around the word you find people who are good or virtuous and who will generally come to the same conclusion. They agree up to a certain level, but of course there will be disagreement in terms of what they consider to be the highest truth.

 

 

It seems to me that if you study world religions, those systems which teach that we should not philosophically or meditationally destroy ourselves are better than those who say we should do so. At the present time we are free individuals with free consciousness, we are able to enter into personal relationships with other people. There are systems which teach that you should basically blow this up and go into some impersonal state of enlightenment in which you are not an individual person and therefore you have no personal freedom, you are not capable of entering into personal relationships. It’s just merging into some corporate radiance. I call this “Bonny and Clyde tendency with monism and dualism” where you basically trash the world: The world is an illusion. Things like personal relationship, falling in love, beauty, art, goodness, acts of charity – all these personal things are delusion and ignorance, and when you are free of ignorance there is nothing like personal love and compassion.

 

 

If you study Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama began giving sermons at the Deer Park in Benares. The second sermon of the Buddha is called “The Sermon on the non-existence of the soul”. What is very interesting is that he doesn’t say there is no soul. That is the official title. It is rather, neti, neti – not this, not that. He rejects the idea that your body or your material mind is the soul. He doesn’t deny the existence of the eternal soul. You have certain followers who denied it.

 

 

Typically in Christianity, Buddhism or other religions you have an original founder and then the followers go to a very different place. What is interesting is that form of Buddhism which ultimately was the big winner – Mahayana Buddhism which is now 85 % of the Buddhists in the world – what they consider the best way to live, is a personal life of compassion where you come back again and again as a Bodhisattva out of love and compassion to help other persons. If you study Buddhism e.g. in Mathura, where it was very strong at some point, they started having Buddha deities and started worship just like their friends, the Vaishnavas.

 

 

So what scholars all admit is that around 1000 years after Buddha, Buddhism basically merged back into Hinduism. It came out of Hinduism and even in the early days of Buddhism, one of the most powerful and most influential forms of Buddhism was pudgala-vada-Buddhism which taught that there is an eternal person. So this idea about the one hand clapping and the voidism and all that, this is not at all the Buddhism on the ground that people were practicing. That’s an intellectualized form of Buddhism that most people were not much into. What people were doing and are still doing in the Mahayana Buddhism is go to heaven; you have a savior, out of compassion you come back to safe the fallen souls, you chant the Holy Names. It is interesting that the pure Buddhism in Japan has often been compared to the Protestant Reformation in Europe.

India as far back as you can go had religious freedom. It was the liberal human rights place in the ancient world. When you get a religiously inclined, creative, intelligent population, a long time span and religious freedom, what it all adds up to is a complete range of human religiosity.

 

 

So basically every kind of human religiosity popped up in India. It is interesting that although certain highly intellectualized communities tried to get away from the fact that we are persons, it always came back. The 800-Pound Gorilla in the room was always the fact that we are persons and no matter what people said they were going to go, it always came back to old fashioned, generic religion where people want to save their souls and their necks. They have a savior and they pray, they try to be forgiven for sins. When Jainism started, they claimed that there is an eternal soul but no God. But when you go to Jain websites now, what are Jains doing? They want to be forgiven for their sins. But if there is no God, who is forgiving their sins?

 

 

So it always goes back to the same thing. Human beings, when you leave them alone and don’t violently coerce them and bludgeon them into submission – if you just leave human beings alone in an atmosphere of religious freedom, what they go back to again and again, is personal religion. We find that in every tradition. Buddhism survived in India alone as long as it responded to the religious economy.

 

 

The essence of economy is not money and Walmart, but supply and demand. There is also a demand for salvation and people who want to be comforted, they want grief counseling. There is a demand for certain kinds of spiritual and religious services. Religions that are able to bring to the religious market what people want, survive. There is no religion in history that I know of that survived and became a major religion simple by a highly intellectualized notion of an impersonal existence. That really didn’t sell. It’s not what people wanted.

 

 

Q: Is there a way to present KC without a religious overtone?

 

 

A: First of all I am not sure whether we have to banish religion or redefine it. In other words, I don’t think that we have to respond to everyone’s bad experience with Middle Eastern religions (Christianity and fanatical Islam). What I say to people is, if all we knew about religion was the religions that began in Asia, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, would it be a cliché in the world that religions have caused so much trouble and wars?

 

 

What I tell people who have a problem with religion is that, “you are being ahistorical. When you mean religion, what you really means is, the religions coming from the Middle East. Therefore your problem is basically Western Chauvinism.” It’s a typical problem of the West. Obviously there is also Islam, but if you look at historical Islam, it’s just the neighbor of Europe and always, since it began, Islam was in constant tension with Christianity and Europe - and still is, like in Chechnya and other places. So people are being provincial, and what you are really talking about is certain specific religions in certain parts of the world. So first I relieve them of their prejudice against religion based on a specific historical period and certain places. If you look at the religious history of India – sure, there was all kind of nonsense and even brutality that went on there, but in general it is much less.

 

 

Q: What about Adolf Hitler taking Bhagavad-géta as the basis of his understanding?

 

 

A: He didn’t. First of all you can’t understand Hitler’s Arian nation thing unless you understand the history of Indo-European studies. Hitler was coming in an academic tradition. It starts with the Renaissance. Renaissance means rebirth. It is a rebirth of pagan culture.  Think how radical that is. The domination of a Middle Eastern religion in Europe, say Christianity, was never a complete domination because the most influential theologian in Christian Europe in the Middle Ages was Augustine who was a Platonist. So there was a full scale rebirth of Greco Roman civilization, pagan culture.

 

 

There was a tension in Europe between the fact that Europe was Eurocentric and yet their sacred books were coming from the Middle East. We have this ambivalence: On the one hand biblical education, the Old Testament  e HH (not sure what this is-possibly incomplete?)

was the center of European education in one sense. On the other hand people were not satisfied with Middle Eastern culture.

 

 

Europe was very diverse. People had many different positions when they discovered that Sanskrit was an Indo European language, but there was a strong component in European culture that said that by discovering that ancient culture which is as old as the biblical culture, and which in some ways is more sophisticated because the Middle East did not independently come up with a comprehensive systematic philosophical tradition. If you look at the Old Testament, there is wisdom, there is poetry, there is religion, but there is not much systematic philosophy.

 

 

Islam basically just jumped on Aristotle, and Augustine was doing Plato. So with the discovery that there is a family connection between Europe and the very ancient Sanskritic civilization some people began to see India as the new Eden. That Arian or Indo-European civilization is self-contained, that it doesn’t have to rest upon the authority or the culture or the wisdom of a Semitic civilization. It can find it own antiquity, its own wisdom and ancient God consciousness within its own family.

 

 

 

 

Italy had the whole classical civilization and England had their empire. There is an ancient German civilization but it is not prominent. That’s why the Germans were so enthusiastic to identify with that Sanskritic civilization. So Hitler was connecting into that whole Indo-European, Indo-Germanic way of trying to find the roots of European civilization not in the Bible and the tower of Babel, but in India. Then of course it was also related to anti-Semitism. The idea was that if Europe could find its ancient god consciousness in Sanskrit literature then they were free to totally bash the Jews, which they were not free to do as long as they were obligated. If they received their wisdom and their initial God Consciousness from the Jews and even Jesus was Jewish, then it is an ambivalent relationship. But if you could actually trace your roots ultimately to an Indo-European civilization then you could totally smash the Jews because they were no longer needed for anything.

 

 

So the fact that this madman & evil figure, Hitler, exploited a certain language and symbolism - it’s like if someone takes a surgical knife and stabs someone to death and therefore we should ban all surgical knives. The whole point of the Gita is not to judge people on the basis of their body. The whole  point is paëòitäù sama-darçina, that the wise see everyone equally, regardless of species or whatever. So therefore to say that Hitler is an authentic spokes person for Vedic Culture – nothing can be more absurd. It’s like saying the crusaders are the real representatives of Jesus.

 

 

Hitler got his ideas from reading newspapers. He read that France had imposed this heavy settlement on Germany which basically destroyed Germany. When people become desperate they may go for radical solutions.

 

 

I’m not sure whether religion has been so tainted and stigmatized that the only way to reach thinking people is to totally jettison that word.  I find that when we explain that religion doesn’t belong to fanatical people it is not really a problem.

 

 

There is a danger in just pushing spirituality without religion. If you take spirituality to mean a state of consciousness and if you take religiosity to be external behavior, by performing certain ceremonies or following certain rules, then when you separate external behavior from internal states of consciousness very crazy things can happen because you have no check and balance. If you just take spirituality without religiosity anyone can claim they are spiritual. There are male so called gurus, love gurus or whatever, who in the name of spirituality sexually exploit women. There is a long history of that, and you cannot say anything because, “That is just your religious hang-up.”

 

 

One thing, that people respect very much and get set up if they don’t see it, is integrity. So the first thing we need to establish is our integrity. I think the idea that you have to push Krishna Consciousness to the side in order to really get along with people of other religions is completely wrong.

 

 

Q: We are not speaking about that, we are speaking about presenting Krishna Consciousness in a more universal fashion, non-denominational and non-Hindu, the way Srila Prabhupada wanted it.

 

 

A: I basically agree with that. It is always a trade-off: The more you dilute the medicine, the easier it is to take it, but it has less medicinal effect. So the question is at what point you cross the line when you diluted the medicine so much that you are not really healing people. It is just like candy. Trying to find the right balance where you don’t dilute things too much, but at the same time you give people something they can swallow. Where is the balance?

Even Vyasa didn’t get it exactly right. Then Narada came and told him, “You made too many concessions. You compromised too much.”

 

 

Q: A Buddhist who is coming to the temple a lot complains that he hears too much anti-Mayavadi preaching.

 

 

I don’t think that we have to de-personalize or reinvent ourselves in order to participate in meaningful alliances. Like in the animal rights movement, I think we can participate in a meaningful way as Vaishnavas.

 

 

If you are trying to attract everyone, ultimately you have to water things down too much. In the 60ties there was all this enthusiasm for ecumenical movements and the experience they had was that at first everybody thought, “Let’s put all aside our specific characteristics and just meet in a neutral, amorphously virtuous center.” After a while people realized that it was inauthentic, without integrity. The only way you could have a really meaningful interfaith discussion is, if you are coming from somewhere. You have to be yourself. If a bunch of people are coming together, everyone pretending to be something they are not, and then if we agree, is it real agreement or is it a big theatre?

 

 

You should respect other religions and participate as a lady or gentlemen in all kinds of dialogues and alliances, but we shouldn’t think that in order to do that we have to pretend to be something we are not or hide ourselves. Obviously in something like an animal rights alliance you are not going to insist on some very specific theological points.

 

 

The idea that it is spiritually immature to worship a personal God is amazing, because we are persons. If this person’s point is that we should treat other people nicely, then why not treat the Supreme Person nicely? How can we imagine something much greater than God can create? So if you say that you are God we can imagine a God much greater than you: one who doesn’t become illusioned and doesn’t have all your limitations. So how can I imagine an entity greater than the one that actually exists? That was actually Anselm’s (and also Rüpa Goswämé’s) argument, that “God is that being than whom no greater being can be conceived.” So can any person conceive a God much greater than the one that you say exists?

 

 

Rüpa Goswämé says in the Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu that Krishna is the original form of God because He has more qualities than the others. Anselm and Rüpa Goswämé are basically giving the same argument: because God is infinitely great, the greatest conception is closest to the truth.

 

 

 

There is a philosophy of form and spatiality: In the material sense a form, a spatial definition limits something. So your body has a particular shape which is the three-dimensional parameter of your body. Your body ends and something else begins. In that sense a material form is a limitation by definition. However, when Krishna was a baby and Mother Yaçodä looked into His mouth and saw the universe there, that is a different kind of physics. Krishna’s body is not a limitation.

 

 

You can give so many counter examples where form actually expands a thing. If you just make noise, there is very little meaning conveyed, but if you take human sound and shape it grammatically and morphologically, then there is an infinite variety of meaning. So the forming of sound into words, syntax etc. dramatically exponentially increases the meaningfulness of the sound. It doesn’t limit it. So the idea that whenever you put a form on something you are limiting it goes against our experiences. If you take a lump of clay and sculpt it, you are increasing its beauty and meaning. So the idea that form limits is not a very well thought out premise. Everything that exists is one and different from Krishna, it is coming from Him. So is it really a limitation?

 

 

Why are some people psychologically predisposed against the idea of a Supreme Person? It seems like you would be really happy about it. I have seen a few marriages break up because one of the partners actually envies the other person who became successful in some way. If you love someone you want this person to flourish and be successful.  So if your heart was free of envy, would you be happy to hear that there is a Supreme Person, or are you bothered by the fact that there is someone infinitely greater than you? Does  it bother you that someone in the universe has the authority and power to command you?

 

 

You cannot have a philosophical problem because of the principle of satkärya-väda, a cause is present in the effect.  Let’s say you are treating someone for some psychological disorder. What you are seeing is an effect and you assume there is some cause. So if you study the effect you can work your way back to the cause. In any rational investigation the assumption is that the cause is present in the effect. So therefore this universe is a big effect.

 

 

If you look what cause is present in this effect, we see in this world i.e. that the more highly evolved creatures are, the more personal they are. Not only in the sense that human beings have more complex personalities than snails, but even in the sense that among human beings, those who we would consider more evolved in terms of consciousness have more sensitive nuanced personalities. So how would you claim philosophically that there cannot be a Supreme Person?

 

 

So the idea that there is no Supreme Person is not a philosophical idea at all, it is a psychological predisposition. If you are envious of someone, you are predisposed not to approve of and appreciate what they do. Personal life is so beautiful. There are beautiful people in the world and you can have relationships with them, you could fall in love. Personal life is a great thing, why do you want to blow it up? Or if you want to maintain your personal life, why do you want to exclude God? The person who gave everyone else personal life isn’t invited to the party. So I think the problem is psychological, not philosophical, because philosophically there is no problem.

 

 

 

 

There is lot of evidence that Buddha was actually presenting a psychology. He was presenting meditational techniques in order to bring people into a better state of consciousness. He did not think that he was presenting an anthology, a catalogue of all the real things that exist, rather he was giving a certain psychological approach to be free of suffering. Later followers, because they had to compete with other paths which actually did have philosophy, tried to come up with one.

 

 

The fact that Buddha didn’t talk about it means that you have to expand your search if you want a complete explanation of things. For one thing Buddha never said that he taught everything. Secondly, even Mahäyäna, which today is 85% of the Buddhists, they claim that the actual historical Buddha’s teachings are really the lower end of Buddhism. The official position of almost 90% of the Buddhists in the world is that the original students of the Buddha were kind of clueless, and therefore he gave them real easy stuff when in fact there is much higher stuff. That is the position of Mahäyäna Buddhism. They ridiculed the early followers and personal disciples of Buddha and said they were not very bright, therefore Buddha taught them simple things, and that the real, higher knowledge comes later. It turns out that this higher knowledge does involve things that look suspiciously like religion in terms of going to heaven, saviors and all kind of stuff.

 

 

Very soon after the historical Gautama Siddharta left, Buddhism divided into so many different fragments. So very early on there were 18 different schools in India. Even within the Buddhist world there were people who claimed that there was a personal soul, and they were quite influential. And the voidism, the çünyatä, is not nihilism. The Buddhists explicitly rejected the idea that there is a void.

 

 

I don’t think that the teachings of the historical Buddha are untrue, but the interpretations of his followers are untrue.

 

 

So I would ask this person who doesn’t like the arguments against impersonalism, what if he loved someone and he brought that person to a particular place and that person wasn’t treated personally? If you love someone, and that person is not treated personally, or someone denies that person, how would you respond?

 

 

Even if you say, whatever you think is true is basically to describe the universe as being insane. If there is no personal God, what are you ultimately? If there is no personal God, there is nothing really supporting your personal existence, it turns out to be an illusion. That is what the impersonalists taught. So if someone teaches impersonalism, they are actually attacking my freedom, my individuality, my relationships. So it is not such a liberal position. They are calling everything I value an illusion.

 

 

We shouldn’t justify criticism which is unkind or arrogant. You can speak the Truth in an unkind way and people can be offended. My mother always used to tell me, its not what you say, its how you say it.

 

 

There is a tendency to confuse a certain concept of good manners with philosophy. In India, within indigenous Indian traditions like Hinduism and Buddhism they generally didn’t fight wars with each other. Therefore they could debate. I think a vigorous philosophical debate is a healthy thing and why do you want to stop it? In the West they had crusades and inquisitions and the Muslims invaded Europe. So because it is such a long history of religions killing each other in this part of the world, some people just say, “Don’t argue about it”, but if you are coming from a tradition where people have vigorous debates but not kill each other, then what is the harm?

 

 

If you look at Europe, there is a protestant reformation movement and then Europe was thrown into this extremely violent, horrific warfare for a century of more, war after war, battles, crusades and inquisition. They don’t have that in India. It is a question of degree. In India you get cases of people who did bad things but it is not the constant history. So the proportion is much different.

 

 

All the major world religions only come from two parts of the world – from India and the Middle East. The Middle East even today is extremely tribal in its culture in terms of us and them. Basically they imposed upon religion this extreme tribalism, and if you look at the religions indigenous to India, in general there was freedom of religion.

 

 

It is interesting that in the Roman Empire there was also freedom of religion. So if you study the history of the Roman Republic, the Roman Empire, at a certain point it declined and adopted Christianity and just became fanatical. Before the Roman Empire became Christian, there was this eclectic open thing, and wherever Middle Eastern religions got power, they attacked freedom of religion and there was fanaticism, violence and repression. The only reason we have freedom of religion in America is because they separated church and state. That was the whole point, that after the bloody, horrendous history in Europe, the people that set up America said, “enough”.

 

 

It you study the history of Islam in India, it is a very diverse history. There were some very good Muslim rulers like Akbar and some very bad Hindu rulers, but the general history is that in India, when they were ruled by their own culture, there was freedom of speech and freedom of religion at a time when it didn’t exist in other places. In the Mahabharata when people thought that Dhritarastra had murdered the Pandavas and their mother Kunti, people just openly went into the street and insulted the king. And there is not the slightest hint that this was illegal. They had freedom of religion and human rights. They had the understanding that there is one God who is being approached in different ways by different people. Its in the Åg Veda.

 

 

Q: What about religious freedom – where do we draw the line?

 

 

A: the line is ahiàsä, you cannot brutalize other sentient creatures. America is so contradictory about it. In the worst kind of government you have no intrinsic rights, but your rights come from the tyrant. If he puts his thumb up you live or die. You have no right yourself. So how can we say dogs have rights because we like them as pets, but in cities people don’t keep cows for pets – for obvious reasons – so therefore, because we don’t like them, they die. So the animals have no rights themselves, all their rights come from our whim. Does that sound like a rational system of law?

 

 

There are people blowing up other people every day in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world and they are doing it for God. That is their “religious right”. Go into a school and throw a bomb. So clearly, none of us really accepts that you can do anything if you claim it is your religious right. What if I claim it is my religious right to steal your house?

 

 

India is the only civilization that came up with this very powerful moral doctrine that all living beings have rights. The animal rights movement existed for thousands and thousands of years in India.

 

 

Question about a story from SB where people suffer Indra’s sinful reactions

 

 

-         If you have a story in the Bhägavatam it has to be understood within the context of general principles. You are taking a one-dimensional literalist approach when we know that in the Bhägavatam certain stories are meant allegorically, such as the Puraïjana story, or the story of Rähu swallowing the sun and the moon where all the äcäryas say in their commentaries that this is not real astronomy. There is a basic principle – which you find in the Bhagavad-gétä  - of justice. Krishna says very clearly, ye yathä mäà prapadyante, that people get what they deserve. No innocent person suffers because of some kooky thing that happened with Indra. Therefore, if you have a story, it has to be understood philosophically within the context of general principles.

 

 

-         A science requires you to have some intellectual agility. The notion that you have this complex, extremely sophisticated book, the Bhägavatam, and to say that every statement in the Bhägavatam is on the same level,  everything is meant to be taken exactly in the same way, I think would be silly. Even the Caitanya-caritämåta says there are illusory stories like Krishna’s queens being captured and so on. So the fact that there are different levels of text – some metaphorical, some literal, some historical, some symbolic – that is there in the text itself, in the commentaries of the äcäryas and in the Caitanya-caritämåta.

 

 

Q: The culture there is so patriarchical ….

 

 

A: Patriarchical? You have the top male figure in cosmic administration turning out to be the fool of the story.

 

 

I don’t know of any statement in the Bhägavatam that condemns women. Certain problems are pointed out which are typical for men or women but to say that the Bhägavatam in general puts down women is completely inaccurate. The essence of the Bhägavatam is the 10th Canto, Krishna-lélä.

 

Ultimately the most exalted people in the Bhägavatam are the gopis who are female. They are held up throughout the Bhägavatam as the highest perfection of what we are doing – Krishna conscious bhakti yoga. So the fact that some people are imperfect – welcome to the material world!

 

 

There has to be certain objectivity. People bring in all their emotional issues and irrational fears. There are problems in this world, but ultimately we have to look at the text not through the lens of our own psychological problems. We have to be able to look at a text and see what it is saying. If we look at the Bhägavatam not filtered through our own emotional issues it is in no way at all against women, it is the opposite. Again and again certain women are held up as the most important devotees of Krishna. You have the case of the wives of the brähmaëas where Krishna’s boyfriends came and wanted some prasädam and the brähmaëas wouldn’t give it.  The whole point of the story is that their wives were much more intelligent than they were. Also, every male authority figure tries to order the women not to go to Krishna, and they reject it all and do what is right because they are more intelligent. That story is there in the Bhägavatam.

 

 

When there was a solar eclipse ceremony in Kurukshetra you have all the greatest kings of the world bowing down to the gopis and acknowledging them as the most important people. So when you have stories where the greatest kings are glorifying these ladies and you have stories where the wives are more intelligent than their husbands – to say that this is a male chauvinist text is pretty absurd.

 

 

Basically what Prabhupada taught and what the Bhägavatam teaches is to respect every living being. Male chauvinism is definitely not Vedic. If you give everyone freedom – not to do harm of course - it will all work out. I don’t think we have to do ideological social engineering in ISKCON based on some ideology that women are this and men are that and crush everyone into a little mold. I think we just have to be nice, treat everyone well, and if we follow basic moral principle, and let everyone pursue the life they want, do the service they want, develop themselves, we will find out what people’s natures are.

 

 

Krishna in the Gétä prescribes a meritocracy, where everything is based on merit and what you are able to do. When Krishna tells Arjuna, cätur-varëyaà mayä såñöaà guëa-karma-vibhägaçaù, the system of varna is based on guna and karma. It is based on your qualities. Otherwise ideology doesn’t work. When you try to stop or push people forward ideologically it doesn’t work anyway because they end up doing what they are able to do and what they really want to do. It will all sort itself out.

 

 

We are talking about a priori ideologically ruling that people with certain kinds of bodies can never serve Krishna in certain ways.

 

 

Q: But are women not allowed to take sannyäs?

 

 

A: Sannyäs is historically a male institution. Women are certainly allowed to renounce and to travel and preach. In terms of the act of renouncing, giving up family life or becoming an austere traveling teacher, women can certainly do that.

 

 

Among reasonable decent people, if a man or woman displays real spiritual understanding and detachment, that person will be highly honored.

 

 

I consider myself fortunate that I grew up in a time when the relationship between men and women was not at all politicized. Men and women were just friends.

 

 

It’s not about ideology, it’s about nature. And that is what you really find in the Bhägavatam. If you give people opportunity, freedom, encouragement and moral boundaries, it all sorts itself out.

 

 

If you study the sociology about warrior societies, it tends to be very male dominated. Women are also important because warriors need maidens in distress to come and save and … return them back to their kitchens. So at a certain point ISKCON became sort of militant. This whole book distribution thing really changed the sociology. In a warrior society obviously certain qualities are valued, like courage and strength. When you have not only a spiritual warrior society, but even worse, being led by young still not out-of-the woods sannyäsis, guess what you get - the wild and wooly Hare-Krishna movement of the 70ties.

 

 

When I first joined I was lucky because I got the tail end of Eden: In 1969 men and women were all just friends, it really was like brothers and sisters. Even if you look at pictures, boys and girls were just sitting in the van; it was all one happy family. Then at a certain point it just went in a different direction.

 

 

Consider Lord Caitanya’s example that you have to tend to your devotional garden, you have to water the creeper and take out the weeds. My point is that there are not only individual weeds, there are collective weeds. This analogy of the garden functions also as a social metaphor, and power corrupts. If you take young men and give them all this power over women, it is very dangerous. It is actually degrading.

 

 



[1] O sinless one, the mode of goodness, being purer than the others, is illuminating, and it frees one from all sinful reactions. Those situated in that mode become conditioned by a sense of happiness and knowledge.

Bg 14.6