The Dilemma of Association
The principle of sadhu sanga, association with devotees, is central to the teachings of the acaryas. Srila Prabhupada also stressed this principle in his writings and classes.
“You must live with the devotees, even if you are not satisfied. Any condition, you should be satisfied. Because as soon as you leave the company, you become again rogues, again demons. At least you'll be saved if you keep with the company of the devotees. Satam prasangan mama virya-samvidah. If you give up the company, then you again become rogues and demons. Therefore you must be satisfied, in whatever condition. ‘Whatever Krsna has given, that's all right.’ Satisfied. Surrendered to Krsna. And that satisfaction can be achieved only when one is fully surrendered to Krsna. If I have surrendered to Krsna, Krsna has taken my charge, Krsna says, aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami, then why shall I bother myself? If I am thinking, ‘I am suffering,’ it is also Krsna's grace. We should take like that. Even in my consideration, I am in a position which is apparently suffering, we must accept as Krsna's grace: ‘All right, I have surrendered to Krsna. If Krsna is giving me suffering, that's all right.’ That is surrender. ‘Oh, I have surrendered to Krsna, and now Krsna is giving me suffering? Oh, leave Krsna consciousness.’ That is not surrender.” (Prabhupada lecture, 30/5/72)
But how to reconcile this clear instruction with the grave dilemma of our times? What is that dilemma? That the vehicle created by Srila Prabhupada to provide association has become so mixed with personal ambition, separate interest and institutional self indulgence that Srila Prabhupada himself would not recognize it as his own, despite the fact that he sits on his vyasasan and is “worshipped” daily in these temples.
I’m not saying that the devotees in these temples are not devotees. Even the leaders who are in most cases misguiding and misusing resources are devotees. But the mood in these temples has become so mixed with self promotion and institutional malaise that it is no longer a sanga for 99% of Srila Prabhupada’s direct disciples. There is no room for them to feel inspired. And Iskcon as an institution, still run by disciples of Srila Prabhupada, does not consider this a problem. The issue is never addressed except in the most superficial and condescending ways, such as providing 3 nights of free accommodation and prasadam to Prabhupada disciples at the annual Mayapur festival.
So this is not Iskcon’s problem. It is our problem, the disciples of Prabhupada and of any other vaisnava guru who feel that the institution of their guru has abandoned them. Whatever the reality is, the need for association remains. Individually we need to pray to the Lord to guide us and give us direction. Either we become friends with a godbrother who has started his own mission and join him, or cooperate with another godbrother to try to start our own mission, or if we think we have sufficient strength, to open our own ‘preaching center’ and invite people to join us. But somehow or other, we cannot abandon this central principle of sadhu sanga.