Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Art of Compassion

I have been surprised with the response to my last blog post (A Lila Without the Amrita). I received comments and emails from many godbrothers, friends, devotees and several persons who are unknown to me personally. The article somehow struck a chord.

Most of the comments i received from godbrothers who had similar experiences were not bitter but supportive and even nostalgic. While many are angry at the unjust treatment they witnessed and received, and suffering from lack of association due to the current situation, what most everyone remembers is the transcendental flavor that Iskcon once had. That mood is what attracted all of us in the first place. That oceanic compassion and crystal clear purity that Srila Prabhupada had somehow managed to transcend and find its way around layers of egos and the abusive behavior of leaders. This compassion is what everyone misses.

Today i was reading a letter Srila Prabhupada wrote to Govinda dasi on a website containing all of Prabhupada's correspondence. (See link, "Prabhupada Letters", on the left of this page). Prabhupada wrote this letter on January 26, 1969. Govinda dasi was with her husband, Gaurasundar, at the time, opening a temple in Honolulu. Prabhupada is responding to a point she had made in her letter, and he makes his own point in return, about compassion:

"So far as my taking botheration in coming to your country, I must take this so-called botheration for Krishna. But what botheration I have taken? You know that the Goswamis were ministers in the government's service and they left their posts for going to Vrindaban and living there just like paupers. They produced such great literature like Sandarbhas, by Jiva Goswami, and Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu, by Rupa Goswami. Apparently they took so much botheration but they preferred to accept it because they were compassionate for the suffering humanity.

Similarly, Lord Caitanya is Narayana Himself, and His wife, Visnupriya, is the Goddess of Fortune. Lord Caitanya was a very learned scholar, a very beautiful young brahmana, and He had a very affectionate mother, but Lord Caitanya Himself accepted the botheration voluntarily for the good of the human society and all living entities.

We should always follow these footprints--not try to imitate, but to follow the same spirit of compassion for the conditioned soul and try to help them advance to Krishna Consciousness. Actually in the service of Krishna there is no botheration. Rather we feel more transcendental pleasure."

If i there is one thing i could say to anyone who is in a position of authority in Iskcon or in any spiritual group, i would make this point. Learn compassion. It is the most essential of all qualities for a jiva who wishes to get the favor of Krishna. To be compassionate and respectful to other vaisnavas, and to all other living beings, is a prerequisite for any devotee who wants to make spiritual advancement. What to speak of for someone who accepts a position of responsibility.

The leaders of ISKCON should not fool themselves. They may fool others into believing that they are advanced, but they cannot fool Krishna. They should realize that to begin to rectify their foolishness and to minimize the reactions due them, they should publicly apologize to all their godbrothers and godsisters. Apologize for 30 years of lies, hypocrisy, misuse and abuse of the prestige and purity given by Prabhupada to ALL of his disciples. Every guru and GBC should personally apologize for their lack of compassion and inclusiveness towards their godbrothers and sisters. This would be a good way to start to heal the terrible divisiveness and faithlessness created by leaders who are supposed to represent Srila Prabhupada's desires, not their own self interest.

Lest they think this is just one estranged voice in wilderness, they should know that thousands of Prabhupada's disciples, the so-called "senior devotees," feel the same way i do. Not only that, this is the instruction of Prabhupada himself. In Sri Isopanisad, one of the first books he translated and commented on after arriving in America, Prabhupada writes:

"As advised in Chapter 13 of Bhagavad-gita (13.8-12), one should culture knowledge in the following way:
1) One should become a perfect gentleman and learn to give proper respect to others.
2) One should not pose himself as a religionist simply for name and fame.
3) One should not become a source of anxiety to others by the actions of his body, by the thoughts of his mind, or by his words.
4) One should learn forbearance even in the face of provocation from others.
5) One should learn to avoid duplicity in his dealings with others."

There are 13 further points Srila Prabhupada lists in his purport to Mantra Ten of Sri Isopanisad. If the leaders of Iskcon seriously wish to repair their credibility and restore faith in the transparency of the movement, they should immediately apologize and begin to practice the art of compassion with their godbrothers and godsisters. Better late than never.

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