Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Really Great Are Really Simple

There is much talk and argument these days about leadership. That talk goes on in the material world under the name of politics. In spiritual circles similar talk goes on in the name of community. But one thing is common to all: when love and affection are present, everyone feels satisfied. And when they are absent, no one is fulfilled.

The special quality of a pure devotee of God is his divine love. This love is not calculated on knowledge or position. It is broad, generous, deep, inclusive, graceful and not self conscious. Although the highest thing, it does not hesitate to mix with the lowest. Rather, it takes pleasure in sharing the highest with the lowest. True greatness and spiritual genius are not affected by self importance. Self forgetfulness is one of the qualities of love.

Although the pure devotee is really great, out of love he appears to be really simple. He is full of mystic power but dressed in plain humility. Feeling love for God and affection and compassion for the living beings, he may not even be aware of his own exalted position. He sees himself as an ordinary person, but his greatness can be observed by how much love he is ready to give. And his love is not mere sentiment. He is able to liberate anyone who approaches him.

On the other side are those who posture and pose as leaders or masters but who are conditioned by power and entitlement. They are motivated not by giving to others but by how much they are recognized as great by others. They see themselves as very important because they are not satisfied within themselves. Since they don't experience divine love, they demand compensation for the role they play. They can’t wait to fly off to the next event for the next reward.

So if you have a choice, who would you follow: someone who puts on a good show at being holy or special, but who wants your praise or your money or your vote, without anything substantial to offer you? Or one who is so heavy (the literal meaning of "guru") that he forgets his own weight and stays with you for as long as it takes to lift you up and free you from your suffering?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Sound of One Hand Clapping

Like some of you who read this blog, i usually read Rocana's Sampradaya Sun. I read it to find out the alternative news about Iskcon and the latest controversies. I also enjoy Rocana's opinion articles where he exposes the shallow thinking going on in the devotee world. And of course, the transcendental philosophy that is available on the site. I applaud Rocana's dedication-- both in publishing articles that are free from censorship and for his take on many contemporary issues related to Iskcon and its leaders. I am in agreement with him on most issues.

Where i take exception is when i read articles where an author seems to be writing just to hear the sound of his own voice. The writer may quote Srila Prabhupada or a particular scripture to death, but rather than feel a sense of clarity and freshness after reading the article, as i do when i read Prabhupada's classes or purports or conversations, i feel like i'm being pushed or pulled into a corner of the author's own narrow biases. The message is always exclusive, rather than inclusive. The author's got it and you don't, if you dare disagree.

Never mind that he or she is as conditioned as the next soul. Or that the finer aspects of spiritual subject matter are so profound that they are inconceivable until one becomes self realized. No, the author has a monopoly on understanding the mind and heart of the pure devotee. And they go on for what seems like endless paragraphs to cow us, the reader, into agreement. I find such articles boring, belittling and frankly, useless. Unless, of course, someone enjoys listening to the sound of one hand clapping. No matter how long it goes on, it don't make no sound.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Dog's Lesson for the GBC

From Rasananda prabhu, a godbrother from the West who has been living in India for the past 34 years, an instructive anecdote from Valmiki's Ramayana. The words of the anecdote are not his, but are from the Ramayan version at

"Every day, Lord Rama would sit in his council hall and ask Lakshman to go outside the gates and see if there was anyone with a grievance. If there was, the person would be brought inside and his wrongs redressed.

One day, a dog was waiting outside. Ramacandra called him in and asked him what he wanted. The dog replied that he had been hit on the head by a brahmin.

Rama asked the council to decide some punishment but the court said that a brahmin could never be punished. So Rama asked the dog to decide on some way to redress his wrongs. The dog insisted that the brahmin should be given an honorable position, appointed to be the spiritual head of a certain monastery.

When questioned about this strange punishment, the dog replied:
"Your majesty, in my previous birth, I held that particular position, and though I was honest and sincere, the post is so full of pitfalls that when I died, I was forced to take this birth, as a dog. Can you imagine the plight of that avaricious man, who has an uncontrollable temper as well?"

An important lesson from a dog for every member of the GBC, or anyone who assumes a position of leadership.