Does Devotional Leadership Depend On Previous Success In Material Life?




Here’s some dialogue about preaching to different types of people inspired by an article written by Sitapati Prabhu here. You’d need to read his article to put my reponses and ensuing dialogue into context.

Ekendra das:

its interesting to read anyone’s speculations on varnasrama. Naturally your’s took a bend toward application in the preaching sphere. I have my own speculations too so I like to hear how others assimilate these concepts to see if they correspond to my understanding.

I just read yesterday in Nectar of Devotion where Srila Prabhupada says that all four of the types of people who take shelter of Krishna mentioned in Chapter seven of Gita are neophytes. Surely they do correspond with the modes as you’ve mentioned but I found it striking that even the sattvik seeker of absolute truth is still considered neophyte according to our acaryas.

I often ponder similar points as are addressed in your article here but have delayed any precocious conclusion due what I’ve read from Srila Prabhupada and other acaryas on application of Daiva-Varnasrama within the society of devotees. I think its nice that manifestos such as yours are articulated and shared as you’ve done here, but I feel it prudent to deter any experimental or zealous enforcement of any one person’s ideas on varnasrama as even senior devotee’s ideas on application are variegated.

It is a delicate subject as devotees (who are not completely under the strenuous laws of material nature) are worshipable by all (even other Vaisnavas) regardless of designation. I know there are other statements where Srila Prabhupada gives the direction for varnasrama but here’s one I like from NOD ch. 2:

“Thus the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is so nice that there is no need of even designating oneself brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya, śūdra, brahmacārī, gṛhastha, vānaprastha or sannyāsī. Let everyone be engaged in whatever occupation he now has. Simply let him worship Lord Kṛṣṇa by the result of his activities in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. That will adjust the whole situation, and everyone will be happy and peaceful within this world.”

This makes sense to me. An experimental third-reich attempt to subjugate others according to our own still materially contaminated conception does not make sense to me. I’m not dissin’ your article – I have my own conceptions regarding social organization – its just that I’m very cautious to propagate them as anything more than my musings so as not to inadvertently create a disturbance.

while I’m on the soapbox i might as well throw my 2 cents out there regarding implementation of Varnasrama …

when we can grow our own food, make our own cloth and have a surplus of milk then Varnasrama will be clear not only to ourselves but to others.

there are various quotes to support my views but there are also quotes to support others and to a large degree we are all on track but just looking at the same thing from different angles.

Here’s some interesting reading if you haven’t read it already (one of my favorite stories):

Golden-stone Pot

A wealthy landlord called upon a goldsmith in his village and, handing him a lump of pure gold, said, “I want you to make a nice pot with this amount of gold. But don’t you dare corrupt this gold by mixing in another metal just to steal the excess!”

Bowing and srcaping, the goldsmith readily agreed and took the gold into his workshop. He was sorely tempted by the great wealth that would fall into his hands if he just found a way to cheat the landlord. Sitting at his workbench, he thought to himself, “That man will immediately recognize gold alloy. He’ll have me arrested, flogged and probably killed if I attempt to trick him in that way. But there must be another way to do it.” Suddenly a plan that he was sure was foolproof popped into his head. A few days later the goldsmith delivered a gold-plated stone pot to the landlord. The rich man’s eyebrows rose high in astonishment when he saw it. “Now what is that?” he demanded.

The goldsmith replied, “My lord, this is the golden pot you ordered.” The landlord stared at the goldsmith in amazement that was turning to anger. “Are you joking with me? Anyone can see that this is a stone-pot with a gold plating on it!” The goldsmith shook his head and grinned. “Oh no, my lord. I have made you a gold pot fashioned after a stone-pot. It is a golden stone-pot!”


The moral is that just as it is a mockery to claim that one has made a golden stone-pot, or a mango-cake of jackfruit, it is a mockery to speak of brahmana Vaisnava, sudra Vaisnava, candala Vaisnava, yavana Vaisnava or Hindu Vaisnava. Either one is a Vaisnava or he has some other designation according to Varnasrama considerations. But when one is accepted as a Vaisnava, then mundane classifications simply do not apply.


Sitapati Prabhu:

Ekendra, I think your comment (which is really worthy of being an article with a trackback), is a little tangential to this article, which doesn’t mention varnasrama-dharma anywhere. This is not an article of “speculations on varnasrama”, it’s about human psychological disposition, as described by Krishna in Bhagavad-gita, organizational management, leadership, and recruiting (aka preaching).

Perhaps you were confused by the mention of varnasrama in the post that refers to this article. There I am not making a point about varnasrama, I’m making a point about strategic development of an organization, and I draw a parallel with Srila Prabhupada’s strategic projection for how to start varnasrama, beginning with leadership. This is not an article about varnsarama or how to start it. It’s an article about leadership, organization, and people.

Having said that, your post does contain some valuable and interesting points on the subject of varnasrama. However, I think they belong to a different conversation centered on different issues to the ones I am discussing in this article. Perhaps a wider conversation that explains a lot of the background of the issues involved, treated in a series of articles designed to present the concept of varnasrama-dharma to a wider audience, would be of value.

For comments on this particular article, please read the article through and comment on the actual informational content, rather than an imagined subtext or context. Categorizing it according to our pre-existing boxes (I know what this is – it’s a “Varnasrama Manifesto”!) and then dragging in all the implicit baggage of previous conversations will cloud the issue and obscure the actual point here, which is:

Every organization needs leadership. There are four types of human psychological dispositions (natures) which have their particular leadership strengths. We need to recruit leaders, and each of the different groups responds to a different approach. Therefore we need to take this into consideration and design our preaching strategies accordingly.


Ekendra das:


i did read your article before posting (and some parts more than once) and although my comment may seem a little tangential I don’t think its too impertinent. And it wasn’t trying to pick an arguement or anything related to previous conversational baggage. even if I was then it would be in good spirits and respectful – we seem to enjoy this sort of comraderie, eh? 🙂 at least i do as you are way different from me and i appreciate dialogue with those who think differently as it can expand the purview.

of course what you are saying in your article has merit – being a redneck by birth, I think of the times that my dad tried to stabilize my teenage years by forcing me on one of his fishing trips. I learned a hell of a lot about fishing though I dreaded catching a fish and rarely put the line in the water. (was vegetarian then for mundane ethical reasons much to the chagrin of my entire carnivorous family)

Different types of bait attract different types of fish. Where you weight the line determines the depth at which the bait will sit which is another determinate of the type of fish you could catch.

Since we are ‘fishers of men’ so to speak its important to be conteientious of what we are throwing out there and who we are speaking to for sure. I like your article. I just see the need for a naysayer when anyone, including myself, offers any sort of conclusive categorization of the varnas in modern context as the tendency for most (me too) is to categorize ourselves at the top of the food chain and nearly everyone else as supporting actors in our personal dramatization. I’m not accusing you of doing that either.

naham vipro na ca nara-patir napi vaisyo na sudro
naham varni na ca grha-patir no vanastho yatir va
kintu prodyan-nikhila-paramananda-purnamrtabdher
gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah

“I am not a brahmana; I am not a ksatriya; I am not a vaisya or a sudra. Nor am I a brahmacari, a householder, a vanaprastha, or a sannyasi. I identify myself only as the servant of the servant of the servant of the lotus feet of Lord Sri Krsna, the maintainer of the gopis. He is like an ocean of nectar, and he is the cause of universal transcendental bliss. He is always existing with brilliance.” (Padyavali 74)

ok, it is accepted that this verse applies to devotees but it actually applies to all jivas. Your article refers to recruitment of those less influenced by ignorance and I am saying that often those who are effective in organizational ability in the relative sphere are not neccessarily qualified spiritual leaders despite that they can ‘get stuff happening’. Bhakti does not depend on any material qualification nor does having a superior karmic allotment of satvik or rajasic tendency disqualify.

Spiritual leadership operates in a completely different paradigm. Here you’ve described ‘Visionary leadership’ as a charactaristic of one in the highest varna. In my orignal response I challenged this point in a non-blatent way.

Here’s the blatent: perhaps ‘visionary leadership’ is a perticular quality of brahmanas such as Sanda and Amarka or Sukracarya but what does it have to do with ISKCON or Srila Prabhupada’s definition of a spiritual leader? Vaisnava leadership begins with following – not reckoning oneself to be an expert comprehender/manipulator of one’s environment despite the apparent results.

viddhi — try to understand;
paripraśnena – by submissive inquiries;
sevayā — by the rendering of service;
(Bhagavad-gītā As It Is 4.34 purport recommended)

and then we can understand the purpose of sacrifice and be qualified to coordinate other’s in sacrifice. Like Srila Gaura-kisor das Babaji – he was an exalted leader and preacher but not apparantly in his own time. He didn’t have a string of success stories to flaunt or an entourage of followers who claimed him as their saviour.

He simply went about his business and left the results up to Krishna. Srila Prabhupada, on the other hand, did have a throng of disciples and left a significant influence in the social fabric of the world. Still he claimed that his only success was obedience to his Guru Maharaja. He never took any credit for being a visionary leader. His background was pharmaceutical sales, hardly what would seem to ordinary vision as being a sign of a world acarya.

My point?

We my think we are preaching to future leaders because they have some karmic success at manipulating the material atmosphere. Krishna may have another plan for how to lead his society that has nothing to do with material considerations.

Just as astrology cannot determine the devotional history of the jiva, neither can a person with a particular nature in the tangle of Kali-yuga life with all of its mixes of varna (mostly passion and ignorance) be conveniently classified as a leader or non-leader. Furthermore, to rigidly hold to such a purview can lend itself to offense. (hence the anecdote by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura)


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