Vidyapati Prabhu wrote a nice article here.
Followed by my comments below: (if you’d like to contribute to the discussion then please comment on his blog as i don’t think comments are working on this one.)
Nice reading here. While I was reading I kept asking the question whether or not your outlook was based on your local situation where the devotees are sheltered from a lot of the wild wild west things that still go on in parts of ISKCON. ?? Indeed, where guidance is strong and leaders are eager not to repeat the same mistakes, the standard of maturity is obviously higher than where less introspective influences preside.
I’m not sure if I’m in the ‘younger devotee’ crowd or the ‘older devotee’ crowd but from the ‘in between’ vantage point I have to say that there is potential for mutual symbiosis between both parties. That ‘Simple Steps To A Simple Temple’ booklet seems to point the way forward. Mind you, they are dealing with at least partially cultured and generally more pious individuals in that part of the world. Still doesn’t give us an excuse not to try to emulate their standard of maturity and try our level best for some social stability and interpersonal upliftment.
I was the only younger devotee for a good while where I joined up and had to live with lots and lots of stereotypes and assumtions about my intentions there. I probably exhibited enough offensive behaviour to earn some of that though. In any case, I think that it builds character to go through a bit of being looked down upon – especially in the beginning of taking up Krishna Consciousness.
The Eastern system of training a new devotee involves a lot of menial service and distinct labelling as a ‘new bhakta’. Even those from wealthy backgrounds (Indian wealthy means EXTREMELY WEALTHY) are scrubbing toilets and sweeping the pathways to develop a submissive mentality towards devotees. Very good. Much better for spiritual realization than in some parts of ISKCON in the west where when someone’s been around for like 2 years they have some position of influence over others. I consider this to be poison for spiritual life unless that individual is deeply convinced that they are a servant and have some fixed realization in that type of real ego.
Nevertheless, I’ve witnessed situations where new students of KC can’t just be asked to wash the pots – they have to be made ‘in charge of the kitchen’ in an attempt to get them to commit to some kind of service. I don’t like this stuff but ’tis preaching in the West. Or is it?
My two cents is that it is directly proportionate to the authenticity of our preaching. If we represent the parampara nicely in our actions and speech then the right kind of people will come with deep commitment to personal transformation. If we bandy about the philosophy and make the secondary considerations of time, place and circumstance our primary considerations over and above authentic repetition and demonstration of our siddhanta then we have to live with compromised association.
My association in ISKCON has almost exclusively been with devotees who are in a further station in life than my own. I’ve tried to stick at developing an attitude that is appreciated by them. I’m not sure how successful I’ve been but it sure seems that things are always looking better and the exchanges are getting sweeter. Despite that many of these devotees don’t seem to be doing much for the sankirtana movement except for chanting their rounds and looking after their family (if that), in ALL CASES I’ve found that they have a LOT to give in terms of wisdom born from experience. Fact is they are contributing in ways unknown to us or, often, to them. What to speak of how dear they are to Krishna.
I’ve also noticed that when my demonstration of respect towards older devotees matures from lip service to actually listening to what they have to say and engaging in other loving exchanges – all stereotypes, impersonalism and distance seems displaced by heartfelt comraderie and the mutual symbiosis generated inspires both of us. It is powerful preaching indeed. Almost something that resembles real human culture! That’s the glue that keeps guests wanting more, I think. At least it keeps me wanting more.
ys, ekendra das (gopala.org)