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Pragmatic Idealism

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If the ideals of Krishna consciousness are to be successfully applied we have to keep the idealism and faith of a devotee, while being thoughtful enough to be adaptable in various situations, or types of mentalities. We have to understand the spirit of the teachings rather than just their external practices. All the rules of Krishna consciousness—Bhakti yoga or Krishna’s devotional service—are meant to serve 2 ideas: to always remember Krishna, and never forget him. In serving those ideals the first two principles of surrender (out of six) are our guiding ideas: 1)Accept what is favorable for Bhakti, and 2) Give up what is unfavorable for Bhakti.

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Our friend Mitrasena Prabhu, is very active in the area sharing the philosophy of Lord Chaitanya with those of East Indian descent. He has regular kirtanas and Bhagavad-gita talks at various functions in the surrounding towns. He also brings guests who visit the Temple to our home for “dashana” (sight or vision) of our home Deities, Radha Gopinatha, who were at one time considered the Temple Deities in waiting (for the proper standard of worship). So today after the feast at the Temple (about 2 miles from here) he brought a couple and their friend to our home who all hailed from Bengal.

After drinking in the nectar of our smiling Deity’s faces, we gave our guests water, and Maha-prasad (blessed food from the personal plates of our Deities). Then we sat down for some informal, though personal talks. The friend of the couple is like the wife’s brother and they are quite close, though they have some different perspectives. My wife and I seem to bring out personal growth discussions since that is one of our interests in addition to Krishna Bhakti. Much of counseling is just communicating a genuine interest in people and asking questions to allow their hearts to speak.

This single man is 34 and never married, much to the chagrin of his mother in Bengal. Apparently he has observed the often turbulent married lives of his friends in this country and abroad, which has given him pause for “tying the knot” himself. I told our guests that my wife is a professional counselor and that the two of us facilitate premarital and marital counseling. We then heard an interesting perspective of the pluses and minuses or traditional Indian marriages, which are sort of like being part a village, and how now in India, the Western influences have changed this old tradition, especially in cities, and that now there are many divorces.

I spoke about how every system has its’ good and bad points. My wife and I work with professional devotee therapists and marriage educators, and we are trying to create a support system for new and existing couples. We study the traditional model and believe in it in principle, yet we have to deal with the modern reality. The bottom line for us, is what works. I am less interested in what the model appears like, than that the couples can work together cooperatively for their material and spiritual welfare. I told them that my wife is a devotee or a Bhakta, which some may say is religious sentimentalism, yet she is also a pragmatist who deals in the modern world. Our goal is love of Krishna, and to act to foster that, yet we also have to evaluate people and situations that don’t fit into the traditional model.

Sometimes Krishna inspires us to speak a truth that we haven’t spoken or heard before. I often think of what my wife does (and to a lessor extent what I do) in a counseling situation. I said that we are pragmatic idealists. We live for the ideals of Bhakti and love for Krishna (Prema) yet have to advise in ways that take into consideration unique situations. I think that was what our spiritual master Prabhupada exemplified in his teachings and outreach.

If the ideals of Krishna consciousness are to be successfully applied we have to keep the idealism and faith of a devotee, while being thoughtful enough to be adaptable in various situations, or types of mentalities. We have to understand the spirit of the teachings rather than just their external practices. All the rules of Krishna consciousness—Bhakti yoga or Krishna’s devotional service—are meant to serve 2 ideas: to always remember Krishna, and never forget him. In serving those ideals the first two principles of surrender (out of six) are our guiding ideas: 1)Accept what is favorable for Bhakti, and 2) Give up what is unfavorable for Bhakti. If we know what Krishna conscious is and what the purposes of its’ practices are, then we can understand how to apply or adapt them accordingly. There are unchanging principles and the details of how to serve the principles.

I am not saying this is the job of those who are new to Krishna consciousness. Never the less, it is good for everyone to hear about the ideals. Then I think you will better understand what Prabhupada did in his successful preaching in the West and throughout the world. He made what on the surface is an esoteric religion into one that was grasped by those with no familiarity with it, or those who might have seen it from a very one-sided view. I have written about this in other blogs (Krishna consciousness is Multi-colored, Religious Form versus Substance, etc) regarding the relative and absolute nature of spiritual life. Spiritual life is dynamic not static.

While we don’t want to just change things for the sake of changing them or whimsically, we need to understand the principles and ideals of Krishna consciousness, so as to not be just passing on the form or externals to the next generations. Study the development of religions over the centuries, and you will see that in time the purposes of the religious and spiritual practices are forgotten or lost. The form became the religion. Then religious wars are fought over the details or externals.

Is the goal of religion to propagate a certain set of beliefs, details of prayer, or rituals, or is it to become a lover of God, and a better, kinder person? The test of any religion or belief is the effect it has those who are guided by it. Example is better then precept. Or as the Bible says, “By the fruits, you shall know them”.

Combined comments from old site

Sun, 08/31/2008 - 19:07 — abrennan
What a skill I wish we could bottle it

Lately have come across a couple of devotees who have such a rigid way of being.

It's is very hard to communicate with them and if you bring up the issue that they the all peices of information as something to dissemble and attack for its lack of measuring up to the mental concept that they have for things. That is how it seems to me anyway

I can hardly even say hello, saying hello is an invitation to dissect the way you say it or the tone you say it in.

They keep demanding I make changes that will make them happy.

It was interesting to read this as it mafe me think they only see the absolute and material reality seems to be full of the relative.

It alwys maked me think of person who finds a bigger hammer when the smaller hammer failed to remove the screw

You must have great patience Karnamrita I am jealous of that in the most sattvic way possible. Do you have any spare bottles?

Hare Krishna

antony : )


*Reply*

Mon, 09/01/2008 - 03:46 — Karnamrita.das
Experience

My wife and I know about the "rigid" mentality because we both grew up in KC with that perspective. We see it now as a stage of development where everything is simplified, seen as black and white. Great teachers like Prabhupada and the previous acharyas present things like that so more people can come to Krishna. Yet they also speak of higher perspectives, but not everyone can appreciate those. In fact, it is my opinion, that some people may live their whole life through with what is a beginning and narrow view---perhaps for some types of personalities it may not be possible to think otherwise---so we can offer them our respects from a distance, and try, if possible not to tread on their faith. I have spoken before that Shrila Bhaktivinode discusses that the view of the Madhyam or intermediate devotee, may unsettle the Kanistha, or beginner---and those stages are not linear, but circular (my term), so we may be at different stages in various parts of our lives.

See it has a type of faith, a perspective, and do your best to understand them---though you might disagree. They may be your senior and you can appreciate their years of service, but you don't have to agree with everything they say if you feel it is wrong. I hope you have someone to discuss certain conversations with, to gain confidence in your guidance. There is a time for not thinking, and a time to learn to think spiritually. We all have to put ourself under a superior Vaishnava.

Some people are more prone to fundamentalism, others more accommodating. (Either side can be misused without good guidance) Going beyond black and white thinking can shake up your whole life, yet at the other end one is a much deeper, thoughtful person because of it.

I have to keep mentioning that although I consider I have developed a more broad, accommodating outlook, I am really not all that advanced, or a wonderful thinker. I have had the blessings of hearing from advanced devotees this perspective, and it has changed my wife and my outlook dramatically. Once that door opens you can't go back to the old way of thinking.

A few ideas can have an amazing effect on one's perception. One idea I have found useful is in "harmonizing" different views rather than seeking a "right" or "wrong" conclusion. (a black and white thinker will not like this perspective, because to them there can only be one right answer!) In a disagreement seek to find how the other view might be true---at least in certain circumstances. Actually in the classic way of establishing siddhanta or the conclusions of the scripture one has to argue from the other person's perspective, before presenting ones views.

Even pure devotees disagree, and Prabhupada acknowledges that by saying in the Bhagavatam that, "doctors differ" in their perspective. Pure devotees see out of their 'bhava" or affection for Krishna, and thus see Krishna and his activities differently. I have read in back to back purports that Prabhupada differs from his own statements. So we have to look more deeply to harmonize the views. We aren't pure devotees, yet we can still hear others with sympathy and try to understand their perspective, and why they may have it etc. In the spiritual world differences are ornaments, and they give variety and drama to Krishna's pastimes. Krishna's parents want him in at night, while the gopis don't---they hate the appearance of the morning because it means separation from him!

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita