Liberating Krishna Consciousness

We often like to say that Krishna Consciousness is an eternal spiritual science. And it is. But we commonly fail to extract the science part from the cultural vehicle in which it was brought to us. ISKCON today is not teaching the pure spiritual science of KC only. It has mixed that message with cultural details that are not only superfluous, but also counterproductive to our mission.

I use the term “cultural vehicle” here for that set of behaviors (including clothing and hair styles), tastes (decorative and culinary), rituals, etc. that carry a message.

It’s common for a person to not see the cultural vehicle and the message it carries as being separable. But they are.

A careful study of our core scriptures (Bhagavad-gita, Srimad Bhagavatam and Caitanya Caritamrta, and Srila Prabhupada’s purports to them) reveals that the spiritual science aspect is taught carefully avoiding cultural details, in the commonly used sense of the word culture, i.e. descriptions of clothing, decoration, architecture, art, cooking and music styles, etc. Also absent from the Gita and Bhagavatam is any great emphasis on public Deity worship or monastic life, both very much a central part of ISKCON culture (but more about that in a later post).

The basic message we get then, is that Krishna consciousness can and should be practiced by people independent of their culture, and there is no reason for it to be imprisoned in a foreign or outdated culture. Precisely because KC is a science and not a set of ethnic behaviors, it can exist in harmony with whatever the reigning culture is. The more we can practice KC without shocking with our native culture, the more likely we are to be really practicing the eternal spiritual science and not uselessly importing cultural behavior from another ethnic group or past period in time. The less time we spend trying to adjust ethnic details in our life, such as clothing and food, the more we can concentrate on actually becoming perfect servants of Krishna, in terms of our moral behavior (mode of goodness lifestyle) and devotion.

People strongly resist changing their ways. It’s just the way we are wired. It’s one thing to adjust within one’s culture (from a non-vegetarian diet to a vegetarian diet, from immoral to moral behavior, from taking drugs and drinking to remaining sober), but it’s quite another to adopt a new ethnicity or to accept social interactions that are foreign to us.

When we mix spiritual science with non-native cultural details, or what is otherwise seen as strange behavior to that native culture, we also diminish our capacity to spread Krishna Consciousness. In fact, an anachronistic or ethnically dissonant cultural vehicle, affects our Movement by: 1) giving it a cultish and unappealing image to the general public, 2) making it more difficult for people to want to get to know about it, 3) once people do get to know about, it makes it more difficult for them to commit to it, and 4) once they do commit to it, it makes it more difficult to stick to it year after year.

It is the duty of each and every one of us who are part of ISKCON to analyze our way of doing things and acting, to become aware of what bhakti-yoga really is, what is really essential to KC, and what is not.

5 Comments

Filed under Realizations on Krishna Consciousness

5 responses to “Liberating Krishna Consciousness

  1. Dear Prabhu,

    If Vedic culture doesn’t matter, then how do you deal with the following quotes from Srila Prabhupada?

    So it is a culture, Vedic culture, which, if it is spread all over the world, people will be benefited because at the present moment people do not know what is the treasure house of spiritual culture.
    -Lecture January 15, 1974

    So this Krsna consciousness movement is being spread all over the world on the scientific basis of Vedic culture.
    -Lecture, February 23, 1971

    Srila Prabhupada here says that Vedic culture IS the scientific basis of Krishna consciousness.

    They are accepting that this is the first time that India’s traditional spiritual culture is being spread. One professor in France, he has plainly said that even Aurobindo or Dr. Radhakrishnan, they presented this Vedic culture in a modernized way, not in its original traditional form.
    -Speech, April 7, 1976

    Here Srila Prabhupada says that our success is spreading it in its TRADITIONAL form, not in some watered down modern nonsense way.

    The Vedic culture is India’s real heritage and we want to popularize it in every corner of the world.
    -Conversation, September 7, 1976

    Your servant,
    Caitanya dasa

  2. Giridhari Das

    I loved your quotes, thank you very much. They precisely prove my point.

    So it is a culture, Vedic culture, which, if it is spread all over the world, people will be benefited because at the present moment people do not know what is the treasure house of spiritual culture.
    -Lecture January 15, 1974

    Yes, exactly. What makes it Vedic is by adding Krishna. “By all the Vedas I am to be known” (BG15.15). Not by adding Indian ethnicity.

    So this Krsna consciousness movement is being spread all over the world on the scientific basis of Vedic culture.
    -Lecture, February 23, 1971

    Notice the key-word here: “scientific”. Not that we blindly add non-scientific aspects to Krishna Consciousness, such as a particular way of dressing, eating, decorating, sitting down, etc.

    They are accepting that this is the first time that India’s traditional spiritual culture is being spread. One professor in France, he has plainly said that even Aurobindo or Dr. Radhakrishnan, they presented this Vedic culture in a modernized way, not in its original traditional form.
    -Speech, April 7, 1976

    “Original traditional form” is what Krishna explains in the Gita and what we find in the Srimad Bhagavatam AND in Prabhupada’s purport to them. What could be more traditional than that? You certainly won’t find that in Aurobindo’s or Dr. Radhakrishna’s work.

    The Vedic culture is India’s real heritage and we want to popularize it in every corner of the world.
    -Conversation, September 7, 1976

    Yes. Krishna Consciousness is the REAL culture. Not the Indian ethnicity. Prabhupada didn’t travel the ocean in the Jaladuta to see that Americans and Europeans would become Hindus, sit on the floor, wear dhotis, etc. He wanted to bring us Krishna and the science of loving him. That’s all. That’s what you’ll find in his books and teachings.

    Your servant,
    Giridhari Das

  3. K.C Sena

    still would it not be the point that Sri Krsna manifesting himself (by a devotee, ect) is enough?
    It is what Srila Prubhupada did with out the seeming ceremony or pompt of any Vedic bulwark*. + to enough effect? The Vedic system may magnify anyone/anything from enough of a situation still we need this.
    however why is it that enough of the devotees still think it Vedic to teach others to give up toilet paper?????😦
    I mean to ask how is THAT Vedic re: “risk free” as Swami says?
    its only a tangent however it happens enough to give a mention.
    HKHKKKHHHRHRRRHH
    * the simple life of a Goswami would qualify itself as to disprove some of this point.

  4. Caitanya dasa

    Quote
    “He wanted to bring us Krishna and the science of loving him. That’s all. That’s what you’ll find in his books and teachings.”

    Yes, and Srila Prabhupada also brought to us the culture that is coming from Krishna Himself in the spiritual world. And, you will also find in “his books and teachings” very heavy criticism against the modern demoniac culture, and very strong praise for the traditional Vedic culture.

    If SP only wanted to give us “Krishna and the science of loving him”, then why did He teach us all of these “extra things”? Before we met Srila Prabhupada’s teachings, we didn’t even know how to pass stool properly. We westerners are such barbarians that without Srila Prabhupada having come and saved us from our barbaric mleccha culture, who knows where we would be right now? Gratitude means accepting the full package, as it is, not just bits and pieces that we happen to like, and rejecting the parts that we don’t like. If we are actually thankful to Srila Prabhupada, we won’t reject parts of his teachings that goes against our modern western social conditioning.

  5. Giridhari Das

    You wrote: “Yes, and Srila Prabhupada also brought to us the culture that is coming from Krishna Himself in the spiritual world.”

    Krishna did not bring a culture of external elements but of existence: values, devotion, morality and pure love. Krishna does not bring recipes, clothing tips, decorative styles, etc.

    You wrote: “And, you will also find in “his books and teachings” very heavy criticism against the modern demoniac culture, and very strong praise for the traditional Vedic culture.”

    The entire 16th chapter of the Gita is dedicated to teaching us what “demoniac culture” is. You’re missing the point, if you think this has anything to do with how one dresses, eats, decorates his house, etc.

    You wrote: “If SP only wanted to give us “Krishna and the science of loving him”, then why did He teach us all of these “extra things”?”

    He didn’t! That’s the point! Show me in his books where he teaches anything like external details! For example, read this quote:

    “Prabhupada: No, dhoti, I don’t say. You have nice coat-pant. I don’t say that you have to… I never said that. You have adopted it. (laughs) I never said that “You put on dhoti.” But those who are sannyasis, brahmacaris, their dress is different. But it doesn’t require that one has to become a sannyasi.”

    >>> Ref. VedaBase => Conversation on Train to Allahabad — January 11, 1977, India

    You wrote: “Gratitude means accepting the full package, as it is, not just bits and pieces that we happen to like, and rejecting the parts that we don’t like.”

    I agree. What we are discussing here is what the “full package” is. I’m pointing out that the full package has no mention of external cultural details.

    “If we are actually thankful to Srila Prabhupada, we won’t reject parts of his teachings that goes against our modern western social conditioning.”

    Well, the good news is no part of Prabhupada’s teachings can’t be perfectly applied to modern culture. And when we consistently present KC like that, we will truly be showing our gratitude to Prabhupada by making KC attractive to the world at large.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s