Personal difficulties with Krishna consciousness

9 02 2021

They’re not the common or the “sexy” ones. I’ve sort of resolved in my own mind Srila Prabhupada’s more “based” sayings about gender, class, and race, the Moon landings, etc. That stuff is just details in my opinion. If you want to get mad about them, others can feed you reasons to get upset. My issues are more foundational:

  1. Meat eating: I don’t personally have a problem no longer eating meat. I don’t “miss” it very much, to be honest. It’s more the idea that I have known people who have demonstrated pure love of God who ate meat and had no issues with it. I have learned from people who are far better than I am who eat meat. That’s not to say that I doubt the principle: I think there is enough evidence in many religious traditions that indicates that renouncing meat eating is a foundation of asceticism and getting closer to God. But I have a hard time thinking it’s a “deal breaker”.
  2. Irenicism: Related to this, I have found many passages from Srila Prabhupada’s books talking about how divisions between bonafide religious systems are a symptom of Kali Yuga, that the love of God is the only real religion, that people don’t need to convert to Krishna consciousness, that all you have to do is “add Krishna,” etc. That’s fine, but it seems that the other 90% of the time a lot of Srila Prabhupada’s writings and ISKCON rhetoric retreat into sectarianism in a sort of “bait and switch”: sell ecumenism to get in the door, then impose a maximalist program of bhakti as essential to returning “back to Godhead”. Again, which one is it? Is the supposed religious tolerance just to get people in the door, but then once they’re in, you basically have to become a spiritual c.16th century Bengali Vaishnava or else? Why not just lead with that if that’s the case?
  3. Nama-aparadha: This is sort of along the same vein, and that’s the issue of “chanting the Holy Name can do anything, but it can’t do that.” I am not against effort or against spiritual growth per se. Nor am I a sahajiya who just wants things easy. At the same time, the whole point of sankirtan or the public chanting of the Holy Name is to benefit all living entities, even if they have no idea what is being said. They all benefit just from hearing offenselessly. But if I am mostly distracted during two hours of japa, because, you know, I actually have a life and a lot of responsibilities, I am just committing offenses? There’s a sort of “ignorance is bliss” logic going on there. Pardon my French, but if I half-ass it, I might as well never had done it at all. I know it’s more complicated than all of the shastric injunctions of just chanting one name of Krishna wiping out mountains of sins, etc. It’s just a difficult concept to wrap my head around. It is similar to idea of “invincible ignorance” or “presumption” in Catholicism, so I am used to the idea of striving for spiritual perfection being a long slog. It just seems to be a confusing premise of the entire Hare Krishna movement.

I only bring all of this up because I have basically read most of Srila Prabhupada’s books at this point, so these are my lingering questions. I would be happy if anyone could help me clarify these issues.


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3 responses

10 02 2021
Giriraj Govinda dasa (Girish)

Dear Sir.

My comments on your concerns would be as follows. Hope they make sense.

1)Meat eating: I don’t think it’s a deal breaker. Yes many people who eat meat are better than ISKCON devotees in their character and maturity. We can appreciate and imbibe those qualities. Still the tremendous amount of torture that goes in slaughter house should make one wonder to adopt a less and less violent food choice. Given that nature has immobilised the plants as compared to animals in defense mechanism, it is suggestive that plant based food be preferred over meat.

2) Bait and switch is there in ISKCON. No doubt. But we are not obliged to be like medieval Bengali saints. I think love of God has no barriers of time. Modernity is there to stay and clever is how we refashion our spiritual lives in modern context. The essence of consciousness of bygone sages can still be imbibed in modern life.

3) Put your sincere efforts at chanting and go on about your life Sir. We need not bother about too much nama aparadha or other esoteric stuff. I sometimes feel many devotees make too much hullah-bullah about sentiments of chanting. God is an extremely broad minded person who doesn’t keep counting our offenses! Chant with some discipline and enjoy what you do.

I hope these answers bring some satisfaction. Focus on what’s useful for you and take it from Krsna consciousness and ISKCON.

9 02 2021
David Collins

Golly, I’m put off by the image of the “lustrous toenails of the Lord.” Yikes! I love the Lord and all and I’m even willing to say Jesus=Krishna somehow, but toenails?!

9 02 2021
Tom B.

Your second point brought to mind a criticism the Orthodox traddy priest Peter Heers leveled against contemporary Roman Catholicism in his book about Vatican II’s ecclesiology: that by its new ecumenical stance and a “baptismal ecclesiology” in which our common baptism already provides much more to unite us with non-Catholics than anything that might divide us, and we are already “journeying together,” there is a two-tiered system where non-Catholics seem to get off much easier, whereas those formally within the fold are still subject to a bunch of rules and regulations that seem rather arbitrary by contrast. Better for salvation, then, to be a blissfully ignorant Lutheran or Methodist or Orthodox, than a practicing, knowledgeable Catholic. It’s also borne out in Rome’s treatment of “traditionalists” as internal enemies, vs. Protestants and Orthodox who are more like “external friends.”

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