martes, 15 de diciembre de 2009

Bhaktin Lord Mayor is at it again!

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Bhaktin Lord Mayor is at it again!

Bhaktin Lord Mayor is at it again!

By Praghosa Dasa

Following on from her barnstorming contribution at September’s Ratha Yatra, Lord Mayor Emer Costello followed up on her love of prasadam by arranging for Govindas to cater for the monthly Dublin City Council Meeting at Dublin Castle on Monday the 7th of December.

I got a phone call from the Mayor’s office a couple of weeks ago expressing how eager she was to partake of some more prasadam and how even more eager she was to introduce her fellow 51 councillors to that prasadam experience! It was also mentioned that this would be an historic event, as never in the history of Dublin City Council has the cuisine been totally vegetarian, a Council that dates back to 1840, 80 odd years before independence from the UK.

It was interesting to see all the pictures of previous Lord Mayors on the grand walls of City Hall, particularly the very early ones, wondering how many of them were even aware of the concept of vegetarianism, what to speak of promoting it.

An argument could be made that in the current climate there is little risk for a Mayor to promote such an issue as vegetarianism, but in an agricultural country like Ireland, it is a very real political risk as evidenced by the reaction of Irish farmers to Paul McCartney’s recent presentation to the European Parliament. His presentation was pushing the European Union (27 countries), to adopt one meat free day a week (Monday), with the slogan ‘less meat less heat’. This was a reference to the charge that the meat industry contributes 18% to the global warming phenomena. Anyway the Irish farmers were leading the charge of European farmers in dismissing Paul McCartney’s proposal with various arguments, one of which was truly laughable - that you couldn’t have a meat free Monday as so much food would be wasted as a result of having to throw out the leftovers from Sunday’s dinner!

We decided to go the full hog and have a starter, main course and dessert as well as drinks as we were keen to give them all an experience they would remember. First up was dhokla with a tamarind sauce, for the main course we had rice with cashews and peas, paneer and pea samosas, gauranga potatoes, ‘meat eaters’ delight subji and a mixed leaf salad. For dessert we served carob cake with cream, all washed down with a mango lassi.

As the councillors sat down to eat they certainly weren’t concerned about the farmers, rather they tucked in heartily and so many of them commented how they have never tasted so much flavour and variety in a meal. The meat eaters delight subji really did the trick, as many found it hard to believe that all they were eating was 100% vegetarian.

Many of the councillors were eager to know more about our way of life and philosophy etc., a couple of them enquired as to whether we ran cooking courses as they were eager to learn how to cook what they had just eaten. It was also interesting that 3 or 4 of them are regulars in one or other of our Dublin Govindas, and one had also been to our temple in Fermanagh on Lough Erne, Govindadwipa, some 20 years ago, as he is related to one of our devotees who was being initiated and he came to the ceremony.

As the councillors gradually made their way into the meeting chamber, literally every one of them made a point to thank us and stress again how much they had enjoyed their meal. As the Mayor also made her way into the chamber I suggested that she include on the agenda a meat free term of office for the duration of her Mayoralty for the whole of Dublin – watch this space!

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Varnashrama as a means to freedom

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Varnashrama as a means to freedom

Varnashrama as a means to freedom

By Niscala Dasi

ISKCON’s four regulative principles (avoiding meat-eating, all sex except for procreation in marriage, gambling and intoxication) are sometimes referred to as “the four principles of freedom”. If they really are the principles of freedom, then they should foster honesty. One can only be free in honesty- for deception is entangling.

As the poem goes:
Oh! what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practice to deceive!

Maya is literally ‘illusion”, a synonym for “deception”. So, since honesty is essential, both to freedom, and to self-realization, it follows that to the extent that one can honestly follow the four regulative principles, to that extent they are beneficial and liberating. But what of the contingency plan?

Freedom through Honesty
If one cannot follow, then the prescription given by Srila Prabhupada is varnashrama. Not that one cannot be a devotee, as the only qualification for becoming a devotee is the desire to be one!

In Srila Prabhupada’s conversations about varnashrama (see below), he was stressing it as a means to discourage devotees from accepting principles that they could not follow, and as a means to make bhakti easy for everyone to follow. So why are we excluding people, or why are people going away, because they can no longer
follow the four regulative principles? Let them follow a less austere version that will keep the society in peace and prosperity…

Keeping in mind the goal of varnashrama, the spiritual and material well-being of the society, the regulative principles for the varnas may vary according to time, place and circumstance. For example, in Vedic times, when the safety of the society required a physically powerful leader, ksatriyas were even allowed to eat meat, to get the excess of protein required to become human juggernauts in battle. This is not necessary in these times, when it is not archery and the wielding of swords, but the plethora of advanced weaponry (and the winning of hearts and minds), that generally determines the outcome of a battle. Thus, it does not compromise our safety to have our ksatriyas be vegetarians, and giving up meat is not hard for devotees to follow, in our experience. Most stay vegetarians voluntarily, even after “blooping” or losing interest in Krishna consciousness, because it has immense benefits, for one’s health, the environment, and one’s friends, the animals. It is indeed a principle of elevation in these times– when there is so much advanced technology, that physical strength has become virtually redundant.

Similarly we find there to be no need to compromise the principles of “no intoxication” or “no gambling”, as these indulgences undermine the well-being of any society, including our own, and in a setting of varnashrama, which is rural, there is no facility of intoxication and gambling anyway. There is however, always the (glances of) the opposite sex! Herein lies the need for the contingency plan given by Srila Prabhupada, the need to adjust so as to make bhakti “easy” for everyone, to make it so that we can reach out and call everyone a member of our all-embracing society. Alternatively, we can continue to be as we are- a small sect of fanatical rule-followers…that will certainly ensure our stagnation…or decline…

Compassion and Empathy
The goals of varnashrama are the spiritual and material well-being of all. The spiritual well-being requires we develop honesty, taking care to avoid both deception of self and others. Specifically, it means not pretending to be more advanced than we are- for that is a common synthesis of two anarthas- duplicity- kutinati, and the desire for honor –pratistha. Our material, emotional well-being requires that we develop compassion and empathy. Combining these twin goals, if one cannot be celibate except for procreation- then at least one should be true to one’s spouse. So much unbearable pain and heartbreak is caused by having sexual affairs outside marriage. This is appropriately called “cheating” or deception, because rather than facing the problems in the marriage honestly and with integrity and respect for one’s partner, one looks for an escape.

And in marriage, one should strive against seeing the spouse as a sense object- to treat him/her neither for sexual, nor egotistic, domination. If one cannot see him/her as Krishna’s own beloved, at least make him/her one’s own beloved- let attachment not degrade into exploitation, but be a training ground for expressing loving feelings. One should try to see oneself as an instrument for Krishna’s love to flow through ,for such an attitude will keep one humble, and devotional, at the same time.

Additional Principles of Freedom
Varnashrama is about honesty. It is also about love- treating each other with the utmost respect that every servant of Krishna deserves. Also compassion- not being harsh or judgmental about other’s weaknesses- or even one’s own.
It is about being forgiving.
And patient.
That is what I saw in Prabhupada’s conversations about varnashrama, and so I have tried to stress it in my book (Varnashrama- the Eight-Petalled Lotus). Others have interpreted varnashrama to mean simply self-sufficiency or cow protection-(it has become synonymous with the same, in some circles)- but that is only a part of it. It is an important part, but not all…

Varnashrama, in essence, is about freedom- from exploitation, and from deception. Thus, it is the freedom to be oneself- not some ideal- and the freedom of being respected for that- that special freedom that is indistinguishable from love- the freedom that comes from being appreciated- regardless of one’s shortcomings. That is love that is unconditional, ahaituki, the kind of love we must eventually develop for the Lord, and that we must train ourselves in, beginning with those parts and parcels of the Lord whom we call our husbands, wives, children, friends and workers…

For more discussion, or more about the book, please write to me at: niscala_dasi
Prabhupada’s Instructions on Varnashrama
Prabhupada: Therefore varnashrama-dharma is required. Simply show-bottle will not do. So the varnashram-dharma should be introduced all over the world, and…

Satsvarupa: Introduced starting with ISKCON community??

Prabhupada: Yes. Yes. brahmana, kshatriyas. There must be regular education.
Hari-sauri: But in our community, if the…, being as we’re training up as Vaishnavas [devotees of the Supreme Lord Vishnu, or Krishna]…

Prabhupada: Yes.

Hari-sauri: …then how will we be able to make divisions in our society?

Prabhupada: Vaishnava is not so easy. The varnashram-dharma should be established to become a Vaishnava. It is not so easy to become Vaishnava.

Hari-sauri: No, it’s not a cheap thing.

Prabhupada: Yes. Therefore this should be made. Vaishnava, to become Vaishnava, is not so easy. If Vaishnava, to become Vaishnava is so easy, why so many fall down? It is not easy. The sannyasa is for the highest qualified brahmana. And simply by dressing like a Vaishnava, that is… fall down.

Hari-sauri: So the varnashram system is like for the kanishthas, kanishtha- adhikari [neophytes].
Prabhupada: Kanishtha?

Hari-sauri: When one is only on the platform of neophyte.

Prabhupada: Yes. Yes. Kanishtha-adhikari, yes.

Hari-sauri: Varnashram system is beneficial.
Prabhupada: At least ideal must be there. That we are doing.

Hari-sauri: This will more or less revolutionize the way we’re running our centers. If we introduce it, it will more or less revolutionize the way we’re running our centers.

Prabhupada: Why? Why revolution?

Hari-sauri: Because right now our only emphasis is just to simply produce brahmanas .

Prabhupada: So why you are taking “we”? Why not others? This is kanishtha-adhikari. You are thinking of “we.” That is kanishtha-adhikari. It is not that “we.” Na tad-bhakteshu chanyeshu. [SB 11.2.47] You have to think for others also.

Satsvarupa: In our ISKCON, one becomes a brahmana after a year. It’s not very hard. Everyone becomes a brahmana.

Prabhupada: That is due to chanting. That lifts very easily.

Hari-sauri: Where will we introduce the varnashram system, then?

Prabhupada: In our society, amongst our members.

Hari-sauri: But then if everybody’s being raised to the brahminical platform…
Prabhupada: Not everybody. Why you are misunderstanding? Varnashram, not everybody brahmana.

Hari-sauri: No, but in our society practically everyone is being raised to that platform. So then one might ask what is…

Prabhupada: That is… Everybody is being raised, but they’re falling down.

Hari-sauri: So then we should make it more difficult to get…

Prabhupada: Yes.

Hari-sauri: …brahminical initiation. After four or five years.

Prabhupada: Not necessary. You remain as a kshatriya. You’ll be …

Hari-sauri: No need for even any brahmana initiation, then…

Prabhupada: No, no.

Hari-sauri: …unless one is…

Prabhupada: No, brahmana must be there. Why do you, say, generalize?

Hari-sauri: Unless one is particularly…

Prabhupada: Yes.
Hari-sauri: …inclined.
Prabhupada: Not that a shudra man is by force become a brahmana. You cannot improve. That is not possible. But even if he remains a shudra and does accordingly, he will get the same position as devotee. Sva-karmana tam abhyarchya sam… [From Bg. 18.46: “{By worship of the Lord, who is the source of all beings and who is all-pervading} a man can attain perfection through performing his own work.”] He’ll get the perfection. At the present moment the idea is: if one remains a shudra, then he cannot get perfection. No. Even a shudra can get perfection provided he does the work of a shudra perfectly.

Hari-sauri: For Krishna.

Prabhupada: Therefore why a shudra artificially should be a brahmana? Let them, let him remain a shudra, and if he follows strictly the rules and regulation of shudra, he’ll also be as good as a brahmana. The same example: Just like head is as important as my leg. It is not that because it is leg, it is less important than my head. And if you ask the head, “Do the work of a leg,” it is impossible. And if you ask the leg to work as a brain, that is impossible. Let him remain brain, let him remain leg, and do your duty and you become perfect.

Satsvarupa: Today you’ve been saying that the Vaishnava is the highest, above the brahmana. But then we’ve also understood that everyone in ISKCON is a Vaishnava.

Prabhupada: Yes. Vaishnava everyone, even if he’s not brahmana: jivera ’svarupa’ haya-krishnera ‘nitya-dasa’ [Cc.Madhya 20.108]: “It is the living entity’s constitutional position to be an eternal servant of Krishna”] But you have to gradually bring him to that pure consciousness that “I am servant of Krishna.” Here the bodily conception is going on—”I am American,” “I am Indian,” “I am this,” “I am that.”

Satsvarupa: If in our society we say, “Srila Prabhupada wants some to be shudra…”

Prabhupada: No, no, no. I don’t want. I want everyone to become Vaishnava. But because he’s a shudra, it is not possible to bring him immediately to the platform of brahmana, or Vaishnava. Therefore falling down. Therefore system must be. But even if he remains a shudra, he’s a Vaishnava.

Hari-sauri: So we’d have to completely revise the whole system that we have now.

Prabhupada: No. Whatever we have, that is all right. But we see by experience that they’re falling down. There must be systematic. Why falling down? Because he was not fit for the position, therefore he has fallen. Better remain in his position and become perfect. Why artificially bring them? There is no need.”

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1 Akruranatha

Fascinating topic, Niscala Prabhvi! I will write you and I look forward to reading your book.

Of course, the one conversation you have quoted in this article is a very tiny fraction of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions regarding varnasrama.

It does appear that varnasrama dharma is a “contingency plan” or “safety net” for those who are not spontaneous, uttama bhaktas. Even practicing garbhadhan samskara perfectly to produce brahminical children (as one’s exclusive form of sexual behavior or thought) may be done with some motive other than pure love for Krishna. Pure love of Krishna is so high, we can barely conceive of it!

And yet, we are fascinated to learn that even in Dwaraka at the time of Lord Krishna there were hundreds of professional prostitutes (S.B. 1.11.19), and they were also pure devotees! [I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the question of who their clients could have been, since the citizens of Dwaraka were all liberated souls.]

I do believe there is some bad karmic reaction for the sin of “wasting seed”. I once asked Atma Tattva Prabhu, if each sperm cell has a soul, and there are many thousands of such cells in each male discharge, then even in a successful conception of a child aren’t many potential lives wasted? He responded to my satisfaction that I was thinking wrongly about it. In each discharge there may be only one soul destined to be born (or two in the case of twins), and *those* are the potential lives that should not be wasted.

So we do agree with the Catholics, Orthodox Jews and others who condemn contraception (we do not even make exception, as Catholics do, for “rhythm” or other so-called natural methods of avoiding pregnancy).

Nevertheless, although we cannot as a policy encourage anyone to do anything less than pure devotional service — let alone something which will actually drive one down toward tamo guna and away from sattva guna — we do have to find ways to make people satisfied and happy in their lives as devotees, taking into account the fact that very few highly praiseworthy devotees are really on the platform of spontaneous love or even on the platform of qualified brahminical self-control, purity, honesty, tolerance, etc.

If we cannot show that people who join Hare Krishna become happy and successful, why would anyone join?

I agree with Niscala that proper understanding of the science of varnasrama and its relation to pure bhakti may be the solution to this conundrum …

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 8th, 2009
2 Akruranatha

I tried a police brutality case early this year involving allegations of misuse of a police dog. My opponent (the County) put an expert witness on the stand to discuss the training and behavior of police dogs. Dogs are pack animals, and the packs are led by “alpha males” whom the other dogs look up to and try to please. Police canines are trained to see their human officer as the “alpha male” (one policeman is paired with the same dog throughout the dog’s career), and thus the dogs will risk their lives and do very heroic things in order to please their master.

Humans are also social creatures, motivated by a variety of psychological needs. Modern economic theory makes use of the assumption that, at least on average when dealing with large numbers of people, humans will seek to maximize economic gain. Other social scientists look for other motives (”sociobiologists” like the atheist Dawkins think clues can be found in a drive to maximize inclusive fitness of one’s genetic pool.)

We all know that people are motivated by praise and blame, by desire to be loved and respected, to be good at what they do, to be successful in attracting a mate (i.e., to attract the “favorable glances”, etc.), to be surrounded by good friends, to be recognized by their heroes, to “belong” and know one’s place within social groups like families, social classes, social or intellectual circles, etc.

The sages who have written about the system of varnas (which was created by Lord Krishna) seem to be very knowledgeable about such human motivations and about how they can be marshaled to produce a society that brings not only peace and prosperity but also elevation to higher modes of material nature for all citizens. Thus the fourfold human requirements of dharma, artha, kama and moksha can be met.

Even demons can be successful in this essentially material science of organizing society, and we know that Ravana was a brahmana, Sisupal and Jarasandha were ksatriyas, etc. But we are concerned with divine or godly varnasrama as opposed to atheistic varnasrama. The essential distinguishing feature of daivi varnasrama is that its central focus is the satisfaction of Sri Krishna. (Srila Prabhupada writes that consideration of varna based on birthright is demonic).

Maybe it is true, as Niscala seems to suggest, that for lower varnas (at least sudras), restriction of sex indulgence to the confines of lawful marriage is about the best we can expect, even in ISKCON.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 8th, 2009
3 Akruranatha

We sometimes find newlywed couples have a little difficulty keeping their paws off each other in private, but as the years go by and they become absorbed in raising the kids, struggling with bills, (or just because the novelty has worn off?) they are able to resume a life of better sense control.

I really appreciate Niscala’s comments about love within marriage. Of course we know that “real” love or Krishna Prema is something different from the bonds of affection we have with our own spouses, children, family and friends, but only those very advanced in Krishna Prema actually deserve to denigrate worldly affection, which has an important role in civilizing society.

The Bhagavatam teaches us about the competition between completely pure renunciate devotees (like Narada Muni) who encourage everyone to just go back to Godhead, and lesser devotees (like Prajapati Daksha) who want to perform their duty of making the world go on in a nice, pious way. In the story of Maharaja Priyavrata we see that even Narada Muni’s father and guru, Lord Brahma, performs his pure devotional service with a desire to regulate this universe under Krishna’s direction, and thus even Narada helped persuade Priyavrata to accept household life and worldly duties.

Even near the very end of Brahma-Samhita, Krishna instructs Lord Brahma about worshiping Him by means of one’s deeds. Similarly, in Bhagavad Gita’s 18th Chapter Krishna talks about worshiping Him through performance of one’s own work according to varna. (In both scriptures Krishna soon follows up by advising to abandon all other dharmas except His exclusive devotional service).

While the path of pure bhakti is actually one of nivrtti marg, which derides the four purusarthas including moksha (that is how high it really is!), it includes stages of bhakti mixed with fruitive activities (karma-misra bhakti) and bhakti mixed with speculative knowledge (jnana misra bhakti). We have to start somewhere and we have to be realistic about where we really are on the bhakti continuum.

It is positive and praiseworthy when someone adds bhakti to his or her karma and jnana, even if that is not the highest (jnana-karmady anavrtam) type of bhakti.

In civil society we have to draw thresholds of conduct beneath which one is censured and blamed. But shouldn’t there be some middle ground between the highest praiseworthy virtues and the criminal vices, where honest citizens can be accepted and respected, even if they aren’t heroes?

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 8th, 2009
4 Unregistered

Thank you so much, Akruranath, for your time and effort at making such an original and thoughtful reply, and from so many different angles!

“I do believe there is some bad karmic reaction for the sin of “wasting seed”. I once asked Atma Tattva Prabhu, if each sperm cell has a soul, and there are many thousands of such cells in each male discharge, then even in a successful conception of a child aren’t many potential lives wasted? He responded to my satisfaction that I was thinking wrongly about it. In each discharge there may be only one soul destined to be born (or two in the case of twins), and *those* are the potential lives that should not be wasted. ”

I agree, as otherwise even a nocturnal discharge would make us culpable for mass murder! At conception, the soul enters the fertilized egg- I have never heard or read anywhere that millions of souls enter the male body before that time- and die if they cannot successfully meet the ovum cell- which also happens if the mother is infertile!. Srila Prabhupada always attested that it is at conception that the soul enters. Contraception is thus different from abortion- yet that doesn’t mean that we encourage it. There is indication in Prabhupada’s books that even with contraception, a soul is inconvenienced at not having a womb to enter. It seems that the sexual act attracts a soul who is then pushed away- certainly not the same as killing! If it incurred heavy karma like abortion, then why is it often without our ability to control it, like in dreams? Karma always means that there is a choice. Abortion, on the other hand, is certainly a choice.

But even if there were no karma at all, contraception must never be used for sexual “liberation” which furthers our identity with our bodies. The best thing is to cultivate spiritual vision of the soul being our vital identity- our mode of expression of happiness, of connection, and of love. That’s our focus, but the reality is that we have PAST conditioning which clouds this vision at times…

Comment posted by niscala on December 10th, 2009
5 Unregistered

Individuals in varnashrama society recognize their past conditioning. They don’t pretend or hope to be more advanced than they actually are at controlling the senses. They don’t pretend at all, as there is no need to! One can become perfect in one’s position, by carrying out one’s duties in a mood of love and appreciation for the Lord’s devotees, and knowing that whatever ability one has- is the Lord Himself. So one cultivates spiritual vision and spiritual relationships. Because LOVE is cultivated in the marriage, one will stay faithful- one doesn’t want to hurt one’s spouse by having affairs outside the marriage! And as you rightly pointed out, sex life within the marriage naturally declines over time- this is a natural feature of any marriage. Sense gratifiers may panic and take viagra, or have illicit affairs to try to regain the excitement, but for devotees whose desirable source of happiness is the Lord’s service- it is a relief.

Thus, marriage is a protection from illicit sex,- because it is restricted, and by making concerned and loving feelings for one’s family the focus, the sexual urge is sublimated. In due course, the ability to follow the “difficult vow” is attained- honestly, without frustration, repression, the need to demonize or dominate the opposite sex, etc. Then gradually, as one ages, all sorts of sense gratification become more limited and troublesome for the body- naturally one will enter into the vanaprastha stage.

So its not that we are more exalted in any way than the “karmis” -many of us struggle with having sex only for children, as do the Catholics. But ours is a more complete set of ethics- not only the unborn child is protected, but also other vulnerable living forms- such as animals. I do think we stand a better chance at sense control than other religions, due to a philosophy which puts our identity as separate from the body, a regular means to enlightenment, and maybe one day, varnashrama villages where devotees can live in a sattvic environment.

For many reasons, varnashrama is the answer to the problem of sense control- because without honesty, one cannot make progress, because duplicity- and the desire to be seen as advanced- are both anarthas, because the desire for connection with others (libido) is sublimated into love, because everyone should be given all facility to be a devotee, because simple living and high thinking help elevate one to sattva guna. Combined with sadhana, it is a powerful pill…

Comment posted by niscala on December 10th, 2009

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