I have received numerous comments on my last post: Hinduization of ISKCON? What do you mean exactly?’ It seems to have prompted a discussion in which many wanted to explain exactly what they did mean when they used the word ‘Hinduization.’
I don’t normally publish every comment I receive but this time I thought I would, and I hope readers learned something from the discussion.
This particular discussion is vigorously ongoing within certain parts of our movement, and completely non-existent or irrelevant in many other parts. That’s what it means to be an international society I suppose: issues in one part of the world are not issues in another.
As I have mentioned before – at considerable length – our movement for Krishna consciousness has a wide variety of members from all different ages, nationalities, ethnic backgrounds and political persuasions. There are devotees of Krishna who are politically communist and who think that’s just a wonderful combination; there are others who consider capitalism the only way forward. We have left-wingers, ultra-conservatives, and all shades of political colour in between.
Our ISKCON members come in all shapes, sizes, and types of religious practice: from ‘ultra-liberal’ through to ‘ultra-orthodox’ and everything in between. There are those you might describe as contemplatives, the devotees who want to live a peaceful, quiet existence where they can chant and study free from any social responsibilities. Then we have our outgoing missionary-spirited devotees who are only happy in a bustling urban crowd. Then there’s our country community builders who see the importance of rural living and alternative economic sustainability.
Personally, I feel a movement such as ours requires all types of persons, and requires them to be all highly committed to their respective visions. Only that will produce the practical results we need for the next generation of devotees. Getting to the next generation is the challenge, of course. Other religious movements have been unable to handle the mix of such ideologically and politically diverse members. They split into various camps, unable to reconcile the differences between themselves.
Srila Prabhupada believed it was possible for all different types of people to live and work productively together if they had divine service to Krishna as their common purpose. No matter what their apparent differences might be, the common spirituality would bind them together.
But any type of society has to be organized in such a way as to harness the talents of the members, harmonize them into reaching agreed goals, and by doing so establish common good. We don’t do that by artificially homogenizing the diversity; we do that by preserving their individuality, then seeing how best to arrange that different types of people can contribute their skills and labor to each others lives.
Srila Prabhupada tells the story of two men who were walking along a road together. One man paused, bent down, and picked up a piece of string. They carried on walking for another half mile and again the man paused, bent down and picked up, this time, a stick. The other man was slightly puzzled by this behaviour but said nothing. A little further down the road, the man picked up a dried up old gourd to add to his collection. As the men walked, still talking, the man fastened the stick and the string to the gourd in such a way as to make an ektar, a little one-stringed musical instrument. This story was told to illustrate the principle that apparently unusable items can become much more valuable by their intelligent combination.
Similarly, diverse people can be intelligently joined together to create a vibrant society. Just as the string, gourd and stick remain individuals with their own nature, so different types of people – with different opinions – retain their natures but function well together in a particular combination.