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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Accommodation, the Threat to Gurukula Development

A strong division has been emerging in ISKCON between liberals and traditionalists, otherwise known as two ancient oppositions- the working class and the noble class. Working class in varnasrama are the sudras and sudranis. Nobles are the brahmanas and kstriyas and their women. And vaisyas and their wives are somewhere in between. Perhaps it was Krishna's plan all along, since the brahmana class especially is what Prabhupada worked so hard to produce, from which naturally the other classes will follow.

For the sudra class, the liberal mentality is naturally present.  ISKCON historian E. Burke Rochford calls them "accomodationists" in the article "The Future of ISKCON" . Because of sentiments based upon the disposable human body rather than the more important soul, they are the most accommodating and flexible. In a sense, this must be because they are needed to work within all sections of society in the service of all other classes and able to adapt to almost any situation, which also makes their services no less important to keep things moving in all areas of a society.

"Traditional" devotees, on the other hand, match more of the description of what a ksatriya and brahmana should be- upholding the highest examples of religious principles and fighting for them.  Rochford calls them "purists", and they are just as important if not more so, as long as they can recognize that not everyone may be able to follow their same strict standards immediately nor even in this lifetime. Traditionalists or nobles are meant to set the best examples, to lead while protecting religious principles and to see that everyone is engaged properly to reach the ultimate perfection.

Since time immemorial, sudra and vaisyas have been the most numerous; in every society they do all the hard work and providing, but they have always needed ksatriyas and brahmanas to look up to. Purity then, and such things like vow keeping, including the marriage vow, is an important criteria for recognizing the nobler classes. Srila Prabhupada desired to reinstate the nobler classes to lead people, and Lord Krishna speaks Bhagavad gita especially to them.

Rochford continued: "You know, taken within the context of earlier Vedic tradition, this could all be seen as the unfolding of the varnashrama system. Initially, Prabhupada wanted to create brahmanas, an intellectual class, to guide society and, clearly, a lot of the early devotees did see themselves in this way, even if many of them lacked the necessary qualifications. Then, again, many were qualified, and have shown it over the years. The point I want to make, though, is that this was a natural place for Prabhupada to start: his first and foremost concern was to create a society that had God in the centre. This necessitated the making of brahmanas - people who see spirituality as the most prominent part of their lives. In Prabhupada's wisdom, he emphasised this as the paramount thing, knowing that once he had a class of brahmanas the movement would be established on a strong foundation, and the other classes would grow out of that....

Otherwise, Rochford continued, "if devotees assimilate too well they will, in a sense, minimize the urgency of establishing the varnashrama system. There will be virtually no need for it, at least as a formal institution. If devotees take advantage of the already existing infrastructure of the material world, in terms of work etc., they will not find the need to establish modes of employment within the confines of the movement, which will remain a small, economically inefficient society. So that's one potential problem. Related to this is the problem of gurukula. If devotees make use of outside schools, they will never feel the urgency to develop the gurukula system."

Now, in Kali yuga everything is topsy turvy because not much reformation of character is going on in the form of gurukula training. Instead, most people are trained to be sudras via non devotee schools. The problem is that sudras and women have much power in numbers, and  for positions of leadership in a democracy, the tendency is to appoint the same- leaders who appeal to their senses rather than doing what sastra says, to establish gurukula training. The solution? Let the "traditional devotees", who by nature not only value such training but also most easily can follow and be examples of, be recognized to take the seats of ministering and managing ISKCON.