"The fight has begun,"
"SrilaPrabhupada, you were asking yesterday about the charges that the opposing party makes against us. One of their charges is what we were just discussing, that we follow absolute authority. The temple president and other leaders have too much authority over the ordinary devotees."
"Why you have come to pose your authority?" Prabhupada retorted.
This discussion took place at the time when the New York court case was going on with charges of criminal brainwashing against members of ISKCON. Prabhupada was getting information from the devotees in America about the anti-cult movement, and the talk around Prabhupada was surcharged with it. ISKCON was engaged in a serious struggle threatening the life of the Krishna consciousness movement. If the anti-cult movement could make their charges stick, then it would be almost criminal to practice full-time devotional service, to recruit devotees, to maintain an asrama, and so on. To the devotees, the charges seemed absurd, that the chanting of Hare Krishna mantra was comparable to the brainwashing torture perpetrated on prisoners of war by their captors during the Korean War. Who could believe such a thing? Yet certified psychologists with credits from big universities were prepared to testify that Krishna consciousness was brainwashing. Prabhupada wrote to one devotee, "The fight has begun," and told us we should be ready for it. These talks at Bhuvanesvara reflected some of that anxiety. Hearing Prabhupada's sober but confident replies was important not only to us on the walk, but to everyone who could hear it. There was no doubt that Prabhupada was sure of himself and sure of Krishna, regardless of what others had to say.
I said, "But I don't say that you have to accept me absolutely." I was speaking on "their" behalf, those who thought everything was relative. Prabhupada seemed to criticize the nondevotees just for putting forward their opinions. I tried to argue on their behalf that they were putting forward their opinions as one of many. They were not claiming any absolute position. Since they were just stating their opinion in a non-absolute way, why should they not be allowed to express it?
Prabhupada replied, "Then why do you speak nonsense? Somebody is sellingsomething, but if he says, ?Don't purchase it,' what is the use?"
Sometimes in the fire of these debates?as we compare Prabhupada's tactics with his opponents'?we may forget the underlying seriousness of the discussion. No matter what kind of tactic Prabhupada used?and his tactics were always solid ones?the real point was that he was arguing on behalf of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If one did not take to Krishna consciousness, if one remained in material consciousness, then he wasted the human form of life. Whoever taught, "Do not surrender to Krishna" was misleading others and causing their downfall. As soon as Prabhupada saw that Camus or anyone else was not teaching Krishna consciousness, he attempted to strongly and immediately defeat their logic.
"They think that surrendering to the spiritual master is not good," I said. "If many people do this, it will be very dangerous."
"But you ask others to surrender to you," said Prabhupada. "Why should I not surrender to my spiritual master? What is the use of changing?"
"Well, at least we do not claim absolute authority," I said. "I may tell you sometimes, and if it is not good, you do not have to follow me."
"Why do you speak nonsense," answered Prabhupada, "that we do not have to follow you? Why do you waste your time and waste my time?" Prabhupada was making the same point he had made about persons who teach that you do not need a guru. He saw hypocrisy in such statements. If one thinks that what he says is imperfect, then he should not advocate his point of view at all. If someone writes books and makes a learned or forceful presentation, then he does want to convince you. For such a teacher to argue against the principles of teaching and following is contradictory.
On one level, Prabhupada was speaking in favor of freedom of choice. Everyone should be allowed to make choices in a democratic or free society. The member of the Krishna consciousness movement had voluntarily joined Prabhupada and were peacefully practicing Krishna conscious life. Why should outsiders come in and demand that we stop? Their propaganda that we should not be allowed to guide others is a kind of violence. Prabhupada saw through this. Devotees should be allowed to make a free choice without oppressive restraints by the guardians of society who happen to be anti-cult devotees.
On this same walk, an Australian devotee spoke up, "They say that each person has his own life to live. He can take from different authorities as he likes."
Prabhupada replied, "And if I find in one place, why should I take so much trouble? Why do you induce me to go here and there if I can get everything in one place?""If I like everything you are saying," Hari-sauri agreed, "why should they object?"
"And why should they object," I said, "if we decided to follow one authority?"
With those words, Prabhupada had cracked the whole nut open on the argument against authority. Although we had been defending their viewpoint for the sake of argument, Prabhupada stopped us in our tracks. We all stopped talking and said things like "Hmmm," and "Yeah." Prabhupada had opened our eyes again. We could see the devious mentality both of those who were arguing against Krishna consciousness by claiming that it was too authoritarian, and also of the criticism by the "free thinkers," who say that relative opinions are best. What if a person really did like what one guru was saying? Why hinder him or criticize him? After all, it is possible that one person can have everything you want. How unfair it seemed that people wanted to stop us just because of our wholehearted surrender and love for Prabhupada and Krishna.
Prabhupada said, "Too much authority is bad if the authority is wrong. If the authority is right, however, then it is better, you submit in one place. Just like you go to some supermarket?you get everything there."
As we walked that morning, the big Indian crows caw-cawed loudly. So the anti-cultists continue to caw-caw. Now, though, we have the confidence that they are not speaking the truth. Krishna consciousness was not blind following. We had Prabhupada's books and his intelligent discussion, and we had our own hearts' conviction about why we joined and why we were making free choices.
I then related to Prabhupada an experience I had had in approaching professors. I had been trying to get signatures in support of Krishna consciousness for use in court against the brainwashing case. One professor told me that he would not sign. He understood that we were being persecuted because we were a small movement, but he said if we ever did get bigger, he thought we too would be intolerant of other religions.
Prabhupada walked quietly for awhile and then said, "That means he does not understand."
"In Vedic culture," I asked, "are people allowed to follow any other beliefs?" This was another pet concern of mine, a doubt beneath the surface of my official Krishna consciousness. Now was a rare opportunity to voice this in one piece to Prabhupada.
"In a society where there is a Krishna conscious king or government, what if someone doesn't want to be a devotee? What happens to him?" Prabhupada replied that the king has the power to chastise him. "If a child says I do not believe in education, so we have to accept? He must, he must be punishedbecause he is a child. He cannot say, ?Father, I do not believe in education. Let me play.' Will he be allowed? So it is the king's duty."
The Australian devotee asked, "If someone wanted to be a Christian in the Krishna conscious society, would he be chastised?"
Prabhupada replied that we would have to first see whether he actually followed the Christian religion. "The father does not chastise always," he said. "If the son does wrong, then he chastises. Otherwise, why should he chastise? One who believes in God, that is religion."
Prabhupada established in this talk that in a Krishna conscious state, one would get all protection as a practitioner of a bona fide religion. However, in the Christian teaching, for example, it says, "Thou shalt not kill." A king in a God conscious state would punish people who actually killed either humans or animals. "The king has no objection whether one follows the Christian method or the Hindu method. It does not matter."
Prabhupada then said that if one does not know what is God, he must learn. If one refuses to learn, then he would be punished.
Prabhupada said, "These are very intelligent questions." He liked the discussion. It did not end when we were in the car, but continued even when the car was parked and we were getting out at the Bhuvanesvara temple. Prabhupada had started talking about democracy (he called it "demon-crazy"), but we were also discussing some of the delicate matters of civil rights in a God conscious government. It was impossible to cover all the points completely and I still sometimes worry over the intricacies of how people would be allowed to live in a Krishna conscious state. Prabhupada, though, gave enough food for thought on that one walk to last for years.
Reference: Prabhupada Meditations Vol III
Author: Satsvarupa Das Goswami