Is it Better to Compromise or offend?

By Paramadayala Nityananda Das - 26.10 2017

The title is meant to call attention to the fact that this question assumes the either/or fallacy.

Pusta Krishna: He said that morning “What can we do, Prabhupada?” He said, “What can we do? If we do not compromise, we will make enemies.”

Prabhupada: No, you’ll not compromise; at the same time, you’ll not make enemies. That is tactics. If you make enemies, then what is your tactics? You must speak the truth; at the same time he’ll not be displeased (Morning walk, 6/11/1974).

We need to develop this tactic of neither compromising or offending. In the name of not compromising, we have offended the public; beyond that, leaders and parents within the movement have pushed devotees to assume artificial positions; now devotees are promoting compromise to remedy past problems.

Why is this happening? We know artificiality is produced by false ego; however, we see few discussions about the fact that compromise is also due to false ego. The false ego is offended by the truth (it is destroyed by it). If we identify too strongly with the false ego there are only two possibilities; be offended or compromise. We naturally feel others are like us, so we think we must compromise to avoid offensive preaching. But the real remedy is to fully embrace the philosophy.

It is easy to introduce people to the fact that we are not these bodies without offending them. Our philosophy has a rational basis so it does not seem dogmatic. It entails seeing all equally; this is attractive to the idealists. But the ramifications can be a bit hard to swallow. For example:

When one thinks that he is the best friend to his countrymen, to society or to humanity and he engages in various nationalistic, philanthropic and altruistic activities, all that is just so much concentration on sense gratification. The so-called national leader or humanist does not serve everyone; he serves his senses only. That is a fact (Srila Prabhupada’s purport SB 3.27.5).

Srila Prabhupada has explained numerous times that any activity other than service to Krishna is sense gratification on the level of dogs, hogs, etc. We become artificial because this is not palatable to the false ego so we try to immediately establish ourselves as free from sense gratification.

We eventually understand that we cannot immediately come to the pure spiritual platform; nor can we force others to. But the mind and false ego want to “save face”. One strategy is to compromise the philosophy and let ourselves believe we have good material qualities. To do this we need to ignore statements by Srila Prabhupada such as:

Without genuine devotional service, even opening hospitals and feeding the poor in the name of Lord Kåñëa is futile. Spiritual groups that do not strictly follow in Lord Caitanya’s line cannot comprehend this because they do not wish to abide by the instructions of the mahätmäs. They do not follow Lord Caitanya’s injunction to be “more humble than a blade of grass.” If they were that humble, they would give up their pride in being the doer of good deeds, the wisest person, the most devoted, and so on (Renunciation Through Wisdom 2.9.

Many members of ISKCON do not understand why Srila Prabhupada said that opening hospitals, feeding the poor, etc., are selfish sense gratification. They ask, “Aren’t devotees supposed to be compassionate and feel sorry for helpless people who are hungry and suffering from disease, etc.?”

The answer is, Krishna gives directions for a civilized society with occupational duties such that all the material needs of everyone are taken care of. The Acaryas are not against civilized society. They simply want to teach people that they should do their duties with the understanding that the results are up to Krishna. This is real welfare work because, as long as people identify with the false ego and think they can be independent benefactors of others, they will continue to suffer repeated birth and death.

Srila Prabhupada said:

Frankly speaking, we are not against opening hospitals or feeding the poor, or any other such humanitarian service. But what we have learned from our beloved spiritual master is that when devotional service to the Lord is neglected, every other activity is illusory and futile (Renunciation Through Wisdom 2.9).

Another crucial point is, while teaching the philosophy, Srila Prabhupada, anticipates an audience intelligent enough to understand that dogs and cats have no concern other than their personal sense gratification. I have heard a devotee attempt to repudiate this premise. He claims a female dog shows compassion because she will feed her puppies although she hasn’t sufficient food for herself. If a dog attending to its young shows a concern beyond sense gratification, then humans certainly do the same, through numerous types of altruistic activities; yet, Srila Prabhupada says these are all selfishly motivated. The fact is these activates are based on the conditioned soul’s illusion that it can act independently as the creator, maintainer, and protector of other beings. It is simply a manifestation of the fallen soul’s desire to take Krishna’s place. We must realize this.

We will give a few more citations elaborating on this point. Srila Prabhupada knew drilling for oil was harmful to the planet yet he said:

Just like there are big, big scientists. They are making research, “If petrol can be substituted?” So in the eyes of the common man he may become a very great scientist, but those who are advanced in spiritual consciousness, they will take him no better than cat and dog—because his subject matter is how to eat, sleep or mate or defend (Srila Prabhupada SB 1.3.15).

There is no need for me to attend a speech by the famous environmentalist, Al Gore, and then jump up and shout “You are no better than a dog”. On the other hand, denying this fact is a deviation from Krishna Consciousness philosophy. The proper mental adjustment is for me to see how much I am also engaged eating, sleeping, etc., more than required. As a conditioned soul, I and all those engaged in sense gratification, are in the same boat. In other words, my acknowledging that climate change activism is based on nothing but selfish sense gratification does not justify a holier than thou attitude. On the other hand, it doesn’t follow that I should be under the illusion that so called “selfless” global workers are praise worthy. Yet there are members of ISKCON who attempt to pressure devotees to praise such activities (in the name of good public relations).

Some will argue that Srila Prabhupada said so many things and we must preach according to time place and circumstances. We accept this. There is a time for priyam- flattery and a time for satyam- truth. The point is, we can see that Srila Prabhupada devoted most of his time to satyam. We need to bombard ourselves with the truth so we might absorb a micro-drop daily. Then we will know we must do our duty but Krishna is the only benefactor. If we can accept this, deep down in our hearts, we can be peaceful. This is essential because we must be satisfied, within, to preach with no personal motivation.

In contrast, our ulterior motives will be conspicuous to honest seekers if we preach with the motivation to please our illusory identity as the best doer of good deeds. But we will attract others. If those who are motivated to see themselves as saviors of the helpless, visit an ISKCON Temple they will be glad to engage in mutual flattery with devotees who have the same mentality. It is possible for ISKCON devotees to take this to an extreme and fall to the level of pseudo religious teachers who “want to live in the golden shackles of material bondage under the shadow of philanthropic activities disguised as religious principles” (Srila Prabhupada Purport ISO Mantra 12). We can avoid this by learning to speak the uncompromised truth without offending others. For this we must become humble enough to not be offended by the truth ourselves.