Who benefits from our service to ISKCON?
By Kesava Krsna Dasa - 10.4 2017
There are those who feel that all of their hard work, and endless hours spent in serving Iskcon, benefits either the immediate temple authorities, the temple presidents, the gurus or the GBC. Then with ordinary vision think, “why should I serve those who are prone to the four human defects?”
Some of us may have sustained a lasting injury or health problem, due to carrying heavy book bags for years, or pushing ourselves beyond what our bodies are normally capable of. Some devotees may have spent a horrid lonely time in hospital without other devotees bothering to visit them. We may have even offered our sincerest obeisances to someone, who simply walked past and ignored us.
All these different degrees of hurt would, if we were to compile a list of grievances, make a long list indeed. While wondering how all these ‘negative’ things could happen under Krishna’s shelter, a persistent question usually arises; “how can I make spiritual advancement while living with, and serving those who are plagued with the same four defects?”
In this way, a thousand and one excuses crop up as reasons to avoid performing pure devotional service. Many have yet to realise that taking to Krishna consciousness means Krishna really starts to give His mercy. Rather than give us delusions of heavenly sensual easiness, He puts us into trying and testing situations, as if to use our bad karma to a minimum, allowing our ‘suffering’ while thinking of Him. It is remarkable how the life of a devotee changes as dramatically as the dramatic history of Iskcon.
Yet there are those who choose not to see their karma being mercifully reduced this way, or how their lust is gradually being burnt up, and their existence being purified. Rather, they conclude that coming to Krishna consciousness means to suffer, and so they apportion blame for all their grievances onto other devotees. They feel they are the losers, whereas those who have attained a ‘high’ position within Iskcon are the winners.
WHO ARE THE LOSERS?
Strictly speaking, there are no losers in Krishna consciousness. Depending on our awareness of whether Krishna is being merciful to us or not, will determine how we react to different situations we place ourselves in. For instance, if someone has a hard time focusing the mind during japa, and fails to derive any tangible taste, this lack may translate into blaming others for whatever problem occurs. This is a losing mentality.
If a devotee has been a victim of improper vaisnava conduct, and chooses to leave Krishna consciousness because of it, is also on a losing streak. It is true that some encounters may be downright hurtful and humiliating, but to leave the shelter of Krishna’s lotus feet is not a show of strong faith. To see how all these setbacks happen for our purification requires faith.
We may not be victims of arson, or being served poisoned food, and other atrocities suffered by the Pandavas. We may not have been threatened with blackmail, via a prostitute, or been beaten in so many market places as Srila Haridasa Thakur was. Nor may we have been bundled like an animal in front of a bloodthirsty jury of a crowd who determined whether we should be crucified or not, as happened to Jesus Christ. But somehow or other, on this joyful path of devotion, our ‘suffering’ or rather, our purification, plays a role in our success. If we fail to see things this way, it is a defeatist mentality.
On the other hand, if a devotee in a ‘high’ position uses his or her privilege for things other than Krishna consciousness, this is certainly a losing splash back down to suffering. If a devotee behaves in a way to cause someone to leave, he or she will be the loser along with the person who leaves. As we can see, there are many ways to cut ourselves off from the mercy, which forever flows, in devotional service.
WHO ARE THE WINNERS?
If in the face of all the aforementioned causes of our ‘suffering’ we tolerate them, however painful and vindictive, and blame our own lack of resolve in Krishna consciousness, then we are on a winning streak, and those who causes the suffering are the losers. The required faith that helps us to endure and persevere is as simple as Krishna saying; “there is no loss or diminution on this path” (BG 2.40), to think otherwise is to undermine Krishna’s words.
So while we perform our services under the direction of certain authorities, with faith in Krishna’s words, we actually benefit from the service rendered, and not the authorities. We may think we know the basic sums of Krishna consciousness better than the authorities, who may fall short of our expectations, but we still benefit.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur writes; “Many of us maintain a similar concept that we renounce our family life, we sacrifice a lot in the service of our spiritual master, some of us collect donations and do a lot of multifarious direct and indirect service for the satisfaction of our spiritual master, but what do we gain?
Here we forget that we do such sums very well and it is only for our own well-being that he is getting the sums done by us. The spiritual master is engaging us in different services for our own satisfaction and welfare in the path of devotion. Those who are averse to their own benefit, only consider such services to be meant for the welfare of the spiritual master, for the temple complex, for the vaisnavas, for the Lord, and thus foolishly take little interest in them”.(Upakhyane Upadesa)
WHO IS TO BLAME?
Not everyone will blame themselves for their own problems, so there are of course recourse to mediation and so forth. But to play the blaming game is quite widespread, and can ruin an appetite for spiritual life. There are many examples of how vaisnavas still performed their service within situations where excuses could be forgiven.
The great soul Sri Akrura lived in Mathura under the reign of the wicked king Kamsa. Akrura was asked by Kamsa to be his messenger. Here we have a great vaisnava serving a great demon, by bringing Krishna and Balarama from Vrndavana to Mathura. Akrura could have invented many excuses not to serve this demon. But he saw this as an opportunity to have darshana of Krishna and Balarama.
Did Krishna think less of Akrura for doing Kamsa’s bidding? Did this involvement with Kamsa bring down Akrura’s consciousness? Did Akrura blame Kamsa and his association for not being able to perform any service to Krishna? No, he was such an exalted soul that his thoughts recorded in the Srimad Bhagavatam, are the required standard for all the devotees going to Vrndavana.
Even Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur worked for what Srila Prabhupada called the ‘Britishers’, who were intent on destroying the ‘native’ ‘primitive’ religion in favour of spreading Christianity. Did this involvement make him any less a vaisnava? It did not move him one iota from his services in Krishna consciousness. So our ‘suffering’ may seem trivial when compared to the circumstances faced by these great souls.
EVERYONE IS A WINNER.
Once we know what we really want in Krishna consciousness – Krishna Prema – we can focus on that, and not on our fear caused by a lack of faith, then we will associating with serious devotees who will help us develop such faith, but there is no harm in praying to Krishna to help reduce our ‘suffering’.
“O my Lord, as powerful as fire, O omnipotent one, now I offer you all obeisances, falling on the ground at Your feet. O my Lord, please lead me on the right path to reach You, and since You know all that I have done in the past, please free me from the reactions to my past sins so that there will be no hindrance to my progress”. (Sri Isopanisad 18)
Since our different abilities enable us to serve Krishna in ‘higher’ or ‘lower’ positions within Iskcon, should not make us distinguish so radically. By simply serving with a desire to please Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga, and deriving a taste for our service, will lessen our tendency to blame others for our problems, and thinking in terms of who is benefiting from our labour of love.
Srila Prabhupada states: “It is enjoined in authoritative sastras that devotional service must be ahaituka and apratihata. This means that devotional service to Krishna cannot be checked by political or religious convention. The stage of devotional service is always transcendental”. (Krishna Book Ch. 31)
In trying to cultivate this transcendental mood, we should prepare ourselves for whatever our past misdeeds may throw at us, and face them under the shelter of Krishna’s holy names. In order to advance, we have no choice but to tolerate, for running away and blaming, will delay what will come to us anyway.
Srila Prabhupada can best explain the winning formula in connection with Sudama Brahmana’s reward: “What the devotee actually offers the Lord is not needed by the Lord, for He is self-sufficient. If the devotee offers something to the Lord, it acts for his own interest because whatever a devotee offers the Lord comes in a quantity a million times greater than what was offered. One does not become a loser by giving to the Lord; he becomes a gainer by millions of times”. (Krishna Book ch.80)
Ys, Kesava Krsna dasa.