Simple, It's Not
BY: ROCANA DASA
Nov 7, CANADA (SUN) Just as I have maintained a theme throughout my writings based on the principle of Srila Prabhupada being the Sampradaya Acarya, my Godbrother Praghosa das (ACBSP-NYC), since the time he's been submitting articles and Blog replies to the Sun, has been maintaining his own theme. He has articulated this theme several times in his recent articles and, as he says at the end of one article, he has repeated it "to the point of monotony". Praghosa das has been promoting the principle that everything is so darned simple in Krsna Consciousness, and unless you see it that way you're in some kind of maya. Although he doesn't have a theme paper on this principle, he weaves it into everything he writes.
Initially I tried to approach him on this position, which I consider to be a simplistic formula, by taking a tact that didn't register with him at all. That approach was based on the principle that his rhetoric and mood are so reminiscent of the early days, when the elite big book distributors had a huge attitude on towards anyone doing any other kinds of service. They were like the Green Berets of ISKCON, the warriors in the street. I find that Praghosa's writings are permeated with that mood to this day, perhaps because he's still so active in book distribution.
The quotes that Praghosa das chose to include in his recent articles to make his position 'authorized' are primarily quotes wherein Srila Prabhupada is brilliantly condensing our philosophy down in such a way that very simple people can grasp it. These people included the reporters from magazines who were angling to make us look negative. Srila Prabhupada dealt with them in such an expert way, putting our philosophy into a nutshell. His introductory presentation allowed the completely uninformed to get a simple picture of what Krsna Consciousness is.
Those who understand our philosophy and our process actually consider the process of being Krsna conscious to be extremely sophisticated and complicated. To take someone from the position of total ignorance to the position where they're qualified to become an eternal associate of the Lord in the highest rasas, that's a huge leap. In fact, our philosophy is such that we can progress from a position of being totally entangled, which means we're in a very complicated situation being embodied in this material world, covered over by the modes of nature, birth, death, old age and disease, the influences of Kali Yuga and so on. From that entangled position, we try to free ourselves from our material circumstance to the point of attaining complete, absolute simplicity, which is personified by the gopis of Vrindavan.
The complex philosophy that is presented to us by the great Sampradaya Acaryas in our disciplic succession, the Six Goswamis of Vrindavan, and Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu cannot be easily understood by one who has no attraction, like a reporter from a New York paper, for example. In reality, if someone is saying that everything in our Krsna consciousness movement is dead simple, then he's either extremely advanced or he himself is a simpleton. In his mind, Praghosa wants to cling to this simple idea, pretending that Krsna consciousness is extremely simple, and he wants to convince all of us that this is true.
Besides Praghosa, I've met many devotees who, for whatever reasons, cling to this same misconception. They love to believe that 'we just have to eat prasadam and we'll go back to Godhead', even though that's really not what Srila Prabhupada is saying. If you eat too much prasadam you'll get fat and lazy, and be condemned to that outcome. Yet many think they just have to cursorily offer whatever they want to eat, call it prasadam, and they're guaranteed a one-way ticket to Vaikuntha. Others think that they're just going to follow the four regs and chant 16 rounds, and that's it. There's nothing beyond it. It's very simple. Unfortunately, these devotees are cheating themselves and are eventually likely to become disillusioned. And if they preach that this is our simple philosophy and you don't have to think about anything else or read anything else or figure anything out, then they're essentially cheating others.
A friend was recently telling us a story about Srila Prabhupada, talking with the devotees and telling them that he had cheated them. The devotees refused to hear this, saying 'Oh no, Prabhupada, you would never cheat us!' Srila Prabhupada said 'yes, even I will cheat you.' The devotees said 'No, no! You would never cheat us!' But Srila Prabhupada insisted, so the devotees asked, 'OK Srila Prabhupada, how would cheat us?' He said, 'I have already cheated you. I told you Krsna consciousness is easy, and it's not."
Granted, we may find within sastra and in the teachings of the Sampradaya Acaryas many suggestions on how to make this material world as simple as possible, such as not getting married, remaining a strict sannyasis or brahmacari, etc. This solves a huge problem and makes our life simpler. In Praghosa prabhu's case, he had six children, which doesn't seem like the simple way. Of course, throughout all his arguments, Praghosa is subtly and sometimes directly reminding us of the fact that he's a good book distributor, and has been for over 30 years. In the early days he was quite well known, just a few notches below Tripurari, in the elite group. Consequently in his early impressionable youth, he developed this perception of what Krsna consciousness is. His group was renowned for preaching that everyone should be out distributing books, and it was so simple to go out there and sell dozens of books a day and come back with a load of lakxmi. But for many who honestly tried to do this service, it was actually very difficult. HH Niranjana Swami was one of these devotees, and he recently explained in his article how difficult it was for him.
Unless you're a natural, which means you have the right karma and personality traits for it, book distribution can be far more difficult for some than it is for devotees like Praghosa das. As any business owner will tell you, it's hard to find good salesmen. Those with a strong propensity for selling get paid very well for what they do. To suggest that book distribution is higher than other forms of service, and the devotee's life will be 'simple' if he just surrenders and distributes Srila Prabhupada's books, is not a position supported by sastra.
From a Krsna conscious point of view the more advanced you are, the more elevated your service is, such as the example given earlier about the gopis. Yet the gopis never put down or minimized the service of any other members of Krsna's entourage in Vrindavan. The gopis never thought themselves above even the cows, the plants or the trees, what to speak of the cowherd boys. We never hear the gopis criticizing Mother Yasoda or Nanda Maharaja because their service is not as sublimely simple as their own. The biggest indication of how un-advanced you are is to think that you have the greatest service, and you have the answers to everyone's problems, if only they'd be just like you.
Every type of service becomes more simple the more you do it. Just as every profession becomes simpler as you execute your duties, you learn how to do your part, and it becomes easier. So in terms of book distribution, no one can disagree that Srila Prabhupada put it on the highest platform in terms of necessity, but the fact is that even in the heyday of big book distribution, only a very small percentage of the devotees were actually out there distributing books. One of the most motivating factors of distributing books back in those days was that you knew that if the odd, sincere book purchaser followed up on your invitation to join us for the Sunday feast, or visited the local temple, that they would find a veritable beehive of bright-faced, enthusiastic people dancing and chanting and exhibiting first-hand what is stated in the books. The devotees were proof positive that the philosophy worked. The simple reality now is that if people go to the local temples, especially in North America, they won't often find that kind of atmosphere. So distributing books now presents a profoundly different set of circumstances then distributing books back then.
If everyone was a very advanced devotee, then of course, Srila Prabhupada's simple plan would simply work. But the reality is that due to a lack of Krsna consciousness, the plan is not working, and to deny that is foolish and simply untrue.
Another aspect of simplicity that Praghosa das fails to apply his intelligence to is that when a pure devotee, Sampradaya Acarya is present on the planet, in direct charge of his movement, then life becomes infinitely more simplified for the followers. Praghosa himself gives the example of how Srila Prabhupada simply dealt with Tamal Krishna Goswami by dismantling the Radha Damodar Party and sending him to China. The fact is that no one else could have done that, and if Srila Prabhupada hadn't been present, what kind of results would have come from the Radha Damodar Party? Consider the fact that Srila Prabhupada would have put an end to the Zonal Acarya system within a micro-second, yet it went on for 10 years because he wasn't here to put a stop to it. So to always refer to the days when the Sampradaya Acarya was in charge and say that we can just pretend that this situation is here now, just creates a further obstacle to overcome in terms of trying to find a solution to the problems. And the biggest problem is that Srila Prabhupada is no longer embodied and here with us in his personal form. Consequently, asiddhantic foolishness remains unchecked, creating complex problems like the ones we have today.
If Praghosa wants to stick to his 'simple service' of book distribution, which I agree is an elevated service, then I have no arguments with him. But what he's saying is the same thing the big book distributors of the past used to tell the Temple Presidents -- all our problems would be over if we simply sent everyone in the temple out on book distribution. If Praghosa would encourage others who have some propensity for management to try and find a solution rather than make out that his 'simple' philosophy provides all the solutions, then there wouldn't be an argument.
So as Srila Prabhupada stated earlier, he's cheated us by saying Krsna consciousness is simple. The aspiring bhakta should accept the fact that our philosophy and Srila Prabhupada's teachings are instruments to be used in making our lives far less complicated. If they're applied properly, then one's chances of successfully reaching the higher echelons of Krsna consciousness will be much greater. Bhakti yoga is a step-by-step process. There's no easy way, and no cheap way. You cannot cheat. By pretending it's simple, you're just cheating yourself and others.