Thursday, July 26, 2007

Distaste for Political Religion

I try to keep away from politics on this blog, but I came across this video by Max Blumenthal, Rapture Ready: The Unauthorized Christians United for Israel Tour, on Huffington Post. I find the world one gets a glimpse of here to be pretty troubling.

I believe in the power of myth, but I find it needs to be carefully vetted by the use of reason. I can't help but feel disgust at this smorgasborg of true belief, self-righteousness and sheer hypocrisy.

If I had to be a Christian, I would still try to keep myself as far as possible from these deluded and dangerous people. Quakers, Catholics, liberal Protestants, Unitarians... anyone but these guys! And yet, unfortunately, they rule the roost in the good old U.S.A. Is there a better reason to fear the crumbling of the empire?

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Actually, thinking about it a little later, I came back to a certain recollection of how I got here in the first place. These pink and bloated millionaire preachers are the perfect representation of the America I found revolting as a teenager and still feel deeply alienated from. This is what I was turning on, tuning in and dropping out from.

When I and so many others came to Krishna consciousness, it was partly because we recognized the limits of the hippie lifestyle. But it was also in part because we saw it as a continuation of our "make love not war" hippie philosophy. We had no intention of becoming the very thing we despised. I think that our original instinct was right, but somehow we went off track and lost the idea that prema is the prayojan.

It's good to be reminded of these things from time to time.

8 comments:

anuradha said...

A lot can be said about this documentary....... but that woman in the blue dress at the end surely can dance !!!
I guess a mix of classical Indian temple dance, ballet and chique le freak, called extremist expressionism.

Anonymous said...

I also think that as much as those who joined ISKCON back in the day were trying to escape their Christian upbringing, they brought their baggage with them. Thus ISKCON is quite possibly the born again Christianity of Vaishnavism. Not only that but ISKCON itself, following the Gaudiya 'Mat' system, seems to be modeled from the Christian preaching system (churches, institution, GBC, etc.) pieces that weren't there prior to BST.

It is similar to Oedipus. He ran from his family trying to escape his fate and in the end walked right into what he was trying to avoid. The nice thing about Oedipus is (in contrast to ISKCON wallas) that when he saw that he had run into his fate, he then took actions to attempt to rectify the situation, banishing himself and so on. Some people for one may never realize their folly and for those that do, it is quite hard if not unwanted to reform.

Lastly, this reaction of mine to your blog just surprises me that so many things I read or respond to seem to generate some negative reactive interpretation towards ISKCON. My bad on that one, but it seems valid all the same.

- NMd

anuradha said...

Oedipus is just one person who has to deal only with himself. Iskcon is an organization that has to deal with many people and opinions. Change will be slow and setbacks will be there as a response to change of mentality. But I do see change though, positive change.

And these kinds of movies (like Jagat's link) should be seen by all, Muhjahedin, Jew and Iskonite alike. We should laugh at the immense stupidity, but also be scared, because it's real. And then we should ..... REFLECT and look at ourselves.

Anonymous said...

Jagat: "We had no intention of becoming the very thing we despised. I think that our original instinct was right, but somehow we went off track and lost the idea that prema is the prayojan. "

I can only think that if we lost our original instinct, it happened precisely because we adopted the ways of the world, the very thing he hippies despised. Hippies or not, I think we betrayed our hearts in this and we have only ourselves to blame for the consequences. It would be interesting to research the proportion of devotees' present disenchantment with KC vis a vis their past involvement with the hippie culture. I for one completely by-passed the hippie culture, and find myself free of disenchantment nowadays. I see that there are flaws in Iskcon, for example, but I don't necessarily trace the history of these problems with the hippie culture. At least not in the way that some insist in making the connection. I see how the hippie culture was a part of the history, granted, but it is hardly the cause of flaws in every subsequent event that led to the present impasse. The hippie thing was an incident in the history of the faith as any other could have been.

The point as you say is to remember and try go back to that which brought us to KC in the first place. And "keep following that thread until it brings us all the way back to Godhead", as Srila Sridhara Maharaja once said. If it resembles hippiness, oh well...

Jagat said...

One of the methods of self-definition is negative. "I don't know what I am, but I am certainly not this."

Since most of us have come through the Iskcon, we tend to sift through different experiences, both negative and positive, to try to establish what exactly it was that was worthwhile about the experience.

I am obviously doing the same thing, so even if I don't always mention Iskcon or the Gaudiya Math directly, it goes without saying that they are lurking in the background somewhere. Indeed, your reaction does have a trigger in my words, where I say, "We had no intention of becoming the thing we despised."

What was I getting at? These rapture-vadi Christians, or post-millennarians, who think that Jesus's return is imminent, and then apply this belief politically by thinking that a catastrophic war is an unavoidable prerequisite to Christ's coming, and that "a man of peace" will be the Antichrist are despicable. They have reified an eschatology which, however intended by its authors, must be seen as figurative.

The same dangers of false reification of myth are present in Iskcon, the 10,000 years, the manifest destiny, the similar Armageddon scenarios, "I will use atom bomb for Krishna", etc. As soon as we become puffed up with messiah complexes, directly or by contact, we lose the essential humility that is needed to develop bhakti and to cultivate a peaceful human society.

I am not saying these things are easy. But when I watch and listen to this video, I do not find much of God there. He is, of course, present, in one of his unlimited forms, working out some part of his inscrutable plan, but I don't see my svayaM-rUpa Krishna there.

For us, vira rasa is dharma-vira. That is the lila of the sadhaka-deha. That is the masculine part of ourselves. The lila of the siddha-deha is madhura-rasa, Vrindavan. That is the feminine part of ourselves. Abandon one or the other at your peril. Seva sadhaka-rupena.

Anonymous said...

There could be a touch of Vraja-lila in the very robust idea of maybe, just maybe being able to burn the universe to ashes if such universe gets in the way of union with Krsna.

Jagat said...

In response to the second anonymous comment. I think you have understood my intention.

The goal of all religions, as I see it, is to advance the cause of love. This is recognized in all the great religious paths. This video shows the great mistaken idea about love: The other person has to become like me in order for a minimum standard of civility to exist between people. They think that the only way that there can be peace on earth is if everyone becomes Christian. There are Muslims who think the same thing. And there are many Hare Krishnas out there who believe the same thing. Currently, because of their (the Krishnas') minority status, they have to pretend otherwise, but that is what they think--despite the obvious counterevidence of failure within the movement to create even an atmosphere of cooperation, what to speak of love!

This is why I am proposing an approach that begins with the basic love-unit, i.e., the human couple. Of course, I propose following the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, and methods that depend on Gaudiya Vaishnava symbolism and theology, and I am loathe to transfer the idea to another set of symbols (even though it can no doubt be done, I am just so entirely attached to my Radha-Krishna and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and I refuse to think of this process in any other terms).

However, I do think that love is transferable, in the sense that if one is at peace with the Soul of his soul, then he is naturally predisposed to love everyone in the way appropriate to the situation. In such cases, techniques (psychological, practical social, etc.) developed by all human society can be used.

This means that we do not become "puppets" of God, in the sense that we will come to a time when we no longer have to struggle with hard, ethically onerous decisions, or fight temptation; there is no magic bullet enlightenment, no state of omniscience or absolute clarity in all things. The human condition does not grind to a halt when one becomes "one with God." It is just that we have to learn to keep love and truth as the fundamental, uncompromising guideposts for our dealings with one another. This a principle that transcends all religious dogma. This is the goal of godliness.

What the individual religions can do (and what our Radha-Krishna religion must do) is, along with the discoveries in psychology and social science, develop mechanisms whereby on an atomic scale, beginning first with the self, and then with the human couple, one becomes able to generate a mystical experience of love and truth. This becomes progressively intensified through the stages described by Rupa Goswami.

If we reify myth ("idolatry"), in the way that all religions tend to do, we can easily lose sight of the real process that is going on. This is recognized by most critics of religion, but those attached to religion, who see the basics of the process working (i.e., who experience the expansion of the spirit in faith), unfortunately do not.

On the other hand, it is as much of a mistake, in my opinion, to think that one can attain the same heights of love in the basic love unit (! got to be clinical :)) without the use of specifically religious processes. Any means to do so becomes by definition religious, but established religious processes have a head start on purely instinctive, casual, invented, improvised or improptu methods, because of their deep anchoring in human psyche, their well established traditions, culture and associations, and their resultant easy communicability.

Jagat said...

With regard to the anonymous comment about burning the universe. Yes, indeed. You have touched on something that is rather beyond my own world-centered way of thinking.

I will have to think deeply about this.