Saturday, December 26, 2009

Transcendence and Society

Mahattama Rahla wrote:

Also we have to consider that some of that uncleanliness was brought by outsiders too, we are part of the problem, so let's resolve it......

This is something that several people have already mentioned. There is nothing surprising and I have already spoken about it to some extent in one of my earlier posts.

The thing is that money spent on cleaning, etc., is generally considered to be a loss on the books. You cannot see any income being generated by cleaning your own toilet, for instance.

For the most part, Vrindavan has happily let NGOs like "Friends of Vrindavan" etc., try to do the work in this area, or planting trees or whatever. They may make one-off gifts of money, but they are not serious, longterm, diligent efforts.

In fact, you cannot depend on the private sector to do these things; they are public sector tasks. But India is living the libertarian dream of entrepreneurial anarchy. Money that can be spent on construction, etc., means liberal lining of pockets of politicians, bureaucrats and developers. Where is the money in street sweeping and garbage disposal ?

The NGO's must be supported, of course, as long as the public sector does not step up, but the necessity of strong municipal action must be emphasized. It is hard to do because everyone thinks taxes are an imposition instead of a way of contributing to the common good. A rich man in India would rather build a temple or contribute to some pious works in the traditional manner than give to "corrupt bureaucratic institutions." These problems run deep, and the culture needs to be changed on so many levels.

What I see as the core problem, though, is attitude. Changing attitudes toward the sacred, the common good, etc., are things that must enter into everyone's preaching and the education programs. This will require a bit of a change in attitude on the part of the sectarian religious organizations, which are accustomed to seeing the welfare of their own organization as the ultimate good for society as a whole. This selfish attitude, of course, contributes to the general distrust of religion and to the ineffectuality of their overall preaching.

What is the difference between sadhus or householder gurus living in comfortable ashrams or temples doing bhajan and a rich person living in his mansion engaged in sense gratification? From the outside looking in, little or none. Those devotees looking at this matter from the Western point of view will have to adjust their thinking a little.

The good that comes from a religious institution, where society as a whole is considered, is not in its specific religious or spiritual doctrines, but simply in its power to break people's attachments to selfish, egocentric or body-centric interests and to make them capable of sacrificing for the greater good. Such a greater good must be broader than the narrow interests of the organization itself. To the extent that such attitudes become generalized in society and institutionalized in government itself, the greater the success of the religious movements from the social point of view.

In other words, to use as an example: Iskcon or any other group cannot think that its "good deeds" are merely tools to rope welfare minded people into its network of donors and supporters. The overriding necessity is to work cooperatively with others who support the same causes. If you are only thinking "Me-first" then what good will come of it? The actual causes, like cleaning Vrindavan or protecting it from uncontrolled development, will be vitiated by the dispersal of energies.

True selflessness must extend even beyond the "mission" and into the society. In other words, though the mission may seek some form of transcendence, its social function is to increase the mode of goodness.


Anonymous said...

the only society that is favorable to the dham is varnashrama society.

sahajiyism is top secret such a society though

nama kirtan said...

are you attending the "mahaprabhura 500 bachar sanyasa divase katwa teke puri mahasanskirtan yatra" ???

jan 14 - feb 3