Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Anti-semitism and anti-intellectualism revisited

An article written a couple of years ago is again making the rounds, this time on Facebook. Though I wrote about this when it first came to my attention and posted on this blog, I will address it again here.

A few years ago... who cares any more... Nara Narayan Viswakarma wrote in Puranjan's newsletter that the influence of Catholics was ruining the movement! Which I fond to be an interesting point of view and a surprising one, to say the least. It would be interesting to see if he would still defend this point of view now and what his reasons would be. (I forgot his argument,, to be honest).

But it would definitely be quite a matter of interest to analyze exactly what the so-called JBD ("Jewish background devotee") influence on the movement is or has been, or what a Catholic influence would be, or what we can expect now that Orthodox or Communist atheist background Russians are slowly beginning to become numerically the dominant part of the world Vaishnava population.

I have to agree that childhood samskars, as the writer says, continue to influence a person throughout his or her lifetime. But is the writer of the article himself free from such samskaras? How can we tell? Perhaps he is importing an anti-Semitic samskar from his childhood influences!

Why should academic or interfaith tendencies be specifically related to JBD? Are they not a part of the world we live in? When a Radhanath, for instance, who is currently the ISKCON guru ISKCON critics love to hate the most, engages in a kind of public dissimulation of bhakti and is borderline New Age, etc., is he reflecting a specifically JBD point of view? I would like to see a little more finesse and research in these matters.

Is it not that in the face of increasing anomie in the current world of Western Vaishnavism, where old devotees are often directionless and alienated from the institutions, where new recruits from the non-Indian background segment of the population are becoming rarer, where children born into the tradition are estranged from it, where nearly everyone has become confused about the relevance of its beliefs and practices, that some exercise of the intelligence would be necessary by devotees of whatever background?

Isn't this called engaging the intelligence in Krishna's service? And is it not incumbent on every individual to sweeten the fruit of bhakti by adding his own realizations, which come through the entire system of intelligence, mind, body and senses when transformed by surrender and grace? To put the old wine into the new bottle of his or her own realization? 



It is clear that in ISKCON's current impasse in the Western developed world (Europe and North America), some intelligent analysis of the problems is needed. To do so, it appears inevitable that those with intellectual inclinations are going to want to study religion in general and Gaudiya Vaishnavism in particular to understand them as specifically human phenomena -- psychological, sociological, anthropological, historical, philosophical, etc. One place this can be attempted objectively is in an academic setting. 


This seems to me to be a natural human response and hardly related to any race or people specifically. If something you value has stopped working in the way you desire, you try to find a way to fix it. This requires making use of the tools available, without discrimination. If it proves to be of value, you do the needful, if not, you jettison it. This will be done by people of all backgrounds and persuasions, not only Jewish. 


Different people will inevitably come up with different prescriptions. And indeed former Catholics and former Jews may have somewhat differing approaches, but such differences should be judged objectively as far as possible, even while being aware of possible background influences. But one thing is sure -- in the modern world, blindly parroting dogmas from past ages, literal acceptance of what are often outdated and irrelevant mythologies, etc., are in all likelihood a non-starter and simply put Hare Krishnas somewhere in the same neck of the societal fringe as Scientology or Mormonism. Perhaps even worse. 


There are many devotees who prefer the exclusiveness of being non-mainstream, of being "way out there" on the margins of society, but a stated goal of the movement is the "building of a house the whole world can live in." How is that supposed to happen?

So, all in all, it seems to me that the critique of the various challenges to dogmatic and literalist approaches to Krishna bhakti should be dealt with by their defenders in open debate on an issue by issue basis, rather than pointing to the ethnicity of the person promoting these views. To do so will indeed be anti-semitism or some other kind of racism and will not lead to anything remotely approaching auspiciousness.

Jai Sri Radhe.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Words of truth spoken directly from the mouth of his divine grace - Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada "Someone has poisoned me."

http://www.iskcon-truth.com/poison/prabhupada-poisoned-overview.html

Perhaps one should also do some "original" research using the WikiLeaks database:

https://wikileaks.org/gifiles/docs/18/1891211_-analytical-and-intelligence-comments-wars-.html

It does not make good reading...