A true preacher is a true disciple. I believe all of us can agree that a thorough study of Srila Prabhupada’s books is so badly needed in our society in the age of Kali, the age of quarrel, hypocrisy and misinformation.
All of us come across devotees (or sometimes ourselves) answering other people’s questions without proper reference.
Without committing offenses or looking down upon anyone, these following examples are illustrating pure, innocent ignorance. So these are one of the most bizarre statements I’ve heard from most respected and loved devotees, somehow all vaisnavis though:
“Taking evening showers washes away our energy, best not to do that, even if you are used to taking showers twice a day.”
“In the language of varnashrama, vaishyas can’t make much money, but kshatriyas are the ones who are arranging people, building strategies and making good money, so you have to be a kshatriya to make good money with the network marketing.”
“In your past life you, as a house cat, could just observe your owner opening the door and you started to desire to open the door yourself and thus by meditation ‘I want!! I want!!’, you could have received a human body.”
Once again, these few quotes are not the reason to laugh or smirk or roll the eyes or lift the eyebrows and scroll away from the article, it’s a reason to worry and become a little concerned, I mean to say, to understand the seriousness of the presented issue.
I believe all of us are encouraged to preach and it is something even a child can do, as Srila Prabhupada pointed out in the famous example of the little vaisnavi girl: “Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead!”
But many times we find that if we are not extremely fluent in the language of Srila Prabhupada’s books – and I’m not saying fluent as just a regular reader, but as a diligent student – and if we are not questioning whether we can actually back everything up with reference, then our presentation will lack actual substance. Truth. Foundation. Philosophical essence. The focus will be shifted in a wrong direction. Deep down inside it will leave us wondering how close did we get to the Absolute Truth, to guru-sadhu-shastra and to the actual message, mood and mission of Srila Prabhupada.
So what can we do?
If you’re on the listener’s side – be aware and conscious what and whom you are listening and make sure you get all references right. It is important to approach previous acaryas through our founder-acarya Srila Prabhupada. And, at the same time, we also don’t just skip Srila Prabhupada to focus on contemporary preachers. Srila Prabhupada’s position is forever foundational.
Srila Prabhupada’s books will train your ears to feel hurt when you come across apasiddhanta. Just like when you learn English, when somebody says “This devotee say me we to go temple, yes?” – it hurts the ear to hear that. It is similar when you are very fluent and thoroughly study Srila Prabhupada’s books, when something is not according to siddhanta – it hurts the ears. The more you study – the more you will be able to discriminate.
Don’t be naive that everyone who is a devotee is speaking pure, Absolute Truth. They may be incredibly sincere, but not entirely informed. Even in Hari Bhakti Vilasa it is stated that the disciple is testing the spiritual master to see that he is bona-fide. Nectar of Instruction points out you can’t progress if you don’t discriminate your association. Healthy discrimination is welcomed in spiritual life.
However, if you hear something bogus, it doesn’t mean you have to stop being a cultured, gentle vaisnava by publicly attacking and destroying the devotee who made a mistake. There are ways to point a mistake in a human, vaisnava way, at an appropriate time, manner, perhaps even through seniors.
And as an aspiring preacher I am meditating on Sri Ishopanishad Mantra 12. It reveals that the position of a preacher without proper knowledge, honesty and integrity leads one to the darkest region of the universe, with only cheap name and fame. Certainly this would not be much pleasing to Guru Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada & previous acaryas.
It is a healthy fear to be afraid of Maya, what to speak of becoming Maya’s instruments, even if completely ignorantly. “Involuntarily”. Innocently. Unconsciously.
Sometimes we get into the mood of “we are invincible”. We have tilaka as Narayana-kavacha on our bodies, we have Tulsi-kanthimalas on our necks, we chant Hare Krishna Maha-manta 16 rounds every day, so what sinful reactions can there be for us? We have surrendered!
However, we do have a long way to go towards the desired and cherished goal of pure Krishna-prema, which is defined by “What pleases Krishna?” and “What doesn’t please Him?” So misinforming or misguiding Krishna’s aspiring servants is definitely something not very pleasing to Sri Guru and Gouranga.
At the same time it is our responsibility to develop strong faith, deep understanding and knowledge so that somebody else would not be able to accidentally trip us down, misguide and misinform.
With folded hands, dandavats, I am praying that this article sparks and fuels in us this wonderful desire to thoroughly study and dive deeper and deeper into the treasure house of first and foremost Bhagavad-Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam & Sri Caitanya Caritamrita, as well as Sri Upadeshamrita & Bhakti-Rasamrita-Sindhu and Sri Ishopanishad as the foundational law books of our society, the main content of all our preaching eloquence.
May we become worthy vaisnava disciples of His Divine Grace, as practitioners, preachers and devotee society at large. All glories to Srila Prabhupada and His books!
Your insignificant servant,
Sulalita Devi Dasi