How can we help people understand why Srila Prabhupada used words like “rascals” and “fools”?

by Chaitanya CharanApril 17, 2012

From: Ram Prasad

Many a times i hear people say that Srila Prabhupada is very arrogant /short tempered  when he uses the word Rascal or fools. I really get upset when people make sarcastic comments about him in this regard.Pls explain how to make them understand that  he uses  these harsh  words  because of his  genuine compassion & concern  for people in general who are wasting their precious human life.It is not due to his arrogance but like a father who is worried  about his wayward child.

Transcript by Geetanjali Mataji:

ANSWER: You yourself have answered the question as to why Shrila Prabhupada is speaking these things and if we are deeply convinced about it, then our actions , if they show concern for others combined with genuine respect for them, then they will say that actually if we are following Shrila Prabhupada and we are so concerned about others, we are so respectful and sensitive to others then probably they are misunderstanding Shrila Prabhupada when they are judging him as arrogant or short tempered on seeing his words like rascals and fools. so the ones is primarily on us, to behave properly, because if we look at Shrila Prabhupada’s life, yes, his words are characterized by blunt moral judgments. Shrila Prabhupada would not mince words. when he wanted to make things clear. However if we look at nineteenth and early twentieth century Bengal and the local cultural context over there, at that time they were rascals did not have the strong negative connotation that it had now. If fact there is many times when Shrila Prabhupada  uses the word rascal in a very compassionate way. if you look at the article “is Bhagavad Gita and extremist book” on this website, you will find that the quote of Shrila Prabhupada were his apparently strong condemnation of people is coupled with equally strong compassion for them. So here Shrila Prabhupada says that “the only concern of the devotee is that so many rascals are suffering the  concocted civilization of illusion sense enjoyment , how can they be combination of words “saving the rascals”. if ‘rascal’ as a word used in an arrogant or derogatory or short tempered way , then one does not think of saving the rascals. One thinks of punishing the rascal. But Shrila Prabhupada did not talked in that terms. and here he is talking in exclusively in terms of saving the rascals. So this whole article, if you look at that, there is a whole section on “blunt value judgment” which will help you understand this point yourself and possibly you can forward this article to them, then they will also be able to understand it. So Lord Krishna also uses the word mudha , which basically means fool. It is quite a strong word, but Shrila Prabhupada is like a doctor, and a doctor can see further than a patient. So if the patient is having some preliminary symptoms of a disease, the patient may not even understand that he is sick right now, and doctor may tell please  take this medicine, and patient may think there is nothing wrong over here, there is no need for me to take medicine. And the doctor may tell please do  this small thing. But the doctor knows that it is serious. And so to jolt the patient out of his complacency, the doctor may use the words ‘you are a rascal, you are a fool’,. So Krishna’s words like mudha, and Shrila Prabhupada’s words like fools and rascals , are like the exasperated outburst of a caring doctor, while dealing with a suffering patient who stubbornly refusing to take the treatment. So now from philosophical point of view, if we see when people have materialistic or monastic misconception , which means that there is nothing more to life than the material enjoyment. Then this is the animal level of living and this perpetuates ones miseries in material existence, because as long as we are attached and addicted to enjoy mater, we have to continue on taking many many lives and suffer. So materialistic misconception about life are symptoms of a disease which can lead to serious suffering in the long run. So doctor can see this but a patient may not be able to see this. Ordinary person is not able to see, he sees that everybody is materialistic and I am also materialistic, what is the big deal with it ? But this is kalyuga and  the majority of people in kalyaga are in  illusion . But the reality is not governed by democracy. If majority of people are in illusion, majority of people will have to suffer the consequences of being in illusion.  And the compassion of the devotees want to save them from this and that’s why they may use strong value judgment like this. The idea that there is nothing more to life than matter, that is foolishness, that is rascaldom  So materialistic misconception can deprive the soul of the opportunity of spiritual advancement that he has got by acquiring a human body and condemn the soul to suffering birth after birth in material existence. Now similarly monastic misconception are also quite detrimental to the soul. Actually this is some times most difficult to the people to understand Shrila Prabhupada because they feel that those who are monist, monists are also referred to mayavadis by Shrila Prabhupada. Monism means, mono is one, so there is only one truth, only one reality and that is God and I am god and you are god and all of us are god. There is no other reality but God, that is the idea. It is true in one sense that there is no reality but God., but within that reality there is diversity  and there is in individuality. God is an individual, we  are individual and we have reciprocal relationship with him. So all is one in the sense that it is all existing within the energy of God. So we are one with God in quality but not in quantity. Unfortunately the moniness has tried to absolutise their concept of oneness , so they think that even the loving relationship between Krishna and his devotees and the fulfillment that comes thereof, that is also the product of maya. So there is a  Gita daily article over here ‘when excess of good things makes good worse than bad’ so that explains that what is actually wrong with impersonalism or monism . The monist are right in understanding that all the variety that we see in this world are false, and to the extent that we are attracted to this variety to that extent we will suffer. Because the variety is temporary and the forms are temporary , and we get attracted to them, and then the varieties and the forms  disappear and we lament. So this insight into the temporariness and illusionary nature of form and variety is correct. It is good. Materialistic people don’t have this whereas the impersonalists  have this. So in that sense the impersonalists are higher than the materialistists.  But the impersonalists or monists take this realization and they absolutise  that as the ultimate truth. That form and varieties are illusionary, this becomes their absolute truth, and they  put this insight as the truth , higher than that of absolute truth Krishna. So they imagine that the variety and the activity and the relationships that are seen in relationship with Krishna are also product of illusion. So actually a soul can easily and joyfully can become liberated from material existence, by becoming attracted to Krishna through the process of bhakti yoga.  But the monistic misconception misleads people into thinking that actually bhakti is an illusion. That Krishna himself in an illusion and one has to beyond bhakti and beyond Krishna, and what lies beyond Krishna and beyond bhakti ?, is feeling of oneness . Actually there is no feeling on oneness because there is no one to feel. Because we will merge so we will not feel Krishna. we will just be one. That is just in ones passive existence, and although this concept might be intellectually appealing, yes we will all be one, we see variety and we see that variety breads conflicts in this world. So intellectually it might be appealing to have oneness but emotionally it is completely alienating. Because there is excitement, there is no reciprocation, practically seeing there is no life over there and because of this notion that absolute truth is just  a sort of dreary oneness, the end result of this misconception is that the material life seems more attractive than spiritual life. Because in material life there might be suffering but there is also some pleasure, some sense of excitement, there is some discovery, and there is some sense of achievement. But the monistic understanding of spirituality makes people understand that in spiritual life there is all just sense of existence for all of eternity and that doesn’t seem very exciting. and only the most burnt out victims of material life will be able to dedicate themselves to such a dreary  version of spiritual goals. So the end result of monism is that people think that material life is more attractive than spiritual life. They may offer intellectual tribute to the monistic conceptions but their heart is still caught in material life. Whereas actually bhakti makes our hearts go towards spiritual life, go towards Krishna. So what happens because of monism is that people get misled, in the name of spirituality, away from spirituality. So by following the impersonalistic  path or monistic path , they think that they are practicing spirituality, but their notion of spirituality makes them think that bhakti and Krishna are products of illusion and so they reject bhakti and Krishna and go away from it. And when they come to the path of impersonalistic spiritual advancement, they find the path so dull and dreary, that they actually continue on the realm of material life. So monism misleads people away from spirituality, in the name of spirituality. and that’s why it is dangerous. So it is dangerous so in this case, the first case I was talking about a patient not understanding the seriousness of illness and the doctor may condemn him for that. but the condemnation is not out of anger or hatred but out of compassion. Imagine if there is a doctor who misleads the patient away from the right treatment. The doctor may not be malicious , but just that the doctor has a wrong understanding of what is disease is. and so prescribes a wrong treatment and  discourages the patient from taking the right treatment , by which the disease of the patient will get more complicated.
on spiritual path, but unfortunately they misdiagnose the disease and they misprescribe the treatment. The misdiagnosis of the disease is that they think all forms and all varieties are product of illusion and are cause of bondage and  suffering. and their prescription is, give up all forms and varieties, even the form of Krishna, and even the ……………. relationship with Krishna. Now when a doctor misdiagnosis or mistreats, then who can know about it ? It is only another doctor. The patient cannot know about it.  And that’s why there is this curious paradox in India. India is quite a religious country even today, but in spite of being so religious, India is also so materialistic. Why? because the religion of the people being contaminated by monistic misconceptions  is not leading them to the higher spiritual taste. and that’s why their taste remains in material life. so when such a misunderstanding is happening at a mass level, where a doctor is, for whatever reasons, the situation that he is observing is that the another doctor is misdiagnosing and mistreating the patient, then it becomes his moral and ;professional obligation to protect the patients from being mislead. and at that time if he tells the other doctor, who is actually not a proper doctor, who is not educated enough, who is not experienced enough, whose diagnosis is wrong, so he is not  actually a doctor in the proper sense of the word.  He  points out that the doctor is  actually misleading the people hen that is not wrong. Actually if the real doctor does not point out to the patient that the other so called doctor, is misdiagnosing and mistreating the patients, then who else will tell the patients ? So from moral point of view the doctor has to  do it also from professional point of view he has to do. From moral point of view, even if we, if we see that somebody is being mislead down a path that is going to lead him to fall from a cliff , we will have a normal moral sense, we will want to save and stop that person from going on that dangerous track. So in addition to the moral obligation, the doctor has a professional obligation also to protect the patient because if he is not going to do it then who else is going to do. Only he has the professional knowledge to do that.  Similarly in the bonafied sampradayas have moral and spiritual obligation to save people from being misled. When this is being done by Shrila Prabhupada, he leads following Krishna and Bhagavad Gita . Lord Krishna says that those have this monistic misconception in (bg7:24)  he calls them abudhaya completely lacking in intelligence, so if they have the intelligence to understand that there has to be something beyond material life, but their over confidence in their own insight into illusionary nature of forms and varieties, becomes their greatest enemy.  that’s why Krishna calls them as unintelligent  and he uses the same word as mudha as he uses for materialistic people in 7:15. He calls materialistic people as mudha and Krishna is using the same word for the monists also in bg 9:11. “those who think I have come in human form, and that my form is material and you have to beyond my form, those who have this sort of misconception, Krishna calls them mudha ‘. so Shrila Prabhupada, not just based on his own opinions , calling some people fools and rascals , he is actually following in the footsteps of Krishna, and he is doing what Krishna does to fulfill Krishna’s mission. And he is doing it with compassion and even then if we see , whenever Shrila Prabhupada would meet any impersonalist  spiritual teachers, at a personal level, would be very respectful and cultured with them. When impersonalist teacher came to meet Shrila Prabhupada, in New York , when Shrila Prabhupada was sick, at that time Shrila Prabhupada was very courteous to him, he offered to him, he trained his disciples how proper respect has to be offered to such personalities. So Shrila Prabhupada has nothing personal against them. Just as the doctor who sees that the another doctor is misleading others, the doctor does not hate that doctor, if possible he would free this doctor form his misconception also. But if that is not possible than at least will save the patients from misconception. So Shrila Prabhupada is actually is being compassionate. And we need to understand philosophy properly, to understand this basis for value judgment. Generally speaking, now we see this sort of blunt value judgments used by uncultured people. Sometimes there are loafers on the street may use swear words and then we come to a more cultured society then we feel that these kind of swear words only those low class people use them.  And suddenly when see that exalted spiritual teacher using it, then we start, at a subconscious level, lumping the exalted spiritual teacher with the loafers on street who use such words. But the two are at completely level. We may be higher than the street loafers who are using the swear words and we may not use those swear words. But we all are philosophically quite uninformed, and because of philosophically being uninformed, we do not understand the grave implications of spiritual ignorance or spiritual misunderstanding. We often think that “oh material life is fine and the idea that i am ok , you are ok, and everything is ok”, but in material life everything in not ok.  Bhagavad Gita was spoken to make the things ok and it is up to us to make our lives change and we can make things ok in our lives. But as long as we are philosophically uninformed , just like a lay person who is medically uninformed , there might be deadly epidemic, germs spreading among all the people, but medically uninformed person will think ‘nothing is wrong, people are moving around, people are talking, people are walking’. but a medically informed person , a doctor, can mentally do a fast forward to a six months ahead and he can see that all these people who are moving around, if the germs are not checked then all of them will be mortally sick in the hospital or they be even be dead. similarly a philosophically uninformed may see that ‘its ok these people are nice, gentlemen, and why  should somebody call them fools and rascals ?”, where as the philosophically informed person can do a fast forward and see that may twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years down the lane, not this life may be the next life of the person. So people who are living materialistic, Sri Isopanisad says,’they are going to inter the dark      of ignorance,  those who are in so called knowledge they are going to enter into greater darkness”. So the philosophically informed person can see from a far more in a long term perspective  ten what we can see. so just as I gave the earlier example that about a person who is about of walk off a steep cliff and fall down to destruction and if the person is just gently told ‘please stop, please do not go there’. then that person may not even listen because he is so self  absorbed and self complacent. That person may need a shock treatment “what are you doing, you stop, you foolish person”, “who called me a fool?” the person may turn around and see. So similarly the great acharyas can see. Now in the cliff example, we can see that the cliff is just a few yards away, but from the point of view of eternity it is few years away or few decades away, it just like few yards away. Because once we develop engramed pattern of thinking and living, it’s very difficult to change them.  so if people develop engramed pattern of materialistic thinking and living , it will be very difficult for them to change. and because these people are complacent, Shrila Prabhupada had to use shock treatment for them. Now we should not use the shock treatment because we do not have that depth of compassion. We do not have the authority that comes from  vast experience and old age that Shrila Prabhupada had.  and we may not have actually the deep philosophical vision to realize what is being discussed here,’ that actually people are suffering and people are going to far greater suffering’. So  we are trying to be among the people who are cultured, so there are people being below ‘being cultured’, they are the ordinary people, the street loafers who may use the words like fools and rascals, but there are people who are far far cultured , far more cultured than us, like the great spiritual acharyas, and still they may use words like these. So now if we look at Shrila Prabhupada’s life, if somebody had the misconception that Shrila Prabhupada was arrogant, let that person read Shrila Prabhupada’s ‘lilamrata’, especially the second volume and first five six chapters, there we will find that Shrila Prabhupada is actually serving the most degraded people , whom even the American main stream society  had rejected. Shrila Prabhupada is cooking prasad for them. Shrila Prabhupada is going and purchasing grains and vegetables to cook  for them , and Shrila Prabhupada is personally serving them. and after that Shrila Prabhupada is washing their plates. So now why does Shrila Prabhupada had to go that ?  He is such an elderly learned and spiritually advanced person, he doesn’t have to do any such thing at all.  In fact , according to traditional vaishnava standards, what to speak of a sanyasi serving an ordinary person, even an ordinary person is not allowed to serve a   from ordinary people, he does not take food cooked by ordinary people, ordinary materialistic people I mean,  and he does not even take the food served by these materialistic people. Because according to the strict standards, the person may get contaminated by the materialism of these people. this is the normal culture for sanyasi, but Shrila Prabhupada is so spiritually advanced that far from he getting contaminated by serving these materialistic people, he went right in middle of them and far from letting them serve him, it is he who was serving them and he elevated them. so Shrila Prabhupada’s compassion was far far beyond the call of duty and that compassion came off in the most disarming and profound expression of himility where an elderly advanced learned scholarly person was serving half educated, uncultured drunkeds, who were often high on drugs and who would not take bath for weeks and who would often have the basic manners. So is Shrila Prabhupada is going to gain by serving such people. If he had been arrogant, why he has to do that ? So if we look at Shrila Prabhupada’s life, then we will understand that ‘ here is a person who was so profoundly learned, and he was profoundly cultured. Shrila Prabhupada was serving these people who were completely uncultured and unclean specially Shrila Prabhupada maintain the highest standards of culture and cleanliness while cooking for Krishna, in his own personal life, and yet he was cooking for these people. So if you look at Shrila Prabhupada’s life , you will see that certainly he was not lacking in culture, he was obviously not like the uncultured street loafers who use such dirty words. So he was far more cultured and learned than all of us. But than also he used these words because of the urgent feeling of compassion in his heart, by that he saw that it was an emergency. and unless they were given some shock treatment they will not be able to wake up. so to summarize,  the first point I made is that, we have to show by our behavior, by our being cultured and sensitive that their understanding about Shrila Prabhupada being  arrogant or proud is misunderstanding. Secondly we discussed about how materialistic and monistic misconceptions are dangerous because they lead people into suffering so I gave the example of a patient no understanding the long term consequences of the symptoms that he has but the doctor understands and the doctor would give shock treatment to make the patient see sense. that is for materialism and for monism gave the example of the patient is not understanding that the doctor is giving a  wrong treatment and given a wrong diagnosis, and other doctor who understands properly what is wrong and what needs to be set right, again has to give shock treatment to again make the patient aware of the reality. then we discussed about how there are people who use harsh language and dirty words because of being uncultured, then we consider ourselves above them because we do not use such words and we are cultured. and if look at Shrila Prabhupada’s life we will see that Shrila Prabhupada himself was cultured, and far more cultured than us. and yet Shrila Prabhupada used these words why?  because of his urgent feeling of there being an emergency around him and the need for him to immediately get people out of their complacency by using strong words. Not out of condemnation, but out of compassion. So if you just look at Shrila Prabhupada’s life,  you will see that he was cultured, he was compassionate and that he was humble. and then you will never get this misunderstanding that Shrila Prabhupada spoke these strong words out of arrogance or anger or any such material emotion. thankyou

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Chaitanya Charan