Should we preach to make people ISKCON devotees or to make them better human beings?
Transcription by– Keshavgopal Das & Ambuj Gupta
Question: When we preach and someone becomes a devotee or we preach to make someone into a devotee but then we also say that our love should be unconditional, but then if somebody stops practicing devotional service then we don’t show so much affection for that person. So when we preach what should be our motive? Is it that just to help that person to become better or to help that person join the particular institution and become a member of ISKCON to become an ISKCON devotee.
Answer: The two are not necessarily disconnected. Our goal ultimately for preaching is to please Krishna. samsiddhim haritosanam. Krishna will become pleased when we go closer to Him and others go closer to Him. In that sense our preaching is to help us ourselves as well as others to go closer to Krishna.
The Krishna consciousness movement is meant to provide us facilities for coming closer to Krishna. Like any institution that is there in the material world, there will be some problems, there will be some distractions but whatever there are, there is also far more facility to come closer to Krishna within the Krishna consciousness movement than outside.
In general, the Krishna consciousness movement is like a hospital. If we say a doctor is offering treatment, is the doctor’s goal to get the patient admitted in the hospital or to treat the patient and cure the patient? Obviously to cure and treat the patient. But treating and curing the patient cannot be separated or disconnected from taking the treatment or making the patient healthy cannot be separated from taking the treatment. In general, if a person is a non devotee or becoming a devotee, becoming a devotee is far better than being a non devotee for that person’s own good and for our own good in the sense that we please Krishna by bringing someone else closer to Him.
If that person is connected to some other organization and wants to go to that organization then our goal is not simply to increase members of some particular sectarian organization. Our goal is to help people to raise their consciousness. If some person is already connected with some organization or some proper spiritual path by family background or by some cultural upbringing and if that is helping the person to become better then we don’t have to necessarily convert that person. Prabhupada had two different attitudes when he is preaching in the west for example. If somebody was a dedicated Christian in terms practicing Christianity, then Prabhupada encouraged him the practice Christianity better. It was not that he was trying to pull them to Krishna consciousness. But if somebody is say a nominal Christian, being born in Christian family but not practicing anything then Prabhupada encouraged them to take up Krishna consciousness because the ultimately goal is to love God in various spiritual paths. But the facilities for developing the love of God are not necessarily equal everywhere. But because of the mercy of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the potency of bhakti yoga we have access to a much easier path. Different spiritual paths are like different paths for climbing the mountain top. Here, Shri Chaitanya Mahprabhu offered us a path which is relatively easier to take us to the top of the mountain. In that sense rather than seeing two as disconnected, say helping the person to become better or helping a person to become a devotee, two are connected.
As far as conditional or unconditional love is concerned, there is a difference between unconditional love and the expression of that love. We can say that Krishna also gives a principle of reciprocation. ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamyaham. As people will surrender unto Me, I will reward them accordingly. Can we say Krishna’s love is conditional because He is saying if you surrender more then I will reward more, if you don’t surrender then I will not reward. I have written a whole article on this in my book ”My Little Bhakti Companion”, where I have talked about fulfilling our longing for love.
Actually when we say our love is conditional there can be different meanings. Conditional can be dependent on certain conditions and conditional can also mean in which state the person is. For example, the Sun’s light is conditional or unconditional. Sun’s light is unconditional in the sense that Sun always gives light. But from our point of view it’s conditional, that means say if I am closing my eyes I cannot see Sun’s light. Sun’s light in that sense both conditional and unconditional, from Sun’s perspective it is unconditional. But from our perspective we cannot say that Sun’s light is truly unconditional irrespective of my eyes are open or close I should be able to see Sun. No. It’s not that Sun’s light is unconditional but it is our capacity to perceive Sun’s light depends on certain conditions.
In the same way when people by their actions show that they are not really interested in Krishna and we cannot force Krishna on them. Then what do we do? Is it that we just reject them completely? Not exactly. We understand that we are limited. We have limited time, limited resources and we would like to make the maximum contribution with that limited time that we have. If we are already connected with those people for example, if it’s a relative or a family member or something like that with whom we are related, it’s not that we have to turn a cold shoulder to that person and not have any relationship. But it’s a practical truth of life that there are certain interests that bring us together with others. If those interests are no longer there then what is the basis of relationship? There has to be some commonality based on which the relationship will be there and the commonality decreases then it’s a natural consequence of that the relationship will decrease.
It‘s not that the love we are offering is unconditional. It’s that the expression of that love will depend on the reception of that love by the other person. If that person is not receptive then we will have to naturally modify our expression of that love. To put it simply, say the father always loves his children but if a child chooses to go out of the house, leave the house and live elsewhere then can the father show the same affection which the father was showing when the child is at home. In some ways, yes. But in practical ways there will be a difference. It’s not that unconditional love does not mean unconditional license. License means what? If mother loves a child and the child say that I want to play in the middle of the crowded at street. If you truly love me then you should give me license for playing like that. If mother allows that then the government will come and say that you are not fit to be a mother. The very nature of love is that one wants to protect and benefit those whom we love. Therefore that involves certain amount of regulation. The embrace of a mother can be seen as a restriction by a rebellious child or can be seen as a protection by an obedient child. Now the embrace is intended as an expression of love, but depending on the receptivity or non receptivity of the child that embracing will seen differently.
In the same way when Krishna expresses His love and we also express our love on behalf of Krishna then the ways in which that love is expressed will vary depending on whether the person is receiving or not receiving that love. In that sense, we provide people facility to come towards Krishna. If they don’t choose to come towards Krishna then we can still have some relationship by which in future they want to come to Krishna, we have to keep the doors open. We certainly have a relationship as human beings with them but then the specific things that brought us together, say if the relationship is centered on Krishna then if Krishna is not in their life then what will be the basis of that relationship. Things will change. Say if we are colleagues or we are relatives then that commonality will lead to have some relationship still be there. But the magnitude of relationship and the specific expressions of affection in that relationship will vary, depending on whether that person is interested in Krishna or not interested in Krishna. So unconditional love does not mean an unconditional license. It means reciprocation based on the condition of that person. We always offer love but whether that person receive or not that determines whether the love will be expressed in some way or another way. Thank you.