Why does Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati criticize organized churches when ISKCON is also an organised church?
From Kalanidhi Prabhu
Transcription by– VandanaGoel and Keshav Gopal Das
Question– Why does Bhakti Siddhant Saraswati Thakur say that an organized church can never contain the spiritual potency of a living movement when Iskcon is also an organized church and Guadiya Math also is an organized church? What is he talking about? Can you clarify?
Answer – Bhakti SiddhantSarasvati Thakur is not talking about the organized churches which are dedicated to the glorification of the Lord. He is talking about institutionalization which saps the spirit of the spiritual seeking that should be there within the institution. Bhakti SiddhantSarasvati Thakur spoke this at a time when he hadstartedseeing the lethargy, competiveness and materialism seeping into the Gaudiya Math. So he gave this famous class…actually the passage is from an essay called “Putana”. Just as Putanaprtended to be the nourisher of Krishna but was the poisoner. Like that he is saying that the institution which is meant to nourish can also poison. He is warning his disciples to not let institution sap this spirit. But we know that he himself founded an institution and Prabhupad also founded the institution. The example which I have also given in my OMG-book and there is also an article on the site “Does Institutionalization kills the spirit of religion?”
When many drops trickles and come together, they make a river and the river goes to the ocean. Essentially an institution is what? There are many people with drops andtrickle like spiritual urges and they all come together and when they create some infrastructure for practicing spiritual life that becomes an institution. As long as the river is flowing towards the ocean that is good. Similarly, as long as peoples’ search for spiritualism is facilitated and accelerated within the institution that is good but if the river is flowing broadly and beautifully and some people with ulterior motives come and they decide that we will use the river for our purposes, they created dam and block the water then the river’s flow will be checked. Similarly with an institution people with exploitive mentality, selfish mentality may come and the facilities which aremeant to take people towards God, they use them for their own selfishgratification. When that happens that is unfortunate.
Bhakti Siddhant Thakur is talking about that possibility. He is saying that when this happens then the living movement gets reduced to impotence. So importance should not be unduly given to the form, it should be given to the substance. The institution is important but institution’s form keepschanging.
There wasVishwa Vaishnava Rajsabha during the time of RupaGoswami. There was Gudiya Math at the time of Bhakti Siddhant Thakur and ISKCON in the time of Srila Prahupada and now for some outreach purposes different devotees in the different parts of the world may create some specific forums. That is just theform. Substance is they are all trying to create a group of people who are trying to reach Krishna. As long as exploitative desires, which are there in the hearts of all of us, don’t take control of our heart, don’t impel us to take control of the resources meant for serving Krishna till that time spiritual movement can maintain its spirituality. That’s why constant vigilance is required by the individuals. We shouldn’t assume that just because we have joined an institution we will make spiritually advancement. It is the spiritual practices which the institution facilitates that will enable us to attain spiritual advancement. Weather we are just nominally affiliating with the institution or we are transformationally utilizing the facilities provided by the institution to go closer to Krishna, it is an introspection that we have to do individually when we are the members of institution.And if we get the responsibility of leading an institution insome capacity then we haveto ensure that facilities which we have beenentrusted are used for the purpose of going closer toKrishna and taking others to Krishna. They don’t get utilized or misused by us or other people for their own selfish purposes.
Basically Bhakti Siddhant Thakur in this quote is not condemning aorganized church but he is cautioning us against selfish desires sabotaging the purpose of religion because of organization/institution being misused by us.