Is humanitarian activity not a form of subtle sense gratification?

by Chaitanya CharanSeptember 19, 2012

From Mukesh Bhatt:

Just as you say “Pizza Prasadam” is that really prasad or subtle sense gratification hidden using the medium of Prasadam. Similarly mass scale Prasadam distribution (that is portrayed at least externally as a humanitarian activity)-  is that really a spiritual activity or subtle material activity under the guise of a spiritual activity?

(Relevant Quote)

“Those who think that devotion to God and kindness to the jivas [souls] are mutually different from each other, and perform accordingly in their life, such persons will not be able to follow the devotional culture. Their performances are only a semblance of devotion. Therefore, all the types of beneficence to others — like kindness, friendliness, forgiveness, charity, respect, etc., are included in bhakti. Among these, according to the triple categories of the recipients. viz., high, medium and low, the actions of respect, friendliness and kindness are the very form of love and the characteristic portion of bhakti: Charity of medicines, clothes, food, water, etc., shelter during adversities, teaching of academic and spiritual educations, etc., are the activities included in the devotional culture.”

–Tattva Viveka-Tattva Sutra-Amnaya Sutra- A Comprehensive Exposition of the Spiritual Reality by Bhaktivinoda Thakura [Tattva Sutra portion (sutra 35)]. Sree Gaudiya Math, Madras. English translation by Narasimha Brahmacari. pp. 185-6


Answer: Thank You for this important question, and firstly I did not say that pizza Prasad is not Prasad. Pizza Prasad is surely Prasad when it is offered to Krishna, it is Prasad. My point was whether we are able to see it as prasad or not. The two are different, even the difference is subtle it is important, whenever we offer food to Krishna, it does gets spiritualized but the question is whether our vision of it is spiritual or not. So that’s the clarification. Now coming to the answer for the main question, this is a sensitive issue within both the Krishna conscious community as well as the interaction of the Krishna conscious community with the outside world. So let’s look at it first form the scriptural point of view then let us look at Acharyas statements and then let us look at the current context and see what is actually happening. So if we look at the Srimad Bhagavatam, we have many examples of Kings who are glorified for doing humanitarian work, of course the word used over there is not humanitarian work but if you look at it, it is clear that it is humanitarian work over there. We have Maharaj Rantidev and Maharaj Sibi, actually it is not even humanitarian it was beyond humans because Maharaj Sibi offers His own body for the sake of a bird and Maharaj Rantidev offers even His own food and water not just to other human beings but even to dogs of some other human beings and if we look at the whole passage, there is no reference to anything directly spiritual over there. Yes so Maharaj Sibi and Maharaj Rantidev basically see that as a opportunity to sacrifice for the welfare of other living beings and they even sacrifice everything for that sake. So now are they doing sense gratification, obviously not, they are actually giving up all sense gratification. Now might be we are doing it just so that they will be glorified, that they are sacrificing so much and is that subtle sense gratification, is that egoistic sense gratification, the Bhagavatam doesn’t give any hint of that, the way they express their in heart consciousness, they are actually having a devotional consciousness, they see that ultimately the Lord is testing me and I have a duty as a King and for the sake of my duty, even if the Lord test me in a tough way, I will do it. So there is a combination of Kshatriya responsibility and a sense of determined devotion which combined to inspire these Kings to do whatever is required for the sake of their citizens. We don’t see either Maharaj Rantidev or Maharaj Sibi telling the people over there that you are not the body you are the soul and don’t bother about food like this, it’s your karma just die, they don’t speak like that nor does Maharaj Prithu speak like that, when the earth is not giving food and he actively works, even he is ready to raise his arms against earth even if she takes the form of a cow, so that the people’s needs are met and actually speaking when the people originally come to him they are just saying that our bodies are suffering terribly because the digestive fire is burning us from within as if we are in a forest fire and please we are dying of hunger, arrange for some food for us. So in their request, there is nothing mundane, there is nothing spiritual explicitly speaking, it is entirely at a material level, the need of the body and all these three stories are coming in the amala puran, in the purest form of Vedic literature, the Srimad Bhagavatam. So that means form the scriptural point of view there is absolutely nothing wrong in taking care of the bodies of others. In fact that is required as a duty and those who are ready to go out of their way and sacrifice for their duty are considered glorious. So it is certainly not subtle sense gratification and we need to understand scriptures through the Acharyas. So our prominent Acharyas in the modern times are Bhakti Vinoda Thakura, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur and Srila Prabhupada. So if we look at Bhakti Vinoda Thakura’s life and teachings, He repeatedly refers to humanitarian activity as a limb of Bhakti. He says that in general those who are, this is a quote from Bhakti Vinoda Thakura’s  Tattva Sutra, he just writes over there those who think that devotion to God and kindness to the jivas are mutually different from each other and perform accordingly in their lives, such persons will not be able to follow the devotional culture. Their performances are only a _______ of devotion. Therefore all the types of beneficence to others like kindness, friendliness, forgiveness, charity etc are included in Bhakti. Among these according to the triple categories of recipients high, medium and low, the actions of respect, friendliness and kindness are the very form of love and characteristic portion of Bhakti. Then very important charity of medicines, clothes, food, water etc shelter during adversities, teaching of academic and spiritual educations etc are the activities included in the devotional culture. So Bhakti Vinoda Thakura is quire unambiguous about it and there are many other quotes similar to this in Chaitanya shikshamrta in several of His other books like that. So where He does say that doing welfare work, even if it is material welfare work is within the ambit of devotional activities. Now we of course know that Srila Prabhupada was strongly critical of these sort of activities and so to some extent was Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur and now let us look at the historical context to which they were responding. So now in general when an Acharya speaks, the Acharya speaks the scriptures according to the context, so now if we look at a condemnation of mundane humanitarian work, we don’t find any such condemnation in the scriptures directly. So there is surely condemnation of mundane attachment, material attachment but there is no condemnation of the principle of charity and what we call as humanitarian work. If we look at the Bhagavad Gita Yagna, dhana, tapa, so dhan is an important activity which is there and if we look at the examples of Bhagavatam, certainly the charity of food that is been given, it is not given only to the Brahmanas or something like that. It is given to all kinds of people. So now the Acharyas statements, if the critic that they are making of humanitarian work is not found in the scriptures directly then where is it to be found, what is the reason for it. No Acharya will speak something that is contradictory to scripture, then that means the critic is of a specific context within which that Acharya has been teaching. So to give a simple example to illustrate this point, Srila Prabhupada talks in Isopanishad about, the first ishavasya purport, He talks about communalism and capitalism and now communalism and capitalism are not talked about in the ishavasyam idam sarvam verse, they are application of that verse. So similarly the Acharyas will apply the scriptural teachings to specific historical circumstances. So now we have to look at the historical circumstances in which Srila Prabhupada, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur up rated. So if we look that those circumstances, what do we find, from the seventeenth, eighteenth century onwards, when India became a British colony, along with the British Raj came a sustained campaign to Christianize India. So Christian missionaries came to India and they worked in the field of education and that is what sparked the Bengali Renaissance and Bhakti Vinoda Thakura was at the heart of Bengali Renaissance and as the Bengali Renaissance took of more and more. So initially the Christians, the Christian missionaries did a severe scaling critic of the Hindu system, you are polytheistic, you are idolaters, you are ritualistic, you’re caste is this and that and they were hoping that by this scaling critic Hindus would give realize the _______ what they consider the ______ of their religious system and adopt the enlightened doctrine of Christianity. However things did not go according to their plan, certainly the Hindus were sensitive to their critics but rather than wholesale converting to Christianity, Hindus tried to reform their own religious system and that’s what led to the Bengali renaissance which basically was in the nineteenth century. So many of the shapers of modern Hinduism starting from Ram Mohan Roy, Dayananda Saraswathi, RamaKrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, then many others like Aurobindo Ghosh also, a little bit later. So many of them were from Bengal and they shaped, they formulated the modern understanding of Hinduism, so rather than accepting Christianity most of these leaders they tried to redefine Hinduism in contemporary terms. So when the Christians found that the educational efforts were not working so well in converting Hindus then they shifted largely to humanitarian work and when they shifted to humanitarian work they by showing that see because of our Christian beliefs we have so much compassion for all the living beings because we embody the love of Jesus and out of the love for Jesus, we are sharing love with the whole world and that’s why you are poor, you are suffering, you are starving, we will give you food, we will give you medicine, we will give you housing and what do you want in return, oh accept the love of Jesus, convert to Christianity  and this drive was much much more successful than the educational drive. So when Hindus started converting to Christianity in mass, at that time they also said that oh because you Hindus believe in this principle of karma and reincarnation and the other discriminative caste system, so your religious systems are what is perpetuating this humanitarian inequality. So they said that, so according to the sisters of charity which is actually Mother Teresa’s organization which is portrayed very widely and a very positive light, there common propaganda, because at some time there would also criticize, actually we all say that you are doing humanitarian work but eventually you expect people to convert to Christianity so are you doing humanitarian work or are you doing missionary work conversion work. So as a response to this attempted conversion by Christians many Hindus refashioned the philosophy. So the Christians would argue that we see all human beings as children of God, we don’t divide human beings in to lower caste and upper caste, so at that time certain mayavadi organizations, certain impersonalist organizations they tried to pull one upon Christianity by saying that you see all people as the children of God, we see all people as God itself and this was how the whole idea of manavaseva hi madhava seva hai or daridra narayan seva came up and this tried to portray this particular idea which came up within certain Hindu organizations tried to portray that social service is equivalent to devotional service, in fact social service is a superior substitute to devotional service why because what is the use of worshipping a insentient stone in the temple, you worship the living, moving, crying, starving Gods who are in the streets of the city and they try to portray as if while who could see god in the poor people and in their sufferings had a more evolved spiritual vision, then those who could see God only as the Deity  and the motivation for this particular twist to the impersonalist philosophy came not form scriptures but again from the socio cultural context. The Shankaracharya who is the most prominent proponent of mayavad never portrayed any this sort of idea that serving the poor is an expression of transcendental realization but anyway this idea became very popular and it threatened to attack the very roots of Vedic culture. So the proponents of this sort of idea denigrated devotional service in various ways and denigrated those who practiced and thought devotional service. So the proponents of this sort of idea would say that what is the use of worshipping Tulasi. You don’t get anything by that, if you want to do anything you water a banyan tree you will get banyans to eat by that, so this sort of ideas, I could quote a whole list of it, they started attacking the _____ foundation of Vedic culture and understanding that we need to serve God for our own purification for ensuring that ________ by the satisfaction of the lord material nature becomes satisfied and all our material necessities are provided for, so I will not go into an elaborate refutation of this of why this manava seva hi madhava seva idea is wrong because that will take a long time and there are forth lectures as well as question answers which deal with this separately but I will here focus on the main point that Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura and Srila Prabhupada had to respond to this extremely misleading and dangerous misconception that was prevalent during their times and that’s why Srila Prabhupada in His purports repeatedly points out that the daridra narayana seva is a offensive concept because Lord Narayana is never daridra and because both at that time the Christians as well as Hindus who were doing social service in the name of religion. So what was happening was that people started equating religion with social service and people started thinking this is what we need to expect from social service. So naturally Srila Prabhupada had to point out that not only are the two not equivalent but at the same time there is much that social service cannot achieve which devotional service can and Srila Prabhupada would say that social service is just like blowing a sour or without caring it, He would say that it is like say in the dress of a drowning man, would say it is as you have pointed out, subtle sense gratification, it is the expression of the false ego and in this are all these ways He pointed out the inadequacies of social services certainly He underscored that no way is it equivalent to devotional service and certainly He didn’t want ISKCON to adopt the idea that manavaseva hi madhava seva he, that just by serving the people we can serve God, certainly if we serve people by connecting them with God then that is devotional service but apart from that the specific objective of sharing Krishna consciousness is to help people not just at the material level but at all the levels, all-round help by connecting them with Krishna. So this is how we understand Srila Prabhupada’s and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s critic of social service from the historical context. Now if we look at today’s socio cultural reality. Let’s project into a hypothetical situation. Imagine in the future in one particular state or one particular country, we have a Krishna consciousness government and then there is some natural disaster, there is flood or famine or some other natural disaster earth quake or tsunami and then what will the king do at that time. Assume that the king is a devotee, what will he do at that time. Will he say that all the people are dying because of their own karma and let them all die. Will he think that if I provide them any food I am interfering with their karma and so I should not provide them any food or any relief. If we look at the Bhagavatam, certainly we don’t see Rantidev or Sibi or Prithu thinking like this. Obviously he will have his duty to do everything possible to provide relief to those who are suffering at that time because the king’s duty is to provide material welfare. Of course the king’s duty is provide material welfare in a way that also combines with spiritual welfare. The Brahmanas generally doesn’t bother too much about the material welfare of people. The Brahmana focuses on the spiritual welfare to others by giving them spiritual knowledge. But that doesn’t mean that in Vedic society people had to starve while they were getting spiritual knowledge, no even there material needs were taken care of and that was done by responsible kshatriya kings. So that means that certainly material welfare is not to be condemned, of course this king shouldn’t think that if he is providing for the starving people that he doesn’t need to build any temples or fund any devotional activities or he doesn’t have any obligations except to take care of the bodies of the citizens. That would ________ understanding. But taking care of the material side of his citizens is also an important responsibility of the king and a king shirking from that is not necessarily a spiritual king. A spiritual head of a state would also have to take care of this. So then, if in the future, a Krishna conscious king will take care of the worldly needs of his citizens, then what is wrong with ISKCON doing that. So certainly Srila Prabhupada wanted ISKCON to comprise to some extent primarily of Brahmanas, in the sense that Srila Prabhupada went to America and He said I went to America to look for Brahmanas. So that means He want to look for spiritually inclined intellectuals. At the same time Srila Prabhupada also said that, we eventually want to recreate the full Varna ashram dharma and there are several letters of Srila Prabhupada where He said that at two three places when the devotees were attacked by certain hooligans, Srila Prabhupada said that the devotees should also, those devotees who are inclined should become trained as kshatriyas, they should learn to use weapons for self defense and for the protection of the temple and the devotee community. So Srila Prabhupada did not envision ISKCON to be exclusively an organization of Brahmanas. So if ISKCON or the Krishna conscious community is going to expand to include kshatriyas and surely it will have to include humanitarian work because kshatriyas, one of their duties is humanitarian work. So now the real conflict that comes in deciding the specifics is what is the connection of that humanitarian work with sharing of Krishna consciousness. In fact in one sense the humanitarian work in this world was done by devotees that could indicate the blossoming of the Varna-ashram project because Srila Bhakti Vinoda Thakura said that he longed for the day when the high court judges would be wearing tilaks. Now what does it mean, it means that, so the idea of high court judges wearing tilak is indicative of the idea that Krishna consciousness has spread far and wide even to the highest echelons of society. Even when Krishna consciousness has spread far and wide, still there are, Bhakti Vinoda Thakura expected that there will be courts and there will be judges who will be there in the courts that means there will be cases to be judged and there will be criminals who will need to be corrected. So we can’t expect by a magic wand, that just when Krishna conscious comes up all the problem that ______ material existence, whether it be crime which judges will deal with or whether it be poverty or the humanitarian problems which humanity welfare deals with will automatically vanish. They will be there but they will be substantially minimized by Krishna conscious culture and society and the sharing of the Krishna conscious message but still they will be there. So just as judges, there is a presence of devotee judges can be seen as a sign with the blossoming of the Varna-ashram culture, similarly having devotee or humanitarian workers can also be a sign of the blossoming of Varna-ashram but the real issue over here is, what is the order of priority, by the order of priority, what I mean is what is the conception of the particular devotees who are doing humanitarian activity and what is the perception of ISKCON about this activity and what is the perception of society about this activity, so three things, person doing it, ISKCON. So in the manava seva madhava seva idea and the person thinks person is a mayavadi and he thinks that everybody is narayan and the spiritual organization thinks also that he is narayan and he is serving narayan and people also think that way. So the mayavadi conception is unfortunately incorrect but in a devotee community if by doing such an activity we are able to distribute Prasad to large number of people and people who because of their religious or cultural beliefs don’t even take Prasad, they start taking Prasad because of this. We are raising them to least the level of agyan sukruti and there are many people who get benefitted this way. So certainly the Prasad may not be of the highest standards in terms of being offered to the deities but still due precaution is taken and the prasadam is offered and what is cooked is offered to the Lord then it is prasadam. Certainly not of the same standard as what is offered to the deity but surely prasadam still and by that at one level people at some levels there spiritual life is beginning and there are getting spiritually elevated just through the prasadam and if we consider the distribution of prasadam as a mundane activity, then that is an offence towards Prasad because we are looking at Prasad as a material substance at that time. So by this first of all we can reach out to a large number of people whom we would not be able to reach out to and if the devotees who engage in this are doing it as a part of their profession then they are doing some professional work which is at least some way connected with Krishna consciousness. Being a business man and doing business, being a doctor or being a professor, in general this has very well connection with Krishna consciousness or with very little direct sharing of Krishna consciousness, but if devotees are employed in a organization that is distributing prasadam then they are at least indirectly engaging in devotional service even through their professions  and where would this fall in the hierarchy from 12.8 to 12 that Krishna talks about in the Bhagavad Gita, in that hierarchy Krishna says first just think of me constantly “mayi eva mana adhatsva mayi buddhim niveshaya”, if you can’t do this next verse he says is do sadhana Bhakti  “ tam samadhatum na shaknosi mayi sthiram abhyasa yogena tato mam icchaptum dhananjaya” then you will be able to, you should do abhyasa do sadhana Bhakti, if you can’t do that “abhyase py asamartho si mat karma paramo bhava mad artham api karmani kurvan siddhim avapsyasi” in 12.10 He says you work for me and by this you will also attain perfection and then He says if you can’t work for Me then sacrifice your work for some good cause “athaitad apy ashakto si kartum mad yogam asritah sarva karma phala tyagam tatah kuru yatatmavan”. So He says ok sacrifice the fruits of your work for Me and you will gradually become self situated and will advance by this. So let’s look at this four ______ that Krishna talks about first is practice devotional service just fix your mind on Me, live within me, this is what all of us aspire to get to but we are a long way from that, second is do sadhana Bhakti that is what all ISKCON devotees do, when they chant sixteen rounds and study scriptures and come with the association and hear Srimad Bhagavatam, then Krishna says below that work for Me, now work for Me can happen at various levels. Work for Me is say those who are brahmachari in the temple they are directly working for Krishna. Secondly those stay outside the temple but come and do services in the temple or services for Krishna’s mission, they are working for Krishna so both these are at the same level that’s direct working for Krishna without taking any monetary returns. Another level of working for Krishna could be that one does Krishna’s work but he is also involved in taking some monetary returns for it, so there are people who are employed in the temples who are doing some sort of work for the temple, so that is certainly devotional service but at the same time because they also need finance, so they are getting some financial help and third would be that those who work entirely in their own professions and then connect it with Krishna by offering some portion of their earnings to Krishna. So all these three are working for Krishna and actually say the projects like mass humanitarian activity with a Krishna conscious touch to it, those will fall in the second level instead of third. So if grihasthas instead of doing the third level activity where they are doing just activity that are entirely material but they are spiritualizing it at the end by offering the fruits of their work to Krishna. If they do the second level activity that means they work in a way that is indirectly at least connected with the out reach of Krishna consciousness so then that is certainly within the realm of devotional service and that is gradually going to help them advance, possibly more than what just offering a part of their earnings would. So we now look at two things first is that the people who get prasadam they are getting spiritually benefitted, the devotees who are distributing prasadam, they are engaging in some level of devotional service and what about ISKCON itself. In general as I said people expect a spiritual organization to contribute tangibly to society and most people today don’t think that if you do your own cultural ideas, you chant and dance and you build big temples, people don’t think that you are contributing anything to society. So now if people have a positive estimate of Krishna consciousness, does that help Krishna consciousness, yes it helps in hundreds of ways. If we are seen as positively contributing to society then when we have to build temples, organize ratha yathras, get permissions for book distribution, it becomes much easier to get that. So a positive perception in society can help us in studying the direct out reach of Krishna consciousness, also in fact it is important to have that positive perception within society and especially places where we have a negative perception where the society perceives as negatively preaching is quite difficult. We know in Russia how difficult it was when the government treated devotees as illegal, devotional service as illegal, in china still devotees have to practice it underground level. In certain states in India where communism was in power, at that time it was very difficult to practice and share Krishna consciousness. So this is of course the political rule but the point is that the perception of people towards society and the powers in society, towards Krishna consciousness does play a significant role in our capacity to share direct Krishna consciousness with society or for that matter to ourselves exist also. So there are many temples in Africa as well as in USSR where because there were repeated military coupes and upheavals, the very existence of the temples and the safety of the devotees was in danger but because the devotees were doing food for life, so at that time whichever military side came to power they said these are good people let them continue so this happened. Now this is not a guarantee that it will happen all the time, how do we expect it to happen all the time but it does indicate that it can act as a platform for us to be able to practice direct devotional service and share direct devotional service. Now these are the benefits for all three classes, for the people to whom we are reaching out, for the people who are doing this service and for ISKCON as a movement also, at the same time the issues are not so black and white because if we start doing this too much if we start doing this as our main activity and it becomes our main identity in the eyes of the world then we will be misrepresenting our tradition and we will be as you have pointed out, engaging in subtle sense gratification. So if we for example, if we are going to start a project some where and the first thing before we start building a temple the first thing we say is that we are going to have fifty thousand or one lakh children being fed over here by ISKCON’s so and  so  program and when right from the beginning people identify ISKCON with just this mid day meal sort of ideas, they had no other idea of what ISKCON does. Now this is a slippery slope down which people may fall, the devotees and ISKCON may fall. What will happen is first people start expecting this only from us where as soon as we go out people identify us “oh you are the people who do this, you are the people who feed hungry people” so then, when this is what becomes peoples expectation of us, then over a period of time we start thinking that this is what is important. So the devotees who are doing this, they start thinking ok we are actually doing the important work. Now those who are building temples, those who are chanting Hare Krishna, those who are distributing books, they are not anything important, we are actually doing the important thing and then gradually, so first those devotees get infected by this notion and in from them the whole devotee community gets affected by that and then we also start chanting and dancing, these are all not very important things, worshipping the deities, hearing Krishna katha, these are not at all important, actually the important thing is to go and feed the poor and then we will become completely, by that time disconnected from the core of Krishna consciousness that Srila Prabhupada came to offer us. So there is surely a danger on this and it is slippery slope down with somebody can very easily go down. So what is the caution against this. Actually the caution needs to be that firstly this should never become one of our main or defining activities and we should not advertise it too much within the devotee community or advertise it in our normal programs where we are actually presenting Krishna conscious philosophy to people. We should actually help people understand philosophically what Krishna consciousness contributes to the world and if there is a well developed devotee community and then within the devotee community, one or two of its members, they take up the responsibility of doing this sort of food for life, then that will not detract form the main spiritual atmosphere that is there in the community. So if we have a well developed community of devotees, then as I said when we have the brahmanas properly there, we have the vaishnava culture there, then basically when you transit form the Vaishnava culture to the Varna ashram culture. What is the difference between the Vaishnava and Varna ashram culture. Vaishnava culture just devotional service but Varna ashram culture means that there is a broader culture which takes care of both the devotional side of people as well as the material side, does the Vaishnava culture take care of that, ideal it should, now if what we see in the Chaitanya Charitamrta, Vaishnava culture and there we don’t see any of the devotees bothered in any way about anything material, even when the Muslims were actually ruling and Nawab hussain shah was sometimes creating trouble for the devotee community, there is not much attention given to that in Chaitanya Charitamrta and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu by His omnipotence several times perplex the devotee community when there is danger but then the example of Srivas Thakura of just clapping three times whenever He is short of food and _____ assured by Lord Chaitanya that you will get food that is not an example which our Acharyas have told that we can imitate. So a Vaishnava culture is a culture which focuses primarily on devotional activities and a Vaishnava culture is not entitled the same as Varna ashram culture because Vaishnavism transcends Varna ashram also. Vaishnavism is like the pinnacle of Varna ashram. Varna ashram is much more foundational and Srila Prabhupada did say that fifty percent of His mission would be to establish a Varna ashram culture. So now of course, there is a profound lack of unanimity or even clarity about how Varna ashram is to be implemented in today’s society but there are attempts going on and what does Varna ashram mean. Now the essence of Varna ashram is not division of society and labeling of people, you are a Brahman, you are a kshatriya, you are a vaishya, you are a shudra, that is not the essence of Varna ashram. Srila Prabhupada got the ashram side of a ashram functioning and we do have brahmacharis, grihasthas, sanyasis in our movement. Now as far the Varna side the essence of the Varna side is that Prabhupada explained that ashram is for the soul, Varna is for the body that means the Varna system creates arrangement for people to take care of their material side within a overall devotional setting. So the brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya, sudras, they all have to take care of the material needs and when the society is divided according to these Varnas and they all perform the duties according to the psychophysical nature within of all devotional culture and understanding then their material life doesn’t obstruct or conflict with their spiritual side both go together, so today for most devotees, their material side obstructs or conflicts with their spiritual side, when they have to work in a non devotional or an anti devotional environment, that certainly adversely affects the spiritual life but if they were in a devotee community or a devotional setting then that would be a success. So one project that is being attempted is farm communities where there are number of devotees grihasthas as well as bramacharis, often grihasthas who actually live through the farm, where they are all in the association of the devotees and all the work that they do is in a devotional setting. So that is one way in which Varna ashram is being reimplemented, that is only one way and it is unlikely that, that will be the way in the near future a majority of devotees will be able to adopt. So what is the alternative, the alternative is that have some material endeavors which devotees do together for some devotees may start some tuition classes and number of devotees may combine in the tuition project and they may be within the tuition, by its tuitions they may teaching material subjects, but because they are all coming together now living the livelihood within a devotional atmosphere provoking the devotees, that could be one way in which Varna ashram gets implemented. So another devotees may come and start hospital, all the devotees who are working in the hospital get an opportunity to earn their livelihood and take care of their material needs within a devotional setting and that is valuable. Similarly some devotees may come together and start an organization that does some humanitarian work and that would also be as side of Varna ashram culture because they are all doing _______ activity so that they can earn their living and they are working within a devotional setting. Some other devotees may come and start a company and they may work over there, so all these would be Varna ashram projects. So as I said this would indicate the success of the Varna ashram culture within our movement and it would not at all be a subtle sense gratification. At one level we could go out to the extreme and argue that every material activity that everybody does that even devotee do is subtle sense gratification. Yes but those who are grihasthas they have to earn their livelihood what else can they do if you want to call that a subtle sense gratification then everybody is doing subtle sense gratification and we can’t avoid it but we are trying to spiritualise it by doing some devotional service also within it. So there is a danger in it and the danger is that we may identify this as our important activity and the world may identify us for this and however that is not an adequate warrant to just reject it wholesale. We have to take the necessary precaution against it and this is actually in one sense, the principle of Yukta vairagya. The principle of just as, we can use technology in Krishna’s service, we can use humanitarian work in Krishna‘s service. We can use humanitarian work as a means to attract people to Krishna and just as that is danger when we use computers and latest technology, we may ourselves get infatuated, people may misunderstand what we actually do, same thing can happen with humanitarian work. So the key to use in the Yukta vairagya is to have a clear philosophical understanding so that we understand what is Yukta and what is vairagya. The same way those devotees who engage in humanitarian work will have to have that clear understanding and it is a responsibility of the leaders of the movement to give a clear understanding of that to its members, especially those who are engaged in this activity but a blanket rejection of this humanitarian activity doesn’t necessarily make everything spiritual. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we are more pure or we are more faithful to the tradition or that we are avoiding all contaminations. Actually speaking out reach happens, sharing of Krishna consciousness happens only by taking risks and while taking risk they have to calculated risks. So there are projects within ISKCON where the mid day meal is just one part of the broad community and it has not become what ISKCON is identified with and there are other places where the humanitarian activities are _______ ISKCON is identified with. So where ISKCON has become primarily identified with these things and that is the perception that needs to be corrected and the whole push should be towards having a vibrant devotee community where this is just one small activity for a small number of devotees. So it should not take the resources that are used for sharing Krishna consciousness directly. It is not that devotees who are doing book distribution get involved in food for life distribution or something like that, at least that should not be their permanent service, but those who cannot do direct devotional service, those who of are for whatever is in there because they are grihasthas and they have their families to take care of, those who cannot engage in direct devotional service, if instead of doing this material work if they do this sort of humanitarian work, from the material point of view, it is in the mode of goodness, from the spiritual point of view, from the devotional point of view it is in a rung of devotional service that is above just doing material work and offering the fruits to Krishna. So with adequate precautions this is a very important way in which the Varna ashram culture can blossom within our movement. Thank You.



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Chaitanya Charan

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