Śrutakīrti: On the Pan Am Airlines from Tokyo to Hawaii Prabhupāda was reading something about women’s liberation. He said, “If these women want to be liberated, then tell them to shave their heads like us and they can be liberated.” Prabhupāda asked Nitāi dāsa to call one of the stewardesses over and tell her, “If you want to be like a man, then shave your head.”
“Go ahead,” Prabhupāda nudged Nitāi. “Cut a joke. Call her over here. Tell her.” Nitāi hesitated, but Prabhupāda seemed serious. “Tell her to shave her head. Then she can be a man if she wants to be liberated.” Although Prabhupāda repeatedly asked that he call the stewardess and make the joke, Nitāi wouldn’t do it. So Prabhupāda finally let it go.
It wasn’t the first time Śrīla Prabhupāda was faced with a controversy when he arrived in Hawaii. Hawaii was such a place where groups of devotees gathered who did not want to follow strictly the rules and regulations and who supported their deviancy from the ISKCON norm with their own philosophies. One such devotee, after breaking away from ISKCON, had gathered his own followers and preached to them and to newcomers that it was best not to live in the temple. He did not advocate that one follow the rules and regulations strictly, nor did he conduct any organized preaching activity—only casual chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa. Prabhupāda tolerated this leader and his splinter group, even though it was his own ISKCON they were criticizing. He wanted to encourage anyone who was chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa or desiring to be his follower. If they chanted Hare Kṛṣṇa, he said, they would gradually be purified. Those living outside the temple and following the principles loosely said that Prabhupāda approved of their activities and of their leader, while those devotees living faithfully in ISKCON criticized the divergent group. Arguments went back and forth, and Śrīla Prabhupāda’s arrival became an occasion for direct confrontation. That Prabhupāda was traveling to all his ISKCON centers, including the ISKCON in Hawaii (and not to the other group’s headquarters), was in itself conclusive. When there were threats to his one and only temple when ISKCON was located at 26 Second Avenue in New York City, he had been like a worried father. But now Prabhupāda’s transcendental worries had expanded as his family spread out into a hundred centers in countries all over the world.
After Prabhupāda arrived in Hawaii some of the persons involved in the controversy brought their philosophical issues before him. He once again clarified his position and the position of his true followers.
While walking one morning with devotees on Waikiki Beach, Prabhupāda answered their questions about the nature of pure devotional service.
Devotee: “I’ve heard there is a philosophy here among some of the devotees that if you chant Hare Kṛṣṇa you can go back to the spiritual world, even if you do not give up your independence.”
Prabhupāda: “So what is your philosophy?”
Devotee: “Well, it seems that’s somewhat hypocritical. Because chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa means that you are praying to Kṛṣṇa to please be engaged eternally in His service and to become completely dependent on Him. So we try to explain like that. We try to follow all the teachings and instructions, attend maṅgala-ārati, and morning and evening class.”
Prabhupāda: “So they are doing that or not?”
Devotee: “No, they’re not even following regulative principles.”
Devotee: “They think that just by chanting they will go back to the spiritual world. That is enough.”
Prabhupāda: “Then what is the meaning of the ten kinds of offenses? If he is chanting without offense, then it is all right. But if he is committing offenses, then it will not be effective. There are ten kinds of offenses; whether he is strictly offenseless, then he is all right. If he is offender, then it will not be fruitful. Or it will be fruitful, but it will take a long time. Because first of all you must become offenseless. So if they are committing offenses, how can they be perfect? He is committing the offense of not following the rules and regulations. That means he is thinking that whatever I can do will be adjusted by chanting the name. Is it not?”
Devotee: “Yes, that’s one of the offenses.”
Prabhupāda: “That is called the greatest offense. Nāmno balād yasya hi pāpa-buddhiḥ. ‘I can go on committing sinful activity, but by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra it will be adjusted.’ That is the greatest offense. So explain it to them.”
The devotees then asked if such chanting without following the regulative principles strictly was just a waste of time. It was not a useless thing, Prabhupāda replied, but it was a very slow process. He compared it to kindling a fire and at the same time pouring water on it.
Another devotee protested that all devotees living outside the temple weren’t breaking the regulative principles. He knew many who were following, Prabhupāda replied. “It doesn’t matter that you have to live in the temple. If he does not agree with his other God-brothers, friends, he can live separately. But he must follow the rules and regulations. That is wanted. But if you live with the devotees, it will automatically be done.”
Devotee: “Yes, then it is easy.”
Prabhupāda: “Therefore it is recommended that you live with devotees. But if you cannot agree with the devotees, you have got your own opinion, then you still can’t make a new opinion as far as following the process is concerned. It is not a good idea to say, ‘Whatever I do, that is my independence, and I will chant.’” Prabhupāda admitted that even if one was living in the temple but his mind was not absorbed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then he also could not advance quickly. But the great advantage of living in the temple could not be denied.
Prabhupāda: “It is just like even in ordinary business. If you transact business in the stock association, you get good business. And outside the stock association you don’t get good. Because the association is there. There are many purchasers and many sellers. So if you have to sell, you get an immediate purchaser. And if you have to purchase, there is an immediate seller. Therefore the stock exchange is there. So if we live together in the stock exchange of devotional service, then you can help me and I can help you, so our business will go on nicely. And outside the market you can live three hundred miles away from the stock exchange, but you will not get so many business opportunities.”
Devotee: “You’ll miss the opportunities.”
Prabhupāda: “Yes. Therefore, if you want to do business, you must take the first opportunity, the greatest opportunity. That is intelligence. And if we think, ‘All right, I shall do it slowly, and in seven hundred lifetimes I shall become perfect,’ that is another thing.”
Devotee: “It is riskier to stay outside.”
Prabhupāda: “Oh, yes. Otherwise, why are you opening so many centers and making arrangements that we shall provide you with shelter, with food—‘These are the facilities, you live here. Do whatever is your capacity in the temple. Don’t sleep but work.’ That is our teaching. Satāṁ prasaṅgāt. And Rūpa Gosvāmī also says, sato vṛtteḥ, sādhu-saṅgād, bhaktiḥ prasidhyati. If you live with the association of the devotees, then it will be quickly fruitful. And if you live with these ordinary men, then whatever you’ve got will be finished very soon. In another verse it is said that it is preferred to live within a cage surrounded by fire than to live with the nondevotee.” The essential thing was to follow the order of the spiritual master, Prabhupāda stated, whether in or out of the temple. He recalled that he also did not live within the temple, but still he always strictly followed his spiritual master’s order. “Wherever you live,” Prabhupāda said, “if you follow strictly the instruction of the guru, then you remain perfect. But if we create concocted ideas against the instruction of the guru, then we go to hell. Yasya prasādad bhagavat-prasādo yasyāprasādan na gatiḥ kuto ’pi. There is no more shelter; finished. If the guru thinks, ‘This person, I wanted to take him back to home, back to Godhead, but now he is going against me, he is not following’—aprasāda—then when he is displeased, everything is finished.”
One of the devotees asked further how one can serve the spiritual master while working at an outside job. “Say I have some outside job, I’m living outside, but I’m not giving fifty percent of my income. So then that job I’m doing, is it actually under the authority of the guru?”
Prabhupāda: “Then you are not following the instruction of guru. That is plain fact.”
Devotee: “So that means the whole activity during the day—working—that means that I’m not following the instruction of the guru? It’s unauthorized activity?”
Prabhupāda: “Yes, if you don’t follow the instruction of the guru then you have fallen down immediately.”
Another confrontation took place in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s room, with devotees who insisted they could faithfully obey Śrīla Prabhupāda but could not follow his G.B.C. representative or his ISKCON. One dissenter had devised an intricate philosophy that Śrīla Prabhupāda was all-knowing and expert spiritually, but not materially. “Prabhupāda can’t build a jet engine,” he said. “He can’t build a nuclear reactor. Therefore he is not expert materially. But he is expert spiritually.”
Most of the devotees rejected this concoction. According to śāstra, the pure devotee, unlike the yogī, completely depends on Kṛṣṇa for his ability. The yogī tries to develop powers to do wonderful things like walking on water or becoming invisible, but a devotee’s powers come through his surrender to Kṛṣṇa, who creates his devotee’s expertise.
According to this new theory, since Prabhupāda had to depend on his own men, his disciples, to know what was going on in ISKCON, he was unaware of how badly the G.B.C. were mismanaging, of how they were misconducting the book distribution, and of how they were mistreating the devotees. Prabhupāda was not aware, because these activities were occurring on the material platform. In this way, they reached their conclusion of faith and trust in Prabhupāda but refused to work within his society with his representatives.
The devotees in Prabhupāda’s room had formerly been leaders of ISKCON Hawaii but had left and were now threatening to use the funds and properties in their own name. Prabhupāda kept asking them simply, “Why did you leave? Why don’t you stay? Why don’t you surrender?” But they insisted that while they trusted Prabhupāda, they could not trust the G.B.C.
One of the G.B.C. members in the room became exasperated with their refusal to accept Prabhupāda’s simple request of surrender. “You say that you accept Prabhupāda?”
“Yes,” they replied.
“And you say you have faith in him?”
“You say that whatever he asks, you can follow?”
“So, then, if Prabhupāda asks you to follow the G.B.C., will you do it?” The room became tense and silent.
“No, we cannot follow.”
When they uttered that no, Śrīla Prabhupāda dropped his fist on his table and pointed to the deviant devotees, declaring, “Just see the hypocrisy!”
Even after Prabhupāda’s stark conclusion, they maintained their “we-surrender-to-you-but-not-to-ISKCON” philosophy until Prabhupāda asked them to leave. To the other devotees remaining in the room Prabhupāda remarked, “When they say they don’t like ISKCON and the G.B.C., they are really saying they don’t like to follow my order. That means they don’t like my order. That means they don’t have faith in my order. That means don’t they have faith in me. That means guru-aparādha. To say they have faith in me is just hypocrisy.”
Śrutakīrti: Finally Prabhupāda was ready to leave. Just before he was ready to go, he said he wanted to see me. He said, “Śrutakīrti, so now you are going to stay here? Your wife is here and child?” I said, “Yes, Prabhupāda.” He said, “Yes, so stay here as householder and manage the temple.” But all along I was thinking I really should go with Prabhupāda. He had no one with him. He had no servant or anything. But I said, “Yes, Prabhupāda, I think I should stay.” And he replied, “So that is good. Yes, you stay here with your wife.” But one of the sannyāsīs in the room started laughing and said, “Yes, you know what they call the wife and child? They are known as the tigress and jackal.” Then the sannyāsī asked Śrīla Prabhupāda, “Prabhupāda, I know why the woman is called a tigress, but why are the children considered jackals?” Prabhupāda replied, “Well, the children, in so many ways they create so many inconveniences for the father. They are always requiring things, and sometimes disturbing him, and he cannot sleep. In this way, it is like eating the flesh of the father. This is the business of jackals, eating flesh. So the children are like jackals. They are always putting the father in so much disturbance and difficulty.” So I was sitting there, thinking, “Gee, here I am, and Prabhupāda is telling me to stay with the tiger and jackal.” So then I said, “Prabhupāda, I think I should come with you.” And Prabhupāda simply said, “All right.”
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