God Consciousness vs. Society Consciousness
Responding to the necessity of the times Srila Sridhara Maharaja lucidly explains the absolute societal conception of Krsna consciousness:
Devotee: Within a religious mission, sectarian policies may appear to bar the path of progress and pragmatic concerns take precedence over spiritual ideals. Should one risk leaving the formal institution or should he try to remain within and work out the problems?
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Progress means elimination and new acceptance.
So, when there is a clash between the relative and the absolute standpoint,
the relative must be left aside, and the absolute accepted. The example
is given of a socialist in a country of capitalists. When there is a clash,
one will not express their creed for the sake of peace. But to maintain
the purity of their faith for the socialists they will try to leave and
join the socialists.
So, the absolute and the relative are two different classes of interest. And we find more importance in the absolute interest. We must be sincere to our own creed. The form is necessary to help me in a general way to maintain my present position. At the same time, my conception of the higher ideal will always goad me to advance, to go forward, and wherever I do, I must follow the greater model, the greater ideal. Spiritual life is progressive, not stagnant. We are in the stage of sadhana, and we want to go ahead, not backwards. The formal position will help me to maintain my present status, and my extraordinary affinity for the ideal will goad me towards the front. The search for Sri Krsna is dynamic and living, so adjustment and readjustment is always going on. And we should also change our present position accordingly, so that we may not have to sacrifice the high ideal for which we have come. Einstein had to leave Germany and go to America for his high ideal of life. And so many similar instances may be found in the world. The ideal is all in all. The highest ideal in a man is his highest jewel. Our most precious gem is our ideal.
Many things are recommended in the scriptures, but they are meant to promote us towards the truth in an indirect way (sva-dharme nidhanam sreya ). [Bg 3.35] It is recommended at a certain stage that for the sake of our close friends, we should give up our ideal. But in the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna's final instruction is sarva dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: "If it is necessary to maintain the highest ideal, you must give up your friends. Surrender to me. I am the real purport of the scriptures." The highest kind of idealists give up their country, their family, their friends, and everything else, but they can't give up their ideal.
In the Bhagavad-gita, [3.35] Krsna says, "It is better to die while performing one's duty that to try to do another's duty." That is one stage of understanding: the relative consideration. The absolute consideration is also given in the Bhagavad-gita: sarva dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja [Bg. 18.66]. Krsna says, "Give up everything. Come to Me directly." This is the revolutionary way. This is absolute. And this is relative: "Stick to your own clan. Don't leave them." That is the national conception. There is nation consciousness and God consciousness; society consciousness and God consciousness. God consciousness is absolute. If society consciousness hinders the development of God consciousness, it should be left behind. This is confirmed in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (5.5.18):
pita na sa syaj janani na sa syat
daivam na tat syan na patis ca sa syan
na mocayed yah samupeta mrtyum
What to speak of ordinary things, even the guru, may have to be abandoned. One may even have to give up one's own spiritual guide, as in the case of Bali Maharaja, or one's relatives, as in the case of Vibhisana. In the case of Prahlada, his father had to be given up, and in the case of Bharata Maharaja, it was his mother. In the case of Khatvanga Maharaja, he left the demigods, and in the case of the yajna patnis, (the wives of the brahmanas ) they left their husbands in the endeavor to reach the Absolute Personality.
We need society only to help us. If our affinity to the society keeps
us down, then that should be given up, and we must march on. There is
the absolute consideration and the relative consideration. When they come
into clash, the relative must be given up, and the absolute should be
accepted. If my inner voice, my spiritual conscience decides that this
sort of company cannot really help me, then I will be under painful necessity
to give them up, and to run towards my destination, wherever my spiritual
conscience guides me. Any other course will be hypocrisy, and it will
check my real progress. If we are sincere in our attempt, then no one
in the world can check us or deceive us; we can only deceive ourselves
(na hi kalyana-krt kascid durgatim tata gacchati ) [Bg. 6.40].
We must be true to our own selves, and true to the Supreme Lord. We must
Disappearance of the Guru
Devotee: After the disappearance of the spiritual master, how should the disciples continue the mission?
Srila Sridhara Maharaja: You must not neglect your conscience. Otherwise you have no faith in your own cause. There may be disturbances but we should not leave the preaching of Mahaprabhu, despite all differences. Disturbances must come, and we must undergo them. Still, we must remain sincere; we must face the difficulty in a proper way. It has come to train us to go in the right direction.
The Fire has Come to Test Us
What we have received from our spiritual master we understood only in a rough estimation. Now, things have come in such a way that we have to scrutinize ourselves in every position. We have to analyze ourselves. Atma-niksepa, self-analysis has begun. We are under trial. What we have received from our spiritual master, in what way have we received it? Properly, or only showingly? The time has come to purify us, to test whether we are real students, real disciples, or his disciples only in face and confession. What is the position of a real disciple? If we live in a society, what is the depth of our creed? In what attitude have we accepted his teachings? How deep-rooted is it within us? The fire has come to test whether we can stand. Is our acceptance real? Or is it a sham, an imitation? This fire will prove that.
So, this is the real field of sadhana, or practice. Our practice, our advancement needs these difficulties. Otherwise, we may not know what is progress, and we will become hypocrites, and give the adulterated thing to others. So, to purify ourselves, it is necessary that so many disturbances come.
And God has no error. He commands the environment. It is not our responsibility. The responsibility of the environment does not rest upon us. If I am sincere, then I have to adjust myself with this environment and put my faith before Him. "Everyone may leave me, but I shall stand alone!" With this attitude we must march on, whatever the circumstances may be. Then the recognition may come in my favor, that "Yes, under such trying circumstances he is still there." Our superiors will be pleased with us.
The relative and absolute considerations are always coming in clash. The absolute should be accepted and the relative sacrificed. Still the relative is necessary. After graduation from primary school another teacher is accepted for higher education, but that does not mean that the primary teacher is neglected or insulted. For our own interest, whatever we find which is akin to what was given to us by our guru maharaja, whatever we find that will enlighten us further, and whatever will help us to understand more clearly what we heard from our guru maharaja, must be accepted. Is my realization a living thing, or is it dead? Anyone who has come in connection with the infinite cannot but say this: "I am nothing." That should be the salient point.
We have left all social concerns and so many other shackles. For what? For the Absolute Truth. And wherever I shall find that, I must bow down my head. And if a great soul shows us, "This is the path to where you will find your thirst quenched. The line is in this zigzag way," we must accept that for our own interest. We are worshipers not of this form, but of substance. Wherever I feel the presence of my Lord in an intense form, I must be attracted to that side. Krsna says, sarva dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja. Wherever we shall find Him, we must run in that direction. My interest is with Him. Not that we can challenge, "Why did Krsna appear here, and why is He appearing there?" If a man in a boat is passing through the current and finds himself in danger, then from whatever side help may come, he must run to that side.
If we are worshipers of Siva, when we understand the special superiority
of Narayana, should we stick to Siva? And then Krsna? In the Brhad-bhagavatamrta the story
is told of how Gopa-kumara, by chanting his Gopala mantra, gradually
leaves one stage and progresses to the next. There, the gradation of devotion
is traced from the karma-kanda brahmana, to a devotee king, then
to Indra, then to Brahma, then to Siva, from him to Prahlada, then to
Hanuman, then the Pandavas, then to the Yadavas, to Uddhava, and finally
the gopis. In this zigzag way he is passing. In the sincerity of
his quest, his thirst is not being quenched until he goes to Vrndavana.
So, the Brhad-bhagavatamrta has shown us the line of guru parampara, or the real line of our quest, of our search.
Sincere Hankering for the Truth is Our Guide
If we are sincerely searching after real truth, then wherever we go may be a contribution to our experience for further preaching in the future. We may cross many guru paramparas before ultimately attaining the Vraja-lila of Krsna, as given by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Sometimes the father may not be our guardian. Our uncle may be our guide, and not the father. It is possible. The line of interest is to be considered the most important. So, our line is the siksa guru parampara.
I am thankful to those that are helping my spiritual understanding not only in a formal way, but in the real sense. Whoever is untying the knots of our entanglement in this material world, giving us light, and quenching our thirst for inner understanding and satisfaction is our guru. In this way, we live on the contribution of all these spiritual masters. They are all our siksa gurus. All the Vaisnavas are more or less our instructing spiritual masters.
And our own sincere hankering for the truth will be our guide. That is guru parampara. So the real disciplic line provides practical knowledge in support of the divine love which is coming down. We must bow our heads wherever we find support of that. We should not become formalists, but substantialists; not fashionists, not imitationists, but realistic thinkers. That should always be our temperament.
And what sort of saintly persons shall we try to mix with earnestly? In the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (1.2.91) Rupa Goswami has said, sajati-yasye snigdhe sadhau sangah svato vare: Those who are in our line, who have the same high spiritual aspirations as we do, and who hold a superior position. To associate with such saintly persons will help us the most to progress towards the ultimate goal.
There may be some obstacles, but if at heart we are sincere, the environment cannot deceive us, because God's inner help is there, cooperating with our sincere, inner need (na hi kalyana krt kascit durgatim tata gacchati) [Bg. 6.40]. What we want from our innermost hearts cannot but come true, because Krsna knows everything. There may be some obstacles, but by Krsna's help, they shall all be eliminated and our innermost aspiration will be crowned with success.
The formal societal position helps one to maintain their present status while our affinity for the high ideal will always push us to advance in Krsna consciousness. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.18 it is stated that whatever hinders our advancement must be left behind, even society consciousness. The society is there to help us, not hinder us. Our process is Krsna consciousness not society consciousness.Next chapter: SG & HG