|NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami > Obstacles on the Path of Devotional Service > Obstacles Presented by the Nondevotee World > When Do We Compromise?|
When Do We Compromise?
"Being different" in every respect may be invigorating for some devotees, but not all. Prabhupada said that there were many realistic obstacles. This means that sometimes we have to compromise. We cannot demand of ourselves or of other devotees that we always act with the utmost aggression against the opposing forces of materialism. We also have to learn to live in peace alongside the nondevotees. Some devotees feel it is too heavy and too demanding for them to wear Vaisnava dress in public. Those who always wear dhotis or saris should not preach that unless one appears in public in devotee dress, with shaved head or sari, etc.,. then one it> in maya. Better to speak in a positive way of the good effect of Vaisnava dress—that people who see us will think Hare Krsna and gain in spiritual benefit—but if a devotee is too shy to do it, we should not make him feel guilty or bad. Grhasthas especially have to integrate more with the ordinary society and maintain an identity as "normal" persons. We ought to encourage each other not to be overwhelmed by the nondevotee world, to maintain our chanting, hearing and serving, but this has to be done according to individual capacity. Somehow or other we have to preserve our integrity as Vaisnavas. The devotees are like ambassadors from the spiritual world who represent Krsna in a foreign country of the earth. Yet even ambassadors have to blend in certain ways within the foreign culture in which they are living. A devotee has to pay his bills like everyone else, and it is not forbidden for a devotee to vote in local or national elections. We are forced to participate in national emergencies. But in most cases there is a Krsna conscious way to respond to these various cultural demands.
People are also curious to see how the devotee acts in the world. Prabhupada was pleased when some of his devotees in Australia rescued people from a burning office building. We take it as good publicity when devotees do something which is commendable even to the nondevotees, and there is certainly nothing wrong with getting some good "P.R." for Krsna's cause. Only when the devotees are actually adored can there be peace in the world:
When will that day come when a temple will be established in every house in every corner of the world?
When will the high court judge be a Gaudiya Vaisnava with tilaka beautifully decorating his forehead?
When will a Vaisnava winning votes be elected president of the land and preaching be spread everywhere?
—Srila Prabhupada's Vyasa-puja homage of 1961, quoted in Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, Vol 1, p. 250
A devotee does not hate the world or see it as false. He sees it as Krsna's energy. The Hopanisad mantra states, "One who always sees all living entities as spiritual sparks, in quality one with the Lord, becomes a true knower of things. What, then, can be illusion or anxiety for him?" (Isopanisad, Mantra 7). A devotee is confident that he has a right to perform his duties in the world, as much as any nondevotee does. In Vedic culture sadhus were given free access wherever they went because people knew that they should be respected and received as messengers of the Supreme Lord. Srila Prabhupada used to chide the attitude of immigration officials who questioned him as he entered countries on his preaching mission. Prabhupada reasoned, "They call the country Australia, but it is actually Krsna's country. A devotee sees every place as belonging to Krsna, and so he should be allowed to go freely and speak there."
If we exaggerate our opposition to the world, then we will fall prey to the definitions given of dangerous cults. According to sociologists, one characteristic of an undesirable cult is that the members feel strong paranoia toward the rest of the world. This was one of the main insanities of the Jim Jones cult; they thought the outside world was coming to attack them, and so the cult members committed group suicide. The devotee of Krsna does not hate or fear the world. He preserves his integrity, keeps a respectful distance toward the sinful ways of his brothers and sisters, and yet he is part of human society and feels compassion for everyone.
As Prabhupada noted in his ISKCON charter, the society was to develop Krsna consciousness "within the members and humanity at large." The temple was to be erected not just for the members but for "society at large." This is the preaching spirit expressed by Prahlada Maharaja to Lord Nrsirhha-deva: "I do not wish to be liberated alone, leaving aside all these poor fools and rascals. I know that without Krsna consciousness, without taking shelter of Your lotus feet, one cannot be happy. Therefore I wish to bring them back to shelter at Your lotus feet" (Bttig. 7.9.44).
A Vaisnava is friendly to all and seeks the welfare of the nondevotees, yet for his intimate association he prefers to be with the devotees of the Lord. Lord Caitanya defined a Vaisnava as one who renounces the association of sense enjoyers. Narot-tama dasa Thakura said that he wished to be with those persons, either householders or sannyasis, who sincerely cried out, "Ah, Gaurahga!" Devotees are naturally attracted to the soothing sanga of those with whom they can sing bhajanas of Krsna and talk about Krsna. Materialists are interested in money and sense gratification, but devotees want to please Krsna. Whenever we find persons who are interested in hearing about Krsna, we prefer their company. And we avoid the association of asat or demoniac persons. It is therefore definitely a strain and an obstacle for a devotee when he or she has to work with asat persons or live intimately with them.