Is ISKCON trustworthy

 ISKCONHare Krishnas
 "Let the guru guide you in everything you do" (1)
How can the Krishna Consciousness Society overcome its sectarian image?
Harmless alternative
The Society for Krishna Consciousness presents itself to visitors - more and more often also from school classes - as a limitlessly peaceful group of spiritual dropouts who renounce any violence, singing mystical mantras, living strictly vegetarian and loving all people and religions. It is all the easier for Krishna disciples to offer young people with a mixture of exoticism and mysticism alternatives to the often relentless and merciless life in modern industrial society. If even church institutions allow Krishna monks with interreligious openness to celebrate sacrifices for Krishna in church rooms - God is everywhere, why not also in Krishna? - Then the proof is given that the Krishna consciousness should in no way be confused with a sect. How in the world did cult experts come to blame this peaceful and harmless community with cult tendencies? The group sees itself as an authentic representative of the ancient Vedic culture. Aren't sects necessary to split off from churches and religions? If Krishna consciousness represents the oldest religion of mankind, then all other beliefs are splits, but certainly not Krishna consciousness.
From exotic dream to hard teaching
The Krishna temple in Zurich presents itself like a peaceful, exotic dream - a dream that loses its delicate colors if we deal with the works of the master who conveyed this dream to the western world: Srila Prabhupada. Countless publications from his pen have been and are still being translated, printed and distributed. Because of the abundance of commentaries and other writings, the average citizen does not even get around to getting involved in the teaching that is hidden behind the nice dream. Prabhupada prescribes the sick western world as therapy what he finds as the so-called Vedic order in the so-called Vedic scriptures and now presents the world as a path to peace as a movement for Krishna consciousness. "Our movement for Krishna consciousness is (...) all-encompassing. Mankind should take it very seriously and act according to its principles to bring peace to the world." (2) These rules do not only apply to the devotees, i.e. to the members of the Society for Krishna Consciousness. "As far as ordinary people are concerned who do not live in Krishna consciousness (...), it is of course necessary to decide on the basis of the instructions of the Vedas what they have to do and what they are not allowed to do. These instructions should be followed without contradiction." (3) What are the principles of the divine world order that the society for Krishna consciousness is guided by?
Greatest humility towards the spiritual master
"Accepting a spiritual master is imperative, because without the instructions of a real spiritual master one cannot progress in spiritual science. One should approach the spiritual master with the greatest humility and offer him all the services that may please him to bestow his blessings on the disciple. The spiritual master is the representative of Krishna. " (4) One cannot trust one's own reason when it comes to the right way of life and the right order for this world. Modern science in particular, including modern Indology, can only confuse the mind. (The Krishna Consciousness Society dates its sacred texts very differently than modern Critical Indology.) "The path of religion is laid down directly by the Lord. Therefore, thoughtful speculation or dry argument cannot help one get on the right path. Likewise, one can do not make progress in spiritual life by studying books of knowledge independently. One must turn to a true spiritual master to receive knowledge. Such a spiritual master should be accepted by surrendering to him, and one should like him a submissive servant, without false pride, to serve. " (5) "Because the common man is unable to control the senses and spirit, it is his duty to take refuge in a great soul or devotee of the Lord and simply try to please him. That becomes his life make perfect. " (6) In the uninterrupted master-student series, which extends from the time of Krishna to Srila Prabhupada, every person gains the knowledge that he needs to make spiritual progress: "True transcendental knowledge comes down in the discipleship (... ) and not by the process of imperfect speculation (...) as so-called learned worldly know-it-alls believe. " (7) How long does the uncompromising bond with the spiritual master last? "The father and the mother of the material body are the parents only in one life; in the next life another married couple will be the father and the mother. The real spiritual master, however, is the eternal father as the representative of the Lord, because the spiritual master sustains the responsibility of leading the student to spiritual salvation or to the ultimate goal of life. " (8) In short: "In the spiritual life everyone (...) is under the control of the spiritual master." (9) Will the student ever be released from this bond with a master? "As soon as the disciple becomes independent and does not attend to the teachings of the spiritual master, he fails." (10) Summa: No one can find spiritual truth who trusts his own understanding. But what truth does he find when he is guided by the master of Krishna consciousness?
Women are like children
"The Manu-samhita (a so-called Vedic code of law, gs) also says that women should not be given freedom. This does not mean that they should be kept like slaves; but they are like children. Children are not given freedom But that does not mean that they are kept like slaves. The demons (the worldly, materialistically minded people, gs) today completely disregard these instructions and argue that women should be given as much freedom as men The social condition of the world has not improved. In fact, every woman should be protected at every stage of her life. In childhood she should be protected by her father, in youth by her husband and in her old age by her adult sons. " (11) Because women are like children for a lifetime, their intelligence can never reach the level of a man: "One can clearly say that a woman's conceptual faculties are always inferior to that of a man. In Western countries, things are currently moving Voices demanding that the man and the woman should be considered equal; but from this verse it is evident that the woman is always less intelligent than the man. " (12) From their natural lack of intelligence it follows that women are not very trustworthy either: "(...) Women (are, gs) generally not very intelligent and therefore not trustworthy." (13) So women need to be protected from themselves. Those who give them freedom provoke adultery and illegitimate pregnancies, and this in turn leads to epidemics and wars (14). Marital crises and divorces - taking into account the lack of intelligence and trustworthiness of women - have one main cause: female weakness. "In general, the separation of husband and wife is due to the behavior of the woman: Divorce occurs because of female weakness. It is therefore best for a woman to obey her husband's instructions. It makes family life very peaceful." (15) "Even if the husband does something wrong, the wife has to tolerate it. (...) A woman has to learn to control herself, even when there are misunderstandings. (...) A man has to get through in the outside world so many material connections endure excitement; so he must be treated with sweet words by his wife at home. " (16) According to ancient Indian custom, a woman is also without rights against violent kidnappings: "Even if a girl is forcibly kidnapped and later adopted as a wife, this must also be recognized." (17) Because sexual intercourse between married couples is only allowed when the woman is on her receptive days, any other form of birth control apart from abstinence is superfluous: "So-called birth control is not only reprehensible, it is also pointless." (18) After all that has been said, the question arises whether the woman is not a doll in the hand of the man, her puppeteer. Prabhupada does not hesitate to take this comparison positively: "A woman is compared to a doll because she has no independence. She should always be under the supervision of a man." (19) It goes without saying that a woman who is so completely dependent on her husband, as was the old custom in India and now revived here and there, may follow her husband into death through so-called widow burning (sati): "A devoted woman (... ) If she is childless, she has the right to voluntarily follow her husband into death. " In short: like the devotee to Krishna can only find truth in dependence on his master, the woman for her part is dependent on her husband in her thinking and life.
The healing force
The image of the completely pacifist vegetarian groups gives way to a harsh, almost inexorable doctrine as soon as we get involved in the teachings of Prabhupada. The Bhagavad-Gita, taken literally, is an invitation to war. Like the Gita, Prabhupada recommends the necessary use of violence against people, despite the non-violence against animals associated with vegetarianism. Krishna and his friend Arjuna fought "to teach humanity that in a situation where good arguments are of no avail, violence is also necessary." (21) It would be demonic if Arjuna as a warrior did not fight (22). Despite its pacifist vegetarian appearance, the Krishna Conscious Society cannot be committed to renouncing violence in any way. Gandhi would have no place in Krishna consciousness society: "Non-violence may be a diplomatic tactic in politics, but it is never a practical factor or principle." (23) Even the killing of animals - if it is done in the honor of God - has its right: "Therefore it is in no way considered an act of violence if in a battle is killed on the basis of religious principles or if animals are killed in the sacrificial fire." (24)

One of the disciples of Prabhupada, Harikesha Swami Vishnupada, set forth the divine Vedic order for our world in a manifesto (25). Vishnupada reckons that divine order can only be introduced by force: "If after the emergence of the Varnashrama society (the society based on the model of the Indian caste order and the order of the various phases of life, gs) there are still troublemaking nations made up of envious ones and demonic principles are dominated, the Varnashrama society should confront them and subdue them. (...) Wars that are waged to create a God-centered world are sometimes necessary. " (26) Whoever fits into the order of "social reason" has to be content with the place that is due to him: For Shudras, craftsmen and servants, members of the fourth caste, there is no longer any need, as has been the case nine years into the Going to school: "They only attend school until they are identified as clear Shudras and have acquired basic knowledge of reading, writing and arithmetic." (27) Their job is to serve the new Brahmins, the devotees: "A Brahmana needs Shudras who can help him as personal servants. The Shudras can keep the house and the kitchen clean. As hairdressers, they can cut hair and shave and as dentists repairing teeth. Brahmana also uses shudras to print books and build temples. " (28) This ancient and new society has no mercy on lawbreakers. Vishnupada is clearly in favor of the death penalty. In fact, it is a grace to execute murderers. Because in the next life the executed person no longer has to serve his sentence. In the case of life imprisonment, however, a good portion of the sentence remains for the next life. Therefore: "The Varnashrama system shows no pointless mercy to evil criminals" (29).

Distance to the outside world
Krishna Consciousness Society officials like to point out that through Krishna consciousness they have become better Christians. This confession hides the Master's judgment on Christianity and other religions. Other religions have only one purpose: to lead less intelligent people to Krishna. The intelligent ones take the direct route. "For less intelligent people there must be something like temples, mosques or churches so that they can begin to recognize the authority of the Lord (i.e.Krishnas, gs) and to hear from authorities over Him in such holy places. For less intelligent people is a such a beginning of the spiritual life is necessary. " (30) It is not surprising that with this rather disrespectful view of the other religions the non-religious outside world is viewed even more distantly. "It is quite natural that someone who leads a spiritual life no longer wants to associate with materialistic people. This would be completely against his nature. (...) Also, a devotee is by nature not interested in unnecessary amusements, going to the cinema or social events, who he understands that these things are nothing but a waste of time. " (31) But how should a young person who found their way into this system of "divine order" still communicate with the critical outside world, for example with their parents? "The material world is set up in such a way that a father who is a nondevotee becomes the enemy of his son if the son is a devotee. (...) Devotees (...) should avoid the company of nondevotees and always associate with devotees . " (32)
How sectarian is the Krishna Consciousness Society?
Uncritical guru obedience, tutelage of women, use of violence in the service of God and similar religious prejudices and aggressive maxims were and are spiritual and moral catastrophes in many cultures and beliefs, which have been and are declared to be religious virtues in appropriate circumstances. But while in other places the catastrophe is already perceived as a catastrophe with increasing self-knowledge, the society for Krishna consciousness seems to be still far from this realization. The Society for Krihsna Consciousness tries in our day to get rid of its sect image and to present itself as a liberal form of ancient Indian spirituality. This intention is to be commended. But if the Krishna consciousness society wants to say goodbye to the sectarian tendencies in its past, it must also, in essence, say goodbye to teachings and insights from its master Prabhupada. And so far nothing of this courage has been felt in the Society for Krishna Consciousness. Master's word is still above criticism.
1 Srila Prabhupada Commentary on Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 7, chapter 12, verse 11

2 Commentary on Srimad Bhagavatam 7:11, 12

3 Commentary on Bhagavad-Gita 16:24

4 Commentary on Bhagavad-Gita 13:12

5 Commentary on Bhagavad-Gita 4.34,

6 Commentary on Srimad Bhagavatam 3,22,6.

7 Commentary on Srimad Bhagavatam 3, 4, 25

8 Commentary on Srimad Bhagavatam 3,5,7.

9 Commentary on Srimad Bhagavatam 7,12,11

10 Commentary on Srimad Bhagavatam 8.17.1.

11 Commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita 16.7.

12 Commentary on Srimad Bhagavatam 6,17,35.

13 Commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita 1.41

14 Commentary on Bhagavad-Gita 1.41

15 Commentary on Srimad Bhagavatam 4,4,4.

16 Commentary on Srimad Bhagavatam 3,23,2.

17 Commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam 3,22,15.

18 Commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam 3: 5, 19.

19 Commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam 5,18,26.

20 Commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1, 7, 45.

21 Commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita 3:20.

22 Commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita 16.6.

23 Commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita 2,31.

24 Commentary on Bhagavad-Gita 2,31,

25 Harikesa Swami, Varnasrama, Social Reason Manifesto, 1981

26 Harikesa Swami, op. Cit. 181.

27 Harikesa Swami, op. Cit. 223.

28 Harikesa Swami, op. Cit. 220.

29 Hariksea Swami, op. Cit. 176.

30 Prabupada, Commentary on Srimad Bhagavatam 4,1,8.

31 Commentary on Bhagavad-Gita 13:12.

32 Commentary on Srimad Bhagavatam 7,5,37.

Georg Schmid, 1998
Last change 1998, © gs 1998, Info Point 2000
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