Seminar on Vaisnava Culture and Trust given by HH Hridayananda Das Goswami at ISKCON Alachua in 2007.
ISKCON exists to facilitate loving exchanges!
We are private individuals and social creatures.
Our experience become more real when they are somehow expressed to other people.
Affected by the dark side of the force.
Are we beyond morality?
So what is our position, what is our humanity?
All of the material things that people desire are available in ISCKON, almost all.
One should enjoy that which Krishna set aside for him.
When immaturity becomes institutionalized.
The first thing that we can introduce is our own integrity.
With people about whom I can agree on the most important things.
Can you have good qualities if you are not devotee of Krishna.
That’s my theme here. So thank you all for coming. After travelling to many countries and going to India and coming back recently I hope I can remember what I said in that seminar … So this topic arose because the Mayapur administration wanted to base this year’s seminars at the Mayapur Festival on the Sri Upadeshamrita specifically I think the verse “dadati pratigrihnati guhyam akhyati pricchati bhunkte bhojayate caiva shad-vidham pritilakshanam” roughly translated as follows: offering gifts in charity, accepting charitable gifts, revealing one’s mind in confidence, inquiring confidentially, accepting prasada, and offering prasada – these are the six symptoms of love shared by one devotee and another. Then, in his purport – I’ll read a little bit of Prabhupada’s purport – he says even in ordinary social activities, these six types of dealings between two loving friends are absolutely necessary. For instance, when one businessman wishes to contact another, he arranges a feast in a hotel.
Yes. That’s right. Prabhupada calls it a feast. Over the feast, he openly expresses one businessman what he wishes to do. So Prabhupada says, – the International Society for Krishna Consciousness has been established to facilitate these six kinds of loving exchanges between devotees. That’s the reason for the existence of Prabhupada’s movement. This Society was started singlehandedly, but because people are coming forward and dealing with the give-and-take policy, the Society is now expanding all over the world. Prabhupada says the life of the Krishna consciousness society is nourished by these six types of loving exchange among the members; therefore people must be given the chance to associate with the devotees of ISKCON because simply by reciprocating in the six ways mentioned above an ordinary man can fully revive his dormant Krishna consciousness.
So, Prabhupada says that ISKCON was founded and exists simply to facilitate these types of loving exchanges and by engaging in these exchanges, a person can revive his or her Krishna consciousness and …
So, we begin in Mayapur and by now I quote myself as an authority of this subject – we began Mayapur by generally discussing the importance of social interaction.
So, if we think of the principle of bheda-abheda – difference and none difference, this is true not only in ontology. It’s not only true in terms of the nature of existence that our existence is different from Krisna’s existence but also one with it. So in the sense ontology we can talk about what are the difference and none difference but also in psychology, also in psychology, and we can approach this in the following way. All of us are in one sense private, unique individuals. All of us have in philosophical terms a privileged awareness, a privileged understanding of our own thoughts and feelings even if those feelings and thoughts were not accurate. For example, let say someone has an irrational fear of some situation or a person or event. So even though that fear is irrational, a phobia, the individual actually has a special understanding of what it feels like to have that fear or if you have a particular belief or whatever. In other words, everyone has – you are conscious of your own feelings and thoughts and beliefs in a way that no one else is of course except for God. So in that sense we are private individuals – we do have our own private internal lives. At the same time, at the same time, we are social creatures. For example, when we think privately, we generally think verbally. We think in terms of language. If you think about what your thoughts are like, “I want to do this” or “I wish I haven’t had done that” or whatever. When we think, we generally think in terms of language.
So you could even question whether a person that has no language that has no ability to use any language can actually think at all in a sense that we understand it. And so language – the fact that we have language – that we can speak or write or think is a social fact. We acquire language socially. As you if a young, if an infant was put out in a forest somewhere or even let’s say concealed somewhere in forest area and never had contact with other human beings even while the infant child was fed. Imagine a situation where the child was put out somewhere in the wilderness and somehow fed and protected. You know like food was somehow given to the child and the child’s protected but the child grew up without human contact or social contact, would that child really be a human being at all. I mean not just anatomically but in terms of consciousness. The child had no language and couldn’t communicate and couldn’t really think as we understand that. So the very fact that we have language and can think at all is a social phenomena and as Sigmund Freud pointed out, who is one of the cleverest demons of recent times. As Freud pointed out, there is the person whom he called the ego – it’s sort of our conscious individual self – but then there’s the super ego which is the influence of society, you could say, community and society. The fact that even after you – let’s say, after your parents have passed away you still feel the pressure like “I’m supposed to act in a certain way” or “I should speak in a certain way.” So all those – all that social pressure. For example, let’s say you are driving your car somewhere and you come to a red light and there’s no one else around. You are out – as we say – in the middle of nowhere and there’s no one else around. There’s no cars and there’s no people and yet many people actually stop at the red light. I remember once when I was kid, I watched the program Candid Camera and they put a traffic signal – the red, yellow, and green traffic signal in the middle of a sidewalk and people were walking down the sidewalk. When they came to the red light, they just stopped right in the middle of the sidewalk. Sometimes they would like furtively glance around themselves and then sort of like sneak away.
So what I mean to say by that is our beliefs and our feelings are all so social so we are simultaneously private individuals, unique individuals and at the same time we are very much social creatures. And psychologically, let’s say for example I have certain idea. Well not psychologically, let’s just talk about being rational. It’s a very common experience we have that we have what we believe is a bright idea but then we talk to someone else about it and it kind of wilts on the vine. I mean our bright idea doesn’t seem quite as bright. It seems a little dimmer than it did originally. Or the opposite may happen. You may tell someone your idea and maybe you didn’t think it was a good idea but everyone around you says this is a great idea. So somehow if you have a secret that you never tell anyone, it’s not quite as real. There’s a sense on which our feelings, our beliefs, our experience become more real when they are somehow expressed to other people and apparently understood by them. It somehow becomes more real to us, and we understand it more as social creatures. That’s why the frustration – for example, sometimes we want to explain something to someone and they just don’t get it and we become frustrated like it’s important for me that you understand this. So why should it be important? Because somehow in order for me to understand, in order for it to be fully real me, someone else has to understand it.
So anyway, this is a just a very brief and general survey of our existence as unique private individuals with our own thoughts and feelings. And at the same time the reality that we are social creatures and that is the oneness and difference and we are also unique and different from everyone else because that’s what the word unique means. But we not absolutely unique. If we were absolutely unique, if everyone was absolutely unique we actually couldn’t communicate with any one else and there could not be any such thing as a community or society. There couldn’t be relationships because as soon as two people agree on anything, as soon as two people understand each other, in any sense they are not completely unique. They share something. So we’re unique and not unique. We’re different and we’re not different. And this was also reflected in our spiritual life.
So now getting to the topic here of trusting devotees, because of all these things that we’ve been talking about. I was trying to make you feel as if you’re also talking I guess or perhaps it was the royal “we”. But in any case, what I’ve been discussing. Something is at stake. Something important is at stake when we try to establish satisfying relationships with other devotees. When we try to communicate and when we try to understand others and try to be understood by them. There’s actually something that sticks, something which is a necessary part of a healthy spiritual life and of a healthy human life.
Are there any questions so far at this point?
Anyway, moving right along into uncharted waters. There’s also a – there’s a problem. Just as there are obvious benefits in being able to reveal one’s mind to devotees, at the same time, I think most people and probably most devotees have at least one if not more secrets in other words most devotees don’t explain everything they think or feel. Well certainly not to everyone and sometimes not to anyone because all of us to some extent are affected by the dark side of the force.
And so under what conditions is it even appropriate to reveal one’s mind? I’ll tell you one case and one point that I explained in Mayapur. I once spoke to a devotee man – as we say male-bodied devotee, who related his experience with a female-bodied devotee who had been his wife. That is that this man – this devotee – engaged in adultery. He engaged in adultery with a woman, and his wife didn’t know about it and then at a certain point he felt like he wanted to be honest. He wanted to reveal his mind and so on and so fort and so he told his wife, and she expressed her gratitude by divorcing him.
So now I brought this up because I think have this one or more children that were involved so what should that person have done? I am raising this – well since we are talking of trusting devotees, – in retrospect – if that man that devotee could do it all over again with say at least the part about telling your wife or not, did he do the right thing? If he hadn’t told his wife, she wouldn’t have known about it and then let’s assume that she wouldn’t have known about it and their marriage would have continued. Was that better? Or was it better to be honest and then the marriage fell apart? So I am not going to attempt to answer this now but I wanted to bring this up just to show and to illustrate that even though we have a principle, which is controversial that it’s good to reveal your mind. Everyone will accept that it’s good to reveal your mind. At the same time, there may be circumstances under which it’s not obvious to a person whether they should and to whom shall I reveal my mind or should I at all? So that’s another issue. I want to put all these issues out on the table and then hopefully connect the dots. Any questions on that so far?
So – well here’s a few other points that I wanted to bring up. Well we raised the point under what circumstances – is it appropriate to reveal one’s mind? Whom could you trust? And how do you know that you can trust someone? And do we really have among ourselves in ISKCON a culture of trustworthiness? Do we have a culture of morality or not? One issue which I was thinking about a lot in Europe and in India is the whole issue of morality. I raised the point that because obviously being able to reveal your mind some things are obvious that you have to really trust the person because the person is going to respect your confidence and the person will not use information to harm you in some way or the information will not harm the person to whom you reveal it and so on. So in terms of morality, I think there’s a wide – or at least there was – a widespread philosophical misunderstanding that if you are devotee, if you are a very serious devotee then you are beyond morality and Krishna himself is beyond morality or beyond – sometimes we say – mundane morality.
The point I wanted to make is that I think it is philosophically incorrect to say that Krishna is beyond morality and I’ll explain what I mean by that. Morality – by morality, I think the simple meaning of morality is to be a moral person and to do what is good, to do what is beneficial with knowledge. I mean, you can kill somebody with love but it’s not the love that kills them but – for example, let’s say I love someone and that person has some health problem and I tried to treat him but I’m not qualified and so I ended up killing him but then again I think there was a lack of perhaps love in the sense of not recognizing my own limitations. If I was really serious and sincere, I should have tried to understand my own limitations. But in any case, if morality means to do what is good to help people and immorality means to harm people ultimately – to do what is not good for people. Then Krishna, how can we say that Krishna is not good. In fact, the spiritual platform is called the vishuddha sattvam or purified goodness. It’s not goodness is bad. The problem – I mean that should be a no-brainer, right? Goodness is not bad. But the problem with mundane goodness is not the goodness. The problem is that mundane goodness is mixed with other modes that is not pure goodness. The goodness is not a problem. It’s just that the goodness is not pure. If you remove all the impurities so that it’s nothing but goodness then it’s spiritual.
The spiritual platform is called Vasudeva sattva. Vasudeva – goodness or vishuddha sattva purified goodness. Krishna is not beyond morality any more than he is beyond beauty. Krishna is infinite beauty. Infinite beauty exists within Krishna. If we say for example that God or Krishna ultimately is beyond beauty, it would mean that Krishna somehow is not beautiful and that the beautiful form of Govinda is somehow only a secondary manifestation of an original God who was not beautiful. But the fact is that Krishna by his nature is infinitely beautiful. Infinite beauty is – Krishna, Krishna is infinite beauty. So just as Krishna is not beyond beauty, he is the source of all beauty, he is also not beyond goodness he, himself, is infinite goodness. So to think that Krishna is beyond mundane morality, it’s true only in a sense that he is beyond the mundane rules of morality.
In other words, in order to bring about the good, in order to bring about the good and avoid harm, we have to behave in certain ways. We have to follow certain rules. Krishna is free to bring about the good and to suppress or avoid harm and very creative, innovative ways because he is all-powerful and all-knowing. For example, Krishna can bring about the highest good by dancing with all kinds of – well not all kinds of girls but that’s – anyway with many girls in the dead of the night even girls who apparently seemed to have formal commitments to other man. So Krishna can do that because he is Krishna because the girls are actually his own energy because he is establishing a higher principle and so on and so forth. When we become promiscuous, we are establishing lower principles and not higher principles and we are acting without integrity because even though a man may fantasise that a woman is “all mine,” but technically she is not. Because actually no soul really belongs to another soul. Every soul belong to Krishna. So in order for us to promote goodness and embody goodness ourselves, we have to follow certain rules but Krishna doesn’t. But that doesn’t mean he is beyond morality. It simply means that he himself is infinite morality, infinite goodness but he can bring about good in the world in his own way.
In fact, in the Bhagavad-Gita, the last verse of the Bhagavad-gita, Sanjaya says, “yatra yogesvarah krisno” wherever Krishna lord of Yoga is present, “yatra partho dhanur-dharah ” wherever Partha wielding his bow is present; “tatra” there; “srir” will be beauty or opulence; “vijayo” victory; “bhutih” power; “dhruvaa neetir” and certain morality, unwavering morality; “matir mama” – that is my thought.
So the last statement of the Gita is that Krishna, there will always be morality wherever Krishna is present. That’s the last statement of the Gita. So going back to this issue of relationship among devotees, it’s a cliché. And it has been said so many times that in the early days of the movement, we skipped over humanity and went straight to transcendence with the idea that our spirituality would fill in all the blanks or that we didn’t really need to be human beings. We’re not human beings and even to think that you are human being is just ignorance. It’s basically being a camel or an ass or a hog or a dog or other such creatures.
So what is our position, what is our humanity? We know of course that the devotee needs to be healthy as a human being in order to be healthy as a devotee but why is that the case and how is this – what is the relationship of this with morality because ultimately in the ordinary sense to be a good human being is to be a moral person. So what is our transcendence and what is our humanity and why are both these things important and how does this relate to the issue of trust or confidence between devotees. Practically you may believe that someone is a good devotee that they always talk about Krishna, they jump very high in kirtans, and you know always serving Krishna but that person is sort of an ecstatic blabbermouth in a sense where that person is like a sea in that where they ecstatically reproduce whatever they hear. And so you may think, – well this person is very Krishna conscious but can I really trust him? But should that be the case, that someone is very Krishna conscious or seems to be Krishna conscious but you can’t trust him.
So getting back to this point of humanity, in the Sri Isopaniṣad says “vidyam chavidyam vidyam chavidyam cha yas tad vedobhayam saha” a person that knows that understands both knowledge and unknowledge, which is how you say ignorance in Sanskrit – “Vidyam chavidyam Tad vedobhayam saha”. Avidyaya – by unknowledge or by ignorance. Mrityum tirtva – crossing over death. Vidyayamritam ashnute – by knowledge one enjoys immortality.
So, how is it that you cross over death by ignorance? This is something which is not often discussed I think but it’s some kind of an interesting point. First of all, I think to understand this verse we have to realize that the word Avidya – unknowledge or ignorance is a vedic jargon for the material world. The material world is often simply called the ignorance, which is of course not very flattering but that’s what it’s called. The material world is – Avidya.
So by ignorance crossing over death – crossing over death by ignorance – the way Prabhupada explains this is that you have to understand this world. After all – let’s say for example you are making ghee (clarified butter) and you put the butter in the pot and you turn the heat on, you have to know what the impurities are. Otherwise, you may scoop out the ghee and just leave all the other good stuff. And if you look at yourself, consider for example when we we’re young devotees so if you are a young devotee now and – let’s see if this fits. I know myself in the early days when we were young and enthusiastic and we sort of have this undifferentiated enthusiasm which was composed of pure and impure desires. There was the desire to show off. There was the desire to surrender to Krishna and it all gets mixed up together as just one simple – apparently simple thing, enthusiasm.
Lord Chaitanya talks about this in saying that when we water the seed of Bhakti by hearing and chanting we are also watering the weeds so there is a sense in which when you chant Hare Krishna, when you serve Krishna, when we do this we are actually somehow feeding our own impurities by chanting Hare Krishna. Think about this analogy because the watering process is hearing and chanting Hare Krishna and yet we are watering the weeds.
An interesting point we don’t always think about. We practice Krishna consciousness where we are cultivating both Krishna consciousness and illusion, if we are not careful. So the simple way, in which, I think, we’re cultivating illusion and the simple way to understand this is – that is any society there’s a system of values. A society could not exist it could not differentiate itself from other societies unless it has certain unique values or certain special values that’s true. Even let’s say of a nation state like America or Mexico because for example the value of being born in certain place, the value of holding citizenship through that or other means, the value of a certain type of loyalty or collective consciousness and the negative value of violating certain social bonds or certain types of social contracts and so on, through criminal activity or traitorous political activity or whatever. So every society has a system of values, positive and negative values and every society rewards and punishes people who embody or promote those positive and negative values. That’s why there are statues to patriots or – that’s why there are statues in public places – public status for certain people. In many ways, the society rewards by reputation, by money, by power and in many different ways and punishes also either through incarceration, through humiliation and by various means. Every society promotes it positive values and tries to repress things that it considers negative. That’s also true for ISCKON. In ISCKON, there are things you can do which will bring you a good reputation and things you can do that will bring you the opposite – fame and infamy. And there are things you can do in ISKCON that will bring you followers or money in different ways. So all of the material things that people desire are available in ISCKON – well not everything.
But in general, in terms of what Lord Caitanya spoke about: “na dhanam na janam na sundarim” I do not desire – or selfishly desire, you could desire for Krishna. I don’t selfishly desire wealth or janam literally means the follower of people or followers or sundarim – a beautiful woman. He was speaking from the male perspective as a sannyasi that he didn’t – I don’t desire beautiful women. Kavitam va, which means intellectuality – intellectual sophistication. He also included that in the list. So but all those things are available. All the things that Lord Caitanya didn’t want are available in ISCKON sometimes in large quantities. So if I wanted – if I somehow rather I am in ISCKON or vaishnava society and I want to there yet I have material desires, I can behave in a way that ISCKON will respect and admire so that I can achieve what I want – followers, prestige, someone can aspire for women, a woman can aspire to possess a man, and so on and so fort.
And so we can actually be practicing Bhakti Yoga conscientiously not so much because we are attached to Krishna but because we are attached to the rewards that the society bestows upon us for behaving a certain way and in that way by our spiritual practice we can actually be cultivating our own material desires or our own sense of gratification. Therefore, we really do need to understand ourselves. We have to have the ability to look within and really understand what’s going on in there. We have to be able to read our own motives and it’s said in the Bhagavatam that in order to worship – well literally it says that those who have good intelligence in this age worship the Lord who chants Hare Krishna and leads the Sankirtan movement. So it requires intelligence to actually understand who you really are and which of your emotions, which of your thoughts are actually Krishna conscious and which are based on something else and also in others because if I can’t understand the motives of other people, I may not choose my associated wisely. I may end up in the wrong Vaishnava gang or a group with the wrong association. So, that’s another factor, the need – you have to really understand yourself and other factor I’ve brought up – is the issue of morality.
Well someone said that sometimes certain devotees say that: – “you can bend the rules and you don’t have to follow the rules because after all the material rule is meaningless anyway and it’s all an illusion anyway”. So what about that? Can we talk about morality, about the point that we are not really beyond the moral rules. Now what the Bhagavatam says for example “devarshi-bhutapta-nrinam pitrinam..” that one who has seriously taken shelter of Krishna – seriously taken shelter of Krishna, wholeheartedly taken shelter of Krishna, no longer has debts to devas, sages and other creatures, relatives, and and relatives or just people like your inner circle and the human side in general. You don’t have debts to these people and you are not a servant to these people. It doesn’t mean that we’re beyond morality. We have to remember that in India, there were – in Hindu India or you could say the mundane side of the Vedic India, it tended that certain types of place can be very ritualistic. There were all kinds of debts you have to pay and you have to just do all kinds of things. Therefore, you really couldn’t joint a Hare Krishna movement because you are much too busy to do that. You have like a million rituals to perform and all kinds of debts to pay. You can’t just give yourself to Krishna because you have obligations to other people. You have serious formal obligations to other people so the Bhagavatam is saying that look it’s okay to join the Hare Krishna movement. It’s okay. I mean we express ourselves – many of us. When I joined the Hare Krishna movement my family, well at least my parents didn’t really approve. They thought “ no”, I had to do my college thing and this and that and in a sense they were right. But it’s funny because Prabhupad also told me to finish college. So they had a sense – our parents had a sense that we owed them something that you should live your life in a certain way. You should practice certain types of principles or stick in a religion you were born into or you should bring a certain kind of material honor to the family by not joining a bizarre marginal group of people, which only makes people wonder about the family. So the Bhagavatam actually does not say that we’re beyond morality. It actually does not say that. But we should not hesitate to serve Krishna simply because someone else tells us that you can’t do that dedicate your life to Krishna. But it’s not the same as saying that you should not treat people properly or be nice to people. Even Prabhupada himself made efforts after he took Sanyasa and after he developed ISCKON made efforts to help his family. I was the Prabhupad’s secretary in Mayapur in February 1976. Actually, this time 31 years ago when I was 8 years old and I was very precautious. Actually, I began my role at GBC at the age of 6 actually, which is still in ISCKON records. So Prabhupada was making arrangements to establish an apartment I think or somebody arrange to get some facility for his former wife and he was actually personally seeing certain details like the proper fan was put in, which in Calcutta is a very serious issue – having the proper fan. So in Bhagavad-gita Krishna says - you’ll be free from the good and bad fruits of your work or as Krishna may say beyond the dualities. But again, it doesn’t mean that we should not be honest. It doesn’t mean that we should not be good people. It doesn’t mean that the simple fact of being a devotee doesn’t mean that we can disregard the others people rights. For example, sometimes there’s a notion that – well, I’m a devotee therefore I can take things and one of the first services many of us had was to liberate flowers from gardeners. To take back the flowers which the Karmis viciously stolen from Krishna.
Now, talking again about morality, because I think this is a – this is a 3-day seminar and so I have to – I’m trying to set a certain foundation for discussion and trust. Why not steal flowers for the Deities? There’s a really good reason why not to. That is that – Just to give it sort of an extreme example, when someone commits an abortion or somehow participate in abortion, the soul is being deprived of a situation that was given to it by god. So, we don’t say that well abortion is bad if it’s a devoted kid. “Don’t abort devotee babies but if it’s a Karmi anyway, it’s like whatever”. We don’t say that. I mean you could somewhat just to play the devil’s advocate.
So why not?! There’s the fact that we can’t abort – it’s not okay to abort a none-devotee child. You could say: “ If the child lives, the child is going to grow up and go to McDonald’s and actually patronize the animal slaughter industry and everything so why not abort the kid? That’s One less meteor in the planet.” I mean I realize that these statements were a little crude and it’s not my own feeling but I’m trying to bring up a point. The Isha Upanishad says tena tyaktena bhunjitha - one should enjoy that which set aside for him, for that person by God and not take other things because actually Krishna cares about everyone. He says clearly in the Gita suhrdam sarva-bhutanam (BG 5.29) – He is literally goodhearted the goodhearted friend of every creature and therefore when Krishna gives certain people flower gardens or houses or cars or families, that is a part of the process of bringing those people back to Godhead. The whole material universe is created to train people and guide them and enlighten them so that they could go back to Godhead and part of that, an essential part of that process is giving people certain material facilities so they can experience them and understand what the world is and gradually come to Krishna. So if I steal something from someone else I’m actually interfering. I’m interfering with Krishna’s management of that person. I’m interfering with the process of which that person is gradually becoming enlightened. So I may do it in the name of Krishna but actually I’m interfering with Krishna’s work rather than serving Krishna. And there’s the other point – that it just is not good for us because we actually develop the wrong mentality and we simply become immoral and then we can actually become degraded.
So as far as that question – why did we steal the flowers? Yes. Where did it come from?
First of all, some very basic social psychology. Studies of gorilla families and elephant communities and everything show that when creatures are deprived of their elders, their behavior often becomes erratic, self-destructive, anti-social, and so on. So because we were in a new movement – because this movement was so different in the West and because it came at a time when there was a great social tension in the West in America, between young and older people. Almost all young people join the movement. In fact Prabhupada asked this question in Gainesville.
When Prabhupada came to Gainesville and gave his lecture in 1971, a female bodied reporter from the university newspaper asked Prabhupada why are there mostly young people. Prabhupada asked her why are there mostly young people in your university. Prabhupada is a great counter-puncher. She asked this in a sort of a challenging, almost like an attack mode and she didn’t ask it in a sort of a nice a way. She was being a little aggressive and so Prabhupada shot back why are there mostly students in your university and she was so startled by Prabhupada’s question I remember that she dropped her pencil. I remember that. Prabhupada literally knocked the pencil out of her hands without touching her. And then she kind of stammered and said well because that’s the age for education and Prabhupada said – yes that’s the age for Krishna consciousness.
So in India for example, Prabhupada attracted many older, very successful professional people live-members, in Bombay and Vrindavan and other places they had this little like advisory groups and some of the really most talented and most successful people in the country – people who are elderly – 50s, 60s, and so on. So there was this maturity. Whereas in the West, because there’s almost all young people, it was an immature society. So you take that as the first fact that we were very immature. Yeah, I was 20 and not unusually mature of my age. I was just a 20-year-old male whose brain did not fully solidify. You know, studies now show the male brains take awhile to fully solidify and sometimes they never do. So that’s one fact – this unavoidable immaturity of the movement. There’s another fact. Human beings are wired in such a way that if any behavior is repeated enough by a community it comes sacred. It becomes a tradition. Like the song Fiddler on the Roof tradition. So people just do things – they’re Monty Phyton, you know Life of Brian by Monty Phyton. Like in the military or the government – let’s say they play certain songs. I mean in my Harvard graduation, I was like really disappointed. I expected and I just assumed they were going to play Pomp and Circumstance you know by Edward Elgar. And I was like getting to ready march and I was thinking okay, let’s go Pomp and Circumstance and then they played something else and so I said: “Oh my God”. I was really disappointed even though I was a bona fide ISKCON Guru. I mean it wasn’t like a major emotional issue and I got over it very quickly but I wanted to hear that song because it was a tradition. I mean the simple fact is that Harvard was founded about 250-300 years before that song was written so they have no tradition. But anyway it’s a very simple point. They are traditions like that’s the way we do things here. That’s the way, for example if we go to a temple and they have done certain type of Deity worship for years even though it may not be required by the Shastra but you try to change it people go crazy because that’s not the way we worship the Deity here.
So it’s just the very simple fact of human psychology that in a community or society when a certain behavior is repeated, it becomes sacred. And so basically a lot of immaturity becomes sacredlise – became institutionalized wherein a lot of irrational, immature behavior became sacred in ISCKON. That is like really simple stuff. And now here’s the third fact. Here’s another little item. That is, if you study the sociology or the psychology of the conversion experience, there’s a whole field which studies conversion experiences and when you suddenly dramatically realize that everything you thought was real and important is completely overshadowed and dwarfed by another all important, overwhelming reality of God or Krishna and he becomes sort of to me like a blank slate like. Especially when you’re young, everything I thought I knew was not quite right and now I realize that something else infinitely more important is the case. When you’re in that state of mind, what happens is just like in congress when they have a bill that the congress has to pass so they sort of add on all kinds of little things so they can sneak in they’re pet issues – so when you have a – let’s say you’re in a community and someone is Krishna’s representative, a temple president for example or just some older devotee – and when you’re in that extremely vulnerable totally open blank slate state of mind, they throw in a lot of extra stuff like if you drool at night when you’re sleeping that all kinds of terrible things will happen. If you sneeze on a Thursday when you’re facing east in the afternoon that for 3 generations you’re cousins will sustain foot injuries. So you know all these stuffs.
If you’re coming from a background where as we were revolutionary, down with the established authorities. It was you know late 60s and so on so it duck-tailed very nicely. We were antiestablishment and then we learned that the establishment is actually you know – they’re demonic. In the government there were so many rogues and thieves posing themselves as government leaders. I think you get it – you can connect the dots, right? So when you get all these things together, the lack of elders, the immaturity, the fact that you’re coming from a revolutionary anti-authority background, the fact of social psychology that behavior was just repeated and gradually becomes a sacred tradition no matter how irrational it is for many people and add these all to the sort of special psychological state which occurs and one has a dramatic conversation experience and after all, I mean if you can accept that a lotus flower comes out of the navel of god and the creator of universe is born on it, why worry about the flowers? And why can’t you pick up a couple of flowers. In fact, Plato gives the example that when someone comes out of the cave into the light of the sun, in the beginning, they actually cannot see as well as they could in the cave in a sense because in the cave there’s a dim light, the mere reflection of light. Plato was quite Vedic. In the cave, there’s only the reflection of light and not the real light. When you come out of the darkness into the bright sunlight you actually get disoriented and you can’t see very well. I know myself. I was the first – when the Berkeley temple though opened in 1969, I was the first Berkeley student to join there and so one of my first services was after Sankirtan. We got a lot of coins in those days because in those days US coins actually had some value. You could actually something with a coin and so we would you know stack them. Make stacks of 10 then roll them up and then take them to the bank the next day. So here I was a student from Berkeley and I for the life of me could not get my stacks to come out right of 10. It’s like there’d be 11 or 13 or 8 or something and I couldn’t somehow manage.
In fact, they finally sort of politely told me it’s okay Prabhu you don’t have to count the coins. You could just sit in the corner and chant Hare Krishna so – I just couldn’t get it. Couldn’t count to 10. However, there’s a very happy ending to this story. About a month later or two later I sort of focused and I began the temple treasure. The temple of course soon went bankrupt. No, I’m just kidding. Actually, I relearned counting up to 10. So that’s the answer to your question. I don’t think we have to despise anyone. It’s just so why didn’t I know because – I think it’s obvious. …
Q:What if we steal Maha-prasadam?
Well, I mean if you like snatch a little thing at Maha-prasadam as a tray goes by I don’t think. But not to the extent where you actually deprive the other devotees of Krishna’s mercy I mean again, you know steeling Maha is a great thing and there’s all these stories about steeling Maha-prasadam at the same time not in the sense of actually disrespecting other people. If I take a little bit, it doesn’t deprive anyone else. That’s one thing.
Q: What about when Krishna says in Bhagavat-Gita whatever act great man performs common man will follow…
Yes. That’s a very good point. It’s a good point because even now the world tends to wonder about us at least in many parts of the world. At the same time, we are trying to establish ourselves as public leaders. The success of our movement is that people in fact accept us as the Brahmans. In other words, it’s a very good point you brought up. It’s actually contradictory and absurd to simultaneously do everything in our power in order to be accepted as the leaders of people and at the same time behave in a way that if people followed they would have all kinds of troubles. So even though we are not at the present time yet officially installed as the Brahmans of this nation, at the same time we’re trying to become the spiritual leaders. We’re trying to take that position. Therefore, we should behave properly. Also because people – people in general since they can’t really grasp perfectly a transcendental truth but they do expect that a spiritual person would at least be moral and so if we don’t behave properly it really undercuts all of our claims to being spiritual. We have to – just like when Prabhupada came to America, he spoke English and not Bengali to the Americans and so we have to speak a cultural language that people can understand. If we’re trying to tell people that we’re a spiritual movement, this is spiritual everybody. Then if we act in immoral ways, unethical ways, it’s sending a signal that we’re not spiritual. That we’re hypocrites and so it’s completely the wrong cultural language.
In Indian moral philosophy and I think all around the world there’s a notion of taking the lesser of evils, but acting immorally is not the lesser of evils in almost all cases. There are certain exceptions like when on an essay I wrote that Krishna tells a story about a Brahman or a sage who was very proud of always giving – always speaking the truth and replied to any question and at one point some innocent people were hiding around his Ashram pursued by murderous thieves and the thieves asked the Brahman, “Have you seen the people?” “Yes.” “Do you know where they are?” “Yes.” “Where are they?” “They’re over there.” And so the thieves murdered the innocent people and so Krishna says because the sage spoke the truth he went to Hell. So we don’t like to cary this to extreme but in general when you’re not literally saving someone’s life or saving someone from being mutilated or whatever or from other significant harm, we really should act properly for our own sake and for the sake of others.
Well, a devotee also is supposed to save his children so something negatively impacts the children then we have moral …. By the way, it would be wrong to think that in Vedic culture even back in the good old days there were no moral conflicts. In every situation, there’s one and only on obvious right thing to do. It wasn’t like that all. For example in the case of Ashvathama when in the Bhagavatam fist canto, when Arjuna and Krishna bring Ashvathama back – they arrested him and bring him back to the Pandava’s camp and two great devotees Bhima says kill him and Draupadi says let him go and they’re both great devotees. It was a moral conflict and Krishna took the middle of that. So they didn’t merely let him go, but they didn’t physically kill them either. So there are conflicting moral principles in this world. It’s just the way the world is and we find this in Vedic culture. We find this in the Bhagavatam and Caitanya-charitamrita that great devotees sometimes disagree on what is the more important principle in a particular situation. So I mean devotees sometimes ask, “What’s Vedic position on cloning?” and it’s not clear if there is a Vedic position. Actually, Krishna says that nahi sarvam vidhiyate -there’s not a rule for everything. And so we have to reason because if you had a rule for everything you need like millions of books of rules and you would read them. So there are certain basic principles and we have to reason, there’s moral reasoning. Certain things are obviously wrong like harming innocent people but certain things are ambiguous, therefor one has to learn moral reasoning and when people are reasoning about moral issues they sometimes come to different conclusions. Because if you consider the statement tartho pratishtha – logic is not the foundation, but at the same time Krishna says you have to be able to reason morally; one of the consequences of a particular behavior and whenever you’re reasoning people may come to different conclusion and that was Vedic culture. It was a culture in which based on certain commonly accepted principles. People engage in moral reasoning and sometimes disagree with each other.
The first thing that we can introduce is our own integrity. I don’t mean to say that the leaders don’t have integrity. I mean, we could pass a GBC resolution and say no one should lie and you know give a few more laughs to the devotees of ISKCON but – yes, we definitely need education and frankly we need a spiritual leadership.
Yeah, at least I think the fact we’re talking about is a good thing and is a good first step. Well, it’s not the first I’m sure other people talked about it. It would be presumptuous to think they haven’t but yeah, I fully agree with you. We have to set an example about being honest and respectful people. I think the whole problem is not understanding that … well Prabhupada says here that people will be saved, people will become Krishna conscious by entering into these reciprocal relationships. In other words, if we want people to respect us, we should try respecting other people. The world is not going to listen to a Hare Krishna monologue but they may be interested in a dialogue. So how can we expect people to respect us if we don’t respect them? We could say well the difference is we’re respectable and they’re not. But that’s obviously foolish because Krishna says a true yogi sees me everywhere and sees everything in me and there’s a verse in the Bhagavatam, archayam eva harae pudja ….that if a devotee or a person, a person who honours Krishna only in a form of a Deity and doesn’t honour Krishna within all creatures is actually a materialistic devotee. The Sanskrit words are prakrita bhakta – a materialistic devotee from the word prakrity- mater. So if we don’t honour Deity we don’t honour Krishna in everyone we meet then we don’t get it and like the people who are here we have to set the example. It’s good for us. It’s actually a good discipline to follow rules and sometimes there’s actually reasons for the rules. It’s not just sheer capriciousness in the part of the authorities.
If we really take Prabhupada seriously as the Acharya we have to become Bhagavatas ourselves. Because the word bhagavata means who is serving Bhagavan, What you said is true and at the same time people become attracted to Prabhupada so these followers are hypocrites that also is not … Because I know in my case, in my own life, I was really struck by Prabhupada and by his books but when I saw the devotees and saw that there are people actually following, that’s really what persuaded me to join the movement. It was seeing that this is doable. There are people who are actually following Prabhupada and seriously practicing. So it’s really – it’s having a great leader as we do in Prabhupada and then showing the world how to follow him. So I agree with you but then if we do as you say and learn about Prabhupada and take it very seriously then we have to …
Well yeah, if we’re good devotees we should become good people also. That’s the whole point that we’re discussing.
I think in the higher levels of morality, we would be concerned about other issues. For example, the Christians – well it’s a very, there’s all kinds of people who are Christians but the many Christian groups now are actually trying to make the environmental curve. In the beginning it’s like they were totally not there, but now I just saw in Georgia a Christian natural energy bar or something that has all the ingredients listed in some book of the bible or something. So if we say the earth belongs to Krishna as we do, it’s Krishna’s energy. How could we not advocate treating Krishna’s earth properly? Prabhupada’s fear obviously, Prabhupada’s fear is that we would be distracted from our spiritual mission then I think perhaps we’ve taken that too far in the sense of. But we have a book on the environment. There’s a book. What’s it called? Divine nature or something. Prabhupada himself read newspapers, and he – when in Back to Godhead magazine in India he used to comment about – he used to quote newspapers and talk about public issues. So we should be – I think ISKCON needs to develop what are called public intellectuals – people who actually can intelligently discuss issues of public concerns and so an answer to your question – the notion that we’re transcendental can be used to justify what ultimately is a type of arrogance and ignorance and intellectual laziness.
There’s a danger so here I think we should try to show the relevance of Krishna consciousness. Prabhupada once asked a disciple to write a book showing that Krishna consciousness is a solution to all problems so I think there’s a balance. On one hand we should be concerned and on the other hand we should remember that ultimately the solution is Krishna, but we should go through these steps to see exactly what that means in practical terms. For example, to give one simple example of thinking things through. Prabhupada mentioned that it was a symptom or expression of the fallen state of the world that they had all these like barking dogs at the immigration counters when you go to a country and who are you and what do you want rather than seeing that all the earth is god’s earth and therefore anyone of god’s creature should be able to go here, there, and anywhere. Now, that’s obviously true. At the same time consider this, like it or now we have – we live in democratic political systems or under democratic political systems. It seems to be the case if you study democracy in different countries in the world that – and this was stated in the federal papers by the people that wrote the constitution and set up the American system that the more educated the elector – the people are – the more people are educated and know what’s going on, the more they can actually exercise their rights of self-government even say government of the people, by the people, for the people but if the people are ignorant and foolish it leads to all kinds of disasters. So, if you have an immigration of people who are educated or let me out it this way – if you look at democratic – so called democratic regimes around the world – at least my experience has been the more educated the elector it is the more you get actual democracy and things more or less go on properly. The more you get an ignorant elector, people are just not educated, don’t know the issues, don’t care about the issues, sort of simple or ignorant people the more you find that the political system is corrupted. So – for obvious reasons – so now if there’s massive immigration of largely uneducated people, people that do not have a culture, do not have a tradition of education, there’s a sense in which they won’t support the political system. So if you have a monarchy and Prabhupada tend to think in terms monarchy – if you have a monarchy then it’s not really a probably because you have a leader that just says, “Okay, you guys over here. You guys over there. You do this. You do that.” However, in democratic regime, there are real issues about the social fabric, about the state of the government and so on and so forth. So there are issues we work out. Another example, Prabhupada said that we should establish the Varna system. That’s – you know the Varna-ashrama system and that’s certainly true. The world desperately needs it. At the same time, if we study history, we find that the Varna system is really based on an agrarian economy. In fact the Varna system is the Indian feudal system in a sense and so because we don’t live in an agrarian society we live in an industrial and postindustrial society, for many reasons it’s very difficult to establish a simple system like the four Varnas. In fact if we study the collapse of the European Varna system, which was the feudal, it collapsed because of industrial revolution so how do you – how do you establish the Varna system in a non-agearian society. Actually, when Prabhupada started talking about Varna-ashrama he also started talking about getting farms in 1974. So yeah – I mean there’s a lot to think about in practical terms. How do we carry out Prabhupada’s instructions? How do we react to public issues? What does it really mean in practical terms – in terms of Krishna consciousness? So yeah, I’m all in favour of being concerned about public issues but from the point of view of Krishna consciousness.
Yeah, I want to end it very soon because I’ve heard there are many scientific studies about attention span and we’re way over it. So perhaps I’ll just say what I want to talk about tomorrow. I want to bring up on sacred cow and that is guru-disciple relationships in the Hare Krishna movement and the danger of not getting it right either on one extreme or going to one extreme in the sense of not having proper ethic and not having proper respect and going to the other extreme of having sort of a mythological notion of a guru, which leads to sometimes dysfunctional exchanges. Because some of the examples that Prabhupada gives of trusting a senior devotee, a guru, an advanced devotee and so in what situations to trust an advanced devotee. Does that mean an advanced devotee is for example qualified to advise you on your financial management or on your marriage or on your all kinds of things. What if you have an actual emotional issue and the guru or some sort of an authority or a temple president or GBC is not actually familiar with that. So to what extent should we trust senior devotees, guru, temple presidents, GBC, parents – to what extent should we trust senior devotees – to what extent does the Krishna consciousness translate into material expertise, to what extent doesn’t it? And so in general, how do you trust? Or when should you trust? When should you not trust? And so on. Anyway, that’s something I want to talk about perhaps tomorrow.
Thank you for helping me to be coherent. Yeah, this whole discussion of morality. Because trust, confidentially is really important for our own spiritual health, which includes our health as human beings. I don’t think you can be spirituality healthy if you’re unhealthy as a human being. In order to have that we really need to take very seriously and set moral principles and we’ve discussed that in various ways. We have to get over the idea that to be transcendental means you’re beyond morality. It doesn’t mean you’re beyond morality. It simply means that you actually are either more precisely be more moral and you’d be moral in a more effective way and so in relationships like if I give my word to someone and of course that someone reveals their mind and says, “You promise you won’t tell anyone.” “Yes.” “I trust you. I know you’re honest.” “I plan to kill someone of our own.” “By now, you’ll keep your word and not tell anyone”. And so again, there’re always reasonable exceptions but in general we need to have the highest integrity and also that means not assuming I know what I don’t know. I know what my own limitations are and that gets into issues we discussed in Mayapur like in many places. Interpreting let’s say spiritual authorities and structures mean that you cannot treat adults like children, which I think in many ways has been unhealthy. The notion that we are born again to a child again – well it’s true we go through a second birth. There is a period in our spiritual life in which we need all the practice of guidance but ultimately it can be very unhealthy to interpret authority relationships in spiritual life that adults be treated like children.
Basically we should accept good advice. I mean, sometimes that if you want to be honest, sometimes non-devotee gives good advice and some of us devotees give bad advice or vice versa. If someone’s advice is on theology like you don’t need to worship Krishna that sounds like bad advice. But in practical matters, I consult experts. Devotees or non-devotees, we have to consult people that actually know what they’re talking about.
I think in general we have to have a balance where we’re faithful to Lord Caitanya but at the same time we respect the world and because there is wisdom in the world, there are wise people in the world. They may not be wise about everything but they are wise about some things and I think that the natural relationship between us and the world is one of mutual respect but at the same time knowing that in certain areas we have special knowledge, which is true.
Well association, intimate association. If someone gives us good advice, we should take it but there’s a sense in which – how should I put it – association I think here means not some mere physical proximity. Association does not mean merely having a serious discussion with someone. So here I think the word association means that there is a group of people with whom ultimately I identify. I mean obviously in a sense identify, because we’re all living beings, we’re all a t and parcel of Krishna. We’re all – so there are senses in which we do identify with other people but in terms of our ultimate identification, the devotees are a separate group, which Krishna describes is a separate group and at the same time we’re all souls. So there’s a special kind of intimacy, which is reserved for those who you can agree on the most important things. If you think about it, if I say, “Okay I am going to have an intimate relationship with someone with whom I don’t agree on the most important things of life. So there is some contradiction there.
We should certainly be kind to people. We should be affectionate to people. We should treat them with all respect as a part of Krishna but if the most important things in life REALLY are the most important things in my life, it’s not just like a doctrine, then my most important relationships have to be with people about whom I can agree on the most important things. The extent of which my most important relations are with people with whom I cannot agree on the most important things, to that extent these most important things really aren’t that important to me. Because, “okay stuff like – you know – who we ultimately are, what god is, or relationship with god – that’s not so important. The real point is, you know, we’re buddies”.
So it’s not a question of one being more extreme or the other. I think we should treat, we should like people because we’re all a part of Krishna. We should like people. We should treat them with kindness, with respect but at the same time if something’s really are most important to you that has to be reflected in your choice of most intimate acquaintances. Otherwise, there’s just the lack of integrity I think.
We have seen many devotees suffer certain lifestyle injuries and diseases directly related to Bhakti yoga. For example, gorging themselves on maha-prasadam. I mean just eating improperly, carrying heavy Sankirtan bags one’s shoulder, exalting in being permanently one-sided, having leg and foot injuries and so there is frankly, there are a lot of injuries and disease I’ve observed just because of an irrational lifestyle within Bhakti yoga. So you’re right in saying that it’s not caused by Bhakti yoga but it’s caused by just not living intelligently as a devotee.
Yeah well sometimes what gets curtailed is your life in a particular body. I mean I don’t want to minimize offenses but we can suffer for many reasons.
Well, in that case the offense is – in other words, we come to Krishna consciousness with certain knowledge and with certain ignorance and when we practice Bhakti yoga we do so with certain amount of knowledge and certain amount of ignorance and certain types of lifestyles for example not getting proper exercise. When Prabhupada went to a cardiologist and the doctor said he needed to get exercised then Prabhupada started taking walks every day. That’s why Prabhupada started his morning walks. He didn’t think that, “Well, I have heart problems because of my offenses.” I think he believed it was because he wasn’t taking or getting enough exercise. I think that’s a very important point. The idea that, ‘If I’m just a good devotee and don’t commit offences, I could have the most irrational lifestyle and I won’t suffer.” We now know it to be completely false. I mean, “I could say that if I can jump off a building as long as we don’t offend anyone on the way down I’ll be okay”.
No but – but I’m saying that a lot of devotees’ suffering has come from an irrational lifestyle and not taking proper care of the body going to the extreme. If we really understand that our body belongs to Krishna we have to take care of it. How can we tell the public, “Listen up everybody, public, you’re body actually belongs to Krishna.” How can we tell the world that and then trash our own bodies by not getting exercise, by not eating properly, by not keeping clean and etc., etc. Now in a sense, you’re right. That’s an offense because it’s an offense to Krishna to trash the body he gave you, to practice self-mutilation. So trashing your body, not taking care of your body, thinking that healthy food is not bona fide. I mean.
We do see a tremendous amount of devotees suffering, which can be directly traced to an irrational lifestyle and that irrational lifestyle in a sense does not – you know – pay attention to Krishna’s interest. So anything else?
No but my point is that there are many non-devotees who are not offensive. In fact, Madhima-adhikari middle right holder – a Madhima-adhikari makes a distinction between innocent people that just need information and people who are actually envious of Krishna. I was with Prabhupada one time in the morning walked in park in Los Angeles and one Brahmin – you know those things where in the early of the movement as some of you old enough may remember – devotees really wanted to shock Prabhupada with the latest incredible information of a new depth to which Kali-yuga plunged, so my devotee would typically says in Bhagavatam class “..and every year there is more and more crime in this country” even though the crime’s statistics says its less crime. It’s just like a thing we do. So and one time I was with Prabhupada, and one Brahmachari come up: “Prabhupada! Prabhupada!” He said that he was book distributor and he said: “I am going on sankirtan, and the Karmis they are real demons. They’re really…” And so Prabhupada said: “No”. He said no and he said no they’re actually nice people”. They’re just ignorant and you have to explain things to the. So it’s not. The idea that Karmis are also offenders is not in our philosophy. We should obviously follow the rule for Madhyama-adhikari, so if we find someone who’s really envious and offensive we should select and avoid them, but my experience says that there many, many – in fact there are millions of millions of we so lovingly call them Karmis all around the world who are actually nice people and respectful with what we’re doing if we just explain it properly.
Well, to the extent that there’s value in Krishna – that there’s special value in Krishna, there must be special value in worshiping Krishna. Now, if someone’s an exemplary Jew or Christian, there are certain moral principles let’s say like not participating in animal slaughter, which are not Hindu principles. It’s not Krishna’s or Jew’s. It’s just a moral principle. It’s a universal moral principle. So to me someone cannot – reason out of it by saying, “Well, that’s not my religion.” You know, “I’m following my religion and according to my best understanding, I’m not required to that.” I think people are morally required to do sort of things. It’s just like you can’t say, “Because I’m a devotee, I don’t have to respect or I don’t respect other people.” So if you look at Bhagavad Gita, here’s a very interesting point. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says that Urdhvam gacchanti sattva-sthah -Those standing in goodness, literally, go up, go upward – are elevated. And if you look at all the descriptions of the mode of goodness of the Bhagavad Gita, it has nothing to do with any religious doctrine. According to Bhagavad Gita, you can be materially elevated, be materially happy, and have material wisdom and not be engaged with Krishna. So that’s the Bhagavad Gita, you know, read it and weep.
In fact Krishna says, “Those in goodness worship the gods and the plurals, small “g”. And Krishna says Urdhvam gacchanti sattva-sthah. So the Bhagavad Gita is not dogmatic. It’s not this psychotic thing that you commit certain mental primes by not believing in your heart that Krishna is this or that, you’ll be tortured forever in a lake a fire. It’s not this psychotic monstrous vision of god. I won’t get into the whole history now of talking the exact same thing that I just described. So therefore when I see a person – Jew, Christian, Muslim, Vashnaiva, whatever – in terms of judging the person’s character, there’s nothing – it’s not about religion it’s just about the person’s character. Krishna describes good character and morality not in dogmatic terms, not in doctrinal terms, just in terms of common sense and universal morality. So that has to be seen. Then in terms of someone’s spiritual understanding, I think it is relevant the extent of which someone understands God or the extent of which they are open to Krishna someone like really categorically rejects the idea of Krishna – I mean that has to influence my rating. Otherwise, I feel I’m just not taking Krishna seriously. But we do find certain people in other religion, and in some ways do exhibit better character than certain devotees. I mean it’s obvious. It’s just like a no-brainer. Sometimes that verse is misunderstood. Whoops! Sorry. The last time invited in to give a seminar.
So sometimes there’s a misunderstanding of the verse yasyasti bhaktir bhagavaty akincana (Bhag. 5.18.12) that one with unflinching or not unflinching but yeah you could say exclusive devotion for the Lord Krishna or just say for the Lord– literally resembles the demigod with all the qualities – resembles the gods. This sometimes translates as someone who is not a devotee of Krishna and they have not good qualities. That’s not actually what it says. Grammatically in Sanskrit, that’s actually not what it says. The Bhagavatam does not say that one who is not a devotee of Krishna will have no good qualities. There’s no such statement. What it actually says grammatically is kuto mahad-guna If it was kuto maha guna.. It says they won’t have the qualities of great souls. They may have common decency and common morality but not the qualities of great souls for the simple reason that you can’t be a great soul if you’re not devoted to god.