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Academic views, controversies, liberal views, eclectic discussions and so forth. Also, extended debates may be moved here. May contain discussion on views that a devotee may find objectionable.

Misguided Mantra - Discussion of Krishna devotee's conversion to Christianity



Jagat - Sat, 24 Apr 2004 18:58:22 +0530
This article (Misguided Mantra) is pretty lightweight as a critique of Krishna consciousness. Evidently, there were some limitations to Rick's understanding of Vaishnava philosophy: "Heís 13 years old, heís got blue skin, and heís really into peacocks. Thatís God. Thatís Krishna."

The positive aspects of his Krishna experience--stopping drugs, etc.--are ignored. "That Krishna that youíre worshipping is the adversary; itís the devil."

The main functional criticism appears to be: "Youíre supposed to chant [the Hare Krishna mantra] all the time, which is really like a drug.... Thereís one God, one medium between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. You donít pray that to think youíll be heard for your many words. Thereís no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood. Itís not saying some mantra."

The Christian critique of Krishna consciousness can be so much more sophisticated than this. Obviously the intended audience is not meant to get much out of this other than a feeling of superiority and "Glory be to Jesus, another benighted soul has been saved!"

What moral progress has Rick made? His ambition was to be a rock musician for Krishna, now he is a rock musician for Jesus. Standing on the sidelines, it's difficult to see what progress has been made. Though that Devil who obliged him to follow that demonic vegetarian diet has now been overcome.

====

What caught my eye in this article was, "Thereís no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood. Itís not saying some mantra."

In our discussion of Mel Gibson's film, I was trying to argue that the Christian experience of Christ's shedding of blood is essentially one of rasa. This gentleman was able to experience the meaningfulness of that rasa and was transformed by it, and it superseded the previous one he had had in Krishna consciousness. He got this through the mantra (!) "'Jesus, come into my heart and fill me with Your love." Now, evidently had he realized that the Maha Mantra included this meaning he may have experienced the same thing through it.

====

There are some good comments on the Audarya thread. I won't repeat them here, though it may be worth quoting some of them later.
Openmind - Sat, 24 Apr 2004 19:16:01 +0530
Around 1989 when Iskcon started to sell books in Hungary, once a Jehovist came up to a book distributor devotee on the street. He showed him a little booklet published by them, explaining "scientifically" why all other religions are bad except theirs. For the Hare Krishnas they had the following description: "This sect was founded around 1920 by a man named JOHN KRISNA". laugh.gif laugh.gif laugh.gif
Advaitadas - Sat, 24 Apr 2004 19:19:46 +0530
Well actually it is not that far from the truth, considering that Hare Krishna is a daughter-organisation of Gaudiya Math, which is founded in 1918.
adiyen - Sat, 24 Apr 2004 19:24:50 +0530
Yes, if they get really sophisticated they can find the quote in Gita where Krishna says, 'of the Daitya Demons I am the devoted Prahlad'. Some well-versed souls were able to grab the Gita off the distributor on the street and turn to the page. 'Demons, Krishna says it right there, He's a Demon!'.

'Well, yes but...' How to explain the conceptual dissonance here?

Yet the 'demonising' Manichean type of conversion experience happens in many ways, even within Krishnaism. I knew a devotee who converted to Sridhar Maharaj in the 1980's. Suddenly the Iskconites looked like Demons. He was sitting to eat in the Krishna-Balaram Temple. Just as the server came to him, so did the powerful intuition, 'This is not prasadam! the Deities here are not being worshipped properly...etc' like a 'slap in the face'. He got up and ran!

Even within Xtianity, people change churches so often nowadays. It's not as if their search is finished once they 'find christ'.
nabadip - Sat, 24 Apr 2004 19:27:25 +0530
QUOTE
"'Jesus, come into my heart and fill me with Your love."


I feel what may happen when this appeal is spoken, that what we desire most, to be loved, is getting realized, and by that realization it is extended upon others. That is something that is missing in our practice; it may happen at some point, but it may also not happen. And we do not have any active practice of developing compassion. It is such a singular experience, ours, whereas this type of Jesus-love-development is an encompassing one, with a distinct salvatory flavour.
Openmind - Sat, 24 Apr 2004 19:30:44 +0530
QUOTE
Some well-versed souls were able to grab the Gita off the distributor on the street and turn to the page. 'Demons, Krishna says it right there, He's a Demon!'.


I had almost the same experience. I showed Isopanisad to a woman. She looked at a picture of Krsna standing with a calf. She started to shout: "Oh, this is a lamb, this is pure occultism! This is nothing but occultism!"
nabadip - Sat, 24 Apr 2004 19:31:59 +0530
I did not really get what was meant with the flowing of blood. The human aspect, the dieing of Jesus? Kind of gross.
adiyen - Sat, 24 Apr 2004 19:34:35 +0530
Westerners may be more or less programmed by childhood experiences to respond to Xtian imagery. Often its the Bible, for some the most powerful sanction. Strangely, as a 1960's Catholic I did not pick up a full Bible till well into adulthood, and only started to read New testament in mid-teens. Before that it was Catechism, Mass and Confession, as well as Rosaries to statues. Pretty devilish by Protesant standards!
adiyen - Sat, 24 Apr 2004 19:36:22 +0530
QUOTE(nabadip @ Apr 24 2004, 02:01 PM)
I did not really get what was meant with the flowing of blood. The human aspect, the dieing of Jesus? Kind of gross.

Blood sacrifice, the ancient rite. Supposedly changed by the Crucifixion where one sacrifice was made for all.
braja - Sat, 24 Apr 2004 19:38:00 +0530
Just for the record, the link for this article was also posted right here at GD.com earlier. "GD - for the freshest news and juiciest opinions." wink.gif
nabadip - Sat, 24 Apr 2004 19:38:52 +0530
(I am dreadfully sorry Nabadip, I hit the wrong button and ended up misusing my moderator's powers to edit your post, which has now been lost. I meant to respond to it, not replace it.)
adiyen - Sat, 24 Apr 2004 19:43:11 +0530
QUOTE(Openmind @ Apr 24 2004, 02:00 PM)
QUOTE

Some well-versed souls were able to grab the Gita off the distributor on the street and turn to the page. 'Demons, Krishna says it right there, He's a Demon!'.


I had almost the same experience. I showed Isopanisad to a woman. She looked at a picture of Krsna standing with a calf. She started to shout: "Oh, this is a lamb, this is pure occultism! This is nothing but occultism!"

I met one intense young guy, who said 'you have to feel christ, you have to see him before you!' 'So have you?' I asked, 'Yes, yes! I have seen him personally'. At which I gently laughed, 'Have you seen a psychiatrist?' But he was very offended by this, he expected a sympathetic response.

So he said to me, 'You say I'm crazy? But look at you with your crazy dress and bald head! You call me crazy?' It was time to move to the next customer!
Jagat - Sat, 24 Apr 2004 19:59:33 +0530
In answer to Nabadwip's question, now inadvertently sent into cyberspace by me.

I guess that when I say "rasa" I mean entering into a particular symbolic universe. Thus, as Adiyen points out, the cultural factor imbibed from childhood is the "prAktana-samskara", the conditioning which makes symbols meaningful.

The "shedding of blood" means Christ's passion--which in the rasa conception contains a sthayi-bhava combination of bibhatsa, bhayanaka, karuna, santa and dasya. The visayalambana is Christ, who is the Deity in human form (and not uniquely a guru figure). The ashrayas are Barabbas, Mary Magdalena, Mother Mary, the apostles, etc. The uddipanas, anubhavas, sattvikas and vyabhicaris, etc., can be filled in from the Biblical accounts.

The vishaya/ashraya is, as always, unsteady, in the sense that as the action changes, the sadhaka's identification changes. Thus the sahridaya (or sadhaka) identifies alternatively with Christ and his disciples, etc. But here, predominantly with Christ's suffering. In that case, God the Father becomes the vishaya for bhakti in the shanta and dasya rasas.

Rasa is experienced through identification. "For He so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, etc." When one enters into this symbolic universe, one is inundated with the sense of redemption, or rasa.

(A work still evidently in progress. Sorry, Braj, I had missed that link.)
Jagat - Sat, 24 Apr 2004 20:08:40 +0530
Just as a P.S. to the previous post. I don't think that it takes the full set of symbols to experience some kind of conversion. As Adiyen says, the pilgrimage does not stop with conversion. The deepening of one's understanding or interpretation of symbols results in modifications to the experience, as well as the possibility of other kinds of conversion experience.

Catholics try to cultivate the experience of this particular rasa through the "Stages of the Cross," in which they meditate on the sorrowful and joyful mysteries. Protestants generally try to simplify things philosophically. Protestant iconoclasm means a little less tendency to religious experience as rasa.

Still a work in progress.
Madhava - Sat, 24 Apr 2004 23:27:00 +0530
He got the age wrong. That's why he blooped.
nabadip - Sun, 25 Apr 2004 00:18:22 +0530
QUOTE(nabadip @ Apr 24 2004, 04:08 PM)
(I am dreadfully sorry Nabadip, I hit the wrong button and ended up misusing my moderator's powers to edit your post, which has now been lost. I meant to respond to it, not replace it.)

Jagatji I think you did that on purpose in order to get into an appropriate dreadful mood to be able to give such a dreadfully splendid analysis of the rasas involved. biggrin.gif
vamsidas - Sun, 25 Apr 2004 23:29:15 +0530
For a while, I thought of Jagannatha-suta dasa (Ed Senesi) as perhaps the most prominent Krishna-turned-Christian to be entertaining evangelical Christians with a conversion story. Whatever happened to him?
Advaitadas - Sun, 25 Apr 2004 23:38:05 +0530
QUOTE
Whatever happened to him?


Playing his tambourine on the corner of the street?
vamsidas - Sun, 25 Apr 2004 23:49:47 +0530
QUOTE(Jagat @ Apr 24 2004, 09:28 AM)
This article (Misguided Mantra) is pretty lightweight as a critique of Krishna consciousness. Evidently, there were some limitations to Rick's understanding of Vaishnava philosophy: "Heís 13 years old, heís got blue skin, and heís really into peacocks. Thatís God. Thatís Krishna."

The positive aspects of his Krishna experience--stopping drugs, etc.--are ignored. "That Krishna that youíre worshipping is the adversary; itís the devil."

The main functional criticism appears to be: "Youíre supposed to chant [the Hare Krishna mantra] all the time, which is really like a drug.... Thereís one God, one medium between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. You donít pray that to think youíll be heard for your many words. Thereís no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood. Itís not saying some mantra."

The Christian critique of Krishna consciousness can be so much more sophisticated than this. Obviously the intended audience is not meant to get much out of this other than a feeling of superiority and "Glory be to Jesus, another benighted soul has been saved!"

What moral progress has Rick made? His ambition was to be a rock musician for Krishna, now he is a rock musician for Jesus. Standing on the sidelines, it's difficult to see what progress has been made. Though that Devil who obliged him to follow that demonic vegetarian diet has now been overcome.

====

What caught my eye in this article was, "Thereís no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood. Itís not saying some mantra."

In our discussion of Mel Gibson's film, I was trying to argue that the Christian experience of Christ's shedding of blood is essentially one of rasa. This gentleman was able to experience the meaningfulness of that rasa and was transformed by it, and it superseded the previous one he had had in Krishna consciousness. He got this through the mantra (!) "'Jesus, come into my heart and fill me with Your love." Now, evidently had he realized that the Maha Mantra included this meaning he may have experienced the same thing through it.

====

There are some good comments on the Audarya thread. I won't repeat them here, though it may be worth quoting some of them later.

I suppose one could argue that whenever you are dealing with religious conversion, you risk a "rasabhasa" of sorts, as someone raised with certain unacknowledged a priori assumptions about religion applies those assumptions to his "new" religion.

Even within a tradition, this can happen. Look at how modern American Christians have reconciled American capitalism with their Christian faith. Compare this to how modern European Christians have reconciled a "Christian Democratic" social welfare state with their Christian faith. Although both may be nominal "Christians" who would agree on most creedal statements, their day-to-day assumptions about how to live their creed -- and about what constitutes personal and spiritual "success" -- are noticeably different.

One could argue that the Ramakrishna Mission and original Caitanya Matha are similar within-culture examples of modernizing impulses being grafted onto an older tradition.

If a Krishna devotee, raised as a Western Christian, has a strong feeling for "blood sacrifice," perhaps it is no surprise that he may find much more meaning in the Narasimha-avatar than would ordinarily be expected of a Krishna devotee born in India. Indeed, we find that Westerners are much more interested in Narasimha than other Caitanyaites typically seem to be.

Maybe Rick would have found more meaning within Krishna Consciousness if he had been able to allow the Narasimha-avatar to inform his original Western "blood sacrifice" sanskaras?

In any case, although he now condemns the maha-mantra as a "drug," I suspect that his new Christian existence is not exactly drug-free. If he is practicing Pat Robertson's form of Christianity, the experience of glossolalia (speaking in tongues) is often perceived as a "drug" by outsiders.

Personally, though, I'm skeptical of Rick's story. I suspect the reality has a lot more to do with meeting a girl, and needing to make a buck. smile.gif
nabadip - Mon, 26 Apr 2004 00:12:12 +0530
The American form of evangelical Christianity looks like an absurd joke to Europeans. A Billy Graham would never have been possible here, let alone these TV-frauds who make shows, and those groups that act out their cathartic purifications. But evidently people are lead into experiences, even if they are more of a hypnotic nature. Given the truely unphilosophical nature of the big org it is not a great wonder that someone finds a fulfilling experience by converting into a Christian environment. At least there you get instant salvation. In the tread-mill of the Hare Krishna mantra, the way it is chanted in the big org, people get nowhere at the time being. That conversion may also mean to re-gain an existential basis for ethical action, which is not there in neo-Hindu fanaticism. People who join orgs that are not properly inculturated lose their morality altogether. To come back into Christianity may make them feel they are coming back to their home soil.
adiyen - Tue, 27 Apr 2004 05:28:48 +0530
QUOTE(nabadip @ Apr 25 2004, 06:42 PM)
People who join orgs that are not properly inculturated lose their morality altogether.

This charge has been made against the European Elightenment itself, which underpins current European 'progressive' sensibilite.

The charge is that the Enlightenment, a radical break with traditional culture, is the negation of morality, not its elevation as is claimed.

The foremost accuser is Alasdair MacIntyre, the Oxford phliosopher, who argues in his books for a return to the ethical teachings of Thomas Aquinas -


http://www3.baylor.edu/~Scott_Moore/MacIntyre_info.html

http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft9608/oakes.html
nabadip - Tue, 27 Apr 2004 22:03:54 +0530
QUOTE
People who join orgs that are not properly inculturated lose their morality altogether. To come back into Christianity may make them feel they are coming back to their home soil.


In this context I would like to spend a thought or two on the issue of character and virtue development. There are plenty of lists available in the shastra what virtues a sadhu, a vaishnava etc has. Are they meant to come about just by doing the sadhana, sort of like falling from heaven, or are they not part of the cultural sequence of growing into them, of values acquired during one's life and conscious attempts to project them into actions performed?

My general idea is following Jean Piaget's observations of how children apply "inherited" rules while playing their children's plays. Noone is telling them how to play them and which rules apply, they know them inherently. (This is applying to such unstructered plays as playing with marbles which is done all over the world in varied ways; it does not mean playing with Lego components or Gameboys which themselves impose rules of how they have do be dealt with.) As children grow up into adolescence they bring with them their own character, a certain disposition of how to do things, and also acquire norms of how to behave and where the limits are. They develop an identity in the sense of knowing who they are in relation to others, and by way of identification learn to exhibit and live an individuality. Along with these developments a sense of moral action evolves, of knowing what is good for oneself and others, and what is bad, and which behaviour is conducive to a life of mutual respect and peaceful survival.

It may be codified in a set of rules administered by some religious organisation, or not. My thesis is that there is a type of morality growing with everyone who has a relatively loving childhood and upbringing, which with varying dramas is happening with most everyone (exceptions apply). If such a person now enters an organisation which is not inculturated, which is following an ideology of its own not grown in the soil of the culture the person grew up in, there will follow an experience of being up-rooted, new values would be acquired that are not in consonance with the in-grown morality. Little by little that morality becomes eroded as through identification with leader figures and through constant repetition of teachings which are outside-influences, and naturally through the actions imposed by that group on its members.

Virtues are imposed rather than growing out of the character of the person developing in a maturing life-experience. This may have a beneficial effect to some extent, but may remain dependent on the presence of the group they are employed in. Organisations tend to be group- rather than individuum-oriented. Individuality is formed along the lines of group-orientations more exclusively than in a regular life. When joining groups, one can give up individuality temporarily, and merge with the group-ego. If this happens on a continued basis, individuality, personal maturity may be deformed; moral norms are only acquired ones, not ingrown. Virtue is not solidly rooted in personality, but only employed as a means to an end.
nabadip - Tue, 27 Apr 2004 22:37:35 +0530
here is part of an article on this topic (thanks to adiyen's links)
from: http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/v/virtue.h...%20and%20Virtue

Character and Virtue

Modern virtue ethics takes its inspiration from the Aristotelian understanding of character and virtue. Aristotelian character is, importantly, about a state of being. Itís about having the appropriate inner states, e.g. the virtue of kindness involves the right sort of emotions and inner states with respect to our feelings towards others. Character is also about doing. Aristotelian theory is a theory of action, since having the virtuous inner dispositions will also involve being moved to act in accordance with them. Realising that kindness is the appropriate response to a situation and feeling appropriately kindly disposed, will also lead to a corresponding attempt to act kindly.

Another distinguishing feature of virtue ethics is that character traits are stable, fixed and reliable dispositions. If an agent possesses the character trait of kindness, we would expect her to act kindly in all sorts of situations, even when it is difficult to do so, towards all kinds of people, and do so reliably over a long period of time. A person with a certain character then, can be relied upon to act consistently over a time.

It is important to recognise that moral character develops over a long period of time. People are born with all sorts of natural tendencies. Some of these natural tendencies will be positive, such as a placid and friendly nature, and some will be negative, such as an irascible and jealous nature. These natural tendencies are encouraged and developed, or equally could be discouraged and thwarted, by the influences one is exposed to when growing up. There are a number of factors which may affect oneís character development such as oneís parents, teachers, peer group, role-models, the degree of encouragement and attention one receives, exposure to different situations and situations of varying degree of difficulty, etc. Our natural tendencies, the Ďraw materialí we are born with, are shaped and developed through a long and gradual process of education and habituation.

Moral education and development is a major part of virtue ethics. Moral development, at least in its early stages, relies on the availability of good role models. The virtuous agent acts as a role model for what is good and the student of virtue emulates his example. Initially this is a process of habituating oneself in the right action. Aristotle advises us to perform just acts as this way we become just. The student of virtue must develop the right habits, so that he tends to perform virtuous acts. Thus, he his behaviour is, to an extent, reliable. However, virtue is not itself habit. Habituation is an aid to the development of virtue, but true virtue requires choice, understanding and knowledge. The virtuous agent doesnít just act justly out of habit, an unreflective response, but has come to recognise the value of virtue and why it is the appropriate response. Virtue is chosen, chosen knowingly and chosen for its own sake.

This long and gradual process of moral character development may take as long as a whole life-time, but once an agentís character is firmly established and we can depend on her to act consistently and predictably in a variety of situations then that agent is the virtuous agent.

Aristotelian virtue is defined in Book II of the Nicomachean Ethics as a purposive disposition, lying in a mean and being determined by the right reason and by what the virtuous agent would use to determine it. Virtue is a settled disposition because it is a character trait and we have just discussed how character traits are established over a long time, but once developed are stable, persistent and reliable dispositions. However, it is also a purposive disposition. This means that virtue is done knowingly and selected for its own sake. Acting virtuously is not the same as acting habitually, where this might involve an unreflective action, or acting my accident or in ignorance. So virtue is not only a reliable disposition to act in a certain way, but one which the agent needs to choose, choose knowingly and choose for its own sake. It is not enough to act kindly by accident, or unthinkingly or because everyone else is doing so, you must act kindly because you recognise that this is the right way to behave. Note here that although habituation is a tool for character development it is not equivalent to virtue, virtue requires conscious choice and affirmation.

The idea that virtue lies in a mean, relates to the argument that the right act varies in each situation and with respect to each person. Virtue is the appropriate response, a response that can vary in order to take into account different situations and different agents. The virtues are associated with feelings. The most common example is courage; courage has to do with fear, but other examples from the Nicomachean Ethics include the virtue of modesty which is associated with the feeling of shame, the virtue of friendliness associated with feelings about social conduct, etc. The virtue lies in a mean, because it involves displaying the mean amount of emotion, where mean stands for appropriate (This does not imply that the right amount is a modest amount. Sometimes Ďquite a lotí may be the appropriate amount of emotion to display as in the case of righteous indignation.) The mean amount, the right amount, is neither too much nor too little and it must be sensitive to the requirements of the person and the situation (more on this in the next section).

Finally, virtue is determined by the right reason. Virtue requires the right desire and the right reason. To act from the wrong reason is to act viciously, the agent has failed to perceive the good. On the other hand, the agent can try to act from the right reason, but fail because she has the wrong desire, in which case she is weak-willed. The virtuous agent acts effortlessly, perceiving the right reason and having the harmonious right desire, his inner state of virtue flows smoothly into action. Crucially, the virtuous agent here can act as an exemplar or an ideal of virtue; someone we can look to in order to observe virtue in action.

It is important to recognise that this is a most perfunctory account of ideas which are developed in great detail in Aristotle, but they are related briefly here as they have been central to virtue ethicsí claim to put forward a unique and rival account to other normative theories. Modern virtue ethicists have developed their theories around a central role for character and virtue and claim that this gives them a unique understanding of morality. The emphasis on character development and the role of the emotions allows virtue ethics to have a plausible account of moral psychology, lacking from deontology and consequentialism. Virtue ethics can avoid the problematic concepts of duty and obligation, in favour of the rich concept of virtue. Judgements of virtue are judgements of character, of a whole life, rather than judgements of one isolated action.