For this year's festival, we had the great honour to welcome HH Radhanath Swami, Jayananda Swami and Mahavisnu Swami, and HG Prabhavisnu, Adikarta and Parivida Prabhus. Around 300 devotees came together, some also from the UK and other neighboring countries.
I reached New Maypaur before the actual festival started, and since quite a few devotees were already there, I was invited to offer 2 sessions on the false ego and a morning class on the topic of envy, discussing 4.8.34. Every evening the devotees assembled in the garden to swing Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha-Govinda-Madhava on a beautifully decorated swing, tuning their hearts into the upcoming appearance of Lord Balarama. During the festival days I offered a Q&A session for ladies which was very well attended and received, and otherwise I spent all day at the book table making myself available to the devotees. I had a blissful time and distributed lots of copies of the five books I published. The darshan of Their Lordships was a festival to our eyes - an ocean of flowers from the garden...!
"One cannot follow incorrect orders of a superior but one should not show hostility towards him, using disrespectful or harsh words. One should put a stop to their improper behavior or instructions by using sweet words, humility, and gentle reasoning at the proper time."
This instruction clearly establishes our behavior towards senior devotees who may not be exemplary in all regards, as well as non-devotees. Parents are always considered to be our seniors, even if they don’t practice Krishna consciousness. They have served us for many years and given care in so many ways, so we must respect them. However, this does not mean we follow every single piece of advice they may give. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.14.6), we receive another very practical instruction in this regard:
“An intelligent man in human society should make his own program of activities very simple. If there are suggestions from his friends, children, parents, brothers or anyone else, he should externally agree, saying, ‘Yes, that is all right,’ but internally he should be determined not to create a cumbersome life in which the purpose of life will not be fulfilled.”
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s instructions are especially relevant for our practical life and powerfully expressed: When our seniors give incorrect instructions, instead of arguing or acting in a confrontational and challenging way, we should use sweet words, humility and gentle reasoning at the proper time. Often we may do the very opposite: using harsh and disrespectful words, demonstrating arrogance and pride and putting forward arguments at the improper time. This may be a main reason why devotees often have strained relationships with their parents. We are the ones to be blamed, because we don't follow the Vaishnava etiquette of respecting our elders...!
We are advised to have such a respectful attitude towards non-devotees — not to speak of devotees, even though they may not be faultless. All devotees are very dear to Krishna, Srila Prabhupada and guru. We have no right to disrespect them, pass judgments or find fault. If we see some shortcomings or serious anarthas in their behavior, we can show respect from a distance, seeing it as our problem that we are not advanced enough to associate closely with them. If we were pure devotees, then little shortcomings from others around us would not affect us, and we could easily counteract them with our own spiritual strength.
We can remember Srila Prabhupada’s analogy of ISKCON being like a hospital, where many patients with all kinds of diseases have taken shelter. The fact that a person is diseased would never give us a reason to disrespect him. Rather, we should respond with compassion and a genuine concern as to how to
serve him. Nevertheless, in some circumstances we may keep some distance from a diseased person so as not to catch the same disease.
On 1st of September I moved on to the Czech Republic....
Your servant, Devaki dd
Please visit www.theholynameretreat.net