“The supreme occupation [dharma] for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.2.6)
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स वै पुंसां परो धर्मो
यतो भक्तिर् अधोक्षजे
sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo
yato bhaktir adhokṣaje
“I know you don’t like to follow institutional politics or politics in general. I understand that the person following bhakti-yoga tries to stay above those kinds of temporary interests, but for me the size of influence is undeniable. These institutions hold power.
“They have buildings. They have members. They have literature. You can try to ignore what happens within them, but sometimes I cannot help but find out. I get involved at least on a mental level. I get upset by certain things that I hear. I feel for the people victimized. I want to eradicate the corruption.
“The latest nonsense is actually a repeat of an old song. You have a rubberstamped guru falling down. It was suddenly discovered and confirmed, through an exhaustive investigation, that they did some really bad stuff. I won’t mention the specifics. There is no reason to revisit the horrors, which are graphic in nature.
“I make the joke to anyone who will listen that the end-result to such scandals is a tightening on existing and future disciples. I pause before revealing the end to that sentence, for dramatic effect. This is because you would think the opposite should be true, that it is the fake gurus who should be held to a higher standard, who will be the subject of increased oversight.
“Nope. It is always the disciples who suffer. Case in point the most recent scandal. The institution announced that certain initiations are now null and void. They took place when the supposed guru was no longer allowed to officiate such ceremonies.
“These people who were initiated years ago now have no standing in the society. The ruling doesn’t say this, but we know that these people will be made fun of. If they attend formal gatherings, people will ask who their guru is. The initiated will respond, in kind. Then they will get asked what year they were initiated, since that makes a difference now.
“The conversation might go as follows:
My guru is such and such.
Oh cool, but what year?
My guru, 2005.
Whew! Then you are legit. If you were from that same guru, but 2008, then you don’t really have a guru. You might as well change your name back. You would be on the same level as an eww dirty karmi.
“I get so upset upon hearing such news. It is like these people are being denied entry into heaven. You are not officially a member of the institution. No pearly gates for you. Better to find someone else. We, as the institution, will not apologize for recommending a fake guru to you. That was entirely your fault. Stop being difficult and just find someone else to give you initiation again.
“What should these victims do? I feel so much for them. I feel for the people who currently think their guru is just fine. What will happen when the scandalous revelations eventually become public? Their faith will be shattered. They will lose their standing in the institution. It is a giant mess.”
Shrimad Bhagavatam explains that the only genuine religion, dharma, takes place in a manner that is without motivation and without interruption. Ahaituki and apratihata. Not seeking anything in return and not being checked by any material condition.
These two terms are necessary for understanding the relevancy and conditions upon which the individual, currently within the material world, can find liberation. The final state is actually the original state. The end-goal is actually the constitutional position. Liberation is actually a return to a way of living that continues. Since there will be no interruption and no motivation, the exact conditions do not make a difference.
The playing field, if you will, is immaterial. Whether dharma is within an established and respected institution or within a jail cell in the district of Mathura, it is still dharma. Whether a person lives the life of liberation without any standing in society or as the most respected spiritual leader makes no difference in the underlying relationship.
Vedic literature, which is simultaneously a historical record, has countless examples as support for the way dharma breaks the barriers otherwise imposed by the material world. Prahlada Maharaja thrived in dharma in a place where the leader was set to eliminate it. Prahlada’s own father had the entire world afraid of him. Saintly people taking disguises. Those aligned with dharma were afraid to let their allegiance be known.
The gopis of Vrindavana were not recognized scholars in Vedic teachings. They did not initiate disciples. They did not sit on the speaker’s seat at a spiritual discourse. From the authority of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, we learn that the example of the gopis is the one to follow. That is to say, they are at the highest standard of religion.
The crisis of faith, the fallen spiritual guide, the corrupt institution, the shame and peer pressure from the credentialed class – these are certainly unfortunate circumstances. The presence of a single factor can dissuade a person from ever attempting devotional service again.
At the same time, it should be known that the power of the object of dharma dominates over any of the opposing forces. Even an innocent child like Prahlada was able to withstand the physical assaults of his father. The devotion did not diminish; it thrived. It increased to the point that the object of dharma arrived personally to give proof to the world that the side of dharma always wins in the end.
Example of Prahlada to see,
But how possible for me?
The evil institution winning,
Considering me now as sinning.
Such that exploited and thrown,
Without any shelter known.
But connection to Krishna is my way,
Dharma as unimpeded to stay.
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