By Dhameshvar Mahaprabhu Das
In the preface to Krishna: The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Beatle Guitarist and songwriter George Harrison wrote, “All you need is love (Krishna)”. I am glad that he specified what he meant by love. The Hare Krishna movement took roots in the Western World, by the grace of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Shrila Prabhupada, during a time of free love, which he came not to stop, but to redirect. He gave us the Nectar of Devotion, where he explained how “Our love can be fully satisfied only when it is reposed in Krishna.” “Only” is the key word. Certainly there is an absolute difference between hippie love and Gopi love. In fact, the former is not love at all. Its lust. And what is described as lusty desire (kama) is not limited to sex, but includes any desire apart from the service of the Supreme Lord Krishna done with the intention to please Him, as he likes.
Love is an ambiguous word. If we look to the dictionary, we find no distinction between lust and love. At the same time, it sounds very nice. Love. Love. Love. All you need it love! I can hear the chorus of the song now. Everyone is talking about love, preaching love, but how many people know the secret of reposing love in Krishna? How many people know that any love which is not connected with Krishna has zero value? I am of the opinion that for the sake of acceptance many devotees have capitalized on the ambiguity and appeal of the word love. I mean seriously, if you just talk about loving everyone and loving God, who will object? Just to object or even qualify the word seem to put the protester at a disadvantage. But any objection must point out the limitations of so-called love. Shrila Prabhupada told some stories about this. Once he saw a woman beating her child. So naturally he asked why. She said that her other child had typhoid and needed to fast, lest his condition worsen, but that the sick child’s brother had fed him out of compassion. So she was beating some sense into him. Shrila Prabhupada specifically told this story, along with others, to illustrate that love and compassion can be very harmful. He said, “If you perform sattvika charity, then you get good result; rajasika charity, you get some profit; and tamasika charity, you go to hell. So one must be very careful even for this sneha, or charity, or philanthropy.” Romeo and Juliet both committed suicide, Gandhi was shot by an Indian, and the inventor of the machine gun thought that when people saw how horrible his invention was then surely war would stop forever. Shrila Prabhupada often reminds us that the so-called love of this material world binds us to illusion whereby we literally commit genocide to ourselves, accepting even more material bodies, which are inevitably meant for death, than Stalin was able to kill. Of course, love is not all bad, but its value is about ambiguous as its meaning. Without Krishna, it truly has the value of a shadow.
I had a wonderful learning experience while caring for seniors with dementia. You really do have to love them to survive in this line of work for very long because it is very hard in many ways. You get attached to them and then see them die. People with dementia are like children in old bodies. They are incontinent, irrational, and reactive. Anyway, so one day I am trying to assist an old man with his weekly shower (yes, weekly). However, he is absolutely convinced that he just took one and besides that, he doesn’t need any help (especially from me). To him it was ridiculous, offensive, and he was not having it. So after two hours of argument, profanity, hitting and yelling, he is out of the shower, which he enjoyed, and looking refreshed. Now, I saw this as my perfect opportunity to once and for all prove to him (and myself) what a loving person I truly am! “You were hitting me and cursing at me, but just see! I was only trying to help you.” His response was a dead stare with a hateful, “I should have hit you harder.”
What I learned from this, which I strongly believe now, is that a very appealing delusion to fall into is to think of oneself as a very loving selfless person. I love to quote Yajnavalkya’s teachings to his wife in the Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad and Shukadeva Goswami’s explanation of why the Vrajavasis loved Krishna’s self-same replacements of their missing children and calves more than the real ones. We love others not for their own virtue, but relative to our own pleasure. The truth is that the self and selfishness are eternal. In bhakti we love Krishna because he is the Self of the self, whereas we can never be so intimately connected with other souls as to offer them pure devotional service without violence. Shrila Prabhupada explains in BG 6.47 purport that pure devotional service is for Krishna alone, and whereas one may be rude for not respecting others, without respecting Krishna one is thoroughly condemned. In the perfected stages of bhakti like pranaya, jivas forget themselves in love for the lord. But selfishness remains, though the forgotten, through the abundant reservoir of pleasure that comes from pleasing the Soul of the soul, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna. In this material world, our selfishness remains but is misdirected to the bodily concept of live, to family, community, and nation. In this condition, it is very appealing to delude oneself to try to be selfless. But there is no such thing. “A patriot sees himself as a great servitor of a great nation, and thus he sacrifices his life to gratify his sense of egotism. Similarly, it is common knowledge that a man feels great pleasure by thinking that he is sacrificing everything to please his dear wife and children. A man derives great egotistic pleasure by seeing himself as a selfless well-wisher of his so-called family and community. Thus, to gratify his proud sense of false ego, a man is prepared even to lay down his life. This apparently contradictory behavior is yet another demonstration of the bewilderment of material life, which has neither rhyme nor reason, being a manifestation of gross ignorance of the nonmaterial soul.” (SB 10.14.50 purport) “Sometimes a materialistic person will engage in charity or altruistic activities and in this way consider himself a selfless worker. Similarly, those who engage in mental speculation with the ultimate goal of merging into the impersonal Brahman aspect of the Lord also advertise themselves as being selfless or desireless. According to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, however, such karmis and jnanis, while busy in their so-called “selflessness,” are in fact servants of lusty desires.” (SB 11.2.6). The lusty desire is the ego of thinking “I’m such a good person, look how tolerant I am helping these people, sacrificing for my family, putting myself last.” Really, it is the epitome of vanity because not only is this person only acting to make himself feel good, but he has no real knowledge or concern for what is beneficial for others.
So never mind what sentimental people think, it’s time for pure devotional service to Krishna not so-called love. If we truly love Krishna, we will follow his representative Shrila Prabhupada, our Founder-Acharya, and we will do what he wants, not we think he wants or what we think is a better way to do what he wants. What Shrila Prabhupada wants is for us preach in the West against the nirvishesha-vadis who promote that all love is equally good and the shunya-vadis who promote selflessness. What he wants is for his disciples to all become gurus by faithfully carrying the word of Krishna and establish logically and authoritatively how “Our love can be fully satisfied only when it is reposed in Krishna.”
We hear so often about loving relationships between devotees, and it is a fool-proof space filler for any class. But have you ever found yourself feeling unsure exactly how to do that? If we were more specific exactly what loving others looks like it would be easier to apply. ‘Love everyone, serve everyone’ sounds wonderful, but what does that mean? That we have to be warm and fuzzy 100% of the time with every living being at every time and unconditionally? That’s insane! It would be neither practical nor helpful. I think what we really need is ISKCON is faith in Shrila Prabhupada’s every single word (Every. Single. Word.), congruity with him, accountability for leadership, and honesty amongst devotees so we can move wholeheartedly from where we are to where we should be.