Quite some time ago, I stopped going for my Gita classes due to work and OCD causing difficulties. As a result, I ended up falling out of the loop, and only seldom go for celebrations.
I miss being around devotees and being engaged in Krishna bhakti. I miss learning about Krishna, the music, the prasadam, the books…
But I don’t miss the rigidity.
I’m quite apprehensive about posting this because some might feel like I am ‘straying from the path’ or that I am being offensive. But I don’t want to pretend I’m okay with things I’m not.
I’d also like to say that this doesn’t only apply to ISKCON. Many other religions and religious groups I’ve looked into seem to have similar rigidity.
They tell us what to think, what to do, what to feel. Where is the freedom? There are plenty things that I couldn’t agree with and tried my best to understand. Some things just don’t make sense.
Like for instance, the concept of an eternal hell in Abrahamic religions. I can’t digest that no matter what anyone says to me to make me understand. I don’t understand the goat sacrifice. I don’t understand why Hare Krishnas are supposed to have cold showers. Or why we’re supposed to wake up at 3 or 4 am.
I remember one of the first times I experienced some discomfort because of something someone said in my Gita class. They were discussing Mother Theresa and while they agreed she was a good person, she apparently was also a ‘meat-eater’ which means she couldn’t have been that good. I was taken aback. I am all for vegetarianism and I actually would like it if people didn’t eat meat at all but I don’t think a person can be classified as good or bad based on whether they eat meat or not.
Another thing that really irks me is the subjugation of women. Why are women the lesser intelligence? What about the caste system? KC thoroughly describes the caste system as Krishna intended it. That is, to say, so different occupations would exist and society would live in harmony and there would be some sort of structure. I can’t really imagine Krishna differentiating between upper classes and lower classes. Can you? Why then does the literature refer to higher’ and ‘lower’ castes? It’s so contradicting. On the one hand, Krishna stresses on equality, yet on the other hand, followers identify these castes as higher and lower.
I like my freedom to think and believe what I want to. A lot of people say we shouldn’t create our own ideas of what God should be like. But honestly, how can anyone accept the idea that God differentiates between higher and lower classes, between vegetarians and meat-eaters, homosexuals and heterosexuals? If I say that God loves unconditionally, and then I add, “…but only if you do His will,” doesn’t that mean His love is conditional?
Some time ago, someone told me that God chooses his followers. So what if someone doesn’t worship him? Doesn’t that mean that God chooses some people, and doesn’t choose others? Why does he pick? If you believe that God’s will is supreme, you can’t say his message is out there for us to receive but it’s up to us to choose whether we want to receive it or not, and that it boils down to our freewill. If it boils down to our freewill, that negates the fact that everything happens according to God’s will. It would mean that things happen according to our will.
Another concern I have is about guru-worship. I just have one question: why? I understand several Hindus use the word ‘worship’ loosely and that the practice of aarti is quite cultural, traditional, and often a form of respect. For instance, if you went to a Hindu home, they would probably do an aarti for you. My high school Hinduism study explained that this is often a way of praying to the Lord that resides within everyone. Fair enough. But why worship gurus and say that we should worship them then way we worship God? Christians might agree with me when it comes to this. Either it has been expressed wrongly, or they actually really think we should equate guru and Krishna, which is something I cannot do. I can agree that gurus are spiritually elevated. But if you tell me that they are perfect, I cannot agree. At the end of the day, they are still human beings. Only God is perfect. Christians and Muslims often say that we should worship no one but God but I have seen how they take the words of their leaders as set in stone. But it is so painfully obvious that those leaders sometimes say things that are so wrong! These leaders sometimes lead sinful lives themselves. Followers might not be ‘worshipping’ them per se but believing that they are infallible is giving another human that status of being sinless and perfect, which only belongs to God.
I’m actually quite sick of most religious groups concocting their own version of God and feeding it to people, while they hypocritically tell others not to do it.
Needless to say, I still believe Vaishnavism makes the most sense philosophically and it is the most basic, simple and logical philosophy I have come across. Krishna has stolen my heart. I always resort to ISKCON literature for study as I find it the most comprehensive and most accurate (not exact) interpretation. However, I do not find the need to strongly associate with a single religious organization. I am quite happy to call myself Krishna’s devotee and I will leave it at that.
But some things are just hard to accept.
I could have been born in a cannibalistic cult. What if I never questioned everything I did and everything I was taught? All I do is go on being a cannibal, teaching others that cannibalism is a good thing. That’s what most of these religious organizations do. Sometimes in an obvious way, sometimes in a subtle way. Just don’t be afraid to ever open up your mind and question the things you’re told. I would actually urge each and every one of you reading this to not blindly accept everything you see, hear or read. Question it. God has given you the ability to reason, so use it.