Should Devotees Vote in the Election?

ASK BVKS | April 20, 2014 |

English; Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India

Question:

We understand from the teachings of Your Holiness that any activity other than Krishna consciousness is a waste of time. Considering this, I was under the impression that participating in voting for elections is also a waste of time because the process of democracy is not according to sastras and the leaders are not Krishna conscious. But sometimes devotees state that there is some political party who if not promoting Krishna consciousness at least protect people from those who are trying to destroy vedic culture. So they opine that we must not waste our vote, else someone may wrongly utilize it and promote parties that encourage cow slaughter. Do we need to consider these points? Please guide me regarding this.

Answer by HH Bhakti Vikāśa Swami:

Well, it’s not actually my teaching, but it’s teaching of śāstra. Ultimately it’s waste of time.

I’m just gonna read some quotes from Śrīla Prabhupāda:

Prabhupāda: No, the real is that all rogues are in the government.

Dr. Patel: Yes, that is the right thing. Not only rogues, but they are...

Prabhupāda: So why don't you, if you are actually serious, why don't you make propaganda in the country that "Please do not give vote to the rogues"? Don't mention any party. "If you want to be happy, then don't give vote to the rogues." And who is a rogue? The illicit-sex hunters, the intoxicants and the meat-eaters and the gamblers. These are rogues.

Dr. Patel: They are all there in Delhi.

Prabhupāda: No, no, you don't mention any. (aside:) Hare Kṛṣṇa. Jaya. Thank you very much. Hare Kṛṣṇa. Hare Kṛṣṇa. So it is impartial. And actually, if they test that "Whether this man I am voting, he is free from all these sinful activities?" then, you see, the whole face of the Indian government will change.”
(Morning Walk – Bombay, April 14, 1976)

In this regard I’ll cite an anecdote that was told to me by a journalist, some years ago. He told me that he had spoken to Giani Zail Singh. He was the president of India.

So, this journalist told me that he said to Giani Zail Singh that he made some suggestion for improvement of India, and Giani Zail Singh said: “No, no, no, no! Nothing will work. I’ll tell you, the only way you can have any benefit for this country is if you line up all the politicians and shoot them all.”

This journalist told him: “I’ll quote you on that.”
Giani Zail Singh said; “You can if you like. I’ll deny it.”
Interesting anecdote. It was “The Hindu” journalist that told me this.

“The democracy is a farce. At least, I do not like it. Because so many rascals, simply by getting votes, go to the government, and what do they know how to rule over? Therefore, at the present moment, all over the world there is no good government. There is no good government.” (Lectures, Bhagavad-gītā 1.28-29, London, July 22, 1973)

After two days Śrīla Prabhupāda said this, on another lecture:
“We don’t very much like this so-called democracy. What is the value of this democracy? All fools and rascals. They vote for another fool and rascal and he becomes prime minister, or this or that. That is not good for the people. We are not for this so-called democracy because they are not trained.” (Lecture in London, 24 July 1973)

“Nowadays, unqualified men have taken the presidential post. And although they may pose themselves as very religious, they are simply rascals. Why? Because under their noses thousands of cows are being killed, while they collect a good salary. Any leader who is at all religious should resign his post in protest if cow slaughter goes on under his rule. Since people do not know that these administrators are rascals, they are suffering. And the people are also rascals because they are voting for these bigger rascals.” (JSD 7: Plato: Goodness and Government)

“Therefore, in contrast with the modern, advanced, civilized form of government, an autocracy like Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira's is by far superior to so-called democracy in which animals are killed and a man less than an animal is allowed to cast votes for another less than animal man. We are all creatures of material nature.” (Room Conversations, July 26, 1975, Laguna Beach)

So, Śrīla Prabhupāda was clearly not in favour of democracy, and he pointed that the leaders are all rogues.

In other place he said we should vote for Kṛṣṇa conscious leaders, that we should preach Kṛṣṇa consciousness and then people can vote for Kṛṣṇa conscious leaders.
He also approved, for some time, devotees in America making a political party named “In God We Trust Party” which was not expected to win elections or such thing, but it was a platform for preaching. Because there is some law if you are standing for the election then media have to give you some coverage and this and that. Although Śrīla Prabhupāda suspended it after short time.

SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY OF DEVOTEES TO VOTE OR TO ESTABLISH VARṆĀŚRAMA?
So, if we vote will cow killing stop? No! Śrīla Prabhupāda said we shouldn’t . If cow killing is going on, any leader should resign.

Of course, the point is made that some party (Well you can guess who. Śrīla Prabhupāda said: Don’t mention any name.) seems to be more favourable toward sanātana-dharma than some other party. 
In a sense, this is a wrong question. Should we vote or not? The point have been made- is social responsibility of devotees to vote. This idea, that it is a social responsibility to vote, that does not come from śāstra. That’s an idea that has been cooked up along with democracy.

Śrīla Prabhupāda’s social program was to establish varṇāśrama. What are we doing about that? That should be our real question. Our real social responsibility is to show a better kind of a society.

DEMON-CRAZY DEMOCRACY
So, you can vote if you like for a party that may be in the middle of building factories, and approving abortions. They may do something to stop cow slaughter, that’s good in the middle of all the corruption. They may do something for the cause of sanātana-dharma, but our real program should be to establish varṇāśrama dharma according to guna and karma, not according to janma. That’s Śrīla Prabhupāda’s social welfare program.
So, seeing these devotees saying, it’s just confirmed to me that our movement has lost it, or not taken the social direction that Śrīla Prabhupāda gave us. Because this kind of talk doesn’t come from śāstra or ācāryas. It comes from modern materialistic society.
So, if you want you can vote. I’ve never voted in my life. Well, I’ve voted in ISKCON meetings, not for any governmental person. If you vote and that person comes in and approves cow slaughter, you have to take some sinful reaction for that. You have to consider that also. You are also responsible.

Definitely those who are sadhus…why should they participate in this voting. The leaders should come to us for guidance. We are long away from that. They are setting the agenda, and we are giving a vote. But we should be giving the agenda and they should be coming to us for guidance.
So, as Śrīla Prabhupāda said, I’m not much in favour for democracy. We should be preaching that this is demon crazy. It’s a very complex situation in a whole world. If you say one party is better than another it may be, but the whole world situation is so bad we can’t expect any radical improvement from any party coming over another. But we can expect that one party may be less inclined towards sanātana-dharma and all that it stands for.

QUESTIONS ON COW SLAUGHTER
As I’ve said on another occasion, if there is industrial economy than cows has to be killed because everything is economic. So, cows are in economic unite, too. You cannot keep cows unless you can kill them. That’s the way it is economically. Otherwise it becomes a burden to you. There are no grazing lands where cows are taken for graze. So, old cows-it doesn’t matter to keep them when there is grazing land.
But, in modern society it’s all economic. You have to feed the cow with grass, you have to pay or grow. And cow slaughter will go on as long as this industrial society goes on.
So, to promote industry and in the same time to promote cow protection is not going to work. These two things go together: industry and cow slaughter.

And also all questions on cow slaughter. That’s if cow slaughter has to be stopped in this country at this point…It could have been stopped in 1947 presumably. It was presumed that it would be stopped, but it wasn’t, thanks to Mahatma Gandhi. It could’ve been done at that time. Now, it’s much more difficult.

But if it’s to be done, it has to be done with the acquaintances of the large minority who are very aggressive wanting to eat cow’s meat. So, we have to preach to large minority, to convince them that this is not good. We have to preach to Hindus also, who are after eating beefs.

HOW TO BRING KṚṢṆA CONSCIOUSNESS IN GOVERNMENT?
Some years ago I met a Godbrother of mine who lived in Iran for many years during the Iranian revolution. Somehow or other he stayed there as Irish citizen. Ireland has been always considered as non threatening country, not like Great Britain or Northern America. So, he stayed there for many years, teaching English or something like that. He told me his perception. Of course he didn’t travel all over Iran and spoke to different kinds of people, but his perception was that many people didn’t like Islamic law. They were forced to do it. But they were not happy with it. They’ve wanted the life of, more open and free, so they can enjoy themselves like this.

So, how to bring Kṛṣṇa consciousness in government? We have to convince people. Simply by force it’s not going to work. Of course, we are absolutely not near the Kṛṣṇa consciousness government , but I was thinking about it as Śrīla Prabhupāda was.

The same is with cow slaughter when there is a large aggressive minority who are in favour of that. If we try to stop it by force it may lead to lot of human slaughter also. That should be considered. It’s a very delicate question. Definitely in Hyderabad, for instance, there is a whole large area which react very aggressively. I mean they do, already. If they try to stop cow slaughter…

CONCLUSION
So, I’m not giving here any clear answers because these kind of answers you have to discuss in details. It’s very complex situation. Cow slaughter should be stopped, yes! How to go about it, that we have to consider.

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Question:

I have a problem concerning the purity and contamination of prasadam and consciousness.

It began with the fact that after taking prasadam at public programs (Namahattas, Bhakti vrksas, Sunday feasts in the temple) my material desires increase – images not related with Krishna appear in my mind, and in dreams images of militants, horror and erotica appear (in dreams I sometimes was strangled, maltreated, raped etc.). Because of this I felt I had to endeavor more to follow sadhana; concentrate while chanting and reading. I was advised not to take prasadam at public programs because the standards of cleanliness are very low. Thus I visited the programs but did not take prasadam and this seemed to solve the problem.

After that at some point I decided to live in the temple to dedicate more time to service, in the hope that it would be easier to practice, but it turned out to be the opposite. After one and a half months my material desires and dreams became very strong (stronger than at home). I returned home and senior devotees (brahmacaris who live outside the temple) sent me caranamrta and sent me prasadam until I recovered. I thought that this was related with aparadhas that I had unconsciously made.

Now I'm in another city, and visiting another temple, and after taking prasadam there – my bad dreams and images again manifest.

I have the understanding that this is because of the low standards of cleanliness of preparation: prasadam not being cooked by brahmanas, distributors hands dirty, dirty clothes, anyone can take a disposable plate with dirty hands or serve themselves prasadam from the vessels, also I myself need to be cleansed. Do these low standards of cleanliness in cooking and distribution of prasadam influence the enthusiasm of devotees in their service?

On the other hand, I see how many devotees live in temples and practice sadhana. And that's why I have a doubt that it could be tricks of my mind not to live in the temple? Or maybe, I should live in the temple, but cook for myself?

Please help me to get an understanding of purity standards. Is external cleanliness important? Can prasadam be contaminated? Can it affect the mind and its thoughts and images? Can it affect the desire to serve Sri Guru, Prabhupada, Krishna and devotees? Maybe, I should concentrate on chanting, do more practical service, distribute books? And maybe I should pay less attention to things that I pay attention to now as they are not so important?

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Answer by HH Bhakti Vikasa Swami:

Gurv-aṣṭaka meditation. Should we meditate on our guru or on Śrīla Prabhupāda?

You can meditate on both, as suitable. Yeah, as suitable means that not everything may be applicable to your own guru. Śrīla Prabhupāda said that this Gurv-aṣṭaka, it doesn’t apply to all gurus. At least the part of verses five and six specifically refer to those who in their form as a gopī assisting the… Well, especially number six applies to a gopī who is engaged in the direct service of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. Therefore I say you can meditate as is suitable. Not everything may be applicable.

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Is there only one way to follow Srila Prabhupada?

ANSWER by HH Bhakti Vikasa Swami: 

Sridham Shyam Prabhu wrote an article which brought my attention to, in which he states that, as he understands, there are not many ways of following Śrīla Prabhupāda but there is one way to follow.

Now...in one sense it’s true. The proper way to follow Śrīla Prabhupāda is with all sincerity aspiring for pure devotional service, and following his instructions. On the other hand there is no stereotype, and Śrīla Prabhupāda gave different instructions to different devotees.

Sometimes on the same subject. For instance within his books, and repeatedly elsewhere, Śrīla Prabhupāda said that sannyāsi should be very strict in the matter of associating with women, which anyone in India up to the present day can understand, unless they are a follower of Osho, who are not much liked by Indian public.

Up to the present day the Indian public don’t like. They don’t mind to be cheated by swamis and sannyāsis, and spiritually, but they don’t like if they mix up with women...up to the present day. This Asaram Bapu Swami was finished not because of the murder cases in his āśram, but it came out about his womanizing. He is not actually a sannyāsi, but he is a holly man (supposed to be) and his illicit mixing with women is not at all appreciated. In South India this Paramahaṁsa Nityānanda was finished when it came about his womanizing, which in the West no one cares at all, but in India...

I’m just coming to the point now...

EXAMPLES
There is one Back to Godhead magazine published in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s presence, in which Sudama Swami...On the order of Śrīla Prabhupāda he led up the Vaikuṇṭha players, a drama troupe which had dance, and which was very much appreciated by Śrīla Prabhupāda, giving the teachings of Kṛṣṇa consciousness in drama form. And in that group there were women, which Śrīla Prabhupāda allow, but did not want in India. But, in the West he allowed it. Different culture. Sudama said to Śrīla Prabhupāda:“...all these women dancing...“, and Śrīla Prabhupāda said „That is your sannyās!“.

It’s right there in Back to Godhead magazine, so, he gave different...
Also, in two days in Vṛndāvan, to one sannyāsi Śrīla Prabhupāda told: „You leave Vṛndāvan! Don’t spend more than three days at any place. Sannyāsi should always be moving.“ The next day, to another sannyāsi he said: „Stay here, manage this project and never leave!“ So, to one he said „Sannyāsi always travels“, and to the other one sannyāsi „Stay here!“.

DIFFERENT EMPHASIS IN DEVOTIONAL SERVICE
So, there may be apparent contradictions. It’s not actually a contradiction, it’s specialized instruction according to service. So, one way to follow...Yes, we should know Śrīla Prabhupāda’s instructions and follow them, but we should know there is variety within that also. And, we see very exalted followers of Śrīla Prabhupāda who were...they are quite different in their emphasis in devotional service.
Two of most prominent preachers of Kṛṣṇa consciousness in the modern world, Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disciples in the Western world, one is Vaisesika Dasa Prabhu who is a grihasta. Well, he is well known, of course. He very much promotes the distribution of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books. That’s his main focus.
Indradyumna Swami has been a sannyāsi for many years and he also promotes book distribution but within the ambit of his festive programs, which are his main preaching. Doing festivals with hāriṇams, and dances, lots of kīrtan and whole package.
So, their approach, or their life focus in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s service is very different. They are not doing exactly the same thing, but they are both undoubtedly pleasant to Śrīla Prabhupāda, and following him very much.

CONCLUSION
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So, that should be bonum.

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One devotee in our community started a business with prasadam and developed a whole company. The prasadam is widely distributed in whole country in shops and devotees themselves sell it on farmers’ markets. The company is source of money for several families of devotees and presently it is main economical pillar of our community.

Although we produce large quantities of prasadam the process is not mechanized – everything is hand-made and offered to Krishna by initiated devotees. We use just pure natural and bonafide ingredients – no chemical stuff etc. We are very strict in this regard and do no compromises.

The company has professional image. It is not directly advertised that it is Hare Krishna company although we do not hide it in any way that we are devotees and the food we distribute is prasadam.

We are sometimes criticized by some devotees that it is questionable if the food we produce is really prasadam and that whole company has nothing to do with devotional service and it is simply karmic work. It is mainly because of the professional look of the company and because we produce big quantities of food packaged in the way the karmi food is packaged.

 

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