Malice In Blunder Land

By Kailasa Candra dasa

“Although the King had already decided to fast until death on the bank of the Ganges, he humbly expressed his decision to elicit the opinions of the great authorities present there. Any decision, however important, should be confirmed by some authority. That makes the matter perfect.” Srimad Bhagavatam, 1.19.12, purport

“It is only in our decisions that we are important.”
Jean-Paul Sartre

“Every time there’s a choice between starving and raiding, humans raid.”
Thinking the Unthinkable, 2002 Pentagon Report

A devout Christian theist of the Nineteenth Century, Soren Kierkegaard nonetheless, and quite ironically, planted the seed of modern existentialism.  Despite being an advanced thinker for that time and culture, his philosophical kernel would later sprout, flower, and fruit into atheistic Twentieth Century existentialism. This demonstrates an important principle: From an otherwise elevated conception, even the slightest deviation from true spiritual teaching and process can and will produce a resultant and system opposite the intention of its original creator. 

Kierkegaard’s chief flaw was his overemphasis on the act of deciding, rendering the decision itself not as important, i.e., he did not give necessary emphasis to the basis of any decision.  We must go further than the mere determined choice; we must know the proper decision.  A Vaishnava observes a standard by which to make the right decision in any and all circumstances.  Kierkegaard’s standard was “choose yourself,” but, without genuinely knowing about yourself by receiving knowledge from someone who does know—and that would be the self-realized or God-realized spiritual master—the value of that choice will often turn out to be against your real self interest. 

Kierkegaard’s idea emphasized the act of deciding: To attain self-realization, we must confront choices—what he called the “either/or” proposition. This was said to be the ethical stage, wherein the progressive man takes an active part in dealing with the phenomenon of existence rather than aimlessly seeking pleasure. 

His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada was not impressed with this part of the presentation, although he was favorable to Kierkegaard’s oft-expressed devotional tendencies.  Prabhupada pointed out that it was not clear in Kierkegaard’s system how a right decision could be made in terms of ethics based upon imperfect knowledge. Decisions must be rooted in the Absolute Truth; what was the value of some kind of “inner passion”? No matter how well intentioned, ultimately Kierkegaard’s proposal could degrade into whimsical notions of what constituted a right choice at any given moment—leading to the making of any decision at any time--while the person making it still thinks that he is engaged in a progressive process of self-realization.

In due course of time, that’s just how it went down.

Our purpose here is not to make a wholesale exposition of existentialism for its own sake but rather to apply relevant facts about existential thought and process to the current devolutionary trends in what superficially appears to be the Krishna consciousness movement.  We call today’s institutional manifestation by the name “ISKCON,” as differentiated from the original ISKCON or Hare Krishna movement.  The theoretical supposition here is that the leading echelons of this institutional delusion—born, bred, and raised in an existential environment before coming to His Divine Grace—having carried its energy over (subconsciously and/or consciously) into the Hare Krishna movement, converting his movement into something inimical to Krishna consciousness. To even consider the evidence for this theory, a reader must have some general knowledge of existentialism.

Legends of the Fall

As aforementioned, Kierkegaard planted the seed of existentialism, however unintentionally, and it was later further developed by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.  Although usually categorized as an evolutionary naturalist, a significant portion of his philosophy touches upon existential themes.  In that context, he also coined the well-known phrase: “God is dead.”  By this, he meant that the Judeo-Christian conception, and its system as well, no longer had inherent in it anything of value that could help a person realize who he really is. 

However, in due course, this figurative intention and application of the phrase was lost. As a result, many consider Nietzsche an atheist.  He was influenced by Schopenhauer more than by Kierkegaard.  However, just before he went insane, Nietzsche was planning a Kierkegaard intensive with a close friend.  As such, considering the themes that Nietzsche expressed, this prodigious writer (he wrote Thus Spoke Zarathustra using archaic technology in eighteen days) certainly was aware of Kierkegaard’s theory and process.  In the development of what came to be known as existentialism, Kierkegaard planted the seed and Nietzsche represented the sprout.

Another reputed German philosopher and lecturer, Martin Heidegger, expanded Nietzsche’s ideas, processes, and themes.  Heidegger said that first there is existence, and then, if you followed a right path, you eventually realized your essence.  The term “existentialism” entered into the vulgar lexicon near the end of the Second World War, and Heidegger was actively expounding it in lectures at that time.

Not to be confused with the authentic existential stage, upon realizing essence you attain what he referred to as authenticity. Heidegger called this “being there,” dasein.  He propounded that, when attained, a man becomes free from guilt and anxiety, and he becomes resolute in purpose.

Heidegger described this essence as reality. He said an ordinary man, during the existential stage, leads either an authentic existence or an inauthentic existence. The man leading an authentic existence is working toward self-realization in essence; he is normal. The lesser man (in inauthentic existence) is busy in temporary things, always preoccupied by them, and lost to himself.  Inauthentic existence is fallen, creating an ordinary or psychopathic life full of mundane or everyday absorption.

Heidegger called it “publicness,” and anyone in it was said to lack individuality. Because such a person always identified with some group self, his decisions were neither personal, nor ethical, nor individual.  However, Prabhupada said that authentic existence is experienced when the devotee lives free from the influence of death.  Still, it is obvious that Heidegger was on to something, and thus his presentation became prominent even during his own time.  Kierkegaard planted the seed, Nietzsche represented the sprout, and Heidegger’s teachings symbolized the flowering of existentialism; its fruits turned out to be a bit different, however.

Essentially an Existential Creation

Nasav rsir yasya matam na bhinnam: “It is said that every speculator has a different angle of vision, and unless one differs from others, he cannot be called a muni or thinker in the strict sense of the term.” Mahabharata, Vana-parva 313.117

All atheistic thinkers of the Twentieth Century were certainly mental speculators, and their presentations, which differed from one another in various ways, were thoroughly anti-Vedic and anti-Vaishnava.  The existentialists in particular focused on subjective human experience, considering it a concrete humanism, as opposed to idealistic forms of rationality and similar imposed structures upon the world.  They claimed that man should define his own existence: According to existential theory, genuine individuals invent their own values and create actions by which to become exceptional. 

Another core tenet of existentialism is that existence precedes essence, which means that the actual life of an individual constitutes what can be developed into essence, i.e., there is no predetermined essence to be realized through the human experience.  In modern existentialism, the human being--through his individual consciousness--creates his own values and determines meaning via that creation.  Sartre took this even further when he said that “existence precedes and rules essence.”  There is a strong element of pessimism in such speculation.  These ideas were promulgated in various ways throughout the previous century; the Gurdjieff-Ouspensky system waxed eloquently about the difference between state of being and essence.  Ouspensky wrote that a man had to create his own soul, i.e., it does not exist before he creates it.

Nietzsche discussed both existentialism (although he did not call it that) and nihilism; his discussion of the absurdity and apparent meaningless of the world provided fodder for nihilistic philosophies and lifestyles in later decades.  The term “Kafkaesque” came into vogue shortly after this, signaling a general acceptance of absurdity throughout human society mired in misguided, pathological life. Although existentialists say that an individual must create value and meaning—and nihilists deny this—there is still a strong tendency for existentialism to degrade into nihilism.  What existentialism certainly engenders very quickly is error and hatred; these often lead, in due course, to nihilistic reactions based on negation, and this was seen in the hippie religion.

Sartre and Camus

“I do not believe in God; His existence has been disproved by science.  But in the concentration camp, I learned to believe in men.”  Sartre

“We turn toward God only to obtain the impossible.”  Camus

Existentialists were contemptuous of rationality; they considered it a delusion, an attempt to impose structure on the phenomena of the world.  They believed that such phenomenon, which they generally called “the other,” was both random and irrational.  Rationality was considered a primary form of what came to be known in existential circles as bad faith, and it completely obstructed the attempt to find real meaning through the freedom that existentialism was said to provide. 

Jean-Paul Sartre originated this conception of bad faith, and he, along with the absurdist Albert Camus, were the prime proponents of existentialism in the early Fifties.  Camus was a playwright and an influential author as well; even in many American high schools during the Sixties, his main novel was required reading.  Camus propounded that religion, particularly the “Christian” religion of the West, pushes a wrong idea of a God and a false structure. Under this bad influence, unenlightened men (not on the genuine path of existentialism), longing for real order and higher consciousness, become duped by following the Judeo-Christian epistemological paradigm.  As such, these men are forced to experience the absurdity of life.

Let us remember that, during this time-frame, Judeo-Christian nations had just finished two world wars, and in both of them, Christian nations were engaged in enmity, killing each other’s citizens and warriors.  As such, both Sartre and Camus, following in the footsteps of Nietzsche, insisted that the God of Christianity was dead. 

They took it a step farther, however: They said that God Himself as a real being must be completely rejected.  Man had to define himself after coming to grip with his existence in the random world, encounter himself, and then surge to overcome the other, i.e., both Sartre and Camus were existential humanists.  Indeed, one of Sartre’s main works goes by the title Existentialism is a Humanism.

And the Beat Went On

“If I have gained anything by damning myself, it is that
I no longer have anything to fear.”  Sartre

“You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”  Camus

Existentialists said that one had to reject any self-image corresponding to a social norm, such as a role in the workforce.  Although an existentialist could still act in accordance with social, political, and economic customs, he was obliged to remember that essentially he is something different from that image.  Internally, the existential attitude was supposed to be one of complete freedom from the other, and its practitioner was obligated not to pretend his choices were either random or meaningless.  The existentialists also completely rejected any notion of karma or pre-determination; they were utterly anti-Vedic in this connection.

The beat generation (the beatniks) latched on to existential philosophy, and it more or less defined them.  Buddhism also began to seep into American culture during that time (in the mid to late Fifties), and it was considered (in many ways, rightly so) to be compatible with existentialism.  Stretching the rubber band in both their writings and lifestyles, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, J.D. Salinger, and, somewhat later, Allen Ginsburg were all engaged in spreading the beat generation’s particular Americanized variation of non-theistic existentialism.

Existential freedom also meant that the values a person creates were not set in stone; he could change them at will.  He was enjoined not to look for the meaning of life, and this was said to be a key to the authentic path of fearlessness. When an internal “realization” dictated a reconsideration of his basis for decisions, the existentialist then became responsible for new values (which might be opposed to previous ones), as well as for his actions in accordance with these new values. 

This relativity pervaded the beat generation:  Essence was to be attained by focusing upon concrete human existence, not considering the meaning of life by some kind of idealism or faith.  Essence was not realized by hypothesis; instead, it could be had only by making authentic choices, according to the values you had “realized” at the given time.  The beatniks personified this relative process and theory.

A Quick Descent Into Morbidity

asatyam apratistham te
jagad ahur anisvaram
kim anyat kama-haitukam
“They say that this world is unreal: There is no foundation, and no God in control. It is produced of sex desire and has no cause other than lust.” Bhagavad-gita, 16.8

“Let me take you down, cuz I’m going to Strawberry Fields.  Nothing is real, and nothing to get hung up about.  Strawberry Fields forever.”
The Beatles in Magical Mystery Tour

“If I became a philosopher, if I have so keenly sought this fame for which I’m still waiting, it’s all been to seduce women, basically.”  Sartre

“Knowledge has stretched itself to the point where neither the world nor our intelligence can find any foot-hold. It is a fact that we are suffering from nihilism.”  Camus

The value system of modern existentialism did not eschew unrestricted sense gratification.  As such, although it may not have been their purpose, existentialism in the Sixties eventually led its adherents toward nihilistic lifestyles and philosophies. The philosophical doctrine of nihilism requires a negation of meaningful aspects of ordinary life, and existential nihilism was a prominent branch of it.  This wing opined that there is no objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value to human life.  Existentialism often led to existential nihilism, which worked its way into the lyrics of many popular rock-n-roll songs during the Sixties and Seventies. 

Moral nihilists (or ethical nihilists) were usually first schooled in existentialism.  They propounded a dangerous theory that absolute morality does not inherently exist, that all established ethical values in any society are merely contrivances.  These “morals” were all said to be rooted in the abstract, because there is no specific action (or decision) automatically, or even necessarily, preferable to any other.

Camus appears to bemoan the prevalent nihilism of his time.  However, this is the man who wrote The Stranger.  That book begins with a rogue walking at the ocean’s edge and randomly selecting someone there on the beach, killing the person for no reason whatsoever.  How could any reader of Camus accept his alleged rejection of nihilism?  Both he and Sartre produced works that were all about humans who viewed meaning and morality from a relative perspective. If meaning and morality were not ultimately absolute but only an artificial social construct, how could they not degrade into nihilism?  Despite so many conflicting decisions and outcomes, for the existentialist meaning was realized via self-created values.

Atheistic Twentieth Century existentialists laid the foundation for today’s nihilists. Nihilism is the predominant mindset of our postmodern era, and it represents a complete rejection of theism, of course.  The Vaishnava is a spiritual authority who asserts that theism rejected entails degradation into nihilism in due course.

Nihilism is in the mode of ignorance. Existentialists supposedly were not nihilists, but engagement in whimsical sense gratification invariably devolves there.  The pleasure of all ungodly sense gratification is rooted in it; something must be annihilated in the process of a human being’s experiencing the fleeting enjoyment of temporary senses.  Although sense gratification is an abstraction from the ultimate perspective—and existentialists are supposed to be rooted in the concrete human experience that overcomes the abstract—existential philosophy does not provide a rationalized canon or structure linked to the Absolute Truth.  Without this, the conditioned soul will not be able to escape the degradation of unrestricted sense gratification, a path to perdition. 

Malice in Blunder Land

“If God doesn’t exist, everything would be possible.  That is the very starting point of existentialism.  Indeed, everything is permissible if God does not exist. . . To be man means to reach toward being God.  Or, if you prefer, man fundamentally is the desire to be God.”  Sartre

“I am no longer sure of anything.  If I satiate my desires, I sin. 
But I deliver myself from them.”  Sartre

“The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth. . . To be famous, in fact,
one has only to kill one’s landlady.”  Camus

“Like a dog without a bone, an actor all alone, riders on the storm.”
Jim Morrison of the Doors

It is the sorry state of this age, in particular in the Western culture and its quasi or pseudo-spiritual countercultures, that even when the Absolute Truth of Krishna consciousness is delivered to authentic disciples, everywhere the followers make the whole thing bungled.  Our eyes have seen the malice inherent in existentialism; its pernicious effects have touched all of us--facilitated by the superstructure of a movement that was supposed to deliver us from it.  This is the great gift given to the devotees by “ISKCON,” mostly through the agency of its (somewhat) behind-the-scenes controlling force, the vitiated G.B.C.:

“The GBC does not look after spiritual life. That is a defect. All of our students will have to become guru, but they are not qualified. This is the difficulty.” Letter to Alanath from Bombay on Nov. 10, 1975   

This and the subsequent quotation were sent to disciples a mere two years before Prabhupada departed physical manifestation.  Even while he was still with us, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedant Swami Srila Prabhupada, who could be as omniscient as Lord Krishna wished him to be, saw it coming.  Free will was regularly being misused--and power abused--by his leading secretaries. He wanted them to repent their evil tendencies and the inevitable blunders that followed in train, to rectify where they were taking both themselves and his movement.  He gave warnings:

“But, if you disturb me, then my mind will be disturbed. I want that what I have established may go on nicely, but I see that some of the devotees are reviving their old ‘good’ qualities. That is the difficulty. If the old habits come back, then everything is finished.” Letter to Hridayananda Swami from Bombay on Nov. 13, 1975

The warnings were not heeded.  On the contrary, a sclerotic backlash against the authority of Srila Prabhupada has continued unabated for the last thirty-three years, and its deleterious effects have been practically overwhelming.  The whole thing is rooted in existentialism within the hearts of its perpetrators.  Most of them have come from the hippie generation, but existentialism’s influence was not limited to that sector.  For example, it was very strong in the Sixties and Seventies (and almost certainly still is) in university circles amongst the intelligentsia and professors; indeed, many hippies picked it up from this source. 

Where is the repentance, the institutional sense of performing penance for all of the uncountable wrongs enacted during the past three decades?  It is missing.  Is it that they cannot see the horror of what they have done?  Perhaps they are relishing that horror.  Things have gone terribly wrong, but resignations are few and far between. 

The G.B.C., if it had even an ounce of credibility and integrity, would suspend its operation—at a minimum.  It does not even entertain this possibility.  Instead, it continues to spin off various splinter groups such as Neo-Mutt and rittvik and smorgasbord, and these act as force multipliers for the nescience being injected into so many unsuspecting chelas. 

If anyone strongly confronts the G.B.C. and demands that they face up to what they have done, the commission only doubles down.  These are all symptoms of the existential mentality, and there is a natural cronyism present amongst these fellows, i.e., they know instantly how to recognize their own ilk and protect one another from exposure of their moral turpitude.  They are all engaged in unauthorized changes injected into what only superficially appears to be the Hare Krishna movement of Krishna consciousness. Of the essential values given to us by His Divine Grace, there will be no reassertion there.  These men control the properties.  They decide who serves the Deities.  They create the values to be extolled and the flags to be waived.  If they want to be gurus in their own way then, by God, they are going to be just that.

If you say that the problem is not the system, we can agree with you—as long as you are referring to the original system given to us by Srila Prabhupada.  The problem is that another philosophy, existentialism, has resurrected its ugly head.  It has triumphed, imposing its warped system upon the real movement of Krishna consciousness.  It is rooted in blunder:  One mistake is covered by two others; those are covered by four more, ad nauseum. It is also rooted in hatred of God and guru.  The best way to hate God is to say that you love Him and you are as good as Him (sakshad-dhari). 

The beat generation morphed into the hippie generation.  The hippie generation morphed into the Me Generation.  Existentialism was present throughout all of it.  The current first and second echelon leaders of the fabricated, so-called “ISKCON” wanted much more free expression than Prabhupada was prepared to allow them.  They had cast off conformity during their previous existential meanderings (before coming into contact with His Divine Grace), and they believed that, after serving him and moving up the corporate ladder, they were now entitled.  However, Prabhupada did not capitulate to their demands, because of their ineligibility. 

First deserve, then desire.  They did not accept this.  Once he was out of the way, they had the power to take over his movement and mold it in any manner that they deemed fit, to shape it according to the values which they created, which they allegedly believed had real merit.  The proof is in the pudding: They never bought into the stricture that an intermediary is needed.  They learned how to play the game.  They were clean and “pukka” on the outside; nasty and dirty within. If they wanted to be acharya and overlord then, by God, that’s just what they were going to be. 

It is hard-wired into the American makeup that everyone can understand scripture in any way he pleases, that access to revealed truth is readily and easily available.  They must have attained realization, because why has God given them control of the temples and the Deities?  Why does God not smash their fire sacrifices?  If every blade of grass is under His complete control, then He must be pleased in what they are doing—because nobody has been able to stop them.  The government, with all of its mundane power, has not been able to curtail them.  Prabhupada spoke about this:

“. . . to mislead the people in general, they themselves become so-called acharyas, but they do not even follow the principles of the acharyas. These rogues are the most dangerous elements in human society. Because there is no religious government, they escape punishment by the law of the state.”  Sri Isopanisad, Mantra Twelve, purport.

The philosophy, system, and practice of existentialism constitute a great error.  Those who fall victim to it and apply it in their lives—in either material or pseudo-spiritual circles—are unable to take advantage of the rare human opportunity.  Depending upon the degree of personal power such persons attain in the course of their wayward trek, they cause only damage and destruction; they annihilate things.  The nihilism inherent in existentialism takes time to manifest, but we are seeing such deconstructions within the circles of the various deviations—all spawned by the puffed-up attitudes of the “ISKCON” leaders in conjunction with the great sinister movement—and we have not yet reached the nadir of this. 

Nihilism: The books have been whimsically changed, and their authority has been annihilated in the process.  Nihilism: Over ninety-five percent of the disciples genuinely initiated by Prabhupada have left the movement (the one they were meant to push on in its pure form), and their sadhana has been annihilated.  Nihilism: The lives of hundreds of innocent children have been spoiled as a result of being bung-holed by perverts, given that opportunity by the gurus and temple Presidents of “ISKCON”—and these kids no longer believe that Truth can be found in anything connected with Krishna.  Nihilism: The temples have been turned into a conglomerated diaspora for the Western Hindoo; the previous facility to advance in spiritual knowledge, spiritual strength, and spiritual action has been effectively destroyed by this compromise.

If you lament all of this, why do you remain an apologist for these men? You cannot promulgate the false theory that these deviations are all just temporary, that the leaders are good men and well-intentioned, and that everything will very soon work out for the best.  If you are thinking like this, then, according to your subtle material desires, you are fully fixated in the larva of stupefaction supplied by the Universal Regulatrix.  Why didn’t you take action when you had the chance? 

The situation is not going to change for the better automatically.  In this particular descending octave (with a thin veneer of Eastern trappings), the only thing that is automatically going to happen is that it will get worse, more bizarre and absurd.  It will also devolve into something more dangerous.  If you honestly are introspective, you must know deep within that you had an opportunity early on to show resistance, to save yourself first, to speak out and expose the thing—but you came up with numerous excuses and rationalizations not to do that.  As such, by not taking action, you allowed the corruption to enter within your astral body.

In Judgment at Nuremberg, Spencer Tracy plays Chief Prosecutor Robert H. Jackson at the military tribunal of twenty-two Nazi defendants in Bavaria.  They were all tried as war criminals; many of them were found guilty and executed by hanging.  One of the prominent members of Nazi Germany was Hans Frank (played by Burt Lancaster), who presided over the sentencing of dissidents.  He was the Law Leader of the Reich and Governor General in Poland before and during the war.  Although repentant, he received death.  After the trial concluded, Judge Jackson, feeling some sympathy and perhaps empathy for Governor Frank, went to his prison cell just before his scheduled execution.  At the end of the visit, they had this exchange:

Hans Frank: “You must believe me.  I never thought it would come to this.”
Judge Jackson: “No, Herr Frank, I do not believe you.  You knew it would come to this from the very first time you sentenced an innocent man.”

The Mayavadis believe that when they attain complete knowledge, they become God.  No real Vaishnava will ever accept this.  No pretender Vaishnava will say it, of course, but he may believe that he can make it so.  By chanting the Name and conducting various liturgical ceremonies, they think that they can burn off the karmic boomerang of the uncountable offenses generated against the devotees of the Lord who chose not betray His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada. 

It appears to be working out that way, but appearances can be deceiving.  The leading echelons of “ISKCON” and the wildcards of Neo-Mutt seem to be pulling it off; their guru rackets seem indefatigable and incomprehensibly destined for success.  You must see them and their movements for whom and what they really are.  You must not follow these white rabbits down into their holes, because those vortices form an intricate labyrinth that is almost impossible to escape. 

It is a blunder to believe that these men are advanced devotees of the Lord.  It is a blunder to follow them.  If you start to have doubts about their validity (after having entered into Blunder Land), then you will be conducted into side trips, such as rittvik and smorgasbord.  You will quickly become infected with the malice that is intrinsic to any and all of these movements, as that hatred will be transferred to you from the hearts of each faction’s leaders--so-called gurus and governors and mahants--and you will, practically without being aware of it, become a shining bright lie, an existentialist of the highest order.  You will see these men as gods, you will follow them, you will admire them, and eventually you will try to be like them. 

You will follow the process they have concocted and injected into a movement of their own making in order to reach lofty heights.  You will inure yourself to the absurdity of the whole situation; you will be rendered unable to see reality once any of these powerful broken arrows traduces you according to his specific jvara of choice.  However, if you one day decide to unmask the thing and uncover the tracks that led you into the abyss, you will find it a long, hard slog—almost impossible.  You will then have to admit to yourself that you knew all along that it would come to this.

“Religions get lost, as people do.”  Franz Kafka


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Quotes from the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada are copyright by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust