I was discussing with a journalist why the media so often tries to give the Krsna consciousness movement a bad name. There seems to be a persistent effort to find and publish stories that represent our movement as criminal-infested and corrupt, which I know it is not.
"I don't think the press really has anything against you," my journalist friend said. "They're after news, that's all. They've learned what people want, and that's what they give them. People want to hear that a spiritual movement is corrupt."
Yes, that makes sense, I thought. When people avoid serving and worshiping God, they act against scriptural codes and tend to go in for things like drugs and illicit sex (or habits more extreme). So if those who are supposed to uphold the scriptures are found hypocrites themselves, one can build a good case for cynicism and let everyone off the hook.
But I thought you might be interested in knowing what a person practicing Krsna consciousness feels about the media's coverage and what keeps a devotee enthusiastic, despite a bad press.
A devotee can't be thin-skinned about criticism or overconcerned with the latest public-opinion polls. We have to work from a different, deeper motivation. There's an old literary story that the poet John Keats was killed by an unfavorable review of one of his poems. Whether or not the story is true, this is not the stuff of which a devotee is made. Our important preaching work, intended to relieve humanity of its sufferings, must go on despite all objections and risks. In the face of criticism, it might be easier for devotees simply to retire from active preaching, dissolve their organized movement, and let everyone meditate on his own. We might reason, "Since materialistic people misunderstand Krsna consciousness, why even hassle with this material world? Let the world go its hellish way, but let us go to a quiet place and chant Hare Krsna." Certain transcendentalists do, in fact, take the path of solitary meditation, but the Vedic scriptures declare that the devotees who go among people to try to spread the word of Krsna are on a higher level.
But in a world of pornography, gambling, intoxication, and atheism, a world where even a religious organization must struggle to stay alive, a world where one has to associate with people whom the scriptures say one should avoid, to try to remain saintly sometimes proves difficult for aspiring devotees. A weak member sometimes even falls (thus becoming a subject for the stories about misbehavior the public so much likes to read). But a devotee is not meant for easy life. His real happiness lies in serving Krsna, not in trying to find a secure situation for himself, even if serving Krsna means abandoning a peaceful, solitary retreat in favor of mixing with the multitude.
There is a great need to distribute Krsna's message. So a devotee can go on enthusiastically, even if not appreciated by the public, because he knows that by spreading Krsna's message he pleases Krsna and works for the greatest benefit of all people.
Forgetfulness of God is not a modern predicament; the material world has always been a place of forgetfulness. Today it takes exaggerated forms in a mentality of crass materialism, supported by scientific and psychological propaganda that there is no such thing as a soul or God. People are encouraged to believe that a human being is hardly different from an animal or is just a bundle of chemicals and electrical impulses. People do not know where they have come from or where they are going after death.
But beyond this ignorance is transcendental information in the Vedic scriptures about the nature of the self as an eternal soul and how the soul has to transmigrate life after life because of his materialistic desires. As long as we remain covered by ignorance, we have to suffer the repeated miseries of birth, death, disease, and old age, and we also have to suffer natural disasters, attacks from enemies, and distresses from the mind and body These miseries now stand out boldly, threatening worldwide economic collapse and nuclear war. But the Krsna conscious process, as taught in Bhagavad-gita, gives us knowledge and a practice by which we can approach God and revive our eternal consciousness. The mission of human life is to revive God consciousness so that at the time of death the soul can get free from transmigration into another material life and go join the Supreme Lord in the spiritual abode of eternity, bliss, and knowledge. The importance of this message of relief for humanity cannot be overestimated, nor can the enthusiasm of Krsna's devotees be dimmed by opposition or misrepresentation from the media.
Finally, a devotee is aware that the Krsna consciousness movement has an auspicious destiny, as predicted by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the in-carnation of Krsna Himself who appeared in India five hundred years ago. Lord Caitanya predicted that the name of Krsna would be chanted by people in every town and village. A devotee counts on this prediction by Lord Caitanya, and he counts on Krsna's protection and on the assurance that all materialistic discrepancies will be purged from the heart of a devotee who continues to chant and hear Krsna's holy name. Thus he feels encouraged under all circumstances. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, the spiritual master of Srila Prabhupada, said that if he converted even one soul to pure Krsna consciousness he would consider his work a success. A devotee, like a diamond merchant, cannot expect as many customers as one who is selling something cheap. It will be a rare customer who will take the opportunity to associate with devotees and read their books, despite a barrage of bad propaganda. But such a customer will be fortunate indeed. SDG