Farming on Charity
It is relieving to find that interest in Vedic agriculture is gaining momentum in ISKCON. But I believe some adjustments are required in ISKCON farm infrastructure.
As Hare Krsna Dasi mentioned in her recent article [Nov/Dec'91], "Cow protection that depends on charity can never become the economic basis of society." But many ISKCON farm communities are in fact run on charity. Using methods of income employed in city temples, such as congregational solicitations and communal businesses, many farms can barely pay the bills, what to speak of providing inspiration for devotees who seek to live in a daivi-varnasrama society.
Perhaps the GBC [ISKCON's governing body commission] could do more in this regard. Present corporate setups often restrict the possibilities for private enterprise or co-op efforts on our farms. Legal adjustments could go a long way toward bringing about agricultural prosperity for individuals on ISKCON farms.
If many householders can be convinced that the Vedic model can fulfill their needs, then surely we will be able to broaden the roof of the house in which the whole world can live.
Ashcroft, B.C., Canada
HARE KRSNA DASI REPLIES: Making ISKCON's farms self-sustaining is a challenge. And as you say, we need help from ISKCON's leaders. If our communities can't pay their own way, they'll never become stable enough to attract people. And without the help of the GBC I don't think we will make much progress.
But I believe that the GBCs interest will turn more in this direction. After all, what is the point of having a great farm if we can't create a farm-based Vedic economy to sustain it? The project would simply be artificial.
On the other hand, the burden of figuring these things out cannot fall solely on the GBC We can all give a hand by drawing on what we've learned from Srila Prabhupada and from our own experience.
Devotees are organizing forums for this purpose. The first, a Conference on Community Development, scheduled for August in LosAngeles, will already have taken place by the time this magazine reaches press. A Conference on Ox Power and Varnasrama is scheduled for early August 1993 at Gita Nagari Farm in Pennsylvania. These conferences will allow devotees to share their concerns and exchange knowledge on community development (either in person or by contributing papers).
One of the many topics for these forums will be our economic direction. Srila Prabhupada has given us a system for a local economy that avoids the great problems of centralization presented by both the capitalist and the communist systems. But how do we get there from here? How much can we make room for the market economy and still move ahead toward self-sufficiency? What is the role of private ownership and responsibility in Krsna consciousness? What is the role of the family in community development?
We urgently need to develop our communities and set up many Krsna conscious ox-power farms. As things stand now, just one full-scale oil war could jack up feed grain prices high enough to wipe outmost of the cows and bulls in the developed countries within a couple of years. Last time, the world got a reprieve: the conflict was brief and the economic disruption fairly small. Next time we may not be so lucky.
So we hope many devotees such as you will join in the discussion of how we can build farm communities that can stand on their own to spread the Krsna consciousness movement according to Srila Prabhupada's desires.
Please Come Back
It's not possible for us to read each issue of BTG. But the article on spiritual falldown and the letter written by Pusta Krsna Dasa [BTG March/April] are indeed very good. We are going to translate them into Chinese so that all the devotees here can read them.
We sincerely welcome those who have left this movement to come back, again surrender, and engage in devotional service. Yes, please come back!
We'd like to offer our respectful obeisances to Pusta Krsna Prabhu and Mr. Dan Richardson [same issue of BTG] for their coming back to do service again.
Please keep on with such topics.
Krsna Dasa and others
Krsna Conscious Parenting
As parents of three young children, as doctors with special interests in family and pediatric medicine, and as aspiring servants of the servants of Lord Caitanya, we were touched by Cintamani Devi Dasi's article [BTG March/April]. Parenting is a tenderly powerful eye-opener to devotional practice and can teach what undivided service means. Pregnancy, childbirth, and early rearing of children expose parents to some of the greatest feelings of helplessness and vulnerability, heightening our dependence at the lotus feet of the Lord.
Like Cintamani Devi Dasi we too find that example speaks louder than words. The lives of the Vaisnavas speak for themselves. It is the underlying parental and community attitude that speaks to the impressionable children's hearts and spirits. Creating this requires direct participation of both mother and father, and also support of husband and wife for each other. This close family then needs the nurturing from the greater family of the Vaisnava community. And, of course, this creates fertile ground for reciprocation and advancing in the common goal.
Dr. Paul Oliver
Dr. Heena Oliver
Bhakti Yoga Club
I bought your latest magazine [May/ June]. I loved all the articles, especially the one about Anjali Sankhla's high school Bhakti Yoga Club. It's amazing that there's a time after school for students to learn about Krsna together. I wish there had been a Bhakti Yoga Club when I was in high school. Anjali's devotional activities at home and in school are very enlivening. I'd like to congratulate her for her superb job.
My husband and I enjoy reading your magazine. We were very impressed with Anjali Sankhla's high school Bhakti Yoga Club. The family tree she put together shows her devotion, hard work, and intelligence. It will help us understand the Srimad-Bhagavatam better.
Thank you very much for printing her articles. They were very inspirational for my husband and me.
When I saw the front cover of your latest BTG, I became overwhelmed with joy. Anjali Sankhla's altar on the front cover is gorgeous. I never knew that someone could have such elaborate worship in their home. It's great!
Parenting: Authoritative vs. Authoritarian
It was with great sadness that I read the recent article by Sri Rama Dasa about "Four Kinds of Parents." The ideas in that article epitomize the conservative authoritarian approach to child-raising that has failed so-called fundamentalist Christians and others who have sought to forcibly channel their children's behavior into socially acceptable and parent-gratifying lines.
First of all, Sri Rama Dasa Prabhu outlines four different parenting styles in a manner that could have been lifted verbatim from a right-wing educational diatribe, as if they were Vedic categories. It is grossly misleading when such descriptions are published unchallenged, and without a clear explanation of the real sources of the theories. The bias of the article is clearly seen in the choice of labels. "Permissive" is a pejorative term long applied by right-wingers in America to explain how it could have happened that a generation of young people turned away from war, animal slaughter, materialistic addiction, and slavish obedience to the government, turning instead to other lifestyles, including the Hare Krishna movement.
In his analysis of the "neglectful" parent, he lists as one of the unfortunate results of such a parental attitude a poor response to "discipline outside the home (from teachers, pastors, police, and so on)." Do devotees really want their children to give blind obedience to police and other representatives of the cruel, materialistic American society we find ourselves in? If those who are now members of the Krishna consciousness movement had given such obedience to karmi culture, they would today be good little meat-eating workaholics instead of ecstatic devotees of the Lord.
As the father of two small children, I certainly do not want my kids to learn slavish obedience to outside authority. We must not forget that we must be discriminating and judge who is a legitimate authority and who is not. We are given clear guidance that a leader must act in accordance with sadhu [saints] and sastra [scripture]. My wife and I want our children to grow up thinking for themselves. We accept very seriously our obligation as devotees to provide an atmosphere that will encourage and nurture our children's Krishna consciousness.
Of the devotee parents I know, some are open, loving, and generous and teach their children by example, while others are more stern and authoritative. That is variegatedness. I am aware of no categories given by Krishna or Srila Prabhupada that outline the divisions in parenting styles presented in this article. You do a disservice to the devotee community by publishing such a one-sided and misleading article.
My fear is that the article will have a chilling effect on parents in the Hare Krsna movement. Now those parents who, out of fear, practice the same authoritarian ways of child-rearing that their parents did (unsuccessfully) will be bolstered in their belief that if they just demand enough, their kids will grow up just like them. And those parents who seek to raise their children with affection and gentle exploration, while not compromising the principles of Krishna consciousness, may be intimidated into thinking that gentleness is somehow not Krishna conscious.
Another troubling fault in Sri Rama Dasa's article is the tendency, noticed increasingly in the pages of Back to Godhead, to refer to the authorities and experts of karmi, cow-killing society for advice. It should be clear that we should rely on more benign sources for our information and theories and not look to the culture that hates Krishna, delights in killing cows and human beings, has no concern for the unfortunate among us, and daily tortures innocent animals in laboratories.
Krishna consciousness flourishes when children feel love and unqualified support from their parents and the surrounding devotee community. Remember that honey attracts much better than vinegar.
Everyone, including devotees, is entitled to his opinions on various matters, under the guidance of guru, sadhu and sastra. But those opinions should not be presented in the pages of Back to Godhead as fact.
Let us be honest, loving, and open with our children and lead them by example. Then we are serving the Divine within them, and when we do that we are making the world a little more conscious of Krishna. Hare Krishna!
San Carlos, California
SRI RAMA DASA REPLIES: I must have failed to properly explain the difference between "authoritarian" and "authoritative" parenting. The complaints and fears expressed by Bhava Dasa seem directed at the authoritarian approach, a mode of action I definitely did not recommend.
Authoritative parenting embodies two primary concepts: (1) transferring values and (2) setting reasonable limits.
Parent's must try their best to pass on their genuinely held values. This is especially true for devotees. Otherwise, what is the meaning of the following injunction from Srimad-Bhagavatam (5.5.18): "One who cannot deliver his dependents from the path of repeated birth and death should never become a spiritual master, a father, a husband, a mother, or a worshipable demigod"?
Vedic culture was highly authoritative. Children received the same clear value messages from parents, teachers, relatives, neighbors, the government, and so on. Now, when children hear nothing but a conflicting cacophony of "situation ethics" from all sides, don't we owe them something more than just setting a good example? Shouldn't we take the time and trouble to explain why we lead the lives we do?
Srila Prabhupada also advised that we directly engage our children in devotional service. He said it is like fire: it will have its effect whether one knows its potency or not. Never forcing-but direction and encouragement.
Our children should and will learn to think for themselves. But at the right time. Prabhupada referred to Canakya Pandita's recommendation to treat them like friends at sixteen years-not before. From five to sixteen years a more disciplined approach is called for.
From everything I've seen, heard, and studied, children (including teenagers) want and expect parents to set reasonable limits on their behavior Limits inspire feelings of stability and concern. Properly applied, they show that parents believe enough in their values to take steps to instill them in their sons and daughters. Authoritarian parents say, "Do as I say or else!" Authoritative parents say, "Do as I do, and here is the reason why."
If one makes a detailed study of Srila Prabhupada's instructions to parents and teachers, one will find they fit the authoritative concept quite closely-clear and firm direction, but no force. Perhaps this approach hasn't worked for nondevotee parents because they had little to offer in genuine spiritual values. I don't think that should make us afraid to do the right thing ourselves.
We welcome your letters. Send correspondence to The Editors, Back to Godhead, P.O. Box 90946, San Diego, CA 92169, USA.