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Monday, August 13, 2007

Deceit - benign and malicious.

There was an interesting article by George A. Smith on, on August 11th. Though I dont want to get involved in the central topic of the article, some things were interesting and require further comment. Mr. Smith quotes the Bible:

"To Jews I become like a Jew, to win Jews; as they are subject to the law of Moses, I put myself under that law to win them, although I am not myself subject to it. To win Gentiles, who are outside the law, I make myself like one of them, although I am not in truth outside God's law, being under the law of Christ. To the weak, I become weak, to win the weak. Indeed, I have become everything in turn to men of every sort, so that in one way or another I may save some." (I Corinthians 9:20-22)

Mr Smith: "In other words, the servants of the Lord, are not above the practice of deception. In the later quote, Paul, or Saint Paul, who some believe to be the actual founder of Christianity, admits to being a manipulative liar basically, whenever it suited his, or the Lord's purpose for him to be one. The word for this quality is "antinomian", and what it refers to is anyone who will lie, steal, and cheat, anything in the service of their "higher" calling, whatever that higher calling may be. Whether it be religious, spiritual, personal or political, those displaying it are acting under the assumption that the end justifies the means, however immoral, unethical or even horrific those means might be, or even horrific and offending of the most basic sensibilities......."
(End of mr. Smith’s comment)

I dont know the context of the Bible text above, but to me this text alone need not indicate duplicity at all, I dont see it the way mr. Smith sees it. We must distinguish between benign and malicious deceit by a devotee. Like Paul, Sādhu Bābā spoke of yoga to his yoga-inclined students, of karma to his karma-inclined students, of jñāna to his jñāna-inclined students, rāga mārga to his rāgānugī students etc. See it as a gold-merchant, who sells other items in his shop as well. Knowing full well that most people won't buy gold, he will also sell silver, metal and plastic ornaments, hoping that people will ultimately go for gold.

After another paragraph mr. Smith quotes a verse from the Bhāgavata (1.13.37)

sañjaya uvāca
nāhaḿ veda vyavasitaḿ
pitror vaḥ kula-nandana
gāndhāryā vā mahā-bāho
muṣito 'smi mahātmabhiḥ

Sañjaya said: My dear descendant of the Kuru dynasty, I have no information of the determination of your two uncles and Gāndhārī. O King, I have been cheated by those great souls."

The essence of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami's purport runs as follows:
That great souls cheat others may be astonishing to know, but it is a fact that great souls cheat others for a great cause. It is said that Lord Kṛṣṇa also advised Yudhiṣṭhira to tell a lie before Droṇācārya, and it was also for a great cause. The Lord wanted it, and therefore it was a great cause. Satisfaction of the Lord is the criterion of one who is bona fide, and the highest perfection of life is to satisfy the Lord by one's occupational duty. That is the verdict of Gītā and Bhāgavatam.................Sanātana Gosvāmī also cheated the keeper of the prison house while going away to see Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, and similarly Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī also cheated his priest and left home for good to satisfy the Lord. To satisfy the Lord, anything is good, for it is in relation with the Absolute Truth. We also had the same opportunity to cheat the family members and leave home to engage in the service of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Such cheating was necessary for a great cause, and there is no loss for any party in such transcendental fraud." (end of quotation)

Mr. Smith continues:
"The above noted purport was taken as an authorization for many immoral, unethical and even criminal practices by many devotees during the early years of ISKCON, even while Śrīla Prabhupāda was still with us physically. Among some it became a competition even. Devotees would compete, who could be the better liar, the better thief, all in the service of the greatest cause." Mr. Smith then reminds us that A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swāmi never approved of such criminal activities. (end of my quotes from mr.Smith's article)

My response:
As for Raghunāth Dās Gosvāmī, he may have cheated Yadunandanācārya for a very great purpose - meeting Śrīman Mahāprabhu - but he himself otherwise condemned cheating in his Manaḥ Śikṣā, verse 6:

are cetaḥ kapaṭa kuṭīnāṭī bhara-khara 
kṣaran mūtre snātvā dahasi katham ātmānam api mam

"O mind! Why are you scorching yourself and me in the trickling ass-urine of duplicity, deceit and hypocrisy?"

Organisations which teach that we should not imitate Sanātan Goswāmī's life of bhajan and tapasya are imitating him in widespread deceit. Instead of using deceit for major spiritual purposes, it has become a way of life – short-changing the 'karmīs' on the street, lying in business transactions, criminal activities, tax evasion and worst of all, applying such theft and deceit to one's fellow devotees as well. When such deceit is extended to Guru and Vaiṣṇava it becomes a horrid aparādha. God is the absolute Truth and He can never be perceived or attained by a person whose consciousness is absorbed in deceit, falsehood and duplicity. Transcendental trickery like that of Sanātan Gosvāmī or Raghunāth Dās Gosvāmī does not mean gross deceit on the material platform, nor does it mean hypocrisy in morality. The Gosvāmīs seem to have tricked people into attraction to Vraja by ascribing all kinds of opulences to the place.

Śrīpād Anantadās Bābājī writes in his Śikṣāṣṭakam booklet:

“Those scriptures which preach jñāna (intellectual spiritual realization) and karma (work) are also most merciful, for they engage those people who are not ready yet for the path of devotion, being still too attached to jñāna and karma. These scriptures gradually bring such souls into the temple of devotion, so one certainly commits an offense to the holy name by blaspheming such scriptures."

That is the benign duplicity. About malicious duplicity: When I returned from the Ratha-Yātrā festival in Puri to my ashram on July 25, 1983 I told my Gurudeva Sādhu Bābā that the Oriya Railway Police beats up boys on the train station if they were riding without ticket. Bābā said: "Very good! And when they are finished they can send them to me, and I will beat them up again!" I also often noticed Bābā telling his merchant disciples not to cheat in their retail business. There is a limit in "cheating for Kṛṣṇa."


  1. The deceit in the opening quote from the Bible sounds more like empathy to me. "Understanding others through comparison to oneself" and so on, it is a quality rather than a fault. And empathy does not imply deceit per se, even if the two can be mixed.

  2. A couple of points about Mr. Smith's article.
    The Bible quote is in a section where Paul is talking about the rights of an apostle. In Smith's quote he forgot some important parts--the verses framing his quote. Here's verse 19: "Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible." And, here's verse 23: "I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings."
    In the following chapter Paul says: "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved." 1Corinthians 31-33
    Paul is not saying that you should go out on the pick and cheat people. He is being very sensitive in his preaching so that he can show the universality of the Word.
    Mr. Smith says that Paul is an antinomian. That is not completely correct. Christians believe that because of the Grace of Christ they are not bound by the former laws of the Jews. It does not mean that they are without morals. Antinomian has come to mean one who is "Opposed to or denying the fixed meaning or universal applicability of moral law." Certainly not Paul.
    I think the article was poorly constucted because of the emotional issues he's trying to address. The issues got in the way of his logic. Usually his articles are pretty interesting.
    As devotees, there really is no getting around how we should behave. Stealing, lying, cheating--I'm pretty sure those aren't the qualities of a devotee.

  3. I agree with all of you that Mr. Smith’s interpretation of the Corinthian quote is taken out of context. Like Madhava, I take it to mean emphaty. And if you see it in the context of St Paul’s life the quote has social justice undertone.

    What faith/religion has not been used by demaogues as a club over somebody’s head?

    I think it is impractical or even DOWNRIGHT STUPID to think that cheating, lying, etc which will break social law are justifiable even in the guise of devotional activity. Ok then rob a bank in the pretext of raising funds to spread the message of God. See where it will take you and your institution.

    It is this kind of thinking which rears fanatics willing to blow the N.Y. World Trade Centre.

    I think the truth, the good and the beautiful as compelling signposts of the Absolute Truth Higher Being, can co-exist with social law and order.

    ISKCON tried a semblance of amorality in the past, just look where some of them end up. It also did not do good for their institutions’ public relations.

    Radhe Radhe

  4. What a coïncidence this theme is touched !
    I just finished reading Monkey on a Stick. I read some passages before but never read it in whole.

    And actually I think it is an interesting book and well written. It gives a insight in the gradual degradation of social values in the name of yukta-vairagya ending in complete vandalism.

    Indeed Satya, this mentality has some similarities with the WTC-bombers. One of them before becoming a martyr on the 10th of September called an escortservice, drank strong liquor and watched hotel-porn (according to the FBI, I have to add). From A to Z it is irreligion, haram. The means, abhideya, are essential in every religion. Killing, cheating, porn and intoxication are not part of it, muslim, jew, christian, buddhist and hindu alike.

    Somehow the collective mind of humanity seeks to justify its addictions with the help of the very same scriptures that are supposed to uplift us.
    I hold the opinion that passages in our scriptures dealing with "trancendental cheating" and so forth should be purported with thick capital letters so that it roots out any possibillity of misinterpretation taking into account the utmost stupidity and violant nature of mankind.

    I am talking global here, but Iskcon is an interesting microcosmos showing what is happening worldwide over thousands of years in a relatively short timeframe. It is not Iskcon, but human nature that is the problem. We are lucky that nobody started cutting out tongues yet over a disagreement on guru-tattva. I do not like leaving a place and I am not strong in arguments. So I have only one option left dealing with certain individuals. This is justified relgious reasoning, but it is also crazy and not the intention of our guides.

    I am conservative and think advancement in spiritual life starts with..... morality. Transcending morality is very very very tricky. A bonafide guru talks about it in a
    matter of fact way, but will never allow his disciples to actually start being immoral in the name of God.

    A bonafide guru does not allow his disciples to:

    That's also why our Bhagavad-Gita needs to be purported. Because who can tell wether sooner or later there will not be an idiot ordering his following to start killing demons on the basis of our book of Love. It is not hard to imagine. It is happening daily worldwide in many religions of peace on the basis of books with a less violent scenary.
    Luckily we have good purports and some bonafide teachers around protecting most of us from
    the two biggest enemies..... Sectarianism and fundamentalism.