I think we can all agree to disagree at this point that any substance we attribute to this path is largely based on some level of adherence to faith in its mechanisms. Or which I lack any and see little fruit in cultivation. I mean that, for me, with as much as I read and study and question these ideas, I have not found anything of irrefutable permanence in its expression as "absolute". I appreciate the notion of brahman and consciousness as the manifold reflection/expression of that one "truth". But fail to see the use of preaching that as a reality or fact or truth. It is either something that one comes upon naturally or not, but should not require any regular practice or method to understand. If it does, it is nothing you are ready for and enjoy the ride. There is no hurry in any of this and no way to speed things up. It is as it is and should be. The paradox of it only arises in trying to understand it and box up some method for how that is done.
To some it is krishna, to others something else. Man has played with this since the start of time. Interpreted, symbolized, systematized and dismantled over and over. If you trust there is a flow to it all then that is all the faith you will ever need. Washing butlers underwear won't speed it up. Reading all of prabhupadas books will not speed it up. Inventing in your mind some form that you serve god in some planet with cows is not what it's about. Singing and dancing is fun. But not gonna give you any special place on gods list of favorite people.
Here is a fun piece that has some truth to it.
If dharma is righteousness, its implications, the idea of doing the right thing, following the right path, natural order etc, will adjust/change in time as things progress and evolve. We will not find the dharma of the veda to be applicable today. We will not find that it is dharmic to be critical of sexuality, gender, race, or even to argue about the rightness of one path over another is "adharmic". Because if one had the right eyes to see, they would see that everyone is right where they need to be. That is dharma.
From Spirituality Without God by Peter Heehs on the qualities of those who reject supernaturaliam and religious ritualism:
Subjectivity. Spiritual people cultivate inner feelings and experiences and are comparatively indifferent to outward standards of thought and behavior. They try to find what they are looking for (truth, harmony, love, fulfillment, peace) within themselves and not by accepting the ideas of other individuals or groups.
Autonomy. In their relations with the communities they belong to, spiritual people insist on personal freedom and are wary of doctrines, scriptures, and institutions. If they choose to join a group or follow a teaching, they do so freely and reject the idea that commitment implies exclusiveness.
Individual effort. Because they are focused on personal experience and suspicious of outward authority, spiritual people see their practice in terms of individual effort. They give more importance to self-discipline, meditation, and private study than congregational rituals and other group activities.
Universality. Many people believe that the experiences on which spirituality is based are the same in all cultures and periods. They find striking similarities between the teachings of mystics of different times and places, and therefore are open to inspiration from various traditions.
Empiricism. Many modern spiritual teachers have tried to bring spirituality and science together. They treat spirituality as an empirical science, with its own hypotheses and experimental procedures.
Corporality. This experimentation must, according to many people, involve not only the mind and heart but also the life and the body. Hence the popularity, among spiritual practitioners, of yoga, tai chi, and other forms of physical exercise, as well as Ayurveda, massage therapy, and other healing systems. This marks a rejection of the old religious dichotomy between spirit and body.
TruthWin, no one is challenging your versions of truth. But I do challenge the idea in general that Butler and the cult ideology and beliefs hold any unique power. Nobody, including you, has shown me any evidence to the contrary. None of your stories are "mystical". Nothing is quantifiable beyond your own testimony. You claim butler has power and an invisible God made you suffer. A shitty devotee made you suffer. You made yourself suffer by believing in their bullshit. That's it. No big mystery.
You cannot complain about rational and logical approaches to addressing what really goes on in cults like this on a mechanical, psychological level. Rationality is what distinguishes us from animals. Otherwise, we can claim that animals are having transcendent and mystical experiences and are superior to humans in consciousness. No one will be able to disprove that and no one will be the wiser. A rational approach to spirituality is imperative before any mysticism is claimed or promoted. I would rather follow something like mantra chanting initially on its value as varified by scientific study on a large population. I would like at least a systemic review of any scriptural text from a historical and anthropological angle any day before I gobble up its content as fact. And, either way, I feel that myths are way more useful comprehended as symbolic and parables rather than facts. I don't think any of us can argue with that basic desire in trying to access truth, reality and a rational approach. Especially in this age.
The fact remains that it was only during the rational period of shankara, Upanishadic composition, that any "vedic" ideas became systematically organized and made accessible, usable and intelligible. Then, in puranic composition, it once again diverts to obscurity, ritualistic, and almost childlike simplicity of thought. Aurobindo writes about this extensively (though tries to bolster and find symbolic value and correlations through heavy word play). Basically, the symbolism of ideas is lost and expressed in naive liberalism. We once again find ourselves in a rational age where cheap stories no longer hold valid answers. There is a reason Buddhism and other non-god-centric spiritual systems became so prolific in India and took a hold in much of Asia: Its fundamental building blocks don't ask us to suspend our critical thought and dictate self-exploration and self-improvement by virtue of verifiable methods. This does not negate bhakti or emotion, sentiment and so forth. But it does ask us to do some real work in the process of self-realization.
I am suggesting folks use their mind and critical thinking and take pause and remain skeptical in the face of bold claims these cults make. And also focus on the parts that have functionality and not on the abstraction of "bliss" and mythological literalism that ends up actually cheapening any real contributions of vedanta. Most of the aspects we respond to rationally in krishna consciousness are from Samkhya and Buddhist systems, i.e. not relying on belief in blue cowboy gods and becoming manjaris. And that should be enough for any human to find ample purpose and spiritual inspiration.
Culthusiest, I see many of your points in regard to butler and his extended missions. They are generally nice people. But as the basic aphorism goes: One can tell the tree by it's fruits. And as Truthwins and others here as well as myself can attest, the fruit does not fall far from the tree. These cults are riddles with cumbersome concepts and a lot of sentimental woo woo and as Truthwins has stated, bliss heads. These are people addicted to a self-righteous notion of a spirituality they hold supreme by virtue of their fanatical adherence to personality worship in the form of their guru and the gods they adore.
The end result of all of their devotion is a type of self-delusional idea that they will die and wake up in the cow planet of goloka in the form of some gopi or gopa or parent of god. This to me is naive and silly and no matter how you slice it with system dynamics and maths it adds up to a pile of garbage that is really astounding it even takes hold of any rational, sane mind for longer than a few days. And again, my major fear is for the kids raised like this and the spillover in preaching to the political sphere and the unneeded abuse and suffering of followers who fail to be able to free themselves from it even when it is very clear it is insane. That is scary.
On the topic of image/idol worship:
One of the main dangers if this practice is that it relies heavily in subjective imagination. God can look like whatever we consider attractive by mundane standards: big eyes, curves in the right places etc. One can for example see many Rajasthani paintings where Krishna is featured with a mustache, which probably was in Vogue at the time of the paintings. In more recent times, many people portray the gods with muscular physiques and so forth.
One could in theory see that any attractive persons image can be viewed as an expression of the divine. One could worship a sexy man or base an image of krishna in an attractive classic painting, as many ISKCON painters did.
As soon as god is boxed in a form the notion becomes mundane, not spiritual or transcendental in any way. From an argument on intelligent design, the human form obviously has many uneconomical features, and Oddities of proportion as well as blunt differences between the sexes are helpful to one organism and less so to another. For example, men having nipples is obviously and useless leftover of the genetic adaptation process. Not sure that adding arms or heads to the human form increases its transcendental appeal.
For example, when I used to dress the Deity form, I would often choose clothes that I personally found to me attractive and stylish. Whereas I had plenty of Godbrothers and sisters who lack a fashion sense and does the Deity in accordance with their sensibilities.
Also, the pastimes of bhagavtam end with gopis and manharis. If variety exists in an alternate spiritual world, that mirrors ours, does krishna ever have kids with radha and start a family? Or do they perpetually go in circles reenacting rasa Lila? In other words, I find it curious the bhagavatam and general gaudiya ideology leaves one to meditate in an otherwise pleasing, sexually charged, erotic innuendo tale, that is great at keeping people hanging...
The success of most religious cults is hinged on a promise of release, a final crescendo of Bliss that one prefers to stay in. And the gods have always been advertisement for that promise either through heroic tales of conquering the enemy, a spiritual "sexual" union, returning from death as whole, or mastering some powers.
As one philosopher said, if horses and cows had hands they would fashion gods in their image.
Basically, the average hare krishna devotee has filled their mind with all manner of biased images of what God looks like etc. Many vedic and puranic gods and sages are blue, for example. Not a very great skin color in general. Let alone green. And as Cultthusiast mentioned, what about variety in hair color? Is everything up there from India? How about pink and purple and green hair? Most orthodox guru's would say no, or that this is not worth speculation.
I agree, I just take it a step further and suggest that all of it is not worth a passing glance. The meager benefits garnered in these groups can never explain away the mountains of bullshit. Talking to statues, mumbling mantras and prayers and bowing to god-men who peddle feel-good stories is just the surface act. The rest of it, the hidden part of the iceberg, is a monumental deep dive of bullshittery of unimaginable proportions. Unfounded, complicated, arduous, divisive, redundant, repetitive and highly subjective. Not a single person exists to tell the tale of what it is exactly that one benefits from in these groups besides getting stuck in some kind of mental vortex of templated thinking, i.e. dogma/ideology.
Be well guys.
A great piece from 1979: