The Rules of Freedom

What is the meaning of human life, or of organic life altogether? To answer this question at all implies a religion. Is there any sense then, you ask, in putting it? I answer, the man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life.*

As you can see Anna, the rules associated with initiation (diksha) are highly restrictive, but this does not automatically mean they are wrong. Essentially, their purpose is to create a sattvic lifestyle, a situation most conducive to spiritual cultivation. Non violence (ahimsa), for example, leads to spiritual peace and happiness. Hence, the restrictions against killing and meat eating. Clear and focused thinking is also an attribute favorable for spiritual development, hence the rules against intoxication. Similarly, sex and gambling agitate the mind and lead to deep attachments. These regulative principles can therefore be seen as “rules of freedom” in the sense that they can lead to a lessening of the influence of the lower modes. How we act, what we eat, the kinds of friends we have, and so on, all affect the kind of thoughts we have and ultimately the kind of person we become. Live high, go high; live low, go low. It is that simple.

Certainly the restrictions on meat, tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs are not difficult to understand, However, restrictions against such “lightweight” things such as bread, onions, mushrooms, garlic, tea, coffee, or even sex within marriage are more difficult to understand. However, essentially they are prohibited on the same basis of their heavy weight “brothers of sin.” They are considered the “fine tuning” of the rules. There is some reason for each of them. For example, yeasted breads contain small amounts of alcohol and therefore are rejected on that basis. Coffee and tea contain caffeine which makes one rajasik.

Mushrooms generally grow in association with dead and decaying matter and therefore are considered tamasik. All the same, bread is never equated with distilled liquor or mushrooms with meat. In theory, therefore, we do not object to the four regulative principles. It is just the context wherein they are applied that we have issue. For a person who is fully dedicated, who has no family, and who lives within a cloistered environment –a temple for example– these rules are appropriate. They lead to purity. But for a person who is married, who has a family, who has an outside job, these rules can be harsh. In particular, the prohibitions against sex within marriage impede intimacy, create guilt and stress, and ultimately may damage a marriage.

The acronym, ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) is a misnomer. Instead, it should be IMOKCON (International Monastic Order for Krishna Consciousness)! As soon as you put the word “society” into the name you change everything. Society involves wives, children, and common people–the lay congregation–and when you try to apply monastic rules to such people you create stress and criminality. A couple sneaks off to watch a movie. Even children who are otherwise vegetarian end up eating eggs, onions and garlic and other prohibited items when they go to friend’s houses. People have to cheat just to have a bite of bread. (If you recall I did this myself with Gadadhar and Brahmidevi. We secretly baked bread and ate it with the curtains pulled down so that no one would see!) Families secretly acquire TV sets, and so on. In other words, you create psychological criminality and corruption from which other kinds of more serious problems develop.

I do not have to tell you what happens when sexual desire is repressed. As with the Roman Catholic Church, there have been major problems with aggression, homosexuality and child molestation within ISKCON. Divorce is much higher than within the rest of the population. All kinds of pathological activities appear when these rules are misapplied. For me marriage and the rules relating to sexuality became a major problem. A wife was real beginning of sexuality in my life. The struggle with celibacy was enough for me, but to suddenly add diksha and woman into the equation was the breaking point. Guilt and criminality ruled the day. Had the change just been Bhakta Brian becoming Shukavak, and had I stayed single, even attending university, it would have been a workable situation, but now, with the addition of a wife, I had entered the realm of society. Celibacy and marriage do not mix.

*Albert Einstein. The World as I See It, 1934

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