Thursday, July 29, 2004

What Was I Thinking?!

I’ve just been reading a blog by Sankar that somewhat summarily dismisses ISKON as crap. Needles to say the author was flamed in return by a reader. And while I hold that everyone is entitled to their views, I feel, Sankar’s views are not entirely in the extreme. Of course, experiences define impressions and all that.

My own experiences have not led me to form a wholesome view. Of course, what I see of ISKON is here in the U.S. and they have a nice Temple in West Virginia and decent Indian food, but I cannot but help think they are packaging “Sanatana Dharma” as an escapist philosophy for westerners. I mean, you don’t need to tonsure your head and wear a dhoti to be embrace Hindu (now, that should really be Sanatana) philosophy. Moreover, I think cotton dhotis and sarees are especially impractical attire for the cold weather of North America. I get the distinct impression that for many of the westerners within the ISKON fold, adopting the attire is an attempt at taking on an identity different from their peers. It is like the wearing a mullet or a punk hairstyle.

I also don’t give much for how they market themselves either. I particularly resent a fresh-faced white kid in an ucchikudumi (a topknot) accosting me on the street asking me I have been delivered by the words of Prabhupada and if the Geetha has brought enlightenment into my life. And I don’t think a bunch of pseudo holy-bolies singing – RamaRamaKrisnaKrisna at train stations and airports do much to advance the cause of Sanatana Dharma. If anything, our faith is a private affair, our philosophy more subtle and our outlook more sophisticated – isn’t that what sets us apart from the others?

My take is that the ISKON sentiment is well-placed though the delivery mechanism leaves something to be desired. Softly, softly now.