Krsna Consciousness is for Everyone
Oftentimes those who are practising Krsna consciousness are challenged that merely tending to spiritual life can't possibly solve one's problems in the real world. How can chanting Hare Krsna help someone who is constantly worried about putting food on their dinner table? So-called spiritual solutions seem vague and impractical. However, if we make the effort to study Srila Prabhupada's teachings in full, we soon discover that he was always down-to-earth along with being committed to living and preaching a godly life.
In early 1974, Srila Prabhupada instructed his leading disciples to start organizing his movement according to the principles of varnasrama-dharma: "Everywhere, wherever we have got our centers, a varnasrama college should be established to train all divisions: one class brahmana, one class ksatriya, one class vaisya, and one class sudra" (Srila Prabhupada, Vrindavan, March, 1974). These four divisions of society are described in the 18th chapter of the Bhagavad-gita where Lord Krsna states that such divisions are naturally "in accordance with the modes of nature" (B.G. 18.41). In the varnasrama system, the brahmanas are the priests, the ksatriyas are the administrators, the vaisyas are the producers of food and the sudras are the workers. By co-operating together, these four parts of the social body are able to maintain a healthy and well functioning society. On the basis of Vedic scripture, Srila Prabhupada guaranteed that there would be no scarcity if the principles of varnasrama were properly established in human society. "Come and join us," he said. "We shall give you food, shelter, everything. This is Krsna consciousness."
Not long after Srila Prabhupada arrived in America, he began preparing and distributing prasadam, spiritual food offered to the Supreme Lord. In the early days of the Hare Krsna movement in New York, Prabhupada instituted the now famous "Sunday Love Feast." He said that no one who visited the temples should go away hungry. Later, Srila Prabhupada began organizing farm projects around the world where devotees could grow their own foodstuff and help feed the local populations. He said, "Why there is poverty? Because they are not producing food." Prasadam distribution therefore became a big part of the Krsna consciousness movement. Devotees became almost as famous for their delicious food as they did for chanting Hare Krsna. In fact, Srila Prabhupada even referred to his movement as "the kitchen religion."
Although his fledgling society started from humble beginnings, it quickly expanded all over the world. In order to effectively implement his plan to include people from all walks of life in Krsna consciousness, Srila Prabhupada expanded the scope of his preaching. In the temples, he was training brahmanas (or teachers) to lead society in a spiritual direction. According to Lord Krsna, the brahmanas are wise, honest, austere, self-controlled and pure (B.G. 18.42). Therefore they can be trusted to give impartial and unmotivated advice for the ultimate benefit of humankind. The remaining three orders (ksatriyas, vaisyas and sudras) would perform their respective duties in line with the advice provided by the learned brahmanas who were well-versed in scriptural knowledge. This simple formula of varnasrama-dharma is recommended by the Supreme Lord Himself, and Srila Prabhupada instructed the devotees to work together to make it a practical reality in the world.
In order for his movement to be successful, Srila Prabhupada emphasized that there is no room for politics in Krsna consciousness: "Politics means planning for one's own happiness. That is politics. So in our society there should be no diplomacy, no politics. Everyone should be eager how to do good for others. That is Vaisnava." From this statement alone, we can easily understand how important it is for the leadership of society to be pure at heart. Prabhupada's idea was to establish a truly alternative society wherein the leaders are selfless and trustworthy, unlike the mundane politicians whose sole aim is to achieve adoration, distinction and profit. Under such noble leadership, the members of society would automatically feel inspired to render service with natural loyalty and dedication. Srila Prabhupada said, "The leader must be expert and the worker must be expert so that he follows the instruction of the leader... Both of them should be co-operating and know that we are all working for Krsna."
Those who may think that the Hare Krsna movement is only for monks or those in the renounced order of life are clearly mistaken. Srila Prabhupada has built a house in which the whole world can live. It doesn't matter who or what one is by virtue of material estimation. Anyone can participate in the Krsna consciousness movement and have their material and spiritual demands met to the fullest. It's simply a matter of understanding and following the basic principles of both Krsna consciousness and varnasrama combined as Prabhupada has revealed to us in his books and instructions. In other words, Srila Prabhupada has given us a blueprint by which we can help create an ideal society in harmony with the will of God. What greater gift to the world? It is now incumbent upon his sincere followers to find the ways and means to apply Srila Prabhupada's directions in this regard. Then the people will be happy and there will be nothing missing in their lives: "We are prepared to give everything and we give Krsna consciousness. This is our mission."
In a Krsna conscious world, there is no room for hunger or want. In fact, Prabhupada often quoted his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, who used to say that there is nothing lacking in this world except Krsna consciousness. By putting Krsna in the center of our lives and working on His behalf -- no matter what our personal nature or status in society may be -- all success is guaranteed. In whatever occupation one may be engaged, if he or she serves the Supreme Lord to the best of their individual capacity, they can achieve the highest goal of life. Lord Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita: "By worship of the Lord, who is the source of all beings and who is all-pervading, man can, in the performance of his own duty, attain perfection." (B.G. 18.46)
Of course, these are all lofty goals and we have discovered that they are not so easily attained. So it's probably wise for us to start small and work our way up. Prabhupada advised, "Make a small community showing ideal life, not idle life." However, before we can even begin to develop functional varnasrama communities, we must first identify our own particular natures and psychophysical traits. Srila Prabhupada said that everyone "should be employed according to his capacity." So a healthy dose of maturity and self-reflection (manisinah) is definitely needed. There's no sense in trying to become someone or something that we're not. Prabhupada said, "Better remain in your position and become perfect." Thus it requires intelligence to correctly apply the philosophy of Krsna consciousness to our daily lives. It's not a cheap thing and there are no shortcuts. One cannot become a sadhu by simply changing one's dress. Spiritual advancement is a gradual process which requires both diligence and honesty, and therefore Prabhupada introduced varnasrama-dharma. So it will do us all well to try our best to understand these vital instructions of our beloved founder-acarya not only for our own benefit, but for the benefit of the world. Then perhaps we can see the beginning of real peace on earth and goodwill to all.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.