I was flipping through my Facebook feed yesterday and I saw a story about an ISKCon monk undergoing the Sannyasi Ceremony and receiving saffron robes. I am not too familiar with how things are done in such a monastery so I may have the details a little muddled. But one monk was receiving this very high honor. On Facebook, a devotee who felt he had knowledge of this monk, posted the story and commented negatively on the honor being bestowed upon him.
At this point, a monk I am more acquainted with commented in response to the devotee’s negativity, that the commenter is “worse than a dog” and that he should “go to Hell where you belong.” That was the last comment on the thread from the monk, but other devotees continued to spar. The devotee who originally posted the thread said that the monk receiving the robes was merely winning an election and that he was like a politician seeking popularity votes. Something along those lines. It got ugly/embarrassing to the point that I wasn’t keen on taking either side definitively. Each side made some good points, believe it or not, but it did not speak well of devotees.
There is an expression, a mantra if you will, for times when the dramas of the world begin to infringe on your own inner peace. “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” This is what one tells oneself to keep the dramas at bay. And I generally do stay out of things. I’ll throw in a comment here and there to quell an uprising tension if I think I can, if it is not something I started to begin with. If it is, then I may take part in the circus a bit more because it obviously meant something to me to start it to begin with. Even so, either way, I know that I am not to let the impulse to “be right” entice me too much. And I suppose by posting this, I am letting myself become part of the circus.
But I have to say something because the more I live the more I find it reprehensible for any embodied soul telling another to go to Hell, especially in the way this monk did it. By calling the devotee a dog simply for having (very strong) opinions. And maybe just for insulting someone with whom the monk seemed to have some sort of spiritual, fraternal connection. It bothered me a lot and somehow it especially bothered me coming from a monk to another devotee. They are both devotees of Krishna. Both revere Prabhupada. I am not particularly either one, but I am of the Vaisnav persuasion so we’re in the same ballpark.
Is a monk expected to hold his tongue? To what lengths, and to what end? When does it become abuse rather than guidance?
I understand that sometimes a monk has to use strong language. Another monk, a Buddhist, taught me this. He is of the mind that there are certain circumstances under which he wouldn’t be doing his “job” as a monk if he didn’t speak very strongly. But I am hard-pressed to imagine him telling anyone they were worse than a dog and to go to Hell. It lacks compassion. And speaking of compassion, I have tried not to write this in the fashion of gossip. I wanted to write this to give a factual account of a scenario based on what I know, and put it out there as I often do, to see what people’s thoughts are.
Jai Hari Aum