Day 72

I worry for my dad because he is a revolutionary. He wears his convictions on his sleeve and he lives by the credo “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”. To that end, he has picked an unconventional path within an unconventional path. As a full-time Hare Krishna preacher, he has chosen a belief system within our institution that is different. There are deeper political underpinnings to be understood here, but philosophically, initiation, or diksha, is a ceremonial process that means “to begin” one’s deeper, principled journey on this spiritual path under the guidance of a bonafide guru. My father is a ritvik – a break from the propagated philosophy Hare Krishnas adhere to – which means he believes Srila Prabhupada, the founder of the Hare Krishnas, who passed away in 1977, is still the initiating head of the movement. After nearly 40 years of serving the movement, seeing many leaders come and go, of having his faith shaken by alternate and sometimes crazy readings of the sacred texts, by being the head of the Public Relations function of the institution in India and by having his “friends” become more entangled in the politics than the practice – I think he has earned the right to ascribe to whatever he chooses.
For over 23 years, (that I can consciously remember) he has remained resolute in this belief, choosing to uphold a high level of spiritual practice on his own – waking up early and caring for our home deities, chanting sixteen “rounds” of the 108 beaded rosary of the Hare Krishna mantra, reading the books of his beloved Prabhupada for hours on end, filling every single minute of his free time with Prabhupada’s chanting of the mantra and his lectures. He associates with his Guru multiple times a day and to me, their relationship is unshakeable and aspirational; as he puts it, he is “Prabhupada’s loyal dog”, through and through. He is known for his deep understanding of scripture, honed over years of discourses and study, his knowledge of Sanskrit verses and his pointed, nuanced questions in all Bhagavatam classes. In addition to all of this, he is still, fundamentally, a full-time preacher. This dissent from the norm has cost him friendships, lost him partnerships within the movement, garnered animosity, character smears, an unlawful eviction, and even the loss of a child, my youngest brother. Still, his love for ISKCON and his allegiance to this movement that has spiritually sustained him has never faltered. He diligently reads every Back to Godhead magazine (the Hare Krishna periodical) cover to cover and if you give him even a few minutes of your day, he will lavish praise on any aspect of his beloved institution and the “good work everyone is doing”, reminding us to be like bees collecting honey and not flies living in the garbage.
Perhaps my worry is uninformed; I haven’t yet found a cause that I’m willing to stand for at this level. But mostly, in a world so full of division and hatred for the other, my constant prayer is for my father to be safe in his practice with the support of the institution that is so near to his heart. He is, however, fully surrendered, as any good preacher would be, to the will of the Lord. “Raksisyatiti visvaso” – the conviction that Krsna will give protection, a concept that my daughterly affection may never comprehend.

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