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Meaning of my "Parable"
By Robert Newman

Thanks to Danavir Goswami for pointing out a possible misinterpretation of the parable of the gardeners. Following is the interpretation I intended.

The unfortunate gardeners are the conditioned souls in this modern world, and the fields represent their bodies and minds. They are unfortunate because their lives (the gardens) are largely based on useless and dangerous ideas (seeds).

The Old Gardener is indeed Srila Prabhupada, as Danavir Goswami suggested, who gathered the best ideas of Vedic culture and devotional service and transplanted them in the modern world. Those fortunate conditioned souls who accepted these ideas in spite of their apparent strangeness benefited from this, but those who rejected the ideas could make no progress.

None of the ideas that Srila Prabhupada introduced were useless or dangerous in themselves. However, the mentality of some of his followers (corresponding, in the parable, to the soil and climatic conditions in the fields) generated useless and dangerous interpretations and implementations of some of these ideas. For example, the idea of gurukula was twisted by some into strongholds of pedophilia and child abuse. The idea of the lower intelligence of women was twisted by some into blatant misogyny and abuse of women. The idea that one is purified by offering the results of his work to Krishna was twisted by some into a license to engage in any abominable activity as long as it generated income for ISKCON.

The problems resulting from these and other errors of his followers were largely responsible for the massive turnover of members of Srila Prabhupada's society. Attempted remedial action was often crippled by the refusal of those in authority to accept suggestions for adjustments in the interpretation and implementation of some of Srila Prabhupada's teachings, misunderstanding or misrepresenting these suggestions as the denigration or relativization of the spiritual master, whereas in fact they were not reflections on Srila Prabhupada at all, but on the understanding and application of his teachings by some of his followers.

Others did in fact denigrate Srila Prabhupada, holding him responsible for ISKCON's problems. Ironically, they shared the fundamental misunderstanding of their (apparent) opposite numbers, which is the failure to understand and accept the duty of the disciple to develop and apply his intelligence and power of discrimination to the utmost when attempting to understand and apply the teachings of the spiritual master. Both groups tended to accept the teachings simplistically and literally, thereby not only missing the essence which we should always seek, but causing great disturbances besides, some of which I have mentioned above.

Fortunately, however, there are, both within and outside of ISKCON, those who successfully follow the essence of Srila Prabhupada's teachings by properly understanding the guru/disciple relationship and accepting the duty to always discriminate and use their intelligence, within the parameters of Krishna consciousness as elaborated by sadhu and sastra, to come to a proper understanding and application of the guru's teachings according to time, place, and circumstances. Such people are happily making real progress in spiritual life, and are in fact Srila Prabhupada's legacy to this world. I consider these people to be my siksha gurus, and my reverence for Srila Prabhupada himself continually increases.

Hare Krishna,

Robert Newman

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