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Love and Control

In Bhagavad-gītā, Kṛṣṇa says that those influenced by rajas take birth on earth (14.18), which indicates that human birth is predominantly rājasika. Rajas inspires action (Gita 14.12). To perform any action one needs śakti, energy or power. Therefore, human life is a struggle for power.

Everyone desires power. No one likes to be powerless. A child wants to grow because it feels powerless in front of the elder members of the family. We want good health because we feel powerless when we are sick. This is also why we do not want to get old. The civil rights movements for women, Africans, and Dalits, and social movements like the Marxist or French revolution all exist to empower different classes of people.

Durga worship in BengalIf we look carefully, we find that everyone wants power—be they spiritualist or materialist, theist or atheist or agnostic. Life is a power game; without it, life is useless. Thus, human beings are worshipers of power. In India, there is even a class of people, called śāktas, who literally worship personified power, śakti or Devi.

Knowledge, physical strength, wealth, social position, beauty, artistic talent, renunciation, character and yogic siddhis are all different types of power we can possess to varying degrees. We can use power either for our own benefit or to help others. Unfortunately, most people chose the former, and use power to increase the extent to which they can exploit others. The powerful tend to force others to do their bidding.

The struggle for power is seen everywhere: between nations, in corporate offices, or even within a family. If we disobey the powerful, they punish us. If we obey, they may reward us. This carrot and stick dynamic is everywhere: Police, politicians, parents, teachers, managers, and even religious leaders use it. Sometimes individuals rebel against those in power authority, but this tends to merely change the names of the exploiters. The human psychology of using power to exploit others remains fairly constant.

Lion / PixabayThis makes one human being the worst enemy of another. Humans have no greater predator than themselves. Ferocious animals may hunt and even eat us when they are hungry, but humans beings lay inescapable and elaborate plans to keep each other perpetually trapped in their power-plays. This destroys human relations, even in families, and is thus at the root of all emotional dysfunction, which in turn is at the root of all social problems.

Misery due to external control continues relentlessly not because we have thought it over and decided that controlling others is best—it continues because we know no other way. We inherit the psychology of our ancestors, teachers, and leaders. The modern human defaults to coercion, mostly because we think it is the only way.

Another reason we do not root out coercion, despite the fact that it obviously causes so much misery, is that it works. It works for the powerful because they get their wishes fulfilled. It works for the powerless, too, because they feel secure with it; it gives them a way to avoid upsetting the powerful and a hope for being rewarded. The powerless also embrace the coercion system because they think that to do anything else would invoke wrath and destroy them. Thus, people continue living in abusive relationships, because they think that leaving the relation would make things worse.

Less powerful people feel weak and rely on the acceptance and validation of powerful people to give them a feeling of self-worth. This weakness is an irresistible pheromone for the powerful, attracting the predator to easy prey. The powerful rest assured that the weak will continue to serve them because the weak believe they actually need the powerful.

What, then, is the way out?

Radha Krsna Jiva paintingŚrī Kṛṣṇa gives an alternative to power: love, which provides choice and freedom. An exploitive person keeps their dependent weak and powerless, but a loving person empowers their dependent. Kṛṣṇa, for example, never forces anything on anyone. He explains the pros and cons of various choices and then leaves it to us to decide. He demonstrated this in His teachings to Arjuna. After answering Arjuna’s many questions in Bhagavad Gītā, He said (18.63): “Thus, I have declared to you knowledge, more secret than all secrets. Reflect on it fully and then do as you wish.”

Love, indeed, is the most powerful thing. There is no power higher than love. It is so powerful that the most powerful person, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, comes under its sway. He becomes controlled by the love of His devotee. He openly admits his submission to the love of the Gopīs (ŚB 10.32.22).

Exploitation of power creates distance between the powerful and the powerless, while the power of love unites and empowers them both.

Powerful people are always afraid of losing their power, and so try to eliminate their competitors. No matter how powerful, everyone is jealous of someone and worried about some competitor. In love, however, such dynamics do not exist. One in love is not afraid to see another becoming powerful. Śrī Kṛṣṇa and His devotees are the best examples of this. Thus in Vraja, there is no formal power structure to manage society. Everything runs on the principle of co-operation and love, without need for regulation, and devoid of any jealousy.

KrsnaAccording to Śrīmad-Bhāgavata, (1.3.28) Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the original form of Bhagavān. The practical proof of this is that He deals with His associates with love, not authority. This makes Him more powerful than all other forms of Bhagavān. And it is for this very reason that rāgānugā bhakti is more powerful than vaidhi bhakti.

Although love and control are totally opposite values, they can co-exist. The coarser the consciousness, the more pronounced the need to exercise control. The more refined and subtle the consciousness, the lesser the need to control. When you are coarse, you demand authority and when you demand authority, love recedes. Asserting authority indicates lack of confidence and a lack of love. The more evident one’s control, the less sensitive and effective it will be. The less the love, the more obvious the control. So, the subtler you become, the more control you gain. The greater the love, subtler will be the control.

Now the question may be raised that if love is so simple, attractive, empowering and free of jealousy, then why do people not practice it? Heavy power politics is seen even among spiritual societies and āśramas that claim to teach, preach and practice love. Why is it not seen in practice? The answer is that our material ahaṅkāra gets in the way. It becomes a big obstacle to pure love. The ahaṅkāra is so cunning in nature, that it works together with our buddhi to convince us that, “I am humble, surrendered and loving. I do my sevā with a pure heart. I offer my heart to Śrī Kṛṣṇa and guru. It is others who have the problems.” Most practitioners may think this way. If it were not for this deep and thick anartha, what a wonderful, harmonious community of devotees we would have, free from competition and jealousy.

Unfortunately, hardly anyone truly operates in this mode of love, even though we all think we do.

What is really going on under the fake smiles and praṇāms is control. The powerful ones amass an army of less powerful co-dependents, which is the perfect magnetic match. The powerful have an inflated ahaṅkāra and they need people below them to keep it inflated. The bigger the ahaṅkāra, the more ability to steamroll and push away others to get to the top. Therefore, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu advised to be humble like grass, tolerant like a tree, and continue with the sevā. In such a mood, there is no possibility of power control.



6 thoughts on “Love and Control”

  1. Very nice treatment of such a hard topic…Definitely, Babaji’s discussion points out to the real sense of the Mahaprabhu’s teaching: let down material control and not love for love and mutual surrender between lover (devotee-God) and loved (God-devotee)…Thanks Maharaji

  2. Babaji,
    Thanks a lot for the very sharp analysis on power-play in this world. The article is slightly depressing but accurate, relevant and useful. I specifically have a question on power-play in modern Vaishnava institutions.

    I am wondering if one can look at this as failure to apply solutions that can significantly reduce ahamkara because the raison d’etre of a spiritual institution is its ability to provide solutions to ahamkara. The solution I refer to is Uttama Bhakti sadhana (svarupa-siddha-bhakti) prescribed by Shri Rupa Gosvamipada.

    According to BRS, Uttama bhakti sadhana should immediately generate kleshaghni and shubhada. Such sadhakas would experience much satisfaction, happiness and love from bhakti that they would lose all taste for power-play and be filled with good qualities. If this is not happening then this means that sadhakas are not doing Krishna bhakti for the sake of bhakti (causeless) but for side effects, i.e., they have ulterior motives. This could happen because of:
    1. Not understanding uttama-bhakti sadhana, Gaudiya Vaishnava siddhanta properly.
    2. Deviations due to temptations of respect, validation, power (karma) or for developing sattva guna, purity etc (jnana). Also due to lack of introspection.

    Is my analysis correct? If yes, then perhaps knowledge of Uttama sadhana bhakti, siddhanta, introspection along with sanga of uttama-bhaktas (learning from example) should solve this problem?

    Thanks a lot!

    1. Uttama-bhakti is the solution to all problems. But uttama-bhakti is also rare because most people are interested in solving their immediate problems
      and they look for a cheap remedy. You have aptly analyzed it.

  3. Thanks Babaji, for posting such a nice topic. Truly Love is the greatest of power.

    However, I wished to clarify on some of the practical aspect of Love vis-a vis power, control and authority etc. Having been in the Armed Forces, I have experienced very regimented structures being in the position of command and otherwise. When commanding a unit/ship one has to exercise dispassionate authority and severely deal with defaulters. The Logic being that any show of Love is taken as a weakness by subordinates and they tend to get wayward and this waywardness can be doomsday for the ship with its entire crew because when at war life/death depends upon split second decisions and delays/waywardness are an anathema even if by one person in the entire crew. So better be tough with them in peace rather than to regret/bleed in war. That’s what the entire training was during Cadet’s time.

    Can Love never be exercised as a way of management for these kind of institutions/structures? Do we say that management of spiritual institutions is a different ball game because the core is Love and thus the training can accordingly be imparted and aligned with the core whereas the core for others may be discipline (Armed Forces) or finance (Corporates) and accordingly ethos, thinking, training and structures differ and Love is something so very distant for them?

    1. You have raised a good question. It implicitly assumes that in love there is no discipline. But this is not true. In fact, in love you can have the best discipline, better than that coming from “dispassionate authority”. When the order /discipline comes from dispassionate authority, one acts out of pressure and fear. Thus one feels tense and stressed. But if the same order will come out of love, one will do it from the heart and happily. The problem is that love is neither understood properly nor easily available. So the only choice left is control by power and coercion.

  4. Thanks Babaji for giving such a wonderful perspective integrating discipline and Love

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