Ukraine: “Our business is entirely with God and His devotees …” — Srila Giri Maharaja


Today (7/2/14) I received an email from a friend of mine in Ukraine. A portion of it is reproduced below along with my reply.

A Devotee Writes:

Dear Maharaj,

Just today devotees of your Math, … who live in Eastern Ukraine Lugansk area, called me to explain the horrible civil war situation there. You can talk with them directly to find out the truth and I can help in interpreting. He seeks from senior devotees guidance what to do now because he fears for his children, wife and parents as well as for other devotees of his town. He says in brief that regular Ukrainian army uses heavy artillery such as howitzers, large-caliber mortars, multiple rocket launchers, warplanes- bombers etc. to bomb civilians in populated settlements. They destroyed hospitals, schools, residential houses and multi-storied buildings, buses with people etc. Opposing them are local civilians who took weapons to protect themselves and their families. No Russian troops are available there to help them. They awaited military help but Russia was pressed by sanctions and cannot interfere.


Srila Giri Maharaja Responds:

My dandavats Sriman _______ ,

My advice to all devotees in Ukraine is the same as I offered to Prabhu _______ .
“Everyone is free to do as he feels best, but I am doubtful that devotees will benefit in any way by taking any strong political positions against one side or the other publicly. I do not see any profit from taking part in public demonstrations except to do Hari Nama Sankirtana and preach the message of Sriman Mahaprabhu.Especially we should try to keep some special respect for the devotees of Krishna, even if they disagree with us politically.”
Prabhu, I suggest this policy, “Render unto Caesar what is Ceasar’s and unto God what is God’s.” Our business is entirely with God and His devotees, not any government or political party.
Those who take this neutral position should not be feared by either of the opposing parties in the uncivil war that is going on. There is no reason for either side to attack those who pose no threat to them.Even though Sri Baladeva favored the Kurus, he pledged He would not take their side and went on pilgrimage while the fratricidal war took place between the Kurus and the Pandavas. In this way Lord Baladeva avoided any involvement in the war.Krishna, on the other hand, favored the Pandavas and, even though He also vowed not to fight, was present on the battlefield serving as Arjuna’s charioteer. Thus, He could not help being drawn into the fight in order to protect Arjuna. Because of this, Krishna was attacked by Sri Bhishmadeva.

Therefore, unless you believe you can withstand the arrows of Bhishma, or the bullets of the modern day warriors, it will be prudent to avoid the battlefield.

During WWII, when Calcutta was being bombed by the Japanese, I recall Srila Prabhupada saying he sat in his home and chanted japa while the sound of bombs could be heard exploding near his home. He might have gone to Navadwipa, where he sent his sons for their safety, but his wife, despite the bombing, refused to leave Calcutta and he remained there with her.

Srila Prabhupada: The whole Calcutta became vacant. Perhaps only myself and a few others remained. I sent my sons to Navadvipa-of course, my daughter was married. My wife refused to go out of Calcutta. She said, “I’ll be bombed, but I will not go.” So I had to remain in Calcutta. I have seen bombing in Calcutta all night. I was just eating when there was the siren. So, the arrangement was that… in your house would be the shelter room. I was hungry, so I first finished eating. Then I went to the room, and the bombing began. Chee-Kyam! I was thinking that this was also Krishna in another form. But that form was not very lovable.
It was during this world war that Srila Prabhupada felt a great urgency to bring people to their senses by awakening them to the fact that the only solution to such distressful conditions is Krishna Consciousness. It was with this sense of urgency that he began publishing the first editions of “Back to Godhead” magazine.In the first edition of BTG Srila Prabhupada, in addition to his own words in the line of Vedic authorities, cited many famous people who were of a similar mind; that only a return to God Consciousness could solve the great problems of the world.
Archbishop of Canterbury:
In every quarter of earth men long to be delivered from the curse of War and to find in a world which has regained its peace, respite from the harshness and bitterness of the world they have known till now. But so often they want the Kingdom of Heaven without its King. The kingdom of God without God. And they cannot have it.OUR RESOLVE MUST BE BACK TO GOD. We make plans for the future for peace amongst the nation and for civil security at home. That is quite right enough and it would be wrong to neglect it. But all our plans will come to ship-wreck on the rock of human selfishness unless we turn to God. BACK TO GOD, that is the chief need of England and of every nation.
In that first edition of “Back to Godhead” Srila Prabhupada offered the following advice, which points to the futility of believing that political, national or governmental solutions to war, which all reside within the plane of nescience (illusion), are of any real value.Srila Prabhupada:
This is actually the civilisation of Nescience or illusion and therefore civilisation has been turned into militarization. Everyone is fully concerned with the comforts of the body and everything related with the body and no one is concerned with the Spirit that moves the body although even a boy can realise that the motor-car mechanism has little value if there is no driver of the car. This dangerous ignorance of humanity is a gross Nescience and has created a dangerous civilisation in the form of militarisation. This militarisation which, in softer language, is Nationalization is an external barrier to understanding human relations. There is no meaning in a fight where the parties do fight only for the matter of different coloured dresses. There must be therefore an understanding of human relation without any consideration of the bodily designation or coloured dresses…. Without light, any amount of speculation of the human mind (which is also a creation of the material nature) can never restore the living entities to permanent happiness. In that darkness any method of bringing peace in the world… can bring only temporary relief or distress, as we can see from all creations of the External Potency. In the darkness non-violence is as much useless as violence, while in the light there is no need of violence or non-violence.
From the examples above I hope you will be able to understand why I did not agree that preaching should be abandoned because of the great civil unrest in Ukraine. Rather, the opposite is true. It is the time when our preaching is most needed to bring peace to the hearts of those in the throws of so many terrible circumstances.At the height of India’s uncivil war between the Hindus and Muslims, Srila Sridhara Maharaja and Govinda Maharaja were staying in Srila Swami Maharaja’s house in Kolkata. None of them took any part in the civil disturbances, such as rioting and fighting. They remained aloof from these events, as I am advising our devotees to do now in Ukraine.I pray this finds safe and well in all respects.

Swami B.K. Giri