(Kadamba Kanana Swami, 03 September 2016, Cape Town, South Africa, Srimad Bhagavatam 1.9.25)

Continued from, “Lessons in life,” Bhismadev’s list of challenges for society at large to improve their quality of life…


With regards to these moral principles given by Bhismadev here in the purport, the principle of, “Not to lie,” may be exempt in exceptional circumstances. When devotees are hiding in the basement and a soldier comes looking for them then we can say, “Devotees, I don’t know, I’ve never seen them!” One must not take these principles in a fundamentalist way, they must be applied with intelligence. Fundamentalism is a form of reductionism where we try to eliminate the complexities of life and try to get a few slogans which are applied at all times, all places, all circumstances and which cannot be possibly adjusted in any situation. This creates fanaticism and can create many problems.

Prabhupada also gave the example of the father who has to lie to a child to give the child medicine and tells them that it is sweet. For a higher purpose! Once there was a debate about book distribution because some book distributors were at times not so moral and not so honest in the way they were distributing books. There was another group who was into honesty and it became a big issue. This matter was taken to Prabhupada. Prabhupada said that not to lie and to be honest is very important. He wrote this in a letter to Bhurijana and said that he upheld the importance of moral behaviour and honesty and then Prabhupada asked, “What about those who are so moral, are they distributing books?” The answer was, “Not so many as the other group…” and Prabhupada asked what was the point of morality, books have to somehow or other go out! So sometimes, we have transcendental morality that for the sake of Krsna things may be different…

Also Yudhisthir Maharaj’s example can be applied. At the end of his life, Yudhisthir went to hell, well not himself but he saw that all his brothers had gone to hell and Yudhisthir asked how was that possible – there was Arjuna who gave his life to Krsna’s service, Bhima who had no evil in his heart, Nakul and Sahadev – how could they go to hell!? But this was the punishment that Yudhisthir had to go through for hesitating to lie when Krsna requested it. However, this does not justify that in the name of transcendence, to lie left and right. We cannot take these stories and say that for Krsna and for the sake of sankirtan it is perfectly alright to tell endless lies. 

Even though we have principles, we are not being relieved from using our brain. We have to, in a refined way, take these principles and say that this is dharma and dharma is to be followed and then, there is apad-dharma, religious principles which is followed in case of emergency and sometimes one may deviate from the principle i.e. not to lie, not to get angry…

Now what if we have to apply this to the four regulative principles. Let’s say there was a plane crash and the only survivors were in a jungle and there were no vegetables that one could eat but there were these fat birds which moved very slow, so what are you going to do!? Fast for the first couple days and then what to do… apad-dharma?? I will leave that up to the individual, to their intelligence but personally, I will tell you that I would fast… and if I die that is okay, it is all still in Krsna hands wherever we go! That part does not warrant apad-dharmaAs far as the four regulative principles go, I think it is very important to keep those very fixed.

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