This entry is actually one I've started and stopped at least 10 times over the past month. This time I've turned all my online chats off, and I'm planning an early night at home with no distractions.
As my mind became settled in knowing that I would leave the Krishna community, I started to become more aware of the socialised mechanisms used within communities to retain membership. I guess consciousness is state specific, as they say, which means that you will be more aware of certain things depending on your desires and consciousness. My desires were to leave the Krishna conscious community, so I was made more aware of the social mechanisms which snap into place to encourage people not to leave that community.
As I've said many times before, this really isn't property of religious communities specifically, but I think of all close communities in general. I would say that I experienced the same social mechanisms when I first started showing interest in Krishna consciousness, and I see these same mechanisms sometimes come into play in the hardcore and straightedge communities as well. Pretty much every community. What I think the Krishna community offered was a more magnified view of this social phenomenon.
I can remember vividly the very morning before I left the monastery there was a conversation held over breakfast. The discussion was on two points. One was that whenever anyone leaves Krishna consciousness, they are destined to end up in the same negative positions they were in before the started Krishna consciousness. In other words, if one was a former drug addict, they would likely return to their drug use, if someone was suffering from depression, they would end up depressed again, if someone were highly promiscuous, they would end up back in the same negative patterns of life which they had originally left behind. The devotees would then think about the previous aspects of their lives which they found distasteful, and their lips would curl in distaste. And in many cases rightly so I think. The underlying assumption is that one cannot be progressive in their lives, they cannot aim for self-betterment, outside of the Krishna conscious community. And if they leave that community, they will be doomed to a life of pain and suffering.
The second point that was brought up during that breakfast was the concept that 'Maya', or illusion, acts even harsher on ex-Hare Krishnas, it is Krishna's way of trying to convince them that they made a mistake. It is even said that the more someone dedicated to the service of Krishna consciousness, the more Maya will make them suffer once they leave. Often times, at this point, the devotees would bring up stories of ex-Hare Krishnas who, upon leaving the Krishna consciousness movement, ended up finding themselves in situations of extreme suffering. These stories are thrown around like Gospel truths, the standard expectation. There was the ex-Hare Krishna who ended up married into a Muslim relationship, where her Arabic husband mistreated her to such extreme levels that she ended up having to run away with her children to save herself from the abusive relationship. This was said to be a result of her leaving Krishna consciousness, after having done so much service. Another ex-Hare Krishna found himself getting beat up one late night in Auckland while walking home. This was said to be a result of his selling so many books for Krishna, but then leaving the community behind.
As I sat during breakfast hearing these same stories repeated, those taking part in this conversation speaking so convinced by their words, I just felt like shaking my head.
Also, as the time came when I become more determined to leave the community a former member of our monastery was beginning to make movements to again take up the practice of Krishna consciousness. I can't recall if I told the story already, but one day I was on Google Chat, and he started to talk to me about how he was preparing to meet up with our Guru to discuss things. I knew he was hoping for my encouragement, and I felt such heavy irony in the fact that I was only days away from leaving Krishna consciousness behind just as he was entering again.
We've never really discussed his original reasons for leaving Krishna consciousness, personally I'm not willing to speculate. But I what I can say is that the community reacts in a very specific way whenever devotees do leave the community. How they react is that they construct their own explanations as to why devotees have left. This serves to shift any possible blame away from the pristine and amazing leadership, camaraderie, facility and training which they have been offered, and instead places the blame 100% on the shoulders of the person exiting the community. In every case that I witnessed of a person leaving the Krishna consciousness community this is exactly the response I have witnessed. And this served as a constant retaining mechanism for the community.
To begin with, it serves to dismiss any claims brought by an exiting devotee. They weren't honest about their motives, they weren't willing to work on themselves, they hide aspects of their lives, and this resulted in them leaving. As a result, whatever statements they have to make about their experience within the community is likely fictional, a creation of their own minds, bewildered by illusion. This also serves to contain the impacts of those who leave. Their departure can now easily be explained and dismissed without further investigation. And finally, it serves to create a sense of fear amongst the community, as devotees worry "I wonder what they would say about me if I left?"
My original plan for departing from the Krishna consciousness community was one I ended up abandoning. I had been offered a trip to India, which seemed to me like it was a last ditch effort to revitalise my spiritual life. The trip was to take place over February of 2010. I had decided that I would stick it out until my trip to India, because I really wanted to finally get out of NZ for some time. I would return from India, and then make my departure, with the hopes of immediately starting studying at university. Obviously this didn't occur, and there are a number of reasons for that.
There were a few reasons for this. For starters, I realised that my going to India, on a spiritual pilgrimage, with the aim of leaving my spiritual practices behind completely upon the end of the trip was probably not the most honest thing I could do. Also, I started to realise that the transition Hare Krishna monk to full-time student probably was NOT gonna be a straight forward transition to make. I realised that if I was actually gonna start getting my life together, I was probably gonna need more than a single weekend after my return from India to do so.
There were also other reasons for my speeding up my timeline for departing this community, which I will discuss when I put out my next update, probably sometime over the next week. But right now I have to get to sleep, because I am walking up at around 4 am tomorrow morning to prepare for a dynamic animal rights protest. I'll let you know how that went in my next update as well.