Pre-test of Survey for SB 4.25.41 comprehension

There is a pre-test of a survey on a statement of Srila Prabhupada’s from his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.25.41 that is currently in progress. The pre-test is accessible here.

You are encouraged to take the test and provide feedback, which will be used to improve the survey.

The ongoing results are available here:


People’s Egos Get Bigger After Meditation and Yoga, Says Study ( Hatha Yoga a Distraction from Spiritual Life

The science is settled.

You don’t want to be a science-denier, do you?

In the paper, published online by University of Southampton and due to be published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers note that Buddhism’s teachings that a meditation practice helps overcome the ego conflicts with U.S. psychologist William James’s argument that practicing any skill breeds a sense of self-enhancement (the psychological term for inflated self-regard.) There was already a fair bit of evidence supporting William James’s theory, broadly speaking, but a team of researchers from University Mannheim in Germany decided to test it specifically in the context of yoga and meditation.

They recruited yoga 93 students and, over a period of 15 weeks, regularly evaluated their sense of self-enhancement. They used several measures to do this. First, they assessed participants’ level of self-enhancement by asking how they compared to the average yoga student in their class. (Comparisons to the average is the standard way of measuring self-enhancement.) Second, they had participants complete an inventory that assesses narcissistic tendencies, which asked participants to rate how deeply phrases like “I will be well-known for the good deeds I will have done” applied to them. And finally, they administered a self-esteem scale asking participants whether they agreed with statements like, “At the moment, I have high self-esteem.” When students were evaluated in the hour after their yoga class, they showed significantly higher self-enhancement, according to all three measures, than when they hadn’t done yoga in the previous 24 hours.

Slashdot, 20 Jun. 2018 < . .>

Cheating in the Field of Psychology

One of the most famous experiments in the history of psychology turns out to have been faked. There is so much cheating in the field. Why do we put our trust in these “experts” and entrust our children to them?

From Medium:

It was late in the evening of August 16th, 1971, and twenty-two-year-old Douglas Korpi, a slim, short-statured Berkeley graduate with a mop of pale, shaggy hair, was locked in a dark closet in the basement of the Stanford psychology department, naked beneath a thin white smock bearing the number 8612, screaming his head off.

“I mean, Jesus Christ, I’m burning up inside!” he yelled, kicking furiously at the door. “Don’t you know? I want to get out! This is all fucked up inside! I can’t stand another night! I just can’t take it anymore!”

It was a defining moment in what has become perhaps the best-known psychology study of all time. Whether you learned about Philip Zimbardo’s famous “Stanford Prison Experiment” in an introductory psych class or just absorbed it from the cultural ether, you’ve probably heard the basic story.

Zimbardo, a young Stanford psychology professor, built a mock jail in the basement of Jordan Hall and stocked it with nine “prisoners,” and nine “guards,” all male, college-age respondents to a newspaper ad who were assigned their roles at random and paid a generous daily wage to participate. The senior prison “staff” consisted of Zimbardo himself and a handful of his students.

The study was supposed to last for two weeks, but after Zimbardo’s girlfriend stopped by six days in and witnessed the conditions in the “Stanford County Jail,” she convinced him to shut it down. Since then, the tale of guards run amok and terrified prisoners breaking down one by one has become world-famous, a cultural touchstone that’s been the subject of books, documentaries, and feature films — even an episode of Veronica Mars.

The SPE is often used to teach the lesson that our behavior is profoundly affected by the social roles and situations in which we find ourselves. But its deeper, more disturbing implication is that we all have a wellspring of potential sadism lurking within us, waiting to be tapped by circumstance. It has been invoked to explain the massacre at My Lai during the Vietnam War, the Armenian genocide, and the horrors of the Holocaust. And the ultimate symbol of the agony that man helplessly inflicts on his brother is Korpi’s famous breakdown, set off after only 36 hours by the cruelty of his peers.

There’s just one problem: Korpi’s breakdown was a sham.

“Anybody who is a clinician would know that I was faking,” he told me last summer, in the first extensive interview he has granted in years. “If you listen to the tape, it’s not subtle. I’m not that good at acting. I mean, I think I do a fairly good job, but I’m more hysterical than psychotic.”

Now a forensic psychologist himself, Korpi told me his dramatic performance in the SPE was indeed inspired by fear, but not of abusive guards. Instead, he was worried about failing to get into grad school.

Ben Blum, “The Lifespan of a Lie,” 7 Jun. 2018, Medium, 18 Jun. 2018 <…>

Psychotherapy is useless Does not make you happy

It looks like psychotherapy doesn’t help people all that much.

When it comes to America, we must notice, as I have often said, that far too much American therapy is of the touchy feely variety. Patients are induced to get in touch with their feelings and to feel their feelings. Beyond the fact that this approach doubles down on the social disconnection these patients feel, there is very little chance that the average middle-aged male, belonging to a high risk population, is going to consult with a therapist who is going to mother him or is going to tell him to get in touch with his feminine side.

Stuart Schneiderman, “”, 10 Jun. 2018, Had Enough Already, 11 Jun. 2018 < . .>.

Of course, the author of the above is not against psychotherapy, he’s just against a broad category of it. But he notes that in the aggregate it just doesn’t seem to have helped many, if at all.

One can question how effective this approach is for women. Most likely, not very. The more therapy becomes a woman’s profession, the more people seem disinclined to consult. Or disinclined to take it seriously. If therapy is just offering professional mothering, why would anyone undergo the process? If therapists can do nothing more than to send you scurrying into your soul to dredge up repressed feelings, why bother? If therapists’ go-to solution is to drown every problem in empathy… what’s the point?

I’ve been telling devotees for more than 15 years to get away from psychotherapy. It’s bad for the soul. Apparently, it’s bad for the body, too.

Take shelter of Krishna. That will cure all your mental diseases.

A Follow-up to the What the MS-13 Gang and ISKCON Have in Common Post Responding to some of the reactions

As a follow-up to the posting on MS-13 and ISKCON, I received a number of interesting reactions. But before I share some of those, I would like to make a few summary points:

  • ISKCON and the MS-13 Gang’s point of commonality is that women are kept out of decision-making on the grounds they are not suited for it.
  • ISKCON’s rationale is mandated by the scriptures, which say women should not be trusted.
  • MS-13’s rationale is based on consistently bad experiences in trusting them.
  • The big point is that MS-13’s experience “bears witness” to a Vedic truth, which is the position women should hold in society.

Some have found the comparison between the two organization so odious as to be beyond the pale. One devotee wrote,

“I did read your article and of course you are entitled to your opinion. No one can argue with an opinion.”

He portrays the essay as merely “opinion.” Indirectly, he has said there was nothing presented in the essay to support its conclusion. That, of course, is not true. So how do you account for it?

It goes against his values at a deep level, a level beyond the intellect. That level is the false-ego, which comes in two categories: “I” and “mine.” Because it is at the level of false-ego, it cannot be discussed rationally.

Aspiring devotees often have difficulty reconciling their attachment to women’s equality with Vedic principles. And because their attachment is not primarily a matter of rationality, overcoming it is a matter of purification and good association. Otherwise, both are lacking in one way or another.

Another devotee wrote,

If women are so much more lusty than men how come they are not raping men?

To which I replied, that first we must accept as fact what the śāstras and pure devotees have said. These sources are infallible. Then we can begin to understand things as they are. (I will address the above question in another post.) Otherwise, if we don’t first accept at this level, then acceptance and rejection will be limited to the material mind, intelligence and false ego. And that is merely a pretense of understanding.

Even if such a person apparently accepts the correct answer, he accepts it not on account of the authority of the śāstras or the authority of pure, saintly people, but because the correct answer happens to coincide with what his material conditioning predisposes him to believe.  That is why we often see that some devotees wholeheartedly embrace vegetarianism while at the same time they reject the gender roles that the śāstras and great devotees like Srila Prabhupada prescribe for women.

For them, it is sometimes useful to say “the śāstras say” or “Srila Prabhupada says”, and sometimes it’s not.

Some of these issues are addressed further in this essay.


What the MS-13 Gang and ISKCON Have in Common

Chanakya Pandit says, viśvāso naiva kartavyaḥ strīṣu rāja-kuleṣu ca:

“There are two persons one should not trust—a politician and a woman.”

And then there is this bit of recent news from the Washington Post:

In the summer of 2003, an angler working the dark waters of the Shenandoah River in Virginia made a startling discovery. Lying on the bank under a bridge was the tattoo-covered body of a 17-year-old girl.

Brenda Paz had been a “homegirl,” or full female member, of MS-13. But “Smiley,” as she was known, had wanted out and had begun helping federal authorities.

She was four months pregnant when MS-13 members slit her throat.

Her defection, and others like it, convinced gang leaders in El Salvador that women couldn’t be trusted and led to a ban on new female members.

Michael E. Miller and Justin Jouvenal, “‘Heinous and violent’: MS-13’s appeal to girls grows as gang becomes ‘Americanized’”, 7 May 2018, The Washington Post, 9 Jun. 2018 <…>

Although the article was about how the MS-13 street gang was becoming “Americanized” by way of accepting women into their ranks, the point of interest for devotees is that the gang itself through their own experience came to the same truth the Vedic civilization holds about women: they cannot be trusted.

Now, a group like the MS-13 is interesting in that it operates outside the law and performs heinous activities that are certain to incarcerate its members if law enforcement catches them, or certain death if their own gang members turn on them. Hence, they are always in a state of existential peril–they are always “living on the edge.” In a situation like this, you are very intimately dependent on each other for survival, you are face-to-face with human nature.

The point of commonality between MS-13 and ISKCON is that in terms of trustworthiness, both consider there to be a significant difference between men and women, with men being the more trustworthy group and women not so trusted.

From jail, Iraheta claimed that others involved in killing Damaris may have done it to move up in MS-13 but that she was motivated by love — and hate.

“They keep saying I’m a gang member when I’m not,” she said. “If you really, really investigate, women are not allowed in the gang. They are not trusted.”

And so here is the relevant point of similarity. Both organizations fundamentally do not trust women, but in branching out to places like America where the population does not hold this distrust, the organization tends to adopt those local values.

In the case of MS-13, it’s progressive “re-acceptance” of women is a sign of its “Americanization.” In the case of ISKCON in the West, the promotion of women as leaders is a sign of it’s Westernization. Both terms “Americanization” as used in the article and “Westernization” as used here refer to the adoption of gender egalitarian values.

But here is the important question: are such values “socially constructed”? That is, is trust something that comes out of society or is it an innate thing, or a part of one’s svabhava, inherent nature?

This is not a question that can be settled by modern scientific means. To give an example of this, we see that some societies tend to have less corruption in them than others. That’s a measurable, empirical fact. And countries in the West are well-known for having some of the least corrupt countries in the world.

Hence, some believe that by spreading ideas of Western secular liberalism and democratic forms of government, the world will be a much better place. If India and other non-Western countries would just adopt Western values (they already adopted their political system), they would have a fairer, less corrupt society. And they would find that women can be trusted and make a significant contribution to society, too. At least, that’s what the true believers in secular Western liberalism think.

But what if there were an alternative cause for the West’s reputation for being less corrupt? How could you scientifically test it?

Manu-smriti, for example, in the beginning of its exposition on criminal law,  explains that punishment is the basis of peace in society.

Punishment alone governs all created beings, punishment protects them, punishment watches over them while they sleep; the wise declare punishment (to be identical with) the law (7.18).

The whole world is kept in order by punishment, for a guiltless man is hard to find; through fear of punishment the whole world yields the enjoyments (which it owes) (7.22).

G. Buhler (trans.), The Laws of Manu, ed. Max Mueller, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 1993.

Here is an alternative, causal explanation: such countries as the West have stronger law enforcement.

Indeed, we see that Srila Prabhupada has described such a state of government:

Good government means that people will think that they’re secure, their property and person is secure. There will be no harm. Not very many years ago, say about hundred years ago, in India the native states, the rule was that if something is lying on the streets, valuable or invaluable, so nobody should touch it. The person who has lost or who has left that thing there, he would come and pick it up. You cannot touch. That was the law. And if one was caught, a thief, his hands will be cut off. In Kashmir state this was the rule. As soon as a thief is arrested and if he’s proved that he has stolen, the only punishment is cut his throat, aḥ, cut his hands. Bas. Exemplary punishment so that nobody will dare to steal. (Lecture on SB 1.16.4 — Los Angeles, January 1, 1974)

And it is our personal experience that laws in the Western countries enjoy a higher degree of enforcement than in many other places.

It should be understood that the descriptions and instructions found in Vedic literature are universally applicable. Hence, we should look to Vedic literature to understand how things are the way they are in the world. This also means that we can be confident that if followed anywhere in the world the result will be auspicious.

Of course, most people do not follow the Vedic culture but follow their own rules according to the three modes of nature (goodness, passion and ignorance). But that does not mean Vedic literature is not also good for them. They benefit according to their ability to accept good instruction. Therefore it is the duty of the civilized people to convince others that the direction given by Lord Sri Krishna and His bona fide, saintly devotees will be best for them. This is called preaching.

In the case of the initial subject of this essay, the trustworthiness of women, the consensus of Vedic literature is that women should not be given independence like men. According to Lord Manu, that means women are generally to be kept under the protection of a father, husband, or a son. Na striyam svatantram arhati.

As seen from recent developments in the Western countries, especially the #MeToo movement, though a veneer of equality can be maintained for some time, it cannot be permanent. What the #MeToo movement has shown is that men and women mixing freely in society will surely bring about mass scandal and cause extensive social disturbance.

What the MS-13 street gang’s experience with women shows is that confirmation of Vedic wisdom sometimes comes from the most unlikely of places. Yet it is nevertheless remarkable that some of those officially preaching Lord Krishna’s message find a way to avoid truths like this.

The Limits of (Social) Science

The American Psyhciatric Association has produced this position statement about “Same Sex Unions” (gay / lesbian marriage):

The American Psychiatric Association supports the legal recognition of same sex unions and their associated legal rights, benefits, and responsibilities.“Action Item: Position Statement Proposed by APA Committee on Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Issues Position Statement on Same Sex Unions (Approved by Board of Trustees, December 2000)

If prestigious organizations like the American Psychiatric Association can be so wrong in spite of their methodologies, then why is psychiatry, psychology and other similar social sciences being more and more employed by ISKCON? In greater society social policy and law is increasingly being formulated by professionals and academics who propound these grossly wrong, immoral conclusions. America and other affluent Western countries have already experienced the vicious effects of their influence.

Judging by the stated position and terrible influence of these so-called sciences, as devotees we should oppose at all levels the use of psychology, psychiatry and other similar disciplines as tools for shaping policy within ISKCON. Otherwise, it is not unreasonable to expect ISKCON to be misguided in the same way that its host cultures have been misguided.

(First published 17 May 2004)