ISKCON, GBC, & Justice


Bir Krishna Goswami: I’d like to ask some questions with regards your recent paper about the ISKCON justice system. If you’d like, please summarize the paper before we take some questions.

H.D. Goswami: I’ll begin with this idea. Justice itself—the idea that people should be treated fairly, that people receive rewards and punishments according to what they actually deserve within a framework of reasonable law and principles—is not merely a western idea. It’s not that in the East, India, or in Vedic culture, people simply bowed down to higher authorities mindlessly.

In Sanskrit, perhaps the most important word for justice is dharma. And Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita that He comes to this world to rescue dharma when adharma, injustice, is flourishing. So justice is at the heart of Vedic culture. The idea that people should be treated fairly is certainly a prerequisite to truly honoring everyone as a spiritual, divine being.

Now in the West, according to various philosophers—whether its John Locke or going back to earlier teachers, classical period or even contemporary—justice has often been centrally associated with the notion of equality, along with the idea that we are all equal because we are all equally part of God or all equally under God.

You find this, for example, in the American Declaration of Independence, where Thomas Jefferson said that “we hold these truths to be self-evident.” Self-evident holds the highest epistemological status in philosophy, as something that proves itself just by the way it presents itself to our perception.

By the way, that’s the same exact word Lord Caitanya used. Again, it’s not just a western idea. When Lord Caitanya was speaking to Prakasananda Sarasvati and Bhattacarya, he said that the Vedas are self-evidently true, so they don’t require extrinsic forms of proof…