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Preservation, Adaptation and Popular Culture


Question

Isn’t it dangerous to modify our presentation simply to accommodate the whims of popular culture? Give ’em what they want and this is where it can lead to:
“Parish priest leads wedding flash-mob disco dance” (BBC News)

Answer

H.D. Goswami Profile Picture

Two important points:

  1. I have spoken endlessly of the dangers of extremes. We could also watch YouTube videos of extremely ‘orthodox’ groups that become totally irrelevant.
  2. I have consistently stated that the Bhagavad-gita‘s standard for external conduct is sattva-guna, not ‘whatever is “hip” at the moment’ nor ‘whatever Indians do.’ Disco dancing is NOT sattva-guna. It includes erotic moves, passionate music etc. Similarly, much Indian food is not sattva-guna, including much that is cooked and offered in temples. According to the Gita, it is clearly rajo-guna.

Last year, a Rathayatra festival in Australia featured Bollywood dancers, who also engaged the crowd in dancing. The dance moves were highly erotic, at times indecent. And this at Rathayatra. Similarly, another Rathayatra festival in Europe featured a man and woman doing a show of yoga moves. The woman was dressed in skin tight clothes over her ENTIRE body. But since Bollywood and yoga come from India, we can ignore the sattva-guna requirement, as we do with Indian food. (I watched films of both Rathayatras and have often choked on Indian style maha-prasadam.)

De facto standard for many devotees: Indian is good, even if rajas or tamas. Western is bad, even if sattva. Now there’s a spiritual science! But after all, as many devotees believe, whatever the gunas, only our adherence to Indian customs can save us from a steep descent into barbarism.