Core, fruit or skin, where do I fit in?
I have been writing in the last three posts about self-identifying oneself as a member of ISKCON and how one can understand where one fits into the movement. The main idea being that its the individual who chooses to identify himself or herself as being a member. This self-identification comes about when one’s current interests and needs are met by ISKCON, and tends to disappear when one’s needs are not met.
Membership of ISKCON might be estimated by questions like these:
1. Do I find the philosophical teachings (a) interesting (b) logically admissible (c) intellectually satisfying (d) relevant to my life right now (e) helpful
2. Do the daily spiritual practises such as Japa, Kirtan, Deity worship, Srimad Bhagavatam study and so on (to the degree that I can currently practise them) give me (a) inner peace (b) satisfaction (c) reassurance (d) upliftment (e) happiness (f) enlightenment (g) mystical experience
3. Does participation in my local group/centre/temple gatherings bring me a greater level of spirituality than practising by myself?
4. Do I have a new set of ‘spiritual friends’ as a result of my beliefs, practises and attendance at gatherings? Are they people that I can respect? Do they help me have an increased sense of self-worth? Do they inspire me to strive for greater spiritual achievement? Do I trust them?
5. Is there one person, out of all my new friends, who seems to be enjoying the rewards of long-term spiritual commitment and who inspires me? Does he/she help me to overcome doubts and lethargy? Does he/she offer me relevant life guidance? Does he/she encourage me when I’m apprehensive of taking the next step forward in my spiritual life?
6. Do I share fully the life values espoused by most of the members? Are those values supportive of, and inclusive of, the values that I have already adopted?
7. Do I agree with what the members of ISKCON are doing in their attempts to share the knowledge, practises and values with the public? Am I happy with the image that is projected? Am I happy to be known as a member of ISKCON by my friends, family and work colleagues?
8. Am I willing to volunteer my time, physical labour, my professional expertise, my money, to support ISKCON’s efforts to reach out to the public?
9. Am I willing to volunteer my time, labour, expertise and/or money to support the maintenance of my local centre/group and the good work it does for me and members like me?
10. Do I regard myself as being part of an organizational structure beyond my local group/centre/temple? Am I aware of ISKCON’s international governing body and the internal bye-laws of ISKCON? Are they relevant to my life? Do I agree with them? Do I feel co-operative towards ISKCON leaders?
Hopefully these questions will stimulate some further thoughts on self-identity of membership.