“You will show your love for me by cooperating together.” This was one of Srila Prabhupada’s last instructions to his disciples and to all of us. In the material world there is always disagreement and quarrel amongst people. Sincere friendship and cooperation amongst devotees is therefore extremely pleasing to Guru and Krishna. This is confirmed by the Lord himself when He addresses the Pracetas:
„I am very much pleased by the friendly relationships among you. All of you are engaged in one occupation—devotional service. I am so pleased with your mutual friendship that I wish you all good fortune.“ 1
The Pracetas had performed severe austerities together and were able to maintain a spirit of cooperation. Such unity is only possible when Krishna, Krishna’s satisfaction, is kept in the center, otherwise not.
„In the material world such unity is not possible. Even though people may officially unite, they all have different interests. In the United Nations, for instance, all the nations have their particular national ambitions, and consequently they cannot be united.“ 2
Srila Prabhupada called United Nations "assembly of barking dogs."3, because you cannot be united on the material platform. If you maintain the idea that "I am American," "I am Indian," then there is no question of United Nations. United Nations is possible when we give up our wrong identity and see ourselves as spiritual souls and our relationship to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, our common father. But even within a spiritual community cooperation might be challenging, especially if its members lack spiritual realizations. However, for those who are actually serving the Lord, there cannot be disunity:
„Disunity between individual souls is so strong within this material world that even in a society of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, members sometimes appear disunited due to their having different opinions and leaning toward material things. Actually, in Kṛṣṇa consciousness there cannot be two opinions. There is only one goal: to serve Kṛṣṇa to one's best ability. If there is some disagreement over service, such disagreement is to be taken as spiritual. Those who are actually engaged in the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead cannot be disunited in any circumstance.“ 4
Sometimes we hear devotees arguing about which service is more important or how to perform a particular service best. Pujaris will emphasize that we need to understand how the Krishna Deity is non-different from the Lord and we therefore have to maintain the highest standard of worship. A sankirtana devotee may quote Srila Prabhuapda who also said that preaching is the most important business in our society and that even if we have to close our temples but Harinam Sankirtana should never be stopped. In this way there might be disagreements on how to best serve the Lord, but as Srila Prabhupada points out here, at the end of the day we all just want to please our Lord and therefore there is actually no disagreement, we all agree that Krishna should be satisfied.
But how to apply this principle in real life? trnad api su-nicena —One should have a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige and should be ready to offer all respect to others.
Unless we respect each other, appreciating each other’s service and endeavor in Krishna Consciousness, unless we try to understand the other person’s point of view and acknowledge that their opinion is also valid —how can there be cooperation?
Unless we take a humble position, understanding our own shortcomings and do not take ourselves and our opinions so important —how can there be cooperation?
Unless we give up the desire to be respected, unless we give up the need to be always right, unless we learn how to tolerate and not immediately feel disturbed and personally offended just because someone else expresses a different opinion - how can there be cooperation?
Real unity makes the Supreme Personality of Godhead very happy and willing to award all kinds of benedictions to His devotees! Is this not encouragement enough to learn the art of cooperation?
1 - Srimad Bhagavatam 4.30.8
3 - Morning Walk, Bombay, April 25,1977
2,4 - Srimad Bhagavatam 4.30.8, Purport