An Open Letter to an ISKCON GBC

An-open-Letter-from-Swami-NarasinghaAn Open Letter from Swami B.G. Narasiṅgha

by Swami B.G. Narasingha

'An Open Letter to an ISKCON GBC was written by Swami Narasingha in November 2017, in relation to Māhāraja's article, ‘Gaura-Rādhā-Mādhava and the Temple of Misunderstanding’

Daṇḍavats ________Swami,

All glories to Śrī Śrī Guru and Gaurāṅga.

Received your email and noted everything carefully. I think these topics can be discussed in more detail when we meet face to face, but here are a few comments that you might think upon in the meantime. Also attached are photos of the original Rādhā-Govinda in New York, the present little Gaura-Rādhā-Govinda in New York, Gaura-Rādhā-Govinda in Kolkata, Gaura Rādhā-Mādhava in Māyāpura, Gaura-Rādhā-Giridhāri at Iskcon Purī, Gaura-Rādhā-Rādhānātha at Iskcon Durban South Africa, Gaura-Rādhā-Kanāiyalāl at Kanāi-naṭaśālā, Iskcon Bengal, Gaura-Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa at Udampur, Iskcon Jammu & Kashmir and Gaura-Rādhā-Muralīdhāra installed on 4th Oct 2017 at the Iskcon Bhakti Center in New York City.

The original Rādhā-Govinda Deities in New York were a gift from Gāyātrī Devī, the Queen of Jaipur. They were established during a paṇḍal program in Jaipur and then sent to New York with instructions by Śrīla Prabhupāda to be installed on the altar. The Gaura Rādhā-Govinda Deities in Kolkata were established during the time, and under the direction, of Śrīla Prabhupāda. The little Deities of Gaura-Rādhā-Govinda in New York which are presently on the altar, were established after the time of Śrīla Prabhupāda, but by whom, I do not know.

The worship of Gaura-Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Deities was not stressed by Śrīla Prabhupāda for Iskcon centers outside Bengal, yet we see that the Gaura-Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Deity conception is being introduced by Iskcon at many of their centers around the world. Śrīla Prabhupāda did stress this by his actions in Māyāpura and Kolkata – the two main seats of the Gauḍīya sampradāya, but not for elsewhere.

So, how is it that the Gaura-Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Deity conception is being introduced worldwide by Iskcon, yet it is being neglected at Iskcon Māyāpura where Śrīla Prabhupāda established the first Gaura-Rādhā-Mādhava Deities in Iskcon? This, in my opinion, is a very curious question.

You have said, “You have to admit, other than having Gaura-Rādhā-Mādhava as his personal deities, Śrīla Prabhupāda did not stress, either in writing or example in other places…”

Dear Mahārāja, this is an insufficient argument simply because there are many things that Iskcon does or says that were never ‘stressed’ in words, actions or writing by Śrīla Prabhupāda, and in some cases, are complete fabrications.

For example: Prabhupāda never stressed that, “My books are the law books for the next ten thousand years.” He only said it once and Tamāla-Kṛṣṇa Gosvāmī and Rameśvara were the only persons to hear him say it. Yet, this quote has been stated countless, countless times by Iskcon leaders, as if it were the greatest thing Prabhupāda had ever said.

The aṣṭa-sakhīs at Iskcon Māyāpura are another example. Prabhupāda supposedly gave the instructions to install the aṣṭa-sakhīs to Bhāvānanda, yet he never mentioned it to anyone else or in any other place.

Then there is the issue of the famous saying, “Books are the basis, Preaching is the essence, Purity is the force and Utility is the principle.” Arguably, this is one of the most famous sayings in Iskcon. Yet His Divine Grace never once uttered those words, nor authorized any devotee to turn that saying into a motto for Iskcon. It was Rameśvara Svāmī who found that little saying in a book of Chinese poetry. He read the little poem to Prabhupāda, but Prabhupāda made no comment whatsoever. Yet, you ask the average devotee in Iskcon and he/she will say that Prabhupāda had said it, as if Prabhupāda himself invented the statement.

Prabhupāda also never gave the meaning of the gopī-bhāva sannyāsa-mantra to anyone. Any conception in Iskcon of the sannyāsa-mantra comes from outside Iskcon, not from Prabhupāda. But in most cases, the sannyāsīs just mindlessly chant their sannyāsa-mantra with no conception at all.

Furthermore, the only meaning of brahma-gāyātrī that Prabhupāda gave was that the gāyātrī worships the sun-god. That conception is the most general meaning amongst Hindus. It is certainly not the conception of brahma-gāyātrī in the Gauḍīya sampradāya. Yet, that was the only meaning Prabhupāda ever gave.

Prabhupāda also never mentioned who was the dīkṣā-guru of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. So should we assume that Bhaktivinoda did not have a dīkṣā-guru? Prabhupāda also did not mention who was the dīkṣā-guru of Gaura Kiśora Dāsa Bābājī. Prabhupāda did not explain how there are huge gaps in our sampradāya, such as the hundred years gap between Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa and Jagannātha Dāsa Bābājī.

Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura stressed over and over again in his writings the preeminent importance of the daśa-mūla tattva, yet Prabhupāda never mentioned the daśa-mūla by Bhaktivinoda. Ironically, Iskcon preachers give seminars on the daśa-mūla although Prabhupāda did not stress it, or even mentioned it.

And, as I pointed out in my article, Śrīla Prabhupāda never called the temple in Māyāpura the Adbhūta Mandira. He called it the Planetarium. Yet even today, Iskcon leaders insist on calling their temple the Adbhūta Mandira. The Adbhūta Mandira is actually the temple envisioned by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and built by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta at Yogapīṭha in 1933. Ignoring facts, history and philosophy, Iskcon leaders invent things just to further their institutional gains.

Probably the most powerful statement attributed to Śrīla Prabhupāda is, “Everything is in my books.” Yet despite this, the Iskcon leaders historically have always had to go outside Prabhupāda’s books, lectures, conversations, letters, etc. to resolve the many questions that continue to arise. We, on the other hand, having taken Prabhupāda’s direction to approach Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja in matters of philosophical enquiry, never have to go elsewhere to answer our questions. Having rejected Prabhupāda’s instructions to approach Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja, Iskcon leaders have in the past and at present continue to seek their guidance/siksa outside Iskcon, but from various dubious and bogus sources such as the Copper Plate Bābā, Haridāsa Sena Bābā, Mādhava Dāsa Bābā, Ananta Dāsa Bābā, Fakir Mohān, Bhakti-caraṇa Dāsa Bābā, Rameśa Bābā and others. The Iskcon leaders are also prone to take śikṣā from the leaders of other sampradāyas who do not accept the divinity of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, such as the Madhvas at Udupi and the Nimbārkas in Vṛndāvana – not to mention the employment of exorcists/ghost busters to drive away the demons from Iskcon.

At present, of the approximately 103 sannyāsīs in Iskcon many worship, either personally or in their temples, the govardhana-śīla, yet we do not find anywhere that Śrīla Prabhupāda authorized such worship. However, looking at the greater picture of the Gauḍīya sampradāya we indeed see that the worship of the govardhana-śīla is most authorized. The only mention of worshipping stones from Govardhana by Śrīla Prabhupāda is found in the Kṛṣṇa Book as follows:

“The identity of Kṛṣṇa and Govardhana is still honored, and great devotees take rocks from Govardhana Hill, and worship them exactly as they worship the Deity of Kṛṣṇa in the temple.” (Kṛṣṇa Book – Worshipping Govardhana Hill)

According to Prabhupāda’s personal servant at the time, Hari Śauri Prabhu, Prabhupāda said that, “Our Jagat-Guru Svāmī knows our philosophy very well.” But are they, the GBC, willing to accept that, or will they reject that because Prabhupāda didn’t stress it? The answer is obvious – they reject it. Give a dog a bad name, then shoot it!

Did Śrīla Prabhupāda ever say what to do in future if the guru falls down/bloops? No, he did not, and unfortunately that disaster has befallen many devotees in Iskcon.

There are many things of importance that Śrīla Prabhupāda did not stress, explain or even touch upon and the list goes on and on, but no time here.

Not to rattle anyone’s head too hard, but I can’t help but mention here two, amongst several, of the absolutely bogus activities welcomed by Iskcon in their temples that were completely abhorred by Śrīla Prabhupāda. The first that comes to mind is Iskcon having invited the bogus Hindu guru, Amma Śrī Karuṇāmayī to speak at the Iskcon temple in Washington DC. Then there was the big event of inviting India’s number one sahajiyā and Bhāgavata reciter, Murāri Bapu, to give a seven day Bhāgavata discourse at Iskcon Māyāpura called the Bhagāvata-sapta. Need I remind you how much Śrīla Prabhupāda detested the idea of Bhāgavata-saptas? The event was for collecting money and the result was that many Iskcon sannyāsīs have now adopted the method of Bhāgavata-saptas as their preaching technique.

In this regard we quote here Śrīla Prabhupāda in a letter to Haṁsdūta Prabhu:

“Regarding the Sikh gentleman’s request to use our temple for performing some Sikh religious ceremony: You know that we have refused even the Hindu people to hold demigod worship in our temple, and what to speak of the Sikhs, who are not to the standard of Vedic principle. As a matter of fact, we should not allow anyone to hold any function in our temple…” (Letter to Haṁsdūta, October 10th, 1968)

However, for the sake of money collecting, that instruction by His Divine Grace has been thrown to the wind – or was it simply because he had not given it enough ‘stress’ by repeating the instruction a dozen times or more?? I guess we will never know…

In closing, I again ask, how is it that the Gaura-Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Deity conception is being introduced worldwide by Iskcon, yet it is being neglected at Iskcon Māyāpura where Śrīla Prabhupāda established the first Gaura-Rādhā-Mādhava Deities in Iskcon?

I personally fail to see how you, or anyone else, can argue against the position of giving preeminent importance to the worship of Śrī Śrī Gaura-Rādhā-Mādhava at Iskcon’s world headquarters in Māyāpura. But then again, I’m not institutionalized and therefore I have no commitment to follow in the line of failed decisions and misconceptions.

We’ll talk more the next time we meet.

Hoping this finds you well.

Your servant,

Swami Narasiṅgha



The full letter sent to Swami Narasingha by the GBC member is as follows:

Dear Mahārāja,

Daṇḍavats. All glories to Śrīla Prabhupāda.

I read your original article, and even if I can’t succeed, I am making a plea, this time stronger, to take into consideration your point on Gaura-Rādhā-Mādhava. I’ll let you know if I make any headway.

Although you may not be inclined, I think a statement from you, with evidences, including any quotes from Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvāti Ṭhākura, and/or Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja, about the necessity of showing the highest conception via Gaura-Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, without the other remarks, may allow me to go farther.

As per our talks years ago in Mulki, which I still have, I was trying to achieve a platform of dialogue, and in spite of some elements, many are desirous of doing so, as we did with ______ Svāmī. You have to admit, other than having Gaura-Rādhā-Mādhava as his personal deities, Śrīla Prabhupāda did not stress, either in writing or example in other places, other than NYC (where there is Gaura-Rādhā-Govinda, but I’m not sure that it was always that way, maybe you can confirm). He established Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa and Gaura-Nitāi.

Anyway, I agree with you, and I will also ride them again about the sign (ISCON), which you have rightly observed, is an embarrassment to Iskcon.

You have a lot to contribute, but changing a big society is not so easy, but it can be done. Hope that your health is good, and to see you soon.

Your servant,

……. Svāmī

An-open-Letter-from-Swami-NarasinghaAn Open Letter from Swami B.G. Narasiṅgha

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“Guruvayur” was an article written by Śrīla B.G. Narasiṅgha Mahārāja in 1989 for ‘Clarion Call’ magazine, Vol.2, issue 3. Narasiṅgha Mahārāja explains the history of the famous temple in Kerala as well as some of its peculiarities.

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