Conversation with an Iskcon GBC (07/11/07)
Daṇḍavats G______ Swami,
All glories to Śrīla Prabhupāda.
OK, lets discuss these points via email, but it would be much easier and more effective if we discussed in person and you recorded it also. Possibly that can be done on your way to Māyāpura this coming year.
1. Problems with ISKCON’s policies and ideology:
A. Isolation from other Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas. ISKCON has practically no intervention with other Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, and seems to have the opinion that such association is not necessary. However, at times of difficulty or need, they went to other sources to seek advice or assistance, but, once taken, they disassociated themselves from the senior Vaisnava they approached, an even offended them.
– approaching Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja for Śrīla Prabhupāda’s samādhi. Also, seeking his allegiance on different occasions.
– They went to Śrīpāda Puri Mahārāja for clarification about deity worship on many occasions, not knowing the many details and procedures.
– They approached Śrīpāda Śrīdhara Mahārāja many times for clarification of philosophical matters.
Yes, and they also requested my help for preaching effectively against the _____ Mahārāja misconception. Not to mention how we defeated the Madhvas from Udupi who were attacking Śrīla Prabhupāda and the sampradāya. And not to mention how we preached against several groups of sahajiyās in Vṛndāvana and defended the dignity of Prabhupāda, Iskcon and our sampradāya. We have on numerous occasions also helped individuals in Iskcon who needed information on a particular topic so that they could better preach against misconceptions, but at the end of the day myself and others like me are still looked upon as enemies of Iskcon. Why?
At the time when we defeated the Madhvas at Udupi one of Prabhupāda’s disciples (Ś_______ Prabhu] wrote the GBC and raised the idea that Iskcon should make some effort to show their appreciation for our having saved the dignity of Śrīla Prabhupāda, but the attitude of J______Swami and other GBCs was as if they had been requested to garland a pig. It simply wasn’t possible for them to recognize that we were serving Śrīla Prabhupāda — what to speak of doing a service that they themselves could not do.
Iskcon leaders suffer from what we call ‘iscon-centricity’ i.e., they think that Iskcon is the center of our sampradāya and thus they are the principle authority to which all others must submit. Their conception is iscon-centric (derived from the word ‘eurocentric’) and the outcome dittos that of the Catholic Church during the dark ages. What will future historians write? They may write that after the disappearance of the illuminating ācārya, A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda, his GBC dragged his institution, and thus the world, back into the dark ages.
In reality, Iskcon is moving further along the path of becoming an apa-sampradāya every day. By comparison to the true wealth of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism, Iskcon is spiritually bankrupt. And mainly because they have distanced themselves from the core of the sampradāya.
In their zeal to be devoted to Śrīla Prabhupāda, they have tried to superimpose Prabhupāda’s position over that of Bhaktisiddhānta, Bhaktivinoda and even Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī. Although they will probably never realize it until it is much too late, their iscon-centric and prabhupāda-centric conceptions are their two greatest enemies. As Bhaktivinoda once said, “Society consciousness is the great enemy of self-realization.”
This issue of society consciousness vs God consciousness was nicely explained by Śrīla Śrīidhara Mahārāja in ‘Śrī Guru and His Grace’. But Iskcon has missed that message completely, even though it was clearly given almost 27 years ago (over a quarter of a century).
B. I need help on these points, since I just wrote down a word or two at our meeting, and I can’t remember what you were illustrating to me) Teachings from Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Mahārāja:
– Śyāma Mañjarī – maṭha ?? (can’t remember the point)
The point was that due to not being in touch with the subtle side of our sampradāya, Iskcon thinks of Prabhupāda as having been born in Kolkata. If you stretch it you can say that Kolkata is on the banks of the Gaṅgā (thus spiritual). But the spirituality of the place of Prabhupāda’s birth is much deeper than that. Prabhupāda was born in Śyāma Mañjarī Kuñja. Kolkata as it were is the birth place of Bhāgavatācārya, one of the associates of Mahāprabhu. This Bhāgavatācārya in kṛṣṇa-līlā is Śyāma Mañjarī and thus Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura called Kolkata, ‘Śyāma Mañjarī Kuñja’ — his place of service.
But without some spiritual vision (the ability to connect the dots) the above information looks like nothing important, but in reality it is an important stepping stone toward a disciple’s understanding of the spiritual locus-standi of Śrīla Prabhupāda.
– Sarasvatī Jayaśrī ?? (also can’t remember the point)
Sarasvatī-Jayaśrī is the authorized biography of Bhaktisiddhānta that was written and approved during his lifetime. It deals with many important issues of Bhaktisiddhānta’s initiation and other controversial topics. Without the information in Sarasvatī-Jayaśrī, Iskcon is not sufficiently able to answer many questions and sometimes even questions raised by its own introspective members. Sarasvatī-Jayaśrī is a secret weapon — a secret weapon in that it contains powerful information to defeat the anti-parties and also secret in that Iskcon never heard of it because they are preoccupied with their own marginal successes.
– Brahma Samhita 73 Edition (SP criticized) (I remember this had something to do with the idea that ISKCON thinks it is a commentary by BSST, but it is really BSST recounting Bhaktivinoda’s commentary.
Yes, Iskcon thinks that Bhaktisiddhānta wrote the purports to Brahma-saṁhitā when in fact he did not. The English edition of Brahma-saṁhitā that was published by Bhaktisiddhānta in 1933 are the translations of Bhaktivinoda’s Bengali summary translations of Jīva Gosvāmī’s original Sanskrit commentaries. Bhaktisiddhānta did not do the translation work. The translation work was done by Professor Sanyal and Bhakti Pradīpa Tīrtha Mahārāja. But, as the senior editor, Bhaktisiddhānta’s name was put on the cover. That was the style in those days. The disciples gave credit to their guru for the service they were performing.
In the original introduction to Brahma-saṁhitā written by Bhaktisiddhānta in 1933, he explains who translated the book. But in later editions of the book, parts of Bhaktisiddhānta’s introduction were omitted. Those omitted portions tell who actually translated the book.
When Prabhupāda mentioned (hearsay) that Brahma-saṁhitā was changed after his guru’s disappearance, he was referring to the later edition wherein parts of the introduction were omitted. The rest of the Brahma-saṁhitā is as it was, without change from 1933. Iskcon however published the later edition and not the original because they felt that they knew better than any one else. But actually they didn’t know the history at all. Thus they published the edition of a book that Prabhupāda had criticized.
Why was the introduction to Brahma-saṁhitā changed? Because there was fighting between the maṭhas and one side wanted to minimize the other. For similar reasons, we have seen that during the time of Rāmeśvara in LA that the database of Prabhupāda’s conversations was changed to minimize Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja. Certain reassuring words spoken by Prabhupāda about Śrīdhara Mahārāja as a pure devotee were removed from the database because a few conditioned souls thought they were defending Prabhupāda. Again, this dittos the Catholic Church who has falsified and changed many records to eliminate many of the purer sub-branches of Christianity — even to the point of eliminating people, which could bring us to the topic of Sulocana’s murder and how a certain Iskcon member (presently acting as GBC) was complacent in the heinous act. But lets not go that route at this time.
– BSST changed the Guru Gāyatrī mantra.
Yes, previously to Bhaktisiddhānta, the guru-mantra and guru-gāyatrī in our sampradāya were different. This topic is fully explained in our book Gāyatrī-mantrārtha-dīpikā, Chapter Four (Śrī Akhaṇḍa Guru Tattva, the Principle of Guru in śrī Guru Gāyatrī).
C. There is a perception amongst ISKCON leaders that Kṛṣṇa is only working through ISKCON.
Yes, but from outside the question is, “Is Kṛṣṇa working through Iskcon, or is it māyā who dominates Iskcon.” I guess it depends on what side of the fence you are standing.
– Chastity beyond the institution, which is born from substance, not form.
The institution (Iskcon society) exists to promote Kṛṣṇa consciousness and not the other way around. In today’s world, Iskcon leaders make decisions based on what they think will be good for the ‘Iskcon society’ even if it sometimes means sacrificing something that is good for Kṛṣṇa consciousness. They simply have their priorities wrong.
– When there is a disagreement, we need to go to sādhu and śāstra.
Yes, guru, sādhu and śāstra must be consulted. For example, when godbrothers disagree – as they do about the fall of the jīva – when the guru is not present, they should approach śāstra. When reading śāstra, if they are still unable to reconcile their differences of understanding, they should approach a sādhu. But because they are in disagreement with each other, they must approach a higher sādhu from
our sampradāya for clarification. They did this by approaching Śrīdhara Mahārāja, but when the sādhu’s verdict sided with the minority, the leaders in Iskcon then rejected Śrīdhara Mahārāja and went on to internalize one of the biggest misconceptions ever manifest in our sampradāya i.e., the misconception that the jīva fell from the līlā of Kṛṣṇa.
D. Why senior men, and others, leave and have left.
– Some left, and others pushed out, up against the wall (hear their versions, not just what others may describe).
Yes, some left, but most were pushed out or simply left because they could not tolerate any longer what was happening in Iskcon, i.e., offenses to pure devotees, misrepresentation of the philosophy, misrepresentation of the position of the guru, foppery, debauchery, child abuse, murder and a lot of other despicable things.
Once they were outside the gate, the simplest thing for Iskcon leaders to do was to demonize these devotees. Propaganda has always been a strong point in Iskcon, but unfortunately that expertise has been turned against its own members and well-wishers.
– Better to let the potential problems happen (regarding a devotee’s presence in ISKCON, or his association with it) and then deal with it, or them, than to push any and everyone out, fearing that they may cause a problem.
There are at least several examples where Prabhupāda even kept members in Iskcon who by every right should have been expelled because he knew that outside the society they could cause more trouble. B_____ Swami is a good example of this. Instead of kicking him out, Prabhupāda kicked him ‘upstairs’. In time, B_____undid himself and he had no recourse but to leave Iskcon and he did minimum damage on the way out. But if he had been kicked out, he very well could have become intensely inimical towards Iskcon and caused many problems.
However, there are other cases such as those like Pradyumna wherein because of his letter to the GBC in 1978/79, he was kicked out of Iskcon. Later, years later, it was decided that Pradyumna’s letter contained wise advice for the society. Had he been tolerated and given a proper understanding instead of being railroaded, he may have never left Iskcon and may have been a productive member even today. But we will never know because he got the old “our way or the highway” treatment.
Around that same time Y_____ and others were railroaded out of Iskcon, even Dr. Sharma who had been put in charge of the gurukula in Vṛndāvana personally by Prabhupāda was so mistreated that he eventually just packed his bags and left. Now Dr. Sharma has left this world and without Iskcon ever rectifying their relationship with him. Then there is P_____ Swami who has to have one of the most
bizarre stories of all. A story too long to go into here, but when he got the boot, several hundred devotees in Central and South America went with him. Were they all demons?
Don’t forget Tripurāri Mahārāja and how he got the double talk and then the boot. Then there is Bhakti Abhaya Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja, a classic story of abuse if ever I heard one. In fact, we still have tape recordings of a GBC member telling his disciples that there would be no karma if they were to kill Bhakti Abhaya Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja!
Bhakti Abhaya Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja also is no longer in this world, and Iskcon never approached him to rectify the situation before he passed away. In fact, his disciples in Hungary are continually mortified by the attitude of S____ Swami and his disciples. At this point, I am starting to get a little pissed off! Why? Because the list of abused devotees goes into the hundreds (possibly thousands), yet Iskcon leaders are so arrogant and full of themselves that they have conveniently forgotten all their atrocities upon their godbrothers and godsisters.
Even the ‘infamous’ N____ Mahārāja was once a friend to Iskcon, but was turned into their most formidable enemy — not by his own doing or design, but due to his mistreatment by Iskcon leaders. Yes, Iskcon created N____ Mahārāja. And N____ Mahārāja has captured at least 1000 or more Iskcon devotees from around the world — as well as P____ Mahārāja has captured at least 500 Iskcon devotees in Italy and Spain.
In this way, many good men and women have been alienated from Iskcon — good men and women that could have rendered years of service and helped to fulfill Prabhupāda’s dream of seeing Kṛṣṇa consciousness in every town and village of the world.
But hey! “Who gives a goddamn about a few useless godbrothers and godsisters? They were not sincere anyway! We are sincere! We carry the mace! We will fulfill Prabhupāda’s dream without them!” That in a nutshell has been the mentality of Iskcon leaders for the past 30 years and Iskcon is suffering on account of it. How pleased is Śrīla Prabhupāda in all of this? You tell me.
– Such solutions may be found in books by Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja and others, a broader point of reference.
Could be, if one has the eyes to see and the courage to implement such ideas. But follow that road, Mahārāja, and you could find yourself out here with the rest of us.
E. ISKCON is frequently not accommodating. Difficult to have any point of view distinct from the posted policy, or to express one’s doubts or to question.
No, no, Iskcon is accomodating — they just accomodate all the wrong things. For example, there is a place for B____ to serve in Iskcon, but there is no place for men like Tripurāri Mahārāja. B____ on one hand did wonderful service to Prabhupāda, but on the other did more to disgrace the seat of Vyāsa, more-so than any other person in sampradāya history. Tripurāri Mahārāja also did wonderful service for Śrīla Prabhupāda and has continued with that service every day of his life and has never disgraced the seat of Vyāsa. He remains a dynamic and successful preacher but there is no place for him in Iskcon. Why? Because the Iskcon leadership is simply unfit —it can accommodate debauched souls, but not dynamic preachers. If Iskcon continues in this way then in a hundred years no one will be able to remember their name.
2. Unauthorized books: eg Advaita Prakāśa, Nityānanda Caritāmṛta
(note: maybe you can list others if you think of them)
Yes, Iskcon rejected the books of Śrīdhara Mahārāja, but Iskcon has accepted bogus books written by sahajiyās like Advaita Prakāśa and Nityānanda Caritāmṛta. Why? Because if you do not fill your cup with
milk, you will fill your cup with ink!
What Iskcon has never realized is that the next pure devotee to succeed Prabhupāda was Śrīdhara Mahārāja. The real succession of the paramparā has nothing to do with what society/temple organization one belongs to. Those who are surrendered, who are chosen by Kṛṣṇa, become the next ācārya. Iskcon will be hard pressed to say that Śrīdhara Mahārāja was not that ācārya and that the ‘chosen eleven’ were. Just look at the history of what happened and that speaks for itself. Remember, it is Iskcon that is trying to find its way and not the followers of Śrīdhara Mahārāja. Certain troubles may attack any of us while in this material world, but Iskcon is being attacked by misconception at the core that threatens its very existence.
3. Pradhāna Mūrti – The main Deity of Māyāpura is Mahāprabhu Rādhā-Mādhava. This is the unique contribution of BSST. Quintessential. Also,logo on ISKCON Māyāpura gate reflects this conception. There is no picture of the original Deity on the website.
That is a long story. But in short, first Prabhupāda installed small Rādhā-Mādhava and later on arranged for a Deity of Mahāprabhu to stand by Their side. No one seems to have taken notice of this but that Deity arrangement is Śrī Śrī Gaura-Rādhā-Mādhava. This particular Deity arrangement is the special contribution of Bhaktisiddhānta for our sampradaya and epitomizes the śloka;
mahāprabhu śrī caitanya, rādhā-kṛṣṇa nahe anya,
rūpānuga janera jīvana
“Śrī Caitanya Mahaprabhu is non-different from Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa and He is the life and soul of the followers of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī.”
Thus the Deity of Śrī Śrī Gaura-Rādhā-Mādhava personifies the highest conception of theism that has ever been revealed to mankind.
At some point, on one day, Prabhupāda is supposed to have said to B_____ that he wanted to install the Aṣṭa-sakhīs. No letters, no tape recording, no one else present in the room — only B_____ (almost 36 years ago) heard Prabhupāda say this.
I don’t have a problem with what B______ says Prabhupāda said, although if I did, I don’t see why, under the circumstances of his poor record, doubting his words should be considered outrageous.
At a time in the 80’s (also corresponding to the height of offenses to Śrīdhara Mahārāja and to the height of foppery and debauchery among the gurus) the eight sakhis were gradually added and the original Deity arrangement was overshadowed.
Eventually the Deities Themselves de-manifested and even Prabhupāda’s childhood Deities disappeared from the altar. Of course, all this was blamed on the dacoits. Thus no self examination or introspection ever took place. How this had happened? Why this had happened? New Deities were purchased in the market and business resumed as usual — less the original form of Rādhārāṇī. Not good Mahārāja, not good!
All this happened at a time when Iskcon leaders were cursing Śrīdhara Mahārāja (sometimes with the choicest of four letter words), calling him a māyāvādī and a demon. When actually he was revealing the meaning of sannyāsa-mantra and brahma-gāyatrī from the core of his heart taking us exclusively to the domain of the glorious service of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. In our opinion Mahārāja, these offenses caused the disappearance of Rādhārāṇī from the womb of Iskcon and we doubt that She has ever returned.
4. Advaita’s beard – Although Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja also refers to Advaita with a beard, Śrīla Prabhupāda is being criticized for us having it
(This may be a point of debate, as others have specific references where Prabhupāda said to put it)
Prabhupāda said like that and also Śrīdhara Mahārāja said like that. So lets do it this way. We quote Śrīdhara Mahārāja to get Prabhupāda out of a jam, but after that he returns to being demonized along with all the other godbrothers of Śrīla Prabhupāda. Isn’t that the way it is usually done?
5. Jīva issue
Already touched on that one.
6. Counteracting the standard argument, “We can’t let others do service in ISKCON, they may introduce something that is not conducive to ISKCON
Answer: Many “bona-fide” ISKCON members have introduced things that are not bona-fide in any sense of the word:
– Copper-plate Bābā
– Wearing karmī dress, listening to Karmī music
– Over tolerance of homosexuality etc. etc.
Yes, yes, yes! More and more ink. Śrīdhara Mahārāja was rejected and following that Iskcon leaders for the next two and half decades turned to every foolish thing under the sun to solve their problems.
GBC and sannyāsīs/gurus like S_____ Swami, I____ Swami, G_____ Mahārāja, and B_____Swami’s representative A_____ Dāsa, etc. went to the so-called mystic, the Copper Plate Bābā of the Ativāḍī-apa-sampradāya to see if Prabhupāda had been poisoned and if their zones would be affected by the next great war. They also wanted to know who they were in their last lives.
Gurus, sannyāsīs, GBC’s and other leaders in Iskcon turned the Māyāpura festival intro a Reiki therapy festival year after year in the 90’s.
Ghost busting was popular at Māyāpura during the late 80’s and early 90’s (all over Iskcon, not just in Māyāpura). Some Iskcon members were said to have had hundreds of ghosts in them. But now that fashion has passed. No more ghosts in Iskcon. Well, thats good to know :)
GBC men spent more time in the 90’s preaching about men from outer space and the coming of the “Mother Ship” than they did preaching about Lord Caitanya. Even one days preaching about such trivia is simply nonsense!
Gurus writing books about Atlantis and Mu – another nonsense. But never mind, just make sure the devotees don’t read Śrīdhara Mahārāja’s books and we will be OK.
Crystal worship, gemology and pyramids and the likes of that became almost more popular in Iskcon than worshiping śālāgrāma-śīla and govardhana-śīla during the past 20 years.
Some sannyāsīs and gurus in Iskcon (like G___ Mahārāja and T____ Swami) believe more in the channeling of Prabhupāda thru such mediums as A.L. Prabhu than they do in the revelations of pure devotees like Śrīdhara Mahārāja and Śrīla Bhakti Pramoda Purī Mahārāja.
Iskcon sannyāsīs and gurus (like S____ Swami, I_____ Swami, and G____ Mahārāja) at Daṇḍa-bhaṅga-nadi in Orissa are known to worship a stone that some non-descript bābā says Mahāprabhu gave him. They are enlivened to sometimes take the remnants of sweet rice dripping from the mouth of this bābā, but they accuse men like myself as having left Iskcon and abandoned Śrīla Prabhupāda. My response? Get a reality check!
Iskcon cannot accommodate other Vaiṣṇava movements of pure devotees, but Iskcon becomes dumb in front of the Vaiṣṇava gay and lesbian movement.
And don’t forget the great war that is coming to wipe out the world and leave Iskcon to salvage mankind! Actually, that is the one prophecy in Iskcon that I believe. Why? Because as long as there are intelligent people in this world, Iskcon could never take the leadership. All the intelligent people would first have to be wiped out in a great war. Simply put, intelligent people will not accept the nonsense leadership of Iskcon. Although there are certainly a few good men in Iskcon, they nonetheless lack the strength to take hold of the leadership. Unfortunately, they also lack the strength to leave Iskcon and so they are destined to go down with the ship.
Mahārāja, you have the determination to rectify Iskcon and I sincerely hope you are able to do that. Because if you are not successful the spiritual future of Iskcon doesn’t look good. Śrīdhara Mahārāja himself feared that Iskcon would become an apa-sampradāya. He expressed his fears for Iskcon 29 years ago. Little has changed for the better since then. Iskcon continues with their misconceptions, offending and demonizing the Vaiṣṇavas outside Iskcon. The only reason we don’t hear about senior godbrothers and godsisters being ousted from Iskcon these days is because there aren’t but a handful left — most were thrown out ages ago by foolish leaders.
So let me know when you are ready to continue our conversation. In fact, we could talk about all these matters much better if you would just take your walking papers and join us.