What in the Name of Krsna is Going On?
BY: HARI DAS (BTS)
Oct 27, USA (SUN) An investigation into ISKCON and other present day Gaudiya societies and offshoots
Recently, I have been doing a lot of thinking based on my 15 years of being in Iskcon and witnessing a number of trends within the movement, it's Gaudiya counterparts and it’s various offshoots. The purpose of this paper is to present the obvious. It is not decorated by sentiment nor is it presented with a biased viewpoint as one might expect from a strict and loyal member of Iskcon. The author humbly requests the reader to bear one thing in mind - a positive outlook based on faith in Guru, Sadhu and Sastra and to disregard any personal feelings one may have towards Iskcon and its past and present members and indeed to look at the situation presented by this paper in a detached sense. For if one reads with their “opinionated approach” one may fail to see the positive evidence provided within the scope of this work.
The reason I have requested the above prerequisite is because the author is aware of sceptics and persons who present themselves at first as wellwishers of Iskcon but then reveal themselves as individuals and societies who wish to destroy rather than enhance.
Offering my respectful obeisances to my initiating and instructing spiritual masters and the Vaisnava acarya’s, I proceed to present the facts as they are.
PART 1 - HISTORY - let it be so
Much has been said about GBC mistakes and Guru falldowns and abuses. One thing we learn from sastra is that it is an offense to hold a grudge against a Vaisnava or to judge them for previous mistakes. It may well be that many senior devotees in Iskcon have made mistakes, this is not disputed, but we have to see whether they have persevered in their sadhana and services. If they have not, then criticism is warranted, but on the converse if they have RECITIFIED the mistakes and proceeded on the bhakti marg with full faith and confidence then this should be taken into full consideration and respected.
There are many websites that focus a little too much on the mistakes and falldowns of the past. Instead of taking into account the many wonderful sacrifices and contributions that devotees have made, they seek instead to “educate” people and inform them of the “demoniac” and appasidhantic qualities of individuals that may have made some mistakes in the past.
The author requests such persons who relish having such negative discussions as to how they and their readership expect to obtain Krsna prema by such absorbtion? The author further requests such critics to provide evidence of how they have excelled in their own services and sadhana in comparison to those that they criticise.
I propose that we treat history in the way it should be treated - as past tense. If something is positive, we hail it as great, if it is negative we accept is as such and then LET IT GO. For if we hold on to it, we leave no room for our own growth, the energy created by such meditations on negative occurrences will make ourselves more negative as our opinions and mindsets will no doubt affect the quality of our services, sadhana and surrender.
There is a current trend to accept statements by individuals as absolute. Take for example, if someone witnesses someone committing a crime, this is not enough to convict someone for a crime, it takes an INVESTIGATION to determine whether the claim is genuine or not. We do not see this happening in modern Vaisnava circles, if someone “cries wolf” it is immediately accepted that there is a wolf roaming around without looking with their own eyes. I will elaborate more on this point in part 5.
PART 2 - GAUDIYA SOCIETIES AND ISKCON OFFSHOOTS
It is a known fact that many Indian bodied Guru’s have capitalised on Srila Prabhupada’s immense success in turning the whole world into a ripe preaching field. For the most part, we have seen that many will use Srila Prabhupada’s success to their own advantage creating their own global movements and claiming a role of Acarya for themselves without giving enough credit that the facility for them to do so came from Srila Prabhupada himself. Nor have such persons, whether they be genuine or not, tried to cooperate with Iskcon. Rather, they prefer to try to do preaching work on their own merit and go to locations where Iskcon is already doing much work already. This has created confusion amongst many and we find that sometimes Iskcon members (initiated and not) leave to join such institutions in the hope of a “brighter future”. Not only do many leave, but they also develop the habits of criticising their “Mother” Institution (Iskcon). Like it or not, it was Iskcon that saved them and if it were not for Srila Prabhupada, Iskcon would not have been created for the benefit of all. For many, Srila Prabhupada gets demoted to “Swami Maharaja”.
We have also seen that some have left Iskcon and started their own societies -big or small - wherein they do not have to be accountable to the GBC and they can be the sole Acarya. Such persons could not take the humble role required by all Iskcon members to work as a team under the direct auspices of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and desires. Not only do they stay independent, they criticise heavily and even make suggestions that Iskcon co-operate with them.
The author suggests with logic that the conclusion is that like it or not, the fact is that as far as global preaching, Iskcon is the mother society and laid the groundwork. Mistakes aside, by rights the position of Iskcon in the global arena is supreme. We know the history of what happened after Bhaktissidhanta left. It is conclusive enough to say that Srila Prabhupada was the one, and the ONLY one, who succeeded where others failed miserably. So, allegiance should be to him as he is the highest example known to mankind of what it means to follow the orders of the Spiritual Master.
It is not for Iskcon to align itself with other Gaudiya societies, especially when they criticise. For most other Gaudiya leaders wish to be a singular acarya. The way Iskcon is set up is to promote a team spirit with Srila Prabhupada as the highest authority. For the most part (with few exceptions) most of the leaders of other Gaudiya societies do not accept Srila Prabhupada’s exclusive authority as being the most qualified successor to Srila Bhaktisidhanta Saraswati Thakura.
However, I cannot foresee any problem with individual acaryas wishing to cooperate with the GBC and Srila Prabhupada’s movement as long as it is all in Iskcon’s name and under Iskcon's laws.
PART 3 - CURRENT DAY ISKCON AND INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS MINDSETS/APPROACHES
Iskcon, as it’s name suggests, is an international and multi-cultural society whose membership determines it as the biggest Gaudiya Vaisnava society on the planet. It should come as no surprise that there are also problems in this movement as it is made up of individuals whose backgrounds are so diverse and their conditioning as variegated as the varieties of plant life available in the countryside.
When observing or criticising problems in Iskcon, we have to bear two words in mind - ANARTHA NIVRITTI. If we take to the sastric understanding that most are still going through the process of eliminating gross and subtle anarthas and trying to go against the grain of material nature, we will conclude that this is indeed a battlefield for a sincere devotee. In war there are casualties, some fatal and some not. We have to strive to save those that can be saved, which is why Iskcon was set up in the first place. A society means that we are social, involved with each other so systems should be set up to help each other progress.
Can you imagine the effect of heavy criticism even from those that should be advanced enough to detect anarthas manifesting? Would it not do more harm than good to “kick a man while he is down”?
Where is the compassion that should be there as a primary Vaisnava quality? This must be developed alongside strong sastric understanding, then most casualties will not be fatal.
The author suggests that many, although committed life members, do not fully understand the term “Krsna Consciousness”. If we analise this term we will conclude that it is implying hard work - pure and simple. We have to work hard to overcome the anartha nivritti stage and become quickly and firmly fixed with a genuine taste (nistha/ruci). If we are sick, we must first come to the stage of fever (anartha nivritti) which burns us like crazy and we see no hope. But once we tolerate this stage then we are left with a blissfull sigh of relief and then we can proceed with full utsaha/enthusiasm.
I humbly suggest that as my spiritual master (Bhakti Tirtha Swami) has suggested “Our movement is like a young adult”. We have to understand that Iskcon in an external sense is growing up. A child and teenager can make mistakes wherein an adult is supposed to have learned from them. For the critics, I suggest that you wait and see and bear the above in mind before coming to premature conclusions about Iskcon and its leaders and members. Look at this with the long term in mind.
PART 4 - DEVIATIONS AND DISTRACTIONS
One reason I felt impelled to write this paper was because my departed spiritual master is under heavy criticism and suspicion from individuals who are either new to Iskcon or have shown little or no positive contribution over the past decade or more. Their sadhana is more than questionable and their high degree of absorbtion in negative subject matter leaves the author wondering whether the critics have even started to seriously work on their own anarthas, despite focusing on the “apparent” anarthas of others.
With this in mind, as my spiritual master was not conservative or traditional in approach, some have questioned whether his preaching techniques and personal approach to Krsna Consciouness are valid. Without citing specific examples, I propose we analize what the sidhhanta expects of devotees coming in the Gaudiya disciplic sucession, this applies for all devotees even if they are not leaders:
1) a Vaisnava is expected to chant their daily quota of Hari Nama on beads and rise early for such sadhana
2) a Vaisnava is expected to follow the 4 regulative principles
3) a Vaisnava is expected to use ANY MEANS NECESSARY to promote the sidhhanta (there are no hard and fast rules, the only rule being tell others about Krsna somehow or another. We use the principle of “yutka vairagya” or using everything in the service of The Lord.
Sastra has stated that if anyone is following these 3 minimum requirements then success is assured as long as THEY STAY ON THE PATH -falldown or no falldown.
If someone has indeed fallen, if they pick up where they left off there is no loss or diminution (BG) and they are to be considered saintly.
The above is sufficient to make the point and is fully in accordance with our sidhhanta and should be used as a reference by one and all before making any judgments regarding another Vaisnava's standing after hearing complaints of rumours.
PART 5 - CONCLUSION
We all know how fast modern technology is taking us, the Internet is wonderful in many ways, but is equally as hazardous. For a Vaisnava to use a computer can be a life or death experience spiritually.
The author is a known Internet addict and has also mixed in variegated circles of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. From his experience he can confidently conclude the below and invites readers for further discussion if need be by writing to email@example.com
The author is not interested in engaging in warlike bickerings, rather he invites those that wish to contribute positive suggestions as to how we can ensure positive growth and communication in Iskcon, Srila Prabhupada’s mother society that is the singular and most glorious vehicle carriers of the desire of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and Srila Bhaktivinode via the mercy of Sri Niyananda Prabhu and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Thank you and Hare Krsna
1) History is history whether good or bad, learn from it and leave it where it belongs -in the past
2) Iskcon is the prime vehicle for spreading and teaching Krsna Consciousness on the planet. It all began in the west via Iskcon and as such it should be respected on this merit alone whether you stay or leave.
3) For the most part Gaudiya Vaisnavas are struggling with anarthas, it is the duty of those who have overcome or are beyond this stage to assist others in their growth instead of criticising. If there is a fire in the house, do you leave your brother and sister behind to burn?
4) ALL Vaisnavas should respect one another and acknowledge the common ground and goals instead of bickering and blaspheming one another via web discussion groups or otherwise. One's own advancement will be affected by focusing on negativity as a constant meditation. Look for the gold, not the stool.
5) Analize carefully whether someone is faithful to the siddhanta or not, do not take everything you hear as absolute without making a serious investigation first. Not all that has been written is true, avoid tabloid newspaper like publications and presentations, this is impersonal and unjust to conclude a person is bad just by hearing alone.
6) Focus on your own advancement and be honest with yourself and others about where you are at. If you look at others too much you are hiding, but we cannot hide from Guru and Krsna
7) If you have serious concerns about others-approach them humbly, not in a challenging mood. If we take the humble position ourselves as is advised by “trinad api sunicena”, then not only are we more likely to get the truth but we are putting ourselves in the right INTERNAL ENVIRONMENT TO ACTUALLY ACCEPT IT. After all, only a humble devotee will accept the truth.