In Defense Of Siddhanta Dasa: An Open Letter
Posted November 15, 2005
Though Iskcon Television known as ITV is separate from Siddhanta's Illumination Television to which you addressed your letter, I feel compelled to come to the defense of Siddhanta prabhu's humble offering to the Vaisnavas.
I not only sympathize with the pain and anguish that you express, but I, among so many other male devotees, also share similar abuses. And, if we didn't directly, then our children did, or our friends did, or, as you point out, our godsisters did. Being victimized by leaders in an institution such as ours is gender indifferent.
However, publicly criticizing Siddhanta is another form of abuse. You have basically vilified him in a public forum (which shouldn't have printed these allegations anyway without consulting with him) and become a judge, jury, and executioner of his intentions.
Your complaint implies that he is mysogenistic in his presentation though he has included numerous women in his series. Moreover, it is to his credit that he has interviewed many devotees that are no longer in good standing in Iskcon whether due to their criminal or unethical activities. The stories about Srila Prabhupada's pastimes are far more important than the histories of the personalities. The names and reputations of the devotees will pale in history, but the loving reciprocations and teachings of Srila Prabhupada will endure. Having worked intimately with Siddhanta for thirteen years, I am certain that he has kept his vision on the legacy of Srila Prabhupada, not of any individual. The glass is certainly more than half-full when it comes to the fruits of Sid's labors.
I think that a series of memories of women devotees interactions with Srila Prabhupada would be a great addition to the body of work being produced about His Divine Grace. Mahamaya dd's book was a delight, as was Mulaprakriti dd's. Siddhanta's attempt to document as many devotees as possible depended on the travel plans of various devotees. He tried to catch them as they passed through Los Angeles or when he traveled - which was rare. He did the best job that he could with the resources he commanded. Perhaps a female videographer will take up similar work and produce something that is more satisfying to you.
I don't know whether you were left on the editing floor due to creative reasons or logistics. I know from my experience interviewing people that some testimony works and some doesn't. Generally, Siddhanta puts together the videos so that have some rhythm between gravity and humor.
Basically, give the guy some credit. You were all over him and his work. Our job is to be encouraging, not discouraging. You are sincere. You are expressive. You love Srila Prabhupada. So you can do something wonderful also - and not at the expense of a productive, friendly, and level-headed devotee such as Siddhanta. I personally feel very indebted to him for bringing to life all the stories of how people recall their experiences with Srila Prabhupada. With any faults, it still beats just about anything you can read or watch.
Again, know that many of us, or someone we love or respect, has shared your
disappointment and pain. I pray that such disrespect to anyone, female or
male, sees no light in devotional service.