Chakra Discussions

Open Letter: Engaging Devotee 'Offenders'

by Padmanabha das, Passau, Bavaria, Germany

Posted April 23, 2008

Dear Ravindra Svarupa prabhu,

It has been (to my recollection) about three months since I wrote a previous open letter to you. I was thinking that this would have been enough time to answer a simple philosophical question. To refresh your memory: "What philosophical understanding stood behind your public statement that older devotees who avoid the temple are 'offenders'?"

There are probably different possiblities for such a delay, but my own suspicions are leading me to uncomfortable conclusions.

1. Could it be that the statement actually has no philosophical support and that an honest answer is too difficult? By 'honest,' we would understand something like: "I apologize for my rash statement; I hope that devotees can forgive me."

2. Could it be that there is actually some philosophical support but that it is too weak to rationalize such a sweeping or absolute statement? In such a case an open confrontation with a challenge might be risky and perhaps damage one's position in the Vaisnava community.

3. Could it be that challenges of any sort are simply ignored as a matter of policy among 'leaders' in Prabhupada's movement? I have seen this attitude in the past, apparently based on the thinking: "Who does he think he is to doubt my statement; I have the big position here. I was initiated before he was." I have seen such persons even become angry in such situations.

One of my big problems here is that I understand that you are still the GBC for this area, and I understood from Prabhupada's instructions that the GBC has the primary responsibility to take care of devotees. It is difficult for me, however, to see a real interest on your part. Maybe you have too much to do. If thatīs the case, then resigning would be reasonable.

Regardless, it is difficult to accept a situation in which the leadership ignores the devotees. Maybe that's also okay. By that I mean: Vaisnavas here could gradually understand that there is no help 'from above' and, then, maybe take responsibility for their own lives.

The really funny thing is that there is an upcoming meeting of Vaisnavas in Abentheuer, Germany. According to the information that I received, someone 'up there' found the time to forbid this meeting, but taking time for a philosophical discussion is somehow not so interesting. The really funny thing is that Srila Krsnadas Kaviraja Goswami says that it's my duty as a Vaisnava to express my doubts. Therefore, my last doubt is: where is the Vaisnavism in this movement?