Response From Ravindra Svarupa Dasa|
submitted by Lavanga Manjari devi dasi, response by Ravindra Svarupa dasa
Posted July 13, 2012
I present you all with a letter written by HG Ravindra Svarupa dasa to his well wishers and disciples concerning the allegations made against him by Mahapurusha dasa.
"My dear disciples and well-wishers,
Please accept my blessings and my obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I’ve been told that many of you have been asking for a response from me concerning the allegations made by my erstwhile disciple Mahapurusa dasa. They are exaggerated beyond all recognition.
Here is my own recollection of what happened.
It took place one evening last April. I had gone to the temple room to chant some rounds in front of the Deities. Eight o’clock came — the regular time for the altar doors to be closed for the Deities to be put in their night clothes. Five or so more minutes went by, and still no pujari showed up to close the doors. I checked and found out that Gandharvika had that duty that night. Giri-govardhana and other pujaris had been complaining to me frequently that Gandharvika was often late for her Deity services, and negligent in other ways. Not only was it repeated seva-aparadha, but also it made their own service difficult.
I had spoken with her about it, but that seemed to make no difference. And now once again she was late.
I decided to call Gandharvika on my mobile. I went into the entrance of the hall on the altar’s left side---the one that leads to the the pujari room and kitchen. At the time, two other people were in the temple room in front of the altar: Sraddha and Mr. Biswani, a congregational member. Just as I heard in my ear the first ring on Gandharvika’s phone, she came through the main entrance of temple room. By then it was about 10 or 12 minutes after 8:00 pm. When she saw me her face registered alarm, and she picked up her pace. I started talking to her in a firm and serious tone. We were in the temple room; I took particular care to not to raise my voice. I told her that her negligence was a chronic problem, and that I had received many complaints. I advised her that she should give highest priority to her Deity service.
As she came nearer to the hallway, I stepped back in to it a bit. It appeared to me from her facial features that she wasn’t actually listening and was trying to “tune me out.” I thought I needed to get her attention. As she hurried past, I effected a kind of symbolic gesture in her direction with my foot. I had no intention to connect, but because she made a little “woo” sound, so I assumed that I had---or that she had perhaps seen the gesture from the corner of her eye. This all happened quite quickly; she was already late.
Within a few days, I met with her. I talked to her mostly about her chanting. At some point I brought up what had happened in the hallway to the pujari room and I said that I was sorry if I had upset her. She seemed to dismiss my concern, so I thought it not an issue. Clearly, this was a false impression.
I want to thank you for your encouraging words of support.
Keep the faith in Krishna and Srila Prabhupada.
Your servant in Srila Prabhupada’s service,
Ravindra Svarupa dasa"
A portrait of Nitai das
I want to write something to honor the passing of my friend, Nitai das, but find myself questioning the purpose behind my writing.
On one hand, I'm writing for myself (out of necessity), to grieve and give shape to myriad thoughts that are inspiring (and vexing) me. On the other hand, it's also my hope that, by writing, I might be able to share my love, appreciation and understanding of Nitai prabhu with others. In some way, I'm just attempting to keep Nitai alive with my words, lest his memory be lost. Of course, to really perpetuate Nitai's memory, I'll have to continue the legacy of service he started. My own mortality is also splintering my mind's eye, and writing about Nitai is an attempt at staving off my own body's and memory's impending demise by doing for him what I hope someone else will do for me when my time inevitably comes. Finally and most importantly, I'm writing simply to honor my dear friend Nitai, to show him my affection.
Nitai prabhu at a Burning Man festival
I can't even remember exactly when I first met Nitai, but it must have been a dozen years ago. Nitai loved his spiritual master just like a disciple should, with a perfect mix of deep respect and admiration, intense trust and affection, and a touch of simple, childlike innocence. He spent heaps of time at the temple in Chowpatty, India, soaking up its sublime Vaikuntha atmosphere, and he cultivated lifetime friendships of service with several of his godbrothers and godsisters, imbibing their exemplary mood of sisyatva (discipleship).
His guru, H.H. Radhanath Swami, told me yesterday that he had given him his name in the belief that Nitai had been so "wild" that only by the mercy of the original Nityananda Prabhu (the divine Avatar of mercy) would the new disciple be sustained. He added that Nitai had been so independent as a brahmacari (temple monk) that none of the temple leaders would recommend him for formal initiation. Eventually, Nitai's uncle Nityodita prabhu personally gave a recommendation, and he was initiated into our spiritual family.
Nitai prabhu was one in a million. He had an infectious enthusiasm and loads of charisma. Nitai was a bit younger than I was, and although I wasn't able see it at first, eventually I could understand that he was a born leader; one whose magnetic personality gathered people together and inspired them to move mountains. He always thought "outside the box," and was ever pushing the envelope, looking for new ways to spread Lord Caitanya's message of love for Krsna and the chanting of the holy names. Nitai chanted japa seriously and loved kirtan. He was an object of affection for his elders and an inspiration for his peers. He lived the life of a full-time dedicated devotee, and he was perpetually convincing everyone around him to participate in his mission, a mission that was always increasing in both scope and magnitude. He was very sociable, he could outpace me in conversation, and I loved him for it. He was always vitally engaged in outreach and exemplified the axiom: "One who has life can preach." He touched the lives of so many people, including this humble soul.
Nitai had received the essence of his own innovative approach to outreach directly from his gurudeva. Maharaja had been going to the Rainbow Gatherings for years, giving kirtan and making huge vats of halava prasadam for all the attendees. At the Rainbow, Nitai also learned this art, and that experience became the genesis for "Krishna's Kitchen," a branch of Food For Life International. From their mission statement, we learn that "Krishna's Kitchen shares the ancient culture of Bhakti through the production and distribution of sacred food." Through Nitai's expert networking, Krishna's Kitchen ended up becoming an integral part of some of the biggest and most exciting alternative festivals of the new millennium, including Burning Man, Wanderlust and Bhaktifest.
This new outreach required that ISKCON follow Srila Prabhupada's directive to "give old wine in a new bottle." Perhaps this is where Nitai's brilliance shone forth most brightly, as he was both a visionary and a leader in this renovation project. As a visionary, he conceived of ways in which ISKCON would make inroads into these burgeoning communities of spiritual seekers, with whom we already shared so much in terms of ethos and lifestyle but had somehow been unable to seriously connect with. As a leader, Nitai was able to inspire and work with,large numbers of devotees in the effort to share our prasadam and culture, whilst simultaneously maintaining integrity. Nitai was at the vanguard of this renaissance in the Hare Krsna movement, and from his and a few other innovative devotees' vision, our movement is becoming more relevant than ever in North America.
Nitai was only 31 when his life was tragically cut short, but upon hearing that he and the other devotees in the car accident died instantly, one devotee remarked: "Krsna just scooped them all up." Nitai's mortal remains will be consigned to Mother Ganga's embrace at Mayapura. When his spiritual master became ill last summer, Nitai had personally cleansed and dressed his wounds multiple times daily, just like a loving mother. I was around during this time, and was sometimes disturbed at how Nitai was neglecting various managerial services, choosing instead to personally deliver nursing care. I can now see that the Lord arranged this special time so that he was able to have the experience of intimately serving his teacher (visrambhena guroh seva), in a way that normally only occurs on his departure from this world.
I was fortunate to have been in regular touch with Nitai over this last decade, and I witnessed his transformation from a young, energetic recruit to a stalwart officer in Lord Caitanya's sankirtan party. We became especially close this last year and spoke daily. We were kindred souls, and I appreciated his fine qualities so much that I was looking forward to the arcs of our lives intermingling for the next 50 years or so. We regularly talked about all the service we were going to do together; just the day before he left, he had confided in me his intention to start a family, and I had invited him to come and spend time with me and my family.
Although I'm devastated that Nitai das is no longer in our midst, I'm grateful that he and I became so close this last year, and see it as the Lord's special blessing upon me that I was able to pack a lifetime of friendship and all the affection it affords into such a short time with him. I also see that Nitai prabhu was blessed to be able to squeeze a lifetime's worth of adventurous service into his limited time among us. Nitai is survived by his loving wife Mandali Devi, a saintly devotee in her own right, and I'm praying that Lord Caitanya and Srila Prabhupada bless her with the courage to grow, even from this great tragedy. I hope that this short sketch of Nitai's life and my experiences with him will serve as an offering to him of a written samadhi, an appropriate testament as to how this great soul was very much a gift to the world, and how he enriched the lives of so many.
The Kitchen team has created a Facebook page called "Remembering Nitai Das." Please share your memories of Nitai das with us.
We became close to Yamuna and Dinatarini prabhus over the last five years. We run a busy college outreach program in Gainesville and, in 2006, looking for a getaway during the summer breaks, we decided to visit Saranagati, as we had lived and served in Vancouver temple years ago and had many friends there.
Soon after arriving in Saranagati we discovered Banabihari Ashram, a straw bale house plastered in adobe covered with a green metal roof, perched on a small hilltop overlooking the five-mile long Saranagati Valley. There lived the servants of Radha Banabihari, Yamuna and Dinatarini, whom Srila Prabhupada had instructed in the 1970s to open a widow's ashram. They had run one ever since in various ways and places, always worshipping their beloved Lordships Radha Banabihari, most recently in this breathtaking ashram they had built with their own hands.
There are many wonderful devotees in the Saranagati community who have built attractive and functional houses. Here, though, we found an extraordinary masterpiece of thoughtful devotional craftsmanship: rough-hewn wooden paneling; peeled logs serving as beams and spanning the ceiling; stained glass insets on the windows; rustic built-in bookshelves packed with hundreds of devotional and other interesting books on gardening, construction, cooking and more; hand-made (and very comfortable) furniture in the center of the large main room; an exquisite altar with a large stained-glass backdrop featuring the gopis in Vrindavan; a brilliantly designed kitchen centered around a woodstove that heated the entire ashram; all kinds of eco-friendly and ingenious systems for living off the grid; and nooks and shelves placed tastefully here and there displaying devotional treasures such as Srila Prabhupada's original three-tiered cooker.
Admiring the gorgeous stained-glass work, I asked Yamuna who had made them. "Yamuna devi," she replied in a curt tone that indicated nothing more was to be said on the subject.
Yamuna and Dina charmed us with their very gracious mood and inspired us with their unalloyed dedication to Srila Prabhupada. Meeting them tipped the scales; we decided that Saranagati was the place to spend our summers. The two women were the heart of the ashram. They held a punctual morning program every day, open to all, plus evening reading and kirtan meetings two or three times a week. During the months we were there, we did not miss a morning, walking or driving the two miles from our residence to savor the sweet association.
Dina and Yamuna took turns performing the mangala arati. On her singing days Yamuna accompanied herself during Guruvastakam with a small keyboard instrument whose soft bell-like tone mingled with her gentle, angelic voice, creating a wonderfully mystical devotional atmosphere in the cool Canadian predawn mountain air. She insisted we sing not with call-and-response but in unison, a method creating a warm intimacy among the devotees that melted away any bodily considerations of ashram, gender or seniority, bringing everyone present together in an infectuous mood of love for Srila Prabhupada and Radha Banabihari.
After kirtan everyone chanted japa for an hour. Yamuna would sometimes bring out her set of large red wooden beads dating back to her early days with Srila Prabhupada, beads he had personally chanted on for her. She would invite devotees present to chant a round on these special beads. She did not hoard her blessings from Srila Prabhupada but shared them with everyone.
After japa was Srimad Bhagavatam class. Dina began each class with an excerpt from a selected book such as Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur's biography or Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati's writings. Then we read Srila Prabhuapda's Srimad Bhagavatam, often several verses and purports each day, nicely facilitated by Dina, always conducted in an interactive discussion format involving all present without a main speaker. Yamuna would often stir the discussion with thoughtful questions, steering the topic from the day's verses and purports into a variety of facinating directions. Many days it was just the four of us for class, and we talked about everything; their experiences with Srila Prabhupada, the dynamics of ashram and community life, the state of Kali yuga, India, off-grid living, cow protection, Gaudiya Math/ISKCON issues, upcoming festivals, and much more.
During the class, though she conscientiously made sure that everyone present spoke up and took part in the discussion, Yamuna would also add special little memories of Srila Prabhupada. Once, on Lord Balaram's appearance day, she told us of how she came in to Srila Prabhupada's room and found him standing before a painting of Lord Balaram killing a demon, imitating with his own transcendental body the pose struck by the Lord in the painting.
She also told us of her adventures in Srila Prabhupada's service. Once, when preparing for a festival in London, she called George Harrison to invite him, mentioning that a particular rice pudding dish that he loved was on the menu. "Shall I set a plate for you?" she asked. "You'd better set two," he replied.
She described how, when recording the famous Radha Krishna Temple album, she and all the devotees had been up late in George's studio as he and Paul McCartney worked on the mixing. Many of the devotees were asleep here and there, so she sat at the harmonium and began chanting, "Bhaja Hure Mana." She said that during the early and very difficult days in London she had learned that bhajan by listening over and over again to a recording of Srila Prabhupada singing it. "There were no songbooks," she added.
As she sang the bhajan, accompanying herself with the harmonium, she did not know that George was recording her. Much to her chagrin, he insisted on including the recording on the album, dubbing over some simple hand-clapping percussion. Later it was pointed out that the title had been transposed and sung as "Bhaja Mana Hure". "It is all right," Srila Prabhupada had told her upon hearing it, "You can fix it later."
Though we would have been happy for those classes to go on all day, the women would end them punctually, distribute some maha-prasad, and shoo everyone out to go on with their day's service. For Dina and Yamuna the day often included writing, cooking, gardening, work on the ashram, hosting guests, weekly town runs for shopping and laundry, and doing crafts and other projects with the 'milkmaids', the half-dozen teenage daughters of Saranagati families who dearly loved their sixty-something friends.
Wednesday evenings many devotees would gather at the ashram for Caitanya-Caritamrta readings. Inspired by Yamuna and Dina, the group had been meeting for years, and by now they were on their third complete reading of the text. Friday nights were set aside for bhajans. At one point each summer the ladies would host Kartamisa from Alachua and his wife, Radha, a former milkmaid from the Valley. Togther with Yamuna and Dina they organized two- or three-week marathons of singing Bhaktivinode Thakur bhajans each evening, completing the entire Sarangati and Godruma Kalpataru songbooks by the Thakur.
During the bhajans Yamuna always sat as if in trance, eyes closed, swaying to the music, singing vigorously in her clear and penetrating voice, fully absorbed. At the end of each bhajan she would express deep satisfaction: "Such nectar, such nectar."
Yamuna would organize the 'milkmaids' to sing bhajans at the Saranagati festivals and play other leading roles in the community. Once, before the Saranagati Rathayatra, she took the bullhorn and made an introductory speech to the devotees standing before the cart. Pointing to the majestic forest-covered hills on each side of the valley, she proclaimed, "There are more living entities here to be blessed by the holy names than there are at the New York Rathayatra."
On special occasions Yamuna would cook for us. Whatever she prepared was unfailingly delicious and healthful. Someone once said something about a 'chaunce.' "The word is 'chonk'," she replied. "'Chaunce' is a word made up by Kirtanananda, which apparently means putting spices in overheated ghee and burning them to charcoal."
Yamuna recounted the old days when a family atmosphere pervaded the temples and everyone was addressed and treated as 'Prabhu'. She did not care for the later stuffy formalities that evolved in ISKCON. "Mother Yamuna," I once said. "Yes, Father Kalakantha?" she replied sweetly.
We took much of what we learned from Yamuna and Dina prabhus back to Gainesville and applied it. We sought to make devotees feel loved and welcomed and involved, and Krishna blessed us with many new Vaishnavas in our community. After three years we were unable to continue coming to Saranagati for the summers. We saw Yamuna and Dina again a few times, in Alachua and India and finally at their kutir in Melbourne beach. Though Yamuna's health was in serious decline, they were both always happy and upbeat in Krishna consciousness. Their steady sadhana and love for chanting had only increased.
As with everyone she met, Yamuna was always very kind and encouraging to us. Just a couple of days before her departure she sent us this letter:
"Hare Krishna; Pranam Dandavats; Jaya Srila Prabhupada. Pray this meets you happy, healthy and well in ways you need. Can literally feel the efforts of your service to Srila Prabhupada across the miles down here in Melbourne.
"Thought to share these photos taken on Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur's disappearance day and Their Lordships' 36th, in hopes that it might bring a smile to your faces and brighten your day."
Yamuna prabhu, you have brightened our lives, and remembering you will always bring a smile. You are an irreplaceable treasure in our lives. Clearly you are an intimate eternal associate of Srila Prabhupada. You were finished with this world, and Krishna has brought you back to His in the most gentle way. We pray to again be in your company in some early-morning kirtan hearing your sweet voice, feeling your incredible strength of devotion, experiencing and learning from your sweet devotional charm and your unabashed love for Srila Prabhupada.
We pray too that our wonderful godsister Dinatarini prabhu will find solace and strength to carry on with her service to Srila Prabhupada and thus continue to inspire us all.
Reposted from Dandavats.com
Open Letter to the GBC Regarding the Assault of a Devotee By Ravindra Svarupa Dasa|
by Mahapurusha dasa
Posted July 10, 2012
Note from Chakra staff: Chakra respectfully invites Ravindra Svarupa prabhu to respond to these allegations.
With deep regret and after much deliberation, I must sadly report the viscious attack of a female devotee by Ravindra Svarupa dasa. The incident occured over a month ago and I was personally informed of the attack by the victim. Several other congregants were also informed of the attack by the victim. He has also "bragged" about the incident to several others, which is, in itself, deeply disturbing and suggests severe moral and ethical degredation. The devotee was assaulted in the pujari room as she was about to perform deity service.
The devotee was running late for the offering and Ravindra Svarupa dasa verbally attacked her, screaming at her she was a terrible and offensive devotee and then violently kicked her in her buttocks. The victim has been obviously terrified. I and several other senior devotees have been working to help her. But after lengthy discussions and soul searching, we feel that the only way to address the issue is to make it public.
We are demanding the immediate resignation of Ravindra Svarupa dasa from all positions of authority within ISKCON in accordance to ISKCON's zero tolerance abuse policy. This is obviously a severe abuse of power, especially considering that the devotee is one of his disciples. As a professional educator, I have a professional duty to report all incidences of abuse. If this were to happen at my job, he would be arrested, fired and promptly sued. I feel that not only should Ravindra Svarupa be subjected to the same level of accountablity as any one else, but being in a position of spiritual leadership makes the incident even worse. I am also planning on contacting the police as well as social services.
This incident has weighed heavily on my heart. Being an initiated disciple of Ravindra Svarupa makes this letter even harder to write. I have, unfortunately, witnessed many examples of abuse of power by Ravindra Svarupa throughout my years of association. I do not believe in anyway that this incident or any others represent the character of a balanced person what to speak about the actions of a Vaishnava Guru. I am writing this letter publicly to induce the GBC to act appropriately, swiftly and thoroughly, especially considering ISKCON's previous problems of abuse. The handling of this incident is being watched carefully by other senior devotees as well and I am also willing to report this incident to the general press. Nothing less than his immediate resignation and removal from ISKCON leadership and properties will be accepted.
I am also writing this letter to inform my dear Godbrothers and Godsisters. I feel they have a right to know about this incident and have the right to make up their own minds about how to personally deal with it. I am also writing this letter to as a personal plea to the devotee community to help this individual victim. She is an amazing devotee and absolutely does not deserve to be treated like this. She is living in total fear of retribution and has been systematically harassed and threatened with being thrown out. Being a full time servant of Krishna, she has very little material resources and I am imploring the communtiy of devotees to help her.
I am praying that the Lord will touch Ravindra Svarupa's heart and reveal to him the need of total repentence and contrition. The fact that he gloated about the incident is so horrifying to me and suggests severe mental problems. I have personally forgiven him for the horrible things he perpetrated against me. The subject of these actions are outside the scope of this letter. One of the hardest things is to forgive someone who doesn't feel bad about what they have done. I believe that once the Lord reveals the heaviness of the material world alongside His own Maginficence and Glory, it is easy to see how anyone could do anything. Especially considering when power, money and prestige are involved. We are all ultimately "victims" of the material energy and those who transgress the Laws of Nature and God unfortunately suffer more personally than any suffering they cause others. I believe that everyone, what to speak of Srila Prabhupada's disciples, are there to teach us what to do and also what NOT to do. Unfortunately, Ravindra Svarupa dasa has chosen to teach me the heart wrenching lessons of the latter.
Yamuna's devotional service and attitude endeared her to Srila Prabhupada forever. Here a few of her stories that brings out her character and personality. We hope you enjoy the memories.