Embracing Unity in Diversity: Early Free Will, God, and the Child Abuse Scandal|
by Niscala dasi
Posted October 24, 2012
Up to now I have been having an interesting correspondence with a devotee who had once stood up against child abuse, was himself abused, and is now not considering himself a devotee, wanting nothing whatsoever to do with Krsna consciousness. Having made this conclusion, he finds evidence against the existence of free will and of God.
Thoughts on this discussion are very welcome by writing to: email@example.com, or through Facebook comments if they are available at the end of the article. But there is more than the possibility of interesting discussions that is prompting me to make this discussion as widely read as possible. It shows up the excellent and caring character of this devotee, and how we are pushing away those who are of the best and most vaisnava characters, and keeping the blind, faceless and heartless conformers.
The complete discussion can be found at:
ND: Me PD: Other devotee
PD: Arguably the biggest problem in the world is the beef industry, which clearly should be Krsna's department if people are calling Him Govinda and Gopala. Did He retire, or what?
ND: That’s a question of free will. In the human form, it is there, along with ample intelligence, conscience, words of scripture and so on. Even so, if people don't give a shit what happens to animals, they reap the reaction. God is not responsible. Those countries that kill animals very cruelly, reap even greater karmic reaction, as per the story of Mrgrari. It’s no coincidence that the countries where life is most poverty/war stricken, have no laws to protect animals, and such atrocities as cock fights, stuffing animals together in cages, chaining them in confined spaces, and draining them of bile, are rife. At least in this country, there are laws against needless cruelty. That does not require religion- it comes from conscience- and cuts across belief. Conscience is the voice of God within. Any child is horrified by cruelty and killing, but conditioning by the society covers their natural communication with the Supersoul.
PD: The matter of free will is practically disproved in both science and philosophy. However, Krsna is credited as the protector of cows and the servant of His devotees. Presumably devotees haven't stopped wanting him to protect cows, so that duty is double. Why should the free will of animal killers (whom Prabhupada called animals themselves) outweigh that?
ND: Because even animal killers have free will, and if it is "outweighed" by another's will, it’s not of one's own will, but the will of another, and there is then no question of will at all. It’s not utterly free in terms of being without influence- there is addiction to meat. It’s slavery and it’s freedom, both. Therefore, there is a choice, but they choose taste over the lives of animals.
PD: I personally have fought non-stop for twenty years to end industrial animal slaughter, since before I knew of Krsna, and the hopelessness of that made me seek shelter with Krsna; but He did not help, and I was rejected for standing against child abuse as an elected official in my devotee community when the issue was dropped in my lap.
ND: Krsna helps through His real devotees. Those who support those who torture and abuse children, who deserve only love and protection, are not devotees, but demons in vaisnava dress. They may chant, wear tilaka, and so on, but they do not even remotely resemble real devotees. Devotees like you are unfortunately rare. If you start losing hope in Krsna’s guidance, then we really have no hope. If you start losing hope in Krsna's guidance, then your intelligence is lost, because who do you think has guided you? Krsna IS your intelligence. You’re His instrument, to try to help those who are helpless. Krsna either incarnates to enact His will, or enacts it through His representatives, who are by nature merciful. In illusion, you are thinking yourself separate from Him.
You're a ksatriya- one of those who desire to protect others. You're Krsna's arms, He protects children, cows etc through you. But you are not empowered as you should be, in terms of social position. That’s why we need varnashrama. Prabhupada asked that we have it, but our leaders have neglected his instructions, because they aren't devotees except in name only, and prefer absolute control over empowering people to serve Krsna according to their true natures. (Click here for the full article)
Embracing Unity in Diversity: Early Notes Toward a Rhetoric of Consciousness
by Babhru das
Posted March 3, 2012
When I was teaching in gurukulas, the students would occasionally find out that another child didn't like one sort of food or another and would tease them: “Eww—you don't like mangoes? That means you don't like Prabhupada and Krishna!” These eight- or nine-year-olds were probably joking, or half joking, to the extent that kids are capable. But when adults insist in the rudest language that other devotees who don't share their opinions on one detail or another regarding devotional practice or association are faithless, or even demons, they are not joking. And it's not funny.
Rather, they are simply demonstrating a narrow-minded attitude and cramped thinking discouraged by Srila Prabhupada himself. Unfortunately, we see a great deal of such narrow-mindedness in discussions among devotees over the course of our association, both face to face and in online discourse. I have found it to be perhaps the most discouraging, most corrosive attitude among devotees. I believe it would immeasurably improve the quality of devotee association, and perhaps even the devotees' preaching efforts, if, rather than seeing other devotees of Krishna in such a pinched, miserly way, we tried instead to imbibe and exhibit the kind of broad, generous vision of others that Srila Prabhupada himself exemplified.
Those devotees who have spent any time on the internet over the last few years have most likely observed a number of controversies among preachers, which often appear to be focused more on approaches to preaching than anything else. Sannyasi A rips into Sannyasi B for having the temerity to write on Bhagavad-gita. Sannyasi C conducts a campaign against Sannyasi D, accusing him of being infected with “New Age” ideas. Then he goes after Sannyasi E for engaging in mundane welfare work in the name of preaching. Others in turn criticize Sannyasi C for being stuck in the Middle Ages with regard to a number of social issues. A good number of ISKCON leaders consistently vilify those who have accepted instruction from preachers outside the GBC’s control, calling them guru-tyagis or worse, often pushing them outside ISKCON altogether. Many devotees criticize the BBT and its staff for continuing to edit Srila Prabhupada's books. Defenders of the BBT's managers and staff, on the other hand, sometimes belittle those who see themselves as simply standing up for the purity of Srila Prabhupada's books.
And I don’t want to give the impression that this problem is exclusively, or even primarily, a problem among ISKCON’s devotees. It’s no secret that many preachers from one mission have over the years disparaged pretty much everyone who didn’t surrender to their guru, whom they touted as the most advanced devotee on the planet, sometimes as the only pure devotee around. And leading preachers in another mission used their blogs for years to harass preachers from other missions who did not serve under their guru, using downright cruel facsimiles of humor. More recently, these same leaders now find themselves embroiled in succession conflicts, which some of them broadcast all over the Web, publicly accusing their perceived opponents of all sorts of impropriety and a laundry list of offenses. And then we have a number of Web sites whose specialty seems to be publishing any and every complaint against leaders of ISKCON and pretty much every other Gaudiya mission. And so it goes, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.
What's more, we engage in all this bickering in public, across the internet! What does this say to the countless students who type “Hare Krishna” or some such search phrase into their search engine as they work on that term paper? To someone who might have purchased a book about Krishna consciousness, or the father wondering if he should let his child visit a temple or stay at an ashram? It seems we can establish dialog and discuss contentious matters cordially with academics, with Christians, with Jews, perhaps with some Muslims and Buddhists, and even some atheists, but we can't talk with another devotee who disagrees with us by even less than one percent without getting into a fight. And sometimes we do so in the most intemperate language. One can only imagine how Gaudiya vaisnavism must look to those whose experience of it is limited to what they see on the internet.
What seems to be missing here is discourse driven by the kind of vision Srila Prabhupada showed throughout his lifetime of spreading Krishna consciousness. Let us see, for example, how he responded to discord among devotees in a letter he wrote to Kirtanananda in 1973:
Now this displeasing of god brothers has already begun and gives me too much agitation in my mind. Our Gaudiya Math people fought with one another after the demise of Guru Maharaja but my disciples have already begun fighting even in my presence. So I am greatly concerned about it. . . .
Material nature means dissension and disagreement, especially in this Kali yuga. But, for this Krsna consciousness movement its success will depend on agreement, even though there are varieties of engagements. In the material world there are varieties, but there is no agreement. In the spiritual world there are varieties, but there is agreement. That is the difference. The materialist without being able to adjust the varieties and the disagreements makes everything zero. They cannot come into agreement with varieties, but if we keep Krsna in the center, then there will be agreement in varieties. This is called unity in diversity. . . . But, if we fight on account of diversity, then it is simply the material platform. Please try to maintain the philosophy of unity in diversity. That will make our movement successful. One section of men have already gone out, therefore we must be very careful to maintain unity in diversity. . . .
What we see here is an exhortation to a broader, more generous vision of how diverse devotees may serve the Mahaprabhu’s mission than some may be accustomed to. The basis of this generosity, Srila Prabhupada explains, is the generosity of spirit Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu teaches:
Following in the footprints of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu:
“One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige and should be ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.”
We must always remember this verse and be as tolerant as the tree, as we execute the Krsna consciousness movement. Without this mentality we cannot be successful.
Srila Prabhupada’s letter suggests that tolerating difference is essential to the broad vision he urges his disciple to develop here. This word is well worth examining.
Devotees generally use “tolerance” in the sense of forbearance, putting up with something we see as unfavorable. We often speak of tolerating the urges of the mind and senses, of tolerating abuse from an unappreciative public, of tolerating the devotees who get on our nerves, of tolerating bodily pain or the itching of bug bites. This certainly answers to one of the two meanings the word has in English; moreover, it’s a useful understanding for practicing devotees. But it is neither the sole nor the primary meaning.
Most English dictionaries give the primary sense of tolerance as fairness toward practices, opinions and perspectives different from our own; freedom from bigotry; a liberal, undogmatic attitude. This is certainly the sense in which Srila Prabhupada uses it in his letter to Kirtanananda, the most useful sense of tolerance for truly progressive devotees in a diverse, worldwide movement. And, unfortunately, this kind of tolerance among devotees is too uncommonly found.
Instead, we encounter scenes such as this: When visiting an ISKCON temple in a large US city a few years ago, I was subjected to one of ISKCON’s more prominent sannyasis asserting that all but one of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s disciples failed to appreciate their guru’s innovation of an organized institution for systematically propagating the teachings of Lord Caitanya. Therefore, he said, they all became either mayavadins or sahajiyas. (And he made such a blanket condemnation of Srila Prabhupada’s Godbrothers by way of ostensibly glorifying Srila Sarasvati Thakura on the anniversary of his disappearance.) Or we find ourselves embroiled in endless squabbles with members of another mission, who seem to regard everyone who does not share their degree of faith in a particular sadhu as the lowest of offenders. And recently I was involved in an online discussion with a number of my Godbrothers and sisters in which a couple of participants conducted protracted campaigns of vilifying another Godbrother and everyone who associated with him in the harshest imaginable language because he declines to submit to ISKCON’s GBC in all matters, including ISKCON policies contrary to Gaudiya vaisnava siddhanta.
Srila Prabhupada sometimes told us that one definition of a brahmana is liberal, broadminded, generous, as opposed to the narrow-minded kripana, who is miserly and grudging—at best—in appreciating others with whom he does not closely identify. And he made it abundantly clear throughout his teaching campaign that the dominant attitude in our movement should be that of the brahmana.
We should note carefully, though, that the generosity expressed should not be a kind of Pollyannaism that pretends away the differences between different groups of devotees. I suggest, rather, that we behave, as Srila Prabhupada often exhorted, as a society based on love and trust. The problem is that leaders too often insist that we love and trust them, but they treat us as if we had little intelligence or sincerity. Love, trust, and cooperation are reciprocal activities, two-way streets. But if love and trust seem too lofty, too inaccessible, perhaps we could begin with simple mutual respect.
We need, of course, to be able to discuss the issues that seem to divide us, but we should discuss them respectfully. We can only do that, however, if we begin to turn away from a Manichean view of the world, including the world of devotees. That is a black-and-white view that my perspective, my approach, my mission, my guru, is good, and all others are inferior, if not bad, perhaps even evil. We see that, in American political discourse, this perspective has led to such toxic rancor and demonization that government has been all but crippled. And the same thing has happened in discourse among devotees. Embracing unity in diversity, on the other hand, means accepting and openly acknowledging that devotees whose approach to service may appear more liberal or conservative, or different in any way we find significant, may also desire to make the perfection of Krishna consciousness available to everyone. It means moving from black and white to shades of gray, but also beyond that to a full-color spectrum of approaches to preaching and practicing, as long as they don’t challenge the siddhanta established by our acaryas.
We should note that even discussed in a more civil manner, some ideas and policies will be rejected. As much as I may respect your sincere desire to serve Mahaprabhu’s mission, I may still find a particular policy ill advised, or even contrary to siddhanta established by our acaryas. You may also find my reluctance to bow to your institution’s leaders’ authority narrow or short sighted, even obstinate. And we may very well feel compelled to say so. Moreover, our discussion may be quite vigorous because of the strength of our convictions. But we should be able to discuss these issues vigorously without casting aspersions on each others’ faith, denigrating each other’s accomplishments, or calling each other names. We should be more interested in generating light than heat. Perhaps we need fewer lessons in logic and argumentation and more guidance from Miss Manners!
So let us by all means discuss those differences, but let us strive to do so with a more nuanced approach than we too often see these days. After all, discussion aimed at understanding the conclusions of the scriptures strengthens our faith. Moreover, the focus of our disagreements is usually how to serve guru and Gauranga. I hope we devotees can learn to discuss with real respect, not the sham respect we see among today’s politicians. Doing so would be easier, of course, if we learn to respect each other’s service and contributions, regardless of institutional affiliation or differences in approaches. We must respect boundaries, as well. Good fences, the proverb says, make good neighbors. How far this is true is another discussion altogether. Where I’m from, on the island of Hawaii, we build rock walls, but they’re usually only a foot or two high, not sky-scraping walls topped with broken glass or razor wire. It’s easy to step over them to visit, as the mood there is “e komo mai”: come on over. My kuleana (responsibility) is taking care of what’s on this side of the wall, and yours is what’s on that side. And if bananas, avocados, or mangos from trees on my side hang over the wall, they’re yours. We devotees of Caitanya Mahaprabhu should be able to behave similarly, accepting responsibility for our own service, sharing generously, respecting, but not worshiping, boundaries. Intruding on other missions’ affairs simply to break devotees’ faith should be avoided.
In our attempts to create a discourse of love and trust, we may recall Krsna’s praise of speech that does not cause distress, is truthful, agreeable, and beneficial as austerity of speech. And, bearing in mind that Krsna repeatedly praises nonviolence in Bhagavad-gita, devotees may want to consider approaches such as nonviolent communication. This helps us both express our own perspective honestly and clearly, while at the same time paying others respectful, empathetic attention. And when we do write, whether a book or an email, we should consider carefully a couple of things all conscientious writers learn: how we want to present ourselves, who our audience is (both our intended audience, and, given the reality of the digital world, who our audience is likely to become), and our purpose, what we hope to accomplish by writing a particular text. If we can do such things, we may find it possible to work together and realize Srila Prabhupada and Mahaprabhu’s ambitions for the sankirtana movement. Otherwise, we’re likely to find ourselves as divided by recrimination and name calling as the leaders of the two main political parties in the US are today. And our efforts will likely prove no more effective.
I don’t intend that this brief essay serve as a manifesto, or that it be read as a comprehensive treatment of the problem I identify here, which not that we devotees disagree among ourselves, but that the manner in which we publicly express our disagreement poisons our relationships and undermines the culture of bhakti. This is merely an essay, in the more formal sense of an attempt—here, an attempt mainly to begin a conversation. Read it as an opening gambit, if you like. It will also likely serve as the beginning to a longer, more comprehensive project I have been considering for some time. Meanwhile, I hope devotees will feel free to continue the conversation by offering their own insights and experiences.
Let us imagine together how much more easily the world may be able to appreciate the teachings of Lord Caitanya when his followers no longer publicly bicker like eight-year-old children. I hope we can all become humble enough to accept that devotees with perspectives different from ours may certainly love and honor Srila Prabhupada, our guru varga, and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as much as we—and to treat them as such. A broader vision, colored by the love and trust that should come naturally to progressive vaisnavas, will show that diversity of perspectives and approaches to be an asset, not a liability. At least addressing each other as if we had such a vision may at least be a step in the right direction. We may then begin to see how Mahaprabhu’s sankirtana movement is enriched by that diversity, which may provide a broader range of appeal to the larger society, which is in such dire need of the vaisnavas’ mercy.
The GBC have used the Christian term “outreach” to describe the activities of preaching, book distribution and festivals, which can attract people to join the movement, as some people join a church. Once “converted”, they practice their beliefs at home while working at normal occupations, coming to the church or temple on Sundays as a congregational member. The hopeful idea behind this is that they turn their occupational duty into devotional service by a change in consciousness. The problem with it is that ISKCON may become just a change of consciousness on Sunday, and the rest of the week spent in forgetfulness of Krishna, absorbed in the economic and psychological challenges of work and family. It could become “churchianity” as warned about by Srila Prabhupada. Some of the obstacles in achieving that desired change in consciousness, that turns ordinary work into Krsna consciousness, will be discussed herein.
In various parts of the books that we distribute, the importance of association is stressed as vital to spiritual advancement- one must give up asat sanga and take only the association of devotees. If one is sufficiently advanced, one can live and work in the association of mundane people and not actually take their association, but give them association, by preaching to them. This is dependent, of course, on the receptivity of the recipients of one’s preaching…preaching to some people may result in only increasing their inimical feelings. Sastra warns against such preaching, describing it as “feeding milk to a snake” and advises to “avoid the association of mundane people”. At work, one cannot avoid such people, who may be in the majority, but one cannot ignore them either, for in most modern environments of work, cooperating as a team is important. And of course, one may not be sufficiently advanced to favorably influence even the “innocent”.
Though Krsna consciousness is not impossible in such situations, if one is determined enough, it is thoroughly compromised for most, and one is forced to trade off transcendental association for material security. Therefore, in addition to simplifying the process, by preaching to people that they need not change their occupation- but just their consciousness, in actuality Srila Prabhupada provided an environment where, if they so desired, they could live amongst devotees, hear all day about Krsna, and engage 24 hours a day in His service.
Srila Prabhupada also advised that in order to achieve this aforementioned change in consciousness, one should offer the fruits of one’s work to Krsna by contributing half one’s income to the spreading of Krsna’s message. In the current economic catastrophe, such may not be possible, as many are struggling to keep the family home from going into foreclosure. It may not be possible to give anything, what to speak of half, so we are left with at least some, if not most, of the congregation struggling, both materially and spiritually.
This may not be overt, one has to look within. In Srila Prabhupada’s time, even temple devotees were struggling and falling from the principles, though trying to hide it, so as to be able to stay as temple devotees. He called the facade “showbottle spirituality”, but immediately followed the criticism with outreach- to include them and allow them to engage fully in activities of Krsna consciousness within the varnashrama system. If temple brahmanas were falling down, what hope does the person living in a passionate city and working for materialistic people have, to stay in transcendental consciousness- or even achieve it? Therefore, Srila Prabhupada wanted to offer them an opportunity to live simply, and meet their material needs very easily in rural, self-sufficient communities. He wanted to end both the struggle to exist and the struggle to become Krsna conscious in one stroke- and “make the path easy”.
The history of our farming communities has not been an easy path, however- they have suffered the same fate as our temples, with devotees leaving, often embittered. It was not a lack of sat sanga in such cases, as they lived constantly in the association of devotees… Or did they? If they did, then why so many have left, embittered by the lack of “love and trust”, as so many put it? Thus, if we are to reach the crux of the problem, we have to address this issue- how to turn our farms into outreach places for the materially and spiritually disenfranchised? Certainly the dynamic must be loving and trustworthy…I have explained in “Varnashrama- How it works, Why It works” how the brahmana ensures a dynamic worthy of trust, and the ksatriya, a dynamic of love, concern and appreciation. How to outreach to those who have already left, or have been thrown out of ISKCON, embittered?
Nandini Prabhu (Nori Muster) suffered this fate and wrote a book about it (“Betrayal of Spirit”). I came across that book in a library one day. I was not a library member so I could not get it out, but reading some of it, I felt very sorry for Nandini, as I had also gotten excommunicated for speaking my mind in one community- only our details differed. Recently, I came across a devotee review of the book, in which Nandini was condemned, which lacked depth, compassion and understanding. As a service to Nandini, whom my husband has met and noted her naturally vaisnava qualities, I will provide a deconstruction of that unfortunate review below…to protect identity, the reviewer will be referred to as B prabhu…(A more detailed analysis may be found on my blog: Click Here )
B Prabhu wrote: "Muster (Nandini) has nothing positive to say, and her own book is based on unsubstantiated rumor, gossip, and memories produced and nurtured in a self-admitted psychologically unbalanced mind. "
Of course, we have to assume she has done a thorough psychological analysis of Nandini, and has conducted research into the validity of her claims to make such a comment. Otherwise it is character assassination, being based on what she is assuming about Nandini- unsubstantiated claims. This is not surprising- we all tend to project on to others, our own inadequacies.
B Prabhu: Rather than simply denounce Muster's book out of hand...
...which she has just done!
Nandini Prabhu: "Like many other members, I believed that the organization had The Answer and everyone else was in the dark. I tried to force my group's beliefs and values on other people."
Good point, Nandini. I lost count of how many classes I attended, supposedly on Srimad Bhagavatam, but that were actually about showing how everyone else, but us, are in the dark. And pushy sankirtana techniques were not uncommon.
Nandini: "It has taken years of psychotherapy to overcome my guilt and forgive myself. I'm still working out my victimization issues because I came to ISKCON innocently seeking spiritual life ..."
Such should evoke a sense of compassion, but we are too busy in condemning her for spoiling our image to the outside world. What hope have our ex-pats got, when they try to voice their opinions inside ISKCON and are condemned for it, and punished by removal from service... Nandini lost her service, when she did so. In such an oppressive atmosphere, of course they go outside, for part of therapy is to be listened to by someone who is not in denial.
Ironically, Rupa Goswami describes two of the six loving exchanges between devotees as "revealing one's mind in confidence" and "listening to a devotee reveal his mind in confidence" Confidence is only possible when one is revealing to a person who does not judge or condemn one, especially publicly, what to speak of punishing them...
According to B Prabhu, Nandini is mentally unbalanced...looking at the particular mental disturbance experienced by Nandini- i.e. guilt- did we evoke it, or was it a problem before? Such would certainly happen if we condemn all those who leave Krsna Consciousness as insincere, fault-finders, traitors, or as having “turned against Prabhupada” and so on. A case in point- B Prabhu is doing it here, condemning, condemning, condemning. So in an atmosphere of condemnation for those outside and for those who have left, it is not surprising that guilt can be the result. Many ex-devotees feel guilt. If instead of condemnation, they feel love and compassion from us, they might not feel so guilty, and be attracted to again become involved. We prefer to punish those that leave, than offer outreach to them- offering them love, acceptance, forgiveness, etc, whereby it becomes very easy for them to join us again- and of course, hard for others to leave in the first place
When a sannyasi’s falldown became public knowledge, Srila Prabhupada was greatly disturbed saying “Now you have made it impossible for him to return!” Following his example, we need to think of those who have left, and assess our attitude to them, not just outreach to people who have no experience of ISKCON and who may think that it perfectly represents Krsna conscious ethics- for they become embittered when it does not.
The condemnation of the embittered pervades every level of our society. Indeed, the GBC have enacted laws for excommunication of those who criticize any leader, or ISKCON as a whole. And this is why we don’t have varnashrama in ISKCON though Srila Prabhupada ordered it- varnashrama diffuses power away from the power-brokers, the law makers and the managers (ksatriyas) to those who are thoroughly honest and do not ever condemn criticism that is factual, but use it to reform society.
We can learn from Nandini- her book could become the basis of reform, for what better way to stop the exodus of devotees, than finding out why they have left in the first place? The assumption always made about them is that it is their fault, even going so far as to claim mental illness as the cause of their observations that all in ISKCON is not well. The assumption preceding and spawning this assumption is that ISKCON is a transcendental society, because Srila Prabhupada once described it as his body…he also said “I am not this body”. In 1977 he left that body, but if we make our society full of transcendental consciousness, again he will return. That transcendental consciousness is devoid of religious self-righteousness, of sectarian divisions, indeed of any consciousness of “us” and “them”, which is the criterion, given by Srila Prabhupada, to be on the kanishta or materialistic platform of devotional service. platform.
When we consider all those on the outside of this movement, whether from bad experience or lack of experience, as one of us, and when we make all facility to include them, by opening doors both literally and within our hearts, then we will do more than outreach, but in-reach and access our dormant sense of God consciousness, sleeping under the influence of external designations.
When I came to know about the child abuse in ISKCON, I was shocked to find that the child abusers were in position of guru in ISKCON. Other gurus and leaders did not see anything wrong in them. Their followers worshiped them as exalted personality or pure devotee. The abuse by Dhanurdhar Swami were well known. I could not understand how such person like Dhanurdhar Swami could have position of guru in ISKCON.
During the early 2000s, Dhanurdhar Swami did some initiation ceremony at the house of the disciple of Prabhupada in New Jersey. I felt that this disciple was ignorant in letting a child abuser come to his house and initiate disciples. Some time ago, I came to find out that this person's son was severely abused by Dhanurdhar Swami. His son was extremely upset when he came to his house. He ignored his own son and let Dhanurdhar Swami come to his house. What can cause such person to be blind towards his own son? Devotee is compassionate. He feels the pain when he sees the pain of others. How can such devotee don't feel the pain of his own son? I know that this person is compassionate and loving. It is important to understand what turned this person to a hard hearted person without compassion and made him ignore the suffering of his son. It would be good that such people will go within and seek the answers. Unfortunately, such honest answers are missing in ISKCON and therefore, I have to write this article.
The author of article "Need Householder, not pretend brahmacaris" describes the problem of pretension in ISKCON. The author shows the fallacy in philosophy which causes men to remain brahmacari. But even if these brahmacaris got married, they won't be good parent or husband if they followed ISKCON's teachings. Example is Prabhupada disciple from New Jersey in above story who allowed his son to be abused and worshiped the abuser of his son.
There are numerous basic concepts which are not followed correctly in ISKCON like guru system. This article addresses most basic flaw in ISKCON's teaching i.e. disrespect towards living entities. People who externally show devotional qualities are considered advanced devotee. They are respected in society. Leaders of such people like gurus etc are served menially. Other people who don't follow Iskcon's standard of devotion are considered fallen. The goal of advanced devotee is to save such fallen soul. These people are labelled as karmi, materialist, mayavadi, scientist, atheist etc. They are seen with contempt. The children were not seen as devotee and they were considered fallen. Therefore, their cries of help from child abuser were ignored. Most probably ISKCON devotees thought that gurukula system or abuser were actually helping their fallen children. This contempt towards others starts with "Bhagavat Gita As It Is". Prabhupada, due to his standing, was able to criticize people who have different faith than him and portray them as lower or fallen. He does not hesitate to label them as rascal etc. After reading his books, the devotee is filled with disrespect towards those who don't agree with Prabhupada and seem to think it's OK for them to talk just like Prabhupada, even when not qualified. This is completely against the teaching of Gita.
Gita states that all of us are part of Krishna. Krishna loves everyone and He is in everyone's heart as Paramatma. Krishna is always with you all the time. Why? Because He loves you and loves everyone. You need to see everyone as manifestation of Krishna. When you see the presence of Krishna in everyone, then you serve everyone. This starts with serving people around you. You spend most of your time with family. So, this service starts with family.
Following quotes show the important of serving everyone seeing them as manifestation of Krishna: SB 3.29.21: I am present in every living entity as the Supersoul. If someone neglects or disregards that Supersoul everywhere and engages himself in the worship of the Deity in the temple, that is simply imitation.
SB 3.29.22: One who worships the Deity of Godhead in the temples but does not know that the Supreme Lord, as ParamAtmA, is situated in every living entity’s heart, must be in ignorance and is compared to one who offers oblations into ashes.
SB 3.29.23: One who offers Me respect but is envious of the bodies of others and is therefore a separatist never attains peace of mind, because of his inimical behavior towards other living entities.
SB 3.29.24: My dear Mother, even if he worships with proper rituals and paraphernalia, a person who is ignorant of My presence in all living entities never pleases Me by the worship of My Deities in the temple.
SB 3.29.25: Performing his prescribed duties, one should worship the Deity of the Supreme Personality of Godhead until one realizes My presence in his own heart and in the hearts of other living entities as well.
If you see others as part of Krishna, you won't see them as fallen. You will see Krishna in everyone and won't have feelings of superiority towards them. You will see Krishna's presence in them and you will respect them and love them. Based on above slokas, Dhanurdhara Swami is extremely fallen soul. Bhagavatam even says that such people will not attain peace of mind and will never please Krishna. Still, he continued to be guru for a long time.
In Iskcon, converting people to Prabhupada's faith or preaching is considered as main service to living entities. This is again a wrong understanding. Bhagavat Gita is not about conversion. You can find many sloka on how to serve others. Following Vedic sloka very beautifully describes how we should act in society or serve people:
sarve bhavantu sukhinah
sarve santu niramayah
sarve bhadrani pasyantu
ma kascid dukh bhag bhavet
May everyone be happy! May everyone be healthy and without disease! May everyone see the truth! May no one suffer!
So give happiness to people around you by seeing them as part of Krishna.
Lead a healthy lifestyle. Be disease free and help others to be disease free.
Help people to see the truth which is inside and not outside.
Do not give suffering to others and protect those who are suffering.
ISKCON cannot have healthy society or loving family relationships until devotees learn to respect, love and serve people unconditionally seeing them as manifestation of Krishna.
Did Krishna Build a One-way Staircase?|
by Jason Wiley
Posted October 2, 2012
I wanted to bring up in a public forum the subject of seeking shelter after falling away from the pure path, with the hope that it will generate some discussion. It is not my intention to criticize ISKCON in any way.
What would the world be without the presence of pure bhakti? The commitment and dedication that is exhibited by the devotees to the path of bhakti is extraordinary and inspiring. So many of us who have fallen away from the strict practice of devotional service still depend on the presence of ISKCON in one way or another as our spiritual sustenance. But at the same time, so many of us are isolated and have very little, if any, direct association with the movement.
The staircase analogy used to represent the ascension on the path to Krishna is seemingly a one-way street, and the falldown from whatever step you may have ascended to is often a fall that descends over many of the steps that you so smoothly ascended. The unfortunate reality is that most of the people who pursue the path of bhakti go through this experience. More people, by far, have left the movement than have been able or willing to stick with it, as those in the movement are painfully aware.
Is there something in the sastras that could provide some relief to this category of people? It seems like it's "pure bhakti or bust." There must be more alternatives available to assist those that have fallen away from the movement to stay on a more progressive path. There must be some rules of engagement for those practitioners that are unable to maintain the pure path, that still hold Vaishnavism in the highest regard yet do not hide the fact that their commitment is on a lower level.
Do the demigods as Vaishnavas provide shelter on the progressive path when approached in the proper manner? If we worship them as Vaishnavas, rather than just asking them for benedictions, will they not give us shelter on the progressive path? Is it proper to worship Lord Brahma as a Maha-bhagavat? Is it proper to worship Lord Shiva as Parama-Vaishnava? There must be some recommended service or engagement in the sastras that parallels the gradient levels of mixed bhakti for those that find pure devotional service out of reach.
Is it proper to keep chanting Hare Krishna while maintaining a regimen of fruitive activities? I have often asked devotees this question, and they have always said to keep chanting Hare Krishna no matter what. But maintaining material attachments while chanting Hare Krishna is one of the ten offenses and is a time bomb that will inevitably explode. There must be some form of authorized shelter on the progressive path that allows those on a lower level to find shelter. I just wish that there was some way to organize those of us that are like-minded and have fallen from the pure path. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of us.
Comment On "ISKCON's Lost Generation"
by Mary Novak
Posted December 27, 2011
Thank you for your honesty Nandini Click Here. I have been involved with ISKCON for many years and agree with your perception that many of the most prominent people in ISKCON except for Prabhupada, people who regard themselves as alleged leaders of the movement, have been corrupt and because of this corruption it is still rampant. Compassion, true compassion, the ability to be empathetic and sympathetic towards others is almost non-existent. The treatment of women and children in the movement has been abhorrent. Prabhupada was very egalitarian. What is the purpose of calling all souls equal and part and parcel of the Lord if we cannot show all souls respect and compassion? I have heard many people try to make excuses over the years, such as "well I was abused" or worse, “not a blade of grass moves without the will of the Supreme” as if God is responsible for your personal behavior. When I have confronted individuals about bad behavior in the past I have met with responses like these. No excuses. Adults should be able to have some perspective on what is right or wrong, and be able to take personal responsibility for their behavior. ISKCON has lost it moral compass. There have many cover-ups over the years, impossible for me to go into all of it here and mind you, I have lived through all of it, so I know what has gone on. As long as no one takes responsibility and expresses true contrition for bad behavior, the problems will continue. Abuse, neglect, hatred, greed, jealousy, lasciviousness, anger, bitterness; I have seen all of these behaviors exhibited by alleged devotees at some time or another. All of these behaviors, when perceived by others appear in the mode of passion or ignorance. All of these bad behaviors can be kept in check, and should be, not by others but by the individuals themselves. Devotees are supposed to make an effort to behave in the mode of goodness. Educating them in a correct way can help to bring about change in behavior. I have worked with many people who were not Krishna conscious, but have had high ethical and moral standards. All of society’s social mores should not be abandoned. Prabhupada himself said that by becoming Krishna conscious we could improve our lives and become better. Even in the jobs that I have had I have literally been taught to respect people of other walks of life and to show age appropriate behavior when dealing with the young, adults, and the elderly. Prabhupada said that he left the movement in its infancy. Don’t you think it is about time we grew up?
New Vrindaban is currently poised on the edge of a rejuvenation. Devotees are becoming enthused and there is a general agreement that a Master Plan is necessary.
New Vrindaban had a special place in Srila Prabhupada’s heart as it was the first farm community. He hoped it would become an example for many other farm communities to follow. Unfortunately along the way New Vrindaban, under the pressure of the macro society, slipped in a mood of consumerism, of being dependent on outside inputs.
Thus it seems to be appropriate to review some selected quotes of Srila Prabhupada to gain an understanding into what his ideas are, not only for New Vrindaban specifically but for all ISKCON farm communities.
“Krishna by His practical example taught us to give all protection to the cows and that should be the main business of New Vrindaban. Vrindaban is also known as Gokula. Go means cows, and kula means congregation. Therefore the special feature of New Vrindaban will be cow protection, and by doing so, we shall not be loser.”
Letter to Hayagriva 14 June 1968 (Montreal)
“Yes! Go on acquiring the surrounding lands and in this way we will establish a local self governing village and show all the world a practical example of spiritual life as Krsna Himself exhibited in Vrindavana. Agriculture and protecting cows, this is the main business of the residents of Vrindavan, and above all simply loving Krsna. The cows, the trees, the cowherd men and gopis, their chief engagement was loving Krsna, and in New Vrindavan we want to create this atmosphere and thereby show the whole world how practical and sublime our movement is.”
Letter from Srila Prabhupada to Kirtanananda Swami…27th July 1973
“You say we must have a gosala trust, that is our real purpose. krsi-goraksya-vanijyam vaisya karma svabhava-jam, [Bg 18.44]. Where there is agriculture there must be cows. That is our mission: Cow protection and agriculture and if there is excess, trade. This is a no-profit scheme. For the agriculture we want to produce our own food and we want to keep cows for our own milk. The whole idea is that we are ISKCON, a community to be independent from outside help. This farm project is especially for the devotees to grow their own food. Cotton also, to make their own clothes. And keeping cows for milk and fatty products.”
Letter to: Yasomatinandana — Vrindaban 28 November, 1976
“Prabhupada: Yes. Anyway, just inquire. These are our garden flowers.
Jayatirtha: Oh, very nice.
Prabhupada: This is also?
Prabhupada: Yes. Anything grown in the garden, that is hundred times valuable than it is purchased from the market.”
Room Conversation With French Commander — August 3, 1976, New Mayapur (French farm)
“Without protection of cows, brahminical culture cannot be maintained; and without brahminical culture, the aim of life cannot be fulfilled.” Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 8: Chapter Twenty-four, Text 5: PURPORT
“One cannot become spiritually advanced without acquiring the brahminical qualifications and giving protection to cows. “
Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 6: Chapter Eighteen, Text 52:PURPORT
“The basic principle of economic development is centered on land and cows.” SB 1.10.4
“Prabhupada: …They are interested with these bricks and stones, not green vegetables. Such a rascal government. Give them facility. We know how to do it. Annad bhavanti bhutani parjanyad anna-sambhavah, yajnad bhavati parjanyah [Bg. 3.14]. Let them engage in kirtana. There will be more water for gardening, and it will be moist, and then produce fodder for the animals and food for you. And animal gives you milk. That is Vrndavana life. And they are absorbed in this so-called opulence. Krsna has taken birth.
“They are bringing so many nice, pleasant foodstuff, very well-dressed and ornamented. These are description. In the morning we were reading. How they were happy, the inhabitants of Vrndavana with Krsna and living and cows. That I want to introduce. At any cost do it and… Don’t bother about big, big buildings. It is not required. Useless waste of time. Produce. Make the whole field green. See that. Then whole economic question solved. Then you eat sumptuous. Eat sumptuously. The animal is happy. The animal even does not give milk; let them eat and pass stool and urine. That is welcome. After all, eating, they will pass stool. So that is beneficial, not that simple milk is beneficial. Even the stool is beneficial.
“Therefore I am asking so much here and…, “Farm, farm, farm, farm…” That is not my program — Krsna’s program. Annad bhavanti bhutani [Bg. 3.14]. Produce greenness everywhere, everywhere. Vrndavana. It is not this motorcar civilization. If it has taken in his brain, then it is to be understood that he can do this plan. He’ll be able. “
Conversation Pieces — May 27, 1977, Vrndavana
The following is a letter from Tamal Krsna Goswami, Secretary to Srila Prabhupada, to Hari Sauri Das, ISKCON Melbourne, August 10th, 1977 (sent from Krsna Balarama Mandir, Vrndavana):
“Srila Prabhupada always enjoys hearing from you as you have gained an eternal position at His Divine Grace’s lotus feet. Srila Prabhupada appreciated your opening prayers.
“Srila Prabhupada was most enlivened to hear the report of New Govardhana Farm. His Divine Grace in the last month or so has been stressing the importance of these farm projects, and said, “This is the next aspect of Krsna consciousness which I wish to push forward. If I am able to travel again, then I shall visit the farms and make them perfect. On these farms we can demonstrate the full varnasrama system. If these farms become successful then the whole world will be enveloped by Krsna consciousness.
“From your letter I can understand how nice this farm is. I am very happy to see fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, grains, the devotees taking sumptuous prasadam and chanting Hare Krsna. This is the actual meaning of human life. It is a very good farm, from your letter I can understand. Whatever you build, get the building materials locally. If you can manufacture tiles locally, then your house problem is solved. Build up bamboo frame, and on it place tiles. In any event get everything locally. I wish to make a farm tour and then I shall surely visit your farm.”
“I suggested to Srila Prabhupada that he was the Farm Acarya, but Srila Prabhupada said, “Krsna is the Farm Acarya. Baladeva is holding a plow, and Krsna is holding the calf. Krsna advised Nanda Maharaja not to perform Indra puja but to worship the land, Govardhana because it was supplying all foodstuffs for the residents of Vrndavana and the cows as well.” So Srila Prabhupada wants you to develop this farm very nicely as it will be the future program to present to the world as the ideal of Krsna consciousness. In the cities, we are interested for preaching but we cannot present the ideal varnasrama system, this is only possible at the farms, so they are very important.”
“In My last birth I was born in the family of cowherd men, and I gave protection to the calves and cows. because of such pious activities, I have now become the son of a brahmana.
“The words of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the greatest authority, herein clearly indicate that one becomes pious simply by keeping cows and protecting them. Unfortunately, people have become such rascals that they do not even care about the words of an authority. “
Adi-lila: Chapter Seventeen, Text 111