Chakra Discussions

Whoa there, Nelly!

by Prema Bhakti das

Posted June 15, 2004

Recent articles, which either denounce outright His Holiness Satsvarupa Goswami, or veil contempt, criticism, judgment and moral superiority claims behind a modicum of etiquette, all share another common target: ISKCON.

Mr. Rowland Cheatham makes his denunciation crystal clear and even adds what I consider critical innuendo. ISKCON, in his opinion, equals 30 years of lies, propaganda, deception and denial concerning gurus.

Mr. Cheatham may have great hatred for ISKCON, but it is unlikely that he or any other westerner would have faith in the Holy Name but for the efforts of the many glorious individuals who constitute ISKCON. Within ISKCON there are stories of struggles, letdowns, falldowns and moral and personal failings. Those, however, are only some of the distractions and impediments to ISKCON's continuous, forward-marching, preaching efforts. Today ISKCON still stands as a beacon in the preaching of Lord Chaitanya's glories around the world and is still bringing more people to have faith in the Holy Name than all other Vaisnava missions combined.

A funny thing happens in the article written by Sacitananda prabhu. She begins by denouncing, as a failed ISKCON experiment, the act of men's taking sannyasa. But shortly therafter she acknowledges how the renunciation by young ISKCON devotees contributed greatly to the spectacular preaching success of ISKCON. In fact, to aid in the preaching he was leading, Srila Prabhupada gave sannyasa to his disciples. Being renounced is hard. In fact it is perhaps the greatest challenge a person may face. Being a sannyasa at a young age is even harder. Add to that being an ISKCON sannyasa, and the difficulty is magnified.

Sacitananda prabhu hides an apparent contempt for Goswami, sannyasis, ISKCON and, perhaps, men in general by reference to Srila Prabhupada's motives and denigrates ISKCON to advance her spiritual vision. ISKCON as a movement spearheaded hundreds if not thousands of preaching programs -- often with spectacular results. These programs began while Srila Prabhupada was on the planet and continue until this day. No other congregation of Vaisnavas has achieved even a fraction of the success ISKCON has achieved outside India.

Members of ISKCON have generally been put under the microscope not only by its detractors but by their own. Sannyasis have been placed under even greater scrutiny. In spite of rigorous oversight and all but complete lack of privacy, many ISKCON sannyasis have remained and more join their ranks every year. The vast majority of those who have left, or stepped down, spent most of their lives on the front lines of Lord Chaitanya's preaching movement. I am not very advanced and lack all spiritual vision, but I am loath to see how these lives spent in service of Srila Prabhupada constitute a failed experiment.

If you travel to India you will not fail to see the preaching success of ISKCON. Go to Vrndavan and look into the faces of the many great ISKCON devotees who reside or visit there and you will be humbled by their renunciation and spiritual advancement. Stand in front of Srimati Radharani at the Krishna Balarama Mandir and you will be lost for at least a moment. Go to Bombay and observe the thousands of people who take darshan every day in Juhu. Observe Sri Giriraja from the top of ISKCON Govardhana. You can't miss the fervor and renewed committment and vigor of Srila Prabhupada's senior disciples in the expansion, reclamation and building of Sri Mayapur Dhama.

ISKCON is building new facilities for preaching, from Moscow to Auckland. New preaching programs and ideas are launched weekly around the world; all these efforts are carried on the backs of renunciation and perseverance, and would be doomed to failure in a culture of lies, deception and propaganda. In Utah, Texas, Arizona and Florida, sincere, spiritually mature preaching is yielding great results. I sincerely hope that the efforts of all these Vaisnavas won't be reduced to failure by the stroke of the pen, by someone at sometime in the near future.

In fact, most of ISKCON's failures, stagnation and lack of forward progress take place not in the preaching fields, but in the minds of its detractors and on pages in cyberspace.