Devotee Writings etc.

ISKCON, ISKCON 2.0 and Beyond, Eunuch “Gurus” and What Comes After, Part 1 of 5

By Nitya Krishna dasa

Of Peacocks and Dry Ponds

siddhānta baliyā citte nā kara alasa
ihā ha-ite kṛṣṇe lāge sudṛḍha mānasa
“A sincere student should not neglect the discussion of such conclusions, considering them controversial, for such discussions strengthen the mind. Thus one’s mind becomes attached to Śrī Kṛṣṇa.” Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi Lila 2.117

“The result of receiving knowledge from a self-realized soul, or one who knows things as they are, is learning that all living beings are parts and parcels of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krsna. The sense of a separated existence from Krsna is called maya.” Purport, Bhagavad-gita 4.35

The business of a devotee is seeing things as they really are, free from all illusions and misconceptions.

“So this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, therefore, teaching pure devotional service to Kṛṣṇa, that will solve all problems.” Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.19, Sept. 27, 1974, Calcutta

That pure devotional service is the possession of the pure devotee acaryas. Empowered by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, it is theirs to distribute, and Srila Prabhupada’s preaching pastimes did so far and wide, often to those most fallen and undeserving. Such is the mercy of Mahaprabhu in this dark materialistic age when spiritual ignorance is glorified by the intellectual academic class. Under the guidance and shelter of the acarya the spiritually blind and lame find they are suddenly able to see and walk to all parts of the globe to distribute his message.

When the waves of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s ocean of love of God embodied in the spiritually surcharged preaching of an acarya wash over mundane society, practically everyone gets wet, just as during Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s manifest pastimes over 500 years ago. That supreme personality of Godhead is literally present in the words and chanting of those transparently serving the acarya, cleansing the hearts of all who hear the holy name from them (sankirtana).

ceto-darpaṇa-mārjanaṁ bhava-mahā-dāvāgni-nirvāpaṇaṁ
śreyaḥ-kairava-candrikā-vitaraṇaṁ vidyā-vadhū-jīvanam
ānandāmbudhi-vardhanaṁ prati-padaṁ pūrṇāmṛtāsvādanaṁ
sarvātma-snapanaṁ paraṁ vijayate śrī-kṛṣṇa-saṇkīrtanam
“Glories to the śrī-kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtana, which cleanses the heart of all the dust accumulated for years together. Thus the fire of conditioned life, of repeated birth and death, is extinguished. This saṅkīrtana movement is the prime benediction for humanity at large because it spreads the rays of benediction moon. It is the life of all transcendental knowledge, it increases the ocean of transcendental bliss, and it helps to have a taste of the full nectar for which we are always anxious.” Sri Sri Siksastakam 1

The tangible effects of some fallen member of Western society taking to the instructions of the acarya are so transformative that it appears magic is at work. Former meat eaters, intoxicators and sexually promiscious persons find themselves able to live free from these vices. Happiness becomes a regular occurance in their lives. Around them the presence of the supreme being becomes more than a belief.

śṛṇvatāṁ sva-kathāḥ kṛṣṇaḥ
puṇya-śravaṇa-kīrtanaḥ
hṛdy antaḥ-stho hy abhadrāṇi
vidhunoti suhṛt satām
“Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramātmā, or Supersoul, in everyone’s heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who relishes His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted.” Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.17

Part and parcel of what is sometimes literally the music of the real disciplic succession is the pleasure that the practitioner feels performing the services enjoined by the bona fide spiritual master.

raja-vidya raja-guhyam
pavitram idam uttamam
pratyaksavagamam dharmyam
su-sukham kartum avyayam
“This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.” Bhagavad-gita 9.2

This is because following the instructions of the pure devotee immediately places one in the mode of goodness.

“When you are enlightened, engladdened… Because so long we are in the jurisdiction of ignorance and passion, there cannot be any jubilant. There cannot be any enlightenment. Therefore you have to come to the platform of goodness. As it is stated in the previous…,
tadā rajas-tamo-bhāvāḥ
kāma-lobhādayaś ca ye
ceta etair anāviddhaṁ…(SB 1.2.19)
Cetas, everything is working within the heart, the whole thing. Heart is the central point of this body. So when the heart is not punctured by the rajo-guṇa and tamo-guṇa, and you become situated on the modes of goodness, then you become jubilant.” Class on Srimad-Bhagavatam, Aug. 23, 1972, Los Angeles

Real joy and the peace of mind of being detached from bodily identification, along with spiritual realization, these are the tangible benefits personally experienced by devotees making real spiritual advancement, things that can’t be faked for very long. These things are the wealth possessed by those surrendered to the pure devotee’s parampara “music.”

vāsudeve bhagavati
bhakti-yogaḥ prayojitaḥ
janayaty āśu vairāgyaṁ
jñānaṁ ca yad ahaitukam
“By rendering devotional service unto the Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, one immediately acquires causeless knowledge and detachment from the world.” Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.7

When the Music’s Stops

Yet all the magic and worldwide triumph is completely dependent on one thing – the shelter or following of the acarya. In this regard, Srila Prabhupada once compared his disciples to peacocks:

“In the rainy season, when the clouds appear for the first time, the peacocks dance with joy upon seeing them. The peacocks can be compared to persons who are very much harassed in the materialistic way of life. If they can find the association of a person engaged in the loving devotional service of the Lord, they become enlightened and dance just like peacocks. We have practical experience of this: many of our students were dry and morose previous to their coming to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, but having come into contact with devotees, they are now dancing like jubilant peacocks.” Krsna Book, Ch. 20, Description of Autumn

But in the same chapter he also wrote:

“Sometimes in autumn the falls come down from the top of the hill to supply clean water, and sometimes they stop. Similarly, sometimes great saintly persons distribute clear knowledge, and sometimes they are silent. The small ponds which were filled with water because of the rainy season, gradually dry up in autumn.” Krsna Book, Ch. 20, Description of Autumn

Just as the physical presence of the acarya was not required for devotees to get miraculous results preaching during Srila Prabhupada’s manifest presence, the same empowerment did not have to stop after his physical departure in 1977. Following the acarya without additions or subtractions is what connects the follower to the ultimate master, Krishna, regardless of physical manifestation.

“There are two ways of association — by vani and by vapu. Vani means words and vapu means physical presence. Physical presence is sometimes appreciable and sometimes not, but vani, continues to exist eternally.” Concluding Words, Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya-lila 5

“Just like there is electric powerhouse, and there is a plug. That plug is connected with the electric powerhouse, and if you push your wire in the plug, you also get electricity. Similarly, as it is stated in the beginning of this chapter, evaṁ paramparā-prāptam imaṁ rājarṣayo viduḥ. If you take shelter of the paramparā system…. The same example. If you take the shelter of the plug which is connected with the powerhouse, you get immediately electricity. Similarly, if you take shelter of a person who is coming in the paramparā system…” Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 4.5, Bombay, March 25, 1974

In other words, had Srila Prabhupada’s disciples continued to follow him transparently after his physical departure everything would have continued as previously. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. By now, many decades later, the ponds that were overflowing during Srila Prabhupada’s manifest presence have long gone dry. The electric plug has become unconnected or intermittent at best. The peacocks that used to dance, now often exchange fingers of blame, sometimes recalling the ill-treatment they received at the hands of former leaders. Many have just returned to being dry and morose. Such is the fate of the residents of Kali yuga.

prāyeṇālpāyuṣaḥ sabhya
kalāv asmin yuge janāḥ
mandāḥ sumanda-matayo
manda-bhāgyā hy upadrutāḥ
“O learned one, in this iron age of Kali men have but short lives. They are quarrelsome, lazy, misguided, unlucky and, above all, always disturbed.” Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.10
From the purport: “The people of this age are also very lazy, not only materially but in the matter of self-realization. The human life is especially meant for self-realization. That is to say, man should come to know what he is, what the world is, and what the supreme truth is. Human life is a means by which the living entity can end all the miseries of the hard struggle for life in material existence and by which he can return to Godhead, his eternal home. But, due to a bad system of education, men have no desire for self-realization. Even if they come to know about it, they unfortunately become victims of misguided teachers.”

Virtually everyone in Kali Yuga fails to have the intelligence to discern spiritual truth from deception. Unfortunately this included a vast majority of Srila Prabhupada’s followers just after his physical departure in November 1977, sometimes after having been substantially trained in his mission. In the spring of 1978 eleven “misguided teachers” from among his senior-most managers audaciously and deceptively claimed that he had appointed them as his successor gurus. They then divided the world up into eleven preaching zones wherein each was the exclusive “guru and initiator.”

Some recent books have documented the abuses of these eleven “zonal acaryas.” Although many of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples were uncomfortable worshipping or kowtowing to them after having been relative equals for years, only a handful were courageous enough to philosophically argue against the “bloodless coup.” These dissenters had the added disadvantage of having seen no proof of the appointment statements, thus obligating them to accept the eleven as truthful. They therefore presented their arguments with undeserved deference. Nevertheless the eleven conscience-less brutes essentially ostracized them along with anyone who would not worship them and accept their absolute dominance, this despite those victims having dedicated their lives to Srila Prabhupada’s mission and movement.

In essence this meant that the ISKCON institution or movement went from being Srila Prabhupada’s and transcendental to that of these eleven and their false egos [or the Governing Body Commission (GBC) which they controlled]. Srila Prabhupada thus became “founder-acarya” in name only, something that has only continued to the present day through any number of GBC bodies and “reforms.” To return to the dancing peacock’s analogy, this meant the music changed from being that of the self-realized emissary from the spiritual world to largely that of eleven ambitious absolute-power-obsessed liars, qualities of men who are no longer devotees of the Lord.

pravrttim ca nivrttim ca
jana na vidur asurah
na saucam napi cacaro
na satyam tesu vidyate
“Those who are demoniac do not know what is to be done and what is not to be done. Neither cleanliness nor proper behavior nor truth is found in them.” Bhagavad-gita 16.7

“A devotee is neither foolish nor passionate. The harmful, foolish and passionate cannot be devotees of the Lord, however they may advertise themselves as devotees by outward dress.” Purport, Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.19

Through all the ensuing managerial machinations forty-some years on, three of these eleven, despite their questionable current mental, physical and devotional states, remain adored in the institution as “gurus,” only one of which has ever indicated any remorse for having lied to and abused thousands. A fourth was killed in a car accident and is still honored as a departed “spiritual master.”

After a number of scandals 1987-era reformers forced what was left of the eleven to downsize and largely remove their external worship from Srila Prabhupada’s temples. Despite this, the reformers were coerced to let them keep their ill-gotten “disciples” and remain accepted as “gurus.” This has been compared to a company where, although the board gets caught stealing, they not only get to hold onto their positions but also get to keep the money. Such an organization is not working under the standards of the liberated, pure devotee acaryas, including Srila Prabhupada, what to speak of mundane ethics, law or just plain honesty. This means that most non-devotees act on a higher moral standard. The music of Srila Prabhupada thus rarely gets heard over the self-interest of those who superintend this sham, the GBC. Srila Prabhupada’s spiritual master once commented on the spirituality of such an environment:

“Hearing topics of the Lord from pure devotees is the only support in the less-intelligent devotees’ worship of the Supreme Lord. Otherwise their propensity for worshiping the Lord diminishes day by day, and, being attacked by the mundane beliefs of the sahajiyas, they fall from the worship of the Lord. Generally, prakrta-sahajiyas are very foolish. Proudly considering themselves expert in bhajana, they become confused by opposing the scriptures and stray far away from the mahajanas’ all-auspicious statements like sadhu-sastra-guru-vakya, hrdaye kariya aikya—‘One must consider the instructions of the sadhu, the revealed scriptures, and the spiritual master in order to understand the real purpose of spiritual life.’” Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, Purport, Sri Chaitanya Bhagavat, Adi Lila 12.19, translation by Bhumipati dasa

Nevertheless none of this stops the GBC and their various so-called gurus from going on as if they are Srila Prabhupada’s authorized successors, going so far as to even entomb in elaborate samadhis men who have done little more than climb and stay on the ladder of an institutional bureaucracy. This as if they are on the same spiritual level as Srila Prabhupada or the other great devotees who this honor is traditionally reserved for. One such entombed climber, Gunagrahi “Swami,” was even revealed as having been a longtime fan of pornography.

Ecclesiology

Even the selection method that the institution uses to award “guruship” is condemned by both Srila Prabhupada and the previous acaryas.

“It is imperative that a serious person accept a bona fide spiritual master in terms of the sastric injunctions. Sri Jiva Goswami advises that one not accept a spiritual master in terms of hereditary or customary social and ecclesiastical conventions. One should simply try to find a genuinely qualified spiritual master for actual advancement in spiritual understanding.” Purport, Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 1.35

“Mundane votes have no jurisdiction to elect a Vaisnava acarya. A Vaisnava acarya is self-effulgent.” Purport, Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 1.220

“Our present system has institutionalized a process of senior devotees voting or offering no-objection to prospective gurus. But we do not find that this institutionalized blessing seeking process is mentioned by guru, sadhu or sastra as the way that one is authorized to become a guru.” ISKCON institution Sastric Advisory Committee, Balancing the roles of the GBC and the disciple in Guru selection

After the eleven’s appointment deception was exposed around 1980, the accepted method of so-called guru selection has been some vote or lack of disapproval of GBC members – a purely ecclesiastical criterion. In further disregard of Gaudiya sampradaya standards, all the so-called gurus have to subordinate themselves to the GBC by signing a loyalty oath, a type of contract. This puts them in a position similar to ordinary employees who are dependent on the body for their “guru license,” and who must remain under its good graces to practice. This means they are acting more like dependent, mode-of-ignorance sudras than real independent, brahmana-Vaishnava, transcendental autocrat spiritual masters. Srila Prabhupada sometimes compared sudras to dogs:

“Therefore, after education you’ll have to write application, ‘My dear sir, I am such and such qualified dog. (laughter) If you’ll kindly give me some service.’ And the tail is like this. (laughter) You see? Just imagine. If by education he becomes independent … Just like Vedic culture. The brahmanas, the ksatriya, the vaisyas, they are independent. The sudras are compared with the dogs because they cannot live without a master. Brahmana, he will not accept anyone’s service. That is real brahmana.” Lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam 2.3.18-19, Los Angeles, June 13, 1972

This condemned imitation of Vaishnavism cannot be pleasing to the supreme Lord, much like selling a placebo as the real thing.

“We will establish hundreds of temples, and they will all be very opulent. But if we do not follow the instruction of the Spiritual Master, they will just be showbottle. Do you know what showbottle means? It means colored water in a bottle which looks just like medicine, but which, when you take it, does not work.” Room conversation, NY, July, 1970

The result of all this deviation and ambition is that, since 1978, the ISKCON institution has seen a continuous parade of “guru” scandals and embarrassments. This has resulted in an extremely disproportionate percentage of ex-members versus those still loyal to the leadership. Srila Rupa Goswami, the foremost of Lord Chaitanya’s immediate disciples, hundreds of years ago described how such things come about in apparent Krishna consciousness:

śruti-smṛti-purāṇādi-
pañcarātra-vidhiṁ vinā
aikāntikī harer bhaktir
utpātāyaiva kalpate
“Devotional service of the Lord that ignores the authorized Vedic literatures like the Upanishads, Puranas, and Narada-pañcaratra is simply an unnecessary disturbance in society.” Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 1.2.101

Of course, the abusive over-lording and hypocrisy of the leaders, as well as their disregard of even obvious criticism, has resulted in various degrees of dis-affectation and a number of counter-factions. Quite a few have given up Krishna consciousness altogether. Many just try to make the best of practicing at home while working a job and associating with other isolated devotee friends. Some outside groups try to return to the original teachings and mission with varying degrees of success. These often suffer from a lack of leadership or those who are largely incapable of cooperating with their godbrothers and sisters. Some have approached other Gaudiya Vaishnava leaders in India where, while that Indian leader was physically present, active competition with the ISKCON institution ensued.

Other groups have attempted to correct the institution’s glaring deficiency of de-emphasizing founder-acarya Srila Prabhupada by concocting their own deviation where, even after his physical departure, all new disciples become his and not the priest who performs the ceremony. Named for said priest, such a posthumous “rittvik” initiation scheme has absolutely no precedent in authorized Vaishnava practice and scripture and is just what one would expect from a group of mostly Western people (melecchas) who were not raised in that tradition. There is absolutely no mention of such an initiation scheme in all of the Vedic literature. Despite the lack of any direct order, its advocates claim Srila Prabhupada wanted this by screwing it out of his intiation procedures and letters. Far more than a minor alteration to the application of Krishna consciousness, it implys that he wanted to change the eternal Gaudiya Vaishnava siddhanta or philosophical practice, something no bona fide acarya would attempt.

“One should accept a thing as genuine by studying the words of saintly people, the spiritual master and sastra. The actual center is sastra, the revealed scripture. If a spiritual master does not speak according to revealed scripture, he is not to be accepted. Similarly, if a saintly person does not speak according to the sastra, he is not a saintly person. Sastra is the center for all.” Purport, Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 20.352

Inflation of a Different Kind

The leaders of the ISKCON institution and rittvik factions claim that the spiritual empowerment bestowed by Srila Prabhupada is as available in their groups as it was during his manifest presence. However, is this really the case? They will point to the thousands of new devotees being made and how some new temples have been opened here and there, but. . . . ?

It is also well known that some Western temples of the ISKCON institution get by with skeleton crews and have seen practically no renovation in the last forty years. And that ignores all the temples and farms that have closed. Even the temples that are busier during the morning program or weekends have practically no full-time preachers endeavoring to be fully engaged in pure devotional service. The attendees then are mostly householders who work a job and make donations, very seldom coming up to the pure standard of half their profit or paycheck.

Then there is how the personnel have changed several times over. After most of Srila Prabhupada’s initiates were driven out by the zonal acaryas in the early 80’s, most of the the zonals’ and their successors’ followers have also left because of their so-called gurus’ scandals. These estranged zonal followers then provided a ready-made recruiting base for the rapid initial growth of the early 90’s rittvik faction.

Although the zonals were forced to accept reform and bring members of the mid-80’s reform movement into GBC leadership positions, the top-down nature of GBC management remained the face of the body. This is how the abusive and questionable “gurus,” both among and after the zonals, get to defy honesty and accountability to the ordinary devotees, Vaishnava standards and the outside world. This is something integral to any worldly institutional religion. Srila Prabhupada once commented on religionists who imagine that their power enables them to disregard ethics and religious codes:

“So God is great. We have to understand how great He is. Not that simply sophistically, ‘God is great, and I do everything. God cannot see. Let me commit all kinds of sin.’ But God is great; He will see. ‘No, no, God cannot see. I can cheat God, although He is great.’ That is our philosophy. ‘God is great, but I am so great that I can cheat God.’ That is Hiraṇyakaśipu’s philosophy.” Class on Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.3.22, Los Angeles, September 27, 1972

In doing so Srila Prabhupada also said that such “devotees,” who are acting largely under the modes of passion and ignorance, are actually imagining a Krishna who is different that the real one. In a sense they are conjuring up their own “god.”

“Vijñāna means science. Without scientific knowledge, one cannot understand what is God. Bhagavat-tattva-vijñānam. And who can understand this vijñāna, this scientific knowledge? Mukta-saṅgasya: one who is liberated from the contamination of the three modes of material nature, he can understand. Those who are contaminated with tamo-guṇa, rajo-guṇa, they can create their own God. There are different types of “God” also. In one sense everyone is God. God means the controller. So everyone is to some extent a controller. But as I have explained several times, real controller means who is not controlled by others. That is God. If I am controlled by the material nature, daivī hy eṣā guṇamayī mama māyā duratyayā . . . (BG 7.14). Birth, death, old age and disease, if I am controlled by these conditions of nature, then how I can become God? God is never controlled.” Class on Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.2.20, Vrndavana, October 31, 1972

Needless to say, among the two groups of departed personnel described above, there is no shortage of devotees who refuse to bow to the zonals who lied to them about being guru and then drove them out of what was once Srila Prabhupada’s “house in which everyone could live.” Among those institutional “gurus” after the zonals, there has also been no shortage of abuse, scandal and hypocrisy, something only adding to the number of those who cannot accept subordination to them or the GBC body. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, our predecessor acarya, did not have such kind words for either of these varieties of institutional “gurus.”

“One should give up the association of dharmadvajis, the hypocritically devout, with special care. Those who accept the external signs of dharma but do not actually follow dharma are called dharmadvajis. There are two types of dharmadvajis—the hypocrites and the fools, or the cheaters and the cheated. Such hypocrisy in jnana-kanda and karma-kanda is also condemned. In devotional service this hypocrisy ruins everything. Better associate with sense enjoyers, for in this whole world there is no worse association than the dharmadvaji. The deceitful dharmadvajis accept the signs of dharma with a desire to cheat the world, and to fulfill their crooked desires they cheat the foolish by helping them in their rascaldom.” Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Sri Bhaktyaloka, Six Faults that Destroy Bhakti, Jana Sanga

Largely because honoring their reprobate dharmadvajis is non-negotiable, the GBCs have had to implement major institutional changes, completely revamping the funding methods and management personnel of most Western temples. Without the original renunciates of mostly Western background who would daily go out to fundraise or sell books, the GBC has recently become more dependent on married people of Indian Hindu descent who inevitably see the temples in the same way as Christians see their church. These Indians now also manage many Western temples. This then means that the number of new devotees of Western descent has also dropped significantly. The largest numbers of new devotees are also being made in India, where accepting some kind of guru is part of most Hindu’s cultural and religious expectations. A recent priority then is again attracting non-Indians. But to what?

ISKCON, ISKCON 2.0 and Beyond, Eunuch “Gurus” and What Comes After, Part 2 of 5

ISKCON, ISKCON 2.0 and Beyond, Eunuch “Gurus” and What Comes After, Part 3 of 5

ISKCON, ISKCON 2.0 and Beyond, Eunuch “Gurus” and What Comes After, Part 4 of 5

ISKCON, ISKCON 2.0 and Beyond, Eunuch “Gurus” and What Comes After, Part 5 of 5

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