Devotee Writings etc.

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

By Nitya Krishna dasa

Material Adjustments – Keeping the Errors Current

Of course, it is relatively easy to look back and point out where things went wrong and who was responsible. However, it is also easy to cite Srila Prabhupada’s instructions for what he wanted. “Preaching is the essence” is one all remember. Facilitating that preaching is therefore one of the prime duties of the GBC, the “ultimate managing authority.” After 40 some years of devotees subordinating themselves to the body, many have forgotten that, as servants, the GBC body’s dharma, or occupation, is pleasing Srila Prabhupada and his devotees in these ways.

Prior to his physical departure, Srila Prabhupada’s movement served as a training ground for learning and preaching the philosophy of Krishna consciousness – brahminical activities.

“And if we perform everything nicely and always seize every opportunity to preach about Krishna, that is our formula for success. Of course management must be there, but if preaching work is strong, management will automatically be strong. So in all cases, become a very good preacher, and this will please me very much.” Letter to Locanananda, 8 December, 1971

“The brāhmaṇa is meant for doing the brain work. He will give advice. Just like we, Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, we, we are not meant for the ksatriya’s business or vaisya’s business, the devotees, but if required they can take. But real business is, brāhmaṇa’s business is to know the Vedas, the Brahman, the Supreme Brahman, the Absolute Truth. He, he must know, and he must distribute the knowledge. This is brāhmaṇa. Kīrtayanto. Satataṁ kīrtayanto māṁ yatantaś ca dṛḍha-vratāḥ. This is brāhmaṇa’s business. So, we have taken this business that preach that there is God. We have got an intimate relationship with God. So if you act, act accordingly, then they will be happy. This is our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement.” Lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam 01.14.43, New York, April 7, 1973

Where the Problems Lies

As Srila Prabhupada preached philosophy applicable to every time and circumstance, every disciple’s preaching should follow. Preaching means getting conditioned souls to understand that their prime necessity is pursuing self-realization through the process of Krishna consciousness. Who they decide to follow as a leader comes later as a matter of faith and examination. Even after Srila Prabhupada’s departure from manifest presence this was meant to continue. This is the essence. There was absolutely no need to have “spiritual master” successors in the immediate aftermath of his physical departure. The main thing was always to get people to chant Hare Krishna. And this was exactly what many of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples were doing at that time.

As far as the specifics of who would become guru and how they would act, the GBC should have commissioned the movement’s most learned and exemplary brahmanas to research this. Unfortunately, at perhaps their first opportunity to serve Srila Prabhupada’s desires in this important regard, the GBC abjectly failed as they first allowed Kirtanananda “Swami” and then the other ten zonal acaryas to usurp absolute power and impose their will on their godbrothers and godsisters.

The takeover of Kirtanananda, who started “initiating” as early as December of 1977, and the zonals was taken right from the ruthless playbooks of many tyrants. Every new person was told they had to get “initiated” by one of them. Those who wanted to continue following Srila Prabhupada as a siksa, or instructing, spiritual master were chastised and shamed. Hindsight now clearly indicates that following Srila Prabhupada in just that way was what would have maintained the standards and kept his divine music playing in the temples, as opposed to the domineering sauce spewing from the mouths of the zonals and their hatchet men.

If we look at why devotees left the ISKCON institution after Srila Prabhupada’s physical departure, the biggest reasons all had something to do with what passed for initiation. Srila Prabhupada’s disciples left because they could no longer preach that new people should follow men who didn’t live up the qualities of guru enumerated in his books, men devoid of humility who took pleasure in subjugating others, and who were later found to have lied about being appointed by Srila Prabhupada. The followers of the eleven and their later imitators left because they saw through the deceptions of their so-called guru, usually after some scandal. The focus on getting new people “initiated,” therefore, turned out to be extremely counter-productive.

These reasons are all about honesty. Due to ambition, in addition to some apparent encouragement from Srila Prabhupada’s godbrother Sridhara Maharaja, the eleven knowingly pretended to be devotees on the highest level, imitating Srila Prabhupada. They were advertised as such and accepted the same extravagant worship as him. By endorsing this obvious deception, the GBC established a very deceptive, unethical and sahajiya (lax devotee) standard for what passes for guru in their organization.

“However, one should not imitate the behavior of an advanced devotee or maha-bhagavata without being self-realized, for by such imitation one will eventually become degraded….. The devotee should also know his own position and should not try to imitate a devotee situated on a higher platform.” Purport, Nectar of Instruction, Text 5

The ongoing “GBC sanction means ‘guru’” process that substituted when it was found out that there was no appointment is also deceptive if we acknowledge Srila Prabhupada and Srila Jiva Goswami’s condemnation of ecclesiastical “gurus” cited previously. That would mean none of the people selected by the GBC should be honored as genuine spiritual masters, something spiritually dishonest.

So in addition to being the most stable method of maintaining the preaching after Srila Prabhupada’s physical departure, establishing a default policy of him as siksa guru for new people was also far more self-evident and honest – read believable. Considering the retrospective track record of those who have jumped up to act as so-called gurus, an “at your own risk” recommendation-disclaimer should have been the default given to any new person asking about initiation. Serious devotees of this time would have been quick to agree.

And this dishonesty remains central to the ISKCON institution’s so-called guru/disciple arrangements. This conversation is well known in this regard:

Prabhupada: So many complaints.
Tamala Krsna: Therefore, change is good.
Prabhupada: No, you become guru, but you must be qualified first of all. Then you become.
Tamala Krsna: Oh, that kind of complaint was there.
Prabhupada: Did you know that?
Tamala Krsna: Yeah, I heard that, yeah.
Prabhupada: What is the use of producing some rascal guru?
Tamala Krsna: Well, I have studied myself and all of your disciples, and it’s clear fact that we are all conditioned souls, so we cannot be guru. Maybe one day it may be possible…
Prabhupada: Hm. – Room Conversation, April 22, 1977, Bombay

Here just a year before the eleven declared their regime, one of their prime movers admitted to Srila Prabhupada that none of the disciples, himself included, was qualified to be guru. Yet, for much of the last forty-some years the GBC recommended path for new people has been to approach one questionable ladder-climber after another. Believe me, they know the inadequacy of these people when compared with the previous acaryas. They aren’t even honest with themselves.

So instead of serving Srila Prabhupada and his surrendered servant-preachers, the 23 man GBC betrayed their trust and sent the institution careening down the scandal-marked path that we have witnessed for the last decades. For almost every “guru” scandal there was personal spiritual tragedy for sometimes hundreds of disciples. Despite all the institution’s rationalizations ad nauseam about an automatic self-corrective mechanism, etc., any reasonable devotee can understand that these disappointments are not on the spiritual or transcendental platform. They are little more than people’s (bad) karma. Once the twelve non-zonal GBC members acceded to the eleven’s raw Machiavellian ambition, the die was cast for one material-adjustment-damage-control after another.

“We shall not be able to control. That is explained. Therefore, in the material world, we are trying to solve one problem, but we are getting new problems. In the Western countries we see it very easily. Man manufactured the horseless carriage, motorcar, to go very swiftly, but now it is problem is where to park and how to drive the motorcar. In America we have seen. They are increasing different paths, one after another, one after another, one after another. Still, the problem is not solved. Still somewhere you’ll find bottleneck. So many accidents. So we cannot actually solve the material problems. That is not possible. Material energy is so strong. Sṛṣṭi-sthiti-pralaya-sādhana-śaktir ekā. You cannot control over. Because real controller is Kṛṣṇa. We are simply trying to control over the material energy. That will be, never be successful. This is knowledge.” Lecture on Bhagavad-gita 7.5, Vrndavana, August 11, 1974

Srila Prabhupada often used this automobile example to illustrate the futility of trying to solve problems materially – such a method and consciousness will only result in further problems. Following precisely this flawed method, the GBC first approved the zonal acaryas solution to the sudden absence of a diksa guru. The body’s ensueing machinations for the last forty years were the natural consequence.

For the ultimate solution to all problems, we must awaken to Krishna consciousness.” Purport, Srimad Bhagavatam 4.29.34

“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

The real solution to the movement’s succession problem was thus invoking pure Krishna consciousness by being honest and simply consulting guru, sadhu and sastra. Following this mode of goodness process would have largely preserved how the movement was being conducted at the time of Srila Prabhupada’s physical departure. Taking into account the admittedly neophyte status of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples, any implementation of future initiations should have been entered into very slowly and deliberately.

“Trying Something”

The first consequence of the zonals’ “solution” was infighting and scandal among them. The GBC’c knee-jerk reaction was disciplining or ostracizing the reprobates. This then resulted in confusion as to who a devotee’s real authority was, the GBC or their zonal “guru.” As more of the eleven became enmeshed in scandal, a reform movement took shape.

Although the more purely motivated reformers wanted a return to the guru, sadhu and sastra standards in place at the time of Srila Prabhupada’s physical departure, the GBC’s 1987 materially conceived compromise was to continue accepting what remained of the eleven and attempt to establish the GBC body as the movement’s ultimate authority. This latter item was something far beyond Srila Prabhupada’s enjoined status for them as “ultimate managing authority.” Their new regime also included “spiritual” authority over the so-called gurus, a deviant process previously cited as having no precedent in historical Vaishnavism. The rationalization given was that the ISKCON institution is the first worldwide Vaishnava movement. How is it Vaishnava, however, if it doesn’t follow Vaishnava philosophy? As described previously, the root non-negotiable issue behind the compromise, as well as all the ensuing adjustments, was the remaining zonals retaining their dishonestly accumulated disciples and power. By 1987 their followers constituted a majority of the movement. How honest or spiritual is that?

“So knowledge means without any mistake. Anything without any mistake, that is perpetually right. And anything based on mistaken idea, that will change. You have to correct the (consciousness) mistake. The so-called modern scientist, they are simply correcting their mistake. Therefore they have no real knowledge. Nobody can have real knowledge, because we are imperfect. Our senses are imperfect. That is our defect in the conditioned life. We have got four defects: we commit mistake, we become illusioned, our senses are imperfect and we cheat. Because our knowledge is imperfect, still, we take the position of teacher; therefore we are cheater—not teacher, but cheater. So the teacher society nowadays is the cheater society. And this modern world is a society of the cheater and the cheated. That’s all. Somebody is cheating and somebody is being cheated. This is going on.” Lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam 1.15.44, Los Angeles 12/22/1973, (our parentheses)

“All these things are nonsense inventions. Such inventing  spirit will ruin our this movement…….Gradually the Krishna Consciousness idea will evaporate: another change, another change, every day another change. Stop all this.” Letter to Sudama, Vrindaban, 5 November, 1972

Perhaps the main architect of the compromise was reform leader Ravindra Svarupa dasa, who was also a university professor. His influence and guidance have since shaped many GBC decisions and policies, things largely summarized in his 2014 “GBC Foundational Document,” Srila Prabhupada Founder-Acarya of ISKCON. His perspective on the reform “solutions” described above is largely expressed in a lecture entitled The Hidden History of ISKCON:

“One should not be discouraged. . . .because we’re trying to do something which is pretty heavy: trying to take a religious tradition out of one culture and one circumstance and transplant it into another. How to have a world-wide movement under the direction of a board of directors where there are many gurus and many disciples all working together in harmony. The Gaudiya Math was unable to do it. We tried one thing (the zonal acarya system) in ISKCON. We thought we did it right and it turned out to be not right. We’re trying something else. I don’t think that the original people of the zonal acarya system  (were at fault). It is certainly not something which is against our philosophy or un-bona fide. It’s just not exactly what Prabhupada wanted. And at first we thought this is the way we’re going to put the gurus in ISKCON. It turned out to be wrong. I don’t know any other way you can find these things out except by trying something. If it doesn’t work, go back and fix it and try again. That’s how you go forward by this method because we’re putting Krishna consciousness into new circumstances.” Ravindra Svarupa dasa, The Hidden History of ISKCON Part 4, (other’s parentheses)

Such language is certainly what one would expect from a director of a large corporation expanding globally from its country of origin, but it is hardly repeating Srila Prabhupada’s words, such as quoted immediately above, or those of his guru cited previously (“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’”). Rather, Ravindra Svarupa is pretty much confirming the material nature of the methods the ISKCON institution has implemented since Srila Prabhupada’s physical departure. According to Srila Prabhupada’s remark above, the fact that so many changes were made after the zonal imposition is proof positive that it was a “mistaken idea,” something also largely admitted here by Ravindra Svarupa and in other ISKCON institution material, such as Tamal Krishna Swami’s The Perils of Succession:Heresies of Authority and Continuity In the Hare Krishna Movement.

Previous to 1986 Ravindra Svarupa was the Philadelphia temple president, a mere middle manager with little influence with either the GBC or the zonal acaryas. However, his vast intellect and sentiment-laden persuasiveness exactly found their place when it became clear that the reformers, of whom he was the chief position paper author, had enough power and numbers to threaten what was left of the eleven. Scandals had depleted not only the number of GBC-recognized zonals but their credibility-authority as well. The GBC very much needed a feel-good solution, especially after the 1986 murder of Sulocana dasa, a Kirtanananda and zonal critic, at the hands of that “guru’s” fanatics. For most of the years since Ravindra Svarupa has been perhaps the main spokesman for making the GBC the institution’s “spiritual” and material authority, as opposed to the so-called gurus, who, specifically through the murder, had overwhelmingly demonstrated their shortcomings in that regard.

Versioning

What the institution has done is implement a series of changes not all that different from how a software company updates its product – taking the previous version and adding new menu formats, mobile device uses, as well as user requests. All this is done to expand popularity and market share. However, the process becomes that much more difficult if there are major flaws in the previous version.

In this regard, Ravindra Svarupa’s mealy statement above about the zonals being “certainly not something which is against our philosophy or un-bona fide” clearly demonstrates his prodigious skill at the diplomatic balancing act absolutely required to continually update the ISKCON institution’s philosophical façade, all while simultaneously satisfying, or at least not angering, the most powerful GBCs and so-called (one-time zonal) gurus.

“If you miss one point, there is a mistake in your calculation. Regardless of what you add or subtract after that, the mistake is already in the calculation, and everything that follows will also be faulty. We cannot simply accept that part of the scripture we like, and reject what we don’t like, and still expect to get the result. For example, a hen lays eggs with its back part and eats with its beak. A farmer may consider, ‘The front part of the hen is very expensive because I have to feed it. Better to cut it off.’ But if the head is missing there will be no eggs anymore, because the body is dead.” Conversation with Father Emmanuel, Schloss Rettershof, Germany, June 22, 1974

Besides satisfying the GBC and “guru” power blocs, another requirement in updating the institution’s philosophical underpinnings is always giving the impression of following Srila Prabhupada’s instructions. Hence the subtle and apparent insignificance of expanding “ultimate managing authority” to mean that the GBC are really the “ultimate authority,” including solely spiritual matters, as cited in Srila Prabhupada Founder-Acarya of ISKCON. Ravindra Svarupa and those of similar mindset then simply omit, sentimentalize or obfuscate any further discussion of how managing authority absolutely does not include the spiritual authority of doing things like controlling so-called gurus or selecting them.

“The institution that would be able to act . . . over large spans of space and time needs a unique form. . . an organization in which the ultimate authority would reside in a board of directors . . .” Srila Prabhupada Founder-Acarya of ISKCON, Text (emphasis added)

The Real Uniter

Well before version 3.0 when the reform movement flexed its muscles, the zonals had trampled like mad elephants the atmosphere of love and trust that personified the movement during Srila Prabhupada’s manifest presence. The murder of Sulocana provided the understatement that the so-called gurus could not be trusted by their godbrothers and sisters. As distrust of the zonals and GBC increased, leading to the breakaway neo-Gaudiya Math and rittvik competitive factions, a number of temples and farm communities were lost to the GBC sphere of influence. This was directly because Srila Prabhupada’s policy of local control of temple boards of directors relied on their love and trust loyalty to him and his institution. When GBC approved “gurus” destroyed that love and trust, it was inevitable that some local boards would break from them. These asset losses then further contributed to the material solution of GBC “ultimate authority,” including the centralized control of temples and farms sought after this version.

The atmosphere of love and trust in the movement prior to 1978 was a natural byproduct of the presence of Lord Krishna’s pure devotee, Srila Prabhupada. Pure devotees always embody the highest spiritual qualities, something that will attract sincere seekers of enlightenment and truth. And because they act on behalf of the Lord they naturally conduct His love to the conditioned souls, this then attracting the reciprocal love and devotion of their followers. Unlike conditioned souls, they don’t cheat anyone. The followers sense that they are receiving the real thing because all the qualities of a great soul given in the scriptures are being displayed 24-7 by the pure devotee. This is what creates the trust. Srila Prabhupada was the complete package with all the goods overflowing in abundance. This atmosphere was the backbeat of the “music” that characterized the movement prior to the zonal era. No one, or very few, however, really understood this value until it was too late. “You don’t miss your water until your well runs dry.”

Less advanced devotees could bring this back to the extent that they are honest and free from false ego by transparently conducting the message of Srila Prabhupada. This then enabling new people to plug into their preaching and still get Srila Prabhupada’s real electricity. Without the genuine trust and connection, however, due to selectively ignoring guru, sadhu and sastra, the ISKCON institution has become a “joint mess” of bureaucratic laws, loyalty oaths and committees with no shortage of gross and subtle sense gratification.

Prabhupada: Yes. I shall choose some guru. I shall say, “Now you become acarya. You become authorized.” I am waiting for that. You become all acarya. I retire completely. But the training must be complete.
Tamala Krsna: The process of purification must be there.
Prabhupada: Oh, yes, must be there. Caitanya Mahaprabhu wants that. Amara ajnaya guru hana [Cc. Madhya 7.128]. “You become guru.” (laughs) But be qualified. Little thing, strictly follower…
Tamala Krsna: Not rubber stamp.
Prabhupada: Then you’ll not be effective. You can cheat, but it will not be effective. Just see our Gaudiya Matha. Everyone wanted to become guru, and a small temple and “guru.” What kind of guru? No publication, no preaching, simply bring some foodstuff… My Guru Maharaja used to say, “Joint mess,” a place for eating and sleeping. Amar amar ara takana (?)(Bengali): “Joint mess.” He said this. – Room Conversation, April 22, 1977, Bombay

Anyway, Srila Prabhupada Founder-Acarya of ISKCON is just one of the latest institutional software fixes, more of what its author described as “trying something.” Although he mentioned fixing the mistake in the Hidden History lecture, he is hardly talking about thoroughly re-implementing guru, sadhu and sastra, the consciousness change fix that could make things “perpetually right.” Ravindra Svarupa’s fixes are just further material tweaks and adjustments like allowing female “initiating gurus” or more “ultimate authority” language wrangling. Returning to Srila Prabhupada’s pure guru, sadhu and sastra is completely anathema to the most powerful so-called gurus because it requires that they admit their so-called disciples were obtained under false and/or ecclesiastical pretences. More or less, the GBC would have to confess that all its so-called gurus and the GBC authority regime over them are bogus, both currently foundational to the group.

Pecking Orders in Hell

As Srila Prabhupada stated above any material solution is going to create additional problems. The ISKCON institution’s GBC power nexus is blocs of influential leaders with many followers and material assets. This means that there are inevitably groups of lower devotees who get shut out and left with sucking up the fact that their concerns, however sastric or according to Srila Prabhupada, really don’t matter. We have already discussed the 1987 reformers who wanted the zonals completely stripped of their “disciples” and “guru” licenses. Since the 1978 zonal declaration, well meaning critics have also largely been ignored. It all comes down to the number in your group and how much of a management threat they pose.

Another group of sastrically oriented devotees were the General Headquarters (GHQ) “traditionalists” who demanded that devotee women only play minor roles in the movement’s management and stick to the traditionally subservient roles proscribed for them in Vedic culture. This drama is described in movement academic analyst E. Burke Rochford’s book, Hare Krishna Transformed, chapters 5-6.

The rise of women’s voices that preceded this 2000-era debacle cannot be disconnected from the 90’s child abuse revelations that led to the 2000 Turley class action lawsuit against the movement. The women and their male supporters were convinced that the children’s and the women’s own decades of abuse were largely the fault of the male, predominantly celibate, zonal and subsequent leadership. They asserted that a greater women’s role in education and management would have prevented the worst of these scandals.

Needless to say these scandals were themselves integrally tied to the GBC-zonal material succession solution. Being obsessed with competition from money collection, books distributed or new devotees made, the zonals minimized the importance of children’s education, which produced little opportunity for bragging rights from results. Consequently many ethical and more qualified devotees were moved from education and replaced with less dedicated men who had less control over their tempers and, as is often the case in children-centered environments, had a higher percentage of pedophiles.

Burke Rochford describes the GHQ traditionalists as the movement’s “male backlash” against the women speaking out and frames the conflict as one of the general rise of women against traditional patriarchy in Western society. One of the more outspoken groups supporting the women was the Vaishnava Advanced Studies (VAST) devotee academics, who, as is often the case with such empiricists, regularly supposed mundane conditioning was why Srila Prabhupada often said women are less intelligent than men. Needless to say, this mundane portrayal of the pure devotee offended many, especially the mostly male GHQ, who then felt justified to react “like fire” towards not only the academics but the women they were associated with.

Unfortunately the vitriol and personal attacks towards the women did not do the GHQ any favors, and many observers took away that the women, etc. were actually the better behaved and controlled group. However, the real loser was the Gaudiya Vaishnava parampara and its standard of seeing the genuine guru, Srila Prabhupada, as the absolute, “as good as God,” all-perfect representative of Krishna. In discussions on the VAST comments, many GBCs also fell to the substandard of seeing the pure devotee on the relative platform, going beyond just acknowledging that modern society views his comments as “sexist.”

Serious devotees understand that the pure devotee is never on the material platform and make every effort to understand how his apparently discriminatory remarks have some basis in statistical or truth in general. However, E. Burke Rochford does not quote statements of this nature coming from the GBC, but rather those that accede to the superficial judgments of modern society.

In the end the GBC did not at all condemn the criticism of Srila Prabhupada and his comments. Rather, their resolutions of 2000 and inaction in 2005 largely agreed with the women, thus relegating the traditionalists to the minor “loyal opposition” role that they have occupied since. Thus so-called guru and traditionalist exemplar Bhakti Vikas Swami has seen his book of Srila Prabhupada quotes banned, and he himself prohibited from speaking in some temples. E. Burke Rochford, apparently more versed in our philosophy than the GBC, nicely summed up the essence of the GBC’s inaction on the blasphemy: “The fact that the leadership failed to act decisively on Prabhupada’s behalf was an acknowledgement that his authority was no longer absolute” (Hare Krishna Transformed, p159-160).

One can call the results of this conflict ISKCON 4.0, but regardless and what to speak of more problems from such material solutions, acceding to criticism of the pure devotee creates a hellish situation and future for the GBC and its institution.

nindāṁ bhagavataḥ śṛṇvaṁs
tat-parasya janasya vā
tato nāpaiti yaḥ so ’pi
yāty adhaḥ sukṛtāc cyutaḥ
One who hears blasphemy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead or His devotees should immediately take action or should leave. Otherwise he will be put into hellish life perpetually. Srimad Bhagavatam 10.74.40

“The most grievous type of vaisnava-aparadha is called gurv-aparadha, which refers to offenses at the lotus feet of the spiritual master. In the chanting of the holy name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, this gurv-aparadha is considered the most grievous offense. Guror avajna sruti-sastra-nindanam (Padma Purana). Among the ten offenses committed against the chanting of the holy name, the first offenses are disobedience of the spiritual master and blasphemy of the Vedic literature.” Purport, Srimad Bhagavatam 4.21.37

“In a conversation between Mārkaṇḍeya and Bhagīratha, it is said, ‘My dear King, one who derides an exalted devotee loses the results of his pious activities, his opulence, his reputation and his sons. Vaiṣṇavas are all great souls. Whoever blasphemes them falls down to the hell known as Mahāraurava, accompanied by his forefathers. Whoever kills or blasphemes a Vaiṣṇava and whoever is envious of a Vaiṣṇava or angry with him, or whoever does not offer him obeisances or feel joy upon seeing him, certainly falls into a hellish condition.’” Purport, Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 15.261

Progressive māyayā apahṛta-jñāna

These actions of the GBC create precedents. Thus we now have devotee groups who call themselves “progressive Vaishnavas” or “Krishna West,” both catering to Western political correctness at the expense of seeing Srila Prabhupada and his words on the absolute platform. Being rooted in offense, these names are not coincidentally material designations or upadhis. They are like propagating “Slovenian Vaishnavism” or “Western Vaishnavism.”

There will always remain only one Vaishnavism or Krishna consciousness, and that is the one given to us by Srila Prabhupada and the previous acaryas. If you add “progressive” or “West” and take away the absolute position of the guru, you are following something else, a deviation or apa-sampradaya. Following their example, you are part of the GBC’s hellish disciplic succession.

This doesn’t mean, however, that the reason for politically correct (PC) thinking isn’t good. It’s just that the manner in which it’s applied isn’t necessarily as well motivated. In this regard the West certainly has a history of oppressing and denigrating non-whites, women and homosexuals to the point that white male heterosexuals have been the only group whose lives have been consistently protected. Political correctness rightly aims to correct this gross injustice.

In practice, however, the common ways of implementing this often suffer from another double standard. According to established PC doctrine everyone is completely equal, and all the old justifications for white male heterosexual superiority are seen as the result of relative social conditioning, regardless of any statistical validity. For instance, even saying men are generally physically stronger than women is considered the result of traditional societal roles being followed for hundreds of thousands of years. If they had been reversed supposedly women would be the stronger.

The double standards come in when there is discussion of the statistical or socially acknowledged superiorities of the oppressed. For instance, black people are considered more musically adept or athletic, and women as more nurturing and in touch with emotions. However, rather than similarly dismissing these as the same social conditioning, these superiorities are celebrated as reasons for racial or gender pride. This means that in strictly politically correct groups, the once-oppressed are actually the default superior members. White male heterosexual members just have to suck up their relegated new role.

This also has all sorts of legal or employment applications. Everyone has seen white talk show hosts get fired for making even slightly derogatory jokes about black people, even if they are based on acknowledged facts. On the other hand, black comedians or talk show hosts often make a trade of making fun of whites. Needless to say, this “get-evenism” creates no shortage of resentment and genuinely racist or sexist backlash on venues like right-wing talk radio.

By now these double standards and taboos are part and parcel of mediated Western culture. They are the culture in many ways. As religion has become less influential in the West, this political correctness has simultaneously risen to take its onetime place as the prevailing morality. It is now pretty much sacrosanct.

Real Krishna consciousness with the genuine guru’s absolute and total authority doesn’t change like this, however. Real sincere and serious devotees see through the PC power-politics hypocrisy and continue with their worship of Sri Guru unimpeded.

“What is the value of the votes of the fourth-class, fifth-class men? Better one intelligent man, if he knows things, if he is liberated, if he says, ‘This is right,’ that should be taken. That is Vedic civilization. We are accepting Kṛṣṇa. We are not accepting the vox populi. One person, the Supreme, that’s all. This is our process. We don’t accept vox populi. All these Vedic literature are accepted not on the people’s vote, but who is presenting? Vyāsadeva is presenting, Kṛṣṇa is presenting. Parāśara Muni is presenting. Therefore they are accepted. You cannot expect the mass of people very intelligent. That is not possible. So what is the value of their votes if they are not intelligent?” Morning Walk, May 16, 1975, Perth

It is perhaps no accident that the most outspoken so-called guru advocating in the “progressive Vaishnavism” and “Krishna West” groups is former zonal acarya Hridayananda “Swami,” also known for his casual Western dress, enjoyment of opulent foodstuffs and playing the victim. He is clearly more attached to continuing his “spiritual master business” among politically correct Westerners than he is to his own spiritual master. His indoctrination in empiricism while obtaining his PhD. after Srila Prabhupada’s physical departure has thus caused him to fall to seeing aspects of Vaishnavism on the relative platform. Dr. Rochford quoted him dismissing Manusamhita as not being authoritative for the relative PC reasons described above.

“The Manusamhita is said to be the work of Manu, the progenitor of humankind and a lawgiver. The work is controversial because of its misogynistic statements, and many scholars reject the text as an accurate portrayal of Vedic culture.” Hridayananda swami, personal communication to E. Burke Rochford, cited in Hare Krishna Transformed, chapter 6, footnote 8

This cutting off the head of the sastric chicken due to his empirical illusion is otherwise known as being māyayā apahṛta-jñāna, knowledge stolen by illusion, and narādhama, the lowest of the mankind:

“You… So you can say that ‘So many educated person, they’re not taking to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Are they narādhamas, lowest of the mankind?’ Yes. The immediate answer is ‘Yes.’ ‘Now, after passing so big, big examination, they have become narādhamas?’ ‘Yes.’ The Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura confirms it: jībake karaye gādhā, jaḍa-bidyā jato māyāra vaibhava. This material education, they’re simply expansion of the opulence of māyā, illusion. Suppose if I am darkness, in darkness, if the darkness become more and more deeper, is it advancement? The darkness, there must be light. Then it is advancement. But if, if the, if there is little darkness, if you make it more and more dark, then is that advancement? So here it is actually… The advancement of so-called material education is making the people more and more attached to this material world. The value of life is jñāna-vairāgya, to acquire the knowledge, ‘What is the value of life.’ And when one has actually attained to that platform of knowledge, he should be detached from this material world. Jñāna-vairāgya. That is required. But what is happening? There is no knowledge of the value of life, and they are becoming more and more attached to this material world. Therefore Kṛṣṇa says that so-called advancement of education means māyayā apahṛta-jñāna. The māyā, the illusory energy, is plundering the real purpose of knowledge. Therefore they are narādhama, simply spoiled.” Lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam, Vrndavana, October 23, 1972

You-Are-God-anatha Swami

Many serious devotees, both within and without the ISKCON institution, are also alarmed about the GBC’s acceptance and promotion of Radhanatha Swami’s book, The Journey Home. They are also largely ignored. Although the book purports to be an autobiography of how he came to Krishna consciousness, his description of previous travels reads like a who’s-who of impersonalist, “everyone is god,” so-called gurus of the 70’s. The praise and adulation he heaps on these people, who Srila Prabhupada often reviled both individually and collectively, is said by these critics to have no place in Srila Prabhupada’s movement. Even Srila Prabhupada’s pranam mantras (obeisances), something every devotee chants many times a day, call attention to how he regarded these religionists and their philosophy:

namas te sarasvate deve gaura-vani-pracarine
nirvisesha-sunyavadi-pascatya-desa-tarine
“Our respectful obeisances are unto you, O spiritual master, servant of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami. You are kindly preaching the message of Lord Chaitanyadeva and delivering the Western countries, which are filled with impersonalism and voidism.”

Many critics of the book also question Radhanatha Swami’s motivation for writing an autobiography, something considered un-Vaishnava and bordering on self-apotheosis. However, the positive presentation of people who reduce the supreme personality of Godhead, Krishna, to a headless, legless, quality-less, personality-less light or energy is considered an offence of the highest level to Srila Prabhupada and the Gaudiya Vaishnava mission. Lord Chaitanya Himself warned about hearing from mayavadis who negate God in this way, something Radhanatha Swami regularly facilitates throughout his book:

“Everyone is related to the Supreme Lord, but one should not mistakenly think that because one is related to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he has become the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Nārāyaṇa. Such a Māyāvāda philosophy is extremely dangerous, especially for a devotee. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has therefore strictly forbidden us to associate with Māyāvādī philosophers. Māyāvādi-bhāṣya śunile haya sarva-nāśa: if one associates with the Māyāvāda philosophy, his devotional life is doomed.” Purport, Srimad Bhagavatam 7.15.6

Now all devotees have discussed what spiritual philosophies they followed prior to coming to Krishna consciousness, but their positive portrayal, especially when they are opposed to Krishna consciousness, is considered indication that one is still attached to such nescience. Radhanatha Swami thus sets a very bad example for others, something that gives license to continue with similar attachments, things that will only serve to keep them (doomed) in material consciousness.

The GBC has done nothing to prohibit this mayavadic contamination of their institution since the book’s release in 2010, and, if anything, have abetted it through their endorsements and promotion of the book. This is another glaring instance of the ISKCON institution no longer following Srila Prabhupada or the Gaudiya Vaishnava parampara. One should regret previously following something opposed to pure Krishna consciousness. This is the example Radhanatha Swami and the GBC should have set. In regard to how to get truly free from material consciousness Srila Prabhupada says:

“As servant of māyā, he sometimes becomes a king, sometimes an ordinary citizen, sometimes a brāhmaṇa, a śūdra, and so on. Sometimes he is a happy man, sometimes a prosperous man, sometimes a small insect. Sometimes he is in heaven and sometimes in hell. Sometimes he is a demigod, and sometimes he is a demon. Sometimes he is a servant, and sometimes he is a master. In this way the living entity wanders all over the universe. Only when he comes in contact with the bona fide spiritual master can he understand his real constitutional position. He then becomes disgusted with material existence. At that time, in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he regrets his past experiences in material existence. This regret is very beneficial because it purifies the living entity of material, conditional life. He then prays to the Lord to engage in His service, and at that time, Kṛṣṇa grants liberation from the clutches of māyā.” Purport, Srimad Bhagavatam 4.29.29

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