There has long been a need for seriously concerned followers of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to discover the commonly held concordances which would unite us under the banner of cooperation. We can begin by an in-depth discussion of ways to help bring about a renaissance of Srila Prabhupada's original glorious preaching mission, known as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). In my recently penned papers based on the theme of cooperation, I have made the proposal that Srila Prabhupada's actual clearly stated final order to His disciples was to cooperate together to maintain the preaching momentum that He had created. Up until now this instruction has gone unheeded, resulting in the difficulties that we see today. I don't feel there is a need to again recite the many commonly known discouraging facts. The call for cooperation alone is an ideal that requires careful consideration.
The reality is that we are all conditioned victims of the Age of Quarrel and Hypocrisy (Kaliyuga). The four inherent defects of the unrealized are that they 1) cheat one another; 2) are sure to be illusioned about everything, especially their own actual degree of spiritual awareness; 3) have to rely on their imperfect senses and consequently commit many mistakes; and 4) have an incomplete reservoir of realized knowledge (vijnana). Overcoming these seemingly insurmountable obstacles to cooperation will require some special mercy from Srila Prabhupada, the predecessor Acaryas, and Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Cooperation is the direct and final order given to the followers of the present sampradaya Acarya and Founder of ISKCON. The following excerpt from a room conversation with the Radha Damodhara Party in Mayapura on March 16, 1976 captures this message:
"Even Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu - He is God himself, Krsna Himself - He
felt, alone, unable to do this task. He felt. So this is the position. You are
cooperating; therefore I am getting the credit. Otherwise alone what could
I do? Ekäké ämära nähi päya bolo. Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself wanted our cooperation. He is God, Krsna. And therefore cooperation is very
important thing. Nobody should think that "I have got so great ability. I
can do." No. It is simply by cooperation we can do very big thing. "United
we stand; divided we fall." This is our.... So be strong in pushing on Krsna
consciousness, and Krsna will help. He is the strongest. Still, we must be
combined together. Sankirtana. Sankirtana means many men combined
together chanting. That is sankirtana. Otherwise kirtana. Sankirtana.
Bahubhir militvä kértayeti sankirtana.(?) Bahu. Bahu means many, many
combined together. That is Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mission, combined
together. All nations, all persons they should combine together. There is
hope in our society, combination. There are Hindus; there are Muslims;
there are Christians; there are black, white. Combine them. That looks very beautiful, just like combination of many flowers. There is black flower
also. It looks nice, very nice. Each and every flower take alone; it is not
beautiful, but when they are combined together, it looks very beautiful. It
is attractive. And that is wanted. Because from the spiritual platform we
are all working. Paëòitäùsama-darçinaù. Spiritual platform, every one of
us, we are servant of Krsna."
My comprehension of the philosophy of cooperation is, first of all, that it is a very rare commodity which is only made available to those who make a conscious effort to surrender their false independence, along with all material desires. In the present day context that certainly means becoming big spiritual leaders. As a pre-requisite to receiving the mercy we must enthusiastically embrace this lofty principle of cooperation, with the faith that this is the long awaited definitive answer to the question, what did Srila Prabhupada actually expect His disciples to DO after He entered into maha samadhi? Unfortunately, our Spiritual Master's simple, straightforward request was usurped and used as a political slogan by the orchestrators of the GBC takeover in 1978. "Cooperation" was interpreted to mean blindly following the GBC which was, at that time, completely controlled by the self-appointed instant uttamas. We are all familiar with the horror stories. Never was the order to cooperate together taken seriously, nor examined in the manner that Srila Prabhupada hoped for. Srila Prabhupada knew that unless this mutual spirit of cooperation prevailed, all would be ruined. His worst fears came true.
THE PROCESS OF COOPERATION
The first step is to carefully analyze the intrinsic ingredients required to bring about a dynamic cooperative spirit. What are the forces that interfere with or hamper the development of a cohesive group effort? We can find these answers by studying Srila Prabhupada's books, examining the historical events before and after Srila Prabhupada's departure, and studying other authorities who have written on the subject. Above all, we must create an open forum for the discussion of this subject, which will naturally make way for a multitude of thoughts, philosophical perspectives, and stimulating debates. This was basically Srila Prabhupada's concept of what a GBC member's primary duty was suppose to be. A surrendered GBC was supposed to fully understand the mood, instructions, and direction of Srila Prabhupada, then pass this realization on to the members of the various temples, thus motivating them to work cooperatively to fulfill the goals and aspirations of the Acarya. The perverted reflection of the original GBC that we witness today has failed to capture this conception of lovingly cooperating together for the sake of pleasing the Spiritual Master.
Srila Prabhupada gave us many warnings on what causes the deterioration in the cooperative spirit: bureaucracy, centralization and politics, to mention a few of the more prominent causes of discontent. His warnings were essentially ignored. Of course, the contentious issue of guru initiation is one of the main contributing factors to the fractionalizing of the cooperative mood. To resolve this sensitive and mysterious aspect of the philosophy, namely diksa guru/disciple relationships, will require the utmost degree of cooperation and full understanding on all sides of this dilemma. Resolution of this issue will be possible only after such a cooperative mood is established -- not before.
Where do we begin? Initially, I feel that we have to discover what aspects of Srila Prabhupada's original plan we all agree on, and then categorize the contentious problems. We can then systematically begin the process of in-depth research, discussion, and consensus decision-making. There will undoubtedly be varying opinions in many areas of the philosophy, as well as various beliefs on the correct preaching strategy, what to speak of the practical application of Srila Prabhupada's teachings. First, we have to at least agree to disagree. In other words, if we can begin working, living, and cooperating together within the boundaries of an overall covenant, then the preaching and Srila Prabhupada's projects can continue unimpeded while we work on gaining a deeper understanding of the process of cooperation.
Due to the type of free society most of us grew up in, there are many varying viewpoints and diverse lifestyles among us. In a free and open society, there is as wide a field of expression as possible without one person infringing on another's freedom. All individuals must have the freedom to publish and express their viewpoints; in other words freedom of the speech (press) is tolerantly permitted. Even nonviolent protests are an acceptable means of attracting attention to one's grievances, despite the fact that it may agitate some highly placed persons. In most "free" countries these rights are enshrined within a constitution. This type of guaranteed freedom is sadly lacking in ISKCON.
We have to admit that there is a vast difference between a society personally overseen by a maha bhagavata acarya and one governed by a collective of conditioned souls. In order to encourage as many individuals as possible to develop their inherent Krsna consciousness, Srila Prabhupada introduced a system based more on varnasrama principles than on the restrictive policies found in the formal practice of Bhakti yoga. What has evolved since 1978 is a situation where the leaders of the society are pretending to be absolutely pure to one segment of the population (their disciples), and "normal ordinary devotees" to the rest of their constituents. Anyone with a basic understanding of human dynamics and political science can testify that such a system is undoubtedly a catalyst for strife, and by it's very nature a breeding ground for non-cooperation. We have become authors of our own misfortune by not going about the task of intensely studying Srila Prabhupada's teachings in the association of brahminical disciples, with the aim of generating a workable formula (siddhanta of the bhakti vedantas) that is in complete alliance with Srila Prabhupada's teachings. Such a formula would cultivate the spirit of cooperation that is essential for Srila Prabhupada's preaching programs and projects to be maintained and to flourish.
I would like to make clear that the following represents only my personal thoughts, opinions and suggestions, and does not necessarily represent the thoughts of any other group of devotees. I am posting this draft document in the hopes that it will serve as a framework within which we can begin the process of building true cooperation. Whether the results will prove to be helpful to the existing corporate ISKCON in their attempts to find solutions to their problems, or whether this serves as a blueprint for a completely new association, time will tell. It is my hope that the participation will extend beyond ideological and political boundaries to include all who wish to contribute their time and energy. We have enhanced the Hare Krsnas website with features that will allow interaction to easily take place, and we will be happy to post all written responses to this draft.
WHO ARE THE BHAKTI VEDANTAS?
I envision the Bhakti Vedantas to consist of the more traditionalist followers of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, those committed to realizing, practicing, and preaching the orthodox teachings of Srila Prabhupada. These devotees will be constantly attempting to discover exactly what was presented by Srila Prabhupada, particularly in the way of understanding the philosophy presented by the Six Goswamis and the preaching method demonstrated by Nityananda Prabhu. They will also seek understanding of how to manage a modern preaching mission so that this age-old traditional method of performing Bhakti yoga is not compromised by the practical application of the principle of using everything available in Krsna service rather than rejecting it.
Since time immemorial, bonafide members of the eternal Vaisnava sampradaya have been attempting to save the suffering conditioned souls from the painful influence of Maya, in her many illusionary forms. Her disguises can only be clearly exposed by empowered representatives of the Lord. These acaryas are only found within the bonafide sampradaya going back to the Lord's incarnation. Impersonalism and voidism are two main weapons in Maya's arsenal. Those who are connected to the disciplic succession are benedicted with the internal vision to detect Maya's many alluring forms. The responsibility that accompanies this mercy is that the recipient must do everything within their power to attack Maya's influence. The sampradaya acaryas will certainly provide us with powerful preaching techniques and protect us from being defeated as long as we are fully connected with complete understanding of the pure message and the proper method. Empowered preaching born out of complete conviction is the only medicine potent enough to revive the Krsna consciousness of the fallen conditioned souls entrapped in this Age of Kali. The suffering jivas are doomed to endless births if they are not enlightened by the empowered Vaisnava preachers. To be included within the ranks of such preachers should be the lofty goal of all sincere followers of Srila Prabhupada.
Following is a list of some of the circumstances and qualities I feel the eligible members of the Bhakti Vedantas should possess:
These devotees will have the ambition to someday be able to proudly say that they are faithful followers of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. They will be able to claim this position because they will feel confident that as far as possible, the conclusions presented within the siddhanta (constitution) have been thoroughly researched and discussed by many sincere Godbrothers, collectively in the spirit of cooperation without selfish or political motivations, and that the conclusions reached reflect Srila Prabhupada's true wishes to the greatest degree possible.
I feel that there should be no pre-requisite in terms of initiation. Everyone should be
considered an eligible disciple of Srila Prabhupada as long as they have a sincere and strong desire to surrender to following His complete and unabridged plan, as it becomes clearer to them as to what exactly that plan is and how they fit into it.
Members of the Bhakti Vedantas would feel a sense of community with the other members, and be willing to help the group and its individual members in whatever way possible to further their individual spiritual evolvement, as well as the collective cause of re-establishing Srila Prabhupada's house that everyone can find shelter in.
They would like to take association primarily with other Bhakti Vedantas rather than with those who have chosen to stray from Srila Prabhupada's shelter, for whatever reason. Those devotees whose faith and philosophical understanding is not strong need a place where they can avoid confrontations, especially with spokesmen from opposing quarters who have their own agenda or who are representing a leader other than Srila Prabhupada. For most devotees, it is recommended by Srila Prabhupada to associate with those sincere followers who are interested in representing Srila Prabhupada's position exclusively. Going out to preach is fine, but a harmonious and peaceful shelter is required for one's own spiritual development.
These devotees should regularly study the available papers and presentations written by their fellow Bhakti Vedantas and others, with the goal of being potent representative preachers for Srila Prabhupada. By preaching verbally, by writing down our realizations, and by reading and studying the issues at hand, we are contributing to the ongoing process of research and discussion and will gradually discover our eternal relationship with Srila Prabhupada.
THE MISSION OF THE BHAKTI VEDANTAS
POINTS OF DISCUSSION
Our mission is to create an atmosphere that is conducive to the manifestation of the spirit of cooperation that Srila Prabhupada requested before He entered into maha-samadhi. This will require that the precise method of executing the Science of Bhakti Yoga be instituted, as it was instructed by Srila Prabhupada during His manifest presence, and as verified by circumstances established during his presence via his books, recorded classes, lectures and interviews, meetings, conversations, and letters. Without having faith that the process one is struggling to follow is the actual one that was approved by the Acarya, confusion will always give rise to doubt, controversy, and lack of enthusiasm. This will generally undermine the tendency to cooperate fully with other practitioners and leaders, and ultimately with the Founder/Acarya Srila Prabhupada, the sampradaya, and Lord Sri Krsna.
Following is a summary of a number of the areas of discussion that I feel must be delved into if we wish to present a coherent policy position on important issues that concern us all. I have omitted the entire initiation issue for the time being, because it is my opinion that unless we clear up some of the other basic roadblocks to cooperation, the proper mood will not be created to tackle that most difficult of all contentious issues.
Srila Prabhupada's original conception of the GBC was disciples that "do as I am doing". He wanted these advanced devotees to travel and preach, teach, oversee, inspect, and enthuse all the devotees situated in temples, rural projects and grihasta asramas within a designated geographical zone. An in-depth analysis of this most important function must to be undertaken.
The overall preaching strategy employed by Srila Prabhupada to spread Lord Caitanya's sankirtana movement was embodied within his International Society for Krishna Consciousness. As the institution mushroomed, many of the original programs were neglected, ignored and changed. The fine balance between spreading Krishna Consciousness and being Krishna Conscious were blurred. It was not possible for Srila Prabhupada to oversee everything, and the GBC members either didn't understand or couldn't follow Srila Prabhupada's instructions. Consequently, many valuable directions were forgotten. In-depth research must be conducted into the original plan which Srila Prabhupada tried to introduce and how it was gradually changed, misunderstood, and never correctly implemented. All these issues should be examined and then discussed "threadbare".
Srila Prabhupada's management strategy importantly included independent temples administered by a Temple President, Secretary and/or Vice President and Treasurer. As the temples expanded, they added to managing staff a sankirtana leader, head pujari, temple commander, head cook, etc. These asrama/temple/ preaching centers were the backbone of the movement. All the actual "management" of the society was to be conducted within the confines of these various centers. The GBC were the inspectors, counselors and coordinators, but not the controllers. The actual dynamics of management within the centers, as established by Srila Prabhupada, must now be carefully studied. Did the Temple President have dictatorial power, or was he to be elected and at least ratified by the local members? What power did the GBC have over the Temple President? The siddhanta must give detailed direction as to how the temples were to function according to Srila Prabhupada's plan.
There were many important, traditional spiritual activities simultaneously going on within Srila Prabhupada's temples, such as deity worship, Srimad-Bhagavatam classes, kirtana, sankirtana, prasadam preparation and distribution, devotional sadhana, and the training of new devotees. All these activities must be scrutinizingly reviewed to determine Srila Prabhupada's original instructions and the prioritization of each of these activities in relation to the preaching.
The original unedited versions of all Srila Prabhupada's books must be preserved and considered the only authorized and authoritative sources of accurate information. They alone must be unquestionably considered "Truth". Those books which have been altered without Srila Prabhupada's express permission should be considered "abridged" editions, and must be subject to scrutiny and suspicion. A careful independent study is now underway to clearly designate where the changes have been made. These changes are being put on a database and will be made available. Those interested should review these changes so they will understand how the original meanings have been altered. In addition, the precedent setting ramifications of disciples or future followers having authorization to re-write the teachings of the Acarya should be examined and discussed. The question of translations into other languages must also be addressed.
There should be an in-depth discussion concerning the need for a factual and accurate biography of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada, considering Srila Prabhupada's exalted position and realizing the spiritual qualifications required to be able to conclusively present His lila. The danger of an inaccurate evaluation of Srila Prabhupada's activities, words and teachings by unqualified authors must be avoided. The "Lilamrta", authored by H.H. Satsvarupa das Goswami, deputed by the present ISKCON GBC to be the bonafide, authoritative version, should be challenged by careful study and thorough discussion.
The original " Back to Godhead" magazine was the type of publication that we assume was pleasing to Srila Prabhupada. How the present magazine came to be changed from it's Founder's design should be studied and discussed, and suggestions made as to how it can be returned back to it's intended quality, purpose, ambiance and targeted readership.
We must engage in the discussion of the correct system for the appointment, approval and removal of GBCs, Temple Presidents and BBT trustees, sannyasis, siksa gurus and ministers within ISKCON. This is a hotly debated issue, especially because the concept of a democracy was not completely acceptable to Srila Prabhupada. For cooperation to flourish, devotees have to feel that their spiritual experiences are being taken seriously. Their concerns over the apparent deviation from the Spiritual Master's desires, the managerial corruption, the exploitation of the devotees, etc., must be addressed and quickly rooted out. A detailed "job" description containing all the assumed responsibilities, acceptable behavior, remuneration and/or benefits, and spiritual qualifications of all the leaders should be drafted.
We should exhaustively research and discuss all Srila Prabhupada's comments regarding the disciples' association with His Godbrothers, primarily those within the various factions of what was previously called the Gaudiya Matha. This study should be done with the aim to come up with a clear understanding of what Srila Prabhupada's intentions were in making these statements, and how the followers are to properly interact with other Gaudiya Vaisnavas coming from this lineage. There are many intricate considerations to be made, and they are intertwined with the whole contentious issue of diksa gurus, and who is actually connected to the eternal
There is need to enter into discussion on the systematic dissipation of Srila Prabhupada's assets, and the need to seek legal reclamation of those assets found to have been stolen or fraudulently or negligently lost. There have been a great many reports of previous losses, none of which have been "officially" listed by the present corporate ISKCON. We should pursue the question of whether these uncountable losses should be forgotten or written off, and if not, which ones are provable in a court of law and are worth pursuing. There are a number of devotee lawyers who could address this problem and assess the evidence as it is made available to them.
We should undertake the study of the financial dealings of all ISKCON and BBT legal entities, charitable organizations, and like legal structures, according to Srila Prabhupada's orders and plan. These should be completely open to public scrutiny. The congregation, temple members, GBC and all interested parties should be presented with annual audited accounts as well as quarterly computer generated reports. There should not be any secrecy permitted as to the accounts, and all accounts must be properly taken care of.
We must promptly establish a forum which allows us to hear from the victims of gurukula abuses, sexual harassment or exploitation, as well as those who feel cheated by ISKCON. How those who have complaints to bring forward are handled is a difficult matter which cannot be avoided. How Srila Prabhupada would deal with such matters has to be delved into, as this involves both a philosophical analysis as well as sociological, psychological, and legal considerations. Much discussion is in order here.
An in-depth investigation must be undertaken into the area of ISKCON's secrecy and
censorship policies. Did Srila Prabhupada approve of this method of controlling information? Should the relevant materials pertaining to the philosophy and management of ISKCON that have not been made available in the past to the greater community of devotees, including all GBC minutes, complete uncensored sets of resolutions, all previous GBC position papers, and all hitherto censored documents, be made available?
We should consider whether or not a concerted effort be put into a complete, uncensored account of the history of ISKCON. Is this practical or possible, and is the effort worthwhile? How could we ensure accuracy and the proper unbiased presentation? Who would be qualified to make the necessary philosophical commentaries or analysis?
THE MOOD OF THE BHAKTI VEDANTA'S
I believe that the fundamental intention of the Bhakti Vedantas should be to establish a model environment of Vaisnava etiquette in all dealings. We should strive to maintain an attitude of non-aparadha, while feeling free to speak the truth as we see it by presenting well researched facts and thoughtful opinions. I recognize the difficulty, especially in the emotionally charged atmosphere surrounding the current issues of debate within and outside of ISKCON, of maintaining this fine point of balance between constructive criticism and aparadha. It is essential that freedom of speech be ensured if we are to foster the spirit of cooperation that will allow us to proceed with fulfilling Srila Prabhupada's desires for spreading Krishna consciousness.
We can all gain inspiration from Srila Prabhupada's example by studying His method of speaking out and debating when he encountered discrepancies regarding the Vaisnava philosophy. We might begin to perfect Srila Prabhupada's "chopping technique" by speaking the truth in a straightforward manner rather than tolerating nonsense philosophy in an effort to be courteous, or for fear of confrontation. This what Srila Prabhupada called "stabbing the boil rather than blowing on it". At the same time, we must recognize that many disciples of Srila Prabhupada, certainly myself included, have committed many offenses simply due to our neophyte condition. Our senior Godbrothers were equally unable to properly identify these offenses at the time and correct them. While we're now older and wiser, we're all still neophytes struggling with the senses and the mind, our past karmic conditioning, and the defects of being imperfect. Humility is the most important ingredient in the equation. If we learn to embody it, we will create an atmosphere wherein we can all live full and successful spiritual lives, taking advantage of the inconceivable mercy of being able to know and serve Srila Prabhupada.
THE BHAKTI VEDANTA'S SIDDHANTA
OUR PHILOSOPHICAL POSITION
I feel our goal should be to eventually establish, in as conclusive a manner as possible, the inconceivably exalted position of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, present day Acarya of the Brahma Madhava Gaudiya Sampradaya, Nittya-Siddha, Maha-Bhagavata, Shaktavesa Avatara, and Founder/Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. This should include defining His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada's extraordinary connection with the previous great Acaryas of the sampradaya, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati Thakura. I feel that we should attempt to clarify Srila Prabhupada's position as the third tidal wave in what should be historically understood as the second major Appearance of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu's sankirtana movement. By establishing this connection, we can begin to uncover how the visions and desires of all three Acaryas are manifest in Srila Prabhupada's original plan. Toward that end, the Bhakti Vedantas could embark on research projects and scholarly studies and then present well documented papers. Following are some of my ideas for areas of study and discussion:
The actual position of a Maha-Bhagavata Nittya-Siddha Acarya, and how that position differs from a traditional guru.
The authority of the Sampradaya Acarya in establishing, according to time, place, and circumstance, the eternal sankirtana movement of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
The necessity to directly connect to the sampradaya so as to receive the unlimited mercy of the parampara in the matter of the proper performance of the sankirtana yajna.
The effects of unauthorized and unqualified persons taking disciples in the mood of a diksa guru, and representing themselves as bona-fide links to the mercy of the sampradaya, including the consequent spiritual position realized by their unfortunate disciples.
The issue of whether, according to Srila Prabhupada, His Gaudiya Matha Godbrothers were bona-fide representatives of the sampradaya, and whether or not they could properly perform the sankirtana yajna and receive the necessary mercy of the Acaryas.
The adjustments that Srila Prabhupada introduced in the performance of the sankirtana yajna, which were an expression of the preaching mood of Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
The position of Srila Prabhupada's ecstatic realizations found in His books, letters, lectures, conversations, etc., showing how they reflect the desires and aspirations of the two previous Acaryas, and the absolute importance of ensuring that they remain unchanged and unaltered, as they are the spiritual lawbooks to guide mankind for thousands of years.
Evaluate the original proxy initiation system established by Srila Prabhupada during His manifested Lila, and the defined parameters of authority for all the gurus representing the Acarya, namely the siksa guru, the vartmana daksina guru, and the diksa guru. Was the Rttvik or proxy guru something conceived of by a previous acarya or was it an innovation introduced exclusively by Srila Prabhupada so He could practically deal with the large number of recruits? Was it supposed to continue after His departure?
The clarification of which of the existing texts, books, writings, and statements of the
sampradaya acaryas remain uncontaminated, having not been altered by unauthorized "scholars".
ASSOCIATION WITH THE GAUDIYA MATHA
Srila Prabhupada's position in regards to His disciples' relationship with His Godbrothers and their disciples, especially when it came to seeking advice and taking shelter of them, is an issue that has caused incredible controversy ever since 1978. There are innumerable historical incidences illustrating the seriousness of the problem. There are unprecedented comments by Srila Prabhupada, both in the purports of His books as well as direct orders contained in letters to his disciples in important institutional positions, on the subject of association with His Godbrothers. On the other hand, we have letters written by Srila Prabhupada in the early days to the heads of the most important Gaudiya Matha institutions inviting them to cooperate with the preaching mission He had established. Srila Prabhupada did not go into extensive detail as to why we were to be so careful about associating with His Godbrothers, or what to be looking out for in regards to their philosophical misconceptions. Srila Prabhupada was, however, clear about His desires in this regard, and He expected us to simply follow His direction without the need for him to have to enter into this sensitive realm with his neophyte disciples.
This matter is very delicate, and requires us to observe the rules of Vaisnava etiquette towards Srila Prabhupada's Godbrothers while continuing to strictly follow our Spiritual Master's emphatic instructions. There is the hypothesis that it was indirectly due to our not following this order of Srila Prabhupada's which lead to the introduction within the Society of such bogus concepts as the Zonal Acarya System, the restructuring of the GBC into a bureaucracy, the concept of minimum qualification diksa, and interest by senior disciples in the concept of entering into raganuga bhakti via another siksa guru. Those leaders who ignored Srila Prabhupada's warning and approached the Gaudiya Matha leaders so as to get some sort of authorization for their contaminated plans to usurp the position of the present Acarya, and make arrangements for controlling His preaching mission, have thus created a truly entangled web that will take years to sort out. The danger of Vaisnava aparadha in this minefield is all the more reason for this area to be deeply studied, and a clearer understanding developed for everyone's benefit.
THE ASSOCIATION OF DEVOTEES
Many devotees are fearful of jeopardizing their close relationships with friends and mentors who are purporting to be strong supporters of corporate ISKCON's present program of minimum qualification diksas. It is understood that a big institution like ISKCON can presently offer many more facilities than can a loosely knit group of Bhakti Vedantas. I am proposing that anyone can be involved in this association, regardless of how they presently feel about the contentious issue of initiation. I have my opinion, which I have made abundantly clear, but I am also admitting that at this point of my Krsna consciousness evolution I feel unqualified to realize an absolute conclusion in regards to this aspect of the philosophy. I am hoping that with the formulation of this group we can collectively embark on a comprehensive study of this phenomena, along with the many other delicate issues facing us.
I have observed that many of my Godbrothers, like myself, find themselves entangled in many varieties of maya, both inside and outside the institution. Due to lack of association and a willingness to find the necessary time to dedicate to this pursuit, they have become attached to their misconceptions - understandably so. When each of us stops long enough, we can realize the painful recovery we will have to undergo in order to rectify the devastating mistakes that we have made since coming in contact with Srila Prabhupada. If we go about this re-awakening alone and without support, encouragement and organization, we will probably flounder and achieve little. We have to remember how Arjuna chose his friend Krsna to drive his chariot, rather than choosing Krsna's vast army. I have absolutely nothing material to offer any participants. I am therefore sadly and certainly outnumbered, but I am convinced that the approach articulated here is what Srila Prabhupada wanted to have take place after His departure. I believe that this is what He meant by cooperation, and that although we are all conditioned souls, when empowered with the spirit of cooperation we will eventually be successful.
OUR GODBROTHERS AND ISKCON
For a multitude of reasons, many Godbrothers such as myself have had to suffer the
consequences of being outside the association of devotees and the Deities. Generally we left because the atmosphere within ISKCON had become so intolerable for us that we could not remain. The decision to leave the devotional community has naturally had a serious impact on our ability to easily follow all the regulative principles, chant the prescribed number of rounds, and generally follow the process of Bhakti yoga presented by Srila Prabhupada. We do not need to over-emphasize the obvious - everyone knows what standards Srila Prabhupada expected His disciples to maintain. Srila Prabhupada also created for His disciples the ideal spiritual atmosphere, so that these vows could be followed without too much difficulty.
Many of my Godbrothers who have remained within ISKCON have a different set of problems, which may be far more serious than those experienced by the Prabhus struggling with rounds and principles. Within ISKCON there is a pervading elitist attitude promoted by many leaders that those disciples outside the institution are, by definition, fallen, insincere, or inferior to those within the institution. This is a caste-goswami mentality which must be addressed, because it will eventually lead to the unauthorized successions that the previous acaryas fought so hard against. Lord Caitanya was considered a revolutionary fighting against this very mentality, whose seeds are already sown and are now germinating within ISKCON.
The assumption should be that sincere devotees will soon become enlivened once they re-link to Srila Prabhupada, and will spontaneously re-introduce their own sadhana practices. There are far greater offenses towards the Spiritual Master than neglecting one's sadhana practice while outside the Vaisnava association found in Srila Prabhupada's temples. The disciple has a direct and personal relationship with the Spiritual Master, and it is a private affair. I feel that others should only involve themselves in another devotee's relationship with Srila Prabhupada when and if we are invited to do so. There is an artificial criterion within the institution based on assumptions as to whether someone is or isn't chanting their rounds. No one can verify whether another person is actually following this instruction in the manner that Srila Prabhupada intended, nor how many offenses they are committing in the process. We have to take a devotee's word as to whether they are doing as they say, especially in regards to chanting, what to speak of following the four regulative principles. Unfortunately within the institution this has become a great yardstick, even though these activities cannot be substantiated. The point is that they should not be exclusively used to determine a devotee's level of sincerity, seriousness or reliability.
OTHER KEY DEFINITIONS
The principle of a highly elevated sampradaya acarya being able to accept a sincere disciple
without having met him physically is not an unknown principle within the tradition of the Brahma
Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya. There are well known examples of Visvanatha Chakravarti
Thakur accepting Narottama dasa as his Spiritual Master without ever meeting him. The
principle is that by whomever captures the heart, by their preaching and association (which can
be through writings), initiation may be constituted. As Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur has written,
"Vaisnavas never die but go on living in sound".
As far as my knowledge takes me, the spiritual designation "Rttvik" was introduced into the
sampradaya by Srila Prabhupada, the present Acarya in the Brahma Madhava Gaudiya
Sampradaya, and therefore it has no clear precedence in Vaisnava history or tradition. "Rttvik"
is a Vedic term used to describe an officiating priest. The designation, "Rttvik Acarya" was
conveniently used by Srila Prabhupada as He neared the end of His manifest lila. The traditional
terminology, as it can be found in sastra, does not fit Srila Prabhupada's description of the Rttvik
Acarya perfectly. By using the term "Rttvik Acarya", I feel it was Srila Prabhupada's intention to
clarify and formalize the unique initiation system He instituted early on in the development of His
The technological advancements within the Western culture in which Srila Prabhupada was
directing His preaching were historically unprecedented. The many inventions of the materialists
allowed the expert Acarya Srila Prabhupada to quickly organize a vast worldwide preaching
mission. This accomplishment exemplified an Acarya's ability to apply one of the main tenants of Vaisnava philosophy, namely, to use everything in Krsna's service and not falsely renounce anything that can be useful in the spreading of the glories of the Holy Name. The present Acarya Srila Prabhupada understood the proper utilization of such technology as mass printing, sophisticated communication and transportation networks, audio and video reproduction capabilities, etc., in the service of Krsna without compromising the eternal principles set down by the previous Acaryas. This modern adaptation by the present Acarya to the traditional system of "guru/disciple relationship within the guru's asrama" functioned very well in facilitating the spreading of Krsna consciousness, because it allowed a highly elevated Acarya to establish and manage many asramas simultaneously. Within these temple asramas it was possible for Srila Prabhupada to recruit, train up and organize many preachers. This amazing combination of age-old Vaisnava tradition alongside modern technological culture was all carefully balanced under the guidance of a maha-bhagavata acarya. The result was an army of thousands of trained-up, empowered preachers.
One of the most essential ingredients in Srila Prabhupada's amazing preaching program was his unique system for giving diksa initiation to those serious students anxious to assist Him in His preaching work. As it was not physically possible to personally train-up all the eager students, Srila Prabhupada established within each temple a method whereby the disciple in charge of the temple (the Temple President) would, by carefully following His explicit instructions, train his students (the bhaktas). For this system to function properly, Srila Prabhupada felt it was important to form a governing body, the GBC, consisting of His senior-most disciples. These GBC were to act as overseeing representatives of the Acarya to ensure that the entire formula was carried out as per His plan. He observed that these disciples who were trained, out of necessity, in vani rather that the traditional vapu method were exhibiting all the faith and enthusiasm expected of sincere disciples who had undergone direct training by the Spiritual Master.
The confusion lies in the reality that there is no conclusively convincing evidence to date, presented by anyone, that this well functioning system was supposed to be suspended or continued after Srila Prabhupada's departure. There is a push from various quarters to have the original system for initiation, now commonly called the Rttvik system, re-established as soon as possible, because it is felt that this was indeed the order of Srila Prabhupada before His departure and that by simply following this instruction the society's many problems will soon be corrected. This presents a very difficult dilemma for the devotees to deal with, as this innovation of the Acarya has been dormant for over 20 years and its execution depended upon the society functioning in the manner that Srila Prabhupada originally intended. However, the society has transformed since then into an entity that is vastly different from that which was in place in 1977.
The most serious consideration is that this system has no traditional precedent in the history of Vedic spirituality. The scanty evidence presented by the proxy exponents is the appointment letter of July 9, 1977. They are making claims that this document somehow proves without a doubt that Srila Prabhupada desired this system to continue after He entered into maha samadhi. By accepting this evidence as being conclusive enough to implement a major change in the traditional ancient Vedic system of initiation, disciples into a bonafide Vaisnava sampradaya. I would be prepared to accept this proposal if Srila Prabhupada had categorically stated in this letter, or any other document, that his proxy system was definitely supposed to be the method for newcomers to enter into the sampradaya by way of diksa but the vagueness of the letter as well as no other "class A" evidence causes me to wonder whether it is wise to barrel ahead with yet another un-thought out scheme seeing that we have experienced years of unsuccessful experimentation by corporate ISKCON in this philosophical field.
This spiritual designation has been the greatest source of contention of all other issues. There has been a great deal of research done on this subject by those parties on both sides of the controversy. By ISKCON's definition, the spiritual qualifications of those holding this position cannot be practically diagnosed, so they have literally washed their hands of the responsibility of deciding who is eligible, expect for a superficial overview and a "no objection" certification. The institution monitors the guru's activities and has in place a set of resolutions giving them the power to rectify any wrongs done by a diksa who has been approved by the institution. There have been over 20 diksa falldowns from even this very minimum standard that they have set.
There are those who oppose this methodology introduced by corporate ISKCON. These devotees have varying definitions of the qualifications required to become a bonafide diksa guru, qualified to both accept the sinful reactions of their disciples and also pass on the pure knowledge of the sampradaya without any deviation. It is my personal understanding that to perform this task, as intended by the previous acaryas, one must meet the highest qualifications as described by sastra. If someone wishes to assume that responsibility and risk, they must both recruit and train their disciples outside the auspices of ISKCON (and/or the Bhakti Vedantas). At such time as ISKCON goes through much needed renovations, which includes placing the Founder/Acarya Srila Prabhupada in his rightful position, I could envision the GBC deciding if and how the society would reciprocate with those branches established by the diksas. The GBC must carefully observe whether or not these groups and their leaders are meeting the sastric standards of qualified diksas and disciples. The GBC can then authorize the BBT to provide them with books, cooperate with them on preaching programs, etc.
Overall, this aspect of the philosophy is very difficult to deal with, especially for those in a relatively neophyte condition. This is particularly true within the context of ISKCON due to the polarization that has taken place primarily over this issue. An in depth study should be undertaken by designated brahmins and scholars from both sides of the issue. Their research and discussions should be open to all interested parties. After all participants have had an opportunity to present their findings and debate their opinions, hopefully some agreed upon siddhanta can be followed by all. If there is no consensus, then at least all parties will feel that they have been heard and that everyone understands one another's points of view. In the meantime, the rest of the community can continue to cooperate together to fulfill the desires of Srila Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada has certainly left us sufficient facility to give everyone what is required to make unhindered spiritual advancement without having to rely on initiating newcomers into diksa. Surely we can take shelter in this knowledge at least while a brahminical research committee undergoes it's exhaustive study. If the idealistic approach of a brahminical review cannot be conducted by ISKCON, then I feel it is up to those involved in the Bhakti Vedantas to embark on this research and discussion ourselves. First, I think it would be wise to concentrate on many other less contentious philosophical areas with the hopes that once we get around to this aspect of the philosophy we will appreciate one another more. We will also realize that we agree on so many other aspects of the philosophy, and in comparison to the outside world we are so close that it would be foolish to dilute our collective potency by becoming uncooperative on just one point. To have a slight disagreement on just one aspect of this glorious philosophy, and for this to be the cause for non-cooperation, is foolishness. Just to make an honest attempt would be a worthwhile endeavor for all those who put in the time and energy. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Research into the definition and spiritual significance of the siksa guru should go on hand-in-hand with that of diksa. There seems to be a simultaneous oneness and difference between the two designations. Our tradition is clouded in mystery in regards to how the potency and/or mercy of the eternal sampradaya is passed on to the eligible recipient via either diksa or siksa. Is it only through the diksa guru, or is the siksa also qualified to be a transparent via media? If the love and affection continues to grow beyond the teacher/student connection within a siksa/disciple relationship, is it incumbent on the siksa to also take the sinful reactions of the admiring disciple and thus become a diksa?
I have always understood that the relationship between disciple and spiritual master in a siksa relationship can vary greatly, from the intensity of a very intimate attachment, as is usually found in the diksa guru/disciple relationship, to a more general student/teacher relationship. The flexibility in this category of guru seems to lend itself more to the smooth functioning of an institution such as ISKCON in the physical absence of the founder/acarya. Although this relationship is not deemed eternal and the siksa is not obliged to take on the sinful karma of the disciple, it none the less can develop into a deep and serious committed relationship. The beauty of the relationship of siksa and disciple is that both parties understand the expectations and the boundaries of the relationship at the onset, and both parties understand what is expected in order to fulfill the expectations of the other. There isn't the stigma attached to the diksa type of relationship.
The vartma-pradarsaka guru is a devotee who, by the arrangement of Supersoul, is put into a position to be of spiritual assistance to another inquiring Vaisnava. This arrangement lasts for as long as is mutually agreeable. There is no deep commitment, but it can evolve into a siksa guru arrangement.
The GBC, as originally established by Srila Prabhupada, were expected to mirror His itinerary of traveling, preaching, enlivening, motivating, inspecting, writing, etc. Srila Prabhupada understood the importance of this type of transcendental management as the essential ingredient in maintaining a spiritual organization. Unfortunately, our senior Godbrothers could not accept and/or appreciate the direction that Srila Prabhupada was giving to them. They avoided the opportunity given and opted to stay in their administrative posts rather than follow Srila Prabhupada.
When Srila Prabhupada chose the original GBC, He hoped that their mission would develop into top quality, traditional preaching....scripturally sound, motivational, personal, and serious, and as close to Srila Prabhupada's as is possible without imitation or mimicking. He expected the GBC to divest themselves of other entanglements, responsibilities, engagements or positions within the society, and to carry out their service without benefit of a fixed address, personal bank account or private assets. He expected them to always be ready and anxious to take advantage of every preaching opportunity.
Srila Prabhupada's instruction to the GBC was that they should travel regularly throughout a geographical zone visiting temples and small preaching centers, as well as Vaisnava's who live away from the association of other devotees. Ideally, Srila Prabhupada felt they should be accompanied by a small sankirtana party which would preach in places not accessible by the temple preachers. He wanted each GBC member to have the constant association of at least one servant/secretary. In such a way, this representative of Srila Prabhupada would interrelate with other GBC's throughout the world, particularly in their immediate vicinity, would attend all major festivals on behalf of Srila Prabhupada, etc. Srila Prabhupada wanted his GBC to act as the official ambassador for his zone, promoting the zone throughout the world, traveling to other zones with the intention of bringing back new sankirtana programs and strategies, and reporting back to the devotees about all the wonderful events and experiences they participated in. At the same time, they were encouraged to shift zones on a yearly basis or thereabouts, so that inappropriate attachments might be avoided. Srila Prabhupada wanted the GBC to encourage harmonious dealings between the temples, arrange inter-temple preaching programs and festivals, and generally maintain good communications and cooperation throughout the society.
A Temple President is the pioneer devotee who establishes a local center which, by his
dedication and preaching, gradually develops into a full-fledged temple. This activity was seen by Srila Prabhupada as proof of the devotee's leadership qualities and preaching abilities. A devotee who takes over an existing temple in the position of Temple President should ideally have had some previous experience in temple management, having been in a temple management position such as Treasurer or Vice President. In this way, he should be well rounded in his experience of most of the temple functions. A Temple President must not have an obsession in one particular type of service to the exclusion or neglect of the other essential departments. Ideally, he should be a grihasta/brahmacary, ready to set the standard for all members of the community. His wife should be an active member of the temple with some responsibility, but should refrain from taking advantage of her intimate association with the Temple President. He must understand Srila Prabhupada's plan and be enthusiastically willing to participate in it, beginning with a spirit of cooperation with the GBC, traveling sanyasis, and other Temple Presidents in the region.
The BBT should be independently incorporated and decentralized as much as is practical, with a small professional staff living in community with an ISKCON temple. BBT profits should be used as a bank, with the loan limit set at 40% of the temple's contributions to the BBT. The BBT should be able to cover its overheads with 10% of the gross sales. It should publish and distribute only Srila Prabhupada's unedited books, ensuring that all Srila Prabhupada's important literatures are constantly in print. The BBT is responsible to promote Srila Prabhupada's books to commercial book distributors, public and private libraries, attends important book fairs and conventions, and should take advantage of every opportunity available to make Srila Prabhupada's books prominent throughout the world. They should also make sure that all of Srila Prabhupada's books are available on the Internet. In addition, the BBT should oversee Srila Prabhupada's archives, especially of His written material. They should coordinate the printing of books with other BBT's worldwide via the Internet, and avoid high shipping costs. BBT trustees and other devotees working in this service should not be paid a salary.
Sanyasis should abide by all the sastric rules of the sanyasis asrama. Alterations established by Srila Prabhupada and the previous Acaryas needed to be carefully examined and defined because there seems to be a great deal of confusion about the boundaries and allowable activities of those in this asrama. Srila Prabhupada wanted his sannyasis to avoid personally handling money, and to have no separate bank accounts. He approved of sannyasis having one strict brahmacary assistant taking care of their day-to-day arrangements, leaving the sannyasi free to study and preach. The Sannyasa should avoid traveling alone or being alone behind locked doors, thereby dispelling any suspicions about impropriety. He is a public person without private interests. As such, he should not have a fixed residence such as a house, apartment or ashram separate from ISKCON temples and community projects. A sannyasa should annually present to the GBC a report detailing the preaching accomplishments for the previous year, and preaching plans for the upcoming year. He should cooperatively work with the local GBC, coordinating the local preaching. Ideally, he should not be restricted to any zone, and should be welcomed in all temples. He should, as much as possible, maintain the external appearance of a sanyasa: appropriate dress, shaven head, danda, and proper body weight. A sannyasis should become very well versed in all the important Vaisnava literatures and be able to expertly present the philosophy. There are some interesting conversations in which Srila Prabhupada expressed a desire to introduce the varnasrama stages of sannyas: bahudak, kuticak, parabrajacarya and paramahansa. These conversations should be researched and studied.
(This list of definitions will be expanded.)
SPIRITUAL SADHANA PROGRAM
We will briefly address here those points of the sadhana program on which ISKCON has consistently deviated from Srila Prabhupada's instructions.
Kirtana to be preceded by Radha-Madhava bajan, and to be done exactly in the method shown by Srila Prabhupada
Proper conduct in the kirtana, i.e., refraining from mode of passion-style kirtana, expression of pseudo-ecstatic symptoms, etc.
Proper kirtana melodies, approved by Srila Prabhupada, to be given preference in the formal programs such as mangala aratike, guru puja, greeting the Deities, prior to the Srimad-Bhagavatam class, etc.
Proper training to be given to leaders and instrument players who are learning the art of kirtana
Lectures and classes given from the Asana
Study programs are to be strictly followed in the temples, especially the evening program and study time
Lecturer should not continue on past the normal time Srila Prabhupada gave class,
approximately 45 minutes, including questions
Time not to be used for as political speech-making time
All commentaries on Srila Prabhupada's purports should be on topic, and not stray into unrelated subjects
The speaker must be a person that Srila Prabhupada would approve of, in terms of their dedication to His mission and following His standard for speaking on His behalf
Aratiks Deity Worship
To be performed exactly as Srila Prabhupada established, namely with extreme punctuality at proper times of day, and with a high standard of cleanliness
Done following exactly the procedures taught by Srila Prabhupada in terms of paraphernalia, sequence of articles offered, and the sequence of offerings
Performed by a properly trained disciple with brahminical qualifications, both on and off the alter
The standards are to vary slightly, depending on the Supreme Personalities being worshipped: guru, Acarya, Pancha Tattva, Jaganatha, Balarama, Subadra, Sri Sri Radha Krsna.
Maintain the simplified version that Srila Prabhupada established rather than complicating the puja by introduction of procedures that only a highly trained "professional" pujari could perform.
An extremely important part of Srila Prabhupada's preaching strategy, the spiritual benefit of taking Prasadam defies the imagination, and can only be truly understood by an advanced Vaisnava. Therefore, it is imperative to follow Srila Prabhupada's instructions implicitly in regards to the preparation, offering, distribution, and consumption of prasadam.
Prasadam should accompany devotees on all preaching functions, whenever possible
Prasadam should always be available in all temples, and offered to all guests. It should be attractive and palatable
Prasadam should be offered to residing devotees or guests after the residing deities in temple have been properly offered and the arotike is performed.
Prasadam should be offered in the exact same sequence and procedure that was in place when Srila Prabhupada was personally present
Prasadam should only include ingredients that Srila Prabhupada has stated are acceptable to the Personalities being offered to, and should be served at the time They wish to be served
Prasadam that is offered to guests on special feast days and the Sunday Feast program should be of the highest possible quality of ingredients and preparation
Srila Prabhupada was extremely interested in the establishment of rural communities based on the principles of simple living and high thinking. He encouraged the development of communities such as New Vrindabana and Gita Nagari and visited them frequently. Unfortunately, we never had the opportunity to witness first-hand how Srila Prabhupada would actually set up and manage such communities due to Srila Prabhupada not staying long enough in any rural community for any length of time. There are, however, many comments in his books, letters, and lectures concerning the emphasis and theme of such communities, and these need to be carefully studied. As we cannot point to a truly successful community and there are many examples of failed and struggling attempts over the years, an in-depth analysis of the most grandiose of the community projects, namely New Vrindabana, would yield some important lessons of both what worked and what did not.
There are many devotees who have dedicated themselves to this lifestyle and service, and I am sure that if they approach the problems of how to make these efforts bare fruit by setting aside their own desires and material conceptions and focusing on studying exactly what Srila Prabhupada wanted to see manifest, then their chances for success will be multiplied many times over. The guidelines have been enshrined within Srila Prabhupada's books: keep the Acarya in the center and do everything for his pleasure. The ultimate goal is to become Krishna conscious by simplifying one's life, but rural life can be more entangling and time consuming than city life, leaving even less time for hearing and chanting. There are certainly many paradoxes that have to be resolved by the individuals and the Brahmins in these communities. Following are a few areas for our research and study:
Compared to life in the city, there is an absence of sense-gratification. This is a big bonus for serious and disciplined devotees, but many devotees find it very difficult to do without the modern amenities like electrical energy and all the time saving machines that require it, like washing machines and cooking stoves. Fossil fuel engines for trucks, tractors, generators, etc. save time but are certainly not the arrangement of the Supreme Lord. In the pure Vedic Varna Asrama scenario there are many more sudras than the other varnas, and they performed all the heavy laborious activities and were not obliged to engage in all the purifactory activities obliged
to be performed by disciples of a guru.
Communal style living reduces the work load but it creates anxiety within the single family units which also have to exist within the communal unit. The question of leadership and authority outside the family unit is a problem. Private ownership invokes both good and bad qualities, and devotees are aspiring to see that every thing is owned and controlled by the Lord, yet surrendering ownership and control presents many challenges.
The devotional activities which are best performed in association with other devotees, such as the morning program of kirtana, class and deity worship, put the temple at the center, and it is therefore best situated within a village-like setting for maximum convenience. Many devotees have come to the country due to having a strong propensity for sudra like work and are therefore not inclined to a strong sadhana program. Brahmins are also inclined to live in rural settings. There appear to be problems between these two varnas, who sometimes have difficulty appreciating one another's service and cooperating together.
The devotees' lack of previous experience in rural life leaves them sadly lacking the skills needed to function comfortably outside the city. The needed training, which should come from sufficiently experienced personnel, is often absent or insufficient. This can result in a great deal of frustration which is then directed towards friends and family.
In trying to unlock the secrets of these perplexing dilemmas many thoughtful devotees have looked towards the application of the Varna Asrama System.
Varna asrama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead's formula for the organization of human society. This is currently a widely discussed topic amongst senior devotees. Although Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu rejected this formula as being the highest principle when it was presented by Ramananda Roy during their meeting to discuss the highest Vaisnava principles, Bhagavata Dharma is stressed by the previous Acaryas, including Srila Prabhupada in his Phalgun Krsna Pancami prayers. Srila Prabhupada, near the end of his manifested lila, stated that His greatest regret was that he didn't have the opportunity to establish Varna Asrama Dharma, therefore only 50% of his work was accomplished. This statement, as well as other important discussions and writings on the subject, require extensive research and study. Much writing and research has already been done by Srila Prabhupada's disciples. The problem is that very little has been practically accomplished in terms of models or experiments.
I believe that re-establishing the many other programs and projects that Srila Prabhupada already had up and running during his personal presence should be a priority. Without these aspects of Srila Prabhupada's plan functioning properly we would be irresponsible at this point in time to venture into uncharted waters such as experimenting into varna asrama. It will require highly enlightened and purified brahmins following the Bhagavata Dharma program to unlock the secrets of how to successfully implement Varna Asrama Dharma to the Kali yuga culture of today. I am sure that Srila Prabhupada will communicate His vision in detail to any sincere pure hearted disciples who have embraced this service as their life and soul.
MARRIED WOMEN AND BRAHMACARINIES
To give the women preachers their proper position within Srila Prabhupada's vision of the Krishna Consciousness movement is a difficult task. Srila Prabhupada's concept of how women should actively participate in the preaching mission was a unique introduction which has received a great amount of resistance from those in powerful administrative positions. The mood of the Acarya has been that of a dedicated enlightened preacher. Through the inconceivable insight of an Acarya, Srila Prabhupada has concluded that the exclusion of women from the preaching field would be an improper application of the "nirbanda Krsna sambandha" principle of not rejecting anything or anyone that can be successfully used in the spreading of the sankirtan movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Srila Prabhupada introduced this adjustment to the traditional standard in the very early days of ISKCON. There were understandable trade-off's and ramifications, but the overall result was positive and greatly understated and appreciated to this day. Women have made tremendous contributions to the successes of the Spiritual Master's mission since it's conception, and Srila Prabhupada's attitude towards women is a demonstration of the advanced nature of a maha-bhagavat devotee.
Women have, in fact, had to transcend many more obstacles than men to participate in assisting Srila Prabhupada with His preaching work. Those who remain within the mission must be recognized as dedicated and sincere by the very fact that they were able to humbly continue their service despite the austerities and disturbances. Many neophyte followers of Srila Prabhupada in male bodies are struggling to maintain strict vows of celibacy that their cultural conditioning make that much harder. They have a tendency to see their fellow disciples in women's bodies as representatives of Maya rather than representatives of the Spiritual Master. As the society grew, it became advantageous to one's institutional career to be a celibate preacher rather than take on the responsibilities of protecting and engaging women and children in the service of the Spiritual Master. Many falsely renounced men in the brahmacary and sanyasa asrama made life very difficult for the sincere and determined women disciples.
Despite a lack of appreciation and the offenses that were heaped upon them, these dedicated women continued to serve in a humble way, and as a result many became very advanced Vaisnavas. These female disciples have not been able to have their voices heard, and this has been a contributing factor in the movements deterioration. Their protests regarding the abuse and neglect of the children has gone unheard. As a result, the society is in a crisis, as these exploited children are now coming of the age where they can confront the issues for themselves. The exploitation of women in innumerable ways, some actually organized from the highest levels of the ISKCON administration, is another black mark on Srila Prabhupada's reputation within the greater society. All these past mistakes and the misconceptions of Srila Prabhupada's position in regards to women's participation in his perfect plan is a deep subject that the senior women disciples as well as the highly intelligent women who consider themselves followers of Srila Prabhupada must make a concentrated effort to research, study, discuss and present.
My wife and I have attempted to establish the framework for such dialogue to take place, and we are making an attempt to involve women who are concerned about establishing Srila Prabhupada as the Acarya by dispelling any misconceptions about his position in regards to his female.
It appears that ISKCON is beginning to recognize, and is attempting to rectify, the mistakes of the past in regard to the students who attended the many experimental gurukulas. However, upon studying their approach we can see that they still fail to recognize the essence of the problem, which they have ignored for over 15 years, and refuse to attribute some of the blame for this problem to the obvious fact that celibate men (brahmacaries and sannyasis) were placed in positions of authority, in close association with children. These authorities struggled with one-dimensional attitudes, and a lack of direct experience in dealing with young people. In many cases, they faced internal struggles caused by accepting the renounced order of life prematurely, without the purification of householder asrama, and in other cases due to suppressing their homosexual tendencies. These celibacy issues undoubtedly contributed to the creation of the problem.
The worst offenders were sannyasis, in the position of headmasters at the biggest most
important schools in Vrindabin and Mayapura, India. Above these headmasters were the sannyasi GBC's in charge of the gurukulas, along with the sannyasi gurus (zonal-acaryas). As a result of this hypocritical reality, many of these young adults who were maltreated as young children 10 to 15 years ago have developed a complete lack of respect for anyone purporting to be of this the most exalted asrama within the Varna Asrama system. Several of these sannyasis headmasters are still considered by the ISKCON organization to be revered leaders and/or diksa gurus, with many disciples of their own. Now, these children incredulously observe that the same GBC leadership that ignored their plight in the first place has appointed more inexperienced sannyasis, who will be in the position of deciding how the victims will finally be compensated. This insensitive, foolish move on the part of the administration is looked upon by most of the psychologically damaged young adults with predictable suspicion and deeply felt disgust.
For me, personally, the most disturbing aspect in this whole disgusting mess is the discovery that many of these ex-gurukula children are carrying around in their hearts a deep-seated resentment towards Srila Prabhupada Himself. Srila Prabhupada repeatedly stated that these children were our hope for the future. Why do they hold this resentment? Because throughout their impressionable years, spent in an ISKCON educational system which became a perverted reflection of Srila Prabhupada's dream, these children were constantly told by their teachers and parents that the situation they were experiencing was exactly what Srila Prabhupada envisioned for them. They were led to believe that this was His Plan, perfectly executed by the abusive leaders who were simply following Srila Prabhupada's formula, and that these leaders were, in fact, humble, obedient servants of the Spiritual Master. In reality, these bewildered neophytes were intoxicated deviators, counterfeit acaryas, concoctors of the highest order, and basically extremely disturbed individuals which Krsna, in his form as Kala, the time factor, is gradually revealing.
Whether it is too late to salvage the burnt remnants from this ill performed sacrifice where our most precious assets, our own children, were offered up, Time alone will reveal. All those who consider themselves members of the eternal ISKCON that Srila Prabhupada manifested will eventually have to personally decide whether they are siding with the abused or the abusers. We all have to end our own denial about how they were abused, and by whom.
OTHER TOPICS TO PRESENT
Householders, Brahmacaries and Brahmins
DEFINING THE PROCESS
MOVING THE BHAKTI VEDANTAS FORWARD
My previously stated philosophy is that if the attitude amongst all parties is to tell the truth as they perceive it , to make presentations that are well researched and therefore presented with supporting documentation and quotes, and to discuss the issues with an open mind, then we can arrive together at a level of cooperative relationship that honours the desires and instructions of our Spiritual Master. We are all self-confessed conditioned souls, but at the same time we have all had a certain degree of realization based on experience and purification. If equal access is given to all who wish to participate, then the devotees will be able to make their own intelligent choices about how to proceed in their spiritual lives, having clearly heard and seen the alternatives. As I see my role, it is to simply facilitate that process. By doing so, I will have an opportunity to be heard along with everyone else.
What is the point of gathering around you a group of persons who agree with everything you say, who are willing to let you do all the thinking and philosophizing? This leads to a cult-like atmosphere such as the one we see within corporate ISKCON. The present dynamic within the institution is that there are many cults all flying the same banner due to convenience. Some are rather large, some are small, and there are close alliances amongst certain groups, but all in all it is not an open society based on freedom of speech. Instead, it is made up of repressive guru states. Those who have been subjected to 20 years of ever-changing philosophy easily become bewildered. The "absolutists" include those once-revered zonal acarya gurus who are naturally expert, due to years of practice at presenting their concocted philosophical understandings. These practiced word jugglers can thus quickly confuse most uneducated devotees based on sentiments about what Srila Prabhupada wanted, subtle threats of guru and Vaisnava aparadha, and intimidation about relative positions, both institutionally (GBC guru versus congregational) and ashram (sannyasis versus grihasta). An unprepared devotee who attempts to boldly challenge these worthy opponents can become very frustrated and resort to angry un-Vaisnava like statements. This not only gives a bad impression, but also supports ISKCON's claims that their antagonists are simply hot-headed aparadhi trouble makers.
Devotees interested in participating in the on-going study and discussion of the issues mentioned in this paper should attempt to maintain a consistent presence on the Hare Krsnas website. One can do this by presenting position papers, asking and answering questions and challenges, and generally helping one another to work out the misconceptions, preconceived notions, and sincere inquires of all. Our recent establishment of the new Istagosti section of the site will greatly enable this process.
Those who are articulate, brahminical and empowered will naturally recruit sympathetic devotees who can assist in helping them accomplish whatever they have declared to be essential. In this way we will bring about a pleasing, cooperative mood that will manifest in tangible results that can be offered to Srila Prabhupada. If this process is seriously undertaken, there will soon evolve a core of brahminical experts specializing in certain philosophical angles of vision, and they will have attracted persons who are enthused to work with them . These official representatives should then focus and refine their field of activity, and be able to present their particular subject forcefully, factually and convincingly. I feel that all this will take place once we have defined the aspects of the philosophy that we are all in full agreement on. We can then engage in discussions about the deep philosophical differences between the parties. Just as in all free countries, there are different political parties who agree on the rights, freedoms, and managerial process enshrined within the constitution but have different moods or strategies.
I don't envision the Bhakti Vedantas evolving into a well organized, well funded, established political group, and that is not my personal priority. I would like to clean-up Srila Prabhupada's house so that everyone can again live in it. Once that "mission impossible" task accomplished, we can disband this group and find a service within the real ISKCON, as it was Srila Prabhupada's desire for us to minimize the bureaucracy and emphasize the preaching. I feel that the emphasis should be on communicating together via e-mail, writing down our realizations, and communicating with those who will listen and respond. Each active participant will naturally develop a preaching ability that will allow them to easily challenge those who are upholding philosophies which are contrary to those held by Srila Prabhupada. This is not an easy task for those opposing Godbrothers within corporate ISKCON who have had to defend their power positions within the institution for a long time. Many have become very expert at defending their philosophically weak positions by the use of well crafted political savvy.
I have discovered that the use of the Internet, whenever possible, is the most efficient and inexpensive way to share our feelings, thoughts, and ideas. By communication, which is essentially the basis of association, we will learn and grow from this interaction and begin to appreciate one another's preaching styles, conclusive arguments, and thought processes. As we commit our thoughts to writing, these important communications should be publicly presented and permanently archived. Together, we should constantly announce and maintain a worldwide preaching presence through the use of our super excellent website, and we should all contribute to it regularly, so that the common cooperative voice of the Bhakti Vedantas is developed as a strong public presence. By doing so, we will demonstrate that we can get along despite the fact that we don't 100% agree on everything, and that we are willing to give up some independence so as to create the kinds of results that Srila Prabhupada anticipated.
It is my conviction that there are far more supporters out there than have come forward to date. Many have not come forward because they do not yet clearly know who we are or what we stand for. Let us make our position clear by working on a siddhanta which clearly states what the issues are that are being discussed, and what our various positions on the issues are. Naturally there will never be 100% agreement, but on some of the main points there must be a consensus. Let us define what those cohesive elements are and work from there.
It is important that we not be hypocrites. I have experienced that many devotees outside the institution are not receptive to getting involved in this process simply because they do not want to re-commit to Srila Prabhupada's strict no-nonsense program. His demanding program is tough and requires us to clean-up our personal acts. Rather than admit this, many devotees make vague excuses that they do not agree with this philosophical position or that. In reality, they do not have a thorough understanding of any of the positions, it is only a vague excuse. Even if we have to struggle to get back to the original standard, we must at least be honest with ourselves and the others that are participating. I feel that we cannot fall into the trap set by those in corporate ISKCON, where the criteria is based on an unsubstantiated declaration that their members are strictly following all the rules and regulations. This is the goal and the undeniable standard, but there are many other factors involved that are equally if not more important.
For me, this process is a form of re-initiation. I have had to come to grips with the fact that I haven't been serving Srila Prabhupada favorably for years, and have been committing numerous offenses by my neglectful, unconscious activities.
To really digest this situation takes time, even for one who seriously applies himself to becoming educated about the reality of all that we face, individually, institutionally, sociologically, psychologically etc. Coming into association with one another under these circumstances will require us to exhibit great compassion, humility, and tolerance.
I am not claiming to be an acarya, or even an advanced Vaisnava, but I have come to a point in my spiritual life which required me to make a major commitment. I had to examine the reasons which prevented me from returning to the life that I once loved, to the service of an extraordinary person whom I had a tremendous attachment for, my Spiritual Master, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Each previous attempt since my departure from the society ended in disappointment. I gradually realized that the Srila Prabhupada I was looking for was not the same Srila Prabhupada of my spiritual infancy.
For me, the clue was found in Srila Prabhupada's statement, "I have left everything within my books." Since embarking upon this journey, I feel that I have been directed at every step towards a destination that is becoming clearer by the day. I have been led to incredibly dedicated disciples who have been on this path for much longer and who have enthusiastically shared their realizations and encouraged me to continue on. I have uncovered scholarly papers, quotes, and amazing sections in Srila Prabhupada's books, letters, conversations, and lectures. I have recognized the tendency in all of us to want to be an acarya, and to consider our opinions and outlooks to be absolutely perfect. Our minds and false egos want to think that we have all the answers and if we were in charge or had the power we could correct all the wrongs and make them right, in no time.
When Srila Prabhupada said that we should cooperate with each other He did not mean that we should surrender to an absolute, supreme, ultimate ecclesiastical body composed of conditional souls with a self-centered agenda. Srila Prabhupada meant that we should all humbly admit to our neophyte condition and listen to one another's ideas and realizations. Most well informed devotees have interesting and unique perspectives on how to understand and execute the orders of the Acarya. By placing one's ideas in the public forum we can get feedback. The scholars and critics should be looking for contaminated ideas tinged with impersonalism and voidism rather than simply disagreeing with the ideas that don't coincide with their personal views. It requires a humble, surrendered attitude to follow the instructions of the Spiritual Master even though there is insufficient realization to understand exactly why Srila Prabhupada gave some orders and directions. This blind faith in the position of Srila Prabhupada's transcendental instructions was one of the important ingredients in the success we experienced at the beginning of the movement. The problems that followed were on account of our over-confident misconceptions of our own level of advancement and our lack of realization of the platform of spiritual advancement that Srila Prabhupada was on.
Now, after years of institutional and personal attempts to introduce improvements to the Spiritual Master's perfect formula, hopefully we can admit that we have gotten far off the track, in our personal lives and in the life of the institution. It's about time we went back to the source for another close examination. Let us do now what we should have done directly after Srila Prabhupada departed. Let us come together with humble attitudes and study Srila Prabhupada as completely as is possible. Let us hear from as many sincere disciples as possible about their understandings, and come to a consensus about the basic formula Srila Prabhupada gave to us, then attempt to follow it to the letter. In this way the deeper, more esoteric aspects of Srila Prabhupada's nature will be revealed to us, and we will have an opportunity to unlock the secrets of His inconceivable personality.