Will the Real Bhaktivedanta Institute Please
BY: PRALAMBAHA DAS
Apr 30, 2012 ANTANANARIVO, MADAGASCAR (SUN) One of the greatest tragedies of the Hare Krishna Movement is the loss of the Bhaktivedanta Institute. Has anyone, including the GBC, even noticed? A mention of the Bhaktivedanta Institute to a new devotee draws a resounding blank stare. Did it ever even exist?
In characteristic style, the stoic GBC remained good and silent in the 1990's when Dr. Thoudam Singh/HH Bhakti Swarupa Damodar Swami turned his scholarly qualifications into a traveling circus laced with mayavadi preaching about spearheading world peace. Apparently the best perk of owning a PhD for some is the carte blanche to contradict the Founder-Acharya. Which is nothing new, because college programmes are set up to teach the suckers who have sat bleary eyed in classrooms for the greater part of a decade (while spending huge sums on the privilege) that with the diploma comes the right to know more than God. After all, the West's giant universities are little more than effective re-education camps wherein graduates trade their common sense for a degree. As far as devotees are concerned, precious few can hold onto the rudiments of devotional service after a bombardment of modern day educational hogwash.
These days, no one can say what the Bhaktivedanta Institute is—as an Internet search reveals. One supposed BI website is all about Prof. Ravi Gomatam, with a list of faculty and graduates who are apparently all karmis. Dr. Gomatam has an entirely separate hard –to-find site where he actually owns up to being devotee -- Rasaraja das (Rasaraj.org). Licensed by the Phd, he is inconceivably and simultaneously a scholastic Superman/Clark Kent, a man who has found his own definition for achitya bedabeda tattwa.
Neither does his "BI" site mention even from whence has come this name, Bhaktivedanta Institute -- nor is the sacred name of His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada ever mentioned. Apparently this Bhaktivedanta Institute originated out of a chemical soup like the Big Bang Theory. Dr. Gomatam makes a pretty face on Wikipedia, but his self-glorification there has nary a word about ISKCON or the Founder-Acharya. He lists Berkeley as one of Bhaktivedanta Institute's addresses. Neither is the BI listed on the site of Berkeley ISKCON. And if there ever was a Bhaktivedanta Institute, even the new world-saving GBC site doesn't know about it. Members of ISKCON who do not have AC (Alzeimer's of Convenience) still recall that once upon a time, the existence of the Bhaktivedanta Insitute granted a blanket carte blanc for the bragging rights of ISKCON leaders throughout the world of Hare Krishnas.
There is another website, BInstitute.org, which claims that another Bhaktivedanta Institute is in Calcutta. This site claims that the BI was founded by Dr. Thoudam Singh. This is a fabrication -- it was founded by Shrila Prabhupada, and then run into the ground by Dr. Singh's many compromises.
Towards a Culture of Harmony and Peace by TD Singh
ISKCON Bombay acknowledges the existence of one of the Bhaktivedanta Insititutes with a footnote on their website. Then there is the BI Newsletter, which seems to have affiliation with none of the above, and whose current edition is over four years old. Here are a few nectareous drops of PhD wisdom from their newsletter:
"Bhaktivedanta Institute is pleased to announce Year 2012 as Year of Science and Spirituality in honor of 75th Birth Anniversary of Institute‘s Founder and Science & Spirituality Dialogue Pioneer, Dr. T. D. Singh. The Institute plans to organize various conferences and Symposia around the world on various themes of Science and Spirituality. Many believe that world will end next year. Probably it is true. We are entering a new world - a world where cutting-edge scientific developments are interfaced with age old precious spiritual wisdom. Let‘s enter together into this new world."
Today no one has taken Shrila Prabhupada's order regarding the BI seriously except Drutakarma das, a lone spokesman of spirituality-in-science, who pushes on with barely a modicum of help from the GBC. Drutakarma's write-up on Wiki is honest and to the point, and written in first person. He does not write in third person, pretending that some fan has glorified him, as is so common amongst ISKCON's self-appointed leaders. He is not shy about stating his Hare Krishna credentials, rather he is proud to be a disciple-preacher in the army created by Shrila Prabhupada.
Although Drutakarma Prabhu is listed as a member of the Bhaktivedanta Institute on Wikipedia, the BI's webpage has been deleted.
Are we to assume that the Bhaktivedanta Institute, to which Prabhupada said he would give even the Bombay Temple, has disappeared for all practical purposes? Today there are hundreds of devotees within ISKCON involved in academia, but many of them appear to be career-centered part-timers who maintain a casual week-end relationship with ISKCON as sort of a pious social club rather than as full-time preaching forces.
Amidst ISKCON's many scandals, child molestation lawsuits and Swamis on the make, the fate of the BI has not been discussed much, ALthough its loss, or near-loss, is actually one of ISKCON blackest eyes. It was the dream of Shrila Prabhupada that educated devotees would be able to convince the world's academics of the efficacy of Bhagavat Dharma As It Is. The real problem arose when the late Bhakti Swarup Damodar Goswami, feeling that the GBC Godbrothers did not support him adequately, abandoned preaching to academia and organized a hugely-expensive road show of Manipuri dancers and martial artists. At these shows, when the late Shrila Shripad (a name he kept against GBC decisions against such monikers) would chant a few shlokas, it was followed by his force-feeding gullible audiences with the line that the sacred words of the Bhagavat were intended to launch an era of world peace. In this way he emerged as a sort of philosophy-free quasi Dalai Lama. And for the Bhaktivedanta Institute, it was all downhill from there.
How a so-called scholar, renunciate and preacher of Gaudiya Vaishnavism could mystically concoct such a conclusion that so opposed to Shrila Prabhupada's preaching, can only be imagined. But compromise and concession hold sway over the nature of those who sell their souls for temporary honor and fame, which is why most people get PhD's in the first place. But preaching Krishna consciousness is not for those who seek to be celebrated as the next Harbinger of World Peace.
So when years ago, the Bhaktivedanta Institute was run into the ground in favor of a dancing circus organized by leaders chasing the will o' the wisp of public acclaim and golden thrones, there was little hope for recovery. Today, you would be hard pressed to find a single devotee who has been enticed from the elite world of professors of scientific academia. Shrila Prabhupada's vision was that professors should wear tilak, but when our own leaders conduct their daily affairs without this all-important forehead mark of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, how can they convince others?
There was a time when the GBC loved to posture with scholars, despite their proven impotent and ineffective dealings with them. Though the GBC saw themselves as learned and distinguished, the academics saw them as instruments for a free ride. In days past, when millions of hard earned dollars of the Society's funds were spent on gala seminars, scholars were given free vacations courtesy of your sankirtan collections. Men of letters were flown to Bombay from all over the world and hosted by ISKCON's most qualified -- our revered and pompous leaders for whom only money can do the talking, even when you supplied the money for their status.
At one conference in Bombay in the late 70's a conversation was overheard between two freeloading scholars. One professor was asking the other how to tell which of the shaven-headed, dhoti-wearing members were the leaders. "O that's easy." He responded. "The leaders are all wearing the Rolexes!"