The Farm in 1976 and More
BY: PUSTA KRISHNA DAS
Oct 19, 2011 SANTA CRUZ, CALIFORNIA, USA (SUN) First, I want to say, Rocana dasa, that you have some kind of attachment for "repentance". I do not. I did not do any horrible activities during my ISKCON days. Quite to the contrary, I was rather on the austere side of things, and a fairly equipoised individual, aware of my responsibility that I represented Srila Prabhupada. Repentance is discussed in the Srimad Bhagavatam. Sukadeva Goswami tempts Pariksit Maharaj... that you should perform prayascitta or repentance. Pariksit Maharaj wisely replied to the satisfaction of Sukadeva Goswami that repentance is like hasti-sna, the bathing of an elephant. Once the elephant has taken bath, he comes onto the land and begins to roll on the dirt. Thus, it is the advice that continuous sravanam-kirtanam-smaranam are the cure for all sinful activities. Indeed, Krishna confirms this in the Bhagavad Gita, 18:66. So, your pressing for repentance seems to be a very Catholic idea, and not one that is suitable for Krishna consciousness.
I know that you dislike my sharing wisdom with your audience, but it is a fact that if someone left the association of devotees and later returned, Srila Prabhupada never spoke of repentance, but rather to resume the process of devotional service.
Secondly, you seem to be at a loss for how I came to be the GBC for San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver in 1976. When I had requested Srila Prabhupada in July 1976 that I remain in the US during his last world tour when I was his personal secretary, Srila Prabhupada requested that I continue to travel with him. This was in New York, just after the first NYC Rathayatra Festival. I left the decision up to him. The events that led to that point are not for your digestion, but for mine and my relationship with Srila Prabhupada. In any case, Srila Prabhupada after several days decided to permit me to stay and to preach in the US.
I had left the US in 1972 and had not returned due to my activities in Europe and Africa. My mother was also dying from breast cancer, and I had not seen her in 6 years. Maya, perhaps, but I am human and I have a heart. Finally, Srila Prabhupada requested that I remain the GBC for South Africa and that I also become the GBC for the West Coast temples mentioned above. That was a happy situation because the preaching in Africa was difficult during the days of apartheid, indeed. I remained and then Tamal Krishna Maharaj was requested by Srila Prabhupada to become his secretary. The rest was
My first thing was to go to the West Coast. I arrived in Berkeley. I did not find it a pleasant or even inspiring situation. Jiva and Caru had combined to create a money making business out of the women's travelling sankirtan party, and I heard many things from the bhaktas. However, I was GBC and did not have any control of internal affairs of that temple. I only later learned how the women were being horribly abused on that party. It ruined the devotional lives of many. At the Rathayatra in San Francisco Golden Gate Park, Jiva had been assigned by Caru to take care of the "security" of the festival. Some 'bikers' in leather jackets stopped and wanted to take prasadam. I could not believe my eyes, for no good reason, Jiva pulled out a hand-gun and started firing shot after shot into the ground just in front of these bikers. They went away saying, "I thought you Hare Krishnas were peaceful people". That was the moment, then and there, that I felt like I no longer wanted to be a part of the movement in the way I had before.
I still felt duty to visit the temples in "my" new zone. I went up to Portland and found a nice group of bhaktas, as I did in Seattle. I encouraged people to chant their rounds and to perform service. Finally, when I went to Vancouver, I met with Bahudak. I had known him from 1972 when he had generally given me a van, two bhaktas, and a truck load of books to go do sankirtan in the summer of 1972, after I took sannyasa. While it may
have been the intention to have a farm community in 1974, Bahudak told me that too many of the devotees wanted to give up doing street sankirtan and go live on the farm. It was a great anxiety for him. He was not able to continue maintaining the Vancouver program as he had been. Indeed, if you look at the photograph of the "many" happy devotees on the farm you can understand that most of these, if not all, came from the
Vancouver Temple. This was a loss to the Vancouver yatra. Things change. While the intent for the farm may have been a good one, the reality for the Vancouver Temple was that it was losing its population of devotees to the farm. As a result, I visited there for
a few days in my capacity as the GBC. I did not close down the farm the next day as you have said. That is untrue. I wrote a letter and received a reply from Srila Prabhupada. The letter is dated August 23, 1976 from Hyderabad, India. It came to me at the Berkeley Temple address. That letter reads as follows:
My Dear Pusta Krsna Maharaj,
Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter
dated August 6, 1976 and have noted the contents. Please
send that Bhavan's Journal Manuscript to me in either Delhi
or Vrndavana. It is approved by me if you want to sell the farm.
I hope this meets you in good health.
Your ever well-wisher,
AC Bhaktivedanta Swami
I passed this on to the Vancouver temple and whatever happened after that happened. I did not force the sale nor participate in it. Rather, I responded to the anxiety of Bahudak that his manpower and financial resources were being depleted by the shift to the farm. That is the truth. The Vancouver bhaktas were abandoning sankirtan preaching and book distribution in large numbers.
Thirdly, you think that being a doctor is useless and so on and so on. That is your impression, and you may find shastric evidence etc, but chewing the chewed can also be found to be a useless endeavour. Srila Prabhupada gave me instruction in a letter dated November 5, 1977. He did not curse me, but rather sent his blessings and advice. It is
advice from a Guru to his disciple. You can read it in the Letters somewhere if you like. However, I want to share this last piece of advice with you. It is important to give up
anger. Krishna has said that anger is the cause of delusion. It is therefore important that you not be "infuriated" by such an insignificant person as my self. And, if I am engaged in the activity of sharing 'wisdom' that will help bhaktas to surrender to Krishna, then I am assured by Krishna that this is a worthy endeavour (BG 18:68-69). I have no doubt that you will angrily refute this!
Fourthly, I disagree with you that the Seattle and Vancouver Temples are bad places. When you see dedication, you must try to see Guru Gauranga. Yes, so many Indians have come to take part in these programs, and so many westerners have left. Thank goodness for the Indians, otherwise, there might not be a center for Krishna consciousness at all. I know Harivilas. He used whatever resources he could muster up to develop a very nice Krishna conscious community. Do they do things that make you 'scratch your head and say what the ____'. Perhaps, but things can change and they can also change for the better. I find that less objectionable than going out to collect money
for starving people in Bangladesh in Paris, and not deliver that money. Duplicitous dealings at least steal my heart away more than practically any Hindu festival in the Seattle temple...if that is what is needed to maintain a diverse community. Some
Indians have become very wonderful bhaktas. The criticism that Srila Prabhupada gave at times when referring to the preaching in the West has changed, because Srila Prabhupada's books and the Holy Names have changed these people into bhaktas.
You must not offend these people who have come to serve Srila Prabhupada and Krishna. It is vaishnava aparadha.
I wish your Sampradaya Sun well, but perhaps you also need to go out somewhere and start a temple where there is not one. Perhaps then you will see the faith and dedication that is required. I am sorry that I could not remain in my post in ISKCON in 1976, but I also count my blessings. I did not have to go through the gut-wrenching guru spectacle that took place after Srila Prabhupada's departure. And, I lived up to my fullest potential as a human being both as a surgeon and a bhakta. While surrendered souls like you might consider that 'maya', I will accept my fate, and I am confident of Krishna's mercy.
Your judgmental nature might qualify you for a place in Yamaraj's court as a judge of others' lives, but I hope that you will aspire for the love of Sri Krishna and realize something more of the compassionate nature of Srila Prabhupada. I have tried in my writing to share some of those expressions with others. They are there in my writing on Dandavats.com, and because of the nature of your paper, to a much lesser degree here.
Do not worry for repentance. Even bigger sinners like Jagai and Madhai were saved by the merciful glance of Sri Nityananda Prabhu and the Holy Names. A reversion to Catholic ways may make one think that you were affected by the mixed preaching style of one Kirtanananda. Although I do not think that is the case, I simply want to emphasize that mercy is what we want and need. If we were to be judged, then there might not be any hope for us.