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Gaudiya Vaishnava reflections

By Brajendranandana dasa.

This article is an appeal to the leaders of ISKCON to be alert to a very serious danger that is attacking the very heart and soul of the institution. I remember with so much affection so many of you that I had the chance to serve with for many years. You were serving Prabhupada’s mission with your heart and soul and were also dealing with devotees in a very caring manner. I trust that your mood and intentions are still the same, unless the bewilderment of adoration and prastishta has taken its toll. We all know how challenging it is to remain unaffected when so many young devotees are touching our feet and praising us. It’s especially dangerous when we’re not in the association of superior Vaisnavas who can cut our pride and keep us on track.

Personally, I would still be connected with ISKCON, but in 1996 I was told by the temple president of New York, when I was visiting there with my wife and children, that if I attended the classes given by Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja, who was in New York at that time, my family and I would have to leave the temple. I had already had the good fortune of hearing from Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja when he visited our small village in Badger California a month or so before. Thus, I had my own personal experience of how much he inspires in the heart a deeper and clearer understanding of the true mission of our Srila Prabhupada. Only a pure devotee can truly understand the heart of another pure devotee. Since I was forced to choose between the “substance” and the “form,” – that is, between the current of pure bhakti so mercifully brought to us by Srila Prabhupada, and the buildings and bricks – I regretfully left the temple with my family. Since then, I’ve been verbally and physically attacked on several occasions by irate devotees asking me, “Why did you leave Srila Prabhupada?”

~ Destroyed From Within ~

Prabhupada had told us on numerous occasions that ISKCON can only be destroyed from within. The Catholic Church is now self-destructing due to having neglected to deal directly with the insidious disease that was rampant among its priests and leaders. ISKCON has dealt with “gurus” who have misused there position and had sexual falldowns. But the most grievous sin is that of offending a pure Vaisnava. I regret to say that ISKCON has a very poor track record in dealing with such a serious issue. During the early years after Prabhupada had departed from our vision, Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhar Gosvami Maharaja was trying to help us, as sanctioned by Prabhupada. At that time, some of the ISKCON leaders committed shameful offenses at his feet. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura had given the name “Bhakti Raksaka” (guardian of devotion) to Srila Sridhara Gosvami Maharaja in light of his purity, exalted Vaisnava qualities, and his ability to present and defend the pure teachings coming in our disciplic line from Srila Rupa Goswami.

Three of the most outspoken offenders toward Maharaja fell down to different varieties of inappropriate sexual behaviour. Two of those “gurus” had to spend time in jail. Thousands of disciples were left with their faith shattered and their hearts broken. Some time later, ISKCON issued a letter of apology for its offences to Srila Sridhar Gosvami Maharaja. But he had already departed from our presence and entered into nityalila. Also, so many efforts were made by some parties to disrupt the preaching of another pure Vaisnava, Srila Gaura Govinda Maharaja. Many offences were also committed at his lotus feet. And now history seems to be repeating itself.

Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja was personally asked by our Prabhupada, during his final days with us, to help his disciples. Numerous leaders (gurus and GBC members) from ISKCON sat at his feet for several years, making submissive inquiry as siksa disciples. Maharaja very mercifully and liberally gave his time and energy to help them. And why shouldn’t they approach him?

giving siksa

In Adi-lila, chapter one, of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, in his purport to Text 35, after having explained that siksa- and diksaguru are equally worshipful manifestations of the lord, Prabhupada states:

“If one thinks he is above consulting anyone else, including a spiritual master, he is at once an offender at the lotus feet of the Lord… Sri Jiva Goswami advises that one not accept a spiritual master in terms of hereditary or ecclesiastical conventions. One should simply try to find a genuinely qualified spiritual master for real advancement in spiritual understanding.”

We’ve had our “zonal” gurus, our ecclesiastically nominated and elected gurus, but we won’t let pure devotee gurus enter our temples.

~ “Give Him Up or Lose Your Standing” ~

After some time, some elements of ISKCON were able to put through an ultimatum to the so-called “deviated” ISKCON leaders who were taking siksa from Maharaja: “Give up Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja or lose your standing in the institution.” The reasons they gave were so absurd and so offensive that to repeat them just gives them some undeserved energy. These “deviant” leaders made serious efforts to defend Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja. They attested to how he had helped them so much in their understanding of Prabhupada’s mission, and that the accusations of the GBC were unfounded. One devotee amongst them overtly expressed his “love” for Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja.

Eventually those devotees succumbed to institutional pressure. Later on, some of them even became strongly opposed to anyone else hearing from their former siksaguru, who they once said had helped them so much. Now some crooked persons are saying that Srila Prabhupada never even asked Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja to help his disciples. And some are dangerously projecting their own base conditioned qualities and motivations onto the character of a pure Vaisnava, whose only intention is to help us.

He doesn’t need followers or disciples. He has Krsna. And our Prabhupada has an affectionate spiritual relationship with him on a level beyond our adhikara to comprehend. Yet conditioned souls, in the name of Prabhupada, hold meetings to determine if he can visit ISKCON temples.

A slick California politician, in the guise of a devotee, repeatedly, through written and spoken word, blasphemes such a pure Vaisnava, and in the name of ISKCON tries to draw others into his twisted vision. Are you okay with this? Such a fool is he that even in the presence of Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja, as an ISKCON representative, he can’t conceal his arrogance and offensive mentality. Is this who you want to represent you?

Another devotee, who sat at the feet of Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja for years and even expressed his “love” for him, later on actively opposed Maharaja’s preaching. This same devotee, although glorified by many for the service he did for Prabhupada, also offended an endless list of devotees, junior and senior, by his harsh, heavy-handed, and calculative dealings. I was there. I saw it. Didn’t you?

Later, he tragically and violently died in a car accident. His body, in a state of rigor mortis, was placed in a grave on Prabhupada’s sacred tirtha, and it is considered a “samadhi”.

One of the most outspoken offenders at the feet of Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja suffered a violent stroke, which has seriously impeded his capacity to speak or even to move. Is this a coincidence? Don’t you see the connection? Will one of you please cry out, “The emperor has no clothes!”

Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja is not a threat to ISKCON. On the contrary, he would only infuse the hearts of all its members with the current of pure bhakti that our Prabhupada so fervently wants for us. Any conditioned soul off the street can enter your temples, but he cannot. Again, he doesn’t want or need your disciples, but as a pure Vaisnava who weeps for the plight of fallen souls like us, he will give shelter to those who are dispossessed of their home in ISKCON or who have lost faith in leaders who are implicated, at least by inaction, in offending pure Vaisnavas.

~ The Hour is Late ~

The hour is already late. Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja will not be travelling anymore, so your temples are “safe.” But, “better late than never.” Maharaja is still present amongst us. You can still fall at his feet and beg forgiveness for any offences committed, even by omission. If not as a collective body, at least individually, for your own spiritual well-being, genuinely approach him. He is extremely merciful and forgiving. One guru in ISKCON acknowledged that offences have been committed to Maharaja but said, “I am just one man.” But everything starts with “one man.”

Some of you are reading Maharaja’s books and even drawing from them in your classes. Some of your former disciples have mentioned this. One of your leaders, who sat at Maharaja’s feet, wrote a book, Venu Gita, which is way beyond his realization and based largely on what he had heard from Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja. But he gives no acknowledgement to Maharaja in the book. His book is then sold in ISKCON centres worldwide, while Maharaja is falsely accused of speaking differently from Prabhupada. Speak out against these offenses. You may have your position in ISKCON become a little less comfortable, but you will become closer to Prabhupada’s heart by asserting your integrity as his disciple and by making a stand for the purity of his ISKCON.

Please remember, “The enemy is within.” If you don’t individually and collectively speak out against these aparadhas, then you will all become implicated and the disease will spread like a cancer, and in time ISKCON will sadly become another deviant branch of the Caitanya tree. I’m not anticipating that someone on my low level of development in bhakti is powerful enough to change hearts. Mainly I write for my own purification and my inner necessity to take a stand against offences to my guardians and holy masters, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja, as well as the whole Gaudiya Vaisnava line which they so wonderfully represent.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada once said, “The nature of a religious institution is that after the departure of its preceptor, the institution that he began tends to become an end in itself.” Is this what we want for ISKCON? In Srimad Bhagavatam, 4th Canto, Chapter 28, Prabhupada forewarns us:

“…Unfortunately, when the acarya disappears, rogues and non-devotees take advantage and immediately begin to introduce unauthorized principles in the name of so-called svamis… and so on. The main business of human society is to think of the Supreme Personality of Godhead at all times, to become His devotees, to worship the Supreme Lord and to bow down before him. The acarya establishes these principles, but when he disappears, things once again become disordered. The perfect disciples of the acarya try to relieve the situation by sincerely following the instructions of the spiritual master.”

Factually, no one has done more to clarify, rescue, preserve, and spread the true mission of our Srila Prabhupada than Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja.

~ “But You Know Better” ~

In the 1970’s, the GBC in the Brooklyn temple on Henry Street somehow became bewildered by a woman with demoniac tendencies and placed her in charge of the women’s asrama. By her influence, abominable things were offered to the Deities. Also serious emotional abuses were committed to the ladies in the asrama. Everything later came out and both the GBC and his lady were removed from the scene. During Prabhupada’s subsequent visit to New York, he was discussing the matter with one of his senior New York disciples. Indicating the general devotees in the temple, he said, “They are innocent, but you know better. You should have done something.”

On behalf of Srila Prabhupada, on behalf of his followers who endeavoured heart and soul to serve him for many years in ISKCON, and on behalf of your own followers who have invested their lives and faith in you, please address the real threat that is growing perniciously within the body of ISKCON. And as true leaders, who desire to follow Srila Prabhupada, please accept his advice and take help from Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja. Don’t let ISKCON be destroyed by the enemies within.

I end here, praying at the lotus feet of my divine masters to protect me from my own deep-rooted tendencies toward arrogance and pride. Please keep me safely sheltered as one of the tiny particles of dust at your lotus feet.

Your fallen, Brajendranandana dasa

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