Saturday, April 5, 2008

Iskcon Antics or Krishna Lila?

Tonite i was browsing thru the Sampradaya Sun, as part of my news habit. I read a short piece on the dangers ahead for the well educated and well behaved devotees of the Chowpatty temple in Mumbai. I spent seven weeks as a guest in that temple in 2002. The devotees treated me very nicely. I had long hair at the time (even a moustache i think) and i had not been a big devotee from the past. But because i was Radhanath Swami's guest and godbrother, i was offered a decent place to sleep and a lot of respect. I was also expected to be pro-Radhanath and pro-Iskcon, and any deviation from the party line would have probably revoked my privileges immediately. But as a good guest, i behaved according to expectations. And i sincerely appreciated the good association i received. It softened my heart for Iskcon (a second time). But after going from there to Juhu, where i stayed when i recorded my album Jivatma Express in a studio in nearby Andheri, and then back to Vrindavan, and finally, spending almost one year in Mayapur in the householder section of Iskcon, it soured me on Iskcon a second time. This time was without the anger and disillusionment of the first experience. My eyes were wide open, and i was not surprised when i realized that at least in its present incarnation, Iskcon is a damned institution. Yes, damned! Cursed by inept leadership, non-transparency, narrow-mindedness, misconceptions, and a multitude of prejudices and offenses towards other vaisnavas and people in general. So, for all of my nice memories of Chowpatty-- and the really beautiful hearts of some of the brahmacaries i met there-- i could never go back, except for a brief visit.

Actually i cannot understand how the devotees got it so wrong. How could they not get the inner mood of Srila Prabhupada? Why would they be satisfied only to imitate the externals? But this is the material world. Everyone in this world is damned to be an imitator of the Lord, and the institutions that are created thru great sacrifice by world teachers to revive the original spirit in jiva souls, are also damned by their followers who imitate the externals of religion and service to God. I'm not judging individuals. Everyone has their own path back to Godhead, and it is not for me or anyone to judge another. But it is up to each of us to open our eyes and walk our own walk on that path.

Another article in today's Sun described the famous vaisnava poet and composer, Jayadeva. He is most famous as author of Das Avatar, the classic Sanskrit poem depicting the incarnations of Krishna. Jayadeva was also a favorite poet of Lord Caitanya's, who spent much time hearing Jayadeva's verses. Reading about Jayadeva's life and his offerings of poetry, music and choreography to Lord Jagannath is inspiring. Here was a great genius in literature and music, but without any self-infatuation. All of his art was an offering to the Lord. He was indifferent to the political antics of his time and fully absorbed in describing the spotless pastimes of the Lord. That's a great lesson, a difficult lesson for us, who are conditioned to the desire for acceptance and averse to rejection by our peers. But in the end, whom do we want to remember? The transcendental and infinitely beautiful Lord of all creation, or the three stooges?


Sita-pati das said...

It's not possible to make many meaningful statements about "ISKCON", any more than it is to make statements about "the US". Both are extremely large and diverse organizations with many different people and groups in them. Even a single temple community has so many people and groups in it, following different conceptions and standards.

I definitely don't think that it's all bad. Like everything else in this world there are good aspects and bad aspects. People who are following and people who are out of it. People who understand Prabhupada's mood and mission and people who belong to a cult.

Just find a good aspect to focus on (because they are there), or become one yourself.

Why not open a temple and set a positive example?

jauvana said...

Why not try to understand the criticism and learn from it, Sita Pati? Try to appreciate that i've been both a participant who sacrificed many years of my life, and an observer of what was my spiritual master's mission for almost 40 years. Get off your high horse. Spiritual life just BEGINS with a humble mood and respect for other living beings, in particular, those who have gone before you and seen more.

Nityananda Chandra Das said...

I am wondering what is the motivation of your post. Any criticism that is without positive alternatives becomes a rant. Best to be an example, the high horse as you say, but if not that at least give suggestion as to what will be the positive alternative. For say that all in Prabhupada's institution is all bad bold but is without any value if you do not present the alternative.

Krishna Das said...

Haribol Nava-Yauvanaji,

Please try not to give up on the movement of Iskcon. Just like in a country the government is not really what makes a the country as it, but so do the inhabitants. There is much more to Iskcon then just a handful of leaders. There are many (older) devotees who feel as though they aren't respected and appreciated according to the service they have performed over many years. Some also feel that they were made promises that weren't lived up to. Actually all these devotees giving up is what is breaking Iskcon if you ask me. We should not allow that nice devotees become fed up with the way the movement is 'moving', but we also shouldn't allow ourselves to abandon that which was given to us by our spiritual master and hold so dear because we feel that the fight becomes too much. This is how we give Iskcon out of hands. If we count all the 'fried' devotees we will probably have a very large number. We should realize that we ourselves also have a great influence on our surroundings and we can step up and make a difference and give right examples, show how it is done. I'm not requesting go and live in the temple, but harsh speech about Iskcon has never done anyone any good, it has only made devotees sad or passed on the flame of anger. My request is that you try and see where you can make things better, because Iskcoon has a great future, or else Srila Prabhupadaji wouldn't have started it. If we continue with this blaming of each other automatically the quarrel will continue and Kaliyuga will continue to have his way (quarrel and hypocrisy), but if we try to see where we can help in a positive way without worrying too much about the restrictions that are laid upon us from above (GBC's and the kind or Maya or Krishna, you know the rulers), we can really help moving Iskcon forward in a nice stream. Older devotees should step up and take their right to do this and not be scared to face the difficulty. The worrying about how this swami and that GBC and those temple presidents are trying to ruin things is, i'm sorry to say, childish and should for once belong to the past. The older Prabhupada disciples like yourself are now too old to continue this fight. Young gurukulis like myself have been watching this go on with sadness. That's why I request of you once again and once again try and don't give up on Iskcon, we can work all together make it work, everyone in Iskcon, good or bad, have their qualities. I'm for sure not giving it into the hands of Kaliyuga. He has his five places to rule. Iskcon isn't one of them. All my love to you dear Navayauvanaji,

Krishnadas (Amsterdam)

By the way, when is your next cd coming?

Carlo Ananda said...

Re: Nityanada Candra's comments:

Prabhu, you want some positive alternatives? OK, let ISKCON start by implementing Srila Prabhupada's Directions of Management as he expressly ordered the GBC to do not only once, but twice, in writing, in 1972 and 1974. (You can Google "Prabhupada DOM" for more information).

Re: Krsna das's comments:

Prabhu, we're both from Amsterdam so you must know that for the past five years I have been making myself available for lecturing around the temples in the Benelux. I ask nothing in return and I have a policy never to turn down an invitation. I also do a monthly student program in Utrecht which includes a prasadam meal at my own expense. In general I have had nothing but good feedback from the devotees everywhere I go. This includes Benelux, Italy, Slovenia and India. So, how did the GBC body react at this year's Mayapur meetings? By banning me from speaking in any temple. They did not even bother to ask me my side of the story or gave me an opportunity to defend myself. See the entries "Fatwa" and "The Real History" on my blog for further information.

Swarup Das said...

"The transcendental and infinitely beautiful Lord of all creation, or the three stooges?"

Is it possible to have both?
Nyuk nyuk nyuk.