Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Depressed

I've had a couple of dreams recently that Hrdayananda appeared in. It's a bit unusual, since i hardly know the guy and i never liked him. I didn't serve in Iskcon with him and rarely saw him since the zonal acaraya fiasco. But there he was, in technicolor, in a couple of my recent dreams. Both times i tried to confide in him, to share with him my grief over what happened in Iskcon. I spoke to him in hushed tones from the heart. I reasoned. I cried.

Why my mind chose Hrdayananda for its catharsis i don't know. But the grief i experienced in these dreams is similar to the sadness of a marriage gone bad. When my first marriage was falling apart, i had to grieve to let go of the attachment. A strong commitment binds the heart.

For those of us who joined Iskcon as idealistic youth, it was like a marriage. As young monks with our hopes, our fears and our devotion, we married Iskcon because it was the vision of our great spiritual master. Sure most of us --if not all of us-- were totally unqualified to make such a commitment. But who knew that then?

All our karmic endeavors that followed-- our wives, our children, finances, businesses and hobbies-- were important to us but always remained subordinate in our hearts to our first big commitment, our unrequited bond to Iskcon. This tie, this great responsibility given to us, a vow and contract signed with the invisible ink of bhakti, was challenged and finally broken for most of us in the months and years following Srila Prabhupada's disappearance.

The details of how this happened i will leave to the historians and commentators. The official line is that we just "disappeared," thousands of us. But the reality is that we were humiliated, starting with being forced to obey and participate in the worship of wholly unqualified peers who sat on high seats in Srila Prabhupada's temples. Those 11 men controlled everyone. Now those men are gone. New ones have replaced them, the seats have been lowered and the externals look more democratic, but in practice, the same sore lack of genuine respect, give and take, openness and brahminical principles remain. The highly centralized control, the censorship, the sweeping corruption, the fundamentalism, party spirit and corporate mindset are all very much on display if you visit Iskcon and have the eyes to see it.

Recently i corresponded with one godbrother whom i haven't met in 25 years. I wrote:
"I think most of us, the godbrothers, are pretty depressed. We all wanted to do something wonderful for Prabhupada, but it didn't turn out the way we had hoped. That was a result of everyone's immaturity and impurities, but especially the disqualification of the leaders. Ironically, almost all of them fell down and became disgraced, but the system didn't fall with them. Instead, it became institutionalized, and it was the godbrothers who scattered and went their own ways.

"A few godbrothers started their own missions and are doing well. There is Paramadwaiti Swami (formerly Alanath) who is a very successful guru in South America, Jagat Guru (now Narasinga Swami) in South India and Tripurari in California. I'm sure there are other godbrothers getting some results on their own. But most of us do not have the ambition or the sakti to act as gurus. This is the problem. Unless we create it, we will not find association. Unless we pay the price of being co-opted by a Hindu-corporate structure or join a personality cult. And that is a Faustian bargain."

I haven't done a survey, but the godbrothers i know and still communicate with are feeling like they lost something that they will not be able to find again and seems impossible to recreate. The hopes of their youth have been smashed. The bride of Iskcon died in their arms just after the honeymoon and transformed itself into an apparition. That is reason enough to feel depressed.

But we must digest this grief and move on. Even if we completely fail, we can be satisfied knowing that failure is the pillar of success.

7 comments:

Madhava Gosh said...

Sounds like a mid life crisis. Even men who didn't join ISKCON go through the same thing.

While it is disappointing ISKCON wasn't perfect, this is a common experience even for those in mainstream America, that sense that something went wrong, the idealism of youth betrayed.

Bobby said...

Keep chanting and serving Lord Chaitanya. If you come to Canada get in touch.

Visvakarma

Pandu das said...

I'm sorry to see Madhava Gosh trivialize this. I have similar feelings but I'm only 37, too young for a midlife crisis IMHO. Moreover, I started feeling depressed fairly quickly after I began to get involved with ISKCON.

I moved to New Vrindavana in 1997, imagining it to be a "Hare Krishna Farm Community," based on my reading of Srila Prabhupada's books. I had no idea of the horrendous scandals until I got there. I think it may have been the same day Tapa Punja was released from prison for his involvement in Sulocana's murder. I assumed devotees lived there to farm together while cultivating Krishna consciousness. I wanted to do that. Instead the Temple President suggested I go work in a factory making potpourri pies to sell in malls.

At least you got to experience the real thing. I wish we could ressurrect the ghost.

Thank you for your writing.

Hare Krishna.

Carlo Ananda said...

Madhava Ghosh's comment is indeed superficial. What a shame that someone blessed with the name of a nitya-siddha should display such flippancy. Jauvana made some clear points and his honest baring of the heart deserves better. Not the least because many, many of us who were there during the zonal travesty and lies, during the cynical hijacking of Prabhupada's legacy, absorbed a level of abuse that years of inner pain have not eradicated. The humpity-dumpity zonal "acaryas" broke a thousand hearts and all the GBC's horses and all the GBC's men could not put them back together again. (with apologies to Lewis Carroll).

Madhava Gosh said...

Sorry if my word choice seems trivializing but that was not my intent. I thought I was doing a little hand holding, didn't realize I stepped into the ISKCON is the source of all my problems camp.

The philosophy is Krishna consciousness not ISKCON consciousness and I personally long ago stopped letting ISKCON have any power over me in regards to my personal happiness even though I also could come up with a laundry list of complaints.

I don't use the ghost of ISKCON past as a block. Ultimately KC is a personal choice not dependent on external forces.

The point I was making is that as individuals we go through various stages of life. The idea that once we become devotees somehow we are exempted from them is an illusion, IMHO.

Transcending is not exemption, it is not negating experiences, it is living through them with higher knowledge.

Karma tells us that with or without ever meeting ISKCON we would have had the same happiness and distress, there just would have been a different organization to deal with.

So midlife crisis is a real part of the human experience and that sense of disappointment is a real issue to deal with. Sometimes recognizing that can be of some comfort, that I am not the only one going through this.

The way to move beyond is to let go of the past and move forward in a positive direction. That requires forgiveness.

Forgiveness is NOT about letting transgressors off the hook. It is about stopping them having influence in your own internal life.

One definition of forgiveness is to give up all hope for a better past. That is a personal choice and option.

Again, sorry if I didn't spell all that out.

jauvana said...

Madhava ghosh,
Thanks for your comments. You made some good points especially in your second pass. But let me clear up some things. I certainly don't need any "hand holding." I'm probably old enough to be your father, and i went thru my own mid=life crisis 15 years ago. I know what that is and what i wrote about in this post has nothing to do with losing one's youth.
Your point of forgiveness is good, but again my post was not assailing any individual or even Iskcon for its faults. It was talking about the grief that one experiences when he loses something dear to himself. Iskcon was dear to Srila Prabhupada's disciples because it was dear to Prabhupada. That is the reason we joined. Not to become cult members or corporate managers or gurus. But to get closer to the pure devotee and thru him to Krishna. That is not some mundane opportunity like making a lot of money or becoming famous. It is something extraordinary and it was lost. Yes, now we need to move on and all is not lost because we have our experiences and our knowledge. But i wanted to express the emotional price of that loss in this post.

Babhru das said...

I remember the depression I felt when I left ISKCON and my service in the mid '80s. It was awful sometimes, even though I never stopped chanting my rounds or following the "principles," which I guess had all sort of become second nature ny then. When I talked to a counselor, I realized it was just as you said, a real loss, such as a divorce or death.

There's a phrase in Margaret Atwood's novel, The Handmaid's Tale: "nolite te bastardes carborundorum." It's a joke Latin phrase that's supposed to mean "Don't let the bastards grind you down." I think that's the trick for all of us. The spirit that inspired us is still there, and I believe it can be revived. The key for some may be to see if we can find others with whom we can work to do something, however modest, that helps fulfill at least some of the seven purposes for which Srila Prabhupada said he founded ISKCON. I can imagine we won't all be lucky enough to find that kind of company. You've been around much more than I, so you may know better than I how futile that suggestion may seem. But we can't let 'em grind us down.