Rivers and Ropes

Last night I was thinking of the mantras of the Veda appearing like a lotus around Krishna and  in my mind saw the Vedas just like rivers of attractive transcendental sounds. I’ve never heard anything like that before, afaik.

So for little while I was thinking the Vedas are like beautifully assembled waves flowing through time. Then a few seconds later in the podcast I was hearing, HH Bhakti Vikas Swami says “The Vedas are like rivers,” and begins talking more about the Vedas being like rivers.

I suppose these rivers are also the ropes I’ve heard are given for me to climb out of the well of ignorance. These ropes I have been climbing for a very long time in different ways, but I cannot again see the origin of the rope.

Maybe I can somehow catch Krishna with these ropes, but I am afraid Krishna won’t come near because He knows I would try that.

I have heard Krishna is Damodara and can be bound by ropes of love, but how can I find these ropes? Where can I get the ropes that will catch and bind Krishna?

Are the Vedas those ropes? I don’t think so. They are very fine, but Krishna is so much finer, and I am fairly sure He isn’t very fond of anything coarse.

The fabric of love for catching Krishna must be so soft that Krishna wants to get wrapped in it. Any such ropes must be the most precious objects in the world.

Thanks to Srila Prabhupada and to Bhaktimarga Swami

Today is the Vyasa-puja day for my spiritual master, Bhaktimarga Swami.  I remember many years ago admiring his humility in offering respect given for him to Srila Prabhupada, his desire to see Srila Prabhupada glorified instead of himself, and that was when I first thought of him as a potential spiritual master for me.  In that spirit I would like to take the opportunity to post something I happened to write today upon seeing someone criticizing Srila Prabhupada, apparently in favor of yata mata tata patha or something like that.  In fact it was because of Srila Prabhupada that I found Bhaktimarga Swami, so these two spiritual masters are like a team of two great lifeguards who have come to save me from my helpless struggle in an ocean of unlimited ignorance.  I am forever in debt to both of them.  Hare Krishna…

Before I ever heard of Srila Prabhupada and had not the faintest idea Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, I was a liberal atheist,  environmental science major, with a side interest in yoga.  I understood based on science that the world needed to stop raising animals for slaughter in order to accommodate population growth. However I soon realized that achieving that would be practically impossible. I didn’t know if there were a God, but I thought unless there is, the world is in serious trouble.

That was when I found _Bhagavad-gita As It Is_ and began to see that what he was teaching is perfect, practical and ideal.  He was trying to make anyone in the world able to understand Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.  Who else could do that?

When I was a child I understood that people at church didn’t seem to really know God, and thought if I could ever find out about God, that would be the most important thing.  I didn’t know yet, but Srila Prabhupada had recently gone all over the world teaching his expert knowledge of who really is God, Krishna, and how Krishna should be understood and served.  It’s how to actually achieve liberation from repeated birth and death, something inconceivably rare and great, and that is only mentioned because the real treasure of Krishna consciousness is inconceivable.  

I am so thankful that Srila Prabhupada did not waiver to satisfy any critics and very masterfully stuck to his mission of giving the way of Krishna consciousness to a world sorely in want of it but too ignorant to know.  Srila Prabhupada must be forgiven for distinguishing his knowledge from other proposed solutions because his teachings reveal the real solution to all problems, the making it clear that service to Krishna and His devoted  servants is the perfection and ultimate goal of life.  I am not even fit to glorify Srila Prabhupada, but thanks to him that is something I hope to someday achieve.  All glories to Srila Prabhupada!  Hare Krishna.

Apology to Srila Prabhupada

Dear Srila Prabhupada,
I am writing this because I sincerely regret blaming you for ISKCON’s apparent faults, and because my public apology was recommended by one dedicated disciple of yours.  I’m sure you realize I was practically going crazy over my lack of Krishna consciousness, and I know you would forgive me, but I didn’t think enough of how my mad elephant behavior toward you would offend others to whom you are so dear.

I do not fully understand how the troublesome facts developed, how events happened in ISKCON that were so upsetting to me, but I remember now that I did not come to ISKCON to act as its police.  I came to find Krishna, but experience forces me to admit my commitment to that goal has been mixed at best. 

Yet I expected others to behave practically as perfect Vaisnavas.  I judged devotees according to a standard much higher than I could keep myself, the opposite of what is advised for spiritual progress.  Because of this, I became critical of devotees at every level, my faith was destroyed by it, and I decided Krishna or God must be imaginary and became an opponent of theism. I tested whether you would save me from such gross ignorance, and now I am ashamed.

So I have again become a mouse, trapped by maya. I doubt I’ve learned all that I should from this, but I’ve learned something. I need your mercy. Please save me from my foolishness and do something useful with me. Hare Krishna.

Just a little update.

Yesterday I went to the Rathayatra in Harrisburg, PA, with my son Caitanya, and it was my first time in kirtan with devotees since three years ago.  It was a good time, and I was able to connect a little with a few devotees.  Later, at night my legs were sore from dancing. 

Also, I’ve been keeping up with sixteen rounds a day again since more than two weeks ago. 

It’s a little bizarre after having thought I would never do this again.  Imagine trying to serve Krishna for fifteen years but feeling oneself a failure, rejected.  So I quit, thinking Krishna either won’t accept me or was an hallucination or dream. 

Asking anyone, I think I could find a lot more agreement with the latter than with the first there.  I therefore tried to forget Krishna, and went and became part of the atheist community.  I began following the big atheist speakers and identifying with what they were saying.  I remember finding videos of Christopher Hitchens arguing anti-religion, listening to them for several hours one day and thinking he was really great. The next days news indicated he died that day, perhaps while I was watching, and it made me think of Krishna.  I noticed the atheist community argued against the Abrahamic religions but apparently didn’t know Bhagavad-gita As It Is.  So I thought I should present it to them.  I don’t know if I convinced anyone else to try it, I guess not, but I convinced myself. 

Unfortunately it seems to mean that despite giving what I felt was my best effort to serve Krishna for fifteen years, He was not impressed and let me leave His service to commit spiritual suicide, eventually rescuing me a little but somehow still leaving me too captivated by Maya, with a material conception of life, as if Krishna consciousness were some kind of chore that I am unfit to accomplish. 

A simple analogy

Suppose a rich man creates a foundation for distributing the interest generated by his wealth to worthy persons who would use it wisely.  For some time, he identifies these individuals himself, but later appoints representatives to do that for him.  After some time the rich man passes away.

What should representatives then do? 

Should they divide the principle sum among themselves on the pretense that they no longer know whom to give the interest?  Then they would each have a nice bank balance and could distribute the interest almost like before.

Is there any problem there?  Yes.  The representatives stole the rich man’s wealth.  It was not given to them like that.

The trustees should have continued distributing the interest from his wealth just as they had been doing previously.  If they wanted to distribute their own wealth, they simply needed to invest what they legitimately received and made it grow until it became sufficient to distribute the interest.

Obviously this relates to initiations in ISKCON.  If a rich man can distribute his money through trustees perpetually like that, why can’t the GBC manage it for Srila Prabhupada?

Trying to find peace among devotees again

Lately I’ve been trying to get back into devotional service again, but I’m finding many obstacles that I will need to overcome. A major portion of this is figuring out how to get along with devotees, because I still feel that it was problems with devotees that pushed me out.

Another big issue I struggle with relates to gurus. Mostly it was problems with gurus that made life in ISKCON impossible for me. I saw gurus breaking ISKCON Law in a variety of ways, and my confronting this made me someone whom devotees did not want around. That gave me such pain that I am still trying to get over it more than seven years later.

I remember it being announced (in 2007?) by our local GBC, a guru himself, that the temple bylaws were being changed (in a way that I thought Srila Prabhupada said they should not be) to protect the temples from takeover by the “rtviks,” who he said (twice) were “enemies of ISKCON.” I remember then thinking that if someone is said to be my enemy, then I have a responsibility to understand their point of view before accepting that. So I did, and I found their view had merit. However I had problems with them too. They were hurt a lot too, and it’s difficult to get along with hurt people.

Since I’m not a Krishna conscious person, I can’t definitively say what’s right or wrong in the process. I can say what makes sense based on what I know from Srila Prabhupada’s writing and speaking, and I can say what seems honest to me and what doesn’t.

This morning I saw a short blog series called “Diksa or Rtvik,” by Danavir Gosvami, and unfortunately it seems very biased to me to the point where I it’s hard not to call it dishonest. I wanted to comment there, but to do so requires creating an account, and I’m so fallen from devotional service that I’m not even sure what name to use, so for now I’ll write here.

Danavir’s post begins as follows:

“What has been the standard system of initiation (diksa) conducted throughout the ages in all bonafide Vaisnava sampradayas, today we neophyte American devotees desire to change.

““That is your American disease. This is very serious that you always want to change everything.” — Srila Prabhupada”

I never saw the “rtvik” view as a change proposed by neophyte American devotees. My review of the history indicated that Srila Prabhupada instituted a system of initiations that incorporated rtviks, and that he never said to end it. The GBC changed it despite a general order to change nothing. Changing something back to what it was before an illegitimate change isn’t an ordinary change, and portraying it as such seems dishonest to me. If one somehow finds oneself driving on the wrong side of the road, that is not the proper time to emphasize the rule against crossing the double yellow lines. One must cross to get back to the correct side.

To me this doesn’t mean “no gurus.” We all know Srila Prabhupada wanted regular diksa gurus, and I see this “Diksa or Rtvik” concept as a false dilemma. If a guru has ten disciples and says “I want my disciples to preach East, and I want my disciples to preach West,” and then passes away, should his disciples argue over whether he wants East or West? The order is for both. It doesn’t mean two disciples go East, three go West, and the other five fight each other and go nowhere, which is a tragedy that seems to be what’s happening now.

“In effect, eliminating the diksa guru is tantamount to spiritual abortion.”

I have no idea how Danavir considers continuing the initiation system Srila Prabhupada instituted to be eliminating the diksa guru. Obviously Srila Prabhupada would be the diksa guru. Later Danavir says it prevents the year-long examination of the disciple and guru, but I always thought the July 9 letter gave full authority to rtviks to do that. It’s easy enough for an aspiring disciple to examine Srila Prabhupada by studying his books and the other products of his work.

Danavir makes the point in Part 2 of his essay that the initiation method facilitated by rtviks denies Srila Prabhupada the choice to reject aspiring disciples. The absurdity of this argument is astonishing to me. As I said in the previous paragraph, I always thought the July 9 letter authorized the rtviks to accept disciples on his behalf, and when I read it again, it says the same thing:

In the past Temple Presidents have written to Srila Prabhupada recommending a particular devotee’s initiation. Now that Srila Prabhupada has named these representatives, Temple Presidents may henceforward send recommendation for first and second initiation to whichever of these eleven representatives are nearest their temple. After considering the recommendation, these representatives may accept the devotee as an initiated disciple of Srila Prabhupada by giving a spiritual name, or in the case of second initiation, by chanting on the Gayatri thread, just as Srila Prabhupada has done.

That’s what it says. The bold and italics are my emphasis.

Danavir’s argument is hypocritical and seems disingenuous, because his position denies Srila Prabhupada his choice to accept disciples through the institutional mechanism he created, as if Srila Prabhupada’s mood was to reject aspiring disciples. Maybe Danavir is mixing up Srila Prabhupada with Gaur Kishore Das Babaji.

Danavir ends his Part 2 with a familiar argument that I always found easy to refute:

If it were so easy to jump up the ladder and become the direct disciple of Srila Prabhupada, then why couldn’t one just as easily double jump up to become Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati’s direct disciple. Going a bit further one might eventually imagine proceeding directly to the Lord Himself without the need of intermediate gurus.

We would not be talking about this if Srila Prabhpada had not created a system for accepting disciples in his absence, without asking his permission each time, by employing rtviks. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati did not do that, nor did anyone else as far as I know. However it’s a clear historical fact that Srila Prabhupada did. After his disappearance, the GBC scrapped that so the rtvik-acaryas could become zonal acaryas, and they concealed the real facts. Later the facts emerged, and many disciples wanted to reinstate Srila Prabhupada’s system. The GBC’s refusal to accept it is a problem that has caused ISKCON to splinter and become quite insignificant to the world. How can devotees present a solution to the world’s problems if they can’t even stop fighting among themselves?

Srila Prabhupada wanted his disciples to become qualified initiating gurus, but he also created an initiation mechanism to allow him to accept disciples through the institution. How can a disciple dare to destroy what the Founder-Acarya has created, when there is no order to do so? If an aspiring devotee primarily has faith in Srila Prabhupada, then why force the devotee to put his complete faith in someone else? It’s unnatural. On the other hand, if another qualified devotee is the primary inspiration for an aspiring devotee, and that qualified devotee wants to accept the disciple, then it also is natural. These two systems do not have to interfere with each other, but can unite everyone under the ISKCON banner. All that is required is for the GBC to accept it, and I really wish they would, so we can end this stupid enmity between devotees and work together instead of criticizing each other so much. Please. Hare Krsna.

I also want to offer my humble obeisances to HH Danavir Gosvami. I wish I could have kirtan with him again. It’s been a long time since I have had the opportunity for such a joyful occasion because of conflicts like this which just seem unnecessary to me for the reasons described in this blog.

No hope for justice?

Is it too much to ask for a spiritual leadership free from corruption? Apparently it is. 

Last year I reported a violation of ISKCON Law, pertaining to Child Protection Concerns, which had occurred at Gita-nagari in 2005.  The persons I identified as violating that law were Radhanatha, Malati, and Tamohara.  In 2005, Tamohara was the director of the Child Protection Office for ISKCON. 

I did not know about ISKCON Law until after Bir Krsna Swami was censured based upon it.  None the less, the “law” was in in effect in 2005, and those three had a duty to know and follow it.  Instead they conspired an agreement between themselves in contempt of that “law,” which created a dangerous situation at Gita-nagari.  I did my duty to deal with that situation, and my actions were nothing more than to make up for the unsafe conditions brought about by these GBC’s contempt for ISKCON Law.  Mostly I was just trying to get the facts about the situation, although ISKCON Law required the facts to be provided to householders by the Temple President or the GBC for our familys’ safety.

Because my concern for child protection exceeded my faith in these gurus after they brought a known child molester to my community, I was labeled an aparadhi against Bhakti-Tirtha and Radhanatha and treated as a demon to the point of being driven away from ISKCON and the Hare Krsna movement altogether. 

I was so upset by the injustice and Krsna’s failure to protect my spiritual life that I tried to renounce bhakti and become an atheist.  I had been doing that for about two years when I decided even though I felt quite separated from ISKCON, I still cared about their child protection problem.  So I sent a complaint by email describing the violation of ISKCON Law by those individuals, including saying that I was driven from the Hare Krsna movement because of it, along with my wife and kids.

I sent the email to the ISKCON Child Protection Office and the GBC  Executive Committee. The CPO responded that they had changed management since then and so couldn’t really do anything.  The GBC EC did not respond at all. 

So last night I learned that Tamohara dasa, the same fellow who was heading the CPO, whom I also reported as having violated ISKCON Law regarding Child Protection Concerns, is now the Vice Chairman of the GBC EC.  No wonder the EC did not respond.  The corruption of ISKCON leadership makes me sick. 

What kind of lowlifes can receive a letter saying their dereliction of duties and contempt for the laws of the spiritual society they are in charge of leading caused an innocent family to be demonized and consequently lose faith and leave, and not even have the decency to give a response?  I cannot fathom it. Apparently these people have no shame at all. 

Here is the ISKCON Law, for reference:
“ Child Protection Concerns Persons, who after an ISKCON investigation, are confirmed to be guilty of child abuse must report their status to the local Temple President upon their arrival in an ISKCON community. Also, it is the obligation of a Temple President to determine for every member joining his community, if the newcomer is a confirmed child abuser. The Temple President is then obliged to notify the local householders and GBC of the offender’s presence. The local GBC should be advised if a Temple President knowingly arranges for a confirmed child abuser to be supported by a temple, or live on temple property without first notifying the householder community as per ISKCON laws. The local GBC is to supervise the situation to be sure the Temple President follows the following GBC guidelines: 1. “In no case should a confirmed perpetrator remain in the local community unless the local ISKCON authorities obtain the written authorization of no less than three-quarter of the parents of children at the project or in the community. 2. The local government authorities and/or the ISKCON Board of Education will make the final determination of the appropriate degree of segregation. (1990-119.4)” 3. Every GBC make sure the temples presidents in his zone are made aware of this resolution and GBC guidelines.”

What’s in a Name?

My first upset as an initiated devotee was during my initiation ceremony.  The chief desire that motivated me to seek initiation was that I hoped it would somehow help improve my chanting of the Hare Krsna mahamantra.  I really wanted that, but it didn’t seem to happen.  I also wanted to be accepted in the parampara with a name indicating a servant of Krsna.  When I heard my name given as “Pandu das,” a feeling of dread came over me.  I had viewed Pandu Maharaj as the chief material cause of the war at Kuruksetra. 
When the initiation ceremony was over, I was instructed to go around and beg some dakshin for my guru.  I did that, and after giving it I asked him what was Pandu’s relationship with Krsna.  He said Pandu was Krsna’s uncle by marriage.  I asked if Pandu had ever met Krsna, and he asked me if I had read Mahabharata.  I said that I had, but it was a Hindu version from before I met devotees, so he advised that I read a specific devotee translation.  I did, but it didn’t answer the question.
Later he said he gave me the Pandu name because of Maharaj Pandu being a good father.  I was dumbfounded by this.  Pandu was cursed because of inadvertently killing a brahmana by reckless hunting in violation of the applicable rules of the time.  The curse said he would immediately die if he tried to have sex.  Consequently, Pandu could only be a stepfather thanks to a prior benediction given to Kunti, whom he insulted by being overcome with lust for his younger wife. 
Pandu knew he would die if he tried to have sex, but he attempted it anyway, even before his stepchildren were grown.  He knew this would leave his stepchildren without a father, and I presume he understood that this would create a potential conflict for control of the monarchy.  Sometimes it’s considered that Bhishma was to blame for the war because he did not break his vow of celibacy when it became a possible solution to the growing conflict, but it does not make sense to me that Bhishma should be blamed for not breaking his great vow to solve a problem created by Pandu’s inability to control himself. 
It could be said that Pandu had to die in order for the course of events to occur that led to the speaking of Bhagavad-gita, but I do not believe that Krsna can be thwarted by a course of material events.  To my understanding, Maharaj Pandu consciously abandoned his children just to have a moment of sex, and his inability to restrain his lust was the chief material cause of the war at Kuruksetra.  Getting named after him felt to me like a curse of failure upon my spiritual life, and unfortunately it seems to be one that has so far come true.

A Riven Cloud

I seem to be in a very weird circumstance.  The mean behavior of devotees made me quit aspiring for Krsna consciousness and try to believe that Krsna is imaginary, but associating with atheists renewed my faith in Krsna.  I had been trying my best to serve devotees according to my duty, but the GBC contemptuously broke ISKCON Law pertaining to child protection in my community, and consequently my performance of duty was seen as offensive.  Wanting to impeach me from my service, several brahmanas lied to me and also induced my guru to lie to me.  There are no words for the grief I suffered because of this.  It still hurts me seven years later.
I endured feeling almost like a ghost for almost two years, and then decided to accept blame for whatever caused me to leave devotee association, although I did not actually understand any fault on my own part.  Because this humility was artificial, despite being a sincere attempt, I could not sustain it.  I simply did not trust my guru anymore, nor the brahmanas in my community.  I became attracted to ISKCON because of Srila Prabhupada’s books and not due to having met any devotee.  I had already read Bhagavad-gita As It Is three times and was convinced before ever meeting a devotee.  My faith in Krsna consciousness was due to Srila Prabhupada and Krsna’s intervention.  Accepting a substitute guru in accordance with ISKCON standards has been a disaster for my spiritual life.
One day our local GBC came to the temple and explained that new bylaws were being imposed because the Rtvik supporters were “enemies of ISKCON.”   I thought if anyone is to be my enemy, I should understand their beliefs.  Upon doing so, I became convinced that the rtviks understanding was better than what ISKCON was asserting.  Unfortunately this made me an “enemy of ISKCON,” although I did not want to be.   After some time, I realized that the rtvik view could not prevail because Srila Prabhupada had given enough authority to the group who would designate themselves as “Zonal Acaryas” that no one would be able to successfully challenge them.  It became my belief that Srila Prabhupada wanted to accept people like me as disciples, but that he failed to manifest that fact.  Some say he was poisoned, but I don’t know.  It’s almost irrelevant.  Getting poisoned by one’s disciples is also a failure.
My desire to uphold child protection standards made me an enemy of my community.  My desire to take shelter of Srila Prabhupada made me an enemy of ISKCON.  My inability to divorce ISKCON’s scandals from its Founder-Acarya made me an enemy of the rtviks.  One day the last straw came upon me, and despite chanting 16 rounds per day until then, I put my japa bag away and have not chanted a single round since.  That was in summer 2010. Previously I had completed about 55,000 rounds.   I had no other spiritual faith except for Krsna and Srila Prabhupada, so I resolved to attempt forgetting Krsna and become an atheist.  It took me about a year to stop hearing Hare Krsna in my mind, enough so that I could feel sort of normal by ordinary standards.  I identified with the atheist community for more than a year, almost two, but it bothered me that they did not seem to know Vaisnava philosophy.  I found their arguments inadequate against Vaisnava philosophy, so I presented it in an attempt to elicit their arguments against it.  It soon became apparent that they did not understand Vaisnava philosophy because they did not want to understand it.  Consequently, from atheistic association, I was able to recover my faith in the Vedas.
This strikes me as extremely odd, even despite the name choice for my blog.  I sought devotees because Krsna said to get their association, but then devotees made me stop believing in Krsna until atheists inadvertently helped me to again recognize the Vedas as authoritative. 
This puts me in a dilemma, because it doesn’t change the fact that my guru lied to me or that the brahmana leaders in my community lied to me to separate me from my duty, because the “guru” wanted to glorify a child molester in contempt of ISKCON Law.  My guru also said he would arrange a mediator to come help me resolve the problem with my community, but he never did it.  Until recently I haven’t paid attention to ISKCON politics for the past few years, but of course nothing has changed.  Devotees are still fighting among themselves.  I practically have no guru so I do not feel welcome in any devotee association.  ISKCON could easily solve this problem (by simply allowing within ISKCON both regular guru initiations and rtvik initiations with Srila Prabhupada as the guru), but clearly they won’t, and consequently I seem to have no hope for spiritual association unless my next birth gives a new opportunity.   I would like to be able to make peace with my “guru” and with the brahmanas who lied to me, but my apologies to them were never reciprocated, so I lack the experiential basis for trusting them. 
How can a person surrender to someone who is not trusted?  How can I trust a guru who lied to me but apparently is not sorry about it?  How can I become a devotee without devotee association, trust in brahmanas, or faith in a guru?  Devotees are supposed to be knowledgeable and merciful, but I seem to be unable to get the help I need to confidently understand what Krsna wants me to do. 

Calling theists for debate

During my very recent two-year denial of Krsna consciousness, I was invited to a large community of atheists on Google+, presumably because I seemed like one.  Oddly enough, it was about the time when I had become frustrated with atheistic reasoning (which seems to be thoroughly ignorant of Krsna conscious philosophy), so I turned out to be somewhat of a misfit there.  I’m used to that.

Anyway, the atheist group has about 17,000 members last I saw, and recently a sub-group was created for organized debating with theists about various subjects.  However it’s very lopsided, so the group owner asked for folks to put out the word inviting theists.  That’s what I’m doing now.  The first debate topic is about to be chosen.

If anyone is interested, let me know, and I will arrange to get you in.

I hope that there are devotees who are expert at this sort of thing and would be willing to get involved.  IMHO, preaching to the converted is lame by comparison.  Let’s see some courage!  If my understanding of Krsna conscious philosophy is insufficient, then I may go back to the other side.  Sometimes I think that’s what Krsna wants.

I would also be interested in discussing strategy here for debating against atheists on various topics.