July 31, 2005
These past two weeks have been beyond intense, a real emotional rollercoaster. About a week-and-a-half ago (maybe Wendesday or Thursday), I sent a letter to the BTSwami yahoo!groups e-mail list, asking for help in understanding why a known child molester had been invited to Gita-nagari. It was a difficult time for Bhakti Tirtha Swami’s disciples to hear such a question, due to his departure from this world, but the incident itself was closely tied to that departure. I had been upset by that situation for more than two months already, and was suffering loss of sleep, illness, and such things due to the stress that situation had caused. So when I asked about it, it was because I felt I could wait no longer.
An uproar ensued, and I became the target of condemnation and a threat of violence. Quickly my vision of the group I was dealing with changed from a spiritual family to a dangerous cult. I had asked a pointed question to try to understand the mind of His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami, but instead of being helped with that, I was immediately treated as an attacker and the enemy of his disciples. I have made Gita-nagari the spiritual home of my family and me, and so most of our friends are disciples of Bhakti Tirtha Swami. Suddenly I was cast as an enemy and practically cut off from our temple.
First the threat had come, and then the condemnation of my character followed. I felt that the condemnation increased the danger that someone would become violent. One senior devotee recommended I report the threat to the police, but I wanted to consult with others first. On Saturday, I tried to reach my guru, His Holiness Bhaktimarga Swami, but he was traveling and calling him proved unsuccessful. Then I tried a few other GBC members, but they also were unavailable. Finally I called Advaita Acarya prabhu, the Gita-nagari temple president, and talked with him for about an hour. He helped me to be more at ease. After speaking with him, I wrote another letter to the BTSwami list, telling them how I felt about being cast as their enemy, and how I felt it could affect my life. A few sympathetic responses came.
Sunday followed, and with it the Sunday program at the temple. It was hard for me to go, but I felt it was needed. It took some time to break the ice, and emotionally I was very withdrawn. I spoke to a few devotees, and gradually I became more comfortable. After the program was over, one devotee asked me to remain in my seat, and two others came by. Three of us were those who comprised the community board, and a third was a disciple of Srila Prabhupada. As a group, they were somewhat intimidating. It felt like them against me, and it seemed like their goal was to teach me about how I was wrong. When I speak to people, I don’t like to interrupt, and I appreciate being given a turn; but most of my turns to speak were interrupted. At one point I had to outright declare, “you’re intimidating me.” I did not appreciate the meeting.
Monday morning I felt again inspired to write something to the BTSwami list, something that I felt would explain my perspective and inspire a little balance there. It was taken as a gross offense by one devotee with whom I’ve had a developing friendship with, and I was astonished by that response. I felt a variety of emotions about it, which eventually settled into sadness. Wednesday evening after work I went to the temple and broke down into tears that kept increasing; until about an hour and a half later the pujari came, scooped me up from the floor, and walked me to the prasadam hall to get a plate of maha prasad. Even then it was quite some time before I was able to speak or to eat. It was a relief to tell him about why all this had happened, and he promised to help straighten out the misunderstandings by writing a letter on my behalf to the BTSwami list. I’m still waiting for that, but yesterday he reassured me that it would come.
Yesterday, by the way, was the Rathayatra festival at Gita-nagari. I wasn’t really looking forward to it that much, as I normally would, and I felt a little down during the parade. Through some good fortune, I got the opportunity to serve water to the devotees just when everyone was most thirsty, and that was a real highlight of the day. I talked to a few devotees who were sympathetic, and also to the one who wrote the last e-mail I mentioned. It was very nice to exchange some nice words with him.
That’s all for now.