An interesting e-mail arrived in my inbox today. Here’s an excerpt:
Srila Gurudeva [Bhakti Tirtha Swami] was a pure devotee of the Lord and he desired to have his pushpa Samadhi in Gitanagari. The words of a pure devotee WILL come true. When Srila Prabhupada was on the ship Jaladuta on the way to the US, he was able to visualize devotees, temples and preaching centers. He knew it was only Kala or time that was separating the visualization and the actual manifestation. Similarly, the Pushpa Samadhi in Gitanagari is already a part of the transcendental plan of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and will certainly manifest in due time.
The total projected cost of the Pushpa Samadhi in Gitanagari Dhama is around $100,000.00. So far we have firm commitments and actual contributions of around $50,000.00. So we are on the half way mark as I type this report. We still have the other half to accomplish. My realization is that the Lakshmi has already been arranged by Srila Gurudeva and we his children have to just develop the right conciousness to collect the Lakshmi.
A few years ago, a short time after I moved to Gita-nagari, I was at a small gathering of Hare Krishna devotees. Some of them were disciples of Srila Prabhupada and long-time members of the Gita-nagari community. I was excited about having moved there, and expressed my desire to have regular Harinam sankirtan parties in the surrounding area. They thought my desire was nice, but unrealistic.
I was told that the Gita-nagari community was largely despised by locals many miles around, mostly because they had incurred so many debts from the local businesses. One devotee there explained that the Gita-nagari community had taken advantage of the services of numerous businesses when they did not have the money or the intention to pay. News spreads in small towns, and over time the communities became resentful of the residents of Gita-nagari. I was told that anyone going out on Harinam would be risking their life because of the widespread disgust felt by the locals towards the Gita-nagari community.
As I became more active in the Gita-nagari community, I hoped to find ways to repair this relationship, but no other devotees I talked with about it seemed to care. I remember almost two years ago when we were making preparations for our little Rathayatra festival, there was some trouble renting chairs and/or tables. One person in charge explained that they owed money to all of the rental shops, and that none of the rental businesses would provide anything unless they were paid in advance. Although the Rathayatra was just a few weeks away, there was practically no money in the Rathayatra fund, so we couldn’t reserve rental chairs until donations came in. Some months later I heard that the same situation was true of the fuel oil suppliers. It was apparent from my discussions with former officials there that they had the same problem with many types of local services.
I remember how when it came to pay Gita-nagari’s share of the ISKCON child abuse lawsuit settlement; the community worked to raise about $35,000 in an auction, selling all sorts stuff, including total junk, valuable farm machinery, and historically significant farm equipment that had been abandoned since Gita-nagari’s more agricultural days. That event must also have left the locals with a bitter resentment, as it was obvious that the community had some money from this massive liquidation, but it didn’t go to pay the debts. I doubt anyone told them that the money was to pay the former gurukulis who had been raped and beaten there.
There’s also the fact that the temple administration needs money enough that they’ve been selling the rights to hay from the dhama to a Menonite farmer who uses it to feed cows and other animals destined for slaughter. That’s a story of its own.
When I was elected to the Gita-nagari community board, my first concern was how to pay the debts and repair Gita-nagari’s relationship with the broader community. When I asked the treasurer about the issue, she seemed a little offended and told me that they were paying what they could, but there was very little money. When I talked to a community board member (not a BTS disciple) from the previous year about it, he told me that the financial books were a farce and that the temple management would never allow me to see them.
Somehow I doubt that this situation has changed much in the past year. Yet they’re attempting to raise $100,000 to deify their so-called guru and reportedly have already collected half that in pledges and donations. (I wonder how much they’re going to spend to build the museum that Bhakti Tirtha wanted dedicated to him.) I guess the Bhakti Tirtha disciples at Gita-nagari really don’t care about how the local community feels about them. It’s no wonder that every time a sign for the community gets put up at the end of the driveway it gets vandalized within a short time. Last time I drove by it appeard that the driveway was marked by a red t-shirt tied to a stake instead of a pretty Hare Krishna temple sign.
Apparently this was Bhakti Tirtha’s desire.