awkwardness at the temple
I haven’t been writing much here in the past several months, I think largely because its being fed to PlanetISKCON. My relationship with Iskcon just isn’t what I hoped it would be. I feel like Iskcon has chewed me up and spit me out, and so it’s hard to write on the bright side all the time. So what usually happens is that I write but do not publish the drafts.
That’s not why I created this blog. I started it to document my experiences pursuing Krishna consciousness, which, at the time, I thought would be increasingly estatic. Circumstances changed a few months later, but I felt it was only right that I keep writing anyway. Some devotees didn’t like what they saw, and they called my guru. He then called and ordered me to stop writing, threatening to stop my training for second initiation. His threat didn’t work, and instead I lost respect for him. That was just one factor in a series of disturbing interactions with him and some others during that time period.
Skip forward a few years, and I became convinced that Srila Prabhupada never authorized anyone to take disciples, and instead intended to continue initiating via rtviks. Iskcon calls this heresy and labels such believers as enemies, but their position has no basis. They used to have official position papers, but I’ve heard they were rescinded due to false facts. Now there’s just a paragraph order in Iskcon Law.
Anyway, last year my views were brought to the attention of our temple president, who requested that I not take up this issue with devotees in the our community. I thought it seemed fair, considering the GBC’s fear of rtvik supporters, but in practice it often leads to awkwardness. It makes me sometimes feel reluctant about coming around. I need to be me, and but that’s not acceptable.
Last weekend, a week before Gaura Purnima, we had a temple meeting that was predominantly about sending the temple Deities away. Most of the devotees were pretty upset, but I didn’t feel like there was much I could say because I don’t have second initiation and can’t help with Deity service. After the meeting, during prasad, the TP’s wife asked my wife and me our views, and I said that I don’t have much I can say because I don’t have second initiation. She was surprised, and asked if I was aspiring for it.
I mostly just said No. What else could I say? I was rejected for second initiation and lost faith in my Iskcon guru. I don’t even consider him my real guru anymore, because I don’t believe in Iskcon’s method of initiating disciples. I’ve given a lot of thought to my position now, and really I don’t believe my first initiation was genuine. For this reason I prefer using my English name, Paul Howard, but still sometimes use the name Pandu Das to avoid excessive awkwardness. Rejecting my Sanskrit name at the temple would open that whole can of worms that I agreed to avoid.
Then during the feast on Gaura Purnima, one devotee asked me if I had cooked anything. I hadn’t, and it was awkward because my reasons for not doing so were complicated and I wasn’t at liberty to get into it. I said that I thought only second initiated devotees were permitted to cook for the Deities. I realize that exceptions can be made in emergencies, but I hadn’t been informed of any such concession. Really, though, I’m a little bitter about this. A substantial part of me feels that if Krishna wanted me to cook for Him, He would not have given me an Iskcon-guru who would reject me for second initiation simply for writing honestly about my feelings and experiences in Iskcon.
Ironically, I’m still fighting similar restraints, though now it’s unspoken. I know some local devotees read my blog, presumably through PlanetISKCON. In general I feel like the PlanetISKCON community wants a certain style of writing, and where I’m at doesn’t fit. Certainly I did not intend to develop a non-ecstatic relationship with Iskcon but it happened anyway. I just want to take shelter of Srila Prabhupada, and Iskcon doesn’t like that at all. I don’t know how long I can put on a facade at the Iskcon temple scene, because it’s very unsatisfying and not good for my spiritual life. One should not have to choose between being honest and being in the association of devotees.
As Srila Prabhupada said, “Kut??n?t??, or diplomatic behavior, cannot satisfy the ?tm?, the soul. It cannot even satisfy the body or the mind. The culprit mind is always suspicious; therefore our dealings should always be straightforward and approved by Vedic authorities. If we treat people diplomatically or duplicitously, our spiritual advancement is obstructed.”