March 28, 1999 VNN3443
Letter To The GBC From Paramadvaiti Swami
BY SWAMI B.A. PARAMADVAITI
EDITORIAL, Mar 28 (VNN) Vrindavana, March 26th
Dear Members of the GBC and whoever else it may concern.
Permit me to offer my dandavat pranams and some update of the current situation of the mission started by Srila Prabhupada. This is a letter of an old friend of yours who you have decided to ignore for all these years. Please do not take offense. The truth can heal if we are ready to recognize it.
1999 is a year everyone can join in to talk about the terrible predictions of the future and thus justify all the bad things happening around him. But we should not be blind to the fact that we are creating the future and therefore we have to revise what is happening in and around Srila Prabhupada's mission. Unfortunately now the wave of court cases are beginning. The sacred property of Srila Prabhupada is being dragged to lawyers and lost together with the case over the books. Ex-Gurus walking off with cash filled briefcases create the desire in your most surrendered Samkirtan devotees to get the money they collected for Iskcon returned to them. (A piece of cake for the anti cult people)
Italian leaders want to sell real estate and those who paid for it through their years of hard work are ready to sue. At the same time Roman devotees are being kicked out from the great farm they themselves established with years of work. The reason: They dared to accept a Gaudiya Math Guru ( With permission of the GBC) after their first two Iskcon Gurus both disappeared. In India it is even worse. Ritvik believers who were presidents are now going to fight for their right to keep the temples in their control in the Indian courts. (Minimum court case is 30 years here).
Facing court cases all over the world and the exodus from Iskcon are hundreds of devotees because of so many disagreements; what is already weak will be affected in a disastrous way.
I plead to your common sense ( the least common of the senses), to stop the destruction of the movement of Srila Prabhupada and to open the door to real changes. Changes which can accommodate all devotees rather then alienating them further and further.
That needs unity in diversity. Both inside Iskcon as well as in relationship with the Vaisnavas outside Iskcon. Neglecting this necessity will make you responsible for ignoring this emergency call. Maybe you are too busy looking at what is left for you in Iskcon that you have no concern for the welfare of Iskcon itself. That would no doubt be the clear reason why things are going the way they are going. But giving you the benefit of the doubt, we are presenting some reflections here on the need of the World Vaisnava Association WVA-VVRS and the real spirit of Krishna Consciousness. There are many IS (International societies), but there are very few KCON (groups with Krishna Consciousness). Now you have to reevaluate what is this Krishna Consciousness or you will lose it all together.
1. The idea of the WVA-VVRS comes from Srila Rupa and Sanatana Goswami and was brought into formal existence by none other then Srila Jiva Goswami. It has served as a good common platform for the pluralistic manifestation of Sri Guru in many moments of Vaisnava history. Even in the times when these great souls were living in Vrindavan with their respective disciples, they embodied the spirit of unity in diversity. Personally, I have dedicated my little life, among other things, to correcting the mistakes made by the disciples of Srila Prabhupada in order to uphold the dignity of our spiritual master. Also, in order to overcome the ridiculous conduct that sometimes manifests itself between neophyte members of one Vaisnava mission and another, I have co-founded the World Vaisnava Association-VVRS, together with 27 other sannyasis from more then 10 Vaisnava missions. It was only after three years of work of the World Vaisnava Association that Pujyapada Srila Bhakti Niloy Giri Maharaj, the disciple of Srila Sarasvati Thakur Prabhupada, read the statement of purpose of the Visva Vaisnava Raj Sabha from one of the old Harmonist Magazines. After this lecture he announced that the World Vaisnava Association was really the reappearance of the Visva Vaisnava Raj Sabha. This sabha makes its appearance and then disappears for a while from mundane vision. Srila Thakur Bhaktivinode and Srila Sarasvati Thakur Prabhupada did not start the sabha either. They only revived what had been started by the original Goswamis of Vrindavan to protect our sampradaya. Today, the Visva Vaisnava Raj Sabha can only function with a great deal of respect for all other Vaisnavas and the willingness to forgive all offenses and mistakes done by other members in the past. That alone undoubtedly gives it a difficult start.
2. Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada never started anything similar to this effort. Being disgusted with the fighting going on in the Gaudiya Math between the two groups, many disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, including Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami started their own separate Vaisnava Missions. All these missions exist today. Some are larger and some smaller, but all of them together saved the dignity of the teachings of Srila Sarasvati Thakur Prabhupada. The same thing is going on today as many disciples of Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami preach in their respective Vaisnava Missions. They manage to do this apart from the narrow-minded attitude of those who cannot see beyond the boundaries of their own mission; those who, in the name of Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, have done innumerable injustices and who have declared all those who have been expelled by them or who could not bear the pain of their misrepresentation any more to have "left Srila Prabhupada." Beloved brothers and sisters, you know all to well to what and whom I am referring. Iskcon is another branch of the Gaudiya Math tree. We cannot and should not minimize any Vaisnava's efforts because he cannot show the numerical achievements of another. Much less do we want to judge Vaisnavas by monetary means. Srila Prabhupada started a mission, initiated new disciples and opened many temples. Others have also done so, including Srila B.D. Madhava Maharaj, Srila B.P. Kesava Maharaj, Srila B.P. Puri Maharaj, Srila Madusudana Maharaj, Srila Bhakti Sar Maharaj, Srila B.S. Goswami Maharaj, Srila B.S. Ashram Maharaj, Srila B.A. Paramahamsa Maharaj, Srila B.V. Puri Maharaj and many more whose names I cannot remember right now. None of them proposed to represent the common cause of the entire sampradaya.
If anyone would have done so without a proper establishment of such a body with due Vaisnava etiquette to the seniors etc., all others would have objected. True, every spiritual master, in one way or another, is a full representative of the Parampara before his disciples as long as he gives the proper siddhanta and recognizes the validity of the Bhagavat Parampara. Those who want to limit the Parampara to their pancharatrik function as diksa gurus monopolize the right to represent the truth or their guru by some ecclesiastic system. In other words any claim of any Guru or Institution to be the only "real" connection to the previous Acaryas is nothing but fraud. This was strongly rejected by Srila Jiva Goswami and by Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. As the matter of fact, Gurus or the Bhagavat Parampara are self- effulgent. They were never, nor could they ever be appointed. If any type of appointment is done in any Vaisnava mission it is only to appoint a pancharatrik Guru for the continuation of the mission and the deity worship. Such appointed Guru may well be a qualified soul in the Bhagavat Parampara, but if he does not even recognize the Bhagavat Parampara or insults other Vaisnava Gurus, be they Pancharatrik or Bhagavat Gurus, he certainly disqualifies himself as a spiritual master. He is also subjected to the reactions of Vaisnava Aparadha which, as we know, is a fatal danger. The same takes place if a Guru wants to restrict his Godbrothers in their missionary development which is such an important part of the service of a disciple to his Guru.Some propose that Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada already started a World Vaisnava Association. This is not a game of words. We are looking for substance. How can anyone even think of such a thing when the Iskcon Law book prohibits visiting Gaudiya Math temples, writing letters to Gaudiya Math devotees, talking to Gaudiya Math Devotees, and reading Gaudiya Math books. If doing such "offensive" activities they risk being expelled from Iskcon. Even in 1999 still Books are published by Iskcon denouncing Srila Sridhar Maharaj to be third class and blaming him to be guilty for the zonal Guru situation and all the sufferings created to thousands of Vaisnavas by this motivated mistake of the Iskcon GBC's. Maybe you do not think very much about the feelings of those, who hear of these Iskcon laws. Our Sannyasi and Siksa Gurus are considered bad association by Iskcon standards.
We miss all of you, that is true. We hate to be outcasts and to be denied the credit of being called real followers of Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada inside Iskcon. But, if that is our situation only because we rejected the abuse and lies, only because we wanted to preach honestly and in accordance with our heart's demands, then unfortunately this will be to our credit.
Surely, the supreme controller Sri Krishna wanted to discredit a big bureaucratic mission and spread his devotees to all nooks and corners of the world. Otherwise, why would history have gone this way, and why would saintly persons ignore such a simple topic as the need of a real Vaisnava unity beyond the concerns of ANY particular Vaisnava mission.
As far as I am concerned, I will not give up trying to recover my Godbrothers and becoming real friends as well. Many of you do gigantic services. There is so much energy and talent in Iskcon and all over the Vaisnava world. But, due to these sectarian aspects, any impartial observer would describe Iskcon's position within the Gaudiya Sampradaya to be an sectarian cult entangled in its own bureaucracy and mistakes of the past. Since Srila Prabhupada is not here now to speak for himself, the institution has made him into an icon, a hero, and the institution founded by him beyond reproach. Critics from inside or outside find no ear or living forum to address this problem. And still they are insulted and blacklisted.
Then Iskcon publishes such statements in Back to Godhead magazine, such as "We want to unite all Godbrothers.- We ask to be forgiven for our introductions of the Zonal Guru concept (which is still practiced within Iskcon in newer versions.)- We will forgive all the offenses made by those who have left Iskcon" etc.. Sorry, but does all this really make sense to you? If we, being faithful to our spiritual master and to the vision of all previous Acaryas, would join together to really make a World Vaisnava Association happen, it would be a powerful instrument to fight irreligion and impersonalism. Buddhism is spreading all around the world. Mayavadis took over the preaching to the Indian community outside of India, which Srila Prabhupada practically started. While Hinduism Today proclaims that Vaisnavas are not really Hindus and should not get any donations from the Indian community, Iskcons leaders are busy to prepare court cases against godbrothers, repartitioning the Zones of previous Gurus among themselves and engage in endless discussions of strange subjects.
At the present, we do not even have real friendships among us, the Gaudiya Vaisnavas. The Internet has also become a most ridiculous battlefield of name-calling to further the damage done to the sacred memory of our spiritual masters. Even the aggressive ritvik proponents would be satisfied if they could understand the true position of the Pancheratrik Guru and the most important Bhagavat Guru Parampara, of which Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is, undoubtedly, an outstanding member.
Come on leaders of Iskcon. Have you forgotten that this process is to learn how to cry and how to ask forgiveness; how to eliminate our own faults and how to offer relief to the suffering Vaisnava communities? Where are the stalwarts of yesterday? Did they represent Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada when they insulted Pujyapada Srila Sridhar Maharaj and then left devotional life all together? What do we lose if we publicly recognize our mistakes and join together with all other Vaisnavas who are eager to do so now? Will we be credited by ignoring this effort? If you say that I should give the example first then I will take advantage of this public letter to ask all of you humbly falling at your feet to please forgive me for any and all possible offenses I have done to you, either knowingly or unknowingly, either directly or indirectly, either in mind, speech or action. Please forgive me and kindly grant me your capable help to serve my spiritual master and all Vaisnavas to their full satisfaction. Please do not ask me to come back to Iskcon and thus to only to serve the few of you who are still managing Iskcon. I am too ambitious for that. I want to serve all Vaisnavas inside and outside of Iskcon. I want to serve the Vaisnavas of all Sampradayas to see the glory of Sri Chaitanya mahaprabhu and serve those who have not even discovered yet that they are also Vaisnavas at heart. I want to see the world, to take notice with honor that the Vaisnavas have supplied a new way of understanding love and serving God, which really offers positive solutions for the present world. It pains me to see that our spiritual master's mission is considered anything less then a forum of searchers for the highest truth.
Let us come together. This is only possible in a forum which has been accepted by all acaryas to be a common ground for the common interest of all in equal proportion. If we are going to meet there, it has to be without diplomacy or indifference. It must be heart to heart, with tears in our eyes. We shall not look at the numbers of anyone's achievements. We shall just compete in Trinad api sahisnuna. But, if we do not make such an effort what will be the panorama?
A. People will leave Iskcon just like they have been doing, and will be rejected by Iskcon because they find other friends in the Sampradaya.
B. Since all Missions started after the Gaudiya Math splintered are constitutionally the same; including Iskcon, Sri Chaitanya Gaudiya Math, Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti etc. it would be an inappropriate audacity of any mission to expect other missions to join them. We have to understand that, ontologically, every disciple sees his spiritual master as the representative of God and thus feels no need to give special recognition to another spiritual master above his own only because of that spiritual master's greater preaching results. To propose to him that he should do so will insult him and, out of loyalty to the dignity of his Guru, he will naturally defeat that proposal. Everyone naturally wants to see his Guru as the best, but that is not possible in a forum which does not give equal recognition by Vaisnava traditional standards to all members, Acaryas and preachers. We have to recognize and respect their respective feelings, which are the most cherished substantial ingredients of their shraddha. A permanent forum with many different committees such as the WVA-VVRS can only exist and function with nonsectarian volunteer participation of representatives of all interested Vaisnava missions.
C. In order to back up mistakes of the past, the same mistakes are repeated and enlarged in the future. If what we do in Krishna Consciousness is divine than it is just as divine when anyone else does it in another mission. If we have no clear statement to that effect and teach our men how to properly interrelate with other Vaisnavas, our own members must gradually lose faith in their own process. It becomes the breeding ground of abuse and misconception. WE HAVE TO STOP THAT. BETTER NOW THEN LATER.
D. Our lack of unity will further discredit the vision of Vaisnavism as a World Religion. It will further the advancement of impersonalism and voidism. It will endanger our preachers position in a world which increasingly cracks down on minority personality cults and everything they may consider competition and to weak to defend themselves.
E. Vaisnavas of simple pure nature will go on meeting each other all over the world and will become confused over the fact that their great pure leaders cannot recognize other Vaisnavas in other missions. This again leads to exodus from Iskcon, more antipropaganda, more resentment, further exodus, written condemnations, Vaisnava Aparadhas, less happiness in Krishna Consciousness, Istagostis about the other so called Vaisnavas, lists of Vaisnava books to be prohibited, confiscated, even burned, further exodus, new laws against the enemies, further exaggeration of "our Guru is the only real one" philosophy, double standards, more confusion, further exodus, expelling and persecution of insider enemies, don't trust anyone policy, loss of capable leaders, abuse by opportunistic people to get rid of good devotees by applying the witch hunt atmosphere on them, further exodus (if you would like, I could go on for an entire page) etc. Are people really running away from Iskcon to enjoy Maya? No. They go only to join other Vaisnavas; to get up early chant Hare Krishna, have Sadhu Sangha and do lots of service. How can you explain that? Were they traitors? Did they meet a demon who destroyed their faith in the only mission which could save him on earth?
F. Speaking bad about each other's missions naturally will accompany us, in writing, speaking, Internet forums or, even worse, in aggressive encounters. .
Dear Brothers, is that the temple of understanding you want to build there? I admit, I am outspoken. Maybe that is wrong. But I have found traces of that mood in my spiritual masters as well. If we must die for the truth, is that an unworthy dead? I don't want to paint myself as some kind of martyr. I just try everything to reach your heart. American Vaisnavas, Indian Vaisnavas, Columbian Vaisnavas, male Vaisnavas, female Vaisnavas, Iskcon Vaisnavas, Gaudiya Math Vaisnavas: We will always be a little different as long as we are in these bodies, but we are all the same in so many ways. Actually, we are all in need of the same Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu to give us all his divine mercy. I do not want to write another book. I fall at your feet in the name of Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. All Glories to the Bhagavat Parampara and to all those who serve that Parampara from wherever they may be situated. I told you what I feel Srila Prabhupada would want, and I did my duty. Now it is up to you to give me a reasonable response.
Swami B.A. Paramadvaiti
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