Vanity thought #200. Doze of reality.

While looking around for something else I came across an old story on the internet about some local temple. People complained on a community board that temple “president”, an Indian gentleman, is not even related to ISKCON and so Indians in that area should be aware.

That sparked my attention, ISKCON and its internal problems is not often becomes a subject of a discussion in a large society.

Turns out some devotee from India opened a new temple in the area and since he’s got blessings from his guru he thought he could promote it as as “ISKCON” temple. It went on for almost ten years before shit hit the fan, and hit the fan it did.

There were letters to GBC, there were GBC replies posted on the Internet, there were e-mails from his guru to counterbalance GBC advice and it was all played out on the Indian community board. Nice way to do you dirty laundry in public. In the end no one came out any cleaner, sadly.

This is just Kali yuga, the age of quarrel, taking its toll but no one seemed to be aware of it at that time. Everyone was convinced they were doing a great service to the humanity.

I don’t even know where to start.

Okay, the el-presidente was clearly wrong in labeling his temple as ISKCON, he didn’t have any official, legal association with our society, yet he was an ISKCON devotee and it’s ridiculous to deny him the right to worship deities and invite people to join in.

He was just a typical Indian guy, he embellished his origins a but, claiming to be Prabhupada’s disciple. Maybe he was, he says he was four at that time and was attending gurukula but all his family members were Prabhupada disciples. Somehow I find it hard to believe but he wouldn’t be the first devotee to pad his resume.

We are all unfortunate in this regard – we want recognition and respect, and because we want more and more of it we tend to exaggerate our achievements to elicit a few more oohs and ahhs. Yeah, we shouldn’t be doing this but the reality is that it will never stop no matter what we say, this is just how things are in the material world.

That gentleman wasn’t the first devotee who tried to profit off the temple either. Temples provide a lot of personal comfort and everybody gets attached to it. This is another doze of reality, it shouldn’t be a reason to get our panties in a twist.

There were days when grihasthas and brahmacharis+sannyasis couldn’t coexist in our temples and accusations were flying everywhere, appealing to Prabhupada for the final verdict. When someone finally got his ear and started talking about inappropriate relationships bla bla bla Prabhupada just cut it off with “This you will find everywhere.”

So the dude set up Deities in his house and he ran a couple of businesses on the side to support the worship. Should he be shot and excommunicated for that?

Of course, when he presented his “temple” as ISKCON the Indians in the area thought it carried a lot more weight than home deities and probably donated a bit more money than they would have otherwise. Okay, what’s the big loss? Let me say it again – people donated more money that they would have otherwise. Mmm, where’s the catch?

Yes, the donations probably weren’t used as effectively as they hoped, ISKCON does a lot of preaching that really benefits the society while that little temple just needed an upkeep but people donated in good faith, there’s no evidence the funds were misused and their trust broken.

Of course the pretending to be ISKCON business should have been stopped but the righteous outrage on the Internet went a bit too far. Someone requested local GBC opinion but the gentleman in question was a disciple of a different guru so he took the reply as an attack on his devotional integrity.

Again, as Kali yuga would have it, he started his own offensive and the whole hell broke loose. There are many ways to settle the difference but in our community the least productive one, or actually the most destructive one, is proving your own worth by trying to denigrate devotional qualities of others.

In response the online community dug up all the dirt they could on him, including an alleged inappropriate advances towards a female devotee. The actual allegation was a lot heavier, impossible to dismiss or deny if I state it here. Something happened, that’s all I can say.

So he was proven to be a fraud, in front of the entire Indian community and it passed its judgement – we all, Hare Krishnas, are a bit crazy and immature. No one wanted to read who did what to whom and when. Everybody whose name was mentioned came out with some kind of accusations leveled at him or her and people in general didn’t like that at all.

Devotees who tried to straighten the matter demanded justice in the court of public opinion and it backfired, especially when some of them went overboard with calls for police to get involved.

Yes, the dude was wrong on several accounts but everything good he has ever done in his life, like worshiping the deities, got trashed, too, by devotees, of all people. As far as I know that temple doesn’t exist anymore. Is that a victory?

Some of the people who used to donate their money probably stopped doing so, too. Is that a victory? Victory for who?

Victory for Kali yuga.

On the other hand, the spat was quickly forgotten and ISKCON is pressing on, getting more support than ever. Krishna consciousness progress can’t be stopped that easily, it was only a lesson for us, I hope we learned from it.

The story is actually pretty straight forward while I said I didn’t know where to start because I omitted one important thing – the dirt on a local GBC that got published in the Indian community forum. Where did that come from? Who is really responsible for that?

Long long time ago it was published on VNN and copied on other sites with big chips on their shoulders. I don’t know what kind of service they carry by propagating that but they weren’t the source either.

The source was a seemingly sincere devotee who was just trying to help. He thought that by going public he could draw enough attention to the problem that would warrant intervention and the person in question would be forced to change his ways. I don’t know if it ever worked as far as this noble goal was concerned.

The downside that his complaints were used to ridicule and criticize a devotee and they are still poisoning people’s minds even if the initial problems have been rectified a decade ago. These stories can still induce vaishnava aparadhas in anyone reading them and these aparadhas are still as potent now as they were then.

But that devotee wasn’t the source either – he was just unfortunate enough to go public. Don’t shoot the messenger, as they say. Well, I truly hope he wasn’t affected by any offenses but it would be a miracle if he wasn’t.

It appears the actual source was inattention to sadhana and bad management practices. Yes, the senior devotee in question was named a culprit but really? Very very few souls can follow all the rules and regulations perfectly and there are more than enough bad managers. Why should one judge a devotee by these entirely materialistic attributes? Shouldn’t his forty years in service of Prabhupada’s mission put things in perspective a little bit?

Kali yuga again – it makes any little faults in others seem like mountains and oceans, it takes away our perspective.

The sad part is that all through this episode that took many years to develop everybody thought they were acting in best interests while I can’t help but think they were actually harming themselves and the society in general. Even dudes on anti-ISKCON sites think they are serving the mission by pouting as much dirt on devotees as they can find. I don’t understand it at all, except to blame it on Kali yuga and maya.

I’ve been far far away from this politics for months now and I’m surprised how complicated and treacherous the world outside the walls of my house is.

That’s my doze of reality and I don’t like it.

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