This past week or so I happened to come across a slew of articles and videos by ex-Hare Kṛṣṇas and that was an eye opening experience I still can’t make heads or tails of. I certainly have opinions about things they say and how they do it but I admit they are quite far out of my mental picture of ex-ISKCON “community”. I don’t understand it but I’ll try.
I won’t give links to everything I saw and read but Youtube channel of this girl is a good place to start. There are comments and links to related websites run by these people and pretty soon you’ll have an earful of worst imagined aparādhas possible. Be warned and prepared if you ever want to check it out for yourself.
I thought I knew plenty of and about ex-ISKCON people but I’ve never expected this, it’s new. Up until now I believed that no Hare Kṛṣṇa would become an actual atheist simply on the strength of experience of the Holy Name, our books, our movement, and Śrīla Prabhupāda. Devotees leave all the time but I thought no one could take Hare Kṛṣṇa out of their lives, save for a few cases of extreme offenses.
Normally, devotees just fade away from public participation in our society and they do it quietly, sort of taking a break from spiritual duties. Personally, I never consider them as ex-devotees, they are just on vacation in my view. There are those whose split in acrimony and they have stories to tell and sometimes I feel sorry about their experiences, sometimes I feel their complaints are overblown and they have share as much blame for the situation as their authorities. It’s still something we can eventually get over with as time heals all wounds.
There are those who leave ISCKON in search of something better. They never stop being Hare Kṛṣṇas and see themselves as devotees, they just don’t want to be associated with ISKCON anymore. I think, and I would argue, that their decisions are foolish but they are still devotees, still the family, and at the end of every dispute we can always find something common, like the unquestionable superiority of the service to the lotus feet of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī.
There are those who have become extremely offensive in their anti-ISKCON rhetoric and it cost them their place in Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava family altogether. They went on to become śaivas or śaktas or yogīs or Buddhists. But not atheists.
There are those who found Christ, too. They can be very very nasty towards ISKCON, Śrīla Prabhupāda, and Hinduism in general, but they are still not atheists. The ones I’ve interacted with still talk a lot more about Kṛṣṇa and what’s going on in ISKCON than about their newly found religion and I find it very telling but as long as they encourage others to surrender to God and accept Him in their hearts it’s not really that bad. I can’t find anything in common with them anymore but everyone has a place in Lord’s service, their choice is okay by me.
And then there’s this bunch, extremely hateful, determined in their attempts to discredit us and everything we stand for, and I’m not sure how to relate to them properly.
The girl I linked to earlier was born into a devotee family and her first video about her experiences was actually fairly neutral but the latest ones are simply inexcusable. She is not simply going after ISKCON anymore, she specifically targets Śrīla Prabhupāda, and if that wasn’t enough she got into ridiculing Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes and she didn’t spare Lord Nityānanda either.
And this after being a devotee for twenty four years?
There’s another woman there who joined in the late 80s and left twenty years later and she isn’t as bad but equally determined to destroy our “cult” to the best of her abilities. She actually attends conferences by anti-cult groups and tries to be active in the movement I thought died long time ago. Seriously, someone still wants to outlaw ISKCON for being a cult? In the UK where hundreds of thousands of Indians come to our temples?
This activism hasn’t gone unnoticed and if you find a video with comments enabled someone always comes along and notices that the authors sound far more dangerous in their bigotry than the alleged cult they are fighting against.
How ridiculous can it get? There was a bit about our daily routine, for example, how devotees wake up early in the morning, attend the morning program, chant japa and listen to a Bhāgavatam lecture. Totally cult-like behavior, unbelievable that it’s allowed in this day and age. Maybe she should look at people’s routine in Buddhists temples where they wake up just as early, don’t sing and dance, only pray, meditate and study, and don’t eat food after 12 PM. Maybe she should check out Christian monasteries, too. Or how about Muslims who have their call to prayer blasted over speakers in the “ungodly” hour for everyone within hearing distance, not only for monks (there are no monks in Islam at all, btw).
For self-proclaimed experts on Hinduism who know spirituality better than Hare Kṛṣṇas they can leave pearls like this “by 7AM deites have been bathed and dressed in a new set of clothes, and I’m talking about brass dolls not even one foot tall – imagine that, how weird!” – I’m paraphrasing.
There’s one long rant about boys and girls separated at school from the age of nine or ten – who does that? Middle ages. There’s no such thing as all-girls or all-boys schools anywhere in the civilized world. Oh wait…
In fact, I’m thinking about taking one of these videos and addressing all their allegations against us point by point, how they twist and exaggerate and declare absolutely normal things weird and unacceptable, like Prabhupāda’s comparison of men with butter that always melts in presence of fire, or women in this analogy. Yeah, that never happens, where did Prabhupāda see that? Where is his proof? Where is his logic?
While girls do the talking on Youtube and roll their eyes trying to be cute, men try to provide arguments and facts to support their case (no gender stereotypes among these enlightened beings, right?) This is where it all gets disappointing as they use old bad arguments that have been floating around since forever and are never taken seriously. Most of our devotees would go like “wait, what”?
Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī had never actually been initiated by Śrīla Gaurakiśora Dāsa Bābājī. Been there, discussed that, this has been around for at least half a century and it originated with Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī’s brother. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura rejected his initiating guru – same source. Madhvas do not accept Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism as part of their sampradāya (except the do, save for some outliers’ opinions). This same hogwash is being recycled again and again, as started by ex-ISCKON devotees like Nitai and Jagat and later picked up by Madhavānanda.
I don’t know what Nitai is up to now, Mādhavānanda left his followers, the “real” Gauḍīyas, and went into Buddhism, and Jagat is/was a full blown sahajiyā, trying to find truth about Lord Caitanya through ritual sex, which was after he tried achieve same realization through smoking ganja. Lately he’s been into silent yoga, I think. Nitai and Jagat are still technically devotees, however, even though Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta didn’t count sahajiyās as vaiṣṇavas, but their new brand of followers are even more Catholic than these two Popes. Actually, Jagat comes across as quite a humble fellow, maybe misguided by ISKCON standards but still sincere in his devotion to Śrīla Prabhupāda and his search for the truth, and for that he deserves eternal respect, plus we shouldn’t criticize Prabhupāda’s disciples anyway no matter what they do.
And that’s why I don’t really know how to react to Jagat’s “work” inspiring this new generation of ex-Hare Kṛṣṇas to turn to full blown atheism. Who is going to bear responsibility for that? And if their source is beyond reproach, should I take their offenses seriously? Or is it just pent up rage being let out and they don’t really mean what they say, it’s just hormones talking?
I need some time to come to terms with this.