Vanity thought #1726. In memoriam

For some reason it’s not often that I see something inspiring on Dandavats. There are plenty of inspirational articles there, this cannot be denied, but I often fail to resonate with them. Sometimes it’s the sheer volume of information that makes me skip reading this or that and I postpone it for another day. The entire “Daily Meditation” series is a case in point – you either read them every day or wait until you have time to go through them all. I hope they won’t disappear from the Internet.

These recollections of Śrīla Prabhupāda pastimes are priceless and there must be something like a hundred posts in the series already, I read maybe the first thirty. I also have another ninety e-mails in my mail box with another series of posts about Prabhupāda, they arrive almost every day and I can barely keep this ever growing number under a hundred. I also have two more books about Prabhupāda on my must read list and I would also like to read Līlāmṛta again. And that is just about Prabhupāda, not counting all other books in our ever growing library, which all comes on top of reading Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books as part of our daily sādhana.

Maybe this explains why I’m not so excited about a dozen or so posts that pop up on Dandavats every day. Each one of them deserves special consideration, each one of them is beneficial for the development of our devotion, but I just haven’t got the time. This past week, however a couple of posts stood out. One is the minutes of annual GBC meeting.

A lot of it is a trivial stuff – who was appointed to do what, what ministries do we have, what resolve we must show, what programs GBC supports this year, zonal assignments, candidates for sannyāsa and so on. They saved the best for the last, however. There’s a section on Hṛdayānanda Dāsā Gosvāmī and a section on Bhakti Vikāśa Svāmī’s book “Women: Masters or Mothers”. One is a good news and one is bad.

Earlier GBC sent emissaries to talk to Hṛdayānanda Dāsā Gosvāmī about his Krishna West program (no diacritics in Krishna here because it goes kinda against his philosophy of making things easier for westerners). People on Samparadaya Sun have nothing but condemnation for his preaching, which I see rather as a badge of honor. Not a proof that his preaching method is legitimate but that his efforts are noticeable and provoke rage in our enemies. Pretty much like Prabhupāda relished fighting de-programming lawsuits in the US in the seventies because to him it was proof that we ARE making change in people’s lives. Of course, devotees on Sampradaya Sun are not our enemies per se but they do love to criticize those who preach Kṛṣṇa consciousness and they do love to tell us how wrong we are.

Personally, I don’t understand Krishna West very well, I’ve seen the website but I don’t know what it looks like in practice, whether it works, and what kind of devotees it produces. I don’t understand why it has to be called a separate thing because wearing karmī clothes and slightly longer hair for preaching has been around since Prabhupāda’s time. There are pros an cons to this, some would wear a very visible tilaka while others will leave only a faint mark so as not to scare people away. I don’t see Hṛdayānanda Dāsā Gosvāmī proposing anything new here.

The meeting he had with representatives of GBC was not about substance of his program, which I see as proof that there are no principal objections to it, but about two sticky points – his criticism of GBC and his personal behavior as a sannyāsī. GBC is right to be concerned about sowing seeds of animosity between GBC and Hṛdayānanda Dāsā Gosvāmī’s followers and Hṛdayānanda Dāsā Gosvāmī was right to promise that he would stop doing it. GBC is still our ultimate authority and it’s still our collective representative of Śrīla Prabhupāda. This undisputed position, however, gives us a reason to grouch and grumble before finally admitting that they are right and we are ought to follow them. Nothing was mentioned in GBC minutes about Hṛdayānanda Dāsā Gosvāmī’s personal behavior and whether he agreed to modify his lifestyle. It’s not healthy when people put up pictures of him being close with women even if nothing untoward happened, it’s not a good example for the rest of us.

That was the good news – Hṛdayānanda Dāsā Gosvāmī wasn’t excommunicated, his preaching programs wasn’t ordered to stop, and the brewing conflict has been largely resolved, I don’t think either of the sides will escalate it in the future. The bad news is that “Women: Masters or Mothers” has been banned. Maybe GBC will produce another paper justifying its decision but for now they just said that it reflects personal views o Bhakit Vikāśa Svāmī and propagates practices illegal in many countries, and it leads to conflict between ISKCON devotees.

I haven’t read the book but only an infamous NA GBC letter with a list of objections (extensively covered in this series of posts). All those objections were against views indisputably supported by Śrīla Prabhupāda himself, I didn’t see anything personal from Bhakti Vikāśa Svāmī there but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t add his own perspectives at all. What is clear is that not all of ISKCON concurs with those views at the present moment so it shouldn’t purport to speak for our whole society. From this POV I can see how GBC might think it’s better to ban it altogether. This doesn’t answer the question why GBC and parts of ISKCON are uncomfortable with Śrīla Prabhupāda’s statements on these topics, however. I also don’t see how banning the book will help bridge the divide between those who support and object to it. This isn’t the most reconciliatory message GBC could have sent to Bhakti Vikāśa Svāmī, his disciples, and those who agree with him on this. There were two sections in GBC meetings about reconciliation with those who either left ISKCON or no longer involved with it but then they end with telling our active members to cease and desist. It looks like a clash between their desired PR image and the reality of their actions and attitudes.

As our ultimate authority they have the right to this dissonance as well. What can I say? I know the book is right, I’m not the one selling it, I do sympathize with those who do, but I have no choice but to accept the ruling and hope that it will all turn out alright. It’s just a book of quotes from Prabhupāda anyway, it doesn’t tell anything new and it doesn’t fill any gaps in knowledge, and GBC has nothing substantial to add on the matter either. It’s just politics, it’s unavoidable and GBC, as a managing authority, is almost entitled to practicing it.

What we should all remember here is that the only real value in our lives is the mercy that comes down to us from Śrīla Prabhupāda and through his disciples. Material nature will add twists and turns to this mercy and it will make us fight one another but none of that should be taken seriously. He said, she said – it’s all only foam on the surface of the ocean of mercy, it will always be there, and it’s actually my main point today – the video dedicated to departed disciples of Śrīla Prabupāda that appeared on Dandavats as well:

Right now I’m not in the mood to properly address what is shown there, but I don’t think it needs any commentary either, it’s pretty much self-evident.

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