Living in peace with Krishna West

I was reading something by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī and he mentioned a stunning verse that immediately reminded me of Krishna West. In our books in appears only once, in the Eleventh Canto – translated and purported by Hridayananda Dasa Goswami himself. This should be enough of an authority for his followers but I wanted to investigate its origin a bit further. This is what I found.

In commenting on SB 11.20.9 Hridayananda Dasa Goswami apparently used Bhakti Sandarbha (A.173) for the purport because that seems to be the only place where he could have gotten the following verse mentioned by Jīva Goswāmī as being spoken by the Lord:

    śruti-smṛtī mamaivājñe
    yas te ullaṅghya vartate
    ājñā-cchedī mama dveṣī
    mad-bhakto ’pi na vaiṣṇavaḥ

    “The śruti and smṛti literatures are to be understood as My injunctions, and one who violates such codes is to be understood as violating My will and thus opposing Me. Although such a person may claim to be My devotee, he is not actually a Vaiṣṇava.”

That’s a very strong statement – they may claim to be devotees but they are not.

Krishna West argues that “devotional dress” does not exist and all the rules regulating our devotional appearances and behavior are Islamic in origin, or in any case do not need to be followed – because “preaching”. This argument is destroyed in this verse – we MUST follow injunctions of śruti and smṛti, simply going by what we think is “goodness” is not enough. Rejecting these prescriptions would disqualify us from being accepted as devotees by the Lord.

BTW, it’s plain obvious that devotional dress and behavior in ISKCON are a lot closer to South Indian vaiṣṇavas than to Muslims and I hope KW is not going to preach to Ramanujas or Madhvas that they are following Islamic rules, too. As you will see later, even if our codes were influenced by Muslims or Ramakrishnas it doesn’t mean they can be rejected.

So, back to the heavy speaking verse – where does it leave KW? What do they have to do? Embrace dhoties and saries and tilakas and halava? Not going to happen and should not be happening against their will. However, the verse itself (SB 11.20.9), which was also used by Jiva Goswami in the same anuccheda, gives a clue:

    tāvat karmāṇi kurvīta
    na nirvidyeta yāvatā
    mat-kathā-śravaṇādau vā
    śraddhā yāvan na jāyate

    As long as one is not satiated by fruitive activity and has not awakened his taste for devotional service by śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ, one has to act according to the regulative principles of the Vedic injunctions.

Sridhara Swami, also quoted in the anuccheda, explains: “The word ‘karmani’ here means ‘regular and occasional prescribed duties’.” HDG translated it as “fruitive activities” in the word-for-word, so it’s not exactly “regulative principles of the Vedic injunctions” as in the translation. This gives KW a way out – they have to follow prescribed duties according to their culture, regular and occasionally rising. These duties might not be Vedic but, as prescribed duties, we should accept them as some sort of upadharma for degraded people of non-Vedic civilizations.

That’s where they get their definitions of “goodness” already anyway, like acceptance of pants or pizza or french fries or or veggie burgers. Let them do it, in fact, they SHOULD do it – until they feel satiated and become naturally detached, or until they develop taste for Hari-Katha and forget they ever liked these things.

In the anuccheda Jiva Goswami mentions a few other verses explaining the conditions for when one can give up following “karmani” – when one takes complete shelter at the lotus feet of the Lord and stops relying on anything else in his life, which is a pretty advanced stage not yet reached by vast majority of non-KW devotees as well.

In this way both KW and mainstream ISKCON can happily co-exist. It becomes a problem only when KW devotees reject prescriptions given to mainstream devotees as artificial. That’s when they become non-vaiṣṇavas opposing to the Lord even if they still claim to be devotees. They, effectively, start saying that rules they follow themselves – how they dress, how they eat, how they behave in public – are sattvic and “real”, but mainstream vaiṣṇava rules are bogus. Calling them Islamic inventions only exacerbates the matter.

There’s another discussion about whether following upadharma can take one all the way to the Lord, as KW claims. SB verse above means that if they still feel the need to follow it then śraddhā yāvan na jāyate – their faith has not been yet awakened. In this position they shouldn’t be arguing about how exactly śraddhā will eventually blossom into prema. That would be premature.

This mistake – that by following upadharmas they feel they are qualified to talk about “going all the way”, as they say, is manifested in another area – that they feel they are qualified to talk about dharmas given in śāstra, too. Forget about arguing about actual merits of wearing dhoties all the time – the mistake is to treat dharma and upadharma as equal in the first place. They might not use the same words but that’s what they mean when they say things like “the Lord enjoys french fries and puris equally because they are both sattvic and are cooked with love and devotion.” Cooking oil is not sattvic, only ghee is sattvic, so the Lord would enjoy french fries cooked in ghee better than cooked in oil, there’s no equality even there, and that’s before comparing root vegetable (potato), which grows in cold, dump darkness to wheat.

This can be explained in many different ways, but the bottom line is simple – upadharma is called upadharma for a reason – it’s not as good as real dharma. At first, I was doubtful that I use the word “upadharma” correctly, but no, it seems fit with the definition in SB 7.15.13:

    dharma-bādho vidharmaḥ syāt
    para-dharmo ‘nya-coditaḥ
    upadharmas tu pākhaṇḍo
    dambho vā śabda-bhic chalaḥ

    Religious principles that obstruct one from following his own religion are called vidharma. Religious principles introduced by others are called para-dharma. A new type of religion created by one who is falsely proud and who opposes the principles of the Vedas is called upadharma. And interpretation by one’s jugglery of words is called chala-dharma.

It would seem unduly harsh to KW but they DO oppose the principles of the Vedas in favor of their version of “goodness” and they do think that Hridayananda Das Goswami is qualified to lay down new principles for others to follow, which is an indication of false pride being present, and it IS a new kind of religion when compared to mainstream ISKCON. I meant it to mean a sub-dharma not fit to be mentioned in Vedic texts but either definition is okay, mine was more generous.

The peace formula I propose here is simple – let them do their sattvic things, that’s how they’ll eventually get purified, but they shouldn’t reject rules followed by mainstream as bogus. They should just stay out of these “comparative studies”, nothing good will come from criticizing ISKCON. Most likely they’ll develop an attitude that is condemned by the Lord and the Lord Himself will stop considering them as His devotees. That’s a pretty heavy warning there at the top. As I said – stunning.

4 comments on “Living in peace with Krishna West

  1. Following the IRM’s Lead

    Back To Prabhupada (BTP), Issue 54, Winter 2016/17

    We have shown many times in previous BTP issues how ISKCON’s leadership has followed the lead set by the IRM. For example, please see BTP 33, “ISKCON Guru Follows BTP’s Lead”,

    or even the last issue, “GBC Admits IRM Guidance Required”.

    Below are statements from HH Hṛdayānanda dāsa Gosvāmī (“HD”),

    a current ISKCON Dīkṣā-guru, ex-GBC chairman, and one of the original 11 “zonal Ācāryas” (The Great Guru Hoax, Part 1). All emphases added.

    ISKCON is deviant

    “ISKCON reinvented itself as a kanistha-adhikari movement where it’s the opposite of what Prabhupada taught. […] So in all these different ways, Prabhupada’s teachings have been inverted […] I mean there are so many superficial hypocritical religions in the world — I don’t think we’re supposed to add to the number. You could preach the opposite of what Prabhupada said, and yet if you’re wearing a dhoti, you’re his real follower. It’s come to that.”
    (HD Lecture, 12/10/16)

    “our Western movement has now collapsed […] ISKCON is in a crisis”
    (HD Lecture, 12/10/16)

    HD states that ISKCON is deviating in a wholesale manner, is in crisis, and is a “superficial hypocritical religion”, where only your status, rather than what you actually state, matters. This is exactly what the IRM has been saying for many years, and has continually presented evidence for in every BTP issue.


    “They did the opposite of what Prabhupada said, they turned his teachings upside-down, and just went for the money.”
    (HD Lecture, 12/10/16)

    “I can frankly tell you that since Prabhupada left, ISKCON is not what it was. […] you can do car pujas […] in Australia they had a Ratha-yatra and right in front of the Lord Jagannatha deities they had Bollywood dancers doing an extremely erotic dance”
    (HD Lecture, 28/3/16)

    A common theme we have highlighted in BTP has been ISKCON’s lurch into commercialisation and Indianisation. HD not only fully agrees with this, but to illustrate this he even gives the same examples that were featured in BTP, such as “car Pūjās ” (please see BTP 11),

    and Bollywood dancers at Ratha-yātrā in Australia (please see BTP 40).

    Following the IRM

    “Ironically, what I’m doing with Krishna West […] is in a sense civil disobedience within ISKCON — and very consciously so. […] So I’m trying to revive the real Prabhupada Hare Krishna movement”
    (HD Lecture, 10/1/17)

    Due to these problems that exist in ISKCON, HD states he must take the same course of action as the ISKCON Revival Movement (IRM). Which is to vigorously challenge the situation in ISKCON, and in this way revive the real ISKCON given by Śrīla Prabhupāda.

    Decades too late

    “The movement has been declining in the West for 40 years. What does it take before people open their eyes? […] I mean, the amount of irrationality and a-historicity is just… this is supposed to be a spiritual science. We’re supposed to be the brahmanas, the learned scholars. […] I was a GBC for 30 years, I was Chairman of the GBC, I supported the GBC’s system”
    (HD Lecture, 12/10/16)

    1) HD admits that the problems of ISKCON’s decline which he is highlighting now, began straight after Śrīla Prabhupāda’s departure and have been going on ever since. Indeed, the phenomena of commercialisation, Indianisation, and so on, has been going on in ISKCON for decades.

    2) However, it is a fact that HD has only recognised and spoken out against these problems very recently. Because, as he admits, he himself was a loyal member of the GBC for most of the time these problems were occurring. Therefore, instead of recognising these problems, he supported and was part of the management that presided over and directly caused these very problems!

    3) He now berates the ISKCON management that “what does it take before people open their eyes?”, stating that ISKCON’s leaders are supposed to be Brāhmaṇas and scholars (Pāṇḍitas), rather than dealing in irrationality. Yet, he could very well ask himself the same question as he was also not only blind to the same problems for decades, but actually party to causing them!

    Less intelligent

    “Tyranny threatens the GBC […] It wasn’t until I had to suffer all this injustice that I finally got it, because you know, if you’re a big leader in ISKCON, everything always goes well and you’re always on top […] Before this happened to me, you know, you can go your whole life not realizing what you’re doing until someone does it to you and then you understand it. […] Because if they do this to me, God only knows what they do to regular devotees.”
    (HD Lecture, 12/10/16)

    HD admits he woke up to the problems regarding the behaviour of the GBC, and how he may also have behaved, only due to him personally experiencing this behaviour. Otherwise he would have remained forever oblivious to it. Being able to learn that something is wrong only from personal experience, rather than knowledge, is explained by Śrīla Prabhupāda as evidence of being less intelligent:

    “When an intelligent person hears from the lawbooks and Śāstras, or scriptures, that stealing is not good and hears that a thief is punished when arrested, he refrains from theft. A less intelligent person may first have to be arrested and punished for stealing to learn to stop stealing.”
    (The Nectar of Instruction, Verse 1)

    This lack of intelligence would no doubt have played a key role in his also taking so long to “open his eyes” to ISKCON’s problems, as we detailed in the previous section.


    It is good that HD has finally woken up to some of the problems with ISKCON and the GBC which were highlighted a long time ago by the IRM. Of course, as an unauthorised Dīkṣā guru successor to Śrīla Prabhupāda, HD is still part of the problems, and it would be good if he also recognised this major problem of unauthorised Dīkṣā guru successors that afflicts ISKCON.

    He is supposed to have been a ‘good as God’ Dīkṣā-guru ever since 1978. Yet, before his current vocal criticism, he was a loyal ISKCON company man like the rest of the GBC management, as he admits. “Guru” means “heavy with knowledge” (Teachings of Lord Kapila, Verse 4). But most of his career as a Dīkṣā-guru has been “heavy” with deep ignorance, rather than knowledge, regarding the problems in ISKCON, which only now he is belatedly recognising. Besides his being unauthorised, this ignorance in itself is evidence that he is not a ‘good as God’ Dīkṣā-guru.

    Return to Hṛdayānanda dāsa Gosvāmī Index

    Return to IRM Homepage

    Please chant:

    Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare,
    Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare.

    And be Happy!

    • Haven’t read it all, but whatever problems with ISKCON one might perceive, IRM’s “cure” is worse than disease, and I’m not going to debate it here. Nor I’m going to debate HDG’s ideas – this article wasn’t meant for debating.

  2. Upadharma in its more severe form, would be appasidhantas like the fall of the jivas from Vaikuntha, or raganuga bhakti being the perfectional stage. Dress codes pale in comparison.

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