On Prakrita Sahajiyas

In one recent FB post I saw there was a sentence buried in a middle of a quote that I think needs contemplating on its own:

“The prākṛta-sahajiyā, so-called devotees engage Kṛṣṇa in supplying their sense gratification by demanding religiosity, economic development, sense gratification, and liberation from Him. This is not the mentality of devotees.”

It’s Folio’s rendering of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati’s commentary on CB Adi 2.207, so it’s legit.

This is the broadest definition of prakrita sahajiya ever. Absolutely everyone is guilty of slipping into this mentality, except fully liberated souls no one has ever seen. Entire religions fall under this classification, too.

This means we all have to overcome this mentality within ourselves and until then we don’t really get to lecture the standard prakrita sahajiyas with their fixation on sex. We are birds of the same feather, after all.

But how could that be? How can a pukka ISKCON devotee be grouped together with those abominable people who think sex can be used for self-realization? Good question.

To answer it I propose to expand the definition of prakrita sahajiya even further – it’s anyone who thinks interactions of material elements can be of any interest to the Lord. “Sahajiya” means natural and “prakrita” means this material nature, so it’s in the Sanskrit itself – anyone who thinks material nature can naturally go with Krishna is prakrita sahajiya.

But what about yukta vairagya or offering prasadam? Yeah, what about it? Doesn’t Krishna accept only love and devotion and so can eat banana peels with the same pleasure as rasagullas? Combinations of material elements that make up our sweets and sabjis are of no interest to Him, don’t we know that?

Other things being engaged in His service (via many many intermediaries, mind you) become spiritualized, like iron rods placed in fire – doesn’t it mean Krishna takes pleasure in them? No, not really. At least not directly – He accepts our service because it comes through the parampara, ie if Srila Prabhupada likes books being published this way it pleases Krishna, too.

This is where acintya bheda abheda comes to the rescue – guru and devotees are non-different from Krishna and even if we go through them the experience is direct, but things are offered to the guru first, not to Krishna directly. Prakrita sahajiyas think that direct connection between things of this world and Krishna is possible and desirable, and this is their mistake.

It’s like Vedas say that the Lord eats through the mouth of brahmanas – prakrita sahajiyas want to exclude the brahmanas from the process. It’s just me and Krishna directly, no intermediaries necessary, which is a very common mistake to make but it’s fundamentally incompatible with Gaudiya vaishnavism concept of “dasadasanudasa”.

When taken to the exterme sahajiyas try to connect to Krishna through sex but correct place of sex, where it becomes non-different from the Lord Himself, is with one’s spouse and for procreation, just like correct person to try to offer your quinoa halava is your guru.

When everything is applied in its proper place it does become inconceivably non-different from the Lord, but if you mess up the connection and break up the hierarchy it becomes known as maya. According to our philosophy maya is misconstrued placement of things – they exist but they become disconnected from the Lord. In case of prakrita sahajiya they become improperly connected instead.

Going by the definition at the top – in the state of this kind of illusion we inevitably start judging things by how they feel to us and so, in the name of service, we ask the Lord to make them pleasurable or work very hard on improving their pleasantness – as our service, too. Or we just ask for daily bread like Christians do.

In this way we become preoccupied with combinations of elements of this world. Instead of going back to Godhead we want to bring God’s kingdom to us, or we want to recreate it here ourselves, but whatever we do – it must be here, with these things we see in front of ourselves.

This is clearly a sign of attachment and from attachment appears sense of good and bad, and then of better and worse. Another quote from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati is appropriate here – this world doesn’t need reformers, everything is under perfect control here already. This means we just have to see it in the right way, not change it. Sex, the ultimate subject for the text book sahajiyas, also has its place here and each instance of it is perfect – this one is for degradation, just as planned at this point on the universal cycle, and that one is uplifting instead. Everything fits perfectly already, we just have to accept it and see the bigger picture.

But text book sahajiyas think they have to make sex better (in the name of pleasing Krishna, of course), and the expanded definition sahajiyas include many other things in their betterment plans, but on the point of sex itself they settle down on a less advanced, bedroom version. That’s all.

Krishna and His actual devotees are governed by His internal energy, however, and that’s where we want to be. That’s what creates an actual vaishnava – being governed differently than the rest of the objects of this world. That’s how vaishnavas become indifferent and detached. It’s like seeing dogs having sex in the streets doesn’t make us sexually agitated – we are not governed by their kind of sexuality. We’d need to contemplate it on a much deeper level to see that at its core their sexual attraction is the same as ours. It’s possible and it has happened before (Saubhari Muni and fishes) but our first reaction to animal sex is no reaction – we are under control of a different type of sexual energy.

But then there is a case of Krishna appearing in this world Himself and drawing a difference between this world’s energy and His internal energy becomes practically impossible. Lucky for us we don’t need to figure that one out, at least not for now. If He ever makes an appearance in our lives He’d be totally disconnected from the world, not that we could point in His direction and everybody would see Him, too. But it does make “evam yo vetti tattvatah” a much more difficult task than it appears at first. There’s this “divyam” about His otherwise ordinary looking janma and karma that is impossible for us to grasp, especially when we cannot even see Him. We can theoretize about it but I bet we’d be totally bewildered if we were actually there, seeing Him hiding under Yashoda’s sari like an ordinary child. But, as I said, we are lucky we don’t need to deal with that confusion right now. Maybe in the next life.


Low Level Hack

Two weeks ago Jagadananda had a blog post arguing that “Sahajiyaism goes together with Radha-Krishna prema like butter with rice” – in his own words. I feel this needs to be addressed in some way.

Now, “low lever hack” is not my categorization of Jagadananda Prabhu himself, it’s actually a compliment to the strength of his argument. In popular computer talk we have a concept of “zero day exploit”, which refers to finding a vulnerability in the software that was missed by its very creators. In relation to our books it would be like finding a mistake by Srila Prabhupada that has been there all along, we have developed a wrong understanding of something because of it, and to fix it we need to do the unthinkable – edit his books for *his* mistakes.

If you think this never happens, meaning there are “no zero day mistakes” in Prabhupada’s books – occasionally they have been found. The most famous (and probably most controversial one) is confusing ragatmika and raganuga in the Nectar of Devotion. I’m not going to untangle it here, but the claim is that if we think of Nanda Maharaj and others as “raganugas” instead of “ragatmikas” then we will never become qualified to follow “raganuga bhakti”, which is what people say limits spiritual development of ISKCON devotees.

Back to Jagadananda, by “low lever hack” I mean he exposed a vulnerability on the level of our most fundamental pramanas – Sridhara Swami’s commentary on Bhagavatam. Typically, we would refer to Srila Prabhupada’s purports as conclusive evidence for us, but Prabhupada got only as far as the 13th Chapter of the Tenth Canto while Jagadananda discusses one line in one of the concluding verses of Chapter 33, the last one in “rasa pancadhyayi”.

In Krishna book Srila Prabhupada doesn’t mention anything about this line, so we are out of our most authoritative pramanas. BBT purport doesn’t mention anything either, so that’s a second level pramana that is out. Okay, Bhanu Swami translated commentaries by Sanatana and Jiva Goswamis and by Srila Visvanatha, but even if they do not explain the same line in the same way they don’t rule out Jagadananda’s explanation of Sridhara Swami either. Lord Caitanya told us to treat Sridhara Swami as the original commentator and every vaishnava acharya deferred to him ever since, meaning their own commentaries must be seen as an addition to Sridhara Swami’s, not alternatives to him.

Okay, maybe we can look into Sridhara Swami’s Sanskrit and see if Jagadananda’s explanation is possible, maybe we don’t need to actually understand it, maybe that passage simply doesn’t exist. Where do we get Sridhara Swami’s Sanskrit? From Grantha Mandir where it was uploaded by Jagadananda! That’s what I call a “low level hack” – it’s impossible to defend from unless we go even lower, which means get our own sources and translate them ourselves, which is beyond my capacity.

It’s not all bad, however. Sridhara Swami’s commentary in Devanagari can be found on Archive site, one would just have to flip through endless pages to get to the right verse and right commentary, but what if this line is missing from some earlier editions and was inserted there by sahajiyas themselves? How can we possibly defend against that? We’d need to go even earlier in history.

Alternatively, there is a translation of this verse and Sridhara Swami’s commentary by one “Gaurapada das”. I don’t know anything about him, except that he wrote super-excellent translation of the first three chapters of the Tenth Canto, surpassing even BBT standards of publication. Maybe the quality of his translation itself is not that high, I wouldn’t know. Personally, I was a little put off by his occasional rants against mayavada which I thought were uncalled for in discussing the Tenth Canto. More worrying is that he didn’t stay with his original publisher, Touchstone Media, and wanted to produce the rest without the same level of editorial oversight, so the volume that deals with Chapter 33 does not get the same endorsement as Volume 1. I don’t know his side of the story so let’s leave it at that and get to the actual point – the line itself.

In BBT translation it’s:

siṣeva ātmany avaruddha-saurataḥ

with the point of interest being this “ātmany avaruddha-saurataḥ

BBT word for word is:

ātmani — within Himself; avaruddha — reserved; saurataḥ — conjugal feelings;

In BBT translation it’s rendered as “the Lord was not internally affected by any mundane sex desire.”

Jagadananda gives two alternatives, one by Satyanarayan Babaji and one by himself:

while keeping the procreative potency contained within Himself.


has captured the amorous energy within Himself

Jagadananda then gives Babaji’s commentary on this verse when it appears in Priti Sandarbha:

“The word saurata is derived from surata, “sexual union,” i.e., that which is connected to sexual union, i.e., sexual enjoyment. Śrīdhara Svāmī has glossed the word as semen.

There are a group of people who interpret the meaning of śiṣeva ātmani avaruddha-saurata to mean that Kṛṣṇa enjoyed sex with gopīs (saurata) while not discharging semen (śiṣeva) but holding (avaruddha) it within Himself (ātmani). They practice coition with their partner while not discharging semen. This they aver will make a man god-realized. Not discharging the semen but raising it up to head will make one’s consciousness to be one with brahman or make the dormant love in the heart be awakened. According to them this is called rāgānugā-bhakti.

Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī refutes such an explanation and interprets the verse that is in harmony with the subject under discussion, the prema.”

Now you should finally see what the point of interest is – Krishna practiced sexual plays with the gopis but retained His semen. Huh? Bhaktividyapurna Swami wants his sannyasa back! Well, actually I want his sannyasa back, but that’s not the point, the point is that Jagadananda wants to use this interpretation as confirming sahajiya ideas about the point where material sexual agitation can cross into genuine Krishna prema.

I don’t want to actually argue for or against that and I won’t argue if I somehow misformulated Jagadananda’s point, I’m only interested in Sridhara Swami’s commentary and in what other acharyas had to say about the same phrase.

Gaurapada’s word for word:

“avaruddha—is confined; saurataù—He whose sexuality;”

and he gives three alternative translations:

“whose sexual enjoyment is confined to the soul”

“whose amorous feelings are restricted to His own kind of women”

“He confined sexual enjoyment within Himself”

The second one says “His own kind of women” and Gaurapada justifies it by citing an occasion where our acharyas explained “atman” as direct reference to gopis. He thought it would be permissible here, too. In word for word he has it :”ātmani—in Himself (or in the soul, or toward His own kind);” with a footnote explaining why it can mean gopis.

In translation of Sridhara Swami’s commentary he has:

“A descriptive term is expressive of triumph over lust: His semen is kept in Himself (ātmany avaruddha-saurataḥ = ātmany evāvaruddhaḥ saurataś carama-dhātur na tu skhalito yasya).”

Then Vallabhacharya:

“After that, Kṛṣṇa confined sexual enjoyment in Himself (ātmany avaruddha-saurataḥ = tad-anantaram ātmany eva avaruddhaṁ saurataṁ yasya tathā jātaḥ). He did not place His love in those women, otherwise He would have become a father.”

Then Srinatha Pandit:

“Kṛṣṇa kept the pleasure of sex within Himself (ātmany avaruddha-saurataṁ surata-sukhaṁ grāmya-dharmo yena). The sense is He blocked this: Sex is love. Sex between Him, Īśvara, and those women, who are Īśvarīs, would be improper. The writer of a master treatise on Rasa stated: anaucityād ṛte nānyad rasa-bhaṅgasya kāraṇam, “The cause of the disruption of Rasa is no other than inappropriateness” (Dhvany-āloka 3.14 vṛtti). But if Īśvara and an Īśvarī are married to one another, then there is nothing wrong in kissing and other aspects of the romance.”

This is an interesting turn – Krishna didn’t want to ruin rasa by resorting to actual sex. This makes sense, too, and it’s a rasa, not mechanics based explanation so an extra point for that.

Then there’s Visvanatha Cakravarti’s commentary on the same line and it’s a bit long but it doesn’t talk about semen:

“With ātmany avaruddha-saurataḥ, he says: At that time, the Lord’s mind was only focused on those love games: “He by whom everything related to sex is kept in the mind and put in place therein”
(= ātmani manasi avaruddhāḥ avaruddhya sthāpitāḥ sauratāḥ surata-sambandhino yena saḥ). Everything’ includes bhāva (feeling) (first development of rati), hāva (allurement) (rati is more apparent), bibboka (disregard for a desired thing), kila-kiñcita (hysterical delight), and other alaṅkāras of śṛṅgāra-rasa, vāmya (contrary mood), autsukya (eagerness), harṣa (joy) and other emotions, stambha (being stunned), sveda (perspiration), vaivarṇya (change of bodily color) and other sāttvika-bhāvas, as well as gazing, touching, embracing and other anubhāvas. The word saurata is used in that general sense in this verse:

evaṁ saurata-saṁlāpair bhagavān jagad-īśvaraḥ |
sva-rato ramayā reme nara-lokaṁ viḍambayan ||

“With such conversations related to sexual enjoyment, the Lord, the controller of the universe and a delighter in the self, had fun with Lakṣmī (Rukmiṇī) while imitating the ways of humans.” (10.60.58)

In this text, the word saṁlāpa was placed next to saurata with the intent to express a particularity, whereas in the verse under discussion no particular aspect of saurata is meant, and so everything
about it applies.”

Bhanu Swami’s translation is not very different so I won’t cite it here. I’ll give his translation of Sanatana Goswami’s commentary on this line instead:

“He has accepted (avaruddha) all acts of love or the most intense pastimes (surata), since he has appeared as avatāra for this purpose. He gave enjoyment to the gopīs without indifference, and with inner determination (ātmani). He experienced everything personally with great attachment, by accepting them within himself. Or he experienced the highest bliss by ignoring his feature as ātmārāma.”

This last sentence beginning with “Or..” is a signature Sanatana Goswami – he’d quite regularly introduce completely opposite explanations of the same words and we are left wondering how it could all fit together. At least that’s how Bhanu Swami translates it. There is no equivalent in Gaurapada’s translation, but Gaurapada ends the commentary on the whole verse with:

“The rest was explained by Śrīdhara Svāmī”

which is one more demonstration that all other acharyas only add to Sridhara Swami’s commentary, which everybody is supposed to know and accept. But that doesn’t mean there could be no disagreements with Sridhara Swami either. See how Bhanu Swami translates Jiva Goswami’s commentary on the same line:

“In what condition did he serve them? His mind (ātmani) was firmly fixed (avaruddha) in all emotions and gestures suitable for amorous contact with the gopīs (saurataḥ). This means he could not give them up. Since a particular bhāva is not mentioned, all bhāvas are indicated.

evaṁ saurata-saṁlāpair bhagavān jagad-īśvaraḥ
sva-rato ramayā reme nara-lokaṁ viḍambayan

And so, the self-satisfied Supreme Lord of the universe enjoyed with the goddess of fortune, engaging her in lovers’ talks and thus imitating the ways of human society. (SB 10.60.58)

However, in this example there is particularization with the mention of saṁlāpaiḥ (with conversations). The cause of his mental fixation of loving affairs is given. There were many women with anurāga. The cause was anurāga in prema within Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs. It was not the material lust of material people because his desires are pure (satya-kāmaḥ). Parāśara and Vaiśampāyana have said

evaṁ sa kṛṣṇo gopīnāṁ cakravālair alaṅkṛtaḥ
śāradīṣu sacandāsu niśāsu mumude sukhī

Thus Kṛṣṇa, ornamented with circles of gopīs, enjoyed happily in the moon lit nights of the autumn season.

In his commentary Śrīdhara Svāmī explains that avaruddha-saurataḥ means “without the influence of material sex desire.” Thus he has given another, not commonly accepted, explanation of this phrase.”

Gaurapada’s translation is a bit longer, with Sanskrit prose quoted, too, but in the end he makes the same point – Sridhara Swami’s explanation is unusual.

Now look at Gaurapada’s translation of Baladeva Vidyabhusana’s of the full commentary on the whole verse:

“With high regard, He took advantage (siṣeve = ādareṇa upacaritavān) of all those moonlit nights.” His desires and His gestures expressive of lust are transcendental (satya-kāmaḥ = satyaḥ svarūpa-vat pāramārthikaḥ kāmo vāñchā smara-vilāsaś ca yasya saḥ). After His lovemaking, the girls made love on Him (anuratābalā-gaṇaḥ= anu tad-ramaṇānantaraṁ rato ramaṇa-kṛd abalā-gaṇo yatra saḥ). The secret meaning is not obvious, in conformity with the maxim: dvy-arthaiḥ padaiḥ piśunayec ca rahasya-vastu, “One should conceal a secret meaning with double-meaning words.” The dual sense is the girls were always enamored of Him. Other occurrences should be looked into that way.”

What is this “lovemaking” and “girls made love on Him”? And the information that “one should conceal a secret meaning with double-meaning words” is not helpful either. How can we possibly figure out what happened there exactly after reading a commentary like this? It’s impossible, which is precisely the point – it’s a matter of realization, not parsing the language.

So, can Jagadananda legitimately extract a meaning supportive of sahajiya ideas? Sure, in the light of Baladeva Vidyabhusana’s commentary everything is possible because double meanings could be everywhere and you’ll never know which was actually intended. Would it be correct? We’ll never know until we have appropriate realizations, and until then everything is a fair game.

Personally, after reading through all of the above I choose to stick with Srinatha Pandit’s explanation – actually having sex with the gopis would go against their rasa. Sex is for wives, which I take he means “anyone you have sex with is your wife”, and gopis didn’t want to take that position in relation to Krishna. Maybe it’s not a classical explanation of gopis’ rasa but the titillation of gopis laying the red line “you can’t do that to me” takes it on a whole different level where it’s felt more acute and maybe even sweeter as it gives Krishna no chance to walk away and no chance to have sex either. Sex is for Vaikuntha, or in this case Dwaraka. Gopis were not going to raise Krishna’s children, too – not their rasa. All in all, I think this would be a more productive way to reflect on this story – if one ever feels inclined to do so.

“Just Trying to Help”

In a recent Q&A with Russian devotees Bhakti Vijnana Goswami was asked how to help devotees in Ukraine. All typical ways, ie prayers or donations, have been listed in the question so as to avoid repetition and focus only on new insights.

His reply was that first one has to see the situation through their eyes. Any attempt to help without doing so is going to be futile and would be seen even as insulting.

The actual answer was spread over two minutes but this is the essence, I don’t think I missed anything. The idea was truly new to the person asking and was accepted with appreciation.

I had to pause to think about it myself, too, but nothing good came out of my deliberations. I mean it’s true – we should learn to see the world from different perspectives and “walk a mile in someone’s shoes” before dispensing advice (and help), but how would it work in practice?

In case of Ukraine, for example, it’s not difficult to see the situation through Ukrainian eyes as they don’t restrain themselves when they go into descriptions of how they feel and what we should be sympathizing with. I would say Zelensky’s entire schtick is guilt tripping everyone he comes across with. We’ve heard it on day one of the invasion, he hasn’t added anything new since and Ukrainian devotees have been speaking from the same playbook, too.

In this view I myself is an incorrigible Rashist, a die hard Putinbot who doesn’t deserve to live and at this stage even re-education probably won’t help me either.

As soon as I get a whiff of this attitude all my desire to help Ukrainians immediately disappears. Which is what BVG’s message probably was – don’t even try, as a Russian you are not qualified to help.

I mean it’s such a non-devotional mental place to be in that there is no question of “walking a mile in Ukrainian shoes”, I want to exit it immediately and never come back. Bhagavatam prescribed attitude towards these people is nirupeksa, neglect. They best be left alone, otherwise they’ll just commit even more offenses and further compound their already bad karma. This is also why Krishna says “I cast them down into demoniac species” – trees and animals do not commit aparadhas against the Lord and His devotees, it’s safer for them there.

In Ukrainian case they say that their bad karma, meaning Russian attacks on them, justify their hatred. This hatred leads to more bad karma, which fuels more hatred, and so it all spirals down.

There is a perfectly good explanation for “don’t try to help”, too. People who have actually heard sounds of explosions and missiles flying over their heads and felt mortal danger to lives of their loved ones, they develop a very different perception of the world around them and I cannot possibly share it, I can only understand “I hate Putin” part of it but it’s only a small part. I do not feel the same fear and do not experience the same determination to persevere. I have no idea how I would behave in a similar situation so what is the value of my help? I know how I would want myself to behave but I don’t know if I could live up to these expectations. In short, I can’t talk from experience here.

However, there are plenty of devotees supporting Ukrainian cause who never have been in actual danger either and these are the ones that I have been interacting with. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an actual victim on FB, for example. These armchair victims I can understand and relate to and it’s their shoes that I don’t want to ever try for myself. There are also those who volunteered to fight off Russians and they can be spotted even on social media. I think I can understand them but don’t want to become anything like them either. Typically expected utterances there include “I actually enjoy killing Russians, the more the merrier”.

The advice itself – first learn to see through that person’s eyes – is applicable in situations other than Ukraine, BVG said. Great. Let’s try it elsewhere, the most obvious candidate is any recent tale of child and sexual abuse. Let’s try SR.

When I read her account (redacted version) I was fully absorbed in the narrative, I won’t deny it. I practically relived it in my mind. What was my conclusion? It was suspiciously empty of any admission of personal responsibility. Forget responsibility – did she not enjoy years of their sexcapades herself? Did she contribute in any way to how the affair developed? I think she withheld this part of the story for a reason and I think I understand why as well. With this image of her mental state imprinted in my mind, too, how can I help? Help with what, however? I’d start with “stop lying to yourself”, which is not what is publicly expected.

Actually, in her case what is publicly expected now is to blame her for being a co-conspirator and co-abuser of other girls, students in her care. She is not seen as a victim anymore but as a perpetrator and master manipulator. We need another victim for practice.

How about Vedasara (introduced himself as “Veda”) who recently came out with a long story of sexual abuse during his gurukula days. First of all, some parts of his story were hard to believe, all of it happened in maybe a decade that started forty years ago, but then he spoiled it all when he singled out Bhakti Vikasa Swami as some sort of main supporter, encourager, and enabler. That was absolutely uncalled for and it sealed for me “non-vaishnava” attitude of the complainer. Plus all the broadswipes at GBCs and other authorities [for not acting years ago on what he has told us only now, incidentally].

People expect to help him with physical and emotional traumas of his decade of abuse but I insist that first things should come first – persons openly inimical towards devotees should be left alone.

When dealing with things like mental or physical help we are dealing with considerations of karma – this one is worse, that one is better, I have more of this so I can share and you have more of that so I can request some for me. If these karma based considerations are seen as more important than hearing the stream of vaishnava aparadha coming from someone’s mouth then go ahead, try to fix karma, but don’t call yourself a devotee. A devotee cannot tolerate enmity towards vaishnavas. Not just a few words of frustration which can be overlooked as a temporary agitation but a deliberate and fully justified blasphemy which has become the staple in our “victim support” circles. There “pain” is considered as more important than “no aparadhas”.

The point is that when I try to step into these victims’ shoes I see a completely different thing as the real problem. I think this is what needs to be fixed first but because they don’t see it that way my “help” won’t be appreciated. It would probably be seen as insulting instead. In other words, they expect that people would help them to fulfill their desires (“help me just the way I want”) but karma doesn’t work like that – fulfillment of desires need to be earned first and it’s not me who has to do the earning, it’s them. Vaishnava help doesn’t work like that either – because vaishnavas do what is pleasing to the Lord, not what people demand for themselves.

In the end it becomes frustrating for everybody involved, which is another proof of Bhagavatam wisdom – people inimical towards the Lord and His devotees must be avoided. That’s the best help they need. Karma will work itself out, it has a very capable supervisor for itself, and we can’t actually change even a small bit of it on our own, so those karma based considerations of who has more of what is better and how much could be shared should not even matter. Not for devotees.

Devotees, by virtue of acting in complete unison with the Lord, can override mountains of karma for themselves and for others but “in complete unison” in this case also means avoiding people inimical towards other devotees. We can’t have it both ways – be devotees and hang around those who blaspheme devotees at the same time. For what? So that we can demonstrate our upstanding morals and power of helping others? Forget it. If that’s what we want we shouldn’t call ourselves devotees in the first place.

Inside Look

Before Covid Mayapur festival was a showcase where leaders of our movement presented their latest ideas and realizations, and now it’s back. Excited with the opportunity, I started listening to daily Mayapur classes again. Vaisesika and Bhakti Vijnana Goswami are special cases, and the latest at the moment of typing is Bhakti Vikasa Swami’s class I haven’t listened to yet, so I’ll comment on three “liberals” instead – Devamrita Swami, Anuttama Prabhu, and Bhadri Narayana Swami. The last two are the names behind controversial NA GBC decisions so an insight into their thinking is valuable.

I’m not going to go through their lectures point by point, just summarize the “performance” of all three.

Their classes consist of two parts. First part is where they sing Jaya Radha Madhava, recite Bhagavatam verse, read out translation and purport, say a few standard words, and segue into what they really want to talk about, which comprises the second part. This second part has no connection to the first or to Bhagavatm in general apart from that segue. When talking about that second part references to Bhagavatam are scarce and at best supportive, ie they pick the evidence for their thinking, but this thinking itself is based on their personal experiences of living in the world, not on Bhagavatam per se.

I need to put a disclaimer here first – when people talk about their personal experiences they are going to be measured against experiences and realizations of others. Some would say “Wow! Never thought of it this way”, some would say “That’s what I’ve been thinking, too!”, and others would go “That was my thinking several lifetimes ago,” to paraphrase Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati.

We just can’t avoid this type of judgments but I think they should not be used beyond their scope – “this realization usually comes before that, and that realization usually evolves to that,” and so on. Krishna doesn’t judge His devotees like that, He judges them by how well they “perform” in their given position. Thus they can achieve full success from any step on the ladder of realizations.

Typically, there’s a progression through human forms of life until one become a fully realized brahmana, then one should become a vaishnava, but for those born in Lord Caitanya’s movement and dedicate their lives to chanting and preaching all these stages are understood to be in the past. They appear as members of this Hare Krishna movement to “do the needful”. In Anuttama’s case, for example, this “needful” includes interfacing on behalf of ISKCON with other religions, which means whatever deficiencies are there in the role itself are not necessarily deficiencies in Anuttama Prabhu as a devotee. They could be, but I would not indulge myself in these judgments. In other words, if anything in this article appears as describing faults – these are faults inbuilt into the roles these devotees play, not the faults in the devotees themselves. They have to do it this way for our society to function.

With that disclaimer out of the way, the second parts of their classes appeared to me as “Bhagavatam free”. Devamrita Swami went into extolling virtues of the UN and the panel of topmost scientists who calculate the position of Doomsday Clock. He just couldn’t stop talking about it. Srila Prabhupada was never impressed with the UN and its role has greatly diminished in this century, so why look at them with such awe and reverence?

Who knows any scientist who works on that Doomsday Clock? Even if some of us do – what are their big studies that demonstrate exceptional quality of their thinking? What is it about them that should impress us a students of Bhagavatam? Why should we pay so much attention to them? I mean travel all the way to Mayapur to hear our best spiritual leaders talk about something you can discuss for hours with total strangers on Reddit? Sounds like a waste of time.

Nevertheless, their latest explanation for moving their clock forward is notable – in the past we had institutions to hold back our hot headed political leaders but today there are no rules to keep them in check, they just do whatever *they* think is right, whatever they think at the moment, with no respect paid to their predecessors or customs or rules or anything.

Moreover, since even the Doomsday Clock people highlight the failure of institutions, why should we pay attention to the UN and quote UN Secretary General proclamations in our classes? That man is powerless and is often ignored by actual big powers like the US or Russia.

Anyway, Devamrita Swami’s segue to this part was “unity in diversity” and so he divided the world into two groups – “globalists”, who are obviously for unity in this thinking, and “territorials”. Globalists have one flaw – they don’t usually include animals into their vision, but Maharaj said that some of them have been noticing that and so, I think, they could become actual carriers of unity in diversity once they all go vegan. Okay, that’s an interesting classification, but it’s not based on Bhagavatam.

Bhagavatam offers all kinds of divisions for us to observe. If it’s in two then we have suras and asuras, if it’s in three we have three gunas, if it’s in four we have four varnas, if it’s in five we have Pancopasana – five types of religion, explained in detail by Bhaktivinoda Thakura. If it’s in six we have Six Darsanas. Some of these divisions are complimentary, ie varnas, some are evolutionary – first you go through this, then you evolve to that, as in case with Pancopasana or Sad-Darsanas. The point is that Bhagavatam gives are plenty of ways of looking at the world and classifying its elements. We just need to study them and become sastra-caksus. These would be real divisions, too – like Sankhya enumerates actual elements from which the world is made as opposed to modern chemistry.

But since we are not doing that, let’s talk about “globalists” and “territorials”. I would say that globalists are not for unity but for uniformity. They absolutely hate any meaningful diversity. Everyone should read the same news and discuss same topics on same phones after watching same movies while snacking on the same popcorn and same Pepsi. Everyone knows iPhone but when it first entered the market one of its big strengths was that it was just one iPhone, same size for all. I remember this argument very well – you go to Apple site and there is only one iPhone there, it was iPhone 4 at the time, and its beautiful. You go to Samsung site and there are hundreds of models there, all different, and you don’t know what to choose. iPhones had almost zero customizations by comparison, they all had the same ringtone and provided uniform experience to toddlers, grandmas, and top executives alike, and people loved it. That’s what globalization means – uniformity. Every country has to be a democracy, voting, elections, separation of powers, free press etc etc. When they join the EU, for example, every country has to update its internal laws and procedures to fit with EU’s and they have to embrace the same moral values, like LGBT rights. Globalization means uniformity, as I said.

Devamrita Swami might see it differently but I obviously think my description fits better. In any case – these are relative considerations. By Bhagavatam science I would go with “asuras”. I disagree with his description of the other group, “territorials”, too. They themselves talk about multi-polar world where everybody has the right to develop in their own way. Their concept is like Vedic mangala – several centers of power which thrive on their own and in cooperation. What they lack, for now, is the emperor to hold it all together, but such emperors were rare even in Vedic history. I mean even Maharaja Yudhisthira was not accepted as such by Kauravas after his Rajasuya sacrifice. This is something we should study very deeply ourselves first, but it’s not the time to do that here.

Anuttama Prabhu’s favorite topic is “Look how good Christians are!” This time he reminded himself not to quote from the Bible and sneaked only one quote only near the end, and the rest of the time he quoted his Christian friends. “This guy said this and that guy said that, look how humble they are, we can learn something from them, too.” Why not learn the same things from our Bhagavatam personalities? Why not learn from Caiatanya Lila?

At one point Anuttama Prabhu told an anecdote how he was with one of his Christian big shot friends, was left alone for a moment, and another Christian approached and tried to preach to him. When his Christian friend returned he apologized for the disturbance. Nice, right? Right, but this behavior is dictated by interfaith rules where everybody accepts that no one knows God and so shouldn’t talk about Him. NO PREACHING to each other. That’s their first rule. They cannot and will not select one of them the way sages of Naimisharanya selected Saunaka Rishi and Suta Goswami. It’s not that kind of community, which means no enlightenment can possibly take place there. Which means it’s a waste of time – unless we absolutely have to sit there for some political reasons, like getting government funding or seats on UN panels.

Besides, Christians are filled with “anyabhilasa” – desires other than pleasing the Lord. They all want to make *this* world into a better place, for example. Not a bad idea, of course, and we can find the same desire expressed by Srila Prabhupada, but it’s related to our behavior in *this* world – since we are already here we have to make the best deal out of a bad bargain, but not to the vision of perfect maha-bhagavata devotees who know that God is actually always in control, and whose ideas of what is better are very different from ours. It is better to make people hear Krishna’s name, for example. The name is absolute and no interfaith rules can override it. Of course we shouldn’t imitate these maha-bhagavatas and the name coming from our mouths would not normally carry the same power, but it’s a good point to always remember anyway. In any case, your average Christian ideas of what would be better should not be accepted at face value. They might think the world would be better if gays could marry each other, for example. Whatever, they are just not the best association to take, come to Mayapur and spread around.

Bhadri Narayan Swami’s pet topic is how God exists and science is wrong. He quoted this scientist saying something stupid and that scientist saying something stupid and another scientist saying something smart for a change, but it all was centered around the same old point – scientific explanation of the world is wrong. I don’t know how old it is, maybe starting with Easy Journey to Other Planets written before Srila Prabhupada came to America. To get the correct perception of the world, as it is described in Bhagavatam, we need to follow sadhana. That was Maharaja’s second point. He himself has been doing this for fifty years, got a sannyasa a few years ago, but didn’t display any actual insights that have been revealed to him as a result of his practice. It will definitely come in the future, we were assured. We just have to stay the course and eventually the right combination of chemicals that produces life will be found. Oh, wait, that’s what the scientists hope to find at the end of their so far fruitless practice. Our hopes are different. At the end of our so far fruitless practice we will discover something else.

Of course Maharaja would have something to say to this joke but I’ve recently seen it somewhere else, too – our Bhagavatam based but scientific model of the universe will be presented very soon and it will make perfect sense. We already have “Vedic Astronomy” book and the final result is just around the corner, maybe even tomorrow. This argument has been given for thirty years now, ever since that book had been published.

It wouldn’t be Bhadri Narayana Swami’s class if it wasn’t peppered with insightful anecdotes from Srila Prabhupada’s life. No one can possibly beat him at that. On second thought, though – what exactly makes these stories insightful or humorous? The choice is Maharajas. He sets the context and he gives a quote that stands out of *that* context, and that’s what gives it a “wow” factor. In other words, he shares what he finds insightful himself, but if he gets permanently stuck on “science is wrong and therefore God must exist” then his insights eventually become limited, too. Perfect for the role he plays but limited by the role itself. I mean how many times can you hear “the death rate in America is the same – 100%” and go “wow”? It would be like Ramananda Raya starting each conversation with Lord Caitanya with that same Padma Purana quote about varnasrama. He didn’t do that, did he? How many times are we expected to laugh at the same joke? I don’t think it’s what is meant by “talks about the Lord are ever fresh”. Thankfully, this one was not told in the class but I don’t think I heard any new Prabhupada quotes either.

It’s okay, we can’t make new quotes for the next ten thousand years anyway, but the same quotes shown in a new light would be appreciated – it all depends on our level of realization, on what it is we came to share. In this case it was “don’t believe the science, God must exist”. If you never heard Bhadri Narayana Swami give this lecture fifteen times before it might be interesting, but I am not one of these people. In fact, I stopped listening to his classes because they are all the same. I admit. Shame on me. I should probably go and drown myself somewhere for saying this. In atonement for this sin I promise I’ll listen to his next year class in Mayapur. Just in case I forget that science is wrong and Bhagavatam is right, which is always a real possibility (I mean me forgetting things). Actually, I will probably be missing Bhadri Narayana Swami’s voice and his jokes by then, so I will probably be delighted.

I should also mention that Risiraja/Ashish Daleela wrote at least a dozen books detailing how and why science got it wrong exactly if measured by Bhagavatam science, and another dozen books detailing how the same phenomena, ie universe or evolution, should be described in Bhagavatam terms. So I’m judging Bhadri Narayana Swami’s lecture against that lofty standard and I admit I can’t avoid this judgment. His ideas, however correct, are child’s play compared to the work done by Risiraja. They do not present the evolution of our thought, by which I mean progressively deeper understanding of the Bhagavatam.

All in all, I wish our leaders spent more time with our books than with their “outside” lives. That way they wouldn’t be lecturing us on the UN, Christians, or science instead of Bhagavatam, and it would come naturally. There’d be no need to remind them not to quote the Bible or anything like that. However, they behave and therefore speak according to their assigned roles in our society and the universe at large. It’s just how they are supposed to be, so what’s there to complain? “They are GBCs, we expect better of them,” one might object. Right, but GBC is a managing authority and management is not the highest thing in the world. If anyone wants something more they should look past this kind of leadership and transcend it, so to speak. Just like in that conversation with Ramananda Raya – “Yes, it’s true,” Lord Caitanya would say, “but it’s not enough so please tell me more.”

And, once again, I would avoid judging GBC devotees against the standards expected for their roles. I hope they are all doing better than fine, but whatever the correct answer is – it’s not my point at all.

PS. This review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning a question at the end of Anuttama Prabhu’s class. Someone sounding Indian said that we should accept Srila Prabhupada as our founder acharya whose words are absolute, but what to do about people who freely twist his words this way and that according to their whims? Anuttama Prabhu replied that to solve this problem SAC, headed by Urmila Prabhu, has developed a hermeneutics course. “I’m talking about this course exactly, that’s where the devotees freely speculate about Srila Prabhupada’s words!” the person counteracted. “Which course did you take?” – “The one offered by VIHE” – “Very strange, I took the same course twice and loved every minute of it.”

There was simply no easy way out of this situation. Effectively, Anuttama Prabhu had to prove to the devotee that his perception was wrong. On the spot. This kind of conversion rarely happens and it takes a lot of time and a lot of gentle persuasion, you can’t do it as the answer to the last question after the class. I didn’t take that course and have no intention of doing so, but I strongly suspect that devotee’s perception was correct, at least partially.

Anuttama Prabhu mentioned one episode with two sannyasis getting two opposite instructions as an example of Prabhupada’s statements that need reconciliation, but it depends on what one wants to see – there is a way to tell the same story without highlighting the contradiction. Hari Sauri Prabhu, who told it in his Transcendental Diary, was not confused by it, he found it mildly humorous, in a “wait a minute, did you notice that?” fashion. He didn’t need to create a hermenutics course about it and he didn’t see it as a problem that needs to be solved. To him Srila Prabhupada was wholesome at all times.

This needs a detailed explanation but my simple point here is this – hermeneutics was invented by and for people who need to justify their speculations. Like there is a famous instruction in the Vedas to perform agnihotra before sunrise, but then in another place it’s said that agnihotra should be performed after sunrise. There a system in Mimamsa that solves it but the larger point is that those who follow their gurus are never faced with this problem in the first place. Mimamsa solution in this case, btw, is to follow your guru, too. In other words – one would have to go looking for contradictions instead of doing his service, and when one finds them he’d need a system to resolve them, and the best way to resolve one’s doubt is to ask guru, is it not? But today we have these “hermeneutics” instead.

Second Try at Response to Open Letter about FDGs

The first try was a bit sharp at the edges for general audience, so I’m trying to smooth it out, and some new arguments are added, too.

Late last year GBC put the resolution authorizing women devotees to become diksa gurus on hold, reasoning that further discussions with its opponents is necessary. This opens up an opportunity for approaching this issue in a new way to avoid the stalemate we, as a society, reached approximately ten years ago. 

In BG 3.20 Krishna gives King Janaka as an example of a person who attained perfection by executing his prescribed duties. Looking at Mahabharata and other sastric records we can learn that one of his distinguishing achievements was creating a perfect atmosphere for philosophical debates. For example, the entire story of Ashtavakra from start to finish relies on the assumption that one can always go to the court of King Janaka and showcase his learning there. His father went to participate in the debates before Ashtavakra was born and then Ashtavakra himself went there, too, and King Janaka accepted him as a guru (but not diksa guru) after hearing him speak. One of the reasons for our stalemate is the administrative arrangement where SAC can write papers but cannot respond to objections because it only does work when ordered by GBC, which is how … operate (fill the blank with one of the varnas yourself). Pertinent to this discussion, the famous female sage Gargi Vachaknavi attained her fame by engaging Yajnavalkya in a debate organized by King Janaka, too (but she didn’t win). 

We do not have a system for conducting such debates yet and in the meantime we exchange opinions through open letters such as the one put out by forty seven senior female disciples of Srila Prabhupada. Personally, I looked at it with interest but it was quickly replaced by disappointment and here are my reasons why. 

First of all, it looks like these senior vaishnavis argue for their right to become gurus. That’s the disqualification right there – anybody who argues that he should be a guru is an imposter and not an external manifestation of Krishna. They could have included a passage dealing with this “conflict of interest” but they didn’t. Not a good sign.

Secondly, they addressed this open letter to all ISKCON devotees, present and future, but they talk about the opponents as some third party, meddling, annoying, and perhaps even devious. Well, I can be counted as one of these opponents and I can sense that these vaishnavis do not want a dialogue, they want us to be “cancelled” – to be confined to our “culturally sensitive” reservations where we do not impede their glorious preaching. Interestingly, one of the accusations directed at the opponents is that they act against the principle of unity in diversity but this desire to remove their opponents from the conversation is not a symptom of unity either. In fact, these senior vaishnavis do not seem to want a conversation, discussion, or a debate (they just want to be gurus). This is also disappointing.

They talk about this issue of female gurus as if it has been settled and Srila Prabhupada’s desire was very clear. In the letter it’s “Srila Prabhupada’s clear instruction that we do so”  (they probably meant instructionS – in plural). I will rephrase Sivarama Swami’s argument in this regard, taken from his video address a couple of years ago: they say that it’s “clear” but even the quotes they give in support of their position are already contradictory. In this letter they cite Srila Prabhupada’s conversation with professor O’Connel and a letter to Hansadutta. The conclusion given to O’Connell was “but not so many” and to Hansadutta it was “all my spiritual daughters”, so which one is it? Add to this the famous “Suniti purport” and we get a range from “women cannot become gurus” to “not so many” to “all my spiritual daughters”. Where is the clarity? The opponents see the obvious need for reconciliation here and declarations that it’s “all already clear” sound more like wishful thinking or avoiding the problem. This attitude will not get us anywhere and it will not bring “unity in diversity” either. 

The letter argues against several objections to vaishnavi diksa gurus but avoids the main one – “it’s not what Srila Prabhupada wanted”. This objection is not rooted in “cultural sensitivity” but based on decades of studying and preaching Srila Prabhupada’s message, sastra, and it’s supported by ages old Vedic tradition (I’m not speaking about myself here). Can the proponents display a similar level of knowledge? Can they assert it in a debate? Let’s look at one of their arguments.

The letter states: “Even today women give initiation in different branches of the Gaudiya Math.” They most likely mean Sri Guru Prapanna Ashram that got into public discussion very recently, started by Gaura Keshava Prabhu (who has left ISKCON some time ago). This ashram has a website and in the  biography of their founder we can read this: 

“Shrila Acharyadeva soon left the math as a consequence of some problematic issues and incidents that arose, and went to stay at Vrindavan. The math atmosphere gradually seemed more and more detrimental to the practice of devotion and, without much delay, our beloved Shrila Prabhujee, being perturbed, decided to leave the math to continue practising devotion while avoiding the limelight of promotion and publicity.”

and then two sentences later:

“He established his own institution ‘Shree Guru Prapanna Ashram’ at Budge Budge, Dinhata, Raghunathpur, Navadwip, Basirhat and a few other places in West Bengal.”

It’s not a branch of Gaudiya Math, though their dedication to devotional service must be recognized. Speaking of which, this ashram was established in 1953 but we only learn about it now, seventy years later, and only because it came up in our own discussions on female gurus. This ashram existed all through Srila Prabhupada’s preaching and later thousands and thousands of ISKCON devotees have left to take shelter of various Gaudiya Math acharyas but no one has ever heard of this particular group. Shouldn’t it be taken as a testimony to how dynamic female guru preaching is? Also what was left of public conversations about this ashram was that it practices giving sannyasa to women, which was not at all accepted by Srila Prabhupada – “So-called spiritual societies concocted in modern times give sannyāsa even to women, although there is no sanction in the Vedic literature for a woman’s accepting sannyāsa.” (SB 3.24.40 purport)

Forty seven senior vaishnavis signed this letter and no one thought of checking bona fides of the example they give? This is also disappointing. If Gargi Vachaknavi I mentioned early was as careless with her arguments as these vaishnavis are with their statements on clarity and with their examples she wouldn’t stand a chance.

However, I felt most let down by the following two arguments. 

“Moreover, there are women who have lost trust or been harmed by male authority figures even before joining ISKCON. As a result, some of those women feel they can open their hearts more sincerely, and better reveal their minds, to a Vaishnavi Diksha guru.”

This one talks about a search for a guru based on material considerations, as if one were choosing a date on the basis of one’s previous dating experiences. It would be okay if one were looking for a guru to teach how to play genuine ragas as opposed to teaching how to copy westernized tunes on harmonium or some material skill like that, but it’s absolutely not how Krishna manifests himself through a vaishnava guru. The name Ashtavakra means he was disfigured, “bent in eight places”, and surely King Janaka never thought he would meet such a repulsive looking guru, but he accepted Ashtavakra nevertheless. “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”, as the saying goes – when Krishna appears in the form of Sri Guru all material expectations need to be put aside. And then the above sentence was immediately followed by this:

“One woman said if she can’t receive initiation from the Vaishnavi guru of her choice, she’ll wait until her next life to receive initiation. This is heartbreaking. Why should a serious and qualified aspirant be…”

Counter question – why would forty seven senior vaishnavis think that a person postponing initiation until next life unless she is given a guru of her preferred gender is “a serious and qualified aspirant”? Such a person wouldn’t even pass ISKCON disciple course, so what does it say about people who support her in this and what does it say about their claim to become gurus themselves? Nothing good. In fact, if there was a list of possible guru candidates then these forty seven names can be immediately stricken out.

That should be the end of the conversation.

A couple of disclaimers, however. I say “I’m disappointed” and “I feel let down” not because I masquerade as a VDG supporter but because I want to see strong arguments from the pro-vaishnavi-diksa guru side, arguments worth considering and arguments which move the discussion forward. This letter doesn’t even want the discussion and arguments they present should be embarrassing for vaishnavis of such seniority. We all should feel bad when one of us does something ermm… stupid, shouldn’t we? We are all in this together as Srila Prabhupada’s followers, after all.

Secondly, the letter could mean not Sri Guru Prapanna Ashram but some other Gaudiya Match branch where women give initiations. The possibility is there but I have never ever heard of anything like it. I have heard of another female disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati who gathered a significant following, but not as part of Gaudiya Math either.

“Receive initiation from the Vaishnavi guru of her choice” could mean a deep personal connection and determination, similar to how Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati felt when he approached Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji several times and was rejected. Or how Narottama Dasa Thakura felt when he was rejected by Lokanatha Swami. However, in both of these cases it’s not the disciples themselves who made a choice but they were directed to seek initiation from these personalities by senior authorities. Insisting on one’s own choice in the presence of many alternatives and against existing rules and regulations sounds like acting on a mental platform, so even this possible explanation needs a lot more arguments in support of it. 

It is also understandable why our senior vaishnavis want to pass along their accumulated knowledge and realizations as a service to Srila Prabhupada. This is not a gender issue, however – every human of this age feels that his experience is invaluable and it’s the main thing he has left to contribute to the society. This is a material consideration, however, as this knowledge and experience comes with age and then becomes lost again, but spiritual realizations are not restricted in this way. Ashtavakra became King Janaka’s guru when he was only twelve, for example. Or Bipin Bihari Goswami was much younger than Bhaktivinoda Thakur but Bhaktivinoda Thakur was still directed to seek initiation from him. Anyway, in Vedic society there must have been ways for elderly women to feel included and be valuable contributors without giving out diksas. In fact, the opponents cite several examples of venerable women like that, personalities like Queen Kunti. Perhaps our real problem here is not vaishnavi diksa gurus but that the services given to our senior vaishnavis are not fulfilling enough. 

That’s another point to get disappointed about – the letter implies existence of younger female devotees who could be qualified to become diksa gurus but does not acknowledge it other than a future possibility, as in “tragic precedent for future generations.” In other words, these vaishnavis do not see any other females but them to be qualified to become gurus. That’s some text book neophyte thinking – I’m a great devotee meant to save the world and I don’t see anyone else coming even close. I hope I’m exaggerating here. 

I do really hope I’m wrong and there is a way to explain this letter as not unbecoming the status of the devotees who signed it. I welcome all such explanations.

See[k]ing Clarity on FDG

Late last year GBC suspended FDG resolution to work things out with the objectors. In the more recent news they couldn’t make much administrative progress on their side but they keep trying and we still have time. Meanwhile, I think it’s the perfect opportunity to rekindle public discussion of this issue and keep exchanging opinions. First one came from the pro-FDG side in the form of yesterday’s article on ISKCON news. It’s titled: “Prabhupada’s Daughters Speak Out on VDG” and the text announces itself as “An Open Letter to The Present And Future ISKCON Devotees”.

What I’m going to say in response might become a long post and in such cases it’s customary to place “executive summary” at the top – for the readers who want to form an opinion without getting into details. I hope it’s not how our GBC operates when making major decisions like who can and who cannot be a guru. To make it extremely short – this open letter presents proof of the often repeated statement that women are less intelligent.

Of course I cannot say this about illustrious vaishnavis who signed it but that’s the problem right there – this argument makes it a discussion about ranks, not about truth of the matter. People of the higher rank cannot be told they are wrong and that’s how they enter the conversation – with the expectation that their status will always be protected, and it’s also the main feature of a “jalpa” level of discourse, and that’s why it will never become a “vada” discussion, and that’s why it will never bear fruit of knowledge, so if it’s what you think we have to start from then you should probably stop reading – this post is not going to be about protecting senior vaishnavis’ reputation.

Take this VDG-FDG distinction, for example. It has been rejected by the opponents from the start because, unlike “F” for female, “V” for vaishnav-i-s is not distinct from “V” for vaishnav-a-s – both males and females are abbreviated the same here. To keep using it is not very intelligent, and it’s not very intelligent to insist on using it despite objections from your interlocutor. Technically, it’s not very polite and being impolite is not very intelligent – the conclusion is the same.

With my first argument for “less intelligent” I wanted to shift responsibility to Sivarama Swami but this FDG-VDG matter needed to be put away from the start. Anyway, a couple of years ago Sivarama Swami recorded an address on this resolution and one of his arguments was very simple, I’ll rephrase it here:

The proponents declare that Srila Prabhupada’s instructions on FDG-VDG are very clear. In this open letter it’s worded as “despite Srila Prabhupada’s clear instruction” – please note that “instruction” is in singular here, too. Is it a typing error or do they really mean that one instruction left in one place settles it? It’s probably a typo because the letter cites two quotes from Srila Prabhupada. Sivarama Swami’s points out, however, that even the instructions the proponents usually cite in support are already contradictory. In O’Connell conversation it’s “not many” but in Hamsadutta’s letter it’s “all my sons and daughters”. Which one is it? “All female disciples” or “not many”? This “not many” qualifier along with the example of Jahnava Mata from O’Connell’s interview was left out of open letter’s quote, and they didn’t include Suniti purport quote in their letter either. So the range of options goes from “women cannot be guru” to “not many” to “all my spiritual daughters”. Where is this claimed clarity?

The exact interpretation of Srila Prabhupada’s intentions has been the subject of rigorous debates going on for many years, with books published in support of both sides. It’s not very intelligent to NOT acknowledge it and declare that the matter is “clear”. It is most obviously not.

The letter also cites a couple of usual objections to FDG/VDG but avoids the main one – Srila Prabhupada’s opinion, supported by sastric evidence and tradition, is that FDG/VDGs are rather an exception than the rule. Failing to even acknowledge the opponent’s main argument is not very intelligent.

I don’t want to go through the letter paragraph by paragraph, there are bits and pieces that can be questioned everywhere. Take this one, for example: “Even today women give initiation in different branches of the Gaudiya Math.” If they mean “Sri Guru Prapanna Ashram” that was in the news recently then their statement is not true – Sri Guru Prapanna Ashram followers do not state that they are a branch of Gaudiya Math and in the biography of their founder there is this sentence: “The math atmosphere gradually seemed more and more detrimental to the practice of devotion and, without much delay, our beloved Shrila Prabhujee, being perturbed, decided to leave the math to continue practising devotion while avoiding the limelight of promotion and publicity”, and then in the next paragraph: “He established his own institution ‘Shree Guru Prapanna Ashram’ at Budge Budge, Dinhata, Raghunathpur, Navadwip, Basirhat and a few other places in West Bengal.” It’s not a “branch of Gaudiya Math”.

Picking up on all these little bits and pieces would be petty and it would unnecessarily expand the volume of this post. I’ve already tested three grains from this rice pot to illustrate that it’s not cooked yet and I haven’t even got to my main points.

First of all, this letter looks like people argue for their right to become gurus. I remember in one of my very first conversations with Madan Mohan Prabhu of the pro-FDG/VDG side he said that arguing for one’s own qualification would qualify as an immediate disqualification instead. How can I take this letter any differently? Okay, they are not arguing for their each individual right but talk as a group, but this group includes Mother Narayani who is already approved and who is acting as guru, and the Mataji who gave first “proxy” initiation – Sandamini DD (or maybe she is not the same person as Sandamani DD who signed the letter). Anyway, this letter argues for the rights of some its signatories to be gurus. At least they should have acknowledged that there is this potential conflict of interest and they should have addressed it. Maybe their explanation would have been satisfactory, maybe not, but not even seeing there is a potential problem here is not very intelligent.

More importantly, apart from confusing typos and factual and general errors of judgement, there are these two troubling arguments cited in the letter:

…there are women who have lost trust or been harmed by male authority figures even before joining ISKCON. As a result, some of those women feel they can open their hearts more sincerely, and better reveal their minds, to a Vaishnavi Diksha guru.

One woman said if she can’t receive initiation from the Vaishnavi guru of her choice, she’ll wait until her next life to receive initiation.  This is heartbreaking. Why should a serious and qualified aspirant be left in limbo, especially…

First argument makes selecting one’s guru a matter of material considerations, like shopping for clothes or choosing a date partner based on one’s previous experiences with dating. Note also how it says “those women feel they can…” A guru is an external representative of Krishna and as such he does not depend on how one feels about what they can and cannot do. “Feeling” is what Arjuna did in the first chapter and it was rejected wholesale by Krishna. When true representative of the Lord appears in one’s life one’s heart opens up automatically because the guru is perceived as one’s dearmost friend and well-wisher. It is NOT a matter of planning according to one’s preferred specifications.

Second argument is even worse – the signatories to this letter think that a person who refuses to take initiation for the rest of her life until they create a vaishnavi guru just for her is a “serious and qualified aspirant”? What kind of nonsense is this? Is this what they teach in ISKCON disciple courses nowadays?

What is the value of their arguments about guru qualifications if they have such warped ideas of qualifications of a disciple? It’s a waste of everybody’s time to engage in such a discussion. Of course they can pull the rank and force us to listen, and there are GBCs on the list of signatories, too, but I have already addressed this point – that would be a discussion based not on the merits of arguments but on the egos of participants, even if these egos are fully deserved by years of service.

So here is my final statement, and it could be practically helpful, too – if we are discussing guru qualifications then everyone who signed this letter, stating that serious aspirants can postpone getting initiated until their next lives unless provided gurus of their preferred gender – everyone who signed this can be stricken off the list. In this way the pool of potential candidates becomes forty seven names shorter. This confirms Srila Prabhupada’s “not many” conclusion, too.

PS. Looking through the article again there are still lots of bits and pieces left that deserve to be addressed but I’d highlight only the one major one – this letter fully allies itself with what the opponents call “feminism” and therefore reject FDG-VDG on this ground alone. Near the end the letter openly says: “In the West, professors tell us the two issues that most concern university students are cared for the environment and equity for women.” Never mind yet another grammatical error in “are cared for”, let them do whatever western professors tell them to do to their heart’s content, this should be left out of the discussion on who is qualified to act as Krishna’s representative.

PPS. I’m not a grammar Nazi but if you post an open letter to all devotees on ISKCON news it better be proofread to be taken seriously, unlike my posts on my blog, which I don’t insist on being taken seriously to begin with.

And the Oscar goes to…

It’s the end of the year and it’s time to honor notable achievements. One of them was the famous Will Smith slap. It was for Oscar presenter talking nonsense and this is how I envisage my award ceremony to go, too. Maybe, like Will Smith, I will publicly regret it later on, but I insist that insulting man’s wife is a no go and it had to be stopped.

My award ceremony would be more like Raspberries, not Oscar, but who pays attention to Oscar nowadays? The era of Hollywood controlling public consciousness and shaping public conversation is gone and its not coming back – they have lost that position forever, the world has moved on to TicToc, which I have sworn never to install on my phone.

Anyway, the most talked about guru and sannyasi this year by far was BVPS. However, he didn’t actually DO anything this year, we are all talking about events of fifteen years ago, so he does not qualify. This story qualifies for the most prominent case of paranoia instead, officially known as “Groupthink of the year” award and we are the recipients (I think it’s okay to start with awarding ourselves so that we don’t forget to self-congratulate later on).

The award for the best sannyasi goes to BB Govinda Swami. He went into this year with the announcement that he was growing a handlebar mustache in preparation for attending a wedding, which is what our KC 2.0 sannyasis apparently do.

Under KC 1.0 sannyasis were supposed to stay clear of weddings altogether and Srila Prabhupada had to offer a public explanation why he was marrying his disciples himself. Under KC 2.0 attending weddings is in sannyasi calendar along with other vaishnava festivals and they take a lot of preparation, like growing special mustaches. I’ll spare the video of KC 2.2 “Svami dance” demonstrated by Maharaj at another wedding (correction – same wedding he was growing mustache for) and get a little more serious because the main purpose of that video was the inauguration of the new youtube channel dedicated to health and wellness. The title was a’How fitness helps spirituality”, after all. So it was a major achievement that Maharaja stayed the course and a month ago he featured in a new video, enthusiastically pumping weights.

As you can see from the title (edit – the video is no longer publicly available and if they don’t want it to be shown I won’t “shame” them for their title either), this year we don’t address sannyasis as Svamis anymore. We have successfully shaken off those old labels which do not correctly reflect the situation anyway. “71 year old grandpa” is what it is. Now there is no disconnect between words and reality and the credit should go to maharaja for that, too. Oh, and of course there are no tilakas or sikhas or vaishnava dress. That’s so old KC and we don’t even need to talk about it. What is there are wise comments on why using machines is perfectly acceptable in modern bodybuilding and how traditionalists who insist on lifting only free weights are hopelessly outdated. And, of course, there is an obligatory excuse for why maharaja is doing this in the first place: “I had a problem with my shoulder.” What can you say to that? Of course solving that problem requires attending a fully equipped gym and spending many hours toning your muscles. Wouldn’t have done it otherwise… If not for that pain in the shoulder maharaja would have spent his days chanting the holy name away from the general society, as sannyasis are ought to do. Maharaja is well known for ecstatic kirtans, too.

Oh, and he also gets an award for the best trimmed beard! Two awards in one night. On to the next category – best Prabhupada disciple.

Since it’s entirely my choice you don’t have to give any weight to my judgments but here it is – Best Prabhupada Disciple of the year should go to Uttamasloka Prabhu. The reason is his life long determination to denigrate his godborthers which fructified this year when he seized the “Kali Cela” narrative in Mayapur Open Forum, to the cheers of many. He can even count GBCs among his groupies. His catchphrase of the year is “When I call them stupid Kali Celas it is not an insult, it’s a statement of fact.” Earlier contender was Gurukripa Prabhu with his “you are not a guru, you are little piece of sh*t” but that was pronounced in 1978, though it never gets old. It captures the essential “Prabhupada-discipleness” very well. Still, this is 2022 awards and Uttamasloka wins on the strength of his bullying, rudeness, and self-glorification. He sealed his win with a string of late victories proving that he was the best temple president ever who had the best Prabhupada marathon report ever, and that others, like Tamal Krishna Goswami, were really inferior in all possible ways. And so I concur with his own judgement – he is the best Prabhupada disciple, ever.

On to the next generation devotees. The award goes to Patita Pavana Nitai Gaura Prabhu for finally making Mayapur Open Aparadha Forum successful, and on a really outdated platform, too. Google groups were supposed to be the thing of the past but he breathed new life into it and made it happen. When Jayadvaita Swami complained about being made a member without asking PPNG replied in the now traditional sadhu-ninda style: “I am sure the time which was “wasted” for unsubscribing yourself from the Forum (a few seconds) is nothing in relation to the valuable time you wasted for thousands of Srila Prabhupada’s devotees (including myself) by changing his books…,” adding that this exchange was their first ever personal interaction. How’s that for being bold and uncompromising in his “preaching”? Surely he should get an award.

For the breakthrough of the year the award should go to “Gay Fagot” group on FB. The official name is “Vedic Inquirer something something” but there is absolutely nothing Vedic about it, so I hardly ever use the official name. I’ve tried many variations, which are closer to the true nature of the group, such as “Nastik Herald” and “Asuric Bugle”, and if we are talking wind instruments then “fagot” fits nicely and it’s just one letter away from gay f-word. Why gay? Because of LGBT themed gathering they once used as their model healing kirtan:

Last year the group led a charge in Lokanath Swami defamation drive but it’s this years BVPS story that earned them ISKCONwide recogntion and boosted membership to almost five thousand by now. People have been joining at a the rate of 300 per week, which is more than regular readership of dandavats. Perhaps dandavats should take a cue of what people want to hear, too – more aparadhas, more paranoia, more outrageous claims – the formula is simple.

Okay, but what about the loser of the year? My award goes to Ukraine. After the invasion it propelled itself to the top of ISKCON news with instant updates on every plate of prasadam served, but then the interest has died out. When Covid hit in 2020 each devotee death was the news and we talked a lot about protecting ourselves. With Ukraine, however, about a dozen devotees have been killed and no one bothered to talk about it. They were not civilian casualties either, they all died in battles, and many Ukrainian devotees are very enthusiastic about killing Russians. If they get wounded they can’t wait to get back to the killing business. One was filmed by a news crew saying he had a very good morning as he killed many Russians already. Another admitted that he experiences great pleasure every time he kills a Russian. Somehow we don’t share these inspirational quotes, we don’t acknowledge them and that these devotee soldiers even exist, and for that Ukraine gets the biggest loser award. It also lost millions of its population and 50% of its electricity and other things, but that is outside the sphere of devotional service so I won’t talk about that. Oh, and when two Ukrainian devotees on the Donbass side of the war were killed in Ukrainian missile strike (using American Himars rockets) we purged them from our collective discourse, too. However, Ukraine hasn’t been a total loser – we gave a pastry to Angelina Jolie and took pictures. That’s clearly a win.

In this connection the best disappearing act should go to Bhakti Vijnana Swami. On one hand he is everywhere and he just completed a big tour of the United States where he was introduced as Russian ISKCON leader and Russian GBC for twenty years but he completely disappeared from Russia, and that’s not a trivial trick to accomplish. How did he manage to skip Russia if he was in Central Asia and then Belarus? That’s real magic. The reason is that he initially took anti-Russia side in the Ukrainian war and couldn’t convince vast majority of Russian devotees and ISKCON leadership there to join in condemnation. Going to Russia now means reconciling these opposing views and talking them out with actual devotees face to face, which is nearly impossible.

The good news is that, judging by his recent comments, he is getting closer to reconciling himself and so reconciling with Russians would be the natural next step. In BVG’s defense I would also say that he’s been very busy being a preacher, a lecturer, a guru, and a problem solver, and all these activities are naturally distracting him from self-reflection and self-realization necessary for spiritual development. I’m sure he’ll come around to having a solid spiritual view of the matter just as BG did several months ago.

By BG I mean an ageing Russian singer who experienced a similar rasa of disgust when Putin invaded Ukraine and who fled the country and is not going to come back anytime soon. It really upset him but instead of preaching and lecturing he took the time tested method of wearing a Buddhist hat and sitting quietly for five minutes. In his meditation he then saw the solution – Putin acts as Putin is ought to do, totally according to his nature, and therefore he shouldn’t be blamed for it even as BG himself can’t stand Putin as a person. This explanation came as a bit of a shock to those who interviewed him hoping to hear calls to peace and to removal of Putin from power. His answer was “God is already in charge, stop worrying about it” instead. Our BVG is almost on the verge of the same realization, too, and he must have already heard it from his former guru Harikesha Swami who he met during his American tour. Now let it just sink in and then he’d be ready to present it to the Russian devotees. He has already sounded “religious institutions are bad for spiritual progress” idea several times. He might say he learned it from Putana article by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati or maybe even from Urmila’s research in this matter, but I could point out that both BG and Harikesha Swami have been preaching it for decades and it’s only now that BVG has caught on, too. I should add that BVG is usually very sharp so it’s not his fault he delayed this announcement.

Once again, I’m sorry that his public preaching engagements keep him busy, but such is the fate of ISKCON devotees – we have no time for realizations, we must keep talking even when we have nothing to say. When people around us get bored we go on tour, repeating the same thing over and over to new audiences. In the purport to BG 10.38 Srila Prabupada wrote that by silence one can make progress very quickly but we do not accept that definition of silence. I mean the definition where you stay silent unless you have something to say about Krishna. Our definition of silence is “I have an uncontrollable urge to talk and I’ll add Krishna to whatever I have to say”. Because our definition and our practice is different we do not make progress as quickly as Srila Prabhupada envisaged, but this spiritual retardation is done for the sake of preaching so it’s okay.

Speaking of saying things – the award for the revelation of the year must go to Sivarama Swami for his frank admission that sometimes what our leaders say is not what they think and not what they say in private. This has been suspected for decades already and is otherwise known as hypocrisy and therefore Sivarama Maharaj should get an award for finally admitting it.

This was during a discussion about Ukraine, too. Sivarama Swami handled it much better than, for example, Indradyumna Maharaj who recorded a public video clarifying his view which went directly opposite to what he reportedly said in private. That public record only created doubts but Sivarama Swami successfully cleared it: “Do not believe what we say in public, it’s not what we think at all”. So now we know. Of course it undermines everything Maharaja will say in the future but thinking about future is so KC 1.0. Now, under KC 2.0, we learn to live in the present and so it means we can say any d*mn thing that pops into our minds. Well, this sounds a bit harsh. It’s more like “we don’t need to worry about holding consistent views”. Inconsistencies appear when you compare past and present but if you live only in the present then you don’t have to worry about what you said in the past. It’s called being honest and there is no duplicity involved so I’m not accusing maharajas of being duplicitous. They just change their minds every two minutes and are being honest about it. Or maybe I’m misinterpreting Maharaja’s message and he meant good old-fashioned lying to the public, which is what politicians have been doing since time immemorial. Either way, both this and KC 2.0 explanations are acceptable, which means that it’s a true statement regardless of which framework you use, which means it’s eternally true and constitutes Absolute Truth. I mean”what we say is not what we think”. Was Sivarama Swami lying about it? Absolutely not!

And this is the spirit this very article should be read in, too. I could say that I don’t mean any disrespect to any of the devotees and it’s true, too, but the exact level of respect that should be awarded in light of the things they did and said is hard to determine. Let’s say I’m in a information gathering mode for now – it’s how things are but what to think about them is to be determined in the future.

After all, no one can take BB Govinda Swami’s kirtans away. No one can deny the Uttamasloka’s marathon report was an ecstatic piece of reading. No one can deny that controversies and aparadhas attract a lot of devotees these days, and no one can deny that sometimes our leaders are a bit inconsistent. And no one can deny that we are not sure what to do about all these things, too. Personally, I’ve decided not to take them too seriously, hence his “award ceremony” article.

Oh, and there are no actual awards, sorry.


So many things happened in a month that has passed. Or rather nothing happened but so many people said so many things, the latest being BVPS offering his side of the story. The whole discussion revolved around punishment and cover ups and responsibilities and coming clean – the political side of it. Sannyasa Ministry suspended BVPS as a sannyasi and GBC announced that he should be called Anirdesya Vapu Dasa from now on. Or maybe until Sannyasa Ministry makes a final decision on his status, they didn’t make it clear. In any case, I want to go back to the time of the abuse and at that time he was BVPS so that’s the abbreviation I would use.

As far as I know, nobody has seen this “Anirdesya Vapu Dasa” so the name refers to a non-entity at the moment. Is he wearing white? Who knows. There is a just a name for now. They say it’s his pre-sannyasa name but he was a saffron clad brahmachari then, not a white wearing… “I don’t know what”. There is no known designation for sannyasis exiled from their ashram. It seems we are making things up as we go, which is a legitimate non-Vedic way of living our lives. Vedic ways, unfortunately, have been killed by his indiscretions (to put it mildly) and for many of his detractors they have become thoroughly discredited and they are not coming back any time soon. Devotees are developing an allergy to all things Vedic now. But I don’t want to talk about them.

Let’s talk about sex. I’ll repost the link to the redacted testimony by BVPS “main squeeze”, a twenty plus year old woman at the time. None of this has anything to do with pedophilia, I would state it right away. There’s an unsettled argument whether the victim from CPO report was fully eighteen at the time her breasts were fondled but even if she was short by several months she was not physically a child. So no pedophilia, period.

SR documented development of her relationship with BVPS and quite explicitly described the sex part of it. Again, right off the bat – there was no sex, just sexual activities or whatever they call it nowadays. Popular term is “sexual abuse”, and I’m only half joking, as some call it “rape of children” and don’t think twice about it. Whatever the precise classification, the simple fact is that it was not suitable for one in the sannyasa order of life and therefore BVPS could not be called a “svami”. This much is clear, but “this much” is actually not very much at all in the big scheme of things, and that’s what interests me in this whole story far more than political repercussions of the affair.

According to SR’s narrative, BVPS was interested in exploring workings of sexual energy. I’ve already made plenty of jokes about using penis as energy measuring device so let’s take it a bit more seriously this time – BVPS was interested in how bodies of living entities come under the spell of sexual energy, where this energy enters into the body, how it transforms, and what effects does it have. Once you know how it all works you can keep this energy under control, pretty much like Neo in the Matrix, for those who still remember the movie. You can avoid it, redirect it, dissipate it, transform it – anything you want, and it won’t have control over you anymore. Considering that it’s the primary energy of the universe you will, in effect, achieve liberation. Brahma bhuta prasannatma, which is the threshold of actual devotional service.

My point is that the stakes were high, really high, and if BVPS could achieve what he wanted he would have become God. Not God literally, of course, but in comparison to full mastery of this knowledge losing titles like “svami” is a very small price to pay, shouldn’t even register on the radar. Of course it would be foolish to advertise your newly attained powers so BVPS kept his research in secret and he was correct in telling SR that nobody would understand what they were doing, or rather what they were trying to accomplish. “Here is a sannyasi exploring workings of sexual energy” – who would understand and accept that? And yet it’s not exactly against the principles of sannyasa. Bear with me for the moment.

We have a clear rule – a sannyasi should never be alone with a woman, even with his sister, as Srila Prabhupada taught us, so clearly what BVPS did was wrong. Right, but what is the purpose of that rule? Should we consider sannyasi being alone with a woman as a falldown in itself? Of course not. We understand this rule as a necessary precaution – one time you are alone and it’s all fine. Two times, then three times, then you get yourself a female secretary, but somewhere down the line you WILL cross it and engage in activities which must be classified as a falldown, like having sex. Except BVPS “did not have sex with that woman”, as Bill Clinton immortalized it.

How does that first verse of Nectar of Instruction goes:

A sober person who can tolerate the urge to speak, the mind’s demands, the actions of anger and the urges of the tongue, belly and genitals is qualified to make disciples all over the world.

Tolerate the urge of genitals, specifically. A man who can avoid ejaculation for many years of sexual activities must have a very high level of control. The absolutely perfect level would be not to experience any kind of arousal but that is not what “tolerate the urge” rule demands. The “urge” in this case is to ejaculate and according to Auyrveda ejaculation should not be restricted just as one should not restrict himself from the urge to urinate. So anything that does not progress to restricting ejaculation is “tolerance” and “control”, sastrically speaking, and BVPS complied.

In recounting their first sexual interaction SR says she suspected BVPS ejaculated, as he suddenly rushed off to the bathroom, but she cannot confirm it and even if it happened, by her own accounts BVPS was able to control himself since then. As soon as he felt his arousal going out of control he would go and take a cold bath. I’m not sure this is healthy from Ayurveda perspective but at the first approximation it IS “tolerance of the urge of genitals”.

The rationale now goes like this:

– Do not stay alone with a woman

– But why?

– So that you don’t fall into sex

– Okay, I got that part nailed, so no worries

That’s the first approximation only, however, and the devil is always in the details. There are many other things that went wrong in that affair to declare it innocent. For one thing – what about the woman? SR didn’t spell it out but I suspect she did reach orgasm during this sexploration of her body. BVPS did tell her that their arrangement is sufficient and therefore she didn’t need to be married, which is plain wrong. On the surface it might have looked like it was working – she didn’t have to get into the whole mess that marriage is – emotionally, financially etc etc, and it did look like she was sexually satisfied, so problem solved? Not even close, not even the same ballpark, not the same category of solution.

Marriage is a solution in that it fully involves the entire range of “personhood” of a human being, on all levels, and compared to the depth and breadth of this involvement sex itself looks like a small and not very significant part. You literally transcend it. It’s like when a couple is trying for a child no one even thinks about savoring mechanics of it the way people gossip about sex. Totally different thing, totally different approach, totally different attitude, totally different feelings involved – it’s just not the same thing. Sex has been transcended.

Then there are varnasrama considerations – first people have lust, then they purify it through above described experiences of grihastha ashram, then they evolve to the point of vanaprastha. They do not engage in sex anymore but they still do everything together – go on pilgrimage or perform tapasya as prescribed in the scriptures. Their “marriage” connection is still maintained even when sex is no longer in the picture. By “marriage” I mean fundamental dependence on interactions of the male or female energies in the universe. Divorce doesn’t turn one into a vanaprastha, sorry to say. One needs to fully develop and fully understand interactions of male and female energies and in the end peacefully let it go in a state of full detachment. Divorce means you can’t stand that other person and this hate is just another side of attachment, it’s the wrong opposite of “love”. So yeah, where was I? Ah, varnasrama – the arrangement between SR and BVPS was far short of what is required or what would be helpful, which means his experiment was a failure.

This is another important aspect of this affair – should this exploration of sexual energy be considered a success or a failure? If we count by ejaculations then it was success but if we count by varnasrama science then it was a failure. I don’t know what BVPS current estimate is but I hope that, ideally, he realizes that the whole thing was wrong, that the very theory behind his research was wrong. This explains why results on one hand could be acceptable (no ejaculations means sex control) but because he was testing the wrong theory it doesn’t really matter. The conclusion then should be “sex energy does not enter from breasts to penis, as I tried to measure in this experiment”. Sex energy enters from inside the heart, not from outside objects. Outside objects only respond to sex desire from within and it’s there on the outside that they divide themselves into male and female, ie breasts and penises. At this point it’s too late to control it. It might look possible at first, ie can be stopped by taking a cold shower, but these physical means only keep sex energy from transforming itself from one state into another, not dissipate it completely.

Complete dissipation and shutting of the inner source comes only from channeling it through prescribed varnasrama methods where it eventually get transcended or sublimated in the spirit of service. It’s not through “servicing the lady”, it’s through mutual service to the prescribed duties. It’s not control by becoming bigger than sex, it’s control through service to a cause which is much bigger than sex. It’s the same strategy as with liberation – we do not become liberated by gaining control over maya, we serve Krishna instead and by doing that we become His integral parts and parcels, and then maya can’t touch Him, and we got liberated by the virtue of being stuck to his body – sthita dhuli sadrisam vicintaya – please consider me a speck of dust stuck to Your lotus feet.

Another way to look at it is that in his experiments BVPS tried to control his senses and achieved a reasonable degree of success but it’s not the same as controlling lust. Lust has three seats in the body and senses is only one of them, the other two being mind and intelligence (BG 3.40). Did he successfully control mind and intelligence? When SR went to Australia in 2008 he couldn’t stop himself and went to grope breasts of the younger victim, three times. He didn’t ejaculate on those occasions but nobody would call it successful self-control.

Speaking of which – by self-control we often understand control of one’s physical body, like when taking a cold shower to curb sexual arousal, but I would argue that this is control of what is in front of us, of what is within our control, not control of the “self” which is behind us, so to speak. “Self” is “atma” in our literature and “atma” is what makes things move. “Atma” for the senses is the mind, “atma” for the mind is the intelligence, “atma” for intelligence is false ego. When one’s consciousness is firmly tied to his physical body then “atma” for him would be senses, because senses themselves are not physical. In this state self-control would mean reducing sexual agitation, which then usually manifests as changes in physical body (unless Viagra was taken). “Cold shower” means changing of the environment, changing of the stimuli, and even “cold” is perceived by the whole body first, not just by the part with increased blood flow to it. Alternatively, people are known to lose their mood by other means, too, like a sudden change of tone or subject when speaking, and then the physical body responds. The point is that “control” here means controlling the cause, not the effect, and this rule applies to all levels of “self-control”, too.

When one’s consciousness is on the mental platform and one mentally marches into a girl’s room mentally undressing her in the process, “self-control” would mean control of intelligence, which mean destroying the picture where these actions will be considered possible and positive. The mind needs certain assumptions about the situation to imagine these things and these assumptions are provided by intelligence. Destroy and erase them and mind would have nothing to work with. One would have to step back from his fantasies for that and it’s the most difficult part – to withdraw inside and find the cause, which is what self-control is.

What if one’s intelligence gets polluted and somehow always creates a picture where sexual relationship look possible and desirable? The “atma” for intelligence is false ego and that’s where it should be fixed. One would have to re-imagine himself as an entity that simply does not have sex with the object in mind. Dogs don’t have sex with humans, for example, but we can surely find something easier. In BVPS case he could have brought his “guru” personality to the front of his consciousness and as a guru and a protector neither of the women would look like sexual objects. We always have several identities available to us and we can, in theory, switch to any of them and lose our sex desire. It still could be very hard to instantly rethink oneself like that but it’s what “self-control” is.

To me self control, or ātma-vinigrahaḥ from BG 17.16, means always stepping “back” or “inside” – however one models spatial relationship between body, senses, mind, intelligence or ego – and changing the cause of your situation, not dealing with effects in front of you. The main problem is that most of the time we don’t see the cause and we don’t see the “self” that controls it. Our consciousness is outward looking, we see what is in front of us, not what made us do these things or brought us into these situations. By the time it happens it is often too late to do anything about it. What we see is an effect already, the cause has already done its thing, it’s in the past and outside our reach. What to do then?

Not much is possible, and therefore we should begin self-control long before we get ourselves in trouble. Ultimately, Krishna is the cause of everything and therefore we are told to always take shelter in Him. He won’t place us in situations which are unfavorable for our relationships with Him, also known as “unfavorable for spiritual progress”. While we are looking forward with our eyes and other senses, He’ll get our backs and cover our sixes, that’s the only safe way to live a conditioned life. So on one hand the solution is trivial – chant Hare Krishna and be happy, but if we combine it with the constant search for the Self and rely on the Name to sort it out we’ll quickly start seeing Krishna’s protection and start sensing this “self”, too, the cause of whatever is happening. This will change us into inward looking beings and this will make us independent of the world around us, meaning less and less conditioned, which is a good thing, right?

Back to BVPS – the hopeful thinking is that “he has learned his lesson” but we should know what this lesson must be and whether it was actually learned. We won’t know until he tells us himself but I can speculate a little, as if it was me learning these things. So first lesson – physical control of ejaculation is possible, at least theoretically. Second lesson – it means nothing because it’s just an effect, not the cause. Third lesson – removal of the situation, ie SR getting married, does not mean disappearance of lust. I have no idea how BVPS handled this stage. Most men would redirect their lust towards someone else, or more likely resort to watching porn, but I really hope this is not what happened and Maharaja found a way to detach and disassociate himself from lust altogether. His interest in research might have been fully satisfied, for example. This means he would see sex as boring – been there, done that, got the t-shirt. This probably is not enough to defeat lust altogether but at least the Sannyasa Ministry would be satisfied.

Will the Sannyasa Ministry ever make peace with what happened? That would require a great degree of maturity and detachment. SR mentioned that BVPS took inspiration from the author of the Kama Sutras, who was a lifelong brahmachari. This means that there was this man who knew female sexuality in great detail without himself being affected, like Neo in the Matrix. Did he ever tried any of the techniques described in Kama Sutras? I can’t think of a scenario where he didn’t and it was all only theoretical, but this is a complex subject. For one thing “sutra” mean a compressed statement which is difficult to decipher but I don’t see anyone having difficulties with parsing Kama Sutra. Is the modern version full of interpolations to fill the gaps? I can’t say.

The problem is the strategy itself – typically, Sannyasa Ministry would be firmly against any contact with females but true detachment means interaction without being affected. Avoiding females is the means but detachment in female association is the goal, and you’ll never know you got there until you tried it. And “tried” means there would be failures in the beginning. We can throw tantrums at BVPS but I bet vast majority of our sannyasis test the waters themselves now and then. Some conclude that they should still stay away from women completely, some think having a female secretary doesn’t affect them anymore, and there are many stages in between, like consulting married couples or having a large posse of female followers. In any case, we haven’t even thought about the transition from Chota Haridasa to Ramananda Raya and so devotees like BVPS chart these unknown waters themselves.

Sannyasa Ministry demands Chota Haridasa like behavior, BVPS went for Ramananda Raya’s. And failed. Or maybe it was his first try only and by now he perfected it already – almost fifteen years have passed, after all. And hopefully perfection is not anymore seen as giving women oral sex without getting aroused. That was one weird definition, if you think about it. Women are very useful creatures in many other ways, if one wants to approach them in the spirit of yukta vairagya. Varnasrama system takes care of that already, as I described above.

Last question in this connection – should BVPS have married SR or maybe that younger girl to make honest women out of them? It would have been a good solution in theory but in practice marriage involves far more than sex and one shouldn’t marry only for sex either. With all these other consideration in mind I don’t think marriage would have been suitable in this case. Some say he should become an honest grihastha now, too. Maybe, if he wants to, but who do you have in mind as his wife? The man is seventy years old, never had a job in his life, won’t be allowed in ISKCON, what kind of marriage it would turn out? Perhaps there are older women looking for companionship in their ripe age, but is this what BVPS wants for himself? Last time he was sexploring a twenty year old woman, what would he want with a fifty-sixty year old one? The only possible arrangement that comes to mind is “seva-dasi” widows living with “babajis”. Maybe it’s what is suitable for BVPS,too, but who in ISKCON would ever recommend that?

And with this I think I can put this topic to rest. There are other aspects I thought about here but I don’t see them as important. BVPS had tried to explore sex, got burned but also got invaluable experience, it’s not clear what exact lessons he learned from it but one thing is clear – we, with our cliched thinking, are not qualified to judge his behavior because it’s far beyond our own capacity to try or to understand. We can surely apply the very simple rule of no female association for sannyasis and demand that he no longer be called “svami” but even that demand is stupid – one is placed in sannyasa or any other ashrama with considerations for the future, not as a punishment for what happened ages ago. It just makes us vindictive. And we do have to learn how to progress from Chota Haridasa to Ramananda Raya eventually. It’s fine to say that for now we can’t live even like Chota Haridasa so we should not concern ourselves with Ramananda Raya yet, but Chota Haridasa ended up as a gandharva in heavenly planets – what would be our destination if even his example is too high for us?

In one sentence – BVPS example is here for us to learn, not to judge.


About a week ago CPO, Child Protection Office, dropped a bombshell on devotional community by leaking their confidential report about child abuse by Bhaktividyapurna Swami. Two papers have been leaked, first one was the CPO decision itself and the second was a somewhat unrelated personal testimony of abuse written by a woman needlessly identified in the CPO paper, as she was an adult and a school director, not a minor by any means. Both papers were leaked in two versions – full and redacted. For the sake of this article I want to share the full versions, since all the names are already known, but for the sake of future readers there is no need to know the names whatsoever. So I’ll do this – post links to the redacted versions but if necessary quote from full versions. Redacted links are: CPO report and Adult victim testimony. There have been a lot of discussions about these events and it might take time to read them and let it sink in but I think it’s necessary to understand the rest of this post.

How to go about all this information? The expected route is to discover what happened exactly, form our own judgment, and then see how it compares with official judgement in order to decide whether it was fair or not or whether the verdict was sufficiently justified by the evidence presented – because even unredacted version omits the full testimony by the victim. And then we can argue with each other about all these things.

Almost everyone went down this road but it gets people nowhere. People react to new information, like the unredacted parts or maybe parts they missed on their first read, but once they make their minds they don’t budge, and people’s “made up minds” are all over the place. Who’s right and who’s wrong? Whose judgment is correct and whose isn’t? Most of the time it’s easy to see how they came to their conclusions and accept or dismiss their methods, but it doesn’t give us the ultimate correct truth. In this story there are also many moving parts – I mean how people change their minds about the same events with passing of time. I mean the victim decided to do something about it only fifteen years later when it suddenly started weighing too much on her heart. During these fifteen years she was known as a well-adjusted individual, however, so what changed? The mind of the adult victim is no less mysterious. Both of them maintained relationships with their abuser all this time, invited him to their homes etc. They are both now married, too. It’s these changing minds is what I mean by “moving parts”. I’m pretty sure fifteen years from now they would see this events in a different light again. How can we judge anything as certain when people’s understanding of what actually happened changes?

Once you remove these “moving parts” and rely only on what is known to be certain, the undisputed facts of the case, you can make more or less solid judgment. But they dispute even facts. BVPS insists that when he touched M’s breasts (younger victim) she was already 18 years old. M insist she was under 18. M’s husband insists she was over 18. Who is right? The dates mentioned in the unredacted report make it something like “she turned 18 that year”, but then only BVPS was specific about the year while the report goes with five year precision – between 2005 and 2010.

How about this – if BVPS was convinced she was 18, does it still make him into a child molester? I mean in his mind he wasn’t molesting a child. Or maybe he is lying about his conviction. Who can say for sure?

Can we trust CPO’s decisions on this? They interviewed everybody and must have a better timeline. We could trust them, but then how about this judgement of theirs:

“1. Sexual harassment of a minor – Details Redacted.”

In the unreducted version there is a full description of what happened on that particular occasion:

“1. In 2005 when the victim was 14/15 years old BVSP and ****** (SR), the
Dean of the girls school, undressed the victim and lay her down on the floor in
her underwear to cool her fever. They also took her down to the water pumps
in this state.”

The girl was feverish and they tried to reduce her fever, what was sexual about it? They do far more explicit things to children in hospitals but no one calls it “sexual harassment”. One would have to ascribe sexual motives to BVPS in this situation, but what is the basis for doing that, seventeen years after it happened? You probably won’t be able to tell if it was happening right in front of you, what to speak of seventeen years ago when you were not even there. Just from this first on the list of allegations I can see that CPO’s judgments are unreasonable.

Next allegation is this:

“2. Psychological abuse of a minor – Details Redacted.”

But in the unreducted version it’s described as this:

“2. The victim was forced to stay at the school even though it was a day school. Emotional and psychological manipulation was used to keep her from going home, and also to the temple morning programme. BVPS told her, “Krsna is everywhere, no need to go to the temple to see Him. Service is more important.”

This kind of “psychological abuse” of telling people that service is more important was the norm in ISKCON and started by Srila Prabhupada himself. Plus there could be tons of other practical reasons an adult might not allow a child to do something while telling only the easiest one. It’s not that children in that gurukula were deprived of spiritual nourishment, not that the choice was between going to the temple and washing pots.

Anyway, my point here is that CPO and other assorted child rights defenders are not being fair, balanced, and unbiased. What happens is that they read the second paper above, with all the gory details, get their outrage going, forget that it was about an adult and assume that it all happened to the child from the first paper, and then they top their outrage with stories of gurukula abuse from the 80s and 90s also mentioned in the second paper. At this point their outrage in unstoppable and they direct it at anyone who questions their judgments.

And I’m not talking about vaishnava behavior here, that went out of the window long time ago. Like in one discussion someone asked participants to refrain from vaishnava aparadhas and the reply was “There has been no breach of Vaisnava etiquette in any of my posts. That is your mistaken mental projection” followed by calling people delusional kanishthas etc etc. Followed by another participant throwing his support, too: “I 100% endorse, I 100% applaud and I 100% support ******* prabhu’s pertinent points, including his remark that one must be delusional…”

So my conclusion is that following “let’s learn the facts and judge impartially” method won’t work here as intended.

There are other ways to approach this story, however. Like one might concentrate on what could be done to relieve the pain experienced by the victim and how to deal with the wrongdoer properly. I must admit I have no idea how to relieve pain that suddenly surges from the long past. One must know the person very well to even attempt that and we only have testimony from the older victim, SR, and it is not complete either.

From what I understand about how psychological treatments work one must let the person freely reflect on what happened to them and analyse it from all possible angles until they come to realization that they bear responsibility in some way, too, and then get them to the point where they forgive themselves for whatever they had done wrong, and with this forgiveness then let go of the whole story, it no longer has any power over them and they can live their lives in peace.

After all, all these mental blocks that cause so much anguish exist in OUR minds and that’s where they have to be dealt with. The mob rule of law, however, is to find the culprit and punish him severely. The victim would feel so much better by seeing the culprit suffer. Does this strategy sit right with you? Would you feel better by seeing other person publicly shamed and defeated and his dreams and aspirations ruined by restrictions placed on him?

I’m sure there are people in the world who would say “yes, absolutely”, but should devotees ever think this way? And yet this seems to be the logic behind CPO’s approach to solving problems – find the culprits and punish them. Do they do anything for the victims? I’m sure they’d offer some kind of counseling if they had the funds and trained devotee psychologists, but in practice what they did was to leak their papers to the public, with the names of the victims and their close relatives and detailed descriptions of everything the victims could possibly be ashamed of.

Counselling, btw, would involve the psychological approach I described above – people should come to terms with their past and accept it and their roles in it so they can let it go. They haven’t invented any other way as far as i know.

SR’s testimony is the step in that direction. She describes in great details all the things BVPS did to her, even if it made her look … ermm…. “naive”? I mean look at the reasons BVPS gave her for fondling her breasts. “Researching the special energy of female breasts mentioned in sastra”. At this point this becomes a rich material for jokes and I just can’t take it seriously.

“To measure this energy I will place my penis between your breasts. If it grows it means increase of energy. I’m placing my penis now. Is it growing? Yes, the measuring instrument has shown enlargement, the energy is there! Eureka! But wait, we forgot one important consideration in our research – this area of the body is where the Supersoul resides and putting my dick on your Supersoul is not Vedic. We have to stop.”

Imagine ads calling for participation in these studies! “Your job is to walk around with your penis out, place it or stick it into anything you can think of, and record the effects. In this way we hope to make a map of sexual energy of our city. It will be marked on Google maps.” Or maybe ads offering these mapping services: “Experienced penis-master will wave his dick around your house and give you advice on how to sex-up your place. *Body mapping at extra charge.”

Are there any sane adult individuals who’d go along with this reasoning? In any case, it was very brave for SR to admit to being a participant in this research and it’s a step in the right direction. In her defense – BVPS was dead serious about what he said. One of the conditions, for example, was that his sexual arousal should be always under control and never rise to the point of ejaculation. If it was getting too high he would stop and take a cold shower. When, in their research into sexual energy, they progressed to oral sex he also refused to be a receiver because “chaste women never put dirty things in their mouths. He also said that the sastra says that if a woman swallows any semen she will lose her sweet singing voice…”

BVPS often uses popular culture examples to support points he makes in his lectures, so imagine how this “locker room talk” would go among male friends: “Bro, your girlfriend offered you a blowjob and you said what?!?!? You, Hare Krishnas, are the weirdest people on the planet.”

Jokes aside, there is another argument to be made here – when CPO paper defines sexual abuse it specifically mentions satisfying sexual needs of the perpetrator, which for red bloodied males means ejaculating, but what if the man makes it a point NOT to ejaculate and retain his semen? Wouldn’t it fall outside the definition of sexual abuse? Now we would have to start thinking about exceptions. But the argument could be taken even further.

By retaining semen during all this time BVPS demonstrated his ability to control his arousal, which means he demonstrated control of upastha-vegam, the urges of genitals, and what does Nectar of Instructions say about such men? They are “qualified to make disciples all over the world.” How about that? The requirement is NOT to never experience these urges but to keep them under control. Even prescriptions to avoid being alone with one’s mother, sister, or daughter, or to avoid looking even at dāravī prakṛti — a wooden statue of a woman, are given only to prevent these urges to get out of control, but in this case we are talking about a man who is able to control himself in any situation you throw at him. And CPO says he should never be allowed to talk in ISKCON temples? Rupa Goswami says he is qualified to take disciples all over the world. Whose judgement has more authority?

How’s that for an argument? Doesn’t it puzzle your brain for a moment? Okay, shake it off. We can be pretty sure NOI verse includes controlling upastha vegam appearing in one’s mind, too, and CC’s verse makes it clear “a wooden statue of a woman attracts the mind of even a great saintly person.” It doesn’t say “causes him to ejaculate”, it says “attracts his mind”. If someone says “BVPS’ mind was under control, too” – it could be true and he could have done these things only as a research to be given up when it’s complete, but then why did he tell SR that he was prepared to keep her sexually gratified for the rest of her life so that she didn’t need a husband? That’s not research. And when SR, his regular squeeze, went to Australia he couldn’t stop himself from finding other boobs to fondle, because that’s when he approached the underage victim and molested her even when she was sleeping. Well, he insists she was 18, but he went after her boobs when SR wasn’t there and that’s the main point – he wasn’t in control.

So here are three explanations – he wasn’t dead serious about his research, he had ulterior motives on his mind, too. He wasn’t in control of his mind even if he was in control of his genitals. And we need to look into those exceptions I mentioned before. Maybe some tantric practices where they learn how not to ejaculate, or maybe how some husbands like being cuckolds and watch their wives having sex with other men. They don’t ejaculate at the time but still find it sexually gratifying. Whatever the exception, it was still sexual abuse.

Or was it? The older victim didn’t say “no” even initially and then this arrangement went on for several years. She was provided for in every other respect and all her expenses were covered by BVPS. Was she a willing participant? I’m afraid there is no “yes or now” answer to this question but it needs to be explored, and that’s why I called her testimony “incomplete” and “first step”. The most important parts – important for her healing, not important as a material for our gossip, those important parts about her own role in all this, they were omitted. She talked about everything BVPS did to her but almost nothing about herself.

Sure she mentioned how terrified she felt and all the other synonyms, but was that ALL of her life? She had a busy job during the day, and she talked about it, and every evening she had these meetings with BVPS, and it went for a long time. Did she ever waited for his visits with anticipation? Did she ever felt satisfied? Were there moments when the weirdness of the situation didn’t bother her in the least? I’ve read testimonies where women admitted that sometimes they felt one thing about their abuse but at other times they felt something completely opposite and it confused the hell out of them, but at least they admitted it, admitted being torn internally and admitted their own contributions to their situations. Like it or not, but SR and BVPS had a relationship and relationship means she contributed something. AND they continued their relationship in an externally proper and acceptable manner after SR broke off their night sessions and got married. Some say she texted him even as she was compiling her testimony. Even with the younger victim he was a perfectly acceptable guest in their house all the time since it happened. They and their families all remained and behaved like his disciples (though not everyone by diksa). This also needs to be squared off against the “terrible, stomach ache inducing abuse” they suffered.

Anyway, not to lose the thread – I was talking about an alternative way to deal with the situation. Not to try and establish facts of the case and apply relevant laws in a fair and balanced manner, but to deal with victim’s suffering. Make them whole and happy again. Main difference is that for that you don’t need to know everything that happened, you just need to deal with what affects people’s minds at the moment. Would it be easier? Probably not, but it’s a different approach and it might work better, or it might be the only practical way to go forward.

The downside is that it leaves the perpetrator unpunished and this won’t satisfy the spectators in the stands, and they are clearly thirsting for blood – that’s why CPO leaked the reports in the first place – to give people something to talk about.

Earlier I said that often people assume that victims want to see the perpetrators suffer and that it’s not a devotional approach. Most of the time, however, the victims probably just want people to know the truth about their idols and stop foolishly worshiping them out of ignorance. The assumption is that once everybody knows what they did they won’t ask them to sit on vyasasanas and have vyasa pujas and everything else. It’s a reasonable assumption to make but they might end up disappointed that not everyone agrees with their judgments and people would continue with their worship regardless. With Lokanatha Swami’s case even the GBC realized that banning him won’t have any practical effect – he would still be seen as a pure devotee and treated accordingly. So they left the final decision to local authorities – ban him, worship him, do whatever you think is right for YOUR community.

This is what is going to happen with BVPS, too – there is a decision not to let him live on ISKCON properties so they will just find a place for him off ISKCON land, and he hasn’t been giving public lectures for several years already, and I’m sure they’ll find a way to keep his talks on their private websites, too. You can’t ban the ideas, as they say.

The punishment imposed on him by the CPO is another topic for discussion. I mean what can you do to a man in his seventies? Tell him to leave sannyasa ashram? And go where? You are surely not proposing that he should find himself a woman who would marry a seventy year old man who has never had a job or a house and is not going to start now? Would you wish such marriage on anybody? What else can you do? CPO’s answer is that he should pay the victim 5,000 USD and find himself another place to live. On one hand it’s reasonable, on the other hand they are talking about a sannyasi here and it’s not what sannyasis do. They are not supposed to have their own funds to pay for anything and not own any places to live. This all will be covered by his disciples, of course, but then who are you punishing here? Him or them? What did they do to deserve this? Even if BVPS has his personal funds in his personal accounts – where did they come from? From his disciples. Were they given to pay fines to women or for him to live off campus? Most likely not, so that would be a misuse of their donations. At this point they probably won’t mind, hopefully, but, as matter of principle, this isn’t right.

I think I’ve covered a lot of angles here already, more than three thousand words, but this was all just a prelude to my main point – all these considerations above have nothing to do with Krishna Consciousness. Nothing, zilch, zero. It’s a collection of arguments suitable for crow-like people and a devotee should approach this completely differently, completely ignoring all of the above.

The only thing that matters is our connection with Krishna and once we found it and learned to maintain it we should not give a fig for absolutely anything else. Was it wrong for a sannyasi to pay nightly visits to woman to explore sexual energy? Yes or no?

Wrong question – did he manage to remember Krishna and chant His names? Yes, then it was okay. Should he not be punished for it, then? No, I mean – yes, he should be punished, but it would have no effect on his loving service to the Lord. It will go on regardless of what you do to him and so he will be transcendental to your “punishment”. If it ever makes him inconvenienced he would approach the Lord for help, not you or CPO or GBC.

We haven’t heard from BVPS for a long time and there have been no public statements on this matter, only that he is, reportedly, ready to abide by CPO decision whatever it is. He said the same thing twice before, when CPO tried to “get” him in the past: “I’ll do whatever you tell me to, it doesn’t matter.” This time they really “got” him, banned and banished, and still he (I’d imagine) laughs out loud because they have no power over his service to Krishna.

In one of the previous posts I talked about this in connection to “I went out all spiritual, came back all mundane. I could have been lost but no, I wasn’t lost” line from the song. When you are with Krishna you can NEVER be lost. Now this is freedom – do whatever you want and no punishment will ever affect you. If you are with Krishna all the “sins” will roll off you like drops of water roll off lotus petals. They just don’t stick.

Does it mean BVPS wasn’t affected by lust and duplicity when fondling people’s breasts? He was, but that doesn’t matter either because this lust was manifested by Krishna for BVPS’ education, not for anything else. Krishna can turn it on and make you do all kinds of stupid things and He can turn it off, too. The only test you need to run is “does he remember Krishna?” If the answer is yes then it’s the end of the story, as far as devotees are concerned.

Btw, I imagine BVPS learned a lot from that period of his life. He learned about sexual energy, for sure, and hopefully he also learned that the seat of it is not in physical organs and controlling mechanics of it does not control the lust itself. Nor that lust could be controlled by strenuous efforts and exercises either. You do whatever you can but lust is controlled by Krishna, not by you. He tells you to control it and so you try, but you will never be actually in control, you have the right to try only, not to the results, which is what I discussed in the post just before this. I had to make a point of that first, before talking about BVPS.

Now let’s apply this method to the victims. We have only older one’s testimony but first thing I noticed about it – there was not a word about Krishna and how it affected her Krishna Consciousness. Not a word, she didn’t even think about it. I’m sure she remembers about Krishna at other times but she failed to do so here. This is not good.

Moreover, I would insist that the best way to deal with psychological traumas is to talk to Krishna about it. Not “talk” talk, just listen to Him. You don’t even have to think about it because He is the one who creates thoughts in your mind. He knows when you are afflicted and so you don’t need to tell Him about it, just listen to what He says through His Name. You need to learn to listen to the Name, as I mentioned in the previous post, too.

If I were to suggest this in this case, however, I’d be laughed off, and for a good reason – it’s a time tested observation that victims of abuse do not want to hear any philosophy, it doesn’t help and the effect is rather opposite. This is the reality of the situation – when minds are too afflicted one’s consciousness becomes clouded and you can’t hear Krishna anymore, or anything about Krishna. When this happens the mind has to be pacified first by other, preparatory means, and this is where CPO, counselling, talking about it with others etc is necessary. Perhaps even the first half of my post could be useful for that. But it has nothing to do with Krishna Consciousness itself, it’s just preparation for the real thing.

Both of the victims are devotees and Krishna certainly hasn’t forgotten about them. He created a situation where they can learn where He is and where He isn’t. I’m confident, for example, that once this scandal settles down and their minds come to normalcy they would shudder at the possibility of letting their minds become affected like this again. There is a reason most victims of abuse don’t want to make their stories public – they know nothing good comes out of this agitation, it’s better to let the sleeping dogs lie, and they are not even devotees. It shouldn’t be difficult for us to realize this, too.

Here is another possible “agitant” – how much of this abuse was sexual and how much of it was abuse of BVPS position? What hurts these women most, the sex part or that it came from a man they least expected and couldn’t defend themselves against? In this article Krishna Kirti makes the case that most abuse is sexual but CPO deals with everything as if it was a question of power. His arguments make sense but it’s hard to see how huge power imbalance was not at play in this case. Imagine SR, a single woman in a foreign country with a single man providing her with everything – service, social position, necessities of life. She literally had nowhere else to go. This definitely had affected her decision making and it took her a while to find her own footing and say “No, this has to stop”. And being molested by the person who otherwise infuses you with spiritual power and connection to Krishna? How confusing is that? I hope you see how it quickly turns into another rabbit hole.

I hope you don’t want to go down that hole but rather contemplate how nicer it would be to just sit and chant instead, and ignore your mind if necessary for the moment. Or maybe you like to torture yourself like that – think and think and think about something over and over and over.

Am I saying anything new here? Not at all. A friend just sent me an old class by BVPS where he raised this same point, I made it into a short, one and a half minute video:

This is from 2013, judging by file name on the website: link. Five years after after his “research into sex” affair. That’s another thing to remember – our outrage is current but for him fifteen years have passed, he is long over it, he is not on the same page as us – he is fifteen years ahead! Now it sounds like I’m trolling his detractors, especially with this image of him they probably can’t stand right now.

Speaking of fifteen years, we expect BVPS to apologize to his victims but if he kept nice working relationships with them for fifteen years and the past was supposed to be in the past already – what should he be apologizing for? I mean to be sorry you need to see the connection between what you did and what happens now, but no one knows why those old traumas suddenly resurfaced. Yes, he placed these painful memories into their consciousness, but can he see himself as being responsible for triggering these memories and for letting them overpower victims’ minds today? I guess he could say “That’s not on me”. He could still apologize, of course, but it won’t be sincere – one must see the connection first, as I said.

Anyway, here is another quick test – if you see a vaishnava and anger rises up from within you the problem is with you! It’s YOU who cannot see and appreciate a vaishnava any longer, because you let outrage to cover your mind and consciousness. He remembers Krishna and talks about Him, but your mind is preoccupied with breast fondling and such. You might be totally right about it and you have the high moral ground, but you haven’t got Krishna. In this video BVPS reads from SB 1.5 and earlier in the talk there was this:

Those words which do not describe the glories of the Lord, who alone can sanctify the atmosphere of the whole universe, are considered by saintly persons to be like unto a place of pilgrimage for crows.

So I’m not saying anything new or radical here, it’s SB 101, but somehow lots of our devotees do not hold themselves to this standard anymore, and many others allowed it to be normalized in our conversations, along with generous dozes of vaishnava aparadha. Well, let’s leave it to crows, then.

Dreaming On

Every now and then I have dreams that I remember forever. Some I remember for the feelings they generated and some I remember because they also make sense. The previous one like that was years ago and I had another one just last month, and I think I need to write it down.

It was an unusually long dream, it started in an apartment I’ve been in only once in my life but my whole family was there, including people whose lifespans barely overlapped and who have never met each other, and yet there we were, sitting around, chatting, waiting for snacks, snacking etc. I got myself a newspaper and made a big deal out of it. There was crossword in the back and articles in the middle that I wanted to discuss but no one engaged with me and just looked at me lovingly, appreciating that this must be important to me.

Then it was time to leave and the plan was that there is this big road with taxis and public transport and it would take me home but to get to that road I had to travel down a small winding street first. It was dark and the street barely had any lights and all the buildings were dark and locked up. There were buses there and I was waiting to catch one but when it came it was not what I was expecting. Instead of a bus there was one of those shuttle car contraptions they use, except this one didn’t have any roof or any seats, just a flat platform and it was as crowded as an Indian train on the internet. Just as many people were running along around this “bus” and they all had a look of zombies on their faces, though they were not interested in me whatsoever so there was no sense of danger. Okay, the bus is out, I thought, so I had no choice but walk.

I was walking for a while, in the dark, with only the moon and stars to show the way, and then on the side of the road I saw a sign for “Red Light District” and a bunch of tourists grouping by. It wasn’t anything like I imagine Amsterdam red light district looks like, there were no red neon lights or anything, just an entrance into an alley. So I went there out of curiosity.

The landscape there was very different. There was no road surface, no sidewalks, it was as if buildings were sticking out of a mountain of black slag. It was dark, cold, and wet. Rain was dripping but no puddles could be formed on slag’s surface. Buildings had no lights and no one was there, except for occasional tourists, and I have to say something about them, too.

All tourists I saw there were Chinese and they all were like NPCs in video games. It stands for Non-Playing-Character. NPCs are usually assigned to do one task, like show the direction or give you something, but otherwise they don’t interact with you and do not acknowledge your words or presence. Tourist groups are like that – they come on package tours where all their experiences are pre-planned and their interactions with the environment are restricted to taking selfies and producing sounds of exaltation. They are literally incapable of any other interactions, they don’t understand if someone is talking to them and even if they did they wouldn’t comprehend the speech or know anything useful to try to answer. Their tour guides are more alive but still limited in what they can do or say.

So brothels, right – they weren’t what I imagined. These were buildings with no windows and no doors whatsoever. I mean there were doorways but no doors. There was light pouring from the inside and that’s how you knew there were entrances. I went into one and it was empty, there was a small round hall, maybe three feet wide, and there were “rooms” radiating from it but no doors and no walls between them either – all separators were only waist high. Everything was made of the same kind of material, possibly bricks covered with cement paste and painted over in dark colors, mostly brown, and I mean everything – there was no furniture and beds were made in the same way, too. There was no bedding, nothing, just some unidentifiable knick-knacks here and there. There were no lamps or lights except the ones in the hallway and so the backs of the rooms were in shade but otherwise you could see everything you could look at. Most of the hallway lights were “warm white” but occasionally one of the bulbs was red or green or blue, and everything was empty.

Another prominent feature was that hallways and rooms were at different levels, kind of like a winding staircase, so when you walk through the hallways you go up and down, rooms would be on one side, and then there would be another exit, not the same as the one you came in from, so you’d be out on the street but in a totally different place. Then you’d see another building and you’d go check it out, too, and so that’s what I did for while – just walk around, gaze at things, walk inside empty rooms, and there was no one around.

Then, as I was inside one room, a TQ person from LGBTQ+ abbreviation entered the hall from the outside. These people present themselves as larger than life, they impose their bubbly attitude on you and urge you to participate in their exultation, and rooms had no exits other than through the three foot wide hallway, so I was trapped. It imagined I was a customer and its joy had no bounds (I don’t know what pronouns to use for them, sorry). So it quickly marched into the room, laid itself on the bed, spread its legs (still fully dressed), and told me to get on top and do it. That was my chance. I exclaimed “But you are a man with dick and balls!” and before it got a chance to convince me otherwise I ran out of the room, because now I was the one closer to the exit. I ran out of the building down the sloping slag under my feet, and couldn’t find an exit from the alley, so I tried entering another building and walking out on the other side but still saw no exits. This went on for a while – how to find the way out of this place? Then I saw a group of tourists.

I approached their guide and she was packing people into an elevator. “Can it take me out?” I asked. “Yes,” she replied and let me in. The elevator was triangular and I squeezed myself into the sharp corner. Only two more tourists in NPC “taking selfies” mode got in after me, the elevator went down, and one side of it remained open. At some point the tourists jumped off through that open side and I continued alone. Then I saw that the elevator is approaching its ground level and descending into someone’s living room.

There is a term “furries” now – it’s teenagers imagining themselves to be cats or dogs and so they dress up and play along accordingly. The ones who lived there were more like oversized plush toys or mascots and they took very unhealthy interest in me. They thought I was their customer and they tried to grab me. The elevator had no buttons and all I could do is to realize that I really really really don’t want to be there. When I concentrated on that I noticed that the elevator stopped. As I looked inside that living room with furry rapists in it the elevator started descending again and one of them was even able to grab my feet. I understood that I could control the elevator with my mind and if I don’t look and don’t think about this place the elevator would go back up. After experimenting with it for a while I got a hang of it and eventually it took me out of that place and back into the alley again, but where was the exit?

I frantically ran around here and there, even tried to ask tourists, but I was getting hopelessly lost. And that’s when I saw a woman. I identified her as a prostitute working there but she was a woman, not a freak. She looked at me and I realized that she was perfectly sane and could help me. She was coming home with the groceries and I followed her into her building. She went into something that could have been a shower or a dressing room and shouted from the inside, to someone else: “Dear, how is you butthole doing after I inserted these balls into it last time?” And then this “someone else” came out from around hallway corner and it was a balding middle aged man, and he replied that his butt was doing fine. From the look on his face and the tone of their exchange I understood that he sees himself as a husband and he is bound to this woman and she is bound to him, they were no longer a prostitute and a client, there were family!

Not to lose the opportunity, I asked him “Hey man, could you tell the me the way out of here?” and he replied “What is this ‘here’ you are talking about?” or something like that. Remembering the elevator experience it downed on me that I can’t exit because my mind keeps me here, that there are no other shackles and barriers other than myself. This has been the typical guru answer since the dawn of the New Age and, happy with the realization that “I got it”, I told the man that I know what he means and explained it but, instead of welcoming me with New Age “join the club” smile, I was surprised to see a blank expression on his face. He genuinely had no idea what I meant. It’s at this point that my alarm clock went off and the dream had to end.

I turned into NPC mode myself as I stumbled to perform my morning duties, hoping that I could keep the live tapestry of the dream in my mind long enough to see the answer, but the dream eventually slipped away and I was left to rationalize it myself.

This is the problem – our rational minds can make everything clear but they never capture the complexity and unpredictability of the dreamworld, and therefore their explanations can never be as alive and as convincing as dreams. Too simplified, too devoid of textures and feelings. But it’s all I have now.

So how to interpret it? First answer – why was I interested in red light district in the first place? “Brothels” are mundane and repulsive, btw, when they call it “red light district” they make it far more presentable. Anyway, what was it with my interest in it? I don’t know, I didn’t feel any lust or any desire for sex while in this dream. Secondly, why was the first prostitute I saw was the TQ? I don’t know, but it scared the hell out of me.

Actually, it’s meeting the “husband-and-wife” team that bothers me most. Essentially, all of us are here because of seeking sex pleasure and many men have a realization that wives and prostitutes are the same, only more expensive. This “husband-and-wife” team, however, demonstrated the way out – sex life according to religious principles, which means transcending the carnal aspect of the relationship and treating each other as persons and with attitude of service.

This means we have no way out of this trap of a world except by finding life partners, husbands or wives, and learning to treat them like we are supposed to treat God. Well, not God, because people have their preconceived notions about God, but how we are supposed to treat Krishna – loving service without traces of awe and reverence. This means all this celibacy, brahmacharya, sannyasa, controlling sex desire etc. is useless. How about that?

The episode with the elevator kind of demonstrated it – by making determined mental efforts we can withdraw ourselves from sex but the elevator still moves only within confines of the brothel, it won’t take you anywhere else and eventually you will have to get off and “deal with it”. Does it mean I have to become like that sad middle aged john reporting that his butt healed nicely? This can’t be the only way out. But there isn’t, not by running around and looking for exit.

The facilities we use when we look for exit – eyes, mind, map of the place in our memory, legs etc, they are all part of the trap itself and they have no connection to the outside. Like for that man “here” was a meaningless word as it implies existence of “there”, which is not “here”, but “here” is all he knows and so he doesn’t call it that and there is no “there” in his vocabulary either. Similarly, the tools we use to get out are all working in one direction, they are all looking forward, and therefore they can’t possibly find the exit, which is in the direction of the “back”. All these tools are looking outside but the exit is inside.

What we need is not these forward looking tools but a hook in the back of our soul, and we need someone to pull us out, from the outside into inside. When I was thinking about it I compared it to a fishing net. Suppose you are a net and you are alive. You are in the sea and you spread yourself as far as you can, growing, growing, growing, capturing more and more fish, and your life becomes forward looking, but then the fisherman pulls you back and your consciousness kind of shrinks, leaving all the juicy fish you wanted to catch in the sea and taking you out of the sea altogether. You cannot control this pull and you cannot initiate it, certainly not by spreading yourself further and further.

Does it mean we are helpless? Not really. Our consciousness is still ours and we CAN employ it in a different direction, almost entire Bhagavad Gita is about this, if you look for supporting verses, but it’s not what we usually do. Usually we are told to chant “with feeling” but this “feeling” thing is from the wrong toolset. I will never forget the instruction to “just chant and hear”. Forget the feelings for the moment, just listen to the Name. The Name is that hook that goes into the back of our soul and pulls us out. The Name does have something to say, so stop talking about your feelings and listen to the Name for a change. The Name is NOT an object of this world. It can’t be fast or slow or melodious or sweet or harsh – it has no qualities of this world, it has a life of its own, and if we stop talking about ourselves and listen then the Name might just tell us all about it.

I could say that, in my estimation, these moments of just sitting and listening is the only time I make any real progress. All the rest is progress in how far my mind and senses reach, but only the name steers and pulls me in the right direction, the direction that really matters as opposed to achievements of the mind and senses – what we think, what we eat or don’t eat, what we wear, what we read, what we watch and so on. We measure ourselves and each other by this things but this dream tells me that none of it is of any importance, it will not take us out of here, and that’s why I thought I need to write it down.