Letter from Prabhavisnu Dasa
By Prabhavisnu das
To my dear disciples and any other devotees who may be interested,
Hare Krsna. Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupad!
By now most of you will have gotten the news about my situation and perhaps read the general letter that I sent out to ISKCON devotees.
First of all let me say what a wonderful experience it has been for me to have had your association for all these years. I have very close relationships with many of you and those relationships have greatly inspired me in devotional service. I have generally been very happy in Krsna consciousness and I have always tried to give that happiness to others as best I could. It is actually very much against my nature to give pain to anyone. Nevertheless, at this time many of you must be feeling great pain and distress, and are wondering what the future holds in store for me and for yourselves. I therefore wish to wholeheartedly apologise to all of you for my inappropriate behaviour which has brought this about.
Kindly allow me to recount a little history from my perspective. When I was in London in 1975 I thought it might be best for me to marry, as I was President of two temples at the time, including the Manor, and had to deal with many householders. However, my GBC man told me to go to India and prepare to take sannyas. I had never thought of taking sannyas, but within 4 days I was on the plane to Mumbai. Srila Prabhupad asked me be the Vice President and manage the Mumbai temple and later allowed me to go on the BBT library party to distribute his books. After that on his instruction I began to preach in Bangladesh and Nepal. Sannyas was conferred upon me in 1979 when I was 28 years old. I was always taught that one should not ask for sannyas but accept it if one’s seniors confer it. I must admit that I did not give it much thought at all and did not fully understand the ramifications. The culture in India/ Bangladesh/ Nepal was very conducive for brahmcari/sannyas life, so it did not seem difficult. In retrospect it appears that I was too young to take sannyas. Fortunately, our movement has matured a lot since then and the criteria for accepting sannyas have become very strict. No-one in ISKCON now is allowed to take sannyas at such a young age. The candidates are scrutinised for many years before approval is given. Both they and the senior vaisnavas on the GBC must be fully convinced that they can maintain their vows.
In 1984 when I came to Mayapur, a devotee told me that I had been appointed as a GBC member and that I should go to the GBC meeting. I had no prior knowledge that this was going to happen. I felt rather uncomfortable at the GBC meetings as there were so many much more senior devotees there. I was at the time a Regional Secretary in several Asian countries so my service in the field did not change much.
In 1987 the GBC appointed me as an initiating guru. One member sudenly made the proposal in the middle of the meeting. I objected saying I did not feel ready for that but the Chairman overruled me and called for the vote which was passed. I was at first reluctant to take on that service as it was such a big responsibility. Nevertheless, gradually the need to initiate became more and more both from the side of aspirants as well as from temple leaders who wanted devotees to be initiated in order to maintain the various services and push on the movement. So eventually as a matter of duty I began to initiate. I always considered that I was accepting disciples on behalf of ISKCON, Srila Prabhupad and the parampara, and have never considered those I initiated to be only “my disciples.” As such I have always tried to encourage you to remain in ISKCON and serve in ISKCON. I have simply tried to preach and transmit the teachings of Srila Prabhupad to you as I best as I could and to encourage you to always chant Hare Krsna.
I am not complaining about having been given so much responsibility. I accept it as Krsna’s mercy. It has been a tremendous opportunity for devotional servce, and a real challenge. Most likely I should have spent more time in the Holy Dhams hearing and chanting, but somehow I have a very active nature and always felt it my duty to visit as many centres and devotees in my GBC zone as possible. Had I been either a sannyasi and GBC only or a sannyasi and initiating guru only it may have been easier to maintain sannyas, but I found all three roles together to eventually be too stressful. Ultimately it is my fault for not maintaining my sannyas vows. I cannot blame others, but still the circumstances have also played a role in my difficulties.
In the areas where I was preaching the movement grew very rapidly, mainly because there is a lot of interest in Krsna consciousness, and of course due to the efforts of the leaders and all of the devotees, yourselves included. As a result the number of disciples and temples grew rapidly. ISKCON has and is expanding a lot in Russia, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Myanmar and Malaysia. And amongst western countries Australia and New Zealand also have quite a number of temples and devotees. In all there are around 100 centres of varying sizes and many thousands of devotees in the areas where I was GBC Zonal Secretary. Overseeing all of that became more and more strenuous for me over the years and counselling disciples and other devotees also required a lot of energy. Sometimes there have been serious, long-term disagreements amongst devotees. Trying to settle such conflicts was especially stressful for me. As a result in the last year or so I have felt the need to periodically get away from the intensity of life inside ISKCON and go to some quiet and peaceful places in nature, and found Thailand to be a very beautiful country. By my temperament I also do not feel so comfortable being a public figure and a leader in a large religious movement. I feel the need to live a quieter kind of existence with less pressure to be what others expect or would like me to be. As I have not been able to maintain the required standards of behaviour for a sannyasi and guru in ISKCON. I have therefore tendered my resignation from all positions of leadership in ISKCON.
In the last few days I have had many well- wishing letters from disciples, godbrothers and disciples of godbrothers throughout the movement and I thank you all very, very much for your support and encouragement. It gives me great strength to face the future. All my life I have travelled and now I feel the need to live in one place. During the last 9 months I have also developed a relationship with a lady in Thailand, who I feel is a good soul that can help me at this stage of my life. She is a half -Thai half-Chinese lady who runs a clothing business with her brother, and is a hard-working person. I am not in a rush to marry but it is a definite possibility. I am really sorry that things have transpired in this way. I know it is really improper but quite honestly I just couldn’t decide what to do, and thought I might be able to overcome it. On the one hand so much expectation was placed on my shoulders, and on the other hand I just felt the need to get away from the stress of management, counselling and constant travelling. I have always chanted my rounds and regularly attended kirtans and classes. If things work out I would like to help spread the sankirtan movement in Thailand. I feel very much at home amongst the people there who in general have a respectful and kind-hearted nature. I also find the climate to be very suitable for my physical health, which has begun to deteriorate due to constant travel. However, if things don’t work out there I would hope to live in an ISKCON community somewhere else. I think we should let some time pass to see how I get on in Krsna consciousness. I need some time and space to work out my personal situation. Please allow me that.
In any case, I want to encourage you to remain steady in your service and sadhana and to take shelter of the senior Vaisnavas in our movement, who are very serious and dedicated in following the teachings of Srila Prabhupad. I have always tried to encourage you to seek such association, and to keep harmonious relationships with all the Vaisnavas. There are so many wonderful senior devotees who can inspire you and give you shelter through their siksa. Srila Prabhupad created the GBC to be the spiritual and managerial head of ISKCON. All the GBC members are working hard to lead and improve the movement. Many of them are close friends and I very much respect and appreciate the difficult and responsible service that they are doing. No doubt the GBC body will give you some guidance in the near future so I advise you to accept that. Ultimately everyone in ISKCON is under the shelter of Srila Prabhupad and the previous acaryas, so despite changes in my own life you are all in a good position to progress spiritually.
In future I would sometimes like to visit ISKCON temples, especially the Holy Dhams, and hope to meet many of you in course of time. If any of you would like to keep in touch and write me by e-mail from to time to time I will be happy to answer and give you any encouragement that I can. Not so much in the official role of a guru giving siksa to disciples but rather as a friend and well-wisher.
Once again I offer you my deepest apologies for the pain that I have caused you. Kindly forgive the mistakes that I have made and any offences I may have committed to any of you. Ultimately this is just a small hiccup in the eternal progress of the sankirtan movement, which is so powerful that it can overcome all obstacles. Perhaps it will be a chance for reflection and some improvements can come about as a result of this. Hopefully these kinds of heavy responsibilites will be shared out more in future. The GBC is working to empower a new generation of leaders. It is very important for the continuation of the sankirtan movement.
Please absorb yourselves in chanting Hare Krsna and devotional service in ISKCON. Please continue to cooperate together and with other devotees to please Srila Prabhupad by expanding the sankirtan movement. May Lord Krsna bless you all.
Your unqualified servant and well-wisher,