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Dandavats! All Glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga!

Krishna give us Guidance, Oh Lord we need that now

Saturday, 11 June 2016 / Published in Praghosa Dasa / 12,474 views

By Praghosa dasa

How can we always know that the decisions we take are the correct ones? That they are pleasing to both guru and Krishna?

Such questions are simultaneously easy, yet difficult to answer and even more difficult when it comes to practical application. One such area that falls into this category is when a senior devotee falls from the highest standard of spiritual practice and how our society deals with it.

In a simple sense once a devotee falls down then they are fallen, and while no vaisnava would wish to make their existence more difficult than it is, while fallen, they would have to be relieved of any responsible position or role.

But how to do that without disgracing the person involved and what was the example given to us by Srila Prabhupada in this regard?

In a general sense Prabhupada was very clear about this issue:

“In brahma-sukha one is no longer attracted by lusty desires. Indeed, when one is no longer disturbed, especially by lusty desires for sexual indulgence, he is fit to become a sannyasi. Otherwise, one should not accept the sannyasa order. If one accepts sannyasa at an immature stage, there is every possibility of his being attracted by women and lusty desires and thus again becoming a so-called grhastha or a victim of women. Such a person is most shameless, and he is called vantasi, or one who eats that which he has already vomited. He certainly leads a condemned life. In our Krsna consciousness movement it is advised, therefore, that the sannyasis and brahmacaris keep strictly aloof from the association of women so that there will be no chance of their falling down again as victims of lusty desires.” SB 7.15.37 Purport

So that is clear enough, if we take to the spiritual path and in particular if we enter the sannyasa asrama, then failure is not really an option, as it both discredits us, discredits the asrama and calls into serious question our motive and honour as far as entering this asrama in the first place.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out why the standards are so high. From a social and cultural point of view – all over the world – those in the religious/spiritual order of life are afforded so much respect. This respect is given on the basis of trust. So a rabbi in a Jewish community, a priest in a Christian community, an imam in a Muslim community or a sannyasi in Vaisnava community are automatically afforded so much reverence purely as a result of the dress they wear. Therefore if they do not live up to the basic standards required of that way of life they have voluntary accepted, then the mercy, or lack of it, awaits;

Prabhupada: “There is a temple, Tarakesvara, in Hoogli district. So Lord Siva… So people, I mean to say, pray that “If my this disease is cured or if I get this victory, I shall become a sannyasi for a month.” (laughs) So that system is going on. They become sannyasis for one month. There are hundreds and thousands. This is called “one month sannyasi” That is not mentioned in the sastra, but it has come into custom and if he returns, he is called vantasi, yes, “eating the vomit.” Conversation April 14th 1974

Notwithstanding the above it doesn’t necessarily follow that the best course of action is to publically expose every fallen sannyasi, particularly if their motive was not as shallow as mentioned in the above quote. In ISKCON’s case most, if not all sannyasis, enter this asrama with a sincere desire to help with Prabhupada’s mission of spreading Krsna consciousness. Prabhupada once said to be surprised at those that stay, not at those that leave, so it is hardly surprising that there are some casualties. Prabhupada both understood and dealt with this situation sensitively and very much practiced what he preached. What follows is Prabhupada’s reaction when he heard the news that Madhuvisa’s difficulties had become public within ISKCON.

“Pusta Krsna Maharaja spent a long time on the phone in the evening, informing all the temples in Madhudvisa’s zone on the East Coast that he has fallen and he is no longer the GBC. However, when he came in to report his actions to Srila Prabhupada, Prabhupada was angry. Prabhupada was made aware of the initial suspicions in Australia, but his idea had been to keep the affair quiet until he reached New York, where he could see Madhudvisa personally and attempt to clear everything up without a scandal. He wanted to save him, and he was upset that news of Madhudvisa’s falldown was now widespread. He rebuked Pusta Krsna. “Now you have made it impossible for him to return.”

He was also angry with Gurukrpa Swami. “That Gurukrpa! I told him not to tell anyone.” Although Prabhupada found no fault in Tamal Krishna’s approaching Madhudvisa because he had done it as a friend, he said that Gurukrpa had disobeyed him by discussing it with Tamal.” A Transcendental Diary Volume 2.

One thing that is interesting to note is that ISKCON’s current leaders do not have the same scope for following this example of Prabhupada’s. The dynamic surrounding this issue is the same so naturally the leaders want to follow the example of Prabhupada but often when they do they are charged with being in an ‘old boys club’ and engaged in a cover up! In the above example both Pusta Krsna and Gurukrpa are being rebuked by Prabhupada for doing the very thing that today’s leaders come under a lot of pressure to do – make everything public.

Some years ago one leader told me an interesting story that highlights this point. One of his senior managers/preachers in his area of responsibility was having some difficulty and had had a recent fall down. This leader, in consultation with a few senior god brothers, decided a course of action and rectification with the explicit aim of strengthening this devotees spiritual life and hopefully have him return to his regular duties as soon as it was clear that he had fully recovered from his difficulties. While the devotee involved was undergoing his rehabilitation, some news of his difficulties somehow became known to a few others. At this point these other devotees approached the leader dealing with the situation and asked him for clarification regarding the rumours. The leader concerned felt he now had to inform these devotees as they were also senior men. After explaining the situation these devotees expressed a little upset at the fact that they had not been informed earlier and felt that the leader concerned should have been more open and not just shared this situation with a couple of senior god brothers. The leader concerned expressed his difficulty in wanting to deal with the situation but not overly exposing it thus making it very difficult and humiliating for the devotee at the centre of it all. While they understood his motive the devotees still felt there was something of a ‘cover up’ involved. At that point the leader apologised for any shortcomings in his approach to this difficult situation and then asked the devotees what should be done now, should all the devotees of the yatra now be informed, given that all the leaders now know and also their expressed concern about not covering things up? The reaction of the devotees was quite interesting, notwithstanding their upset about initially not being informed of this issue, they now did not want it further publicised and felt (for all the same reasons that dictated the original course of action) that best, particularly for the devotee and the success of his rectification, that the yatra should not be informed. It was then pointed out to these devotees – have they now joined the ‘old boys club’ and are they now part of a cover up!

So this story is very revealing in so far as how on one level we all want to be very open and deal with things in a way that matches our desire for integrity, honesty, morality, duty and freedom from duality. On the other hand it shows how, when faced with specific situations, there are many other considerations that come into play and very much muddy the waters.

We learn the following from none other than Bhismadeva, who has an entire Parva of the Mahabharata, the Shanti Parva, dedicated to his instructions on morality. In addition Lord Krsna says of Bhisma:

“When that great man leaves (Bhisma), so all kinds of knowledge about morality and duty will leave with him. No one can deliver instructions comparable to his, not even Me.” Mahabharata – translation by Krishna Dharma das

So Bhisma is indeed as high an authority on the subject of morality as we will find, and here is what Bhisma said when directly asked by Draupadi about her plight after the gambling match:

“O blessed lady, knowing that one who has no wealth of his own cannot stake that belonging to others, but knowing also that wives are always at the command of their husbands, I am unable to answer the point you raised. The ways of morality are subtle. Yudhisthira can abandon the whole world full of wealth, but he will never sacrifice morality. The Pandava played with Sakuni even though he knew that no one could defeat him at dice. He has staked and lost both himself and you, O princess. Therefore I am confused upon this matter.” Mahabharata – translation by Krishna Dharma das

I guess at the very least these quotes convey that dealing with these kinds of matters is never easy, never black and white, hence the title of this piece ‘Krishna give us guidance, oh Lord we need that now”.

We can but do our best and ultimately, as we learn from sastra, the truth will be revealed according to time, place and circumstance and no doubt Krishna will reveal, in any given situation, what each individual needs to know and what is best for all concerned, in due course.

Your servant

Praghosa dasa

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39 Responses to “Krishna give us Guidance, Oh Lord we need that now”

  1. srimanta says :

    Falling down from a particular position is not new until one seeks confirm mercy from Lord and fixes one’s heart always on Lotus feet of Krsna.

    Since Krsna is merciful, one may cry for causeless mercy from Krsna and must offer devotional services towards Krsna with confirm faith such that he can always hold lotus feet of Krsna with his mercy without any fall.

    Until it happens one should not accept the previous position but can continue devotional services to get mercy of Lord. All position in Krsna tree is offered by Krsna himself. So who can hold position without mercy of Krsna? That’s why the fall imminent.

    Only Krsna can protect His devotees and no other than Krsna. Until it is realized fall happens.

  2. nrsimhananda says :

    Dear Praghosa prabhu,
    As you illustrate in your observations, the truth can be used as a garland or as a weapon. The problem arises when one group makes a decision to withhold the truth from another, usually larger, contingent. In my own experience, the truth has had a profound power to heal. Many more times than not, the truth has brought about positive transformation. Secrets hold power only when they are not brought into the light. Our entire mission in life is a search for the Truth. To attain the Summon Bonum, we are trained to seek the subserviant “truth’s” in science, philosophy, etc. You might be able to point to a successful exception where hiding the truth has apparently helped a person, but the jury is still out until they are face-to-face with Yamaraja from which nothing is ever hidden. A brahamana is described as “honest.” I suggest that conditioned souls such as ourselves are hardly in a position to determined when the truth is appropriately covered from others who have intimate reciprocal service to those who have gone astray. That is partially why we face a multi-million dollar lawsuit from our children. When the truth becomes covered, there is a surfacing of lies which are used to suffocate that truth. Lies are insidious, and they forment more lies. Lies undermine faith in the leadership. Soon the crew mutanies. I understand that Srila Prabhupada was very merciful and could be counted on to decide when to keep the lid on. I don’t have the same faith in conditioned souls. I’ve seen a lot of devotees being revealed for their sometime hypocritial behavior and appreciate the lesson. I think that the necessity of leaders to live a transparent life is of vital importance to the health of their followers. I believe that much more often than not, “the truth shall set you free.”

  3. Praghosa says :

    Dear Nrsimhananda prabhu,

    I hope (but really know) that you are well on the road to recovery after your major heart surgery. It is great to know that you are with us all for the foreseeable future.

    I enthusiastically support the thrust and mood of your comment and would only add that few, if any, of ISKCON’s present leaders desire to withold the truth. Still, as indicated in the article, Srila Prabhupada was very careful and sensitive to the plight of any given individual. Just as you conclude that “truth shall set one free” I am sure that if revealing the truth were to be sensitively and compassionately received, then there would be little hesitation to reveal all.

    Thank you for your comment and understanding and I relish squeezing your rib cage the next time we meet!

    Yours in the service of Srila Prabhupada and the vaisnavas,

    Praghosa dasa.

  4. krishna-kirti says :

    When we talk about fall down, in almost every there was discovered an illicit connection with a woman. Although there are other means of falling down, when we talk about falling down what we generally mean is illicit sex. Illicit sex happens when a man and a woman are able to associate with one another, and association is something regulated by social convention. In other words, the prominence of falling down within our society is a social issue.

    Because falling down is primarily a social issue, the problem they present should be approached from the perspective of our social theology, which is varnasrama-dharma. Varnasrama-dharma has numerous, clear instructions on how to organize society so as to minimize illicit sexual relationships between men and women. If we want to minimize the incidence of falling down, which is by no means limited to ISKCON’s leaders, then we must discuss what those instructions are and how to implement them.

    As a first step, I recommend that when we discuss such issues, we don’t talk about “falling down” but rather talk about “illicit sex”. The former is abstract, while the later is concrete, something specific. Being specific will help us keep our focus and deal with actual problems.

  5. Suresh das says :

    You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool Maya at any time.

  6. srimanta says :

    Post #5. Not correct. You can fool Maya but not Krsna. Otherwise nobody can control over Maya including Krsna

    Post #4 falling down is not limited to “illicit sex”. Falling down from the mercy of Krsna is ultimate fall

  7. krishna-kirti says :

    Dear Post #6, I agree with you that “falling down from the mercy of Krishna is ultimate fall”, and I did mention that there are other means of falling down. Nevertheless, I focused on the general case, and within our society that means illicit association with women. Most fall downs in our society have occurred because of some desire for or actual, illicit association with women.

    “Falling from the mercy of Krishna” is a considerably more abstract proposition than “illicit association with women” in the same way that “crime” is considerably more abstract than “shoplifting”. When it comes to pracitcally combatting crime, you don’t take measures against “crime”, you take measures against specific forms of crime–auto-theft, forgery, shoplifting, etc. In the same way, we practically combat fall down by addressing specific forms of falling down, and the most general kind of falling down is caused by illicit association with women.

  8. Lalita Madhava d.d. says :

    It is not possible to make any of these crucial points more effectively or eloquently than Nrsimhananda Prabhu has done in Comment #2. So, to go on record in support of his statements, using the “street” vernacular, “What he said!”

  9. bh. kurt harris says :

    I respect the integrity of Pragosh Prabhu and the need to sometimes keep certain personal issues confidential. In general, I think when devotees have difficulty in their spiritual lives it’s really nobody’s business but theirs and their close associates and guides. Exposing people’s spiritual difficulties and making it the subject of internet chatter generally just drags everyone’s consciousness down.

    I think it’s unfortunate that some devotees think it is somehow important to their spiritual lives to know about the faults of others, especially in regards to certain types of “falldowns.” I wonder if this need for “truth” isn’t just born out of envy. If someone in leadership has difficulty does it make you feel better about yourself to hear about it?

    To anyone who insists that the truth must always be made public in this regard, I have several questions: How does hearing the faults of a Vaisnava help anyone? How does hearing the faults of others increase service to Guru and Krishna? If a sannyasi you hardly know had illicit sex, why is it your service to know all about it?

    There are examples in our sampradaya of great Vaisnavas who would refuse to hear the faults of any other Vaisnava, true or not. Wouldn’t it be nice if more of us could give up the need to hear about other people’s problems and stick to humbly working on our own?

    • Visakha Priya dasi says :

      To me, comment number one by Bhakta Kurt Harris is the most important and relevant answer to the article. Yet, it seems to have been totally overlooked.

  10. shiva says :

    Srila Prabhupada created a new form of a Gaudiya ashrama society in ISKCON which incorporated women. I find that the suggestion by Krishna Kirti to change the essential nature of ISKCON social interaction between the sexes to be presumptuous in that it goes beyond his brief to suggest that how Srila Prabhupada wanted ISKCON to be, needs to be changed to his vision of some type of “varnashrama”. Does he suggest that there is no interaction between the sexes in traditional vedic society or less then what is found in ISKCON? I would find that understanding of varnashrama to be faulty. Varnashrama society is not more strict then ISKCON when it comes to social interaction between sexes and regulative lifestyles, it is less strict. When Srila Prabhupada talked about incorporating varnashrama into ISKCON he mentioned it was because not everyone is qualified to be a brahmana and to live a brahminical lifestyle. In ISKCON if you do not get up and go to mangala aratik, chant 16 rounds, follow the 4 regulative principles, and engage in service in concert with the authority system, you risk being asked to leave the society. Varnashrama society makes no such demands. ISKCON even with women is a much more controlled and regulated society then traditional vedic society.

    As for the main thrust of the article I think that every case should be approached individually. There is no cure-all patch that can change people’s destiny. Krishna is guiding the lives of everyone to fulfill their destiny. If devotees are destined to have illicit sexual affairs, or get drunk, etc, then that cannot be stopped by some material arrangement. It is part of their purification process to go through whatever Krishna arranges for them to go through. Srila Prabhupada’s example in this sets the standard. If people think they have a better way to deal with these situations then Srila Prabhupada then they need to check to see whether or not Radha Krishna is speaking directly with them 24/7. If you have to check then that means you aren’t. If that is the case then it would be wise to accept the guidance of someone who does have that connection. Otherwise it is simply presumptuousness to think that your opinion is superior to those who directly converse with the lord intimately.

  11. krishna-kirti says :

    One time in England, there was a country horse doctor and his apprentice. One day the horse doctor and his apprentice had an emergency call. When they reached the horse stables and the sick horse, the doctor found that the horse couldn’t breath. After an examination, the doctor took out a hammer, hit the horse in the neck, and all of the sudden horse could breath and was fine.

    After seeing the doctor cure the horse, the apprentice had the idea that he could cure horses in the same way. The apprentice soon began diverting calls from the doctor and instead made the calls himself. After examining each horse, the apprentice, doing just like the doctor did, took a hammer out of his bag and hit each horse in the neck. However, instead of curing the horses he killed them.

    The horse doctor, wondering why he was getting so few calls, came to hear that his apprentice had been going around in his stead, hitting horses in the neck, and killing them. When the horse doctor caught up with his apprentice, he grabbed him by his lapels, shook him, and said, “Why, why are you going around hitting horses in the neck and killing them?”

    The apprentice said, “I saw how you cured that last horse, so I thought I would try it out myself, and save you some time.”

    “No!” said the doctor, “I hit that horse in the neck to dislodge the watermelon lodged in its throat.”

    This story illustrates the problem with claims to an understanding merely based on “Srila Prabhupada’s example”. Such claims take the form of “This is what Srila Prabhupada did–so never mind what ever else all those shastras and previous acharyas and Srila Prabhupada himself might have otherwise said.” The problem with such a position is that it turns on itself. Like the apprentice’s imperfect understanding of the horse doctor’s example, how do we know that our understanding of Srila Prabhupada’s example is also not faulty (and dangerously so) without understanding his example in a context provided by the shastras and the previous acharyas?

    Srila Prabhupada described the customs of Vedic culture, varnashram, at length. Not only did he describe them, but he explained practically how those customs help us in spiritual life.

    This incident from the Mahabharata period proves definitely that the ladies of the palace observed strict parda (restricted association with men), and instead of coming down in the open air where Lord Krsna and others were assembled, the ladies of the palace went up on the top of the palace and from there paid their respects to Lord Krsna by showers of flowers. . . . because we are now in the darkness of ignorance, the Vedic civilization allows very restricted mixing of woman and man. They say that the woman is considered to be the fire, and the man is considered to be the butter. The butter must melt in association with fire, and therefore they may be brought together only when it is necessary. And shyness is a check to the unrestricted mixing. It is nature’s gift, and it must be utilized. SB 1.10.16 purport

    If we try to understand Srila Prabhupada’s example without the context of such statements (and there are many), then we could well conclude that the concessions he made were, well, whatever significance we want to ascribe to them. Srila Prabhupada then becomes a vehicle for our own philosophies and convictions. It is like trying to understand Srila Prabhupada without reference to the will of Srila Prabhupada.

    Do we really want everything to be just like they were when Srila Prabhupada himself was present? Including things like this?

    Prabhupada’s former servant, Ranacora, had recently left his position. Although supposedly a brahmacari, he had never been a serious brahmacari. He had even seduced one of the young women devotees in New York. Prabhupada had found out and had asked the girl why she had indulged in sex with Ranacora if she wasn’t planning to marry him. Prabhupada’s “Why?” had so disarmed the girl that she had been unable to answer. SPL 24: New Jagannatha Puri

    Lots of incidents like that went on while Srila Prabhupada was present. I somehow doubt that he would want things to remain as they were. The concessions Srila Prabhupada gave for his disciples and the standards he wanted them to follow are often different.

  12. Neelam says :

    Hare Krsna. I liked the article by Praghosa das called ‘Krishna give us Guidance, Oh Lord we need that now’.

    I read through the Srila Prabhupada conversation mentioned, April 14th 1974, but couldn’t find the sentence “Yet if such a devotee is exposed like this, is it to the benefit of anyone”?

    In which version of Vedabase or the conversations book does this sentence appear?


  13. Praghosa says :

    Dear Neelam,

    Thank you for pointing out this discrepancy (one or two other devotees did too). Somehow I must have had a ‘senior moment’ (even though I’m only 45!).

    I have adjusted the article accordingly and you can read the edited version. Overall I think the essence of the article remains intact.

    Thanks again.

    Your servant, Praghosa dasa.

  14. Praghosa says :

    Dear Krishna-kirti prabhu,

    I read your comment (#11) with interest and found myself agreeing with the thrust of what you were presenting, however I couldn’t quite get the connection (or at least found myself speculating as to what the connection might be) with the article you were commenting on – Krishna give us Guidance, Oh Lord we need that now?

    Your servant,

    Praghosa dasa.

  15. krishna-kirti says :

    Dear Praghoshji (comment #14), Hare Krishna.

    The connection between my point in comment #11 , which is about how we understand Srila Prabhupada (I made somewhat different points in comments #4 and #7), is directly related to your point about appealing to the Lord for mercy and guidance because my point is about how we receive transcendental knowledge. Krishna’s mercy comes to us in many ways, yet for us one the most important ways that mercy comes to us is through his instructions and the instructions of great devotees like Srila Prabhupada. Therefore, how we understand Srila Prabhupada makes a difference as to how much mercy we receive.

    The criterion I have suggested is one Srila Prabhupada also suggests in the beginning of his commentary on the Gita, that we try to understand Krishna’s words by reference to His will. “It is not to Krishna we have to surrender, but to the ‘unborn within Krishna'”, is an example of what Srila Prabhupada meant by understanding Krishna’s words without reference to His will. Similarly, taking something Srila Prabhupada did, or even said, without reference to whatever else he may have said or without reference to the parampara is also an attempt to understand Srila Prabhupada without reference to his will. The net result is that we are not full recipients of mercy that is freely offered.

    In understanding Srila Prabhupada’s words, the approach Srila Prabhupada advocates emphasizes instruction as having primacy over example, and the approach those who have objected to my position emphasize example as having primacy over instruction. In the former approach, if there is a seeming contradiction between example and instruction, then the differing example is understood as subordinate to that instruction and somehow is meant to eventually get us to the point of being in line with the instruction.

    The latter approach, however, does not adequately resolve a conflict between a differing example and instruction because that approach sees the example itself as the instruction and ends up with two incompatible instructions–one the instruction of the example and the other the instruction of the words. Since the instruction of the example is no longer a means to another end (the instruction of words) but is itself an end, then what usually happens is that the words themselves lose meaning, or at least lose their connection to our lives.

    Viewing Srila Prabhupada’s concessions (what he did) regarding his disciples’ attachment to women as a permanent arrangement renders a good deal of shastra and Srila Prabhupada’s own commentary irrelevant to our present and future circumstances. But viewing those same concessions as a temporary measure on the way to a society that more closely resembles the one we read about in the shastras (what he said) keeps those instructions relevant. This keeps intact and relevant more of shastra and more of Srila Prabhuapda’s words and is therefore the better approach, and that means more mercy for us (and fewer difficulties).

  16. shiva says :

    Krishna Kirti you bring up some interesting points but I still don’t think that you nor anyone else unless they are dealing directly with Radha Krishna, unless they have an intimate relationship with the Lord, are advanced enough to know better how ISKCON should be run then by someone who is getting direct instruction from the Lord. Your example of the horse and the doctor is really more of an excuse to follow your own vision rather then an authoritative rational. From the purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 8.18.28:

    “One mahajana follows another mahajana, and by following the parampara system of mahajana activities one can become advanced in spiritual consciousness. ”

    That is the basis for the spiritual life of conditioned souls. Liberated souls can act in a different way because they are getting instruction directly from the Lord. They can inovate according to desa kala patra. Others without that direct relatonship with the Lord always need to take shelter of the example set by the mahajana, the pure devotee in contact with the Lord.

    You also mentioned something about how the women of the royal house of the Kurus went up to the roof to shower flowers upon Sri Krishna when he was leaving Hastinapura. In that purport Srila Prabhupada mentions that the women were checked by their shyness. It is well understood that vedic civilization was not like modern civiliation when it comes to the intermingling of the sexes. My point was that ISKCON is not less strict then varnashrama society, which is what you implied. People in ISKCON follow the rules of a bhakti yoga ashrama, which are brahminical. Varnashrama society has different standards for different varnas. Varnashrama society does not enforce the same standards as ISKCON enforces for membership. Your commentary makes the assumption that your vision of varnashrama is superior to Srila Prabhupada’s actual implementation of ISKCON social interaction. That was the main point of my coimmentary. Srila Prabhupada specifically included women into a new Gaudiya ashrama standard. Unless you are dealing directly with the Lord you have absolutely no authority to think that you know better based upon your interpretation of what Srila Prabhupada has written or upon your conception of vedic society. You specifically stated that a new vision of how ISKCON should be run should be implemeted based upon your vision of what Srila Prabhupada has written on vedic civiliazation rather then based on Srila Prabhupada’s actual implementation. Only the mahabhagvata who is being directly instructed by the Lord has that perogative, no one else.

    Madhya 23.105

    yukta-vairagya-sthiti saba sikhaila
    suska-vairagya-jnana saba nisedhila

    Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu then told Sanatana Gosvami about proper renunciation according to a particular situation, and the Lord forbade dry renunciation and speculative knowledge in all respects.


    This is the technique for understanding suska-vairagya and yukta-vairagya. In the Bhagavad-gita (6.17) it is said:

    yuktahara-viharasya yukta-cestasya karmasu
    yukta-svapnavabodhasya yogo bhavati duhkha-ha

    “He who is temperate in his habits of eating, sleeping, recreation and work can mitigate all material pains by practicing the yoga system.” To broadcast the cult of Krsna consciousness, one has to learn the possibility of renunciation in terms of country, time and candidate. A candidate for Krsna consciousness in the Western countries should be taught about the renunciation of material existence, but one would teach candidates from a country like India in a different way. The teacher (acarya) has to consider time, candidate and country. He must avoid the principle of niyamagraha — that is, he should not try to perform the impossible. What is possible in one country may not be possible in another. The acarya’s duty is to accept the essence of devotional service. There may be a little change here and there as far as yukta-vairagya (proper renunciation) is concerned. Dry renunciation is forbidden by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and we have also learned this from our spiritual master, His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Gosvami Maharaja. The essence of devotional service must be taken into consideration, and not the outward paraphernalia…

    A Vaisnava is immediately purified, provided he follows the rules and regulations of his bona fide spiritual master. It is not necessary that the rules and regulations followed in India be exactly the same as those in Europe, America and other Western countries.

    Simply imitating without effect is called niyamagraha. Not following the regulative principles but instead living extravagantly is also called niyamagraha. The word niyama means “regulative principles,” and agraha means “eagerness.” The word agraha means “not to accept.” We should not follow regulative principles without an effect, nor should we fail to accept the regulative principles.

    What is required is a special technique according to country, time and candidate. In this connection, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura comments on these points by quoting two verses by Sri Rupa Gosvami (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.2.255-256).

    anasaktasya visayan
    yatharham upayunjatah
    nirbandhah krsna-sambandhe
    yuktam vairagyam ucyate

    prapancikataya buddhya
    mumuksubhih parityago
    vairagyam phalgu kathyate

    When one is not attached to anything but at the same time accepts everything in relation to Krsna, one is rightly situated above possessiveness. On the other hand, one who rejects everything without knowledge of its relationship to Krsna is not as complete in his renunciation. To preach the bhakti cult, one should seriously consider these verses.

    So Srila Prabhupada set the standard for ISKCON in accordance to Krishna’s vision which was instructed to him on what is necessary to spread the Krishna consciousness movement according to desa kala patra. If you are not speaking directly with Krishna then it is simply presumptuous to think that you have the authority to make a change to Krishna’s implementation of ISKCON through Srila Prabhupada. You may think that you have good reason to make a change, but that is simply presumptuousness to think so highly of your opinion unless you are directly being instructed by the lord to make changes. Only the devotee who is directly communicating with Krishna has the authority to make changes to the instructions of the previous acarya.

  17. krishna-kirti says :

    Shivaji, to be fair, your stance on how we receive transcendental knowledge respresents that of many in our movement, and I also think that at this time it happens to be the predominant stance. That said, there are some problems with that stance that undermine its claim to superior knowledge. Please consider:

    1) How do we know that our own understanding of the pure devotee’s example is not flawed? Obviously, the vast majority of us aren’t traipsing over hill and dale with Radha-Krishna. Certainly, I’m not. How, then, can you or me or anyone else claim to know what Srila Prabhupada’s example means without recourse to the general body of his own statements, the parampara itself and the shastras?

    2) At what level of developed consciousness can we know things as they are? Your claim is that unless we’re directly witnessing the lila of Radha-Krishna, then we are not advanced enough to know how ISKCON should be run. If that is true, then how is ISKCON itself running? At present I know of no one who heads ISKCON and who also claims to be directly in touch with Radha-Krishna. Furthermore, as pointed out in point (1), the example of the pure devotee is also subject to misunderstanding. Although not necessarily directly in touch with Radha-Krishna, a Vaisnava brahmana has adequately developed consciousness to understand the way forward. Brahamana means someone who knows brahman, or knows things as they are. Otherwise, why is he called a brahmana? It’s like the difference between a broad-band connection and a modem dialup. The modem dialup is nowhere near as fast as broadband, but the modem still connects you to the Internet.

    None of this means that you completely reject shastra; obviously you’re quoting from it to support your position. Nor does it mean that I reject exemplary behavior as a means of understanding. I accept as valid your reference to following the Mahajana. Both shastra and example are essential. Yet where it seems I differ with you is in what we consider the relationship between shastra (including the words of previous acharyas) and example. My understanding is that the example is subordinate to shastra, not the other way around. It is this relationship that allows us to understand why, for example, on a full-moon night in Autumn none of us are eligible to dance with unmarried girls.

    It is also this relationship between shastra and example that allows us to understand the difference between a means to an end and an end itself. I think we both agree that as regards to women staying in ashramas outside of India, the conecessions Srila Prabhupada made were necessary. Yet those concessions were made in response to social conditioning that was a hinderance for spiritual advancement. Is not the tendency for men and women to mix as freely as Srila Prabhupada’s disciples were apt to, even in the ashrama, an impediment to spirtual life? Srila Prabhupada seemed to think so, yet he also admitted that among his Western disciples he could not prevent it–therefore he made concessions. In this regard, Srila Prabhupada has said,

    An acarya should devise a means by which people may somehow or other come to Krsna consciousness. First they should become Krsna conscious, and all the prescribed rules and regulations may later gradually be introduced. In our Krsna consciousness movement we follow this policy of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. For example, since boys and girls in the Western countries freely intermingle, special concessions regarding their customs and habits are necessary to bring them to Krsna consciousness. The acarya must devise a means to bring them to devotional service. CC Adi 7.37

    Even though the conditions necessary for this adjustment might persist for a long time, this particular adjustment should still be considered a temporary concession, not a permanent arrangement. This is because the conditions which make the adjustment necessary (free intermingling of the sexes) are intrinsically detrimental to spiritual life. It is therefore in our best spiritual interests to gradually change our social customs such that we no longer require those concessions.

    Another very important difference in our approaches to understanding Srila Prabhupada is the scope of Srila Prabhupada’s words that are relevant to our own lives. In the approach you advocate, the scope of what counts as relevant is appreciably smaller. For example, you stated, “It is well understood that vedic civilization was not like modern civiliation when it comes to the intermingling of the sexes,” which I agree with. Yet it seems under the approach you advocate it is considered a difference of preference (as in do you prefer red or green) whereas under the approach I advocate it is considered a standard we should aspire to. This latter approach is better because the ladies on the rooftops in Hastinapur are then seen as acharyas, they are shining examples for us to follow. Under your approach this is not the case, they are not examples for us to follow. Hence, that approach makes shastra less meaningful, less relevant us.

    (As a side point, I disagree that “ISKCON is not less strict than varnashram society”, because if that were the case, then Srila Prabhupada would not have made for his disciples the concessions we have been discussing.)

    This difference in our approaches to understanding Srila Prabhupada results in two differing and incompatible interpretations of Srila Prabhupada’s actions. As an example discussed at length here, your means of interpretation concludes that his “adjustment” regarding the social customs of men and women in the West was meant to be a permanent arrangement–something that should never be changed. The means of interpretation I employed concludes that his “adjustment” was a temporary concession that at some point should become unnecessary. The “adjustment” (whichever one it may be) cannot be both permanent and temporary, which means that our methods of understanding are incompatible. They cannot be reconciled. One method therefore has to be accepted and the other rejected.

    Although the approach you have advocated seems to be the more popularly held means of understanding Srila Prabhupada, the approach I have advocated is the right one for at least these two reasons:

    a) It does not require that we be pure devotees but that we are at least Vaisnava brahmanas.
    b) It makes considerably more of shastra relevant to our lives than does the approach you have advocated.

    The first reason gives us hope that despite not being directly in touch with Radha-Krishna we still can understand how to move forward. The second reason means that the more shastra is seen as relevant to our lives the more we open ourselves to the mercy of Krishna. Therefore, how we understand Srila Prabhupada and the shastras makes a big difference as to how much of Krishna’s mercy we allow ourselves to receive.

  18. shiva says :

    Krishna Kirti prabhu thank you for your thoughtful response. The topic of the article was how to deal with falldowns by devotees in leadership positions in ISKCON. I advocated that we should follow the example set by Srila Prabhupada. Apparently you advocate a more innovative process basing decisions more on the use of the shastra in determining how to deal with the problem. You cited an analogy of the horse and the doctor to highlight the possible disqualifications of devotees in applying the same methodology as Srila Prabhupada when faced with similar circumstances. The problem as I see it with your reasoning is that traditional shastra does not have a section devoted to dealing with the management of ISKCON. Your idea that shastra should supercede Srila Prabhupada’s example leaves us with an even riskier situation then simply following Srila Prabhupada’s footsteps. Because shastra does not have an ISKCON management section we will have to interpret shastra to accomodate the situation ISKCON leaders have to deal with. Whereas with simply following Srila Prabhupada’s example there is less need of interpretation because he dealt with the exact problems that this topic is addressing.

    You also complained that I was setting the bar to high in order for someone to have the divine authority to be manage ISKCON. You wrote:

    At what level of developed consciousness can we know things as they are? Your claim is that unless we’re directly witnessing the lila of Radha-Krishna, then we are not advanced enough to know how ISKCON should be run.

    My point is that although you may be a qualified vaishnava and a pukka brahmana that you are still not authorized to innovate when that innovation goes against the examples personally set by the recent mahajana. I didn’t suggest that those who are not on the highest level of bhakti cannot know how ISKCON should be run, my point was about innovation in opposition to the example set by the recent uttama bhakta. If your “running of ISKCON” is an innovation which is directly counter to the example set by Srila Prabhupada then I would suggest you re-think that innovation unless Sri Krishna personally told you to make that innovation. This doesn’t mean that innovation cannot be made. There are two types of innovation which are authorized: 1) Those made by non uttama bhaktas which are not counter to the explicit example and teaching of the previous acharya 2) Those made by the devotee who is on the highest level of bhakti which can be counter to the explicit example of the previous acharya. Srila Prabhupada was the second type of innovator. ISKCON is entirely innovative. It is different from the example set by Srila Saraswati Thakura. Srila Prabhupada was authorized because he is an intimate associate of Sri Radha Krishna. Others who are on a lower level can innovate in an authorized fashion in ISKCON if it doesn’t go against the specific example set by Srila Prabhupada.

    You advocate a more scholarly approach when making decisions on how ISKCON should be managaed. The problem with that as I noted is that the shastra does not have a section on managing ISKCON. But we do have Srila Prabhupada’s example.

    You also wrote:

    Even though the conditions necessary for this adjustment might persist for a long time, this particular adjustment should still be considered a temporary concession, not a permanent arrangement. This is because the conditions which make the adjustment necessary (free intermingling of the sexes) are intrinsically detrimental to spiritual life. It is therefore in our best spiritual interests to gradually change our social customs such that we no longer require those concessions.

    That innovative approach is going directly against the example of the recent mahajana, unless Sri Krishsna told you personally to make such an innovation it is not authorized. You quoted Srila Prabhupada:

    For example, since boys and girls in the Western countries freely intermingle, special concessions regarding their customs and habits are necessary to bring them to Krsna consciousness.

    Has western society changed in some drastic way such that ISKCON no longer needs to follow the precedent set by Srila Prabhupada? I would say not. You quoted Srila Prabhupada to back up your contention:

    An acarya should devise a means by which people may somehow or other come to Krsna consciousness. First they should become Krsna conscious, and all the prescribed rules and regulations may later gradually be introduced. In our Krsna consciousness movement we follow this policy of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

    What was that policy of Sri Caitanya? In the previous verses Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said:

    The impersonalists, fruitive workers, false logicians, blasphemers, nondevotees and lowest among the student community are very expert in avoiding the Krsna consciousness movement, and therefore the inundation of Krsna consciousness cannot touch them.

    Seeing that the Mayavadis and others were fleeing, Lord Caitanya thought, “I wanted everyone to be immersed in this inundation of love of Godhead, but some of them have escaped. Therefore I shall devise a trick to drown them also.”

    Thus the Lord accepted the sannyasa order of life after full consideration.

    Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu remained in householder life for twenty-four years, and on the verge of His twenty-fifth year He accepted the sannyasa order.

    After accepting the sannyasa order, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu attracted the attention of all those who had evaded Him, beginning with the logicians.

    Thus the students, infidels, fruitive workers and critics all came to surrender unto the lotus feet of the Lord.

    Lord Caitanya excused them all, and they merged into the ocean of devotional service, for no one can escape the unique loving network of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

    What Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu did was to use the position of sannyasa in order to get the attention and respect of those who were not interested in his sankirtan movement. Then Srila Prabhupada commented on that:

    Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was an ideal acarya. An acarya is an ideal teacher who knows the purpose of the revealed scriptures, behaves exactly according to their injunctions and teaches his students to adopt these principles also. As an ideal acarya, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu devised ways to capture all kinds of atheists and materialists. Every acarya has a specific means of propagating his spiritual movement with the aim of bringing men to Krsna consciousness. Therefore, the method of one acarya may be different from that of another, but the ultimate goal is never neglected. Srila Rupa Gosvami recommends:

    tasmat kenapy upayena manah krsne nivesayet
    sarve vidhi-nisedha syur etayor eva kinkarah

    An acarya should devise a means by which people may somehow or other come to Krsna consciousness. First they should become Krsna conscious, and all the prescribed rules and regulations may later gradually be introduced. In our Krsna consciousness movement we follow this policy of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

    What Srila Prabhupada did with ISKCON was similar to what Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu had done. ISKCON attracts people to come by offering free sumptuous prasad, lessons in mantra meditation, dancing and chanting, and in the process they hear from the sadhus and take a book and become purified. Later the rules and regulations of Gaudiya bhakti are introduced. Look at the beginning of ISKCON in the 1960’s, it was very different then the ISKCON of the 1970’s. Gradually Srila Prabhupada introduced more and more of the gaudiya tradition into ISKCON. But one thing did not change, that was the position of women. The societal norms of western society which are behind Sri Krishna’s decision to have Srila Prabhupada change the essential nature of a Gaudiya ashrama society with the inclusion of women, had not changed from 1966-1977. And even though Srila Prabhupada had changed the character of ISKCON over that time period, the roles of women were not changed by Srila Prabhupada. That was because the societal norms which existed in the western world vis-a-vis social interaction between the sexes, which was the impetus for the innovation that Srila Prabhupada made in the first place, had not suddenly changed. And to this day there is still no difference in the western world, and in India as well we see a more westernized outlook growing fast. So any reasoning that inspires us to think that how Srila Prabhupada had ISKCON running with the inclusion of women by the time of his departure should be radically altered in the name of a more traditional vedic approach, is not authorized unless you are on the highest level of bhakti and getting the instruction directly from the words of the Lord.

  19. krishna-kirti says :


    The word “complain” is not a good word to describe an objection to a stated position. For example, a position I hold is that social customs should gradually come to resemble the social customs of a Vedic society, at least as far as Srila Prabhupada has described and praised those customs. However, as you have pointed out, some of those customs annoy the constituency ISKCON preaches to in the West. That’s not a complaint, that’s an objective assessment. It’s something I have to effectively respond to if I want my position to be taken seriously. Similarly, because “simply following Srila Prabhupada’s example” is also subject to misunderstanding, pointing that out is not a complaint. In this case, it’s a legitimate epistemological question: How do you know that what you think you see in Srila Prabhupada’s example is not mistaken?

    That said, I agree with your point about innovation. Innovation that goes against the sastras and the example of the acharya is unauthorized. However, my recommendation is verifiable; it is not an innovation. It happens to be Srila Prabhupada’s position (bolding added):

    According to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, this is the way an incarnation should be accepted. Srila Narottama dasa Thakura says, sadhu-sastra-guru-vakya, cittete kariya aikya. One should accept a thing as genuine by studying the words of saintly people, the spiritual master and the sastra. The actual center is the sastra, the revealed scripture. If a spiritual master does not speak according to the revealed scripture, he is not to be accepted. Similarly, if a saintly person does not speak according to the sastra, he is not a saintly person. The sastra is the center for all. Madhya 20.352

    Now, Srila Prabhupada is not suggesting that shastra cancels out sadhu or guru (if there is an apparent disagreement between them), what he advocates is that shastra forms the context within which we understand the behavior of the acharya.

    It is this approach that informs my view on what Srila Prabhupada wanted for ISKCON:

    * The shastras say that casual relationships, intermingling, between men and women are bad for spiritual life.
    * Srila Prabhupada says that it is bad for spiritual life. He never said it is good for spiritual life; he has stated innumerable times that it was bad.
    * Yet Srila Prabhupada made some concession for it, beyond what the sastras ordinarily allow.

    If shastra is the center for all, then whatever Srila Prabhupada says or does must uphold the shastra. He cannot say something about shastra that is untrue, nor can he act as if that were the case. Instead, if the adjustment Srila Prabhupada made is understood as a temporary arrangement for the sake of bringing others to a higher platform, where such concessions would no longer be necessary, then Srila Prabhupada’s “example” is faithful to the above statement.

  20. Braja Sevaki says :

    Krishna-kirti wrote:

    > 2) …Your claim is that unless we’re directly witnessing the lila of Radha-Krishna,
    > then we are not advanced enough to know how ISKCON should be run. If that is true,
    > then how is ISKCON itself running? At present I know of no one who heads ISKCON
    > and who also claims to be directly in touch with Radha-Krishna.

    As Prabhupada said, “If I told you, would you believe me?”

    Firstly, ISKCON isn’t “running itself.” How are you able to dismiss the entire Governing Body Commission, national management, local authorities, and individual authorities, ie: sannyasis, initiating gurus, siksa gurus, etc., and state that “ISKCON [is] running itself?” Perhaps you are running your own self, but most devotees in ISKCON have voluntarily accepted the structure of ISKCON, regardless of whether or not they think it runs perfectly.

    I don’t believe that simply because you personally don’t know what an individual is experiencing in terms of their r/ship with Radha and Krishna, it means that no one is experiencing something higher than you can possibly imagine–especially when some of those individuals have been practicing seriously for 40 years. I would consider that a gross speculation, and a something of a deficit in terms of understanding this process. If someone in this movement believes that no one has yet attained a high level of Krishna consciousness, then what does it say for their faith in Srila Prabhupada, the process, scripture, the philosophy, etc.? Not much…

    Your servant
    Braja Sevaki dd

  21. Akruranatha says :

    This is a very interesting discussion. It is enlivening to see thoughtful devotees have these public dialogues about interesting topics.

    Shiva Prabhu made some very interesting points here which, while not directly on the topic of how to deal with falldowns of leading devotees, bear serious thought and discussion. He does not need my support, as he can obviously hold his own, but I want to say I appreciate his insights.

    Srila Prabhupada famously said 50% of his work remained unfinished, and instructed us to establish varnashrama dharma within ISKCON. We have a duty to try to understand his instructions and carry them out, but there are differences of opinion even among thoughtful senior devotees on how to accomplish this or even what Srila Prabhupada meant.

    Some devotees seem to think that Srila Prabhupada’s varnashrama instructions were a call to purge our society of any remaining vestiges of western culture, to become more culturally conservative, more Indian, or more aloof and distinct from the societies we live and preach in.

    Shiva suggests just the opposite. Srila Prabhupada was acknowledging that establishing ISKCON as a society of only brahmanas was not realistically sustainable, or was too exclusive to be effective. Srila Prabhupada was compassionate enough to make a place in ISKCON those who could not actually live up to the brahminical standard. They were coming to his lotus feet and artificially taking brahman initiation but were falling down. Rather than make them artificial brahmanas, if they could be properly engaged according to their own natures, they could assist as non-brahman members of the ISKCON society.

    In many ways, we see that is happening naturally whether we like it or not. Even Time magazine recognized that ISKCON devotees are mostly not living in ashrams anymore. We are being forced to work according to the ways nature directs us, and for most of us that is not as full-time priests and preachers. Still, many of us are regularly attending classes, donating money, and doing service in various ways according to our capacity and qualifications.

    Of course we need brahmanas and brahmacaris and sannyasis more than ever, but we must cast a wider net and find means of engaging householders with “outside jobs.” We seem to be at a crossroads where the movement can make tremendous gains in influence and effectiveness if we can engage and accommodate more of the mainstream people without sacrificing or watering down the purity of the message.

    We need to keep growing, to double book distribution every year, to make the world sit up and take notice of Lord Krishna and Lord Caitanya. We cannot lose the innovative preaching spirit or do anything that jeopardizes these goals.

    Srila Prabhupada was so liberal that, for the sake of preaching, he violated rules that lesser sannyasis would not dare transgress. He performed marriages for his young disciples, and some conservative Godbrothers criticized this, but he did what was necessary to create ISKCON in the west. He also created “brahmacarini” ashrams. Later when the GBC resolved to expel single mothers from ISKCON ashrams, Srila Prabhupada compassionately vetoed the resolution. He cared for the material and spiritual well being of those who took shelter of him.

    Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada wore shoes, rode in cars and did other things that were seen as compromises for the sake of preaching. He was so insistent on preaching in the west that he even said the preachers could serve meat to the westerners if necessary for preaching. (Fortunately, that has not been necessary).

    Shiva Prabhu is only saying that the successful innovations Srila Prabhupada made in ISKCON for preaching in the west should not be undone under the banner of “now we have to establish varnashrama dharma.” We should be careful not to undo the great work Srila Prabhupada has accomplished in making Krishna consciousness relevant in the contemporary western world.

    As for intermingling of the sexes, we all know that the less of it, the better, and that Vedic civilization minimized sexual contact. However, the world we live and preach in is currently a long way from that standard and is not getting any closer. The successful cultural compromises that Srila Prabhupada made for the sake of preaching cannot be lightly abandoned.

  22. Tamoharadasa says :

    copy of posting referred to by tamoharadasa;

    “But today we find that in the name of “Time, place and circumstance” people who never studied the principles deeply, or have no faith in Srila Prabhupada, or the Sastras, or Sri Krsna or some combination of the above; want to change the principles themselves to make them more “relevant” to modern times and values. For them Krsna’s Vedic culture is “outdated” (obsolete) because it conflicts with modern values. Modern values are great for staying in the material world in fact that is why Mayadevi is busy making them (she has a whole factory cranking them out), but if you want to go back to Krsna’s eternal world you have go on His terms and His [eternal] values.”

  23. trivikramaswami says :

    Akrunatha Prabhu has stated;

    “Shiva Prabhu is only saying that the successful innovations Srila Prabhupada made in ISKCON for preaching in the west should not be undone under the banner of “now we have to establish varnashrama dharma.” We should be careful not to undo the great work Srila Prabhupada has accomplished in making Krishna consciousness relevant in the contemporary western world.”

    Fair enough, but we also have to; “be careful not undo the great work Srila Prabhupada accomplished”, by imitating him. In other words Srila Prabhupada could do things that we can not do. As he said to Satsvarupa Maharaja, when Maharaja approached him on behalf of the GBC on May 28th 1977, Srila Prabhupada responded:
    Prabhupada: So there is no question of changing GBC.
    Satsvarupa: No.
    Prabhupada: Rather, one who is competent, he can be selected to act by the board of the GBC.
    Tamala Krishna: Of course, if someone has a falldown, just like in the past some GBC men have fallen down…
    Prabhupada: He should be replaced.
    Tamala Krishna: Then he should be replaced. But that’s a serious falldown, not some minor discrepancy.
    Prabhupada: They must be all ideal acarya-like. In the beginning we have done for working. Now we should be very cautious. Anyone who is deviating, he can be replaced.
    Here Srila Prabhupada is clearly instructing us that for “working” he has done things that we should not imitate, that his example is NOT to be followed, but his instructions are. And Srila Prabhupada repeatedly told us that that was his success; that he took the instructions of his spiritual master as his life and soul.

    This “following his example” is the very argument that the new gurus presented to us in 1978 for their need to have elaborate vyasasanas in the temple room, for daily guru puja in the temple room etc. In retrospect we can all see that this was a huge mistake for which we are still suffering.

    Akrunatha Prabhu continues:
    “As for intermingling of the sexes, we all know that the less of it, the better, and that Vedic civilization minimized sexual contact. However, the world we live and preach in is currently a long way from that standard and is not getting any closer.”

    True; but isn’t example the best method of teaching? Shouldn’t we be demonstrating in our communities the example of Vedic civilization so that these poor westerners can see an example of an ideal culture. Without that example how can they be expected to change?

    Akrunath Prabhu continues:
    “The successful cultural compromises that Srila Prabhupada made for the sake of preaching cannot be lightly abandoned.”

    True again but we should be very careful not to make new compromises. In Srila Prabhupada’s time there were no women temple presidents in Iskcon, now there are so many. Are they fit to train up our renunciates, which you say we need more of?

    No. It seems more likely that we are being too much influenced by our host culture, and instead of setting an example for them we are following their example.

    Your servant
    Trivikrama Swami

  24. Akruranatha says :

    Jai Trivikrama Maharaja! Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

    I agree that we must be careful in both directions when it comes to changing and adapting to changing times and circumstances. Just as we should not lightly undo compromises Srila Prabhupada made for preaching in the west, we must be just as cautious or perhaps even more cautious to not lightly make new compromises Srila Prabhupada did not approve of. Thanks for keeping me honest on this.

    Women temple presidents might be a compromise Srila Prabhupada did not make. (I am not aware of any women T.P.s before 1978, but I have not done any research).

    Personally, I do not see having women T.P.s as a problem–it might even be a positive step –but what I personally think is irrelevant. We have to look to the advanced devotees such as yourself to decide whether Srila Prabhupada would approve such a change, and in making such decision we must proceed with caution and be absolutely sure we make no mistakes.

    Having said that, I get the impression that there are other senior devotees who disagree with you on these subjects. I would like to see public Dandavats discussion by the advanced senior learned devotees about these things. (Not that I want to distract anyone from other important service).

    I do not think anyone would suggest that women T.P.s should train up male brahmacaris and sannyasis. Obviously. We need male brahmacaris and sannyasis to do that. (Just as senior renounced women would train women renunciates.)

    However, it does not have to be part of the T.P.’s portfolio to provide this training. I am under the impression that generally T.P.s should be householders so they can interact more freely with both men and women and take care of managerial duties, leaving the renounced devotees more time for preaching and training.

    The whole enormous cultural debate of women’s roles should have its own separate article. We do know Srila Prabhupada encouraged female devotees to serve in many ways, and my own two cents (which is more than my own opinion is worth) is that artificial limitation on what women devotees could do has weakened, rather than strengthened, some of our preaching.

    But I understand a lot of those limitations were made in Srila Prabhupada’s presence in the ’70s, even before I joined, while you were already a sannyasi. You are right to point out that we should be very cautious not to undo whatever Srila Prabhupada did.

    Krishna give us guidance. Oh Lord, we need that now.

  25. shiva says :

    Trivikrama Maharaja PAMHO, dandavats =0–== you have written:

    Here Srila Prabhupada is clearly instructing us that for “working” he has done things that we should not imitate, that his example is NOT to be followed, but his instructions are

    I don’t see a clear instruction about anything except that GBC who have fallen should be replaced. What “fallen” means and to what degree and how long a GBC should be fallen in order that it be necessary to replace him is left open to interpretation. In that conversation it is left for the GBC to vote upon. I don’t think by that conversation you can infer rejection of Srila Prabhupada’s example as what is being put forth, and I would disagree that he was “clearly instructing us that for “working” he has done things that we should not imitate, that his example is NOT to be followed”. That is an extrapolation from his words and not a clear instruction. Here are some clear instructions. From Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu from Sri Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya 17.185

    dharma-sthapana-hetu sadhura vyavahara
    puri-gosanira ye acarana, sei dharma sara

    “A devotee’s behavior establishes the true purpose of religious principles. The behavior of Madhavendra Puri Gosvami is the essence of such religious principles.”

    From the purport to the above verse:

    “A man covered by illusion cannot understand the proper way; therefore Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, dharma-sthapana-hetu sadhura vyavahara: “The behavior of a devotee is the criterion for all other behavior.” Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself followed the devotional principles and taught others to follow them. Puri-gosanira ye acarana, sei dharma sara. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu personally followed the behavior of Madhavendra Puri and advised others to follow his principles.”

    From Bhagavd Gita class NYC 5.30.66

    “Yad yad acarati sresthah. So we have to follow the footprints of great personalities. Dharmasya tattvam nihitam guhayam. Mahajana. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam you will find that it has been advised that religious principles should be followed by taking the life examples of great personalities”

    You also wrote:

    This “following his example” is the very argument that the new gurus presented to us in 1978 for their need to have elaborate vyasasanas in the temple room, for daily guru puja in the temple room etc. In retrospect we can all see that this was a huge mistake for which we are still suffering.

    So we should reject following the example of the previous acarya because you believe that people can make bad choices by doing so?

    You also wrote:

    True; but isn’t example the best method of teaching? Shouldn’t we be demonstrating in our communities the example of Vedic civilization so that these poor westerners can see an example of an ideal culture. Without that example how can they be expected to change?

    I agree. But Srila Prabhupada created ISKCON in the way that he believed to be best suited to represent Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s desire. If we believe that changing what Prabhupada instituted in ISKCON would be better serving that desire then we should actually be hearing that directly from the Lord, directly, not inferred from mental speculation nor from sentimental intuitiveness. Otherwise how do we know if our vision of how ISKCON should be, if it is different from what Srila Prabhupada set up, is satisfying the desire of the Lord? A devotee on the highest level of bhakti speaks directly with the Lord at all times. The Lord is never absent from his direct association. Unless you are on that level then you cannot know perfectly what the Lord desires in every situation on your own. Unless you are an associate of the Lord it would seem to me to be unwise to change what so recently was created by his representative.

  26. Lalita Madhava d.d. says :

    Trivikrama Swami states, “In Srila Prabhupada’s time there were no women temple presidents in Iskcon, now there are so many.” In my humble opinion (and I am sure dozens upon dozens of devotees will agree with me), Mother Nanda single-handedly ran the New Ramana Reti temple extraordinarily well and, I would go so far as to say (having lived in Alachua since 1980), better than any man ever has, before or after her.

  27. trivikramaswami says :

    “The word anukara means “imitating,” and anusara means “trying to follow in the footsteps.” We should not try to imitate the activities of a mahä-bhägavata…”

    CC. Madya 17.31 purport.

    Would Shivaji want our members to follow the example of Ramanada Roy in bathing the young girls and in so doing touching thier private parts? Or in the case of Srila Prabhupada himself, sometimes he critizied his Godbrothers, but he told us that he could do that but we could not. Should we follow his example or his instruction?

  28. Lalita Madhava d.d. says :

    Post Script to my own Comment #25: I intended nothing negative toward the current New Ramana Reti leadership by my statement. I simply meant that we now have management teams, boards and numerous committees to do what the hard-working, dedicated and highly competent Mother Nanda did for years single-handedly.

  29. krishna-kirti says :

    Regarding comment #24 and previous comments made by commentator Shiva, which privilege Srila Prabhupada’s example over his words, I have pointed out several times that “example”, particularly Srila Prabhupada’s example, is still subject to misunderstanding, no matter how strongly we may feel it supports a cherrished idea. Furthermore, it was shown that sadhus live their lives in terms of the shastras; shastra is not optional. In his well known statement “shastra is the center for all”, what else could Srila Prabhupada mean except that shastra is privileged over all other sources of knowledge? Sadhus speak according to shastra; they don’t strike out on their own to create something “new”, something apart from shastra, as has already been suggested in this thread. That is a wrong understanding, and that misunderstanding has been the cause behind innumerable misshaps, fall downs.

  30. Akruranatha says :

    The debate about whether we should give more weight to Srila Prabhupada’s example or to instructions in his books might have gotten a little overly theoretical here. The “instruction versus example” dichotomy may have become a stand-in for more concrete positions that are being advocated (mainly about how we deal with the culture of separating the sexes in ISKCON).

    Srila Prabhupada’s instructions and his personal example are both on the same absolute platform. He set forth certain eternal principles of the science of Krishna consciousness in his books, and he also showed by his example how a fully Krishna conscious person lives.

    We do not really have to choose one over the other. Srila Prabhupada’s example and his instructions are not in conflict. We need to understand his behavior in light of his instructions, and vice-versa.

    In the debate here, we might also be addressing an apparent conflict between two different kinds of instructions. Srila Prabhupada’s books contain instructions more generally applicable to all times and circumstances, but Srila Prabhupada’s specific instructions on how to run things in ISKCON under specific circumstances, such as what to do in a particular situation when a leader falls down, or how to go about preaching in a particular country at a particular time, are also instructions.

    As for the concrete positions being advocated, His Holiness Trivikram Swami is asserting that Srila Prabhupada was very lenient at first with western disciples about their western habits (such as social interaction of women and men), but wanted us to gradually introduce in ISKCON more strict behavior along the lines of Indian Vedic culture.

    Maharaja’s example had to do with a specific instruction Srila Prabhupada gave about the qualifications for GBC, but he was extrapolating that the instruction applied more generally to the direction Srila Prabhupada wanted ISKCON to move in, and specifically to the ongoing cultural debate about the social position of women in ISKCON, such as whether they should be barred from acting as temple presidents.

    We have to recognize that Trivikram Swami had years of personal experience in the physical association of Srila Prabhupada which gives him a special perspective on these issues. Also, the sannyasis’ perspective is especially important because sannyasis play an important role as the spiritual masters of society. Srila Prabhupada gave specific instructions to his sannyas disciples, and I think there is no more senior sannyas disciple of Srila Prabhupada in good standing in ISKCON today than Trivikram Swami.

    (Also Maharaja, you have been personally very kind to me and have tolerated my rascaldom for many years, like when I used to brew coffee in my rented room in College Park, Maryland, circa 1982, and the aroma disturbed all the brahmacaris. This is probably not the proper occasion to go strolling down memory lane, but at many times and places you were there to give me a nudge in the direction of Krishna consciousness. You are a kind of spiritual master to me, and I want to acknowledge that here.)

    Trivikrama Swami’s argument about the proper cultural direction for ISKCON is in support of the position that Krishna-Kirti is advocating as a solution to the problem of leaders falling down. (I.e., that we need to conserve or even amplify our culture of segregating the sexes.)

    One important point Krishna Kirti made is that Srila Prabhupada notes the tradition of purdah, which today is usually more associated with Muslim societies, was actually not a Muslim introduction to India (as some historians suggest), but existed during the time of Lord Krishna. Whether it existed in the exact way the Muslims practice it today is doubtful, but it seems that at least high-class ladies were shielded from practically all association with men in India even 5,000 years ago, and there are many examples of this in Srimad Bhagavatam (think of the story of Usha and Annidruddha).

    I do have to agree with Shiva, though, that we cannot afford to isolate ourselves in America and other western countries as a culturally alien and primarily monastic society, without sufficient connection and support in the greater economy.

    Many of the things Srila Prabhupada had to tolerate and be lenient about in early ISKCON history came from the problem that we were hippies. We had rejected American bourgeois values and embraced LSD and “free love.” We wanted to be noble savages, outside of the constraints of civil society, (as long as we could still go to the 7/11 for Cheetos and Hagen Dasz when we got the munchies). We were, most of us, completely bonkers.

    Srila Prabhupada gave us an alternate, transcendental civilization, based on perfect knowledge about the supreme goal of life (Krishna prema) and how to get there. Because a lot of us were already dropouts, it was possible for us to fully embrace communal ashram life without too much interference caused by family and social demands.

    Under Srila Prabhupada’s guidance, we formed a separate culture within a culture. It was not our own culture that we had grown up with and drank with our mother’s milk, but an adopted culture that (speaking for myself) we did not completely understand. We never had an economically self-sufficient society, and we supported our communities by “doing the pick,” sometimes going out in disguises with wigs and “karmi clothes”.

    (We also sent women out on the pick, hardly an example of ancient Vedic protection of women. Sometimes we sent groups of young women collectors out traversing the country in vans with a single male “leader,” with predictably disastrous consequences. We made lots of bonehead mistakes).

    I see great potential in the fact that devotees nowadays can dress the Deities in the morning and then go to work as engineers, doctors, teachers, contractors, etc. Then on weekends they go out on the street corner and distribute books. It seems a way to move the preaching forward in Western countries, away from being a poor, struggling, separatist cult, largely invisible and irrelevant, except when we are getting exposed in the media for some kind of scandal. (Not that I think that’s what ISKCON is, but what we do not want it to become).

    Of course we need to be strict about our moral behavior, and we should be known for that, but most of us as householders need to interface in different ways with the greater society. Our kids like Krishna consciousness but also want to go to college and get good jobs so they can raise kids of their own. Yes there is a danger of becoming too Americanized, and we look to our sannyasis to warn us and protect us from this danger, but there is also the promise of making the broader society more Krishna-ized as ISKCON grows and becomes a more intrinsic feature of the American landscape.

    I am interested in Trivikrama Swami’s perspective on how Srila Prabhupada would react to the development of congregational temples in the U.S. with many faithful householders having outside jobs, and also the influx of young Indian-American professionals who are becoming serious initiated disciples and followers of Srila Prabhupada.

    One thing that favorably struck me about Shiva’s insights is that, when we read descriptions in Srila Prabhupada’s books about Varnashram Dharma and Vedic civilization, we are reading about a real and full civilization, with its own economy and organic cultural traditions. It is not an enclave like a colony of immigrants, much less a separate cult of religious converts trying to emulate the ways of an ideal distant past.

    I know I am getting way outside the scope of Praghosh Prabhu’s article (please forgive me), but I want to hear the considered opinions of senior devotees on these subjects.

  31. trivikramaswami says :

    Dear Akruranatha Prabhu

    Please forgive me for mispelling your name in my last post.

    You have requested:
    “I am interested in Trivikrama Swami’s perspective on how Srila Prabhupada would react to the development of congregational temples in the U.S. with many faithful householders having outside jobs, and also the influx of young Indian-American professionals who are becoming serious initiated disciples and followers of Srila Prabhupada.”

    I think Srila Prabhupada would be very happy about this development. But honestly I feel his main attention would be directed, as it has always been, to those who are dedicating ALL of their time and resourses in his service. We are hopeful that more and more of his disciples and followers will come to this point of surrender as they grow older.

    But while I have your ear let me state what I see as a problem in North American Iskcon, maybe you can suggest a solution.

    The main problem that I see is that there is no serious effort from either within, in many places, or from the congregation of Iskcon in general, to get young men to give the brahmachary ashram a try. Of course there are exceptions, but most Godbrothers don’t really try to convince the young men that they have influence over that it would be the best thing for them to try it, at least for some time. However when you speak to them, they practically all say that the best time in their life was when they were with Radha Damaodara Party, or when they were getting up at 2:30 AM in the LA temple etc.

    Srila Prabhupada clearly states that it is vitally important for every man to have this kind of training, so that when the enter Grhasta ashrama they will have a good spiritual foundation. Why have we lost faith in this simple to understand principle?

    The Mormons, one of the fasting growing churches in the world, send all of their young men for missionary activities for two years when they are 19. From the time they are small children they understand that this is expected of them and take it up happily.
    Any chance of something like this happening in Iskcon?

    Yeh I doubt it too, but Why? Don’t we have a better spiritual guide, better philosophy, better spiritual process, better prasadam then the Mormons? So why can’t we inspire our young people to fully dedicate themselves to spreading the message, at least for some time?

    Ys TS

  32. krishna-kirti says :

    Praghosh Prabhu began his essay with this question:

    How can we always know that the decisions we take are the correct ones? That they are pleasing to both guru and Krishna?

    The question is “how can we know”. That means a discussion about “how can we know” (epistemology) is relevant to the initial topic.

    We have Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, and we have his example. Furthermore, we have shastra, and we have the teachings of authorized acharyas. These sources of knowledge inform our thinking, and our thinking informs our actions. If we incorrectly read these sources of knowledge, then our thinking will be misinformed, and our actions will consequently be misinformed. Such misunderstanding therefore has real-world consequences.

    As shown in this thread, that there is disagreement on valid methods of reading these sources suggests that the answers are irreducibly and fundamentally philosophical. That further suggests that trying to remedy real-world problems (like those under discussion) without clarifying the philosophical issues underlying them will in practical terms lead to temporary, inadequate half-measures.

    And that has much to do with the initial query (and title) of Praghosh Prabhu’s essay. If we’re not understanding Srila Prabhupada in the right way, then we are not full recipients of mercy that he has freely offered. If we are not full recipients of his mercy, then we can expect unnecessary trouble.

  33. Akruranatha says :

    Dear Trivikram Maharaja,

    I agree with you 1008% that we need to preserve and expand our brahmacari ashrams.

    I do not have any suggestion or special insight into the North American problem in this regard. My simple faith is that by pushing on to increase book distribution, and keeping up the preaching mood of genuine well-wishing for all (including especially those who join or are being born in the movement), somehow all the ashrams will eventually flourish and thrive.

    I am also hoping to see lots new Vanaprasthas returning to simple life of their youth now that most of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples are in their 50s and 60s. (I am one of the youngsters at 48). Am I just dreaming? Maybe you sannyasis need to give us some friendly kicks in the butt.

    Krishna-kirti Prabhu: You are of course correct that “epistemology” is the thread that unifies some of this discussion re Praghosh’s article. Thanks for pointing that out. I also agree that Srila Prabhupada’s books remain the gold standard of evidence (sabda pramana) when it comes to supporting any given proposition.

    A shout out to Braja Sevaki, and to Gaurav Mittal (whose separate article on sadhana and realization went sadly uncommented on, maybe because it was so clear and uncontroversial). They both reminded us thatof the fact and importance of actual spiritual realization in our lives and in the Movement. Not just senior devotees but all the devotees must be having some realizations, or they would never keep chanting and serving.

    Of course, we must still check our realizations against guru, sastra and sadhu, but real knowledge is when we see for ourself with purified senses (drsta evatmanisvare, pasyantyatmani catmanam, pratyaksavagamam dharmyam, svayam eva sphuraty adha).

    An intelligent person learns by hearing from authority (less so by seeing with imperfect senses or even by logical analysis), but when that hearing leads to spiritual realization and full surrender the process is complete. (Yaj jnatva na punar moham evam yasyasi pandava. Bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate.)

    One nice verse in this connection is from Kavi Yogendra in the 11th Canto, which starts “bhaktih paresanubhavo viraktir anyatra caisa trika-eka-kala…”

    The verse says that practicing bhakti yoga step by step one at once acquires three things: (1) detachment from material enjoyment, (2) factual realization of the Personality of Godhead, and (3) ttranscendental bliss. The verse compares this to the process of eating, wherein bite by bite we get, (1) relief from hunger, (2) nourishment, and (3) enjoyment, respectively.

    Srila Prabhupada often used to say that a hungry man knows that he has been satified after eating. As the famous quote from Bhakta George H. goes, “the proof of the pudding is in the tasting.”

    Srila Prabhupada also emphasized we can check if we are making advancement by examining how we are becoming detached from material enjoyment.

    H.H. Kesava Bharati Maharaja tells a nice story (I am reluctant to steal his thunder by telling his story myself, but I can’t resist giving an abbreviated version here. )

    He once asked Srila Prabhupada, “How will I know that I have pleased you?” He expected Srila Prabhupada to respond in terms of the hierarchy of ISKCON’s chain of command, that the GBC secretary would be pleased, because the temple president would be pleased, because the temple commander would be pleased, and so on. But Srila Prabhupada surprised him by answering, “When you are pleased.”

    I fondly hope Kesava Bharati Maharaja shows up and starts posting on Dandavats, although I know he has other pressing and important duties, because he is such a gifted and articulate writer with so many valuable insights.

    I really have faith in the process of istagosthi, that when the devotees get together and sincerely discuss philosphical questions together in light of all of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions and personal example, then universally accepted solutions and realizations will come to us. We just have to be careful (especially on the internet) that we listen respectfully to each other and sincerely seek guidance from Krishna.

    Many thanks to Praghosa and his team for providing this exceptional Dandavats website.

  34. Tamoharadasa says :

    Just quickly in response to the last posting; there are no istaghostis practiced in Canadian temples that I know of. Can anyone please enlighten me as to why not?

    So far as ‘gifted and articulate’ writers go, for my part, I am more interested in the sincerity of the writer than in their expertise with word jugglery. If they turn a phrase nicely, all the better, but not necessary.

    Respect is also nice, but sometimes a good dissing has more effect. :0

  35. Akruranatha says :

    I do not know why we do not follow the tradition of istagosthis so much anymore, not just in Canada, but in most places. Maybe they devolved into mundane gripe sessions and were then thought not to be useful.

    Some of the istagosthis I remember from the ‘70s usually involved practical and more mundane questions about ashram life (e.g., someone is using the washing machine at the wrong time, or making too much noise while others wanted to rest).

    I have heard that Srila Prabhupada started the system back in the ‘60s (I was not there, having joined in 1976), for devotees to address primarily philosophical questions. The devotees were accustomed to going to ask Srila Prabhupada whenever they had any question, but when Srila Prabhupada was absent from the temple the devotees suffered a great loss, in that they no longer had the luxury of just asking him personally and getting an immediate response. They peppered Srila Prabhupada with simple philosophical questions in their letters, and he instructed them to discuss these things amongst themselves (istagosthi) with the help of his books and they would be able to arrive at the correct answers. Of course, if difficult questions persisted, those questions could be presented to Srila Prabhupada.

    As I say, I was not there. Maybe Trivikrama Swami and some of the other senior disciples (I think I heard H.H. Jayadvaita Swami talk briefly about this) could enlighten us as to the proper use of istagosthis and why they might have fallen into disuse, and whether and how they should be revived.

    Now, with Srila Prabhupada’s physical absence, we are suffering a similar great loss these past 29 years. Srila Prabhupada cannot physically be consulted, but he is present in his books and in his representatives, and the Supersoul is present in all our hearts. All of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples and grand disciples can associate with him through devotional service, and in that serious and solemn mood we and our leaders can get the guidance that we and ISKCON need.

    Krishna give us guidance, oh Lord we need that now.

    As for “dissing”, it sure can be fun and exciting, but we know that insulting devotees is bad for spiritual life. We need to emphasize this point in training new devotees, as H.H. Bhakti Caru Swami and others have been doing for some time by emphasising training in Vaishnava etiquette.

    I hate to be boring, nor am I qualified to give anyone any instructions on the point, but this is important. We indulge in the sense gratification of criticising devotees at our peril. If we are really very serious about going back to Godhead, we need to learn somehow to control this urge. (I am as big an offender as anyone)

    If it actually becomes our duty to correct someone, we need to learn how to do it properly and effectively. Otherwise, if we are fortunate enough not to have that duty, the policy of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” might serve us well.

    As we know (but need to remind ourselves), a madhyama adhikari learns to (1) worship the Supeme Lord, (2) make friends with His devotees, (3) show mercy to the innocent, and (4) avoid the envious or demonic. We have to come to this platform if we are going to be able to make further progress.

    Although failing to properly separate men (butter) from women (fire) in our social dealings may have caused some fall downs in our movement, another leading cause of fall down might be offending devotees. Saubhari Muni had no women around him – he was meditating under water! – but when he offended Garuda he left the water to seek out the association of women and material enjoyment.

    Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur warns that it is not only the greatest devotees whom we should avoid offending. Offenses even to neophyte devotees can check our progress in the path of bhakti.

    Therefore (and very much in keeping with the original question posed in the article) a serious question arises as to how we should conduct ourselves on the internet, in a very public forum where persons could be insulted and egos could be hurt. I have heard that some senior devotees (including H.H. Tamal Krishna Maharaja) have been apprehensive about the use of the internet because it lends itself to this kind of misuse.

    We say things quickly on the internet as if we are speaking naturally on the telephone or in person, but what we say is immediately disclosed publicly and can be reproduced and copied unlimitedly. We should always be careful about controlling our speech (satyam priya hitam ca; vaco vegam . . . yo visaheta dhirah), but we should exercise special caution on the internet.

    I have made the mistake of having been told something privately by a devotee and then repeating it on the internet, thus embarrassing the speaker. I have also had my own private letters intercepted and published. There are so many mistakes that we can make.

    Still, I am optimistic that these public discussions can be very helpful and healthy if we can be careful.

    p.s. Tamohara Prabhu, I was in Vancouver Yatra and did some traveling sankirtan throughout B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in 1977-1979. Canada was a great adopted country for me and you are fortunate to have so many nice devotees there. I take it you are not the Tamohara who was in Alachua and involved in ISKCON Child Protection?

  36. Tamoharadasa says :

    Dear Akruranatha Prabhu; PAMHO. AGTSP!

    I am also optimistic that good will come from these discussions. However, they are not for the weak-hearted, as even dear godbrothers can get bogged down in sometimes heated misunderstandings in these talks! Especially discussing “equal rights” with women; lots of luck, be extra humble! That is one argument even a lawyer might have problems with! Still, I find Iskcon women the most intelligent, graceful, and beautiful on earth; all glories to their services!

    As you have kindly asked, though a brief autobio was already given some time back, I graduated from the hippy revolution and joined Iskcon in 1972 ish at age 18 ish, first in new Vrndaban, later in Toronto, Winnipeg, Montreal, and Bhubaneswara ( at which I was acting temple president for Gour Govinda Swami), in that order. Curiously, three persons from my high school classroom all joined Iskcon independently! I received my second in Mayapura from our Prabhupada. In 1980 I returned to Canada and attended universities in BC. with majors in phsyiological psychology, medical anthropology, communications disorders, and sports medecine. I completed a Master’s degree in Audiology in 1990 at MSU, North Dakota. If Krsna consciousness hadn’t been available, I might have become a more puffed up fool than I already am! I have been practising audiology in a variety of settings, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, (where I also did preaching and book printing and distribution, small scale) and Canada, and have owned private practices and been manager in a hospital setting. I have lived in Iskcon temples again within the last five years, but it was suggested to me that I needed to save some money for future, so I am managing a center with Costco in Calgary, but hope to retire from my professional work to engage full time in preaching and book distribution, asap.

    Yes, as you say, we must be respectful and all that with each other so as not to offend, but neither should we be so overly sensitive that we cannot disagree without “freaking out.” Let there be polite but firm naturalness. Anything else won’t make it into this website, anyway! I tend to be frank, and that gets me into occassional trouble, though I’m getting smarter in my old age, at least some of the time, with a little help from my friends. ;)

    Istagosthis are a must, I would argue. Any business manager knows that the employees are the most valuable asset. The employees will be most unhappy and depressed if they are neglected and their voice not cared to be heard. This is natural. Istaghostis are for open discussion and planning how to improve service etc. thus fostering an all-for-one and one-for-all mentality esesential to large scale success. Any temple management working without istaghostis is no doubt struggling with inadequate support and/or dissension from the members. No one is an island, and it makes the work much easier when everyone is informed and cooperatively engaged. Especially in these democratic times, why not cater to the voluntary involved spirit as opposed to the isolated coerced one?

    Wishing you all the best

  37. Madhavananda Das (Orissa) says :

    Thank you Praghosa Prabhu for another thoughtful and heartfelt article!

    I’ve heard from a few disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur here in Odisha that during the manifest time of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta sometimes some of the sannyasis had problems. They said that no one would speak about it in public. There was a farm kind of project where the troubled sannyasi would go to do some service and intense bhajan, thereby hopefully purifying himself.

    I’ve also had some exchanges with one of the sannyasis in Bhubaneswar in the Rama Krishna Mission on the same topic. (As an aside, no I certainly don’t suggest any devotees going there, and I have never been in any of their temples. However, a few times I have visited their large library in Bhubaneswar that includes some rare Gaudiya Vaishnava books. I had a few talks with the librarian there who himself was a sannyasi.) He told me that the policy in their mission was basically the same as described above in the Gaudiya Math. They are quiet about any fall downs and work to rectify the person. However, he said if the person refuses to follow the strictures given him, then he is banned. Depending on how defiant his mood was he may be banned on a local level from certain of their temples, or if it is worse then he is kicked out of the society (and the leaders publicly speak about his discrepancies). Of course I don’t know how effective their system is in the current-internet-instant-news-age in which there are practically no secrets.

    Sorry, this is not on any of the above comments. I hope it’s okay to comment on the article itself. :-)

  38. govinda das says :

    Suppose the leader having difficulty is misappropriating funds and mistreating devotees under his care. At the same time, he is a very expert manager. Should he be removed at the risk a collapsing the yatra, or should he be allowed to carry on even though he continues to hurt devotees?