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Dandavats! All Glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga!

The Best Days of Our Lives

Saturday, 07 December 2019 / Published in Articles, Praghosa Dasa / 8,778 views

By Praghosa Dasa

I recently heard a somewhat humorous exchange between two devotees. The first devotee in a mood of perhaps legitimate grumpiness said;

“I have given the best years of my life to ISKCON” [therefore surely ISKCON owes me]

The second devotee replied;

“Well if you’ve given your best years then you might as well give the rest of your years!”

This exchange is interesting for a number of reasons, not least because of the two apparent conflicting positions taken by the devotees quoted above.

One devotee is clearly feeling that having served ISKCON for many years, ISKCON has perhaps not reciprocated accordingly, while the other devotee seems to be taking the view that come what may, better that he stick to with ISKCON regardless of any real or imagined lack of reciprocation.

ISKCON is somewhat at a disadvantage, simply because it is an institution, although I’m not sure when history determined that institutions in and of themselves are negative. Still for sure some shudder to the bone at the very mention of institutions and in many ways that is the biggest challenge that faces those who find themselves charged with the service of maintaining the institution of ISKCON. It is no easy task to overcome the connection that is often made between institutions and how they apparently stifle individualism and encourage ‘group think’ etc.

Of course it is a challenge that cannot be shirked as ISKCON was Srila Prabhupada’s creation and he was clear that an organised institution was the most effective way of spreading Krsna consciousness:

“We have a mission to cultivate all over the world, we have to print and distribute books and open centers and train devotees, and we cannot do that unless we are very organized and efficient. If we are to conduct a mission to save the fallen souls, which is the desire of Lord Caitanya and the previous acaryas, then we have to organize the sankirtana movement very nicely”

Even though this seemingly innate resistance to institutions appears unrelenting, if we look more closely at society then institutions, parties, groups and organisations pervade the lives of almost all of us. Maybe it is a case of not being able to live with them or without them. In many respects it is not really surprising that we need groups, parties and institutions, as we tend to achieve much more when we work in unison. A lone protester outside parliament might satisfy their sense of achievement or well being, but other than getting chilled to the bone they generally achieve little else. Whereas a 100,000 strong march on parliament is likely to get the politicians shivering to the bone!

What to speak of team sports, we can only imagine how futile it would be to try to play the likes of cricket or football without a team. So whatever our particular slant, teams, groups, organisations etc., are a fact of life. Even though they are a fact of life, thus we are likely to find it tough to avoid them, as when we are born we automatically become a member of the most common group – the family, still in the ultimate issue we don’t have to be involved if we don’t want to be. Choosing not to be involved may not be as easy as it seems though. Once we choose to disconnect or sever ourselves from any given group the honourable thing to do is break all ties. Not that we remain attached to or expectant of the benefits of being involved after we have ceased our contribution to that group. Such a scenario brings to mind the ‘having your cake and eating it’ saying. While we may wonder what is the use of having a piece of cake and not being able to eat it as that is a pretty useless predicament, still we know from experience that generally in life you get out what you put in, in equal ratio. And that principle regardless of circumstance will, like water, find its own level.

There maybe different reasons as to why some seek the benefits of a group without contributing and some of those reasons may be more justifiable than others. The devotee quoted at the beginning who has obviously made a significant contribution, is surely more justified than somebody who is just a chancer merely trying to get something for nothing. Still even the devotee quoted has to make a decision to either continue contributing (as he was being encouraged to do by the response he got) or to reduce his expectations of what his rights and benefits are should he decide to stop contributing.

An even less desirable scenario is in addition to expecting rights and benefits when not contributing, one also maligns those who remain loyal and committed to the group concerned. It would be foolish to suggest that groups, parties or organisations do not have their shortcomings and faults, they do – big time but it is surely reasonable to suggest that those who remain active members of any given group are the ones who have the right to critique that particular group?

While any particular group or organisation may not be able to prevent such input from the ‘hurlers on the ditch’ indeed the group may even decide to take on board some of that input. Still the fact remains that playing the role of the hurler on the ditch is not the healthiest of occupations, materially or spiritually.

Often the default mentality of the hurler is – the group is misguided and I am not. Whether this is true (which is unlikely) the reality is that any group is fully entitled to make its own mistakes and learn from them accordingly. An outsider has no divine right to interfere.

So the very existence of groups, teams and organisations indicate that working co-operatively has many benefits, it also has it’s challenges, arguably the biggest challenge being the commitment to stay with the group come what may. There is little doubt that Srila Prabhupada had this challenge in mind when he uttered the prophetic words:

“Your love for me will be shown by how much you cooperate to keep this institution together after I am gone.”

Srila Prabhupada spoke the above in response to a comment made by Tamal Krishna Maharaja. Maharaja was commenting that he was sure Srila Prabhupada’s disciples would come from all over the world to be with him in Vrindavan during his final days because they all loved Srila Prabhupada so much. Srila Prabhupada’s response left little doubt that he not only wanted his devotees to cooperate but that such co-operation would do more to show their love for him than anything else, including being with him during his final days.

While there maybe many views as to whether we have all cooperated as per Srila Prabhupada’s wishes, the fact that the institution of ISKCON remains intact 30 years on suggests that Srila Prabhupada’s wishes have been fulfilled to some degree.

But does this argument really need to be made? Is there really an onus on the institution of ISKCON to argue as to how it has or hasn’t fulfilled the mandate set it every moment of every day? The fact is that ISKCON as an established entity has its own system of governance and like any other organisation it is healthy for it to keep its membership informed, but as discussed before that membership is dependant on active and positive input. That will always be a pressing concern for ISKCON regardless of any external pressures.

As already stated external pressure will only have limited impact in the long run and it would be both more productive and more palatable if those involved in the application of external pressure also took responsibility internally.

The two famous R’s come to mind – rights and responsibilities – you cannot expect rights without at least minimal responsibility, likewise you cannot be expected to accept the burden of responsibility without being the beneficiary of at least minimal rights. If anyone expects rights without responsibilities or insists that someone should take responsibility without being given rights, then how can such a proposition be taken seriously?

So regardless of what organisation we commit to the balance of rights over responsibilities will naturally be there. In the context of Krsna consciousness if we are so dissatisfied with one organisation, then we are of course free to serve in another. The more entities and devotees that are dedicated to preaching the bhakti cult the better. And all such groups will flourish even more if all involved offer each other good wishes and respect and endeavour to resist any intrusion or interference in the affairs of others.

In all walks of life any given individuals contribution is vital, in spiritual life it is arguably more vital. All spiritual relationships are based on the principle of service and when we render service we attain unlimited rights – na paraye ‘ham. Service also provides us not only the right to make enquires but the authority to receive answers to those enquires. In that sense service is the key, without it we have nothing, with it we have everything, including the facility to air and get satisfactory answers to whatever concerns we may have. There is no better protection for a devotee than their service – ananyas cintayanto mam

Srila Prabhupada often cited the example of spots on the moon;

“The example is given that on the full moon there are some spots which may appear to be pockmarks. Still, the illumination spread by the full moon cannot be checked. Similarly, a little fault in the midst of volumes of devotional service is not at all to be counted as a fault.”
NoD 18

He also cited the example that as devotees we represent Krsna and the parampara, therefore we have a duty to walk the walk and if we are seen to act in ways that are not representative of the parampara then that will stand out like a black spot on a white sheet.

Service can protect us both from the temptation to exaggerate and highlight the spots on the moon of other devotees, as well as keeping at bay the black spots on the sheet of our heart.

The Divine Form
London Bridge Is Falling Down, My Fair Lady

17 Responses to “The Best Days of Our Lives”

  1. Kulapavana says :

    Dear Praghosa Prabhu,

    You make a lot of really good points and reveal some deep realizations. Let me present a bit of my own perspective on the two famous R’s. You write:

    “The two famous R’s come to mind – rights and responsibilities – you cannot expect rights without at least minimal responsibility, likewise you cannot be expected to accept the burden of responsibility without being the beneficiary of at least minimal rights. If anyone expects rights without responsibilities or insists that someone should take responsibility without being given rights, then how can such a proposition be taken seriously?”

    I agree with you 100%. I would even go further and say that with all types of empowerment comes inherent and inescapable responsibility.

    To be specific and to give a relevant example, lets look at all those who held positions of power in our movement. Should we not hold them responsible for both the successes and failures of Iskcon over the years? Should we not expect these people to take a very direct and personal responsibility for things that happened while they were in power? In many cases the same people are still in power today – what are the lessons that they teach rank and file devotees when it comes to our two R’s?

    Perhaps devotees in general simply expect too much from others. Perhaps they are holding back their energy for all the wrong reasons. But it is hard to expect them to disregard the past. After all, we are supposed to learn from the past.

    Yes, we have been given a great opportunity to serve Lord Krishna in the society of devotees and we should not waste time on petty squabbles and looking for spots on the Moon and for excuses not to surrender to the mission of our spiritual master. But lets not pretend that larger-then-us problems do not exist, because it is dishonest and sets a bad example.

    How do we change the grumpiness of the first devotee in your example back into the
    former enthusiasm? It is a crisis of faith that we are dealing with here, and faith must be rebuilt gradually, just as it was gradually lost, by inspiring people with our own personal example of honesty, integrity, and responsibility. That is what good leaders provide. That responsibility is on all of us now as we should all lead by our personal example.


  2. Akruranatha says :

    All honest devotees will admit, if they stop to consider: ISKCON gave the best parts of our lives to us!

  3. Akruranatha says :

    Seriously, those of us who make up ISKCON should make an effort to have the institution properly reciprocate with the members who have made many sacrifices.

    The members made sacrifices out of love, and mostly all they really expect is that when they need something or ask for something they are treated with kindness and respect.

    I do not see many devotees making unrealistic demands for “back pay” or other kinds of material benefits that the organization is not capable of giving. We should do as best as we can to help devotees in need, but what devotees really expect is kindness and concern, rather than neglect or insult.

    ISKCON can also try to do better at “giving credit where credit is due.” Even though devotees themselves do not expect to receive honor or anything in return for their service, we should learn to properly respect and honor the practical achievements of the devotees.

    So much of the process of bhakti yoga is to learn how to properly respect the vaisnavas and not to envy them.

    Sometimes we get wrapped up in the idea that we only have to respect the “big” devotees, the famous preachers and gurus, the sannyasis, the Prabhupada disciples. But actually so many humble people are being moved every day to dedicate their lives to Krishna, and even if they have some bumps on the road we should recognize that they are all very special and worthy of great respect and affection.

    Many devotees get annoyed when we try to give them some honor or gift in recognition for their devotional service. They display the mood of Prahlada Maharaja, who expressed that taking a boon from Lord Nrsimhadeva would cheapen the service he did out of love, and make it appear like a business transaction. Still, Lord Nrsimhadeva insisted and made him take something, if not for himself than for his rascal father (and so should we).

    The “institution” of ISKCON gives us the great opportunity to serve Srila Prabhupada’s preaching mission. Prabhupada did say ISKCON is his body (didn’t he?), and we have no other life than service to Prabhupada (yasyaaprasadan na gati kuto ‘pi).

    Part of our service to ISKCON should be to try to make it responsive to the needs of the devotees who are trying to surrender. Srila Prabhupada was always very concerned about the well-being of his disciples, if they got sick for example, and we should help his ISKCON take care of the devotees they way he would like to take care of them.

    When Rupanuga was in a car accident Srila Prabhupada (reportedly) cried and expressed his gratitude at how these disciples were taking risks for him. We can recognize that mood and learn to serve the vaisnavas as part of our service to ISKCON.

  4. Praghosa says :

    Yes all service should be recognised and appreciated enthusiastically. I hope my essay did not convey otherwise as it was not intended to. Such recognition should be universal, thus also including all those who tirelessly serve daily with little recognition and certainly no desire for it.

    Institutions are interesting animals in so far as they need many, many unsung heros (and even sung ones) to keep then rolling along. Those individuals are also affected, due to both association and indentification, when their institution is portrayed unfavourably. Often due to limited resources and limited time they are unable to deal with all the many daunting tasks that appear in their in-tray.

    I am often amazed at the level of burden that some devotees accept when few would be aware if they chose not to accept such burdens. Burdens that have often resulted from events that they had no personal involvement or knowledge of.

  5. krishna-kirti says :

    Sometimes the greatest contributions to a society go unrecognized until well after the contributor’s death. Artists such as Mozart and Van Gogh are two examples that come to mind. And certainly that can be true of any other kind of contribution–even for spiritual life. And it can also be true that things that were thought to be a great contribution in the lifetime of the contributor later, after his passing, turn out to be not so great or quite unwelcome. Society and its members are not easily controlled or understood.

  6. Giri-nayaka das says :

    It is not easy to understand contribution of others, especially devotees. Institution may have its preferences and expectations, but individuals may not respond according to expectations of institution. Saying that anybody, who is not willing to contribute as institution is expecting, is free to move away and make his own contribution elsewhere, is quite an interesting statement. Especialy in spiritual movement as Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON, such statements may not be seen as positive.

  7. Akruranatha says :

    Praghosa Prabhu:

    I did not think your article suggested service should not be recognized. I was just going off on a tangent.

    Mainly, I was reacting to my own state of mind. At first I thought, ‘How foolish of someone to say “I gave the best years of my life [therefore ISKCON surely owes me]” ‘

    Then I thought, if someone is saying that, what does he or she really want? Why are devotees sometimes saying that?

    It is not that they do not know the philosophy, i.e., that there is no happiness outside Krishna consciousness, that the material body is already destined to misery and death, but there is blissful spiritual life available in pure devotional service to Krishna.

    What they may really be saying is that the “institution” or its managers and leaders have dealt with them in an insensitive or indifferent way. That is something we could work on.

    We are in no position to give “back pay”, guaranteed employment, pension, house, car, lifetime health insurance, but we at least can be sincerely appreciative and friendly. We can be and we must be.

    (Sometimes my initial reaction to devotees in distress is to think of the Bhagavad Gita philosophy: “we are not these bodies”, “happiness and distress arise from sense perception and must be tolerated”, “real happiness is only found in Krishna consciousness” If I “preach” this way to them I come accross as insensitive. I am a hypocrite to say these things without realizing them or living them in my own life. )

    “He is a perfect yogi who, by comparison to his own self, sees the true equality of all beings, both in their happiness and distress, O Arjuna.” (BG 6.32 – and see the fabulous purport about preaching)

    It may all be in the mood with which we preach. If we were perfect yogis, seeing the true equality, people would feel comforted and satisfied. Instead, they may see my “philosophy” as a rationalization why I do not have to be concerned about them, while remaining alert to my own material happiness and comfort.

    Anyway, I am way out on a tangent. It is a thought-provoking article about how we look at “institutions”. Obviously, we want ISKCON to be an effective organization with good management and inspirational leadership. We won’t be effective unless we have organized “institutions”.

    I was on harinam one night not long ago in Palo Alto, and a homeless-type man engaged me in the following diologue as we were passing each other:

    Man: I am opposed to organized religion.
    Me: (Smiling) But anyone can see we are not really organized.
    Man: Oh, no. I see you out here regularly, and I can see you are very well-organized.

    Actually I am glad to see that our organization was apparent to this man. Usually I am concerned that we can be organizationally challenged at times.

    Vaisesika in San Jose is like a good coach or sales team leader. The sports metaphor you used is appropriate. Sports teams win or lose based on having good coaches who drill them and get them to work like precision machines.

    Corporations are often seen as being heartless profit machines by their very nature. It is management’s duty to the shareholders to increase profits by any legal means.

    Churches and governments often fare no better. When national interest are at stake, governments cannot afford to display ordinary virtues, or so says Machiavelli, the “Canakya Pandit of the West” :-)

    Hopefully ISKCON can do well at being well-organized as an institution and also reciprocate well with its members and guests.

    It is a thought-provoking article but I have no time at present to make thoughtful comments. I have to sign off now. :-(

  8. Praghosa says :

    Another interesting thought is that institutions are likely to never be able to fully satisfy all those who are expecting such satisfaction. One reason for this is that institutions are made up of people and people are not perfect.

    One such imperfect person recently commented to me that they find it tough sometimes being an officer in ISKCON. As no matter how hard they try to do the right thing it never seems to be enough. One example they cited was the Youth Fund issue, making the point that they were a simple sankirtana devotee when all the horrendous crimes were committed in the gurukulas. Now, in order to do the right thing, they have made a personal committment to collect in excess of $30,000 toward the Youth Fund, this is in addition to their annual pledge to the CPO. While they expressed their eagerness to continue to make such sacrifices, they also indicated that they would love more encouragement. Even more they would appreciate if it was clearly understood that while some have in the past abused their services in ISKCON, and others may do so in the future, the vast majority are doing their best to please Srila Prabhupada via their sincere service to his institution ISKCON.

  9. Karuna Purna dasi says :

    It might not be totally pertinent commenting on the statement “I have given the best years of my life to ISKCON” that you mentioned in your article when hearing two devotees conversing. However, as it is a phrase that we hear often amongst some devotees, I would like to make a couple of observations on the subject as well as on our institution.

    First, those devotees speaking in this way, they might want to define what they mean by ‘best’. As far as my conditioned and short memory goes, most of the fellow bhaktas with whom I joined ISKCON, about three decades ago, shared a rather pathetic common denominator. Regardless of the socio-economical and cultural family background that we came from, we followed a similar pattern.

    We were all in our late teens or very early twenties, with no more preparation for life than secondary school, some not even that. At best some had an initial and unfinished, hence useless, university studies, and the majority of us were coming from an unhappy and more or less dysfunctional family. We also shared the fact of being unemployable in the professional world mostly because we were unwilling and in all, we had very little idea of what to do with our life. The reality is, therefore, that we had nothing to offer to Srila Prabhupada, However, in ISKCON we found the spiritual knowledge that without Srila Prabhupada we would have never known. In addition, within ISKCON we had the opportunity to interact with other like minded devotee fellows, we learned to be clean, to sell books and paintings when we went on sankirtan, we learned to do Deity worship and most importantly, we had a jolly good time with our Godsisters.

    Men had more opportunity than us, females, to put their hands on trying to manage different areas of our society. The problem was that without proper education and training, the management was only an attempt which unfortunately, in my humble opinion, we still suffer today from in our society. Otherwise the result might have been a better team group work skills rather than the vertical structure that we still see in our temples nowadays, a more flexible and dynamic approach to work and finally, better results. This does not mean however that there has been no good result.

    Institutions despite their shortcomings do not necessarily rhyme with sclerosis, lack of organisation or socialist system. There are hundreds of institutions ranging from sportive, commercial, academic, religious, social etc which are organised in a very modern, progressive and effective way in spite of having started in some cases as a family business. Without wanting to be critical but just pragmatic, in my opinion, a further problem within ISKCON is that there is not a formal and constant professional training to their leaders which always includes interaction and working with members of society at large. This is understandable as devotees, we don’t like and should not associate with karmis, but in that case we cannot have the level of professionalism that they have.

    Taking Srila Prabhupada’s quote that you used: “We have a mission to cultivate all over the world, we have to print and distribute books and open centres and train devotees, and we cannot do that unless we are very organized and efficient. If we are to conduct a mission to save the fallen souls, which is the desire of Lord Caitanya and the previous acaryas, then we have to organize the sankirtana movement very nicely” GTA 9 I think that Srila Prabhupada in this quote said it all very clearly. Srila Prabhupada proved to be a much organised person and by his letters and results we see that he was really ‘on the ball’. Left aside that Srila Prabhupada was empowered by the parampara and Caitanya Mahaprabhu, from a very practical point of view, Srila Prabhupada had been a business man all his life.

    Therefore, it could be said that ISKCON management remains very limited in their knowledge of running a ‘spiritual multinational society’. The unclear goals and organisation reflect on our society starting from the Mayapur GBC meetings that we all have access to daily on the different devotee websites, down to temples, departments and individuals. Please do not think this is a criticism towards our dear ISKCON, which brings the devil out of all of us at times. However, sadly, some devotees, frustrated with our politics and lack of efficient management go to other maths covered by the thick layer of illusion that makes them think that things will be better in a ‘cousin’ society whose particularity is that it has not reached yet the size of ISKCON. In my humble opinion, put three thousand more people in those maths and wait thirty years and then we will be able to compare as one can only compare comparable things. In any case, the reality is that so many devotees leaving to other maths, come up with the ABC philosophy, only, after the original discontentment with ISKCON leading them, sadly, away from the shade of Srila Prabhupada’s lotus feet.

    A very minority of us, for various circumstances, had to confront ourselves to the working world where at the same time as having to suffer the unpleasant company of abhaktas daily for many years, we made the most of it by learning their techniques for running successfully their companies, institutions or departments. The above leads me to say firmly that, for some of us, if when we arrived in ISKCON, we had nothing to offer to Srila Prabhupada, now, thirty years later we might be able to offer a very humble contribution into this movement. It is also true that material qualifications might be a big obstacle in devotional service.

    That is why I take this opportunity to ask for the benediction of the assembled devotees so that I remain humble in serving in Srila Prabhupada’s movement. That is why I think that for those of us who had this opportunity, the best years of our life are not gone. On the contrary the best years of our life, are still to come. As for my personal experience, my contribution to ISKCON has not started yet. As you said: ‘any group is fully entitled to make its own mistakes and learn from them accordingly’, but let’s learn for real. One of the reason why some professionals, working in the private sector, are eager to improve in their work is because their financial situation hence maintenance of their family is challenged if they fail to perform according to a plan.

    Perhaps that is one of the points that could be addressed within ISKCON somehow, although I see some difficulty as well. It would be pointless paraphrasing you, but as you said: ‘Service can protect us both from the temptation to exaggerate and highlight the spots on the moon of other devotees, as well as keeping at bay the black spots on the sheet of our heart’. Finally, in response to those protesting about having left in ISKCON the best days/years of their live and as far as I am concerned, the best days of my live still lie ahead and I beg Srila Prabhupada that he will allow me to stay at the shade of his lotus feet in the association of his devotees.

    Your servant,

    Karuna Purna dasi

  10. Kesava Krsna dasa says :

    Srila Prabhupada did say that Iskcon was nondifferent from Krsna, or that Krsna has appeared within in Iskcon.

    When we see all the machinations of administration and management going on from the top down, it can be a misleading observation to equate all this with Krsna somehow being there. Yet mystical and spiritual things happen to people who come in touch with Iskcon. In fact, practically every devotee would have some recollection of how the Lord in the heart, through deserved circumstances lead them to associate with devotees within Iskcon, which can attest to the presence of the Lord.

    Still, the picture is not always a rosy one for those who feel that after giving their prime years for Iskcon’s cause, to wonder what they have gained. Giving our time to Iskcon – Krsna – can also lead one to think “we are serving to please the masters and those who run the institution.”

    This can be likened to what Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati called “Doing sums for the teacher” logic. Those serving in Iskcon may feel their hard work, stress, sweat and tears are only benefitting the high profile managers who take credit for such labour. He reminds us – bearing in mind his own institutional problems – this way:

    “Many of us maintain a similar concept that we renounce our family life, we sacrifice a lot in the service of our spiritual master, some of us collect donations and do a lot of multifarious direct and indirect service for the satisfaction of our spiritual master, but what is the gain?

    Here we forget that we do such sums for our own benefit alone and by such services, we ourselves are uplifted, not the spiritual master. The spiritual master knows the sums very well and it is only for our own well-being that he is getting the sums done by us. The spiritual master is engaging us in different services for our own satisfaction and welfare in the path of devotion. Those who are averse to their own benefit, only consider such services to be meant for the welfare of the spiritual master, for the temple complex, for the vaisnavas, for the Lord, and thus foolishly take little inerest in them.” Upakhyane Upadesh.

    The Jews, Christians and muslims have been around for a while, which enabled them to look after their own morally, financially, healthwise and the rest. Iskcon has barely been in existence for a fraction of the time giving us little time to look after our own too, which means many devotees have to fend for themselves in these areas of concern. We are still in the pioneering early days as Iskcon is – just a new kid on the block – so to speak.

    The cosy unified family spirit is one of the aims of the household called Iskcon. But if our expectations fall in the line of giving rather than taking it can benefit everyone.

    Ys, Kesava Krsna dasa.

  11. Babhru says :

    Keshava Krishna writes, “Srila Prabhupada did say that Iskcon was nondifferent from Krsna, or that Krsna has appeared within in Iskcon.”

    If this is a fact, I’d appreciate seeing where he said that. Srila Prabhupada himself criticized the business of claiming that “Prabhupada said” one thing or another. I saw an initiation letter to a Godbrother in which Srila Prabhupada wrote that it is simply a kind of cheating. “If it is not in my books,” he said in this letter, “I did not say it.”

    I’m not asking for something like “VedaBase pramana.” And I’m very well aware that Srila Prabhupada said many things that are not in the VedaBase, or on any published audio files or DVDs. (Several are things I heard myself.) But I think such a bold assertion, one which can be (and has been) so easily abused, needs to be supported by some credible evidence, along with some context that will help us understand just what he might have meant by saying this.

    This comment is not to detract from the bottom line of Keshava Krishna’s comment, with which I enthusiastically agree: that service to the spiritual master, and more specifically here, service to ISKCON, is best done in the spirit of giving, not taking.

  12. Kesava Krsna dasa says :

    Babhru prabhu,

    Your highly discerning observations can be a little un-nerving. In accord with your demand for absolute back-up of evdence, I herewith provide two examples.

    Fair enough, this should be the credible standard. I wrote this way as I thought it was common knowledge.

    The first one is from SB10.2.22 purport in which Srila Prabhupada writes: ” Therefore Krsna has taken birth or taken shelter within the womb of the Krsna consciousness movement.” This is in relation to the – dehino smin – verse in the context of demoniac opposition.

    The second is taken from the Lilamrta vol. V. ch 2. It says:” When Srila Prabhupada met C. Rajagopal Acharya[known as Rajaji], who was the first Governor General of ‘free India’ and famous as a religious politician and friend of Gandhi, in Madras, Rajaji expressed his only doubt: “Srila Prabhupada has created such a huge institution that now his disciples might identify with Iskcon rather than Krishna. If that were to happen, then by identifying with Iskcon, they would fall into the same type of materialism or false identification as before.”

    Srila Prabhupada replied, “Because Krishna is absolute, Krishna and Iskcon are non-different. To identify with Krsna’s Iskcon was to identify with Krishna directly.” Rajaji was satisfied.

    As a matter of fact I do not have a Veda-base programme. But I do hope you find some satisfaction with this information. It also highlights the fact I must back-up my words. Thanks for sternly pointing it out.

    Ys, Kesava Krsna dasa.

  13. shiva says :

    With ISKCON being such a large organization with many strong personalities who have in common the belief that they are enlightened and on a divine mission, it was inevitable that much criticism would come towards those who are in positions of management by those not in positions of control. Add on to that the potential for material gain and social status which the institution became able to offer, and add to that the disappearance of the commander in chief, naturally the result was inevitably going to be what it has come to be. What has gone on is the fighting over of the legacy left by Srila Prabhupada. It comes in many forms but the goal is always the same, controlling the shaping of ISKCON according to the vision and desires of various people.

    Kesava Krsna dasa brought up some quotes where Srila Prabhupada has said that Krishna has taken birth or shelter in the Krishna consciousness movement. In fact Krishna is controlling the destiny of everyone and is present in the hearts of everything and everyone, but still the Krishna consciousness movement is special because it is the representative of Sri Krishna Chaitanya’s lila. Even though many people will look at the history of ISKCON and wonder how the trials and tribulations which ISKCON has gone through can be reconciled with the conception of ISKCON as a purely transcendental phenomena, the truth is that still eveyrthing is going on by the will and
    under the plan of the Lord.

    Bhagavad Gita 6:29

    A true yogi observes Me in all beings, and also sees every being in Me. Indeed, the self-realized man sees Me everywhere.

    From the purport:

    The yogi sees equally because he sees that all living entities, although in different situations according to the results of fruitive work, in all circumstances remain the servants of God. While in the material energy, the living entity serves the material senses; and while in spiritual energy, he serves the Supreme Lord directly. In either case the living entity is the servant of God. This vision of equality is perfect in a person in Krsna consciousness.

    Everyone is a servant of god whether they know it or not, willingly or unwillingly everyone is doing the will of the Lord. ISKCON is no different. The critics of ISKCON are no different. Krishna is guiding everyone to act the way they do according to their karmic destiny.

    From Srimad Bhagavatam

    11.13.24: Within this world, whatever is perceived by the mind, speech, eyes or other senses is Me alone and nothing besides Me. All of you please understand this by a straightforward analysis of the facts.

    11.13.30: According to My instructions, one should fix the mind on Me alone. If, however, one continues to see many different values and goals in life rather than seeing everything within Me, then although apparently awake, one is actually dreaming due to incomplete knowledge, just as one may dream that one has wakened from a dream.

    So whether you are a member or ISKCON or of some other organization or of none at all, the vision we all need to attain to is described above. Krishna is controlling everything and unless we are actively seeing that control then we are actually living a dream like existence while thinking oneself to be wide awake. Imagine being in a room full of people whom you know, they are all trying to talk to you but you fail to recognize any of them or understand what they are saying. In the same way we are surrounded by someone we know at all times. That person is coming at us from all directions at all times but we don’t recognize that person. All we see is the controlled and fail to see that which is controlling, whether it be external reality or internal. That type of existence is like a dream existence. It isn’t absolutely real, it is partial reality just like a dream is partial reality. You experience a dream, so it is real, but in the dream you fail to notice that you are dreaming. When we fail to notice that Krishna is controlling everything, in the here and now, then our conception of reality is deluded. Krishna is always what you should be seeing, here and now, and always.

    Everything else is relative and secondary to that conception. When you see Krishna controlling what everyone is doing, then you can be at peace with whatever happens. You can take any adversity as the plan of the Lord. That doesn’t mean that you will not be inspired to fulfill your dharmic duty or whatever else Krishna inspires you to do. But first and foremost is becoming freed from the deluded conception of reality. Krishna is always here, and wherever you go, and controlling whomever you meet. Being conscious of this reality is the first and foremost duty. Until you become conscious of this reality at all times then you are living in a dream state. Real bhakti begins when you are fully awake to reality. Then you are always with Krishna because Krishna is controlling everything, here, now, everywhere, always.

  14. Nitai dasa says :

    Imagine that Krsna, through his expansions is controlling everything in exsistence, that through His expansions, He is in the heart of every living entity. He is in every atom.

    So if Krsna is partially present in everything, why will He not be directly present and in control of ISKCON, where His devotees are directly worshipping Him.

    Devotees with strong faith will know that Krsna is directly in Iskcon, they will know that Krsna will not leave them alone even for one moment. For devotees with faith, no shastric quotations are necessary to know that Krsna is personally present where His glories are being sung.

    No matter what problems and disagreements devotees have within ISKCON and despite the turbulent ocean that Iskcon sometimes finds itself in, Krsna is in control and He is sanctioning these difficulties for a reason.

  15. Kesava Krsna dasa says :

    Dear prabhus,

    Some devotees entertain the notion of ‘form breaking’ rather than being a ‘form maker’as Srila Prabhupada was. Those with such affialions will find it hard to grasp that Iskcon as a body, is transcendental.

    What do we see all around us powering the economies of the world in Kali-yuga? Mighty corporations and institions. They are the powerhouses made up of ambitious people intent on increasing their influence. People in this age recognize and take seriously these organizations because wealth is might.

    It is no accident that Srila Prabhupada set up a worldwide institution of a spiritual kind for the same purpose – whereby through ‘intelligence and organization’ and fulfilling his wishes to attract needy souls to a worldwide shelter, will impress more and more. Iskcon’s might will not be a brash exhibition of wealth, but the extension of Lord Chaitanya’s loving embrace.

    Many devotees have felt sidelined or have left Iskcon citing numerous problems within. Some of them have waged propoganda to this effect under the guise of ‘constructive criticism’ and the rest. Unfortunately, when the modus operandi entails going for the man instead of what he stands for, it degrades the level of criticsm to below vaisnava status. However, by raising the standard and presenting genuine complaints worthy of devotee conduct, and seeking amends or goodwill, the doors of Iskcon’s house will remain open. There is a place for everybody.

    The fact that Iskcon has withstood the test of time, and battled through thck and thin means many things must be right, and Krisna does not want to abandon His flagship – which he can do anytime He wants. We have seen the milder equivilants of what Christianity has endured in 2,000 with the crusades, inquisitions, reformations and more in just 40 odd years.

    These tests are Krsna’s way of seperating the boys from the men as it were, and whether Iskcon’s organizatio is perfect or not we can expect more turbulence to come. We may not be Queen Kunti’s who pray for such hardships so she can remember her sweet Lord, but sincere devotees will also be put through their paces. This observance alone attests to the fact that Krsna and Iskcon are nondifferent. It is a matter of perception.

    Ys, Kesava Krsna dasa.

  16. Ram says :

    Haribol Vaishnavas,

    Please accept my humble obesiance and all glories to the ISKCON Founder Acharya Srila Prabhupada!

    Today morning I was hearing Srila Prabhupada’s Morning Walk Conversation from November 20th, 1975 entitled “Christ Survived The Cross”. Towards the ends of the conversation Srila Prabhupada mentions that Sripada Shankaracharya was conceived by his mother when she was a widow by a temple priest and for that reason he was a Varna Sankara and so he is Sankaraacharya (as in Varna Sankara). Srila Prabhupada states that Sripada Shankaracharya’s mother was disturbed by her conception of Shankaracharya but her father assured her that the child will be a great personality.

    Till date, I have heard accounts that Sripada Shankaraacharya’s father was present during his birth and died in his early childhood. With due respect to Sripada
    Shankaraacharya whom Caitanya Mahaprabhu personally venerated and Srila Prabhupada,
    I request the Vaishnavas to throw more light on this topic (Was Shankaraacharya illegitimately conceived?). Please hear the original audio recording if you have
    access to the same as the transcription on does not appear to be a 100% faithful reproduction of the original conversation.


  17. Akruranatha says :

    What are the best years of our lives, anyway?

    In materialistic Western culture the tendency is to glorify youth. That is when our senses are strong. That is when we are supposed to be enjoying most.

    Prahlada Maharaja describes to his schoolmates how people tend to waste all stages of their lives, saying “now is not the time for making spiritual efforts”. He advises to begin from the very tender age of childhood: “kaumara acaret prajno dharmam-bhagavatam iha.”

    Those who have not cultivated bhagavat dharma in their youth may find it difficult to turn their mind in that way before death.

    Parikshit Maharaja contacted Krishna in the womb, and from his earliest youth played with dolls of Krishna and cultivated devotional service. Srila Prabhupada organized Ratha Yatra as a small child and watched his father worship the Deities. It is often so with great personalities.

    For those of us who gave at least some of our youths to serving Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON mission, I would say the best days of our lives are still ahead of us.

    As we get closer to impending death, the seeming importance of temporary material things will start fading for us, and the pull of our senses will start to weaken. As we watch our material bodies disintegrate hopefully our false egos will likewise disintegrate. Our japa and study time should improve.

    We may have had to pace ourselves before, needing to earn money or satisfy strong family obligations. We have no more excuses now. At the end of the race it is time to really “kick in”.

    Srila Prabhupada was a sannyasi, and renunciation is really the life blood of devotional service. In ISKCON we have always been preaching the nivrtti marga, following Srila Prabhupada’s and Narada Muni’s footsteps: “Why waste time trying to earn money? Even the elephants are getting enough food by nature’s arrangements. Similarly you will get whatever material happiness you are destined for, just as you get material miseries without endeavoring for them.”

    We know the above statements are true, but sometimes we feel the pinch because we are not ready, insufficiently realized. We are thinking, “If I had not followed that advice, if I were more careful about my bank balance, my insurance, my education, things would be easier for me now.” (How can we know that? These material calculations are notoriously prone to error).

    Thinking along those lines, we may be tempted to blame ISKCON for encouraging us in “premature renunciation.” But if we did not try then we would not be ready for renouncing now, when we should be ready.

    There really is justice in the universe, especially for devotees. Nothing goes unnoticed. The sacrifices we have made to please Srila Prabhupada will never go in vain. We should be convinced of that.

    Now, in our impending old age, we can expect to derive spiritual benefits from our youthful service. Unlike materialists, who face old age and death with fear, denial, disappointment, and bewilderment, we will be able to cling strongly to Krishna consciousness.

    Some Asian cultures at least puts emphasis on the wisdom of the elders. Confucianism comes to mind as a tradition in which respecting elders, and especially older family members, is very important.

    Vedic civilization also protects cows, brahmanas, children, women and old men. Similarly in ISKCON we should do whatever we can to ease the way for our elderly devotees, the grandparents in our ISKCON “family”.

    But whether ISKCON is able to help us or not, the service we have done in ISKCON will help us become self-realized, so we will not be be bewildered by old age and death.

    The best years of our lives are now directly ahead of us. Hare Krishna.