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Memories of Purnacandra Goswami

Monday, 04 November 2019 / Published in In Memoriam / 3,495 views

On the 4th of November 2010, 22:25 PM Moscow time Purnacandra Goswami passed away. It is a great loss for the entire ISKCON community.

On September 15th Maharaja was hospitalized with internal bleeding, and from October 19th he was in coma. Despite deep coma he manifested some signs of consciousness every time when devotees would come to him to chant the holy name.

Purnacandra Maharaja joined Srila Prabhupada’s movement when he was 17 years old. For more than 38 years he served ISKCON with great dedication. His knowledge of the Vedic scriptures was vast and profound. For many years he was teaching Bhakti-sastri course and many other courses to the devotees.

He had very deep attachment to Sri Vrindavana-dhama. He divided his preaching time between Russia and Balkans, but Karttik he would always spend in Vrindavan. Over the last few years he was writing a book dedicated to Lord Krishna’s pastimes in Vrindavana. He was always deeply absorbed in the holy names. The concentration and intensity with which he would chant the holy name every day was incomparable.

By Niranjana Swami

The following is a partially-edited transcript of a short talk I gave during the memorial service for Purnacandra Goswami in Moscow on November, 9, 2010.

We are gathered here to pay our respects to His Holiness Purnacandra Goswami. For those of you who know him, you know that he is a person of substance. I often speak about this topic –substance versus form. If there is substance then everything else will eventually follow.

For the life of a Vaisnava this substance is his Krsna Consciousness, the activities which are performed by him in Krsna Consciousness, and the ability to share that Krsna Consciousness with others. That is the essence of our Krsna Consciousness Movement. And that substance is the heart of a Vaisnava. A Vaisnava is one who fully dedicates his life in service to the Supreme Lord. He feels compassion for the suffering of others.

Purnacandra Maharaja was such a Vaisnava. He was not interested in the external affairs of this world. I know that because of my personal association with him. I’m sure that we’ll hear more confirmation of this from others today– that Maharaja was more interested in sharing substance and less concerned about structure or form. That is one quality of Purnacandra Maharaja I’ve always appreciated.

Purnacandra Maharaja would oftentimes keep his firm commitment to substance even at the risk of being unpopular. He was not at all interested in winning some popularity contest. He was interested in preserving that which was passed on to him by his spiritual master.

Many times I would be with him and I would observe how meticulous he was in his simple, basic activities of sadhana. Sometimes I would come to see him and he would be sitting and chanting his japa alone, very much absorbed in chanting the holy name. His meditation was on his relationship with his spiritual master, and his service to his spiritual master, while aspiring for eternal devotional service to the Supreme Lord.

Because he always preserved this substance in his life, I am confident that it will continue to maintain his life as he continues serving his spiritual master and his worshipful Lord.

In many respects Purnacandra Maharaja was more of a teacher by his example. And though he taught this way, through this firm dedication to the simple, basic practices of Krsna Consciousness, we also know that he was very learned in sastra. He was very meticulous about his study of Srila Prabhupada’s books and the books of our previous acaryas. He was always eager to share his realizations and knowledge obtained from his studies.

Purnacandra Maharaja didn’t need large crowds to be satisfied sharing what he had learned and what he attained in his Krsna Consciousness. He would share his Krsna Consciousness even with a small group of devotees, or even with one devotee. I personally experienced this when we would sit and talk as he would share his realizations with me. This is another one of his qualities I will always remember. I’m sure that many of you who know Purnacandra Maharaja will also remember this quality of his too.

There is more that I could say about my remembrances of Maharaja but I’d like to just focus on this feature of him as a person of substance. So I’ll stop here and maybe I’ll have an opportunity some other time to speak about other remembrances of him.

I am also very eager to hear from those devotees with whom this substance was shared. I’m quite sure that their words will be a testimony to my words. I consider these Vaisnavas very fortunate to have an intimate, close relationship with him.

Thank you very much.
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There Are Too Few Like You

Diary of a Traveling Monk – Volume 11, Chapter 12 – November 22, 2010

By Indradyumna Swami

Dear Purnacandra Goswami,

Please accept my most humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

It was with great sorrow that I heard about your sudden departure from this world. Although we regularly hear about these things in sastra and are constantly preparing ourselves for such inevitable events, somehow when they actually happen we seem totally unprepared. And so it is that I can hardly believe you are no longer among us.

Your departure leaves a deep sadness in my heart. It is said that time heals all wounds, but this maxim does not hold true with the departure of Vaisnavas. In fact, the wound only becomes deeper as we remember their personalities and the contributions they made to this historic movement, which is establishing the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu all over the world.

No doubt your departure was auspicious because you have gone back to Godhead. Be that as it may, you have left us – your godbrothers, disciples, and friends – lamenting. Your return to the spiritual world is a gain for the devotees of that transcendental abode but a tragic loss for us. Not only for us, but for all the conditioned souls who might have met you, had you stayed a little longer.

A devotee of your caliber is always focused on the mission of his spiritual master: to shed light on the science of Godhead for the benefit of others. When such a preacher departs, that light goes out, and the world becomes a little darker.

You and I were friends. Some people say such things casually: “Oh, so and so is my friend,” or “Yes, I know him. He’s a friend of mine.” But friendship in Krsna consciousness is not a casual thing. It is a special blessing of Krsna to be cherished as dearly as life itself. It is not based on shared material desires but is established on and matures through service to guru and Gauranga. It goes deep and is relishable because of the blissful experience of preaching Krsna consciousness together.

The camaraderie that you and I shared in our preaching in England, Russia, and India was always enlivening for me. We seemed to have a natural attraction to each other, even though we were different in many ways. But it is said that opposites attract. I tend to be outgoing and social, whereas you, because of your humility, were often shy and reserved. Still, as different as we were, we shared many interests, such as kirtana, lecturing, and annual visits to Sri Vrindavana Dhama.

In fact, it was your strong attraction to Vraja bhakti and your determination to achieve it by spending as much time as possible in Sri Vrindavan Dhama doing bhajana that endeared you to me. You would spend many a Kartika in the dhama studying sastra and chanting the holy names with fixed attention.

Because you were well read, you had a deep understanding of the scriptures and a unique ability to communicate this to others. That was evident in the classes and seminars you gave, which were always popular with the devotees. Because of your limited preaching field, you were not well known within our ISKCON movement, so I was happy when the GBC acknowledged your abilities and had you convene and chair the Sastric Advisory Committee.

I’ll never forget the time your sastric knowledge saved my lowly self from embarrassment. One Kartika I joined a large parikrama party going to Visrama Ghat on the border between Vrindavana and Mathura. It was headed by Radhanath Swami and attended by many other illustrious godbrothers: Deena Bandhu Prabhu, Bhakti Caitanya Maharaja, BB Govinda Maharaja, and others.

Hundreds of devotees from around the world had filled the many buses that took us on the parikrama. By Krsna’s arrangement I was sitting next to you. At one point we received a message from Radhanath Swami saying that all the godbrothers would be asked to speak for a few minutes. I immediately became anxious because I knew little or nothing of the pastimes that took place at Visrama Ghat.

When I mentioned this to you, you smiled. “Write down what I tell you as notes,” you told me, “and you can use them when you speak.”

You went on to describe the pastimes at Visrama Ghat in great detail with many anecdotes and realizations as revealed by Visvanath Cakravarti and others. You suggested I read the notes until we arrived at the holy place so that when I spoke about the knowledge you’d shared with me it would seem natural. Just before we arrived you quizzed me on everything to be sure I knew it all by heart.

When we arrived at Visrama Ghat, some seven hundred devotees sat down at that auspicious place, with the godbrothers facing them in front. I was called on to speak first. As I took my place at the microphone I glanced over at you, and you winked, giving me assurance that everything would be all right. I began to speak, and because I had read my notes repeatedly the lilas and pastimes flowed easily from my mouth. It was a wonderful, transcendentally satisfying experience.

Afterwards many devotees complimented me on my talk, even Radhanath Swami. “I had no idea,” he said, “that you were such a rasika devotee with such deep realizations and understanding of sastra.” In all honesty, I had no choice but to tell him the truth, that I had learned these things from you just an hour earlier.

So I was saved from having to show my lack of knowledge, and I thank you once again. Though younger than me and with fewer years of devotional service in this lifetime, you were in fact more advanced than me in every way.

I find it regrettable that you did not receive the recognition you deserved during your lifetime. Sometimes such acknowledgement places a devotee in a better position to share his knowledge and realizations with others, who benefit from his saintly association.

There are too few like you, Maharaja, too few willing to sacrifice anything and everything for preaching the mission of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Especially after taking sannyasa, you were busy all day every day in various ways, sharing your good fortune with others.

I will miss you. Your godbrothers and godsisters will miss you. Your disciples will miss you. And the people of Bosnia, Croatia, and Russia will miss you though they know it not. In reality, a great catastrophe, a great calamity, has befallen society: a capable and faithful Vaisnava who was doing the highest welfare work has departed. Hundreds of billions of ignorant souls cannot compare with one humble Vaisnava like you.

The world does not know what it has lost. We know, however, so we are remembering you and keeping you close to our hearts. But I do not feel that we are alone. The service rendered by you and by other devotees like you will be recognized by the denizens of the higher planets. Why not? Surely your spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, recognized you, and he is the sum total of all the demigods.

On the day of your samadhi ceremony, I, like many others, offered you my final respects and my most humble prostrated obseisances. I would consider it my great fortune should I serve alongside you in a future lifetime.

Your servant, friend, admirer, and godbrother, Indradyumna Swami

Indradyumna.swami@pamho.net www. travelingmonk. com Audio lectures: www. narottam. com Facebook: Indradyumna Swami

Request for prayers
Overhaul your Spiritual Life (audio)
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HH Purnacandra Maharaja

By the GBC Executive Committee

Dear devotees,

Please accept our humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

We are greatly saddened by the untimely departure of His Holiness Purnacandra Maharaja.

Maharaja was a dedicated disciple of Srila Prabhupada, and he had worked hard to spread Prabhupada’s message in different parts of the world, in a number of services. He was a dedicated ISKCON sannyasi, preaching enthusiastically and effectively, particularly in the former Soviet Union. Many devotees were enlivened by his wonderful preaching, and he had many initiated disciples particularly in that part of the world.

He also formed and was the chairman of the GBC Body’s Sastric Advisory Committee. This group of some of the most knowledgeable devotees in the movement would consider different important philosophical questions put to it by the GBC, and present papers clarifying different issues for the Body. Through his thoughtful Krishna conscious discrimination Maharaja was able to distill essential truth from many perplexing discussions.

Maharaja was a wonderful kirtana leader and dancer who relished the transcendental sound of the holy names, and loved to chant in the company of his Godbrothers and other devotees. His passing is a great loss to Srila Prabhupada’s movement.

We are sure that Srila Prabhupada has taken him on to further service at his lotus feet.

Your servants,

The GBC Executive Committee, Madhusevita das Hrdaya Caitanya das Bhakti Caitanya Swami

Request for prayers
Overhaul your Spiritual Life (audio)
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Appreciating Purnacandra Goswami

Submitted by Su-gita Vani devi dasi

In a year that has witnessed the untimely departure of several of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples, the latest to leave us is H.H. Purnacandra Goswami.

His samadhi will come up in the gosala gardens of the Krishna Balaram Mandir in Vrindavan. To those who were familiar with Maharaj’s personality, this venue, with its peace and quiet, complete with cows and monkeys, appears to be the perfect choice for his samadhi.

His outstanding abilities as a preacher, his vast knowledge of sastra and his deep love of Vrindavan have already been written about and spoken for.

In this piece, we will attempt to describe the techniques he had evolved to extend spiritual care to devotees in trouble. His methods were subtle and sophisticated. They were clearly developed over time and combined the precision of a surgeon with the sensitivity of the artiste and musician that he was.

Our siksa connection with him goes back six years. Pre-occuppied as we were with the challenges posed by our fledgling teaching seva, we never made the effort to catch up with him when he visited India annually during this period. Our first darsan of Maharaj took place late last year, during karthik at Govardhan.We met him again, for the last time, at his vyasa puja in Russia in March.

Although there was a steady stream of sastric enquiries from our side over these six years ( sometimes submissive and at times challenging ), and detailed replies from the other side, we can honestly say that, it was only two years ago that we made a serious commitment to him. At that time, circumstances arose that helped us to take full shelter and to surrender.

Because he was equipped with vast experience of the various problems that devotees have faced in our movement, he could anticipate trouble.

With hindsight, I can confidently say that he had laid out a safety-net to catch and save me, long before I actually fell.

Armed with unflinching loyalty to Srila Prabhupada and determination to prevent devotees from leaving, he has helped many like me.

He did not lose sight of the big picture – of the Lord’s plan – why Krishna might be exposing a devotee to certain negative experiences in spiritual life. He did not kick-start the crisis although he must have seen it coming. He was patience personified and saw himself as nothing more than an instrument.

Once the storm had broken over our head, he was fully involved and yet he remained detached. Never aloof or impersonal, yet giving just the right amount of support , not an iota more or less – in this way, he warded off our becoming excessively dependent on him in the future. Such self-restraint could only have come from deep integrity.

In most cases, because of the way Maharaj extended himself to those in need, the whole problem turned into a wonderful learning experience.

Once the process of healing was concluded and the devotee back on his feet, Maharaj would caution ( with a dash of humour ), “Remember, always expect the worst and hope for the best “.

All those whose lives were touched by his have come away enriched by lessons learnt in the vaishnava qualities of integrity, humility, selflessness, patience, compassion and forgiveness. He taught us by example, how to bridge the gap between theory and practical application of these lofty concepts.

He demonstrated how it is possible to work within the organization and at the same time retain a highly independent and thoughtful approach to every issue. He was able to do this because he understood perfectly that freedom and creativity go hand in hand with bhakti.

Purnacandra Goswami’s book, “ Unspoken obstacles on the path to bhakti “ ( 2002 ) is available at the Mayapur Institute mens’ office and with the author of this post. She can be contacted at su-gita.vani.jps@pamho.net.

Request for prayers
Overhaul your Spiritual Life (audio)
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Purnacandra Swami left his body

On the 4th of November, 22:25 PM Moscow time Purnacandra Goswami passed away. It is a great loss for the entire ISKCON community.

On September 15th Maharaja was hospitalized with internal bleeding, and from October 19th he was in coma. Despite deep coma he manifested some signs of consciousness every time when devotees would come to him to chant the holy name.

Purnacandra Maharaja joined Srila Prabhupada’s movement when he was 17 years old. For more than 38 years he served ISKCON with great dedication. His knowledge of the Vedic scriptures was vast and profound. For many years he was teaching Bhakti-sastri course and many other courses to the devotees.

He had very deep attachment to Sri Vrindavana-dhama. He divided his preaching time between Russia and Balkans, but Karttik he would always spend in Vrindavan. Over the last few years he was writing a book dedicated to Lord Krishna’s pastimes in Vrindavana. He was always deeply absorbed in the holy names. The concentration and intensity with which he would chant the holy name every day was incomparable.

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Urmila devi dasi: Obeisances. Glories to Prabhupada!

I am deeply mourning the passing of Purnacandra Maharaja. Having the honor, privilege, and pleasure of serving under his guidance for so many years, I know him as a deep Vaisnava–humble, gentlemanly, caring, aiming for the highest bhakti, compassionate, thoughtful, and fully dedicated to His Divine Grace. He has left us during auspicious Kartika, on Diwali, a day of new beginnings.

Your servant, Urmila devi dasi
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By Yugal Kisora dasa

Dear Devotees,

Dandavat pranams. Jay Srila Prabhupada!

HH Purnacandra Maharaja is still in coma and it seems that there is not much that the doctors can do to get him out of it. He is on life support, but the doctors at this point are not talking about discontinuing with life support.

The problem in Moscow is getting the right information from the doctors because they are reluctant to speak about his predicament as Maharaja is an American citizen, without any ‘legal’ representative in Russia. The devotees
(HH Niranjana Swami and now the devotees in Moscow), however, have managed to contact Maharaja’s father who is willing to give the ‘power of attorney’ to a devotee in Moscow, and this will give his ‘guardian’ an opportunity and
(most importantly) authority to speak with doctors and get more information about the chances for his recovery.

Doctors have checked his reflexes and it seems that Maharaja is responsive, which is a good sign. As to the chances for his full recover, we have to wait and see and, most importantly, depend on Lord’s mercy.

At the moment, devotees, with the help of some highly placed people in Moscow, are trying to arrange for Maharaja an Mp3 player, so that he could listen to bhajans, which was initially very difficult to achieve as Russian authorities were very strict on this point (no foreign object in the reanimation department). It might be possible to arrange for a priest/devotee in the room as well (who could read to Maharaja).

Maharaja is in the best hospital in Moscow, and devotees are doing their best to help him out: by being in touch with the doctors, praying and holding daily kirtans, trying to connect with friends of devotees at high places who could help out, etc.

Furthermore, on the recommendation of Shyamasundara das (the astrologer) there special homas are being held for HH Purnacandra Maharaja (to bring Purnacandra Gosvami back from the coma and to restore him to full health) in Srirangam, India.

Please, continue with your prayers, so that our merciful Lord (if He so whishes) may speed up Maharaja’s recovery and give him many more years of service in the sankirtan movement.

Your servant, Yugal Kisora dasa

Request for prayers
Overhaul your Spiritual Life (audio)
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A Tribute to HG Purnacandra Prabhu

Bhumipati das (ACBSP): It is very sad and shocking that HG Purnacandra Prabhu is no more with us. One by one our godbrothers are leaving this world for good. A devotee’s external situation, appearance, manner of giving up his body are all immaterial, what really counts is what and how much has a devotee done sincerely to please his spiritual master and Krishna. Lord Gaur Krishna is the Supreme Controller and as such He alone keeps all the records of everyone.

As conditioned souls we are averse to Krishna since time immemorial and our only hope and solace is the mercy of Hari, Guru and Vaishnavas. His rendition of service to Their Lordships as and initiated Vaishnava must be appreciated. His service to Srila Prabhupada and ISKCON Society in the capacity of a Gurukula teacher, Head Pujari and Vice President etc is worth praising. He continuously lived in Sri Vrindavan Dham for many years. May Sri Vrindavan Dham shower blessings on him and give him a shelter at her abode. I also sincerely pray to Sri Sri Radha Shyamsundar, Sri Sri Krishna Balaram, Sri Sri Gaura Nitai and Srila Prabhupada to engage him in Their eternal Service. Thanks Krishna for bringing His eternal abode into this material world so that we can live there, for sending so many nice devotees here so that we can associate and converse with, for arranging so many literatures so that we can take guidance from, and speaking the “apicet suduracara” verse in Bhagavad Gita-9/30, so that we can take solace from. Thank you very much. HG Purnacandra Prabhu Ki Jay!

Request for prayers
Overhaul your Spiritual Life (audio)
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Unspoken Obstacles On the Path to Bhakti – Book review

By Yugala Kisora Dasa

Unspoken Obstacles On the Path to Bhakti

Purnacandra Dasa talks in his book about some unspoken obstacles, or impediments, on the path to bhakti. Some of them, like institutionalism and lack of freedom, may exist in any religious organization, but being subtle and difficult to spot, they are often not discussed. Although not a sociologist, but a practitioner of bhakti-yoga in the International Society for Krishna consciousness (ISKCON) for over 30 years, the author makes relevant philosophical and sociological observations. He speaks mainly to the ISKCON audience, but the principles he discusses apply to any religious institution. Thus the book can be of interest to those Vaishnavas concerned with building a better ISKCON, and especially to those, the author gives tools and practical hints how to bring about changes they want to see.

Purnacandra begins with the philosophical definition of pure devotional service (bhakti) from the Srila Rupa Goswami’s sixteenth-century book on bhakti, Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. Srila Rupa Goswami describes pure bhakti as an activity performed favorably intending to please the Lord without any selfish motivation for knowledge (jnana), or any desire for personal enjoyment (karma).
Bhakti awakens in the company of others. To mature and give ripened fruits it should grow freely, without obstructions. As bhakti is free, the practitioner and the surroundings must also be free. Since love requires trust and free will, it cannot be enforced upon anybody. In this atmosphere of freedom, a person can develop feelings of deep affection for the Lord.

However, at times the institution creates an ambience that is just the opposite of trust and freedom. ( 1 ) In an atmosphere of skepticism, suspicion and disbelief in others, bhakti cannot grow. The chapter “Authority and Freedom” discuses how the authority withholding trust and freedom instills uneasiness in subordinates. People may still follow the leader, but not because they love or respect him: they fear the possible consequences of being uncommitted. However, when there is trust and love between the authority (guru) and a subordinate (disciple), genuine surrender takes place. One can be a real authority only when one loves his subordinates. Obviously, many shades of gray lie in-between these two extremes of authority, but the generalization stands that one can rule either by love or by fear.

The path of fear creates an authoritarian mood in the institution. Lacking freedom to reflect on the scriptural knowledge, one follows blindly without genuine understanding of the scripture. Authentic knowledge is acquired only then when a person is free to reflect on the philosophy from different angles of vision. Without this kind of freedom there can be no assimilation of philosophy or absorption in the practice of devotional service. Purnacandra holds that this mood, “brahminical ethos,” is unavailable in many of the ISKCON’s communities. He maintains that this may be one of the many reasons why some devotees leave the society. With the introduction of systematical sastric education, like bhakti-sastri courses, the brahminical ethos in the society can be shaped. Of course, devotion cannot develop only by education, but it includes subtler and deeper levels of learning. Thus one who is actually educated cannot be a blind follower.

The assimilation of philosophy develops gradually. Once developed, it is the source of creative inspiration for the person, allowing him to be truly himself. Situated in a high-quality environment a person develops all good qualities, like honesty, sincerity, tolerance, etc. This kind of social surrounding gives a person a chance to grow and fully develop his or her spiritual potential.

Being one’s self includes all aspects of one’s being. Since emotions are also an integral part of one’s identity, the author talks about them in chapters eight and nine. He shows how various misconceptions in dealings with emotions cause unfriendly and cold dealings in the ISKCON society. Because emotions and feelings arise from the mind and are products of material modes of nature, an aspiring spiritualist strives to control them. But to gain control over emotions does not mean their denial or repression. Very often a neophyte devotee has this conception, but it is a mistaken belief and a false conception of transcendence. Rather, supported with reason, one should learn where to place emotions. Purnacandra is not advocating that one should become an ocean of emotion, easily swept away by every petty sentiment, but in order to be fully alive one should be in touch with them. When applied in devotional service, emotions and feelings become transformed and purified.

This is where the varnasrama system becomes handy. The varnasrama system allows one to act on his or her level of religion, controlling the emotions according to one’s own capacity. Although one’s main identification is Vaishnava, still varnasrama provides for an individual an environment wherein a person can use all his or her talents in devotional service. Generally, varna is more important for the individual then for the institution. It fulfills his social, material, intellectual, and devotional requirements. Yet, introduction of the varnasrama social system can present some difficulties. If the focus is not on the individual and his needs, then another caste system can be created. Rather than creating an all-inclusive social system, it will just divide ISKCON and create disharmony. Alluding to some examples from the recent ISKCON history, the author pleads for caution when introducing the varnasrama system.

So far Purnacandra talked about issues like freedom, the role of emotions, blind following and varnasrama. In the chapter “Liquid Refuse,” he discusses some subtle (liquid) forms of refuse that can create an unpleasant aroma in the organization. Some of these may push devotees into the back rows of society, or even provoke them to leave ISKCON. When an organization becomes bureaucratic and alienated from its members, more concerned with ceremonials than the needs of real people, then that organization cannot do well. Although in this chapter Purnacandra gives examples of this kind of institutional dynamics, still, according to his observations, ISKCON has not now reached that state. Nevertheless, there are some issues, like poor leadership, that trouble the society. Rather than close one’s eyes, one should recognize the problems and their symptoms to improve the current situation.

Leaders of the society give direction to the organization and are responsible for its mood. But if they are out of touch with others and themselves, they can create an atmosphere detrimental to the growth of bhakti. This occurs when a leader lives in his or her self-created dream world, in a bubble, unaware of reality. That phenomenon, when the leader’s main concerns are position and executive status, is called institutionalism. Eventually for him the organization is more important than the people in it. Such a religious leader uses an organization not for spiritual growth, but to fulfill his material desires. Masking outer, external goals as inner ones, he becomes a religious statesman fascinated merely with the ranking within the organization, which is actually just the outward form to facilitate the real substance: devotion to the Lord.

Although ISKCON’s form, with its many temples, farm communes and community projects is magnificent and glorious, still loving devotional service and Srila Prabhupada’s teachings are its substance. To illustrate the relationship between the substance and the form, Purnacandra uses the example of milk and the cup. Milk (substance) can be drunk directly from the cow, but hardly anyone will do this. Rather, one will use a cup (form). The form depends on the substance, which is independent of it. Likewise, Purnacandra pointed out that bhakti stands independent of any organization; however, one needs the other for its storage, protection and distribution. Focusing on the substance the form will flourish too.

When Srila Prabhupada left this world, a large number of his disciples were in their mid- twenties, inexperienced in life and unripe spiritually. Most of them were not fully qualified for the leadership positions they had taken. To please their spiritual master in spreading the “message” worldwide most of them were sincere and honest in their efforts. But because they were spiritually immature, false pride stepped in. Deluded by their high clerical ranking, some of them fell down from elevated institutional positions, damaging not only their spiritual life but harming others as well. Purnacandra mentions this, among the rest, as one of the reasons why the subtle line that divides essential substance from supplemented form remained somewhat vague. At present the majority of ISKCON leaders are mature and spiritually full-grown. Hopefully, they have learned something from the past mistakes. Therefore the time is ripe for ISKCON to develop a culture wherein devotion (bhakti) can flourish and grow freely without obstacles.

Culture is a set of customs and ways of behaving. It affects people’s character, ethos, personality, moral values and principles – their entire being. The thirteenth chapter, entitled “Character and Culture,” discusses how cultural surroundings have an effect on one’s personality. Upon joining ISKCON a person very soon finds out that our “push-button society” and Hollywood culture is not so akin to Vaishnava tradition. Accepting an ISKCON routine, one can virtually throw away his previous way of living over-night, without fully embracing the Vaishnava culture. Thus such a person can find himself in a cultural vacuum, situated in neither of the two worlds. He enthusiastically accepts Vaishnava culture, but gets the wrong idea about the principles behind the rules and regulations. As a result, he behaves somewhat mechanically without any finesse in personal dealings.

To further illustrate the points he makes, Purnacandra ends the book with some examples of Srila Prabhupada’s elegance and style in his personal dealings. Besides that, in the concluding words the reader can examine some appreciations of Srila Prabhupada from various spiritual teachers outside of the Gaudiya Vaishnava denomination.

The Russian publisher, Gauranga Publishing House, presented “Unspoken Obstacles On the Path to Bhakti.” The book portrays how ISKCON passed through various stages in its internal development. Therefore the book can interest sociologists who study new religious movements. To them, it can be exciting to observe how the westerners, who grew up in a completely different social and cultural milieu, accepted the new religious practice. ( 2 ) Although Gaudiya Vaishnavism is not a new religion, but another branch of a very old and flourishing tree, still ISKCON is a fairly recent bud on that aged tree of Vedic or Hindu culture. ( 3 )

I enjoyed reading the book. Finally, I thought, here is a book in which the author has the courage to talk about the issues which everybody in ISKCON wants to discuss, but rarely somebody dares to voice. Purnacandra discusses these issues openly and honestly, without any hidden agenda. In his statements he tries to be as objective as an insider can be, knowing well the difficulty of managing a spiritual society in the material world. He is straightforward and focuses himself on the problem instead of lashing out at individuals. I felt that the book was written with a cool and analytical mind, pointing out some of the “hot potatoes” that trouble the society, along with a concerned heart that wants to see a better and healthier ISKCON: a house in which the whole world can live.

The book is dynamic and vivid, very well-grounded in the Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy. Statements made by the author are clearly supported with scriptural references from the writings of Srila Prabhupada. ( 4 ) Furthermore, the author quotes from numerous sociologists, philosophers and various past and present spiritual teachers in the Gaudiya Vaishnava line. This broadminded approach and balanced mixture of personal realization couched in philosophy makes the reading a pleasurable experience. Moreover the author interweaves Srila Prabhupada’s stories and examples to point out a direction for devotees to follow.

Srila Prabhupada is the life and soul of ISKCON, and there is no better model for present and future devotees. Srila Prabhupada once said: “I give them a little power and they immediately start ordering everyone around, ‘do this, do, do this.’ No. First you get them to love you, and then they’ll do whatever you want.” Love is an art, and Srila Prabhupada perfectly mastered this art. However, for the rest of us it will take some time and a lot of patience to become fully adept in the art of loving. But is not that the goal of sadhana-bhakti? ( 5 )

1 “Freedom does not mean a free-for-all in the sense of loose, hedonistic behavior. A healthy balance must be struck in order to succeed, and this should be instilled with the principle of gradually increasing one’s freedom as one matures and develops.” (35)

2 Thomas Hopkins, an authority on Vaishnavism writes: “What became evident was that Bhaktivedanta Swami did, in fact, have a plan which he was gradually implementing – a plan that involved bringing more and more of the authentic tradition over from India and putting it in place in America, or Western, movement. He made his students more and more familiar with the philosophy. This I was expecting. What I did not expect, and what really surprised and pleased me, was the degree to which the ritual tradition was also brought over and put into practice. That’s something that no other movement has succeeded in doing, nor even really tried to do: transporting a traditional Hindu ritual structure into a Hindu religious movement in America.” In Steven J. Gelberg, ed., Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna: Five Distinguished Scholars on the Krsna Movement in the West, New York: Grove Press, 1983.

3 The term Gauda is an ancient name for Bengal, and a Vaishnava is a devotee of the Supreme Lord Vishnu. The Gaudiya-Vaishnava’s are generally known as followers of Caitanaya Mahaprabhu, who rejuvenated the culture of Krsna bhakti in the sixteenth century. Since Krsna and Vishnu are different aspects of the same Supreme Person, devotees of Krsna are also known as Vaishnavas. Gaudiya-Vaishnavism was revived in Bengal in the late nineteenth century by Bhaktivinoda Thakur and his son Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati Thakur, (who organized the Gaudiya Math). The Gaudiya Math consisted of numerous temples and asramas dedicated to preaching the philosophy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. One of Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati’s disciples, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada went to the west on his guru’s order, and in America founded the International Society for Krsna consciousness (ISKCON, or the Hare Krsna movement) in New York, in 1966.

4 Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami: “I think this book is substantial and dynamic. It is full of sastric foundation but also personal, well aware of ISKCON history and not afraid to speak honestly.”

5 “When transcendental devotional service, by which love for Krsna is attained, is executed by the senses, it is called sadhana-bhakti, or the regulated discharge of devotional service. Such devotion eternally exists within the heart of every living entity. The awakening of this eternal devotion is the potentiality of devotional service in the practice.”(Caitanaya caritamrta Madhya 22.105)

Request for prayers
Overhaul your Spiritual Life (audio)
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Unspoken Obstacles On the Path to Bhakti

Panca tattva dasa (BVS):
Dear devotess, please accept our humble obeisances!
We want to share with you a wonderful book from Purnacandra dasa [a disciple of Srila Prabhupada] titled Unspoken Obstacles On the Path to Bhakti with author’s permision. You can donwload it for free here (PDF):

http://ebooks.iskcondesiretree.com/pdf/00_-_More/Unspoken_Obstacles_on_the_Path_to_Bhakti.pdf

Panca tattva dasa

Reviews from devotees:
Mukunda Goswami: “Essential reading for ‘thinking’ devotees. A must.”

Satsvarupa Das Goswami: “I think this book is substantial and dynamic. It is full of sastric foundation but also personal, well aware of ISKCON history and not afraid to speak honestly.”

Devamrta Swami: “It gave me a lot to think about. I especially liked the way you wove in sastra, even Vraj-katha, along with your observations and reflections on ISKCON life. If each senior devotee in ISKCON would write a book like this, we would have a valuable heritage of experience and applied wisdom to pass down to future ISKCON-ites, whether leader or not. You have captured well a certain mindset and ethos that is undoubtedly a major prevailing wind from the past that must die out in the present and future.”

Bhakti Tirtha Swami: “On the plane ride from Mexico I got the chance to read your wonderful book. I just wanted to thank you for writing such a nice book.”

Bhakti Vikas Swami: “Purnacandra Prabhu’s new book which pointedly yet without blaming analyzes many problems in our movement.”

Bhaktimarga Swami: ‘I read your book ‘Unspoken Obstacles’ while in the air. It certainly had a grounding effect. It was reassuring to hear about things that aren’t often ‘spoken’. I guess honesty and integrity are strong brahminical traits that we must all try to apply in our dealings with one another as well as to consciously check impersonalism. ‘To be human’ is something that we must practice while we are walking the road of transcendence. We need to remind ourselves of how important it is to put kindness and sensitivity ahead of everything. Thanks for the great read. Is there a sequel?

Krsna Ksetra Swami: “Who says it’s not possible to be reflective, thoughtful, honest, articulate, challenging, respectful of tradition while open to change, and be a member of ISKCON at the same time? Read “Unspoken Obstacles'” to be assured that this is not the case. And if you still think it’s not possible, this book is a good start to find out how to make it possible.”

Urmila Devi: ‘Purnacandra Prabhu’s ‘Unspoken Obstacles’ reveals ways in which our organization can better fulfill its mission of ‘bringing the members of the society together with each other and nearer to Krishna.’ It is full of thoughtful and candid insight regarding problems and solutions on both a personal and collective level. Therefore, it offers practical guidance for leaders as well as every member of ISKCON. Even deep concepts have been made accessible through everyday examples and plain language, and altogether the book is a refreshing pleasure.’

Request for prayers
Overhaul your Spiritual Life (audio)
Request for prayers
Overhaul your Spiritual Life (audio)

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