Satsvarupa dasa Goswami Agreement for Continuing Service in ISKCON
The following points formulated by a committee of ISKCON devotees who were delegated by the GBC Executive Committee to liaise with Satsvarupa Maharaja regarding his service in ISKCON. The following conclusions have been approved by the GBC EC.
* SDG will continue as a sannyasi in a low key profile and will assume the status of “retired” diskha guru. This means SDG will no longer give initiation nor present himself as an initiating guru. The GBC would like to encourage SDG to participate in Srila Prabhupada’s movement according to his capacity, but he will do so humbly, giving classes and traveling, but not accepting high-profile service. Disciples may refer questions to the monitor committee (see below).
* SDG has agreed to have his future publications peer reviewed prior to publication or posting.
* A monitoring committee will be formed to monitor SDG’s progress and compliance with the GBCEC approved recommendations. This committee will serve for one year and at that time provide a report to the GBC. Malati dasi, Ravindra Swarupa Prabhu and Giriraja Swami have agreed to serve on the committee (others may be added). The contact info for the monitor committee is: firstname.lastname@example.org. This committee will monitor his progress in accordance with these recommendations. This will include:
a) Regular contact with a committee member with a follow-up written report to the others.
b) Open door policy for godbrothers who want to visit SDG’s ashram in Delaware.
c) Report on pastoral activities including following the regulative principles, chanting, traveling to preach, receiving guests, programs, writing letters and books for disciples, visiting the Holy Dhamas, etc.
Closure: This case concerning SDG’s relationship with Pranada is closed and not subject to reinterpretation or reopening as long as the monitor committee report indicates compliance with these measures.
Letter of Satsvarupa Das Goswami
Dear Maharajas and Prabhus,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I understand that many devotees still have questions about my past behavior. They doubt why I continue to have a position as an ISKCON leader. Therefore I would like to clarify my falldown in 2002, my recovery, service, and relationship to ISKCON.
First of all I would like to apologize to Pranada and Nagaraja Prabhus, whom I deeply hurt and whose trust I betrayed. I genuinely apologize to all my disciples, my godbrothers and godsisters, and all members of ISKCON. I am beginning to understand the depth of the damage my behavior has caused for everyone, and the compounding of the damage by initially understating the matter.
The reaction to this fall has been devastating to the spiritual lives of so many devotees and created much mistrust in myself. As I have held a position of high honor in ISKCON my misbehavior naturally throws doubts upon other leaders in the movement. This is a disservice to ISKCON and its leaders. For this, too, I apologize sincerely. I have been praying that Lord Krsna and Srila Prabhupada forgive me. I realize that many Vaishnavas want me to be transparent and accept responsibility for my actions, so I am opening my heart to them in an attempt to bring closure to this sad chapter in my history.
When I first wrote about my relationship with Pranada Dasi, I understated the length and seriousness of it. I was frightened and wanted to protect my reputation, Pranada’s reputation, and not cause unnecessary damage to the faith of many devotees who counted on me to provide a proper example of Krsna consciousness. In retrospect this was a mistake, and I hope this letter serves to clarify matters.
As a young sannyasi I developed a secret attraction for Pranada Dasi in 1978 in Los Angeles. Later, I gave her and her husband at the time, Vadiraja Dasa, second initiation. I never revealed this attraction to her or anyone. In 1980 when Pranada Dasi’s marriage to Vadiraja dasa failed I suggested she move to Gita-nagari. Sometime later she began managing Gita-nagari Press, my tape ministry, and assisting me in a secretarial role as my typist for letters to my disciples and other duties required to fulfill my GBC responsibilities. From 1980 to 1985, due to my ongoing attraction to her, I instructed her, as her spiritual master, to do many things that were quite difficult for her. These included moving away from Gita-nagari, leaving her son behind, and getting married (I had previously insisted she vow never to remarry). After she married and moved away from my home zone my attraction subsided. Therefore, my attraction lasted about seven years.
In December of 2001, I was at a medical and spiritual low point in my life. I had wanted to tell Pranada Dasi, before I died of my old feelings for her because this was a part of my life. Naively I told her of my prior attachment to her. I did not anticipate the result of my confession, which was a revival of the old feelings. Thus began an illicit and intimate romantic phone, e-mail, and letter exchange lasting over a year. During this year she also visited me three times in Ireland, and during one such visit, there was physical intimacy.
During this time I was diagnosed with anticipatory anxiety disorder. Pranada became involved with my care team since she has some expertise in handling this disorder. Of course, this was a formula for further falldown.
However, my relationship with Pranada Dasi wasn’t the sum total of my spiritual life being at a low point. I was exhausted from the constant migraine pain and reaction to the doctor’s supervised medical regimen. This low point also manifested in several ways including reduced japa.
My simple spiritual analysis of this fall is that Krsna saw some pride in me. As a spiritual master, sannyasi, and man I failed miserably before Prabhupada and Krsna.
In November 2002 we decided to end the relationship.
The way I dealt with Pranada over the years has shaken her to the core and left her physically and emotionally devastated. I am chagrined by my behavior towards her and hope that this letter of my taking responsibility is a step toward her healing.
Since then, I have undergone four-and-a-half years of professional psychological counseling, continuing medical psychiatric care, and spiritual introspection. Over the years my medicine intake has been reduced by the doctor, so I don’t suffer from the side effects anymore—lethargy, memory loss, confusion, etc. For the sake of honesty and spiritual improvement, I feel it is necessary to make some adjustments in my service and position in ISKCON.
I am back in America (Delaware), living in a humble asrama with several men and devotee neighbors. We have a regular morning program and chanting hours. There is facility for devotees to visit, and I welcome this in a scheduled way as my improved health is allowing. I have felt the importance of senior association for my continuing recovery. I have established an open-door policy, which may be contrary to my reclusive nature, but I think it is important to implement. I will start visiting the holy dhamas in India as of January to beg forgiveness and accelerate my purification. I will occasionally travel to see devotees who may not otherwise get a chance to visit me, but in general I will remain retired from the forefront of ISKCON preaching. I will now voluntarily implement a peer review system for my publishing efforts—presently, I am continuing the series A Poor Man Reads the Bhagavatam, which should go on for the rest of my years.
I will no longer give initiation nor present myself as an initiating guru. I would encourage those who wish to take shelter of senior Vaishnavas in ISKCON for their spiritual growth to do so. Those who wish to continue as my disciples can hear from me through my books and website, through personal correspondence, and whenever possible, in person.
I am now sixty-eight years old. I wish to continue my recommitment to the sannyasa-asrama that Srila Prabhupada assigned to me.
In closing, I hope this communication will help heal the wounds and serve as a warning to others who may become lax in their Krsna consciousness as I did.
Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
Letter of clarification by Brahmatirtha Das
January 12, 2008
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
From September to December 2007 I served with several other devotees on a GBC-mandated committee deputed to investigate and make recommendations concerning allegations of improprieties on the part of Satsvarupa dasa Goswami.
Since Satsvarupa dasa Goswami wrote his letter of apology several weeks ago, I have received several inquiries from devotees with questions about the process and the mission of our committee and the GBC Executive Committee (EC). I will share my understanding of the context of our Committee with the caveat that I am speaking for myself rather than the entire Committee or the GBC EC.
Some devotees had questioned whether the 2002 illicit liaison had been properly investigated. In August 2007 Pranada wrote a letter of elucidation to her local GBC and ISKCON Resolve. The Alachua GBC and ISKCON Resolve referred this matter to the GBC EC, which formed our Investigation Committee to investigate the situation and make recommendations. I served on this committee.
We interviewed witnesses knowledgeable about what had happened and corroborated the facts with Satsvarupa Goswami and Pranada Dasi. Vaishnava precedents were reviewed, and after much consideration our committee agreed that seeking transparency from a person in a position of authority in our Society is a service to Srila Prabhupada and his movement and must be done if we are to maintain ISKCON’s integrity, honesty, and the high moral standards Srila Prabhupada set for us. We also thought that transparency was important to SDG’s followers due to the weighty nature of the guru-disciple relationship.
One difficult part of developing the recommendations for the EC was in regards to Satsvarupa Goswami’s ashrama. Some felt that his deviation from the sannyasa code of behavior warranted a change of ashram. SDG, however, felt strongly that he wanted to maintain the order given to him by Srila Prabhupada, and he indicated that he had returned to the sannyasa mindset for some time now. There was much back and forth, with ultimately the feeling being that with the various restrictions in place that SDG had volunteered to follow, Srila Prabhupada would give him another chance.
The other difficult part in developing the recommendations relates to Satsvarupa dasa Goswami’s position as diksa-guru. After much discussion and consideration it was decided that Satsvarupa dasa Goswami will assume the position “retired diksa guru” and will not present himself as an ISKCON initiating guru.
To ensure transparency, as a crucial condition of Satsvarupa dasa Goswami remaining in his sannyasa position, our committee asked Satsvarupa dasa Goswami to write a letter of apology and explanation to the Society.
The committee concluded by making recommendations to the GBC EC, and both Satsvarupa Goswami and Pranada dasi agreed with the recommendations. The full list of recommendations and Satsvarupa dasa Goswami’s letter is available at: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=5000. According to the GBC-EC the case on this issue is closed as long as the monitor committee reports compliance with the recommendations.
In her letter to the GBC, Pranada Dasi apologized sincerely to all of Satsvarupa Maharaja’s disciples and to the entire Vaishnava community for her misbehavior. Though she has given me permission to share this apology, she chooses not to speak publicly on this topic out of respect for Satsvarupa Goswami’s followers. From her letter of August 2007:
“I pray the Vaisnavas, especially Satsvarupa dasa Goswami’s disciples, will forgive me for my serious offenses and transgressions. I am deeply sorry for my behavior. I daily live with deep feelings of repentance.”
As Satsvarupa Goswami has explained, a Monitor Committee has been formed to liaison with the Vaishnava community and to work with Satsvarupa Maharaja during his one-year probationary period. They can be reached at email@example.com.
Please note that an incomplete rough draft of the recommendations and Satsvarupa Goswami’s letter was sent out from Satsvarupa Goswami’s office to his followers, and without his intent was published on the Sampradaya Sun website. The final and approved document was published on both Dandavats and Chakra.
I hope this note assists the Vaishnava community in understanding why Satsvarupa dasa Goswami issued his letter at this time.