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Serpents be Damned! Addressing ISKCON Concerns About My New Kirtan Book

Friday, 15 August 2008 / Published in Satyaraja Dasa / 9,315 views

By Satyaraja Dasa

Although the reaction to my newly published book on kirtan has been overwhelmingly positive, I have received several letters expressing an entirely predictable ISKCON concern. One letter in particular sums up the all-too-conservative reservation: “I love the new book but I wonder about ‘milk touched by the lips of a serpent.’ I refer, of course, to the non-ISKCON people represented in your book. Shouldn’t we only hear from authorized representatives who embody the mood of Lord Chaitanya?”

Akruranath Prabhu’s insightful comments on Dandavats and other ISKCON websites deal with such questions sufficiently, but since he has asked me to address these subjects in my own words, I will do so in the form of this present article. It is a rather long article, but I ask my readers to be patient and to wade through its several pages. After all, there are numerous dimensions to this subject, and I am trying to address them all, or at least a good number of them.

To begin, let us consider that a devotee might reasonably ask: “Why do I even want to know about these people outside of ISKCON? Why should I care about what they have to say?” My simple answer: Because their contribution and perceptions are now part of kirtan history and lore. There’s no avoiding it. If you’re alive and part of the preaching movement in the 21st century, you’re going to be confronted with their work. So you should know something about it firsthand, not from hearsay. The book in question can thus be seen as a comprehensive encyclopedia of everything kirtan, apprising devotees not only of sampradayic truths but of all related information, including that of our distant cousins on the contemporary kirtan scene. This in itself might serve as justification for the book. But for those who need more . . .

The kirtan book, in addition to conveying the history, philosophy, and devotional tenor of ecstatic chant, attempts to create certain bridges and pathways between our ISKCON chanting and that of others who are not in our lineage. To be sure, the lines drawn between these two camps are not always black and white, for there are numerous considerations in determining who is a serpent and who is not.

Indeed, there are only a small number of ISKCON conservatives who would deign to see “snakes” where there aren’t any, and they often make their assessment based on superficial differences. For these few who might be worried, I have a few words to say.

What is it that makes one a serpent anyway? Does a card-carrying member of ISKCON automatically eschew serpent status? Is anyone outside the parameters of the movement necessarily a serpent? Sometimes we call someone a serpent if they’re critical of ISKCON. But if we think about it, we insiders, too, are often critical of our beloved institution, and often with good reason. Let us consider, then, that maybe Krishna is sometimes speaking through our critics — to edify us, to make us more vigilant about correction and change. In these cases, such persons are not necessarily serpents. They might in fact be angels in disguise.

So let us reflect on just what it means to actually be a serpent — it might be slightly more nuanced than we at first suspect. To be fair, there are positive serpents, too: Sesaji is the bedstead of Lord Vishnu and Mucalinda shielded Buddha from the elements as he sat wrapped in meditation. Not all serpents are dangerous.

In all seriousness, though, when Srila Prabhupada uses the metaphor — “milk touched by the lips of a serpent” — he is referring chiefly to “nondevotees,” to people who professionally recite the Bhagavatam, to those who have no true feeling for spiritual subjects, and so on. The idea is that the holy name is as pure and as nourishing as milk. But even such prophylactic substances can be compromised by outside elements, indicating that the “milk” of the holy name should be taken purely, without “contaminating influence.”

As someone who has spent the better part of his life in the association of devotees, I naturally (and obviously) grappled with this question before embarking on the kirtan project, whose purposes, I determined, would best be served by engaging “outside” voices. I thought deeply about the people I wanted to include as part of this book, and I stand behind my decision.

All interviewees in my kirtan book are serious about the holy name and aspire to advance in spiritual life. They want to develop love for God; they are generally humble and sincere people. Readers may have heard other stories; but I know these individuals personally. Even if one doubts these chanters because they come from an alternate lineage or hold a different understanding of ultimate reality, is it not true that by associating with devotees this can all be rectified? Consider the words of the Caitanya-caritamrta: “When one is encouraged in devotional service by the association of devotees, one becomes free from all unwanted contamination . . .” (Madhya 23:10) Does this not speak to the importance and effectiveness of us working together, as we do in this kirtan book?

Along similar lines, readers might have faith in me, the editor of the volume, who is not only properly initiated in disciplic succession but has a modicum of experience in presenting ISKCON themes to outsiders. People like Akruranath Prabhu, who have actually taken the time to read the book, see clearly the purpose of my strategy. And make no mistake, the book IS strategy, not shastra. This book accomplishes something by virtue of NOT being shastra — it draws into kirtan people who are not necessarily inclined to the orthodox tradition, so that they might more easily see its value.

There are two ways of looking at kirtan, one conservative and the other quite liberal, and we draw on these diverse perspectives according to time and circumstance. It is something like how we view Vaishnavas: On the one hand, only pure devotees have the right to be referred to by that term; on the other, Mahaprabhu says that “those who merely appreciate the chanting of the holy name can be counted amongst the Vaishnavas.” (This latter perspective would definitely include all participants in the kirtan book.) A still more liberal definition is found in the writings of Bhaktivinoda Thakur: “All living beings are actually Vaishnavas, since all souls are ultimately servants of Krishna.” We use these different definitions for different purposes.

So, too, with kirtan: Chaitanya Mahaprabhu tells us that “there are no hard and fast rules for chanting the holy name.” If we think deeply about what these words actually mean: case closed. We need look no further for justification: Anyone can chant God’s names and spiritual benefit will accrue.

But let us look at the context of His statement, too. Mahaprabhu lived in a time when Brahmins were duly initiated into chanting mantras and would evoke these mantras for specific service, such as deity worship. One could not perform certain services without such initiation. Not so for the bearers of the holy name. To hear Mahaprabhu tell it, the yajna of chanting God’s names breaks away from such restrictions. One doesn’t need initiation to chant kirtan — one needs merely a mouth and a heart. One needs to be a soul yearning for God.

As Sri Satyaraja Khan, my namesake, tells us in the Caitanya-caritamrta: “One does not have to undergo initiation or execute the activities required before initiation. One simply has to vibrate the holy name with his lips. Thus even a man in the lowest class [candala] can be delivered.” (Madhya 15.108)

And yet there’s the other side of the tradition, which is based more on our legalistic Vedic background. Here we underline the importance of proper initiation and of receiving the holy name from the lips of a realized soul. This more stringent side of the tradition is particularly important for Westerners who might disregard the necessary qualifications for moving forward in spiritual life. For this reason, even though the Satyaraja Khan verse (above) makes it clear that initiation is not required (or that it’s merely a formality — “a necessary formality,” as Srila Prabhupada would often say), our spiritual master went to great pains, in his purport to that verse, to make the exact opposite point of what the verse itself was saying. That opposite point was simply this: that initiation is EXTREMELY important.

The philosophical background for this conception is based on the Padma Purana: sampradaya vihina ye mantras te nisphala matah (“A mantra not received through an authorized lineage will not bear fruit”). This is not to say that one cannot make spiritual advancement without the virtue of an authorized lineage. We know that people do — and have — throughout history. Nor is it to be understood that the holy name is rendered ineffective without proper connection to standard sampradayas.

Rather, it is only the “ultimate fruit” (phala) — pure love of God — that evades us if we neglect the proper channels through which mantras descend. That being said, one naturally develops all good qualities by chanting the holy name of God, wherever one might hear it, and, by the sincerity of that chanting, one might eventually be led to a bona fide spiritual lineage. So chanting is always helpful and spiritually nourishing. Nonetheless, the question remains: what if one hears from a lesser source?

Before answering, let us look at a few practical examples in Prabhupada’s own manifest lila: When Allen Ginsberg showed appreciation for Krishna Consciousness, and Prabhupada saw how the popular poet might help the movement, our beloved Gurudeva let him speak and even lead the chanting on several occasions. Prabhupada knew well that Ginsberg was not following the principles of Vaishnava life, nor did Ginsberg have the proper conception of the holy name, as he revealed in numerous lectures. Still, Prabhupada allowed the hippie icon to help to the best of his ability, mercifully engaging him in the Sankirtan Movement.

There is another incident: When I was on Radha-Damodara TSKP, we used to go out regularly for nagara-sankirtan, chanting through the streets, with Vishnu-jana Maharaja. On one such occasion, an elderly gentleman saw the chanting party and exclaimed, “What is this? Who are you guys?” And then he joined in, obviously completely taken by the effects of the holy name. Just then, he had a heart attack and passed away — right in the midst of an intense, rip-roaring kirtan. TKG, fascinated by this occurrence (as were the rest of us), wrote to Prabhupada and asked him about the destination of our newly deceased chanting partner. Prabhupada’s response: “He went back to Godhead.”

The man was not properly trained as a devotee; he had absolutely no authorized conception of the holy name; and he was certainly not initiated. Yet Prabhupada unhesitatingly told us that this man, merely on the strength of his enthusiasm for chanting at life’s end, attained the supreme destination.

One more story: When Srila Prabhupada was in Tehran, giving a lecture, he heard from the windows the Muslim “call to prayer” coming through tinny loudspeakers. He asked his disciples what it meant, and they explained what it was. In their explanation, they seemed to indicate that it was annoying, and they wanted Prabhupada to support them in their criticism: “It’s not like they’re chanting the maha-mantra, Srila Prabhupada.” His response: “They are engaged in glorifying the names of God. So it is alright. Do you want me to be sectarian?”

What we learn from these stories (and countless more like them) is the following: If someone is inclined to chanting God’s names, they should be encouraged, and their talents may be utilized in this way. If someone chants with sincerity and enthusiasm, those qualities can override one’s not being properly initiated or one’s lack of training in the theology of the holy name. Finally, we learn that chanting God’s names is a nonsectarian spiritual principle, more important than the particulars of a given religious tradition. I ask my readers to contemplate these truths and their various implications with respect to the “outsiders” in question.

As an addendum — though a very important one — I want to bring out a practical dimension about the non-ISKCON people in my kirtan book. By Krishna’s divine arrangement, these people took our work to the next level — popularizing the holy name in the West in a way that was unprecedented. We should remember that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is svarat (“independent”), and He will spread the chanting of Hare Krishna with or without us. If well-meaning chanters from outside His tradition show some enthusiasm for spreading the holy name, He’ll work with them — such people can easily become His instruments. And they have. They chant to audiences of thousands, filling concert halls and selling CDs in astronomical numbers. As Prabhupada often told us, you can judge something by the results. One might argue that material success doesn’t necessarily constitute spiritual authenticity, and that’s certainly true. But meager results don’t constitute such authenticity, either.

It is unquestionably advantageous to be properly initiated, to hear the name from the lips of a pure devotee, and to have the authorized Vaishnava conception of spiritual sound. But these things are not everything. If one has such advantages but is wanting in sincerity, his chanting will lack potency. And if one is devoid of these Vaishnava virtues but HAS sincerity, then Krishna can “carry what he lacks and preserve what he has.” (Bg. 9.22) Is this not, really, what our philosophy teaches?

Again, I know many of these “outside” kirtaniyas personally, and I know them to be good, sincere people, with a true appreciation of the holy name. That qualifies them to chant and to be heard. That’s why they’re included in the book.

In the end, if concerned devotees read my book, they’ll find that the most popular chanters today — whose names I need not mention here — were initially inspired through Mahaprabhu’s lineage, even if they took diksha elsewhere. The seed came from Gaudiya Vaishnavism — whether from ISKCON directly or from other Gaudiya chanters in India. That these chanters are indebted to Mahaprabhu is a unique revelation, unveiled in this book for the first time, and it will serve the purposes of Prabhupada’s mission.

It is to be remembered that this is a bridge book that accommodates all people, helping them to enter into the chanting process. The book utilizes known kirtan personalities, capitalizing on their fame and notoriety to spread the glories of the holy name. I, as editor, guide the conversations in the book so that the reader walks away with proper Vaishnava conclusions. There is much evidence already that the book accomplishes its purposes.

And so, overall, the book reveals a message that even our most conservative Godbrothers and Godsisters would be happy with — that perfection in chanting comes from Mahaprabhu’s side, from His influence, from His person, from His love. But readers must wade through the interviews and essays to see how this plays out. [See portions of the book and ordering info at] If they do, I make this promise: After reading the book — if they read carefully — they will not be disappointed. Serpents be damned.


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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Anyway, it seems I have a lot of rambling to do today. Please forgive.

    Until I read Satyaraja’s book, I did not know much about this growing interest in “kirtan”, but I have seen signs of it becoming more and more prominent. At least 5 years ago, probably more, I told another lawyer in the firm I was working in that I was a Hare Krishna, and she said, “Oh, like Krishna Das? I go to his kirtans. I love him.”

    I think that was one of the first times I heard of Krishna Das, but I already knew enough to say, “He is not exactly in our line, I do not think, but we chant the same mantra.”

    Later, my wife got a Krishna Das CD and played it sometimes in her car. I must confess I really never liked his gravelly, slurry singing. Its not as if I can sense devotion or lack thereof in someone’s voice, but more a matter of just my musical taste. But my having heard that he had passed critical comments against the Hare Krishnas added to me not wanting to listen to him. I used to ask my wife to switch to another CD.

    [In the CD that came with Satyaraja’s book, I still did not like the Krishna Das “Jaya Bhagavan” and many of the other non-Gaudiya Vaisnava tracks. I have to admit, though, that Jai Uttal’s “Radharani Kijaya”, with innovative musical accompaniment, was very appealing to me . But I especially liked our saintly Dravida Prabhu’s “Namaste Sri Radhe.” I consider having heard that one recording worth the entire price of the book.]

    I have since been seeing a growing popularity in “kirtan” and devotional music. I meet people on book distribution who say they are fans of “kirtan” and other participatory spiritual music, like Sufi concerts and so on. Personally I am not in touch with these trends (I am an old fuddy-duddy who does not know what is popular these days in music), but it seems encouraging that there is at least some number of young people whose tastes run to glorification of God and the Holy Names and even Maha Mantra chanting.

    So, however this phenomenon is taking place, it should be interesting to us, and Satyaraja’s timely book expertly brings together these different worlds, and will be beneficial for both the ISKCON devotees who want to learn something about the popular trend, and the kirtan “fans” who will benefit from learning about Lord Caitanya, the “father of kirtan” as Satyaraja puts it.

    But, back to the “angels in disguise” point, it should be a wake up call to us to see how we are viewed by others . . .

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Please pardon me for rambling.

    I was interested to learn (in “The Yoga of Kirtan”) how many of the popular western kirtan performers have a Neem Karoli Baba, Baba Ram Dass connection. (I was also interested to see how many of them were from Jewish families, but that’s a different story).

    I would not say “parampara” exactly, because Neem Karoli Baba seems to have not made them strictly disciples in the sense we understand, of transmitting a specific message or even any yamas and niyamas. I remember how in “Be Here Now” Ram Dass described the difference between his “guru” (NKB) and his “teacher” (Baba Hari Das, who now leads the Mt. Madonna community near Santa Cruz). The “guru”, NKB, just “exuded love” and didn’t really teach any doctrine or practice, but somehow people felt great spiritual influence of his presence. On the other hand, the “teacher” (Baba Hari Das) was, according to Ram Dass, like an efficient expert with a job to do, a real bramana who knew his business.

    So it seems [the story I gather from Satyaraj’s interviews] all these hippie yoga people, inspired by Ram Dass, went to India in the late ’60s/early ’70s to meet NKB, and given the “laissez-faire” approach of that sadhu, they all felt free to find different paths. Syamdas got initiated in the Vallabha Sampradaya and is a Vaisnava, although not in the Caitanya line (but there is, as we know, a Vallabha/Caitanya connection)

    I was interested to learn that Krishna Das was initially inspired in kirtan by some Gaudiya Math devotees who came up to chant at NKB’s ashram in Kainchi, back in about 1970. He does not appear to be a devotee [he seems more attracted to mayavada, to Ramakrishna and Ramana Maharshi and stuff like that]. Most of us certainly would not call him a branch of the Caitanya tree.

    [Only the most liberal-minded could see him like that, and Prabhupada did teach us to properly discriminate. Who was that Neocon literary critic (Bloom?), who said that some liberals are “so open-minded that their brains fall out”? — sure, everyone follows Krishna’s path, but some follow indirectly, incorrectly, and in the opposite direction.]

    But we cannot deny that Krishna Das has popularized the maha mantra among people ISKCON could not previously reach, and we should not be envious of him, but should sincerely hope he becomes a recipient of the Lord’s mercy in the near future.

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Pusta Krishna Prabhu,

    First, let me just address one typographical error. You said, “Akruranath Prabhupada.” Yikes! I will never live that one down. It reminds me of the time a secretary wrote “Pillsbury Madison & Bernstein” on the cover of 9th Circuit Appellate Brief [the name of the big firm I was working at was “Pillsbury Madison & Sutro”] :-) Anyway, you should have said “Akruranath Mudha” :-)

    Pusta, you have been contributing so nicely to Dandavats, adding a deeper and more profound perspective. Please don’t ever stop.

    I should explain that my last comment, addressed “Dear __”, started as a response to a devotee who emailed me privately and understood me to have been suggesting some of our leaders had been demons in the dress of devotees. I realized that other people might think I meant that, so I decided to publish a modified version of my private response.

    I appreciate your deeper insight into the mood of a mahabhagavat like Srila Prabhupada. I want you to know I understood you did not bring up the “thuggish” devotees to criticize ISKCON. I was also responding to Satyaraja Prabhu’s point that not everyone who criticises ISKCON is necessarily a “serpent”.

    Now, Jagabandhu Prabhu (in another thread) makes the point that one of the popular kirtan leaders in the west (I am guessing Krishna Das) eats beef and has said critical things about ISKCON devotees being “wife beaters”. I honestly know nothing about Krishna Das. I have heard all kinds of rumors, ranging from things like Jagabandhu’s comments, to things like “He is now becoming very favorable to ISKCON”, “He is friends with Vishnu Gada”, “He is doing a tour with Sacinandana Swami.”

    One of the great things about Satyaraja’s book is, you get to hear these people (Krishna Das, Jai Uttal) speak for themselves. I do not usually mix much with different yoga groups, and I do not know much about them, but Satyaraja has this great knack of befriending everyone and getting them to open up and talk.

    Satyaraja has a unique gift. He is like a transcendental Studs Terkel [a great American author, historian and radio host whose love and fascination for varieties of human cultural experience brought to light many hidden subcultures] That gift is best used when, as in this book, it has great potential for bringing to light Lord Caitanya’s sankirtan to many who might not otherwwise be interested.

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    Tim ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I was talking with Praghosa prabhu last night and he’s inspired me (indirectly) to add on to my comment from yesterday.

    Satyaraja prabhu pointed out about certain famous kirtan singers able to pack large halls full of appreciative chanters and listeners. I commented that it’s a pity ISKCON devotees haven’t been faster to do similar feats. Well, (1) it’s fairly easy to point out when people / devotees don’t succeed, and (2) it’s not dreadfully productive to do so.

    Although when I was commenting about our communal lethargy I was including myself as well, I now consider it (based on what I’ve picked up from Vaishnavas over the years) more accurate to ask the devotees for inspiration that I can somehow assist in the mission of Srila Prabhupada and Lord Chaitanya to further the sharing of harinam sankirtan on our little island of Ireland, where many out of 6 million people would be very happy to become more involved in the mercy of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

    And my good lucks to everybody everywhere else in assisting your own neighbours involvement with and appreciation of Sankirtan :-)



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    pustakrishna ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Akruranath Prabhupad,
    Dandavat and Hare Krishna. To expand a bit about your last note, Srila Prabhupad represents the vision of a Mahabhagavata. His vision of Krishna is “Vasudeva sarvam iti”. He represents the perfect faith in devotional service, bhakti yoga…that engagement in service is the means and end both. No material adjustment is necessary. He had the complete faith that if one will engage in devotional service and chant the Holy Names of the Lord without offense, then everything auspicious would appear. After all, the good qualities of the demigods are said to appear spontaneously in the person of the vaishnavas.
    I have seen this character in others, like my friend Srila Govinda Maharaj. The vaishnava acharyas, when qualified, do not try to prequalify one for the practice of bhakti yoga. Rather, “Godhead is light, nescience is darkness.” Where there is Godhead, all darkness of ignorance is dissipated automatically.
    I did not use the example of the “thuggish” misguided leaders to criticize them. Rather, I used this experience to help all know the vision of Srila Prabhupad. This is Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s Sankirtan Movement. When Srila Prabhupad relates the varieties of bhakti missions engaged in sankirtan, he is essentially quoting the Chaitanya Charitamrita. There it is explained that there were some 70 odd branches to the divine tree of Mahaprabhu even during His time on earth. So, it is not to lament over the poor attitude of some that I brought this up, but rather to enter into the heart of what Srila Prabhupad has said.
    It is a good thing that there are different missions or branches that devotees can find a place in the transcendental tree of Mahaprabhu. After all, people have different dispositions. I am a physician. Some medical students enter the practice of internal medicine, some neurosurgery, some become gastroenterologists (used to be called proctology). While some of these areas are considered abhorrent to some, they are all necessary for the care of illness. Krishna is so kind to permit access to His service through some avenue, some branch. Even in ISKCON, which I love as my Gurudeva’s creation, some will find service more comfortable at one center than another. It is all good. Please don’t mistake the comment about thuggishness to be the point. Rather, the vision of Srila Prabhupad, the transcendental Sankirtan Tree of Lord Chaitanyadeva. Faithfully, Pusta Krishna das

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    Hari-kirtana dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Devotees:

    For those who may be concerned about the intermingling of ISKCON kirtanyas with those of other sampradayas and understandings, here is an example of how I am using Satyaraja prabhu’s book as part of a preaching strategy to draw people who like contemporary kirtan into our orthodox tradition:

    I’ve spent the better part of the last year cultivating a relationship with my local yoga studio to the extent that I now lead a morning kirtan 3 days a week that has attracted a steady and growing following. I often bring Satayaraja’s book with me and pull out a salient quote from both ISKCON and non-ISKCON interviewees. I also talk about how the book highlights the people, like Yamuna and Agnidev, who were the first westerners doing public kirtan and who influenced more familiar kirtanyas like Krishna Das and Jai Uttal. The people who are coming are excited to learn about the history of kirtan and that there is a book out there about it. I don’t know if any sales have resulted but I do know they’ve gone to the web site.

    An important point here is that if the only kirtanyas in this book were ISKCON devotees then it would have no credibility with the yoga community that many of us are now cultivating. Odd though it may seem to some, Vaiyasaki’s credentials are established by his inclusion in a book with David Newman because David Newman is better known and accepted as the real deal.

    When I started doing kirtan at the yoga studio I began with Vaisnava mantras sung to simple melodies that the participants could easily latch on to; ones that resembled what they had already heard from Krishna Das, et al. I gradually oriented the kirtans toward our orthodox trajectory to the point where I am leading Vrindavana style kirtan with melodies straight from Aindra’s repertoire and everyone is really into it. But if I had begun with an attitude of poo-pooing every popular kirtaniya on the yoga circuit who isn’t a Gaudiya Vaisnava then this would have gone nowhere. Having Satyaraja’s book to lean on while I developed this service made it a lot easier to establish my own credentials as a kirtan connoisseur.

    So kudos to Satyaraja prabhu for providing us with a great strategic resource that will help put us back where we should always have been: at the forefront of the public’s consciousness when they think of kirtan.

    Your servant,
    Hari-kirtana dasa

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    isvaradas says:

    I have listened to all these kirtaniyas like Jai Uttal and Krishna dasa from their CD’s. While instrumentals may be relaxing, but the songs themselves are hodgepodge of everything. These singers don’t know the difference between Radha Krishna, Sita Rama and Siva Parvati. To them everything is all one, because they are basically mayavadis.
    I jut don’t agree that as the followers of Caitanya Mahaprabhu in the line of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and Srila Prabhupada, we have to pay any heed to these people. These people have found a money making niche in the West and are capitalising on it. We have nothing to gain from them other than entertaining our hears. Any serious preachers can derive unlimited kirtan inspirations by simply spending some time in Vrindavan and Mayapur.

    One of Srila Prabhupada’s moto was always purity is the force. If we have purity, we can convince the whole world to take to Krishna consciousness. When Srila Prabhupada was advised in America to adopt Western style of dressing etc., so as to convince the Westerners, he refused.

    Because of all these attempts to be accepted by the public, all our preaching efforts has become poluted, and the result are very vivid in all our temples outside India. We are increasingly eager to adopt all kinds of methods, such as these yoga practise, or that famous kirtaniyas etc. But at the end of it, where do all these lead to. Devotees are frustrated with each other.

    I admire Satyaraja Prabhu for all his wonderful writings. But I think in the West we are just going too far in our attempts to suit our preachings to the Western taste. I still firmly beleive that Srila Prabhupada’s way is the most perfect.

    your servant,

    Isvara dasa.

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    pustakrishna ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear bhaktas who have any genuine love for Srila Prabhupad,
    Dandavat and Hare Krishna. I shall try to give you some perspective in considering the Sankirtan Movement as envisioned by Srila Prabhupad. Yes, there were times when Srila Prabhupad protected his disciples from those whom His Divine Grace considered jealous of his successful preaching movement. Those would need to be addressed on a case by case basis. Now I will share this with you, because it is of a timely concern. Try to understand the mind and heart of Srila Prabhupad “as he is”, not as you may think he was.
    I was Srila Prabhupad’s personal secretary in 1976 on his last world tour. He would thus confide many things in me, personally and in privacy. One such event occurred while we were in Melbourne. There was one very charismatic bhakta named Sai. He lived in Maui, Hawaii, and his charm and his faith in Krishna and chanting the Holy Names brought many new devotees to Krishna. He used Srila Prabhupad’s books. Some of the leaders in ISKCON were angry that Sai did not surrender to Srila Prabhupad. And, there were unpleasant encounters that took place. Anyway, several years later, Sai came to Srila Prabhupad and took formal diksha from Srila Prabhupad, becoming SiddhaSwarup Ananda Goswami. There was always an uneasiness between some of the GBC leadership and SiddhaSwarup Ananda Maharaj. He brought his disciples to Srila Prabhupad. At the Mayapur festival, SiddhaSwarupAnanda Maharaj and one of his chief followers, Tusta Krishna das (who took diksha initiation from Srila Prabhupad the same day I did in Bombay in early 1971) brought Noon-Chucks (karate weapons) along with them and would practice in the Mayapur men’s quarters. Rather intimidating to others, no doubt. I saw it personally. But, Srila Prabhupad gave his encouragement to SiddhaSwarup Ananda Maharaj and his disciples. After all, they were chanting the Holy Names and reading Prabhupad’s books.
    Time passed. In 1976, as Srila Prabhupad’s secretary in Australia at the time, I had heard of some ISKCON leaders, somewhat thuggish, who even considered bodily harming SiddhaSwarup Ananda Maharaj. In private, I brought this up to His Divine Grace, and Srila Prabhupad raised his eyebrows, and with all humility, said: “that is vaishnava aparadha. There are many branches to the tree of Mahaprabhu.” We may digest or not digest this, but try to understand the mind of Srila Prabhupad. Faithfully, Pusta Krishna

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    Namacarya das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Satyaraja Prabhu, Hare Krsna.

    Thank you for a book and article.

    Fully agreeing with your strategy,
    your servant,
    Namacarya das

  10. 0
    bharat ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Satyaraja Prabhu,

    Hare Krishna!

    Refering to a quote from your article about Chaitanya Mahaprabhu:

    “He will spread the chanting of Hare Krishna with or without us”

    I could not agree more: After spending more than 8 years in Australia, i have

    found that the places to hear Kirtan is usually at the local yoga school (The Satyananda’s)

    or at the “The Australian School of Meditation”( “SiddhaSwarupAnanda” group)..

    As usual, we at ISKCON have missed the Kirtan boat too..but it’s not too late.

    We can still catch up. I can only hope..

    I completely agree with your strategy.

    your servant,


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    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: -2 ) says:

    Dear Prabhus,

    On one hand many devotees feel that to protect Srila Prabhupada’s and our interests, the need to build, as the saying goes, “Good fences make good neighbours”, is required to keep the distance from whichever may differ from our Iskcon standards. On the other hand, the universality of Lord Chaitanya’s sankirtana mission, which cannot be constrained by any institutional borders, has the independence to spread wherever the holy name wants.

    Our difficulties arise when we try to distance ourselves while offending those whom we want to be protected from. The many branches of the Gaudiya tree do exist whether we like it or not. Rather than be fixated on what ‘dangers’ they may pose to Iskcon’s interests, the greater danger of commiting aparadha will undoubtedly minimise our own ability to chant, or perform kirtana purely. And if sometimes we wonder why Iskcon is not spreading as fast as we would like, then perhaps somewhere our purity is compromised.

    In situations like this, we need to re-invent the globe as it were, that the world is not even big enough to contain the limitless wonders of the holy names, yet at times our attention is diverted, or we preoccupy ourselves with what the ‘others’ are doing. If the holy names wish to be promoted through individuals we deem unfit, or through some other Gaudiya branch, should we not be asking ourselves some core questions as to why this is happening?

    Do we have the power to dictate who should and who should not chant Hare Krishna? If not, then when someone else sings or chants Hare Krishna below our expectations, the least we can do is reconcile with the fact that the holy names are independent and that somehow or other, something a little beyond our reckoning is happening.

    If we are truly concerned about who has the right to chant Hare Krishna, the onus is on us to be exemplary and pure receptacles of the holy name. With this qualification our awareness expands to the extent that indeed it is a pleasure to see other’s nay everyone chant Hare Krishna, for it is above ritualistic traditionalism and man-made borders.

    Of course we have a solemn duty to protect all that Srila Prabhupada gave us, and the best way to do this is to follow. A true follower becomes a ‘broadminded’ devotee, and a society of broadminded mahatmas will be one that even the ‘other’ divergent groups or individuals will want to be a part of. Let us accept this reality.

    Ys, Kesava Krsna dasa

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    ccd ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    On “Good fences make good neighbours”, – Prabhupada was quite different as far as kirtana is concerned. I had a personal experience of that, as ones in our temple room an elderly man cam. He was Indian, but not like Indians I knew. He looked like proper yogi, he had nails as long as his fingers and his hair was as long as you can imagine for someone of his age. His eyes were withdrawn and he had a could of disciples with them. He got in as we were finishing our evening kirtana and we were to start the prasadam. We respected prasadam together but he would not eat much, as he would not eat grains at all. With the use of a translator he said something that changed my view on the ‘exclusive’ or ‘restricting’ views I had of kirtana, as of something that was sectarian. The old yogi mentioned that during the days of Prabhupada in Allahabad, “he took part and supported the kirtanas that that Abhai Baba organized”. It took us by surprise. This incident that took place some 20 years ago, changed my view on kirtana as something that ‘belongs to us’ or exclusive.

    You will see yourself that Prabhupada was open to anyone taking part in the kirtana. He was particular on what mantras his disciples chant, so that they are not whimsical.

    An effective and popular culture of kirtanyas and kirtan-yoga is a tool to spread pure chanting. One symptom of pure chanting is to feel oneself fallen, but representing pure parampara. I would suggest that we should learn on how open Prabhupada was when he was not assisted by younger devotees. He was welcoming and careful at the same time, and very “broadminded” indeed.

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    Pavamana ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Satyaraj Prabhu:
    I would like to make some general comments about this subject. Though I understand there are those who criticize your book, I have no doubt about the useful purpose of it, given your reputation as a very sincere and intelligent devotee. I have not read it.
    Years ago, there was a musical play called “Hair”, which I saw as a teenager. I later purchased the album, which I enjoyed very much. In that musical was the Hare Krishna mantra, which was chanted while the players danced naked on stage. I used to sing along with the album while I attended San Diego State college in 1969. One day, I saw a kirtan party in front of the student lounge. I couldn’t understand why these strange people were chanting the mantra from “Hair”. At the time I wasn’t interested because it seemed strange, and I was too busy in my studies. Two years later, after I dropped out of college, II met a devotee and began chanting and reading Bhagavad Gita. Shortly after that, I moved into the temple. Many years later, in New York, I met a man in Washington Square Park who said that he was present in the room when the playwright who wrote “Hair” met Srila Prabhupada. Srilal Prabhupada had asked him to include the Hare Krishna mantra in the musical, and he did so. You could make the case that he was, at least informally, initiated by Srila Prabhupada at that time. I was also “initiated” by chanting the mantra from “Hair”, which is the tune I used to use when I first started chanting. However, I didn’t know what the chanting was all about until I met someone from the L.A. temple and began to attend the kirtans there. A month later I joined the temple. It was the association of the devotees which made the difference.
    I think it is important for those who lead kirtans in yoga clubs and SRF meetings to explain our philosophy. I also think that if outsiders are leading the chanting (I mean Mayavadis and other offenders), we should not attend. We are instructed to avoid hearing the chanting of non devotees, and we should not dismiss such instruction for the sake of spreading the Holy Name. We want to give Srila Prabhupada’s association, not accept the association of anyone else. If we can’t preach directly, we can supply Prasadam in such meetings, which may be equally beneficial. Allowing others (read: Mayavadis, etc.) to lead the Kirtan brings lowers the consciousness to the level of sense gratification.

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    ananda devi dasi ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Thank You Satyaraj Prabhu for this nice offering and bridge building,

    Dandavats. Maybe others, not just me feel it can build bridges not just between communities but also inside our own hearts. Lord Krishna is so powerful and unlimited and he can move anywhere through anyone really, even with just a little inner willingness, even if we are born without being given an idea what we are suposed to do or not do. Even if our hearts are so dirty. Just a little bit of real innocence and sincerity goes a very long way. Its more powerful than any external and total lack of training too. That’s my experience.

    Sometimes we convince ourselves we are open to Krishna because we have the externals right.Maybe we try to even convice others too!

    But I think its natural to be attracted to devotion and the indivuals souls true calling to connect to God, where ever it arises, in whatever faith,and whatever outer dress- but also to be most grateful for its emergence in its most clear and pure/authentic manifestation. More in the next post. But thank you so much Satyaraj Prabhu.

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    ananda devi dasi ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I grew up with an uncle Govinda in the Sikh tradition, but Jai Uttal got me really chanting the Vaisnava songs with regularity & passion in the early 90’s when I was a student at Naropa in East/West Psychology. I wish I could chant now like I did then, with simplicity. Back then all I knew was that I was singing to God personally, that this was a devotional practice and that it was more fun than any other activity I had ever done!!! It was so fun, it scared me and I had a sense there were serious implications. At that time, I told God I would prepare myself to overcome this fear and surrender to Him in the way the Names required as best I could. I remember I would just put Jai Uttal on loudly and drive and sing and sing my heart out. No matter what was going on, I felt better after chanting. Back then I also got to meet spiritual teachers from many different lineages all the time at Naropa and in Boulder, and hear many different ways of singing to God, sometimes chanting with my teachers and advisors in groups and even had an Ethnomusicologist named Kabir teach me a Braja Raga (about Madana Mohana) for college credit! So its clear to me we don’t own the Names, we just have the mercy and dispensation to chant and share Them.

    I met the ISKCON devotees 6 years later and it was there I felt like settling. I wanted the purification and direct path that the ISKCON package and SP offered.But it’s been a rough ride and I had to give up many of my old (chanting) friends to join (I miss them so, but they are afraid of us!) And unfortunately after 12 years in ISKCON, I don’t have that simple passion for the names any more! What happened? Maybe I need to simplify again?

    My experience if that influence happens through friendship and that some of those chanters from outside of ISKCON who used to be afraid of us, are starting to open. This book is an answer to a prayer and I see it is definitely helping.

    What a great job this chanters have! A few years ago, I was speaking with Krishna das (a close friend of my Yoga teacher Dharma Mittra) about his approach to chanting, because it moves me so. He said, that he learned from the Tibetan Lamas to chant in a meditative way- to ask the names to reveal Themselves rather than imposing his ideas on Them. That really helped me. And now I don’t feel like as big a heretic, thanks, prabhu.

    Pls pray for me that I can chant with that simple innocence again and that the Lord will reveal himself to me.

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    asprng_vaishnav ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Hari Bol,
    pamho. agtsp.
    I spoke with a very senior devotee about kirtaniyas outside of iskcon. He observed following points:
    1. These kirtaniyas charge hundreds or thousands of dollars to attend their programs/retreats/seminars etc. and many of them are not sincere spiritual seekers themselves. They are doing this to simply make money. Affluent people who are spending these money are doing that as a fashion or a status symbol. He gave me anology of cheaters and cheated.
    On the other hand, iskcon distributes Harinam for free.
    2. Some of them are cow-eaters, gamblers, womanizers etc.
    3. Indian kirtaniyas like Jagjit Singh, Anoop Jalota may not have pure Bhakti.
    Then he adviced me following:
    1. There are many good Kirtaniyas in iskcon like Lokanath Maharaj, BB Govind Maharaj, Niranjan Maharaj, Indradyumna Maharaj, Radhanath Maharaj to name a few. One should listen their Bhajans and Kirtans.
    2. Do not listen to so called devotional singers from India who are singing for money.
    I practice following:
    1. Listen to above-mentioned Maharaj’s Bhajans when I am doing some work like cooking, cleaning, ironing my clothes etc.
    2. I email iskcon bhajan songs’ links to my friends and just spread the word.
    Here are my observations about this topic:
    1. we do not allow non-initiated devotees to cook Prasadam for Krsna. We do not allow anybody other than Brahmana to enter sanctum sanctorum in our temples. We generally do not allow Hindu demigods deities in our temples. The same standard can be and should applied to Bhajan and Kirtan in my humble opinion.
    2. A rock music practitioner was leading a Kirtan in Prabhupad’s presence and he was doing it in a very Tamasik way, Prabhupad asked him to stop and ask other devotee to replace him.
    3. Prabhupad was given many suggestions to increase preaching by lowering standards, but he stood firm. His opinion was “Purity is Force”.
    4. We can market our excellent Kirtaniyas to people outside of iskcon. There are various ways, youtube, itune, selling cds etc. Our Kirtaniyas are following 4 regs and chanting 16 rounds and they can beat hands down these money-hungry fake kirtaniyas. This will increase our revenue which can be used to increase our preaching.
    Please forgive me if I offended anyone.
    Hare Krsna
    your servant
    aspiring Vaishnav

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    What amazes me even more is that Prabhupada even sometimes engaged some of our bad qualities to help spead Krishna consciousness. He was able to turn negatives into positives like a magician. If we were proud, he made us proud of being devotees. If we were harsh, he showed us how to direct harshness against enemies of the Vaisnava culture. He engaged our conceitedness in making us understand we were the vanguard of a unique spiritual revolution, our arrogance in recognizing that even the biggest and most respected intellectuals and religious leaders had very little to offer, compared to what he was giving us.

    We were truly Prabhupada’s army of monkeys. With no other master but Prabhupada, we were not constrained by the “scruples” of so-called proper behavior. We were able to serve his mission boldly, with vigor, and at times without concern for delicate manners.

    However, Prabhupada also assigned us the daunting task of reestablishing dharmic civilization, and for that we need to begin to embody the necessary manners and refinements and to take assistance from those among us more qualified for that task.

  18. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear ___

    It was not my intention to suggest that some leading devotees were really demons in disguise who had infiltrated our movement. I have heard devotees talk like this, and they can weave big conspiracy theories and slanders based on all kinds of speculations.

    My idea was that many of us, myself included, have demonic aspects of our own personalities. We have to check ourselves and pray for the assistance of the Lord to help slay these demons within ourselves.

    You alluded to the fact that in Kali yuga, demons take birth in the families of brahmanas. I remember reading that in one purport in First Canto. It seems that Krishna did not kill all the demons on earth when He was here, and those who were not fortunate enough to be killed by Him (and thus attain liberation) at least got the benediction, due to having been on the same planet with Him, to take birth in brahmin families. However, being demons, they maintained their demonic tendencies, thus undermining brahminical culture and contributing to the impious, unfortunate condition of this age.

    In the Mahabharata it is said that in Dvapara Yuga the demons are in the same dynasties and in Kali Yuga they are in the same individuals.

    A lot of devotees these days talk about the book by Bhaktivinode Thakur (“Krsna Karnamrta” is it?), that identifies different demons slayed by Krishna in Vrndavana with different tendencies or obstacles aspiring devotees need to overcome. I have never read that book, but that is more along the lines of what I was talking about.

    It still amazes me that Srila Prabhupada was able to spread Krishna consciousness among those who had almost no trace left of Aryan civilization, but by being connected with Prabhupada through genuine affection and service they become spiritualized and must be accepted as having surpassed brahmanas.

    Still, many of us have, due to our conditioning or habits or what have you, maintained some of our low-class and “no class” habits (speaking for myself of course). “Ksipram bhavati dharmatma”. Soon they will become righteous. But in the mean time we can be crude or “thuggish” or egomaniacal at times. . . .

  19. 0
    Kulapavana ( User Karma: -8 ) says:

    Dear Prabhus,

    On several occasions Srila Prabhupada would encourage Allen Ginsberg, whose religious views and personal habits left a lot to be desired from the Vaishnava perspective, to lead the public in chanting of Maha-mantra even in Prabhupada’s presence. Apparently he was not concerned that the audience will be harmed.

    Of course it is important who is leading the kirtan, but let us not lose the perspective here. It is good that kirtan is gradually gaining popularity in the Western world, and it is helping in our preaching.


  20. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I was quoting Robert Frost (not my favorite poet) over in the VAD University thread recently, and I thought of him here too, and his poem “Mending Wall”, from which this excerpt comes:

    “He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors’.
    Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
    If I could put a notion in his head:
    ‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
    Where there are cows?
    But here there are no cows.
    Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
    What I was walling in or walling out,
    And to whom I was like to give offence.
    Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
    That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him,
    But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
    He said it for himself. I see him there
    Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
    In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
    He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
    Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
    He will not go behind his father’s saying,
    And he likes having thought of it so well
    He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’ ”

    Spring is the mischief in me too, and I might observe: There are cows in Vrindavana.

    Maybe it is attachment to brahma-jnana that doesn’t love a wall, that wants to be open on all sides, while bhaktas in training, seeking a land of cows (“Go-loka”), must know well the Cow Protector to Whom the Mayavadis give offense, and wall them out at all costs, even if it makes us seem narrow and exclusive, and makes nondevotees think we move in darkness.

    Maybe neophyte bhaktas should not go behind our father’s saying, “Good fences make good neighbors”.

    But then, we also know Lord Caitanya as a breaker of walls and storehouses. He devised tricks to drown proud jnanis and even offensive Mayavadis in the sweet nectar of Nama-kirtan.

    Won’t our father Srila Prabhupada be pleased with us if we can effectively knock down some walls, if the result is to expand the mission of Lord Caitanya, so long as it can be done without compromising the purity and intolerance of offenses?

    Preaching is the essence, and it always involves some risk. ” . . .the devotees of the Lord are more kind than the Lord because they understand the purpose of the Lord. Consequently they undertake all kinds of risks, even to the point of approaching ignorant men to try to engage them in the acts of Krishna consciousness, which are absolutely necessary for the human being.” (B.G. 3.29, Purport)

    Am I being too cute, or too obscure?

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    isvaradas says:

    Well, a kirtaniya that I came to really love is HH. Lokanatha Swami Maharaja. Maharaja has got such unique, creative and melodious ways that just plug you right into the bliss of the holy name. He really helps one have a sweet taste for hearing the chanting of the holy name. His temple kirtans are always blissful and ecstatic. Ever since I first saw HH. Lokanatha Maharaja since about thirty year ago, he just keep getting better all the time with his sweet chantings. The wonderful part of it is HH. Lokanatha Maharaja is part of our sampradaya, the dear disciple of Srila Prabhupada, and I would say the modern day acarya of the holy name.

    All glories to all the sankirtan devotees.

    your servant,

    Isvara dasa.

  22. 0
    vineetchander ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The fact that Satyaraja Prabhu included non-ISKCON or non-Vaishnava kirtaniyas in his book is a strength of the book, not a weakness. It allows Satyaraja Prabhu to take the phenomenon of sacred chanting — a phenomenon that is, whether ISKCON members like it or not, electrifying yoga studios across the country — and unlock its inner significance with clarity, depth, and sensitivity to its cultural and religious roots. Rather than pontificate on what kirtan is and isn’t (a definite turn-off for most spiritual seekers in the postmodern western world), Satyraja wisely chooses to engage the kirtan singers in lively personal conversations, thus allowing the rich voices behind the phenomenon to speak (and, through the included audio CD, sing) for themselves.

    Had he only presented ISKCON kirtaniyas (or denigrated other kirtaniyas), not only would Satyaraja lose credibility for himself as an author, but I think that he would have made ISKCON (and by extension Prabhupada) look insecure, out-of-touch, petty, and egoistic.

    Personally, I greatly appreciate Satyaraja’s marked efforts to avoid sectarianism and his obvious commitment to presenting an honest picture of the diversity in the kirtan world. Its refreshing and says a lot about his own broadmindedness and ability to appreciate others. It also sets a good example for other Gaudiya Vaisnavas involved in this sphere to follow.

    The Yoga of Kirtan , I think, is a book that thoughtfully celebrates the universality of kirtan, while still honoring our particular sampradaya and bearing testament to the impact of Vedic culture in the west.

    – Venkata Bhatta dasa
    ISKCON Director of Communications for North America

  23. 0
    Administrator ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Satyaraja dasa: Mother Malati (ACBSP) wanted her comments (below) appended to my article in the comments section below the “Serpents be Damned!” article:

    “Hare Krishna! I wanted to congratulate you on a superb effort that among other
    things, recognized that ISKCON, alas, does not “own” kirtan! Although, by rights,we
    should, we have not valued that right with enough practice to spread the Holy Names
    and the Holy Names cannot be contained, therefore, others have done so. Anyway, I
    loved your book and the folks in it. I have loaned it to other serious friends to
    read and appreciate. Hope to see you again soon.” —

    Yr friend and servant, malati dd

  24. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Satyaraja points out:

    “What is it that makes one a serpent anyway? Does a card-carrying member of ISKCON automatically eschew serpent status? Is anyone outside the parameters of the movement necessarily a serpent? Sometimes we call someone a serpent if they’re critical of ISKCON. But if we think about it, we insiders, too, are often critical of our beloved institution, and often with good reason. Let us consider, then, that maybe Krishna is sometimes speaking through our critics — to edify us, to make us more vigilant about correction and change. In these cases, such persons are not necessarily serpents. They might in fact be angels in disguise.”

    It is a very good point. To know who is really a serpent and who is really an “angel in disguise” may take some fine powers of discrimination.

    Pusta Krishna Prabhu tells a story about having heard that some thuggish ISKCON leaders considered bodily harming Siddhasvarupa Ananda Maharaja. It is pretty frightening to think our leaders could have fallen into so much maya, but it is sadly all too easy to believe.

    Many of us have made serious mistakes, including some of our most popular leaders. This may not be the time or place to dwell on our mistakes, but we should recognize clearly that plotting to do physical violence to a Vaisnava for some political purpose is, well, pretty “serpentine.”

    We have a strong sense of “us versus them” in ISKCON, and maybe that is a good thing, or may serve some good purposes, sometimes. It also clearly has a dark side, and can be counterproductive. I do not claim to have the answers, but I do think these are topics we need to carefully consider and discuss.

    The divine and demoniac qualities are discussed pretty thoroughly in Bhagavad Gita. Being a devotee or a demon involves more than whether one simply “joins” a spiritual society (although joining ISKCON is undoubtedly a good place to start).

    Prabhupada famously said (reportedly) that we could “take over the world in 18 days.” We will not do it by asserting our personal dominance over others. We will do it when our sweet personal qualities inspire everyone everywhere to chant the holy names of God. They can even chant Allah or Jehova or Christ if they want, but they should chant in a humble state of mind, ready to offer all respects to others and expecting none in return (as we should).

    [I sort of expect most will soon discover how much nicer it is to chant Hare Krishna] :-)

  25. 0
    Tim ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Very nice explanation, Satyaraja prabhu.

    I liked this bit the most:

    “We should remember that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is svarat (“independent”), and He will spread the chanting of Hare Krishna with or without us. If well-meaning chanters from outside His tradition show some enthusiasm for spreading the holy name, He’ll work with them — such people can easily become His instruments. And they have. They chant to audiences of thousands, filling concert halls and selling CDs in astronomical numbers. As Prabhupada often told us, you can judge something by the results. One might argue that material success doesn’t necessarily constitute spiritual authenticity, and that’s certainly true. But meager results don’t constitute such authenticity, either”

    ISKCON devotees could have already done what Krishna Das etc have done, but through a combination of lethargy, fanaticism and embarrassment on the cult-recovery programme, we have been slow to catch on.

    But, better late than never!! Your book is an inspiration for positive action

    your servant

    Tim McEvitt


  26. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    For example, if Krishna Das really said that ISKCON devotees were “just a bunch of wife beaters”, shame on him for being so dismissive of such an important spiritual movement, but it still should give us pause:

    Is that what other people think of us? Why do they say this? “Where there is smoke there is fire.” We must be failing in some regard if this is how we look to the outside world.

    I have also heard here on Dandavats from concerned ISKCON devotees that we have in our society a disproportionately high incidence of domestic violence. It is shocking to hear, it is not what we expect from Hare Krishna chanters, and it is good to see that the GBC and others have made some efforts at raising consciousness about this problem. Not only is it bad for preaching for people to think that Hare Krishna devotees have all these immoral qualities, but our hearts go out to the poor devotee wives who suffer from such bullying.

    There must be numerous reasons why people in general do not become attracted to joining the Hare Krishna movement. Most people are not fortunate enough, do not have enough sukrtiti, to become attracted. But it is our job to try to devise means for catching those who might have an ability to become attracted.

    We cannot water down our philosophy to make it more attractive. On the other hand, it is in line with Lord Caitanya’s program to just encourage everyone to chant and take prasadam at first. They can learn the regulative principles later, when they are ready. We should check the urge to feel superior to them because we follow and they don’t. Lord Nityananda used to fall at people’s feet and beg them to chant. Prabhodananda taught us to say, “He sadhava!” (“Oh saintly person, please accept Lord Caitanya’s feet as your only shelter, throwing away everything else!”)

    In Palo Alto where we have big harinama sankirtan at least one Friday each month, sometimes there is an evangelical Christian group nearby. This group’s message is, “Sinners! God hates you! He hates drunkards, homosexuals and atheists. You are all going to hell!” They stand up with megaphones and chastise the people of Palo Alto (home of Stanford University) like that.

    People constantly come up to our (much bigger) party and tell us they appreciate our much more positive presentation. We are simply blissfully chanting, distributing prasadam and valuable literature. They recognize the purity and love and genuine goodwill of the “Krishna people.”

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    ananda devi dasi ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This is in reference to Akrurantha Prabhu’s comment that Krishna das had been critical of our movement. I want to mention that he actually came to the Japa retreat level 1 led by Sacinandana Swami at Menla a few months ago and chanted with the devotees a little, (my husband showed me his video of it) I think the rift is healing. People grow, on all sides. Also my experience in general of the kirtan leading community is that all I have met, love prasadam.

    I didn’t plan this at all, but last month, I met someone who had been with Srila Prabhupada at Thompkins Square Park in the very beginning, when things were very, very small and just beginnng. He told me he was not ready, or it wasn’t his path I guess to follow Prabhupada in everyway, but he was so moved by the Holy Names and by the deities and the program enough to want to keep coming back sometimes and bring others. This man ended up going to India and meeting Neem Karoli baba the Brij Basi who is KD’s guru. Anyway, at one point in the early 70’s he had brought Ram Das and Krishna das to the Krishna temple (I can’t remember which one), at which point when the devotees found out Ram das was there, well you can kind of guess what happened. According to this person’s account some devotees surrounded him and told him his guru was bogus etc., (devotees told me this when I came to the temple for the first time too, so it’s beleivable to me).

    Anyway, its hard to hear bad things about someone, like a Guru, who you admire so much and love and expecially if he taught you to chant Hare Krishna, for anyone I think. It causes an emotional reaction and protectivism, that though delicate can be healed but takes the right circumstances, which includes of course lots more chanting on all sides, understanding and knowledge of what is actually true, and of course sensitivity and grace too!

    Which brings me back to the book. I have only read the free excerpts so far and though I feel like it reflects my life in some ways, I still have to order it, (eagerly). But let me tell you, some of the people in the book whom I have met, are PROUD to be in that book, and mentioning it on their websites and that’s a really good sign and very exciting, since the perspective of the Editor is open minded, but pure Vaisnava.

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Anyway, I do not mean to get side-tracked into whether we are really “wife beaters” or anything like that. I can tell you that here in San Jose at least our congregational community is full of wonderful, gentle, saintly devotees.

    My point is, I guess, if I have one (::::sheepishly smiling ::::), that it is worthwhile for us to pay attention to how ISKCON is being perceived by different groups, and why.

    Surely we can find some “room for improvement” in what we are doing and how we are packaging Lord Caitanya’s message. We need to be introspective, not just in our personal devotional lives, but also in learning the craft of becoming preachers of the holy name on Srila Prabhupada’s behalf.

    Obviously, first and foremost, that means we have to become good chanters of the holy name ourselves, avoiding the ten offenses, developing both the genuine humility and sincerity as well as the sattvik qualities that help us to chant without offense.

    But we should also be curious as to how the preaching is being received by those around us. How can we reach them? How can we interest them in Prabhupada’s books? What qualities in our presentation turn them off? Are these “turn offs” things we can do without? Are they things we should do without?

    [For example, some people may be “turned off” by the very idea that God is a person, with specific likes and dislikes, or they may be turned off by the idea that intoxication and illicit sex and meat eating are forbidden for those who are serious about spiritual life. Well, there is not much we can do about that. It might not always be the point we want to lead with. Sometimes it is better to just say, “try these delicious ‘simply wonderfuls’.” “Try chanting this fascinating mantra.” But pretty soon they are going to get to the point that we are also saying Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and to please Him (or even to just live a decent life) you should try to follow the four rules. If that turns them off, too bad. When you sell diamonds you do not have many customers. We are really trying to make pure devotees, not establish a giant popular enterprise.]

    But it is worthwhile to keep our finger on the pulse of the local population and try to find ways to successfully attract them. We might unknowingly be doing unattractive things.

    Mainly, though, if we become pure ourselves, that will make us very attractive. It is the bliss and happiness of the chanters that is so contagious.

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    pustakrishna ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Akruranath das,
    Dandavat and Hare Krishna. Sorry if I used the term Prabhupad when addressing your letter. Maybe I was so thinking about Srila Prabhupad then…but it is a complement to see the offspring of the father as simultaneously one and different.
    One perspective to share is this. When I was serving as Srila Prabhupad’s secretary on his last visit to New Vrindaban in 1976, I was asked to read a list of questions from Bhavan’s Journal addressed to Srila Prabhupad. The conversation is in the small book published by the BBT “Civilization and Transcendence”. The question was “What is a Guru?” Srila Prabhupad answered this. Trying to draw more out of Srila Prabhupad to round out the discussion, I raised the question: “What is the position of those individuals who use some of the Bhagavad Gita, etc. to teach, but they have their own conclusions not leading them to surrender to Krishna?” Srila Prabhupad with raised eyebrows quickly and forcefully said: “They are the most dangerous. They only want to make some money off their followers”.
    This insight sheds so much light on the issues raised here regarding kirtan. You have recalled how Srila Prabhupad quoted Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupad who said that milk touched by the lips of a serpent is poisonous. So, one should hear the Holy Names from the lips of a pure devotee, sincere devotees. Similarly, those who are using the Holy Names for hedonistic, self-centric, wealth, following, are “most dangerous”, even though they might use the Mahamantra, the Bhagavad Gita, etc. Lord Chaitanyadeva gave the formula (na dhanam, na janam, na sundarim, kavitam va jagadisa kamaye…). There is a dividing line between Suddha Nam, Nam Abhas, Nam Aparadh. Real gold and fool’s gold can appear the same to the untrained. So, it is the power of the Gaudiya Vaishnav Sampradaya, Rupanuga Sampradaya, they gives genuine opportunity to us. In this case, the form and the substance may not be the same, when one has ulterior motives in chanting the Holy Names. Hare Krishna.

    Faithfully, Pusta Krishna das

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    ananda devi dasi ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “Simply by remembering the Lotus Eyed Lord, one becomes purified from within and without’

    Iskcon devotees have been spreading holy names successfully and powerfully, now and from the movements inception..
    I think this is the wake of that,
    A wake that waters dry fields,
    of people who for reasons not necessarily having anything to do with their relationship to Krishna, just were not attracted to hear the message from US, at this time, yet..

    I think that having lots of Western people come together to chant the Holy Names, independent of us, is a great boon for our movement.

    When I moved out of the temple, even though I am not a trained musician, I wanted to share the Maha Mantra to the Yoga community, (even though I am not a trained musician at all.) People loved chanting, but introducing the Maha Mantra was always very delicate. It always took time and the building of trust and taste from other mantras first and also getting to know me and seeing that I was open minded and respected their own path and unique callings.

    Our family moves a lot so I get to see trends starkly. We moved to a new town around the time that Krishna das’ CD became very popular 4 years ago. This time when I visited a studio to introduce one of my workshops, the Yoga studio owner greeted me with the Maha Mantra playing (by Krishna das), to honor the visit!

    I think that this phenomena shows Lord Krishna’s independent sweet will to move whoever is open, from anywhere, and to use whoever is willing, wherever to help Him do what He wants.

    Isn’t it great that the power of Nam is real, it contains within it the highest philosophy, and also gives experience and realization.

    I have heard that some gurukuli Kirtaniyas are now traveling in the summer to lead Kirtan in Yoga studios. This is possible because people are waking up to the fact that they love to chant the Holy Names. I think its fine to give these other chanters credit too. So often, they are participating, helping us. And all of them that I have met so far, love prasadam.

    Wouldn’t it be great if it was normal to chant in the West. We could just walk down the street with our japa bag, would walk by the Post Man and he say ‘Oh, hey, Hare Krishna’ to us.

    I think that by displaying appreciation for the devotion people have, and respecting their freedom of choice, we will get out of our own way and more who are called to really take to the whole KC lifestyle deeply, and fully will come to us.

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “I want to mention that he actually came to the Japa retreat level 1 led by Sacinandana Swami at Menla a few months ago and chanted with the devotees a little, (my husband showed me his video of it) I think the rift is healing. People grow, on all sides. Also my experience in general of the kirtan leading community is that all I have met, love prasadam.”

    Ahh, just see! If we can behave nicely, we do not have to turn these people off. Sacinandana Swami is a true angel. Who could fail to be attracted to Lord Caitanya’s movement after meeting him?

    “Anyway, at one point in the early 70’s he had brought Ram Das and Krishna das to the Krishna temple (I can’t remember which one), at which point when the devotees found out Ram das was there, well you can kind of guess what happened. According to this person’s account some devotees surrounded him and told him his guru was bogus etc., (devotees told me this when I came to the temple for the first time too, so it’s beleivable to me). ”

    Oh yeah, I can believe it. Why do we feel we have to do stuff like this? Prabhupada strongly denounced the “nonsense”, “rascals”, to show us clearly the right path, for our protection. He did not necessarily want us to be rude to celebrity sadhus and yogis.

    Maybe back then there was a danger that if we did not clearly separate ourselves, we might bring some impure, nondevotional ideas into ISKCON. It was our one-pointed faith in only hearing from Prabhupada that was our saving grace. If we had a tendency to import other ideas, the whole mission would be spoiled.

    But maybe we are stronger now, after over 30 more years of reading and digesting Srila Prabhupada’s books. Not that we have to agree with mayavadis or even hang out with them, but we do not have to go out of our way to defeat them and chastise them whenever we see them. (Lord Caitanya first won their hearts, by his humble behavior and brilliant effulgence, before he explained to them the errors of their ways, once they were ready to listen).

    Not that we have to even convert the leaders, but what about all the innocent potential devotees who like yoga but will be confused by our belligerent approach? Shouldn’t we give them at least a chance to hear from Prabhupada’s books with an open mind?

    Satyadeva Prabhu, who preaches in Japan (not to be confused with Satyaraj), told me his best customers are yoga students. (to be continued . . .)

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    As I was saying, Satyadeva, a Prabhupada disciple for 38 years, former TP of Hawaii, a very dedicated japa chanter and great kirtan leader, and an initiating guru in ISKCON, finds that he makes devotees in Japan by remaining friendly with the yoga community there. He finds that if he is patient and polite, some of the students prove themselves to be candidates for taking up bhakti yoga and learning the truth about Krishna.

    Even Srila Prabhupada, when he started out, preached among the students of Dr. Mishra.

    I remember back in Vancouver in the late 1970s, my dear godbrother Vijitatma became agitated about TM. Vij is a great, transcendentally eccentric book distributor, and somehow or another he got on this kick. He even started calling the TM offices and saying, “Why are you misleading the people?” “Why are you not telling them the real purpose of the Vedas is to love Krishna?” Maybe Paramatma inspired him to do that, I don’t know. But I cannot help but think they must have just thought he was crazy.

    Now, sometimes Srila Prabhupada acted something like that, too, when preaching programs brought him in proximity to mayavadis (he did not go out of his way to call up their offices, as far as I know). :-)

    With Dr. Mishra, for example, although there was a personal friendship, there were also heated arguments about philosophy. Dr. Mishra would have Prabhupada chant with his students, but would not let him speak (or he might have said “Your teacher is misleading you.”)

    I even heard that in one public program, Prabhupada refused to get off the vyasasana to let the next scheduled speaker, a mayavadi, sit down. Then, when the mayavadi was speaking (from another chair), when he started talking about pancopasanam, Prabhupada had the devotees lead kirtan and drown him out. Jaya Prabhupada! He was transcendentally pure, and like a Hanuman he would not sit idly by while his Lord was being insulted.

    But we have to be careful how and when (if ever) we can emulate his example. For one thing, our motivations may not be as pure. Generally, devotees should not unnecessarily disturb anyone.

    It may now be time to “heal the rift” somewhat with the yoga community. We can politely point out our differences without acting rudely. Leading devotees like Sacinandana Swami are certainly capable of doing this without becoming “contaminated” by atheistic and offensive ideas.

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    ananda devi dasi ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I just saw the mention from Akrurantha Prabhu, about ISKCON and how women were treated in terms of some public opinion. What Krishna das said was a common perception/concern among people of his generation, who were seekers/spiritualists outside the movement.

    When I left my old teachers, their main concern was the same, and it was not a spiritual criticism, but a social one- “how would I be treated as a woman in this spiritual movement- “The Old Indian Way” was how they put it? My old teacher had met devotee women who had been through an awful lot and some of them had what KD said happen. As I would call the Yogis/chanters/and spiritualists outside of our movement as sometimes a landing pad for those who leave our movement, at least that’s the way it might have been back then. In this way, that community heard some sad stories.

    Our movement is quite large and revolutionary and in the beginning it was struggling with implementing and integrating ancient/eastern spiritual and social practices- to a very modern audience. Also, most of the teachers in the west were also new to the teachings (at least in this life). There is bound to be mistakes and conflict and confusion as things get worked out and mature, balancing strict following of sastra with a gentle and awakened, sensitive, loving truly braminical heart.

    I really appreciate the most recent statement as the guiding principles on the treatment, guidance, empowerment and protection of women, presented by the GBC. I feel that this as it isincreasingly implemented, will go a long way in gaining trust among the larger spiritual community.

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    Administrator ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Georgia: Haribol,

    I read your article on Satyaraja Das’ new Kirtan Book, and I wanted to respond. Actually, I had to laugh because I once mentioned Krishna Das in a Temple and was told the serpent and the milk story. It’s actually not very funny though.

    As with many others in KC, it was music that opened my heart years ago. One specific person was a devotee, Mahatma Das, and his wonderful recordings. And the other was Krishna Das. My own personal belief is that if the Holy Name is Krishna, it doesn’t matter who utters it, it’s the spirit in which it is uttered. Krishna cannot be “watered down” by a mere human. I have seen Krishna Das many times and he is a very sincere devotee of the Lord and has inspired this Kirtan Revolution. I don’t know what part of the country you are from, but here in CA it’s exploding all over the place.

    Here’s a little quote: “one who is interested in chanting the holy name of Krsna or who by practice likes to chant Krshna’s names should be accepted as a Vaishnava and offered respects as such.” (Cc. Madhya 15.111), as quoted in Nectar of Instruction. Srila Prabhupada goes on to say, “The conclusion is that anyone who is trying to advance in Krsna consciousness by regularly chanting the holy name should always be respected by Vaisnavas. On the other hand, we have witnessed that some of our contemporaries who are supposed to be great preachers have gradually fallen into the material conception of life because they have failed to chant the holy name of the Lord.”

    I am very thankful that so many people are now benefiting by chanting the holy name and that basically, there is a Kirtan nearly every weekend here in Southern California. Prabhupada’s great vision of spreading Krishna Consciousness all over the world is becoming a reality.

    Your Servant, Georgia

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    We should try to reach out to modern “yoga people” who may have reverence for the Bhagavad Gita, and try to give them some insight into what the Bhagavad Gita is really about (devotional service to Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead).

    Krishna is known as the “master of yogis” — Sanjaya calls him that at least twice in the Gita — and therefore anyone interested in yoga should be interested in what Krishna has to say about it.

    We can also in our interactions with them recognize that they may have many good qualities (even though many of them are prone to speak mayavadi gibberish and worse), that some of us neophyte devotees (speaking for myself) have failed to acquire.

    I guess that is true with any preaching: we have to be ready to give all respects to others and expect none in return. To practice being truly humble and tolerant, it helps to turn an honest, introspective light on ourselves and see what mundane qualities we may be still holding onto, and see the truly good qualities in others that are favorable for devotional service and that we should be happy to acquire.

    On the other hand, we may meet some “yoga types” who are so hostile to the idea of Krishna’s supremacy that we cannot (should not) stand to be around them. Somehow Lord Caitanya will devise a method to capture them, as He did with the Benares Mayavadis, but for our own protection we have to learn how to avoid those who are opposed to Krishna, dvisatsu . . . upeksa. Isvare tad-adhinesu . . . yah karoti sa madhyamah. Simply arguing with them will not do any good, for them or for us or for those who hear the argument.

    But this category of “yoga people” who are truly, deeply envious of Krishna is probably only a small percentage.

    Some people may just, perhaps understandably, be put off by the chauvinism and self aggrandizement of certain beginner theistic religious practitioners (who, lets face it, can be pretty self-righteous and rude at times).

    Some might be attracted to yoga because they seek spirituality without the judgmental holier-than-thou hypocrisy they encountered in their own Christian or Jewish families. We should show them that personalism and bhakti does not always entail such attitudes (deep down they already know it). As taught by Krishna it is really the pinnacle of yoga practice, pure and divine, free from ignorance, arrogance and self-centeredness. Showing this will be good for them, us, and anyone who hears about it.

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Regarding hatha yoga or asthanga yoga, our main emphasis is usually on explaining that there is a “yoga ladder” with different levels of advancement, but at the top, the destination of this ladder is bhakti yoga.

    Bhakti yoga is not only the goal of all yoga practice (inasmuch as an aspiring yogi who does not progress toward that goal is wasting his or her time), but it is also like an elevator that one can ride and bypass the ladder altogether. It is the quick and easy means of attaining the goal, and a fortunate person who has received the blessings of a pure Vaisnava may start right at the top, without going through the various purifications of pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, etc.

    To really practice asthanga yoga correctly, one must reside in a secluded place and practice strict brahmacarya. It is for vanaprasthas and sannyasis who have renounced ordinary social life. Bhakti yoga, on the other hand, is so powerful that it can be practiced by householders who do some japa and puja and hear Bhagavatam and Gita in the morning and evening, and then go to work during the day.

    In discussing the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad Gita, we often emphasize (as Prabhupada did) that Arjuna rejected the path of dhyana described by Krishna as too difficult, that there is no history of Arjuna ever having taken up that path (he was already an advanced bhakta), that if even such a highly qualified person as Arjuna thought it too difficult, how could we modern, urban, diminutive, lazy and stressed out people of this age take up that path?

    We emphasize the concluding verse of Chapter Six, that the bhakti yogi is the highest of all yogis. This theme is repeated elsewhere throughout the Gita. Bhakti is the only means to attain Krishna, and Krishna orders “bhava mad bhakto”.

    However, we should not be too quick to overlook the value of learning about asthanga yoga from Krishna as He explains it in Chapter Six, which is really the conclusion of the first section of the Gita (Prabhupada teaches that the Gita is divided into three sections of six chapters each, with the middle six being the confidential heart that is protected on both sides by the first six and last six).

    We should understand how the qualities of advanced meditators are also qualities of advanced devotees, that devotees progress through stages of remembrance to also reach samadhi, or trance, that good japa (and bhakti generally) entails conquest of the mind and senses, as all yoga does.

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “My own personal belief is that if the Holy Name is Krishna, it doesn’t matter who utters it, it’s the spirit in which it is uttered.”

    I guess the concern of many devotees, Georgia, is that if someone does not actually follow the regulative principles or avoid the ten offenses or surrender to a bona fide spiritual master in a Vaisnava sampradaya or even accept Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then the spirit in which he or she utters Krishna’s Holy Name will leave something to be desired.

    We might ask ourselves, “Is this person actually trying to advance in Krishna consciousness by his chanting? Or is he chanting with some ulterior motive?”

    For example, Prabhupada warned us about professional Bhagavatam reciters, who can recite very beautifully from memory with entertaining tunes and theatrical delivery, and yet if they do so to make a living and do not actually follow the principles, the whole effect is spoiled. They cannot actually convey the real Bhagavatam. The reciter and the hearer must be qualified. At least, that is Prabhupada’s warning or instruction.

    But as many have pointed out, just because we are in ISKCON and have been duly initiated, does not guarantee that we are chanting purely either. I guess generally though, if a devotee is trying and chanting sincerely, he should “always be respected as a Vaisnava”, even if he is still in an immature stage.

    I do not mean to pass judgment on Krishna Das, and some have written that he is at least friendly with some senior ISKCON devotees. Reading Satyaraja’s interview with him (which is really all I reliably know about him) gave me the impression he is more attracted to mayavada, but I could be wrong.

    (Someone told me he was friends with Vishnu Gada, but a few days ago I visited with Vishnu Gada and he said he never met Krishna Das, so I am skeptical about rumors).

    Anyway, if he has inspired some devotees, as he apparently has inspired you, Georgia, then he deserves all credit for that. And as preachers of the holy name we ought to give careful thought to what this popular kirtan phenomenon is all about.

    Ananda, as you probably know, there are many ISKCON devotees working with yoga groups and with doing kirtans at their studios. Bada Hari and Kosarupa come to mind (I saw Bada Hari at Gita Nagari a few days ago). Tusta Krishna and his wife, too. Many former gurukulis. It appears to be a blossoming field for devotees like yourself.

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    It will be interesting to see the impact of Satyaraj’s book “Yoga of Kirtan” on realations between ISKCON (or Gaudiya Vaisnavism more generally) and yoga groups which are becoming increasingly popular outside of India.

    Judging from the book’s website,, and the “events” page therein, it appears that Satyaraja himself is developing a relationship with various yoga studios and having some influence on them.

    On book distribution in Santa Cruz I recently met a man from Kerala who grew up in an ashram there. He since married an American lady and they run a yoga studio (in the sampradaya of Swami Vishnudevananda) in nearby Scotts Valley (home of Olympic beach volleyball champion Kerri Walsh).

    This yoga “guru”, whose name happens to be “Chaitanya”, is very favorable to ISKCON and happily purchased a Krishna Book set. I asked him if he has kirtans for his students, and he said “We have not introduced kirtans because we do not want to ‘frighten’ them, but my wife and I chant kirtans (various mantras including Hare Krishna) about 3 hours each day as part of our sadhana.”

    We can probably expect there to be a gradual process of different yoga teachers and some students becoming more aware of Lord Caitanya’s sankirtan movement, of Bhagavad Gita As It Is and Srimad Bhagavatam, and what bhakti yoga is really all about (not the watered down, minimalized version taught by mayavadis such as Vedanta Society).

    We can expect, at least, that many people who start out with a more general interest in spirituality or yoga will eventually be exposed to Krishna consciousness and ISKCON. If they are fortunate and have sukrti either from previous births or from favorable interactions in this lifetime (or are just recipients of special mercy), many of them will become faithful devotees.

    Satyaraja’s book is an important contribution to the continuing process of ISKCON’s relationship to the modern yoga community.

    Of course there is not one monolithic yoga community, but various different organizations and lineages, most of whom are not devotees, but some of whom will at least be receptive to Prabhupada’s books. The more they become interested in chanting Hare Krishna, as many of them are now doing, the more likely it is that they will take an interest in Prabhupada, the unquestioned pioneer of chanting in the West.

    If we angrily “blast” everyone who is not ISKCON, it will turn many off. Satyaraja is relating in a smart, productive way

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    On the other hand, it may be hard for those not familiar with the true bhakti tradition to understand that bhaktas are extremely intolerant of insults to Krishna and His devotees.

    There is a legitimate tradition of understanding the Absolute Truth in an impersonal way. “Brahmeti paramatmeti bhagavan iti sabdyate.” The Upanisads and other Vedic literatures are full of descriptions of the impersonal feature of the nondual reality as brahman. In Bhagavad Gita (12.3-4), Krishna says that although it is better to be a devotee, those who take up the difficult path of meditation on impersonal brahman, being equally disposed to all, at last attain Him (i.e., they eventually become devotees).

    For those too addicted to atheistic mentality, it is very difficult to surrender to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Still, they may be aware of the futility of material existence and be inclined toward renunciation, austerity and cultivation of knowledge of the difference between the permanent (spirit) and impermanent (matter).

    But if they have an ideology which attacks the existence of the Supreme Person, they are great offenders. Lord Caitanya was so angry with such offenders, He even would become angry with devotees who associated with them. Srila Prabhupada displayed the same anger. It is part of being a devotee to become angry at the ofenders of the Lord and the Vaisnavas.

    The impersonalists do not understand this phenomenon of spiritual anger. Someone situated in equanimity is supposed to never be angry at anyone. It is like the offensive Ramacandra Puri, who chastised his own spiritual master (Madhavendra Puri) for lamenting in the mood of separation. Taking the ecstacy of vipralambha as a material emotion, Ramacandra disastrously advised Madhavendra Puri to meditate on impersonal brahman.

    I heard a story about when the devotees were first in India a long time ago, at a public program, and Prabhupada was in the mood of ecstatic anger at mayavadis. Some Indian man said to an American devotee some insulting thing about Prabhupada, and like any red-blooded American boy would do when his loved one is insulted, he hauled off and slugged the guy.

    If the impersonalists are going to be truly open-minded (as they pride themselves on being), they should try to understand how bhaktas like Hanuman and Arjuna become spiritually angry on the Lord’s behalf, without any tinge of materialism.

    But we need to be smart in how we teach them.

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    One thing I said before in one of the interesting discussions started by Danavir Maharaja (regarding his concerns about devotees teaching yoga classes), I think bears repeating (and embellishing):

    If devotees can be doctors and lawyers and engineers (and they can), then surely they can be phys-ed teachers, athletics coaches, martial arts teachers and personal physical fitness trainers (of course they can!) And if they can do that, why can’t they also teach hatha yoga and incorporate some teachings from Prabhupada’s books or kirtans in their lessons, or at least for those students who are inclined and could benefit from such things?

    I suppose one “contra” argument would be that this was not a strategy that Srila Prabhupada personally pursued (but some devotees have pointed out that Prabhupada approved it as a strategy by Parivrajakacarya and others).

    If we examine Srila Prabhupada’s legacy, we find that although he made practical adjustments according to time, place and circumstances, he was very careful to present only pure devotional service and nothing else. He was not interested in anything else.

    He knew he did not have to encourage us to acquire mundane education, earn money, pursue family life, advance our careers, our social prestige, comforts and luxuries. (Well, he did have to force some hard-core austere devotees to take care of their health.)

    Instead, he instructed over and over again to simply use whatever we have in devotional service. As far as taking care of our economic necessities, it would come automatically, just as God provides enough to eat to all the big elephants and gazillions of insects.

    But surely he knew that many of us would not have such highly-developed faith, that we would get college degrees and jobs and houses and cars. He would not condemn that, but would encourage us to serve Krishna as far as possible.

    “Everyone is forced to act helplessly according to the qualities he has acquired from the modes of material nature . . . ” Sure we would have families, most of us, but we should try to raise our children as devotees.

    Similarly, devotees may be yoga teachers, or friends of yoga teachers, and try to encourage yoga students as far as possible to become devotees. If they like chanting Hare Krishna with nondevotees, how much more they will like chanting with excellent devotees!

    This a.m. at ISV, Banabhatta led a marvelous Radhastami kirtan: “Who wouldn’t be attracted?”

  41. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I thought I would share a nice video of devotees in Taiwan chanting along with a Buddhist choir, on a stage with coordinated costumes and a little Chinese flair, which can be seen at the following link:

    The increasing popularity of the maha mantra all over the world must be very pleasing to all the Gaudiya Vaisnava acaryas.

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