Why We Should Always Stay in ISKCON and How We should Deal with Those Who Have Left
This is an old subject, but there are always new events pertinent to it. Additionally, reviewing the topic can lead to a deeper understanding-so it is always useful. The following is, by no means, an exhaustive collection of Srila Prabhupada’s statements on the topic; however, it is enough to give an accurate depiction of Srila Prabhupada’s most salient mood. (Names have been replaced with “devotee”, “disciple 1”, “Prabhu’s men” etc.)
1. Srila Prabhupada letter to Disciple,10/29/1973:
I love you all very much and if you go away and stay independently, that will be a great shock for me. I want to meet you all together. Let me know where I shall go to meet you.
2. Srila Prabhupada letter to Disciple,10/29/1973:
If there is any misunderstanding with the GBC men, that can be readjusted by mutual understanding. I wanted to see you all to mitigate this misunderstanding, but I was very busy in Bombay for the same Juhu land of Mr. N.
3. Transcendental Diary 4/5/76:
Prabhupada replied that there is a formula; if someone is not following that, then he can suggest how to rectify it. The point was to work cooperatively.
Devotee “The thing is they simply don’t want to cooperate with the ISKCON movement,” I told Prabhupäda.
“So why?” Prabhupäda asked.
Devotee “No one knows. They simply just don’t want to mix.”
“That you can settle up by sitting together. Why there should be differences?
4. Srila Prabhupada letter to Disciple 12/9/73
The test of our actual dedication and sincerity to serve the Spiritual Master will be in this mutual cooperative spirit to push on this Movement and not make factions and deviate. Try to convince my two disciples to return to ISKCON and let us forget whatever has happened in the past.
5. Transcendental Diary 4/28/76:
Devotee began to play his guitar and chant Hare Krsna to a gentle lilting melody. Devotee Swami began to play karatalas softly as accompaniment. Prabhupada, however, stopped him, allowing the boy to sing solo for a few minutes, as he listened with obvious pleasure. Smiling broadly, Prabhupada gave him his garland. In this way he encouraged Prabhu’s men to continue their chanting, knowing that as long as they did this, even if they never agree to cooperate with ISKCON, they will continue to be purified and make spiritual advancement. He is their spiritual master and wants to keep them somehow connected.
6. Transcendental Diary 4/24/76
Some new controversy has also arisen over Prabhupäda’s upcoming trip to New Zealand. News has filtered in that Prabhu’s men there are informing everyone that Prabhupäda is going to their farm, but not to the ISKCON temple. They are claiming this as proof that they are correct in the dispute.
On hearing this Prabhupäda immediately canceled his visit to Devotee’s farm and said that they can come and see him at our temple. I’ve noticed that when discussing the two groups, Prabhupäda always refers to ISKCON as “our camp” and Prabhu’s group as “them.”
7. Transcendental Diary 9/30/76
Prabhupada was happy that they wanted to preach, and he encouraged them to chant and distribute small books and prasadam. He declined to give a letter for a certain Devotee, however. He didn’t think it necessary. “They have gone outside our ISKCON line and cannot be relied on to cooperate with us. You should work independently from him.”
8. Srila Prabhupada Letter to Disciple 12/15/73
I have not heard from the two disciples, nor do I know anything of their plans to return to New Zealand. Try to convince them to return to our Society and work cooperatively. That they have gone away is not good thing and it is a deviation from our line of parampara. Rather, avoiding faultfinding and anarchy, they should keep our standards and work maturely and not cause factions and splitting. I am not at all pleased at what they have done, but if they return let us forget what has happened and go forward.
9. Transcendental Diary 5/9/76
Disciple 1: I don’t think the devotees who factioned out were against book distribution. I think that a little bit was that some of the devotees were using very, very forceful tactics and trying to give people books and take their money, and people were becoming very offended …
Prabhupada: That is not good.
Disciple 1: That is not what you want.
Disciple 2: That’s all right, but don’t give up the book distribution.
Disciple 1: Yes.
Disciple 2: This is what happened. The temples fell down, the devotees went away. The ones who were distributing the books went on and distributed more books, became more expert, so that the public was not so much disturbed, and still they’re distributing books. But these people who factioned off are not distributing books even now, two or three years later. So it was simply actually a question of faultfinding more than earnest desire to please the spiritual master.
Prabhupada: Yes. [Pause.] Discuss.
(later in the same discussion)
Prabhupada: The real preaching is selling books. You should know the tactic how to sell without irritating. What your lecture will do for three minutes, but if he reads one page his life may be turned. We don’t want to irritate anyone, however. If he goes away by your aggressive tactics, then you are nonsense and it is your failure. Neither you could sell a book, neither he would remain. But if he buys a book, that is the real successful preaching.
Disciple 2 comment: Prabhupäda’s position was clear: the books should be sold, but expertly. And in case of any doubt, Prabhupäda reiterated that book distribution was the best preaching: “The success of your preaching will be substantiated by how many books are sold.” Prabhupäda also wrote: “The art is to sell many, many books and not irritate the public.”
10. Transcendental Diary 3/8/1976
Srila Prabhupada frankly analyzed Prabhu’s men and his followers. “They are thinking of their own way. That is bad. We have got so much, so many literatures. They are printing their own literature, and that is disturbing, yes. What he’ll prepare? He’s not a liberated person. He’s thinking—somebody said—that, ‘I’ll give my interpretation on Bhagavata.’ If these things are going, they are against our principles.
(Later in the same conversation)
In light of this, Devotee Mahäräja brought it to a specific point. “Can they actually say, ‘His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupäda is my spiritual master,’ if they haven’t accepted all the instructions?”
Prabhupada “What is the use of calling that I am spiritual master? If you have not accepted the spiritual master, what is the use? False propaganda. Better you say, ‘We could not accept at first, but we are trying to follow him.’ (END OF CITATIONS).
Number 1 is certainly the number one point, Srila Prabhupada loves his disciples very much and he wants them to remain in the ISKCON. Indeed, Srila Prabhupada loves all living entities and wants all people in this age to join ISKCON and receive the greatest gift available for a conditioned soul. We should remember this in all are dealings.
Number 2 shows that “cooperating” is a two-way street. The devotee had a misunderstanding with the GBC; Srila Prabhupada said this could be “readjusted” to “mitigate this misunderstanding”
Number 3,4 show that we should not harbor ill feelings for devotees who have left, even if they have committed offenses. Srila Prabhupada just said, try to get them to return; then, the past would be forgotten.
Number 5 shows that we should never give up hope on devotees who have left.
Number 6,7,8, show, despite number 5, we must see the difference between those who have left and those who have stayed.
Number 9,10 show that dissenting devotees may have valid criticisms-ISKCON devotees may need hear them and improve. But if we believe we have reason to criticize we should stay in ISKCON and try to change it, rather than leave. Ironically, when we leave, we create a group which puts itself above ISKCON devotee peer review. In the last paragraph Srila Prabhupada gives those who have left a means to retain some honor by being honest about their level of commitment.
Paramadayala Nityananda Das