By Mahatma das
So we just try to broadcast and today is July 6th and this is two days after the departure of Bhakti Charu Swami, so I decided that I would like to share with all of you what I believe is in his heart and what he would want us to understand from his life and take forward. And I’ll also share some of my experiences with him but I think sharing what’s in his heart is extremely important for all of us and especially important for the future of ISKCON. I’ll begin just sharing a few of my experiences with him and that will give time for others to come online because what I share later that will be most significant and so I just want to wait to get to there, to that point.
Many of us who have joined ISKCON when asked why we would join or when asked were you thinking when you were young that you’ll become a sadhu, most of us would say no. A few of us might say I was thinking of becoming a monk or a nun but most of us would say no, I never thought I felt as a religious person or dedicating myself to this. But Bhakti Charu Swami, when he was young, he used to think about becoming a sadhu and he said, “I thought that was normal that young boys would think about becoming sadhus.” Just like young boys in America often (at least in my generation), when you ask them what do you want to be when you grow up, they’d say I want to be a fireman or I want to be a policeman. So that was quite normal. He was thinking about becoming a sadhu. I think most of us were not thinking about becoming sadhus, we were thinking about becoming other things.
And when he said that he thought that every young boy thought that way, that indicates what’s in his mind and heart from the very early age, that he was thinking someday I will become a sadhu and I’ll renounce everything. So that is an indication of a great soul right from the beginning. You may have heard the stories because it has been discussed a little bit that he became fed up and hit a point where he went back to India from school in Germany to find a guru, that was his decision. He went to the Himalayas and couldn’t find one and then when he got Prabhupada’s books, when he read the Nectar of Devotion (he got it from a friend who had become a devotee), he just immediately said this is my guru. It was like it all happened. His deep connection with Prabhupada, it’s such a good example for all of us. When he read Prabhupada’s book, right away he knew this is my guru. That means right from the beginning there is a deep connection. I don’t think everyone when they read Prabhupada’s books thinks that evening itself that I found my guru! Here is my guru, I need to meet him, I need to give my life to him. So right from the beginning there was this deep connection and Maharaj says that when he finally met Prabhupada personally, that was in Kumbh Mela, he said when Prabhupada looked at him and he was in his presence, his heart was beating so hard that he wasn’t really present to what was going on.
It was such an amazing experience. This connection he had with Prabhupada was, I would say, special but also unusual. I mean, we all were moved when we saw Prabhupada but not like that, not like something that special. And that was his whole life. The trajectory of his whole life was this special connection with Prabhupada. And you will often see when Maharaj speaks, he speaks about remaining in ISKCON or remaining dedicated. People take it like, “Oh, he is a GBC so he just wants us all to follow GBC” and it is almost like a political statement. You know, “Well, you are a GBC so you want everyone to cooperate, that’s why you are saying that.” It is not at all like that. He said his connection was so deep that ISKCON for him was non-different than Prabhupada personally. So as much as he was attached to Prabhupada, to that same degree he was attached to ISKCON because he saw ISKCON as non-different from Prabhupada. And Hridayananda Maharaj said something quite amazing that I would like to share with you. He said that Prabhupada had many sons but Prabhupada’s sons didn’t become devotees, at least not fully. And he said that Bhakti Charu Swami was the son that Prabhupada always wanted but never had, an intelligent, educated Bengali who became a devotee.
I thought that that was so beautiful. So there was this very, very deep connection. If you listen to Maharaj speak and you understand this context, then what he is speaking about makes more sense. It is like this deep connection with Prabhupada that comes out as this deep connection with ISKCON because it wasn’t like some loyalty to a company, it was all manifestation of loyalty to Prabhupada. So whenever he is talking about ISKCON, in his mind and heart, he is just talking about devotion to Prabhupada. If I stay in ISKCON, work within ISKCON – he is saying stay with Prabhupada, work with Prabhupada. Of course, people who leave ISKCON don’t think they are leaving Prabhupada and I don’t think he would accuse them of that, but in his heart, his feeling is that if I left ISKCON I am leaving Prabhupada because Prabhupada is ISKCON, Prabhupada is everything to me and ISKCON is Prabhupada’s baby. It was like, here is my baby, I am leaving, I am handing you this baby. This is my heart, I am giving you my heart, this is what is dear to me. So that is how Maharaj saw his relationship with Prabhupada and ISKCON. They were the same thing. That devotion to Prabhupada meant devotion to ISKCON, that devotion to ISKCON meant devotion to Prabhupada. Taking care of ISKCON was like taking care of Prabhupada’s body. He didn’t see it any different. This is a very, very important idea because every organization has problems, every organization has challenges, every organization has leadership that doesn’t always act properly or in a way we would expect. He established this siddhanta so deeply. As Prabhupada said ISKCON is my body.
A lot of times when we talk about ISKCON, people think that it’s just an organization, and organizations have so many problems, and I am devoted to Prabhupada, but not to ISKCON. Bhakti Charu Swami never made that distinction, he didn’t want us to make that distinction. He made it very clear that if you are criticizing ISKCON, you are criticizing Prabhupada. If you love Prabhupada, you will work to make ISKCON better. That’s really important because as ISKCON grows, there will always be people who will make that distinction – I am devoted to Prabhupada but I just don’t like ISKCON, I don’t like what the movement is doing, I don’t like where it is going, I don’t like the leadership. And that may all be true. It’s not that he liked where everything was going, but he didn’t leave because he saw this was Prabhupada. You can’t leave Prabhupada because you don’t like the way things are going, you have to make it better. I think that is the first point. That we should not distinguish between ISKCON and Prabhupada. You can’t leave ISKCON without leaving Prabhupada to some degree. It’s an illusion. I know some people who have left ISKCON would criticize me for that and I don’t want to say this absolutely, and I don’t want to say they are being condemned by Prabhupada, but I want to say that Prabhupada’s heart was within ISKCON and making it better. That’s how Bhakti Charu Swami saw it, that’s how he lived, and that’s how he preached. He had a very deep relationship with Prabhupada. If you read anything about his life, know anything about him or just listen to him talk, you can see he had a very, very deep connection with Prabhupada. It is very inspiring to see how dedicated he was. Totally fixed in service to Prabhupada no matter what. And that connection to Prabhupada was his connection to working in ISKCON. I will give you an example of this. Let me give a little history. I don’t know if I met Maharaj before 1989. He had come to Mauritius and I had come to Mauritius, I’d been a president in Mauritius in 1982 or 1983 for about a year, or a year and a half, and then I left Mauritius. We installed deities and after that, I left and turned it over to another Godbrother.
In 1989, I felt I should come back and help. I felt some connection and he was there. So I can’t remember if we ever had any association or if I met him before that. I don’t remember. At that time he had no position. I don’t think he was a GBC or anything. He was just a simple sadhu and I particularly remember we had given him a room in the temple and the only thing in that room was a little desk on the floor and some straw mats. That’s where he slept, and that is where he would always work. He was translating Prabhupada’s books into Bengali at that time. So the whole time he was there, that was his focus, that was just what he did. Giriraj Swami wanted him there for the association and to help the yatra. A few years before that, the GBC guru had left, and four years even before that the previous GBC guru left, so the Mauritian yatra had been hit hard. It is like a one-two punch. In boxing, if the first one doesn’t knock you out, the second one could. So they got hit twice and Giriraj Swami just wanted more devotees to come and help. So he invited Bhakti Charu Swami. He felt that his influence on the devotees there would be very powerful because at that point when you have lost two gurus, your faith in ISKCON would be weak, so he wanted to bring the right person so he could instill faith. That’s when I first met him. That was 1989. And then he had become GBC. He must have become a GBC around that time, I don’t think he was a GBC then. If he was I didn’t get the impression he was because he was like a simple sadhu. What happened was, we were trying to build a temple, bring in more devotees, make things happen faster, and sometimes when you’re trying to do a lot you need more help. And so we felt to have a co-GBC would really help us. We asked Bhakti Charu Swami and he agreed. Probably he agreed reluctantly.
I think he saw that he can contribute so he came. I could see that he was an expert manager and detail-oriented, but I could see that he would prefer just to study and do more artistic things. Like you know, he was a musician, he did the Prabhupada movie. One time I was in his office in Mauritius and he had some CDs of classical Indian music and I said, “what’s this?”, he said, “management is so mundane, I need something a little more profound” [laughing]. So I could see it was an austerity. If you see his history, the GBC sent him to many troubled situations because he was a peacemaker. He was someone who could bring people together, he was someone that everybody could understand. His motive was just to please Prabhupada and he knew how to bring different groups together. So they sent him to all these difficult, troubled spots. He became GBC in Mauritius, South Africa. He came into New York when no one could manage it and things couldn’t get along years ago. He came in and he came to France after the gurus there had left and nobody could really bring devotees together. So he was always being sent to these troubled situations and I am pretty certain he would have been very happy just to be doing something more philosophical and more creative. Definitely. There is no question. But he did it because he saw service to ISKCON as direct service to Prabhupada’s feet.
One experience I had that stood out was this. As you know in ISKCON if I say to you “I need to talk to you, let’s talk at 12” then twelve could mean twelve, it could mean 12:03, it could mean 12:06, if it’s a meeting in some cultures twelve could mean 12:30, it could mean 1:00, it could mean you come if you can. We all know that, right? It’s kind of rare to have a meeting in ISKCON where everyone, 100% of the attendees actually come on time. So Maharaj was helping to manage, I was a temple president. We were always interacting. There were so many problems at that time, so there were many things to deal with. So we were going to have a meeting at noon. The rooms we were in, were on a veranda. Let me explain this, here is my room [gesturing to the right], here is his room [gesturing to the left] and next to that is a bathroom. So you walk out of my room, it’s on a veranda and you walk out the veranda right by his room. So I went to go to the bathroom, it was 5 minutes to twelve and I could see that he was resting. So I went to the bathroom, came back, and I thought “Well, he is resting, I’ll come back 5 minutes after twelve and see if he is awake. I don’t want to wake him up for the meeting if he is tired, it’s not that important”. So I come like 12:05 or 12:03, it is like a few minutes later and he says, “why are you late?” [laughing]. I said, “Because at 5 minutes to 12, I saw you were resting and I didn’t want to wake you up”. He said, “No, I was up and ready at 12”. I said to myself, now I understand if Bhakti Charu Swami says he is going to be ready at 12, he is not messing around. He is serious.
Then another thing happened that was very similar. This year that Bhakti Charu Swami was there for Janmashtami it was 1992. In 1992 was the biggest Janmashtami up to date we ever had in Mauritius. We made a huge endeavor to make it big because in Mauritius most of the people are shiva-bhaktas so Janmasthami it wasn’t like a Shivaratri. During Shivaratri, the whole country stops. But Janmashtami was kind of like Valentine’s day compared to Christmas. Not a big thing. And we wanted to make it a big thing. So Maharaj was there, Giriraj Swami was there, he brought devotees from South Africa, we had big people in big positions helping us organize. It was a huge effort. I think it went on for four days or something. So every year this one mataji and her crew would stay and cook for Srila Prabhupada for Prabhupada’s appearance day and then it was offered at noon. So Janmashtami day, big event, I doubt I went to bed before 2 am. Maybe something like 3 am and then Vyasa-puja was the next day, and Vyasa-puja was part of the event that we advertised so we expected a big crowd to also be there. I got up at 8 o’clock, as I remember, just so I would be rested. I couldn’t get up earlier else I would be a mess, so I thought I need to be rested so at least let me rest for 5 hours. So I got up at 8 o’clock, assuming that all night this woman was cooking and everything was on schedule. Lo and behold, we find out, I don’t think we found out until it was time for the offering, that actually she got the flu and she didn’t show up in the kitchen till 10 o’clock so the offering wasn’t ready. And Maharaj was so upset. He said, “Prabhupada takes prasadam at noon, how could you not have this at noon?” Out of his love for Prabhupada, he was so upset and I had no idea what was going on because every year she would cook and I just had no idea because she didn’t tell me she wasn’t cooking. So I just got up trying to get my rounds done, everyone is running around, no one is telling me the offering is not there, and then we find out around noontime or around 11-11:30, that they just started cooking. I guess she felt that making an offering at noon was not an issue. And that was so important to him, so I got mercifully chastised, because if you are a president then whatever happens, it is your responsibility even if you have no idea what’s going on. So again it showed this relationship he had with Prabhupada Let me tell you another story. Let me tell two more stories and then we are going to gradually turn this into a philosophical discussion about guru.
I was in South Africa, maybe it was 5 years ago. I was just there I think for a yatra and Maharaj was there, and many senior devotees were there. So this one night they wanted to have a katha, Prabhupada-katha in one of the temples. So Bhakti Caitanya Swami, Bhakti Charu Swami, myself and Ksudhi Prabhu (Ksudhi Prabhu was one of the first devotees in South Africa). He said “Can you tell some Prabhupada lila, Prabhupada-katha?” So I told some katha from the very early days. It was some of the stories of our personal sacrifices and austerities we did as we were young devotees – living in vans and traveling not having money, not knowing where we are going to live – things of that nature and then Krishna providing everything. It’s a huge sacrifice in establishing. This story I was telling took place in 1970-1971. Maharaj came to ISKCON in 1975. So I think from what Maharaj told me (I got an impression) that he did not know a lot of this early history, he wasn’t involved with it. And even if he joined earlier, this was history in America he may not have known about. After I told that story of austerity and sacrifice and lots of anxiety that we went through in our service to Prabhupada,, he said something to me that I think only he would say. After I finished, he grabbed my hand and said, “Thank you for doing that” and I was thinking “Wow, no one ever said that to me.” No one ever said thank you for making that sacrifice. But he was a sensitive person and that means that because he loved Prabhupada, anyone who made a sacrifice for Prabhupada, that touched him. So when he was thanking me, it was in relation to “Wow you did that for Prabhupada, you did that for this person I love so much, thank you for doing that.” It is just one thing he said of many things he may have said to me that I don’t remember. That was not ordinary. It’s not every day some Godbrother comes to me and says I just wanted to thank you for all you are doing. Although you know, sometimes they do. But in that context, it seemed unique.
Then I think maybe like 4 years ago, I was in Mayapur and I was speaking with Kripamoya and we were sitting down outside, in front of the temple where the bookstore is. And then Maharaj came out of the temple, it must have been after class or something. Maharaj came out of the temple walking back to where he was staying and so we saw him so we stood up and Maharaj was asking how we were doing and how long are we staying. Kripamoya said I am leaving today and I am going to such and such place. Maharaj said, “How are you getting there?” I think Kripamoya Prabhu said, “I am taking a train or a taxi” and Maharaj said, “I have a car and a driver, you don’t have to do that. I will give it to you, you take it”. Maharaj was like that, the loving brother, like I have this facility why should you not have to have it? So I was thinking that was like another unusual thing. It is not normal that when you tell a Godbrother you are leaving they try to figure out how can they make it easier for you. Of course, you might say not everyone has their own car, that’s true. But even if you have some facility it is not common to offer it to your Godbrother. With Maharaj, it was like immediately, you shouldn’t have to do that, I have a car and a driver. Something like that. Then because Maharaj and I worked in Mauritius, either I was asking him if he was going to Mauritius or he was asking me something about that. There was some discussion about it. And he was saying “No, I’m not going there anymore.” He had been a GBC for a while but he didn’t have the time to put into it and I don’t think he felt he could help the situation much more than he did. And there were a lot of other petty problems that he was dealing with in Mauritius and he had bigger things to do, so he felt kind of like these problems probably will always just go on and it is just the nature of small countries and islands. These things go on. So he felt he had a bigger mission and bigger projects to deal with. So I said, “Are you going back to Mauritius?” and he said something like “I decided not to.” And I said something like “That’s probably a good decision,” it was a little sarcastic, like what you had to go through there, it was very petty. His response was interesting. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t respond. I was kind of playing into like “Yeah, it was a good decision you left,” and he didn’t play into that. It was more like “Well, I have other services so I am not doing that. And I was kind of playing into it “Yeah, it is kind of not worth doing it and there are so many problems there, why put energy into it.” He didn’t go with that at all, and it stood out because that’s where I was going with it. I was being sarcastic and he didn’t respond to that and I remember that. I thought “He is a gentleman. He is cultured, and he wouldn’t play into anything that wasn’t right”. It was a little bit in jest, like it is probably a good decision you are not going back, you know why there are so many problems. He didn’t play into that. Immediately when that happened I thought, I said the wrong thing, he is a gentleman, he would not have said that and his response was no response. It was a polite way (and I don’t think it was his intention) of saying “you shouldn’t say that”. That was not his intention but that’s the message that Supersoul gave to me. It was because he was such a gentleman that that’s how he responded and that had such an impact on me! Because I see often, our behavior as Westerners, and I think most Western devotees will acknowledge and admit this, it’s sometimes not as refined as it should be. Bhakti Charu Swami’s behavior was very refined and when I would think of him I would always think of ‘refined’ or as Hridayananda Maharaj said, he was the gentleman of ISKCON. His behavior was refined. When I saw him, it was like I would see OK this is the standard, he knows etiquette, he knows Vaishnava behavior. So when you see him act, you would take note of that, that’s how you are supposed to act. As an American, you may not always act that way because your culture is different. But as this refined, cultured, Bengali gentleman, just notice what he is doing. You will become more refined. That’s how I took it personally. I don’t know how others took it. That’s how I would suggest you also taking it. When you hear about his pastimes, or you hear his lectures, or you see he’s in situations where you think I would have said this or I would have done this, and you see that he didn’t do that, just take note. That’s how a Vaishnava behaves. You may say to me “No, we feel you act that way also,” but I am just saying personally I don’t feel I do, not on his level. He was always an example to me of Vaishnava culture, Vaishnava etiquette, Vaishnava behavior, he always maintained it. That’s what Vaishnava etiquette means to me – maintain the behavior of a Vaishnava in all situations. I was thinking about this. He was very cultured, he was thinking from birth “I want to be a sadhu,” he got first and second initiation at the same time. Three months later, he got sannyasa and became Prabhupada’s personal servant. That’s not ordinary. It’s like he almost surpassed everyone, even surpassed where we are today in 3 months. He is not an ordinary person by any stretch of the imagination. We have to appreciate the depth of his sadhuness. And as I was saying earlier the depth of his relationship with Prabhupada was a manifestation of the depth of his Krishna consciousness because they go together simultaneously. Your connection with your spiritual master, your connection with Krishna and Krishna consciousness, and your depth of bhakti they are not different. Someone can say, my guru this and that but I love Krishna, I love ISKCON but I am leaving, I love Prabhupada but I’m leaving ISKCON. It doesn’t exactly work that way. It is synergistic, it’s holistic. If you have one, you have them all. Everything that I see in terms of his behavior, his dedication, it all centers around Prabhupada as a hub. And everything – his Vaishnava behavior, dedication to ISKCON, willingness to be GBC even though he did not like managing, his sacrifice to come to America [and] start that project… He would be a lot happier just hanging in Ujjain or Mayapur and studying, teaching shastra, and teaching lila. He would be happy. But he takes on these projects because his heart is Prabhupada and he knows what Prabhupada wants.
What Deeply Concerned Bhakti Charu Maharaj
Now, I want to talk about what was deeply in his heart and what deeply concerned him. It was that he didn’t feel that Prabhupada was the center of ISKCON and he felt that the position of diksha-guru had eclipsed two things: One, Prabhupada being the primary center of focus and attention. (We do Guru Puja every day, we read his books… He did not mean it that way.) He meant in every sphere, on every level – where we get our instruction, where do we feel our strongest connection, how we understand how we are being liberated, and that everything is from Prabhupada, everyone else is just bringing you to Prabhupada. Everyone else is little. Prabhupada is the Sun [and] we are little rays. He felt that was being eclipsed, as many devotees do. But it was of extreme concern to him. It actually bothered him I would say 24/7. He talked about it so much because he felt that if Prabhupada doesn’t actually become the center in everyone’s life and heart, then in future generations Prabhupada’s position, Prabhupada’s teachings, everything about Prabhupada is going to be lost and other gurus, other acharyas will dominate the landscape of ISKCON and Prabhupada will be sidelined. You might think “No, that is not going to happen”. No, that is a real concern and many senior devotees are very concerned about this. And he is at the helm of this concern. If you ever hear him talk about staying in ISKCON, staying with Prabhupada, Prabhupada in the center, it is all being generated from this concern.
Now let me explain why this concern is there for those of you who joined ISKCON after Prabhupada left. When Prabhupada was here, of course, there was only one guru. I just want to give you a picture of the landscape of ISKCON when Prabhupada was here. Very, very rare there would be a recording of any lecture by anybody other than Prabhupada, and that meant it was very rare for anyone to hear any lecture other than Prabhupada’s because there weren’t any and if there were, you know, not that many people would be that interested. Let’s say I recorded a lecture and people said “Hey that’s a nice lecture, can I hear it?” It would go around but there was no digital media so you would have to actually get a tape and you would have to copy that tape to another tape. So it would be like the 3rd or 4th generation cassette recorders. And you are copying it through speakers […] not that you would have copy machines. Even if you had copy machines, every generation degraded. It just wasn’t a good facility. Whereas with Prabhupada, we had a whole ministry So all the tape ministries came after Prabhupada left, that’s when gurus had their own tape ministries. So during Prabhupada’s time, I rarely remember ever hearing recorded lectures of anyone just because they weren’t available and there wasn’t a great interest in hearing them. We had Prabhupada’s and Prabhupada was lecturing every day and there was a tape ministry. So everywhere you’d go, everywhere in ISKCON, in everyone’s cassette player, in everyone’s Walkman, in every temple, were lectures of Prabhupada. Now there were Kirtans. You had Vishnujana Swami kirtans, you had a few albums devotees made (Radha Krishna, like that), but I would say there were probably four or five other recordings maximum, of other devotees, and we had numerous recordings of Prabhupada. So generally at any temple you would go to, you would hear kirtans and bhajans of Prabhupada. Naturally, he was our guru, that is what we wanted to listen to. Lectures of Prabhupada, morning walk conversations, room conversations… That’s what everyone was listening to, and all the news that we were getting was about who and about what? Where is Prabhupada, what is he doing, what is he saying? That was ISKCON up to the time Prabhupada left. So there was no question of keeping Prabhupada in the center. You didn’t have to keep him, he was the center. We were his disciples, he was the center of our lives. There was no competition that somebody else is in some way dominating the attention of the devotees. I mean, there were devotees who were powerful, who were attractive, we liked listening to, we liked listening to their kirtans, but it was just sunrise in comparison to Prabhupada. We all saw them as just little rays of Prabhupada and nothing in comparison to Prabhupada. So there was no question that they could ever eclipse Prabhupada, or ever sideline Prabhupada. It wouldn’t happen. Prabhupada was the only guru, there were no other gurus.
Some devotees have asked me to describe this history, so it wasn’t my intention to describe this history but in order to express what I feel Bhakti Charu Swami wants the world of ISKCON to understand deeply, what he dedicated his life to live and explain, I had to explain a little bit of this history. We had the idea that Srila Prabhupada, as acharya, whatever he does we should copy. He is teaching us how to live by his example. So then we thought or many, not everybody, but those who seemed to be moving ISKCON, making the decisions locally and internationally, thought if Prabhupada is gone now we have 11 new gurus, they need to do what Prabhupada did because Prabhupada set the example. So what did Prabhupada do? Every day he had Guru Puja, he had his own rooms, he had his own cooks, he had his own seats, he had his own car… And everything that we could do in our power to facilitate Prabhupada’s service, to make his live comfortable, we would do. That was the philosophy. So now instead of Prabhupada being the center, the new gurus who were now following in Prabhupada’s footsteps… Not all of them felt this, but the movement was pushing that this is how it should be done so they convinced them all to do it. I would say most of them bought into it, but some didn’t because it felt very awkward and wrong. But this is what the movement did and this was the ignorance. They thought: Prabhupada is gone, there is an absence, we need to replace him and we will replace him with these new acharyas. We thought because Prabhupada appointed them, he transferred his shakti so now they were all way above everybody else. There was a lot of confusion. We didn’t understand. We thought Prabhupada made these people gurus because they were pure devotees, he gave them his shakti, we need to now replace Prabhupada in some way with them. Let me try to explain psychologically what I think was happening. I think the loss was so deep that we needed someone to sit on a Vyasasana that we could honor and worship because we didn’t feel we could exist without Prabhupada. So we thought we will put someone else up there, he will be the guru, and even for us as Godbrothers he will be a strength for us. Even some of the Godbrothers started to say “Well, now if you want to be connected to Prabhupada, you have to be connected with me, you have to work with me, you have to worship me”. It got very, very crazy.
Let me tell you my personal experience of this. I remember one devotee (I was in Los Angeles when Prabhupada left) […] who was pushing: these new gurus they are pure devotees, we have to worship them like Prabhupada, this is what the shastra… And then if you read in the shastra what it says about the pure devotee how he is non-different from Krishna, worshiped as God… So we were just trying to follow the shastra with them. I remember when they built the Vyasasana, there was a permanent Vyasasana for the guru. So if you are a guru, when you went to the temple you did not sit on the seat of the Bhagavatam speaker, you sat on the Vyasasana that was almost as big as Prabhupada’s. Some temples you will go to now (in South Africa, Dallas) you will see Prabhupada’s Vyasasana and then you will see another Vyasasana but on the other asana they’ll have tulsi or book display and it’s the same height or it is [slightly] higher than the Vyasasana of that guru who was the acharya of that zone. Because in those days there was only one guru in that zone and everyone who came became that person’s disciple and if they didn’t want to be that person’s disciple there was a little subtle “What is wrong with you? Why wouldn’t you accept him? He is the guru.” The first time this guru in Los Angeles, Ramesvara (Maharaj, at that time), who was not into this, he was not into this at all, he was one of the most practical people, he just wanted to serve Prabhupada and he was willing to do… He would sit on a bed of nails if that would please Prabhupada, so he was not into… He didn’t like it. He felt uncomfortable being honored and worshiped, he really did, but he was forced into it because that was the prevailing ethos and they wouldn’t let him… He tried to throw out the seat and the GBC came to him and said you can’t do this because it would disrupt the whole ethos that is going on with the other GBC. I was in the meeting with him, because I was one of the leaders, with about five other GBC men who said you cannot do this. And he was saying “but there is no history outside or Prabhupada taking Guru Puja daily, there is no history in Gaudiya Vaishnavism, everybody sits on the same seat, nobody has an exultance.” Others said “No, this is Prabhupada, he set the example, he is the acharya!” So there was so much confusion and so the first day that Ramesvara Prabhu sat on that Vyasasana, there was this intense feeling coming over me “This does not feel right, there is something terribly wrong with this”. But at that point because of the pressure that they are pure devotees, Prabhupada is the acharya, you would have to be a guru if there was no guru. There was so much of that coming I couldn’t process that feeling but I am sure many, many devotees at that time had the same gut intuition “This does not feel right, there is something wrong with this”. What started happening in ISKCON, there was a shift from a focus on Prabhupada to focus on the present guru who was a zonal guru, who we would call acharya, we gave him names Vishnupada, Acharyadeva, Acharyapada. It was like the whole nine yards. […] Prabhupada was not his initiated name, that was a title that was given to him as our guru. Actually he had to tell us to give it to him but that was our ignorance. So they had titles, they had very, very opulent quarters, just like Prabhupada, amazingly opulent and in many cases, their quarters were nicer than Prabhupada’s. And their Vyasa-pujas started being nicer than Prabhupada’s. Everything started shifting and this created this huge alienation because many of the Godbrothers started feeling like this is not the movement I joined. That was Prabhupada centric, now it’s this guru centric. And so this alienation that I felt on the first day that he sat on Vyasasana it just continued. So you had devotees who were being alienated and then you had other devotees who were saying “No, this is the way it is supposed to be. This is good”. There were a lot of good results, a lot of people were inspired (the ones who liked them), he had a lot of power, he could do a lot of things, he had a lot of disciples, easy for the disciples – one guru… You probably know the history, but one by one gurus started having trouble because they had misserved their position. They were imitating Prabhupada and shastra says if you imitate the great devotees it’s like drinking poison. Of the eleven, I think seven had fallen away due to either not being able to maintain strictly the principles or maybe you could say not being able to maintain, in the broader sense, strictness. They just couldn’t maintain their position. They have either fallen down breaking one of the regulative principles, or come close to it, or being challenged to do it. They just couldn’t maintain their position because it was not the position Prabhupada intended.
It climaxed around 1986. The Godbrothers had formed practically a revolution. There were various revolutions going on to reform this; guru reform. There was a meeting in New Vrindavan I participated in and it was like a historical meeting at that time, and the Godbrothers just spoke out “This is nonsense, you’re imitating Prabhupada. This is wrong. You are destroying the movement. You eclipsed Prabhupada. You pushed him out”. Let me tell you something. This is going to sound strange to you but it will help put this in perspective. In 1982, I went to South Africa to raise money. I was the president at Mauritius and there was no money in Mauritius. It is a very poor country. That time South Africa was one of the wealthiest countries in the world. I had just been living in South Africa the year before, so I knew where to go, I knew how to collect. I said we could collect in a month (more money than they could make in Mauritius in a year) and we can buy so many things we need and I want to start a festival program we can buy all that we need, sound system, this and that. So we went there and this devotee was a disciple of Ramesvara. […] We were given the cars, he was playing lectures of Ramesvara, kirtans of Ramesvara, kirtans of other devotees. I’d never actually been in that close proximity with a disciple of the new gurus because for us it was just… We would just listen to Prabhupada, that was like normal, that’s how we grew up, that’s all you listen to. There were no other books, there were very few other books. So there were no other books to read but Prabhupada’s books. I turn to this devotee and I say “Do you ever listen to Prabhupada?” and the devotee says “No”. And this devotee was shocked like “Oh, I never thought of that. We don’t do that.” That made a deep impression that there is a serious problem there. Now you might say “But Prabhu, that’s the way it is in ISKCON now. That’s just normal”. Yeah, that’s a normal serious problem. That’s how we as leaders and Godbrothers, and even as gurus, although we are gurus and we give lectures, and you listen to them, and we will even say “Please listen to that lecture that I gave, it’s really important,” and you are thinking “Why you give a lecture every day if you want us to hear Prabhupada?” Well because this is what Prabhupada wanted us to do, but he didn’t want us to eclipse him. He didn’t want us to write books to eclipse his books, to give lectures to eclipse his lectures. So I am just giving you my perspective as a Prabhupada disciple who came to ISKCON in 1969 and seeing this shift, it was like this is unprecedented. There was never a time in ISKCON history where it wasn’t just Prabhupada, his books, his kirtans, his words. You might say, well today it can be that way. That’s true, but it has gone overboard in the other direction. It has to be that way sufficiently that you have to listen to Prabhupada’s lectures sufficiently, you have to listen to his bhajams, you have to have sufficient because he is the center. And then the other problem was that the disciples were thinking their guru was on the level of Prabhupada. They weren’t really making a distinction AUDIO CUTS liberated, if Prabhupada made us AUDIO CUTS into guru he’s AUDIO CUTS they are starting to think all of these 11 gurus descended, even though they were all hippies. They were like no, that was just their lila. It was distorted. They’re all descended, transcendental… And if that’s the case you could understand easy to AUDIO CUTS Prabhupada’s. Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that they were eclipsing Prabhupada. The focus was going away from Prabhupada and therefore you could say “but you can’t eclipse Prabhupada,” but you can if you shine the light on someone else you are eclipsing. Prabhupada is eternally self-effulgent, but we are not seeing that so much because the light is being shone on these other people. Everyone around 1986 and the 80s was feeling [that] we made a huge mistake in having these people imitate Prabhupada and basically it’s like the whole movement is centering around these eleven people. They yield all the power, they have all the resources, they have all the men, the money, the control… And it was like what happened to ISKCON where Prabhupada was in the center, where resources were distributed equally, no one had specific powers, everything was managed by a GBC? Now, these gurus were unmanageable, they had whole zones and powers of GBC, how could they control them? Then there is this whole guru reform movement with temple presidents and then finally GBCs were interrogated, gurus were interrogated […]. Things have gotten better but still, to this day, the vestiges of that have not been removed. Even for new devotees who become gurus, although they grew up through that and they’re more conscious not to do that, but still within the culture many of us AUDIO CUTS enough Prabhupada in the center. The devotees are just not understanding Prabhupada’s mood and mission.
One devotee I had met in Mayapur (she stayed in Mayapur because of the lockdown), I think she read Prabhupada’s Gita twice and now she was studying something at MIHE or somewhere, tenth canto commentary by Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakura…or something like that. So these kinds of things. You go into a market place and there are books you can read that Prabhupada told us “don’t read these books”. It’s such a different landscape. I have disciples and I’ll quote a verse that every bhakta knew in 1970 and they don’t know it. I’m like, how could you not know that verse? It means there is a different mood now and we had a mood of learning verses. The mood changed. This is a concern.
This was Bhakti Charu Swami’s concern and this is what he said and this is what he felt and why I wanted to explain this to you. He said I feel insignificant (I am paraphrasing), I feel like I am nothing, I’m insignificant, my only credibility is that I am connected to Prabhupada. Then here is the important thing, the point he made. He said, “I am not taking my disciples back to godhead, Prabhupada is taking them back to Godhead. I am bringing them to Prabhupada. Prabhupada is doing everything and I am bringing them to Prabhupada”. He said “I don’t feel that within ISKCON this is the culture in the heart and mind of the disciples and the devotees.” Even maybe some of the gurus may not feel anything, I’m doing it by Prabhupada’s mercy but I am doing it. You come through me, I will liberate you, I will bless you. He feels that we have a culture in ISKCON that if it doesn’t change, if we don’t recognize that it’s Prabhupada’s movement, it’s Prabhupada’s teachings, it’s Prabhupada’s power – we are nothing. We are all useless without that. It is all him. If that is not instilled within the heart of every single member, theh his fear, and rightly so, is that in the future Prabhupada will become like a second-class citizen He just won’t be that important. He won’t be that central. There will be other people who arise to prominence. We want gurus to rise to prominence but not at the cost of minimizing the reality that all the potency that they have is Prabhupada’s potency and that everyone should understand it. Now the problem that I see is that when Bhakti Charu Swami said this, he was accused of being a ritvik because what he was saying was very similar to what ritviks were saying, that Prabhupada was being pushed to the side, he is being eclipsed by the gurus, we lost that Prabhupada centric culture, and so forth.
I think that as a great glorification not as a criticism because the fact is the ritvik philosophy just went a little bit too far, that Prabhupada will be your guru because the other gurus they did a bad job so let’s just get rid of them. That is not Gaudiya Vaishnava Siddhanta. The Gaudīya Vaishnava Siddhanta is the other gurus will represent Prabhupada, they will bring you closer to Prabhupada, they will put the glasses on you so you see Prabhupada better. That’s the mood of a guru. That if I can help you get closer to Prabhupada, if I can help you deepen the relationship with Prabhupada, if I can put the glasses on you to help you see better who Prabhupada is, what he is teaching, what he wants, what his mission is, what his heart is, where he wants his movement to be, how you could become a better member of that movement and help him… If I can do that then I have done my job as guru. If I do anything else and make you think I am someone special independent of Prabhupada, it is a disservice. Now you might say, the gurus are not doing that. But the problem is we have a culture in which it makes the disciple think when a guru says that he is just being humble and he doesn’t really mean it. That it is just, oh every guru thinks they’re nothing at the feet of their guru, Prabhupada said he was nothing at the feet of Bhaktisiddhanta. Yes, that is true, but this is different because this is a fact. Prabhupada was definitely something before he met his guru. He was a Vaishnava. He was definitely something. And by the power of his guru he was able to spread Krishna Consciousness, no doubt, and no doubt Prabhupada would feel I am nothing. But he wasn’t nothing before he met his guru and Prabhupada said “In my life, I never committed any sin, there was never a time when I did not think of Krishna”…
I will get to your comments in a minute. There are two books Prabhupada said not to read… [thinking] Govinda-lilamrita… Bhaktisiddhanta said don’t read Govinda-lilamrita. That is one of them. There is one more, I’ll remember.
I was not born a Vaishnava, there was a time I forgot Krishna, I have not followed all the principles my entire life so there is a difference. And I am probably not someone who could have come to America alone. There is a difference and every guru will note that difference, and every guru feels that difference. The problem is in ISKCON, because of that zonal culture that we had in 1977 when Prabhupada left, the remanence of that culture still, the odor of that culture, it still permeates to some subtle degree in ISKCON, and it has become a challenge for gurus to communicate that we are nothing and that Prabhupada is everything and we are just trying to help you get to Prabhupada in an environment where the guru position is so dominant.
Now here is where the problem lies. ISKCON has been trying to educate devotees in this area and it has been really challenging. It is the area of shiksha guru versus diksha guru because in Gaudiya Vaishnava history all emphasis was not given on diksha, the emphasis was given on guru. And guru could mean diksha guru, diksha guru could mean vartmapradasaka-guru.
Let’s go back to history. This is a real story in my life. I am working with a disciple of Ramesvara, we are working very closely, he is very close with me, he respects me so maybe at that time I might have been a devotee for 10-15 years and he is a new devotee, so there is some difference in what I can teach him. He respects that. At that time, we as Godbrothers, were challenging the authority of these gurus and there was a lot of rhetoric going on for those who were challenging. You know, we were challenging out of sincerity, out of fear that the movement would be destroyed or corrupted, or in some way fall into disarray. And many of us were called black snakes in order for the guru to protect his disciples.
(Replying to a comment) Srila Bhaktisiddhanta asked “can I publish these books” and Bhaktivinoda Thakur [said] you can publish for yourself because no one can understand them and read them.
It is not a crime to read other’s books, but one has to be qualified. In discussions when they talked about this with Prabhupada and they said “Prabhupada did you say we shouldn’t read other books?” and Prabhupada said “No I never said that. You should read them.” And then another devotee said “But we should read your books first,” and Prabhupada said “Yes. I am writing so many books. You read them.” So yes, it is not a crime to read other books, the crime is you haven’t read Prabhupada’s books over and over and over again and then you read other books, because then you may misunderstand them if you can’t see them through the lense that Prabhupada has given. That was the concern. Ujjvala-nilamani and Govinda-līlāmṛta. Those two books. Bhaktisiddhanta wanted to print and Bhaktivinoda said, print one to yourself. One of Bhaktisiddhanta’s seniors-most disciples was asked about those books. AUDIO CUTS talking about them, few sentences and he said “I can’t say more because I’ve never read them.” If anyone was qualified enough to read them, it would be him, not us and he did not read them because Bhaktisiddhanta did not allow anyone to read them. That’s just for the history.
Where did I leave on? I got too excited about the comments… […]
This concern that Maharaj had is that the remanence, the order from the zonal acharya days where there was a predominance of one guru who was thought to be amazingly transcendental and everything for the disciples and now the new Prabhupada kind of… He felt that the remanence was still there.
So we are on that shiksha and diksha guru thing. ISKCON has tried through the guru-disciple course, Sivaram Swami has written a book on shiksha, Bhakti Charu Swami has spoken about this. I think all the gurus have spoken about it. We are having a really difficult time educating devotees in ISKCON that shiksha guru is non-different from diksha. Diksha is not the only one prominent guru and everything is diksha, but shiksha is of equal importance and in some cases, your shiksha guru may be more important. Prabhupada is your shiksha guru and you can have many shiksha gurus. You may even have a deeper relationship with your shiksha guru than your diksha guru. And many times in Gaudiya Vaishnava history you would get diksha, you would get your mantras and your guru would say “Ok take training from this person,” and you would be trained by another person and that relationship with that other person was as close or closer than the relationship with your diksha guru. So in ISKCON everything centered around diksha and once you become a diksha guru you are like God. Now there is a problem and the problem is when you read the shastra it glorifies the position of guru as good as God, etc., etc. So naturally disciples will worship their guru that way. But it never says diksha guru, it says guru, which means shiksha guru also. I want all my disciples to become guru also means shiksha guru. You know, see the guru as good as God, good as God means he is representing God, he is teaching what God is saying, see that his teachings are coming from God, that’s shiksha guru also. Honor your gurus, shiksha gurus also. So this story where we are being called black snakes, right? So I started pointing out some defects of what this guru was doing and it was at a point where this guru was actually… It wasn’t just a philosophical, he was actually crumbling spiritually. And this devotee said to me, “You are so dear to me, if my guru criticizes you I will have to reject him or I don’t know what I’m going to do, I don’t know how am I going to deal with it” because he saw me as a shiksha guru. So there was this guru up here dominating and we are training his disciples, we’re bringing new people, then they go to the diksha guru, the diksha guru predominates and we are like nobody now. We are the ones who breastfed you in Krishna consciousness and now you have been adopted by your diksha guru and we are neglected. But in his case, he didn’t see it that way. Fortunately. That was a big concern that those who were actually training and making devotees, they were being minimized or put in a secondary position. Or, sometimes this happens where someone wants to accept me as their guru and later on they change their mind, which happens, it’s fine, it is not the fault of the disciple or the guru… And they say can I accept so and so. Of course. And it is actually GBC resolution, you can’t tell someone not to unless you think they took LSD yesterday and that’s why they made that decision or someone had a gun at their head and said you have to take from this guru. If there is some awkward situation you might say let’s talk about it, otherwise you would say fine. But the problem is this relationship, let’s say in this example that they had with me, it may be for a year and we may be working together and I may have helped them, and then all of a sudden they choose so and so, they want to take diksha from so and so for whatever reason (that’s not the point of the discussion) then the relationship with me is like it doesn’t exist anymore. It’s like it is gone. That’s wrong. I mean, I can’t control that. I’m not saying that’s wrong because of me, it’s wrong with anyone that if you have that relationship [with], then why would you give it up just because you want to take diksha from someone else, because this person was also your guru. So when you change your mind to take initiation, it doesn’t mean oh let’s take that guru and we will just put him in a dustbin, you know, we don’t need him. These kinds of things. And not recognizing that this shiksha guru of yours, because he doesn’t carry a danda, and doesn’t have a big position, you’d think “Well I will take initiation with someone else”. I know, I have some Godbrothers who I think are some of the most amazing devotees and they are dikhsa gurus. Me personally, I love them dearly. I think they are some of the most insightful devotees and some of the most well-qualified devotees to be gurus and they hardly have any disciples because they don’t have a profile. They have like a handful of disciples. And it is like… This shows that there is a little problem here, it’s a propaganda marketing, branding issue done inadvertently and it’s built in the culture. You have a lot of followers, you’re a sanyasi, you have a zone, automatically you are going to be big, you are going to have a lot of disciples. It is just going to happen, you know. Everyone is going to start, all of your disciples are going to start saying “why don’t you take from guru maharaj because everybody else is!” So there are parts of the world where 90% of the people are disciples of one guru. These are the kinds of things that Maharaj is looking at and thinking, if this doesn’t stop, if we don’t change this culture, ISKCON will not make it because we will lose Prabhupada. So his point is, ISKCON is Prabhupada, Prabhupada is taken everyone back to Godhead, it’s Prabhupada’s teachings that are purifying us, it is Prabhupada’s everything. As much as we can latch on to that or as much as leaders we can represent that to our followers, to that degree we are successful because we are transparently representing Prabhupada. I have given you Prabhupada. He will purify you. Not me. He will purify you. And anything that I can do and any purification you feel you are getting from me, it is just that I’m giving you what he gave, it’s not coming from me. He said “Once we see that, then all of the disciples when they are getting mercy from their guru, they’ll realize he is giving me Prabhupada’s mercy and they’ll realize he’s strengthening my connection to Prabhupada.” Now in Suresvara Prabhu’s Founder-acharya series, he makes the point that your foundational relationship is with Prabhupada, that’s where it starts, and your guru will help strengthen that relationship. It is not the other way around. Your foundational relationship is with your guru and he will help you strengthen it, but your foundational relationship is with Prabhupada and your guru will help foster that relationship. That’s a fundamental principle of his course. And that’s how every guru feels or at least how every guru should feel and that’s how every shiksha guru should feel and that’s how every preacher in his country [should] feel, and that’s how every devotee should feel. What the GBC had decided years ago was that nobody who comes to ISKCON should choose anyone to be their diksha-guru for six months, and in those first six months develop your relationship with Prabhupada. Now you may be attached to a guru, OK, he can be your shiksha-guru, but for those first six months focus on Prabhupada as this is your guru, develop that relationship. And then choose a guru who can help you develop that relationship. Not that you just choose a guru because he is charismatic, or you like the way he chants, or you like the way he tells stories, or whatever. I’m not offending anybody. All our gurus are glorious, all our gurus are amazingly empowered, but the point is you want to accept someone as a guru because you’ve connected to Prabhupada and you see this guru represents Prabhupada so transparently to you and connects you so deeply to Prabhupada. You want to be connected with him so you can be connected with Prabhupada.
That’s the culture we want to create and I think you will realize that even though you may feel that way, but not everybody feels that way, and that was Maharaj’s concern. One Godbrother revealed to me that the day that Maharaj was leaving to come back to America, to do this initiation and work on his project of cow protection, he called this Godbrother who was involved in working within ISKCON to make changes on his level and he called him and he expressed that. That’s what is burdening his heart. So I think it is very significant that when Bhakti Charu Swami was coming to America this thing was still burdening his heart, when he is leaving his body, this is what was burdening his heart, that Prabhupada is going to become a second-class citizen in ISKCON. Or has already become to some degree and unless we change, we don’t have a future. This is what was in his heart. So every time you hear him talk about keeping Prabhupada in the center, the position of diksha, shiksha and all that, that’s where it is coming from. This huge concern.
Now when a great devotee leaves and we want to honor him we are honoring him by talking about him, but I think the greatest thing we can do to honor him is to create this culture in ISKCON because that’s what he wants and that is what he is living for. Not just his disciples but everybody, everyone in ISKCON. If you want to honor Bhakti Charu Swami you want to help to create this culture and I would appreciate it if you all share this video, this class as widely as possible because I just want as many devotees as possible to know what was in his heart and this was definitely in his heart.
So now I am going to go back and look at your comments.
Questions and Comments
As I was saying this point is so important because people are leaving ISKCON even in the name of loving Prabhupada. How can I stay in a movement which doesn’t represent Prabhupada’s heart? And I totally understand that philosophy. I’m in a movement, it has changed, it is not what it was when Prabhupada was here. How can I be a part of that? Sometimes when I hear of something that goes on in ISKCON that shouldn’t have gone on, I think it’s so hard to be a part of the movement that doesn’t in every sphere, on every level, every day every devotee, live examples of what Prabhupada taught. But as you know Prabhupada said don’t leave but stay inside and make it better. So that was Maharaja’s point. Maharaj may be complaining or explaining what’s wrong, but there is never an intention of let’s go out and have a better movement. There was always an intention of, “no we have to correct what’s wrong” because if we go out and make a better movement, it doesn’t correct ISKCON. OK, so you and your devotees you don’t have those problems, you’ve rectified the situation and so you, a few hundred of you… Everything is fine. But what about hundreds and thousands and millions of people now and in the future that are going to come to ISKCON? What you did, it doesn’t do anything. You leave ISKCON, you have a nice life, you say it’s beyond my integrity to be a part of the movement that does this and that. No, you should say it’s beyond my integrity to leave a movement that does this and that without trying to help it, that’s what you should say, because that’s what Prabhupada would expect of you. So you have to understand when you say things, would Prabhupada agree with you? A mind can rationalize anything but would Prabhupada agree with you when you are saying I’m leaving ISKCON because it lacks integrity? I would bet my life right now that he would never agree with that. There is no question on my mind he would ever agree with that. Would he let you do it? Yes, if that’s what you had to do. Would he agree with it? No. Would he agree with that rationale? No. Would he want it? No. Would he condemn you for it? No. Would he let you continue devotional service and preach? Yes, if that’s what you need to do. If you asked him is that what I should do, he would say no. You may look back and say, well my leaving was a good decision, I did so many great things. Maybe. But I don’t think it would be as great as if you would have stayed. It would have been more austere, more difficult but you can’t look at something material. If your spiritual master wants you to do something and you say, well if I didn’t follow that order I could do something better, you would have to discuss that with him. You can’t just make that conclusion so easily. It may be true in some cases and you would need to discuss this with a lot of senior devotees to verify that. But you can’t just assume that because there is a problem and you leave to avoid that problem to create something better outside of problem that that’s actually what Prabhupada wants you to do. So that’s a very, very important point for us to take home. There are many important points to take home.
One thing I also want to say is that the way culture works is that when things are established in a culture, it is very difficult to change them even when everybody knows it’s wrong. And when you ask why are you doing this, they say, “that’s always the way we’ve done it,” and we say, “yeah but it’s not right,” and people say, “yeah I know but not everybody knows that and there are not enough people trying to change it for it to change.” So if you, in your own heart, in your own life, preach what we are discussing here, at least that would do something to change the culture because you are all part of that culture.
Comment: Prabhu, I believe it was in the ‘80s that the Zurich temple had about 6 or so asanas, one for each zonal Guru. I hear from my husband who survived those fanatical years that it was a crazy time.
Answer by Mahatma Prabhu: They would have meetings in LA that would hold GBC, the whole temple room was filled with Vyanasanas. They would build Vyanasanas for weeks in advance before the meetings. And you know what the emergency meetings were about? The fall down of one of the gurus. I lived in LA. That’s where the meetings happened. It was a horrible time. And when you look back and you see the problems, there were so many problems because we didn’t get the guru thing right, and so many problems will continue to exist if we don’t get the guru thing right. Now, one of our Godbrothers left ISKCON, started his own movement, very successful all over the world, and now he has had trouble and that whole movement is collapsing. People are losing faith. Whereas at least in ISKCON if one devotee collapses, the whole organization doesn’t collapse. Prabhupada understood that. But if it’s a one-man organization and that man collapses, everything… Yeah, we have seen the collapse of senior people and naturally many of their disciples collapsed and all glories to those who didn’t collapse, but the whole movement it is still here. Damaged in his zone no doubt, no question, but at least the movement still exists and there is hope. Then we can learn from mistakes and go further.
If, for example, I see my disciples represent Prabhupada’s words and mission and feel that deep connection with Prabhupada, I know that after I leave they will be strong. But if they don’t develop that, they will think, oh I lost my Guru Maharaj everything is left, because everything was depending on me. Prabhupada is your stability. Everyone who has made it in ISKCON after their guru left will tell you they made it because of their connection with Prabhupada. And those who didn’t have a strong connection with Prabhupada had a very difficult time and they had to develop that connection otherwise they would sink. And if they didn’t have that connection, they couldn’t make it. That’s where Maharaj sees this instability. I was thinking a few days before Maharaj left, feeling like this could happen, I began thinking about how devotees are going to continue when their gurus will leave because all the gurus will leave within the next 20 years, maybe within the next five. Many of them will go. We don’t know but now is the time. So how are you all going to continue? You’re going to continue because you have this deep connection with Prabhupada and you’ll realize my Guru Maharaj was connecting me with Prabhupada. Everything he was saying was what Prabhupada was saying, and now when I hear Prabhupada, I hear Guru Maharaj, I see it’s the same and I feel connected to Prabhupada. Through my Guru Maharaj, I feel connected to Prabhupada. And you’ll be stable. Otherwise, it can be very difficult to continue after your guru leaves. If your guru has consumed your life, he has overshadowed Prabhupada and your life to such a degree then when he is not there you can’t connect to Prabhupada. What are you going to connect to? So this is very, very important for all of you because you all have gurus or will have gurus and your guru can’t live forever, and most of you are younger than your guru so he is probably going to leave before you do. Your guru’s big concern, even more than now, is what’s going to happen when he leaves and are you all going to leave ISKCON, are you all going to let maya just take you over because you were so dependent on your guru and you weren’t reading enough, hearing enough from Prabhupada that you made that deep connection, that that’s you stable force, even though your guru is not there to give you lectures every day and chastise you. You feel him and Prabhupada together, their instructions are together. You’ll always have Prabhupada’s shelter. He is always present tense. HPrabhupada never left. Those instructions are always real. Then you go on. But without that, you can have a very difficult time and every guru is obviously concerned about that.
Question: You said that Bhakti Charu Maharaj was stessing importance of staying a part of ISKCON. Resently a friend called me she is not a long time devotee maybe 7 years, she is intitiated. She told me that she has faith in process but she lost faith in Institution. She said she is dissapointed how ISKCON is managed. My friend is a business women she is running a business hiring few hundreds people. She has degree in management and she wanted to help to giving advice how to improve management and her help was rejected… How to convince someone to stay in. ISKCON altrough we all know ISKCON is not perfect?
Answer by Mahatma Prabhu: I’ll take her help! Call her up, tell her I need her help! She can manage everything I’m doing. I had a conversation with one of my disciples. Well not a conversation, it was voice note exchange on WhatsApp and she told me and I didn’t know this that she had a degree in Social Psychology in Creating CulturesWithin Organizations and she is thinking of doing a PhD and I said: “I think you need to do a PhD because you are a young devotee, you’re a woman and without a PhD and a title you may not be taken seriously yet.” What can I say? It is just the reality that we have to deal with. And I said, “Once you have that PhD you’re going to be called to educate devotees in the movement for 50 years about social psychology and creating proper cultures, and visions, and missions because you studied that.” And she is going to know more about it than anybody in ISKCON. She is the most qualified to teach it. I would tell that devotee – don’t give up, there are places in ISKCON that would love her input and the GBC college may also want her to teach and I could help connect her with that if she’s interested. But I would love it if she helps me. And tell her that ISKCON is an evolving organization and it’s not homogenous. What may be a problem in one area may not be a problem… Where you may not be wanted in one area or needed, you may be wanted or needed in another area. With her skills, I could guarantee her there are places where people would love to have her, and maybe there is something I could do to find those places.
Question: For those of us who are grand disciples of Srila Prabhupada, how should we behave with respect to prioritizing lectures/books of Srila Prabhupada against those of his esteemed disciples? To be honest, sometimes I find books by many of his disciples (Radhanath Swami Maharaj, Giriraj Swami, Bhakti Tirtha Swami, Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaj, etc.) to be more relatable and inspirational.
Answer by Mahatma Prabhu: Very good question. A lot of the books that you are going to read by Prabhupada’s disciples are filled with Prabhupada-katha so it is not exactly like reading a book by Prabhupada’s disciple, so to speak, as like you’re not reading Prabhupada’s books. Especially Satsvarupa Maharaj’s books, reading many of his books, every secondary paragraph there is a quote from Prabhupada. So it is basically like hearing a class. That’s one thing to know. And hearing about Prabhupada’s life is extremely important. aI think we should read every book about Prabhupada’s life. A lot of the other books could be more inspirational, you read them for inspiration. But the idea is, the foundation should be Prabhupada’s books. That’s what you should be reading mostly. Everyone wants to hear lectures of their gurus and other devotees and there are so many amazing lectures, but don’t hear it at the expense of never hearing Prabhupada’s lectures. At least when someone says to me ‘I listen to your lectures every day’ because I give a class everyday or ‘I listen to your class every day’ at least listen to one class of Prabhupada. Don’t just push it out. I read so many other people’s books… But Prabhupada’s has to be more. You have to get that foundation. Because everything that Prabhupada wanted us to know he put in his books, and if you don’t read his books you will never really understand Prabhupada’s heart. A lot of time when we are having classes and questions are asked of me, (I don’t say this in my answer) but when am I looking at the question, I’m thinking ‘This devotee is not reading Prabhupada’s books, if they were they wouldn’t have that question, they wouldn’t have this misunderstanding, they wouldn’t have that feeling, they would know this has been answered in Prabhupada’s books, this is not the way Prabhupada explains these things, this is not how he looks at it, it’s not how he feels about it.’ It’s an indication and it’s a very bad indication that we’re not reading his books. We have a movement which is supposed to be Prabhupada centric and we’re not even reading the books where everything he wanted us to know is. Every answer to your problems is in his books. Every siddhanta that he wants you to know is in his books. His mood is in his books. And if we don’t read them, how can we have ISKCON? Because then it is not centered on Prabhupada, it’s centered on someone else. Yes, you should be dedicated to your guru. Yes, you should work with him. But understand he is working to spread Prabhupada’s mission. You’re helping him to spread Prabhupada’s mission. You are as connected to Prabhupada as he is. Your connection is through him but at the same time, it’s not any less. And before you’re initiated, yes, you are connected to Prabhupada, you’re reading his books. That’s your connection. It doesn’t really have to go through anybody. When you’re initiated, technically, etiquette-wise, that’s how you see it. But when you first come, you’re getting Prabhupada through everybody and your direct connection is – you’re reading his books. What could be more direct than that? One time Prabhupada said something amazing. They said “Prabhupada, people have your books in these countries you’re never going to, how will they get initiated?” He said “Reading my books is their initiation.” What does he mean? He meant initiation into knowledge, that’s the real initiation. The real diksha is knowledge. Your divya-gyanam is what happens at the initiation, transference of knowledge- I’m transferring it through these books, you’re getting initiated in a sense. We have some devotees in this movement who have known Prabhupada since they were kids and they’re very reluctant to take diksha because they feel like they’re going to lose that relationship with Prabhupada. They feel like Prabhupada was always my guru, how can I accept anyone else? It’s like being unchaste. But no, it doesn’t have to be that way that you’re going to lose Prabhupada. You will gain him.
Comment: We need to be very careful with that sectarian mentality…
Answer by Mahatma Prabhu: That is a problem. I’ve been to some countries where I’ll come and give a lecture, and the country has like 4,000 devotees and I’ll give a lecture or do the seminar and there was like 150. And I’m like, there are 4,000 devotees here and there are only 150, why? It was the 150 who like you. And when so and so Maharaj comes, then the 150 who like him come. Then like Bhakti Charu Swami comes, then the 500 who like him come because he’s more popular. But what about the other 3,500? So we see this and we also see the phenomenon that we don’t see the devotees until their spiritual master comes. He comes, he does programs, we see them [devotees], he goes – we don’t see them. We see the phenomenon that a devotee would not cooperate unless their guru asked them, then they’re cooperating. These are the kinds of things that were tearing Bhakti Charu Swami’s heart apart. Seeing this. This sectarianism, this is materialism, this is kanishtha. And for us as gurus, it’s like indirectly we are causing this. So I come and all these people come to hear me, but they are my disciples or the ones who want to be disciples, or the ones who are shiksha disciples, or the ones like the way I preach, and then the other just general devotees who would normally come or should come to any program – don’t, because, oh that’s just to Mahatma Das program with his followers. That is very painful for me to feel that I’m creating a cult of sorts. Human psychology creates that kind of thing and we have to be very careful to prevent that from happening.
Comment: We should respect all of Prabhupada’s disciples, they gave up everything to spread this movement and knowledge. Nobody should cast anyone aside.
Answer by Mahatma Prabhu: Yes because that’s how Prabhupada felt.
And I wanted to say something else. Bhakti Charu Swami is very dear to Prabhupada and occasionally I’ve seen people find fault with him for whatever reason (as every leader tends to have more than someone who likes to find fault with him). Bhakti Charu Swami was so dear to Prabhupada, so close to Prabhupada that if you find fault with him, you’re tearing Prabhupada’s heart apart. Please understand that this person was very, very dear to Prabhupada and anything you say negatively is directly tearing Prabhupada’s heart. This was Prabhupada’s most beloved son. You criticize Prabhupada’s son and you want to get Prabhupada’s mercy? In the name of being chaste to Prabhupada, you criticize a dear son? That’s insanity. Don’t dare to tread that ground, you will destroy yourself. In the name of service to Prabhupada, so many of Prabhupada’s dear disciples are being criticized by people who do not understand this principle, that if someone is dear to Prabhupada and you’re dear to that person and you glorify that person – you become dear to Prabhupada. You criticize that person – you’re losing your relationship, you’re harming, you’re offending Prabhupada. People often, because of their envy, do not have the common sense to understand that. It is so obvious that he was dear to Prabhupada, practically like nobody else. And to offend him it’s like suicide for your spiritual life. And if you ever offended him ask in your heart for him to accept your apologies.
Comment: I’ve seen a post with a huge photo of a Prabhupada disciple promoting a class or a conference for ISKCON devotees where they don’t mention A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada founder-acharya, nor a photo of Srila Prabhupada. By the way, this was in a disciple course.
Answer by Mahatma Prabhu: That’s interesting. We want to be conscious in everything we’re doing that we’re representing Prabhupada. Prabhupada is there, we’re representing him. [In] everything we teach we use his examples, we use what he said, we refer to his life. And if you look at the classes I give, you’ll notice that most of the time I’m not dealing with very esoteric subjects. I’m not giving a lot of classes on other books, but I’m spending a lot of time going over basics, talking a lot about what Prabhupada did, what he said. Because I want to engrain within all of my listeners, Prabhupada’s mood and Prabhupada’s mission. Get that ingrained and when that’s ingrained yes, we can build on that with so many… The philosophy is unlimited and the deeper we go the better. But until you have that foundation, it’s dangerous to build upon that without a foundation and Prabhupada because then we will end up with a movement that’s not Prabhupada-centric. And it can happen very slowly and gradually and in a few hundred years he is just sidelined and people will forget that Prabhupada was ever in the center. And now it’s only three big acharyas that are running ISKCON and everyone will expect, well there will always be three big acharyas because it has been that way for the last three hundred years, and now I really need to figure out how it got there and how Prabhupada got sidelined. That’s what we’re afraid of. Please share this video, especially with the disciples of Bhakti Charu Swami because they’re the first ones who are going to carry this mission, carry his heart. The first duty of the disciples is to carry the heart. So please share this broadly, it’s important.
Question: This is a very sobering class. Thank you. My fear now is – Bhakti Charu Swami is so widely loved & respected in the movement. Who will carry that torch now, to spearhead a movement to ensure that Srila Prabhupada does not become sidelined? It feels like a scary time, losing such a senior leader.
Answer by Mahatma Prabhu: I can’t reveal everything but what you’re expressing now is in the hearts of a lot of leaders who are at this moment in real-time talking about this. We were already talking about it, but they are talking about it now because of his leaving, because they all know that this is what was in his heart and we’re taking his departure as actually the biggest shot in the back to make this happen now. Because we are afraid if it doesn’t happen now we’re going to be in trouble. And we realize it’s going to take time but there are devotees who are focusing on this and there are devotees who are bringing this up to the GBC and forcing this as the most important issue. I was talking to another Godbrother and he lives in China and I work in China and there’s going to be a meeting in China to discuss preaching and I said, we have to discuss this, this is the point. I gave a class yesterday on creating culture, creating community. The first thing I said was – connect everyone to Prabhupada. This has to be the foundation. Every project, everything that we’re doing, Prabhupada is centric. Prabhupada is there. You read these stories that Prabhupada came and he changed people’s hearts like that, and his books changed people’s hearts and his presence… And if you can represent him in your being the example, then it’s like Prabhupada is there for that person. So as long as we understand that’s where our shakti comes from… That we never forget that and we always honor, that’s my spiritual master. Even if you’re talking to brand new people, this is what my spiritual master did for me, this is how he affected me. And when you are a spiritual master you are talking about Prabhupada. This is what I learned from him, this is what I want to share. They don’t know who he is. It’s not like some taboo thing that you can’t talk about your guru. They don’t know he said “we didn’t go to the moon,” you’re not talking about that. You’re talking about what he said to you that you want to share with them that will affect them and you want to directly know this is where it came from. From this person. Have a picture, show the picture. A lot of people when they see Prabhupada’s picture they say “Wow I feel so amazing looking at that picture.’’
Comment: I find that reading the books about Srila Prabhupada that are written by disciples helps to strengthen the connection.
Answer by Mahatma Prabhu: Definitely. I recommend you should read every book about Prabhupada because you’ll really connect with what ISKCON is when you read those books.
Comment: On the problem with that non-ISKCON guru who is in serious problems. He is very popular in South America and over there we are all Hare Krishnas, so for preaching this reputation is horrible.
Answer by Mahatma Prabhu: She is saying that the guru that I said had problems [with] is in South America and so people just see him… The public sees him as a Hare Krishna, they don’t know there are different movements and it has created a huge problem for ISKCON. There are many problems. I wouldn’t feel safe if I started my own movement because when I’ll leave this world I’m leaving my disciples in the hands of so many Godbrothers, and so many senior devotees, and the whole movement, the whole organization. So I know they’ll be taken care of. But if it’s just me and my few hundred disciples and my organization on their own, who knows what will happen. Of course, we know what will happen. Not good.
Comment: Maharaj, my Guru Maharaj HH Kadamba Kanana Swami is already preparing us for that, trying to make the “next” generation with solid foundations and strong faith in Srila Prabhupada. Yesterday, during the initiation, the instruction that he gave us was: read Srimad Bhagavatam!
Answer by Mahatma Prabhu: This is the mood of all the leaders and as I was saying it’s like the culture is going a little bit against that and we always have to be talking about it. Thank him from me when you see him next for saying that in the initiation. It’s so important.
Question: Isn’t there a samadhi in Vrindavan where some of Rupa Goswami’s books are buried because they are too high for anybody to read?
Answer by Mahatma Prabhu: I don’t know. I haven’t heard that. Sounds like the Vatican [smiling]. Let’s get into the Vatican and get those books [laughing].
I find… A disciple, the best disciple understands the heart of a guru, understands what the guru wants. Like Bhakti Charu Swami found Prabhupada’s poetry Gitar Gan, Bengali poetry of Bhagavad-gita, he published it and he gave it to Prabhupada when he published it. Prabhupada was beaming! He knew this would please Prabhupada. You want to know the heart of the guru, you want to know what makes him happy. If we don’t connect with Prabhupada’s books. if we don’t read his biographies, we’re not going to know well what is his heart. And then how can we represent ISKCON in the future. It wouldn’t be the ISKCON that Prabhupada established, it will be the ISKCON that I’m conceiving it to be because I don’t understand what Prabhupada wanted, what he needed. Now, obviously, there is a lot of things that take introspection, discussion, clarification, even the GBC is not clear on. But the point is we want to be as clear about what Prabhupada wanted as possible. And as you become a leader, if you’re not clear, you’re doing a disservice because you’ll not be giving a clear message to your followers and they won’t be able to give a clear message to their followers. Being a part of ISKCON, it’s our obligation to understand Prabhupada and to understand what he talks about. Just like the other day I was reading some things Prabhupada said about do we come from Vaikuntha, where do we come from… And the discussion is so interesting because although it seems like he says we were with Krishna then in another place he says, nobody falls from Vaikuntha, you can’t fall from prema. And then he said, yes you were with Krishna, there is nothing but Krishna, how could you not be with Krishna. So I am reading this going, OK the general discussion was yes, we fell from Vaikuntha, that’s what it seems like Prabhupada is saying. As you’re reading more you go, hmm not exactly, it’s not so straightforward. You go back to Bhaktisiddhanta, hmm it doesn’t seem like he is saying the same thing. So sometimes these things take time, you have to study what does it mean, you discuss with Godbrothers. What did Prabhupada mean? Did we fall, did we not, did he mean both? What you may think was so cut and dry when you were a young devotee, you go back and you read and go, I thought I understood that but now I’m reading that Prabhupada said this and that. You know there is this discussion about editing Prabhupada’s books and Jayadvaita Swami told me that Prabhupada had said something I think about black people and Hayagriva said we shouldn’t leave it in the book and Prabhupada said, take it out. So Prabhupada actually authorized something to be taken out of his books. Can we do that now? I don’t know. No, that would be a hearsay. Should we footnote it? But what’s in his books will close down the movement in our country? Do we not put it in the book in that language? Do we take it off the internet in English? These are big questions. We really have to understand what’s in Prabhupada’s heart. How much did he want us to edit? Where did he want us to stop? Are we authorized to tamper with that? To what extent? You know Prabhupada said if there is nothing to eat, eat meat. Wow. We have that. What does that mean? How do you interpret? You discuss that with your Godbrothers. What does that mean? I am going to this place to preach, I won’t be able to have sadhana there, I won’t be able to do this, I’ll get shot if I’m chanting in public… OK, go there for a week don’t chant any rounds. Really? Can I do that? You know these are the kinds of things we want to understand. What is the mood, what is the heart of Prabhupada, would he allow these things. You’d say, no he would never allow that, you have to chant in silence, just chant in your mind… These kinds of discussions. Being in ISKCON as followers of Prabhupada we need to understand the subtleties of what’s in Prabhupada’s heart, how he would make decisions, what he would do. Because we are going to confront so many situations that Prabhupada did not deal with and all we have are examples of what he did deal with and intelligence to understand how am I going to apply that. Right now I am so conflicted about a reality that most devotees who are initiated or many don’t chant 16 rounds. They chant four. They chant eight. They don’t follow all 4 principles. They follow three and a half or two, or three. And we keep initiating more devotees. And then you know, you talk with your disciples [and they say], oh, Guru Maharaj, I haven’t been chanting my rounds lately, or, I am only chanting four, eight. And that starts to become more and more common. How many have stopped chanting? How many are chanting eight? When you look at the figures – large numbers. How many are practicing thefour regulative principles perfectly? Ten percent out of a hundred? Only ten percent of the initiated devotees? So these are questions if Prabhupada knew that now, what would he say? What would he do? Would he tell us don’t initiate them till they’re 60 years old? Would he say, ok, let them take a vow to chant 4 rounds but tell them 16 is the goal? Keep sex in marriage but tell them the goal is only for procreation. You know, what would he say? These are questions that are going to continue to come up and we need to know Prabhupada’s… I’m not saying Prabhupada would say that but I’m saying these questions come. We need to know his heart. We need to know his books. We need to know his example. We need to know his strategies, we need to know how his intelligence works to be able to understand these questions because there are the real questions. And if this generation doesn’t answer these questions, we’re leaving it for the next generation who are probably going to be maybe less equipped. This may sound offensive but I think they’re going to be more handicapped to understand this than our generation who was with Prabhupada. I’ve been encouraging devotees or any position or power. I’m saying, we have to ask these questions to establish siddhanta so we don’t put this burden on the next generation to try to figure it out. Because there are a lot of difficult questions. And it is our job, [of] all of us. Like I say, if you stay in ISKCON long enough, you are going to be a leader. Someone is going to look up to you and ask you these questions. Well, Prabhu, so many devotees are not following their vows and their guru knows that and still, he is initiating them and he knows they’re lying, and we’re encouraging people. Why are we doing that? Shouldn’t we wait 25 years before… What do you say? How are you going to answer that? You are going to say, actually I don’t chant my rounds either [laughing]. It’s not going to work! We have to have answers. We have to have systems.
Comment: Guru Maharaj, you have always grounded our faith in Srila Prabhupada. You have always kept him in the center. We actually feel closer to Srila Prabhupada now.
Answer by Mahatma Prabhu: Well, it’s nice to know I’ve done that.
Comment: On Prabhupada’s birth centenary celebrations, HH Bhakti Charu Swami dedicated all his books, which he had translated in Bengali, to Srila Prabhupada. So deep was his connection with Srila Prabhupada.
Answer by Mahatma Prabhu: You know he translated all of Prabhupada’s books into Bengali. How many books did he write? I think one. You know it’s like, I’ve written three books and I have more books [smiling]. And I started thinking, OK I write a book it takes three to four to five hours for you to read it and I think that’s three to four to five hours that took you away from reading Prabhupada’s books. Should I do it? Of course, there are lots of quotes from Prabhupada and of course, devotees have said it’s helping them understand Prabhupada but still in the back of my mind I think, well that’s another book to take you away from reading Prabhupada’s book. You know, these things we have to consider.
Comment: Tamal Krishna Maharaj used to tell us if we don’t read Srila Prabhupada’s books you won’t be able to control the unruly mind.
Answer by Mahatma Prabhu: Yes, that’s true, you won’t be able to be Krishna conscious.
Comment: I was in a cell group that emphasized on what their Guru Maharaj said and would not give importance to what Srila Prabhupada said. When I voiced that Srila Prabhupada is the center, I was brushed off. When I said this is against GBC rules that got them to think. Now they emphasize reading Srila Prabhupada books.
Answer by Mahatma Prabhu: That’s the problem. Thank you for doing that. But my whole point is, that’s the problem. There are places in the world where this problem exists. Where they just think everything is their Guru Maharaj and they think Prabhupada is like, I can’t understand him, I don’t have any connection with him, I just have connection with my guru. And that is 100% wrong.
Comment: Prabhu, I have never heard you speak so intensely about any topic. Thank you for your determination to warn us and protect us.
Answer by Mahatma Prabhu: Because this is… The reason I haven’t spoken intensely about this is because it was such an intense issue in the 80s and in the 90s. I think I was just trying to forget it. And I’ve spoken about it in conferences, I’ve spoken about it with devotees and then all I thought was, well all I can do is just myself tell people to connect with Prabhupada. But with the passing of Bhakti Charu Swami, it has just been brought back to the forefront because this was on his mind more than anything. More than the cow project he was doing, this was on his mind. And it has just became an impetus to not only myself but many of my Godbrothers to bring this out and start doing something and feeling like, before we leave our bodies we have to inculcate this, Your foundational relationship is with Prabhupada, your guru’s job is to bring you closer to Prabhupada. You choose a guru who can bring you closer to Prabhupada. You are representing Prabhupada. You have as close a relationship with Prabhupada as any diksha guru. These things. We have to create that culture before we go. Otherwise, it’s going to be a mess and we would fail Prabhupada.
Comment: My temple is very strict. From day one this was ingrained into me that Srila Prabhupada is the center and we should read his books as they form the basis of the movement.
Answer by Mahatma Prabhu: Fantastic. So happy to hear that.
So this was already on my mind. I was going to do a talk but it was just going to go to my disciples. I was going to do a video just for my disciples. But then I thought this was in Bhakti Charu Swami’s heart so why we doh’t we just give a class about it and whoever needs to hear this can hear it. And I sent a message to my disciples and said please listen to this class or listen to it after it’s recorded. It’s very important. Please share it.
Question: In letter you wrote yesterday to the disciples of Bhakti Charu Maharaj you said that the biggest mistake after Srila Prabhupada’s departure was that devotees did not take enough time to grieve… Could you please elaborate your statemant? … How a grieve time after our guru departure should look like? And how long should take…
Answer by Mahatma Prabhu: I am actually going to give a class on this. I remember maybe 20 or 30 years ago a survey was sent out to temples and they said please meet with your temple councelors and answer this question: What did we do wrong after Prabhupada left? The number one response was we didn’t take time to grieve. So the idea was, Prabhupada left and our mood was, well now that Prabhupada has left we have to put everything in the fifth gear, just push it up. Push the paddle to the floor. We have the responsibility in our hands, let’s take it up and… So let’s move forward. But you need time to reflect on your loss, to feel your loss. It’s like your father dies and the next day you’re at the bank talking to the banker about the money that he just left you. It was something like that. It was like no, what does this mean, what does it represent. I would say also, aside from grieving, we didn’t take enough time to consider how we are going to move forward. We did it too quickly and some of the leaders were pushing that we need to do this right away. Others were waiting, I’m not sure what to do, how to do this, how to do this guru business. And the general mood was when one of the leaders started initiating, the general mood was… He initiated before any decision was made by the GBC on how to move forward. A lot of us were upset, like, why did he do that? We don’t really know, our father is gone, we don’t know exactly the best way to move forward. And it just moved too fast and it was done without deeply thinking. Of course, we might not have been able to deeply think because we were young and didn’t have experience. But just processing the whole thing. I think also it could be at that time a lot of devotees felt, well you were not supposed to lament, that would be wrong to grieve, wrong to lament. We were asking, should we grieve, how should we feel. It was a confusing time. And because we were confused we just needed time to be confused, I think. And just take it slow and not worry. You don’t have to do anything. But what about Maharaja’s projects? What about his temples? Don’t worry. It has to happen naturally. Stabilize yourself. Grieving is a process of purification. It’s a process of getting grounded to be able to deal with life again and to get yourself in a proper position. And it will take time. You can’t force it.
Bhakti Charu Swami’s disappearance is really inspiring a lot of devotees to think about what was important. What was important to Maharaj, what was in his heart – we understand it’s Prabhupada’s heart. I think we can make that assumption a hundred percent. If it was in his heart – his heart is Prabhupada’s heart – it’s in Prabhupada’s heart. Hare Krishna. Thank you all for listening. Thank you all for being devotees in ISKCON and trying to help spread the movement and staying despite all the problems and difficulties we might face.