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A little misunderstanding

Monday, 21 August 2006 / Published in Ongoing debates / 4,172 views

By Satsvarupa das Goswami

Dear Dhanurdhara Swami,

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

I want to apologize for the negative impact of my essay, “How All Generations Can Stay With Srila Prabhupada”, republished on the website “Dandavats”. It was originally written by me in 2002 and published in “Among Friends”, within a GBC position paper as well as on Chakra and VNN. Publishing it without my permission in the midst of so many letters criticizing you for your past mistakes or leaving ISKCON may appear to say things toward you, which I didn’t intend. I do not feel critical toward you and would not write any essay directly or indirectly attacking your action.

I feel that ISKCON should reach out to you in a forgiving mood. So the appearance of the essay by me, which was of a generic nature, embarrassed me by appearing as it did in the present time and circumstances, that is, at this time when criticism against you is almost daily fare. If read carefully the actual purport of the article calls for faith in the ISKCON Guru as one who demonstrates faith in Srila Prabhupada and brings devotees to him. This is what I would actually like to convey: that your disciples should have faith in you as a Prabhupadanuga spiritual master.

You have sufficiently paid for your past mistakes and it’s time for the GBC and compassionate leadership to show their forgiveness. In my own case I was recently received back among the devotees at the New Vrndaban Festival of Inspiration with great warmth and affection. I felt myself like the returned “prodigal son”, being accepted again after my fall. It was so healing to be embraced and applauded in the company of hundreds of Vaisnavas. This was real sanga and has inspired me to continue to associate with devotees.

Why can’t we give you a similar show of warmth? At least we should stop this pounding and allow you to preach in your own unique way. Let us encourage those who are willing, to see you as their guru to increase their faith in Prabhupada, his books and Krsna.

Yours in service to Prabhupada
Satsvarupa das Goswami


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    Praghosa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Editors Note:

    As explained to Satsvarupa Maharaja privately the Dandavats team posted his article as a stand alone article (that is why it appeared on the front page and not in the ongoing debates category) and in no way intended it to have any connection with the debate relating to Dhanurdhara Maharaja. If any readers made that connection we apologise and hope that as our posting of it was entirely innocent, it can be accepted as such.

    Thank you.

    Praghosa dasa

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    Lalita Madhava d.d. ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Satsvarupa Maharaja,

    Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. With all due respect, while your suggestion that Dhanurdhara Swami be treated with warmth and forgiveness is certainly a gracious Vaisnava sentiment, your suggestion that he remain in the position of initiating guru is deeply disturbing. The ramifications of such a move or decision by the GBC would be so utterly destructive that it is impossible to even contemplate the damage that would result.

    And while it is easy for adult men, such as yourself, who were not, as helpless children, savagely beaten by him and sexually abused on his watch, to confidently assert that Dhanurdhara Swami “has sufficiently paid for his past mistakes,” that is not their call to make. We still have his victims killing themselves and remaining completely estranged from ISKCON, Maharaja. The forgiveness you advocate is the exclusive privilege of the victims to offer, not the already-complicit GBC.

    Your servant,
    Lalita Madhava d.d.

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    Kaunteya ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Satsvarupa Maharaja,

    Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. As the father of four young boys who attended the gurukul in Vrindavan and Mayapur, I can only 100% agree with Lalita Madava d.d.

    Dhanudhara would be better to go into a room in Mayapur and chant all day and dedicate those rounds to the victims that were under his care. Certainly he should never be seen to have a profile in Iskcon ever again.

    Yours in serving Srila prabhupada

    Kaunteya Das

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    Braja Sevaki ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Very nice letter, Maharaja. Thank you. Nice to hear a voice of compassionate reason for a change, instead of the “hang him daily” fare we’re used to being served up by a select few…

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    bh. kurt harris ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I want to applaud HH Satsvarupa Maharaja for being one of the very few senior leaders of ISKCON to publically take such a clear stance on this issue. I recognize that in such an intense political climate this is not an easy thing to do.

    I would like to very humbly respond to a few of the points made by Lalita Madhava d.d.:

    She has said that for HH Dhanudhara Swami to remain as an initiating guru would be “deeply disturbing” and “so utterly destructive that it is impossible to even contemplate the damage that would result. ”

    My sense is that you are very out of touch with the Dhanurdhara Swami of today. Whatever his faults of the past may be, those who know him have seen that he has matured into a very qualified Vaisnava, who is quite competent to nurture people’s faith in Krishna consciousness. He has initiated a very small handful of disciples, and helps many many more in their practice of devotional service.

    My opinion is that he is not just a guru because of a vote by an official board; he is a guru because God has empowered him to do such service, and many people naturally recognize that he is uniquely capable to help them in their spiritual lives. The simple fact is that he will remain a guru no matter what any official board decides simply because he is qualified for this service, and because so many people feel they are dependent on him for this.

    ISKCON is a large organization with many gurus. You may appreciate some gurus more than I, and I may appreciate some gurus more than you. If you chose not to accept Dhanurdhara Swami as your teacher that is your choice. But why deny others who will benefit from his association from making advancement in his association? My opinion is that what would really be destructive and damaging would be to deny many people an opportunity to make spiritual advancement.

    Also, I find her comment “we still have his victims killing themselves” to be terribly inflamatory and unhelpful. Aside from those who were closest to Ananda (who have not chosen to publically comment on his suicide), it is mere speculation for any of us to say with real certainty the reasons for his decisions to take his own life. As I imagine you know, Ananda was a soldier, who had done a number of tours of duty in Iraq. There he lost friends and himself suffered terrible injuries, which resulted in permanent physical disabilites. He was also mistreated by doctors responsible to help him with his recovery. I only mention this to point out that it is likely irresponsible and unfair to place sole responsibility for his decision to commit suicide on the fact that Dhanurdhara Swami is still an ISKCON initiating guru. Ananda’s life took many traumatic turns beyond his years in gurukula. For this reason, I think to make such an inflamitory remark to be quite unhelpful.

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    Lalita Madhava d.d. ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Kurt,
    Thank you for expressing your differing viewpoint in such a polite and respectful manner. I very much appreciate it.

    Your servant,
    Lalita Madhava d.d.

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    hari.dasa.nv ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Sastvarupa Maharaja

    I was there amongst the many in New Vrindaban who applauded you and gave thanks for your past, present and future services to Prabhupada.

    It must have been hard for you to come to the festival of inspiration but you came, and that required much courage. You wrote a book called “Vaisnava compassion” . I would urge devotees to read this book and analise this quality deeply and see how it can be applied in daily life.

    Also, another important quality is forgiveness and that means that we are not to hold grudges against those that are trying to better themselves. Too many times we have seen devotees “vomit” online and not use the above mentioned qualities so I thank you for your genuine vaisnava approach.

    When we are angry, we have to be careful and ask ourselves wether this is a vaisnava sentiment and in most cases it isnt.

    So, Satsvarupa Maharaja, I applaud you for coming back on the Iskcon “scene” and very much appreciate how you have stood up to the challenges of social culture and again be embraced by the vaisnavas.

    Thank you
    Hari dasa

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    madhava gosh ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I am a bit confused about the wording of your apology. Did you mean that the content of “How All Generations Can Stay With Srila Prabhupada” was flawed and thus shouldn’t have been reprinted? Or was it that it was a good paper, but not meant to be applied to your friends?

    Though truthfully, when I read it, it seemed okay, and I fail to see how any of it could be construed to be a criticism of DDS. I think someone would have to be hypersensitive and hair trigger reactive to see it as such. Though I didn’t see that reaction anywhere, and I am wondering how it is you did, and what caused you to think you needed to apologize?

    It is good to see you feel happy to be welcomed back into ISKCON. Apparently your re-entry is going well, since you seem to already have the confidence to be directing the actions of others:

    “You have sufficiently paid for your past mistakes and it’s time for the GBC and compassionate leadership to show their forgiveness. “

    I am curious though, since the original article was about “All Generations” what your recommendation would be for the gurukulis?

    Madhava Gosh

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    Braja Sevaki ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Madhava Ghosh: your tone towards one of the oldest members of this movement, a very senior Vaisnava, and a sannyasi, is disrespectful. You seem to be of the school of thought that once someone makes a mistake they should be “written off” and that they’re not fit to ever speak again or, as you slyly refer to it here, to “direct others.” There’s a whole lot you might learn about humility and perseverance from an esteemed Vaisnava like Satsvarupa Maharaja.

    You might be within your rights to adopt such a smart tone with your peers (not sure who they are, since you obviously don’t have an initiated name: are you a congregational member? gurukuli? ex devotee??), but you are not at liberty — despite what you may think — to speak any way you like to a senior devotee and not expect to be taken up on it.

    Keep it nice.

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    Erica ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Um… Braja Sevaki mataji, I believe Madhava Ghosh dasa is a Srila Prabhupada disciple and thus technically a peer of Maharaja. By your own logic, you are not fit to question him as he is senior to you! :)

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    madhava gosh ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Ah, I finally rated a BS comment from Mayapur; and hot sauce at that! Thank you for showing me my place: my false ego needs beaten with a shoe everyday; you have seen into my heart.

    So let me get this straight — alledgedly disrespectful to “senior” = bad. Disrespectful to “junior” = okay. Ipso facto, judging by your comment, I am your junior.

    I confess I may have difficulty with this differentiating “senior” from “junior” thingy. I have a bad habit of treating everyone the same, i.e. based on their activities, rather than on their social position. Please continue to point out to me when I have been correctly disrespectful and when I have not.

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    Ajita Krishna Dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Pamho, agtSP!

    A humble question: Isn’t it a little wierd that if one is married within ISKCON but chooses to get divorced, then one can’t occupy a post in the GBC or serve as a temple president (isn’t that ISKCON law?), but if one have severely abused children then one can serve as an initiating spiritual master?

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    Braja Sevaki ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Erica: Regardless of whether Madhava Gosh is a Prabhupada disciple or not, I can’t recall reading anywhere that a Madhava Gosh joined before, or was initiated before, HH Satsvarupa Mhj. Even if he did, still Maharaja’s sannyasa status makes him senior. So there is etiquette to observe with sannyasis regardless. I was also asking Madhava Gosh what his status was. The “das” is a rather important part of one’s initiated name….

    Madhava Gosh: if you don’t sign your name properly, then what can be done? No “das”? Sounds just like any ordinary Indian name then. So no, I am in no position to correct you. But still if someone is being somewhat disrespectful to a sannyasi in public, I’ll speak. Don’t take it personally :) And yes I found your letter to Maharaja challenging and slightly disrespectful.

    As for the other points you make: you might want to treat everyone the “same”, but you even then go on to say that you discriminate according to their behavior. So in reality you’re not treating everyone the same, are you? In one sense I can understand what you mean: “judge a man by his actions” and all that. But regardless of what you think of them, still the Vaisnava etiquette is there, it can’t be replaced with modern philosophies, can it?

    And you did slightly twist my words: I didn’t say you could be disrespectful to juniors and respectful to seniors. That’s your own slant, and that’s your choice, but I don’t take responsibility for how you want to dissect my words.

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    Braja Sevaki ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    ps: Madhava Gosh prabhu, my initials aren’t “BS” — as much delight as that gives you, no doubt :) Trust me, I’ve heard it all, but please, don’t insult my initiating spiritual master by reducing a very beautiful spiritual name to a well-known American shortform of a curse word, otherwise the hot sauce from Mayapur won’t be as digestible :) ….though I doubt the editors would publish it.

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    Madhava Ghosh dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I am going to try this again. Red herrings aside, I still haven’t received an answer to my questions. If these are still perceived as disrespectful, could someone please try to penetrate to the gist of the question and rephrase them to the place of meriting a response?

    1. Has your view/realization/understanding about its contents changed since writing “How All Generations Can Stay With Srila Prabhupada?”
    2. Why do you think there might be a connection between your article and the current discussion about Dhanurdhara Swami?
    3. Do you think your close friendship with DDS had an influence on your decision to write such a quick and direct apology?
    4. What is your recommendation to those who were negatively impacted by DDS?
    5. Do you feel they need an apology from you concerning your direction to the GBC on their behalf?

    Hare Krishna
    Madhava Ghosh dasa

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    Parivadi das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    From my viewpoint we should seperate the aspect of forgiveness from the managerial aspects. Even if we forgive we should manage our society in a way that we can move on undisturbed. If a person has done horrible things by misusing his authority it is common sense that he is replaced. The replacement does not mean that he can not get the mercy. Like every other devotee he has his individual relationship with the Lord which can not be judged by others. Therefore I can not understand why forgiveness has to be combined with reinstalling the person. It makes no sense. There are so many nice devotees who hold no post for the whole life. They give inspiration also. It would create so much respect (for Danudhara Swami and ISKCON if Danudhara Swami would himself do what is necessary. And it will certainly cause more and more damage to ISKCON if we support the impression that we have more compassion with the abuser than with the victims!

    your unsignificant servant
    Parivadi das

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    Lalita Madhava d.d. ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Madhava Ghosh Prabhu, your questions are not disrespectful and I am disappointed you still have not received any answers. Undoubtedly there are a great many devotees also awaiting the response you seek to those important questions.

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    amudha das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    There is a verse from Panchatantra,

    If mice can eat a beam balance
    A thousand pals in weight
    A hawk can lift an elephant
    A boy is trifling freight

    In ISKCON terminology, we call it “YOU SCRATCH MY BACK, I SCRATCH YOURS”

    Instead of upholding the lofty standard, we are finding ways to accommodate deviations with logical presentations. I equate this to making a sweet price preparation with yoghurt and having people accept it as sweet rice.

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