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Comments Posted By Tattvavit Dasa

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Changing the design of the TVP: Reply to Hari-sauri

Akruranath says that Ambarisa “showed” that “some protests” offered no alternative. We responded in our reply to Ambarisa that we had no reason to suggest anything more specific than an Indian design. But we also suggested that if it is not possible to go back to the earlier plans, a new Indian temple of the requisite size could be produced at lower cost than the earlier ones, and even that substantial changes could be made in the present
design. Architects and consultants have already contacted us and offered their services. Our concern is ONLY that it be an Indian design (and of course of as high quality as possible). The article from which the picture which illustrates our reply to Hari Sauri is taken contains pictures of AT LEAST THREE rather different versions of the earlier, Orissan plans. The one with lit-up glass domes may be a controversial innovation in the Orissan tradition; the others are more orthodox. But again, the question of the choice between different Indian designs is not part of our argument.

The rest of Akruranath’s objections too we have already addressed at great length in our reply to Ambarisa.

» Posted By Tattvavit Dasa On Oct 14, 2008 @ 11:44 am

Akruranatha suggests that by saying that we don’t know what Srila Prabhupada would have thought of the current design, we mean “we do not have any conclusive, objective evidence that wins a debate of this kind”. This is not so. But to claim to be able to know what Srila Prabhupada thinks about the current Capitol design, that he would prefer it to a design of the kind we have at least now shown conclusively that he approved and on the basis of which he ordered construction to begin, is problematic. Akruranath says there is no hope if this cannot be determined. It is not clear to us how in a case like this it can be determined; precisely with regard to this, it is correct to say that we don’t have any conclusive, objective evidence. We can, however, follow as closely as possible the actual instructions he gave, and then also take other considerations into account, of the kind we have set forth.

There is nothing “schismatic” and “acrid” in what we have written. We think it is grossly unfair to suggest that this is what our design improvement effort will lead to, and to say that by presenting arguments and evidence against a decision to build a temple and a Vedic planetarium in Mayapur that looks like the U.S. Capitol we are doing something that is not expected from enlightened devotees, is not just unfair, but slightly bizarre.

We agree that debating is not always the best way to resolve our differences, but on controversial issues, arguments and evidence must of course be set forth. Suggesting that this leads to schism and is not enlightened is a method of resolving differences that we find much worse than debate. And to claim that such a resolution is reached by being in
touch with Krishna makes it worse still.

We certainly do not regard this as a “do or die” issue. But we regard it as an issue that is of considerable importance for ISKCON’s, Srila Prabhupada’s, and the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition’s reputation and for the perception of what they are.

» Posted By Tattvavit Dasa On Oct 14, 2008 @ 11:42 am

There is no need to reply to Sivakumar’s complaint that it is hard to read
“such lengthy postings” and that this is so especially since our article is
a reply to “one single individual”. It says more about Sivakumar than about
our text.

As for his suggestion that the discussion “opens up empty-ideas in the sky”,
this can be so only for those who fail to understand the arguments and
evidence we present. Although those in charge of the project were undecided
with regard to the design for thirty years, the matter as to what kind of
design should be chosen was in fact, as we have now shown, settled by Srila
Prabhupada in 1977.

The example of the Saudi construction project Sivakumar gives as a positive
alternative is not one we would want for a temple in the most sacred dhama
of the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition which will affect all devotees for

With regard to the public discussion, Janakirama has already responded to
this: sound, open, public discussion can also be a sign of health in an
organization like ISKCON. But we add that in this case, as a matter of fact,
and as we point out in the article, it was Hari Sauri who started this
particular public discussion and forced us into it.

» Posted By Tattvavit Dasa On Oct 14, 2008 @ 11:37 am

Reply to point one of nine reasons to change the TOVP

Hari Sauri Prabhu wrote: “. . . please note the authors of this paper have avoided these quotes in their new presentation.”

Not so. We included them all, for we thought that devotees would want to read them. Therefore they are in a supplement to the main article. Surely the readers saw them there if they read everything we sent.

Hari Sauri wrote: “We would naturally expect that the authors would have contacted Yadubara and Vishakha prabhus, to find out what their impression was. . . . They both felt that Srila Prabhupada wanted the Capitol to serve as ‘an option’ or ‘as some form of inspiration’. . . . one has to ask whether Carana Renu mataji was: involved in any way with putting together the ‘9 points’ paper? Whether she sent this message from Vishakha to the authors, or in any way indicated its contents to them? . . . If she did, then we have to say that this eye-witness, first hand observation was deliberately left out.

Carana Renu has been sympathetically involved in our discussions. She wrote to Vishakha and Yadubara only after we published the article, and received their reply a few days ago. Therefore their observations were not deliberately left out.

(Carana Renu has been planning to write to Ambarisa Prabhu and Hari Sauri Prabhu to make known her feelings about the design and to reassure them that she is still cent percent dedicated to helping with the planetarium plans. She just has been very busy and hasn’t managed to do this.)

Hari Sauri wrote: “. . . where do the authors get this contention, from my book, that he [SP] had an extreme enthusiasm for an ‘Indian design’?”

Our logic is: Srila Prabhupada was “extremely enthusiatic” about the plans shown in Saurabha’s drawings; those plans led to Saurabha making a model of a TVP with an Indian design; this model later was put on display with Srila Prabhupada’s approval.

Hari Sauri wrote: “It is interesting that again the authors have excluded my exact wording.”

Again not true. The exact quote is in the supplement to the main article.

» Posted By Tattvavit Dasa On Sep 3, 2008 @ 2:40 pm

My response regarding the design of the TVP

Dear Ambarisa Prabhu,

You wrote:
[Our work during the last two years] “was based on a simple supposition that the plan had already been given to us by the Founder/Acharya Srila Prabhupada, and it was simply a matter of executing it in the most practical way. . . . We know what Srila Prabhupada wanted because he said so. This will not be changed by some internet poll. There is no way that I will be convinced that Srila Prabhupada wanted an Indian style temple as the world headquarters.
“. . . This [our Reason 1] is of course open to interpretation, but the fact remains that Srila Prabhupada, in the last part of his pastimes, had pictures taken of the Capitol, and discussed this particular design with George Harrison, his most influential follower. He mentioned this particular architecture twice, whereas he never mentioned about an Indian style temple for Mayapur. This is a concoction propagated by those trying to sell the grandiose plan of the past which is overblown, overpriced, over planned and just plain over.”

You have missed the paragraph I sent from Hari Sauri Prabhu’s “Transcendental Diary”. Here is the passage again, in which he writes about Srila Prabhupada’s “extremely enthusiastic” response, in January 1976, to Saurabha’s drawings, which led to him approving Surabha’s displaying an Indian model of the TVP at Mayapur later that year:
“In the evening Saurabha prabhu showed Prabhupada the preliminary plans for the new temple. He estimates the cost will be at least eighty crores of rupees ($80 million). Saurabha’s drawings revealed magnificent plans for an entire city, centered around a huge temple structure. It will be surrounded by satellite temples, a gurukula campus, a commercial area, bathing ghatas, and other facilities. The whole area will be protected from flooding by a latticework of canals. The main feature is to be a gigantic planetarium within the dome of the main temple. Srila Prabhupada was extremely enthusiastic about the plans. He wants the planetarium to demonstrate the Vedic alternative to modern scientific cosmological propaganda, illustrating the structure of the universe as described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Impressed with Saurabha’s work, Prabhupada suggested that the plans be presented to the state government with an application for official acquisition of the land we require.”

» Posted By Tattvavit Dasa On Aug 24, 2008 @ 6:07 pm

Nine Reasons to Change the Design of the TVP

Part Three
The important thing is that the survey seeks to find out which of the relevant, real, and possible alternatives (or at least some of them that we could think of) the devotees favor. By making it, we run the risk that the survey yields a result that goes against our protest,
namely that a majority of devotees are in favor of the current design (or are in favor of it with some changes). Why should we want to take that risk? Why do we not just try to mobilize the many devotees who we think disapprove of the U.S. Capitol design, and to persuade all others by presenting the arguments for our own position only?

Since it is not clear that a majority is against the current design, the reason for undertaking a survey at all is only our interest in finding out, with a reasonable degree of objectivity, what the devotees actually think. And this interest can only be explained by
the fact that we respect the positions of those who do not share our own, and would find a result that is negative for us important.

The survey gives the devotees the opportunity to vote for no less than three options that accept the current design or accept it with some changes. As is clear from the Nine Reasons, we favor only two of the six options, options 5 and 6, and are against all of the other ones, i.e., including three of the five “disapprove” options. Only if the
majority votes for 5 or 6 is it in favour of our position. If the majority votes for 1-4, we belong to a minority.

The results of the voting so far show that 11% approve the existing design, 6% go along with it or want various changes (options 2 – 4), and 83% want an Indian design (option 5) or want the project not go to go forward in its present form and location (option 6).

Our goal is to achieve something we think would be better for ISKCON than the current design, and something that better corresponds to what we think Srila Prabhupada wanted. The reason why we were willing to risk a negative outcome of a survey is only that we would have wanted to take it into account in considering how to proceed. Our intention with the Nine Reasons is to set forth constructive, not destructive, criticism.

» Posted By Tattvavit Dasa On Aug 29, 2008 @ 10:24 am

Part Two
But the survey’s formal difference from this way of presenting the questions is not due to any effort to illegitimately influence the respondents by presenting more disapproval than approval options, but to the simple fact that, in substance, there are several disapproval options but really only one approval option.

There would, however, have been no reason whatsoever, even for the
most neutral, to present options like “I approve of the current design
because it looks like the U.S. Capitol”, “I approve of the current
design because I do not want to be seen as opposing the GBC”, “I
approve of the current design because I love and respect Ambarisa and
do not want to hurt his feelings”, “I approve of the current design
because I am a Westerner”, “I approve of the current design because of
its blue domes and other colours”, “I approve of the current design
because American imperialism and globalism have taken over the world”, “I approve of the current design because I don’t think architecture is
important”, “I approve of the current design because I love Western
Renaissance and neoclassical architecture and what it symbolizes”, “I
approve of the current design because it can be taken to be a mosque
or a church, which would facilitate interfaith dialogue”, “I approve
of the current design because it symbolizes the East-West synthesis,
which I think is everything ISKCON should stand for”, “I approve of
the current design because all architecture is eclectic and
there really is no such thing as Eastern or Western architecture
anyway”, “I approve of the current design because I really don’t
care”, “I approve of the current design because Western culture is
really Vedic too”, “I approve of the current design because its
Bhagavatam cover paintings on the walls”, “I approve of the present design because at least something will finally be built”. Or to add such options in a second part of the survey, introduced by the formulation “If 1″.

» Posted By Tattvavit Dasa On Aug 29, 2008 @ 10:21 am

Part One
Of course the survey is, as Abhaya says, undertaken by those who are
against the current design. This was inevitable, since no one – the
design team, the GBC, or anyone else – was undertaking it.

And of course we who undertake the survey want and seek, through our
Nine Reasons, to persuade devotees to vote against the current design.
Since we had to protest now, given that there is very little time left
to change the design, and since we had to make the survey ourselves, there was no possibility of avoiding presenting the questions in connection with our preferences and critical opinions – in ramani’s words, our “explanation” of why the devotees should vote
in a certain way.

But our intention is not, as ramani and Abhaya suggest, to manipulate the respondents or the result in favor of our position – to simply present the result that all who vote for 3, 4, 5, and 6 disapprove. There is nothing “precise” at all in ramani’s statement that “there are six options: approve, disapprove, disapprove, disapprove, disapprove or disapprove”. The intention has not been to “slant” the question “towards a disapproving response”, since the purpose is not to find out simply how many approve and how many disapprove, but to find out what measures (if any) those who disapprove think should be taken. Finding out what measures should be taken is of course, as Carana Renu writes, relevant only in the case of those who disapprove – no discussion of measures is needed for those who approve. Therefore several different options for those who disapprove, and only one for those who approve, were given.

It would of course have been possible to formulate slightly different
options, or to formulate 2 and 3 in the following more positive ways:
“I approve of the present design but only because I am willing to go
along with it,” “I approve of the present design, but would want some
substantial improvements that minimize the controversial features”.
This would have resulted in three “approve” and three “disapprove”
options. Yet in substance, with these changes, 2 and 3 still imply

It would of course also have been possible to present a survey in two
parts, the first with the questions: 1) “Do you approve?” and 2) “Do
you disapprove?”, and the second, introduced by the formulation “If
2″, with the question “Which of the following alternatives best
describes your position?”, followed by the five disapproval

» Posted By Tattvavit Dasa On Aug 29, 2008 @ 10:19 am

Conspiracy Theories

Actually, the Pop Mech editors do a pretty good job of debunking some
wild and careless claims that deserve to be debunked. They do not,
however, show “how none of the theories could possibly be correct.”

Bhakta Corey might be interested in the latest book by David Ray
Griffin: “Debunking 9/11 Debunking: An Answer to Popular Mechanics and
Other Defenders of the Official Conspiracy Theory.”

From Publishers Weekly:

An emeritus professor of theology with no previous interest in
conspiracy theories, Griffin has dedicated himself since 2003 to the
“9/11 truth” movement, a group committed to “exposing the falsity of
the official theory about 9/11,” and this book is a thorough, highly
detailed attempt to do just that. As Griffin aptly notes, “the
assumption that conspiracy theories are inherently irrational” has
recently taken root in American culture, making any attack on the
official government record instantly dismissible, but Griffin takes to
the difficult task with solid reasoning and true zeal. All but the
most dogmatic readers will find Griffin’s evidence-from the
inconsistencies between NORAD tapes and the 9/11 Commission Report to
rigorous exploration into the physics of the collapse-detailed and
deeply unnerving. For instance, Griffin considers the fact that
firefighters were told, five hours before the fact, that building WTC
7 was going to collapse, despite “the fact that WTC 7 was not hit by a
plane, that the available photographs show no large fires, and that
fire had never caused a steel-frame high-rise to collapse.” Another
chilling passage looks at the Pennsylvania crash site of United
Airlines Flight 93 through the testimony of those first to arrive, who
were unanimous in finding “no recognizable plane parts, no body
parts.” For anyone who doubts the government’s truthfulness regarding
the WTC terrorist attack, this well-researched volume will give you a
trough full of ideas to chew on.

» Posted By Tattvavit Dasa On May 30, 2007 @ 9:22 am

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