A Public Statement from HH Bhakti Vikasa Swami
In accord with Srila Prabhupada's instructions, ISKCON continues to widely distribute his books, the Holy Name, and Krsna-prasada. However, apart from performing these laudable services, ISKCON has also incorporated policies that I strongly feel are not in line with Srila Prabhupada's stated desires. Over the years, I and others have expressed objections to several of these policies, but to no avail. Thus today ISKCON no longer adheres to many of the essential, non-negotiable principles Srila Prabhupada taught, for which I joined ISKCON and dedicated my life to spreading.
I do not wish to leave ISKCON, but also I do not see it proper that I spend the rest of my life being identified with much that I do not believe in. Hence, as an ISKCON sannyasi, as someone naturally seen as a representative of all that ISKCON stands for, I make this public statement:
I do not support ISKCON's pronounced tendency toward Hinduization and to secular influences such as those of bodily welfare work, mundane feminism, mundane psychology, and mundane scholarship.
By stating this, I do not expect to effect any major changes. ISKCON's administrators are upbeat about the society's present course, which however I opine is in many ways different from that given by Srila Prabhupada.
I do not claim to be absolute and incapable of error. But as a follower of Srila Prabhupada and as a member of the sannyasa order, I have an obligation to communicate what I understand to be correct, according to Srila Prabhupada's teachings, to the members of ISKCON and especially to those who have formally reposed their faith in me as their spiritual guide. If I were to neglect this duty, I would add to the misguidance that many devotees now unofficially and officially receive in the name of Srila Prabhupada instead of protecting them from it.
Below is a list of lectures by myself that explain my position on various issues. Following that is some correspondence with GBC members concerning this public statement.
Dasanudasa, Bhakti Vikasa Swami
PS This was sent on 18 May 2012 to Dandavats.com. It has not been posted there, nor have I received any response from the Dandavats editors. Today, 22 May 2012, I am sending it for posting to BVKS.com.
Addenda: Recent Correspondence Between Myself and Two Senior GBC Members (names have been elided so as to focus on issues rather than personalities)
18 April 2012; BV Swami to X Swami and Y Swami
Please excuse the length of this letter, and the unhappy nature of it.
Two days ago a devotee sent me the following.
[Here was a long report on the presenting of an award to an ISKCON trust (which includes the name of ISKCON) as the “Best Organization in Social Work” for providing nutritious meals to slum children.]
The statement of Z Swami that begins "It is actually an honor that we get to serve" would be fine if made in the context of serving Krsna and His devotees. But as it refers to feeding poor children and developing the nation, it smacks of the daridra-narayana philosophy. Similarly, nothing could sound more laudable than "generating love, respect and trust in the hearts of millions" – but it is a mundane statement, having been made in relation to feeding poor children and developing the nation.
As you know, I am much concerned that by presentations such as that described above, ISKCON is being converted into something that Srila Prabhupäda did not want it to be. Recently in a large city in India, at two functions attended by prominent businessmen and other dignitaries, in introductions to my speeches ISKCON was referred to as a social welfare organization. I object to the mission of Srila Prabhupada, that I have dedicated my life to, having being redefined by certain of my godbrothers without their having consulted the broader body of devotees, and that I am now (without any say in the matter) forced to appear in the public eye as a representative of something I do not believe in – and all in the name of Srila Prabhupada.
Apart from having been converted (in the public eye) into a social welfare organization, ISKCON has been changed in other significant ways. Some examples:
We openly present ourselves as Hindus.
In India, it is becoming increasingly common that yajnas are performed for donors to remove negative astrological influences (such yajnas are within the wider Vedic culture, but Srila Prabhupada wanted his temples to be centers of pure bhakti, not of karma-kanda).
In the West, some of ISKCON's biggest leaders associate with and promote neo-Mayavadi lecher "kirtaniyas."
Some leaders (GBCs, sannyasis, TPs) are chronically lax in rising early, attending programs, etc. This has been overlooked for years.
These and other changes have infiltrated ISKCON. See "Mission Drift," an article by Krishna Kirti Prabhu – http://tinyurl.com/5sr56uq
I understand that the GBC does not share this vision of the state of ISKCON. I accept that there are many good things that ISKCON is doing. I do not plan on leaving ISKCON. But I would like to make it clear, possibly by making a public statement, that I do not wish to be identified with much of what ISKCON today does or stands for, as I believe that in many ways the drift of ISKCON is increasingly away from what Srila Prabhupada meant for it.
I can understand that my concerns, and especially my publicizing them, is a matter of concern for you. I also understand that you are busy with many other concerns. But I thought I should share this with you.
19 April; from X Swami
Perhaps the GBC Executive Committee can address some of the concerns that Bhakti Vikasa raised and see what can be done. It is certainly one of the major duties of the GBC Body to see that the standards that Srila Prabhupada established are upheld.
19 April; from Y Swami
We will discuss the subject in our conference call shortly, but my idea so far is to ask your good self [X Swami] as GBC * Minister to take it up.
19 April; from X Swami
I will be happy to participate, but the some of the points that Bhakti Vikasa Maharaja raises are more broad that the authority of the * Ministry covers. What the policies of how Food for Life, for instance, is presented to the public should be reviewed by a committee of with a substantial number of GBC members.
19 April; from Y Swami
That's true. We will discuss it today.
20 April; from BV Swami
Thank you immensely for taking these matters to the EC. If possible, could I be informed of how the discussion develops?
20 April; from Y Swami
23 April; from BV Swami
Even if (although it is unlikely) the GBC were to give a strong message against the social welfare image of ISKCON that is being increasingly promoted, still it would be very difficult for ISKCON in India to discontinue its social welfare programs. These programs involve commitments to government and municipal bodies and to prominent industrialists, and pulling out would not be easy — not that there is any sign of any willingness to do so.
Similarly with other concerns that I have expressed. Nothing is going to change soon, if at all, except that such deviations (as I see it) are likely to increase.
Therefore, to make my position clear, I wish to make a public statement. It can be respectfully worded. I do not think it proper or beneficial for myself or others that I continue to represent that which I do not believe in.
Awaiting your comments,
23 April; from X Swami
While it is true that certain aspects of the preaching in ISKCON you don't believe in, still I am also sure that there are aspects that you do believe in. That holds true for all of us.
What do you hope to accomplish by making public statements in things that you disagree with? What might be the draw backs in doing this?
24 April; from BV Swami
> While it is true that certain aspects of the preaching in ISKCON you
> don't believe in, still I am also sure that there are aspects that you do
> believe in. That holds true for all of us.
> What do you hope to accomplish by making public statements in things
> that you disagree with?
My main purpose is to make my position clear so as not to be identified with things that I do not believe in. Is it not a right of every follower of Srila Prabhupada to state where his limits are and what he can stand for and what not?
Apart from that, some possible positive outcomes are:
Instigating debate as to the direction of ISKCON;
Instigating debate as to the nature of unity within diversity;
Discouraging devotees from making major innovations that affect the whole society, without first consulting others;
Giving succor to devotees who feel that something is amiss but were reticent to say so.
> What might be the draw backs in doing this?
Whatever drawbacks I can think of are not necessarily bad. For instance, a possible drawback is a weakening of faith of devotees in ISKCON. But if that faith is an unquestioning belief in something that is questionable, then to provoke a spirit of intelligent questioning is actually a service both to such individuals and to the society as a whole.
26 April; from X Swami
> My main purpose is to make my position clear so as not to be identified
> with things that I do not believe in. Is it not a right of every follower
> of Srila Prabhupada to state where his limits are and what he can stand
> for and what not?
However, austerity of speech is mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita (17.15). The qualities of speech mentioned there are that it is truthful, according to the vedas and authority, it is pleasing, it is beneficial, and that it doesn't agitate the minds of others. It is difficult to make public statements on controversial topics that satisfy all the requirements of speech that Lord Krishna mentions. Especially, Srila Prabhupada mentions:
"One should not speak in such a way as to agitate the minds of others. Of course, when a teacher speaks, he can speak the truth for the instruction of his students, but such a teacher should not speak to those who are not his students if he will agitate their minds."
> Instigating debate as to the direction of ISKCON;
> Instigating debate as to the nature of unity within diversity;
> Discouraging devotees from making major innovations that affect the whole
> society, without first consulting others;
> Giving succor to devotees who feel that something is amiss but were
> reticent to say so.
These are certainly good results, but perhaps can better be achieved by different means.
> Whatever drawbacks I can think of are not necessarily bad. For instance, a
> possible drawback is a weakening of faith of devotees in ISKCON. But if
> that faith is an unquestioning belief in something that is questionable,
> then to provoke a spirit of intelligent questioning is actually a service
> both to such individuals and to the society as a whole.
I don't think the programs that need attention represent what is ISKCON. These programs are only a very small part of the totality that is ISKCON.
28 April; from BV Swami
Srila Prabhupada also writes:
Satyam, truthfulness, means that facts should be presented as they are, for the benefit of others. Facts should not be misrepresented. According to social conventions, it is said that one can speak the truth only when it is palatable to others. But that is not truthfulness. The truth should be spoken in a straightforward way, so that others will understand actually what the facts are. If a man is a thief and if people are warned that he is a thief, that is truth. Although sometimes the truth is unpalatable, one should not refrain from speaking it. Truthfulness demands that the facts be presented as they are for the benefit of others. (Bg 10.4-5 purport)
> These are certainly good results, but perhaps can better be achieved
> by different means.
Perhaps. But again, these possible side effects are not my main aim.
> I don't think the programs that need attention represent what is
> ISKCON. These programs are only a very small part of the totality that is
True. But increasingly in the minds of both the public and our own members, ISKCON is principally a Hindu social welfare organization. This is a deliberately cultivated image and one that I need to dissociate myself from as I believe it is not what Srila Prabhupada wanted.
(This was the end of the correspondence; to date I have received no further mails from X Swami or Y Swami.)