Same Old Brave New “ISKCON”

by Kailäsa Candra däsa

Article One, Section One: On Their Operating System

First of a Six-Part Series

“. . . without hearing and following the instructions, the show of devotional service becomes worthless and therefore a sort of disturbance in the path of devotional service. Unless, therefore, devotional service is established on the principles of çruti, småti, puräëa or païcarätra authorities, the make-show of devotional service should at once be rejected. An unauthorized devotee should never be recognized as a pure devotee.” Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.12, purport

“I also understand that immediate actions are going to take place even prior to my permission, and that, also, ‘without divulging to the devotees(!)’ I do not follow exactly what is the motive of the so-called GBC meeting. Therefore, I have sent the telegram, which you will find attached herewith, and I have received the replies as well. Under these circumstances, I AUTHORIZE YOU TO DISREGARD . . . ANY DECISION FROM THE GBC MEN UNTIL MY FURTHER INSTRUCTION.” Letter to all temple presidents, April 8, 1972

“Look out, kid, they keep it all hid. God knows when, but they’re doin’ it again.” Bob Dylan, “Subterranean Homesick Blues”

In order to understand what has transpired in Lord Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu’s Hare Kåñëa movement of Kåñëa consciousness, it can be helpful to come to grips with the chief semblance of what superficially appears to be that movement. In order to understand what has happened and what is continuing to transpire in the motivated, complex, and sophisticated world of the fabricated, so-called “ISKCON,” it similarly behooves us to comprehend its operating system. Just as importantly, we should assimilate salient points related to the resistance it faces, and where the whole thing is heading—unless it can be effectively stopped at this time.

All emphases added for your edification and realization

This in-depth topic can be covered in a comprehensive fashion only as a book, not a treatise of installments tailored for online readership. Nevertheless, we shall attempt to explore the abovementioned three areas. This discussion will include some detail in its approach, but a systematic outline must first be presented. That requires preliminary explanation. Although the same headline will appear at the top of all six installments, the treatise itself will be divided into three articles, subdivided into two sections each.

A Veritable Witch’s Brew

“This Hindu religion has no philosophy. Therefore it has died, because, in this age, people have become very much hardened by material living, and they are not much interested in sentimental religions like Hinduism. Sentiments are temporary, and they always dry up.” Letter to Vaikunthanatha, 2-4-72

“. . . it is pragmatic that you cannot see beyond this wall. That is your insufficient knowledge, or your senses are insufficient. You cannot go beyond this wall, but that does not mean there is nothing beyond this wall. So, if you want to know what is beyond this wall, you have to know from a person who knows it.” Room conversation, 2-13-75

Secretary: According to (Sartre), he says, "The first principle of existentialism is that man is nothing else but what he makes of himself, since there is no God to conceive of human nature."
Prabhupäda: If he can see that man exists in his own idea, so why not a superman who exists in his own idea or his own capacity, completely independent of anyone? Critique of Sartre

“The Jews say that they are the only selected people of God. But what kind of God is this, who selects some people and condemns others?” Critique of Aristotle

From personal experience, along with interfacing amongst fellow travelers on the path (all of whom have been actively involved in or around “ISKCON” for many years)—as well as having read and assimilated numerous articles on related topics—it is your author’s considered conclusion that the “ISKCON” movement stands upon four distinct yet interrelated pillars:

1) As per a religious and organizational identification, “ISKCON” is directly affiliated with, if not (by now) non-different from, Western HINDUISM;

2) As per a philosophical paradigm for fulfilling institutional objectives and goals, “ISKCON” adheres to, and primarily employs, PRAGMATISM;

3) As per individuals in its leadership roles, in terms of their personal identifications, “ISKCON” is shot through with EXISTENTIALISM;

4) As per dealings with its chelas, plebes, fringies, former members, malcontents, and disposable rank-and-file workers, “ISKCON” reciprocates a contemptuous CRYPTO-TALMUDIC attitude.

Article One, of which this is the first Section, will now set the overall tone and scope of the treatise, discussing, in a concise and general way, Point Two (above). This First Article’s second Section will dig deeper into pragmatism, and its presence within “ISKCON,” in considerably more detail. Article Two will deal primarily with contemporary existentialism (Point Three, above), so that you can immediately pick it up--if, per chance, you have the misfortune of coming into contact with any of the big guns of “ISKCON.” Article Three will then discuss where the whole thing is heading, or appears to be headed, in terms of what is about to be now spelled out in . . .

The “ISKCON” Triad

“The place of action, the worker, the performer’s senses, the various endeavors, and the demigods (ultimately, the Supersoul) are the five factors of action.” Bhagavad-gétä, 18.14

“There are two destinies for everyone. One destiny is in Kåñëa consciousness, and the other destiny is in material consciousness. So, if someone is in Kåñëa consciousness, then Kåñëa knows his future. And, if he is in material consciousness and acting in that way, then Kåñëa also knows his future. In this way, the free will is not affected by knowing the future of the living being; that is an erroneous conclusion.” Letter to Madhudviña, 2-14-70

“Que sera sera. Whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see. Que sera sera. What will be, will be.” Doris Day, “Que Sera Sera”

In some lines of Western occult circles, the themes of man, karma, fate, destiny, and free will are discussed with the aid of a well-known symbol, the triangle. As this is not at all difficult to envision, we shall not post any diagrams, i.e., you can conjure the representation quite readily. Concerning the Ouspensky line, which philosophically is far closer to the Mäyävädés than it is to the Vaiñëava siddhänta, the angles of the triangle are given these following titles: At the top, it is called FIRST FORCE. At the bottom left is found SECOND FORCE, and, at the bottom right, that angle is called THIRD FORCE.

Comparing Bhagavad-gita with the Fourth Way school, FIRST FORCE would include the worker, his senses, [1] and the endeavor. SECOND FORCE would be the place of action, i.e., the direct (constant) and ever-changing (indirect) environment. It would include everything of the environment connected to a particular endeavor, e.g., on a trip, the automobile would be included in SECOND FORCE--not as an integral to the endeavor itself. THIRD FORCE, in the Ouspensky system, would be, for the non-conscious individual, his emotional force combined with his fate; for the conscious individual, it would be the school--the Fourth Way for a disciple in that line.

In our Vaiñëava school, the Madhva Gauòéya sampradäya, we would have a different perspective on THIRD FORCE, at least potentially, for any given individual. We would insert something else into the basic diagram, as well. We would put a point in the middle of the triangle, a point called Lord Viñëu. There would be dotted lines connecting this central point to FIRST FORCE and SECOND FORCE. However, the line would be solid connecting it to THIRD FORCE. Lord Viñëu would represent Providence, as distinguished from Fate, although He would have sanction over material destiny.

In San Antonio in the Nineties, there was (briefly) a popular reggae band called One Destiny. It represented a view held by many millions, which was also present in the late Fifties, as indicated by the lyrics of the pop song made famous by Ms. Day. The reasoning goes as follows: Since something happens, that means that everything else different from that did not happen. As such, whatever happens must happen, i.e., it is destined and locked in. Mark Twain came to the perspective, commonly understood as belief in predestination, late in his life; it made him very pessimistic.

Anyone of any persuasion can reach this conclusion, but a variant of the theme can be contemplated also by the theist. Since God is omniscient, He knows everything past, present, and future. Indeed, this is confirmed directly in the Bhagavad-gita, 7.26: “I know completely the past, present, and the future, and all living entities, as well. Me, however, no one knows.” As such, since God knows what is going to go down, then it must be a metaphysical lock. However, His knowledge of the future does not interfere with our individual free will in relation to what we decide to do or not do, as confirmed by Çréla Prabhupäda in the abovementioned quote from the letter.

What is important about the triangular diagram is its application to the laws of material nature, free will, and the Absolute Truth. What is also important is how the triad plays out, either transcendentally or according to the simulacrum (“ISKCON”). For the genuine transcendentalist, FIRST FORCE matches THIRD FORCE; they are in complete harmony. This is applicable to Providence and is extremely powerful. It is sometimes—in diametrically different situations--partially applicable to Fate, and it is quite powerful in those instances, as well.

For the disciple in a bona fide line—and, as mentioned, we are referring to the Vaiñëava sampradäya here—he acts according to the instruction of the guru. The guru is säkñäd-dhäri, the representative of Lord Viñëu. Consequently, FIRST FORCE matches THIRD FORCE, which is sanctioned and controlled by the CENTRAL POINT, the Paramätmä.

Such an interrelationship can overcome tremendous resistance present at SECOND FORCE. A good example would be how the Battle of Kurukñetra played out. The Päëòavas were outnumbered 11:7, and the best warriors were on the other side: Bhéñma, Droëa, and Karëa. On the Päëòava side, there were some formidable warriors, but the distinct advantage was in favor of the Kauravas. Yet, because Yudhiñöhira and his brothers were linked to Lord Kåñëa, they were able to overcome SECOND FORCE in eighteen days, despite very heavy losses. Satyam eva jayate: Truth is victorious.

At least, eventually.

Things become murky, however, when we consider the simulacrum, the semblance or reflection of the principle of disciplic succession. In such cases, superficially it appears the FIRST FORCE matches THIRD FORCE. In point of fact, however, they differ. That level of difference is highly emotional, and the triumphalists of the fabricated, so-called “ISKCON” are immersed in an ocean of emotions (bhava-sindhu). These fanatics consider it a lead-pipe cinch that their cult will fulfill the prediction of Lord Caitanya, viz., that the Hare Kåñëa movement soon spreads to every town and village in the world—and that being non-different from their organization. Accordingly, everyone who is now against them—and this would especially include the devotees who are preaching against them--is destined for defeat. In other words, all such persons are but part of SECOND FORCE, doomed by higher destiny to be crushed by the triumphalist wave of “ISKCON” when the dam breaks.

We have an entirely different perspective. More than this, we want to let all of our readers know that, in “ISKCON,” FIRST FORCE does not match THIRD FORCE. The “ISKCON” triad is a different operation.

Their endeavor, the operating system, the current philosophical paradigm, and even their attitude are not actually indicative of what will turn out to be the final product—if “the Society” is able to overcome all the very great forces arrayed against it (at this time). Those forces should not wane; indeed, they need to be made stronger, but in a bona fide way.

That is one of the purposes of this treatise. We want genuine intellectuals and genuine esotericists and genuine transcendentalists, particularly in America, to become knowledgeable men and women--to understand where “ISKCON” is at and where it is heading. There is a contradiction between what it is now (when you cut past all the fog) and where it is ultimately going. Where it is heading is a dreadful place, but that scenario can be broken up.

In Article Three of this document, we shall leave no stone unturned in relation to where “ISKCON” has set its sights. Whether this is conscious or not on the part of its leaders and third-echelon fanatics matters little; you may not be conscious when experiencing a wet-dream, but where you went is obvious upon awakening. We can get a glimpse of what the results will be if “ISKCON” is not checked--and its momentum reversed--and that vision is not at all pleasant on any level. You need to know this, and, if you continue to read the series, you will come to know it with clarity.

Now, however, we must lay the foundation for that, viz., an understanding of their FIRST FORCE, as specified in the four pillars, abovementioned. We need to see the current operating system in order to recognize subtle undercurrents running within it. We are dealing with organized religion here, but the current operating system is disguising that, at least to some degree. They are trying to keep it all hid. They are thinking that resistance will eventually dissolve, and they are not without some intelligence in such a presupposition. We are thinking that it would produce a far better outcome, especially as far as transcendence is concerned, if “ISKCON,” which is entirely beyond the stage of reformation, can itself be made to crater. Something is destined to transpire, and we shall see which side prevails. Satyam eva jayate.

Plot and Scheme

“I think it is best thing if the GBC members always travel on sankirtana party in their zone and go from one village to another and visit the temples to see how the students are learning--and do my work. In this way, they will avoid the propensity to sit down and plot and scheme . . .” Letter to Karandhar, 5-4-72

“I have received your letters, dated August 13th and August 15th respectively, and have noted the contents with some dismay. I do not like to hear these things . . . Now I want all of you to work cooperatively and very frankly, that is our process. Not that we shall always plot and scheme . . .” Letter to Madhudviña Swämi, 8-24-72 [2]

“I know what you’re thinkin’: ‘Did he fire six shots, or only five?’ Well, to tell ya the truth, in all this excitement, I kinda lost track myself. But bein’ this is a 44-magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world—and would blow your head clean off—ya gotta ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya? Punk!” Inspector Callaghan, Dirty Harry

To think everything that went down over the last thirty-plus years in “ISKCON” was all accidental is to think wrongly. Not that it was all perfectly pre-planned, of course—major setbacks over the years (suffered by the fabricated simulacrum) are, in themselves, adequate to dispel that notion. However, the operation, starting with the eleven pretender mahäbhägavats in 1978, was underpinned by a pragmatic philosophical paradigm—and, quite frankly, it worked out pretty well for them. They must have felt at least a bit lucky that they were able to pull it off to the extent and for the duration that they did, despite having gone way too far.

Those original eleven were all Americans, and over half of them were of Semitic descent. Pragmatism does not have Talmudic roots per se, but it is uniquely American, particularly in its founding. It is also anti-Vedic and anti-Vaiñëava, but this can be rather easily glossed over--due to its utilitarian connections. As per William James:

“Truth happens to an idea. It becomes true, is made true, by events. Its verity is, in fact, an event . . . Our account of truth is an account of truths in plural . . . having only this quality in common, that they pay . . .” William James, Pragmatism

James seminal work Pragmatism was published, distributed, and caught the attention of the philosophical public in 1907, the same year that plastic was invented, also in America. There is synchronicity in this, because pragmatism is meant for plastic people, individuals who falsely believe that there is no á priori fixed Truth either objectively or subjectively, that truth is a creation of given situations, performances of ideas in such situations--that truth is ascertained by a complex of external conditions only.

It is also no accident that James dedicated his book to John Stuart Mill.[3] In the pragmatic way of determining so-called truth, personal interests (which James said are the only á prior entity in man) direct all intellectual processes. As such, intellectual satisfactions are based upon a standard of judgment that is only verified by how things play out in the relative world, in terms of effectiveness, expediency, and efficiency.

There is no Absolute Truth in this philosophy, but to state that there is no absolute truth is to declare one in the very denial its existence. The Hare Kåñëa movement of Kåñëa consciousness is meant to bring its practitioners, and people interested in it, to the Absolute Truth via personal transcendence. Lord Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu’s movement entails a systematic method or devotional process for realizing this Absolute Truth, and it is based, in no small part, on fixed principles, rules and regulations. Its origination is actually eternal, and its essential ontological truths are situated in never-ending existence. This movement consists of svarüpa, tattva, and siddhänta, and these truths are all within you. They have been for eternity; you have this knowledge á priori. It is now covered, however.

This perfect conception of Reality is entirely opposed by the empiricists, as well as by the pragmatists. Indeed, these two concoctions are interrelated, and William James thus called himself a “radical empiricist.” Both Mill and James wanted to liberate themselves from Reality, as, in the words of James:

“(Pragmatism) frees us . . . from fixed principles, closed systems, and pretended absolutes and origins.”[4]

The mis-leaders of the fabricated, so-called “ISKCON” have shown, on uncountable occasions over the years, that all of their “true” ideas are functional, from their peculiar perspective, only as long as those ideas bring satisfactory results and/or relations with the world of money and people—satisfactory results in terms of pleasing those “ISKCON” leaders, of course. This is their pragmatism; they have picked it up from the host culture, and they represent it well. Their functional psychology fits within a philosophical paradigm that is the mother board of “ISKCON,” and it is most definitely a form of utilitarianism. They would retort that utility is the principle, and that this kind of utilitarianism is “for Kåñëa.” We opine otherwise.

Truth is not determined by empirical verification in the mundane world; the Truth simply is. Ours is a process of revelation, i.e., the Truth is revealed. And how is it revealed? It is eventually revealed by constantly pleasing the representative of the sampradäya, the genuine guru. Prabhupäda was utterly contemptuous of the reductionist idea, which reduces all internal beliefs and constructs to sense data perceived by a passive, spectator mind. That is positivism, of course, but empiricism is really not very different from it. Pragmatism is related to empiricism, although it (pragmatism) does concede some limited subjective knowledge prior to acquiring sense data.

In the pragmatic process, sense data is the stimulus to inquiry. Pragmatism does not concede Holy Scripture (çäçtra), however, and it does not concede an Absolute Truth prior to the creation experienced by the senses. Where things are derived from is not at all important to the pragmatists, but it is most important to transcendentalists. What is important to pragmatists are the consequences of ideas and beliefs. These consequences are said to prove whether or not any idea is true or false. This is utter hogwash!

Let me give you a tangible example of how these opposing systems played out, in the form of an anecdote related to me by a devotee, who told me he was there at the time. I believe the story, though I have received it second-hand, of course. According to this devotee, in the very early days of the movement in New York City, Prabhupäda wanted to send a package of devotional paraphernalia from New York to the newly-established temple in San Francisco (his second temple). What was in this package is indeterminate; it may have been karatals, incense, etc. I don’t know for sure, but it’s immaterial.

That box was packed in a slip-shod manner, barely able to be mailed in that form. A devotee asked Prabhupäda whether it should be re-packaged before taking it to the post office. He specifically said that it should not. His order was disobeyed—on pragmatic grounds, of course. This was not divulged to the devotees. Was this the beginning of dishonesty entering the movement? Was this the point in which the personality of Kali replaced following the order with pragmatic considerations? We shall never know, but we have been told, according to this interesting anecdote, that the package was received intact at its addressed point of delivery.

Now, were the devotees involved in getting this package to the post office right or wrong in disobeying the order? According to the consequences, the pragmatic view would be that they were right, as their action was proven to be true (effective). However, let us offer an alternative explanation. Yes, it is a hypothetical, but, nevertheless, a realistic one.

Our process begins at çraddhä, conviction or faith. However, for many if not most devotees, there is something prior to this which, although not technically a part of sädhana bhakti, is nevertheless essential. That is called ajïäta-sukåti. It is unknown pious activity that plugs into a devotional service and thus, without his knowledge, is linked to the sampradäya. When enough ajïäta-sukåti is accrued, an individual takes to the process.

Now, the jévan-mukta knows everything: He knows everything that the Paramätmä wishes him to know, and the Paramätmä certainly knows everything. Prabhupäda was far beyond the status of jévan-mukta. So, according to our hypothetical, let us say that Prabhupäda knew a postal worker at the station nearest the temple had paid for one of his books, was reading it intently, and was seriously considering that Prabhupäda’s movement may indeed by the perfect representation of Godhead on this planet. Nevertheless, this man still had not accrued enough ajïäta-sukåti to come to the temple, assimilate a lecture, realize that he was in the presence of the guru, and surrender to devotional service.

As such, Prabhupäda also knew that this postal worker would be at his station when that sloppily-packed parcel was brought there, and he knew that this worker would see to it that the proper amount of transparent tape was applied to fix up the package, so that it would neither fall apart nor be rejected as undeliverable. This would then give that postal worker the required ajïäta-sukåti to come to the temple the next Sunday and surrender.

We could go on with this hypothetical, couldn’t we? After all, this man would then have become one of the very first devotees in Prabhupäda’s movement. He may have followed the process intensely to the point of becoming very powerful and influential. Perhaps he would have become so advanced that he would not have been corrupted when all hell broke loose in 1978. Perhaps he would have single-handedly reversed the whole scam back then.

We shall never know, because a pragmatic decision to re-package the box, in disobedience to a specific order, set in motion another train of events. Or, another way of putting this is: What about potential consequences--can these be ignored in determining truth? An even more important inquiry would be: Have all the actual consequences played out?

This question is particularly applicable to “ISKCON,” as their short-term gains have, for the most part, dissipated. Meanwhile, the transformation of 1978 has morphed into the second transformation of 1987, setting the stage for the current third transformation—the Hinduization of “ISKCON”—which we are experiencing now. It appears to be a five-spiral crash in the making.

End of Article One, Section One

Go to Article One, Section Two

Go to Article Two, Section One

Go to Article Two, Section Two

[1] This would include the senses of the astral body, the subtle senses of the mind, as well.


[2] These letters were both addressed to Governing Body Commissioners in the aftermath (same year, slightly later) that the GBC plotted and schemed, in its unauthorized late winter meeting (cited in one of the quotes posted at the opening of the Article), to change the whole confederation’s operation according to a concocted, pecuniary idea, which appeared to have pragmatic justification.


[3] As we brought out in Ages and Stages of Man and Movement, John Stuart Mill is the founder of our current modern age, now in its post-modern descending octave. Mill savaged all belief or reference to á prior knowledge; he postulated that all knowledge can and must be traced back to experience only. He was also an empiricist and a utilitarian; he penned a book with that title, viz., Utilitarianism. Pragmatism is highly utilitarian, as confirmed by William James in writings brought out after his death: “The future of the mind’s development is thus mapped out in advance by the way in which the lines of pleasure and pain run. The interests precede the outer relations noticed.” Collected Essays and Reviews


[4] "The pragmatist turns away from abstraction and insufficiency, from verbal solutions, from bad a priori reasons, from fixed principles, closed systems, and pretended absolutes and origins. He turns toward concreteness and adequacy, towards facts, towards action, and towards power."


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Quotes from the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada are copyright by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust