|“ISKCON” Gurus, Initiations, and Party Men Part 3
Understanding Silver Linings and Anarthas
These kind of divisive confrontations have a way of perpetuating themselves, and other personalities, the ones who had not been recognized as gurus by the “GBC,” thought they actually deserved consideration from the governing body. The negative backwash from the schism did not hurt their cause. Two Indian-born commissioners and one American were now voted in as gurus, the first intentional expansion.
In the aftermath of the schism, finally, for the first time, devotees who were outside of all this intrigue (as long as they had never been infected with the “ISKCON” bija) began to recognize that something must be wrong with the cult at a very fundamental level. Some of them joined the malcontents of the Neo-Gaudiya Math, but others could not stomach such a decision. Srila Prabhupada was not at all emphasized in the Neo-Gaudiya Math; in fact, he was surreptitiously belittled in that faction. The common attitude toward “Swami Maharaj” in the Gaudiya Math infected some of the Neo-Gaudiyas. This was completely abhorrent to most of Prabhupada disciples. The mood and style of the Neo-Gaudiya Math was different from Prabhupada’s original movement. By this time, of course, that was also the case within “ISKCON,” but, at least some worship of His Divine Grace was going there.
More and more, there was an exodus of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples from “ISKCON” to take their chances in the outside world, trying to prosecute Krishna Conscious activities, preaching, and sadhana as best they could “outside the walls” of a movement they had formerly dedicated their lives to in intense sincerity and seriousness. The question may be raised as to how all this hell could go on when, at least initially, the movement had been directly connected to the Supreme Universal Controller, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Ultimate Overseer. This question may be justly raised.
Many very bad things happened to devotees both within and without the “ISKCON” faction after Prabhupada disappeared, but there were also some silver linings provided after he left us. These should be recognized, as they were bestowed by the mercy of Sri Sri Guru-Gauranga. One of the big silver linings was eventual freedom from all the little tyrants. Since Srila Prabhupada wanted privacy and facility to write his books, he allowed this despotism to go on while he was with us, knowing that he could check it if it got out of hand. However, it was stifling back then, and most devotees who were initiated by Prabhupada in the late Sixties or early Seventies-who, in that sense, could be considered senior disciples-had experience of this. It increased in the first one or two years after Srila Prabhupada departed.
After all, persons who surrendered to Srila Prabhupada were not ordinary men and women; they were special individuals. They had paid their dues in the material world before coming to his movement, and they had tried to surrender to him on the principle that such devotional service would upgrade them into advanced and elevated spiritual personalities. They developed and increased their seriousness, sincerity, knowledge, realization, and personal power in the process. So, as the ridiculous turned into the absurd, these devotees could not block the realization that “ISKCON” was becoming spiritually bankrupt.
The rationalization factory broke down, because the absurdity of the situation kept getting more and more ludicrous, dangerous, and outrageous. This produced a silver lining, for devotees realized that remaining affiliated with the organization constituted misuse of free will. They clearly saw that nothing which could be remotely called yoga was any longer going on in the managerial strata of what was once an organized mission of devotion to the Lord.
Making excuses for the leaders--in terms of their playing out their anarthas, or in terms of their having taken on so much good and bad karma from new disciples-- could no longer hold water. Anarthas are unwanted activities that do not please the Spiritual Master, do not please the parampara, and do not please the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But anarthas are not guaranteed to stay that way. A devotee is enjoined to overcome his or her anarthas, not harden them. Anarthas that are discarded no longer are part of a bhakti-yogi’s state of being. Indeed, this is an essential component of the whole process.
However, in the case of “ISKCON,” anarthas were becoming institutionalized. The persons who were benefiting from this had a vested interest not to even consider transcending or overcoming them. Many anarthas were becoming glorified as actually part of the “guru’s” transcendental display of love of Godhead, and this flamboyance is called sahajiyism. As stated previously, none of the original eleven pretender maha-bhagavats was a guru in the true sense of the term. They were all sahajiyas. And the “GBC” had no actual right or power to recognize them as spiritual masters. The whole thing was a charade.
Most anarthas have a remote connection to sin. When anarthas reflect what otherwise would be activity in the modes of passion and ignorance, they reflect an element of sin. When anarthas reflect an activity that would otherwise have been undertaken in the mode of goodness, they have a remote connection to pious activities. But anarthas are, in and of themselves, not karmic. They do not produce a karmic or vikarmic reaction. If anarthas were empowered to produce a binding reaction, then it would be impossible to become brahma-realized through the process of sadhana vaidhi-bhakti. This is one of the intercessions provided by the Supreme Lord to the devotee when he or she has been initiated (bhajana-kriya) by a bona fide spiritual master in the Vaishnava sampradaya.
Nevertheless, when anarthas are hardened, made habitual, glorified, and considered spiritual, then a certain kind of diabolical intelligence develops in the personality of one who allows this to transpire within himself. In Sanskrit, this intelligence is called papa-buddhi, which means sinful intelligence. Sinning on the strength of the Holy Name is considered the most dangerous nama-aparadha, which is an anartha. This activity remains in the category of anartha for some time, but, at a certain point, it becomes too abominable to be excused. At a certain point it generates reaction, in which case there will have to be a karmic, mishra-karmic, or vikarmic reaction for the personality who no longer really possesses the consciousness of trying to become a pure servant of the Lord.
At least four of the original “new gurus” were seen to have been engaged in deviant activities in the early Eighties, and some of them were punished for it. Actually, all eleven of them were deviants. The Zonal Acarya with supposedly the cleanest profile did the most damage. That destruction continues in its abominable influence to this day. The so-called biography of Srila Prabhupada was the most effective way of bringing His Divine Grace into a perspective that was not at all commensurate with his true glories or his mission. The humanization of His Divine Grace, the warping of his pastimes, the overemphasis on his (apparent) frailties, and the side-tracking of his contribution (and giving undue credit to his disciples instead) constituted gurv-aparadha in a most insidious way. The many indirect offenses (gurv-aparadha) contained in this biography are so subtle and degrading that it will take decades, if not centuries, to overcome the influence of this “ISKCON” subsidized and “authorized” so-called biography.
Yet, as devotees completely lost faith in the “GBC” and in the organization it controlled, they could actually come to terms with their own delusions and fanaticisms. They could actually come to grips with their anarthas and see the importance of getting free from them, along with the realization that this could only be done outside the bad association of the Party Men. As such, the deviation produced a silver lining of freedom from a degenerating cult that was actually engaged in covering Krishna Consciousness in the name of spreading it.
The turmoil of
the early Eighties was sometimes conveniently dismissed as merely “growing
pains,” part of “the test” that could only be expected after the disappearance
of the Founder-Acarya. Some tried to explain it all away as part of “
All of a sudden, some obtuse shastra was dug up, an indicator of shastric sanction for so-called “re-initiation.” In other words, it now became “ISKCON” dogma that a guru (even if previously worshipped as a maha-bhagavat!) could fall down. And, furthermore, when it became clear that he had fallen down into blatant sinful activity--and it only became clear when the “GBC” said that it did--then an initiated disciple of his no longer had any obligation to honor the previous relationship with the man. Not only that, but the cult pushed the (disconnected?) disciple to accept “re-initiation” from a guru in good standing.
There was another facet to all of this. Some powerful godbrothers, not yet recognized as guru, could take advantage of this problem in a diametrically different way. This turmoil provided a springboard for them to mount a campaign against the policies of the remaining but dwindling Zonals, or, in other words, to more or less force the “GBC” to address the issue of guru expansion and other institutional problems. These in-house critics often held positions of power and influence. Some of them were willing and able to cash in their protest in order to receive for themselves a vote by the “GBC” to the position of guru; in this way, they could and would capture the gadi. But that had to wait until the mid-Eighties.
For the Party Men, there was always a way to dismiss any event, no matter how shocking, scandalous, or jarring, and fit it into their mosaic of a predestined arrangement for the eventual triumph of “ISKCON.” This mentality of pseudo-justification wound up applying not only to former godbrothers but to even newly-initiated adherents of the cult, those who could no longer go up on the altar and worship the Deities. It takes two to tango. In other words, if an “ISKCON” guru was considered or found out to be a blatant cheater, then those who got cheated by him deserved to be cheated. Or: “If those new people were sincere, then they would have never subjected themselves to that guru or that initiation in the first place.”
This is a convenient and ruthless explanation, of course, but the apologists for “ISKCON” would use it. That it was a handy little weapon for them does not mean that it is ultimately wrong. Still, the main unforeseen negative repercussion relating to the schism had become the status of the new initiates who had accepted initiation from a former “maha-bhagavat,” one who was now either de facto or de jure excommunicated from the cult. At first, they were all pushed to accept “re-initiation” from a guru in good standing.
But this was questioned in time, because, by the mid-Eighties, three more Zonals would bite the dust, bringing the number who had been embarrassed, punished, exposed, or who had left to six or possibly seven. Some of the newcomers had to renounce not only their first initiation, but even two or three “re-initiations.” As aforementioned, by the early Eighties, at least two of the original eleven pretenders were on the outside looking in. It only got worse.
But what was that disciple’s status in the interim stage, in the stage before he accepted so-called re-initiation, or, in some cases, in the stage when he did not want to accept any kind of further re-initiation? At first, he was denied brahminical facilities, such as Deity worship (if he had supposedly received gayatri from his now fallen guru). But this attitude eventually broke down, because so many of these newcomers took a “re-initiation” that again was made null and void. Of course, the real question centers around whether or not any of these new people were genuinely initiated in the first place.
Eventually, some kind of better “adjustment” had to be made, otherwise most of these newcomers would leave and/or join the Neo-Gaudiya Math. At least one commissioner began to advocate that these newcomers were still linked to the parampara even if their diksa guru was no longer considered bona fide by the cult. The rationale for this was that they were initially linked to the parampara through “ISKCON” and not through their guru. Taking this concoction one obvious step further, since it was (and remains) an undisputed fact that “ISKCON” was controlled by the governing body, the sanction of the governing body, in the form of its approval of its initiation process, confirmed that these newly-initiated devotees were initially connected to the sampradaya by the sanction of the “GBC” itself.
In the Vaishnava Foundation, we label each of these kinds of powerful rationalizations with a term, and that term is devastator. A devastator is a big lie, usually promoted for the purpose of bewilderment. It sounds really good (superficially) when you first hear it. But, when you examine it through the eyes of shastra (shastra-chakshuh) and shine some logic onto it, the devastator is seen to have no legitimacy whatsoever in the context of Vedic and Vaishnava philosophy or process. The concept that it was the new initiate’s fault for allowing himself or herself to be cheated, to have attempted to surrender to a bogus guru, was, in and of itself, not a devastator.
However, the concept that the link to the parampara is actually through the corporate body of “ISKCON” is a devastator--and it was not the only one that sprang up during this period of chaos, turmoil, and fix-it-as-you-go reactions. Another one was the false hope that the “GBC,” even if it was wrong, would eventually get everything right. This devastator can be summarized as “the inherent, self-corrective mechanism of the GBC,” but that body never possessed any such blessing, and it certainly does not have any such benediction now.
In 1981 in the
Seven Mothers Restaurant in
Similarly, there was another devastator that was used effectively throughout both this period, and especially during the years just previous to it. That one was: “But what have you done for Srila Prabhupada? ” When various devotees would criticize what was going on in the cult, its Party Men would often respond with this retort. They would take credit for whatever material accomplishments had been garnered by the movement worldwide--in the form of “laxmi,” new temples, new devotees, etc. They would combine this with a personal offense to the critic--despite the fact, as often as not, that devotee was fully justified in his or her criticism--by demanding to know what results he or she had produced within the arena of “ISKCON.” Of course, if you did not at all believe in what “ISKCON” was doing, you would have no such results to reference, because you would have left the thing, or you were so outspoken that you had been kicked out.
I have a personal associate within the Vaishnava Foundation who was kept in a kind of limbo for over one year by one single devastator. He had accepted three different initiations from his guru, one of the original eleven. But he could see, by the early Eighties, that his so-called guru could not possibly be bona fide. Still, this devotee accepted one “nugget of wisdom” that had been intimately passed his way, viz., “as long as you intensely follow somebody, you’ll eventually reach a bona fide guru.” The motto of the story: Never underestimate the power of one effective devastator.
After the schism with the Gaudiya Math, and after the vote, appointment, or recognition of three more “maha-bhagavats," everything supposedly returned back to normal. Remember, the main devastators, the really big lies, were still solidly in place at that time. The appointment idea was being questioned now, but it was still believed as legitimate by the devotees at large; its questioning was being tolerated, because that could not be checked. Still, nobody who wanted to interface within “ISKCON” would dare to question the legitimacy of the “GBC” itself as the so-called ultimate authority. Since the “GBC” decided to maintain the uttama-adhikari worship of its gurus, and since it decided to expand its diksa fold by the addition of three new commissioners, then this was (allegedly) absolutely. It was supposed to be accepted as Lord Chaitanya’s direct and perfect Will for the expansion of His growing Krishna Consciousness movement, predestined to one day flood the world in an ocean of love of Godhead!
Over and above
this, the vote, appointment, or recognition of three new diksas
by the “GBC” was an excellent political move. Their disgruntlements over the
guru expansion question had become more and more pronounced as things began to
unravel and disintegrate during this period of turmoil. Now, with the
Neo-Gaudiyas having become powerful enemies--and with at least two of the
original pretender maha-bhagavats being in position
to expose the scam--the “GBC” needed some solid buttressing. So this
arrangement was all “
Well, maybe . . . maybe not.
era began on
And there, at this time, we find one Sulocana das. He was not a Party Man, but he was dedicated to “ISKCON,” the “GBC,” and the resident Zonal, thinking that they were representing the will of Srila Prabhupada. He was an initiate of Prabhupada, and his chief feeling of responsibility was to His Divine Grace. Sulocana tended the Deities, and was a shaved-up, chipper young man. He was a very good-looking fellow, well-built physically, and he was also a grihastha with two young children. However, he was caught in a conundrum that was becoming more and more common-place within the “ISKCON” confederation.
disciples of Prabhupada were almost all torn between following the orders of
their resident maha-bhagavat or the orders of the
husband as pati-guru. Sulocana emphasized the latter
alternative, but his wife did not buy into the proposal. Sometimes the female
adherents in the various centers, when they were effective collectors (and most
of them were), were provided husbands. This concession was a kind of
propitiation given by the
The local guru would brook no compromise with him, and Sulocana’s wife was mostly dedicated not to her husband’s orders but to the orders of the resident Zonal Acarya. I know all of this, and I know a great many details more than this in relation to Sulocana, because I got to know him very well. He was a friend of mine. For a number of months in 1985, we traveled together in his van, where I edited many of his manuscripts. The INTERNET did not exist at that time, but Sulocana was at the leading edge of what would soon turn out to be a kind of communication proliferation but a few years later. He had scraped up enough funds to buy a new Commodore computer, monitor, and printer, and he eventually became a kind of fifth wheel. Especially he targeted the Moundsville Zonal in his exposes, because he felt profoundly cheated by this man, the first to mandate uttama-adhikari worship from his own godbrothers and godsisters.
eventually tried to kidnap his own two children from the
Skipping over a
considerable part of the story, Sulocana was murdered, as almost all of you
know, by an intimate associate of the leadership at the New Vrindavan
cult. He was murdered in 1986 about two miles from the
murder should have wound up in
fact is that the heinous murder, or you can even say
assassination, of Sulocana prabhu, marked the end of a major phase in the
Krishna Consciousness movement. Remember, there are two paths of Destiny:
Sulocana’s murder marked the actual end of the Mars dasha for what was, and continued to be, a disintegrating movement. It also indicated the fag end of the First Transformation. There was only a short respite from the turmoil of the early Eighties to these events in the mid-Eighties, generated by the outrage and brilliance of Sulocana. Now, this witch’s brew of “re-initiation” and murder of a protestor was poised to explode into something new and different.
The movement slowly
began to meltdown in the mid-Eighties. Devotees throughout the world,
This was an ideal moment for the leaders to step back, to question the root of everything since 1978. But the Party Men were not at all willing to go that far. Whenever somebody would contend that the movement needed to return to Square One, the Party Men would individually emote, create a straw man scenario, and falsely claim that any such initiative entailed closing down all of the temples and discontinuing Deity worship; I had personal experience of this. But the older devotees who advocated a return to Square One were simply demanding that all of the concoctions and deviations be removed--root, stalk, and branch--from the movement founded by the Sampradaya Acarya, Srila Prabhupada. This meant recognizing what the recent history was, rectifying all that took place that should not have been allowed to even have gotten its foot in the door, and returning to the true devotional process, free from all contradictions and disobedience to the Acarya.
So, as the movement began an inexorable slide toward the abyss, the radical approach to resolving that disintegration was rejected by the Party Men; they had too much to lose by going that route. Instead, they chose the alternative of “reform,” when only radical steps and real revolution would do. You cannot reform something so corrupt as what “ISKCON” had become by this time through the exigency of superficial changes. However, “ISKCON” had its resourceful Party Men to rely upon, and one of them in the first echelon came through with flying colors.
This false hope
was provided by Ravindra Svarupa,
Ravindra Svarupa would achieve a guru appointment as but part of his reward for leading what he euphemistically called a revolution. He would later claim that, as leader of this reform, he was obliged to capture the gadi and lead the revolution. However, he was no revolutionary; he was nothing more than a bureaucratic reformer who solidified virtually all of the nescience of the Party Men, simply removing from the scheme its most egregious elements. Nevertheless, his Position Paper, which advocated the necessity of stopping what he called an “internecine war,” caught the imagination of virtually everyone.
It even caught the attention of the Zonal Acaryas. In 1987, TKG removed the vyasasans from all of his temples, indicating that he should only be shown the respect due a madhyama-adhikari. He gave up the pretense of being a God-realized maha-bhagavat, and it was a shrewd move. The chief scribe of the cult almost immediately followed his lead.
Moundsville resisted this momentum, so uttama-adhikari worship of these “acaryas” was not completely repudiated. As an aside, one other of the original eleven is (astoundingly!) reputed, according to published reports on a well-established devotee website, to still be taking uttama-adhikari worship from his Bengali disciples. By 1987, many of the original eleven were gone, including the aforementioned three implicated in sexual trysts (one of the homosexual variety). The Party Men who were not gurus, as could have easily been predicted, transferred their allegiance to “the reform movement” of Ravindra Svarupa.
There was even a half-hearted attempt to judge each of the Zonals in terms of whether or not they could remain on the governing body, and one of them suffered some short-term embarrassment due to this frail and quickly-aborted initiative. When a rich and powerful European Zonal innervated this committee, it backed down. It figured he would take all of his influence, money, and devoted followers with him if he was bounced from the governing body. The whole basis of the reform, viz., to re-enliven the remaining devotees that everything was progressing nicely on a predestined glidepath upwards, would be severely jeopardized if this committee indirectly forced any big devotee out. Ironically, this European Zonal would leave “ISKCON” in a most inimical split about a decade later, anyway.
However, the new collegial spirit did usher in a distinct change from the previous way things went on. Also, it made the movement materially more powerful, because it now had one man who once again exemplified and represented its spirit on the gross plane, viz., Ravindra Svarupa. When it came to position papers and articles, no one could match him.
No one within the upper echelons of “ISKCON” would dare challenge him, not only because there was little reason to do so, but also because they would face virtually certain defeat in any kind of confrontation--which would be on his terms. The modus operandi of authority and its presentation changed with the Second Transformation. Now the speaker or author who was most proficient at backing up his points and suggestions with sophisticated and scholastic op cits, et als, ibids, and footnotes became the predominating brahmin. Now the “guru” who was most proficient at obtaining consensus through party bloc persuasion would be accorded the supermost credit for overcoming the close brush with collapse to promote a new found spirit of compromise . . . er, “cooperation.” Cooperation became the big buzz word in this new transformation.
On the whole,
the Zonals couldn’t pull off their high-profile scam
anymore, and an “adjustment” was made, in the form of another transformation.
It was all “
As aforementioned, some did not cooperate. One of those had already been excommunicated in 1983, and this divorce was even announced by “ISKCON” in the American press. Separately, the “acarya” who had introduced the uttama-adhikari worship in November of 1977 also rejected the Second Transformation. The “GBC” confronted him, he technically got the best of the debate, but the die had already been cast. The European sahajiya who had left to affiliate with Gaudiya Math some years back was found dismembered by one of his own disciples. That horrendous event, also in 1987, did not really shake up the hard-core Party Men, as it was seen as vindication of their institutional position concerning him.
With the introduction of the Second Transformation, everything was now supposedly honky-dorry in the Krishna Consciousness movement. But those devotees who had the intelligence and vision to see what was actually transpiring knew very well that the real situation was not at all rectified at the deeper levels. Superficially the situation was improved, but the Party Men had, once again, gotten over via this new, big change--which was also completely unauthorized in terms of the parampara. The Second Transformation does not accord with Vedic and Vaishnava tradition relating to the legitimate process and philosophy. Sahajiyas cannot be allowed to keep their so-called initiated disciples if they superficially clean up their act. Pretender maha-bhagavats cannot retroactively be accorded the status of advanced devotees--and know it for a fact that any Vaishnava madhyama-adhikari is an advanced devotee--simply because they jack down the opulence of their worship and say that their godbrothers and godsisters are no longer obliged to also serve and love them as gurus.
If a grifter and pretender rich man is exposed as a complete fraud, he cannot simply cash in all of his ill-gotten gains, claiming falsely that, although he was never the billionaire he advertised himself to be, that he is still a rich man. If he engaged in fraud, he must lose everything. His must be jailed for criminal activities against both national and international laws governing capitalism. But the Party Men, through the agency of their collegiate reform, now claimed that the Way had just been a little misunderstood, had just been a little off-kilter. All was now supposedly set aright and back on track.
End of Part Three
Quotes from the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada are copyright by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust