The Titanic Taproots
by Kailäsa Candra däsa
Part Two of a Three-Part Series
TAMALtuous Triumphs and Tribulations
“ . . . another change, another change, every day another change.”
“. . . as soon as one gets power, he becomes whimsical and spoils everything.”
“You just want to be on the side that's winning.”
For the remaining two and one-half decades, T.K.G. rode a roller-coaster. He would usually begin flush in some endeavor, then become overconfident and heavy-handed. Soon enough, he would hit strong headwinds and blow-back for trying to bite off more power than his comrades could tolerate. He would then become frustrated, face chastisement and/or suspension, and, grand chameleon that he was, when he saw that it was a time for a change, he would attempt to re-invent himself once again.
However, just a few years into the zonal äcärya scam (which, in many respects, he was primarily responsible for), T.K.G. surprisingly became, ever so briefly, a conduit for a breath of fresh air. His motive in becoming so was anything but pure. Nevertheless, because he was the ultimate insider, he could blow the whole thing up. He knew the Achilles Heel of the pretender mahäbhägavat imposition, and he played a card—a card of THE TRUTH—from the bottom of his deck. Short-term, it worked just as he planned. However, what he revealed by spilling the beans in that only glorious moment of his remaining time on earth, turned out very quickly to compromise the “new gurus,” including T.K.G. himself.
In the spring of 1978, with Prabhupäda out of the scene and eleven arbitrary zones established throughout the world, the “new gurus” had a lot of overlording and enjoyment ahead of them--and enjoy and overlord they did! It was as obnoxious as it was powerful, and nobody could do anything to stop it. Only they could stop themselves by in-fighting, which, thankfully, turned out to be just what they did.
T.K.G. first went to Bombay after his institutional guru appointment, his old stomping grounds (which would have never been purchased if he had not been reversed by Prabhupäda after T.K.G. attempted to give Juhu back to Nair). As having the most association with Prabhupäda in his final year, T.K.G.'s self-apotheosis was immeasurable. He had manipulated events during that time, but there was no need for a personal secretary anymore, obviously. Now, he was guru. In his mind, he was THE GURU, i.e., the Successor Äcärya.
This was the energy he took into Bombay, but it was not well received! T.K.G. was Scorpio lagna with Ketu in his ascendant. It was a powerful lagna, but very overbearing. With Moon in Capricorn, T.K.G. could be quite diplomatic on occasion, but he could also be a brute (Ketu in Scorpio) just as often. He was an impressive personality, no doubt, but he would just as soon bully his way in order to get what he wanted, rather than be diplomatic. Now, puffed up with immeasurable arrogance, he strode into Bombay to conquer. Although short-term it played out a bit like that for him, in the end, it certainly did not.
He was far too oppressive for that temple's managers, and the Indian devotees there were not overwhelmed or impressed by him. On a spur-of-the-moment trip to the U. S., the authorities in Bombay let him know that he was no longer welcome to return. Well, to hell with such envious godbrothers! He had a much wider zone, and, after all, he was an American from New York. He had left Bombay and his India seva (without Prabhupäda's permission) in 1974, and that proved okay. There would be no more any RDTSKP escapade, but why not abandon India again and try his fortunes once more in America?
In the G.B.C. negotiations just concluded, T.K.G. managed to capture the central U. S. zone, one of the prime territories for any so-called zonal äcärya. He predictably set up his headquarters in Dallas and many prominent devotees—all of them reputed gold-plated grifters . . . errr, book distributors—flocked to him. In their eyes, T.K.G. had street cred and momentum, and they wanted to be lined up with the sure-fire winner!
After all, his RDTSKP had been highly successful in distributing huge quantities of books and magazines in the mid-Seventies. What all of these second echelon Party Men didn't know was that T.K.G. had decided to re-invent himself now in America. Since his appointment to the post of initiating spiritual master by “ISKCON,” he saw that it was a time for a change. Prabhupäda's books didn't really figure into his new plan and persona.
Instead, T.K.G. went after M-O-N-E-Y in his attempt to completely control the capstone of the “ISKCON” pyramid. From South Korea, high-quality facsimile oil paintings (of former masters in Renaissance art and the like) could now be purchased on the cheap. With skilled hucksters and collectors, huge profit margins could be accrued by selling them for much more than cost. This became the new wave of revenue in his zone.
T.K.G. wanted to eclipse the influence of Prabhupäda. His subservient godbrothers became cowered, in no small part, because they were not moving books, i.e., they were not pleasing the Founder-Äcärya by selling mundane oil paintings. These (former) book distributors, many of whom aspired to become initiating gurus themselves (by first aligning their talents with T.K.G. as a stepping stone), soon became disenchanted.
It got better. T.K.G. made it known to one and all of his godbrothers that their only link to His Divine Grace Çréla Prabhupäda was through him, i.e., T.K.G. actually stated, on more than a few occasions, that he was the successor in the paramparä. He claimed that Prabhupäda had come to him in a dream with this revelation. His Divine Grace was now out of the scene, but T.K.G. was right in the middle of the new picture replacing him.
And it got even better! T.K.G., like all of the others, began initiating his own disciples. He informed them that they had no business reading Prabhupäda's books, because they were not Prabhupäda's disciples. They were now a living guru's disciples, and thus they were instructed to read only T.K.G.'s writings and books. Indirectly, that was also a signal that they should not approach T.K.G.'s godbrothers for any direction. This further alienated the second echelon Party Men: Their designs in aligning with T.K.G. were not panning out.
Those disgruntled godbrothers predictably began migrating to other zones—and bellyaching to other “ISKCON” authorities in the process. At the Moundsville camp, Kértanänanda was also viewed (including by his godbrothers and godsisters) as the sole successor. However, unlike T.K.G., Kértanänanda did not overtly speak of himself in that way. T.K.G. had no use for such subtlety, as his hubris knew no bounds. Over in Northern California and the upper West Coast, Hansadutta was getting into similar trouble. A mere two years after the zonal äcärya concoction was imposed and implemented, the G.B.C. was confronted with a developing situation that threatened to knock down their house of cards.
The ascending stage of his being guru must have been most satisfying to T.K.G., but now it came time to pay the piper. In an emergency meeting of the G.B.C. in the spring of 1980, both he and Hansadutta were suspended as initiating spiritual masters of “ISKCON”. Their zones were taken away from them and divided up, i.e., other new gurus took control of them. Their disciples were not always instructed to seek re-initiation, although that was either subtly encouraged or tolerated. Instead, the instruction from the governing body was that these two fallen gurus were “spiritually sick” and now in rehabilitation. This set the stage for the later Guru Reform Movement, which is a nominal contradiction in and of itself.
The Topanga Canyon Bombshell
“When I order, 'You become guru,' he becomes regular guru, that's all. He becomes disciple of my disciple. That's it.”
Prabhupäda: What is the use of producing some rascal guru?
“Myself and the other G.B.C. have done the greatest disservice to this movement for the last three years, because we interpreted the appointment of rittviks as the appointment of gurus.”
The 1980 suspension was a major setback for T.K.G.. He plotted ways and means to reverse it and regain all that momentum that was stolen from him by the G.B.C.. T.K.G. was not a man who often trafficked in THE TRUTH, but, by God, maybe it could be used here! After all, he knew better than anybody that Prabhupäda never appointed anyone to the post of guru, and that he never indicated that any of his disciples were qualified to be initiating gurus in his ISKCON movement. The training was not complete, and he verified this essential fact directly (and only) to T.K.G. just months before His Divine Grace departed (above).
That essential factor did not fit in with T.K.G.'s previous efforts, but it could damn well be used now! So, in early December, 1980, at Nåsiàänanda's posh, post-modern, A-frame in upscale Topanga Canyon, T.K.G. and Hansadutta convened senior and influential Prabhupäda initiates and blew the lid off of the whole zonal äcärya scam!
Fortunately for us, the discussion was taped.
Hansadutta let T.K.G. do the talking, since he was better at spelling out the history, particularly since he had been the gatekeeper to Prabhupäda in the final months. First, Hansadutta set the stage by telling everyone assembled that his godbrother, T.K.G., had been thinking over what was happening now in their movement and had something important to say about it.
What he said was a bombshell!
“. . . and he started to name them (the eleven rittviks in July, 1977). He made it very clear that they are his disciples. . . it was very clear in my mind that they were his disciples. . . And that's all that it was! And it was never any more than that. If it had been more than that, you can bet your bottom dollar that Prabhupäda would have spoken for days and hours and weeks on end about how to set up this thing . . . You can't show me anything on tape or in writing where Prabhupäda says, 'I appoint these eleven gurus.' It doesn't exist, because he never appointed any gurus. This is a myth.”
The Machiavellian Manipulator played THE TRUTH card, and, as could easily have been predicted, within three months, at the next Mäyäpur conclave, the G.B.C. re-established him (and Hansadutta) as initiating gurus, giving them back their zones. The whole episode of their probation was swept under the rug. As could also have been just as easily predicted, T.K.G. made a mean slide and a clean glide away from what he had said at Topanga Canyon.
Ultimately, however, what he said there that evening did not merge into oblivion.
Gopé-Bhäva Club Redux
“The standards I have already given you, now try to maintain them at all times under standard procedure. Do not try to innovate or create anything or manufacture anything, that will ruin everything.”
“ . . . gradually understanding from the class, he will come to the point of spontaneous enthusiasm. This spontaneous loving devotional service is not so easy matter . . .”
“I have studied this man carefully, and he is not a Vaiñëava. I have remarked he always tries to be number one. That is not our Vaiñëava philosophy.”
After the emergence of Rittvik, T.K.G. hammered down hard upon its promulgators and mocked them with sardonic vitriol. “Fun With Rittviks” only went so far to entertain him, however, and “ISKCON” was moving in a direction different from his vision. As a result, he was unable to any longer influence it very much. He was no longer its top dog, and his never-ending aspiration to be the Successor Äcärya was fading away.
“It was widely circulated that he wanted to install Näräyaë Mahäräj as the next ISKCON äcärya, or at least the official ISKCON siksha-guru, and as his most confidential assistant, Tamäl would succeed him in due course. . . Näräyaë Mahäräj was already elderly and in ill health with a serious heart condition. Perhaps a sudden and unexplained illness would then quicken the transition . . .”
Many events transpired after T.K.G. was re-installed as initiating spiritual master in the early Eighties and given back his zone. However, he never fully recovered the position of power and influence he had accrued before he was suspended, and that bothered him. His “greatest disservice” revelation—cent-per-cent true and a brief breath of fresh air—did help to open up the gates for other godbrothers to be voted in as initiating spiritual masters.
Those institutional gurus continued to increase. Also, time exposed many of the eleven pretender mahäbhägavats. One was exposed as an active homosexual amongst his disciples, and no less than three others were exposed for similar (but heterosexual) activity. One was exposed for heavy gun violence. Gurus don't do these kinds of things.
Just previously, when Jayatértha crossed the river in 1982, a major schism broke out between “ISKCON” and the chief wing of Gouòéya Mutt that had helped to create it. Some leading “ISKCON” men joined the opposing camp, and the after-effects, all negative, rippled throughout the movement. When Sulocana was assassinated in May, 1986, the dam broke. A significant number of “ISKCON” devotees, including Party Men and temple presidents (usually, these terms are synonymous) revolted. That's a long story.
Throughout it all, T.K.G.'s luster diminished--as far as him being the chief leader and guru of the “ISKCON” movement, that is. He had been most influential in creating “ISKCON” in the first place, but now Frankenstein was no longer under his command. T.K.G. saw it was a time for a change, so he removed all the opulent “vyäsäsanas” (reserved for him) from his temples in order to take a seat close to ground level. He foresaw that something like this would be instituted by the G.B.C., and it was at the Mäyäpur conclave.
After the Towaco upheaval earlier that year, T.K.G. and the other bogus gurus were allowed to keep their disciples, i.e., the root nescience was merely wallpapered. However, this Second Transformation, led by Professor Blueblood (who shot straight to the top as a result of it) certainly diminished T.K.G.'s profile and chutzpah. He was now just like all of the other “ISKCON” gurus, and that group had expanded by the late Eighties.
Then Rittvik emerged from the ocean of nescience, another major deviation conducive to another schism. The center was no longer holding, as Kértanänanda had completely broken away by that time, as well. A frail, brief, and futile attempt was made to patch up with the Neo-Gouòéyas via a publication called The ISKCON Journal, but the fissure proved too deep for that ploy to go anywhere, even though both were virulently anti-Rittvik.
T.K.G. took to ridiculing the rittviks, and he did everything he could to make sure that his “ISKCON” movement and the new Rittvik concoction would not find some way to unify. However, it was all getting to become a bit tedious for him. In terms of realizing his ambitions, the glide path pointed steadily downward, so he saw it was a time for a change. He found his next opening in the form of Swämi B. V. Näräyaëa of Keçava-jé Mutt in Mathurä, a breakaway Gouòéya Mutt from before Prabhupäda came to America.
When he made that move on the “ISKCON” chessboard, the G.B.C. instantly faced a lose/lose conundrum. It appeared that the Gopé-Bhäva Club of the mid-Seventies in Los Angeles—nipped by Prabhupäda with forceful condemnation—had re-emerged now in a much more virulent and powerful way. Slowly but surely, the congregation would be running from “ISKCON” toward the so-called ecstasy of pure bhakti-rasa. With even first and second echelon men leading that new Gopé-Bhäva movement, it had to be confronted. The collegiate style and mood of the Professor's ecclesiology (which, in the mid-Eighties, replaced the heady zonal äcärya era) was now put under considerable stress. It would certainly be defeated and replaced in the long run if something was not done—and done soon!
In December, 1994, an initial confrontation took place in Philadelphia between the G.B.C. and T.K.G., along with his fellow travelers in Gopé-Bhäva. The raging fires of the controversy were not put out at that time, as the meeting was basically a highly-surcharged Mexican standoff between the institutionalists and the çåìgära sahajiyäs. Unsettled issues in “ISKCON” had come back to rear their ugly heads, and a schism (somewhat similar to what went down with Kértanänanda a decade previously) appeared imminent.
Nothing was solved at that time in the City of Brotherly Love, as the contenders were unable to come to any kind of understanding between themselves. The meeting was superficially civil, but the whole atmosphere--not only in Philadelphia but throughout “ISKCON”—had become surcharged with mistrust, alarm, and even the threat of violence.
The G.B.C. was, however, able to eke out a minor concession, viz., previous to the upcoming Mäyäpur conclave the next spring, there would only be one more visit allowed by the Gopé-Bhäva contingent to Swämi Näräyaëa, simply to let him know what had gone down in Philadelphia. T.K.G. and his cohorts agreed to this, but T.K.G.'s word had proven, over the years, to be anything but gold, i.e., he did not adhere to his promise. After the çåìgära contingent went to Swämi Näräyaëa to inform him of their three-month restriction, T.K.G. strode into the Keçava-jé Mutt again some days later. Indeed, he was honored during that unexpected visit, and he gave a lecture in the Mutt's temple room.
After the emergency confrontation in Philadelphia, in a memorandum sent to all G.B.C.s and Temple Presidents, written by Professor Blueblood along with two other commissioners, the threat of a looming schism was not even mentioned. Instead, it was sugar-coated by an attempt to calm the waters. Its first paragraph read as follows:
“There has been a great deal of agitation spreading throughout our society concerning H. H. Näräyaë Mahäräj of the Gauòéya Vedänta Saàhité, and the close relationship that has formed between him and four members of the G.B.C., and some other ISKCON members, as well.”
The institutional gurus of “ISKCON” were (and still are) each referred to as “His Divine Grace,” but, in this memorandum, Swämi Näräyaë is reduced to the honorific of H.H., which means “His Holiness,” specifically lower than H.D.G. This slap in his face surely must have been noted by those who now believed that Swämi Näräyaë should be installed as the Successor Äcärya in “ISKCON.” Whether or not this slight impelled T.K.G. to break his pledge is not known, but, when the G.B.C. heard that he had done so, the level of their anxiety and anger moved up an octave. It was now war!
Mäyäpur, 1995 was the epitome of cult political intrigue. Although T.K.G., a G.B.C. from the very beginning in 1970, was dominant in this clash of the titans, the numbers were against him. Many were not inclined to speak against him, because T.K.G. knew where the bodies were buried, i.e., he knew which of them—quite possibly, most of them—had skeletons in their closets. If worse came to worse and T.K.G. led a contingent of more than fifteen leading “ISKCON” men out (including G.B.C.s and sannyäsés), that schism could and would produce nasty recriminations. They all knew that T.K.G. would then be inclined to reveal all that he knew about them in order to win the ensuing conflict.
It was the G.B.C. loyalists versus the breakaway faction led by T.K.G. They were so inimical that they would not meet with one another in the same room, i.e., two devotees (who were in good standing with both camps) shuttled back and forth with talking points. It went on for two weeks. Little if any progress was made. Shockingly, T.K.G. was blaming this internecine battle as the product of Swämi Näräyaë's ostentatious worldwide preaching campaign. Although there was some truth to that, there was also an in-built contradiction in such a line of thought, and that served to weaken the spontaneous sahajiyäs.
The “ISKCON” second echelon Party Men were venting their spleens against T.K.G., as these institutional loyalists wanted nothing to do with Swämi Näräyaë and his wing of Gouòéya Mutt. The Commission itself held the stronger cards, and it was pressured to lay down the law on the breakaway faction. It would emerge the loser if it did not do so, and that realization forced the standoff to come to an end. The G.B.C. pushed all of its chips to the center of the table and said “CALL!” It demanded that T.K.G. and his comrades surrender to “ISKCON” or face immediate excommunication.
That ultimatum was a defeat for T.K.G., because it automatically meant that Swämi Näräyaë had been rejected; he would have no future whatsoever in “ISKCON.” The ploy to establish him as the next Successor Äcärya was upended, and he would certainly also not be accepted as çikñä-guru, either. T.K.G. also had to weigh other factors if he chose to break away. He would lose his zone. He would lose his status as an “ISKCON” initiating spiritual master. His disciples would be ordered to reject him and take “re-initiation.” Over time, his comrades now may not all stay with him, as some of them would peel off, eat humble pie, and return, hat in hand, to the mother ship.
He decided to capitulate, but his surrender—if it can be called that—would be anything but unconditional. In point of fact, he was able to manage and supervise his own punishment. The G.B.C. had no problem with that: Keeping the big man in their fold was a victory in itself. He was allowed to massage whatever edges he felt needed softening.
However, he and his leading men were punished. Of those of them who were “ISKCON” initiating gurus, that status was suspended for two years. Of those who were G.B.C.s--including, of course, T.K.G.—they were suspended from the Commish for two years. All of these men were prohibited from having any further connection with Swämi B. V. Näräyaë (this did not end up harming his mission, of course). Indeed, the G.B.C. went so far as to forbid all of them from even visiting Våndävan dhäma for two full years.
T.K.G. was also given one extra slap on the wrist: He was deemed not a good manager, and a co-G.B.C. was appointed to direct his zone with him. Yet, all things considered, he came out of the debacle in decent shape. The Veils Man made sure that the curtain was pulled on all of his restrictions, i.e., his punishments were not to be divulged to the devotees at large. It was all to stay in-house amongst the “ISKCON” power elites.
The INTERNET was still in its budding stage in 1995, so secrecy could be more effective back then than it would be now. The chief issue, one that had dominated the 1995 G.B.C. Annual Meeting in West Bengal for a fortnight, was not even mentioned in its final resolutions, not one peep. Such is the G.B.C. penchant for hiding its machinations.
Still, on a rather limited basis, the news did leak. T.K.G. had a hidden, big-time enemy on the G.B.C., and that man was friendly with a T.K.G. disgruntled former disciple in the Houston area. Word got around, but it could not be easily confirmed. Indeed, T.K.G. had already arranged for just such a development; when the gossip spread, the newly-appointed G.B.C. Chairman issued and signed an official “ISKCON” letter specifically stating that T.K.G. was in good standing with the commission. Not all that truthful, of course, but, by that time, the G.B.C. had not been the standard bearer of truth for decades.
T.K.G. was able to return to his zone in America. He was able to once again lead the good life, and re-mount his steed. He could and did travel to wherever he wanted as the conqueror of the senses, the great post-modern sannyäsé in the renounced order . . . allegedly. However, in less than two years after his second major chastisement in Mäyäpur, he unexpectedly slipped from the saddle, knocked off his high horse by the ghost of poison past.
Quotes from the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada are copyright by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust