Four Deviant Factions (I)

ISKCON Crises and Mission Creep (1967-74)

Part Five of Benefic and Malefic Spheres and Patterns of Influence

By Kailäsa Candra däsa

“There is immense possibility of spreading this Krishna Consciousness Movement all over the Western world, if it is administered properly.”
-Letter to Satya Pal, 8-31-69

“If only the intelligent class of men understand our Krishna philosophy, then our mission is successful. . . Many fanatic spiritual movements have come and gone, but, without the flawless philosophy of Krishna, they cannot stand.”
-Letter to Lalét Kumär, 11-27-71

“Those who want to be cheated do not take the solution even when it is at hand but prefer to be cheated.”
-Letter to Sudäma, 1-1-74

As per the current organizational manifestations apparently linked to His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedänta Swämé Prabhupäda, consideration of their patterns can only produce a murky outline as to how they might conflict or amalgamate over time in an indeterminate future. Such consideration cannot be limited to only the fabricated, so-called “ISKCON.” That cult is the big kahuna, no doubt, but the other factions (which are, indirectly, its off-shoots) must be understood, along with “ISKCON,” in order to produce a more accurate focus. Generically, there now are (including “ISKCON”) four of them. In all likelihood, these four deviated factions will figure into the future outcome, thus making that manifestation likely a malefic one.

All emphases added for your edification and realization.

“As the goal of spiritual realization is only one . . . (o)nly the incomplete views of various parties, apart from the bona fide Vedic lines of teaching, give a rupturous appearance to the Bhagavad-gétä.”
-Letter to Professor J. F. Staal, 1-30-70

One of the mind-boggling elements to this whole melodrama is the inability of so many devotees to wake up to what each of these deviant parties is trying to pull off. That is the nature of fanaticism. It goes completely against reason, logic, and common sense, yet it continues to flourish in superstition, while all that it touches flounders. The twisted interpretations of these groups–and the pseudo-spiritual realities being pushed by the them–has overwhelmed a weak-minded mass of devotees. They feel something is wrong but willingly remain powerless to penetrate into the roots of their collective malaise.

These factions are all run by flawed men, conditioned souls in the lower modes of material nature. They falsely claim to represent His Divine Grace, but have, instead, formed Western-based kaitava dharmas, all of which are entirely unauthorized, even if there are some occasional displays that appear otherwise. These patterns must be penetrated, and the knowledge that unmasks them can be attained if the practice of Kåñëa consciousness is undertaken with the right attitude. Still, it is not possible to even comprehend penetrating their nescience until the absolute philosophy of Kåñëa consciousness, which gives purpose to our lives, is first understood rightly.

The “ISKCON” Theocratic Oligarchy

“Krishna Consciousness is not limited within any circle.”
-Letter to Mandali Bhadra, 11-2-69

“If worthless men are sometimes at the head of affairs, it is, I believe, because worthless men are at the tail and the middle.” -John Adams

“The important thing is that one must know his place.”
-The Marquis of Montrose, Rob Roy

The first apa-sampradäya to be analyzed is the imitation school known as the fabricated, so-called “ISKCON” confederation. Out of the three deviated factions that offer initiations, “ISKCON” is the most international and prominent. “ISKCON” holds, by far, the most potential to become a fixture as an apa-sampradäya, i.e., one that will produce a terrible lasting legacy and badly influence the lives of millions of people throughout the globe over a relatively long period of time.

The past is prologue. Unless you understand how ISKCON became transformed into “ISKCON”—or, if you are of another perspective, how ISKCON became covered by “ISKCON”—then there will be far less of a possibility to foresee how this dangerous cult will play out in the coming years and decades.

The perversion of a once bona fide and vibrant movement came into existence insidiously over time, although it did have a definitive moment to mark its transformation from what it once was. That cataclysmic event, as has been mentioned in many places on our websites, took place in the last week of March, 1978. It was, at that time, that the most egregious deviation from the orders of the Founder-Äcärya, His Divine Grace Çréla A. C. Bhaktivedänta Swämé Prabhupäda, was forcibly implemented throughout what soon became the shell of his movement.

As was discussed in the trident of temerity, the movement was then at the peak of its power. Many of the devotees were still in a state of shock and deep melancholy over the unexpected departure of His Divine Grace a mere four and one-half months earlier. However, we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves, so let us first analyze some of the events that led, in due course, to the manifestation of “ISKCON.” This summary will allow the reader to gain a perspective as to what the ecclesiocracy now is, as well as to its chief weaknesses in terms of internal cohesion and unity.

One and Four Other Crazy Men

“This is very much disturbing to me and has caused me much pain. Please, therefore, stop Kértanänanda from making his mental concoctions. . . I have already written you to inform you that somehow or other he has become crazy . . . any instruction given by him is unauthorized and should at once be rejected.”
-Letter to Brahmänanda, 10-14-67

“It is clear that he has become crazy, and he should once more be sent to Bellevue. He was in Bellevue before, and, with great difficulty, and with the help of Mr. Ginsberg, we got him out, but it appears that he has developed his madness again. Therefore, if he is not sent to Bellevue, then at least he should be stopped from speaking . . .”
-Letter to Brahmänanda, 10-16-67

“Elementary penguins chanting Hare Kåñëa . . .”
The Beatles, “I am the Walrus”

There were shocking blows to Çréla Prabhupäda’s branch of the sampradäya throughout the eleven years that he was physically manifest. The first of those, in 1967, was a betrayal by his initial sannyäsé, Kértanänanda Swämé. It’s a long story, and there is no need for a long digression—not at this time. He and his friend (and homosexual partner) broke away from Prabhupäda’s movement. That caused a ripple amongst the other newly-initiated disciples in the movement, but this speed bump was overcome in a short span. Nevertheless, it set into motion a precedent for a series of unfortunate events over time, all related in terms of cause and effect.

“At the present moment in our ISKCON, campus politics and diplomacy has entered. Some of my beloved students, on whom I counted very, very much, have been involved in this matter, influenced by Maya. As such, there has been some activity which I consider as disrespectful.”
-Letter to Satsvarüpa, 7-27-70

“Regarding the Gaudéya Math, our position has nothing to do with them. They cannot do anything, and, if somebody does something, they will be envious. That is the nature of third-class men.”
-Letter to Yamuna, 11-18-70

All my other godbrothers are very much envious, as I can understand from their behavior.”
-Letter to B. V. Puré, 12-2-70

The next major deviation was a rebellion by four other crazy men, precipitated in no small part by occult interference, in India, on the part of Prabhupäda’s inimical godbrothers. This shock transpired in 1970, and the great sinister movement entered ISKCON at that time. His godbrothers were antagonistic to Çréla Prabhupäda accepting that title and taking opulent worship befitting his status. As such, they influenced one of his very first devotees to come to some wrong conclusions about him. These misinterpretations were based upon over-glorification, which is just as offensive as misjudging the spiritual master to be an ordinary man.

“You are also one of the members of the G.B.C., so you can think over very deeply how to save the situation. It is a fact, however, that the great sinister movement is within our Society.”
-Letter to Hansadutta, 9-2-70

An influential temple president from the East Coast traveled to India on a business assignment from His Divine Grace, and, once there, he contacted some of Prabhupäda’s godbrothers. He was negatively influenced by them. Then, when he left India, he spread the false idea that Prabhupäda was God, that he was displeased with his disciples, and that he was pulling apart from his movement as a result. This devotee then influenced his brother to believe the tale, and two other friends were influenced similarly.

These four men were given the order of sannyäsa around that time, but, even before receiving those titles, they were all personally charismatic and effective leaders of the movement, particularly in America. Naturally, other devotees started to believe these things, and ISKCON began to flounder. His Divine Grace created the Governing Body Commission in the summer of 1970, composed of almost all householders. Its creation, in no small measure, was to act as a counter-point to the propaganda of the four crazy men.

An emergency conclave of all ISKCON leaders (and many rank-and-file devotees) descended upon the Moundsville rural complex in the fall of 1970 to confront this festering problem. In other words, many devotees were not taking the statements of His Divine Grace at face value. Most of them did not have direct access to him, so they heard what he had said from their leaders. When they heard that he said that he was not God, some believed that he was deceiving them; this kind of delusion also applied to his other statements.

Actually, during this crisis, Çréla Prabhupäda was briefly locked in his room in Los Angeles, while the four sannyäsés made plans to close down all of the American centers and consolidate the movement in Greenwich Village. However, their influence and momentum waned. Prabhupäda, supposedly God according to their propaganda, was denouncing it, and so were his commissioners. The tide turned, the sannyäsés were split up, and the crisis passed. However, the G.B.C., both individually and collectively, now possessed the baton of official charisma and management power. That would soon provoke another problem, as the ISKCON movement began to reel from one crisis to another.

During this time, many outstanding Kåñëa conscious activities were performed daily both in the temples and in the field, potent new centers were being opened, and the movement was spreading quite nicely. This was truly what could be called ISKCON, and it was mostly the result of rank-and-file devotees working in harmony with some good leaders. All these men and women were dedicated to the real thing, and the second echelon temple presidents directing them were Prabhupäda-centered. Most of these devotees were also oriented toward gaining knowledge and real preaching.

A Centralization Scheme

“I do not follow exactly what is the motive of the so-called G.B.C. meeting. . . Under these circumstances, I AUTHORIZE YOU TO DISREGARD . . . ANY DECISION FROM THE G.B.C. MEN UNTIL MY FURTHER INSTRUCTION. You manage your affairs peacefully and independently, and try to improve the spiritual atmosphere of the centers more carefully.”
-Letter to All Temple Presidents, 4-8-72 (emphases not added)

“Do not centralize anything. Each temple must remain independent and self-sufficient. That was my plan from the very beginning, why you are thinking otherwise? Once before you wanted to do something centralizing with your G.B.C. meeting, and, if I did not interfere, the whole thing would have been killed. Do not think in this way of big corporation, big credits, centralization—these are all nonsense proposals.”
-Letter to Karandhär, 12-22-72

“Gradually, the Krishna consciousness idea will evaporate: Another change, another change, every day another change. Stop all this! Simply have kértana, nothing else.”
-Letter to Sudäma, 11-5-72

However, an undercurrent juxtaposed to all of these progressive Kåñëa conscious accomplishments was also gaining momentum; it issued forth from the top echelons of management. It was a mentality of the enjoyers and controllers overlording those serving under them. It would incubate and develop.

Çréla Prabhupäda had also created the G.B.C. so that he could free himself from management burdens, concentrate on translating and writing commentaries, and, from one perspective, retire from the proselytizing efforts. He wanted to devote his remaining time on earth to his books, and he wanted senior men to engage in oversight of the management responsibilities (by the presidents at the centers), preach mostly to them (so they could preach to the initiated disciples and new bhaktas), and set the ideal example. Problem was, that’s not how, in most respects, the plan unfolded.

The next crisis was all G.B.C.-instigated. It took place during the winter months of 1972, about a year and one-half after the previous brouhaha. We have covered this one in a number of our previous articles. In summary, eight G.B.C. men held an unauthorized meeting in New York City at the end of March of that year. Technically, they had a quorum, but the other commissioners were not informed of the meeting nor was Prabhupäda.

Actually, this mentality of secret politics was hatched immediately after the formation of the G.B.C. Its formative document was called the Direction of Management, and all the temple presidents in the movement had a fiduciary responsibility, according to this charter, to elect new commissioners once every three years. Except for the twelve commissioners themselves—all of whom were also temple presidents—other leaders were never informed of this directive to rotate and change the commissioners on a regular basis.

They would have been the beneficiaries of such a turnover, and that certainly played into the treacherous neglect. It is an in-depth topic, but the seed of deception was already present within those original twelve G.B.C. men by their failure to inform the other presidents of their fiduciary duty. The reason for that negligence is self-evident, and, as such, does not require an explanation.

It is now clear, in hindsight, that the plan approved at the aforementioned meeting in New York City, which resulted in the G.B.C. being suspended by His Divine Grace less than a fortnight later, was engineered by mysterious means even before the conclave took place. The G.B.C. man of the central zone had already consolidated his centers there. They were closed down by early March, and all of the devotees in them came to the Detroit yatra before the crisis even transpired. Your author, completely new to the movement at the time, was directly impacted by that attempt at centralization of men, money, and amenities.

Yet, no one except those eight men (and another devotee who was pivotal to the scheme) had any idea that this is what was going down at the time. Indeed, that’s how things were in the Society throughout the Seventies, i.e., hardly anyone (aside from the inner circle) knew what was actually happening.

Except, some did realize, gradually, from first-hand experience, that things were changing—and in the wrong direction. The emphasis on what had been important was transforming. Most of the temple presidents were beginning to adopt a contemptuous, arrogant attitude and persona toward the other members. Likewise, instead of an emphasis on preaching and knowledge, the emphasis shifted (in the name of book distribution, of course) to collecting funds, or, in devotee terminology, “the pick.”

Big Sticks and a Big Pick

“ . . . the devotees can dress up in respectable clothes like ladies and gentlemen in order to distribute my literatures under special circumstances, but even this program should not become widespread.”
-Letter to Rüpänuga, 2-17-73

“If you adulterate our saìkértana movement with some business motive, then it will be spoiled immediately.”
-Letter to Mukunda, 7-1-69

The movement began to divide into the controllers and the controlled, the enjoyers and the servants, the masters and the serfs, the exploiters and the beguiled. Although insidious, it was a trend that would not reverse at any time, gaining even more steam especially after the cataclysm of 1978. Post the centralization debacle, the G.B.C. men tried to turn adversity to advantage by jettisoning their wives and taking the order of sannyäsa . This jumping accelerated in 1973 to the point that most of the G.B.C. men were no longer gåhasthas. Their wives were abandoned and devastated. These new sannyäsés tried, with considerable success, to secure power over the temple presidents, as the overwhelming majority of those temple leaders remained householders.

“ . . . nobody should try to claim any extra honor on account of an official position.”
-Letter to Brahmänanda, 8-30-69

For all of the other devotees, upward movement was made next to impossible. The temple president was considered (and honored) as the most advanced devotee simply because he was the temple president. Some men attempted to escape the trap in various ways, mostly unsuccessful. The rank-and-file thus divided into distinct mentalities. Sycophants cozied up to their leaders, and this allowed them to not have to engage in producing acquisitive results as did the others. Another section simply transferred their original allegiance from Prabhupäda to the specific order-giver at their temple (or on their buses, if they were engaged in the traveling pick under sannyäsés and/or their lieutenants).

These sannyäsés, presidents, and their lieutenants approved of this trend and did not interfere with it; obviously, they were the beneficiaries. Pushed hard in the process, the true devotees soldiered on and tolerated the situation as best they could. They produced and surrendered results. They advanced in knowledge, detachment, along with allegiance to and realization of their spiritual master–and how they were pleasing him.

Although not attempted often, a few decided to make radical and defiant moves. One such man dedicated himself fully to literature distribution and came up with many deceptive ways to sell the books. He eventually became known as a sort of incarnation of literature dispersion, and, in this way, he became influential in the movement. He formed his own party, and his method of the “change up” was taught to others at various centers. He was neither liked nor approved by the first echelon, but they could not come down on him, because his collection results were just too big.

Another devotee broke his brahminical thread and cursed his temple president (who thus experienced an emergency appendectomy within hours). This radical then ventured out to form a collecting machine, pushing devotees he had rounded up harder than Merrill pushed his Marauders in Burma during World War II. This man linked up with a similarly-minded fellow, both were able to secure sannyäsa , and they eventually centered their collection efforts in a major democratic nation-state of the Far East.

The pick was huge there, but the means were mostly deceptive (and sometimes even criminal), although those collectors generally remained in devotee garb. This nation-state soon thereafter forbade any collections by the Hare Kåñëa movement in its teeming cities. Just previous to that, however, millions of dollars were collected, with those funds subsidizing the building and embellishment of three large ISKCON centers in India.

In the early Seventies, there was this short-term strategy producing short-term results at the expense of long-term planning and purity on an ascending plane. Indeed, book distribution (in 2013) has now diminished to such a mind-boggling extent that it has been, for decades, but a trickle of what it once was. However, the attitude impelling most of those decisions and actions back in the day was insidiously poisoned by personal ambition. In most cases, short-term accomplishments was all that mattered to the powerful men with daëòas or shoulder bags.

Something else devolved during this time. The devotees had all been collecting in devotional apparel since the late Sixties, but then came the introduction of “plainclothes saìkértan” in 1973. As one of the prominent G.B.C. men attempted to first get this innovation approved and institutionalized—he being one of the eight implicated in the centralization scheme of 1972—Çréla Prabhupäda resisted. Then, seeing that his prominent leaders were insisting on it, he tried to modify the idea. It was never modified.

Instead, devotees went out in expensive garb to sophisticated places, such as airports, in complete disguise, using deceptive methods to secure donations and distribute some books. The women dressed up attractively in order to “dovetail” their feminine allure. The men wore wigs, covered their neck beads, no longer wore tilaka, and used various techniques, most of them fundamentally deceptive, in order to sell books and, more importantly, get as many dollars as possible from the unsuspecting vikarmés.

The change-up, aforementioned, was introduced during this period. The so-called Saìkértan Newsletter, centered out of Maryland, also was then created. Mostly, it glorified temple presidents and zones (G.B.C.s, directly or indirectly) wherein “laxmé points” were being greatly accumulated. Thus, “transcendental competition” entered into the ISKCON lexicon and mentality.

The collectors competed for recognition not only in the newsletter but also at their own centers and from their own temple presidents. The winners received special prasädam as but part of the reward for being topmost at the pick. Thus, devotees who were not skilled in these deception techniques, who were not inclined to such passionate activity, and who did not really approve of the scam were considered to be less spiritually advanced than these great collectors.

Next Octave Up . . . or Down?

“Don’t change from this to that. That is your American disease. This is very serious, that you always want to change everything.”
-Letter to Bhakta däs, 11-24-74

“Don’t do anything whimsically without consulting me. I made the G.B.C. to give me relief, but if you do like this, then where is the relief? It is anxiety for me. This is the difficulty, that as soon as one gets power, he becomes whimsical and spoils everything. What can I do?”
-Letter to Hansadutta, 9-12-74

“I was Snow White, but I drifted.”
Mae West

The Christmas pick of 1973 was unprecedented, and it started to become known throughout the host culture, especially in America, that the Hare Kåñëa movement, per capita (its active members in the centers), was the richest of all counter-cultural groups. From one perspective, the movement was booming.

In 1974, many thresholds were crossed. There were four areas that increased: Literature distribution, revenue intake, new initiated members, and opulent Deity worship. However, there was a dark underside to all of this. Just as, in music, there are ascending and descending octaves, similarly, many of those thresholds crossed were transgressed in the wrong direction.

Millions of important, spiritual literatures would be distributed, and plainclothes collection continued unabated, with most temples falling in line by adopting it. Nevertheless, since Kåñëa consciousness is an all-inclusive system, everywhere active and applicable, that bedrock of the absolute philosophy is ripe for manipulation. The power structure was concentrated at the upper echelons in ISKCON, but even that did not satisfy some of the men who comprised it. They wanted complete control, and, as aforementioned, the move from householder to sannyäsé (by many of them) had this impetus behind their change in status from its beginning.

A kind of compulsive, psychic slavery began to seep into the movement, with many of the temple presidents and sannyäsés creating this template, developing it, pushing it, and exploiting it. The method of persuasion began to morph into something else, as “preaching” by these men to the devotees (they controlled) always began with “You should . . . “ Persuasion to deliberate or to serve in a certain way was no longer based on convincing devotees; it was, instead, based on coercive techniques.

Competition for supremacy amongst the ISKCON power elite also crossed a threshold early in the year. One such struggle centered around the opulent temple (donated by George Harrison) in Letchmore Heath, Great Britain. It was a power crisis between the G.B.C. man (who did not reside there much) and the devotees who comprised most of the live-in temple population.

“The reason why there is difficulty and competitive spirit is that everyone wants to be supreme. That is the difficulty.”
-Letter to Mädhavänanda, 1-1-74

The devotees wanted the current acting president to continue to be their leader, and they had the right to choose him by vote. His Divine Grace Çréla Prabhupäda also approved his selection. The G.B.C. representative wanted another man, one who was completely loyal to him. This struggle took many months to resolve, and it was not concluded satisfactorily. Indeed, later in the year, that G.B.C. man had his temples in Germany raided by the police, who confiscated the ISKCON bank accounts, as well. It was a major embarrassment for the movement, almost entirely provoked by scam-kértan methods, which had back-fired.

His Divine Grace was being informed by various devotees on a rather regular basis that other leaders were not following the standard. They were dictating, manipulating, and controlling everyone they could, becoming, in effect, bogus brähmaëas. Çréla Prabhupäda indirectly acknowledged it:

“After all, we are criticizing false caste brähmaëas, but, if we ourselves are bogus brähmaëas, then our position is very bad.”
-Letter to Sudäma, 5-26-74

This low-boil crisis did not improve as the year went on, and it reached a point where, after one complaint by an African-American temple president, Prabhupäda curtailed sannyäsa :

“Regarding the sannyäsé, therefore, I have stopped sannyäsa . No Vaiñëava says that he is advanced. Please send me the name of the sannyäsé, and I shall do the needful.”
-Letter to Çukadeva, 11-24-74

For power over workers and money, considerable tension developed between the gåhasthas temple presidents and the sannyäsés. This particular dimension of the fight was compounded by the fact that some of the G.B.C. men had, since 1972, added sannyäsa to their portfolio. The big sticks got bigger. Actually, this power struggle mostly centered around the G.B.C., which was not acting according to its assigned advisory role. Problems connected to the G.B.C. increased exponentially in 1974:

“ . . . the difficulty is that our G.B.C. men are falling victim to mäyä. Today, I trust this G.B.C., and tomorrow he will fall down. That is the difficulty. . . Unless this problem is solved, whatever we may resolve, it will not be very useful.”
-Letter to Jayatértha, 12-16-74

Besides the constant cold and sometimes hot war of competition for supremacy by the sannyäsé/G.B.C. men and the householder temple presidents, there was another more important factor that compounded the deterioration of basic Vaiñëava dealings: Neglect to report to Prabhupäda. The sad fact was that major decisions—as in wrong, impulsive, and self-motivated decisions—were being made by the G.B.C. men (mostly individually) without bothering to contact his Divine Grace first:

“What you have done is not at all allowed. I am very disappointed that you have done this. Even you did not consult me. Why?”
-Letter to Hansadutta, 9-29-74

Not all the G.B.C. men were implicated, of course, but a significant percentage of them were. The devotees in various temples, particularly in America and Europe, heard about it through the scuttlebutt of the grapevine, and this caused quite a bit of anxiety to pervade the temples. It fanned the flames of doubt as to who should and should not be followed and honored. Indeed, one G.B.C.-sannyäsé went back to his wife, which was considered incredulous by everyone, including His Divine Grace. Actually, there were worse scandals going down in the private lives of other sannyäsés during this crossroads year, but those had not been exposed yet.

A Bridge Too Far

“I have great hope for Krishna Consciousness in America, more than any other place.”
-Letter to Rämeçvara, 5-9-74

“The American people are very intelligent, therefore I concentrate on the Americans for spreading this movement.”
-Letter to Satsvarüpa, 9-8-74

The Year of Our Lord 1974 marked the emergence of the R.D.T.S.K.P., a bus program that went from one temple to another throughout the United States. This was run by T.K.G., and it adopted a peculiar interpretation of the philosophy. The buses were headed by two sannyäsés, as T.K.G. recruited the great kértan man, Viñëujana Swämé—his close personal friend from back in their hippie/commune days–in order to sweeten the enticement for “brahmacärés” to join. It actively recruited such unmarried devotees from the temples, and the propaganda used was that the temple presidents, almost all of whom were householders, were in mäyä. The only way to get out of mäyä was to leave and join T.K.G., who the presidents began to consider—not without cause—the head of a kind of raider or predator party.

This juggernaut was highly aggressive, both externally and internally. Its collectors were put through severe hardships—and not only out on the pick. If they screwed up in some way (or fell far short of collection expectations), they were punished.

The quota mentality was increasing at many of the centers also, particularly since plainclothes collection tactics freed the women to become like assertive feminists in order to compete with male collectors. The mission drift thus increased incrementally, but only a few noticed it—and they made no minority report. His Divine Grace had high aspirations for his movement in America, and his hopes centered upon his mission being accepted there.

However, with the cult raider and warrior tactics of collection and psychic control becoming more and more recognized for just what they were, Americans were becoming increasingly skeptical that this Hare Kåñëa movement was really a good thing. That skepticism would soon degrade into cynicism, in no small part because of the burn-out tactics being employed by the R.D.T.S.K.P.

A kind of warlike energy—and it would increase as time went on—had now inexorably imbedded itself in the ISKCON movement, particularly in America. The competitors who came out victorious were considered superior devotees, and the leader of the R.D.T.S.K.P. considered himself the best of all. However, his triumph was short-lived, as, after the next G.B.C. meeting in Mäyäpura, T.K.G. would have to approach Prabhupäda in Hawaii, in the words of one of his fellow sannyäsés, as “a broken man.”

The Road to Serfdom

“Yes, following the rules and regulations is the real qualification of G.B.C. We have made things easy for being qualified for such position, but still they are violating. . . Your conclusion is very good, and I very much appreciate that G.B.C. or X-Y-Z, you are always servant of Krishna. That is wanted.”
-Letter to Kértanänanda, 11-12-74

My other godbrothers they are concerned with litigations, politics, and diplomacy, so what is the pracära? As far as I am concerned, I have the blessings of my guru mahäräj. I do not need anything else.”
-Letter to Subäl, 10-15-74

“You may please me the most by reading my books and following the instructions therein and by becoming fully Krishna Conscious in this lifetime.”
-Letter to Bahurüpa, 11-22-74

The Master-Slave paradigm continued to grow like the weed it was in the ISKCON movement. In this way, ISKCON began to function like a Communist country, wherein the leaders enjoyed all the privileges at the expense of the serfs (“workers”), who were kept down and subject to suspicion, unless they demonstrated that they knew their place and fully accepted it.

These rank-and-file devotees gradually began to devolve spiritually by making their allegiance to the institutional arrogance and staying onboard the train rather than becoming learned in the scriptures and thus developing personal spiritual power. The new paradigm was heavily encouraged by almost every ISKCON leader, coupled with the idea that the worker “blooped” into endless saàsära if he or she got off the train at any time. The psychic slave, obsessed with staying onboard, not only had to accept where the train was going but how it was going there.

Any foreboding that it would go off the rails–and acting on that intuition—was said to doom the lost angel to perpetual existence in the kingdom of Mäyä. The actual fact, however, was just the opposite, i.e., so many sweet and simple devotees, quite surrendered, were in fact being devoured by a cult nescience that was not at all conducive to their development of spiritual life.

Basically, the taproots of this malefic paradigm were two: Kértanänanda Swami and T.K.G. They were not much fond of each other, and, for all practical purposes, they only associated during G.B.C. conclaves. Their style and charisma was opposite, and their methods mostly differed. However, they had much in common, as well. They were both despots and ruthless manipulators, controlling compulsive, psychic slaves on the road to serfdom.

These masters encouraged their chelas to “dovetail” the mode of passion. T.K.G. expressly told his men that this was the only way for them to escape the mode of ignorance, but both leaders kept their slaves constantly in a state of low-tow apprehension, which is highly conducive to the mode of ignorance.

Another blip on the radar screen during this threshold year marked a very brief and unsuccessful foray into mundane politics:

“Our men in the U.S.A. are already taking part in politics for the time being superficially we have registered our political party under the name ‘In God We Trust’ party.”
-Letter to Çyämasundara, 4-1-74 (April Fool’s Day)

It was a non-presidential election year in an America reeling from Watergate. Obviously, some of the leaders thought that they could make political inroads, at least at the local level. They were quite mistaken, as this political entity went nowhere. It was not a well thought out scheme to begin with, and it had no stable source of funding. A handful of presidents at various centers, and even a G.B.C., ran for mayor in their respective cities, but their vote tallies hardly amounted to a footnote that is now part of some archived record in a government building. His Divine Grace saw what was actually transpiring, and he quickly shut the thing down:

“I have asked you to stop the political program, because actually you cannot organize as the others can. We cannot manage with separate money, separate brains, from our regular ISKCON propagation. It is not so easy to do politics; moreover, it is a filthy atmosphere. So do not indulge in it. I am glad to hear all the participants have stopped.”
-Letter to Dämodär, 6-8-74

Most of the ISKCON leaders–due, in no small part, to either direct or indirect association with Kértanänanda Swami and/or T.K.G.–did not want to train or create learned devotees, and they did not do so. On the whole, there also came to be a ubiquitous vibration throughout the movement, surfacing as especially strong in that year, related to the individual study of Prabhupäda’s books. It was discouraged. Your author had personal experience with one contemptuous temple president who questioned the spiritual validity of such study, when undertaken individually. This man gave the same kind of Bhägavatam class every morning, which he monopolized unless sannyäsés came through the area. It always consisted of one theme, and the self-serving motivation behind that “knowledge” was very easy to discern.

He was also of the opinion that study of the books outside of class was a kind of engagement in mäyä, in mental speculation. He was not alone in this, as, more and more, the first and second echelon leaders of a transforming Hare Kåñëa movement put overriding emphasis on book distribution (and, even more importantly, revenue collection from that). They did not at all emphasize engaging in study and learning from the books.

The first temple president that your author served under (in early 1972 in Madison, Wisconsin)—a very good devotee—was, in effect, driven from the movement by T.K.G. The Machiavellian Manipulator had heard that this former temple president had given a lecture in the Detroit temple. In that lecture, this prabhu had commented that the devotees needed to learn what was in the books, not merely distribute them.

His Divine Grace wanted his devotees to continuously study his translations and purports. We have already reproduced the letter to Bahurüpa prabhu, an initiated disciple, but Çréla Prabhupäda also emphasized this to new people, as well:

“ . . . you should always read my books daily and all your questions will be answered, and you will have a firm basis of Krishna consciousness. In this way, your life will be perfect.”
-Letter to Hugo Salemon, 11-22-74

The masters of manipulation had the same ultimate motive, viz., to eventually (and completely) control the movement, to take the place of Prabhupäda as he faded into the background. However, T.K.G. went a bridge too far in his attempt to clean out the unmarried students from the temples, even as his chief lieutenant, in the case of one of those centers, took it over as a Midwest base of operation.

Besides these developing situations within the movement, things were contentious as far as India was concerned, as well. Whereas previously the leaders of the Goudéya Mutt had simply been dismissive and uncooperative, now they were actually condemning what His Divine Grace, following the orders of the founder of that organization, was attempting to accomplish.

As a result, Prabhupäda called a prominent mahant there “the best of the lot.” This was after one of his leading secretaries questioned His Divine Grace, in a letter, as to this Goudéya Mutt guru’s legitimacy. He was considered by many to be an uttama-adhikäré, but Prabhupäda’s very long reply to that letter—which also included heavy criticism of the Goudéya Mutt—made it clear that His Divine Grace did not at all believe it. Just as importantly, this letter—to which a whole article of considerable length could easily be dedicated (and perhaps someday will) again forbade his disciples from associating with the Mutt. Besides that letter of April, 1974, there was this other rejoinder:

“Their policy has been all along to suppress me and take credit for himself. . . You know, in a recent article, they managed to write (it) in such a way that Mädhava is doing the world movement, and we are his subordinate. From the beginning, that has been their mentality. So, there is no possibility of cooperation with them. Rather you should avoid strictly meeting with them. They are not after preaching but material gain and reputation and adoration.”
-Letter to Acyutänanda, 6-8-74

Actually, the tension with the Goudéya Mutt, negatively impacting some of Prabhupäda’s disciples in the Western world, would get worse the next year, especially in Canada.

There was also a peculiar localized crisis in 1974, and that one was connected to an original G.B.C. man, who was president of a large, East Coast temple. Meat-eating—in particular, the eating of chicken—was introduced in the temple. It was said that this flesh was even offered on the altar to the Deity. The particulars of the abomination are not completely clear, but it did cause a major stir in the limited sphere of that particular center.

While it was ongoing, the devotees in the temple were split. Some of them (unfortunately, the majority) blindly accepted this G.B.C./President and his controversial action, while others confronted it and were thus persecuted. What is most interesting here is that Çréla Prabhupäda, after the sub-human activity was finally stopped, praised the devotees who took the risk of confronting the orders of that temple president:

“What is very pleasing to me is that they have confronted the nonsense.”
-Letter to Satsvarüpa, 11-28-74

We see, then, that 1974 could not, in good conscience, be called a glorious year; at best, it demonstrated mixed results in the form of ascending and descending octaves. What was actually transpiring was more subtle than the manifest deviations. It was all due to bad association, one rotten apple spreading to others. Thus, as time went on, leading devotees increasingly were falling victim to this bad association—with the serfs following suit. The pieces of that cause and effect are almost impossible to put together, but there is no need for that kind of detail. The principle needs to be understood, and, near the end of the year, Prabhupäda re-emphasized it:

“ . . . when one associates with one who is in illusion or misled, naturally, he will also become influenced by that illusion.”
Letter to Jayädvaita, 12-20-74

This was the year when the real workers especially became pigeon-holed by the upper echelons of ISKCON, and, as aforementioned, it meant that they were supposed to know their place, basically for the rest of their lives. One G.B.C. man took this to the extreme when he opined that this relationship (of leader and his subordinate) would continue even in the spiritual world as part of eternal rasa.

Due to deviations from the top, a willingly cheated section of new serfs (who liked being just that), became attracted to join a movement that was, somewhat subtly, in the process of deterioration. In other words, many ISKCON leaders were now creating new men or followers in this mode. Thus, even as early as 1974, a chance to reform the ISKCON movement was quickly receding. In this vein, yet another threshold was crossed, viz., that a society of the cheaters and the cheated was replacing a society of good leaders mentoring spiritually aspiring students in Kåñëa consciousness. ISKCON was mostly a system of buddhi-yoga when your author came to a wonderfully managed center in the upper-Midwest in the early Seventies. By the middle of the decade, things had changed.

“ . . . we are increasing in so many ways, but our men are deteriorating. What to do?”
-Letter to Rüpänuga, 11-7-74

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1 comment

1 sulocanadas(ACBSP) { 06.22.14 at 17:31 }

Tripurari Swami was actually called the “incarnation of Book Distribution” by Srila Prabhupada himself in a letter. He was also told that he needn’t come under a GBC because of his creativity and reported success. I agree, by the way, with the portrayal of deceptive methods that many of us, including myself engaged in. Just an observation of mine.

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