April 3, 1999   VNN3501  

Ex-Gurukuli's Recent Experiences With The Real Romapad Swami


bogus IskCon guru Romapada Swami

USA, Apr 3 (VNN) — Respected Romapad Swami,

Please accept my greetings. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. I would offer you my humble obeisance but with my experiences with you as a Swami, I don't think you're fit for one.

Just a brief introduction: This is Arjuna from Vrindavan Gurukula, (who was working as your servant), writing to you of the mental agony that you have caused me for a while. This also comes in the category of Child Abuse, as you may be aware. The following is a letter that will be sent out to VNN as well as the Child Protection Team, Chakra and other Newsgroups. But before I do that, I would like you to see it for yourself. You can even sympathize with your swaminess... This letter is more of a reference guide for other gurukulis who might ever come or feel like serving under you in the future. As a gurukuli, it's my duty to let them know how they will be treated because "my experience reveals it all."

However, I'd still like to hear from you and see if you have any counter arguments to support your theory in the way you treated 3 of us gurukulis. A reply will be appreciated. In either case, this will be going out.

Dear Maharajas, Prabhus and the Gurukulis,

Please accept my humble obeisance. All glories to Sri Sri Radha Govinda and Srila Prabhupada.

My name is Arjuna dasa from Vrndavan Gurukula. I went to Vrindavan gurukula from 1987 to 1996. And in my-9-years of experience, I enjoyed most of the time and don't have many complaints or regrets of any kind of serious abuse. In 1996, I graduated from Vrindavan gurukula and as a preaching exercise, I was sent to serve under Romapada Swami in NY temple. I did not have the best time with him and I felt seriously abused. Below is a detailed story. Right now, I have left the temple and I am working outside. Although I do not like the outside world, I don't have a choice in this matter because the only home we thought we had has been treating us badly. This letter mainly answers questions that many of my friends, teachers and well- wishers have regarding me giving up my sankirtan service at the temple. It's sad for them to see me turn away from Krishna's temple even though in the past I told them how much I loved the NY temple.

Detailed account: New York 1996

As soon as I came to New York, I was given the service of going out on Book Distribution with another gurukuli friend of mine, Uttamabhakta from Mayapur Gurukula. While we two went out on Sankirtan, Uttamabhakta's brother was given the service of cooking for Romapad Swami. So, there were three of us altogether. Our program was that we would do the whole morning program, eat breakfast by 9:00 AM, get- ready to hit the streets of New York City by 9:45 - 10:00 AM. There was a devotee who used to regularly drop us off. But Maharaj never arranged for anyone to pick us up on regular and timely bases. This was frustrating because we were new to this country. The problem didn't stop here.

If we made it back to the temple on time, there would be prasadam, but if we came by 6:00 or 6:30 PM, we would be out of sheer luck as well as prasadam.

This was tolerable to some extent. The worse part of all this was when it was time to do our laundry. We would be tired from a whole day's sankirtan and when it came time to get a few quarters to wash our laundry, these were the words of Romapad Swami, "Why do you boys need to use the washing machines? How did you guys do your laundry in Gurukula?" We replied saying; "We used to wash our clothes by hand." And then Maharaj would say, "So, then you boys know what to do." We had no option but to wash our clothes by hand, so that Maharaj could save a few dollars to fly around the world. Besides, we were collecting the money.

Here comes a part of partiality. All the North American devotees doing book distribution had a day off to rest; read or catch up on their personal things but Maharaj refused to give us a day off saying, "we didn't collect as much money as all the other devotees." So we had to go out everyday. This was more like exploitation than devotional service. If Maharaj thought this was devotional service, I don't think he would have had a problem giving us a day off. Other devotees serving under him had that privilege. I demand an explanation from Romapad swami for this unjust behavior. We were out on the streets of New York City seven days a week during the summer's 90-95 degree heat and 15-20 degree cold weather in winter. It used to be so windy that we had to tie the books with rubber bands. All this was very difficult for us since we had just come out of Gurukula. The gurukula is only lucky to not have people like Romapada swami to train the kids.

As for winter clothes to wear, we were given clothes from an Indian life member owned dry cleaning place in Manhattan. We were given clothes that were left for months at this dry cleaning place. We had no idea whose clothes they were or which bum had worn them. As far as devotional clothing goes, we used to wear the dhotis of some New York temple devotees (I can give names of all those devotees, if necessary). And the socks we were given were used socks of His Holiness Romapad Swami. By the way, he wears Nike socks. But by the time we got them, they had holes. We were lucky to get some new socks during our second year may be Romapad swami found them on SALE!!!

Maharaj has this Expo program in which Govinda's Buffet has a food booth. We were the guys who had to sit in New York temple and roll samosas all day long in thousands. The preparations always began 3 days earlier. The vegetable cut- up would begin at 6:00 PM after a full day out on Sankirtan and finish by 12:00 mid night. Then we would take rest. The next day began at 6:30 am helping in the kitchen loading things. It was not easy to load 80-90 lbs. of buckets full of prasadam and go to the expo. Then we had to unload everything, setup the food, stay there or come back to the temple, so they could send us on book distribution. After book distribution, we had to go back to the food expo and bring everything back to the temple. By the time we got to bed, it was 12:00 mid night. The sad thing is that even after the 3 day's long Expo, Maharaj never felt obliged to give us a day off. So basically, we were back out on the streets with no break for months and months. The only days we got off were Janmastami, Gaura-purnima and maybe few other auspicious days. Oh boy, were we lucky to have those days off.

I know Maharaj outwardly saw this as prasadam distribution, but inwardly he knew he was making tons of money. If this was prasadam distribution, why wasn't this prasadam ever offered to Sri Radha Govinda? Why was this prasadam 3 months old from the last expo? The prasadam was kept frozen and it was heated up. Only the samosas were fresh because they would run out of them. We were supposed to be Govinda's Natural Food, 100% pure vegetarian, fresh organic vegan, and here we were selling old food. How could it be called prasadam, since it was not even offered to the deities?

I don't know if the Government Health Inspectors even know about this. So basically, the public was being cheated in the name of Govinda's Natural Food. I have enough evidence to backup what I'm saying if anyone think, I'm making this up. Making money is not wrong, but exploiting the general public is not what Prabhupada wanted. Even if the outside people were kept in darkness about the prasadam, why take advantage of us gurukulis or other senior devotees in the name of devotional service? And in whose pocket the money goes it's not even worth the discussion.

If devotees feel that this is some political thing against Romapad Swami, then let me ask you this: Where are all the 5-6 devotees that were serving under Romapada Swami? Why have they left his saintly association? There are quiet a lot of devotees who saw us go through this exploitation in the name of devotional service. No one speaks about these things because as soon as one says something about a Swami, 10 other devotees jump in and tell that you're making Vaisnava aparadha. I feel sorry for the new Devotees that join and then have to wait 10 years before they realize that's what's going on. I don't want to make a general statement about all the temple or all the devotees, but there are some devotees like Romapada Swami, that should definitely be avoided. It's more harmful for one's devotional creeper to serve under Romapad Swami.

He does water your devotional creeper, but it's with hot boiling water. And eventually, the creeper starts to die.

I should have mentioned all this earlier, but it was fear of some kind that kept me shut. Just like all the other abuses in Gurukula eventually floated to the surface, this cannot go unmentioned. As a gurukuli, it is my duty to let all the fellow gurukulis and well wishers know as to what the situation is and who to avoid. This is not a political thing but true facts that I went through.

When I look at all the past dealings with Romapad swami, it makes me cry because we were treated not as human beings but as slaves. It is very very difficult to put the whole matter in writing but Maharaj's penny- like remarks has left heavy and deep feelings in me which is hard to forget.

I'd like to close by saying that I've no doubt that Maharaj will be rewarded for his obnoxious behavior. We have seen many past examples of this, and karma does catch up with everybody, someday. Maybe it could be today or tomorrow.

However, an action to prevent this from happening to other gurukulis and sincere devotees in the future will be appreciated.

Just a short note of what I'm doing these days:
I'm staying outside the temple with a devotee. Of course, it can never be compared to living in a temple, but I do feel greatly relieved from being exploited. I share an apartment with a devotee friend. I work for a Jewelry store in Manhattan . I go to a computer class few days a week and I plan to go to school in the near future and learn software engineering. After school, we'll see where life takes us.

If any one has any doubts or questions or comments, please feel free to write to me at this email address:

Thank you for all your support.
Yours in Krishna's service,
Arjuna dasa

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Romapada Swami was born a Christian on December 27, 1948 in Utica, New York, as the youngest of five children.