VNN EDITORIAL June 8,
1999 - VNN4063 - This is a story which had its beginnings many many years
ago. It was told to me by Sudama prabhu who left the planet in 1995. His leaving
was most auspicious with devotees having 24 hour kirtan. Garlands and Tulasi were
placed upon his body and he left to the chanting of the Holy Name. Immediately
upon his departure, an unknown Indian brahmin came into the room, looked around,
and then left. (It is said that if someone leaves their body and an unknown brahmin
comes to the room, then that person has gone back home to Godhead.)
I was Sudama Maharaja's personal servant off-and-on in NYC for five months in 1975, and I later served him in Badger, CA for two months before he left his body. During that time, Sudama prabhu revealed to me something very intensely shocking and distressful.
We were talking about ISKCON in general, and after some time I then told Sudama prabhu about a conversation that I had with Satsvarupa Maharaj. I explained that I told Satsvarupa Maharaj at one point that I felt Srila Prabupada was my spiritual master. (I joined the movement in 1975, got the opportunity to see Srila Prabhupada, and I felt a very strong spiritual connection with Srila Prabhupada. I was amongst the second group of disciples to take initiation from Satsvarupa Maharaj in 1978.) Sudama asked me why it was I didn't get initiated by Srila Prabhupada even though I was supposed to. After giving Sudama prabhu my explanation, he angrily answered, (referring to Satsvarupa Maharaj), "He's no guru anyway." Then he went into the explanation of why he did not feel that Satsvarupa is a guru.
Sudama prabhu revealed to me that the day before Srila Prabhupada departed from us, all of the ISKCON leaders, including Satsvarupa Maharaj, the other original ISKCON gurus and other leaders met together to discuss how to divide up the world. Sudama prabhu told me that Tamal Krsna Maharaj and another sanyasi - whose name I cannot remember - approached him and said, "There is going to be a meeting in which we are going to divide up the world. Don't go anywhere, you should be there." (This was the exact statement used.)
Sudama prabhu attended the meeting horrified at what he was hearing. Tamal Krsna started off asking who wants to be guru. Sudama explained that there was some hesitation and then Romesvara answered, "I do, I do." Others raised their hands also. Sudama was shocked. Sudama was then told, "We'll give you Japan and make you a guru later." Sudama prabhu completely horrified asked, "Srila Prabhupada hasn't even left the planet yet. How can you be even thinking like this?" Sudama prabhu went on to say, (speaking to his Godbrothers), "I would rather bloop and falldown then to commit the sins that you are about to commit." (These were Sudama prabhu's EXACT words to them as he himself told me.)
After the meeting, when it was concluded who was to be guru, Sudama prabhu, (who explained that he was present throughout the whole meeting), said that Satsvarupa Maharaj then addressed the assembly: "Before we go back, we had better conclude on one story to tell all of the devotees. The devotees are very smart, and if we have different stories, they will know something is wrong."
Satsvarupa Maharaj along with Tamal Krsna then put together the story that these leaders would tell the devotees. Satsvarupa Maharaj wrote it all down and he and Tamal conferred back and forth with the other leaders in terms of answering all questions to make sure that there were no "loopholes" - the EXACT word used by Sudama prabhu - in the story, and that nothing could go wrong.
Sudama prabhu stayed on to the next day when Srila Prabhupada actually left. (This was the day immediately after the meeting in which our GBC leaders divided up the world.) After Srila Prabhupad left the planet, Sudama prabhu immediately left the movement, knowing what had transpired in that meeting, and the material ambition and visciousness of these men. He could forsee the destruction of the movement.
Jatayu: When arriving
for the first time in India, Sudama Maharaja received us right at the Calcutta
Airport arrival with a real ecstatic Kirtan party. Its hard to believe that he
died of a natural disease.
The Takeover and Hijacking of Srila Prabhupadas Iskcon is also descibed in the book:
"Monkey on a Stick", in the chapter: "Plundering the Legacy".
.... "Prabhupada appointed us rtviks, not acharyas!" Ramesvara, the Los Angeles guru, screamed.
"There's no difference!" Hansadutta screamed back. "There is, so!" Ramesvara said petulantly. "There's a huge difference. When he named us rtviks, Prabhupada made us generals. You guys want to be emperors."
"Call me a Napoleon if you want, as long as I get Australia," put in Bhavananda, Charles Backus, the GBC member in charge of building the Mayapur temple. "I pioneered Australia. It's mine."
"I did the same in South Africa. I'm claiming South Africa with Europe," said Bhagavan.
"How are you going to handle Europe and South Africa?" Ramesvara asked. "In case you haven't looked at a globe lately, they're rather far apart."
"I have devotees in both continents," Bhagavan said superciliously. "Geography is no barrier to love."
Prabhupada's eleven successors were seated on pillows, facing each other across a long, narrow table in the half-finished GBC room in the Mayapur temple. They had been meeting in the same room every day throughout February and March of 1978. They were trying, unsuccessfully so far, to determine the movement's future. Like Mafia dons carving out exclusive territories, they were dividing the world into fiefdoms.
Bhagavan slowly got to his feet and waited until all eyes were fixed on him. A tall, strikingly handsome former medical student from the University of Buffalo, Bhagavan was already infamous as the Krishna Sun King. The faucets in his private bathroom were gold plated. He would eat only from gold plates and drink from gold goblets. He was chauffeured around Europe in a Mercedes 500.
When the silence was complete, Bhagavan pointed his finger at Tamal Krishna, whose cross-country campus crusade had irritated many temple presidents.
"I charge that man with trying to steal my devotees," Bhagavan said. "My devotees love me and regard me as Prabhupada's legitimate successor. And now I learn that Tamal has sent letters to certain devotees claiming that he and he alone is Prabhupada's successor, and that devotees must surrender to him."
"I am the only one really Qualified to lead the movement," said Tamal, who claimed the American Southwest and the island of Fiji, as well as several other Pacific islands.
Kirtanananda shook his head. When this is over, he told himself, they'll see that there is only one true swami fit to lead ISKCON: Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada.
"Let's go back to the subject of vyasasanas," Ramesvara said. "Let's start by trying to settle this chair thing."
"Each guru must have his own vyasasana," Bhagavan said.
"Absolutely right," Hansadutta said.
"What about when another guru visits? Where will he sit?" Ramesvara asked.
"Good point," Bhagavan said. "Symbols are very important, and what talks louder than furniture? I propose that each temple have three vyasasanas right next to each other. One will be Prabhupada's forever. We'll rope it off and put his picture on it so that no one will even think of sitting there. A second will be for the local guru, and the third will be reserved for visiting gurus. That way, every devotee will instantly know that we are now equal to Prabhupada."
"If we're equal, I suppose we're supposed to get puga, too?" Ramesvara asked, referring to the ceremony in which devotees worship their spiritual masters.
"But of course," Kirtanananda said.
"Absolutely correct," Hansadutta added. He closed his eyes and imagined the ritual. It pleased him to think about how he would at last receive the obeisances he so richly deserved. Finally, he would be worshiped as he should be—as a "pure devotee," a link between God and man. He saw himself seated on his vyasasana. In his mind, Hansadutta watched a devotee blow a conch shell three times and ring a small bell. Then another devotee approached and offered a stick of incense.
The devotee circled Hansadutta's feet with the smoldering stick three times, then circled his chest twice and his entire body seven times. The devotee then did the same with a camphor wick, a ghee lamp, water, a handkerchief, and a flower. Hansadutta smiled. He could practically feel the devotee fanning him with a yak's-tail whisk and peacock feathers.
"Our godbrothers will never go for it," Ramesvara said, interrupting Hansadutta's daydream. "For years, we've all been more or less equal. Then Prabhupada dies, and all of a sudden we're baby Prabhupadas."
"That's your mistake." Bhagavan said, leaping to his feet. Once again, he waited for silence. "We're not demanding to be worshiped just because we want to raise ourselves above our godbrothers. We're only doing it because we love them. Worshiping a spiritual master is a vital part of every devotee's faith. We have to appear absolute, or their faith will be shaken. We have to be worshiped just like Prabhupada, or our disciples won't think we're his equal."
"Devotees will offer puja willingly because they love us," Kirtanananda interrupted. "You cannot check their love."
"That's right," Hansadutta added. "This movement has always been about love."
The room was silent for a moment. Ramesvara looked troubled.
Bhagavan walked over to him and put his hand on his shoulder.
"Don't you see? You've got no choice," Bhagavan said. "You've got to accept puja. We all do. We've got to be absolutely consistent. If even one of us does not go along with the program, we'll all look fallible. Come on, Ramesvara, for the good of the whole movement. So, what do you say?"
Ten pairs of eyes bored into Ramesvara. "Maybe you're right," he sighed. "Prabhupada always said we're an autocratic movement. The authority of the spiritual master has to be absolute. If you doubt him, you doubt the link to Krishna and everything falls apart."
"Absolutely right," Bhagavan said.
"I'll go along with it," Ramesvara conceded. "But I want you to know I'm not going to be comfortable, sitting up there on the vyasasana receiving puga from some devotee who knew me when I was Bobby Grant. It just doesn't feel right. I don't know, but maybe I'll get used to it."
"Of course, you will!" Bhagavan cried enthusiastically. "It's new for all of us. But we'll get used to it."
"Let's finish working out who gets what," said Hansadutta, who had staked his claim to Berkeley, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and several temples in India. "My devotees need me."
"As mine need me," echoed Tamal.
"And mine, me," added Bhagavan.
It took another week to finish carving up the world. As soon as the meeting concluded, the newly minted gurus hastened to return to their temples. Comfortably settled in first-class seats, they congratulated themselves on the agreement.
But only a few were satisfied. The rest were scheming to seize control.
When the Palace of Gold is finished, devotees everywhere will visit New Vrindaban and see that only the true acharya could build such a splendid temple, Kirtanananda told himself as he winged his way back to the States. I don't have to take over the movement; the movement will come to me.
I'll send sankirtan parties all over Europe, Bhagavan planned. I'll buy palaces and convert them into temples and recruit the wealthiest people in every country. I'll turn ISKCON into the modem equivalent of the Holy Roman Empire.
I'm going to build a magnificent temple in Fiji, Tamal promised himself. The population is already half Hindu and growing. I'll convert them all and turn Fiji into the first Krishna Consciousness nation on earth. When that happens, no one will be able to deny that I am the next acharya.
Hansadutta's plans were simpler. His whole life, he had been controlled by authority figures. First, his father, then his commanders in the Navy, and finally Prabhupada. Even Himavati, his ex-wife (they separated because Hansadutta insisted on taking a vow of sannyas) had tried to control him in her own gentle way. But now, for the first time, he was free, free of all control. He was a guru. He could do whatever he wanted; he could tell people to do things and they would do them.
He strapped on his seatbelt and grinned. He could hardly wait to get back to Berkeley and find out what real freedom was all about.