Growing Pains and the GBC

Srila Prabhupada Sitting on Vyassasana with Devotee fanning him with Chamara

As the Hare Krishna movement grew Srila Prabhupada handed over much of the management to a body of devotees he had formed called the Governing Body Commission (GBC). He wanted the GBC to take over management responsibilities to enable him to spend more time on his most important project, writing his translations and purports on the Srimad Bhagavatam and other literatures.

Unfortunately there were differences of opinion among GBC members leading to arguments and fights. But more importantly, the GBC often made decisions which were not in line with Srila Prabhupada’s guidelines and teachings.

Srila Prabhupada concluded that the society was contaminated by a “poisonous effect.”

"Regarding the poisonous effect in our society, it is a fact and I know from where this poison tree has sprung up and how it has affected practically the whole society in a very dangerous form. But it does not matter. Prahlada Maharaja was administered poison and it did not act. I think that in the same parampara system that the poison administered to our society will not act if some of our students are as good as Prahlada Maharaja."(to Hansadutta Sep 2, 1970)

The problems became so bad that at a festival at New Vrndavana in West Virginia in 1970 a number of Srila Prabhupada’s sannyasis began preaching Mayavada philosophy to the devotees assembled at the festival.

"Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu gave protection to devotees and killed many demons in the course of His preaching work. He specifically mentioned that the Mayavadi philosophers are the greatest demons. Therefore he warned all others not to hear the Mayavada philosophy: mayavadibhasya sunile haya sarva-nasa, simply by hearing the Mayavada interpretation of the sastras, one is doomed." (CC Adi 17.53)

The sannyasis at New Vrndavana claimed Srila Prabhupada was actually Krishna, that he was displeased with them and had left the movement. It was now up to these sannyasis to lead the movement…

"I do not know what was resolved at New Vrndavana. But I have heard that Brahmananda is preaching about me, that I am Krishna, that I am Supersoul, that I have withdrawn my mercy from the disciples, that I have left the society, and so on. I do not know how far they are correct, but I have written him a letter that he may not do something which may harm the interest of the society. You are also one of the members of the GBC, so you can think over very deeply how to save the situation. It is a fact, however, that a sinister movement is within our society. I have not heard anything from Krishna dasa and Syamasundara, so all of you may try to save the society from this dangerous position." (to Hansadutta 2 Sep, 1970)
"The ambitious Mayavadi philosophers desire to merge into the existence of the Lord, and this may be accepted as sayujya-mukti. However this form of mukti means denying ones individual existence. In other words it is a kind of spiritual suicide. This is absolutely opposed to the philosophy of bhakti-yoga. Bhakti-yoga offers immortality to the individual conditioned soul. If one follows the Mayavadi philosophy, he misses his opportunity to become immortal after giving up the material body. The immortality of the individual person is the highest perfection stage a living entity can attain." (CC Mad 6.169)

The Hare Krishna movement had become a large organization and things were not always going on according to the standards and regulations established by Srila Prabhupada. The GBC’s failing to follow Srila Prabhupada’s instructions was an indication of very serious problems at all levels of the society. Devotees in ISKCON had lost their enthusiasm to preach and things were becoming very degraded.

"I am a little observing now, especially in your country, that our men are loosing their enthusiasm for spreading our program of Krishna consciousness movement. Otherwise why so many letters of problems are coming, dissatisfied? That is not a very good sign. The whole problem is they're not following the regulative principles, that I can detect. Without this enthusiasm will be lacking. Even mechanically following, and if he gets gradually understanding from the class, he will come to the point of spontaneous enthusiasm. This spontaneous loving devotional service is not so easy matter, but if one simply sticks to the rules and regulations, like rising early, chanting 16 rounds, chanting gayatri, keeping always clean--this enthusiasm will grow more and more, and if there's also patience and determination, one day he will come to the platform of spontaneous devotion, then his life will be perfect. All this I have told you in "Nectar of Devotion". So I do not think that the leaders are themselves following, nor they are seeing the others are following strictly. This must be rectified at once. Each center remain independent, that's all right, but the president and other officers must themselves follow and see the others are following the regulative principles carefully, and give them good instruction so they may understand nicely why this tapasya is necessary. And GBC and sannyasis will travel and see the officers are doing this, and if they observe any lowering of the standard, then they must reform and advise, or if there is some discrepancy I shall remove it." (to Karandhar 22 Dec 1972)

Even the basic requirements such as following the four regulative principles (no illicit sex life, no intoxication, no gambling and no meat eating) and the chanting of at least 16 rounds of the Hare Krishna mantra daily were being neglected by many devotees. And this was not only the case for new devotees. Many of the leaders, Srila Prabhupada’s “right hand men”, the GBC and temple presidents were not following.

"Our spiritual way should strictly observe the following points especially:

  1. Neatness and cleanliness of all personal body. (I still see those who are initiated as Brahmins, they do not wash their hands after eating even; of course, there may be so many defects due to your birth in non-Brahmin families, but how long shall it go on? It is a very easy thing.)
  2. Chanting 16 rounds daily. (I don't thing everybody's following these principles.)
  3. Temple worship, which should be performed rigidly between 4 and 10 a.m.) I find that devotees are still sleeping up to 6 or 7 o'clock.

So on the GBC agenda I do not find any such program for reforming our past bad habits. So kindly, as president of Hamburg centre you try to observe yourself all the regulative principles and see all the members are following. Recently I have received from one sannyasi complaint about another sannyasi who is not chanting regularly. So it is our view that we shall be strictly following the rules and regulations." (to Hansadutta 11 Mar, 1972)

A new type of devotee had surfaced within ISKCON. The pseudo-devote. These pseudo-devotees feigned attraction to Krishna and Srila Prabhupada and pretended to be following the process of devotional service, however, they were not working for Srila Prabhupada and Krishna. They had their own personal goals for fame, wealth, followers and sex life.

"There are many pretenders who refuse to work in Krishna consciousness but make a show of meditation, while actually dwelling within the mind upon sense enjoyment. Such pretenders may also speak on dry philosophy in order to bluff sophisticated followers, but according to this verse these are the greatest cheaters. For sense enjoyment one can act in any capacity of the social order, but if one follows the rules and regulations of his particular status, he can make gradual progress in purifying his existence. But he who makes a show of being a yogi, while actually searching for the objects of sense gratification, must be called the greatest cheater, even though he sometimes speaks of philosophy. His knowledge has no value because the effects of such a sinful man's knowledge are taken away by the illusory energy of the Lord. Such a pretenders mind is always impure, and therefore his show of yogic meditation has no value whatsoever." (Bhagavad-gita As It Is 3.6 purport)

Because the pretenders did not seriously take to the process of Krishna consciousness, they were not purified of mundane desires and could therefore never taste the ecstasy and spiritual bliss experienced by sincere devotees. Instead they became envious of the sincere devotees, envious of Srila Prabhupada and envious of Krishna. These so-called devotees actually worked against Srila Prabhupada and his attempts to spread Krishna consciousness from within the movement. This was one of the symptoms of the Mayavada contamination which had been administered to ISKCON.

Srila Prabhupada always stressed that success in spiritual life depends on pleasing Krishna, and Krishna is pleased if His representative, the spiritual master is pleased. Unfortunately these pseudo-devotees had other ideas…

"One should have unflinching faith in Krishna and similarly in the spiritual master. That is the way of understanding the secret of Krishna consciousness. Unfortunately, an attempt has been made lately to shake this formula. This mischievous attempt has done great harm, but if you, the members of the GBC can rectify this mischievous attempt, then there is still hope of making our progress uninterruptedly. I hope Krishna will help us... The GBC's duty is therefore to see that every member is following the rules and regulations and chanting 16 rounds regularly on their beads. I hope that the GBC in cooperation with the sannyasis in their touring program will be able to keep vigilance systematically in order to keep the society as pure as possible." (to Bali Mardan Aug 25, 1970)

The Mayavadis and impersonalists have a different view of the spiritual master. They see acceptance of the spiritual master as a step in the process of ultimately becoming one with God, or actually becoming God. Their philosophy is that everyone is God, however, in the material world we are covered by maya (illusion), and have therefore forgotten our natural godly position. They use the spiritual master as a stepping-stone. They take some instruction and then think they can kick the spiritual master out of the way and take his place.

"The Mayavadi philosophers are engaged in their missionary work of spoiling the Vedic culture by preaching that everyone is God... Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu never accepted such foolish and unauthorized ideas. He strictly warned: mayavadi-bhasya sunile haya sarva-nasa, 'Anyone who follows the principles of Mayavada philosophy is certainly domed.' Such a fool needs to be reformed by punishment." (CC Adi 12.35)

When the Mayavadi makes a little advancement by serving his spiritual master, he becomes puffed-up and wants to take the place of his spiritual master. Instead of remaining an eternal servant, he wants to be the master.

These Mayavadi ideas had surfaced in ISKCON and many “big” leaders were contaminated by this philosophy. The Mayavada philosophy is very subtle and extremely difficult for neophyte devotees to detect. This is because the Mayavadis, don’t directly reject the Vedic scriptures. Lord Caitanya said the Mayavadis are even more dangerous than the Buddhists, because the Buddhists reject the Vedic scriptures and it is clear to everyone they are definitely not devotees of Krishna. The Mayavadis however claim to be devotees of Krishna, they read and speak on the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad Bhagavatam, they chant the Hare Krishna mantra, and they claim to be great Vaisnavas.

Although externally the Mayavadis may appear to be great Vaisnavas (devotees of Krishna), actually, in their heart they don’t believe that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, nor do they accept Krishna’s pure devotees as being non-different from Krishna. For them there is no concept of God being personal. Ultimately they think everything is Brahman (spirit) and that they are also Brahman. So they conclude they are at least equal to God. (Everything is Brahman, I am Brahman, God is Brahman, so I am God!) This attitude often leads to a devotee who may be following the regulative principles of devotional service, chanting Hare Krishna, reading profusely, and even performing quite severe austerities in devotional service. Because of these activities he may be regarded as an advanced devotee by other devotees. But, the underlying philosophy motivating his activities is wrong. He is not working for his spiritual master and Krishna, He doesn’t necessarily even believe in Krishna or have any faith in his spiritual master. His motivation is completely selfish. He is thinking that if I study all these books, if I get up early in the morning, if I chant and dance enthusiastically in the association of the other devotees, they will think I’m a very advanced devotee. Then I can become the temple president and I will be in control of all the devotees in the temple. I’ll be able to get them to do anything I want… because the temple president is the representative of Krishna… he’s non-different from Krishna… he should be worshiped like Krishna… Then why stop at temple president? I can become the GBC, then all of the devotees in the country will worship me. Why stop there? I can be Jagat Guru (Guru of the whole universe), then everybody will worship me! So in this way the Mayavadi increases and increases his desires for fame, adoration, profit and distinction to the maximum possible degree. Ultimately he desires to become the supreme controller, Krishna. Eventually he believes he has become Krishna and perhaps he can attract a band of like-minded “disciples” who worship him as god. To a sane man this sounds ridiculous. How could people be so foolish to worship an ordinary mundane man, full of ordinary mundane faults as God? But people are amazingly stupid. At the time of writing this the newspapers are full of stories about some crazy man in Texas who claimed to be Jesus Christ. He locked himself up with 100 or so “disciples” and set fire to the place. His “disciples” voluntarily burned to death in the fire. Srila Prabhupada repeatedly emphasized that this world is a place of the cheaters and the cheated. This “Jesus Christ” was a cheater and his “disciples” were cheated. This same scenario is repeated over and over again here in the material world. It is not so long ago that “Bhagavan” Sri Rajniesh was attracting hundreds and thousands of “disciples” to his bogus free-sex religion. The problem is that people want to be cheated. They want to be told they can retain all their sinful activities and material desires and at the same time justify it by some bogus “spiritual” path. The Christians have been doing it for a long time now, “No one is perfect, you can’t be perfect, Jesus died for your sins, Jesus forgives, just keep on partying and come to church on Sundays! Jesus forgives!” A very nice philosophy?

It would be unrealistic to think that the Hare Krishna movement has been free from this type of contamination. There were many pseudo-devotees who were not at all interested in Krishna consciousness or Srila Prabhupada. They were simply interested in exploiting the Hare Krishna movement and the devotees for their own ends. So they developed a new philosophy by utilizing the Mayavada technique of word jugglery and redefinition and they managed to turn Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON into a mundane business organization. An organization of the cheaters and the cheated. Although they were outwardly preaching Krishna consciousness, and some were even great scholars with the ability to speak on Krishna consciousness very convincingly, much of it was false. Many were after followers, fame, profit, distinction, etc. So although, in many cases, even though their preaching was completely in accordance with Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and books, because their desires were material, not spiritual, the effect of their preaching and Srila Prabhupada’s preaching was totally different.

When Srila Prabhupada preached all spiritual results were there. Even though English was a foreign language and his accent was difficult to understand for many Westerners, because his desire was pure his preaching was magnificently successful. Srila Prabhupada’s achievements are inconceivable from the material point of view. His was so successful because Krishna was helping him all along.

The pseudo-devotes, however, didn’t get any help from Krishna. they were able, for a short time, to make a false show of Krishna consciousness, but they could only attract sentimentalists and other envious persons like themselves. So gradually the Hare Krishna Movement degenerated into a mundane organization. It became like hell for serious devotees. As a result many devotees were forced to leave as they could no longer practice Krishna consciousness peacefully in ISKCON.

Gradually the mood within ISKCON changed from a group of dedicated servants of Krishna and Srila Prabhupada enthusiastically and actively trying to please Srila Prabhupada by distributing his books and preaching strongly to a group of envious materialists engaged in mundane business and money making trying to exploit each other and the public for their own personal sense gratification. They had totally neglected the preaching work. The transition was subtle and even imperceptible to devotees within the movement. As time went on they just forgot what Krishna consciousness used to be like. They forgot the ecstasy, the joy, the enthusiasm, the challenge… it was all a blur in the past. Somehow they thought that this thing they were doing now was Krishna consciousness. They really couldn’t perceive any change. Isn’t maya wonderful!

What was left was a band of envious men all trying to take some position of power and control and a bunch of sentimental devotees, who mostly believed in Krishna and had faith in Srila Prabhupada, but were not very philosophically inclined nor very intelligent. These sentimental devotees were easily diverted from the real path of Krishna consciousness by the envious pseudo-devotees. They didn’t have the ability to tell the difference between Krishna and maya.

"Raksasa means almost man-eater. For their self satisfaction they can eat even their own sons. They're called raksasas. No sense. My sense gratification should be satisfied, never mind, you go to hell. This is the age. We create a machine that everyone comes and becomes smashed in that machine and my sense satisfaction is there. Although I'll never be happy by such sense satisfaction. This is going on. You can know that this world is now managed by the raksasas. They don't mind what is happening. They're prepared to sacrifice everything for fulfilling their whimsical nonsense. They're called raksasas. They are very much enamored by this material civilization. They cannot understand and they will never try to understand because they are raksasas." (SPL66-036)

As more and more pseudo-devotees captured positions of power in ISKCON things rapidly deteriorated. It came to the point that temples would even directly reject Srila Prabhupada’s orders in his presence. This was particularly the case with engaging the devotees in business activities instead of book distribution and preaching. Srila Prabhupada didn’t want it, and he said so many, many times. But the pseudo-devotees wanted it and didn’t care in the slightest what Srila Prabhupada wanted.

Apparently the “leaders” in ISKCON preferred to engage the devotees in mundane business activities instead of the preaching work because there was more money to be made in business than preaching, and the society needed money to preach. But there was another reason. Envy. The difficulty was that the “leaders” were becoming rapidly separated from Krishna consciousness. Their consciousness was absorbed in other things, however, the book distributors and new devotees joining the movement were in ecstasy in Krishna consciousness. They were in spiritual ecstasy because they were following Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, following the regulative principles, chanting at least 16 rounds daily and distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books. They were so happy, their faces were so bright and their feet hardly touched the ground. This was unbearable to the morbid, materialistic and contaminated pseudo-devotees who were after fame, profit, followers… They couldn’t bear it. So this new business program was developed. Take these ecstatic book distributors off book distribution. Get them to grow hair and wear ordinary Western clothes and send them out selling mundane paraphernalia instead of Srila Prabhupada’s books. It was a very successful program and it quickly transformed ecstatic book distributors into morbid materialists. The materialists like to see others suffering… the last thing they want to see is ecstatic book distributors.

"Suppose you are selling Back To Godhead. Does it not remind you of Krishna? Does it not remind you about Krishna? What are you selling Back To Godhead for? You could sell another popular magazine which would sell very nicely, quickly, thousands of copies. Why are you taking this Back To Godhead? For Krishna. You are not for business. You are not an ordinary newspaper seller. Why are you taking Back To Godhead? Your motive is that people may know about Krishna. That is your motive. If magazine selling is your business then you can take any other sense gratifying magazine. There are so many and you can sell, you can make some profit. So we have to mold our life in such a way that we shall always remember Krishna. Therefore remembering Krishna is my primary business and we have to act in such a way that we may not forget Krishna. That should be the principle. That is the secret."
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