The history of the devotees´ removal
Help! I have recently been quite overwhelmed by contradictions - some upon visiting some old friends, some upon speaking to an old friend. The friends who hosted us for a day and a night informed us with all sincerity that one should not argue with the GBC [J1]“…because they have been appointed by Prabhupada[J2].” Still, they admitted that they could not bear to go near the ISKCON farm, “…because of the impersonalist, every-man-for-himself attitude.” Taking the farm visit at face value, the contradiction would not have been so loud, but for one who knows the history of that place, it practically screams at you.
My first visit to that farm was back in ’80. I was a new devotee and was then overwhelmed in a different way - by the care I received; by the love extended by complete strangers; by people who seemed to care more for me, a complete stranger, than for themselves. They begged me to stay, but I had to go. It was with such a heavy heart, I practically couldn’t lift it. I met a devotee on that visit, who is the second friend I refer to. Now, in 2003, she is still on that farm - for another week. The temple authority has told her to “move on,” without giving her a reason. I was stunned. “Didn’t you ask for one?” “No, it has become hell here. It’s a relief - the feelings of hostility are unbearable! I will even live in a little room in a hotel to avoid this, if it’s all I can find.” Gazing past her at the breathtaking wonder of a valley entering spring, with a myriad of blossoms and life and color, I knew for certain that if Nature had ever created Paradise on earth, it was here. In my mind I compared it to a dingy hotel room reeking of alcohol and felt a cold shudder in the warm air.
history of the removal of devotees here goes back a long time. Originally they
were not removed so easily. They protested, to no avail, so they took the
protest to the GBC representative who pleaded powerlessness. “My hands are
tied.” Maybe he felt that if he protested the injustice, he might be removed
from his position. Maybe it was an excuse. Either way it was clearly a “man for
himself.” But he is not to take the
full blame, any more than a boil is to take the blame of ill health. Let us
turn the clock back further to try to wrench some meaning from this sick little
lesson. In the 80’s there was a mistaken concept of faith as placing all power
in the hands of the guru and his reps - power of judgment, and of redemption.
When the Infallible One fell to a human level, there was revolution, chaos.
If even the guru could fall, who could be trusted? Many left ISKCON and placed this same mistaken “faith” in idols
less likely to fall, such as naistika brahmachari Indian gurus. Or
alternatively, in materialistic advancement. Or in the forgetfulness of
intoxication. But within ISKCON, the reaction of many was to focus exclusively
on “the good”- the temples were still there, though they were relatively empty.
Such a focus was rewarded as being the epitome of loyalty and faith in
Prabhupada. And it also helped one
survive, at least for a while, through a false sense of hopeless optimism.
The GBC reacted to the loss of faith in leadership in two ways – by focusing on the perfection of Srila Prabhupada, and by making laws allowing the excommunication of devotees critical of the leadership. Thus, in order to survive, a voidist interpretation of such things as faith and tolerance had to develop - one had to be tolerant of ISKCON’s faults, and have faith that Krishna would rectify everything. Why this is a voidist interpretation is that it makes oneself as a spiritual entity zero - one’s concern for one’s friends which is natural and spontaneous and which should be nourished so that it extends to all creation is snuffed out in favor of survival in a “spiritual” movement; simply staying in the movement is confused with developing spiritually. As survival in the movement is dependent on obedience to its laws, one must turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to transgressions of decency, convincing oneself or being convinced that to do so is necessary for the stability of Prabhupada’s movement. Then it becomes “every man for himself,” an attitude which is unbearable for most people, and is clearly observable by all but those who have developed it. So I said to our friends whom we were visiting, “What about truth and compassion? If one sees someone, particularly a leader, doing wrong, isn’t it more truthful to him and more compassionate to his followers to speak up about it? What about courage?” No response. Actually, while objecting to the “every man for himself” attitude on the farm, our friends had developed the same mood themselves under a cloak of virtuous talk about “seeing faults only in oneself.”
A society is like a tree, which grows from a seed idea, expands to an impressive size, dwindles and vanishes, as that is the way of all things in this world. It has a propensity to dwindle and die; only the eternal principles of truth and compassion will keep it lasting forever. If these are avoided in service to mundane laws then the laws of mundane existence logically will overwhelm the situation, despite the language and aspired-for goal of eternity, and it will die. Lord Krishna will protect and maintain this movement, but as a movement of the principles of eternity; inasmuch we are His servants, we must serve His purpose.More articles:
[J1]Government Body Commission – the group of Iskcon (the International Society for Krishna Consciousness) leaders.
[J2]The founder of Iskcon.