There are 2 main points in this article. 1) To show, from my personal experiences, a few examples from the past when the GBC of the 1970’s took liberty to make changes to Srila Prabhupad’s instructions, 2) That as late as 1984-85 there was an effort to keep instructions by Srila Prabhupad regarding how the movement was to be managed away from the general devotees.
1) The GBC of the 1970’s had at times taken liberty to change (ignore, over-rule, meaning Disobey) some of Srila Prabhupad’s instructions. I will give a few such examples based on my own personal experiences
Sour-Cream : Back around 1973-74 in Los Angeles in the older temple room, there was a bulletin board in the foyer entrance of the temple room and kitchen. One day I saw posted there a letter from and signed by Srila Prabhupad to a devotee (can’t recall who it was written to) where Srila Prabhupad was replying to the devotee’s complaint. His complaint to Srila Prabhupad was that it was that devotee’s understanding that Srila Prabhupad had, in the past, instructed the temples Not to use dairy products like yoghurt and sour-cream that were manufactured by non-devotee companies. This devotee brought to Srila Prabhupad’s attention that this was not being followed in the LA temple, that daily they were using a lot of outside sour-cream. Srila Prabhupad, in this letter, replied that, yes, this was his instruction and that the instruction still stood. I think he expressed some dis-satisfaction that the management was not following his instructions, but, at least, he re-stated that this was the standard he wanted followed. That temples can use sour-cream if they want, but that items like yoghurt and sour-cream must be made by the devotees, and that we must not use and offer non-devotee made products.
So, the devotee had posted that letter, and Jayatirtha was either the TP or new GBC of LA temple. That letter was posted for about 2-3 days, then it was gone. I asked Jayatirtha about it, and he got very upset and defensive. I didn’t know what had transpired, I was only asking about what happened to the letter, but Jayatirtha told me far more then I was expecting. He said that as a manager of the temple/society, that it was ‘HIS’ duty, his service, to make daily decisions as to what was best or not for the management of the temple. He told me, flat out, that, at least in his opinion, that Srila Prabhupad just didn’t understand the whole picture there. That was ‘his’ duty. He told me that the reason they were using non-devotee manufactured sour-cream was because they were getting that sour-cream from a dairy at either below wholesale, or in some cases for free, as it was out of date, or close to being out of date. Therefore, there was a monetary issue here. By using this manufactured product they were saving the temple, Krsna and Prabhupad, money. Then, he told me there was the issue of ManPower. That if he were Not to use these non-devotee manufactured products that it would take more devotee man-power to make it, and so, by using these products he was saving the temple money and manpower.
And, he told me that he was also very upset that this devotee because, in his view, this devotee had ‘jump over’ his authority and gone directly to Srila Prabhupad. So, what did Jayatirtha do when he saw that letter? First, he took the letter down. Second, he did something even more wrong, and more revealing, he Kicked that grhasta devotee out of the LA temple!!! He actually forced him to leave, to move out. Wow. And, so, what about Srila Prabhupad’s instructions that the temple NOT offer such non-devotee made milk products? He flatly and outright ignored and dis-obeyed those instructions and temple went ahead using those products. As he had explained to me, it was his duty to manage the temple, and, in HIS View, Srila Prabhupad simply did not understand the situation. Srila Prabhupad didn’t understand the financial burden it would have placed on the temple to have to buy the milk and make all those products (note, the temple made it’s own yogurt simply because the dairies at the time did not have large quantities of yoghurt to sell at discount, or give away, and also many store bought yoghurts have gelatin, so this was mostly over sour-cream, but at the time the temple was using ‘lots’ of this sour-cream because they were getting it for free or at very little cost).
Lets examine this statement, that ‘Srila Prabhupad’ just ‘didn’t understand the actual situation’. I argue that it is Jayatirtha who did not understand the actual situation. First, he ‘assumed’ that Srila Prabhupad didn’t understand. That, right there, is a very dangerous and wrong assumption. Secondly, Jayatirtha was only looking at this from his personal perspective, that as manager he had to contend with temple budgets and allocation of manpower. But, what about other far-reaching implications? It was Jayatirtha who didn’t really understand, at all, the real issues here. Srila Prabhupad had preached that we should expand the farm communities, that the farm communities should have milk cows and those farms should supply to the city temples their milk and milk product needs. If the temples had taken those orders seriously Jayatirtha, as manager of LA temple, the world HQ’s at the time, would have worked to establish a farm community outside LA that could have produced all the milk products. Also, what about the karma. Buying such products from such dairies implicates those who buy the products in the karma of that businesses practices of sending the cows who do not produce enough milk to the slaughterhouses. The point it that Srila Prabhupad had his reasons for giving such an instruction, and Jayatirtha did not even take it upon himself to discuss it further with Srila Prabhupad to find out why he wanted this, rather, Jayatirha simply ‘assumed’ that Srila Prabhupad was the one who really didn’t understand the real situation, and therefore Jayatirtha felt justified in ignoring those instructions by Srila Prabhupad.
This may seem trivial compared to the not following the DOM, but it shows the mind-set of those who were in the position of GBC at the time.
The next example I will give is from 1977, during Srila Prabhupad’s disappearance. About a month before his disappearance Baradraj, the director of the F.A.T.E doll project (where I was serving) went to India to be with Srila Prabhupad. At the time, we all knew the situation was very grave and that Srila Prabhupad may leave this world at any day. We were all wanting to see him one more time. At least, myself, I was praying intensely for this. I just wanted to be in the physical presence of my Savior, Srila Prabhupad, one more time. I wanted so badly to be at his bedside. So, I started to find ways to make the money to buy a plane ticket. And, in LA, so were a lot of other devotees. A number of the book distributors were keeping some of the money from the books they distributed to buy tickets. But, surprisingly, just a few weeks before Srila Prabhupad physically departed Ramesvar, the GBC for LA, came back from Prabhupad’s side in Vrndaban, to stay in LA. Why he left Srila Prabhupad at that time and came back to LA? And, just after he came back, Satsvarup also came to the LA temple, rather then going to Srila Prabhupad’s side. Why?
Well, Ramesvar told us why. In SB class he told us that Srila Prabhupad had sent him back to LA so that he could STOP everyone from Leaving. He told us that Srila Prabhupad asked that No One leave their services. That HE did not want any more devotees giving up their services and coming to India. Ramesvar told us, boldly, that this is what “Srila Prabhupad said”, that this was “Srila Prabhupad’s instruction”, that he come back to LA and keep everyone from leaving.
On hearing this I was so heart-broken. I could not understand how Srila Prabhupad could have ordered this? I wanted so badly to see him again, to be in his presence again. I was heart-broken. But, I had no other recourse but to accept that this is what Srila Prabhupad said, this is what he wanted. So, I gave up my idea of going to his side.
Then, a few weeks after Srila Prabhupad’s disappearance Baradraj came back from India. A few days after he was back he was sharing with us all the details of the events of that time, and one thing he told us was that at one point Srila Prabhupad made a request that he wanted ALL his disciples to come to his side. He requested that EVERYONE come. And, a few days later, Baradraj noted, that Srila Prabhupad asked, why they are not coming? What? This was just the opposite of what Ramesvar had told us. In fact, Ramesvar had come back from India just to STOP us from going to see Srila Prabhupad, and he told us this is what Srila Prabhupad asked.
So, I went to Ramesvar and informed him what Baradraj told me, and asked him about this. Ramesvar then told me the truth. He told me that Baradraj was right, that Srila Prabhupad had made that request. He told me that the GBC members who were present there in Vrndaban held a special meeting to deal with this. He said that their concern was that this was a very volatile issue. As it was, Ramesvar said that the GBC were very concerned that so many devotees were coming to India. Ramesvar was especially concerned that a number of top book distributors had come. The temples depend, financially, on the money these people collected. And, now, not only did these devotees keep the money so they could buy a ticket, they were now also no longer providing money to the temples. He said that even before Srila Prabhupad requested that devotees come to India he and other GBC were very concerned that if too many devotees left their services and temples that there would be a major catastrophe all over the world, but especially in LA where so many departments were located. Then, when Srila Prabhupad made the request that he wanted ALL the devotees to come, the GBC members present met and decided that they simply could not allow this to happen. That, in ‘Their opinion’ Srila Prabhupad simply “did not understand” - Again, Ramesvar put forward the idea that it was ‘their’ duty to manage the society, so they decided that they had to over – rule Srila Prabhupad. They had to, 1) Stop devotees from coming, and 2) make sure that they do Not hear that Srila Prabhupad wanted them to come.
So, they decided that Ramesvar should return to America, to LA, and take with him the fabricated message that ‘Srila Prabhupad’ had sent him and that Srila Prabhupad wanted that no one leave just to come to be by his side. Ramesvar, as he was explaining all this, was boasting how he and the GBC had ‘saved’ ISKCON. He explained that their concern was that if everyone left that so much money that would normally be used for the monthly mortgage payments would not be gone, spent to buy tickets, and there would be no more income for those temples. He told me that the GBC was not sure how long Srila Prabhupad may live for. That he could go one living for many months, and if so, with all the devotees now in India that every single temple would be left in foreclosure. That the movement could lose EVERY temple. And, then he said, all the Deity worship would stop, everything would come to a stop. With everyone gone, the temples would be vandalized and looted, the Deities may even be stolen or broken. Anything could have happened. But, especially, the temple would be in financial ruin, and they foreclosed on. So, he was proud that the GBC had over ruled Srila Prabhupad’s instructions. He was proud that they had intervened and “Saved” ISKCON - Saved ISKCON from what? From following Srila Prabhupad’s instructions????????????
I wrote the GBC about this about 3-4 years ago and I demanded an official and full and open apology, however belated it would have been, by the entire existing GBC for having done this unforgivable thing. I stated that I, personally, will never be able to forgive those GBC members who did this, for they stole away from me the last opportunity for me to have been in the physical presence of such a pure saintly devotee, Srila Prabhupad. And, they did this by outright lying to us. Not only did they lie, but they lied on the name of Srila Prabhupad. They purposefully lied and told us that Srila Prabhupad sent Ramesvar back to LA,, that was a lie. They lied to us by saying that Srila Prabhupad asked us NOT to come to his side. That was a lie, and was exactly the opposite of what Srila Prabhupad said or he wanted. And, they purposefully decided to FOIL one of Srila Prabhupad’s last dying requests. How can they have done such a thing? Therefore, I demanded a full, open and official apology by the GBC. That request stirred a few GBC members to support my request, but it was only a few. The proposal was never given any serious discussion and was quickly forgotten.
But, the above shows even more vividly how deep and extensive the GBC men of that time would go in changing with Srila Prabhupad wanted. How they thought they knew better then the old man. How they felt that Srila Prabhupad just didn’t really understand things at times. How, they felt it was their duty to even over-rule, to disobey Srila Prabhupad and even do just the opposite of what he wanted simply because they felt that he just didn’t understand, that they knew better. It is only a fine line of difference, if there is any dfference, between that mentality and that of simply rejecting and changing at will Srila Prabhupad’s instructions to where they suit what you want, what works out best for you, disregarding what Srila Prabhupad wanted, or what was best for his mission.
As far as what would have happened if all the devotees left and went to Srila Prabhupad’s side? Who knows. But, what ever would have happened would have been what ever Krsna would have arranged, and I can’t imagine that He would have allowed the whole collapse of Srila Prabhupad’s mission. It is obvious that the GBC members at that time lacked such understanding and such faith in Krsna.
BTW, when I made my request to the GBC for that apology and I explained the story, I also asked for any corrections where I may have misunderstood. That request went to some who were part of those 1977 meetings where they decided to disobey Srila Prabhupad and chose to instead FOIL is dying request, namely I specifically wrote asking if Tamal Krsna had any further insight or if he wanted he or others felt Ramesvar’s story to me was wrong. No one wrote me back with any disagreement. And, this was a topic that was discussed on the GBC conference for a day or so.
2) An example of efforts by the GBC to keep Srila Prabhupad’s instructions regarding the management of ISKCON secret.
Back in 1984-85 I was again living at the LA temple. I was good friends with Rajendranath, who was the manager of the BBT at the time (under Ramesvar’s direction), and Rabindranath, who was serving in the BBT Archives at the time. At that time it was still very hard to find many of Srila Prabhupad’s letters. This was before the Vedabase, and before the BBT published the 5 book set of Srila Prabhupad’s letters. I had recalled years ago, 1973, that Karandhar used to have a large stack of Srila Prabhupad’s letters, and now the BBT had been collecting so many. Rabindranath showed me his personal stack, a large number of Prabhupad letters, since he was doing service in the archives, he had access to all the letters. So, he made a number of copies for himself. One day I asked about those letters that Karandhar had, and he offered to let me borrow those and a number of others that were specifically about ISKCON management. I was ecstatic. I had access to the BBT, so that evening I went to the BBT to use the BBT copier to make copies for myself. Just as I laid the first letter on the machine, in walked my friend Rajendranath, head of the BBT. He looked at the large stack of papers and asked, “What are you doing?” I was ecstatic, I told him Rabindranath just loaned me all these letters by Srila Prabhupad, and exclaimed how much nectar there was. Rajendranath did not share my ecstasy. Instead, he told me that the GBC had ruled that the general devotees were NOT to read Srila Prabhupad’s letters.
What? Why not? These were instructions by my spiritual master. He argued that the GBC had ruled that they are Private letters, private correspondence only. I disagreed, but, then argued that the letters I had were not intended to be kept private, that these were letters to Karandhar and others and that they were Prabhupad’s instructions on how the GBC were to manage the society. Rajendranath said that the GBC specifically did NOT want devotees to read ‘those’ letters. He grabbed the letters away. I asked why? These are not private or personal, they are something all devotees should know. At first he argued that the GBC didn't want those letters made public because outside groups would learn how our society was managed and they might use that information to stop us.
I told him I disagreed, and that it was more important that the devotees themselves know how Srila Prabhupad wanted ISKCON run because I could see that they were not managing the way he wanted. To this Rajendranath replied that it was that pount, especially, that Ramevar convinced the GBC to ban Srila Prabhupad's letters because he feared if the devotees knew that they weren't doing things exactly as Prabhupad had instructed that they will use that against the GBC, and it would cause so much disruption in the society.
No, what caused all the disruption was the fact that they, the GBC, were not following his instructions. What caused the disruption was the fact that they pruposefully were trying to keep things like the DOM hidden.
- end July 8th, 2006 ---ameyatma das