Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dana Lila in Fateh Krishna's Rasa at Jai Singh Ghera

This post was on Vrindavan Today a while back, but I am adding it here because of the dana theme, which we are covering more or less exhaustively on this site. Without commentary here.

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Fateh Krishna Ji pays sashtanga pranams to the swaroops before the performance.

Vrindavan, 2011.08.13 (VT): Today was the last day of the Rasa Lila at Jai Singh Ghera. I have been coming down with a cold and there has been a certain amount of fatigue involved in producing this series, as shallow a presentation as it has been. Still, I am happy that my initiation into this Braj tradition was such a delightful one. My limitations in understanding the language were, at times, acute. Since humorous argument delivered rapid fire seems to be a staple of the Rasa Lila, these limitations were especially evident in plays like today's, the Dana Lila, in which such argument dominates.

The dāna-līlā is a subject I have some interest in, as I have been working on Dāna-keli-kaumudī for some time now. Here the difference is that Radha dresses up as a prince to exact tolls from the other gopis, but who are going this time with Krishna and Madhumangal who are also dressed as women themselves.

To be honest, I could not understand the rationale for such a switch other than just Radha's desire to enjoy things from the other side. Lalita tells Krishna what Radha has planned, and so the whole lila is conducted in full awareness of the role-playing. Radha the prince asks her sakhis to act as her ministers, but they are very well disguised, appearing for the most part like older men!

Radha the prince's courtiers and ministers begin (while Krishna is changing costume) by glorifying Vrishabhanu Nandini as the queen of Braj.

The opposing sides are ranged against each other.
In the next scene, Krishna and a file of gopis, including Madhumangal minus his moustache, dressed as a woman. Later we find out that her wares consist of govar kachoris. The two sides size each other up. On Radharani's side today is the actor who has been playing Madhumangal or Mansukh in about half the other plays. So basically we have two Madhumangals today. The "other" Madhumangal is one of the prince's courtiers. The two of them will duke it out as well as do a bit of wild dancing together.

Radha and Krishna tussling over his wares.
So basically, the two sides argue over what wares they have and how much they should be taxed. Radha tries to snatch Krishna's jug of butter, but Krishna won't let go. It turns into something of a dance.

The lila concludes with Krishna paying his taxes
 by placing butter directly into Radha's mouth.

And of course, all's well that ends well. A bit of a strange pastime I have to admit, one that indicates that Radha and Krishna are fully conscious of role-playing at all times. Well, that concludes our series...almost. I will be adding an interview or conversation I had with Swami Fateh Krishna later on today.

Dana Lila in Barsana : Bhadra Shukla Trayodasi

The dana-lila has so many manifestations. Here is another one that had passed me by. I posted this on Vrindavan Today today, crossposting here:


Women spectators crowded on the slope.

Barsana, 2011.09.14 (VT): The Radhastami celebrations at Barsana turn into a festival that lasts a week. On the Bhadra Trayodasi, which this year fell on September 10, people in Barsana run from door to door through the village with young boys on their shoulders. Dressed as Krishna and Radharani with her girlfriends, these young boys are given yogurt and sweets at each house.

This tradition is a part of the Sankari Khor pastime, which is all about Krishna stopping Radharani and her friends and asking them to pay taxes for their yogurt and other wares. It is also known as the burhi-lila festival,

It is reenacted every year in a very special way at the Sankari Khor site itself. The custom is said to have been inaugurated by Shri Narayan Bhatt, one of the 16th century stalwarts of Braja bhakti, the author of many books about Krishna lila and the Braja 84-kos parikrama.

Sankari means “narrow”. This narrow passageway is between the village of Chiksoli (Chitra) and the town of Barsana. The path becomes very narrow at this place, with the rock coming down sharply making a V. Sankari means “narrow, and khor “path”. This very narrow passage lies below Barsana, between Brahma Parvat and Vishnu Parvat. This path would separate Vilas Garh Hill from the main hill. It is so narrow that you can only walk down it by putting one foot in front of the other.

Sankari Khor on a quiet day. (Lake of Flowers photo)
The story is told as follows:
After milking the cows every day, the gopis would carry the milk on kamvars, or bamboo sticks with ropes attached to each end for carrying loads. They would take this route to cross from one side of the hills to the other.

Taking advantage of the narrow pathway, Krishna and his gopa friends would block the gopis' way and and demand milk, yogurt and butter as a toll tax from the gopis. If the gopis refused to give any tax, as they felt was their right, Krishna and his friends would forcibly plunder and eat their milk products. Krishna would sometimes break Radharaṇi’s milk pots when she would not pay the tax.

It is said that you can still see the marks of the broken pots embedded in the stone at the spot, which is called Dan Garh or Dan Ghati in commemoration of this pastime.

The gopis started to get fed up of these daily encounters and decided one day to retaliate. Under the leadership of Lalita, they decided that they would hide in the caves and dense kunjas on the hill on both sides of the narrow pathway. A few other gopis would cross Sankari Khor carrying pots of milk, yogurt and butter on their heads. The plan was that the moment Krishna and his sakhas tried to stop them to plunder their wares, the hidden gopis would come out from their ambush and teach Krishna and his sakhas a good lesson.

The next day, thousands and thousands of gopis divided into groups and hid themselves in the dense kunjas and large caves around Sankari Khor. Then, as usual, a few gopis placed pots of milk and yogurt on their heads and made their way through the narrow passageway.

Krishna, Madhumangal and the other sakhas obstructed their path and began their usual games. At once, the harassed gopis signalled the others who descended on the surprised boys. Five to ten girls caught hold of Krishna; another five to ten caught of Madhumangal, and other groups encrircles Subala, Arjuna, Lavanga and the other sakhas.

Dominating in numbers, they slapped the boys' cheeks until they were swollen. They tied the boys to the branches of the trees by the tuft of hair on the back of their heads and asked them, "What pleasure is there in plundering our yogurt? Will you ever do it again?"

Madhumangal folded his hands and prayed at the feet of Lalita. "Please spare me. I was very hungry. I am a simple brahmin boy who fell under the influence of that fickle Krishna. I shall never behave like this again."

Meanwhile Radhika, Vishakha and some other gopis had captured Krishna. They slapped his cheeks a few times and then made him dress in a blouse and skirt like a woman. They even put vermilion in the parting of his hair, bangles on his arms, anklets on his feet, and so on. They covered half his face with a veil, placed a pot of yogurt on his head and began to make fun of him by demanding tax on the yogurt.

From the top of the hill, Lalita Sakhi aimed a stone at the pot of yogurt on Krishna's head, breaking it and drenching his whole body. This is the source of the name mutki-phor, or breaking of the pot.

All the sakhis began to laugh and clap, and Shyama felt very ashamed. "Will you dare to demand tax on our yogurt ever again?" they asked. "Hold your ears and vow, 'From today, I will never try to tax the gopis' yogurt.'" They forced Krishna to repeat this.
Spectators making their way down the hill.
Gudda Baba recounts the way it was reenacted just a few days ago:
Brajabasi men from Barsana and Nandagram square off, sitting opposite each other and sing out this most intimate pastime of where Krishna would stop the gopis and steal their yogurt.

A boy playing Krishna stops another boy dressed as Radharaṇi, who tries to walk by carrying a pot. These boys are carried on the backs of two strong, sure-footed Brajabasis, who are able to scamper up the hill with ease to initiate this pastime.

What a spectacle as Kanai and Shri Ji’s representatives on each side chant wonderful bhajans in unison in glorification of their own ishtadeva. Each traditional bhajan has been passed down for the last 500 years, and you can perceive how much the present-day residents enjoy their own life-long heartfelt memorization of these songs.

First, a mahant from the Nandagram side sings a song in glorification the greatness and superiority of Krishna Kanhaiya, the mood being of tax time… ”Now pay up to the Lord of Vrindaban.”

Gosai from Nanda Gram taking Krishna's part.
Then the Barsana vasis would counter, correctly describing the superiority of Srimati Radharaṇi: “She is the queen of this forest, how dare you tax her?”

And so these loving arguments would go on, back and forth, taking the opposite sides of love.

Shri Ramesh Babaji Maharaja was seated in the center, silent, immersed in the internal bhava of the lila, while the others stand, chastise, defend, acting as external puppets of the Female or Male Supreme.

Ramesh Baba takes a turn, taking Radha's side, of course.

In between, the Brajavasi youth wearing sunglasses, chewing pan and sporting a comical demeanor as the "elders" performed the role play.

Behind on Vilas Garh Hill, the Brijbasi women watch the fun, dressed in a multicolored rainbow of saris, waving leaf fans and broken branches to counteract the heat of the day.

One cannot help but appreciate how this is the most powerful interactive lila where the participants become ‘extensions’ of the Deities. Such rasa, argument, and dominating conclusions, is a ‘true to life’ enactment of the Lord’ lila, an unforgettable cultural chisel on the heart of every observer.

Sources: Gudda Baba, Brij Discovery.

Pretty good video: You Tube of 2009 Sankari Khor pastimes.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The path within, the path without

Anyone who has studied the Bhagavad-gītā will know the following verse:

ārurukṣor muner yogaṁ karma kāraṇam ucyate |
yogārūḍhasya tasyaiva śamaḥ kāraṇam ucyate ||
For one seeking to rise to the platform of yoga, work is said to be the cause. For the same person when arisen to the platform of yoga, mental pacification is said to be the cause. (6.3)
This somewhat innocuous verse says a great deal about the structure of the Gītā and the sixth chapter, and indeed about the entire Gītā philosophy of yoga. As many will already know, Madhusudan Saraswati has divided the Gītā into three six-chapter sections, on karma, bhakti and jnana, respectively. This scheme has been accepted by the two Gaudiya commentators, Vishwanath and Baladeva, also.

The sixth chapter also serves as a bridge from the karma section to the bhakti section as the number of references that Krishna makes to himself, to thought of him, to the vision of him, etc., is substantially greater than in the earlier chapters. And, finally, this transition is completed when Krishna clearly states in the last verse that "of all yogis, one who worships me with faith is the most united with me in yoga." (6.47)

For their part, the Shankaraites do not give much independent value to the various kinds of karmas described in Chapters 3-5; they only serve as external aids to purification. This seems to be substantiated by the verse quoted above. Karmas are only meant to bring one to the level of yoga sādhanā or mental discipline, when one is actually on the path of yoga, where directly controlling the mental processes is the principal task.

Something analogous goes on in the bhakti path as well. Bhakti has external forms, but the sādhya of bhakti is internal, bhāva or the feeling of love. As with karma, there is a process of internalization that takes place, without which the external actions remain unfulfilled.

Now, one of the things that I have been trying to communicate here is the somewhat non-intuitive idea that such internalization is also external in another sense, especially for the bhakta. That is why the sahajiya calls it the pravartaka stage.

The externality of the "internal" path can be understood when you recognize that its preoccupation is self-realization. Now I have come to the conclusion that "self-realization" (or "Self-realization" depending on whether this internalization process arrives at realization of the self as a spiritual monad or in relationship with the Paramatma) is essentially "self"-centered. It moves the practitioner away from material consciousness, but eventually he has to encounter the "Other." In this pravartaka stage, his concept of God is such that though he appears to be encountering the Other internally, in fact he is still establishing an external ideal and internalizing it. Because it is still fundamentally ideal, i.e., confined to his own internal reality and not entirely conforming to the external reality, it is incomplete, hence external, even in its higher or more advanced stages such as rāgānugā.

Now Sahaja sādhanā is about a transition from the "self-centered" bhajan to a dual form, an external-internal sādhanā, where there is a connection to the "other" in the form of the bhajan partner. See here for more.

In the siddha stage, the external is transformed by the internal, in the sense that the internal accomplishment in prema manifests in external transformations. Changes can be gross or subtle, but the most subtle transformations take place in the transmission of prema and its attendant consequences. Nothing inauspicious can result from a premi bhakta.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Do I believe in Srila Prabhupada?

A question I often get asked is, "Do you still believe in Srila Prabhupada?" Or some variation of this question. This was most recently asked by someone who had just read the article About Jagat, where I have tried to summarize the major events in my life.

This question often puts me off my guard a little, as I suspect that the questioner has a very naive understanding of guru-tattva or is out to entrap me by getting me to submit to a kind of loyalty test.

To make a succinct statement, I will just paraphrase what I wrote yesterday in my article Anti-intellectualism and Anti-Semitism join forces in the Krishna consciousness movement:

I have been out of ISKCON for more than 30 years and have developed a way of thinking that I see as being at least three steps removed from it as a result of my contacts with (1) traditional orthodox Gaudiya and rasika Vrindavan Vaishnavism; (2) with Sahajiya Vaishnavism; and (3) with the Western academic study of religion, all three of which have altered my understanding of spiritual life considerably. But none of these influences has altered my self-identification as a Vaishnava for which I pay my undying obeisance of gratitude to Srila Prabhupada.

Perhaps this will satisfy my questioner. But what does "believing in Srila Prabhupada" mean? Judging by the kinds of rigid ideas that some Prabhupadanugas have, you practically have to live in a mental straightjacket to "believe in Srila Prabhupada." And I once again point to the above article.

What I believe is that the gurus give us their ucchishta, their remnants. They set us on the road to discovery, but they can never answer all our questions. Most of the time, our questions don't come until long after they are gone.

For each disciple, according to their understanding, the guru's remnants are different. Just as on the guru's plate, there may be rice, chapati or sabji or something else remaining, so different disciples see a particular aspect of the guru's mission as being their own field of work, the area in which they can complete the work of the spiritual master.

This means that for some, who are actively inclined, the mission is to spread the message as they have received it, without any changes, without any question, and through the implicit faith that they have in the guru and the tradition, to bring Krishna consciousness to those who have never heard the message.

For others it may be an attempt to rigidify the guru's tradition and to be absolutely faithful to the letter of the guru's law.

For others, the goal might be to try to go deeper into understanding the message, into clarifying what is there, into validating logically and experientially the essence of the tradition and teaching.

For me, the guru's remnants has meant that we have to really find out the answers in this way – through combined study and practice -- in order to keep the tradition alive, to make it meaningful.

Therefore I feel that simply lip service to Srila Prabhupada becomes "idol worship" in the true sense. Everyone is held to a standard of faithfulness toward a figure from the past. People who can claim they were personal servants, or who have some "Prabhupada nectar" to tell, are exalted above all others.

Prabhupadanugas spend all their time knocking ISKCON for not following Prabhupada faithfully and spend all their time condemning innovations or for "thinking themselves to be equal to or better than Srila Prabhupada."

In my opinion, this is all idolatry and saps the very life out of Krishna consciousness. Krishna consciousness, as Bhaktivinoda Thakur said, is progressive. That means that as human understanding and experience expand, our understanding of religious and spiritual phenomena can also expand. We have more tools for understanding spirituality, mythology, ritual and religious practice today than we did a century or five centuries ago.

But this does not mean, as Bhaktivinoda Thakur so correctly pointed out, that we deny the legacy of the past. As Newton said, "If I saw far, it was because I stood on the shoulders of giants."

Somehow, our task is to combine the experience and insights of the past with the experiences and insights of the present. Putting old wine into new bottles means this. It means repackaging the essence of spiritual practice into terms that modern man can understand and find meaningful. Without this, faithfulness to a mythology or to a tradition becomes artificial and dry, an empty shell. Strangely enough, we end up with an old bottle and no wine.

We live in a different world from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Bhaktivinoda Thakur, and even from the world of the 60's when Srila Prabhupada started his teaching. We must recognize the particular world we live in and bring Krishna consciousness alive in that world.

You cannot simply promote escapism and denial of the world we live in. Mere promotion of a return to some imaginary "Vedic culture" is a pipe dream that has failed several times. Unless we reimagine these things according to modern sensibilities, there is no way that we can make Krishna consciousness real for the people of today.

But let me make it perfectly clear that Srila Prabhupada set into motion something that appears to be very powerful, and despite all the negative things that have happened, a wide variety of manifestations of the bhakti movement appear to be growing in many parts of the world. I recognize that all these manifestations have their value and purpose, even those I oppose.

So I am happy to be a part of this world-wide phenomenon and recognize with gratitude my debt to him as the original source of what has become my own life's central theme.


evaṁ janaṁ nipatitaṁ prabhavāhi-kūpe
kāmābhikāmam anu yaḥ prapatan prasaṅgāt |
kṛtvātmasāt surarṣiṇā bhagavan gṛhītaḥ
so’haṁ kathaṁ nu visṛje tava bhṛtya-sevām ||

I was fallen into the darkened well of material life, where I was engaged in seeking sense enjoyment after sense enjoyment in bad association. The rishi of the gods, Narada, took me, O Lord, and made me his own. So how could I ever abandon the service of your servant? (Prahlad to Nrisingha, 7.9.28)
Truly, everything I do is a service to Srila Prabhupada and not a day goes by when I do not remember him. And, as I tried to show in my "About Jagat" article, I also feel that everything that has happened to me since his departure, beginning with my going to Lalita Prasad Thakur, was also by his grace -- even when it appeared to be against his written or spoken instructions.

And though I believe in each manifestation of the guru that has appeared subsequently, it would be dishonest for me to deny the importance of the one who set me on the path that I still follow.

At the same time, all external gurus are manifestations of the internal guru. And, ultimately, it is that guru in the heart that we must "believe" in. It may be the hardest lesson of all that the caittya-guru trumps all manifestation of the external guru.









Anti-intellectualism and Anti-Semitism join forces in the Krishna consciousness movement

Somehow, while surfing the Internet, I came across an article, ISKZION, which caused me some concern. The author asks questions about the preponderence of Jews in ISKCON leadership positions and speculates about the Vaishnava society and Jew-related conspiracy theories. The author even cites the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a book that has passed into the annals of racist defamation as one of the most pernicious [and successful] examples of its kind; this is certainly the red flag of anti-Semitism par excellence.

Now, even though I myself am not of Jewish extraction, I would personally argue that since Jews are disproportionately represented in almost every field of merit... music, science, the arts and cinema, political commentary, finance, philosophy, etc... it would perhaps be more of a problem if Jews were underrepresented in ISKCON and Krishna consciousness. Since Jews seems to know a good thing when they see it, that would almost prove that they have no merit whatsoever!

And if Jews were truly engaged in a great conspiracy to infiltrate other religious organizations in their furtive quest for world domination, one would wonder why so few of them have risen to the upper echelons of Southern Baptism or the Jehovah's Witnesses, or indeed the Catholic Church. On the other hand, there appears to be no shortage of Jews in Buddhism, Yoga, New Religious Movements, or indeed, the Hare Krishna movement.

I personally do not know what Jews do to rise to positions of primacy and influence wherever they set their sights: Is it because they are "God's Chosen People," or because they have extraordinary intelligence, are better at networking, are ruthless power seekers, or possess magical powers that accrue to them through nefarious rituals? Or is it because they are part of a global conspiracy in association with extra-terrestrial forces? These are questions I am not equipped to answer.

Nevertheless, vaguely recalling that I had seen other stirrings of anti-Semitic thought in the Hare Krishna movement some years before, I did a quick Google check on "Jew Krishna" and "Jew ISKCON," and came across a couple of articles from the Sampradaya Sun from two years ago, which show a little more how such kinds of discourse arise in absurd contexts, revealing anti-Semitic biases that in all likelihood arise everywhere Jews rise to positions of disproportionate influence and power. And it is really this article that prompts me to write here.

Tamal Krishna Goswami
The first article, submitted by a certain Mukunda Das with a few introductory comments, is in fact the reprint of a paper ("Constructive Theologizing for Reform and Renewal") published by the now departed Tamal Krishna Goswami (Thomas G. Herzig) and Krishna Kshetra Das (Dr. Kenneth Valpey), which appeared in in The Hare Krishna Movement: The Postcharismatic Fate of a Religious Transplant (ed. Edwin Bryant and Maria Ekstrand, Columbia Press, 2004).

Mukunda Das's introductory comments contain the deliberate but entirely irrelevant mention of both authors' Jewish extraction. In response to a subsequent accusation of anti-Semitism, Mukunda Das makes his point much clearer, associating Judaism with a kind of scholarship that is he feels subverts the entire ISKCON movement and is furthermore offensive to Srila Prabhupada himself.

The issue is that when you analyze the movement’s development towards academia, liberalism, pluralism, corporatism, and impersonalism, you will find devotees who hail from a Jewish background. The real issue is that these [Jewish background devotees] JBD's are steering the movement into becoming a generic religion and using academia and interfaith ideologies to do so. These JBD’s don’t make public their papers and ideas, which are well guarded by the walls of academia and cries of Anti-Semitism by apologists and uneducated disciples and associates...

How many of our leaders who are JBD’s promote pluralism, academia, secular education, interfaith and liberalism? Then see if I am being Anti-Semitic, or am I being realistic. Diacritical theology is the main thrust of the various religious academic Institutions and interfaith dialogues. This form of theology demands an academic approach to scripture and its implementation. Diacritical theology, put simply, means that one must use one's intelligence to critically analyze scriptural text and the word of the guru or theologian.

And of course, he makes the familiar accusation, the argument ad hominem to end all arguments: "They think they know better than Srila Prabhupada."

At least here Mukunda says what it is that is bothering him. In the first article, he seems to expect everyone to understand immediately what he is getting at. His language is uncompromising and inflammatory, but in fact reveals not only his own ignorance, but the great intellectual poverty at the heart of ISKCON conservatism, which is perhaps the most serious problem it faces. He writes of Herzig and Valpey's article,
...this piece of literary dribble is nothing short of the most offensive material ever to be produced by an alleged ISKCON devotee. Every line in this material I found to be most offensive and depreciative to our Srila Prabhupada, even though they hide behind pseudo-academic word jugglery.

Dr. Kenneth Valpey
Mukunda derides the two authors for calling Prabhupada a "'charismatic' personality that used a top-down (vertical) authoritarian approach that did not allow any room for questioning or intelligent independent thought." The irony of this comment is that Mukunda then proceeds to insist on an authoritarian approach that does not allow for questioning or intelligent independent thought.

Part of Mukunda Das's criticism of Tamal's argument is yet another ad hominem argument, that he himself was "authoritarian" in his "rule" as an ISKCON guru, so what right does he have to criticize Srila Prabhupada for authoritarianism? Such comments are disingenuous at best. It seems that, if anything, Tamal Krishna's experience as a guru in ISKCON had opened his eyes to the disastrous nature of authoritarianism. He had been struck by the necessity of modernizing Krishna consciousness, and it is not unlikely that his own experiences playing the authoritarian cult leader had some influence on his perception of the way forward.

Now, to be honest, I personally don't care about what happens in ISKCON or what its leaders do. I have been out of that organization for more than 30 years and have developed a way of thinking that I see as being at least three steps removed from ISKCON through my contacts with (1) traditional orthodox Gaudiya and rasika Vrindavan Vaishnavism; (2) with Sahajiya Vaishnavism; and (3) with the Western academic study of religion, all three of which have altered my understanding of spiritual life considerably. But since none of these influences has altered my self-identification as a Vaishnava [for which I continue to pay my undying obeisance of gratitude to Srila Prabhupada], it is in the last capacity as an academic that I feel I must condemn Mukunda Das's slanderous and malicious articles with all my heart. In fact, the only meritorious thing he did was to publish Krishna Kshetra and Tamal Krishna Goswami's paper in full. And on rereading that paper, I have to say that I support entirely the exercise in which they were engaged.

I was actually quite sad at Tamal Krishna's untimely demise in 2002, as I saw in him a possibility for a rational revision of Krishna consciousness. At the very least, he was instituting a dialogue that recognized the evolutionary nature of all religion, what to speak of Vaishnavism. It is no accident that the two authors cite some of Bhaktivinoda Thakur's most liberal passages about the progressive nature of devotion, passages that most progressive devotees hold to their hearts as breaths of fresh air in the stifling enclosure of the current Krishna movement, and how they also condemn the conservative ISKCON position, represented by no less a hypocrite than Hridayananda Goswami, who after a too long sojourn in academia has himself apparently changed stripes to submit to the all-conquering rule of "diacritic theology."
The members of ISKCON, who live perpetually at the feet of Shrila Prabhupada, may speculate how Shrila Prabhupada’s statements are true, but they may not challenge his statements, or claim that they are false. This is precisely what it means to accept Shrila Prabhupada as the founder-acharya.
I have always sensed that the basic problem in the Ritvik camp or the other anti-ISKCON die-hard Prabhupada-as-he-is-don't-change-one-dot-or -iota arch conservatives that were spawned by Prabhupada's preaching is precisely their idolatry of Srila Prabhupada, their absolute conviction of his untouchable perfection in everything he did and said. Since this seems to be the teaching, the "guru-tattva," they are left with nothing but a dogmatic negative reflex to anything that calls anything he said or did into question. And like Mukunda Das here, they may pretend to have understood, use big words and accuse their opponents of "pseudo-academic word jugglery," while in fact they can do nothing better than fake it themselves.

And then, of course, the ultimate ad hominem, the suggestion of a Jewish conspiracy! So, the sum and substance of Mukunda's argument is a serious of ad hominem arguments meant to distract everyone from the substance of Tamal Krishna's paper and to whip up a frenzy against intellectuals, Tamal Krishna personally, and finally Jews, by accusing them all of being offenders to Srila Prabhupada. All red herrings meant to distract people away from the paper's content. Way to go, quite a feat.

At any rate, I will not go into any further discussion here, except to say that research along the lines suggested by Valpey and Herzig is the only long-term hope for the Krishna bhakti movement. I hope that all ISKCON devotees will read it carefully and consider seriously the implications of Tamal Krishna's intent here. Indeed, I hope that they will take up the challenge implicit in the paper to apply their intelligence to the study of Krishna consciousness, rather than simply parroting the words of the previous acharyas without deliberation.

Unless Krishna consciousness can be made meaningful to people of the modern world, it will never interest more than a small coterie of misfits, who will go on arguing about obscure points of guru-bhakti and dream of world domination and "10,000 years of world peace" with everyone prancing around like ISKCON devotees from the 1970's.







Henri Jolicoeur on some old-time ISKCON homosexuals

There are many examples of the kind of Prabhupadanuga closed-mindedness and fanaticism that make me despair for the future of the Krishna consciousness movement. One especially good and consistent source of examples is provided by the Sampradaya Sun website, which never fails to find an opportunity to make a great display of its devotion to Srila Prabhupada at the cost of sensible rational thought. They can spend endless hours and spill countless gallons of ink discussing the flaws of the ISKCON gurus and the doctrine of the "Sampradaya acharya," but the territory no one dares to enter is that where Srila Prabhupada and his teachings are called into question.

In this respect I have two particular examples I would like to bring up; one is recent, the other two years old. I will discuss the recent on first, the second one afterwards, even though in terms of writing, the latter issue came to my attention first and was in the process of inspiring comment when the more recent incident came up.

Recently, a certain Jaya Narayan who is, I think, from Delhi, published a couple of articles on the Sampradaya Sun in which he posted videos by Henri Jolicoeur. Henri Jolicoeur, who is from Quebec, took sannyas from Srila Prabhupada in 1970 and was given the name Hanuman Swami. He was in ISKCON in the earliest days (pre-1970), and opened the Paris temple with Umapati. He was in India with Srila Prabhupada in 1971, but left the movement not long after his return to America. Subsequently, he became interested in psychotherapy, cults and brainwashing techniques, as well as meditation practices and so on. In particular, he has become a fan of the famous south Indian saint Raman Maharshi and is currently making a documentary film about him.

His interest in cult practices, the phenomenon of brainwashing, the cheating practices of gurus, etc., has led him to make several short videos in which he exposes Sathya Sai Baba, Nithyananda Paramahamsa and Kalki Bhagavan, not only for their claims to being avatars, but also for their unethical and sometimes predatory practices.

Little wonder, then, that his eyes should turn to some of the ISKCON gurus. The first was a 15-minute video on Gopal Krishna Goswami, which was greeted with elation on both the Sampradaya Sun and the Bangalore ISKCON website. But the second video, which discussed over three parts, four homosexuals and/or pedophiles was ultimately removed by the Sun, apparently because Mr. Jolicoeur called Prabhupada a "homophobe.".

[I wanted to give a link to the video but it appears that Mr. Jolicoeur has closed that You Tube account ("loveandpeace108"). I have asked him by email to explain what led him to make that decision and am awaiting his response.]

Rocana writes:

We won't repeat Hanuman's comments here, except to say that they are highly offensive, asiddhantic, and 100% wrong. For Jaya Narayana's part, he explained that he heard the term "homophobic", but didn't understand it to mean what it actually does mean today.
We encourage our readers to take great care when listening to the so-called 'preaching' or hypno-psycho teachings of Henri (Henry) Jolicoeur, Hanuman ex-swami, at least until such time as he recants his offensive remarks and offers a philosophical explanation as to how he made such a mistake.

Please note Rocana's approach, "We won't repeat...", we will only call them "offensive, asiddhantic and 100% wrong," He must "recant"! If I were Henri Jolicoeur, I would be highly amused by the typical cult mentality that produces such kind of response. He was beaten up by Nithyananda's followers in Tamil Nadu, so I expect that he knows such responses will be forthcoming.

In his video, of course, Jolicoeur has made his argument and so it is really up to Rocana and his friends to come up with a response to the challenge presented by them.

Mr. Jolicoeur's argument is simple: he knew these four men – Sudama, Kirtanananda, Bhavananda, and Umapati, all swamis – in the earliest days of the movement, between 1969 and 1971, and knew all of them to be homosexuals even then. Over their careers, they either in good faith tried to repress their homosexuality, or in bad faith took advantage of their situation in the movement to indulge it. In each case, he analyzes their sexual careers and comes to the conclusion that repression failed in each case, and that the "cures" of marriage and sannyasa did not help whatsoever.

Jolicoeur further says the philosophy presented by Srila Prabhupada has no place for homosexuality. Like many traditional systems of thought, homosexuality is considered to be "against nature" and the result of excessive and uncontrolled sex appetite. In other words, it is a moral disease that can only be cured by Krishna consciousness.

Here is what Jolicoeur wrote as an introduction to his video series:

As I visited various ISKCON temples over the past few years, I noticed many homosexuals and lesbians in the movement are still suppressing and hiding their sexual identities because being openly homosexual is a big no no in ISKCON.

The strange thing is that though Swami Bhaktivedanta was openly homophobic, at the same time he was surrounded from the very beginning by homosexuals like Kirtanananda, Hayagriva, Umapati, Bhavananda, Sudama, Omkara... on and on. Maybe he was extremely naive like a child, or maybe he wanted to "engage them," with the results that we now know: disaster.

A lusty brahmachary could not get married as a homosexual; the only way out for him was either sannyasa or a sham marriage (as in the cases of Sudama, Hayagriva, Umapati and Omkara), with the resultant suffering that it entailed for the women so sacrificed. In these circumstances, these men were forced to repress their sexual identity even more, creating a disastrous situation for themselves and the people under their charge. Some of them even had sex with their initiated disciples as in the recent case of Umapati.

Hopefully, the tragic stories of these four long time ISKCON homosexuals will help some members of ISKCON and all the Hare Krishna movement offshoots to be truthful to themselves about their sexual identity and not lose years of their lives trying to convince themselves that they are not gay.

The teaching that you are not the body but a soul is the basis of ISKCON's theology. But as long as you identify with this body and are not in a state of samadhi, you have to recognise that you are straight or gay or lesbian or trengender. These are facts recognized by all schools of modern psychology and medicine, and more and more by secular society, especially in the western world. For instance, New York just made marriage of gays and lesbian legal in June 2011.

There is no denying that Swami Bhaktivedanta was highly homophobic. I personally heard him make very negative remarks on the homosexual lifestyle on at least ten occasions. The idea that Swami Bhaktivedanta was perfect and that everything he said was perfect truth is, in my view, incorrect.
Some of his writings contain ideas left over from the dark ages. Moreover, he was also the product of 19th century Bengali society.

Was he so extremely naive that he could not see how so many homosexuals and lesbians were in his service? Or was he so merciful that he wanted to engage everyone in the service of Krishna including homosexuals and could not foresee the disasters of sexual abuse that his policy would create for adults, and especially for the Gurukula children?

The result was that pedophiles were even named among the original eleven successor gurus, with the consequences now known to everyone. At least two lifelong homosexual men, Kirtanananda and Bhavananda, were also pedophiles, which resulted in so many gurukula kids' lives being destroyed, some of them even committing suicide.

Now, though one may argue about what "homophobic" means, generally speaking this fits the accepted and current definition: "unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality."

Now, the question here is this: Is there any evidence that Krishna consciousness has factually "cured" anyone of homosexuality? The fundamentalist Christians in America have been making a big deal of conversion therapy for years and the results are less than impressive and even the most favorable results are recognized as flawed by the one publishing them.

Ariel Shidlo and Michael Schroeder found in "Changing Sexual Orientation: A Consumer's Report", a peer-reviewed study of 150 respondents published in 2002, that 88% of participants failed to achieve a sustained change in their sexual behavior and 3% reported changing their orientation to heterosexual. The remainder reported either losing all sexual drive or attempting to remain celibate, with no change in attraction. Some of the participants who failed felt a sense of shame and had gone through conversion therapy programs for many years. Others who failed believed that therapy was worthwhile and valuable. Shidlo and Schroeder also reported that many respondents were harmed by the attempt to change. Of the 8 respondents (out of a sample of 202) who reported a change in sexual orientation, 7 worked as ex-gay counselors or group leaders. (Wikipedia)

Now if ISKCON gurus and leaders like Sudama, Umapati, Bhavananda and Kirtanananda failed to restrain their own sexual impulses even while preaching that Krishna consciousness is a higher taste that cures one of base desires, even the desire for sex itself, then what hope is there for other, lesser mortals?

Prabhupada was against sex itself, what to speak of homosexuality. But even then, Jolicoeur's question to Umapati at the end of his presentation is simply to ask, "Don't you think you should just face the fact that you are gay and live with a partner?"

I have known Umapati for 40 years. I was surprised to see that he has lost his status in ISKCON as a guru after being caught having sex with his male diciples. Umapati has been an active homosexual all his adult life, hiding his sexual identity in a homophobic society for 40 years, while repeating the same old homophobic quotes himself.

What a shame that he married a beautiful devotee in Paris, Ilavati, a wonderful woman that I myself introduced to Krishna consciousness. And then he cheated on her with men. This happened in New Vrindavan, and Kirtanananda's solution was first to give sannyasa to him, and then to his wife also. Umapati in turn gave sannyasa to the man who was to murder Sulochan and is now in jail serving a life sentence. Now that makes for a lot of lying and deceiving.

Umapati, if you read this, please stop playing games with other people's minds and hearts, and even more important, stop playing games with yourself. It won't be long before you are old and impotent, and soon after that you will be standing at death's door Stop the bullshit and seek the light -- listen to your heart.

So my point to Rocana, my dear old friend, is that Hanuman has given you his answer. It is not up to him to defend himself to you, but for you to speak up to the issue at hand. He is saying the homophobic agenda, indeed the anti-sex agenda, in ISKCON has failed. And the source of the anti-sex, anti-love agenda is Prabhupada. And the source of the denial and coverups is ultimately Prabhupada. And the fact that these men such as these continue to find shelter in ISKCON to perpetrate their hypocrisy ultimately has its root in Prabhupada.

That is for you to answer to, Rocana. You cannot get out of it by name calling, saying that Hanuman is "offensive, asiddhantic and 100% wrong" without making reasonable arguments showing how this is so.

But of course, this is nothing unusual for the Sampradaya Sun, as my next article will show.