Millennial Controversies

Just prior to the turn of the century, there was an upheaval of controversy that had never before been experienced in ISKCON.  Some creative writers got together and published a bunch of unconventional ideas in a title referred to as the ‘Final Order.’  I had an opportunity to see it in draft form somewhere around 1977, and the first time I looked at it I thought to myself: “This is such complete nonsense, who is ever going to take it seriously?” Then a few years later, to my astonishment, the “RitVik” controversy was tearing long-standing friendships apart and wreaking havoc everywhere.   As I watched the destruction, my heart broke.  After all, one of Srila Prabhupada’s most important final instructions to us was that “You will show your love for me by your cooperation.” Srila Prabhupada had given us something so wonderful and simple, but because of our sick western pride, we simply could not integrate it into our life without nearly killing one another over how to follow his instruction.

In an effort to see if I could find a common ground and bring everyone back together as one Hare Krishna movement, I wrote a treatise that was immediately published on VNN.  The heart of that culminated in a paper called:

LINK: 12 Points Towards Unity & Respect

I soon discovered that ISKCON management refused to even consider introducing a RitVik Harinama initiation into the process of becoming a devotee by making it the first stepping stone to a personal guru awarding the Brahman’s thread.  I am still of the belief that if something like this could have been integrated into the formal ISKCON structure, it would have completely prevented the breakdown we now face.  I realize it would be a bit contrived and unconventional, but not any less contrived than bankrolling tyagis.  As a practical matter, it would have prevented the attrition and aparadh that became the first big wedge to divide ISKCON.

However, this accommodating vision was probably moot even before I realized it.  When I pressed the RitVik leadership at the time to see if their agenda was to integrate into ISKCON or completely overthrow the traditional Guru-Disciple relationship they did not immediately respond.   When it was to their most political advantage they finally revealed that their objective was to completely overthrow the traditional Vedic guru-disciple relationship that was already well underway within ISKCON.  There was simply no middle-of-the-road to travel on, so I ended up writing a series of articles helping people understand that the RitVik agenda was a reaction, not a philosophy.    It’s understandable why people were hurt, but the solution was not to whip up something that has never been done since Krishna clearly confirmed:

sri-bhagavan uvaca
imam vivasvate yogam proktavan aham avyayam
vivasvan manave praha manur iksvakave ‘bravit – Bg 4.1

The fact that immature gurus were pretending to be Srila Prabhupada didn’t help matters. Despite these travesties, the RitViks’ suggestion that Srila Prabhupada intended to change everything he had taught his disciple for ten plus years, based solely on one very ambiguous, controversial letter by Srila Prabhupada written in July of 1977 – just four months before he departed – was an insult to Srila Prabhupada’s pragmatic expertise!

So I set my skills to exposing many of the gross inconsistencies, deceptive citations, and preposterous contentions of the RitViks, in what I mockingly refer to as the FO (Final Order) Sastra.   By the time that effort was done, I had received numerous emails from devotees worldwide thanking me for helping them separate the post-Prabhupada – Guru angst from the RitVik panacea.   Yes, a bunch of neophyte Western kids were clearly having problems implementing the Parampara system.   They may have memorized the third Siksastaka prayer, but many continued to behave like Lord Indra did when his ego was snubbed and he attacked Vrindavan with 40 days of violent thunderstorms!  As unpredictable as it may have been, the concocted RitVik alternative was not the way to tame the gurus who expected red carpets and rose petals everywhere they went.  Those who are still bewildered by all the RitVik propaganda are invited to read those papers here:

Accepting the Challenge Sep 19, 2012
Did He or Didn’t He? Sep 21, 2012
Who’s Changing What? Sep 20, 2012
Modifications a & b. Sep 24, 2012
He Who Knows Has No Need To Shout.

The reason why I open this paper with a brief summary of RitVik history is that it somehow finds its way into the mish-mash of so-called poisoning evidence.   There also seems to be a lot of circumstantial evidence that indicates that the same core group of individuals who dreamed up the RitVik heresy brought us the “Who Poisoned Prabhupada” drama.  In both cases, these individuals appear to be convinced that they are acting to further the mission of Lord Caitanya even though the results of their actions have been just the opposite.  We need only remember that the men who flew the planes into the world trade center.  They were also convinced that in giving their lives to commit such an atrocity they were serving the almighty!  Instead of furthering the cause of ISLAM, the end result was just the opposite.   They simply awakened the Western world to how dangerous the radicalized end of the Islamic faith is willing to go to be heard.    I will show in this paper how the conspiracy to poison Srila Prabhupada doesn’t have to have a thread of truth while also illustrating how the rumor itself is effective in achieving the real purpose for why it is so furiously promoted The “Who Poisoned Prabhupada” drama is the 2nd attempt by the disenfranchised to gain recognition on the world stage and it springs forth from a the deeply rooted human foible know as envy.    Every aspiring devotee is called to control pride and envy and in this case the authors of this drama have spent a good portion of their lives proving to the rest of us their embarrassingly tragic inability to do that.

Getting to the Point

The first time someone shared with me that there was a ground-swelling concern about the possibility Srila Prabhupada was poisoned, I simply dismissed it as another sensationalized “ISKCON grape-vine hoax”.   I could not imagine how anyone could possibly believe such a ridiculous thing; however, before too long, I was again completely dumbfounded by the fact that there were many devotees getting sucked into this “new” mega-diversion instead of doing something useful for Srila Prabhupada.    I acquired a copy of “Someone Has Poisoned Me” and after reading it, I again thought: “Who in their right mind is going to give any credibility to all this unconvincing opinionated barf?”   Yet, some devotees apparently did – whether due to being gullible, did not care to research enough, covered by their own hurt and pain?  After a while, the “Poison” issue seemed to drift back off on the same cumulous cloud from which it came.

Then, in the Spring of 2017, I started getting some panic phone calls from congregational members who attend the bimonthly “Bhagavad Gita – As It Is” Fellowship Discussion  I host twice a month at my home in Ojai!  They were quite surprised to encounter the “poison” allegations!  At the same time, our mailing list of 1500 (mostly new people) had not only been deceitfully hijacked, but our congregation had been spammed with a bunch of propaganda that prematurely concluded:

“.. the case that Srila Prabhupada’s poisoning with heavy metals IS now proven,” -KGBG p.687

I soon discovered this propaganda was now stomping all over the tender seedlings of devotion that I was trying to cultivate in my congregation.  I did not want to open this can of putrefied worms because to do so would be like voluntarily jumping into an open latrine!   Initially, I resisted, but others encouraged me to do what I could to expose the travesty of reasoning that keeps this stupid drama alive.  I felt dirty and exhausted just thinking about the task of exposing the poison conspiracy.  It never made any sense to me at all regardless of all the so-called evidence which amounted to no more than a tsunami of psychological coercion.

I soon realized that even people I had great respect for were somehow getting drawn into believing these pernicious poison allegations; therefore, I felt that I had a duty to apply my skills to expose it for the hypnotic fraud that it had apparently become.

I have no idea if anyone is going to care that I wrote this, but I at least hope it will find a home somewhere. Perhaps 500 years from now, this rebuttal will help shed light on what these tumultuous times in Early ISKCON were like – at least from the perspective of one who has absolutely nothing personal to gain by exposing it.  I certainly hope I am one of the rare few who suffered terrible disappointments after Srila Prabhupada left, but I know that is not true.   Many have struggled to work around the growing pains ISKCON has crawled thru.  For some, that struggle took on the form of this grandiloquent poison conspiracy.

The Stage Was Set – Let the Story Begin

The individuals who allege that Srila Prabhupada was poisoned by some of his most trusted disciples have asserted that what started this witch hunt were rumors that were circulating at New Dwarka in 1982 —  five years after Srila Prabhupada departed!   When we look closely, we find that those rumors came from two 13 year–old Mexican Gurukula children who “Think” they “Might” have overheard eight senior men talking about a plot to poison Srila Prabhupada!

I was in India within three months after Srila Prabhupada departed, and I never heard one such preposterous rumor.  We need to ask here: why did the loose talk of two children lead to such a huge investigation?   There is no dispute about the chaos that occurred when Prabhupada’s young disciples were left to lead ISKCON into the future.  A lot of mistakes were made… a lot of egos raged out of control, a lot of people got hurt, a lot of devotees left the movement, leaving the rest of us quite upset and disgusted.

With the departure of His Divine Grace, there was no one to insulate us from our own incompetence, envy, greed, pride.  All those unresolved pushing agents were now free to undermine our efforts in the task of sharing with the rest of the world what Srila Prabhupada gave us.  It was both frightening and depressing.  It’s quite reasonable to see how these unresolved pushing forces rapidly surfaced and matured into many very controversial issues that shattered the ISKCON magic that only Srila Prabhupada’s personal presence could hold together.  Since his departure in 1977, the majority of his surviving disciples, being very neophyte Vaishnavas at best, had to navigate thru numerous difficult organizational policy decisions such as:

  1. How to interface with other members of the Gaudiya Math.
  2. Who is qualified to initiate disciples?
  3. The resurrection of the elitist Gopi Bhava club.
  4. How would we implement the Parampara system?
  5. Blind eye to those who vowed “Renunciation”, but live like kings.
  6. Should women be masters or mothers?
  7. When will the debates over book editorial changes get resolved? (See my suggestions in Appendix 1)
  8. Public disclosure regarding the collection and distribution of laxmi and the protection of real property.

These are just a few of the more controversial things that have destroyed long-standing friendships, trust among devotees and led to bitter disputes, resentment, and even the exile of many good individuals who were anxious to serve Srila Prabhupada’s mission.

As we moved forward in time more people got hurt as ISKCON fractured and innocent individuals got treated badly… in some cases very badly.  While some clawed their way to the top, others were kicked to the side or simply left feeling abandoned or betrayed. People who are inclined to be very tolerant were reaching the end of their patience.  The autocracy of ISKCON management was getting a reputation for being unrepentant, impenetrable, and ruthlessly powerful.

The stage was set.  The only way to bring down a strong king is to engage in Machiavellian like strategies.  An individual the authors of the Conspiracy Theory have obviously studied quite closely.  (KGBGp. 507)  The usual controversies were wearing away ISKCON more and more each day.   Those seeking vengeance for all the past transgressions feeling compelled to stop the GBC Kings.   To do so they cleverly devised the “Who Poisoned Prabhupada” conspiracy knowing that it would have far more disruptive consequences than just introducing some new philosophical controversy.

Seeing the lack of cooperation that was already being felt by the ISKCON diaspora, these individuals knew it was time to extend that obstinacy into the management body of ISKCON itself, reasoning that it was time for the GBC to get a taste of their own heartless medicine!  To fracture ISKCON at its core would require a controversy that creates enough suspicion and quarrel among the GBC members that it would destroy whatever little cooperation the old boys club was still enjoying.

“If we do not work cooperatively in this way, the whole thing will deteriorate.” – June 22, 1972, LA Letter to Madhupuri

The most effective way to break the collective strength of the GBC would be to perpetuate doubts, intrigue, and disarray on a scale that had not yet been experienced.  To really disintegrate Srila Prabhupada’s movement required a Visa-Virya Bijam (A Very Deadly Seed) and the “Who Poisoned Prabhupada” conspiracy became that seed.

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