Kamrā devī dāsī Autobiography Part 5

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The philosophy of Kṛṣṇa Consciousness itself became weaponized against those who chose to try to do right and keep Śrila Prabhupāda’s legacy alive.

For example, the issue of offenses became a very good excuse for not hearing from those who saw the deviations that were going on. “Oh, you are offensive to the devotees. You should be shunned and banned, if you speak up it will destroy the mission, and it will all be your fault. The organization is Śrila Prabhupāda’s body. Your speaking will ruin everything and displease Śrila Prabhupāda and destroy his body.” No sincere devotee wants to make offenses to those who are true to the path. To make offenses to the devotees, to blaspheme those who have dedicated their lives to the propagation of the Holy Names, is the first offense to chanting the Holy Names. It is very serious. I had to look very deeply at this. It is not as fine a line as some say, between calling things as they are and making offenses. Śrila Prabhupāda is clear in his lengthy purport to Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, Chapter 16, texts 1-3, “…to call a thief a thief is not faultfinding, but to call an honest person a thief is very much offensive for one who is making advancement in spiritual life.” A far as the organization goes, a body can get so diseased that the soul has to leave. And to be forced to keep family secrets always alludes to dysfunction.

Śrila Prabhupāda told us that even if a devotee falls down he is still to be regarded as a saintly person. Authorities in the organization used this instruction to minimize their own discrepancies and those of their elite peers, and to downplay, and even criminalize, the efforts of those who sought to keep things on track with what Śrila Prabhupāda had given to us. However, to fall down is different from committing intentional malfeasance, and to criminalize those who tried to uphold the truth, is a very serious crime in itself. And those in “power” sealed the envelope by using for their own purposes, the often quoted adage for which I can find no reference of origin, “Be like a thunderbolt with your own offenses and a rose with the offenses of others.” While this is in line with the Vaisnava understanding, and we know that it is properly advised to not criticize others but rather to aim for self-rectification, anything can be weaponized, and the last thing that an honest person on the devotional path wants to do is destroy their devotional life by criticizing other devotees.

Devotees were told that even though there were “pockmarks on the moon,” that the moon still appeared bright, that the overall effect was still of brightness, so that the pockmarks were insignificant and should be overlooked. In the true sense, if someone is practicing Kṛṣṇa Consciousness, then minor faults should be overlooked as the overall picture was good and that any faults would continue to diminish with continued practice, but the statement was taken out of context to say that the devotees should pay no heed to the abusive and derelict behaviors of the leaders, because those people were rightly situated.

Then there was, “It’s your karma.” Whether the devotees tried to rationalize abuses to themselves out of humility or having had their spirit knocked out of them by an authoritarian system, or were told so when they reported abuses to organizational leaders, it was not healthy. This stuff should not have gone on in Śrila Prabhupāda’s society. From my own experience, when I met with a group of godbrothers and godsisters several years ago to present my own experiences and to see if they felt there was a chance to rectify things from within the organization, I was told by one senior man, a former sannyasi, that what I had experienced was my karma and that nothing could be done. Again, I recalled Śrila Prabhupāda sadly stating that after he left, there would be no shelter for the women and children. He did not say, “Tough. It’s their karma.” Anyway, it was shortly after that that I gave up any hope that things could be corrected from within the organization.

As time went on, and the mood of the devotees in general became more contaminated with the modern socialist perspective, the victims of abuse became the enemy, and the demonic perpetrators needed our compassion. Done, finished, the real compassion of the saintly kings was capital punishment when the crime deserved it.

Śrila Prabhupāda wanted that things go properly in his society of devotees. In the earlier part of the 1970s, there had been some discrepancy involving the management of the Henry Street ISKCON temple in Brooklyn. There were serious offenses being committed to the devotees and to the Deities, dishonesty with finances, and so on. For the most of us, we were very new devotees and did not know how to deal with it. The “senior” devotees had maybe been practicing Kṛṣṇa Consciousness for three years. Śrila Prabhupāda was not displeased with us new devotees. He stated that we were like sheep, that we had followed, that it was good that we had followed and also good that we had kicked out the couple that had created the problems. However, for the senior devotees involved, Śrila Prabhupāda had chastised, “You are senior, you should have done something.”

In so many aspects, the organization has deviated from Śrila Prabhupāda’s mood, mission, and teachings. Nothing was done by most of the senior devotees to set things properly on course, and many of them in fact have personal responsibility for steering the ship into the dangerous waters of whereabouts unknown. Those honest souls who tried, out of love for His Divine Grace, to set things straight were minimized, ridiculed, ostracized, brutalized, or worse, and many sincere souls simply left for various reasons, aware that the organization was no longer being run by Śrila Prabhupāda. Some good people were threatened, blackmailed, or coerced and therefore could not act in integrity with what they knew was right.

It is not that Śrila Prabhupāda did not warn us. He founded the organization to provide uplifting association for those who wanted to progress on the path of devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. At the same time, he recognized that there were serious problems. In a letter to one disciple, he noted, “Regarding the poisonous effect in our Society, it is a fact and I know where from this poison tree has sprung up and how it affected practically the whole Society in a very dangerous form. … It is a fact however that the great sinister movement is within our Society. In that letter, he instructed his leading disciples, “so all of you may try to save the Society from this dangerous position.” He told another disciple, “There are those in our movement who dress like devotees- sikha, tilaka, neck beads, and dhoti, but they are not devotees. They are agents of Kali. We must find them and weed them out.”

Proper etiquette, Vaisnava etiquette, it is at the heart of the Lord, the heart of the devotees, the heart of the Vedic culture, the heart of the preaching mission. But what if some of these personalities are not really devotees? Do we have to show etiquette to the external dress, or do they need to be exposed for what they are and treat them accordingly? As we have quoted many times, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Maharaj wrote in Sajjana Toshani (18.2.13-14)-

“After the time of Śrī Caitanya Mahaprabhu, those faithful to Him kept apart from non-devotees, to avoid contamination. Seeing this, the personality of Kali sent his representatives in disguise to pollute the Vaisnava sampradaya. Posing as Vaisnavas, they spread their wicked doctrines, and appeared so intelligent and devoted that only pure devotees could detect their real identity.”

Anything I say ongoing in this video series is the tip of the iceberg. I have no desire to take down any organization or expose the criminals for the sake of exposing them. I am not an activist at that level. It is not worth my effort unless Kṛṣṇa asks that of me. Anything false will come down by its own design. If I have to give the final “kick” to the crumbling infrastructure, I will do it, because false religion must be exposed and taken down. We must become able to differentiate between what is simply a structure, an institution, and the real essence of Śrila Prabhupāda’s gift to us. I want to present the essence of his teachings in words, in mood, in practicality. He gave me some instructions, some of which are too deep to discuss with hardly anyone. But I can share that he did tell me to accept no authority other than his own, and to act to clear his name from what has gone on in his name.

All over the world, things are about to be exposed that are so heinous, so ugly, that people will be in shock. I am concerned about the most of the people, as the evil deeds of those who were revered as leaders come out into the open, their hearts will be devastated. This will show itself in all fields- government, politics, the financial systems, the medical industry, the entertainment industry and others. It will show itself in the religious institutions and challenge people at the deepest levels of their faith. I know that Kṛṣṇa will exhibit His expertise in how to wake people up to the nature of the material world, to shake them as much as they need to have the opportunity to come to their senses and face Him again, but not hard enough to destroy them to the core. It is very delicate right now, a time of great change is upon us, but that does not mean it will be comfortable. People will be pushed to have to look at things from a different perspective, and hopefully they will choose the real spiritual paradigm. I surely don’t intend to add to the discomfort. I feel that I am here to help heal the hearts, and that my own experiences have given me some ability to make a difference for others. I have to share enough of my story to make some points, but I am not caught in the details of it or see myself as a victim. I have no desire for revenge or retaliation, I just want to see people have the opportunity to uncover and develop their innate God Consciousness, to be able to differentiate what is real from what is not, and give them enough education, according to what was given to me by Śrila Prabhupāda, that they can make an educated choice how they want to use this valuable human life.