Jaya Prabhupada! As many of you know, Monday and Tuesday of this week, I met with the GBC chairman Praghosha Prabhu and my Godbrother Vaisesika Prabhu here in Los Angeles. I want to report to you about that meeting.
First, I am grateful to Praghosha Prabhu who took on the austerity and expense of traveling all the way from Ireland to meet with me. I found him to be fair and open-minded, and genuinely searching for a reasonable solution. Vaisesika Prabhu, a saintly Vaishnava, came down from his center in Silicon Valley, California and proved to be a very valuable participant in our discussions.
I was especially pleased that in the course of our two day meeting, we all interacted with real Vaishnava friendship based on mutual good will and understanding. Here are my conclusions from that meeting.
As we all know, for the last few years there has been much debate among devotees, and even mutual criticism, regarding Krishna West, and the best way to carry Prabhupada’s mission forward. Even within a loving family, at times disagreements, strong arguments, and mutual criticism may arise. This may also happen within a spiritual family like ISKCON. However there is a time and place for everything, and it seems clear that the time for fighting and mutual criticism is over.
About two and a half years ago, after many months of intense prayers to Prabhupada and Krishna, urging them to show me how I could best help Prabhupada’s mission to advance, I became convinced, and still am convinced, that, Krishna engaged me in spreading the ideas of Krishna West. In Bhagavad-gita 18.48, Lord Krishna states that “One must not give up one’s natural duty, even if performed imperfectly. Every endeavor in this world has some fault, just as fire is covered by smoke.” Of course the idea here is that despite the unpleasant smoke, one still must use fire, and similarly one must still perform one’s duty despite one’s imperfections and the limitations of this world.
However imperfectly, I did my duty of explaining what I feel ISKCON must do to significantly expand our western mission. Given the inevitable differences of viewpoint among individual souls, some devotees strong opposed this message. Despite these disagreements, we have clear evidence that much good was done, and continues to be done.
I will continue to faithfully support those devotees who kindly help me in my service. But now is the time to stop, on both sides, the endless criticism and arguments. Of course I have no control over those who criticize me, but I do have the power to end my own criticism and I request all those who work with me to do the same. The GBC and I have criticized each other, but my intention is to stop this criticism and restore peace and harmony among us. I have also made strong statements about ISKCON’s fortunes and misfortunes in Western preaching. On this topic also, enough has been said, and we should now focus on positive preaching. After all, one cannot go on forever criticizing one’s spiritual family.
Praghosha Prabhu, on behalf of the GBC, requested that we put an end to these heavy criticisms, and I fully agree with him. I promised him that I would personally now focus on positive preaching.
He made another request which I will explain and contextualize. One of the first and most basic distinctions in sociology is the distinction between community and society. A community is a group of people who often live in the same place, know each other, and share basic values and culture. A society in this context is a larger group of people who do not all live in the same place, do not all know each other personally, and who share values and culture, but in a broader, more general, less specific sense.
The “S” in ISKCON stands for Society. ISKCON is a global society composed of hundreds and thousands of communities. In my own life, I am blessed with many loving associates, who really know and understand me and my intentions. At times I have engaged in certain activities which my friends and associates understood and appreciated, because they know me. But those who do not know me well, or at all, may not understand these activities. I refer to recreational activities, which are recommended by Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā 6.17, use of Western dress etc.
For the sake of avoiding controversy among those who do not know me, and who may not wish to know me, I promised Praghosha that I will make a greater effort to avoid disturbing such people. This decision does not at all affect my conviction that ISKCON leaders should treat the Vaishnavis with genuine respect, dignity, and care.
I will add a few words on my personal plans. For two and a half years, I have tried my best to explain what I feel is the best way to spread our movement in the West. In that spirit, I am now completing a paper that analyzes ISKCON governance from the perspective of the sociology of religion, philosophy of justice, and political science. I hope to finish soon. At that point, I will have said what I have to say regarding what I believe to be necessary in ISKCON. At that point, I will focus on my personal creative writing: a contemporary novel, and a trilogy based on the Maha-bharata. As stated above, I will continue to support those who are helping me in the preaching mission. However my service of creative writing will require me to live a somewhat secluded life. This is also necessary for my health.
In conclusion, I am grateful to Praghosha Prabhu and Vaisesika Prabhu for their sincere, intelligent, and practical participation in our recent meeting. I am committed to do all that I can do to restore full peace and harmony among ISKCON devotees. I request those who are with me to do the same. Thank you.