Return to the Hare Krishna Movement

Return to the Hare Krishna Movement

Dear Srila Prabhupada,

Please accept my most humble obeisances, and kindly forgive my many offences. As is my custom, I am speaking to you directly as I often do, writing you letters, offering prayers from within my heart, or speaking to your picture or murti. And it is truly remarkable that you are always there for me, although I am just an unworthy disciple full of faults and shortcomings, but because I am thinking of myself as your disciple, you have always remained my ever well-wisher, and dearmost friend.

As you know, I left the society of devotees in 1978, shortly after your departure because of profound philosophical confusion, and because I still had some material desires. But I promised you, I promised myself, that I would return when I was 50 to again take up this great mission of yours. I have since returned into the society of devotees, to fulfill the promise I made, and am writing to inform you of the changes I have witnessed since my return to this once glorious Hare Krishna Movement. I am sad to report however it is not entirely the same Movement that I left many years ago.

The temples I have visited in North America seem dried up and often devoid of life. The centers I remember when you were still personally present were all full to overcrowded, and there was great joy and much activity. I think this is due to three prominent issues, which I call to your attention. The first thing I noticed upon my return is the whole process of initiation has yet to be remedied. My godbrothers are still taking on disciples rather than initiating on your behalf as you instructed. Secondly, I noticed that your books were being changed! The translations and purports were being re-written. I was shocked by this, and could not believe this was happening! A cruel travesty was being perpetrated. And finally, to my surprise, I realized that devotees were being paid to perform their service. I remember when we performed our services and duties as an offering to you. We were performing devotional service, and working on your behalf, for the benefit of humanity. When did we become paid employees? In fact these three issues prompted me to write you this letter.

Of course I am not telling you anything you do not already know, for as you have shown me many times, you know what is in the hearts and minds of your disciples. And after all, we are materially conditioned souls, and there is a desire to Lord over material nature. The servant wants to become the master, the student thinks he is smarter than the teacher, and, as you have stated in the Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, when one is poor in Krishna Consciousness, he has a need for material gain. So I should not be to surprised at the changes to your Hare Krishna Movement, but am nonetheless very disappointed and dismayed.

It was clearly stated in your July 9th, 1977 letter, addressed to all temple presidents and GBC how you wanted the initiations to go on. You clearly appointed 11 men to initiate on your behalf, and the names entered into your book of disciples. This would have kept the mission whole. You built a house in which the whole world could live, but sadly the Movement seems splintered into so many fractions, with everyone having a different Guru. I am sure this is not what you had intended.

As you recall, it was also the reason I left the society of devotees in 1978. Tamal Krishna Goswami was insisting that I take my second initiation from him, to set a good example for others to follow. One day a package arrived for me from Tamal with a very nice letter on stationary resembling yours. It was from His Divine Grace Tamal Krishna Goswami, and he enclosed a picture of himself for me to worship on my home altar. Although he was in fact my senior godbrother, an authority figure, and leader of the Radha Damodara Travelling Sankirtan Party, still I could not bring myself to worship him. I already have a Guru. He knew that perfectly well and was in attendance at my initiation ceremony from you. He was the leader of our party and knew full well that you initiated me and gave me the name Vyasasan das. Yet here he was trying to make me his new disciple. And so with deep regret I fled from the assembly of devotees, thinking that if I stayed, I feared I might lose sight of you.

I am personally not bewildered by the whole Guru Issue, as I have asked for your help in this regard, and you have answered my prayers. In your writings (vani) you have said one should only have one spiritual master, and I have taken this instruction to heart. Also there was one interview you gave in the early days of this movement, when one reporter asked you, “Who will replace you when you are gone?” and you replied, “Only Lord Chaitanya can replace me”. You are the Sampradaya Acharya for this Hare Krishna Movement, and I will accept no one else as my Lord. Having said this, I also want to add that I have the utmost respect for all your disciples. I have great respect for anyone who is following your instructions or even thinking of themselves as your disciples both old and new, and I am in every devotee’s debt who has helped to advance your movement. I am also confident that the necessary changes to your society will someday be rectified.

This realization that your books were being re-written was a rude awakening. When it was pointed out to me that the beautifully written Bhagavad-Gita “As It Is”, had been altered, tampered with, changed, I was in utter disbelief. “Who could do such a thing? And Why?” My shock was profound with disbelief. “This must be a lie,” I thought, so I began to study the original 1972 Collier-Macmillan limited edition alongside the newer revised and enlarged edition that was being put out by The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, and my shock was complete. I was devastated. “This is terrible” I thought. The pictures are different, the wording of the translations altered, and the purports you had so carefully written had been changed. The changes were so insidious; many devotees do not even notice the damaging and harmful consequences.

Your original writings were so full of life that when I read them I always felt as if you were speaking to me directly, but the new “revised and enlarged” edition was devoid of shakti and could be likened to reading someone’s “book report”. In school we had to do so many book reports, and we simply took what the author was saying and re-wrote it in our words. That is what this reminded me of. There was one verse in particular verse that summed up the evil transgressions that were being perpetrated:

“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual Master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self realized soul can impart the truth unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Original Edition: Bhagavad Gita 4.34)

“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual Master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self realized souls can impart the truth unto you because they have seen the truth.” (Revised & Enlarged Edition: 4.34)

Just very small changes, and so subtle, but the new Gurus have just written themselves into your Bhagavad Gita. I am not a great scholar or learned brahmana; I am a simple devotee, so I will not try to explain to you in this letter all of the changes that are presently being debated by others more qualified than myself. I am simply reporting my observations, and expressing my disappointments and concerns. There was nothing wrong with the original Bhagavad Gita As It Is which you gave to us. It was a masterpiece. It was the book that brought all of your disciples to this movement, and so if it was good enough for all your early disciples and the leaders of your society, it is certainly good enough for all the younger and newer disciples as well.

If these books you have written are to stand the test of time, and retain their potency, then they must remain as you have left them. To change them is to doubt you. You are the greatest preacher and your words have the power to act upon the hearts of your audience.

Srimad Bhagavatam reads:

“To Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Maharaja, MY SPIRITUAL MASTER, On the 26th Annual Ceremony of His Disappearance Day: He lives forever by his divine instructions, and the follower lives with him.”

So if this great literature, the Srimad Bhagavatam was written as an offering to your spiritual master and as your gift to the world, they should remain as such with your words and language intact. I accept that your writing are perfect and complete, and you have said countless times that everything we need to know is contained in your books. That they are being changed seems to me a total lack of respect, both to you and your spiritual master, and a total disservice to the devotees and world at large. I would like to see that new devotees and humanity at large have the same opportunity to associate with you directly through the median of your books as we, your early disciples did. Your books need no interpretation, no changes needed to be made. Your instructions were perfect and complete. Changing your writing is denying future generations of devotees from associating with you directly.

There is one last issue that I wish to discuss, as it was most confusing upon my return to this society. And that is the matter of “paid devotional service”. When I left the society of devotees in 1978 all the devotees I knew were still performing devotional service. There were exceptions, of course. If you were a householder and had responsibilities at the temple; you were given a “stipend” or allowance to meet the needs of one’s family. This was reasonable and natural. But today it seems there is an epidemic which is plaguing the society, and I refer to it as “paid devotional service”. I was surprised to find so much of what used to be described, as devotional service was now more akin to employment. I even had one guest ask me one day, “Where do I go to get a job application?” Even the guests and public see what is going on. When a new person comes to your centers, because he has read some of your books, he naturally has a desire to perform devotional service. However, they are quickly exploited and soon find themselves in the job line demanding a salary or they leave the temple altogether. I have witnessed this coming and going. Very sad that people who want to come to your centers and perform devotional service are in competition with paid devotees. Devotees who want to perform devotional service are a threat to those who are getting a wage. I miss the days when devotees worked together in the spirit of cooperation, and it wasn’t motivated by wages or position.

The real problem is our lack of faith in the leadership. Many devotees have indeed been exploited by the system that was set up after your departure. Who but yourself could be our ever-well wisher, dear most friend, and trusted leader? If the eleven men you appointed had followed your instructions and initiated on your behalf, entering the names in your book of disciples, the society would be in much better condition today. This is what I have witnessed, and I share it with you in the hopes you will enlighten me further in this regard.

In closing I should also mention that there are many nice devotees still engaging themselves in your mission, trying to right the wrongs that have been perpetrated, caring nicely for the deities you installed for our benefit, distributing your books and continuing the Hari Nam Sankirtan mission of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. I long for the association of my fellow godbrothers, I offer them all respects, and pray for their swift return Back Home, Back to Godhead. But as you yourself said “we must choose our association even amongst Vaishnavas” So I am somewhat guarded these days, and feel myself most closely aligned with those devotees who are distributing your books and preaching nicely by good example. I have great hopes for the future on this great mission of yours. It is your desire to see this movement of Lord Chaitanya go on nicely for the benefit of humanity, and I have faith that Krishna will fulfill the desires of his pure devotee. O Srila Prabhupada! Please forgive my offences and kindly accept my most humble obeisances. Begging to remain forever in your divine service.

Your worthless yet loving disciple,
Vyasasan das

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