October 10 2017

Cleaning House and Cleaning Hearts. Reform and Renewal in ISKCON

Ravindra Svarupa dasa

A paper delivered at the Vaishnava Academy conference held in Weisbaden, Germany in January 1994. Published in ISKCON Communications Journal, No. 3 (January-June 1994), 43-52 (Part 1) and No. 4 (July-December 1994), 25-33 (Part 2).

In 1971 I underwent the profoundly wrenching change of becoming a member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, leaving one life and embarking on another. I abandoned old associations to immerse myself totally in the life of a tight-knit temple commune; I radically restyled my exterior to complement my utterly changed interior. I became a stranger in my own land.

I undertook such an arduous passage because I was convinced that I was thereby effecting an ontological crossing: I was leaving the material dimension for the spiritual, awakening from the nightmare of history to the peace of eternity. ISKCON temples were embassies of the kingdom of God. Although apparently located in Maya’s realm, they were under direct divine jurisdiction. There the powers of material conditioning and desire had no sway. This is what I believed.

Looking back at that younger self of mine—twenty-six years old at the time—I am appalled by his naiveté—”stupidity” would be appropriate—and at the same time awed by his sacrificial commitment. Foolish and ignorant though he was, I am more than ever convinced that, by the grace of God, he made the right choice. That decision of my younger self is indeed the spiritual capital on which I still live. My self-doubt, rather, is whether I would at this time have the courage to make such a decision, knowing what I know now. Continue reading

November 16 2016

ISKCON and Varnasrama-dharma: A Mission Unfulfilled

On the eleventh of July, 1966, in New York, Srila Prabhupada incorporated the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. By then, Prabhupada had already discovered an audience for his exposition of Srimad Bhagavatam, an expositon he characterised as ‘a cultural presentation for the respiritualisation of the entire human society’ (Bhag. Canto 1, Preface). In a further step toward the culture of ‘respiritualisation’, he established ISKCON. ISKCON was to be an exemplary society, within which the culture of Srimad-Bhagavatam would be realised and by which it would be spread to the rest of the world.

While that much has always been bedrock truth to ISKCON’s members, it is a fact that over ISKCON’s thirty-three years, their ideas of what exactly ISKCON is, in terms of its internal articulation, and of how it should relate itself to the surrounding society have been fluid. The ideas of its members have undergone changes. It seems that even Prabhupada’s ideas changed. Continue reading

November 7 2016

Prabhupada — A Prophecy

Our print and electronic media abound in forecasts—weather, economic, scientific, political, fashion, and on and on. There’s a demand for forecasts. It helps to know the future. Therefore, we seek eagerly the vision of experts, the adept. Among these seers we must note that special class called sages or saints. Their forecasts are accorded the upgrade to prophecy, to revelation, since the divine is alleged to enlighten their visions.

So the followers of Shrila Prabhupada received his prediction, made on April 4, 1975, of the imminent outbreak of World War III. Taking his regular early morning constitutional, striding among an entourage of aides through the green fields of Mayapur, conversing about the delusions of modernity—of the “Western adventure”—Prabhupada suddenly said: “Now it will be smashed by the next war. Next war will come very soon.”

The devotees around him were shocked. It was hard to remember if this type of prediction had ever come from Prabhupada before. And the content of this prediction was especially alarming. Continue reading