6494 Denbigh Ave.

Bumaby, B.C. Canada

October 18, 1984

Dear Srila Gurupada,

Please accept my humble and faulty obeisances. All glories to you and your tireless work. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

I hope you will forgive this simple hand-written letter. I thought it prudent not to have an "outside" typist do the horrors for what will be evident as obvious reasons. Knowing the way news, and especially scandal, travels within the movement, at alarming speed and astounding exaggeration, I did not ask another devotee to transform my handiwork into a more formal state.

It has been a very long time since I last wrote to you. This was partly owing to the decision to remove me from my duties managing the "Sankirtan" effort here in Vancouver. You may remember, at this tune, I would write to you every month with the news and details of the devotee's scores. I am by no means a man of great output in terms of correspondence (meager would constitute a gross overstatement). The exception being those letters needed for utilitarian reasons in the prosecution of business and duty. The more prominent reason being an attempt to understand the relationship between dogma and reality as it relates to ISKCON and an examination of incidences and experiences which were prompted by an overall impression of misgiving.

This reassessment began by reviewing my relationship and, later, other's, with what is commonly referred to as the "temple authorities". This examination prompted a further investigation and subsequent skepticism of widely held beliefs regarding the interpretation of the philosophy.

One's own beliefs, especially when dealing with oneself, can be misleading, but, just the same, I believe I am not a malicious person, and, by experience, I can honestly say that I do not react to problematic situations in any great haste. I felt that a period of time was necessary for reflection and hopefully a conclusion. However, when dealing, be it lesser or to a greater extent, with many variables-some that are human-the situation becomes increasingly more complex. In some ways with an exponential relationship to time. In such situations, the solution becomes even more dependent on clear definitions between subjectivity and objectivity. This task is greater than my abilities, so I beg your indulgence-as Prabhupada said, "All actions are covered by fault."

Many questions have been considered in preparation of this letter. Am I being misled by Maya? Surely, I know that, regarding certain aspects of my behavior, I am. What exactly is illusion? Perhaps another's perspective on it, or on "the Truth" is yet another grander illusion. Are my opinions fueled by simple vindictiveness-to right wrongs real or imaginary? Paranoia? As my wife is so fond of telling all and sundry-have I become mentally defective? I think not. Or, as others have interpreted my behavior, am I simply envious? What is envy other than the ISKCON status quo conception, which usually simply means that the object of this label is perceived as some kind of threat-real of imaginary. I am sure that you may perceive my opinions as being rather pompous. For this I apologize.

I have, in my long and patchy association with members of ISKCON, met many people with similar experiences to mine, some with far worse, others with a history of horror stories. My experiences with ISKCON members and their dealings within the organization, and with people "outside" and the philosophical background to deportment, presents much to consider.

A senior devotee, and a great friend of mine, with whom I have discussed the "tenets of Krsna consciousness" and the unfortunately inseparable ISKCON politics, told me not to write this letter at all."Say as you please if you can take the consequences-but never put it down in writing." This statement itself highlights the system of needless intrigue in which the members feel themselves ensnared. Happily, I can say that, as for myself, I feel at least partially freed from this encumbrance to any kind of advancement-material or spiritual. Against his good advice and best intentions, I submit this letter-perhaps because of some egotism, though I hope this is minimal.

I dedicate this letter in the name of HONESTY. This, I am ashamed to say, I have only rediscovered since questioning the ISKCON status quo. I can no longer pretend that everything in the garden is "rosy", and I don't believe that, by doing so, honesty is served. Without honesty, can anything of substance be gained?

I believe that honesty exercised both personally and interpersonally can rectify practically any situation. However, I feel, that within ISKCON, honesty has lost its important place, and dishonesty and its running mates run rampant through the fabric of the society. It is pooh-poohed by the leaders as being merely a "subreligious principle" or a "mere material moral."

The temple system, it seems, cannot tolerate honesty as an interpersonal medium. Instead it offers reward for supporting the sometimes far-flung illusions of the leaders. A system only asking complete support and undivided loyalty to the whims of the temple presidents, vice presidents, and so on down the chain of command. Democracy, we are told, is evil. what we have in its place is not the Vedic material society of old-I feel that just may be an unreachable goal. Instead we have an authoritarian regime reminiscent of the Holy Roman Empire, countless banana republics, mid-century Germany, and other fundamental sects. Failure to play the game will lead, of course, to a short, sharp slap. Continuing insubordination will lead to being branded "fault-finder," "critical," "envious"-sneer, gnashing of teeth, hellfire, and damnation. I will return to this later.

Honesty in the area of collecting funds-that appears to be the main thrust of ISKCON-is the most obvious area of contention. Whereas before dishonest tactics were openly approved; it is now being treated as a matter of conscience for the individual. Although, on record, everyone will agree that such tactics are abhorrent, we resort to great lengths to encourage the devotees to collect increasingly larger sums of money. Of course, the amounts are measured by "Laxmi points" to try to avoid any materialistic implication in this regard. Older members instruct the newer in methods of how to achieve the desired result. The result not necessarily being spiritual experiences, but a large amount of cold, hard cash. This constant pressure through various mediums indirectly incites the devotees to resort to less than spiritual tactics in order to please the authorities. Even disregarding any use of blatantly dishonest measures, the very fact that the devotees are sent out to "sell" artifacts (some of these even questionable in their "taste") enmeshes the salesperson in the tactics of deceit in order to present a story acceptable to the "customer" in order to close a "sale".

Many will say, "Well, this is happening everywhere." Of course, but they don't call it spiritual training! Everyone is reluctant to examine how funds are being procured. If a devotee is caught in these practices, then, of course, he/she will be admonished, not because of the practice itself, but because of the punishment (i.e. loss of funds, legal fees, bad publicity, etc.). It's rather like the child, who is caught, feels sorry not because he has a realization of his antisocial behavior or that he is not really acting in his own best interests, but because he is made to suffer as a result. There seems to be a whole philosophy built upon "The end justifies the means." The local GBC once told me, when the temple president and Regional Secretary and myself were discussing highly criminal ways of gaining large sums of money, "Well, do it for Krsna-but don't tell me about it."

The collectors are further encouraged by slogans, some of which are:

"These are spiritual quotas."

"We can do anything in Krsna's service."

"Krsna is the most expert cheat."

"It belongs to Krsna anyway. 11

"We are rescuing Laxmi from Ravana" (Viva Liberation).

Another quote I hear often recited is that Prabhupada said that we should not do anything dishonest because we are not expert. This is interpreted to mean that we should not resort to crime because we are not very good-not because it is wrong and therefore a-spiritual. If we now consider ourselves expert-then it's OK.

The result of such irresponsible activity should be obvious especially since we can readily see the effects in the loss of credibility in the eyes of the public. Countless lawsuits, bad publicity, difficulty even giving books away. This type of activity also has a tendency to self-perpetuation. Very few intelligent and honest people are attracted to the tenets of Krsna consciousness, instead we attract the down-and-out, the criminal, the con trickster, etc.

Also the stability of individual devotees is undermined, especially any with sensitivity or empathy. Sometimes sooner or sometimes later. This tendency to relegate the virtue of honesty or truthfulness is symptomized in other ways, more insidious ways.

The black art of politics, one of the commonest tendencies of the materialistic conditions, is synonymous with the prosecution of diplomacy, duplicity, and the "half-truth". A destructive force to say the least. Most devotees would agree that they joined to avoid this. Instead, the ordinary devotee finds him/herself within a temple atmosphere tainted by political ambitions, paranoias, and protection of position.

At this juncture, I should also mention the good points of ISKCON. We all know that distributing literature, educating the general population about Krsna or God consciousness, is a very good thing. Giving free vegetarian food and educating about the attributes of vegetarianism is a very positive step to stemming the tide of uncivilized behavior and atheism. Krsna consciousness I am unequivocally in favor of, but ISKCON consciousness I feel is a different thing altogether, especially as the organization is becoming, despite the frantic activities of some purely motivated individuals, a small pond for a number of big fish to run. In fact, an objective assessment of the nature of these "spiritual sovereign states" is that it is becoming much like the other so-called "new religions" and is fast living up to its label as being a "cult."

The current political system in ISKCON, i.e., the absolute rule syndrome from GBC to temple presidents to departmental managers, etc., leads to much paranoia. The way the society views itself is that one who has managed to politic a way into a managerial position is being rewarded by Krsna for advancing m spiritual understanding. Therefore, more effort is spent chasing name, fame, and position, and subsequently protecting this "spiritual advancement" from others who aspire to this, than effort spent in developing exactly the opposite (underlined) qualities necessary for real (underlined) spiritual advancement. In my direct experiences with temple leaders officially, and also as "friends" (I will explain the quotation marks later), I have witnessed the trouble taken to nourish and protect these empires. The temple authority protective of his "divine right of kings" employs many methods to continue his tenure. This, of course, means "pushing" the money collectors to ensure that the temple is reflected favorably by his peers in terms of money collected, books distributed, and mega projects. Of course, there is at least some desire to unmotivated service, but, by the amount of posturing and politicking, there is a large amount of self-aggrandizement taking place. The absolute rule arrangement, coupled with a charismatic personality, a working knowledge of psychology, and a liberal smattering of ultra-right-wing political leanings, seems to make a successful temple president-one not afraid to destroy his enemies. As the Regional Secretary once told me, "Krsna has always helped me to defeat my enemies."

By being appointed to this position of absolute control, the general members of the temple must ingratiate themselves somehow to further enhance their own spiritual/political careers. Even the simple devotee, uninterested in such heady goals, must behave in such a way as to please the president just to receive the subsistence necessary to continue in the temple. By not being incessantly "enthusiastic" with everything done by the authorities, which, in may cases, cannot but be described as whimsical, one can be perceived as a threat. In fact, this absolute control scheme can make many temple managers behave in such a heady manner that schemes are born with little in the form of intelligent planning-disregarding in-house and contracted professional advice with little thought for the consequences and effects upon the simple devotee. These consequences, in my own experience, have meant increased quotas for money to pay for some losing scheme that they previously paid money for people to advise them not to do it in the first place.

I've seen many instances of unfortunate individuals locking horns with the "authority". Nirantara was subjected to a campaign of character assassination because he was a better musician and aroused the envy of the Regional Secretary-eventothepointofpoignant,sarcasticremarksduringSrimadBhagavatamclass. The really sad part is that the person who provided some form of "dirt" to the authorities to provide a wedge to remove Nirantara was considered by him to be his best friend. Dhruva and Bhaktin Mary were other victims of the power politics-which you probably already know. In this case, spies were to report on anyone who had been in contact with the "gang-of-two." They were hurriedly rushed into the office and given a disgusting, raging tirade on the envious nature of these two. What is this-the Spanish Inquisition revisited? Much of the allegations that were made by Dhruva were backed up by other devotees who were also silenced.

Against another poor individual, I myself witnessed with my own eyes the Regional Secretary, Headmaster of the Gurukula, and the Farm President kick the crap out of him in full view of the public and the devotees.

We can all agree that this is outrageous behavior, but worse than that, these men verbalized their enjoyment of it, with great peels of encouragement from the devotees in general. I can remember closed conversations taking place where unnamed individuals were planning to kill him. This is spiritual life?

A friend of mine mentioned that, with this never-ending list of heinous activities, we cannot now consider this ISKCON but a Maya reflection of what ISKCON was designed to be. It is on the lips of many people that ISKCON is dying-perhaps there is nothing anyone can do to save it.

A tool that has been used in ISKCON management is the ancient principle of "divide and conquer". No devotee that I know has any friends within the movement. If one reveals one's mind in the spirit of honesty and friendship, one will quickly find the proverbial hilt protruding from one's shoulder blades. Devotees are tempted to "inform" on their Godbrother/sisters and are trapped in the tedious treadmill of politics and duplicity for the promised thirty pieces. Friend turns on friend, husband on wife, wife on husband. Everyone is watching for tell-tale signs-for mistakes, so that personal profiles can be maintained and points accumulated.

From the point of view of the ruling junta-"Information is power." Truth is subverted and upstarts quashed, criticism silenced. No devotee can trust any other-the status quo remains. Absolute power corrupts-absolutely!

This is all very reminiscent of the POW camps in Korea where the unfortunate captives were easily subdued by means of distrust of their fellow prisoners. Each soldier had no relationship with his fell inmate because of the suspicion carefully nurtured by his captives. Instead, he docilely turned to his captors for human relations.

Many of the leaders (most) use the platform of the Srimad Bhagavatam class to further their own political posturing. The verse is read; so too is Srila Prabhupada's purport. A short dissertation follows summing up and elaborating on points contained therein. In many cases, the lecture soon departs from the ground of scriptural reference in its intended context and becomes a platform for personal and peculiar foibles.

I have sat through classes extolling the virtues of just about every type of discrimination possible. Classes discriminating against women and blacks. Classes doing little in the way of presenting Vaisnava philosophy but concentrating on belittling other religious systems-Christianity in particular. Hate philosophy aimed at "fringies," democracy in general, East Indians. Sankirtan classes extolling the virtue of money collection as a complete meditation and demeaning the efforts of "non-money collecting individuals."

The Regional Secretary gives classes primarily about the foremost position of the temple hierarchy and how we will suffer should we think of balking at his absolute position of authority. I think I know his pitch by heart now.

The most worrying and insidious classes are those elaborating on the glories of the vamasrama system as a new wonderful spiritual fascist society. The headmaster of the gurukula can manifest ecstatic systems when giving Srimad Bhagavatam classes on the righteous ways of the disgusting John Birch Society.

During classes and in private, most of the temple leaders and most of the visiting leaders exude this ultraright-wing philosophy dreaming of a future where the ISKCON movement will rule the world. If they rule the world the same way they treat the devotees, ISKCON will make the Ayatollah look like Anne of Green Gables. In this context, ISKCON is a very dangerous organization, especially when one hears the preachers saying that, in the future, we will ask people if they believe in Krsna and, should they answer negatively, we will feel the righteous duty to kill them. If this is considered spiritual life-I am glad to be considered in Maya.

Is seems that somehow ISKCON either has attracted or has been instrumental in converting people with a great scarcity of love or respect for their fellow man. It appears to be a society with very (underlined) high ideals-I do not doubt that bhakti is the highest yoga-but the organization is based upon exploitation. Responsibility is a one-way street. The individual has immense responsibility to perform his duties, in many cases in very inclement circumstances. In return the society feels no concern, love, respect or responsibility for those lowly individuals who have freely given as they are able. I could write a book about individuals who have been given the royal shaft by the heartlessness of the ruling class, but it would be too depressing to relate it.

Another quirk of the status quo is the growing belief in temples I have lived or visited that absolute power also continues along familial lineage. A class of royal families is emerging from the misapplication of the philosophy. The next stage wig obviously be the construction of "spiritual" dynasties. The Regional Secretary very plainly told me that he is a great believer in nepotism. This idea very plainly stems from a combination of extreme material goals and the appeal of the more authoritarian precepts of vamasrama.

I remember a very clever essay printed in Back to Godhead discussing how large numbers of people can be allayed into accepting horrifying or, at least, odorous concepts by changing the language slightly and avoiding the issue. I was very impressed. Of course, this carries on in highly corrupt societies as he mentions, but why must ISKCON use this tasteless and frightening Orwellian subterfuge?

Platitudes abound, to field poignant questions and criticisms. The favorite is, of course, "Krsna's mercy, prabhu." There are numerous others used to excuse just about any abuse or indefensible position. I'm sure you've heard them all.

I find myself at odds with the gurukula system also. The only criterion for staffing seems to be the lack of willingness or lack of ability for collecting money. In many cases, children are kept in the care and are educated by people who have no proper training or appeal for the service. The result-the uneducated are teaching, or trying to, and the unsuited are forced to be responsible for a number of children in the asrama setting. There are a few people now who are a little qualified for these positions, but, on the whole, the (underlined) system is lacking.

As for the boy's asrama, I find Jaya Gaura completely unsuited, and unless he is removed, a very nasty incident is in the cards. On three separate occasions he has attacked one of the boys in his charge. Or, on one occasion, I witnessed his abuse of my son Ravi. Ravi was repeatedly shoved, struck, and kicked by this fully grown man in his rage. If it wasn't for my own control in dealing with the man, he perhaps may have been able to perpetrate any other acts of violence against children. The view of the headmaster and the temple? Quite predictable. Nothing was done, or said."Krsna's mercy," etc. This attitude highlights the managerial philosophy somewhat akin to the laissez-faire governmental policy in 18th and 19th century Europe. Let's pretend it didn't happen-let's pretend everything is going as planned. Nobody will criticize the management for fear of being seen as unadvanced. After all, the authorities have been very graphic in their presentation of what to them signifies spiritual advancement. One of these attributes is to never say anything is wrong. Nothing ever is wrong of course-just one's mind is faulty. The mind is one's worse enemy, etc.

During my tune helping with the management, I gained a great insight into the prevailing mood of the authorities. I was included in many policy meetings and party to some very dubious activities. I became involved with very cavalier attitudes, also. For a finance meeting, it would take three ladies working for several hours to provide a feast for the four of us involved in discussion of related topics. Meanwhile, the proletariat of the temple looked on.

After a time, I was involved with "public affairs". It soon became apparent that most of my time was spent in defending actions by devotees that I could not myself condone. When dealing with the media especially, most of the time was spent in telling half-truths. I became expert as a public liar. As you well know, I could hardly tell the truth regarding the reality of ISKCON affairs, and sometimes couldn't even tell people the truth regarding the philosophy.

I am very comfortable with my position living away from he temple property. I can live like a civilized person again instead of the hippie-type living conditions at the temple. I no longer have to worry about my things being stolen. Lack of respect for other people's property (devotees or others) is epidemic-in fact, it is expected (underlined) that everything will be stolen.

I no longer have to live with cockroaches infesting my living quarters. I never saw one until I lived at the temple. I don't worry so much about communicable diseases, one of which was a very dangerous and sometimes lethal parasite. How do we expect the philosophy of Krsna consciousness to expand when even the people we consider uncivilized are shocked at our living conditions, cleanliness, and overall behavior?

It would seem that this inability or unwillingness to deal with problems, admit fault, and make corrections stems from the same paranoia that gives the society its self-righteous "us" and "them" outlook. Everyone on the outside, to a large extent, is seen as an enemy-envious, and out to destroy the society. Of course, if this attitude persists, more and more people will (underlined) take umbrage at this kind of behavior. We should be developing an open, giving, spiritual (underlined) mood, not viewing each individual as being worth a certain amount. This man might give me $20.00, this one $1,000.00. He can do this for me-she's not worth the time of day. This would definitely seem like material vision. Of course, devotees treat each other in much the same fashion-he's a $300.00/day man; she's a $500.00/day mother; he's in "Maya". For the nonmanagerial devotee, one's spiritual advancement is gauged according to how much money one can provide. As the temple president is so fond of saying, "money is (underlined) the honey."

One other main thrust that critics of the movement point out is that "cults" (ISKCON included) are against the family. ISKCON denies this charge vehemently, but the reality is that families are tolerated as long as family ties don't interfere with the temple's absolute control. If the husband and wife are "Sankirtan" devotees, then the temple management conspires to keep them apart-for monetary reasons, of course. Usually there is no family unity, as the children no longer live at home and are no longer under the control of the parents, and husband and wife are encouraged to betray their spouse. In my case, this is born out, as I am sure you can recall the trip my wife has been writing to you. Nice girl, but unfortunately a little simple. The temple has her innly under control. It is a very unfortunate position when the temple encourages a mother not to look after her children and family duties; when a husband cannot trust his wife.

The temple gives her increasing amounts of service so that, instead of teaching our deaf son, she is working all hours of the day and night. The temple was fully aware of the situation-what did they care! They only know how to manipulate trusting souls for their own benefit. She will probably realize it some day when they no longer see any value in her service, and she is cast aside.

However, not able to endure this situation for any longer, I re-enrolled Ravi at the special school. He is much happier now as opposed to doing nothing, but he is still very far behind as a result of this meddling by the temple. The situation is still completely unresolved as she gets up at 1:15 a.m. and, after the morning, is still loaded down with work. When she should be looking after the children, she is so tired she falls asleep either all morning or afternoon.

Gopal Krsna Maharaja (in whom I have no faith whatsoever) told my wife that there is "no question of giving up any service," and "Krsna will take care of the children."

In which case it would seem to make more sense for my wife, if she wants to live the completely monastic life, to go with you to your zone. If that's what she wants, and, at the moment it seems to be that family life is just a tedious barricade, then I would trust you to look after her more than this lot here.

I take family responsibility more seriously than the current ISKCON status quo and can handle things quite well-I have up to now anyway. I just wish I had taken matters into my own hands before now.

Regarding my recent trip to see you in Washington, I too was sorry not to spend some time with you. I was told that everything had been arranged (foolish me to believe such a thing!). I was to spend some time serving you. Instead, the local temple commander hunted me everywhere-apparently I was the most likely candidate for solo kitchen cut-up. Broccoli, and we still can't look each other steadily in the eye! When I saw you in the temple room the second morning, and we exchanged a few words briefly, I could understand that you were honestly glad to see me. At last somebody who is not interested in exploiting me in some fashion. Every morning I went to see Baladev. Each morning I was told that you were too busy (which I could fully appreciate). I was also told that on Tuesday you were leaving early in the morning for Baltimore-so that seemed to be that. Also there were other difficulties-minor in themselves, but collected together and given the answer that there was no chance of seeing you, made it rather silly to hang around. I was staying in the brahmacari asrama, and, between the late-nighters and the early-risers, I was not getting any sleep. I was also suffering the ill effects of hay fever, probably owing to the warmer more humid weather. Kitchen cut-up didn't help either. It seems by being told that I left in anger, you were the victim of a case of "story telling" or at least exaggeration. I would view information coming from the same source with a little more scrutiny in the future.

I am very sad to hear of your recent ill health. I hope that this will pass very quickly, because your energy, in my view, is absolutely necessary in saving pure Krsna consciousness from ensuing extinction. I hope I have not offended you by speaking candidly. Most people that I know, who for one reason or other, find themselves on the "outside" of ISKCON, told me that I was wasting my time to put the truth down on paper. Nobody wants to bear it-they all want to play "let's pretend". But it's too important for that. I want to be involved with a movement that I can stand up and say, "Yes, I support these people 100 percent." Nowadays, everything I hear makes the situation look worse. Now the temple presidents are making a power play. The more distance I put between the society and me-the less of this I will hear about.

My thanks for your patience and purity. My best regards.

Your fallen but not forgetful disciple,

Radhanath dasa