Two Gurukula Grads Address the GBC
Can We Mend the Shattered Fragments of ISKCON?
A Dialogue Presented to the GBC
By Krsna-devata devi dasi and Shakuntala devi dasi
February 13, 1999
KD: In the process of getting here and preparing this speech, Krsna has taught me many lessons. I came thinking that I would be speaking to the GBC, but this is actually just a title, a stereotype. This title is what stands in the way of us understanding one another - you are GBC members and we are gurukulies. They are barriers.
I want to speak to you as other members of this society that Srila Prabhupada established. I want to speak to you as individuals who have invested their whole lives in Srila Prabhupada's movement and are now seeing it crumble. I don't want to make assumptions, but from what I have heard, I think that I can safely say that many of you are confused as to how to move forward, and overwhelmed by the quantity and scale of the difficulties and challenges within the movement.
We ask you to please listen to us with the heart that Srila Prabhupada opened. Srila Prabhupada inspired and loved each and every one of you. We ask you to listen remembering that you once thought it possible to take over the world with Lord Caitanya's merciful potency.
We know that you are not an idealistic group, but we ask you to remember that Krsna Consciousness is idealistic. We ask you to listen as individuals who are interested in attaining the most deep and sincere love for Krsna and His devotees. We ask you to please put your personal judgments of us aside and listen to us as we put our personal and political judgements of you aside.
I am speaking to you because this ISKCON body is my family. I want to make sure that it not only survives, but also thrives. We all have great love for our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, and we must carry out our duty.
SHA: What is our duty? What is the point of spreading the movement, just for the sake of spreading something? What is the point of building a temple, just to build a big temple? What is the point of preaching? What are we preaching? What is the point of raising money? To get lots of money? It's not about absolute truth anymore. Most of us are out of touch with ourselves, and out of touch with everyone else.
I am disgusted.
We were all once willing to do or give anything for the pursuit of a higher understanding. We stood for something. We were sold out to the Absolute Truth. Now we have just sold out. We gave our lives, our youth for what? Just to give up again on the Absolute Truth.
What is the point? Do we still seek absolute truth? Why chant 16 rounds and follow the four regulations? Why don't we just revel in sense gratification? Why do we put ourselves through this? I thought it was because this process should put us more in touch with ourselves, not alienate us. Isn't that truth?
KD: So why are we so alienated? What are we missing in this process? How do we move forward? There is no... quick fix. It is not about the issues. This is not a problem of legislation How many resolutions must we write before we realize that this is not a structural problem?
We are facing alienation, and isolation. We don't know each other. As a movement, we no longer have Srila Prabhupada's living force; his vision. What happened to that revolutionary spirit? What happened to that vibrant inspiration that swept people up? We are not going to find that in bureaucracy, big temples or big titles. Just as individuals cannot find happiness in cars, houses, family or their jobs, ISKCON is going to find no solutions in this way. These things are temporary.
SHA: These things are material. These things are nothing to Krsna, if the sincere desire for self-realization is absent. They are specs of dirt. Temporary money, fame, and buildings, so what? Krsna is pleased by the devotion within those things. He is inside our hearts, and knows what we feel and knows when we are not feeling. Have we forgotten the point, and now just go on with the show for the rest of the world? What is the point?
KD: This is a spiritual movement so we are not going to find material answers. So we must start asking spiritual questions again. Who are we? What are we here for?
SHA: Our movement is far from the vision engulfing people off the street with waves of transcendental love and devotion. Instead we are objectifying one another more and more, seeing each other as women, ritviks, gurus, bhaktas, or gurukulies. Instead of coming to the realization that the sadhu, the dog and the dog eater are all within their hearts, parts and parcels of Krsna, unfortunately, we are content with our superficial perceptions of one another. We are also increasingly satisfied with our superficial perceptions of the Absolute Truth. We have become the epitome of licking the outside of the honey jar. We have been falsely 'jacking each other up' instead of allowing spiritual inspiration to be evoked from within.
KD: We are fragmented, disenfranchised, disillusioned and uninspired. As a movement, we do not have trust in our leaders, nor do we have trust in ourselves. We are slapping each other in the face everyday on our computer screens. And the Bhagavatam classes we sit through are not addressing our lives; they do not inspire us. You are all overburdened and don't know the answers any better than the rest of us. As a movement we are no longer moving. So where do we go from here? How do we all take responsibility for healing Srila Prabhupada's body?
SHA: We are all conditioned. That's a given. This conception is the platform that we start from. Let us begin to grow beyond this. Let us not be fooled by the costumes that we temporarily wear in this lifetime, let us not see each other as limited to that.
Let us go higher. Let us look within and remember that we are all fallen devotees; we are all blind in different ways. And we all see in different ways. It is not our individual vision that is powerful but our combined vision that is unstoppable.
KD: We all have some small spiritual vision, but we are also blind in so many ways. Together we must find Srila Prabhupada's vision.
SHA: Ista gosthi is an authentic way to figure out how to work together; how to organically synergize. We are all here to be instruments for Krsna. We all have our own stories. We have all heard His calling in different ways. In a sense, you might say that we are all married to each other through our common love for Krsna and Srila Prabhupada. We must work it out. Divorce is not an option in the Vedic system. Srila Prabhupada asked that not one drop of the blood that it took to make each devotee be spilled. We are spilling Srila Prabhupada's blood by pushing people away, burning them out, discouraging them, silencing them, banning them disgracing them. Let us put our energy together. Let us not forget that vision that we all aspire to see.
KD: Together let us find the ecstasy of Sri Gaurasundar to melt the hearts of all the conditioned souls, including ourselves. Lord Caitanya's potency is invoked within gatherings of devotees. Hearing and chanting - together. Let us start now by listening to each other to truly hear. Srila Prabhupada has given us the model of ista gosthi. This is a way of authentic inquiry and spiritual discussion. This is also our Vaisnava tradition as exemplified by the discussions between Sukadeva Gosvami and Maharaja Pariksit in the Srimad Bhagavatam; Lord Caitanya and His associates in the Caitanya Caritamrita; and Krsna and Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita. Since we are all aspiring devotees, all of our social, political, emotional and philosophical issues can be solved by the Absolute Truth.
SHA: For one moment, let us remember, without any material limitations, what is possible for our movement. What we see in front of us is an external manifestation of our collective desires. Let us desire to fulfill Srila Prabhupada's vision - not our own. Because we only care about ourselves, our movement is splintering into smaller and smaller fragments. We are destroying Srila Prabhupada's movement from within by breaking it apart. If we sincerely desire more than this, Krsna promises to fulfil our desires.
KD: It is through association that we learn love of God. How can we say that we love Krsna, if we cannot love His devotees? How many of us truthfully love one another? The challenges that face us are material blocks, but they are spiritual opportunities. Just as Queen Kunti prayed to always have material distress so that she could always seek the shelter of Krsna, this is our opportunity, in this great time of crisis, to put our arms up helplessly for guidance and shelter from the Lord. At this time of crisis, our titles won't help us; our robes won't help us. Our status, even in this movement, is merely a temporary costume. We all must admit that we don't have the answers as individuals. When we are in crisis as individuals, we take shelter in Krsna. So as a movement in crisis, we must pay our most heartfelt obeisances to Krsna in the heart of each and every individual in Srila Prabhupada's movement.
SHA: Let us apply this transcendental philosophy to help us transcend these material blocks that prevent us from working together and being unstoppable.
KD: Let us stop mistaking inquiry for criticism. Let us stop shutting people out with fear. Let us stop gathering in the courtroom and start gathering in the temple room. Let us stop being a movement that specializes in saving face and political clean-ups, and let us start being a movement that specializes in sharing love of God.
SHA: Let's stop moving forward for the sake of moving forward and move upward to higher consciousness. Let's stop believing in miracles and start relying on them. Now let's start by leaving our titles at the door and having an Isthagosthi.
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