His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami was born in Bengal in 1945, His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami spent most of his early life in the city of Calcutta. In 1970, he left India to study in Germany. Coming across Vedic literatures while in Germany, he discovered the richness of India’s spiritual heritage.
Saturday, 24 March 2012
The History Of Vaishnava Heritage Part-9 (C)
My personal observation is that the first crisis that came was a
system that was implemented soon after Srila Prabhupada's disappearance
which has later been known as the "Zonal Acharya system". Srila Prabhupada
was the Founder-Acharya of this movement and when he was present, he was in
his exclusive position of the highest authority of this movement. He was the
leader of this movement. He was the spiritual master of this movement. But
after Srila Prabhupada left the planet, then a number of leading devotees of
the movement assumed the position of initiating spiritual master. They kind
of assumed the same kind of worship and the same kind of position as Srila
Prabhupada used to have.
Actually, it became even worse because Prabhupada was not present and they
were present. One of the things that started a lot of controversy was
simultaneous guru-puja. Unlike today, fortunately we got rid of those
arrangements, there used to be the vyasasana of the zonal guru, this was
practically identical to Srila Prabhupada's vyasasana, may be a fraction of
an inch shorter than Srila Prabhupada's. and the Guru puja used to go on
simultaneously: Prabhupada's guru puja and the present guru's guru puja.
That gave an impression that they were as good as Srila Prabhupada and they
actually are having the same kind of worship.
Since then, we can see a record of continuous loss in ISKCON. When these
gurus assumed their position as the guru, then those who were in
leadership positions but did not become gurus were the first ones to leave
the ISKCON movement. They were very powerful personalities, very, very
powerful individuals, but because they did not become gurus, they left. Not
all, but w can say that some of them left. Then those who did not line up
with the gurus, the god brothers who did not line up with the gurus in some
areas, they were driven out of the movement because they did not become
obedient. They did not submit to the leadership.
Then, some of the gurus started to fall down. Their disciples started to
leave the movement. That was the very, very, big blow to the movement. When
a guru left, when a guru fell down, their disciples left by the hundreds.
Many areas where the gurus left, the whole area became crippled.
In 1987, there was a reform, but after twelve or thirteen years, when we
analyze, then we see that although we thought it was a reform, it was
watering down the same mistaken system. Today, our society has become
considerably weak because of that mistake. This is one of the problems our
society faced after Srila Prabhupada's disappearance, the zonal acharya
Another problem is the abnormal worship of devotees who assumed the
position of spiritual masters and neglect and abuse of devotees. The gurus
got worship as lofty as the Supreme Personality of Godhead in many areas,
whereas devotees were neglected. Our children were neglected. The women were
neglected. The women were used and abused.
To give an example, one very important person visited our temple
somewhere. I do not want to mention the name of the temple. She was a
lady. After one day there, she said she lost all faith in the movement. The
reason she gave was the lifestyle the spiritual master had and the lifestyle
the general devotees had. There was such a gulf of difference between those
lifestyles. There was such a big difference that she lost all faith. That is
just to make this point.
Unfair means of collecting money was another problem. During Srila
Prabhupada's time, the main means of collection, the main source of income
was Prabhupada's books. Through the books, Srila Prabhupada built Vrindavan
temple, Bombay temple and he established the movement all over the world.
Srila Prabhupada himself told that the book business is the best business
and books are the basis. As books went out, there was preaching and money
After Srila Prabhupada's disappearance, the leaders introduced a kind
of paraphernalia distribution. One of the pioneers of that was a close
friend of mine. Once he told me how he got into that. He said that he just
came across a stock of LPs from a record-manufacturing place, like a few
thousand, a colossal number of records and they bought them for a few cents.
These LPs he bought for a few cents each. He felt that the sankirtan
devotees are such good devotees that they can go and sell these because the
book selling was becoming a little difficult. So they introduced the selling
of these records. In order to sell those records, they started to lie. They
would say, "O this is the latest album by George Harrison." Whereas, George
Harrison was nowhere. In this way, that thing would cost a few cents, they
would sell it for a few dollars. A lot of money started to come in.
In Canada, there was a big supplier who was importing paintings from Hong
Kong. A big three-foot by ten-foot painting would cost them ten dollars.
So-called sankirtan devotees would go out and claim that they are painters.
They are the artists and they have come to sell the paintings. They would
fetch an incredible price. The painting that cost ten dollars would sell for
two hundred dollars. In this way, an incredible amount of money started to
come in. as a result of that, book distribution stopped and devotees'
spiritual standard deteriorated. Our society faced a major crisis.
Another thing was the change up. Anyway, I do not want to get into that. I
am just giving the very basic understanding to make you all aware. On one
hand, we should all become aware of our glorious heritage. At the same time,
it is important that we become aware of the mistakes we made which made us
pay a heavy price. We have to recognize both the sides and recognize what
not to do.
The gurus started to fall down and that caused a lot of damage. Conflict
between devotees; Srila Prabhupada wanted us to cooperate, but instead we
started to fight. That also caused a lot of damage. Posthumous Guru System:
one trend has come up that Prabhupada would continue to give initiation even
after his disappearance. That understanding gained some popularity and
started to surface time and time again. The first came up in 1988. A group
of devotees felt that the gurus are not good enough; the gurus are falling
down, other gurus will also fall down, and this is causing a lot of damage
to our society. So, let Prabhupada continue to give initiation. Everybody
will become Prabhupada's disciple. It is a safe course, but the problem is
that there is no precedence of this system in the past. There is no
scriptural evidence. Nor did Prabhupada himself say anything emphatically
The last one is the lack of faith in the leadership in ISKCON, and as a
result of that, ISKCON devotees seeking guidance outside of ISKCON. Some
people are coming from outside and practically cleaning up. ISKCON devotees
who have become disillusioned, who have lost their faith in ISKCON are
finding recourse that "Here is the real shelter."
They are leaving ISKCON and going away. These are to name a few. It was a
great privilege of mine to have this opportunity to conduct this seminar
with you all. I do not know how much I have been able to help you, but I
hope that you will find some benefit from the classes that I gave you the
last few days. If you want to continue, if you still have questions, you can
communicate with me through email. If you have any question that comes up
afterwards, please feel free to write to me and I will try my best to answer
your questions. Thank you very much. Does anybody have any questions?
Q: you mentioned "Change up", can you tell us what that was about?
A: Change up is when the devotees, when they would distribute books, mainly
in America, they would get small bills and coins. They would go to somebody
who is favorable or willing to take a book and say, "Look, I have a stack of
these one dollar bills. Would you be willing to change it for a bigger one?"
The person would say, "Okay, fine". Not only would they give him the small
bills and get a big one, but sometimes they would say, "Oh, I only have six
dollars. Can you give me ten dollars or twenty dollars?" Like he would give
him ten dollars and say, "Why don't you give me that twenty dollar bill?
Consider it to be a donation for a good cause." Or sometimes they would give
someone sixty dollars and ask for a hundred dollar bill. In this way, they
would "change-up". To give you an idea of what change-up was, once in an
American newspaper, there was a cartoon where an ISKCON devotee is holding
someone upside down and all the money and coins are coming from his pocket
and he is collecting them.
We should always remember that dharma in this age is standing on one leg.
That one leg is truthfulness. We should never deviate from that path of
honesty. If we do that, we are breaking the last leg of dharma. On the other
hand, we should be very upright, very straightforward, very honest. That is
what Brahmin is.
Q: can you give us an optimistic view of the future?
A: the optimistic view or assurance I can give is what I believe in myself.
It is that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself predicted that this movement is
going to spread all over the world. We should be one hundred percent
convinced that since Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the Supreme Personality of
Godhead, it is going to happen. No matter whatever happens, we should not
give up our faith. We should continue with full conviction.
The next thing I would say is, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu predicted and that
prediction came through Srila Prabhupada. From that we can understand that
Srila Prabhupada is the personality that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu sent to
achieve that. Although Prabhupada's vapu has left the planet, Prabhupada's
physical form has left the planet, Prabhupada is still present in ISKCON. It
is through ISKCON that this prediction of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu will become
literally fulfilled, that is, in every town and village. Srila Prabhupada
has spread it all over the world, but in every town and village, that has
yet to happen. It will happen through ISKCON.
Therefore we should have implicit faith in Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's prediction
and implicit faith in ISKCON. With that we should carry on. Personally, I
consider that three instructions of Prabhupada are most important. I derive
tremendous benefit out of those three instructions:
1. "No matter whatever happens, do not leave ISKCON."
2. "Your love for me will be shown by how well you cooperate with
3. "The GBC is the ultimate managing authority in ISKCON."
All along, I tried to follow these three instructions of Srila Prabhupada
and I can say that I have been saved from very, very big calamities. If I
did not stick to these three instructions of Srila Prabhupada, I do not know
what would have happened to me. I could have been out there, away from
A: The effect of their preaching did not last for very long. For example,
Gaudiya Math disintegrated very soon after Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati
Thakur's disappearance. Within three days after his disappearance, they
started to fight. Whereas ISKCON, almost twenty-two years after Srila
Prabhupada's disappearance, is still going strong. That international
society, worldwide preaching, despite all difficulties, is going on.
Personally I feel that we are going through a difficult phase now, but it is
going to go up again because the institution of ISKCON is still together.
This society has many sincere souls. That is actually the most encouraging
factor, that this movement has so many very committed, dedicated devotees.
It is because of them that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu will save this movement and
make this movement carry on. We are going through difficulties, but what to
do? Like when there is a war, there will be some losses. Sometimes in a war
you have to retreat, gather your strength, and come back.
A: To make the movement spread effectively, we need an institution. A
personality like Srila Prabhupada comes only once in a blue moon. This
kind of personality is so rare. Now, what he gave us, we have to carry
on with that. I will go to the extent of saying that what Jesus Christ is to
Christianity, what Mohammed is to Islam, Srila Prabhupada should be that to
ISKCON. Then only we will see a glorious ISKCON that is spreading all over
the world in every town and village. That is why it is important that we
uphold Srila Prabhupada's glorious position because that is our asset. Where
is the personality who in ten years time spread Krishna consciousness all
over the world? Where is the personality who wrote hundreds of books? Where
is the personality? Who, whatever he did, did it in the most perfect way?
That is our asset. That is the legacy that we have to carry.
Prabhupada is our greatest asset. That is the asset we have to cash on if we
really want to be successful. The trouble starts when we obscure with
ourselves. We stand in front of Srila Prabhupada and obscure Srila
Prabhupada from others. That is what causes damage to the movement. What is
needed is to put Srila Prabhupada up there and let us all take a humble
position down here. The world will recognize. Who am I? What the world is
going to think of me? They are not going to be impressed. But when I present
Srila Prabhupada, they are all going to be impressed. So why not do that?
Isn't that the normal thing to do? Isn't that the intelligent thing to do?
Why we do not do it, that is not the question. Let's consider how we are
going to do it.
A: For spiritual life, the worst enemy or the greatest obstacle is
actually false ego. If we really want to be spiritually effective, we
have to get rid of our false ego. Can you imagine if we are living in
a society where nobody has false ego? Then we will be in the spiritual
Q. Isn't the guru supposed to be worshipped as well as the Lord, so
doesn't the guru accept worship for the sake of the disciple?
A: The scriptures say that the guru should be worshipped as good as God, but
what is that worship? Worship mainly is an internal thing. Worship is not
necessarily an external thing. For example, what kind of worship did Rupa
Goswami take? What kind of worship did Raghunath Das Goswami take? Even in
the recent past, what kind of worship did Bhaktivinod Thakur take? What kind
of worship did Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur take? When we are
talking about worship as good as God that means the faith in the heart of
the disciple that my guru is the bona-fide representative of Krishna and
he is going to give me Krishna. That is our mission. That is the real
worship. Instead of that, just the fanfare becomes the main thing.
Things like, just after Prabhupada's disappearance, simultaneous Guru Puja
and so on and so forth. It did hurt the movement very badly and it did
obscure Srila Prabhupada's position. On the other hand, if we just recognize
the contribution that Srila Prabhupada made for us, to us and remain
grateful to Srila Prabhupada for that, that will be the real worship. We can
consider that do the Christians worship Jesus Christ? Yes, but what kind of
worship? It is the worship of faith that they know that Jesus Christ is the
They will make it back to Godhead. (I do not know whether they have any
understanding of "back to Godhead!) So this faith is what is important. That
faith should be linked to Srila Prabhupada. Why a guru in ISKCON is a guru?
Because he is transmitting Srila Prabhupada's teachings. So who is the main
personality that we should become grateful to? Naturally, Srila Prabhupada.
So, that is the kind of worship that we are talking about. The other kind of
worship, I am saying it is better that we get rid of because the external
fanfare does not take us back to Godhead and it just attracts a bunch of
A: That is why the leaders have a very important responsibility that they
must transmit the right understanding. It is not a matter of quoting the
scriptures or finding some logical reason behind doing something. What
really matters is our sincere intentions. If the intention is sincere, we
may make mistakes, but we will become rectified and others also will not
suffer the loss so bad. Even Shankaracharya was quoting scriptures to
establish Mayavada, but is mayavada the ultimate conclusion of the
scriptures? No, but why did people accept it? Because Shankaracharya was
presenting it and they accepted him as the authority. Whatever he said, they
Therefore what is important is to become the transparent via-media. The
transparent via media means understand what our previous acharyas wanted and
act according to their understanding. That is the meaning of becoming a
puppet in the hands of the spiritual master and the previous acharyas.
A: Who will protect them? The new bhaktas will protect them or they will
protect the new bhaktas? The leaders have to lead properly. The leaders have
to understand the intentions, the motives, and the objectives of the
previous acharyas. If not all the previous acharyas, at least his own guru's
intentions, objectives and mission. If he does that, then his followers will
never go astray.
Q: The problems in ISKCON created a lot of mistrust for the leaders.
How do we regain that trust?
A: In order to regain, the leaders have to become the transparent via
medium. The onus actually lies in the leaders because they have to lead. The
followers are ready to follow, but those who are guiding them, they have to
give them proper guidance.
I will give you an example: when the "Change up" was going on, may be
someone started it, but if the leader interfered and said, 'This is a
deviation from the truth, this is breaking the last leg of dharma," Then, we
could have saved that trouble. Prabhupada wanted us to distribute his books.
These sankirtan devotees are not just salesmen or saleswomen, they are
distributing Srila Prabhupada's books. They are preachers. That is the most
important mission and responsibility they have. If the leaders had never,
ever, deviated from that responsibility, then that trouble would not have
If the leaders, those who were representing Prabhupada at that time, if they
would have felt that "Prabhupada is my eternal Lord and master. I am his
eternal servant. How can I take worship in front of him while his worship is
going on? Disciples are coming and offering the flowers." If they felt that
that is not right, then that problem would not have been there. The main
thing is, we have to be honest with ourselves. That is the most important