Thursday, March 22, 2018

Some words about Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Before you can see the light, you have to deal with the darkness. When I walked through the night, because the Christ sun had not yet risen for me, I had no choice but to orientate myself in the light of moon and stars. The moon, that was Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada for me, and I was (and am) very thankful that such a beautiful full moon had come up for me at that time. Prabhupada was an Indian beggar monk (sannyasi) who came to the West to spread Krishna-consciousness or the faith of the Bengali Vaishnavas. He was the founder of the "International Society for Krishna-consciousness" (ISKCON). By "Krishna" he meant the one true God and not one of the many "gods" of Hinduism. So you can say that he was an Eastern missionary who came to the West after the Western missionaries came to the East. There is a lot to say about this Krishna - but in another entry. BTW this entry is a continuation of "Some Words about Hinduism and Vaishnavism".

Although the moon reflects the sunlight and throws it onto the earth as moonlight, it is a cold and dark body. In addition, the moon always turns only one side towards the earth and hides what is on his back. Since there are more than enough beautiful stories about Prabhupada, as he already spread them among his disciples, I would like to dedicate myself here to his dark side.

Prabhupada forbade to regard the spiritual master as a normal person. This is not wrong when the spiritual master is Jesus Christ. The mistake is to consider someone as Jesus Christ or "like Jesus" who is not. To be like Jesus - to awaken the dead, to command the elements, to rise from death, etc.  is not a cheap thing. Prabhupada has done some extraordinary deeds, but none of them can compete with those of Jesus Christ. He didn't equal Jesus. However, since he defined this as a condition for a true spiritual master, which, as already mentioned, is completely correct, he disassembles himself as soon as someone realizes that he is not like the sun, but only like the moon. I don't know if that was clear to him, I doubt it, yet this institution is divinely brilliant. So it can be said that Prabhupada was guided by God, probably in a different way than he himself was aware of. He paves the way for the true spiritual master and disappears as soon as he appears. With this he resembles John the Baptist. Remarkably, Prabhupada himself compared the movement for Krishna consciousness to the moon, and his disciples should also be like the moon.

And it was more than just a coincidence that Prahupada was present in New York and San Francisco, right in that short time when the American youth was interested in a new consciousness. Because the hippie movement went down the drain very quickly, after barely a year there was only sex, drugs and rock'n'roll. Prabhupada wasn't just a lucky guy. There was a higher power.


Special dreams

Dreams should not be underestimated. Although they are usually just imaginations, there are also special dreams that may be better called visions.Visions are not the confused mish-mash known from ordinary dreams, but are remembered as real occurrences. They also remain in your memory, and do not disappear. If you ever had such a vision, you know that it wasn't just an ordinary dream. Visions can change the whole world - just think of Saul's vision on his way to Damascus when he became Paul. Prabhupada came to the West after his spiritual master Bhaktisiddhanta repeatedly called upon him in dreams to do so.

I, too, had a special dream just before I learned what unpleasant things had happened after Prabhupada's departure. This was at the end of 1995: I saw Prabhupada sitting behind a harmonium, singing and chanting very concentrated, obviously not perceiving his surroundings. Around him stood many of his disciples. But they were not friendly to him, on the contrary: they were very angry with him and I couldn't even recognize their faces because they had demon faces. One, the most dangerous and probably the leader, had a knife that he used to threaten Prabhupada. One or two had guns, but this guns were hidden. They couldn't do anything to Prabhupada as long as he was chanting. And so he kept chanting.

Why was Prabhupada in such a precarious situation? What made these disciples so angry? I can answer that, but first I have to talk about the dark side of the moon.


Move fast and break things

In the first years, in the 1960s, when Prabhupada travelled from India to the USA and then lived penniless in New York, he was only "Swamiji". A kind alien who somehow fitted all the hippies and lunatics despite his advanced age. When he had accepted some disciples, he became very ill and went back to India to die there, which in some ways happened, because he did not return to America as the needy old man, but as a great leader, a superhuman, a spiritual mission vehicle. From then on he was called Prabhupada, which means "One who is always found at Krishna's lotus feet." It's a name for a guru. Something had happened in India. They say he was seen there as an incarnation of God. His disciples believed that Krishna personally authorized him to continue his mission in the West. Maybe Prabhupada just realized that his time was limited. So he gave full throttle. He began to become an idol. He formed around himself a cult of personality, as one finds it in dictatorships.

The power of submission is based on the reception of subjects into the imaginary body of the despot and these subjects contribute to the maintenance of power through the projection of this body onto their own body. It's basically a self-sacrifice. As soon as the despot is no longer there, the cruel love of the fatherly despot to his children cedes its place to fraternal cruelty. The utopia of one eye is replaced by the heterotopia of the gazes. Everything that had been suppressed for years breaks out. The assimilated subjects, now suddenly disconnected, try to enthrone themselves in a multiplied narcissus, each of whom fights for his piece of the cake of power in the name of small differences. The form of government of the monarchy is followed by a disorderly change to polyarchy. But these rulers soon lose their aura, for the masks fall. And of course there is the call "Give us back our former system!" - So this is about dictatorship. Isn't it also the history of ISKCON?

ISKCON headquarters, Mayapur, India, 2006

Trouble in Hippie Dreamland


Several disciples left Prabhupada when they noticed that essential things were wrong. This was hardly noticeable during his lifetime simply because Prabhupada initiated many new disciples, mostly not personally, but with the help of deputies. Critical and better educated disciples could hardly stand it for long, since Prabhupada regarded them as competitors. His teaching was: Questioning guru means killing guru. Those few disciples who mastered Sanskrit noticed the not particularly developed Sanskrit knowledge of their master, and that he presented Vaishnavism in a sectarian way, with himself in the center. In order to conceal these things, Praphupada suppressed the study of Sanskrit with his disciples and even forbade them to deal with Indian Vaishnavas, whereby he went as far as to forbid even the books of his own spiritual master, Bhaktisiddhanta. One should not jump over an acarya (spiritual teacher). No wonder, then, that his few learned students left him.

The other disciples of Bhaktisiddhanta, senior Indian Vaishnavas, were suspicious of Prabhupada: They could see that ISKCON was heading for an abyss, that Prabhupada took out a loan that not he, but others and his disciples would have to repay. After me the deluge. Prabhupada had hardly had any contact with Bhaktisiddhanta and had never been particularly noticed. According to Prabhupada the other disciples of his guru were jealous: where the more learned and wiser had failed, he, the common disciple, was successful. Prahupada considered the very thought that one of  the other disciples of his guru could replace him if he died or became too ill to lead his movement as insulting. When Indian Vaishnavas dared to initiate Prabhupada's disciples again, because they considered the initiations of Prahhupada (through temple presidents or deputies) as not authentic, Prabhupada felt severely offended. The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in between: Prabhupada rushed forward and broke things that might have been better left whole, and some other disciples of Bhaktisiddhanta were at least conceited.

Let us now look at the two most famous slogans of ISKCON:

"He built a house in which the whole world can live":  If this house is to be ISKCON, not even his disciples could live in it. Hardly one of them was over 30 and getting old and ill was simply not intended. Those who were unsuitable for preaching and distributing books were, if they were lucky, thrown out of the temple, otherwise deported to raise money as "householders" in farm communities that were to be run according to the utopian ideas of Prabhupada: A grotesqe mixture of "Little House on the Prairie" (Gandhi-style) and caste system. In addition, they had to donate half of the income to ISKCON. His disciples' children were the worst affected. So that their parents could devote all their energy to serve Krishna (or rather Prabhupada) and so that they received a spiritual education, they were separated from their parents far too early and put into gurukulas (boarding schools). Especially those in India turned out to be hellholes of abuse.

"Chant and be happy!" The falsity of this ISKCON slogan is evident in the mere fact that the Vaishnavas have defined ten nama-aparadhas (offences against the holy name) which are virtually impossible to comply with. They are attempts to explain why just chanting does not work as intended. Singing and chanting together is fun for some time, but it is not the solution to all problems, what this slogan should say. Heaven is reached through love of God and love of neighbor, not by chanting on cloud nine. When Prabhupada was dying, there was chanting for his recovery all over the world, because he really believed this would help him. He died anyway. If he'd gone to the doctors, they could have bought him a few more years. What the official Prabhupada biography conceals: Already when he returned to India terminally ill for the first time, he became healthy because his disciple Kirtanananda succeeded in finding a Sikh doctor who gave him antibiotics and not because of the chanting of his disciples. Praphupada otherwise only wanted to be treated by Ayurvedic doctors, but most of them are nothing but quack doctors. When he was no longer only "Swamiji" but "Prabhupada", he did not let himself be told anything and so he died without being able to finish his Srimad Bhagavatam, which he had so much wished for. If you just chant instead of doing necessary things, you might even die.

Fools rush in, where angels fear to tread

There is probably no proverb which Prabhupada would describe better. The other disciples of his spiritual master were criticizing him this way, but he thought, "Fool? Yeah, it's possible. But that's the way I am. My guru was always very affectionate to me." Courage or a lack of imagination? Prahupada, however, was by no means malicious; rather, he resembled a child reaching for the moon. Children's dreams need megalomania - until, at some point, reality lifts the finger. Hence statements like this: "My books will be for the next 10,000 years the law books of human society." San Francisco was to become New Jagannath Puri. Mayapur in India should become an ideal city, divided into districts with brahmanas (priests), kshatriyas (warriors), vaishyas (farmers, merchants) and sudras (workers). As far as I know, a revival of the caste system is fortunately banned by the Indian state. But in New Vrindavan in the USA, experiments were carried out with the caste system (Prabhupada-style) and it ended in madness and murder. There's a book about it: "Monkey on a Stick: Murder, Madness and the Hare Krishnas"

Prabhupada had never come out of India before his trip to New York. He did not understand the "rest of the world". On the one hand, he was arch-conservative, but on the other hand, he was also adaptable and willing to reform. For example, Prabhupadas role model of women was that of the conservative Indian and can drive every feminist to run amok. But he was also the first guru to initiate women, an outrage among the Vaishnavas. Women and men live together in a temple! Women as preachers and founders of temples! Shocking! He adapted much to the circumstances, yet Prabhupada's disciples resembled African crocodiles who had been abandoned in the North Sea. Since his disciples had neither health insurance nor pension insurance, many of them ran into great difficulties. But Prabhupada was not cruel - he just didn't know how things were going outside of India and he really believed Krishna would fix everything.

Prabhupada and his disciples with Karlfried D├╝rckheim in Germany (Wikimedia Commons, Christian Jansen)

NOT infallible, NOT all-knowing, NOT like Jesus

That Prabhupada imitated Jesus can be seen, for example, in the appointment of the GBC (the governing body of ISKCON). Twelve of his disciples were appointed as his representatives. When he passes away, they should be his assignees. Apostles Prabhupada-style. Whom by the way have failed grandiosely.

Prabhupada's understanding of Jesus clearly shows that he did not know much about Jesus. He considered God the Father to be Krishna, which alone is completely absurd, and that God the Father is separated from Jesus. He also believed that Jesus' body was insensitive at the crucifixion and that Jesus had gone to India after his resurrection. All these things are either untruths or myths. Prabhupada also thought that the cross was a bad symbol. In India they teach a lot of nonsense about Jesus and the Christians. Some Indians even believe Santa Claus to be the God of Christians. One cannot really be angry with them because most Christians are only name-believers who may even believe that some rabbit was born at Easter. Nevertheless: Whoever is to be deemed equal to Jesus, should know about Jesus and not believe in untruths and nonsense.

And then how can anyone who accepts a name that boasts beyond all measure like "Om Visnupada 108 Sri Srimad A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada" be like Jesus? Let me try to translate it: "Ultimate reality heaven of God 108 holy glorious fearlessly under the protection of the Lord's lotus feet ultimate conclusion of devotion religious teacher who has taken shelter at the lotus feet of the Lord." Jesus did not even want to be called "Master". He didn't want his disciples to throw themselves to the ground in front of him. Jesus did not concern himself with improving His prestige by founding particularly magnificent temples. Jesus certainly did not want to know anything about a caste system, not even about one based on characteristics rather than on birthright. Since Jesus was God as man, He could spiritually teach his disciples by speaking in their hearts. Therefore Jesus did not need books and many lectures and more than three years. Prabhupada, on the other hand, could only teach his disciples like a professor his students - and even more than ten years were not enough.

Prabhupada was not omniscient and made a number of mistakes. Which means - he did not fulfill his preached qualities of a pure devotee describing Jesus. For example, he did not believe that humans could walk on the moon. Even when he was watching it live on TV. The demigods would have tricked the astronauts he claimed. Maybe they landed on Rahu or Ketu. According to Vedic literature, Rahu and Ketu are either dragons, wolves or demons that eat the moon when it falls into the Earth's shadow. Prabhupada also believed in this ancient world view unshakably. He drove many a disciple, who could now vividly imagine how Galileo must have felt, almost to despair.

And then there's the thing with the milk and the cows. Prahupada's utopian ideas about rural life clearly show that he was an ignorant city dweller. A cow has a natural life expectancy of 22 years and can live for more than 30 years with good care. She only gives milk for some time after she gets a calf. A farm community that lives according to Praphupada's utopia, fairytale-like as it may be, very quickly has a barn full of cows and oxen that cost a lot of money but give far too little milk to feed the farm community. So milk has to be bought in - from conventional farmers, who give the bulls to the butcher after less than 2 years, and the cows after 4-5 years. If Prabhupada had been honest and realistic about cow protection, he would have had to build cow sanctuaries and limit milk consumption. But that wasn't really his priority. On the one hand, threaten anyone who somehow participates in the killing of cows with harsh reactions. On the other hand, buy milk from farmers who kill the cows. That's dishonest.

To some extent Prabhupada was also a pied piper - an Indian who took revenge for the injustice done to India by the European colonialists. Since the Indians, as one of the largest peoples on this earth, were first ruled by a minority of Muslims and then by a handful of Englishmen, the inferiority complex is well-developed. In addition, the English also fought and eliminated grievances that the Indians themselves were unable to overcome over centuries and millennia. That's unforgivable, of course. Prabhupada's ideas of the West unmask him as a nationalist. He was not only a missionary, but also behaved like an Indian imperialist and nationalist: All of America, the whole world, must become Krishna-conscious, by which he rather meant "Indian". Live like Indians, eat like Indians, speak like Indians, sing like Indians, dance like Indians, believe like Indians, die like Indians. He actually believed that only meat eaters, drunkards and womanisers lived in the West, that the West was dominated by materialism and nobody knew anything about God. His statements on this subject are disgustingly propagandistic and defamatory. The myth of the poor innocent Indians and the evil West. In reality, Indians are no better than Westerners and even have less spiritual knowledge than the West, where it is only hidden and misunderstood. There may have been fewer meat eaters in India, but there were things in India that were even more disgusting. Since Prabhupada believed in his propaganda, his two ideas in this regard also had to fail: 1) The lame but spiritually knowing India should guide the blind but progressive West, which would benefit both. But India could not help the West, because in reality it was itself blind. 2) If the Indians see the Westerners converting to Krishna consciousness, they would follow them because they see the West as an example. But the Indians did not convert when Prabhupada succeeded in turning Westerners into Vaishnavas. In reality, the Indians did not imitate the West, but simply wanted to satisfy the senses because they are no better than Westerners, as nationalism claims. When Prabhupada came to India in 1970 with his western disciples and organized kirtans, a large crowd of Indians chanted enthusiastically with them. But they didn't think about changing their lives and becoming ISKCON devotes.

Prabhupada's education was good, though somewhat one-sidedly limited to India. Nevertheless his victories in philosophical discussions are sometimes based on imputation, circular conclusions and a stubborn insistence on dogmas. If something didn't go the way he imagined, he just ignored it, or blamed his disciples. They forgave him for being an old man. To think that you know and be able to do everything, that you are free of mistakes and to blame everyone else, to be selfishness in person and conceal this by "doing everything for God and good (or whatever)" is a personality disorder called pathological narcissism. But Prabhupada probably just tried to deliver the ideal guru, to be Jesus Christ or God as a human being, who in reality, and not just presumptuously, knew and could do everything and was flawless.

Prabhupada statue in Vienna 1995

Idolaters become idols themselves

The Vaishnavas (and the commonality of the Hindus) are idolaters, although usually not in a crude form - and of course not only, but also, which is very important to emphasize. Idolatry belongs to the faulty and dark side of their believe - it's not the most important and not the only side. Just like the "miraculous" images of the Virgin Mary in the pagan parts of Christianity: even though it's all completely blatant, yet a great hullabaloo is still being made about it. Since one becomes what one loves and worships, the Vaishnavas themselves become idols, insofar as they themselves were idolaters. This can be observed especially with Prabhupada: In many temples of ISKCON one finds an almost frighteningly lifelike modelled image of him, which is worshipped of course.

In Christianity some people, mostly for church-political reasons, are made saints - idols. The same is done by the Vaishnavas, although without a commission of inquiry, miracles of duty and official pronouncement. Human and natural things are faded out and by an exaggerated attribution of religious traits an idol, a saint, is produced - often also by the addition of constructed and invented great deeds.

A devotee of God may be a beggar on the outside, but inside he is a confidant of God, an angel, a hero. This is not wrong. The cult, the idolatry, is wrong - if you fade out the "bad things" and make someone or something into something monstrous.

The afterlife of Prabhupada


After hearing about the scandals of Prabhupada's successors, I naturally interpreted my special dream of Prabhupada in such a way that he was threatened in the afterlife by them and their sympathizers. I sent this dream to PADA, which was a reform movement of ISKCON, and many agreed with this assessment. After everything that had happened at ISKCON, these successors were believed to be capable of anything.

Many years later - I had left ISKCON and Prabhupada behind and turned to Jesus - I read a book by Carl Wickland: Thirty Years Among the Dead. There it is described how sect founder retreat completely into themselves in the hereafter and thus become unassailable for all the enemies they had made themselves by deceiving people and possibly plunging them into misfortune. Insofar as those demon-faced disciples of Prabhupada, whom I saw in my dream, were not already angry with him in this world, they became angry in the hereafter. Because they were suffering and didn't know were to go and when they found Prabhupada, he could not help them. After all, his promise was to lead them to God like Jesus. But he is not Jesus. They had sacrificed their lives for Krishna and Prabhupada. And now this! Of course they got angry!

But that's not the end of the story. Years later I had another dream of Prabhupada. He was now "Swamiji" again and together with other good spirits helped one of his former followers, who was still on earth, to get his lost life back on track. It may be that Prabhupada's success once went to his head and he became proud and wronged others. Still, he's one of the good guys! Once, in the early days of ISKCON, his disciple Hayagriva dreamed that Prabhupada was a demigod or angel. I don't know if he is, but he's one of the good guys. He's fixing things.

Why I don't just leave Prabhupada behind

Although I follow Jesus, and no longer Prabhupada, he belongs to my path and to who I am. To me he is like the moon, which sometimes remains visible in the sky, although the sun has long since risen. For example, I continue to follow the four regulative principles (no eating of meat and eggs, no intoxication, no illicit sexuality and no gambling) he has defined as a prerequisite for his disciples. But I only do this because these regulations are helpful in spiritual life and because I am naturally inclined to comply with them.

For his first disciples the swami was a sage, grandfather, spiritual master and dearest uncle in one person. He didn't think he was too fine to deal with the mad and outlaws, the sinners. He was not a high society swami, or a guru you keep like a pet. He had a strong faith, a lot of charisma and he was authentic, and that was certainly an essential reason for his success. And he was a man of action. What he wanted, he not only preached, but did it himself. He cooked, he ran his household, cleaned up, led kirtanas and bhajanas. He also stood on the street himself to distribute his magazines. This hands-on activity is proof of a living faith and true love of God. Prahupada was practically inclined. Although he was a mystic, his head did not float in the clouds of mysticism, as can be observed in other swamis. He was in his heart beyond the world, but not in his normal conversation consciousness. Prabhupada was downright ingenious at reducing complicated philosophical topics to the essentials and putting them into practice. And even if he got angry sometimes, his friendly humor remained. In all these things I take him as an example. One of the many good teachings of Prabhupada and the Vaishnavas is that in spiritual life you should be like a bee: You get the nectar and ignore the thorns.

Thank you for reading.

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