I’ve come across three types of difficult situations in my interactions with the followers of Narayana Maharaja.
1) When a devotee from ISKCON is convinced to join their ranks.
This is the worst case scenario and the subject of heated debates and a lot ill-feeling between ISKCON and NM’s followers. When the devotee is already initiated by an ISKCON guru in good standing, then it’s a disgrace to re-initiate them. Sometimes the devotee convinced to join NM is not already initiated in ISKCON but had been carefully taken care of within ISKCON, in some cases for years and years. If you’re a preacher it’s not a nice feeling. You’ve invested so much time and care with that devotee, and one day they show up and they’ve taken initiation from NM. It happened to me and the woman, later, in tears, begged forgiveness for having taken initiation from NM, but said that she was too fallen to chant 16 rounds a day and she desperately wanted to be initiated. I told her, though, that because she had willingly and purposefully taken initiation from another instititution, that I could no longer help her as before, nor could we engage her fully in our activities. My reasoning was that it would be unethicial of me to act as her siksha-guru, giving her instructions according to ISKCON philosophy and giving her service in ISKCON, as that would likely contradict the desire of her new diskha-guru.
2) When an innocent person gets initiation from NM without having any idea of what’s going on and actually prefers to be in ISKCON.
Because the NM camp have effectively lowered to zero the requirements for initiation, I often come across cases in which people have attended, for the first time in their lives, some public program by the followers of NM, and have left there duly initiated, with kanthi beads and a spiritual name! No vows, no idea what just happened. Personally, I think it’s a sham. An embarrasment to the Vaishnava parampara. I have a member in our small congregation who, after coming to our program for months, told me she was very worried about this flash initiation she had gotten without any idea of what was going on. She said that she wanted to be in ISKCON and to be freed of her connection to the NM camp. I told her that, in her case, the flash initiation was not valid, as she was not informed of what it was at the time. This was a few years ago. She is still with us, coming to our programs and retreats.
3) When a person becomes attracted to KC and willingly takes initiation from NM, but then approaches ISKCON for service and guidance.
It’s nice to see the NM camp actually making devotees, and not just stealing them from ISKCON, but it’s a complicated situation when their members approach ISKCON for spiritual help. Out of mercy and compassion, one should freely give spiritual instructions and engage people in Krishna’s service. But on the other hand, training and guiding these people seems like a bad idea to me because my goal in life is to engage people in Prabhupada’s mission, and I cannot do so with them. I am also left with the feeling that the followers of NM should do a better job in taking care of their own family. When these people approach me, it’s like having to take care of someone else’s children. Sure you want to help the innocent child, but you can’t help thinking that this is the parent’s duty! So, I feel divided between my natural desire to help and my more pragmatic intuition that this is not my job and it will not ultimately please Srila Prabhupada to cultivate members of other institutions.
I’d appreciate more discussion and thought on these points by ISKCON devotees in general, and perhaps some clearer guidance from the leadership.