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Hridayananda Maharaja Comments on the GBC Decision

In regard to the GBC’s recent discussion of Krishna West in Mayapura, and their request to me, I wish to explain the following:

1. As everyone must know, there are few, if any, secrets in ISKCON and therefore the GBC must have known that the letter they sent to me would soon become a public document.

2. The GBC requested me to stay in America and not travel to other regions such as Europe and South America until further discussion of Krishna West. Thus effectively and literally, the GBC placed me in a state of quarantine. Quarantine is applied when a person has, or is suspected to have, a serious, contagious disease. Thus by placing me in a state of quarantine, the GBC, whatever their intention, sent the world a clear message: Hridayananda das Goswami has, or is suspected to have, a serious, contagious spiritual disease. Again, whatever their intention, this is the clear message they sent.

3. Before taking such a heavy, damaging step, did the GBC exercise ‘due diligence’ to verify there was a credible danger that I had a serious, contagious, spiritual disease? Did they follow normal standards of fair inquiry and discussion? Not at all. Here are the facts:

a) Before the GBC meetings, I repeatedly begged many GBC members to let me reply to any accusations at the meetings, before the GBC reached any decision. I did this because I knew that many false criticisms were circulating. Again and again I told the GBC that although health considerations did not allow me to travel to India, I would be available by phone, email, skype or any other media. They voted to quarantine me without allowing me to first answer my accusers. They arranged for a discussion to take place after, not before, causing significant harm to me and other devotees.

b) I was not alone in urging the GBC to be fair. Several of the most senior leaders of ISKCON, including senior GBC members, also urged the GBC body to wait and hear both sides BEFORE taking any decision. The GBC rejected this advice.

4. The inevitable result: the GBC voted to quarantine me based on obvious misunderstandings. Here are some examples:

a. At the GBC meeting on Krishna West, a ‘tipping point’ came when I was accused of disrespecting the Acarayas. This charge was based on a misinterpretation of a statement made someone else. In other words, it was not even my statement. And the GBC misunderstood the context of the other devotee’s statement. Further, this very issue, based on the same statement, came up one month before the GBC meeting on the Brasil forum. I explained there the misunderstanding and clearly stated that I fully respect the Acaryas’ statements according to principles taught by Prabhupada and the Acaryas themselves. Thus this issue, which so disturbed the GBC, had already been resolved and clarified weeks before the GBC meeting. A two minute phone call to me would have resolved this. The GBC did not make that call. Instead they voted on a misunderstanding that would have been easily resolved by fair procedure.

b. The GBC misinterpreted my statement that KW is a destination not a bridge. I explained over and over and over again before the meeting that this does NOT refer to starting a new movement, or promoting separatism in ISKCON. I explained this to a prominent Euro-GBC who wrote back to me that he was happy to have my answer, and that he would support me in Mayapura. I have his letter in my files. Yet the GBC still voted on a misinterpretation. Again, a two minute call could have resolved this. The GBC did not make that call.

It is a fundamental duty of the GBC to promote peace and cooperation in ISKCON within the boundaries of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. Like any large society, ISKCON has liberals and conservatives, preservers and innovators, both of whom are necessary and valuable. The GBC should not underestimate the number of devotees who believe, as I do, that given the current state of our western mission, we should at least try to apply in the preaching field certain opportunities and adjustments explicitly authorized and even urged by Prabhupada. Krishna West seeks to do this, cooperatively and within the laws of ISKCON.

I want to make clear that I fully support Prabhupada’s GBC system and like other devotees, I want the GBC to be respected and admired. I also acknowledge openly to the world my own imperfections and mistakes in presenting Krishna West. In the Bhagavad-gita 18.48, Krishna states that all endeavors in this world are flawed. This is certainly true in my case. I have repeatedly and openly stated to all devotees, including my disciples, that Krishna West has made mistakes and we are sincerely trying to correct them. In fact, KW has demonstrated time and time again that we cooperate with the GBC. History shows that every time the GBC requested KW to adjust something, we complied. KW has never refused a GBC request. Therefore there was no reasonable cause to doubt that in my travel to Europe I would cooperate with the GBC. Quarantine was entirely unnecessary and unjustified.

Further, KW has benefitted from the criticism and advice of other devotees, including the GBC. I pray that we can go forward in unity based on mutual respect and fair procedure.

With best wishes,

Hridayananda das Goswami

Devotees concerned at the GBC decision and how it was arrived at, can contact Braja Bihari Prabhu, Ombudsman, at ISKCON Resolve at the following email address: brianjbloch@gmail.com.

“One leader justifies GBC procedure by saying that there were many complaints. But in what civilized society do complaints suspend one’s right to self-defense? The GBC took an action which caused much trouble to many people. They took that action before they had a fair and complete understanding. Actions that cause significant harm should be taken only with full understanding and when all other options are exhausted. These are basic principles of civilization.”

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March 6, 2014 · 6:35 pm

Srila Hridayananda Maharaja Finishes New Gita Translation!

Srila Hridayananda Maharaja has finished a new translation of the Bhagavad-gita. The translation is very literal and academic.

The book will include an introduction, footnotes and a description and summary of each chapter.

The proposed title is: “Bhagavad-gita – An Insider’s Literal Edition”.

The book will be available in e-book format by year’s end.

 

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Q&A with Srila Hridayananda das Goswami on Protecting Women

Questions: What does it mean when the Vedas state that men should protect women?

 

Answer by Srila Hridayananda das Goswami:

Prabhupada and Shastras do teach the protection of women. Krishna also says in the Gita: yad yad acarati sresthas… “people follow the leader’s example.” Thus a man who sets the right Krishna conscious example will be able to guide and inspire a woman.

Men must also realize that to protect does not mean to subjugate, humiliate or dominate. It means to protect. Shastra gives many examples of husbands who protected their wives by occasionally accepting that in a particular case, the wife had a better understanding of a situation. Examples:

1. The brahmana wives fed Krishna’s friends, when their husbands refused and forbade them to do so.

2. The wives of Kaliya surrendered to Krishna before their husband.

3. The great Pandu gave up his determination that Kunti have more sons with demigods and accepted her argument.

Power corrupts and in this age, we have seen many instances not only of women becoming corrupted by seizing power, but of the same happening to men. In the name of Vedic culture, we have seen too many cases of domestic violence and other forms of marital abuse.

Vedic culture is sophisticated, nuanced and subtle. Ignoring those subtle, deep qualities, we are at times left with crude male chauvinism or mundane feminism, rather than true Vedic culture.

With best wishes,

Hridayananda das Goswami

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ISKCON Brazil Honors Srila Hridayananda Das Goswami

ISKCON Brasil published this statement today celebrating Srila Hridayananda Das Goswami’s 40th sannyasa anniversary and his innumerous achievements in Brazil and Latin America.

Dear devotees,

Please accept our sincere obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

The Executive Committee (EC) of ISKCON Brazil offers congratulations to Hridayananda Das Goswami, in this Nrsimha Caturdasi, for completing 40 years as a sannyasi.

The importance of Hridayananda Das Goswami’s missionary devotional service to Brazil is immeasurable.

ISKCON’s first leader not only in Brazil but throughout Latin America, Hridayananda Das Goswami – following the instructions of his spiritual master, the founder-acarya of ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada – coordinated the construction of temples and guided and initiated thousands of Brazilian devotees. Not to mention his achievements in the translation of the sastras.

To Hridayananda Goswami our eternal gratitude and sincere obeisances from the devotees of Brazil.

Your servants of the Executive Committee,

Dhavali Das (Chairman), Daruka Das, Mathura Natha Das, Sri Krishna Murti Das

Estimados devotos,

Reverências sinceras. Todas as glórias a Srila Prabhupada.

O Comitê Executivo (CE) da ISKCON Brasil oferece congratulações a Hridayananda Das Goswami por, neste Nrsimha Caturdasi, completar 40 anos dos seus votos de sannyasi.

A importância do serviço devocional missionário de Hridayananda Das Goswami para o Brasil é incomensurável.

Primeiro líder da ISKCON não apenas no Brasil, mas em toda América Latina, Hridayananda Das Goswami – seguindo as instruções do seu mestre espiritual, o acarya-fundador da ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada – coordenou a construções de templos, orientou e iniciou milhares de devotos brasileiros. Sem mencionar seus inúmeros trabalhos de tradução dos sastras.

A Hridayananda Goswami, eterna gratidão e sinceras reverências dos devotos do Brasil.

Seus servos do Comitê Executivo
Dhavali Das (presidente), Daruka Das, Mathura Natha Das, Sri Krsna Murti Das

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Q&A with Hridayananda das Goswami on Veils and Female Chastity

Questions: Is the use of a veil by women a standard Vedic practice confirmed by scriptures? We see the word “samvita” and it’s translated as veiled, is this correct? What is the standard of chastity in the Vedas for women?

Answer by Hridayananda das Goswami:

“Samvita” does not rule out a veil, but it certainly doesn’t rule it in. The literal meaning, “well covered/dressed” is relative. We know for example that in many conservative parts of India, during various periods, chaste, respectable women did not cover the top part of their body, not to speak of their heads and faces. We see this clearly in exterior temple sculpture where even goddesses, presumably the most respectable ladies, are very scantily dressed. I have seen this myself, in certain rural parts of India.

As a general point, we see throughout history that the “indecent” part of the anatomy shifts over time. For example, during some periods in Europe, a lady’s neck, or arms, was considered more erotic than her bust, which perhaps was seen as maternal.

Certainly there is a long history of respectable women covering themselves, so as not to be seen by unworthy, lower classes, but this tradition is not universal either in time or geography. Thus, although we know that sometimes Greek ladies covered parts of their head or face, most Greek statues show those ladies bare-headed, along with the normal bare-headed goddesses.

My conclusion: chastity is an eternal principle. How chaste women dress varies according to time and place. We do know that Draupadi and other chaste women of Krishna-lila were “well covered”.

We also have stories of Indra and Candra [demigods of Sun and Moon respectively] seducing the wives of others. It seems that only sometimes there is punishment for this behavior.

We also have the cases of heavenly ‘society girls’, as Prabhupada called them, Apsaras, who serve Indra by seducing ambitious yogis and reducing their shakti. Of course there were also the famous prostitutes of Dvaraka.

Apart from that, there are also cultural variations between city and village culture. When Krishna entered a big city like Indraprastha or Hastinapura, the women would go to the roof and worship Him as He passed on the road. In Vrindaban, there is no mention of this. Rather we find much more informal village culture. Of course in big cities, Krishna’s entrance was accompanied by heavily armed troops, huge animals such as elephants and war horses, loud, pushing crowds etc. Thus the women wisely went to the roofs.

Direct evidence for the difference in city and village culture comes from the greatest devotees, the Gopis, who say, “Now that Krishna has gone to the city and become sophisticated, he will no longer care for village girls.” In the Mahabharata, we also find clear differences between different regions. There are frequent references to the unusual customs of the Uttara Kurus, Northern Kurus, referring to those living in the Himalayan foothills, and in the mountains themselves. Similarly, there are different marriage customs in different regions. For example, when Bhishma goes to the Northwest to secure Madri as a second wife for Pandu, Madri’s brother Salya tells him that, “in our kingdom, we don’t give dowries with our women. The groom must give a dowry.” Bhishma, without opposition, gives a dowry on behalf of Pandu.

Similarly, in dress and other cultural details, there is variation, not only geographic, but also in different ages. For example, the Bhagavatam states in the 4th canto that Prthu Maharaja introduced urban planning, which did not exist before him. Also, in the Mahabharata, great sages like Shukra and Shvetaketu declare new “dharmas”, such as monogamy and brahminical abstinence from liquor, based on unpleasant consequences of those activities.

And of course non-sanatana dharma varies in various yugas.

Conclusion: great Acaryas emphasize Sanatana dharma, which is Bhagavata dharma.

With best wishes,

Hridayananda das Goswami

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Q&A with Hridayananda Maharaja on “Approaching Krishna”

Question: At the beginning of the purport of SB 1.6.21, Srila Prabhupada talks about not being able to approach Krishna if there is any tinge of material affection. I guess the question would be, what does he mean by approach?

Answer by Hridayananda Maharaja:

Prabhupada is using ‘approach’ here in a special sense, of actually coming directly into the association of Krishna with full consciousness.

The general rule is ‘ye yatha mam prapadyante…’ As I often explain, the verb prapad[yante] literally means ‘approach.’ In English, approach can mean ‘to come near’ or ‘to come nearer’. Generally, we use the 2nd sense, but Prabhupada in this special case uses the 1st sense.

With best wishes,

Hridayananda das Goswami

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Q&A with Hridayananda Maharaja on Deity Worship

Question: I actually have had a burning question that I cannot ask anyone in my circle of temple folk. I now feel that you would be the best authority to answer it (and please forgive my crude articulation): I have read in several places that the yuga dharma in the age prior to Kali-yuga was deity worship, and that this isn’t the yuga dharma for the age we live in currently. Do you feel that the current state of deity worship in Kali-yuga is a sentimental holdover of the prior age, and ultimately unnecessary now, or is it still a valid means of spiritual advancement and very necessary for our current movement? Are we not far enough into Kali-yuga yet to fully appreciate the chanting being the means, and still hold some fondness for the bygone era? Please advise.

Answer by Hridayananda Maharaja:

Regarding Deity worship: even in this age, Deity worship definitely helps us to advance in Krishna consciousness. Prabhupada often gave the example of a train running on two parallel tracks, Bhagavata-vidhi (preaching Bhagavatam) and Pancaratrika-vidhi (Deity worship, which is conducted according to Pancaratrika rules). At the same time, in this age, chanting and preaching are the central processes. Prabhupada emphasized that Deity worship keeps us strong and pure for preaching, so preaching is the central activity. In that sense, we are not missing the yuga-point.

I was struck by a story in Rancor Prabhu’s history of early ISKCON in the UK. An intelligent French girl came from Paris to learn about Krishna consciousness, and despite staying in the temple, serving etc, even seeing Prabhupada, she couldn’t quite grasp personalism, having been immersed in impersonal metaphysics. Then, in her own words, one day she made a flower garland for the Deities and her epiphany occurred. She understood that God is a person. Being personally inclined more to the intellectual side, I found this to be a salutary story. At the same time, when Prabhupada asked me in 1974 to be GBC for Latin America, he said to me: “Let the others build temples and worship the Deities. For the more advanced devotees, there is preaching, writing books etc.” Prabhupada also often said that Deity worship, as a central process, was for the neophytes.

So putting all this together, we come up with a balanced view of the matter. Thus, were I to do a new project away from the temples, I would definitely have some simple form of puja, both for my own purification and for the other members, though I would of course try to do this appropriately in terms of scale and emphasis.

With best wishes,
Hridayananda das Goswami

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