Bhaktivedanta Vaikhanas Swami has written a couple of statements in regards to Tirtha Swami who has invited Bharati Maharaja to visit and initiate disciples in the sanga. I haven’t really followed this debate because I find it to be… well, not as siddhantically based and therefore not as interesting.
But Vaikhanas Swami latest post on the other hand caught my attention, mostly because of the hilarious picture he attached.
The background is as following: Tirtha Swami made sexual advances towards a couple of teenage girls which was unwanted. Afterwards when this became official, there were a lot of back and forth where Tirtha Swami acknowledge this situation, then he retracted and said it never happened etc. He accepted no punishment and kept on going like before. This was the point where the sannyasi board (I think) found out that they had no authority to extract any punishment and really do anything. Tirtha Swami continued like nothing had happened.
This happened in 2012, four years ago.
What interested me in the latest statement by Vaikhanas Swami is this:
What I am seeking is positive input and recommendations on how to move forward as individuals and communities. What could we do to improve relationships, build trust, define ourselves and our values, develop projects, and take care of one another- all these things.
I think all of these situations occur to help the sanga increase their tolerance and communication skills.
One of the immature ways of dealing with offenders or people who holds different siddhantic understandings from “us” is to ban them: We don’t want to see or hear them. But banning doesn’t really solve any problems, the issue will remain. If a sannyasi falls down, it will not help to ban a person and it will especially create havoc for the fallen person. This will not be in the best spiritual interest for the fallen person or for the sanga. We have to learn how to deal with such person and let them stay in the sanga, but with constant supervision (if we are talking sexual offenders). We have to learn how to interact with a person where we despise the persons actions, but not necessarily the person. This also goes for people we disagree with siddhantically.
I think another problem for the people in the sanga is that they want the sannyasis to be something they are not (liberated, maha-bhagavats). We want people to uphold the highest ideals, so that we can just follow and not put any effort into our understanding. Just let that sannyasi define everything for us.
Life is now showing us that this is not the case in most instances. We have to be very careful where we put all our faith. And even then, we need to think for ourselves. In siddhantic debates, use your intelligence to figure out the solution rather than being told what the truth is.
If we want change and progress, then we have to do it
Exactly, it begins in our hearts with asking ourselves what is the most loving response to this situation that can help all parties.
Since I’m so far removed from all these problems, I may be too optimistic, but I don’t really think of all of this as our sanga fractioning. Why? Because we all are dedicated to Gurudeva – that will not change though we have different ideas about how to be dedicated. Personality differences will always be there, people will disappoint you, people will not act the way you want them to be, people will not have the personality you want them to be.
People will seek siksa from different sannyasis. This is a natural evolution and they don’t abandon Gurudeva in the process.
When I was in Vrindavin I met one devotee which I had previously disagreed with on this blog. She remembered me and we got talking (though she knew nothing of the blog). I told her how she had helped me in service. I may disagree with her in one instance, but I’m still indebted to her because she has shown me how to do some service. She is my senior and she is lovely. I would never hit her on the head about how we disagree on something. It’s not important.
If we want to unite the sanga it begins with your heart. It begins with you smiling to the other one and say haribol, creating a connection that can survive any differences. It begins with just showing that you care about a person, differences be damned.
And the devotees keep on coming with gems of quotes:
Devotee: Why are there so many conflicting ideas for the ISKCON movement?
Gour Govinda Swami: Bah, stop it! There is no conflict. No conflict. No conflict. You are a mad fellow. There is no conflict, no confusion. It is all clear, bābā. Conflict and confusion are within you. Therefore you see conflict. If you put on yellow glasses, everything looks yellow. A man sees the reflection of his mind. In your mind there is conflict and confusion, and therefore you see it outside.
When Hanuman went to Ravana’s capital Lanka, he was extremely angry because the demon Ravana had kidnapped his master’s wife, Sita. Out of anger, Hanuman’s eyes were red hot. Ravana had kept Sita in a very lovely garden, called the Ashok Van. Aśoka means, “no lamentation”. That garden was extremely beautiful. Ravan had brought so many varieties of nice flowers, fruits, and birds from the heavenly planets. In that garden were many wonderful ponds and springs. Hanuman went there, but he saw no variety. He saw everything red, because anger was inside him. His eyes were red hot. Do you understand? Are your doubts clear?
Gour Govinda Swami: No? Why not?
Devotee: For instance, when Srila Prabhupada was directly present, everything in ISKCON was under his direction.
Gour Govinda Swami: He is still directing, but you can’t see it. You have no vision. It will take time for you to understand. Be patient and wait, wait, wait. All these problems are inside you. The conflict is within you. Therefore you see such things outside.
— From a lecture in Bhubaneswar on 23 March 1993.
Devotee: Some of the senior devotees are very concerned for the work you have done, on our behalf and for the whole world. We are concerned that it will be preserved, now and in the future, as much as possible. Kala may come and change it all.
[Srila Narayana Maharaja:] I know that you want this, but if you are not developing your own Krsna consciousness, you will never be able to do anything.So try to develop.
[Devotee:] We need this sanga to develop. For so many years we have tried to practice on our own, and now we have found a home where we can have like-minded devotees; so we are concerned.
[Srila Narayana Maharaja:] I know you will try, but at last you will see: “Oh, zero.” I know this. This world is controlled by Kala (Time) and kali-yuga. Kali-yuga will not give you permission to do all these good things. You will make a plan, and in a moment the result will be zero.
[Devotee:] Should we try though?
[Srila Narayana Maharaja:] You should try. To try is bhakti. But I never want that rules and regulations should govern bhakti. Some persons forcibly tried to give lessons and control other devotees by kicking them out of the mission. I told them that this is against bhakti. When they did not want to follow my advice, I told them it was better for me to resign; and still I will help in all ways. Now I am satisfied.
Try to realize. Do bhajana and don’t be engaged too much in these things. I am never involved in this.
You should realize my mood, and if you don’t realize it you will have so many troubles. I have served my Gurus a little, and that is why I do some little bhajana. That is why I can reconcile all these things, and I never become unhappy. I have never been unhappy in my entire life.
[Devotee:] So you are saying we can try, but our bhakti should not be disturbed.
[Srila Narayana Maharaja:] Yes, you should do that; and I will be happy