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Monday, April 22, 2013

MISSION STATEMENT

Enlightening readers about the beliefs and practices of the Hare Krishna (ISKCON) cult is the sole purpose of this blog and my website, The ISKCON Cult Unveiled at http://www.iskconcultunveiled.com/. Many of the essays I have written over the past seven years deal with controversial issues and others deal with basic philosophical concerns.
Like most cults, ISKCON is two-faced: it has a private side that it reveals to its adherents and another is reserved for the public. Exposing the truth about both aspects of the Hare Krishna movement is vital for a number of reasons that I will summarize shortly. Before I continue, however, let me introduce myself.

Back in 1967, my sister and I (we were 16 and 14 years old, respectively) saw a group of Hare Krishna devotees dancing and singing at one of the famous Central Park “Be-In” hippie events in the “Summer of Love.” One of the devotees approached me and invited me to the group’s “love feast” that they held every Sunday. (For more details about our actual visit, please see my blog essay, “Reductive Thinking and Cult Propaganda: the Case of ISKCON.”) I began high school that September and in December, my sister and I were initiated by the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami (also called “Srila Prabhupada”).

Our guru had come to New York only the year before, so I became at that time both one of the earliest and youngest initiated devotees. We certainly were sincere and stalwart devotees, going to school during the week and worshipping our deities at home and living for the weekends when we would take the subway train to the temple and help prepare the Sunday love feast. We also carefully read all of the scriptures our guru translated (or so we thought) and for which he also prepared commentaries (“purports”), such as The Bhagavad-Gita As It Is and the multi-volume Srimad Bhagavatam (Bhagwat Purana). We also created oil paintings of various scenes in the Krishna legend in our spare time.

After two years, my elder sister married a devotee and moved to St. Louis to start a temple there. Her loss left me to pursue my devotional service in near total isolation, but I persevered. Tragically, just after I graduated from high school, I was told by my sister, her husband, and Srila Prabhupada’s personal secretary that our guru had ordered me to marry one Gopal Krishna dasa, an Indian (now the guru Gopal Krishna Goswami) then living at the Montreal temple. I was only 17 years old. (As it turns out, Srila Prabhupada told me himself that he had never given such an order.) For me, that horrific event ended the honeymoon phase of my involvement with the Hare Krishna movement.

But I digress. I do, however, want to make it perfectly clear that I knew the founder-acharya of the Hare Krishna movement personally (in fact, he never failed to greet me whenever we met, even when there was a crowd of other devotees present). I also wrote many letters to him, all of which he answered, sometimes at length (see one very influential photocopy of one at the end of this blog page). Critics of my views, all absolute strangers who never met me or my guru, think their fanatic adherence to his now-thoroughly discredited views entitles them to diagnose me as an insane person and recommend that I seek professional help. Such persons are themselves delusional and, should they ever find the fortitude to reject the nonsensical beliefs they slavishly follow, will find themselves on a therapist’s coach for years to come.

It is a daunting task to summarize the truly bizarre beliefs that our guru held and that he insisted we accept without any investigation on our part. As I and many others have written elsewhere, the problem seems to have its source in his belief that Gaudiya (Bengali) Vaishnavism is the ultimate expression of devotion to Lord Krishna, despite the fact that the philosophy of the character of Bhagwan Sri Krishna in the Gita and the Indian folk stories about the antics of Krishna and his cowherd gopis cannot be compared. He also held that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, a Bengali Krishna enthusiast, was an incarnation of both Radha and Krishna together, ignoring the obvious: read the Chaitanya Charitamrita and a picture emerges of a cross-dressing Brahmin whose ”devotional” proclivities are better left unstated.

How could I, a woman who, after leaving ISKCON after wasting 13 years of life there, manage to earn a B.A. and M.A. while raising my son alone and working a demanding, full-time job (I have worked for a total of 33 years), if, as Srila Prabhupada insisted, women have half the brains of men and (I quote) “there is no very great scientist, mathematician, philosopher among woman.” In these and other laughably ignorant comments about so-called Vedic science— coming from a one-time chemist who, by his own admission, never read the Vedas—A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami proved that he lacked the authority by education and common sense to represent the wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita to the West. How could we naively sit by and listen to this man state that the moon is farther away than the sun and the astronauts could never have gone to the moon since it is a “heavenly” planet and they never worshipped the moon-god Chandra in the first place?

Rather than continuing to hide their fundamental beliefs under a cloak of secrecy, ISKCON leaders and members should adopt a full disclosure policy immediately. Your lives--your souls--deserve no less. We  are all reminded from the lethal building collapses in the news that to live in a building with a faulty foundation is to court disaster.

Before ending, I want to restate that my writings are intended solely to educate and inform. Furthermore, I strongly believe in freedom of religion, but still insist that children, who, as the gurukula tragedy taught the public are helpless in such an irrational and abusive world view, are educated in public or private schools with a state-approved curriculum. I also despise and disavow any kind of discriminatory views, whether they concern women, ethnic groups of any kind, races, or religion. Lastly, I want to make it clear that the views expressed in this blog are mine alone and that I labor on them without assistance and have never received any financial help of any kind to support my efforts.

Select Essays on Various Topics in This Blog

Abuse of the Legacy of Ramakrishna Paramhamsa and Swami Vivekananda:

http://harekrishnacultexposed.blogspot.com/2012/09/standing-on-shoulders-of-giants.html

ISKCON Pretends to be an Ambassador of India's Cultural Heritage:

http://harekrishnacultexposed.blogspot.com/2011/10/iskcon-cultural-center-hoax.html

Using the Bhagavad-Gita to Advance ISKCON's Ambitions in Russia:

http://harekrishnacultexposed.blogspot.com/2012/03/gita-and-russia-another-iskcon-public.html

Female Infanticide and Selective Abortion:

http://harekrishnacultexposed.blogspot.com/2012/01/sequin-for-mr-al-zahrani-very-short.html

Evils of Arranged Marriage and Treatment of Widows in India:

http://harekrishnacultexposed.blogspot.com/2010/03/widows-and-child-brides-no-more.html

Child Abuse in ISKCON and Organized Religion:

http://harekrishnacultexposed.blogspot.com/2011/08/sex-abuse-claiments-win-big-justice-at.html

Link between Cultural Intrusions in Russia and Terrorism:

http://harekrishnacultexposed.blogspot.com/2011/01/islamic-tribalism-converts-and-terror.html







Tuesday, January 15, 2013

SELF-DIAGNOSIS & THE GURU SYNDROME

If a beggar clad in a saffron robe knocked on your door demanding entry with a sob story about how the food another family fed him gave him a heart attack, would you admit him or direct him to the nearest pharmacy to buy a bottle of antacids? I know what I would do. Hypochondriacs at least do not intend to commit fraud by their habits of self-diagnosis, but the wandering sannyasi clearly does. This type of emotional appeal to decent people is a favorite tactic of con artists everywhere. The modus operandi is simplicity itself: pose as a representative of a recognized charity or religious order and pull the heart-strings of the target with stories of your selfless devotion to your noble cause and the poverty you have endured in its pursuit. If you are lucky, your target will confide in you and he will receive from you a solemn promise that you will keep any information he divulges strictly confidential. However,  this business is nothing more than an attempt to blackmail a trusting soul. Better be prepared:  once the ruse is discovered, all hell will break loose.

These Indian Wizards of Oz will continue to practice their ruses in the West as long as gullible truth-seekers look to them for easy and exotic pathways to the truth. Legions of such fools have wasted their lives pursuing these illusions, and more seem to come out of nowhere bent on the same foolishness. We are all familiar with the claims of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi camp in the sixties that he could teach them “yogic flying,” which turned out to be nothing more than a matter of a guy in a lotus position jumping up and down on a foam mattress. Wildly exaggerated claims abound; for example, followers of Sri Chinmoy claim that “he has written 1,200 books, 62,000 poems, and 14,000 songs.” What is beyond dispute is that these gurus are two-legged myth-making machines and two-faced liars. Osho Rajneesh gained considerable infamy for calling his disciples “sannyasins” and then encouraging them to satisfy their sexual urges like a bunch of frenzied animals in heat. Secretive illicit sexual connections were widely reported of Sri Chinmoy, and more recently, have characterized the sexual proclivities of the youthful guru Nithyananda.

In the case of the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, his self-diagnosis of the “heart attack” he suffered on the Jaladuta (the ship that he took to travel to the U.S. with just a few dollars in his pocket) has become the stuff of legend. Trouble is, the extreme distress some travelers experience due to bad food and turbulence is often mistaken for a heart attack, but it is simply a severe case of acid reflux. You simply do not suffer a heart attack at an advanced age and get up and walk off the ship with your little suitcase. It might be hard to digest, but it’s the truth.

http://www.behind-the-tm-facade.org/Transcendental_Meditation-myths.htm.


http://www.rickross.com/reference/srichinmoy/srichinmoy17.html.

http://www.salon.com/1999/10/20/osho/.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/57807/cult-preying-feeding-anxieties.html.


Tuesday, January 08, 2013

OF SCAPEGOATS & SUB-HUMANS: THE NEW DELHI RAPE AND CULTURAL PRIMITIVISM


For sheer brutality, the rape, torture, kidnapping, and murder of a young Indian student in New Delhi last month is astonishing, even in a country known for its ingrained misogyny. Protests continue unabated in India and the topic will continue to rivet the news media world-wide for a long time. The low status of women and the ossified state of the Indian legal system make prosecuting the offenders of such cases (few, unfortunately, are reported) very difficult. Moreover, the current state of affairs is also fundamentally incompatible with the rapid modernization that is sweeping across the sub-continent. One thing is for certain: swarms of morally crippled brutes--of which the monsters who savaged that innocent student are a representative sample—have made life a hell for Indian women who venture outside with or without a male escort. Why are so many young Indian men sliding backwards into a state of feral, sex-crazed savagery and why is it being tolerated?

That religion should ennoble rather than degrade humanity is a noble claim, but history has shown time and again that it is often without warrant. Instead, religious beliefs tend to promote self-serving, irrational notions. One of the worst of these uses what psychologists have termed “transference”; simply put, it is the means by which a culpable party seeks to objectify their moral evils and put the blame for them on an innocent party (usually called the “scapegoat”). This practice, visible in the Judeo-Christian scriptures as well as the Vedic system, is fundamentally a matter of a corrupt and powerful individual or entity seeking to ritually purify the self or group from sins for which they are entirely responsible.

Indian culture is permeated with myths and superstitions that promote the treatment of women as scapegoats. For example, the Laws of Manu claim that

Consuming liquor, association with wicked persons, separation from her husband, rambling around, sleeping for unreasonable hours and dwelling -are six demerits of women (9.13).i

So, if a woman is “rambling around,” how to control her? The answer, as the slavering beasts in New Delhi have shown the world, is to degrade her. Worse, people who otherwise seem models of propriety have sought to export these warped ideas to the West, usually under the guise of teaching the“degraded West” the Vedic system. Many examples abound, but speaking from my own experience as an early Hare Krishna follower of Bhaktivedanta Swami, this is a familiar and highly distressing pattern. The general tactic is disarmingly simple: praise men for their alleged intellectual and moral superiority and attack women for being dull, lustful temptresses. It amazed me when I was a young teenager to see how readily educated European and American men fell for this nonsense and so I was not in the least surprised to see how Indian men have reverted to using young women as scapegoats for their irrelevance and insecurities. As one commenter to today’s Wall Street Journal writes:

It's high time that these animals get over their gender bias and act like men, instead of sex crazed animals. Further, there ought to be severe penalties.ii

Indeed, but what penalties would be severe enough? The rapists who did the unthinkable to such a fine, intelligent young girl anyone would be proud to call a daughter or sister should be executed after a speedy trial. Enough of dragging out the legal process for decades. Like it or not, gropers will soon find their hands and fingers cut off and others will get doused with pepper spray. In my opinion, the pen might be mightier than the sword, but, in a pinch, the sword will do just fine.

http://nirmukta.com/2011/08/27/the-status-of-women-as-depicted-by-manu-in-the-manusmriti/ This website is an excellent resource for any rational analysis of Hinduism, even for believers.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323482504578227751166162988.html?mod=WSJ_article_comments#articleTabs%3Dcomments.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

LOTUS DREAMS AND CULT ILLUSIONS

No symbol of Eastern mysticism is as easily recognizable as the lotus, with its petals giving shape to the eyes of innumerable deities and its long stem rising high above other aquatic flowers in sublime isolation. The sight of a group of these pink, white, and (rarely) blue beauties is enough to lull one into a trance, an effect only heightened by the saffron pollen glistening on a disk at the center of each whorl of lotus petals. Less known, however, is the habit of this plant to colonize wetlands to such an extent that oxygen is sharply reduced and fish have a reduced survival rate. Too much lotus can mean too little life.

Similarly, the expression “to eat lotus” meaning “to forget” is derived from Western mythology, specifically the passage in Book 9 of Homer’s Odyssey when the Greek hero Odysseus lands on an island inhabited by a tribe that eats lotus for its narcotic effects. When his crew eats the lotus, he finds they become forgetful to the extent that they wish to stay where they are and must be forced to return to the ship. Whether the plant in question is the lotus or opium poppy is unimportant. Life is a journey fraught with perils and difficulties, but using anything that promotes delusions and forgetfulness is a meandering walk to a steep cliff.

Hardened cultists are all perched on this cliff of delusion, holding on to each other as they are buffeted by the winds of reason and commonsense. Why do they continue to adhere to nonsensical beliefs and devotion to so-called gurus and other cult leaders, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that they have been swindled mercilessly? I believe that this phenomenon has its roots in the years they have lost and their inability to fill this void without a new set of role models. Parents who abandoned their children to cults rarely accept responsibility for their actions anyway. The gurus who were treated as if both gods and parents were most often vicious charlatans better off forgotten like the bones dogs bury in fields littered with feces and vermin.

Some ISKCON cultists have lost their childhoods, teenage and young adult years and find themselves in a desperate state when necessity drives them to the outside world. Poor education, irrational beliefs about the universe and human relations prove an overwhelming obstacle to many. Years of expensive therapy are needed in most cases, but how to afford it? No wonder so many ex-cult members return to the cult like dogs to their vomit: they simply feel they have nowhere else to go. The job isn’t merely to get one; it is to start thinking for yourself with a vengeance.

Admit that everything you are entitled to as a human being might not be possible for you to re-capture and then focus on those matters you feel are most conducive to your happiness and well-being. For once, you decide.

On a lighter note and in a related train of thought:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PkcfQtibmU

Saturday, September 15, 2012

STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS


  
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

As I sat in the train this morning looking for the few remaining swans that float in pairs in the wetlands just off the Hudson River, I felt a pang in my heart. Such loyalty and grace! If time is a stern teacher, one of its hardest lessons is that these qualities--so natural in these creatures—are one of mankind’s rarest and most transient possessions. Too many people we believe are worthy of our deepest regard abuse our trust and often in ways that can only disgust and disappoint. Among the worst of these are people in high leadership positions who base their claims of authority on the spotless reputation of their predecessors. Unfortunately for these charlatans (in politics, religions, etc.), when they fall, their so-called authoritative claims collapse like a deck of cards. What their followers once took for a swan is in fact more akin to a vulture. When one hears of these betrayals of faith, it is consoling to remember the few genuine paramahamsas who emerge from the mists of time more gracious and loyal than the swans after which they are named. At moments like this, their memory is balm to the wounded soul who might imagine himself as one of the swans’ offspring that awkwardly paddle along in the wake of their majestic parents.

Great souls, moreover, are as likely to appear as leaders in science and the arts as they do in religion or philosophy. Gifted with the legendary discriminatory powers of the paramahamsas (“great swans”) of Hindu legend, these men and women of genius instinctively seek out the essential and categorically reject false or interpolated “facts” in any field of endeavor. This quality is not simply a product of innate intelligence, but is carefully honed using an educational model based on the scientific method of inquiry. Although the phenomena studied can vary widely, the procedure is the same: data needs to be collected carefully using observation and experimentation, and conclusions can be reached only after testing one’s hypothesis under a rigid control model. Terminology must also be clear and the methodology used must be clear enough to be reproduced by one’s peers. In the end, the conclusion must be a logical consequence of the hypothesis. Poets and artists use a similar method in that they must closely observe phenomena and proceed with their interpretation with as much craft as imagination. One of the best examples of this marriage of skill and artistic expression is the aptly-named Sundarakanda of the Valmiki’s Ramayana.

In religion, the stakes are much higher and for good reason: spirituality is a quality shared by humanity in general and the yearning for transcendence is universal. Our conscience is an innate quality born of our unique cerebral capabilities, the byproduct of which is our capability to see ourselves objectively. For some, this leads to the impression that we are embodied spirits. Those of us who share this belief that we are souls sent here on a mission by our Creator find our consciences guided by His presence, be it the Paramatma or the Holy Spirit. A complement to this understand is the general notion of all monotheistic religions that since God created us, it is illogical and profoundly barbaric to create an image of Him and worship it as the Deity. These shared agreements notwithstanding, the notion that the Hindu religion is peopled by idol worshippers of every description dominated Western views of the subcontinent until the late 19th century. If not for the courageous efforts of the great Bengali Hindu reformers, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and his disciple, Swami Vivekananda, this view might very well have remained unchallenged to this day.

As a student of religion who spent her teenage years and most of her young adulthood as a disciple of the Gaudiya Vaishnava guru, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, it never fails to amaze me how he reviled the fellow Indian mystics who not only introduced Hinduism to the West. Moreover, if not for their combined efforts, the receptivity of his ideas to these foreigners would have been virtually nil. In other words, my guru stood on the shoulders of the giants of modern Hinduism and had the temerity to declare that he and the cult peopled by his mostly-Western followers superseded all of them. If not for the obfuscation and outright lies that the ISKCON/Hare Krishna movement has perpetrated on a sizable portion of the Hindu public in India and abroad, I would never have spent so much time expounding on how Bhaktivedanta Swami dismissed the legacy of such great Indian patriots as Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, and Maharshi Dayananda Saraswati. However, the truth must be told and I hope that my words reach their intended audience.
Swami Vivekananda
To begin this section of my essay, there is no better introduction than the great speech Swami Vivekananda gave as a delegate to the 1893 Parliament of the World’s religions in Chicago, beginning with the famous “Brothers and Sisters of America”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxUzKoIt5aM . This electrifying performance, while it obviously thrilled the audience, must have reached the heavens, where I hope it was received with great satisfaction by Vivekenanda’s guru, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (who attained mahasamadhi in 1886). What praise can be sufficient for such a guru and disciple? Vivekenanda’s bold assertion of interfaith communality had a solid comparative basis inasmuch as he was a profoundly learned man—truly a prodigy—whose accomplishments included, in addition to a deep knowledge of Sanskrit scripture, a wide-ranging study of Western philosophers from David Hume to Charles Darwin. That is, he was a student of Western skepticism and proceeded as a disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa armed with a thorough understanding of philosophy both from religious and agnostic viewpoints. His advancement of the term that “all religions are pathways to God” was therefore not simply a matter of blind faith, but also an understanding based on study, observation, and the development of a terminology based on a widely-understood knowledge base. In other words, to the extent possible, Vivekenanda’s understanding of comparative religion had a scientific basis. Nevertheless, Vivekananda, was, as the philosopher William James called him, “the paragon of Vedantists.” His appreciation of other faiths never led him to waver in his own staunch Hinduism.

How appalling, therefore, to learn that the Hare Krishna guru, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, who, as I have stated, could never have attained an iota of his preaching success in America and abroad but for the great Indian pioneers who cleared the path before him, openly insulted them. For example, he dismissed the Ramakrishna Mission as “simply bogus propaganda” and its founder, Swami Vivekenanda, as a “rascal, claiming that he had “ruined the Vedic culture.” He was so incensed at the thought that his godbrother, Bon Maharaj, had been influenced by Vivekenanda that he claimed that their guru, Srila Bhaktisiddanta Maharaja, called Bon Maharaj a “black gorilla.” This fear of competition from even his own godbrothers led Bhaktivedanta Swami to issue a letter (dated 3 September, 1975) forbidding his disciples from having any dealings with any of them. Similarly, he dismissed the Arya Samaj founded by Maharshi Dayananda Saraswati, claiming in 1971 that “the Arya Samaj movement started in India but it is now dead and gone” and that “the atheistic Arya Samaj does not believe in the Bhagavad Gita.” The latter assertion is utter nonsense: of the 21 Shastras accepted by the Arya Samaj, the Mahabharata is one of them. As for the statement that this world-wide movement with 10 million followers was in 1971 “dead and gone,” all I can say that some comments are too ridiculous to deserve any kind of serious response.

Maharshi Dayananda Saraswati
It is fitting to conclude this essay by praising a few of Maharshi Dayananda Saraswati’s beliefs that are exemplary regardless of one’ s religion or nationality. The first is the preference he gave to “Nyaya,” or logic in one’s life, be it interpretation of scripture or life in general. The second is his admonition that we should think for ourselves and understand that in the search for knowledge, trial and error is inevitable. He was a reformer in the best sense of the term. His unrelenting push for Swadeshi in India had a major role in the successful fight for independence and the freedom fighters of the Arya Samaj gave their lives to the struggle in disproportionately large numbers. In comparison, the members of the ISKCON/Hare Krishna temples spend most of their donated income building ornate temples filled with idols that they dress in a manner reminiscent of the most garishly-costumed Bollywood stars imaginable. Nearby are lotus-shaped asanas for their gurus, many of which are better suited for the circus. Indeed, the entire operation of the ISKCON empire rests upon a shaky foundation of a multitude of scams meant to hoodwink donors and others of their money (including illegal land-selling scams in India), guru and idol worship, and blind adherence to their ill-informed, pseudo-Hindu doctrines. Disillusioning their members privately and chastising them publicly would be far more effective than sending these cultists donations that they cannot be trusted to use for philanthropic purposes.







Monday, June 04, 2012

A FOOL'S PARADISE

If a fool is born every minute, it is just as tragic that their foolishness survives their childhoods. Gullible people are emotionally needy, usually in response to abuse and neglect in the early years. Betrayed and lonely, they seek those who value their services and reward their loyalty. Cults, gangs, and other sociopathic groups commonly take advantage of these wounded personalities. Whether they use the guises of enlightenment or rebellion against authority to dupe their followers, they are doubly criminal: they use lost souls to commit crimes and rob them of their souls in the process.

As I write in my newly-updated website (http://mysite.verizon.net/vze4x2q7/), another development in this soul-destruction business has firmly taken root in the practices of the ISKCON or Hare Krishna cult. No longer characterized by ex-hippies and similar types in America and Europe, today the supporters of this proto-Hindu group are primarily Indian in origin. Respect for tradition and generosity characterize this large, educated, and prosperous group. However, they have been as just duped as the earlier followers who joined ISKCON in the decades after its founder-acharya, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, took his ideas to New York City in 1966. Unknown to the sincere Indians who, under the mistaken impression that these ISKCON temples are genuinely Hindu, these temples are edifices built on repugnant and anti-intellectual principles. My new essay, “ISKCON and Pederasty, Part Two” will prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that what I speak is the truth.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

THE GITA AND RUSSIA: ANOTHER ISKCON PUBLIC RELATIONS SCAM

The Indian and Russian people have been the victims of a public relations scam orchestrated by a sect masquerading as Hindus. Known as ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) and for their street chanting and opulent temples both in India and in the West, this sect/cult is controlled by swamis who see nothing wrong with meddling in Indian politics as a means to legitimize their operations. Their recent alliance with the VHP (Vishnu Hindu Parishad, a fundamentalist Indian movement) regarding the alleged “banning” of the Bhagavad Gita in Russia illustrates this point. This tempest-in-a-teapot is nothing more than a transparent ploy on the part of ISKCON to abuse Hindu religious sentiment and thereby force the authorities in Moscow and Tomsk to agree to their temple and community building demands.

• Far from banning the Gita: in Tomsk, Russia, the court order filed on 30 June, 2011, only concerned part of the translation by ISKCON’s founder, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. Although this action was supposedly taken at the behest of the local Russian Orthodox Church, the real factor is believed to be a ban the same year of an ISKCON community in that region and also the matter of governmental opposition to erection of a large temple in Moscow. Why did a small part of a translation of a Hindu scripture catch the attention of the authorities in Tomsk at this particular juncture of events? And why did ISKCON try its best to use this minor issue to turn Indian legislators against Russia, one of its most steadfast allies? Instead of encouraging all parties to consider the evidence like rational human beings, the ISKCON leaders exploited the sentiments of Hindus in a ploy to turn them into an angry, seething mob.

• A letter dated 1 November 2011 written by Gopal Krishna Goswami (ISKCON “governing body commissioner” for much of Russia and India) and addressed to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s principal secretary and a copy of which was sent to Sonia Gandhi and External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, repeated the court’s assessment by a panel of experts that “Krishna is evil and not compatible with Christian values.” Why this claim was made and what passages in the Gita might have instigated this assessment are never referred to; indeed, the ISKCON public relations machine took this claim and used it to inflame anti-Russian sentiment by Hindus over the world by treating this court order as a wholesale war on Hinduism by the Russian government.

• Facts: The Bhagavad Gita is a philosophical treatise composed between 200 BC and 200 CE; it consists of 700 verses in eighteen chapters and concerns the conversation between the warrior Arjuna and his charioteer, Lord Krishna (the incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu). It is itself a part of the great Indian epic poem, the Mahabharata. Although many scholars regard it as an allegory, the ISKCON movement takes it literally and places it as occurring approximately 5000 years ago. The translation by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami includes his commentaries after each verse. It is some of these commentaries that incited the court order last year in Tomsk, Russia.

Understanding the situation of Arjuna in the Gita is essential to understanding why the panel of experts cited by the court in Tomsk claimed that “Krishna is evil and not compatible with Christian values.” The action begins with Arjuna’s inaction, for, just as the great battle of Kurukshetra was about to begin, he had his chariot parked between the two parties, one of which consisted of his own tribe, the Pandavas, and the other of his 100 cousins, the Kauravas. In other words, this was a giant fratricidal war. Arjuna was simply overwhelmed with grief at the thought of slaying so many of his relatives and at this juncture Krishna advises him for much of the poem on his duties as a member of the kshatriya, or warrior caste. Among the most famous and, for our purposes, most relevant passages in the Gita occur in Chapter Two and are quoted below using the translation in question and a brief excerpt of the commentary on each verse by A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami:

• Chapter Two, Verse 26: “If, however, you think that the soul is perpetually born and always dies, still you still have no reason to lament, O mighty-armed.”

Commentary: “No one laments the loss of a certain bulk of chemicals and stops discharging his prescribed duties.”

• Chapter Two, Verse 27: “For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.”

Commentary: “Why should be afraid of or aggrieved at the death of his relatives since he was discharging his proper duty?”

The problem with these verses and their commentary from a Western point of view should be obvious: what philosophy Krishna is expounding here is based on reincarnation and the caste system. Although few would deny that the Indian caste system is a social abomination that has used and still uses the idea of birthright to elevate others while subjugating and degrading vast numbers of its people, the commentary goes further by treating the verses as examples of philosophical nihilism.

Today, reading these commentaries, I am reminded of Stalin’s famous observation that “a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.” Indeed, the number of enemy combatants Arjuna reportedly killed during only day 14 of the 18-day war was 109,350. Of course, this is all fantasy out of an epic poem, but the point is clear if you are a follower of ISKCON and believe it to be literally true: mass slaughter is a great glory as long as you are doing your “proper duty.”

If that point of view is not evil, what is? How can grief at the loss of life during war be a sign of weakness and, worse, how can a human body be considered “a certain bulk of chemicals?” It seems that the Indian legislators who were whipped into a frenzy at the thought of a far-flung Russian community banning only one of the many translations of the Bhagavad Gita should have sat down and actually read the passages in question. However, like so many people who claim pride in their religion’s scriptures, few apparently took the time to actually read what they are defending.

Finally, I would like to close with a quotation from the 1 November, 2011 letter I referred to earlier in this essay: "We fear this unprecedented attack will trigger rampant bigotry and would unwittingly make it difficult for the Indian government to be seen fostering security, defence, political and economic ties with an intolerant and oppressive society."

Gopal Krishna Goswami need not fear any such reactions from either the Indian or Russian peoples regarding his guru’s commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita. Rather, what he and ISKCON should fear is that all this attention will lead many of those involved or appealed to in this case to actually read the passages in question and see for themselves what irrational, inhumane, and bigoted dogma they truly are. Banning is hardly needed; all the Russians need to do is insert a warning to each reader at the beginning of each book and be done with the whole business.

For more about ISKCON as an intolerant cult, please see the entries in this blog entitled, “Islamic Tribalism, Converts,and Terror: the Case of Russia," "The ISKCON Vedic Cultural Center Hoax," and also my website,
http://mysite.verizon.net/vze4x2q7.