UK, IRM and temple bannings
Since the launch of BTP magazine almost two
years ago, we have highlighted the injustices perpetrated by the
management at Bhaktivedanta Manor, the headquarters of ISKCON UK,
against devotees of Srila Prabhupada who have been banned from their
spiritual master's temple. The reason for this ban was laid down by the
now ex-ISKCON Guru and Temple President, Vipramukhya Swami, who wrote:
|"You are suspect of
supporting and/or advocating the cantankerous word jugglery of
the posthumous ritvik concoctions. […]
In order for me to assist in allowing you to continue visiting
Bhaktivedanta Manor, I need you to satisfy me that you do not
advocate or support the posthumous ritvik theory. You can
do this by signing the following statement […]:
I accept fully to abide by the injunction of the GBC as
implemented by the temple president of Bhaktivedanta Manor not
to advocate or support either at home or at the temple the
unauthorized posthumous ritvik theory.
I accept that if I am found supporting or advocating the
unauthorized posthumous ritvik theories, I will be banned
from the Manor and all its functions and that this ban will take
place immediately. By contravening this agreement, I will risk
being removed by the constabulary and listed with them as a
disturbance to the peace at Bhaktivedanta Manor"
Essentially, this letter states that if you are
suspected of believing that Srila Prabhupada continues to transmit
transcendental knowledge - diksa or divya-jnana - through
his teachings, then you will be labelled as a criminal subject to
prosecution by the police. According to Vipramukhya, his letter was
sanctioned by ISKCON UK Charity Board of Directors Chairman and GBC
member at the time, Sivarama Swami (see BTP 1 for
full reproduction of this
Unfortunately, such cultic mind control continues to be the policy of
Bhaktivedanta Manor's management. As we illustrated in the
last issue of
BTP, the current Temple President, Gauri Das, continued to enforce this
policy of thought-control by stating that anyone who "agrees with the
views and publications" of the IRM will be banned from the temple. Thus
to simply have the wrong OPINION - not even to necessarily voice
it - is enough to be banned from Bhaktivedanta Manor by Gauri Das.
However, it now seems that the tide is beginning to turn with the
involvement of the UK's most influential and powerful body representing
Hindu organisations in the UK. The Hindu Council UK (HCUK), which acts
as a major consultative body to the British government on policies
affecting the Hindu community, as well as the leading voice for Hindus
in the UK's Inter Faith Network, has agreed that such a policy of
banning devotees from worshipping in the temple is against the
principles of devotion to Srila Prabhupada and Lord Krishna. Ironically,
Bhaktivedanta Manor is itself an affiliated member of the HCUK.
Its General Secretary, Mr. Anil Bhanot, wrote to Gauri Das as follows:
"They presented their
case in detail and I do sympathise with their situation, which
is particularly traumatic for the families involved. Clearly
there is a difference in the interpretation of the theological
philosophy ordained by the Iskcon founding father Swami
Prabhupada by the two different schools of thought but that in
itself should not seek to impose barriers on one's right and
devotion to Swami Prabhupada and indeed Lord Krishna himself […]
As regards the magazine
for the propagation of their philosophy of Swami Prabhupada, as
I understand it the magazine is produced by a much larger
movement and has a wide subscription. One cannot be banned from
worshiping Lord Krishna for simply being suspected of agreeing
with the contents of the magazine, for then you would be seeking
to penalise persons simply for the thoughts they may be carrying
around in their heads."
Here we see that the Hindu Council boldly
upholds the right to freedom of speech, thought, conscience and
religion, including the propagation of Srila Prabhupada's philosophy
through BTP magazine; and opposes the immoral bannings which have led to
trauma for the families involved, particularly the young children who
have been unable to visit the temple with their parents for 2 years now.
Readers will be pleased to learn that following the receipt of this
letter from the powerful and influential HCUK, Gauri Das has now backed
down from his previous position of absolute thought control (anyone
who "agrees with the views and publications" of the IRM will be banned
from the temple), to one of at least allowing persons to visit,
albeit still under draconian conditions.
Now he states in a letter to the HCUK, that one can at least BELIEVE
in the IRM - only now they must desist from practising their beliefs by
not distributing any IRM literature anywhere where many ISKCON devotees
could be present!
As a consequence of the HCUK's involvement, Gauri Das has invited the
IRM and HCUK to further dialogue with him. We will report on any
developments in future issues of BTP.
The principled stance taken by the HCUK deserves much credit. The HCUK
campaigns on issues of major international importance affecting the
rights of Hindu communities, so clearly it regards such a basic
violation of freedom of worship in its home country as equally
important. Recently the HCUK organised the first ever celebration of
Ramnavami at the British Parliament's House of Commons.
In the meantime, we would humbly remind Gauri Das that Bhaktivedanta
Manor is named after and belongs to the very person whose glories the
IRM is seeking to defend from those who say he is "dead"; namely, His
Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. And no one should be
banned from worshipping in Srila Prabhupada's temple.
Prabhupada: "Oh. So that we cannot
cancel: "These hippies are not admitted." No. We admit everyone. We
cannot say that "Such and such person cannot enter into our temple."
We cannot say. Everyone is welcome. Everyone is welcome... We cannot
say, just like, in some hotels, that "Such and such persons are not
admitted." No. We cannot.
We admit everyone." (Conversation, 29th April 1969, Boston)
"In our Temple all Europeans, Indians, Mohammedans, Christians,
everyone is welcome."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter to Ksirodakasayi, 29th January 1970)