Hindu Council UK, IRM and temple bannings


Summer 2005

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 letter).

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:

HINDU COUNCIL (UK)

"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)