Summer 2006

As part of their attempts to show a more user-friendly face, the GBC have made many attempts at a “make-over” to project a more inclusive and rational approach to solving conflict and dealing with schisms in ISKCON. This has included setting up an Ombudsman service, and at this year’s GBC meetings, HH Jayadavaita Swami was invited to give a whole presentation to the GBC on how to resolve conflict. His presentation was heartily appreciated by the GBC, and two of his recommendations were:

“2. Recognize that efforts to shut down or drive out dissenters - while sometimes perhaps required or inevitable - have only limited effectiveness, and may sometimes backfire.

6. In response to competition, recognize that combative responses alone are likely to fail without improvements in your “product, marketing, and customer service.” ”
(HH Jayadvaita Swami, Presentation to the GBC, 2006)

At this year’s Rathayatra festivals, we saw evidence of just how ISKCON has decided to apply the above recommendations for conflict resolution.

“There is no difference between me and my picture. Therefore we should honor and keep pictures in that spirit. If we throw pictures this way and that way, that is offense. The name and picture are as good as the person in spiritual world. In the material world either picture or person, everything is illusion.”
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, September 4th, 1972)

All these activities show just how seriously ISKCON is taking Jayadvaita Swami’s advice to NOT try and “shut down and drive out” dissenters, and that “combative responses are likely to fail”. Of course, Jayadvaita Maharaja showed himself what he thought of his own recommendations when he organised an operation at the 2004 Los Angeles Rathayatra to take back BTPs from those who had already received the magazine.

Los Angeles Ratha Yatra 2004

Again, IRM devotees from all over the country came together in LA to work unitedly to ensure that as many devotees as possible received the truth about Srila Prabhupada's mercy being freely available to all.
However just before the trip, to ensure that enough IRM New York devotees could attend, a staunch Srila Prabhupada disciple, Mother Akara, who used to serve at the original 55th Street skyscraper temple in Manhattan, went out on sankirtan on the streets of New York and collected enough funds for herself and five other devotees to fly to the event! Not wanting to run into the same problems of running out of stock as we had in New York, this time our devotees had come armed with 1500 magazines!

Again the parade was swamped very quickly with devotees and magazines. Devotees by the dozens were reaching for BTPs. Everywhere appreciative hands were grabbing magazines and everyone was all smiles. There were so many BTPs in everyone's hands, and so many of us, that the usual "devotee/thug" contingent which normally tries to stop our preaching efforts with violence, didn't know what to do.
They began shouting, "They're everywhere! Don't take those!". Of course, these shouts were drowned out by so many more shouts of "Can I have one!" After a few hundred magazines were distributed, HH Jayadvaita Swami went into a panic (perhaps unsurprisingly, since he was exposed in BTP4 as having admitted that the GBC's philosophical justification for Guru successors "stretches the truth"), and he organised a group of devotees to go around taking magazines back from the devotees who had already received them.

He then boasted that he was going to use the magazines as "firewood". After a while, he and his team had managed to collect a boxful of magazines back, and a brahmacari was charged with disposing of the box. On the way, however, he was intercepted by Ghanashyama, one of the IRM devotees from New York. Somehow, he managed to retrieve the box from the brahmacari, and all the magazines were re-distributed!

Nevertheless, by the end of the day Jayadvaita Swami had managed to collect another half-box of BTPs, which was placed behind the BBT book table guarded by numerous devotees. However, as the last beat of the drum on a perfect day, the IRM's lion Jayananda Das walked behind the BBT table and just simply took the box away.

Nobody moved or said a word. And quickly all these magazines were distributed again. Then Jayananda marched over to Jayadvaita Swami and said with a smile, "You won't be able to set Srila Prabhupada on fire this winter, because I have taken all the BTPs back and redistributed them!"

Obviously, ISKCON does not believe in devotees being allowed to read the arguments for themselves and making up their own minds. These violent responses are even more bizarre when one considers that in a recent academic publication the GBC have also stated that:

“There is no doubt that both ISKCON’s leadership and the IRM have acted and are acting to establish what each considers the correct theological conclusion with regard to the affairs of gurus and disciples.”
(GBC submission, “The Rival Positions in the IRM-GBC Controversy within ISKCON”, Martin Luther University, Germany, 2006).