In the Right Direction
I am very happy that the BTG has begun once again. By its spiritual potency, I think my hard heart has been penetrated somewhat in that I'm finding I want to give some of Krsna's money back to Him. I will be sending money on a regular basis.
I was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1975 and distributed his books for eight years. Now I distribute newspapers every morning. I haven't done any service since I left in 1983, and I do not live near a temple. I do not use my spiritual name, because I no longer act in a spiritual manner. Sending this money is my first step in the right direction.
Currently, I'm working toward a computer engineering degree. After graduating, I would like to find work near an ISKCON temple where I could increase my service and get association with devotees. Possibly ISKCON will have some use for my engineering skills.
I would very much like to ask a favor. To avoid any further persecution and harassment, is it possible for you to mail the "Back to Godhead" magazine in an envelope? My mailbox has been vandalized several times, and someone put four bullet holes into the front windshield of my truck. My car has also been pelted with raw eggs as well as vandalized. Thank you for your help!
Of course! Thank you for staying with us through all that. Other readers: If you'd like to receive your BTG's in a plain envelope, just drop a note to our Subscriber Service Center, P.O. Box 16027, N. Hollywood, California 91615-9900. It costs us a few pennies more, but it's worth it to us we want subscribers, not martyrs.
Complete Lectures are Better
The mood of BTG seems much more authorized now that you are printing complete Prabhupada lectures instead of excerpts. I feel more satisfied, and I feel that Krsna is more pleased now that Srila Prabhupada's mood and personality are being presented, not just quotes and instructions (though these are also important).
Kamra Devi Dasi
As a parent with two teenage children, and so experiencing the struggle to provide for them, I am sympathetic to Rohininandana's "Fifty Percent Puzzle" [BTG, November/ December]. But I have a doubt about his conclusion. [Householders, Srila Prabhupada says, should give fifty percent of their money for devotional service. Rohininandana suggested that this means fifty percent of what's left after expenses.]
There's the old maxim "A job expands to the time allotted." So also with one's expenses.
Using Rohininandana's proposed formula, if I have only two dollars left over at the end of the month and give one dollar to Krsna, I'm properly situated.
How do we factor in the example of Kolavecha Sridhara, Lord Caitanya's childhood associate? He earned his small livelihood selling leaf plates and fruit and was sometimes obliged to live only on meals made of tamarind leaves. But he still spent fifty percent of his income on worshiping the Ganges.
Like aiming at offenseless chanting and pure devotional service, better to concede one's current inabilities and accept these instructions as goals to strive for, rather than create a philosophy of a compromised fifty percent for the guilt-free 90's.
To conclude on an encouraging note: In temples I've managed and in my personal life, I've always seen time donated to ISKCON's service as a portion of the fifty percent formula. Working all week at a job and then putting in solid service on the weekends or in the evenings should factor into the equation.
San Diego, California
Badrinarayana Dasa is the president of ISKCON's San Diego temple and a member of ISKCON's Governing Body Commission.
I really appreciated reading the last issue of BTG, as it dealt with a real, very tangible problem in our life as devotees falldown. Maybe this article indicates that we are mature enough to face and discuss this reality without shunning it out of fear, etc. Thank you for this issue.
Smita Krishna Swami
Almviks Gard, Sweden
Your article regarding "spiritual falldown" addressed the single-most important issue our Society can address today.
I'd like to comment on the point that Govinda Vallabha Dasi made. She said, "I mean, okay, I'm fallen, but where do I go from here? Where are we encouraged to speak openly about this?"
Recently in San Diego a group of women devotees with the same question have formed a women's support group. Here the women are able to reveal their minds in confidence and get spiritual support from one another without being judged. It has helped us develop real open relationships with one another. It has helped me overcome the obstacle that Karnamrta Dasa mentioned: "If a devotee's not introspective enough, if he's more concerned with what he should be than what he actually is, you can have a community of devotees relating to each other in a very superficial way."
If anyone has a question regarding how we formed our support group, please write to:
Women's Support Group
1077 Emerald St., Apt. F
San Diego, CA 92109
San Diego, California
I was particularly touched, yes, touched by the article on falldown. I actually felt the heart-depth sincerity of the devotees for each other and the subject. I have been in a bit of an introspective mood here of late and trying to understand better my service to Prabhupada, my relationship with my Godbrothers, and the eternal nature of both. It really is wonderful to see an ISKCON publication deal with these issues that are at the heart of the devotees' service and our ability to continue on against all obstacles placed in our path as we try to find our balance in this world. The anxiety, the compassion, the encouragement it was all there. Keep on with such topics!
St. Louis, Missouri
I would first like to express the appreciation and relief I felt when reading the discussion on "Falldown." I heard maturity, honesty, humbleness, and compassion (including towards one's self) in many of the comments.
As a good devotee friend and I read the article aloud together, we felt Krsna's presence and love very strongly and experienced a lot of healing as we related our lives and observations with what we were reading.
However, the "Straight Talk" column really angered and scared me. I was disturbed by the derogatory phrases, sarcasm, and "we vs. them" attitude. I was a fervent "Jesus person" in my teens and twenties and learned through painful experience the results of becoming spiritually enthused by putting down others.
Bhakta Vic, I respect your dedication, but please be aware that to be sarcastic and judgmental is abusive to yourself and others. I express my reaction as a kindness, not a criticism, and hope it will contribute to growth.
The article on Christ and Krsna consciousness was also very much appreciated. Having a Christian background, I have a deep love and respect for Jesus and his teachings. I was happy to see that there is no conflict according to Prabhupada and that I don't have to feel guilty or inferior because I learned much of my spiritual teaching from a non-Vedic source.
I express my gratefulness for the mercy of God in the many ways He has appeared to us all.
Three Rivers, California
I was pleasantly surprised to see your discussion on "Falldown from Spiritual Life" in Back to Godhead. It has taken many years for devotees to candidly confront the issue of falldown. As a former sannyasi, GBC, and even personal secretary to His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, I would like to help shed some light on the "experience" of falldown.
Falldown is real. Falldown is caused by misuse of one's free will, one's choices. At every waking moment, the jivatma [living being] is free to choose to follow the wanderings of the mind and senses or to surrender to Krsna. When the pattern of choices is contrary to the interests of devotional service to the Supreme Lord Krsna, the regulative principles that tame the mind and senses become progressively more difficult to follow. Knowledge alone is insufficient. One may, in full knowledge of one's predicament, slip back into the pattern of sense gratification.
Having lived outside the movement for fifteen years, I have had many realizations about my life in ISKCON. To begin with, I was very young and inexperienced in so many ways. Although I tried to deal fairly with devotees, I now realize many of my shortcomings. I often regret that as an administrator in the movement I may have stepped on more than a few bhakti creepers. [Scripture likens one's life in bhakti, devotional service, to a creeper or flowering vine.] I also regret my inability to be honest, both with myself and with my spiritual master, when difficulties and doubts arose. This happened not from envy but from immaturity and a fear of being a disappointment should one fail to live up to the most exalted standard of pure devotional service.
The knowledge and realization that come from devotional service are genuine. They are reinforced from within. Once, however, the service attitude is compromised and replaced by the enjoying mode, one is left with many spiritual signposts or road markers yet has nowhere to go. This is the dilemma of falldown. Your devotional service has had the brakes temporarily put on it, and real spiritual advancement is slow. This does not mean, however, that you forget Krsna. It takes many, many years of contemplation to sort out the whole experience.
It is natural for some devotees in the ISKCON framework to feel threatened by the devotee who "bloops" or falls down. But I must share with you the perspective of the fallen devotee. I have had the association of hundreds of such so-called fallen devotees over the last fifteen years. A common theme that comes from many of them is that they feel they had been exploited and then rejected. This, of course, has led many to feel somewhat depersonalized by the movement. It is ironic and heartbreaking that the movement which preaches Vaisnava personalism can somehow [sometimes] depersonalize individuals. Some devotees felt that nobody (i.e., no temple administrators) really cared about them, or loved them, but only wanted them for the tasks they could perform for the temple. When the devotee left the movement, the problem was then sometimes compounded by the disregard or disdain that came upon them when visiting the temple following "falldown." From the harsh treatment they may have received, such devotees even sometimes wondered who had fallen. These are very difficult issues to confront.
Alas, you may think I must be some kind of demon to say such things, but I am not. I have simply been observant and am now being painfully honest. For too long, many devotees, such as myself, have waited for the time when we might feel proud to be identified in the community as "Hare Krsnas." That time will come when each bhakta begins to value each individual he or she meets because that individual is a part and parcel of Krsna. It is proper for devotees to engage everyone they can in the service of the Lord, but don't lose sight of the individual you've just engaged. We're intended to be the servant of the servant of the servant of Sri Krsna.
I have nonetheless come full circle. By Srila Prabhupada's causeless mercy, I am again surrendering and engaging in devotional service, also helping to establish an ISKCON-affiliated temple in Santa Cruz, California. Many of us here are older and more emotionally mature, yet we still see many potential problems ahead. Some devotees left ISKCON altogether and have continued in their capacity to render devotional service. I encourage them to find a way back. Share your maturity with ISKCON. This is Srila Prabhupada's creation.
The introduction of any new cultural movement must be expected to at times be difficult. Much dirty water has now been washed off the "baby" and can be discarded. But don't throw away the baby with the bathwater!
I try to envision myself sitting before Srila Prabhupada and submissively asking him what he wants of me. It is easy to understand what he wants for me and for ISKCON. As the jagat-guru, he wants Krsna consciousness to flourish in every individual and every corner of the world for the pleasure of Sri Krsna. As guru, he holds up a standard for spiritual advancement that we might all aspire to. He wants his disciples to fully reestablish their transcendental loving service with Krsna in this lifetime.
When we alter that standard, then all the potency is lost, for the Vaisnava principle is that service rendered under the guidance of the genuine spiritual master will be acceptable and pleasing to Krsna. Krsna will reciprocate, and everything auspicious to one's spiritual advancement will follow.
We need to nurture each other along on our spiritual journey. When a Godbrother or Godsister is having difficulty, show concern and help them if you are able and willing. Don't trample on their delicate bhakti creeper. Don't be indifferent to those who aspire to render some service to Sri Krsna.
I hope that those who read this, especially the bhaktas who have dedicated their lives to Lord Caitanya's movement, will take this in the constructive mode in which it is intended.
I envision an ever-glorious future for ISKCON, both inside and outside of India, if maturity, honesty, and caring follow from the first twenty-five years of the movement's growth and experience.
Every conditioned soul in the material world is fallen. It is the rule rather than the exception. Those exceptional souls who have at some time in this life sought shelter of Krsna and His representative must be treated with exceptional care. Falldown does not terminate one's devotional service, but rather interrupts it. You must provide encouragement for that service to be resumed.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
Pusta Krsna Dasa
Boulder Creek, California
Thirst for Krsna
While I am not a member of ISKCON, I am a devotee of Lord Krsna and was expecting the new BTG to help quench some of my thirst for Krsna. To my surprise, there was actually very little about Krsna in it.
The magazine was primarily concerned with ISKCON as an institution its problems, goals, activities, etc. While I'm sure these are important issues that deserve a forum, I question whether Back to Godhead is the appropriate one. It was my understanding that BTG is geared toward a general audience and that its purpose is to bring its readers close to Krsna. To this end, the articles and pictures should relate to Krsna His form, pastimes, great devotees, worship, and so on.
Most of the pictures, however, were of the authors of the articles, which is curious considering that Krsna conscious philosophy puts no importance on outward appearance. It does not matter what the authors look like. BTG should feature beautiful pictures of the temple Deities and of Krsna in His various incarnations and activities. I realize that color printing is expensive, but where else are your readers going to find this nectar?
The articles and columns themselves focused heavily on ISKCON members' dilemmas or on social theory. I believe BTG should focus on Krsna. Your articles should serve to help the reader remember Him, should ignite the flame of bhakti in the heart. You could have articles discussing His form, qualities and activities, articles examining the finer points of Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, and about the theory and practice of bhakti-yoga.
Krsna is the Ultimate Truth, the meaning of life; no other topic is as fascinating and relishable. Please, therefore, revise your editorial outlook to include more of Him and less of yourselves.
Since we relaunched BTG, about a year ago, we've purposely been printing articles about ISKCON's goals, strategies, and struggles. These were topics we hadn't said much about before, and we figured we ought to. Krsna's movement, after all, is dedicated to Krsna. So these topics, we think, deserve space too. We believe that many of our readers, even outside ISKCON, will find these topics spiritually important and rewarding.
But our main focus in BTG in fact, our main focus in life should be Krsna's form, qualities, pastimes, and other transcendental features. Thank you for reminding us. We'll take your words to heart. JS
We welcome your letters. Send correspondence to The Editors, Back to Godhead, P.O.Box 90946, San Diego, CA 92169, USA.
Sri Gaura Purnima
The Appearance Anniversary of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu
March 18, 1992
For details, call a Hare Krsna center near you.