BY: DINA-VATSALA DAS (Nis, Serbia)
I first came into contact with Krishna consciousness in 1986 when a devotee came to my apartment to sell me some of Srila Prabhupada’s books. I purchased the first and second canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, and Krsna Book.
They had been unpacked for some time and then after a while I tried to read them. But I could not understand them at all. Later on in 1990 again I met a devotee who wanted to sell me some books. I told her that I already had these books and I explained to her that I did not understand these books despite several attempts to read them.
She gave me The Science of Self-Realization, which I did not have, and told me to try reading that. I did, and that’s how everything started, for now I suddenly did understand the books! During 1990 and 1991, I was reading 5-6 hours a day, and sometimes even more. I simply Could not stop reading these books and the more I read, the more my realization, respect and love for Srila Prabhupada developed simultaneously. I had read Srila Prabhupada stating that when a devotee’s divine consciousness begins to wake up by the mercy of Lord Krishna everything takes place so beautifully that the devotee does not even know how it is happening.
And I was practically finding that this was happening to me. It was mystical! I could also understand that Krishna was speaking through Srila Prabhupada, and that he must be the dearest servant of Lord Sri Krishna to be able to undertake and so magnificently accomplish his mission.
In this way I became totally convinced about the philosophy of Krishna consciousness just by reading the books, and also began to follow all the practices. My family (wife and 3 children) also followed suit. I next wondered where I could find devotees or whether they existed at that time in Serbia, the country I lived in. After some time devotees came from the capital, Belgrade, to my city of Nis, to perform a music concert. Contact was made with them, and my family and I then began to visit the Belgrade temple whenever we could.
In 1993 I went to India with devotees and I was fascinated. Whilst there I bought many more of Srila Prabhupada’s books and read as much as I could. During this time I was running my own taxi business, and since I had a nice large vehicle, I was given the opportunity to pick up from the airport and take to the Betgrade temple the many ISKCON gurus who would visit Serbia, such as Rohini-Suta Prabhu, Krishna-Ksetra Prabhu, Bhakti-Vaibhava Swami and Bhakti-Vikash Swami.
This became a regular service and therefore I got to know the gurus better, and attended the programs and lectures that they were giving. In 1995 there were suddenly about 15 devotees in Nis. They started to visit our house, since we had a small altar with a picture of Panca-Tattva (Lord Chaitanya and His principal associates) where we offered food and performed arati (worship). In 1996 two of my younger children got initiated by Rohini-Suta, and three days later Gaura-Nitai deities graced our altar.
At the end of that year I also got initiated, by Harikesa Swami. Ironically, my wife and eldest son, though they fully accepted the process of Krishna consciousness, did not like any of the ISKCON gurus, and therefore resisted taking initiation from any of them!
At this time I also began running a regular “Nama hatta (congregational) program in my house.
After some time I slowly started noticing strange things. Even I knew most of the answers to the questions that devotees were asking after the lectures given by the ISKCON gurus. At that time audio players called “Walkmans” were used and all the devotees were listening to their gurus’ lectures, but I noticed that hardly any devotees were reading Srila Prabhupada’s books.
It was as if they were written only for their gurus to read and not for the devotees. Later I realised that even the ISKCON gurus did not read Srila Prabhupada’s books in the right way. Another thing I noticed was that these gurus did not come to mangala arati (early morning worship), and they did not eat prasadam (sanctified food) or chant japa (rosary) rounds with the devotees. I began to wonder how a pure devotee of Lord Krishna could be sleeping during mangala arati! This behaviour was followed by some senior devotees and sometimes by most of the devotees, meaning that sometimes only 2-3 devotees out of 80-100 devotees attended mangala-arati. With time, the standards began to degrade even more, and mangala aratis began starting as late as 9 am in the ISKCON retreats held at Fruska Gora in Serbia.
The lectures the gurus gave seemed to me somehow incomplete, and while reading Srila Prabhupada’s books made us full of enthusiasm, the preaching of the gurus made devotees sleepy, with devotees openly sleeping throughout their lectures. Finally the fall of Harikesa Swami in 1998 led to the movement in Serbia becoming severely weakened. It became clear to me now that the ISKCON gurus and the GBC were not qualified to do what they were doing. I consoled the disappointed devotees by telling them that only Srila Prabhupada is our guru, and if we follow the instructions that he has given, as explained in his books, we can progress spiritually.
That Srila Prabhupada is the one who will take us back home, back to Godhead, and not the present “gurus”. I asked the devotees to support me, because this was the only way to maintain the Nama-hatta.
Devotees became separated into different groups, with some leaving and some staying. In this way we managed to continue with our daily programs. However at this time, in my mind I always had the same question: “How could Srila Prabhupada authorise unqualified devotees to become ‘gurus’?” But I could not find the answer. Later the NATO bombardment of Serbia occurred and the Belgrade temple closed and devotees were scattered in all directions. During this time myself and another devotee, Megadutha Das, continued to perform daily arati. Later on in Nis things settled down, and the ISKCON gurus once again began visiting my Nama-hatta program. Since I was strongly insisting on reading Srila Prabhupada’s books and strictly following the rules and regulations of sadhana bhakti (regulated devotional service) they accused me of “frying devotees”.
They of course also objected to my claiming that we can take shelter of only Srila Prabhupada as our guru. The National Council that was managing ISKCON in Serbia then attempted to try and close my Nama-hatta and ban me from being in ISKCON. But this remained just their unfulfilled dream. Rather, by 2003 I myself stopped inviting gurus from visiting the Nama-hatta I was running. By Krishna’s arrangement shortly afterwards, my eldest son who had been visiting India, came across a Back To Prabhupada magazine there, and he brought it back for us. I had heard about the ‘ritviks” in the 1990s, but we had been misled regarding what they stood for. Now I was able to see for myself what they actually claimed, without the via medium of ISKCON distorting their message.
However, as I could not read English (this article has been translated by my son), I was very keen to read The Final Order (TFO) book when it was translated into Serbian, and so I waited patiently for this. As soon as I got The Final Order I read it very carefully. And finally I saw an answer to the question which I mentioned I had had for many years, and which had also troubled many other devotees: “How could Srila Prabhupada aurhorise unqualified devotees to become ‘gurus’?” TFO proved that actually Srila Prabhupada had not authorised anyone to succeed him as diksha-guru for ISKCON. I saw all the evidence for the establishment of the ritvik system and everything became so clear for me now. I saw that TFO was establishing with evidence that which I had felt for some time. My dilemmas about unqualified “gurus” were now clarified, and with the last spark of any doubt dissipated, I became very steady and calm in my spiritual life.
Also by coming to know about the work of the IRM, and how they are fearlessly enlightening devotees all over the world regarding Srila Prabhupada’s true teachings, I became very happy realising that there were a lot of devotees who know the truth. I began writing to TFO’s author and BTP editor Krishnakant Prabhu and promised not just verbal support but other kinds of support, and actually I was already doing that by sending Serbian language BTP magazines to devotees in Skopje (Macedonia) and Zagreb (Croatia).
I asked them to read it carefully. When I got BTP magazine Special Issue 1 & 2 and a few copies of TFO in the Serbian language, I had sent one Final Order book to the ISKCON devotees in Belgrade. As most ISKCON temples now have a special department to fight against the ritvik system, the Belgrade devotees also had one, even though there is no temple there. So they sent one devotee to Nis to try and combat me. He did not have the courage to visit me, but he went instead to a young grihasta (householder) couple that occasionally came to our small Nama-hatta. He had occasion to touch BTP and TFO when he was with them, and he then went and washed his hands straight away to “purify” himself.
He advised the young couple not to read BTP magazine or The Final Order book because it is prohibited for ISKCON devotees, and that if they did, they would make a real serious offense to the “lotus feet” of ISKCON’s “gurus”. Such is the ignorance and fanaticism of those who oppose Srila Prabhupada. In Serbia with its different gurus and their disciples, I have had first hand experience that the gurus consider their disciples their own personal property, and the disciples are loyal only to them and nothing else. In this way we have as many sampradayas (lineages) in ISKCON as we have “gurus.
How then can there be harmony? Even the Yamadutas (agents of Yamaraja, the lord of death) know that if there is more than one authority for the universe, things will not take place properly. There is one authority in ISKCON but they cannot see him, it is Srila Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada said that one who follows his instructions is his disciple, and one who does not follow is not his disciple. By this statement ISKCON leaders and their followers are not his disciples because they have rejected Srila Prabhupada’s instructions regarding who is the guru of ISKCON and so many other things. And those who reject the guru’s instructions become useless. In this way ISKCON is managed by people who do not have knowledge and are not his disciples.
All IRM magazines and The Final Order repeat this point again and again, fully documented with a detailed explanation. “Gurus” foolishly and stubbornly remain persistent in their ignorance, and thus shame themselves and ISKCON and Srila Prabhupada by denying themselves and the devotees who follow them, Prabhupada’s and Krishna’s mercy. I will continue to help the ISKCON Revival Movement (IRM) in every possible way to spread the truth about the guru hoax, distributing Back To Prabhupada magazines, helping with IRM translations for the IRM Serbian website, and by personal preaching. I am also still maintaining small regular gatherings for the devotees who are in Nis.
I am grateful to all IRM devotees and Krishnakant Prabhu for everything they are doing and I am offering my humble obeisances to them. This story is not written in order to criticize or insult someone. It is written for those of pure heart as well as for those who are misled, as I was previously. Its purpose is to present the truth and motivate devotees to take shelter of Srila Prabhupada, just like the IRM is doing. Hare Krishna! All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
Readers are cordially invited to follow Dina-vatsala Das’s example by sending us your story of just how you came ‘Back to Prabhupada’
email: firstname.lastname@example.org: iskconirm.com