Winning a Battle Only to Lose a War
BY: ROHITH KAUSHIK
There is a new episode in the Bangalore drama unfolding every day, ever since the High Court has pronounced its verdict. Local news channels are relishing every bit of the sensationalism ISKCON has managed to create. Everyone from beggars to politicians are talking about ISKCON and its "scandals." People are obviously making a mockery of everything we've stood for.
Before anyone starts to feel happy or sad about the Bangalore situation, we must all take a step backwards and see for ourselves if this whole endeavor was worth anything all. Did 'we' - meaning Srila Prabhupada's followers - ultimately in the process of professing the highest knowledge available - win over our enemies, namely Kali, the Mayavadis and the likes? I think not! It's quite the contrary.
We have taken our disagreements from a spiritual platform right down to the street in front of the common man, where the point of our disagreement is well beyond their capability to even comprehend. The general public in this age of Kali yuga are not intelligent enough to figure out how passionate the two parties are about their beliefs and devotion to Krishna and their respective Gurus. The public is probably happy deep down somewhere to know that even such exalted spiritualists are ultimately no different from themselves - they're also after what everyone else is - Money! How comforting… And of course, who doesn't like to talk about some new sensational gossip.
It's time to realize that we as 'ISKCON' -- The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, meaning every single one of us wherever in the world we may be -- as a whole, are now being looked down upon as a bunch of people that ultimately get as low as anyone else when it comes to money and land. The so-called 'spiritualists' who once advised people to be materially detached are themselves fighting over a mere 7 acres of mortal land! What do you think the reaction of the next person we preach to in Bangalore is going to be?
I think we all ought to try and realize what the purpose of this massive public exercise really was. So Madhu Pandit das and his team ran this temple and they happen to have an idea of 'Sri Guru' that is different from that of the GBC. They chose to keep Srila Prabhupada on the vyasasana instead of any other supposed Acarya. Let's just think sanely for a moment and ask ourselves - is that even a crime? And if so - is such a massive and dramatic effort to remove him and his team really needed? If Srila Prabhupada never really "appointed" anyone as his successor(s) in as many words (as we have no such documentation whatsoever), and going by how many versions of 'his direction' we have seen implemented in the Guru system by the GBC, why is it so difficult to at least doubt the possibility of him doing so deliberately.
The GBC is trying to make best sense of their understanding of Srila Prabhupada's final order - while Madhu Pandit das' group have theirs. So if they differ, it is only natural -- not criminal!! The behavior of the GBC and the several fallen Gurus have done nothing to prove themselves worthy of absolute power in any case! Why is it so hard to accept that there may be another way to look at it? Why must ISKCON be almost fanatical about one single conclusion drawn by the GBC, and chase everyone off who begs to differ with an axe? After all - the GBC is human, and could very well be mistaken too... Is the benefit of that doubt really this expensive? Is it worth the cost of bringing down the reputation our entire society to the drain in one blow? How hard can it be to just let people have their belief - and just co-exist? Live and let live - such a difficult deal? Really?
That set aside, let's at least try to understand if there was really anything wrong with the way things went on in Bangalore? It's common knowledge that:
1. Elaborate deity worship happens every single day
2. Every festival is held with great pomp and glory
3. There are over 350 full time dedicated devotees in the temple ashram working day and night in Krishna's and Srila Prabhupada's service
4. There are over 5,000 people visiting on any given day of the year - and the number goes up to 20,000 on regular weekends and as high as 150,000 on major festivals
5. There are thousands of congregational members and FOLK students (young men attending classes) who have all accepted Srila Prabhupada's teachings and taken to Krishna Consciousness
6. Over 50,000 children attend summer camps at the temple, learning about Krishna and his pastimes
7. Srila Prabhupada's book distribution happens on a massive scale
8. Prasadam distribution is by far the biggest compared to any temple (1.3 million kids eat Krishna Prasadam every single day!! - never mind the thousands who eat at the temple)
9. The temple has brought ISKCON a very good name and has increased its credibility to great heights
10. The temple now even boasts of a fine dine restaurant that has been critically acclaimed
The list can go on, but the point to note is that pretty much everything about this temple exceeds the expectation you'd have from any other ISKCON temple in the world. Which major scam, the major scandal, the great fraud - the cataract that ISKCON Mumbai is trying to remove or fix is beyond my understanding! If the accusation is that Madhu Pandit das, his wife, his wife's sister and co-brother have all conspired to run this temple - how on earth is that even a problem??? By what crazy law is that illegal? If they're all doing nice service to manage such a wonderful temple complex - why would anyone have a problem with that? I can see myself being upset if they ran away overnight with all the money, got caught having illicit sex, or using drugs - as have several Gurus who we worshiped everyday to be as good as God himself. But that isn't the case here! You see all the four named family members on the ground every single day managing different aspects of the temple.
Another way to look at it - If Madhu Pandit das and his team are running a temple that is somehow managing to accomplish all of things mentioned above, is that not good enough? If they are able to manage the show, without the assistance of any of the sannyasis... without any support from the GBC... and without the "mercy" of any of the current Gurus, isn't that absolutely splendid success? All they need and use is Krishna's and Srila Prabhupada's mercy - which is what the GBC, the sannyasis and the Guru vrinda must be directing everyone to anyway. Why thrust all that additional 'mercy' down their throat when they don't seem to need it!
On the contrary, its a matter of wonder, or more importantly an affirmation of the fact that just the vani-shakti of Srila Prabhupada is able to lead someone to such achievement. The energy and time that the GBC and the host of Gurus want to force into Bangalore is much more needed in the current western world - where most temples are barely a place for the local Hindus to socialize. How about leaving the comfort of India and actually doing some work where it's really needed?
Logically, I would think if one cannot stand another devotee serving Srila Prabhupada in a grand manner, he/she is simply jealous. No brainer there. Why bring them down with one difference of opinion? Rather focus the time and energy where it's needed - the big bad world!
What is the need to insist that one way of worship is better than the other - especially at the cost of public humiliation? ISKCON is Srila Prabhupada's body - then are we not doing the greatest disservice to him by making it look cheap and materialistic? An ordinary beggar on the street is shaking his head with dismay looking at our beloved Prabhupada's dream. Is this what 'winning' a battle means? Can anyone really think we've accomplished something here by winning this court battle?
The question finally boils down to - What did ISKCON really gain from taking over this particular temple? What was really the 'profit' after spending millions on the lawyers and the judicial system? What had they really lost to begin with?
I think this situation is a perfect example of "Winning a battle only to lose a war". The real war is right in your face -- 'Kali'. PLEASE FOCUS!!!!!