Krsnacandra Dasa: Prabhu what can you tell us from your memory of the events that took place around the departure of Srila Prabhupada in 1977.
Bhaktisiddhanta dasa: Yes. I was living in Vrndavan at the time when Srila Prabhupada was leaving and spent my time mainly in his room. What I remember about the ‘big guys’ was that they were running around having very intense private meetings. It was generally understood that they were making plans for what would happen after Srila Prabhupada passed.
I was in the room when Srila Prabhupada passed and I remember clearly the power that was present everywhere around us. It was as if the Demigods were present at such a great event. The mood built up to an incredible crescendo until the very moment our beloved Srila Prabhupada passed. As soon as the moment passed it all came crashing down. I distinctly remember feeling lost and destitute. The vibrant spiritual energy that was constantly blasting from Srila Prabhupada was gone and only emptiness remained.
Krsnacandra Dasa: Prabhu how soon after this amazingly glorious event did you begin to understand that the eleven who had been appointed as rtvik-gurus began to take control of the movement.
Bhaktisiddhanta dasa: We all knew it was coming, well we knew something was coming and it would be like a hurricane. You have to remember that these guys were heavy guys and they desperately wanted to be in charge and in control.
As soon as the devotees got wind of the rtvik-gurus plans to appoint themselves as Zonal Acharya’s who had divided the world into zones where they each acted as Acharyas there were two petitions; one by Yasodanandana Dasa and one by Ayodyapati Dasa (now BB Govinda Swami) were set in motion. Ayodyapati Dasa unfortunately went on to accept a position as an ISKCON guru and be part of the bogus system.
These eleven rtvik-gurus who were now Acharyas of ISKCON were mad as anything when hearing about the petitions by Yasodanandana Dasa and Ayodyapati Dasa and all made their way back to Vrndavan with whatever disciples they had to officially announce that they had taken over ISKCON and to smash their dissenting god-brothers.
They held an Isthaghosti in the Krsna Balaram Mandir Temple room in Vrndavan and it was at this Isthaghosti that they began to smash all the devotees who had signed the petitions against their self appointment as Acharyas. These eleven were seething angry at the audacity of their God-brothers who objected to their self appointment as Acharyas.
They dealt with Yasodanandana dasa first (Bhaktisiddhanta Dasa was standing beside him in the Temple room while this happened) and demanded that he give his reasons for organizing the petition against them.
Yasodanandana dasa stated that he has loved and served Srila Prabhupada and that he loved him very much, which melted the hearts of all except for the eleven ambitious rascals. Then he threw it back at them by saying that he has one question for them – Whether they believed that they had become pure devotees over night?
Satsvarupa Goswami responded that that was not a fair question to ask. After him Ramesvar blasted him and then Hrydayananda Goswami read the riot act on how they were now in control of managing the movement.
They then proceeded to smash all the devotees who had signed the petitions and all of those who signed the petitioned were terrified and feared for their lives.
Krsnacandra Dasa: What happened after this meeting? Did they leave or did they stay and assert themselves as the Acharya’s of ISKCON.
Bhaktisiddhanta dasa: They stayed for a little while. After a few days they brought out 11 wooden Vyasasanas and had them jammed into that small area around Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasasana. You can imagine the chaos during Srila Prabhupada’s guru-puja. Most of them were seated on their Vyasasanas and some who seemed embarrassed stood (and had their disciple do guru-puja to a picture of them) while their disciples began to offer each of them guru-puja at the very same time as guru-puja was being held for Srila Prabhupada. In order to fit everything and everyone in the Temple, the eleven had organized miniature arati trays and paraphernalia.
It was a macabre scene to behold! We all knew that Srila Prabhupada’s time ‘for the moment’ was over and that these guys had forcefully taken control of our movement.
This event I believe set the standard of worship for themselves in the movement. They were to be treated as Acharya’s and Spiritual Masters and so to be worshiped as good as God and Srila Prabhupada.