Friday, February 12, 2016

Brooklyn Temple Devotee Speaks Up ...

From xxxxxxxxx: Last Sunday, in front of Sri Sri Radha Govinda I lost control of my emotions and I am very sorry for that. There is no excuse for the offense of raising one's voice in front of the Deities, but there are reasons for my passion that I hope the Vaishnavas will consider.

To be clear, I am not against the Temple management at Sri Sri Radha Govinda Mandir, I am against the selling of the temple and moving the deities again. In fact I feel that I am helping to protect Sri Sri Radha Govinda in this situation. Previously, I openly shared my thoughts and concerns with Satya and recently with Ramabhadra prabhu. I am also seriously concerned about the mood of fear in the community and the intimidation and untruths spoken by management, all of which I have personally witnessed.

Just one example happened two Sundays ago. I saw and heard (as did at least one other person) Ramabhadra prabhu standing over a gentle, elderly Indian Prabhupada disciple, leaning in extremely close to his face and threatening him with "fines of millions of dollars, if you interfere with this transaction." He had also made similar statements to the devotees earlier in a public announcement. I knew that what he shared at that time was not the truth, but kept quiet.

To understand where Ramabhadra prabhu is coming from, I need to share that over the last month many friends have told each other about devotees writing letters to the State Attorney General. The letters were written because Ramabhadra did not follow legal procedures in the sale of the temple. Community members were asking for a delay in the AG's approval of the sale, to give time to be able to present alternatives to the GBC. None of these actions would incur a fine to any person. I had accepted the seva of handing in any letter that came to me, to the AG's office, and thus my email address was passed out freely.

In the past month while I was on temple property I bit my tongue many times about the letters being sent just because I didn't want to upset management, because I do care for them and appreciate their service to Krsna. Unfortunately, I cannot in good conscience support some choices they make. I go to the temple 3-5 times a week. 

Two years ago I found an apartment a block away from the temple, to be able to go this often. In all the many times I have been to the temple, on only two occasions I did not bite my tongue about the letters. I felt bad for the devotees who felt helpless to protect Sri Sri Radha Govinda from having to move homes yet again. I did not "solicit," I simply informed someone of their rights.

On this Sunday past, Ramabhadra Prabhu had seen my email address on a paper that another devotee had created, giving an outline of a letter to the AG. My friend may have also shared that I passed on that same outline, to her. So without asking me to find out the truth, the assumption was made that I was actively soliciting people against the sale.

Ramabhadra prabhu then declared to the congregation present that "a young girl who is not part of ISKCON, and who comes once in a blue moon, ....... and who is sadly doing harm to Radha Govinda... who moved near by and is now soliciting devotees against the temple...." (I can't remember everything he said)... he continued "be nice to her, she is nice but she isn't even part of ISKCON.... she may approach you and ask you to sign a petition." Ironically, what he feared was not even true, I was not, nor was I ever going to solicit anyone there.

My Lordships, Sri Sri Radha Govinda knew what he was saying was untrue, but others did not. I was tired of untruths being spoken like facts. At first I tried to simply speak the truth. I stood up and said, "Why don't you say my name?" And spoke to those present, saying, "He is speaking about me, but I am part of ISKCON, my parents are Prabhupada disciples. 

We could build a 20 story building here, and give 5 floors to the contractor. Before I could barley even start that last sentence, Ramabhadra drowned my speaking voice out and no one heard anything else I said. He drowned me out by loudly chanting Hare Krsna into a microphone with amusement on his face. I then made a mistake that I sincerely regret. I am passionate and get very angry when I feel things are unjust, and when full truths are not being disclosed. I am working on that, we all have things we are hopefully working on. 

So my mistake was to speak louder and louder in attempts to speak over a devotee on a microphone, which obviously meant I ended up yelling. In hind sight I know that I should not have done this. But he also should not breed fear and untruths into the minds of others. In an attempt not to yell, but to get the truth across, I went across the room and took the mrdanga mic and spoke exactly these words to Ramabhadara, 

"What are you so afraid of, what are you so afraid of? People hearing the truth?" He seemed entertained that he was 'winning' the ability to chant over my voice still. I then stated that anyone present should not feel helpless and that if they want to write a letter to the GBC they could. I said this many times, because each time I was about to say, "GBC," He chanted even louder. Which means he does not want the GBC to know what the community actually thinks. I ended with, "don't think you are helpless, because you are not,” and left.

I am sorry that untruths are spoken in Govinda's home. I'm also sorry that intimidation and threats are used to keep devotees fearful and silent in Govinda's home. I've been told that 20 devotees have been banned by Ramabhadra for openly speaking against his words or actions and now many keep their mouth shut about their feelings to be able to keep taking darshan.

I am not scared to state what I think Srila Prabhupada would want in this situation, which is to stay in a place where preaching the spiritual science can spread like wildfire. Because Brooklyn is becoming a great location after so many years, there are 50 yoga studios nearby. 

I teach Srila Prabhupada's Gita in yoga studios already and know how hungry people are to hear more. Even after a 3 hour workshop, where I teach 20 verses, people want more. I send people to the Bhakti Center, even though my heart is with Govinda, because there are programs geared towards newcomers at the Bhakti Center while none exist at the Brooklyn temple. If Brooklyn had programs geared to young open minds, and aspiring yogis who do not yet know much of bhakti yoga, I would send my students there. 

I pray we can empower devotees who feel the same, to take up that service, and create these kinds of programs, and to teach in yoga studios nearby. People of NY even, would come if we had classes offered that were similar to the BC. We are within a few blocks of the 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, G, F, Q, B, N, R and the Long Island Rail. Famous writers, TV writers and producers live in our area. Young, fresh-minded, powerful people live near us. We can do more service, and fill Radha Govinda's temple daily, by staying here, and working with a wider vision.

We all live in glass houses and have faults, I am Not interested in finding the faults of any devotee, management does great service, this is not about fault finding. This is simply about speaking the truth even if it is uncomfortable for some and standing up for the right for everyone's voice to be heard. Sadly it was tainted with my lack of self control on one occasion over the past 3 years, of at least 500 times being at the temple. 

The calculated and repeated untruths need to be addressed as well. We have noted many untruths or half truths that Ramabhadra has presented to the GBC over the years in regards to why we should move the deities again, and we are hoping and praying that the GBC will allow us to present these clarifications of the situation here in NY in the March meetings. One devotee is writing a letter asking that we have even just an hour of their time, and over 250 devotees are standing behind that request.

Over this last month devotees, whom I have never met, have called and thanked me for not being fearful and standing up. Many say, "I want to write a letter to the AG, but do not say my name to Ramabhadra, I do not want to get banned." Why has so much fear been cultivated in this community? Luckily there are still many who are not afraid, and who will speak honestly, not vengefully. I still care about each devotee at the temple, even those whose actions I disagree with. We are all on a battlefield together, and maya and anarthas are the only enemy, so if a devotee has an anartha or does an act that isn't ideal, I want to help him, not attack him. I am uninterested in attacking Ramabhadra or any devotee, but some of his actions and choices can use help from his friends to be rectified.

I have shared what I feel, and will go on being honest about what I feel. Regardless of which stance you have, be open and feel free to speak.

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