PADA: Thanks for your question prabhu, what should you do when some of your "old friends" are leaving from ISKCON are going off to follow this program above, and they are not attending ISKCON anymore. They say this is a "nicer path to bhakti." Should you join them or not?
For starters, one reason people are leaving ISKCON is because the GBC actually encourages that process all along. For example, the GBC sent thousands and thousands of people off to BR Sridhara Maharaja; Then they sent thousands and thousands of more people packing off to BV Narayana Maharaja; And then they shipped many others off to BV and BP Puri maharajas, various Babajis, Fakir Mohan and who knows what else. So the GBC is itself one of the biggest promoters of sending people away from ISKCON to all sorts of "off shoot branches." And if people are not leaving quickly enough, they will find someone else to ship people off to, and out of ISKCON.
In sum, the ISKCON GBC are the main party spawning competition for ISKCON quite purposefully, and they have done so all along. The reason they do that? It is self evident, once they empty out and de-populate the temples, then they can start their real program, i.e. making a showing the deity business using the nearly empty ISKCON properties to extract funds from the Hindus.
As soon as we find their ISKCON temple buildings are emptying out, most of them are happy as a clam and they think things are going great. As Bhavananda once said to Tamal, "Let them all go." So after awhile, most of the citizens are gone, but that was their overall self-evident plan all along.
And lets not forget that many devotees are simply turned off by their roughness, mean attitude, and / or crook and thug type behavior -- found in various GBC and / or their followers. And that program empties out the temples in itself. And then lets not forget -- the GBC's program also found out that their preaching that God's "gurus and successors" are often illicit sex debauchees is such an odious preaching policy, that this process alone also empties out buildings in an accelerated manner. So they have doubled down on that process as well.
They are now boldly declaring that God's guru successors are often fallen debauchees, and this has emptied out the buildings nicely for them. Thus -- its a sort of open secret GBC policy to have ISKCON become empty buildings, so they can then create Hindu-ized money grabbing programs, and convert the temples into de facto Hindu cultural centers, and they are using every tool in their tool kit to make that happen. And now we have an official ISKCON Hindu preacher on the West Coast who advertises Rama Krishna mission. He even advertises other Hindu speakers and programs on the ISKCON temple site that he manages. So they do not want regular followers of Srila Prabhupada who are not attracted to these things.
And none of this policy is likely to change anytime soon, because they are simply making too much money from this scheme. Thus, its a fair question, now what? What happens if we are a devotee in a city somewhere, where the ISKCON temple is not a friendly or favorable place, and these bhakti yoga folks have a center? Well its a sort of rock between a hard place question. These bhakti yoga people are apparently nice folks, but it seems to me that they do not have a solid grasp of the technical siddhanta of Krishna, although they do have some general notion of the facts.
And that is why many people told me both inside and outside ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada's Krishna consciousness process has the best philosophy, but has the worst people possible supposedly representing it. So these other bhakti yoga people are seemingly nice, friendly, and mature in their personal dealings. And that has certainly been lacking in the GBC's ISKCON. Of course, they too will have some sorts of problems, because every institution will, but at least they try to keep their public profile problems to a minimum.
As we posted here a few times, Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura says that its better to associate with regular mundane people than pseudo devotees. So it would seem that associating with some "better behaved Vaishnavas" might be the best of a bad bargain. Its too bad that many of the people rejecting the GBC do not seem to produce much actually functioning alternate programs. I am also appreciating that your wife wants some form of sangha and association and all that, its important for women and families to have some like minded association, I understand.
Anyway, its really hard for me to advise going to another group, but I do understand how hard it is for devotees who cannot take shelter of ISKCON. In fact I know a few people who committed suicide because they felt they had no shelter in their own religion. Its a sad reality. Anyway, maybe the best thing to do is to take part in their sangha and see how it works out, at the same time keep reading Srila Prabhupada's books to keep getting a clearer idea of the actual siddhanta.
There is a lot of sentiment for having some sangha, and some of the devotees who went to Narayan Maharaja told me the same thing, they really know NM has some different siddhanta, but they wanted to give themselves some sort of association. And you are also correct, its not likely the GBC will change anytime soon, so we are sort of stuck at present. So I am sorry not to be able to make a clear position on this, but I know how difficult it can be.
Even Lord Siva's wife went to the Daksha ceremony apparently because women desire some sort of social sangha program, so if it has been difficult for her, what to speak of us peanut sized devotees. Of course this story is meant to illustrate this fact, it does not mean Lord Siva's family members have material attachments. Its meant to show us that women as a class desire a sangha and its hard to change their nature and get them to renounce all that -- all of a sudden.
Anyway prabhu, do the best you can with the situation you have. We all need to take shelter of Krishna in the best mode we can arrange. I see this as being a very different thing for different individual people, and we might have to adjust whatever works for our own particular situation. I know some devotees who got fried with ISKCON and they began reading and advertising karmi books, so that is also not a good alternate either. Of course we also have the Illuminati and Hitler-anugas who read and advertise all sorts of trash materials.
Good luck with your endeavors and keep in touch and let me know how things progress there. And yes, I have listened to a few of the bhakti yoga folks kirtans and have been impressed with their singing. The swami's lectures, not so much. And the orange dressed female swamini / sannyasini program also does not look like any of the standard Vaishnava sampradaya practices. At least they have some attraction for Krishna, that is something in their favor. ys pd
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