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Maharaja’s Disciples and New Vrindaban
By Madhava Gosh
Following is an email I have sent to VNN on at least 10 occasions over the last month and have not gotten a response. For those who don't read VNN, a letter had been published from New Vrindaban clarifying that a Narayana-Maharajah-centered conference advertised as being held at New Vrindaban was not at the ISKCON center commonly known as New Vrindaban. Dhrstadyumna das wrote a response that was published on VNN.
The following quote was displayed prominently in the article and was what prompted my response.
"Is it true that practically any other group, buddhist, american indian, yoga, etc. can rent the facilities at New Vrindavan for their conferences? How is that 'clearly faithful to Srila Prabhupada and his teachings'? Whereas renting to a group of predominantly Srila Prabhupada disciples is not? "
Begin letter to VNN
I sent the following in sometime ago never got a response, made an inquiry and have still recieved no response. The original article I responded to was a gross misrepresentation, whether negligently in which case a retraction would be appropriate, or a delibrate deceit, which may be a possible interpretation of your nonresponse. I don't care if you don't print my response, but a retraction would be appropriate.
Narayana Disciples and New Vrindaban
by Madhava Gosh
I have lived in or near New Vrindavan for going on 30 years. I am not a temple devotee now. When I heard that the management had turned down a request to host a conference centered around Narayana Maharajah, I also was at first a little skeptical and thought, "Oh well, spiritual politics as usual." I did take the trouble to do some independent investigation.
While it is true that in the past various other spiritual groups have visited New Vrindaban, neither I nor anyone else I spoke to could remember any other group using the facility for their own purposes. There were interfaith festivals where groups expressed their joy in their variety of religiosity and where the Vaisnavas also expressed their mode of religion, but it was done in an interfaith mood— respecting differences, celebrating similarities, and not expecting anyone to change.
There have been extended periods where I have paid little attention to what happens at the temple, so possibly some group did rent the facility at some time, but it is unbeknownst to me. Within the recent past, the only group that has done so was an organic growers group. For the record, I personally have no objection to other spiritual groups renting the facilities if they have a genuine interfaith mood, but my opinions are mine and not those of management. My preliminary investigation, independent of temple sources, indicates that the mood of some who have attached themselves to Narayana Maharajah is aggressive and confrontational, not interfaith. So I am sympathetic to the conclusions of New Vrindaban management.
In his article "New Vrindavan & Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja" Dhrstadyumna asks, "If Srila Prabhupada was physically manifest this summer at his Palace of Gold and heard that Srila Narayana Maharaja was 1 mile down the road, do you think he would sanction your behavior and this letter?"
While again I am not speaking for management, I feel entitled to an opinion and my answer would be, "Yes, I think he would sanction it." Reading the letter from the New Vrindaban management, it certainly seems polite and reasonable. It wished your group well, and was not at all demeaning about your organization or members. I am sure Srila Prabhupada would have met with Narayana Maharajah and wished him well, but I don't recall any time where he made ISKCON facilities available for the activities of another math.
So if I had to make a safe decision about what Srila Prabhupada would do, then I would lean towards precedent and not make the facilities available. Of course, were he here, he very well might have done the opposite, and ordered New Vrindaban to host the conference of another Vaisnava group, but it would be speculation on my part to assume that that is what he would choose to do.
I will ask Dhrystadyumna if he were to apply that same criterion to his own article, how might Srila Prabhupada have responded. If I were to characterize the mood of the New Vrindaban letter, it appears to me polite but firm, with concern towards protecting an asset and differentiating between New Vrindaban, West Virginia, which is on the map, and New Vrindaban Community, an asset meant to further Srila Prabhupada's mission. His own, on the other hand, was legalistic and confrontational, and the mood best described, in my humble opinion, as condescending. Not appealing in the least, and I would hope not representative of Narayana Maharajah himself.
So the above is what I sent and have been ignored about, not even a polite refusal or acknowledgement. While a part of me wants to give Narayana Maharajah the benefit of the doubt, at some point the concept that the institution is the shadow of the man does have to come into play. Perhaps he is just a wonderfully blissed-out and naive sadhu who is being taken advantage of by a few who flourished in the Zonal Acarya era and who haven't been able to make the transition to the new ISKCON paradigm. However, I am getting a very distinct Zonal Acarya vibe off this whole thing, and it seems that some around Narayana Maharajah are acting in much the same way the enablers did in that time, with a difference. This time, only one acarya, only one zone.
© CHAKRA 6 May 2002
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