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“We tolerated this duplicity for a good one year hoping that with time he will mature and come off it.”

Bhakta R. Jai Simman     

The Singapore Situation
A different view A Response to Bhakta Gansham Khialani’s Article
By Bhakta R. Jai Simman
(The Committee & Congregation Singapore Temple)

Dear Vaishnavas,

Hare Krishna. Please accept our humble obeisances. All Glories to Srila Prabhupada.

We wish to present our reply to Bhakta Gansham Khialani. In that process, we would also like to present our case before the assembly of Vaishnavas on this forum.

We would like to thank Gansham Prabhu for his sufficient honesty in being indirectly grateful to the temple for his initial advancement in Krishna Consciousness. We would also like to thank him for the innumerable services that he has offered for the pleasure of Sri Sri Radha Madan Mohan.

There was thorough relaying of the guru issue within the Singapore Temple. All congregation members were notified and the history explained to them. Both the existing philosophical viewpoints (pro-guru status quo and the ritvik system) were presented and their basic premises elucidated upon. A meeting was convened to explain all of these matters to the devotees and a channel was provided for them to express their doubts and uncertainties. Devotees within the temple were constantly discussing the pertinent issues related to the present guru system within the movement. The ritvik system was presented to the congregation during the meetings and although the temple devotees had become convinced, they never forced anyone to swallow the system without enquiry and study.

Some devotees, such as Gansham Prabhu and the others, who eventually left the temple, were also always invited for these meetings. They were given opportunities to clear their doubts. They were given access to important information concerning the problems within ISKCON. Their reaction however was like the owl refusing to see the sun. They preferred the darkness. They never turned up for these meetings and therefore naturally could not have an input in the final decision! Any intelligent person knows that when people are consistently absent from important meetings, that is an indication of their disinterest in crucial matters. What then is the point of complaining for a fault on one’s own part ? All opportunities were provided for but no interest was shown and no attendance was recorded. As such, the allegation that there was no consultation with the congregation is untenable. On the contrary, it was Gansham Prabhu who failed to take advantage of the opportunities, preferring to remain loyal to his own sentimental opinions of what constituted bona fide spiritual leadership. He hardly came for any meetings on this matter and always distanced himself! As such, if Muhammad does not go the mountain with all of its bounties, what is the use of blaming the mountain for his own lack of appreciation?

Those who attended the meetings favored the ritvik system and unanimously voted for it. Only then was the ritvik system adopted full on within the temple. Although the temple president was a ritvik, he has never thrown out anyone from the temple for not complying with his beliefs. On the contrary, many of the congregational devotees abandoned their service to the Deities and walked out of the temple on the orders of their gurus.

As for the allegation of our feeling “envious” of money going for guru dakshina instead of coming to the temple, please kindly note that we are paying a hefty $15,000 in rental every month without the aid of these disgruntled guru-dakshinites. Therefore some paltry guru dakshina is not making us cry for want of more money.

Whose fault is it when devotees leave the temple and conduct their own undercurrent programmes ? We have never told these devotees not to come to the temple and render service! On the contrary, it was they who often put on long faces and exhibited moroseness as if we were asking them to take poison. Philosophical differences are immaterial in serving the Archa Vigraha. But here we were witnessing attitudes that tended to see Sri Sri Radha Madan Mohan as an extension of the temple devotees with whom they could not agree philosophically! Is this the attitude to be had in rendering devotional service? When the Deity was installed, everyone present promised not to leave but to serve Them and yet almost always, people leave their service behind for frivolous reasons of politics.

These other programmes in actuality are anti-temple propaganda sessions meant for mudslinging temple devotees and pro-ritviks and dissuaded many people from coming back to the temple to render service to the Deities! The temple has lost so many simple-minded persons who were rendering nice service to the Lord in this way! They are invited to these other programs, where politics are discussed and then they are gone! that’s it ! And what about the years of cultivation by the devotees at the temple? No one thinks of these things!

According to Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, when a visiting sannyasi comes to a certain zone, he is to seek the permission of temple authorities before engaging in preaching. He is to stay in the temple or in temple-sponsored/recommended residences and not whimsically pretend that no local temple authorities exist. All of these are however fairy tales in Singapore. Independent actions that bypass temple authority have become the feature of sannyasis descent upon Singapore. These “programmes by ex-temple congregation” as per Ghansham Prabhu’s description, are in fact nothing but facilitators of such programmes by of many ISKCON sannyasis who visit Singapore. The official situation in Singapore furthermore is touchy for reasons that are only too well known to the devotees all over the world. Instead of easing tensions, this irresponsible behavior only aggravates our problems amidst the difficult situation.

By his own admission, Gansham Prabhu has mentioned that the devotees “tried to convince.” This is clearly different from “coercion.” Time and time again, we provided him with information about ISKCON’s history and constantly sought to hear his doubts and clarify them. But he never revealed his mind simply because he never wanted to hear what was going on. He tended to be more interested in what he personally wanted to believe. If one is unhappy with this, then let him debate the issues and prove us wrong. We shall be glad to admit our mistakes. If he can clearly and openly prove us philosophically wrong, we are prepared to facilitate his ideas and relinquish ours. But to not do so and then to leave and bad-mouth devotees for one’s own indecisiveness is not very gentlemanly. Not only that, the indecisiveness was almost always coupled with duplicity and an attempt to canvass for activities that undermined the preaching efforts of the fully dedicated devotees and their supportive congregation.

If Gansham Prabhu has serious doubts about the ritvik system, he should have gently but firmly voiced out his grievances openly to the authorities and the other congregation members. We would be only glad to answer to the best of our ability. He should have approached the issue as a student and thrashed out his points with amity. But his attitude on the contrary was one based on notions of “I do what I like.” He always tended to run away from the issues. What was worse, he and his wife were playing a double game by organizing what were clearly programmes that only fuelled undercurrents. He came to the temple to canvass for these programmes. Which temple authority or loyal congregation would in all honesty entertain these things ? Would anyone want to dig his own grave by entertaining such a person?

Had Gansham Prabhu been a non-ritvik with an open mind who was straightforward in his dealings and totally loyal to the temple, no ultimatum would have been issued. Even then, kindly note that only an ultimatum was issued and not an order to leave. Therefore, it was Gansham Prabhu who chose to leave. Why then is he morose for his own decision to leave behind his own worshipable Deities? If he had wanted, he could have stayed on serving the Deities and being loyal to the temple. He need not agree with us philosophically but let him forsake his duplicity. That is our point. Loyalty must be straightforward and fixed, not wobbly and disturbing to the others. On the contrary, he was canvassing behind the backs of the temple authorities, seeking attendance for alternative destabilizing programmes of the critical disgruntled ex-congregation. On many festival days, he was not to be found rendering service. On the contrary, he went elsewhere, even to Malaysian temples in Kuala Lumpur and Johor, to attend programmes. So why then does he now worry so much about not taking darshan of the Deities here? If he felt so comfortable going for other programmes at the expense of serving Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha Madan Mohan on their most auspicious festival days, then let him go elsewhere and take darshan of Sri Sri Radha Krishna. There is no loss for him either way! Loyalty is not self-styled. It has definitive criterion. Srila Prabhupada never entertained any endeavor that undermined the temple’s preaching. But here we see such attempts being paraded as most welcome.

Many of the congregation devotees complained about these things to the temple authorities and a unanimous decision was made to safeguard the convictions of the newly emerging congregation. As such, everything was done on a strictly consultative basis. Opportunities for consultation have always been there. But it is up to the individual to utilize them. The fault of non-consultation cannot be thrust upon the temple for one’s own hesitation in coming forth.

There is no question of “whatever reasons.” Gansham Prabhu only knows too well what these reasons are, i.e. the undermining of our ritvik preaching, the stealing of valuable and sincere devotees from the temple and the creation of disruptive undercurrents. No temple authority or congregation member loyal to the temple would entertain acts of this nature or their sympathizers. The temple follows ritvik philosophy strictly and if Gansham Prabhu wants to be considered loyal to the temple, then he must also be loyal to this, and not his own ideas. If he does not feel that we are following Srila Prabhupada’s words strictly, then he should have told us directly and asked us why. He should have attempted to understand why we say what we say and then rebutt and be open to counter-rebuttals, all in the spirit of Vaishnava openness. If one wants to have a programme at home, one should first of all seek the permission of the local temple. But in this case, we feel that the programmes entertain a system of guruship that is not supported by Srila Prabhupada. Why then should we tolerate such programmes, especially on the part of one who verbally claims to be loyal to the temple and Srila Prabhupada, but who practically acts otherwise?!

We tolerated this duplicity for a good one year hoping that with time he will mature and come off it. The very fact that we allowed him to be with us for one year after becoming ritvik, clearly indicates the good tolerance level of the temple devotees and the congregation. But one should not use that tolerance to one’s own advantage. That is something that cannot be tolerated. It was only when the acts of Gansham Prabhu began to strangle the stability and peace within the temple that the unanimous decision was made to issue him an ultimatum. Kindly note, that we did not ask him to leave! We only issued him an ultimatum for his own spiritual surety and for those with whom he relates. He cannot possibly be oscillating and confusing everyone he comes across at the temple. Make up your mind and go in the direction that you wish. But if you go in a certain direction, then you simply cannot walk in another. You cannot walk in two directions with your legs Gansham Prabhu ! And this is about a fundamental issue. Even if you don’t wish to follow the rest of the temple community, do not disturb the minds of the others who have chosen to! At least that much honesty would have prevented an ultimatum from coming forth. So we gave you a choice and you went the other way. You cannot protect the milk and still remain the thievish cat’s best friend. Either you protect the milk or you help the cat steal the milk. Never the twain shall meet. “Everyone’s servant is no one’s servant.” Please remember these words of Srila Prabhupada.

“I requested that maybe I be allowed to visit the temple and take darshan of the Deities once a month which will be on a day when they don’t have programme. They refused even this small mercy, which makes me feel very disappointed with this attitude. To add insult to injury, they are unable or unwilling to return a loan (not a donation) made by me to them and when I requested on the phone for return of the money advanced the answer by the temple president is a curt “I have no money. I don’t know when I will return your money. Do whatever you want to do.””

There are no such “no program” days at the Singapore Temple. Devotees and well-wishers are always coming to the temple for one reason or the other. We do not wish to allow any more exodus from the temple due to Gansham Prabhu’s canvassing. Do not feel disappointed because our disappointment with him is even greater.

The financial dealings of the temple president with him are those pertaining to private business dealings unrelated to temple finance. So far as the temple records show, no loan has been recorded under the temple accounts. We understand that the dealings are of a private business nature related to another account and as such, please do not mix up philosophy with pragmatic business dealings. That has got nothing to do with being ritvik or otherwise. Business dealings have their problems and you would have done well to settle that with him in private on a separate basis. Financial difficulties unrelated to devotional service are not to be presented to CHAKRA. To blame technical business problems on ritvik or non-ritvik tendencies constitutes a logical misfit. It would not do Gansham Prabhu well as a devotee to entertain such a misfit.

All is not lost yet. Gansham Prabhu is always welcome back to the temple if he is prepared to amend his ways. He can officially write to the temple committee and we shall review his case and then decide. There is no such thing as eternal damnation within the Krishna Consciousness Movement. Channels of open communication are always present provided one approaches them with philosophical maturity and honesty. Double games will however not be tolerated.


The Committee & Congregation Singapore Temple

© CHAKRA 07-Mar-2000

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