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BBT Legal Case Ends

Devotees settle their differences and pledge cooperation

from Jayadvaita Swami and Gupta Dasa

"Now all my disciples must work combinedly and with cooperation to spread this Sankirtan Movement. If you cannot work together then my work is stopped up. Our Society is like one big family and our relationships should be based on love and trust. We must give up the fighting spirit and use our intelligence to push ahead."

(Letter from Srila Prabhupada to Upendra Prabhu, dated 6 August 1970)

Hare Krishna. All Glories to Srila Prabhupada. All Glories to Lord Nityananda and Lord Caitanya.

The BBTI-Hansadutta court case is over. By the grace of Krishna, the devotees involved were able to settle the matter without need of a trial. On November 13, the devotees appeared before the judge and placed their settlement on record, thus putting their legal dispute to an end.

In dispute had been several issues: Is the original American BBT trust, founded by Srila Prabhupada in 1972, still valid? Is it the true owner of the copyrights to Srila Prabhupada's literary works? And was Hansadutta Dasa still rightfully entitled to serve as a trustee?
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After some eighteen months of researching, analyzing and litigating the matter as adversaries, the devotees began to see clearly that to reach a final and lasting resolution, we had to shift from adversarial positioning to spiritual cooperation. Accordingly, after several weeks of intense negotiations, we reached an agreement meant to satisfy our various concerns. It was this agreement that was then officially accepted by the court.

The agreement reaffirms the validity of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust formed by Srila Prabhupada on May 29, 1972. This was a legal California trust into which Srila Prabhupada conveyed the copyrights to his books. All sides agree that this trust is still legal and alive, and that it is the true owner of Srila Prabhupada's copyrights, as Srila Prabhupada desired.

This was an outcome upon which all the devotees, in a spirit of cooperation, submitted their willingness to agree. Now all sides are pleased to see Srila Prabhupada's copyrights secure within this original trust.

Hansadutta Dasa, Veda Guhya Dasa, Bhagavan Dasa, and Dasa Dasanudasa Dasa Dasi have voluntarily stepped down from any role they might have had as trustees of the 1972 trust. And all concerned have agreed that now the trustees will be four trustees from the BBT International: Brahma Muhurta Dasa, Naresvara Dasa, Svavasa Dasa, and Jayadvaita Swami.

All parties agree that the rightful beneficiary of the trust is the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, founded by Srila Prabhupada in 1966 and further defined by the GBC. (The "beneficiary" is the person or organization that a trust is supposed to benefit. So, for example, when the BBT allots funds for constructing temples, they are to be used for the benefit of ISKCON.)

With the validity of the California trust now reaffirmed, what about the BBTI? Is it redundant? Is it useful? Is it needed at all? It's too soon to say. For now, the 1972 BBT trust will serve mainly as the safe shelter for Srila Prabhupada's copyrights. And on its behalf the BBT International will continue handling the active side of BBT operations.

Meanwhile, devotee attorneys who opposed one another in the case will work together to study how best to take advantage of the two legal units—the BBT and the BBTI—to serve Srila Prabhupada's desires. Gupta Dasa (who served as the attorney on Hansadutta's side of the case) will work on this with Amarendra Dasa (who served on the ISKCON side).

Another part of the settlement is a liberal licensing arrangement that allows for cooperative publishing. Under this arrangement, Hansadutta Prabhu and the devotees working with him will form a company that can publish Srila Prabhupada's books in the editions published before 1978. These will be available for sale in markets where they won't directly compete with distribution by the BBT and by ISKCON temples.

The theme is "cooperation, not competition." The new company may also buy books from the BBT, or vice versa. Or the two may work together on joint projects.

Finally, in recognition of the strong legal claims and defenses presented by Hansadutta's side in the case (both in America and in Singapore, where the matter first started), the BBTI will reimburse Hansadutta, and the devotees who supported him, for their attorney's fees and costs.

Clearly, the devotees involved in this case were able to settle their differences only by treating one another respectfully, as spirit souls, servants of Srila Prabhupada. They had to focus together on strengthening and expanding—rather than weakening and limiting—the Krishna consciousness movement.

The resolution of this lawsuit, a case full of emotionally and spiritually charged issues, called for a great deal of personal, emotional and spiritual healing between the devotees involved. We hope that the spirit and example of this unique resolution can now become a model for resolving other controversies affecting the Hare Krsna movement and its devotees.

We're all servants of Srila Prabhupada and Krishna, and we're all meant to work cooperatively in their service. Case closed, with pleasure. Hare Krishna.

Jayadvaita Swami and Gupta Dasa

With the agreement of all the devotees directly involved:

Akruranatha Dasa, Amarendra Dasa, Bhagavan Dasa, Bhima Dasa (from Singapore), Brahma Muhurta Dasa, Dasa Dasanudasa Dasa Dasi, Gopal Krishna Goswami, Gupta Dasa, Hansadutta Dasa, Madhusevita Dasa, Naresvara Dasa, Svavasa Dasa, Veda Guhya Dasa.

© CHAKRA 4-Dec-98

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