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Sunday, March 18, 2012

THE GITA AND RUSSIA: ANOTHER ISKCON PUBLIC RELATIONS SCAM

The Indian and Russian people have been the victims of a public relations scam orchestrated by a sect masquerading as Hindus. Known as ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) and for their street chanting and opulent temples both in India and in the West, this sect/cult is controlled by swamis who see nothing wrong with meddling in Indian politics as a means to legitimize their operations. Their recent alliance with the VHP (Vishnu Hindu Parishad, a fundamentalist Indian movement) regarding the alleged “banning” of the Bhagavad Gita in Russia illustrates this point. This tempest-in-a-teapot is nothing more than a transparent ploy on the part of ISKCON to abuse Hindu religious sentiment and thereby force the authorities in Moscow and Tomsk to agree to their temple and community building demands.

• Far from banning the Gita: in Tomsk, Russia, the court order filed on 30 June, 2011, only concerned part of the translation by ISKCON’s founder, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. Although this action was supposedly taken at the behest of the local Russian Orthodox Church, the real factor is believed to be a ban the same year of an ISKCON community in that region and also the matter of governmental opposition to erection of a large temple in Moscow. Why did a small part of a translation of a Hindu scripture catch the attention of the authorities in Tomsk at this particular juncture of events? And why did ISKCON try its best to use this minor issue to turn Indian legislators against Russia, one of its most steadfast allies? Instead of encouraging all parties to consider the evidence like rational human beings, the ISKCON leaders exploited the sentiments of Hindus in a ploy to turn them into an angry, seething mob.

• A letter dated 1 November 2011 written by Gopal Krishna Goswami (ISKCON “governing body commissioner” for much of Russia and India) and addressed to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s principal secretary and a copy of which was sent to Sonia Gandhi and External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, repeated the court’s assessment by a panel of experts that “Krishna is evil and not compatible with Christian values.” Why this claim was made and what passages in the Gita might have instigated this assessment are never referred to; indeed, the ISKCON public relations machine took this claim and used it to inflame anti-Russian sentiment by Hindus over the world by treating this court order as a wholesale war on Hinduism by the Russian government.

• Facts: The Bhagavad Gita is a philosophical treatise composed between 200 BC and 200 CE; it consists of 700 verses in eighteen chapters and concerns the conversation between the warrior Arjuna and his charioteer, Lord Krishna (the incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu). It is itself a part of the great Indian epic poem, the Mahabharata. Although many scholars regard it as an allegory, the ISKCON movement takes it literally and places it as occurring approximately 5000 years ago. The translation by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami includes his commentaries after each verse. It is some of these commentaries that incited the court order last year in Tomsk, Russia.

Understanding the situation of Arjuna in the Gita is essential to understanding why the panel of experts cited by the court in Tomsk claimed that “Krishna is evil and not compatible with Christian values.” The action begins with Arjuna’s inaction, for, just as the great battle of Kurukshetra was about to begin, he had his chariot parked between the two parties, one of which consisted of his own tribe, the Pandavas, and the other of his 100 cousins, the Kauravas. In other words, this was a giant fratricidal war. Arjuna was simply overwhelmed with grief at the thought of slaying so many of his relatives and at this juncture Krishna advises him for much of the poem on his duties as a member of the kshatriya, or warrior caste. Among the most famous and, for our purposes, most relevant passages in the Gita occur in Chapter Two and are quoted below using the translation in question and a brief excerpt of the commentary on each verse by A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami:

• Chapter Two, Verse 26: “If, however, you think that the soul is perpetually born and always dies, still you still have no reason to lament, O mighty-armed.”

Commentary: “No one laments the loss of a certain bulk of chemicals and stops discharging his prescribed duties.”

• Chapter Two, Verse 27: “For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.”

Commentary: “Why should be afraid of or aggrieved at the death of his relatives since he was discharging his proper duty?”

The problem with these verses and their commentary from a Western point of view should be obvious: what philosophy Krishna is expounding here is based on reincarnation and the caste system. Although few would deny that the Indian caste system is a social abomination that has used and still uses the idea of birthright to elevate others while subjugating and degrading vast numbers of its people, the commentary goes further by treating the verses as examples of philosophical nihilism.

Today, reading these commentaries, I am reminded of Stalin’s famous observation that “a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.” Indeed, the number of enemy combatants Arjuna reportedly killed during only day 14 of the 18-day war was 109,350. Of course, this is all fantasy out of an epic poem, but the point is clear if you are a follower of ISKCON and believe it to be literally true: mass slaughter is a great glory as long as you are doing your “proper duty.”

If that point of view is not evil, what is? How can grief at the loss of life during war be a sign of weakness and, worse, how can a human body be considered “a certain bulk of chemicals?” It seems that the Indian legislators who were whipped into a frenzy at the thought of a far-flung Russian community banning only one of the many translations of the Bhagavad Gita should have sat down and actually read the passages in question. However, like so many people who claim pride in their religion’s scriptures, few apparently took the time to actually read what they are defending.

Finally, I would like to close with a quotation from the 1 November, 2011 letter I referred to earlier in this essay: "We fear this unprecedented attack will trigger rampant bigotry and would unwittingly make it difficult for the Indian government to be seen fostering security, defence, political and economic ties with an intolerant and oppressive society."

Gopal Krishna Goswami need not fear any such reactions from either the Indian or Russian peoples regarding his guru’s commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita. Rather, what he and ISKCON should fear is that all this attention will lead many of those involved or appealed to in this case to actually read the passages in question and see for themselves what irrational, inhumane, and bigoted dogma they truly are. Banning is hardly needed; all the Russians need to do is insert a warning to each reader at the beginning of each book and be done with the whole business.

For more about ISKCON as an intolerant cult, please see the entries in this blog entitled, “Islamic Tribalism, Converts,and Terror: the Case of Russia," "The ISKCON Vedic Cultural Center Hoax," and also my website: https://iskconcultunveiled.blogspot.com.

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4 comments:

Jassi said...

This is how India works. If you've ever had any amount of experience in India or with Indian religious movements you'd know how commonplace this kind of action is.

Sikhs are masters of it as well and use it constantly to justify murders and assassinations done to secure funds to Sikh Gurdwaras instead of Deras.

Ronald difilippi said...

Iskcon system promotes worker abuse... on watseka sri sacinandana always watched me take showers. ...108... membership lives on FREE food... gross set- up of human subculture. Salvation army of religion. Svavas prabhu has condos in hawaii and packs a gun in his BMW glove box...

Anonymous said...

I joined HK thinking it was just about spirituality, but their opinions on women were confusing. The founder said women have half the brain size of men making them less intelligent, which is why there are less women scientists, while forgetting that women in India used to get married at 11 without being able to have an education, and even Marie Curie was refused university places and awards because she was a woman. Then they said that western science has many errors anyway. The Queen Kunti, Iskcon translation and commentary says women are less intelligent, but because she was a Krishna devotee then she was intelligent, and they also say women devotees are classed as intelligent unlike other women. Are they saying women's brains suddenly grow from half the size when they become a devotee? Or that male non devotees are better than women devotees? Then they say intelligence isn't about education. They say that intelligence is about Krishna consciousness, and that women are more likely to become devotees than men, so isn't that contradicting their other statements, as doesn't that make women more intelligent? Then they say women only get in the way of a man's spirituality, while worshiping Radha and Krishna, where Radha is the most important thing to Krishna. If that is pointed out, they say Radha isn't like any woman we know, she's something else. Then they say men should become devotees, and women should only serve the men, but what about all the women I met whose husbands don't believe in Krishna consciousness and they go to the groups anyway? It seemed to me as if the groups were mostly going because of the effort many women were putting in, while men were being disrespectful towards them. Iskcon in the USA was bankrupted because of payments to abuse victims by the male gurus. Then they say that we're more than our body, while trying to make women feel bad for being women, and trying to make them more attached to their body than they say devotees should be. Bhagavad Gita 5.18 says we're all equal, but just have different bodies. The way they talk about women doesn't seem as if they want women to see themselves as equal. I could accept if they admitted that the founder had issues with women because of being made to have an arranged marriage to a woman he didn't like, but they made me feel as if I was supposed to see him as infallible and worship as much as Krishna. I do think he did some good things by translating some Hindu books and encourage vegetarianism, but to not realise he made some mistakes seems more like a cult than encouraging open discussion. As a divorced woman because my husband was abusive, I was starting to feel worthless without a husband to serve, and it went against all my previous ideas that I was an individual spiritual being.

Anonymous said...

I can identify with what anonymous comment said. But I have some real horror stories to tell about ISKCON, too had I done my research and listened to my concerned friends I would have been smart instead of trusting. Not only that HAD I done my research I could I have not read about the murders, racket, rapes, worse? Had I known the Auschwitz like corpses at New Vridaban I would have NEVER EVER gone there. I lived there for a half a year. I was assaulted in two US temples. Too many "devotees" are a physiological hazard- I man HAZARD esp. if you are female. Its scary. Prabhupad is one big JOKE and creepy as heck too not only in countenance. He's NOT a savior. I don't understand the hold he has on peoples' minds but its not holy at all. At all. Around 2001 in the L.A. temple I noticed a tall late 20s gal sit down on one of the temple bench seats with a guitar, which was zippered up. I didn't put her too much notice 'til of a sudden she bolted up, shouting, invaded the altar (had open flames as well) in a huge rage. But I understand people and have some studies under my belt as well as CARE and knew something had traumatized her- someone, but the temple guys including the president surrounded her and in no way tried to quell her. In fact they barred her from escaping which is why the Pres. got bitten on the hand. But what she was hollering was this: in effect "you sick egotists, damn your nasty hypocritical system and sicko mantra..." I think this ISKCON thing is so convoluted, deceptive and not to be trusted. The Vedas (Vedanta etc) is one thing and what orig. attracted me/suckered me in was the institution's philosophy, but isckon does NOT adhere to its basics nor live in compassion & broadmindedness. I came to reckon their philosophy as weak as water and actually useless. Compassion, openness, drive to help mainstream society with non judgmentalism & Love. These were all qualities I mistakenly thought they were but I was only projecting my own aspirations to be these things on to them. I left bec. of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual abuse. THAT I have never regretted, for it was still never too late to do so. If you are looking for GOD I can't recommend you will find Him/Her/It in ISKCON. A woman's a prostitute if her hair is down? Jeez almighty, even here in the USA this culture acts this out- and its very dangerous for the females who are objectified with this (and other) prejudicial delusions.