“Harmonizing our Preaching Efforts”

    Posted on June 7, 2016

By Bhakti Vikasa Swami

In the GBC resolutions for 2016, #313, under the euphemistic heading “Harmonizing our Preaching Efforts,” instituted a worldwide ban on "Women: Masters or Mothers?" The resolution follows.

Resolution #313 – Harmonizing our Preaching Efforts

Whereas the GBC Body accepts that many different understandings of the teachings of Srila Prabhupada and sastra, and many different understandings of what constitutes effective preaching, exist amongst ISKCON devotees, and this, in general, is a healthy situation;

Whereas when one ISKCON devotee's preaching efforts, however well-meaning, are seen to work at cross purposes with the preaching efforts of others, it is the responsibility of ISKCON's leadership to step in and take regulative action that it considers will be most favorable for the fulfillment of the objectives of ISKCON;

Whereas when publications are sold or promoted on ISKCON premises it gives the impression that ISKCON as a whole is endorsing the contents of such publications;

Whereas the book, "Women: Masters or Mothers" by Bhakti Vikasa Swami, has been seen to cause misunderstanding of Srila Prabhupada's instructions, alienation and polarization of many devotees, and it has the potential to create even more disruptions to many aspects of ISKCON's preaching work in the future;

Whereas as stated by the author, the book "features many generalizations and personal views of mine;"

Whereas the book contains statements advocating practices that are illegal in the majority of countries in the world, notably polygamy, child marriage and child labor:

RESOLVED:

That the sale and/or distribution of the publication "Women: Masters or Mothers" by Bhakti Vikasa Swami, is not allowed on ISKCON premises, or at any ISKCON supported programs.

Therefore the following statement is also be published:

The opinions expressed by Bhakti Vikasa Swami in his book "Women: Masters or Mothers" are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views and practices of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), or its Founder-Acarya, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

[End of resolution]

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I am duty-bound to respect the authority of the GBC, but nevertheless I feel that this ban and the manner of imposing it have been very unfair. Therefore, to present another side of the story – a side that the promulgators of this ban have consistently been unwilling to hear – I have below presented correspondence between the GBC EC (Executive Committee) and myself prior to the announcement of the ban. I plan to comment on this correspondence, on this site, in the next few days.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Letter PAMHO:28683990 (27 lines) {I4}
From:      GBC EC
Date:      11-Apr-16 21:21 +0530
To:        Bhakti Vikasa Swami [198667]
Subject:   From the GBC Executive Committee
------------------------------------------------------------
Dear Bhakti Vikasa Swami,
Please accept our humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
 
We trust this letter meets you well and in happy Krsna conscious spirits.
 
During the recent GBC Annual General Meeting, your controversial book "Women, Mothers or Masters" was the subject of a proposal and considerable discussion.
 
The GBC asked the GBC Executive Committee if you would be willing to voluntarily withdraw further publication and promotion of this book. We understand it has already been withdrawn in several areas.
 
Depending on your response, a "disclaimer" statement about the book as passed in the meetings will be kept private, or published.
 
Kindly consider this request keeping in mind Srila Prabhupada's request for cooperation in ISKCON.
 
Hare Krsna,
 
Your servants,
Sesa Das
Bhakti Charu Swami
Praghosa Das

(Text PAMHO:28683990) --------------------------------------

 

Letter PAMHO:28713384 (20 lines) [W1]
From:      Bhakti Vikasa Swami
Date:      20-Apr-16 17:05 +0530
To:        GBC EC
Comment:   Text PAMHO:28720836 by GBC EC
Comment:   Text PAMHO:28720956 by GBC EC
Subject:   reply
------------------------------------------------------------
Dear Bhakti Charu Swami and Sesa Prabhu,
Please accept my humble obeisances.
 
Dear Praghosh Prabhu,
Please accept my blessings.
 
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
 
Thankyou for so kindly thinking of this insignificant soul.
 
Please send me the relevant resolution so that I can better understand what I am dealing with.
 
Thanking you in anticipation,
 
Yours in Srila Prabhupada's service,
BVS

(Text PAMHO:28713384) --------------------------------------

 

Letter PAMHO:28720836 (74 lines)
From:      GBC EC
Date:      23-Apr-16 19:12 +0530
To:        Bhakti Vikasa Swami [198982]
Reference: Text PAMHO:28713384 by Bhakti Vikasa Swami
Subject:   Reply
------------------------------------------------------------
 
Dear Bhakti Vikasa Maharaja,
Please accept our humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
 
Thank you for your response. Below is the resolution in question:
 
HARMONIZING OUR PREACHING EFFORTS
 
Whereas the GBC Body accepts that many different understandings of the teachings of Srila Prabhupada and sastra, and many different understandings of what constitutes effective preaching, exist amongst ISKCON devotees, and this, in general, is a healthy situation;
 
Whereas when one ISKCON devotee's preaching efforts, however well-meaning, are seen to work at cross purposes with the preaching efforts of others, it is the responsibility of ISKCON's leadership to step in and take regulative action that it considers will be most favorable for the fulfillment of the objectives of ISKCON;
 
Whereas when publications are sold or promoted on ISKCON premises it gives the impression that ISKCON as a whole is endorsing the contents of such publications;
 
Whereas the book, "Women: Masters or Mothers" by Bhakti Vikasa Swami, has been seen to cause misunderstanding of Srila Prabhupada's instructions, alienation and polarization of many devotees, and it has the potential to create even more disruptions to many aspects of ISKCON's preaching work in the future;
 
Whereas as stated by the author, the book "features many generalizations and personal views of mine;"
 
Whereas the book contains statements advocating practices that are illegal in the majority of countries in the world, notably polygamy, child marriage and child labor:
 
RESOLUTION
It is resolved that the sale and/or distribution of the publication "Women: Masters or Mothers" by Bhakti Vikasa Swami, is not allowed on ISKCON premises, or at any ISKCON supported programs
Therefore, the following statement will also be published:
 
The opinions expressed by Bhakti Vikasa Swami in his book "Women: Masters or Mothers" are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views and practices of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) or its Founder-Acarya His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
 
PROCEDURE
The GBC EC will immediately communicate with Bhakti Vikas Swami and request him to voluntarily withdraw his book, "Women: Masters or Mothers," before the publication of the GBC resolutions 2016. Based upon the outcome of the discussion, this resolution will be published, or not.
 
END.
___________________________________________________________________________
 
In other words, if you voluntarily withdraw the book, then the entire resolution above will remain unpublished, and if not it will be published and naturally the book will begin to be removed from official distribution channels.
 
Kindly respond at your earliest convenience.
 
Hare Krsna,
 
Your servants,
Sesa Das
Bhakti Charu Swami
Praghosa Das,
 
GBC Executive Committee
 
(Text PAMHO:28720836) --------------------------------------

 

New Text 81175 (17 lines) [W1]
From:      Bhakti Vikasa Swami
Date:      26-Apr-16 09:08 +0530
To:        GBC EC
Subject:   Reply
------------------------------------------------------------
 
Dear Bhakti Charu Swami and Sesa Prabhu,
Please accept my humble obeisances.
 
Dear Praghosh Prabhu,
Please accept my blessings.
 
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
 
Seems to me, as probably it would to any impartial person, that I should have been involved in the discussion before any decision was made. Is there still any scope for that?
 
Yours in Srila Prabhupada's service,
BVS

(Text 81175) -----------------------------------------------

 

Letter PAMHO:28737911 (40 lines)
From:      GBC EC
Date:      29-Apr-16 11:36 +0530
To:        Bhakti Vikasa Swami [199174]
Cc:        EC [47141]
Reference: Text PAMHO:28727581 by Bhakti Vikasa Swami
Subject:   Reply
------------------------------------------------------------
 
Dear Maharaja,
Please accept our humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
 
Thank you for your response.
 
During the AGM discussion on this proposal, it was mentioned by an ISKCON India Bureau member that the book was discussed in your presence during a Bureau meeting and there you had already expressed willingness to change both the cover and certain controversial parts of the book.
 
Additionally a GBC member stated that the issues regarding the book were discussed with you extensively over email, but did not lead to any conclusion.
 
It was also mentioned that the book has already been restricted in several regions of ISKCON. One GBC member even stated that ISKCON's very existence in his country would be jeopardised if this book were seen to at all be representing ISKCON.
 
For these various reasons above, we would hope that you would agree to at least temporarily withdraw/cease distribution of the book, until you have revised it as you have already apparently agreed to do.
 
If this is not the case and you are not willing to withdraw the book, then kindly inform us as soon as possible so we can accordingly release the GBC Resolutions, including the one related to the book.
 
We would also like to point out that the book is not 'banned' as such; in other words the resolution does not prohibit ISKCON devotees from reading it, but it should not be distributed on ISKCON property.
 
Hare Krsna,
 
Your servants,
Sesa Das
Bhakti Charu Swami
Praghosa Das,
 
GBC Executive Committee
 
(Text PAMHO:28737911) --------------------------------------

 

Letter PAMHO:28744273 (137 lines) [W1]
From:      Bhakti Vikasa Swami
Date:      01-May-16 14:28 +0530
To:        GBC EC
Reference: Text PAMHO:28737911 by GBC EC
Subject:   Reply
------------------------------------------------------------
 
Dear Bhakti Caru Maharaja and Sesa Prabhu,
Please accept my humble obeisances.
 
Dear Praghosa Prabhu,
Please accept my blessings.
 
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
 
Thankyou for your latest message. My comments appear below.
 
> During the AGM discussion on this proposal, it was mentioned by an ISKCON
> India Bureau member that the book was discussed in your presence during a
> Bureau meeting and there you had already expressed willingness to change
> both the cover and certain controversial parts of the book.

Actually it was an IIAC meeting.

> Additionally a GBC member stated that the issues regarding the book were
> discussed with you extensively over email, but did not lead to any
> conclusion.
 
Not exactly. After the book was banned in Vrndavana in Karttika, I invited the elderly Vaisnavis who had instigated the ban to come to a meeting to tell me their reasons for doing so. As none of them came, I sent them an email asking them to reply to me with their concerns. There followed quite an elaborate exchange concerning perspectives on gender issues in ISKCON today, but they did not directly express concerns about the content of the book. They could not do so because (by their own admission) at the time NONE OF THEM HAD READ IT, although at least one had read some snippets.
 
It would seem to be quite unfair to have a book banned by persons who have not read it. Presumably Sesa Prabhu -- our esteemed ISKCON Minister of Justice and present GBC Chairman, who is of course one of the receivers of this mail -- would concur. Presumably also, most members of the GBC who voted about this book had not read it but simply relied on the testimony of the GBC member whom you have above mentioned, who (as I have just attempted to explain) did not give a wholly accurate report.
 
Another inaccuracy (at least from my perspective) is to state that I have advocated child labor. More precisely I have discussed vocational training for children who are unfit for academic education. Although this position might not be very popular in much of the world today, it is concordant with Srila Prabhupada's vision of varnasrama, which he wanted his disciples to implement "immediately." No doubt, such points are not "politically correct" but, as I have attempted to highlight in "Women: Masters or Mothers?" it is Srila Prabhupada's mandate to us that we at least begin to implement such social measures. I fear that we may be guilty of guror-avajna if as a society we are not anxious to fulfill this desire of Srila Prabhupada -- especially if we are instead anxious to suppress a book that is meant to bring to the attention of devotees these vital issues that, frankly, we who are supposed to be Srila Prabhupada's successors have neglected for so many years to act on.
 
As far as I understand (while admitting my limited knowledge and intelligence) proper procedure was not followed by making this resolution without hearing my side of the story. As our friend Praghosa Prabhu is reportedly fond of saying, "every chapati has two sides." Again, I invite Sesa Prabhu, who must be expert in these matters, to comment.
 
> It was also mentioned that the book has already been restricted in several
> regions of ISKCON. One GBC member even stated that ISKCON's very existence
> in his country would be jeopardised if this book were seen to at all be
> representing ISKCON.
 
Of course, the same could be said for Srila Prabhupada's books. For instance, in Bhagavad-gita As It Is (1.40, purport) he states, "As children are very prone to be misled, women are similarly very prone to degradation. ... women are generally not very intelligent and therefore not trustworthy." As you all know, there are literally hundreds of such statements within Srila Prabhupada's books.
 
Logically, if "Women: Masters or Mothers?" is to be banned on these grounds, then most of Srila Prabhupada's books also should be banned.
 
> For these various reasons above, we would hope that you would agree to at
> least temporarily withdraw/cease distribution of the book, until you have
> revised it as you have already apparently agreed to do.

This statement is not specific enough to be effective, because you have not  given details about which exact statements regarding polygamy, child marriage, and child labor that your good selves and others behind the ban are concerned about -- nor why. I need a comprehensive (i.e., complete) list of page numbers, paragraphs, pictures, and sentences that are in question. Is this request unreasonable in any way?

In your initial letter to me concerning this issue, you invoked Srila Prabhupada's desire for cooperation. I humbly submit that in a fully cooperative environment, I should not have to even request these details.

I need more information just to make the following decision:

> If this is not the case and you are not willing to withdraw the book, then
> kindly inform us as soon as possible so we can accordingly release the GBC
> Resolutions, including the one related to the book.
> We would also like to point out that the book is not 'banned' as such; in
> other words the resolution does not prohibit ISKCON devotees from reading
> it, but it should not be distributed on ISKCON property.

I might be forgiven for opining that this statement seems to exhibit either ignorance of the definition of this word, or plain disingenuity. According to an edition of Collins, "ban" is defined thus:

1) () to prohibit, esp officially, from action, display, entrance, sale, etc.; forbid.

It is also a valid query why the EC hasn't so doggedly pursued other ISKCON books that also are questionable. For instance, the GBC actually praised a book in which, among other controversial statements, the author wrote:

"there are hundreds of thousands of people who practice cannibalism right now. There are people in governments around the world who make human sacrifices and sometimes eat certain human organs as a way of obtaining power." [From Spiritual Warrior I, by Bhakti Tirtha Swami]

Books that are directly offensive to Krsna and Rama, as well as a recent autobiography that recounts multiple illicit sexual relations and illegal drug use, have not been subjected to the strictures that the GBC wishes to impose (and some regional bodies have already imposed) on "Women: Masters or Mothers?" Why? (Exact quotations can be supplied upon request.)

I very much appreciate if you have actually read this far. I understand that you are all very busy and that this is only one of many issues that you have to deal with. But for me this is major; how things work out will affect my whole future relationship with the ISKCON that has largely defined my life over so many years.

Finally, one request. Please each of you individually inform me whether or not you have read "Women: Masters or Mothers?" cover to cover. To reply requires only one word, but it is important.

Thankyou for your patience.

Your servant in Srila Prabhupada's service,

BVS

(Text PAMHO:28744273) --------------------------------------

 

Letter PAMHO:28764512 (33 lines)
From:      GBC EC
Date:      08-May-16 10:04 +0530
To:        Bhakti Vikasa Swami [199431]
Cc:        EC [47221]
Reference: Text PAMHO:28744273 by Bhakti Vikasa Swami
Comment:   Text 81382 by Bhakti Vikasa Swami
Subject:   Reply
------------------------------------------------------------

Dear Bhakti Vikasa Maharaja,

Please accept our humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

We have taken note of your lengthy response. Currently it is beyond us to go further into a point by point discussion. It may serve you better to respond to the GBC Body once the immediate issue is addressed. This is because the EC has no authority to reverse a GBC Resolution, so the restriction on sales at temples will go into effect. And the resolution will be published unless you clearly agree to withdraw the book. You are of course welcome to appeal that decision.

As a point of information, we would like to add that there is no obligation on ISKCON to promote, stock or sell any books other than BBT publications. Of course we know that many other books are stocked and sold, but still there is no obligation on ISKCON to do so.

So for now, kindly address the original question of whether you are willing to withdraw the book, or not.

The release of the GBC Resolutions is pending your answer to this question, so a prompt response would be appreciated.

We trust this meets you well.

Hare Krishna.

Your servants,
Sesa Das
Bhakti Charu Swami
Praghosa Das,
 
GBC Executive Committee

(Text PAMHO:28764512) --------------------------------------

 

Answer 81382 (54 lines) [W1]
From:      Bhakti Vikasa Swami
Date:      10-May-16 18:07 +0530
To:        GBC EC
Reference: Text PAMHO:28764512 by GBC EC
Subject:   Reply
------------------------------------------------------------
 
Dear Bhakti Caru Maharaja and Sesa Prabhu,
Please accept my humble obeisances.
 
Dear Praghosa Prabhu,
Please accept my blessings.
 
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

You seem anxious to rush me into a decision, but even if I were to accept your ultimatum, I cannot properly make such a decision without information such as that which I outlined in my previous letter. I request that you kindly consider that this matter is not as urgent as you apparently deem it, taking into account that the book has already been in circulation for over a year, the sky has not fallen in the meantime, that the GBC had plenty of time to coolly deal with this issue, and that it might be unwise to swiftly and without due consideration try to simply ram this through.

I humbly submit that it would be similarly unwise to attempt to forcibly quash discussion of these issues by, for instance, banning this book. Whether or not you pursue your present trajectory, discussion will continue. Below I offer a friendly suggestion whereby these discussions might be most productive, as an alternative to your present aggressive, intransigent stance, which offers little hope of any forthcoming fruitful exchange.

You have given me an ultimatum of two alternatives, both of which (in my estimation) are unfavorable to me. You state that you have no choice in this matter as you simply have to execute a resolution made by the GBC.

My suggestion: another possibility is for you inform to the GBC members that after some initial correspondence with me, it seems that the resolution was made without receiving a balanced assessment of the book and that proper procedure was not followed inasmuch as the author was not consulted. You could recommend that hence this resolution not be published or implemented at least until proper procedures have been followed and full consideration taken of all issues concerning it.

It might not be the letter of the law for the EC to thus petition the GBC body, but (hopefully) it should be within the spirit of the law.

Even while knowing that you are very unlikely to consider this suggestion and that quite likely you will not even read this letter, I feel obliged to make a last ditch attempt to try to avoid the unfortunate situation that is evolving.

Please pray that some day I may learn to deal with others in a manner befitting a Vaisnava.

Hare Krsna.

Your servant in Srila Prabhupada's service,
BVS
 
(Text 81382) -----------------------------------------------
 

[End of correspondence; I received no further reply from the EC. On 30 May, 20 days after my last letter, the resolution was published –  even though just prior to that, the EC had written “The release of the GBC Resolutions is pending your answer to this question, so a prompt response would be appreciated.”]

 

See also:

Video Reviews
Reply by Bhakti Vikasa Swami to Dhanurdhara Swami’s critique of “Mothers and Masters”
Mothers and Masters
The Book Ban: What’s At Stake
Reactions to the Ban
Book Reviews
 


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