In Reflection

March '08
Photo from March ’08

July 2nd, 2015:

Dear Friends,

For several months now I have made a conscious decision to keep my distance from the Gaudiya Vaishnava community, Sri Caitanya Sangha, and almost all the people therein. During that time, some have reached out to me, but I have almost without exception ignored communication or postponed it indefinitely. I’ve done this because I’ve needed the space to process my own thoughts and experiences, and to determine how I wish to move forward. All along it’s been clear that this letter would be written, but not when and how.

In recent days, for reasons that aren’t entirely known to me, rumors have begun to flourish. This has come to my attention most notably in the form of emails from Tripurari Swami and two of his closest students, as well as by snippets of word of mouth. It’s said that “life is what happens when you’re making other plans,” and through these rumors life has forced me to adjust my own plans. So here I am, seeking to convey my perspective thoroughly and clearly. I ask that you take the time to read and consider all that I have said.

Below I am going to, in painstaking detail and complete candor, relay where my life stands now and what has brought me to this point. I’m going to do this by publicly responding to the last two emails I have received from Tripurari Swami, neither of which I have previously responded to. I’ve come to believe firmly that transparency is foundational in healthy relationships of any kind. Moreover, it may be the only thing with the potential to illuminate deceptive and manipulative relationships, organizations, and ideologies. 

I want to take a moment to say that, given the content of what I have to say here, I expect this will circulate beyond the membrane of Sri Caitanya Sangha. While other Gaudiya Vaishnava sects are likely to to take what is written here as confirmation of their superiority and Tripurari’s inferiority, I would like to be clear that in my opinion the problems lie not in the individual organizations but in the ideology itself, and that every one of these organizations just lives out its own adaptations and abuses around the personalities of its leaders. For those who don’t know me, I was raised on the fringes of the Hare Krishna movement (ISKCON) in a family crippled by its connection to that movement, my mother’s depression being endlessly exacerbated by guilt and shame for her humanity and my father having left in my infancy with much encouragement from leaders who saw his potential as a preacher. There is much to say about this childhood framework that set the stage for my adolescence, but this is not the time to go into that further.

The following email was sent to me by Tripurari Swami on Sunday, June 28th, 2015, with the subject line “caring”. The original email appears in blue. I will respond section by section. (Any typos in blue are there in the original message.)

Please note that I have not had any contact with Tripurari Swami since I made a brief phone call to him from a jail cell a little over three months ago. (This is all explained in detail later.) Prior to that, our last conversation was business as usual – he had called me to ask my opinion about a few business ventures he was considering. Everything in this email and his previous one, which I will also reproduce below, stems from speculation and hearsay. Tripurari Swami and I have not once communicated directly about any of this. Following my response to him, I’ve added some further thoughts for my dear friends and any other interested readers.

Nitaisundara,

I received this description of your condition recently. 

“Nital is in grave emotional and physical danger as a result of neglect and is “near death,” with no one caring for him. He is in cult de-programming as a direct result of some abuse  He is having 6-8 devastating panic attacks every day and no one is helping him.”

To be clear, none of this is true. And yet neither is it wholly false. Such is the insidious and powerful nature of rumor and speculation. I am not currently in any danger of any kind. I am certainly not near death. I am not “in cult de-programming.” I am not “having 6-8 devastating panic attacks every day.” And it is thankfully not true that nobody is helping me.

What is true: 

Regarding suicide and death: I have, in the past several months, gone through specific periods during which I wished I were dead. I distinguish this from being suicidal, as I have never actively thought about killing myself nor have I formulated, even hypothetically, any plans to do so. For that, I consider myself lucky. All told, these dark periods have probably amounted to about two weeks and were composed mostly of a conscious thought, repeated in my head: “I just wish I was dead.” I had come to an understanding that simply felt too devastating to digest and too overwhelming to overcome. During these times I did consider that it might be necessary to check myself into a facility, having almost no one nearby that I felt could give me the support I needed. These periods were made scarier by the fact that I’d never had such thoughts in my life before that time.

Regarding the idea that nobody is caring for me: Were it true that I had nobody caring for me, I quite possibly would be dead. Fortunately, it isn’t true, and I’m not dead or “near death.” It is true however that no one within the Gaudiya community is caring for me. This is in part because, when you get right down to it, many communities – and Sri Caitanya Sangha in particular at its core – simply don’t care for their members in tangible ways. To be fair, I have not wanted the help of the Gaudiya community. While a handful of members have reached out, some no doubt sincerely, over the past few months, for the most part – and this is something I was actually counting on – people have been content to accept third-hand accounts that I’m alright and just taking some distance. While that’s not entirely true, it’s given me the space I have needed for myself. I know many of the regular devotees do care for me, but the journey I’ve been on is not one that any of them could assist me with.

Regarding “cult de-programming”: Not only am I not in cult deprogramming, but deprogramming basically isn’t practiced in the United States anymore, and certainly not in the old school, aggressive way that the word often connotes. There are indeed counselors and therapists who specialize in post-cult counseling, even mild interventions, but I’ve never personally employed those services. I have, however, seen a regular local therapist for several months now. I have also tapped into a network of former group members and experts in high-control, abusive groups. These people have no agenda. No one has ever launched a concerted attack on my faith, or put me in a room and said bad things about Krishna and Prabhupada, or whatever else readers might imagine. No. My reasoning faculties are more my own now than they’ve ever been, and I would ask that readers not relegate my views to being the result of someone’s sinister agenda to change me by violating my free will. 

Regarding panic attacks: Since this past February I have had five or six panic attacks in total. Period. They were all very directly connected to the transitional period I have been in. On some occasions I’ve had to pull over on the highway as my fingers and head go numb and I get lightheaded. This is the most severe type of attack I’ve experienced. The “account” above obviously overstates the truth. 

Regarding that account of my current state, I do not know who wrote the letter that is supposedly quoted above. I have good reason to believe it’s either an inaccurate quote, or that the statement itself came from someone two or three times removed from my actual situation. What follows the quote is frustratingly sterile, defensive, and overly complicated language to obscure what should be simple facts about who said what to whom about me. Knowing who the source is, exactly what he or she said, and how close (or how far) that person is from me and my situation would certainly make things more clear, which could facilitate discussion, assuming those involved were genuinely interested in a mutual endeavor for understanding.

The ex devotee who reported this to another devotee did so in an effort to break that devotee’s faith. The reporter knows very well that you have been taking drugs and have been arrested for selling them. This reporter also knows that a number of devotees including myself have tried to contact you but that you have closed us out since the time of your arrest. These facts were conveniently omitted.

I’m certain that all these people have names. If Tripurari Swami had used their names, it would have helped me pin down this conversation. Lacking those details, it’s useless to delve into all of this, as there is no accountability. But I would like to make it abundantly clear that the drugs Tripurari Swami alludes to here are, exclusively, marijuana. The same drug Tripurari allowed a wealthy congregant to use regularly and perform pujari services at the temple. The same drug that he knows full well several of his students grow and several more, including brahmacharis, have at times been sent by Tripurari to work with to make money for the organization. The same drug that Tripurari requested one of his former students observe the cultivation of in order to asses whether or not that business would be viable for the temple itself. All of this occurred within the last year and no doubt goes on still in some capacity.

The same drug that, if we were honest, we would admit is used regularly by people we all know and whose lives are not impaired significantly as a result. Is it my intention to praise marijuana use in general or mine in particular? No. I’d simply like to show how absurd it is for Tripurari to attempt to make this relevant, to say nothing of his casually manipulating language by using the phrase “taking drugs,” thus implying a wide range of mind-altering substances instead of being specific and running the risk of implicating himself.

I know of no instance of abuse by myself or anyone else. 

This. This has to be systematically dismantled. It is a sad reality that abuses in life that do not leave scars are far too often not regarded as abuses at all, even by the victims themselves. Abuse comes in many forms: physical, sexual, emotional, financial, spiritual, and others as well. Below I will list some of what I consider the abuses I have endured. None of these are unique to me. In fact, they are abuses systemic to Tripurari and his organization and are business as usual for Sri Caitanya Sanga. I am not alone in this perspective. I believe moreover that these sorts of abuses exist in the seed of authoritarian ideology that quite simply is Gaudiya Vaishnavism, in whichever organization that ideology takes root. 

Physical Abuse: I and other devotees were worked to exhaustion. The fascinating thing about manipulation however is that we wanted to do so, a fact that allows those who enforce and perpetuate this abuse to feel faultless. Here are some facts: Within the context of my service to the temple, I used to regularly fall asleep at the wheel. Everyone was aware of this, as I’d done it several times while devotees, including Tripurari Swami, were in the car with me. In the worst of these instances I veered off the road and into a guardrail, popping a tire and terrifying myself and the three other passengers in the vehicle (including Tripurari). But incidents like that don’t truly change anything. There was always more to do. And even though the need for more rest should have been perfectly apparent, naps were always subtly stigmatized, as was practically any other attention paid to one’s biological needs. My deepest insecurities – feeling unintelligent and incompetent – were expertly used to gain control over me by encouraging me to feel stupid and lazy and inadequate. 

This is not even slightly exaggerated. Over the course of my first nine months in the temple, four of which were spent with Tripurari and only a handful of other people in an extremely secluded spot in the jungle of Costa Rica, I was systematically broken down and then built back up into a member of the inner circle. Upon return to the US and my second initiation, I was praised for having made so much headway through my ego and obstinacy and “fault-finding.” I was now what is sometimes called a true believer, fully deployable for the needs of the group. I had successfully locked my identity in a small soundproof room in the sewers of my self. And it showed: I went on to later manage the temple, manage the organization’s harmonist.us website for almost 5 years, manage festivals, and truly, manage peoples’ lives, which is nobody’s right to do. For my role in the abusive component of all these things, I apologize.

In Costa Rica, I lived in an atmosphere controlled by classic techniques of thought reform, whether or not those techniques were consciously employed:

– Insufficient sleep
– Tremendous amounts of physical labor and bodily strain
– Daily schedules that were always full and completely unpredictable
– Inconsistent feedback, including unpredictable application of praise or scorn
– Selectively employed affection
– Isolation from the outside world
– Personal, aggressive counseling-like sessions, contrasted with warmth and acceptance
– Loading the language – impregnating various words with psychological power to evoke shame, guilt, fear, elation, etc. for the purpose of control.

These are only some examples. There are certainly many others.

Emotional Abuse: I hardly know where to begin and I’ve already touched on this somewhat throughout. The psychological mechanisms at play in what I now understand to be a cultic environment are as fascinating as they are insidious. Emotions are quite literally everything in this environment. Our emotions are what initially get us hooked in, and they are what keep us bound. In this totalist ideological environment, the philosophy and the logic and the apologetics are all piled on after that initial emotional connection has been made, and that philosophy is used to serve certain specific psychological functions, like instilling guilt, fear, zeal, and on and on. As for me now, for the time being I live with symptoms of PTSD in addition to being paranoid about getting close to other human beings and us inevitably hurting each other. I am paranoid about groups of all kinds in fear that my belonging to one will eventually lead to the sort of unhealthy dynamics I’ve described and ultimately subsume my identity. I am like a raw wound, overly sensitive to all that is normal human life, having built every component of my existence into this group and ideology.

Financial Abuse: Beginning at the age of 19, within my first year of joining the ashram, I was convinced by Tripurari Swami to draw up a fake rental agreement and enroll in online college classes as a way for me to receive a monthly stipend from my college fund, which I would then give to the group. I enrolled in online schooling while claiming to my Grandfather and college fund trustees that I would be living in town and needed money for rent and other expenses. As a result, I was able to write a $1200 check to Audarya from my personal account every month with almost no exception for almost seven years. I was also influenced to ask for an additional $15,000 in order to buy the temple’s car, but this was simply a way for $15,000 to change hands to the temple. Between the car and the checks and additional donations to cover my own travel for the group at times and repairs on the temple car, I’ve verifiably given over $120,000 of my college money to Sri Caitanya Sangha and I have not even an Associate’s degree to show for it. All this while giving my every waking hour and another $30,000 or so in money I earned as a traveling bed sheet salesman for the temple. Audarya’s other financial abuses include allowing their 501(c)3 status to be used for soliciting donations in San Francisco; three men use Audarya’s tax exempt status to collect money for a DBA under the guise of feeding poor children. They then use those funds to live off of, giving a small kickback to the temple for every month that they work. 

During the time I was involved, Tripurari Swami’s organization expanded largely on the strength of loans, and there is immense pressure within the group to bring this debt down and keep it under control. This was especially the case in the past few years preceding a refinancing of those loans that took some immediate pressure off.

During this past winter, and continuing now to a lesser degree, I experienced absolutely agonizing depression and confusion. I was finding it impossible to have a healthy life, relationships, and even to take care of myself. During that time I received three, maybe four, phone calls from Tripurari Swami, none of which included him asking about how I was doing. It was all business. He was consulting me because I, more than anyone else in the organization, had shown a knack for making money in the Tradeshow/State Fair industry we had earlier been able to tap into. I would like to underscore this point: after seven years of utterly dedicated service and significant financial contribution, the facade of human care and concern disappeared overnight, literally as soon as I was no longer able to continue donating money to the organization. 

I know of four other disciples who have over the past four years been discarded after having given Sri Caitanya Sanga a total of $500,000, by conservative estimate. These are all facts that could be easily verified by someone who cared to. But frankly, that’s not my concern. I’m not here to justify myself nor defend the truth. I am here only to inform. 

Spiritual Abuse: This is a term used in some circles. I like it, and I personally define it as an extremely damaging dynamic wherein an individual’s autonomy, self-confidence, and very sense of self and purpose are all systematically shut down through various lines of reasoning considered to be rooted in some Absolute Metaphysical Truth. It’s like other abuse, but with the added power of being (ostensibly) tethered to the Absolute Truth, and thus Absolute Authority. This makes it the only abuse that, in theory, outlives the body and mind. It is abuse of the soul. Spiritually abusive environments prey on our species’ innate longing to understand the world, to connect with one another, and to live deeply, but offer their victims nothing more than a single, narrow model of a fulfilling life. One that postpones true fulfillment until countless lifetimes in the future and predefines nearly every component of that future existence.

This is my deepest wound; the knowledge that – in the name of deep, eternal, spiritual love of god and others – such utter psychopathic selfishness can flourish. Spiritual wounds run very deep, and my biggest fear now is that I will never be able to get close to anything for an enduring amount of time, having learned to be ever cautious of the danger of identity loss and enslavement in the pursuit of love. This is because so much of what I have known – indeed, since childhood, I can now see – has been neglect and abuse in the packaging of spiritual love and self-realization. 

Indeed, quite the opposite you has been the focus of considerable affection, time, and attention, even while you have been living on your own outside of the ashram for the last two years. 

This is absolutely false. From even before the time I announced I would no longer be a brahmachari (in August of 2013), my relationship with Tripurari Swami had come to feel largely like a business relationship to me. I had for a couple of years at that point felt quite literally like an employee. It had occurred to me that my position within the organization was based primarily on my material assets in management and my intellectual propensities. This was obvious, because Tripurari Swami had no qualms about giving me these various roles of influence despite his knowledge that I rarely chanted or followed the other practices considered crucial to spiritual life. The end goal of the “spiritual” practices employed in cultic environments is group allegiance. Tripurari already had my complete allegiance, so spiritual practice wasn’t something he even needed to incorporate into the toolbox of control techniques anymore.

But the use of spiritual practice for control is a very common facet of cultic systems: make certain practices necessary for spiritual development, but make it impossible to practice or perfect them. If all else fails, blame the practitioner’s “inattention”. Allowing me to not practice also became a tool of shaming me into submission for the same lack of practice.

Anyone who has had the opportunity to sit and bare their soul to Tripurari Swami in hopes of guidance or concern can likely reflect back on a time (perhaps even all times) when all that took place was that the subject was deftly swept under the mental rug effectively enough for you to get back out there and be productive or, at the very least, quiet. As an assistant I used to go to him, impassioned, on behalf of others. I would ask him to please speak with so-and-so, or I would express my opinion that so-and-so was unhappy and should maybe go somewhere else to see to physical and/or psychological needs, or something similar. This dynamic was near constant.

Without fail, when I brought these issues up, I was made to feel insane. Tripurari Swami gives absurdly glowing reports of every aspect of his mission, even as its members fall away from that mission divested of their money or commit suicide or simply disappear into a lifetime of confusion and dysfunction. Being a witness to these things and at the same time being told by your guru – your highest authority – that everything is peaches and bliss is another technique for control through managing cognitive dissonance. In my case, reality had become something I clearly could not apprehend, because my guru was essentially telling me that what always seemed up was down, and vice versa. This is how you break a person’s mind. This is Gaudiya Vaishnavism as a tradition.

For that matter, my concern here is whether or not there is any truth to the rest of the report, “panic attacks grave emotional and physical danger.” I would be surprised if you submitted himself to cult deprograming, but stranger things have happened and it appears that the reporter submitted to cult deprograming or something of the sort, charging me with brain washing. To be frank, it is very difficult to relate to such a charge.

Again, the lack of names means this is not worth addressing. More importantly, I would hope readers can recognize that this message was sent to me when the social pressure within the group had reached a point that Tripurari was forced to address it. Some of his main supporters are women who have known me since I was born – women who have literally changed my diapers – and so have years of affection for me. The inherently political nature of this situation has given me many sleepless nights and a couple of those panic attacks as well. This message is nothing more than an attempt by him to put out a fire through manipulation. But the edifice crumbled for me months ago, and these words hold no power to deceive me. 

I do believe that you are suicide prone. Your father attempted suicide and you have fragile psychology in some respects. You think yourself into indecision and you are intellectually and psychological complex. Adding drugs to your life is a very bad idea. Suicide is no solution. 

Actually, I am not suicide prone. Suggesting I am is sickening. Terms like “brainwashing” and “thought control” have come to be misused and misunderstood, but I would like to make abundantly clear that the above statements are thought control in action. As I stated before, over the past several months I have for the first time in my entire life had thoughts about dying. Telling me I am suicide prone, fragile, prone to indecision –essentially a poor little leaf in the wind – is an attempt to color my own perception of myself, thus disempowering me from my independence. Is it a conscious effort on Tripurari Swami’s part? Perhaps not. I suspect he believes in his cause. But does belief in a cause justify this sort of manipulation? Never.

This is cultic programming in brief: “You as an individual are inherently insufficient and incapable of knowing what is ultimately in your best interest.” Having implanted that programming, a leader or an organization asserts that it alone is sufficient and capable of knowing what is in your best interest. I never set out to uncover or to dismantle that mentality, but while involved in Sri Caitanya Sanga I came to a place of such profound dissatisfaction and pain that I decided that even if I am incapable of knowing what is in my best interest, trying anything else would be an improvement. Freedom means the right to be wrong. And without freedom there can be no love. I “joined” for love.

I am not suicidal. And I am in no danger of destroying my physical body simply because you were able to reduce my identity to faint embers and you believe that a good life cannot be lived outside the myopic grip of your mind.Reading between the lines, the above words incite suicide, not prevent it. But you can’t put out this fire with empty words. And it took me months of tears and screaming and snot flowing down my face and confusion and darkness and immobility to be able to sit here now and write this with certainty and with peace. You have no power here. 

As you know I was the one you contacted and I began the effort to get you released from jail. 

The facts: On March 17th I was arrested in Asheville, NC. The details of my arrest are irrelevant here. What is relevant to the above is that I literally knew only two phone numbers by heart: Audarya Ashram and Swami Tripurari’s cell phone. I called my then Guru Maharaja, explained in short what was going on, and asked him to email my brother, which he did. From that point my brother found me a lawyer, paid said lawyer, and took care of everything else. Tripurari had nothing to do with it.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Tripurari Swami and his accountant concluded in their paranoia that they should distance themselves from me, lest the group be implicated in my criminal charges. So that’s what they did. I spent three nights in jail awaiting a bail reduction hearing. When my bail was reduced, a devotee from the temple, using my own money, bailed me out. When the accountant found out that someone at the temple had gone to the courthouse and bailed me out, he was livid. Apparently a highly exclusionary community that teaches its members to devalue or completely cut off contact with non-members doesn’t feel the need to maintain human relationships when the going gets tough. The needs of the organization are always tantamount to the needs of the individual. Always.

Upon my release, neither Tripurari Swami nor any one of the few others who knew of my situation reached out to me directly. Again, in all fairness, I was putting out fairly clear signals I didn’t want to communicate with most of these people. But normal people – regular people in the world who value each other as individual people and not as units of “devotional service” – would have been more determined to contact me and find out how I was doing, even to help and support me. In fact, many of my non-devotee friends did just that. 

So, to be clear, the sense of guilt and indebtedness that Tripurari’s statement about getting me released from jail is meant to inspire is based on a brief email he sent to my brother. I think I’ve more than earned that small gesture with my previous service, no feelings of guilt or indebtedness necessary.

Lastly, and this is important, my arrest and the lack of support I received from Tripurari and his organization in its aftermath are not what caused me to leave Sri Caitanya Sanga and the worldview it represents. I don’t want people to so easily and comfortably dismiss my decision as an emotional reaction to tough times. Rather, I find myself here as the result of having gone a long way in deconstructing the ways that philosophy, psychology, and social dynamics combine to make the perfect setting for submitting oneself to an authoritarian ideology. The specific authoritarian ideology is often beside the point. 

I wrote to you when I was last in NC. You have not responded. Of all of the people connected with me over the years I have always expressed special affection for you. 

As I said at the beginning of this message, radical transparency is the only potential antidote for these poisonous methods of interpersonal manipulation. In the interest of that sort of radical transparency, here is the email Tripurari refers to, dated 4/15/15, one month after my arrest and following on the heels of a third-hand report I was having a “faith crisis.” The subject line of the email was “seva.”

Nitaisundara,

I have attached a pdf file of something I would like you to edit for me. It is the second half of one of the chapters to my book. The first half of the chapter was published as an article and you edited it. It was about God being sac cit ananda, Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan and the ideal that existing to love is better than loving to exist. I realize that you are doing neither of these at this time. 

I am greatly concerned about you and about your overall psychological, physical, and spiritual health. But I am not one to chase after others who do not want my input. Nonetheless I venture to say a few words here and extend this service to you.  Some of the happiest days of your life were spent in my company, but you have gotten yourself into a strange tamasic space that does not promote clear thinking or happiness. I could help you. And I could punch holes in your doubts. I am not standing on soft ground. I have experience of what I talk about. 

If you would like to meet, I am here for another month. 

swami

For context, the above message was the first and only other acknowledgment (besides this recent email) that anything going on in my life might be difficult. Both messages are essentially the same: telling me what I think and feel and am going through without even feigning interest in hearing about these things in my own words. There are no expressions of affection or acceptance, only agenda. The whole Gaudiya Vaishnava ideology is to have an agenda for the entire planet, because they alone have the secret knowledge of what will ultimately be best for every living entity for all of eternity. I will never again claim such absolute knowledge of the world and people around me. 

Despite your inability to practice and enter into all that gives rise to inner spiritual experience I always tried to keep you close to me. And there was a time in your life when you were so happy just to assist and travel with me. Those days may very well have been the happiest in your life and they were a joy to your good mother to hear about. She had some trust in me. 

No tactic withheld. No shame. This is all rubbish. And to call on my affections for my dead mother – who was in fact always highly suspicious of Tripurari Swami – is again sickening, to put it politely. My mother kept a journal around the early 2000’s when Tripurari had begun speaking in Maryland. One page in that journal reads, “Tripurari Swami: too good to be true?” This was her trust. She was a wise woman, and you get to claim none of her in bolstering your agenda. 

I have not changed. But your life has changed and I think you have made some bad decisions. I do not know the implications of your arrest and how that may impact your present and future. 

After telling me I am dangerous to myself and incapable of making good decisions, Tripurari acknowledges that he doesn’t actually know anything about the details of my arrest, or any other part of my life for that matter. And he now has no reason to.

But there is no reason to despair as much as it appears that you are. You are more than a brain and you have a good brain that you can use materially or spiritually. If you choose to use it for material life, you have every reason to think you will be successful. 

“You have every reason to think you will be successful.” An encouraging person, I think, would say that they do not doubt my future success. This and the following statement are perhaps the most sophisticated manipulation in his letter; seeming to acknowledge and even encourage my autonomy, although it’s already been established I am suicide prone and get lost in indecision.

I also believe that you can be successful in spiritual pursuit. That choice is of course yours. But in either case there are a good number of persons associated with me that would be happy to help you rather than see you in your present condition, which from what we have heard is not psychologically healthy.

Saraswati (the goddess of knowledge, they say) so often dances the truth on the tongues of the ignorant. The above is a true statement. A good number of persons associated with Tripurari Swami would love to help me. He would not, but certainly some associated with him. I know that to be true. I shed blood, sweat, and tears alongside these people. I loved and still love them. I am writing this for them.

In one sense I owe no explanation to anyone, for I have never acted out of malice. And yet I won’t be able to continue working through my experiences and moving on with my life unless I make a sincere effort to inform those who are also part of this inherently abusive authoritarian system. I love all of you and have no specific agenda for any of you. I do not seek to break your faith in Krishna, but rather instill confidence that if he is real and you seek to serve him, that you will be most capable of doing so on your own terms, living and enjoying your life lovingly with other humans. You need not subject yourself to a life of self-doubt and surrender to be fulfilled in the future. You’re wonderful people.

You have said before that “sometimes people need to be aggressive in their caring.” 

No one is likely to realize this, but this is actually the single most horrendous statement made in this letter. The quote paraphrases a comment I made on Facebook over two months ago, when I expressed my personal remorse over not having tried harder to help a godsister in the months leading up to her suicide. This was a young woman who, with her husband, had been heavily encouraged to buy land and build a small home at all three of Tripurari’s properties. In the summer of 2010 or 2011, the temple invested thousands of dollars in a little business this couple was starting, only to pull out that entire investment after one season, leaving them struggling to grow and survive. The business never did. The material stability of their lives was in no small measure eroded by the organization’s heartless endeavor for funds. Furthermore, this friend had existing mental health issues that were never adequately cared for, as is always the case in temple communities.

Nothing has changed here. Sri Caitanya Sangha is no better than ISKCON or any other cultic organization. The perceived superiority of Tripurari Swami to ISKCON on account of his liberality and philosophical acumen is, I now believe, merely more insidious. I believe that like all such organizations, the image and teachings are tweaked as needed in order to pull people into the fold. Tripurari merely found his niche in intelligent people and women and LGBTQ devotees who had been victimized and thus disillusioned in ISKCON. It is all opportunism, in my personal opinion. And all of these groups share an authoritarian ideology that manifests in various ways.

 It has been very difficult for me to restrain myself from not just showing up at you door. 

Not only do I not believe this, it is not something I would want. I explicitly do not want any devotee to show up at my door unannounced, without my permission. Period. You will not be welcome at this point in time.

Period.

But you know my nature. I do not try to force myself on anyone. You are like son to me whose character flaws are overlooked out of affection, but you are breaking my heart and I do not know how to end this message . . . 

Yes, I do know your nature, having lived with you day in and day out for most of seven years. And it is to force yourself incessantly on someone if that person has assets in the form of money, intelligence, or social influence that you can then utilize in the bubble world of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.

I’m now happier than I have ever been and have more clarity than I have ever had. I joined your organization for truth and love. I found truth, with a sinister twist, and am moving on. Love exists out here in reality. People live their lives, imperfect though they may be, and go on caring for each other in whatever way they can. And all of that is okay. All of that is far better than trying to convince yourself of the perfection of an exceptionally flawed human. 

Please open the door. 

swami  bv tripurari

There is no door to open. The walls and doorways that you use to categorize reality are creations of your mind. I have let you in fully. I have fully incorporated who you are and what you teach into my understanding of reality. I’ve assimilated you and what you have to offer, and now I’m moving on. I came for truth and got it. I won. You are not my teacher. And no one will ever again hold me with the totalitarian grip you once had on me. Thank you for the expediency with which you gave me this lesson.

-Nitai Joseph

_________________________________________________________________________

I mention above that I am writing this for the people I previously served with and often served over. I cannot convey the weight I feel in doing so and the time and energy I have put into considering what is the best thing I can do for them, in light of what I also need and can handle. Coming out of a high control group is hell. It is coming out of the illusion that abuse is love. It is starting with less than nothing. Good becomes bad and vice versa.

So, having written this now, and having spent months thinking every single day about how I am going to do so, I want it to be clear I do not do so lightly. My ideal scenario would be one in which the people I love were empowered and validated by my story and find themselves compelled onto the road of recovery. But that is not an easy road. It brings tears to my eyes to consider that I could cause in someone else the pain I have been immersed in over the past several months. But that pain is the only way out. Life has dealt all of us a bum deal in this regard. Thought reform and cultic environments are toxic and destroy individuality, family, and humanity. We can’t undo that in our past, but we can untie and free our future.

I do not have answers. I do not have an agenda beyond the freeing of my fellow humans to think for themselves without undue influence from outside. I do not believe there is an answer, in the singular, to be had.

If any of this resonates with you, I am providing additional links for exploration and there are more in the resources section of this site.

This has been the single best resource for me. Reading the introduction made sense of my experience and put my life in perspective with the flick of a switch. The Guru PapersAvailable excerpts online.

Characteristics of Cultic / Abusive Groups

Lifton’s 8 Criteria for Thought Reform

On Leaving ISKCON and the Writings of Steven Gelberg

I am still in the midst of immense change in my life. I can be contacted but I can promise nothing to anybody over myself. I have no doubts that in time, perhaps even not too far off, some of those who I once felt to be my chosen family might become that again. And I welcome that. We are what made this community worth being part of, as individuals.

I can only recommend that everyone become ruthless in reclaiming their lives and doing what they need to do to become free and fulfilled. Try not to isolate yourself. Try to enjoy yourself. Try to let yourself feel feelings. Let yourself love your family, your dependents, and yourselves. It’s not maya, because none of you are illusory. Our subjective inner experience and the material world are the most immediate real things we have, and the safest place to live from. The most spiritual, I now believe, too.

Lastly, I have to state explicitly that I do not believe any individual person and certainly not children or family will ultimately be benefited by closer involvement in an organization like Sri Caitanya Sangha or ISKCON or whomever. Trust that voice that keeps your locus of control and focus within your immediate relationships and family. The happiness you feel there is real happiness. Please enjoy it.

Help is out there and amazing people exist, ready to extend a hand to another human. If anyone finds themselves wanting professional help or support groups, please contact reFocus. There is only bravery and hope in reclaiming life, no matter how much help we need to do so and how treacherous the path can feel.

With love and in service to our individual autonomy,

Nitai Joseph

 

27 Comments

  1. William
    7/2/2015
    Reply

    Thankyou for the clear and thoughtful expressions friend. I am in a similar situation… as are thousands of devotees these days. My main concern is whether leaders are doing these things consciously in an ‘oldboy cabal’ kind of way. Fantasm as it may sound… there are surely persons who think in such awful ways and plan or develop their methods. I feel a rapport with you. Its a fascinating subject, and our experiences of these dynamics can be useful in helping us live freer lives. Thanks again… I will be forwarding your essay to a friend who was involved with ISKCON in New Zealand with me. We have both experienced the things you have… I cant thank you enough for articulating the issue so nicely. PS… I still love Srila Prabhupada and Sri Krsna. Hehe. Your friend in rapport… Wil.

  2. Martin
    7/2/2015
    Reply

    Well done Nitai. It is not that many practitioners can’t see many of the things you highlight in your blog (they are experiencing similar stuff daily) but for many they lack the courage to confront them. It is generally those that re bereft of a backbone that will be at the forefront of any backlash. Congratulations for breaking free. You will certainly help so many others to break free

  3. Ortrun
    7/2/2015
    Reply

    Nitai, we only met briefly at last year’s Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, PA, but I wanted to say that I could actually feel your pain on reading your blog.
    You sound like you are on your way. Recovery is a long and often painful process. You are brave to meet it head on. It reminds me of a proverb that my grandmother often told me as a child: (translated from German, so maybe a little awkward) “If pain is in front of you, don’t turn away, turn toward it and look it squarely in they eyes”. That it what you seem to be doing and my good wishes are with you. 🙂

  4. Anonymous Prabhupada disciple
    7/2/2015
    Reply

    I spent about a year with T-Swami and so I can sympathize with you and am amazed that you were able to spend seven years under his authority. Now, many years later I see that my time with him was valuable insofar as it helped me make distinctions between the various people in my life who have in one way or another influenced my consciousness. Some people can make you feel like you’re worth more and then there are those who, to serve their own purposes, know how to make you feel like you’re worth less..

    I was fortunate to spend time with Jayananda and have found that others, like me, remember that he always made people feel like they were worth more. He was selfless rather than selfish.

    I really feel that is the key crucial issue. Whether I’m in a cult or a worker in some corporation, these different kinds of personalities will present themselves. Will I quickly recognize the differences? Having gone through both situations makes it easier to see the difference. Your very articulate and cogent appraisal of your experience gives me a sense of great hope. It’s clear that you’ve gone through some real heart wrenching experiences and I honor and validate that. Because you have gotten through them and are now able to understand their meaning and significance in your life means you are also in a better position to help others avoid unnecessary anguish. In this way because you are a strong survivor you are also more valuable and will be able to help others get past these kinds of pitfalls.

  5. Sankarsana das
    7/2/2015
    Reply

    Hare Krishna Nitai. I knew and served with your mother and father for years… mostly before you were born. Your mother was a wonderful woman. Your father was brilliant but had his difficulties. I’m sorry for the painful experiences you described and I believe you are on the road to recovery. I’ve certainly experienced things you describe as a member of ISKCON for all of my adult life. My only suggestion is despite being exposed to oppression from leaders in such organizations to remember everyone is an individual and some individuals value personal dynamics, and are not corrupted by positions of power. Aside from that, I’ve always been an independent person, and have been somewhat successful in reserving space between myself and others. In that way I have avoided being manipulated, and have still been able to flourish in the association of spiritually minded people. So don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

  6. Robert
    7/2/2015
    Reply

    Wishing you nothing but the best.

  7. Rasa
    7/2/2015
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing so deeply of yourself. Yes, growing up in ISKCON I relate on all levels. You described the manipulation to a T. Isn’t it maddening to see everyone sucked in blindly, when we’re too well aware of the egregious reality.

  8. CJ
    7/2/2015
    Reply

    Well, you have done an excellent takedown of that specific manifestation of dysfunctional/disempowering/authoritarian dynamics. Brilliant sequencing of your thoughts. Brilliant articulating also. Kudos.
    The Guru Papers was one of the two key books I read about cultic crapola. But as I have said elsewhere, these types of books were not expansive enough to satisfy my need to understand the problem. So I consider it more of an introduction.
    There are still two steps (there are any number of steps, frankly, but I mention these two in case they have not yet occurred to you) that I encourage you to take. Differentiate between authoritarian and humanitarian group dynamics. To do this, one needs to discriminate between what Erich Fromm calls ‘power over’ vs. ‘power to’ relationships. It is an important insight, well worth chasing down. Well worth clarifying for your readers.
    There is a pitfall to be alert to. Namely looking solely at the cult dynamics and the Gaudiya ideology–or any other substitute equivalent–the entirety of the problem. They are but one side of the coin of the problem, The flip side is the people who become willing victims of this situation.
    So the other step I have in mind is to look into not just the giver end of the cult relationship–ie the leaders, who are often victims themselves, but survived to rise to the level of their incompetence; and be dubbed leaders some of who are out to deceive but some really and truly believe in the value of their commodities. The end result is still the same per the victims, the motives at the two are not patently the same—anyway the second step I encourage is to look into what is going on in those who subject themselves to the cult experience and get swindled, by deception, yes, but also quite willingly. The cult books simply don’t say enough about this aspect.. It is important and there are broad general answers and some very individual-specific answers as well. But there is no singular answer. However, going down this path can lead one to deeper insight and self-understanding, so I encourage it.
    Good work. Some “true believers’ will still demonize you and say you got your nuts in Maya’s wringer, but I encourage you to laugh that off and roll with it, baby.

    • JG
      7/15/2015
      Reply

      Dear Mr CJ

      Any ideology can be misused. Why blame gaudiya vaishnavism itself for what some contemporary “gurus” do in its name? How does their action make the Goswamis wrong? Just because we and our contemporaries dont have prema how does that prove that such thing does not exist and people in the past did not have it? Your analysis on mixed bhakti can just as easily explain our bad experiences as assuming that we are al psychos wanting to be deceived. How can You be so sure You are right this time?
      Kind regards
      JG

  9. Jeff Davies
    7/2/2015
    Reply

    I haven’t read all your blog, but I’ve glanced through it and will read more later. I joined the Krishna Movement when I was 17 (I’m now 61) and thought I’d found the Absolute Truth, when in fact I was just exchanging oner set of assumptions for another, but which I realise now made less sense that the ones I left behind.

    I say less sense because most people’s thoughts are not governed by an absolute authority, so they can apply common sense to any given situation, with the possibility of reaching rational conclusions. For me it’s like waking up from a dream. I wonder what I was thinking all those years.

    I don’t go to the temple, I don’t mix with devotees, I don’t believe Prabhupada is a pure devotee, I don’t believe the myriad of Indian dogmas that come with KC, but I don’t totally dismiss it either. For me it’s about examination and finding what’s worthwhile (philosophically). It’s like Descartes say’s, we should doubt everything until we find things that we cannot doubt. There are some things that do make sense, that are valuable, but it’s a tiny percentage of the body of thought. I’m okay with that, because we can learn from everyone and everything. I find many things that my parents, friends and early teachers taught me that are still relevant, as well as so many things I’ve read in books. But didn’t Bhaktivinode described KC as an essence seeking process? That being the case doubt and rejection, must be an intrinsic part of the process. We may think that we’ve given it up and moved on, but perhaps we’re still in the game and this is just another part of the process.

    I’m convinced we are going through a spiritual transformation, whether we call it KC or atheism, nothing is black and white.

    Perhaps, we don’t make it as a devotee until we have completely abandoned the cocoon that gave us our wings. Perhaps the process is one long rebirth of thought, of continual rejection and discovery.

    Perhaps, I should stop pontificating and go make a cup of tea………

  10. D.K.
    7/3/2015
    Reply

    Dear Nitai
    Thank you for your insight. I was blown away by the clarity by which your critical analysis of the dynamics within the organization to which you belonged. You have had some great counseling and have done your homework. I do not think I know you personally but my son does. I was expecting you to be much older than your young age. All the more impressed I am at the gravity and mature understanding. I too have come to the same conclusions and have personal journals full of contemplations of the same nature from 15 or so years ago. It took me a good long time to figure it out while in my 50’s.

    Do remember it is a process in which you are in the midst of. There are even more layers to uncover and as the other commenter suggests, there is the aspect of victim to digest. All relationships are based on interactions and exchanges. Each of us plays a role in each of our relationships. Of course the age difference in your relationship with your guru plays a mighty important factor. But at some point we do need to look at ourselves and see what it is about ourselves that allowed us to become that malleable.

    Also I want to thank you for not being vague and telling it like it is with all of the facts and figures of your experience. We all know that whistle blowers are often placing themselves in any possible level of danger, especially when there are fanatics involved. Let us not forget the ill fate of Sulochana. Be safe.

    And if there can be any satisfaction found in this offering, my husband remembers when Tripurari swami was a bhramacari under the heavy hand of Tamal Krishna Goswami and he has walked in your shoes and he has learned from the best (worst) how to manipulate and control the minds of others. And he had to tolerate the humiliations and abuse that you describe in your story as well. He followed in the footsteps where as you have chosen to remove yourself. Perhaps someday you can take this experience as a good thing. The Dalai Lama often says his best teachers were the Chinese. We can learn great things from adversity.

  11. 7/3/2015
    Reply

    Nitai, you’re one of the fortunate few.

    You’re almost over the hump in the matter of breaking free form the gaudiya cult.

    The majority of others remain trapped. That includes all of them … from tripurari and his ilk, the new bhaktas (few nowadays), the Indian fraternity who are involved and (most significantly) those who have blooped but remain favourable to gaudiya cult ideology.

    The latter is a very large group; most who leave never actually leave, at least not ideologically because the cult grip is too strong, particularly through friends, family, and the psychological force of social habit and expectation.

    But you … you’ve pretty much moved beyond all that. Congratulations! You’re part of the new chapter who have left behind all of the gaudiya cult hogwash.

    Leaving the hogwash behind leaves one incredibly cleansed with no need for any hangover effect, and a wonderful new life like a clean slate.

    Good luck!

    Meant with utmost sincerity (not sarcasm).

    http://breaking-free.info

  12. Karen
    7/3/2015
    Reply

    Read your article with great care. Thank you for sharing. You have excellent thinking faculties and writing skills. Deconstructing the letter of TS reminds me of your father’s writing. It is exactly what your father helped me with in nineties. I used to send the correspondence I had with my iskcon guru to him, and he would help me see how the authoritarian powers worked. You are able to do all of that on your own, though that has not come easily or lightly. We have all gone through the pains of distaning ourselves from the dynamics that have control over us. Since you have been born in this movement (iskcon, Sri Caitanya Sangha, gaudiya vaishnava, faith in general), it will take you a long time to get rid of all the influence. They say that to overcome a relationship (like a marriage for instance), it takes about half the amount of time to get over it. What to speak of overcoming abusive relationships. It will take you many more years to be on solid ground again. Don’t be fooled, it’s not an easy path. At times, you may find yourself longing for the peachy warm and fuzzy feeling of your “Krishna family” again. I really hope you will be surrounded by people who love you and help you hold your ground. I see your father’s comments above. That means you must be in touch. Please reach out to the people who love and care for you. He recommends reading Erich Fromm. I also recommend reading your father’s books. He has done a good job reading Fromm’s books and applying them on group dynamics. Although you have gotten this far on your own, it might help you deepen your understanding. And with better understanding, hence no relapses. I admire your strength to reason and your courage to speak out. Get a decent education, you are still young and have the rest of your life ahead of you. I really wish for you to be surrounded by people who are capable of helping you move on.

  13. Joseph
    7/3/2015
    Reply

    Thank you for posting this. What you have said resonates with me strongly. So glad to see someone taking a stand against all of the manipulation and corruption that permeates Gaudiya Vaishnavism.

  14. Thanks for your honest portrayal of your transformative journey. I’m surprised to observe the similarities in our experiences, despite mine being situated in a spiritual tradition light-years removed from Gaudiya Vashnavism. The dynamic mechanisms of interpersonal relationship, of the use and abuse of power, and of spiritual transmission, are all pretty constant across diverse schools and communities.
    Good fortune to you as you integrate these hard-won lessons.

  15. Don Pearson
    7/3/2015
    Reply

    Very well articulated testimonial here Nitai, Tripurari was and I’m sure still is one of the biggest con artists alive, I was personally trained by him back in the early 70’s on how to ‘short change’ people at O’hara Airport along with many others who were sent off to learn this sacred art…Sridhar Maharaja, who Tripurari got so much inspiration from after bhaktivedanta died, was just another mouthpiece for spreading the fanatical teachings and lies of Bhaktisiddhanta. Sridhar defended his Gurus fabricated guru-parampara and the fabricated Yoga Pitha of Sri Caitanya at Mayapur that Bhakitivinode promoted, as well as continued to malign the traditional GVs, Mayavadis and demons in the manner his Guru taught him…..Thanks again!

  16. Rasika
    7/4/2015
    Reply

    Dear Nitai, I’m so happy that you were able to express publicly your feelings and realizations regarding your experiences while serving with T.S. You have shown a great deal of courage and honesty in revealing your mind for the benefit of those you love and respect, so that they might prevent them self from going down the same path you had. In my opinion, that is a very noble and honorable act of selflessness. You haven’t remain silent, therefore you are not immoral. You have shown so many good qualities in presenting your case,–another one being your composure in presenting those facts as they happens, detaching yourself from personal attacks and insults towards TS, which show so much of your integrity. I have had some similar experiences in the past (in ISKCON), and I have been working on myself for so many years to evolve from the reaction of disfunctional dynamics impose on me in the name of surrender to God. Therefore I can identify a little with you, knowing that your experience has been 100 fold worse than mine. But let me said to you that because you are so young, so brave, so intelligent, so self-analytical, so well spoken, that I see only a bright future for you. So please stay focus to take care of your real self, the emotional one, the spiritual one, the kind one. Please continue to listen to that voice within–your conscience, because that is nothing else but the voice of God-Krsna, as paramatma, That is the goal of self-realization, and you certainly have re-established that relationship. All my love to you. Aspiring friend Rasika

  17. 7/4/2015
    Reply

    Dear Nitai, Just as a gulabjamun can sometimes be too hot to bear and too sweet to resist, although it was painful to read your story, being a mother of someone about your age, at the same time I , found your above analysis so inspirational, I just had to share it on Facebook. I hope you will forgive my zealousness as I couldn’t help myself! There are so many lessons to be learnt in your honest and openly candid- and very brave- analysis. Such brilliance should not be covered up!

    Conscience or Con-Science, Discoveries of a Recovering Monk.
    In the sastra we learn there are two gurus- caitya guru, or the guru within, and the siksa or diksa guru, who instructs us from without. The function of the external guru is to place us in contact with the guru within, who is our guide. His guidance or impetus is often heard or felt as the guiding hand of conscience, or our innate sense of what is right and what is wrong. Ultimately, as the “other bird” in the tree of the body, as explained in the Upanishads, He guides us to Himself, over time, for as by listening to His words, we prove our sincerity to establish our connection with Him.
    To the extent that a guru guides the disciple always to clearly hear the voice of conscience and to act on it,, to that extent he is a “transparent via medium” link to Krsna- and hence, a guru. Anything less than this, indicates a guru in name only.
    In this admirably candid and open analysis of a disciple’s own experiences with his guru, we see an intelligent person processing carefully through his conscience what was right and what was wrong about his connection with his guru over the past decade or so, in his asrama. But rather than the guru welcoming the disciple honoring his “voice within” and thus becoming a true seer, this so-called guru responds to the analysis by labeling him as being mentally disturbed, suicidal, drug-addicted and so on, though it is amply clear he is not. The clarity, wisdom and compassion evident in the post is more than sufficient evidence of his state of mind being one that is becoming free from years of oppression and cult dynamics. One cannot help admire and emulate his courage, his wisdom and insights, so reminiscent of his father.

    Jaya Nitai Joseph! The truth has set you free!

  18. Shakti Ganapati Subramanian
    7/4/2015
    Reply

    Dear Nital,

    Namaskara! From 1981 through 1992 I was known as “Bhakta Bud” in ISKCON. The reason I never took formal “initiation” had to do with some of the practices I saw which you have mentioned in this post.
    This post of yours details, and properly so, what is wrong with some religious organizations and / or spiritual figures. Hopefully others will read your words and know when to recognize they are sliding down a slippery slope into the world of the “cult”.

  19. Helen
    7/4/2015
    Reply

    i commend you for an incredible, articulate piece of writing. I have shared your post. I am a random reader having seen your post shared by people i don’t know. I myself have spent time in various spiritual communities, you pinpoint exactly the manipulation that is so damaging and the result is nothing short of creating a spiritual split in the soul of a person. I commend you for expertly speaking something that is not easy to put into words.

  20. Francisco
    7/5/2015
    Reply

    congratulations on your lucid mind and fixed consciousness. We saw and experienced a lot of water pass under the bridge. Painful and sad. You are brave and a héroe. Stand up and proudly keep your intellectual independance.

  21. PAUL ANDERSON
    7/5/2015
    Reply

    Nitai and all, well its many years since I made the split from ISKCON and wandered alone into the big world Id rejected. Your story resonates in me still- details are different but the basic struggles are the same. Being the kind of person who sees both sides of a story ( hence unqualified to be a politician or”guru” ) I also recognise my own shortcomings so to my mind it was a 50/50 kind of thing. I do remember an ISKCON during the time of Prabhupada that seemed more egalitarian although most of use were young and inexperienced The seeds of sacrifice of the individual for the sake of the mission were in place. I don’t think this was SPs way as he often cried for the fallen but came out of our young fanatic sense of purpose.
    Once the new “gurus” emerged then really all hell broke loose. You could be very deviant in your life and practice but if you were loyal to the new “guru” that was ok I f you hade good a sadhana and devotional attitude but were ambivalent towards the new order then you did not have a role and a painful goodbye was soon to follow. I didn’t know all the new “Gurus” in a day in day out situation but I knew 5 who fitted right into that psychological profile from direct experience.
    Anyway that was over 30 years back and enough time to move on. But is that the case? I think there are iskcons within iskcons. Long term leader renunciants are often institutionalised and over used to being glorified beyond their own good.
    I find that some of the goodbrothers and godsisters who sought guidance outside iskcon are much broader and deeper than their iskcon colleagues.
    But I find there are no hard and rules on this

  22. Bhakti Ananda Goswami
    7/5/2015
    Reply

    Dear Nitai,
    Thank You for being so courageous and strong to stand-up to Swami Tripurari’s psychological and emotional manipulation, and to warn others about your experiences with him. Of course, as you have learned, what you experienced in Tripurari”s Gaudiya Vaishnava party / camp is common to all kinds of authoritarian organizations that thrive on some kind of dominance-and-submission dynamic. .In such groups there is a co-dependency of the authoritarian Abuser and the Abused. Under the authority of such an abusive ‘Leader’, there is no hope for the submissive Follower to ever really heal or mature and become independently thoughtful and self-directed, because the abusive Leader. purposely keeps his (or her) Followers in a perpetual state of insecurity and DEPENDENCY. The abusive Leader does not want their Follower to develop or retain any self-confidence or internal ‘well-formed conscience. Such a leader does not want to encounter any Conscience in their Followers that might contradict their own immorality. Thus such Leaders break down the conscience and self-confidence of their submissive Followers, essentially ‘grooming’ them for abuse.

    It takes amazing personal strength to break-away from such a Leader! Congratulations on finding your own Dear Self again! ‘To thine own SELF be true’.
    Being your own Best Self is the greatest gift that you can ever give to others.

    Know that You are LOVABLE and that You ARE LOVED!

    Bhakti Ananda Goswami aka David Sherman (Catholic hermit under private vows)

  23. C.J.
    9/20/2015
    Reply

    J.G. you asked “How does their action make the Goswamis wrong?”
    The simple truth is that merely by posing such a question–as to whether or not the ideology put forth by the Gosvamiws is right or wrong–which is to say ‘true or false’–straightaway indicates three things:
    1. A paucity of scholarship on this matter.
    2. A willingness to arbitrarily invest in believing something that cannot be proven one way or the other, yet try to engage in argument about the truth of it, That indicates #3.
    3. A paucity of intellectual skill,
    Such a debate would be as futile as two people locked in argument about whether or not the light-source of some arbitrarily chosen star still exists as a 3 dimensional object..
    You see, while it makes perfect sense to debate the pros and cons of fine points of Gaudiya ideology (or for that matter, any ideology that requires a basic and essential–and arbitrary– assumption./belief of a transcendent origin and ultimate destination for us all) it makes no sense whatsoever to debate the truth or falsity of the ideology itself, simply because by the very definition of transcendence, there is no question of proof.
    Debating the aforementioned fine points of meaning or intent can be–potentially–settled by reference to epistemology, but the truth or falsisty of the system of thought as a whole, that’s pointless. Believing it is an arbitrary choice and disbelieving it is also an arbitrary choice. Debating the subject, that’s a fool’s errand.
    Long before the Gosvamis made their bid for Vaishnava ideology, Buddha pointed this simple truth . More recently, Thomas Paine, admittedly with no reference to Buddha or to the Gosvamis, did the same thing in lucid and unerring detail. I stand with them on all questions of this sort.

    • JG
      9/25/2015
      Reply

      Thanks for Your answer. It is exciting to be discussing philosophy with You. I understand that not too many people have that privilege .

      My point is not: The goswamis philosophy is right despite bad gurus who represent them today. But rather: bad gurus are no proof of their wrongness, From what You wrote i take it that You will agree with that.

      As for the impossibility of proof of transcendence. You say that there is no question of proof because of the very definition of it. Whatever the definition You are using i suspect that some people have different definitions and will not accept yours. Why would it be so unreasonable to think. A certain portion of reality is currently or ordinarily outside of the group of perceivable, provable. But in the future under different circumstances they can be revealed. And what if the gaudiya practices can be used as tools to effect that change in circumstances.

      I am far from being a proper gaudiya believer by the way. Just sitting on the fence really.

      Apologies for leaving without saying goodbye or explaining myself many years ago, I just could not face it. Sorry.Would love to crack Your back again one day.:)

  24. Gary
    9/26/2015
    Reply

    Stay strong, your doing the right thing!
    I’m sure you’ve read this book, but maybe not it’s called “The True Believer” by Eric Hoffer.
    Your NOT ALONE, find new friends and enjoy your life.
    cheers
    gary

  25. 10/6/2015
    Reply

    Centuries ago, a Chinese Zen master was walking across the courtyard of his temple, when he encountered a monk who asked him, “What is the Supreme Truth?”

    Without breaking stride, the master replied, “I’ve got to take a leak!”

    But after a few steps, he did pause and looked back. “Imagine!” he said to the monk. “Such a simple matter, and I have to do it myself.”

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