July 2nd, 2015:
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 Papers. Available excerpts online.
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,