zeroland you wrote:
There have been many, many horrible things that have taken place by ISKCON devotees over the years. None of these can be excused, no matter what the rationale. That being said, none of those abuses reflect the spirit or teachings of Caintanya. He was the founder of the chanting movement, which started in Bengal around 500 years ago. One thing to keep in mind is that ISKCON is a man-made organization, with all of the short-comings of any human endeavor. ISKCON is seperate from the spirtual teachings that it espouses.
I would have to disagree with that last sentence. Iskcon espouses the teachings of Bhaktivedanta Swami, not Chaitanya. Bhaktivedanta Swami incorporates Chaitanya's teachings into a new religious teaching not found within the original teachings. Those new teachings, many of which are attributable to BV Swami's own Guru, are at the heart and soul or causation of the problems within Iskcon i.e the cult mentality of trying to control and incite fear in everyone , and allowing criminal behavior to go unchecked until it's unfeasible.
Chaitanya taught a more or less traditional Hindu religious teaching. What Bhaktivedanta and his Guru did was to change those teachings because of the disrepute that their religion had come under because of the [i:c03eb971af]Sahajiya[/i:c03eb971af] movement. The Sahajiya's were claiming to belong to the Chaitanya tradition but were very sexual. They taught and practiced a [i:c03eb971af]Tantric[/i:c03eb971af] version of Chaitanya's teachings. While the Tantric style of Hinduism was quite popular 1000 years ago, after the muslim and British occupation Hindu sexual mores had changed to reflect the sexual mores of their overlords. Tantric Yoga became a target of both muslim and christian leaders and in time the Tantric aspect of Hindusim was stigmatized. It never died out but it became considered low class by most people.
When the Sahajiya movement became popular in the traditional Chaitanya Hindu strongholds, to many non Chaitanya Hindus the Sahajiya's were seen as emblematic of the enitre Chaitanya milieu.
This became seen as problematic by certain preachers of the Chaitanya school because Tantric Hinduism was seen as a degraded or low class inauthentic tradition, even though it wasn't. What had happened is that Hindusim went through a de-sexualization that took place over a period of around 1000 years. Imagine what would happen in the western world if the Christian fundamentalists and other extremists took complete control over government. They are very victorian and anti-sexual. They would enforce "decency" laws much more so then the ones in effect today. That is exactly what happened in India. If we look at ancient Indian architecture in many places we will find erotic sculptures adorning temples. This is because sexuality and Tantric Yoga was an integral part of Hinduism. Women commonly were topless, nudity was commonplace. Even today there are vestiges of this with the [i:c03eb971af]nagababas[/i:c03eb971af]. They are a sect of [i:c03eb971af]sadhus[/i:c03eb971af] who roam around nude and openly smok ganja (marijuana). They are allowed to do that because it is a religious and cultural tradition that goes back to the original Hinduism.
But by the 19th century the original Hinduism had been perverted by the enforced anti-sexual mores of foreigners. Hinduism had been transformed into a highly anti-erotic culture. Even today there is no kissing allowed in Indian cinema, what to speak of nudity. All of this suppression has led to the mistreatment of women as a cultural norm. Because sexuality is missing from young peoples lives and those who are not married, the fetishization of women's bodies have made women more like commodities to be used then people to be treated as fellow humans. There is a psychological imbalance in the minds of Indian men due to desire for females and the cultural stigmas attached to sexuality. This results in women being abused when they do not live up to the fantasy submissive sexual plaything men want and feel deprived of before they are married. It also leads to abuse of women through rape and violence because they are seen as things rather then people.
Anyways because of the victorian mores of 19th century Indians some in the Chaitanya religions were concerned about their reputation because of the well known Sahajiya Chaitanya sects Tantric proclivities. They wanted to expand their religion, preach and convert. So what they did was to change the teachings of the Chaitanya school to a very strict anti-sexual type of teaching. No sex unless you are trying to produce a child was the new teaching, and no ganja (marijuana). It was intended to change the image of the Chaitanya Hindus out of fear of being seen as Tantric because of the Sahajiyas.
That is what Bhaktivedanta brought. Even though both Tantric sexuality and Ganja use as a religious sacrament had been long established traditional Hindu practices on a wide scale, these things were know harshly forbidden as "sinful".
Add to that the emphasis that Bhaktivedanta placed on very structured social conventions based on mistreatment of women as second class humans to be owned, that were originally marginal at best in traditional Hindu society, as well as some novel teachings sourced from muslim and chrisitan influences on Hindu society, and we end up with Iskcon. And since some of you have mentioned Chris Butler aka Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda, we also end up with his cult and their fanatic anti-sexual anti-gay rhetoric. Thats because Chris Butler "derives his authority" as a Guru by claiming to be the successor to Bhaktivedanta, so he has to teach the same things as Bhaktivedanta.
The truth is that the Hindu religion, specifically the Chaitanya school was never anti-sexual, anti woman, nor anti-intoxication until modern times. While the renunciates in the Chaitanya school were expected to be celibate, it wasn't required for everyone, sex was not considered "sinful", and even renunciates could quit being renunciates and still be accepted. Chaitanya's number one follower, his co-leader, Nityananda, was a renunciate who gave that up and had several wives. A number of Chaitanya's closest followers are written about at the time as smoking ganja and leading sensual lives. Today in the Bhaktivedanta type of Chaitanya sects they write those things off as eccentricities, not to be taken as something us lowly mortal should do.
The anti-gay teachings found in those sects is also not the traditional terachings. In fact in the Kama Sutra, which is accepted by the originators of the Chaitanya school as being authoritative in their writings, there, homosexuality is written about as acceptable behavior. Find a copy of the Kama Sutras online and you can read about how the various homosexual relationships in terms of their appropriateness are described.
What Bhaktivedanta has done, not just him by the way, the entire smorgasborg of anti sexual anti sensual Gaudiya sects that have gained in prominence, is that they have changed the original liberal teachings, into a victorian repressive controlling cult and cults of mind control by self interested "Gurus" seeking conversions, fame, profit, and power, over anything else.
They present themselves in the trappings of authentic "Vedic" teachings, but if we examine closely the source works we will find that to be in fact not true. The authentic Vedic or Hindu teachings are not based on non-sexuality, no form of intoxicant, no goal in life but to renounce all things and be a mendicant, discrimination against Gays, mistreatment of women as second class citizens.
These false teachings are paraded around by people who are misled and misleading others, unknowingly for the most part. The cult atmosphere created by Bhaktivedanta is not only his doing, others in the same milieu do the same thing. They use the unversal teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, and the Puranas, and then graft on to those teachings their own peculiar cult like inauthentic teachings.
That has been the problem with Iskcon and the related Iskcon type of cults. They create psychological imbalances which are reflected in the actions and relationships of the groups members. They are almost all highly socially dysfunctional and sexually confused. They cannot maintain peace and prosperity in their cults, nor can they retain their membership, they always need to convert new folowers because 99% get fed up and leave. Although most continue on in the same belief system and then continue to experience problems in their lives because of that.
As far as chanting, yes they chant too much. Chanting does have positive effects, but to much of a good thing is bad. What chanting does is focus the mind on a mantra. By meditating on the mantra over and over what you are doing is forcing the mind to focus in a very concentrated pointed way. It actually strengthens your power of concentration and can help you in your life, it's like working out with weights in your mind. But the overly dogmatic philosophy they attach to the mantra is unnecessary and often interferes with the purpose of the chanting. That is the [i:c03eb971af]japa[/i:c03eb971af] chanting done on beads aloud, or in ones mind, which is common to most Hindu sects and Chrisitans as well. Too much of that and it simply tires the mind out, it makes you mentally exhausted.
As far as [i:c03eb971af]Sankirtan[/i:c03eb971af] or [i:c03eb971af]Bhajan[/i:c03eb971af], these singing of mantras and also dancing along sometimes, are not about concentration. They are about an experience, something intangible unless taken part in, a group or solo musical/mystical experience often leading to feelings of rapture or bliss, [i:c03eb971af]ananda[/i:c03eb971af].