This information is copied completely from a page on Rational Wiki, found via the link at the end.
“Some thoughts from an ex devotee to add to this page”
Hi everyone, I'm not sure this is the right way for me to go about things but here goes:
I noticed that the page for International Society for Krishna Consciousness is closed - or at least, I can't edit the main (first) body of text. I imagine that some very devout devotees have come in here trying to delete things, or to post apologetic information, or something. Anyway, whatever the reason, there is something I'd like to add to it that I feel is of importance. It is in regards to the following body of text:
"Although ISKCON is often regarded as having 'gone astray' its often bizarre beliefs and exploitative or abusive practices actually find support in A. C Bhaktivedanta's many books and recorded talks. Among the 'purports' he wrote to accompany the Srimad Bhagavatam he condones rape and encourages child marriage, and he encouraged deception and considered anyone who disagreed with him as "envious," demonic and deserving of destruction."
Firstly I must congratulate whoever wrote that for having so succinctly described the way ISKCON and its founder's writing works. For context - I'm an ex-Hare Krishna devotee - I served them for 2 years and lived in an ashram, studying the books and so forth. I'm very happy to see someone put in just two sentences the summary of what took me about a year to realize after I had left them!
To this area, perhaps at the end of the quotations from Prabhupada's works themselves, I wanted to add that his Bhagavad-Gita "As It Is" (quotation marks my own) was revised into a Second Edition by some of his successors. When I was a devotee, there was also rumour that this same selection of devotees, who formed the editing team at the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (as far as I'm aware), also revised and edited his other books, principally the Srimad Bhagavatam and the Chaitanya Charitamrita.
I've seen first-hand the original 70's Bhagavad-Gita "As It Is," and the newer Second Edition, and have noted the differences. This ties in a little with the saying that ISKCON has "gone astray," and is actually still a point of contention - devotees in my area did not want to talk about it, because if you dug too deep with who edited what and why, you might start questioning the authority of the present-day gurus.
Also, it has been said that Prabhupada's Srimad Bhagavatam has omitted large volumes of text dealing with sexual mysticism and yoga.
Unfortunately, I can't verify this just yet; though I still own a copy of his Bhagavatam it isn't with me right now, and it's a very large text. Just tossing it out there to the community perhaps might get some feedback? I'd be interested to know which Bhagavatams are good to cross-reference, or if anybody has done this work before. At the very least, I know that he interprets the parts of the Bhagavatam that deal with sex, mysticism, and alternate paths of yoga practice in a very skewed light. The end result is always, "join my devotees, chant hare krishna, follow the rules."
Prabhupada's Gita, skewed verses, and why it matters to talk about/satirize it.
Another addition I thought of making was a sub-heading dealing with Prabhupada's Gita, "As It Is." There are devout Hindus across book-review websites including Amazon and GoodReads who have rejected his version, on grounds that Prabhupada's polemical writing style, and his constant vilification and condemnation of those who disagree with him, is not in keeping with the true spirit of the Gita. There are also a fair number of deliberately mistranslated (I say "twisted") texts, most notably the "Brahma Havir" verse, Chapter 4, Verse 24. The Prabhupada version can be seen here. By cross-referencing it even with its own word-for-word translations, it is easy to see that the full translation offered, and the purport following, are complete nonsense.
It is out of step with what Krishna is discussing before and after, and the reason Prabhupada skirts around it is because the original translation leads to the conclusion that Brahman is everything ("All is One"), a staple of Hindu belief. This verse essentially describes the nature of Brahman and the relationship between religious practitioner, brahman, and the realization of that truth (Tattva). It has been raised as an example of Prabhupada's "dirty translating" in ex-devotee websites. Unfortunately, I can no longer link to my favorite source on this topic, because the author stopped editing. See Way Back Machine's archive of it here: Hare Krishna Women.
Point being: Prabhupada's books themselves claim to be presenting the "true Vedic wisdom," and the "original" Vedic tradition.
According to Prabhupada, the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, from which ISKCON stems (but deviates from), is re-establishing an ancient religion of Krishna worship that supposedly existed before Hinduism diversified and accepted "impersonalism" as a central doctrine.
As with all claims of "Truth" with a Capital T, skeptical analysis shows it to be bunk. I find his Gita is a good springboard for dissecting his views, how he put them into practice, and it might be a good way to mention the belief that Hare Krishnas are taught to believe that theirs is the "original" Hinduism, before "impersonalism," and Prabhupada justifies that belief by going to great lengths to conceal any trace of it in the actual texts he claims to present "As Is."
The Cult of Prabhupada.
Probably an even better sub-heading would be one that exposes the cult of personality that Prabhupada created around himself, and that his followers pushed even further after he died. In his books and even in recordings of interviews with journalists, Prabhupada explains that the guru must be treated like God. This has been the basis of how many gurus, especially corrupt ones both past and present, have justified their demands from their devotees, including the giving of money and the hanging on to every word the guru gives.
Nowadays, it is expected in Hare Krishna circles to never question authority.
While I lived with them, I could not question or talk back to, or even about, a "senior" devotee, even if their plans were obviously flawed or misguided, or they had no expertise or right to place themselves in authority. Positions of power were secretly vied for and once held, guarded closely by an elite who kept everyone "junior" to them in subordinate positions. All this, despite the scriptures themselves saying that a devotee would rise to spiritual advancement on their own merits and their own pacing, some faster than others.
The most major part of this don't question policy is to not question Prabhupada. It's actually a test of faith to see how many of Prabhupada's more outlandish and outrageous writings you believe. If you believe, for example, in Hare Krishna creationism, you will be one step closer to being initiated by a guru. If you believe that atheists are demonic and deserve destruction, you've almost got your foot in the door to get authorized to be married. That's right - authorized to be married. And if you believe their cosmology, and that we never landed on the moon, well, then you're fit for book distribution! Though there is a small faction of Hare Krishnas today who are questioning Prabhupada, they are frequently silenced and ridiculed in Hare Krishna circles. The most blatant and easily accessible space of fundamentalist Cult of Prabhupada fanaticism is the Sampradaya Sun, a kind of tabloid newspaper for Krishna cultists. The forums are particularly juicy.
The biggest marker of this Cult of Prabhupada, is the way people will parrot his speaking and writing style. Hare Krishnas have a list of jargon words and key arguments, which they try to present in their own words like real students might present an argument or fact they've learned from their teacher, but really, Prabhupada taught them to say it exactly as he did.
Some of these words include:
"nectar" this service is nectar his nectarian speech was so transcendental
"jaya" (rhymes with EYE, means joy or victory) I sold a book! Jaya!
"prabhu" (means master, used to address anyone to try and make yourself look humble) nice work on books, prabhu
"demoniac" (denotes anyone outside of the faith, really) man, universities have such a demoniac agenda.
"envious" and "puffed up" (assumes that people's souls are "envious" of Krishna and of devotees, resulting in abusive or "forgetful" behaviour) Scientists are just puffed up, they think they know it all, but really their soul just wants to deny Krishna.
All of these words and their concomitant stock phrases, and in turn the arguments in which they appear (e.g. the Frog in the Well) can be found in Prabhupada's books, letters, and audio recordings. Luckily for researchers, they're repeated quite often, so it's easy to find examples of them. Just browse any part of the internet where Hare Krishnas are openly singing the praises of some book and become challenged (like the comments section of Amazon.com) and you'll see his arguments present, with minor variations.
In the present day, Prabhupada is believed to have even been sent directly from the spiritual world to accomplish his mission of establishing ISKCON. One of my roommates even believed this. It's an interesting process to study for academics, because it might shed light into how prophets, zealots and other such big religious teachers metamorphosis into gods or divine messengers.
Hare Krishna and Women.
I've written a lot tonight so I'll be brief. The most well-known aspect of the Hare Krishnas, and the one I get questioned the most as to whether it's true, is their sexist attitudes and practices towards women. Marriage is controlled, women are seen as a lesser birth than men (and I quote, "less intelligent").
Marriage is presented to young men as undesirable, and sex is strictly for conceiving children. There are also some weird rituals that married couples are supposed to adhere to, including the invitation of a monk and congregation to witness the conception of the child, while they sing and chant mantras, though most (if not all) Hare Krishnas either don't practice that or know about it.
When I was there, we were encouraged to be Brahmacharyas (monks), at least for a few years before deciding to get married. If we came to the organization young and enamoured by the opposite sex, we were told that it was "not a marriage bureau," and scolded for thinking it was an easy way to get a family. If we did get married before accepting monastic life, it was more less treated like "girl pushups": you did it because you were weak and could not go the full mile.
Hare Krishnas are also keen on re-establishing a caste system, though not entirely in keeping with India's current system. There are even farming communities and gurukulas (lit. guru school, founded by Bhaktivedanta Swami and infamous for child sex abuse in the 80's).
Referencing for all this.
All this stuff I've posted are suggestions. I'll spend some time over the next couple of weeks combing the net for some reference material. I don't have my Krishna books on me at the moment, but may be able to get my paws on them over the year.
I'm really keen to expand the material on ISKCON and Hare Krishnas on here. I think whoever wrote the page on Hare Krishna Creationism did a bang up job, I'd just like to see a bit more substance and well-deserved satire on the main page describing what they're like.
Thanks for reading through all this! My name is Mr Fox and I'm happy to help in any way I can here on RW.
Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 05/25/2021 01:10AM by facet.