By Ajit Krishna Dasa
I started my Krishna consciousness in 1998 and knew more or less right away that I would try to dedicate my life to serving Krishna. Therefore it soon became important for me to find a spiritual master. After two years I finally found the guru I would surrender to. It was a well-known ISKCON swami. I was attracted to him because of the sharp and intelligent way in which he analyzed and presented Krishna consciousness. He was already a sannyasi when Srila Prabhupada was present on the planet.
I wrote the swami a letter asking to become his aspiring disciple. He accepted me right away. I was happy. Due to my economic situation at that time it was not an option to visit him. I must have been an aspiring disciple for around 18 months before I was able to meet him in Los Angeles. I was in 2001 or 2002. He lived in Beverly Hills 90211 where he had his own house and a very nice car. The purpose of my visit was to become officially initated.
I stayed with him for ten days. His personal servant and a yoga teacher was also there. The swami was co-operating with the yoga teacher. They were trying to do some preaching in different yoga centers.
After 3-4 days I noticed something strange. While we were chanting our rounds in the morning the swami was preoccupied with news on TV, hour-long phone conversations or with playing Christian church music on his piano. At first I thought that he chanted his rounds on japa-walks during the daytime. He was often out walking – but always with the yoga teacher. I was usually told that they had to meet people or go shopping in healthcare shops. I started to check the time to see if it was at all possible for him to chant his rounds. He was in the house most of the day, and only went out for relative short spans of time. I asked the yoga teacher what they were doing when they were out. It soon became clear to me that no chanting was going on. Also, I never saw his japa-mala, he did not wear his Tulasi neck beads. And usually he was dressed in sports clothing instead of a sannyasi dress. He also called his servant and me his “slaves”. He did not really seem to be joking.
It was at that time in ISKCON’s history where the police in USA were enterrogating many ISKCON leaders about the child abuse that had occurred in some ISKCON schools. As his servants our job was to make sure the police did not enter the house. He did not want to talk to them.
I soon had enough. I asked the swami’s personal servant about the lack of chanting. He confirmed that the swami had not chanted one round in the three months he had served him. Not only that, the personal servant had confronted the guru about his lack of chanting. The swami had become very angry and claimed he did not need to chant 16 rounds on japa-mala since he was always chanting within his mind. I was also told that the previous servant (the servant that was there before the servant I spoke to) had the same experiences. He had served the swami for six months.
I found myself in a situation where I had first and second-hand testimony that the swami had not chanted Hare Krishna for nine months. I was shocked. I had been his aspiring disciple for 18 months. I had travelled 10000 kilometers to meet him. I had hoped to become his initiated disciple. The situation was strange and unpleasant for a new, unexperienced devotee like myself.
I had go get away. As fast as I could. I stayed in the LA ISKCON temple the last couple of days.
When I returned to Denmark I told the story to our temple president. He believed me and promised to talk to another ISKCON sannyasi who knew the swami personally. A couple of weeks after I was informed that the ISKCON sannyasi had spoken to the swami. But I was not informed about the outcome. You can imagine how surprised I was when I in 2003 found that the swami had become a full member of the GBC.
The GBC hereby transfers H. H. Hridayananda dasa Goswami from his status as GBC emeritus back to the status of active membership as full GBC. The GBC body welcomes his participation on the body and looks forward to having his association again at Mayapur. (GBC Resolutions, 2003)
I was very astonished. He did not chant his rounds, and now he was a member of the GBC.
In the years after these incidents the swami was the object of several scandals. Searching the internet we find that this swami has a blemished reputation. He blessed a homosexual couple, he has enjoyed the company of young women and he is seen playing sports like ping-pong – just to mention some of his less controversial activities. The GBC has known about his problems for years. They have even tried to correct him. Apparently to no avail. He is still to this day accepted and recognized as a bona fide swami and guru in ISKCON.
So be warned:
A person might be accepted and voted in as a guru in ISKCON. But it is far from certain that he is bona fide. He might not be chanting his rounds, having morning program, reading Srila Prabhupada’s books or be following the regulative principles. If you are considering initiation it is your responsibility to make sure the guru you want to take initiation from is up to the standard. If you cannot find any guru it is better to stay uninitiated. Do not become initiated by a false guru. I almost messed up. I hope you will learn from my mistake. I should have researched the swami better before I visited him, and I should have visited him before asking to be his aspiring disciple. Fortunately Krishna saved me. But many devotees have been initiated by this guru after I experienced these things. They have been cheated. Their future, as well as that of the swami, is uncertain.
Here is a picture of the swami:
Prahladananda Swami, chairman of the ISKCON Sannyasa Ministry, was asked the following on his website:
Jambavan Dasa says:
January 5, 2010 at 7:23 am
Accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada
I saw you article in the Sampradaya Sun and also the response to it.
I have a question for you. As we know either you are part of the problem or you are part of the solution. As a senior leader and sannyasa minister of ISKCON what exactly are you doing to solve the problem, besides writing something that we all know at least for the last 15 or 20 years? As the sannyasa minister what are you doing to stop Hridayananda Das from making a joke of the sannyasa asrama and the rol of a diksa guru. I am sure you are totally aware of his activities, opinions, and life style. And this is nothing new, it is going on for many years Maharaja. Why you are not sanctioning or doing anything to stop such a shameless person who is misrepresenting your spiritual master?
Prahladananda Swami answered:
January 7, 2010 at 11:22 pm
Dear Jambavan dasa,Please accept my greetings and the blessings of Lord Krishna. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
Somehow the GBC Body’s attempt to encourage Hridayananda Maharaja to improve his sadhana bhakti and his behavior as a sannyasi have not had the required effect. There is an attempt at another strategy to handle the problem. We’ll have to see what Lord Krishna desires.
Yours in the service of Srila Prabhupada, Prahladananda Swami
Here is a screenshot of the exchange:
Please click the picture to see it in much better quality or see the exchange here.
I could write a lot about the emotional consequences my visit to LA had for a young, inexperienced bhakta. I was about to put my life in the hands of a cheater. I was chanting his mantra every day. I was offering my food to his picture. I was convinced I was serving Srila Prabhupada and Krishna through him. Why? Because I “knew” he was bona fide. He was, after all, voted in by the GBC.
Please do not commit the same mistake I made. Take your time. Use your intelligence. Know the philosophy. Read the books and letters – all of them a few times at least. Listen to the lectures.
If you have any questions in relation to the above, you are welcome to write me.
Obeisances and Hare Krishna,
Ajit Krishna Dasa