Letter from Dhira Govinda Das           Posted July 19 2004  

Letter from Dhira Govinda das (aka. David Wolf, PhD.) to Praghos das, Chairman-GBC.

May 14, 2004

Dear Praghos Prabhu,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

During the past few months I've taught several Vaisnava Life Skills/Personal Transformation Courses in Europe. I've heard from various sources in Europe that you have actively opposed these seminars in Vaisnava communities. Perhaps the information I've received has been incorrect or misrepresentative, in which case I'll be glad to hear that you are not opposed to the courses, and even more pleased to hear that you are encouraging members of Srila Prabhupada's movement to participate in these workshops. So, if you are actually supportive, then please let me know that, to dispel many statements to the contrary that I have heard. If you are opposed to the courses, then I am surprised, and am interested to hear your reasons for this stance. In the year 2000 in Mayapur you participated in an early version of the Foundational Life Skills/Personal Transformation Course. You were so encouraged by the potency of the course to help devotees that in the summer of 2000 you sponsored me to visit the Belfast Vaisnava community, where we held a powerful Foundational Seminar, with the Vaisnavas deriving so much important value. Myself and all who attended the course were very appreciative that you sponsored and supported the seminar.

Shortly before the Ireland course you wrote:  "I would like to sponsor Dhira Govinda prabhu's flight from Brussels to Ireland. After attending his course in Mayapur I cannot speak highly enough of it and how beneficial I found it. Being an old fogey and cynic I had all my preconceptions smashed after the first morning session and thoroughly enjoyed myself for the next three days. Of course enjoyment was merely a by-product of the course, learning all the listening skills and positive devotee counselling skills were the real bonus for me."

Just after the seminar in Belfast you wrote to me "Yes I've heard only poositive feedback from the devotees in Belfast about
your course. As for any help I was able to give - it was a pleasure!"

Now, from what I'm hearing, you are opposing and discouraging these courses. I'm wondering what has caused this change, if in fact there has been a change (if not, please clarify).

I am aware that some amongst ISKCON leadership disagree with some of the tenets of Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link (PL). While I view such disagreements as a platform for civilized dialogue that will enrich Srila Prabhupada's movement, I sense that some feel threatened by ideas in PL. These fears, from what I can perceive, are extended to the life skills/personal transformation seminars that I conduct. That is, there is apparently concern that members of Srila Prabhupada's movement will be influenced by PL ideas if they participate in a seminar that I teach, even though the seminar itself is not about guru-tattva. I am willing, if the course organizers or other local leaders prefer, to not even discuss PL-related topics outside of the seminar room, even if asked, as I frequently am, by course participants or other devotees to discuss it. In such cases I simply ask the inquirers to contact me after the seminar, when I return home. I do consider such restrictions to be rather extreme, and likely reflective of a narrow-minded mentality based on fear (though fear is often couched in terms of concerns for "protection"). In any event, I would consider it strange if your concerns about the seminars are based on the PL essay that I wrote. In July, 2001, you and I discussed for many hours the tenets of PL. At the time I had a rough draft of the paper, entitled Srila Prabhupada: The Direct Link. You expressed agreement with the principles of the article. In fact, you were enthusiastic about the importance of the ideas for the future of Srila Prabhupada's movement. Specifically, our discussions and your support extended to concepts including transcendental knowledge being the essence of the process of initiation, receiving "initiation" in the essential sense from Srila Prabhupada as a prerequisite for a member of his movement to participate in a formal initiation ceremony, Srila Prabhupada as the primary link to the parampara and main guru for members of his movement who primarily receive direct transcendental knowledge from him, regardless of the date of their formal initiation ceremony, the peculiarity of the change to the first page of Sri-Caitanya-caritamrta (CC), and the BBT's attempted justification for that change, regarding the use of the term "initiation", and the points about formal worship processes as discussed in PL and a previous paper I had written entitled The Humble Guru. In the months following our discussions in July, 2001, I spoke with several ISKCON leaders and other Vaisnavas, and early in 2002 I issued a revised version of the article, entitled Srila Prabhupada: The Prominent Link. PL, in comparison with The Direct Link, is actually more consistent with GBC expressions on the topic. Considering your support for the PL project in 2001, it wouldn't seem consistent that you would be opposing the seminars based on PL. If this is not the case, I will appreciate your explanation of your change of views regarding PL.

Below are some written exchanges between us concerning these topics.

After I published a preliminary article about the CC page 1 change you wrote:   "The gurus that are *happy* to continue the illusion that they are 'Patita Pavanas' create the 'Gurudeva ets and ettes', who in turn create the 'rah-rah', who in turn 'turn off' the 'cynical' devotees, who in turn end up all over the internet, supporting law suits, starting their own sampradayas or joining one of the various Gaudiya Math groups. What are we going to do? We could try telling the truth, after all honesty is the best policy. It is
certainly better than changing Srila Prabhupada's words in the CC in order for "Prabhupada's words to fit into our understanding of initiation". Perhaps we should consider fitting our understanding of initiation into Srila Prabhupada's words instead!"

Also, in regard to that issue of CC page 1 you wrote:

[From Dhira Govinda dasa]

"Of concern is that the explanation for deleting the word "initiated" seems to be largely based on the understanding of the word "initiated", "as we  know it in ISKCON". Perhaps when Srila Prabhupada used the word "initiated", he did so deliberately, and the meaning of the term as it has come to be understood in ISKCON is faulty. That is, instead of making changes in this passage based on what we think Srila Prabhupada may have meant, it may be fruitful to consider that the current conception in the organization of the word "initiated" is not perfectly consistent with Srila Prabhupada's understanding of the concept."

[From Praghos dasa]

"I have read with interest your discussion with Dravida prabhu and would like to discuss this further with you when you come to Ireland. However I think your above comments are very perceptive and I find myself very much in agreement with them."

In 2002 you had written an article for publication in the second printing of PL. In that article you expressed the need to resolve a clear understanding of the disciplic succession issue, and you wrote "One thing that most agree on is that further work needs to be done. In this regard I see the Prominent Link as an attempt to move this process forward." You continued, "If the leadership of ISKCON responds in this way then the PL, rather than been seen as a deviant paper or a hostile threat to ISKCON, could result inbeing a significant stepping stone to settling the issue of guru tattva within our ISKCON once and for all.

What would be most unfortunate and regressive is for the ISKCON leadership to try to suppress healthy debate on this topic. They must have faith that the vast majority of devotees want a comprehensive conclusion to this subject and are acting in good faith.

Given that the leadership has yet to achieve a comprehensive solution to this issue over the last 3 decades, why not take whatever positives it can from the PL, with a view to moving closer to an understanding on the issue of guru tattva, that is in line with guru, sastra and sadhu and acceptable to all of our vaisnava family."

I have heard from some that they heard that I was not cooperative with Sastric Advisory Committee (SAC), and thus not open to constructive dialogue on this guru-tattva project. You, as well as anyone, should understand that such claims lack substance, as you are the "
member of the GBC phoned" referred to in the response I wrote to the SAC paper, an excerpt of which is included below.

[Excerpt from paper written by Dhira Govinda dasa in response to the SAC paper]

"After the GBC meetings in 2002 I contacted the Chairman of the SAC, as the GBC requested. In Vrndavana we had a friendly conversation and touched on some of the points in PL. He said that the SAC would contact me when they were ready to discuss PL in detail. That took a few months, and, in July 2002, the SAC and I began email correspondence. We corresponded for more than three months.

After completing the day's Vaisnava Life Skills course that I was teaching in Radhadesa (Belgium) in early November 2002, a member of the GBC phoned. He had heard that I was planning to publish a second printing of PL. He asked whether it would be acceptable for me if I included the full correspondence between the SAC and I in that second printing. He was under the impression that the SAC would likely agree to this. I readily agreed, though I cautioned him I was doubtful that the SAC would consent.

When I returned to Alachua a few days later, I received correspondence from this GBC member and the SAC Chairman, confirming that the SAC wanted to keep our correspondence confidential and did not want it available to the devotee public. I remain eager for that correspondence to be made available, and for anything I've written therein to be scrutinized.

Regarding my cooperation with the SAC, I wrote to them on August 31, 2002:

I am appreciating and absorbing the comments and reflections of the members of the SAC, and, whatever further realizations you have to share, I'll be glad to hear and study. If the SAC would like me to contribute to some paper (probably primarily exploratory rather than conclusive) in collaboration with the committee members, that sounds like a productive, albeit long-term, project. For the more immediate future perhaps the SAC can make some specific recommendations and proposals to the GBC, based on our discussions. I'll help out with this if you'd like.

I remain open and enthusiastic to hear from and discuss with Vaisnavas, including members of the SAC, about elements in PL, as well as other topics of interest to them."

[End of excerpt from article written by Dhira Govinda dasa in response to the SAC paper]

In case you haven't read my response to the SAC, I am including it as an RTF attachment to this posting. If you have questions or concerns about the contents, I will be glad to discuss them with you.

Before the publication of the second printing of PL you wrote to me: "I've decided not to submit a piece to the new PL. I just sense that there is a certain inevitablity about the direction it is heading." So, your reason for not including a piece, as I understand it, was that things are going in the PL direction anyway, and you considered that it wouldn't be helpful, with regard to the role you wish to play, for your piece to be included in the book. And again, back to the Vaisnava Life Skills/Personal Transformation Seminars, it wouldn't seem to make sense that you would resist the seminars on the basis of a philosophical paper whose ideas you largely support, and which point to a direction that you encourage.

My sense is that over the past few years you have become influenced by association that is causing you, perhaps unintentionally, to place protection of the institution, specifically the institution of the GBC, as a priority over commitment to truth and taking a stand for what is genuinely true and honest. Of course we must be concerned about protecting Srila Prabhupada's institution. My conviction is that commitment to standing for what is true will strengthen the organization, or at least any part of it that is worthy. My perception, for whatever you consider it may be worth, is that you've adopted various roles and identities that prevent you from acting with genuineness and authenticity, to the point that you may not even know what are your authentic responses to many important issues. Above I've included examples in a few areas where this intrapersonal dynamic may be acting. There are several other areas. Below I'll mention a few more.

In 2001 in Mayapur during the GBC meetings you and I spoke about several topics, one of them being the Vote of No Confidence issued by the ISKCON of Alachua Board of Directors. I include that below.

[The following statement, dated July 20, 2000, was unanimously accepted by the ISKCON of Alachua Board of Directors:

“Srila Prabhupada wanted his movement to be led by a Governing Body Commission that possesses integrity and commands respect. At present, despite the sincere efforts of the members of the GBC body, this does not exist. Though the New Raman-reti board of directors fully supports the principle of the GBC as Srila Prabhupada envisioned it, we herein express our lack of confidence in the GBC body in its current state to lead the movement and to adequately represent Srila Prabhupada. In order to avoid particulars obscuring the broader view of dysfunction, this short statement does not delineate specific reasons for discontent. However, general categories of misconduct of the GBC body that are far below acceptable standards include areas such as accountability, managerial competence, responsiveness, and representation. This board is willing and eager to participate in efforts towards constructive change concerning the GBC body, and some such efforts are currently being discussed. We believe it is essential that any new structure include a GBC body that is accountable to a group or constituency external to itself, since it is clear that the GBC body is unable to evaluate and discipline itself. This board views this statement as a service to the GBC body, and hopes that these comments will contribute to a positive reconstruction that will restore moral authority to the GBC body. The views expressed herein are those of the elected members of the New Raman-reti board of directors. We realize that these views do not necessarily represent the opinions of the members of the New Raman-reti Vaisnava community.

Regarding feedback to leadership, the New Raman-reti board of directors wishes to hear from community members on the issues described herein, and the board would also like to hear views from community members concerning the performance and functioning of the New Raman-reti management. Hare Krsna."

Your servants on the New Raman-reti board of directors,

Sukhada dasi, Nagaraja dasa, Nanda dasi, Raghupati Pran dasa, Kesihanta dasa, Isvara Puri dasa, Dhira Govinda dasa]

[end of statement of no confidence in GBC body]

During our conversation in Mayapur in 2001 you expressed full support for this statement. I explained that the ISKCON of Alachua Board of Directors was considering, as a followup to the statement of no confidence, a statement of temporary disaffiliation
from the GBC body. You were enlivened by this idea. Specifically, you expressed how it would be healthy for Vaisnava communities, especially major communities such as New Raman-reti (ISKCON of Alachua), to formally disaffiliate from the GBC body, in order to send the message that the level of performance of the GBC is not tolerable and would certainly not be acceptable for Srila Prabhupada. I am interested to hear whether you would support these same positions today.

With regard to the disappearance pastime of Srila Prabhupada, my sense is that the GBC body, yourself included, is engaged, perhaps in some cases unwittingly, in acts of deception and cover up. It may be that there is nothing to cover up. Still, the GBC, yourself included, seems, to the extent of my ability to perceive and analyze, like an organization that has a lot to hide on this issue.

I'm curious whether you sincerely believe, as the GBC resolution states, that
"There is no evidence at this time to support the allegations of poisoning of Srila Prabhupada." From my study of the evidence that has been made available to me, including the GBC book Not That I Am Poisoned (NTIP), it appears that there is certainly credible evidence indicating that such an event may have occurred. Perhaps it's not conclusive evidence, but to declare the body of documentation as constituting "no evidence at this time to support the allegations" would seem to require quite some leaps of faith. Again, if someone says "I'm not convinced that Srila Prabhupada was poisoned," or "The evidence is far from conclusive," such statements seem to be reasonable. But to state, as you are doing, that there is "no evidence..." seems to be an attempt to prevent members of the organization from looking at the available evidence, including Srila Prabhupada's words on the subject. That is, it seems to me that the GBC, in the resolution quoted above and throughout NTIP is fearful of the truth, or at least of what the truth might be, for that truth, or even the hint that such truth may be a possibility, may substantially upset the status quo. In this regard you are apparently an instrument for the maintenance of that status quo. I ask you with all earnest to take an honest look at your role in this. It is a very serious matter. Please be sure that you are acting and standing for what you truly want to be acting and standing for. You came to the Hare Krsna movement to serve Srila Prabhupada's mission. To what extent do you believe you are actually doing that in the capacity in which you are acting in connection with the disappearance pastime of Srila Prabhupada, as well as the other topics discussed in this letter?

Even if someone states that they see that there is compelling evidence to warrant an investigation, but they don't want to be involved in such an investigation, or even that they don't believe the GBC should be involved in such an investigation, because it would disturb the minds of the innocent devotees too much, or for whatever reason, I can respect such a position. I may not agree with it, but it has its validity. Even with such a position, an honest expression from the GBC would seem to be something like "There is some evidence indicating that Srila Prabhupada may have been poisoned. That evidence is not conclusive either way. We are not sure that Srila Prabhupada would want us to pursue an investigation, and thus we are not conducting a formal inquiry into the matter. For those who are interested we encourage you to hear Srila Prabhupada's recorded words on the subject." I understand that such a statement would cause unrest amongst some. Still, by handling the situation as the GBC is doing, gives the strong impression to any thinking person who applies their mind here, that this GBC entity is committed to cover up and self-preservation, at the expense of truth, and perhaps also at the expense of common ethics and humanity. Of course, some won't apply their cognitive faculties to the matter, and they will be happy to be numb followers of the GBC. But then, what sort of people do we wish to primarily attract and keep in the organization?

I'll briefly go over some points regarding this topic of Srila Prabhupada's disappearance pastime. First, Srila Prabhupada clearly expressed concern that he seriously considered the possibility that he was poisoned. As far as the argument "But maybe he was referring to unintentional poisoning effects from medicine"- I don't see how someone conversant with the relevant conversations, and who is sincere about excavating the truth of the matter, can pose such an argument. Sure, there was discussion about poisonous effects of medicine. And there was also distinct and manifest discussion by Srila Prabhupada and those around him about deliberate murder by poison. Why else, for example, would they be discussing a case in Calcutta of a husband deliberately murdering his wife by poison? Clearly they were discussing murder by poison. If accidental poison by medicine was also talked about, that's a separate point. The relevant point is that Srila Prabhupada was speaking about being deliberately poisoned by other human beings. This is clear. I'm not saying that it's conclusive evidence. But let us, and the GBC body, at least take Srila Prabhupada's words seriously. And if the GBC body won't actively pursue an investigation, then let's at least refer interested persons to Srila Prabhupada's direct words. Who can argue with hearing from Srila Prabhupada on this topic? I won't include herein the transcripts of the conversations where Srila Prabhupada clearly expresses that he suspects he is being poisoned, and the conversations where those around him clearly believe that Srila Prabhupada thinks that it is very possible that he is being murdered by poison. I am assuming that you have carefully studied these conversations. If you have, and you don't agree with my assessment above, I humbly request that you share with me the basis for your views. If you haven't studied these conversations by this time, then I'm doubtful whether you should be in any sort of leadership position in Srila Prabhupada's movement, especially considering the statements you have implicitly and explicitly made about this subject. Again, what I'm presenting here is simply that Srila Prabhupada expressed serious concern that he was deliberately poisoned. People should know that Srila Prabhupada had this concern. It is not helpful, except maybe in the most short-sighted sense concerned solely with immediate institutional protection, to cover this up.

Other than Srila Prabhupada's concern and the obvious acknowledgement of that concern by those surrounding him, there is much else that I consider to be credible, albeit not conclusive, evidence. I believe that if the totality of the currently available evidence for such an allged crime that happened in, say, New York, were to be delivered to the NYPD, an investigative team would deem that there is surely compelling evidence to warrant a homicide investigation. I do not believe that they would conclude that there is "no evidence at this time to support the allegations of poisoning..." Not at all. Praghos Prabhu- Please look carefully at what positions and modes of actions you are supporting. This is serious. Who and what are you protecting? Sure, many, even most, members of the ISKCON organization might not notice the dissimulation and chicanery engaged in by the GBC, including yourself, perhaps without realizing, on this issue, but many in the world do see and will see, and Srila Prabhupada is present. I humbly request that you genuinely look at this.

There are the whispers. Based on what I've studied on the matter, audio forensic experts have indicated, using their professional methodologies that are accepted in criminal courts, that the whispers constitute at least potential evidence, and perhaps strong evidence, that Srila Prabhupada was poisoned. This is clear from the book Judge for Yourself (JFY). If you have a different conclusion based on the facts from Chapter Four of that book, please let me know the basis for your conclusions. Again, I understand that the whispers are likely not conclusive evidence. My point is that the totality of the body of documentation constitutes compelling evidence that murder by poisoning may have happened. Even if no further investigation is conducted, let's be honest about the known facts and what they may indicate. Let's trust that with such honesty, Srila Prabhupada's movement will be well-served and strengthened, although the status quo in the GBC organization may in fact be disrupted.

It is also clear from JFY Chapter 4 that the GBC's NTIP book contains deception in addressing the whispers. Now, perhaps there's no cause for deception, because there is nothing to hide on this topic. Still, it is clear that NTIP contains deception, and a thinking person will naturally wonder "What is it that needs to be hidden and covered up?"

Other evidences that may be indicative of murder by poisoning include the arsenic levels in Srila Prabhupada's hair samples and his medical diagnoses. To examine the full documentation currently available, including Srila Prabhupada's words, the confirming words of those around him, the whisper tapes and their audio forensic analysis, the arsenic levels, the medical diagnoses, the curious and as yet unresolved and unexplained inconsistencies between what was said by some key players in 1977 and what they said in NTIP, and the lack of straightforwardness in several sections of NTIP, and to conclude that there
...is no evidence at this time to support the allegations of poisoning of Srila Prabhupada" seems to me to be disingenuous.

It is clear, as far as I can perceive, from the conversations in November 1977 that those surrounding Srila Prabhupada thought it wholly feasible that Srila Prabhupada was poisoned. In NTIP some of these same devotees expressed that it is absurd to think that Srila Prabhupada was poisoned. How do you explain their incredulity towards an idea to which they gave complete credence in 1977? What is the explanation for that? How come you are so supportive of the GBC's
"no evidence" position? Or, if you're not supportive of it, then please state that. Of course Srila Prabhupada's disappearance is a transcendental pastime, meant for our instruction. In the process of uncovering this pastime, let us be candid about the facts. Even then, we may maintain varying perspectives about conclusions, but let's be forthright about known facts. Since I've herein mentioned the JFY book I'll also mention that the tone in the book may not be the best to invoke a mood of neutral deliberation. Still, I did find the book to contain much substantial, well-referenced and meaningful information that illuminates the disappearance pastime of Srila Prabhupada. Please don't be a party to concealing the truth about this pastime from the world.

Praghos Prabhu- Please take a look at the possibility that you are allowing some basic human needs within you, such as those for approval, acceptance and recognition, to enable others to use you as an instrument for cheating, cover up and fraudulence.

With regards to the Vaisnava Life Skills/Personal Transformation Seminars, they do tend to create in participants enhanced facility for independent thinking. Though Srila Prabhupada wanted his followers to be independently thoughtful, I sense that such effects from the seminars cause some in ISKCON leadership to feel threatened. I ask that you not be influenced by the fears and threats of others, and instead come from a truly spiritual platform of openness and trust- trust that if each member of the movement fully develops their unique propensities, including their thoughtfulness, it will be a richer and more attractive movement. I'll be glad to correspond or speak with you regarding any of the points in this posting. At the end of this posting I'm including some comments about the courses. I ask that you support the courses. One of the comments is from Govinda dasa, a Vaisnava youth in New Mayapur, France. Please read it. He expresses how much positive life-changing value he experienced, and how much is there for thousands of Vaisnava youth. Please support this endeavor. Why not use your energies and influence to facilitate profoundly auspicious experiences for Vaisnava youth and other devotees, instead of attempting to prevent the seminars from happening?

As far as I'm concerned, you can share this letter with whomever you'd like to share it. Hare Krsna.

Your friend and servant,

Dhira Govinda dasa

[From Govinda dasa- Vaisnava youth and a leader in New Mayapur, France]

How did the Life Skills/Personal Transformation Seminar affect me?

Well, I came out feeling lighter, as if a load that I had been carrying was finally lifted off my shoulders. it gave me a deep insight of how, till now, I have been living my life not to my fullest capability because of my way of dealing with situations, because of emotional patterns that have not been effective. The feedback exercises were very valuable for me. I've understood that instead of reacting to someone's expressions to and about me, I can take it constructively. I'm free to consider the comment, and accept it or not. I don't need to take it personally. In these seminars I learned a humbler approach to criticism, wherein I consider the person as a well-wisher, not an enemy.

Another very powerful thing I learned was about commitment. I realized how important it is to be commited, first of all to myself, thereby taking responsibility for my actions. That means that even if I was late or didn't keep one commitment or other, instead of giving excuses or justifications, I could tell myself that because of my own choices I didn't keep a commitment. This shows that the responsibility of my life remains in my hands. It made me aware of all the times I find things lacking in my life, or not the way I wish they would be, I understand much more deeply now that it is up to me to make changes and that I have the power to do so.

Usually I would find excuses as to why I am not on par. For example. Since quite some time now, I'm having a hard time waking up early in the morning. This is creating some frustration in me because I feel that I would achieve more if I got up earlier, did some sadhana, read a bit more, etc. I have been giving myself all kinds of reasons and excuses as to why I can't get up. Since the seminar I feel that if I don't get up, that's OK because maybe I need this rest period. So instead of using waking up late as an excuse to achieve less, I take responsibility for my choice and what comes with that choice. And instead of looking for reasons as to why I don't get out of bed earlier, I find myself looking at a solution which would allow me to do so. A whole different perspective.

That's what the seminar did for me, it gave me a whole different perspective on life. A perspective that allows me to be more positive, affirmative and naturally loving. Because I feel good about myself, I can feel good about al those who surround me. Life is no longer a drudggery of "He's on my side and that person is not." Everyone is a person with their qualities and their wonders. That's another thing this seminar has brought to me. Even devotees who I really disliked, not to say hated, I could see so many nice qualities in them, I appreciate them and want to know them better. I learned that when we face each other with anger or mistrust it is because we don't really know who we are. We are wearing these masks we learned to put up and use throughout our life. It made me realise that because I was judging people on a basis of friend or enemy I was cutting myself off from so many wonderful experiences, so many wonderful qualities in so many people. This does not mean that all of a sudden I get on with everybody and see all as servants of the Lord. But I can appreciate that everybody has a wonderful aspect in their personality and instead of concentrating on the parts of their personality that clash with mine, I can appreciate the ones that don't, and that are wonderful.

Another change the seminar has brought is that previously, when people would ask my advice or I would kindly just give it to them, it would upset me if my advice was not taken in consideration. The commitment aspect of the seminar helped me realize how that, although we are all there to help each other and stand by each other, still it is the liberty of each person to accept their responsibility. I can advise or help a person, but it shouldn't come to a point where I impose my solution upon that person. Several experiences during the seminars helped me to realize the powerful effect of facilitating a person to find and generate their own resolutions, instead of imposing my agenda on them.

Regarding abuse that happened when I was in gurukula, I released a big load of painful emotions connected with that. For a long time now, everytime I met "gurukulis" my heart would hurt because sooner or later I would find out some abuse story they experienced. Often tears would well up in my eyes at the slightest mention of abuse from some gurukuli and I would feel pain in my heart. Now all that is gone. It is kind of strange because coing out of gurukula I didn't really have a problem with that. I was even against the whole (what I called) witch-hunt that went on in the mid-ninties when I'd received mail asking that we denounce any known abusers. Not that I thought that it wasn't the right thing to do, but I didn't see how it would take away the pain or actually punish the people who did those things. When I had my own children, and they grew up, I saw how this sexual abuse affected me in my relation to my children. That was horrible for me. I wasn't able to take them in my arms and cuddle them or show them affection as much as I would have liked to, for fear of becoming an abuser myself. SInce the seminar all that is gone, and it is such a relief. Particularly with my oldest daughter, I'm able to hug her and hold her hand, tell her I love her. Previously I was fearful that she'd think I was creepy, or an abuser. I still feel anger, particularly when confronted with situations that remind me of certain things from the past,  For example, yesterday I had lunch at the temple. They had made some baked pumpkin slices, which I didn't take. One devotee mentioned to me how tasty they were and as he said that, I realised that I hadn't taken any because it reminded me of meals in gurukula when we would have baked pumpkins for days on end. Before the seminar that kind of thing could have sent me off on a major episode about ... well whatever I wanted to vent my anger on. This time, however, it just made me laugh and I told him very calmly that no thanks because it brings back memories of nasty prasadam (none of us liked pumpkins in gurukula, and we had them practically at every meal at one time). But there was no anger or resentment like before.

I really appreciate that these seminars are being done by devotees, and how expertly Dhira Govinda prabhu can tie it all in with Srila Prabhupada's teachings. It is so nice to do this along with devotees. I have done some seminars, with some similar elements, before, and it was always a hassle having to listen to the "we are all god" conclusions of the facilitators. It made me see (it's not completely realised though !) what is the meaning of humility, compassion, jiva doya, happiness, devotion. It gave me a deeper insight of what is the attitude of a Vaisnava. I know that some of the leaders of ISKCON, and even some who follow Srila Narayana Maharaja, have done this seminar, and I really hope and pray that they will be able to bring an end to all this bickering and lead us to a win - win situation.

I strongly recommend that every gurukuli should do this seminar. And all sankirtan devotees as well. And all devotees who were abused by the negative aspects of institutional life. I sincerely pray that all the kids who were in gurukula with me or that I got to know while traveling will have the opportunity to do this seminar. It'll transform your life. For me there is only one word for this seminar which describes it - it's magical. I would like to ask the GBC, and I hope that they will read this and actually get round to doing it, that they set up a fund which will allow gurukulis to do this course or at least offer facilities in temples around the world so that Dhira Govinda Prabhu and his crew can organise these life skill transformation seminars in a way that would make it more accesible to all the gurukulis. This in the interest not only of the gurukulils but of ISKCON as well.

Nitai Gaura Premanande !!!

Govinda dasa

[Comments from Smita Krsna Maharaja]:

"This has been a very rewarding course...what I got out of it has great value. It will have a significant effect on my spiritual life, and my life on the whole. It has been fun, and demanding. Association of honest, close association of devotees. Demanding in one way, but rewarding. If you want an easygoing life, without challenges, don't take this course. If you want to have a real life, and are prepared to meet challenges, in order to live a better life, then I recommend it. Hare Krsna.]

[Comments from Brahma Tirtha Prabhu]

I found the experience of the transformational seminar to be remarkable. The seminar is expertly organized without a dull moment. The content was important to me. It allowed me to discover, face and begin the removal of patterns of behavior which stifled my spontaneous Krishna Consciousness and  meditative processes. Dhira Govinda creates a safe environment in which I could explore my emotional needs and step out of my overly analytical approach to life. By rising above a narrow analytical view of myself, I am able to relate more meaningfully to loved ones, colleagues and acquaintances. Every attendee in my seminar was moved and awakened by this excellent experience.

I am still amazed at the seminar. It was the toughest week I ever experienced (other than my week with Srila Prabhupada in Mayapur in 1972). I am so grateful that you tolerated my kicking and screaming to avoid having to look in my mirror.

[Letter from Brahma Tirtha Prabhu to an ISKCON leader.]

You had asked my thoughts on Dhira Govinda's transformational seminar. I just finished the 60 hour course which I took along with Balavanta and others.I am confident that Balavanta and I share similar opinions. DG is expert at this type of facilitation. I have never attended any seminar which was so remarkably well organized. The form is expertly done in all regards. 

The substance is important, relevant to me, and quite helpful for my Krishna Consciousness. The seminar involves a series of processes which facilitated me getting off the mental platform. Frankly, I was in a groove of a self-deprecation which was stifling my ability to spontaneously practice KC. Though the seminar was tough it was worth every minute for me. Since the attendees were
mostly devotees the jargon was that of KC which was comfortable for me.

I was concerned that I was entering a touchy-feely world of new age psycho-babble. This proved not to be the case.  Rather I entered a safe environment where we could share our feelings in the mood of the Nectar of Instruction, with Vaisnavas revealing their minds with trust, producing a close bond amongst all. I am not advocating that this is for everyone, nor it is necessary for advancement in KC. For me it removed significant obstacles preventing my enthusiastic participation in KC. I was able to recognize destructive patterns that I have played out for many years. Now my real work begins to revive my devotional practices and enthusiasm.

From Gopinatha dasa
(Venugopal R Damerla,MD
Research Associate
Cancer Center
Duke Univ Medical Center

Like all other aspiring devotees, I am grateful that you are conducting these "life-refining" courses imparting a curriculum for the art of living. Some of my patients suffering of cancer say that it is better to die a life of pain rather than live a life of poor quality. After taking the seminar it seemed that Life  is no longer an interruption to slumber but the vice versa! Its potential quality has  been restored...

A week has passed during which I have carefully contemplated before drafting this and ... there is much more that is beyond the following 8 points: (I am facing a shortage of words to describe).

1. The seminar was purely experiential eye-opener in interpersonal comunication and exceptionally forceful to reconnect with "the gift" I already have within me. The taste of that juice will become manifest if i come to share with all my loved ones.

2. I saw a resurfacing of the wonder of "Being" after slipping into the slumber like midset of "trying to become". It trasformed me.

3. Dealing with the future in a positive way involves equipping myself with new approaches to practice  (spiritual or material) This seminar revitalised and equipped me with a spark that makes me conscious glowing and how it is possible to preserve the transformation on a moment to moment basis. Leaving behind the baggage which I have been dragging is the key to overcome the
inauthenticity of failure to keep my promises, vows, agreements.

4. I think you are thanklessly perfoming the most delicate surgical operation with amazing composure. This is due to mastery of  the fundamental priniciples of the human psyche illuminated by the teachings of our vaisnava parampara . For the first time I feel that Srila Prabhupada's movement is becoming enriched by providing its members true protection and support. It is a major pillar for the future war against maya...

5. The course made me feel that there is nothing in the world stopping the consciousness to uncover the gift and live a life of Krsna consciousness confidently. It gave me the feeling that Krishna is present in the details and not the superficial. Simply by  positioning my Consciousness in the goal(act according to His plan), commitment  and clear intention become automatically available for battling and coming out triumphant over the "mind's stories and negative voices" which have ruled the roost most of the time in my life. The mind visualization excercise was poweful and your analogy of the "quantum dots without a path" consolidated the path-breaking

6. With my wife I can now be a more loving (listening) and empathetic husband

7. Your talk made me see the direct link of intrapersonal skills with interpersonal relations

8. I now am able to distinguish  between the so called armor(strong suits and rackets) which are the reason for my disappointed state. This very armor to which I am clinging to will inflict pain upon  me and never allow me from being away from internal conflict -something which I am  yearning for. I need to stop the needless habit of creating more and more armor junk which is possible only if I  abandon this armor. I truly am able to appreciate Albert Eintntein's quote " The solution to a problem exists only on the
higher plane of  consciousness than  the plane on which it was created".

[From Krsna Kumara dasa- Temple President of ISKCON Vienna]

Here is a little personal commentary on my experience of your courses.

The transformation course was simultaneously one of the most challenging and most rewarding experiences of my life. In the course of 9 days, I have learned to deal with problematic patterns in my life which I have been struggling to overcome for years. Now, two weeks after the seminar, I feel very much inspired and empowered. It is clear to me how I will apply what I have learned in my life in the years to come.

I took the foundational course in the summer of 2003. I was so inspired that I organized to host both the foundational and advanced courses at Nrsimha Ksetra so that I would have the opportunity to take the advanced course and also to give the facility to many of the devotees I am working with to participate. The entire management and many of the preachers of our temple attended the
course. I can see what a profound impact it has had in our relationships and in our efficiency in our service.

It became clear throughout the course of the seminar that there are many devotees who are struggling with problems that they don't feel comfortable to discuss with other devotees. I feel that this is an absolutely devastating factor in our communities. Devotees may have difficulties in following regulative principles or maintaining other standards which are expected of someone who is closely
involved with the temple program but I do not believe that this is a serious problem. I feel the real problem is that it is very difficult to talk about these issues with others and that such issues are very rarely acknowledged or addressed. The result being that devotees find themselves in cycles of weakness, addiction, shame, guilt, fear of rejection, hypocrisy and disempowerment. All of these things can be very easily overcome if there is an atmosphere of openness, honesty, real appreciation, acceptance and trust within our communities.

Theoretically, I knew all this before I attended the seminar and put a lot of emphasis on these points throughout the development of our community so far. But Dhira Govinda was able in this seminar to create an atmosphere of openness and honesty amongst the participants to a depth that I never imagined possible. I am sure that every single person who has attended his seminars will confirm this. He has also provided tools for us to maintain and cultivate that depth of honesty in our relationships and in our community. I have never seen anyone deal so expertly with such sensitive personal issues.

I feel that our community has greatly benefited from these courses and I highly recommend them to anyone who feels that there is room for improvement in his life. I especially recommend the courses to anyone who has a position of responsibility within Iskcon, who is concerned with the long-term development of stable communities or who is involved in the training and education of other devotees.

Your servant
Krsna Kumara das

[From Vipula dasa- Temple President of ISKCON Heidelberg]

"For me I think it was the greatest experience of my life. I feel personally like I moved at least 5 years in Krsna consciousness. I really feel the experience of change and I feel that everyone of the devotees should take this seminar, because I feel it is very great. ..For me it was really the greatest experience I ever had."

Copyright 2003-2004 Bhaktivedanta Investigation Force