Kṛṣṇacandra Dāsa – Śrī Vṛndāvan Dhama: It seems that some countries in Europe are beginning to regulate the various religious groups, sects and churches in their countries. This could be for many reasons ranging from the charity status of these groups taking money from their people under false pretenses to the more Orthodox Christian Churches desiring to secure/monopolize the religious faiths in their respective countries. People in times of adversity seek spiritual shelter and if the statement below by British Prime Minster David Cameron establishes a precedent in modern times that a political leader of a secular democratic country can express his religious belief and identify the nation as belonging to a particular religion then this may bode ill for our ISKCON society.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has declared that the UK is a ‘Christian country’ and people should not be afraid to say so.
This is a very interesting announcement for a Prime Minister to make in light of the other trends occurring across Europe and Russia with regards to the regulation of religious sects – which is usually due to these sects taking advantage of the country’s charity laws to evade paying taxes. As we know from the situation in Hungary, the Government is only supporting the Orthodox Christian Church and the Jewish religion, and it is becoming increasingly obvious that the trend to promote the traditional religions and some ‘politically correct’ religions such as the Judaic faith – is at the expense of the minority faiths or sects. A sect is a subdivision of a larger religious order usually used in its pejorative to refer to a separatist splinter group that holds heretical or deviant views from what is considered the ‘orthodox’ tradition or doctrine. Due to the trend in ISKCON to form Guru based Maths that are based on charismatic gurus/leaders such as in Bhagavān’s time in Europe, our ISKCON society gained a bad name in government circles. The main ‘rort’ that these leaders were and are still using is Tax Evasion by collecting money for fake charities etc and using it for their personal gain. This study is but one of many done on the various New Religious Movements across Europe.
2. Financial Pressure. ISKCON was the first NRM in France to be investigated. In the 1980s there was a thriving ISKCON community in the Château d’Ermenonville, once the home of philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. It was generally believed among devotees that ISKCON had been infiltrated by a spy from the Renseignements Généraux , and that weak leadership rendered ISKCON vulnerable to anticult intervention. The Governing Body Commission (GBC) leader of France and all Europe, Shri Bhagavandas, was a renunciate monk in his thirties with enormous charisma. In 1986 he suddenly eloped with a female follower causing a scandal. An investigation revealed he had mismanaged the finances. In France charitable organizations are required to pay 5 percent on the sale of books. The ISKCON president explained: “The leaders either didn’t know, or didn’t consider this. Some of the leaders in the castle had BMWs, they were rich, paid no taxes, but the government never approached us to produce our fiscal record. Instead, one morning they attacked!” In 1987 six ISKCON centers were besieged at dawn. ISKCON later was found guilty of tax evasion up to 170 million francs (the real figure was around 85 million). Court cases followed, and ISKCON France went bankrupt, its properties were seized and put up for auction. A group of associate members bought ISKCON’s estate, Château Roux, which currently houses 40 devotees. The Paris Center has shrunk to 40 full-time devotees with a large congregation of associate members, mainly Hindu immigrant families. [Minority Religions, Social Change, and Freedom of Conscience – Salt Lake City and Provo (Utah), June 20-23, 2002] http://www.cesnur.org/2002/slc/palmer.htm
If this becomes a trend for European countries to promote the traditional Religions of the country then any ‘bad publicity’ will weaken our profile and open us up to public and governmental scrutiny as is evidenced in our past. How much Charity Fraud or Tax Evasion have these Gurus of FISKCON been involved in and how much damage have they caused that has brought bad publicity to our glorious religious society? How much criminality will our leaders cover up and deal with internally rather than reporting it to local law enforcement before we become the target of various government departments who are responsible to make sure that the public are being protected from unscrupulous frauds and other criminal elements with their respective societies? Each time a criminal in the guise of an ISKCON devotee leader gets away with some form of illegal/criminal activity they are not only degrading themselves but also our glorious ISKCON society and Śrīla Prabhupāda’s good name. If these leaders acted within the law instead of evading it and its subsequent consequences, each time they covered up for these criminals at the expense of the truth and justice, each time they paid bribes to law enforcement such as here in India to protect their criminal leaders, each time they engage in charity fraud or tax evasion, each time they do not follow local government bylaws and build or operate programs which defy health standards and regulations – it is our glorious ISKCON society and Śrīla Prabhupāda’s good name that suffers. The article below appeared in “The Moscow Times” where there are moves to ban our ISKCON Bhagavad Gītā ‘As It Is’. Then there is the case with Sivarama Swami’s Hungarian Society for Kṛṣṇa Consciousness where the Hungarian Government is seeking to severely regulate the various religious groups operating in their country. So too will other countries follow suit. Then there is what happened in Kazakhstan with BB Govinda Swami’s Temple Project where due to his arrogance and ignorance he failed to meet the proper health and safety standards and Government closed him down. Then there was Russia with Harikesa and his henchmen engaged in the stock market and who knows what other illegalities that brought the ire of the Russian Government and the Orthodox Church against us. Let’s face it, these various groups that call themselves ISKCON are but private sects/cults of charismatic FISKCON Franchised Gurus who have no accountability and who continue to claim to be Śrīla Prabhupāda’s ISKCON – our good name and Śrīla Prabhupāda’s hard work will be vilified all over the world. How do the common people differentiate between these separatists groups/cults run and owned by private parties who have been known to be irascible reprobates, and the real ISKCON society that Śrīla Prabhupāda established, when our leaders are corrupt? The general public see ‘so called’ ISKCON Temples run and operated by private individuals who do whatever they please; they see our literature being contested by our members as being illegally changed by self righteous independent editors; They see leaders who are debauchees and perverts who operate under the radar of the law and are engaged in amoral and criminal activity. They don’t see the followers who are trying their best to be good law abiding citizens and follow religious principles given in our religious texts under the guidance of our spiritual preceptors namely His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda. They don’t see us because our leaders are such demons who have openly betrayed our Vaiṣṇava tradition and they see the stupid followers and disciples who are ignorantly following these reprobates and have lost all ability to reason and know right from wrong. The simple and glaring example is how Indradyumna Swami has been exposed for his perverted photography and he still bathes in the glory and worship of his followers!!! The public, Government and academics see that these leaders are forming cults based on charismatic leaders who have zero religious substance and who are conning their people and turning them away from their traditional religions, only to blindly follow some charismatic guru who is taking photos of half naked girls on the beach! So how can we expect them to take our literature seriously?????
Krishna Holy Book Faces Ban in Tomsk
29 November 2011
Igor Tabakov / MT
The “Bhagavad Gita as It Is” is the central text for modern-day Krishnas. The book may be accused of expressing religious hatred, suppressing human dignity and declaring one religion superior to all others. But “Bhagavad Gita as It Is” can hardly be called Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” Still — if prosecutors in Tomsk have their way — the two may soon end up together on the Justice Ministry’s list of banned extremist literature. Why the Hindu text central to the Hare Krishna faith has suddenly been targeted is unclear, but some suspect it is really an attack on the religious freedom of a group not well-regarded by the Russian Orthodox Church. The case against the widely distributed book began in September when Tomsk prosecutors filed charges in the city’s Leninsky District Court saying the text attacks practitioners of other religions as “fools,” “demons” and “pigs.” “‘Bhagavad Gita as It Is’ contains … calls for hostile activities against different social and religious groups, among them women and people who don’t follow Krishna,” the complaint reads. Authorities in the Siberian city cited specific passages as evidence of extremist thinking. “Those who, out of envy, disregard these teachings and do not practice them regularly are to be considered bereft of all knowledge, befooled and doomed to ignorance and bondage,” reads an excerpt of the book quoted in the complaint. The prosecutor’s office even included a note from the local Federal Security Service office, listing the address of the Tomsk bookstore where the book could be purchased. Yury Pleshakov, spokesman for the Russian branch of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, said the whole case is absurd. “It would be dangerous that along with [the book], a billion citizens of the world would be considered extremists,” he said, referring to the population of India where the book is considered a national treasure. A spokeswoman for the Tomsk regional prosecutor’s office declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation. The case is currently on hold after Judge Galina Butenko ordered experts at Kemerovo State University in Tomsk to present further analysis, but it is expected to resume Thursday. The actual “Bhagavad Gita” is vaguely dated between the fifth century BC and fifth century AD. The commentary included in the “as it is” edition, first published in 1968, was provided by guru Swami Prabhupada, founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Curiously, the excerpt quoted by Tomsk prosecutors as extremist is from the original text and not Prabhupada’s commentary, which could pave the way for banning the ancient Hindu scripture. Since its first publication, “Bhagavad Gita as It Is” has been translated into 60 languages — including Russian — and is widely considered the best-selling Indian text in the world. It is also at the core of the modern Krishna movement. Versions of the text have been given as gifts to world leaders for decades — including British Prime Minister David Cameron, who said earlier this month that he keeps a copy of the book in his office. Prosecutors built their case largely around expert testimony from Tomsk State University professors who said the book expresses religious hatred and discriminates on the basis of gender, race, nationality and language. But even the university’s experts who prepared statements for the prosecutor’s office have presented mixed and contradictory opinions in court. Sergei Avanesov, dean of the university’s philosophy department, told the court that all interpretations of the book “depend on perception.” His statement was backed by assistant philosophy professor Valery Svistunov, who said the book is not “extremist” but could be viewed simply as “polemical.” At the same time, Avanesov said he agreed with the testimony of another expert, philology professor Valery Naumov, who said the book contained “hostile, humiliating and insulting” information. Noted Hindu studies expert, Boris Falikov, told The Moscow Times that the testimony was absurd. “The translation and comments made by Swami Prabhupada was called extremist because the quotes were taken out of context,” Falikov said. “Using such a nonscientific approach, you can even call the Quran or the Bible extremist literature,” he said. Indeed, the holy books of both Islam and Christianity contain norms no longer embraced by Western society, such as slavery and polygamy. Falikov pointed out that the original “Bhagavad Gita” is widely considered one of the most respected Hindu books and was admired by the likes of Leo Tolstoy and Albert Einstein. “I don’t think that they would admire the book if it really spread religious hatred and humiliated human dignity,” he said. Russian anti-extremism legislation is notoriously vague, and the political opposition, especially nationalists, often accuse the authorities of manipulating the legal definition for crackdowns on unwanted groups. If declared extremist by the court, “Bhagavad Gita as It Is” will end up on the Justice Ministry ban list alongside Nazi propaganda and anti-government leaflets. Such a decision would automatically allow police to detain Krishna practitioners, who often sell the book on the street, Krishna society spokesman Pleshakov said. Tomsk ombudsman Nelli Krechetova has criticized prosecutors, saying a possible book ban will destroy citizens’ constitutional rights, religion freedom and freedom of speech. Krechetova also worried that the legal proceedings would paint the city of Tomsk — generally regarded as a Siberian center of education and culture — in a negative light, the Rapsi legal news agency reported last month. She also brought up an earlier conflict with the regional government over a proposed Krishna settlement that was halted under court order this spring. Local Krishna followers had intended to build 59 houses at the settlement, but the local administration said the construction violated the law because the land was intended for agricultural use. In that case, the regional government efforts were backed by local Orthodox Church archbishop Rostislav, who called the Krishnas a “sect” that wanted to “set its roots” in the region. The relationship between the church and the Krishnas has long been tense, with local Orthodox officials complaining that the society seeks to lure Russians away from traditional beliefs. In 2006, officials in the Tula Orthodox diocese filed a complaint after local Krishnas tried to involve residents in the celebration of a Krishna holiday. That has led to much speculation in Tomsk media that the Orthodox Church was behind the attempt to ban the book. But a spokesman for the Tomsk diocese, who only identified himself as Father Viktor, said church officials had nothing to do with the legal efforts. He was also quick to point out that the case involved the newer “Bhagavad Gita as It Is,” and not the ancient “Bhagavad Gita,” but did not comment on the prosecution citing the original Hindu text, and not the 20th-century commentary, in their complaint. He also said the earlier conflict over the settlement was an example of negative behavior by Krishna followers. “We don’t have any relationship with them. But there are traditional religions, and there are sects,” he said by telephone. Pleshakov, the Krishna spokesman, refrained from making any negative comments about the Orthodox Church, saying Krishna followers treat it “with respect.” Instead, he blamed the judicial system. “If we live a country based on the rule of law, the laws should work ideally, but often even an educated judge can end up in dead-end situation,” he said. Read more: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/krishna-holy-book-faces-ban-in-tomsk/448803.html#ixzz1gn0He52i The Moscow Times
What is the import of these final words of the “Kṛṣṇa Spokesman”? We do live in a world based on the rule of law and so long as we are breaking that law by evading paying taxes or forming illegal charities to collect money that goes into the pockets of the leaders or failing to obtain building/health permits from local councils etc how do we expect the local, state and national governments to view us other than being law breakers??? Let’s face it. Our ISKCON institution is corrupt because our leaders are corrupt but if we were in fact an upstanding law-abiding religious institution, which we were meant to be, then the public / Government / Churches etc could not find fault with us. Of course some will find fault in everything but why give them cause? Who is to blame? For this is not merely a case of a lack of maturity or inexperience in managing a society or organization. This is systemic corruption of the institution itself. The GBC and the Guru are absolutely to blame and are outright criminals who should be thrown out of our glorious society. How much more are we going to see local, state and national governments / established Religious institutions and members of the general public declaring us a deviant sect and heavily scrutinizing our activities and literature with extreme bias? As it stands today this institution that His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda has bequeathed us has become a rotten to the core sect which should be known as the Fraudulent International Society for Kṛṣṇa Unconsciousness! How much longer are we going to let these demoniac leaders and cultist New Age Gurus destroy everything that we are living for? The blame for our books being banned, our Temples and farming communities being closed down and our beloved spiritual master’s name and fame besmirched rests entirely on the shoulders of the GBC and Fraudulent Gurus of ISKCON. When the house is on fire and people’s lives are at stake, the fire has to be put out! Who is brave enough to try to put this terrible all consuming fire out? The GBC and Gurus are criminally responsible for any ruination of our glorious society but we are to blame for not dealing with them in firm strong terms. The Russian Government may ban Śrīla Prabhupāda’s Bhagavad Gītā! Think about this for a moment. What does that mean for Śrīla Prabhupāda’s name and his books in the future? We are being classified as an extremist or deviant sect by countries around the world. AND AS FAR AS FISKCON GOES IT IS TRUE!!!! No leader in our society has been reported to the police and therefore charged for breaking the law. No leader has made a stand against any criminal leader and reported them to the police. No leader stood up for our children who were raped, molested, tortured and neglected in our Gurukulas even to this very day. No leader has spoken out against the Rubberstamped Guru business and how they are offending Śrīla Prabhupāda and cheating their disciples and ripping off the public what to speak of them breaking the law of the land. WHEN WILL THS END? WHO WILL STOP OR CORRECT THEM? This is our movement, a movement that many of us have given our lives to serving so what will we do now to rectify the situation???