Spring - GBC Meetings 2005

ISKCON’s official news service, ISKCON News, opened its “GBC: Who’s Who for 2005” announcement with the following words:

“Nothing drastic in the air for the organisation of ISKCON’s top level of management this year.”


We then learn that the new GBC Chairman for this year is HH Devamrta Swami, who is “well-known for his work on creating urban preaching centres.”

What is not so well-known amongst the newer devotees in ISKCON today is that up until 10 years ago HH Devamrita Swami had traded in his sannyasa robes for those of a Franciscan friar – while still allegedly acting as a sannyasi, as the accompanying newspaper article illustrates.

In the article, a hint is given as to why Devamrta Swami was dressed in Christian-style robes:


“The American visitors aren’t your average Krishna believers. They are disciples of what could be termed a more liberal branch of the Krishna movement …Swami Bhaktipada founded this ecumenical side of the Krishna movement”

This Swami Bhaktipada is, of course, Kirtanananda Swami, one of the original 11 self-authorised “Zonal Gurus” who was recently released from prison after serving 8 years on racketeering charges.


Kirtanananda started up his own Guru cult in New Vrindaban, West Virginia, where Christian-style robes were worn. He is pictured here being worshipped on his “throne”. After New Vrindaban effectively began to collapse, Devamrta Swami made the career switch of returning to the ISKCON-GBC fold, where he later became a GBC voted-in Guru. Since that time, Devamrta has been developing his own style of “Guruship”.

This has included an astonishing public declaration of doubt about the potency and legacy of Srila Prabhupada’s books. In his 2002 Vyasa-Puja offering to Srila Prabhupada, Devamrta Swami offered some shocking suggestions for a “post-Prabhupada’s books” ISKCON. Considering that Srila Prabhupada’s books are destined to be the lawbooks for ISKCON for the next 9500 years, we are amazed that this concept has arisen in ISKCON many thousands of years before it should even warrant consideration!

What is particularly shocking is the doubt the Swami casts on the legacy that Srila Prabhupada has left. We quote some extracts from his “offering”:

“During your physical presence your books were our be-all and end-all. Now, have we entered, consciously or unconsciously, a new era of ISKCON known as “PPB”—that is, ‘post–Prabhupada’s books’?” “More than a few seasoned devotees and supportive academics opine that indeed it’s time to move on.

Maybe, while maintaining our eternal gratitude to you, our founder-acarya, it’s now necessary to evaluate what you have left us and distill whatever part of that legacy should accompany us into the future of a different world and a different ISKCON.”

“Amidst the burgeoning potpourri of Gaudiya Vaisnavism outside of India, do you still assert that your books are sufficient for bringing us to the zenith of bhakti?”
“Can your books withstand time? That is, are the purports and language dated—if not now, then in the future?”

“Is emphasis on distributing your books, by whatever method, outmoded? Isn’t ISKCON without emphasis on mass distribution a breath of fresh air for us?”

“Should our senior devotees take the lead in demonstrating lifelong dependence on your books for their spiritual sustenance and delight? Is there a danger that by doing so they could inhibit their spiritual maturity?”

“Would we gain anything significant and lasting if ISKCON’s leaders, in both word and example, rallied to exalt your books as the main basis of our cultural unity?”
(Extracts from H.H. Devamrta Swami's 2002 Vyasa-Puja offering to Srila Prabhupada)

In summary then, we have an ISKCON Guru, and now the worldwide head of the movement, who by definition must be 100% surrendered in mind, body and words to the desires and instructions of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada - asking whether:

  1. Srila Prabhupada’s books can bring us to the highest point of bhakti
  2. Srila Prabhupada’s books are outdated
  3. Distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books is an outmoded concept
  4. Dependence on Srila Prabhupada’s books will inhibit one’s spiritual maturity
  5. Srila Prabhupada’s books are the basis for cultural unity within ISKCON.

This faithlessness in Srila Prabhupada’s books is apparently still endemic in ISKCON, for even today the new GBC Chairman’s “urban preaching centre” prefers to discuss fiction such as the bestelling book "The Da Vinci Code":

“The Loft - Yoga Lounge - 1st floor, 99 Elizabeth St, City, Brisbane.
The Da Vinci Code Discussion
Relax in our comfortable lounge and discuss the issues raised by Dan Brown’s run away best-seller “The Da Vinci Code”.
Followed by dinner. Suggested Donation: $7”

(Readers may read the following to see which books should be discussed in a Hare Krishna preaching centre).

Only Srila Prabhupada's Books To Be Studied

"There is no need by any of my disciples to read any books besides my books - in fact, such reading may be detrimental to their advancement in Krishna Consciousness. All reading of outside books, except in certain authorized cases such as for example to read some philosopher like Plato to make an essay comparing his philosophy with Krishna's philosophy - but otherwise all such outside reading should be stopped immediately. It is simply another botheration. If my students cannot even read my own books thoroughly, why they should read others? I have given you TLC, what need is there to read Caitanya Caritamrta translated by someone else. You are right to stop such reading."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter to Sri Govinda, January 20th, 1972)

"One should not partially study a book just to pose oneself as a great scholar by being able to refer to scriptures. In our Krsna consciousness movement we have therefore limited our study of the Vedic literatures to the Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Caitanya-caritamrta and Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. These four works are sufficient for preaching purposes. They are adequate for the understanding of the philosophy and the spreading of missionary activities all over the world. If one studies a particular book, he must do so thoroughly. That is the principle. By thoroughly studying a limited number of books, one can understand the philosophy."
(Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila, 22:118, purport)

"You haven't got to study many books. You just simply study Bhagavad-gita As It Is."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, September 15th, 1969)

"So there is nothing to be said new. Whatever I have to speak, I have spoken in my books. Now you try to understand it and continue your endeavor. Whether I am present or not present, it doesn't matter."
(Srila Prabhupada Arrival Speech, May 17th, 1977)

Gaudiya Matha Books

"Regarding the Gaudiya Math books being circulated there, who is distributing? Who is sending these books? The Gaudiya Math does not sell our books, why we should sell their books. Who has introduced these books? Let me know. These books should not at all be circulated in our Society. Bhakti Vilas Tirtha is very much antagonistic to our society and he has no clear conception of devotional service. He is contaminated. Anyway, who has introduced these books? You say that you would read only one book if that was all that I had written, so you teach others to do like that. You have very good determination."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter to Sukadeva, November 14th, 1973)

"So if you want to understand Bhagavad-gita, then we must understand in the same way as the person who directly heard from. This is called parampara system. Suppose I have heard something from my spiritual master, so I speak to you the same thing. So this is parampara system. You cannot imagine what my spiritual master said. Or even if you read some books, you cannot understand unless you understand it from me."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, December 8th, 1973)

"Whatever is to be learned of the teachings of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura can be learned from our books. There is no need whatsoever for any outside instruction."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter to Gurukrpa and Yasodanandana, December 25th, 1973)

Books of the Previous Acharyas

Practically speaking, Srila Prabhupada, you are giving us the essence of all the previous acaryas' books in your books.
Srila Prabhupada:
Yes. Yes.

(Srila Prabhupada Conversation May 13th, 1975)

"You cannot jump over. You must go through the parampara system. You have to approach through your spiritual master to the Gosvamis."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, March 28th, 1975)

Srila Prabhupada's Books Answer All Questions

Srila Prabhupada when you're not present with us, how is it possible to receive instructions? For example in questions that may arise...
Srila Prabhupada:
Well the questions are answ...answers are there in my books.

(Srila Prabhupada Morning Walk, 13th May 1973)

So in conclusion, if one wonders what is the process for being given the topmost position in leading ISKCON, do not make the mistake of thinking that humbly toiling loyally on behalf of the GBC without deviation will get you anywhere.

Rather, one tried and tested career path is to leave ISKCON and join a pseudo-Christian-Krishna cult; then return to ISKCON where you will get elected as a pure devotee Guru if you do and say all the right things; then publicly berate Srila Prabhupada’s books; and for good measure, promote a work of fiction.