The shocking history of early iskcon with Kirtanananda-in SP letters

June 11, 2022 in Articles by Damaghosa dasa

Hare Krsna-
he is undoubtedly a good soul, but lately he has been attacked by maya.”..SP writing about Kirtanananda
The following letters to various devotees describes the effect Maya had upon Kirtnananda in the earliest days. We are not trying to pick a quarrel with one devotee, but simply using his unique history to point out what should and should not be done if one wants to advance spiritually.
If we do not learn from history then we will repeat the same mistakes, as has done Iskcon for the past 40 years.
 
damaghosa das
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Oct 16 1967 letter to Brahmananda
Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter (dated Oct. 10) & I’ve also received Kirtanananda’s letter. From different centers of our society the news of the activities of Kirtanananda is giving me too much pain. From Rayarama’s letter it is clear that Kirtanananda has not rightly understood Krishna Consciousness philosophy & it appears that he does not know the difference between impersonal & personal features of Krishna. The best thing will be to prohibit him to speak in any of our functions or meetings. It is clear that he has become crazy & he should once more be sent to Bellevue. He was in Bellevue before & with great difficulty & with the help of Mr. Ginsberg we got him out. But it appears that he has developed his madness again, therefore if he is not sent to Bellevue then at least he should be stopped from speaking such nonsense. It is clear from his activities that he has been attacked by maya; he is a victim. We shall pray to Krishna for his recovery but we cannot allow him to speak on my behalf. I am trying to return as soon as possible & when I return everything will be all right. Hope you are well.
 
Oct 17 1967 letter Pradyumna
Regarding Kirtanananda, he is undoubtedly a good soul, but lately he has been attacked by maya; he thinks too much of himself—even at the risk of disobeying his spiritual master & talking nonsense about Krishna. As a man haunted by a ghost talks so much nonsense, so also when a man is overpowered by the illusory energy—maya, also talks all sorts of nonsense. The last attack of maya upon the conditioned souls is impersonalism. There are 4 stages of attack of maya; viz.: 1) stage is that a man wants to be a protagonist of religion, 2) is that man neglects religiosity and tries to improve his economic development, 3) is to be protagonist of sense enjoyment & when a man is frustrated in all the above mentioned stages he comes to, 4) which is impersonalism, and thinks himself one with the Supreme. This last attack is very serious and fatal. Kirtanananda has very recently developed the 4th stage malady on account of his negligence & disobedience to his spiritual master. Sometimes a foolish patient when he is out of feverish attack by the grace of the physician, thinks that he is cured and does not take precaution against relapse. Kirtanananda’s position is like that. Because he helped the society in starting the Montreal center I thought he is now able to start other branches & when he asked me to give him sannyasa I agreed taking the opportunity of his presence in Vrndavana. Simply by his Sannyas dress he thought himself as cured of all material diseases & all mistakes but under the influence of maya, he thought himself a liberated patient, just as the foolish patient thinks himself cured from the disease. Under the spell of maya, he deliberately disobeyed me by not going to London & consequently his disease has relapsed. Now in N.Y. he has began to dictate nonsense in my name—such as giving up robes, flags etc. Instead of opening new centers he has began to deliver his nonsense sermons amongst his God-brothers which are all against our principles. For the present he should simply chant Hare Krishna & cease to deliver lectures because he has not understood the whole philosophy very nicely.
Regarding the hippy religion; we must distinguish ourselves from the hippies. The hippies generally maintain long hair & beard & in order to distinguish ourselves from them we should be clean shaved. When our devotees go outside I have no objection if he dresses as nice American or Canadian gentleman. Up to date gentlemen are all clean shaved so if we do not keep long hair & dress ourselves nicely with tilaka, flag & beads on the neck, apart from our devotional service, then certainly we shall be distinct from the Hippies. I think we should follow this principle rigidly & there is no question of giving up robes in the temple.
 
Oct 19 1967 letter Brahmananda
Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter of Oct. 11. It was a great pleasure to note the contents, now you have nicely expressed your real mind, In your previous Letter in which I saw a little tendency of being turned by foolish Kirtanananda. but I was confident that Kirtanananda was not so strong as he would be able to defeat you. I was completely confident of your sincerity of service & my choice of your being president of the society is right. I may disclose herewith that I never took Kirtanananda into complete confidence but I was trying to improve his position because he has also rendered much personal service to me. I am very much obliged to him for the service as I am to my other disciples & I am very sorry that Maya has taken advantage of his disobedience & he has fallen to Maya’s illusion—but he should not continue for a very long time as I will always pray to Krishna for his recovery. For the time being he should simply chant Hare Krishna without any attempt at lecturing. The impersonalist cannot render any service to Krishna because he is a great offender. Under the circumstances, Krishna will not accept food prepared by Kirtanananda in his present diseased condition. If he at all wants to render service to Krishna he may be engaged at washing dishes & this will improve his condition.
 
Oct 26 1967 letter Jadurani
Regarding Kirtanananda, there is nothing to be said about but one should be very careful not to fall sick like him. In the material world there is constant fight between maya & the living entity. Maya is very strong & we can fall a victim at her hand at any moment. The only means of protecting us from the attack of maya is to be fully Krishna Conscious. The proportion in which we fall back in Krishna Consciousness is filled up by the influence of maya. It is exactly like the proportion of negligence of our health is subsequently resulted in our falling ill. The person who is very careful about his health does not generally fall ill. Similarly a person who is always fixed up in Krishna Consciousness cannot be defeated by mayaSometimes in spite of our full Krishna Consciousness we fall a victim to maya but that is temporary just as seasonal changes such calamities do come & pass away & we have to endure them. If Kirtanananda has ever sincerely served Krishna, & his spiritual master, he will not fall down. The temporary systems will fall down without delay. We should all pray to Krishna for his steady recovery. My grief for Kirtanananda isn’t anything personal but I am sorry that he has become like a mayavadi in spite of my best efforts to help him. Hope you are well.
 
Oct 27 1967 letter Rayarama
Our circulation manager, Sriman Gargamuni, is surely taking great interest in seeling the copies. Regarding Kirtanananda’s article, I do not know what he has written but I can guess that it must be polluted with impersonal poison, so for the time being you can keep this article aside
 
Dec 30 1967 letter Madhusudana
It is better service to Krishna and Spiritual Master in a feeling of separation; sometimes there is risk in the matter of direct service. For example, Kirtanananda was giving me direct service by massaging, cooking for me, and so many other things; but later on by dictation of Maya, he became puffed up, so much so that he thought his Spiritual Master a common man, and was existing only on account of his service. This mentality at once pushed him down. Of course, those who are sincere devotee, they take direct service as an opportunity, but the illusory energy is so strong that it acts on this doctrine of familiarity breeds contempt. Kirtanananda was thinking I was existing on his service, instead of realizing I was giving him opportunity to do me some service.

Jan 14 1968 letter Umapati
Kirtanananda’s refusal to accept the Parampara system and authority of the scriptures is the cause of his misfortune. His version that the sun and the sunshine are one and the same is right, but when the sunshine is in the room it is not correct to say that the sun is in the room. His knowledge therefore is imperfect and therefore he cannot be a preacher. He is therefore contemplating for starting nightclub of the psychedelic type. His association is not desirable for the present neither I can think of his future correction. Hayagriva has fallen a victim and I am sorry for this.
Anyway, my dear boy, please remember that Maya is very strong. Any one of us can be arrested by her at any moment if we are not strongly attached to Krishna Consciousness. So my request to you and all others is to follow the principles of Krishna Consciousness adherently and there is no danger however the Maya may be strong. Hope you are well.
 
Jan 15 1968 letter Hayagriva
 
Your statement “I took this job out in Wilkes-Barre with intention to make enough money to be able to join you in India, because, when you and Kirtanananda left for India, I thought that you might never return to this country, and I was hoping to join the both of you there.’‘ Yes, actually that was the program, but Kirtanananda made everything topsy-turvy. After we reached Vrindaban, Kirtanananda became too much eager to return back. He was daily insisting me for his return back and once I told him that I have no money, how you can return? In reply to this, he said that he would go to the American Embassy as American citizen and take money from there and he would return. Then I was obliged to arrange for his return passage money and because he changed his program the society practically lost $1200 for his going to India and coming back again without any purpose. I thought that part of this money could be recovered if he would return to New York, stopping a few days in London to see the prospect of opening a branch there. He agreed, and I gave him letter of introduction, and required money for immediate expenses, but he had no desire to stop at London and he directly reached you. He was also very eager to take sannyasa and I awarded him the sannyasa order; and I do not know, he wanted a certificate of his sannyasa. We never took any certificate of our Spiritual Master or anyone, but he told me that it was required for facility of preaching, so I gave him the certificate, but unfortunately the whole thing was smashed by different doctrine. Now it is understood from the letter of Umapati that Kirtanananda does not believe in parampara or in the necessity of scriptural authority. He seems to feel that this is a sort of tyranny. That means, after taking sannyasa and understanding the philosophy for more than a year, he has changed the whole view, and I do not understand how you would like this recent doctrine.
Anyway, I am very much hopeful that you are eager to go to India and accept voluntarily the task under my guidance. I am searching out a very good place in Vrindaban for the accommodation of my American students. Kirtanananda has seen the house known as Jaipur House. This house is in the hands of the Rajastan government and negotiation is still going on, and from the correspondence, it appears to be favorable. Now I am awaiting the final decision; as soon as I hear the decision I shall again return back to India with some other students. And I shall be so glad if you also come to India as originally envisaged. In Krishna Consciousness, if you stick to the principles of Bhagavad-gita, there is no question of disharmony; disharmony is created by some rascals of the Impersonalist class who try to comment upon the Gita differently. Doctor Radhakrishnan and company are of the same class. This class of men have no right to touch Bhagavad-gita because they do not come through the parampara system. I shall be glad to hear from you; if you are prepared, to go with me when I next return to India maybe within the next 4-6 months.
I shall be glad to hear from you how Kirtanananda is recovering from injuries of recent fall. And I hope you are well.
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Some Conclusions –We can see just from these few letters, and there are more, how Kirtanananda was disobedient almost from the beginning, would not accept the param para system of knowledge and later became an impersonalist due to his contaminated views and offenses against his spiritual master Srila Prabhupada. He often came to the wrong conclusions of siddhanta, namely deviance against his guru Srila Prabhupada
And one other major point was that Srila Prabhupada wrote that food that was offered by such a deviant disobedient person(devotee) would NOT be acceptable by the Lord. These are all very important to understand as devotees if we want to remain in the good graces of God and Guru. So if one accepts a so called guru, who is not authorized, then is he or she eating bhoga or Krsna Prasadam?
 
Chanting in the Process to be effective
 
Feb 25 1977
Prabhupāda: No, no. They may chant, but they must understand that the chanting process, that will be more effective. That they must know. Chanting is open. Anyone can chant, but they must know it, that “If I chant in the proper process, then it will be effective.”
Rāmeśvara: We want then to chant more.
Prabhupāda: Yes. But we must… They must know the science also.
Rāmeśvara: Just like this Alice Coltrane. She has done her small part. She made this record album with Govinda Jaya Jaya and Hare Kṛṣṇa.
Prabhupāda: That is… That will be a good thing. But when he (she) does it properly it will be more effective, because there is… If one does not chant in the process, then gradually it degrades. The offense will increase. There is chance.
 
 
So mantra is not ordinary sound vibration. So we have to keep
the mantra in potency, potent, by offenseless chanting, by remaining
pure. If you pollute the mantra, then it will lose its effect.”
Srila Prabhupada’s Room Conversation — April 27, 1976, Auckland, New Zealand
 
 
 
Krsna book ch 58-“The Lord can be pleased only by a humble attitude in the service spirit. The more we render service unto the Lord under the direction of the spiritual master, the more we make advancement on the path approaching the Lord. We cannot demand any grace or mercy from the Lord because of our service rendered to Him. He may accept or not accept our service, but the only means to satisfy the Lord is through the service attitude, and nothing else.” 
 
Dec 13 1973LA—You can worship Kṛṣṇa anywhere, but you have to learn how to worship. What is that learning? Bhaktyā, that is the method. Therefore Kṛṣṇa says patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ yo me bhaktyāprayacchati [Bg. 9.26]. This patraṁ puṣpam is not important thing. The important thing is bhakti, devotion. That is wanted. Without bhakti, if you offer Kṛṣṇa very big plate, Kṛṣṇa is not hungry to take your food. He’ll not accept it. He’ll not accept anything if you do not offer with your love, bhaktyā, love and serving spirit: “My dear Kṛṣṇa, You are so opulent. I have nothing to offer You because You have got everything. But I have tried to collect the things to my best power, so I am offering You. Kindly take it.” This is mantra. This is mantra. Don’t require much mantra. That meekness, that humbleness, “Kṛṣṇa, I am most insignificant. I have nothing to give You, …Vidura invited Him, and Kṛṣṇa did not to go Arjuna’s house…, I mean to say, Duryodhana’s house, very palatial building. Vidura, a cottage, so He went there. And Vidura being in ecstasy was offering Him some banana. So he was so overpowered by ecstasy that instead of giving the fruit banana, he was giving the skin, and Kṛṣṇa was eating. So when he came to his senses he saw that “I have given only the skin, and Kṛṣṇa is eating.” So this is bhakti. This is bhakti. Kṛṣṇa wants that. Kṛṣṇa can eat anything, either you give the pulp or skin, He can eat anything because He is all powerful and everything is equal to Him.
 
Madhya 9.53–purportThe word apavitra anna refers to food that is unacceptable for a Vaiṣṇava. In other words, a Vaiṣṇava cannot accept any food offered by an avaiṣṇava in the name of mahā-prasāda. This should be a principle for all Vaiṣṇavas. When asked, “What is the behavior of a Vaiṣṇava?” Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu replied, “A Vaiṣṇava must avoid the company of an avaiṣṇava [asat].” The word asat refers to an avaiṣṇava, that is, one who is not a Vaiṣṇava. Asat-saṅga-tyāga,-ei vaiṣṇava-ācāra (Cc. Madhya 22.87). A Vaiṣṇava must be very strict in this respect and should not at all cooperate with an avaiṣṇava. If an avaiṣṇava offers food in the name of mahā-prasāda, it should not be accepted. Such food cannot be prasāda because an avaiṣṇava cannot offer anything to the LordSometimes preachers in the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement have to accept food in a home where the householder is an avaiṣṇava; however, if this food is offered to the Deity, it can be taken. Ordinary food cooked by an avaiṣṇava should not be accepted by a Vaiṣṇava. Even if an avaiṣṇava cooks food without fault, he cannot offer it to Lord Viṣṇu, and it cannot be accepted as mahā-prasāda.
 
LA June 14 1972-lecture-He is mentioning especially vegetables, grains, fruits. But not that everyone can offer Kṛṣṇa all these things. No. He says yo me bhaktyā prayacchati. He does not accept anything from the hands of a nondevotee. Therefore the non-initiated student cannot offer Him.
He doesn’t accept. He says especially yo me bhaktyā prayacchati. He must be devotee. … Kṛṣṇa is giving you chance. It is very difficult to approach Kṛṣṇa, but Kṛṣṇa is so kind that He has appeared in your temple and He is accepting.
According to the rules and regulation, if you offer, He will accept.
This is the process of Deity worship.
 
 
Jan 26 1973 Calcutta–In every house of a brāhmaṇa there was Nārāyaṇa-śilā. Still some rigid brāhmaṇas, they worship. So Caitanya Mahāprabhu even, He did not accept prasādam from a non-Vaiṣṇava brāhmaṇa. He must be brāhmaṇa, at the same time, Vaiṣṇava. Then He would accept.So this regulation we should follow. We should not accept food, (only) prasādam. If anyone wants to give us food, then he must arrange for cooking food and offering to the Nārāyaṇa, to the Viṣṇu, Kṛṣṇa. Then we can take. This is the… Otherwise we… Bhuñjate te aghaṁ pāpā ye pacanty ātmā… People who are cooking for eating oneself, that cooking, that eating is simply sinful. Without prasādam, whatever we eat, that is, we are eating sin, That’s all. Therefore we must sufferWe should be careful. Bhuñjate te aghaṁ pāpā. This is parātma-niṣṭhā, that we should not accept anything which is not offered to Viṣṇu, or Kṛṣṇa.
 
May 6 1973 LA–.” Kṛṣṇa is not hungry. Kṛṣṇa is not hungry. He is self-satisfied, pūrṇa. But if His devotee offers Him something with love and affection, then He accepts. So do not think that “We have made such nice, sumptuous plate for Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa must eat.” No. There is no such thing, “must.” You cannot make Kṛṣṇa must. That is not possible. So Kṛṣṇa will see how much you have love for Him. Then He will accept. Otherwise He’ll reject. Therefore, it is forbidden, those who are nondevotee, those who are not initiated, those who are not chanting regularly, their offering to Kṛṣṇa will not be accepted. We must be very careful. We must know our position, whether I am sincerely following the principles of devotional service. Then Kṛṣṇa will accept. Yo me bhaktyā prayacchati. The real thing is bhakti. So either you offer Kṛṣṇa prayers or you offer foodstuff, everything must be along with bhakti, devotion, love. Then Kṛṣṇa will accept.
 
“Kṛṣṇa becomes obliged to the loving spirit of the devotee and not exactly to the service rendered.No one can serve Kṛṣṇa completely. He is so complete and self-sufficient that He has no need of any service from the devotee. It is the devotee’s attitude of love and affection for Kṛṣṇa that makes Him obliged.” (Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 40)
 
Hare Krsna
damaghosa das