News From Finland

Bhrigu - October 27, 2006 7:24 pm

We've been lagging behind in reporting any activity here in Finland, but that does not mean that we have remained completely idle. I recently spent two weeks in ISKCON Radhadesh, Belgium, teaching a course on "Hindu Reformers" at the Bhaktivedanta College. It was a very mixed experience. I like the students there a lot, and it is always refreshing to teach devotees. The Bhaktivedanta College is probably the most liberal part of ISKCON today, and the curriculum they offer their students is a healthy blend of vocational and academic courses. Having the College in connection with a large temple community also seems to benefit both parts. The course went well, the weather was excellent, and I must admit I liked the "VIP-treatment" of getting to stay in the GBC:s room on the second floor of the castle itself, getting my laundry done and not having to do anything else than teach and tutor a little bit. I had a plenty of time for doing other work in the afternoons. It was also nice to be able to go to mangala-arati and the morning program every day, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well I adapted to getting up earlier than usual.


But not everything was as pleasant. In fact, my presence there was highly controversial. Just a couple of days before my course started, there had been a meeting of the European GBC in Italy, and yours truly was agenda point one! The reason for that was that several of the heavyweight European leaders wanted to force the College not to invite me again, because of the talk I gave in spring where some (quite surprisingly, I felt) thought that I had "minimized" Srila Prabhupada, and because of my being a disciple of Guru Maharaja. There was discussion on "my issue" both before and during the meetings, and eventually the College board had to give in and promise to not engage me again. However, since I was practically already on my way, they were allowed to let me come a final time, provided 1) I did not give any classes in the temple, 2) lead any kirtanas, and 3) a senior devotee would monitor my classes to check that I did not try to "steal" the students away from ISKCON. I wasn't informed about all of this until towards the end of my stay, and that was just as well, since I found especially the third point humiliating.


At any rate, I have no hard feelings for the devotees at the College or Radhadesh. They tried to fight for me, and eventually had to make a decision I can understand though not agree with. I am personally not such an exceptional teacher that they couldn't manage without me, but them having to bow to external pressure re. whom they choose to teach bodes very ill for their academic freedom and independence. At least here in Europe, ISKCON is taking a definite turn towards a more conservative direction, and there is no indication that it will change any time soon.


But we also have better news: on Monday (which was the day for Govardhana-puja here in Finland) Sri Caitanya Sangha celebrated Govardhana-puja. A small crew this time, since some of our members were abroad, others could not come, and one had to attend a political meeting (guess who :) ). Kamalaksa, Sami, Tadiya, Andras and I cooked a sumptous feast and made a nice, small Govardhana hill out of halava and sweets, with a Radha-kunda of sweetrice. We also had some marzipan, but since you're not supposed to eat devotees, I told Andras to make marzipan demons that we could then kill by eating to help Krishna! He made the cutest white and green ghosts roaming Govardhana hill, giving our festival a bit of a Halloween mood! :Applause: I don't think Kamalaksa got any pictures taken of it, but it looked just great! After kirtans, puja of Govardhana and a class, we rounded off the evening with prasadam and watching the "Universal Teacher" - DVD. A small but very intimate and sweet festival, at least to me.


Yesterday the main bookfair of Finland begun, and Ananda is present there as last year. I am extremely proud and pleased to announce that Ananda won the first special recognition (i.e. 2nd place) in the competition "Quality Magazine of the Year"! In their motivations, the jury wrote: "Barely one year old Ananda won recognition through its interesting articles, light approach and its dialogue between different philosophies and ways of life. According to the jury, the magazine succeeds in sharing its lifestyle of yoga and spirituality with everyone, also through its well-thought out graphic form. Ananda has a liberal attitude and does not try to convert anyone. The articles have been made light but interesting!" -- Because of this recognition, Ananda has today been mentioned in major newspapers, on the radio and so on. Let's see what the future holds for Ananda, but at the moment it looks very bright. We'll be bringing out a new issue in a few weeks, and I think it will be our best so far.


October has been extremely rainy and dreary over here, so I can't help mentioning one more thing. While watering my plants the other day, I noticed to my absolute astonishment that the Malati-creeper that I brought from India five years ago had suddenly gone into bloom! That has never happened before. The flowers are not white as I thought they would be, but very pretty and wonderfully fragrant. I don't know whether this really means anything, but I would very much like to see it as a symbol of our devotional creepers maturing and producing flowers, however small.


Nanda-tanuja Dasa - October 27, 2006 8:57 pm

What wonderful news! Thank you for sharing them. More pictures please! We miss you all!

Guru-nistha Das - October 27, 2006 9:26 pm

I'm so proud of you guys! Very impressive.

Babhru Das - October 28, 2006 4:32 am

How wonderful it is to read this (well, most of it)! It's exciting to hear of Ananda's success, and of your wonderful Govardhan-puja festival.


With regard to your encounter with ISKCON leadership at Radhadesh, I can't say I'm completely surprised. I am somewhat surprised, though, by the response to you previous talk. It seems as though any attempt to examine Srila Prabhupada's service in the broader context of our acharyas' expressed desires and movement toward universalizing Gaudiy vaishnavism will be read as minimizing Srila Prabhupada (whatever they mean by that). I haven't heard any negative reaction, though, to the article I wrote some time ago called "Apprecitating Srila Prabhupada's Mercy," which uses that context to examine just how extraordinary his contribution is. And, frankly, the article's tone is influenced by my exposure to Srila Sridhar Maharaja's siksa and inspired by my association with our Swami. It started out as a talk I gave at ISKCON San Diego as part of an "istagosthi" (they're really presentations by the leadership--I don't think I saw more than one or two real istagosthis the whole time I lived in San Diego) meant to control the "Narayan Maharaja problem." Badrinarayan asked me several times to participate. I repeatedly declined, reminding him that, although I was certainly no follower of or apologist for NM, and that I had my own misgivings about his preaching, or at least his followers, I spoke consistently in my classes at the temple against vilifying vaishnavas, especially those who had dedicated their lives to preaching the holy name. Eventually, I relented with a big condition: that I would not criticize any devotee, but that I would share a little of what I found unique about Srila Prabhupada's service. The devotees liked it well enough that they asked me to write it down for the temple's Janmastami/Vyasa-puja souvenir magazine, and it was printed there three years in a row. I've also published in on the Web.


But I thought your talk was so interesting, and showed so clearly how Srila Prabhupada's mission fit in the history of attempts at wide preaching, that I'm surprised that some GBC folks would think that it in any way minimizes Srila Prabhupada's contributions. Strange . . .

Shyam Gopal Das - October 28, 2006 7:37 am

I'm very happy to hear the good news about Ananda.


I wasn't completely surprised about your Radhadesh story since we met there, but that they were observing you in this way does surprise me. If they ever want to get rid of the cult stigma in belgium....

Vrindavandas - October 30, 2006 6:43 am

If you go on to dandavats.com, they give a very "quaint" and bogus review of the meeting Brighu Prabhu was referring to. What they are doing is so offensive and absurd, I wonder how much more they are all going to have to suffer in order to see the err of their ways? Guru Maharaja quoted Martin Luther King on one of the recent cds about the biggest problem being not the extremists, but the moderates who don't want to rock the boat. In the pictures posted on dandavats.com I noticed a few of the "moderates" I have been personally aquainted with over the last 10 years and it makes me sick to know that the heresy being routinely committed by the GBC has not been seriously questioned or checked. :Applause:

Prema-bhakti Marga - October 30, 2006 3:17 pm

I saw the pictures of the GBC meeting on dandavats.com and the first thing that struck me was how depressed everyone looked.


I thought of a Martin Luther King Jr. quote when I finally decided to leave ISKCON, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty. I'm free at last!"

Jananivasdas - October 30, 2006 7:04 pm

I thought of a Martin Luther King Jr. quote when I finally decided to leave ISKCON, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty. I'm free at last!"


:Applause: HAHAH :Party:

this should get the "BEST COMMENT OF THE YEAR 2006 IN TV!" award! :Peace: