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I have noticed this for a long, long time.Glad Ananta Sesa Naga das brought it to the fore.




Have Things Changed That Much?

Is This Happening Worldwide?

by Ananta Sesa Naga das


I had the privilege of being initiated by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada in 1970 in London. The devotees there were always preaching and going out on what was then called sankirtan. On a Sunday all devotees attended the feast, and whenever a new face appeared, a devotee would always be 'assigned' to the individual. That way a new face would receive KRSNA's blessing by hearing the philosophy.


Nowadays when I attend some temples in the UK I see that non-devotees are often left on their own while devotees sit in groups talking. It also surprises me that a large number of devotees enter and leave the Temple room without paying respects to either Srila Prabhupada or Their Lordships. The amount of times that I have been left on my own on a Sunday is unbelievable. No one approaced me at all in one temple. It is obvious to anyone who looks that I am initiated.


Is this practice worldwide or does it just occur in some of the UK temples?


In one particular Temple, very few devotees attend Arti in the evening. If this happened in Bury Place in the early days, our feet wouldn't touch the ground.


This is not intended as a criticism just a question of observation.


Ananta Sesa Naga das


© CHAKRA 24 September 2001



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It's funny, but I also noticed with shock, when I first went to England, that most devotees seemed oblivious to the guests. Of course this was in 1977, and I am speaking specifically of Bhaktivedanta Manor, not London, where guests were treated wonderfully. But at the Manor! pushing to get the feast, men first (they tended to ignore the women and children first agreement when they hadn't eaten anything all day), then the women with their children--and really, the behaviour looked so ruthless and pushy I was embarrassed to join the queue. I saw the guests, mostly Indians, hanging back, waiting patiently. I cringe just remembering this. That tendency was there for a long time. I'm not saying no one was taking care of the guests, some of us certainly were, but there was this general tendency, which I had never seen it at any temple previous to that, and the only other temple where I saw shameful lack of hospitality was at a large temple outside Florence, in Italy.


But now you say you have noticed it a lot, and I can't say I have because I haven't been frequentling many temples over the past few years, but it doesn't surprise me. I mean, look at the lack of urgency about going out on harinam, and look at how book distribution has gone down. There is of course a general lethargy, almost as if the temples are in depression, due to all the corruptions that have happened. Maybe for some the temple is a comfort zone. Just a home for them. It is very very sad.


In Berkeley I can't say I noticed any cliquishness, but then I was only a guest myself. During the festivals I do like to mix with Godsisters I haven't seen, but not to the neglect of visitors. During the week visitors were more visible than at these big festivals. I got to talk to guests, serve them prasada, give them garlands, pass the ghee lamps, and engage them in making garlands. I felt truly blessed in having this rare opportunity to serve.


I know some devotees are now beginning to take it upon themselves to do what they can, not wait for some mass movement to happen, and not just sitting around complaining about it either. It has been wonderful to read of the harinams and prasadam distributions and the Peace Formulas being passed out for free, just like in the old days, and also see how much in going on on the Internet, which really is bringing in some focus, if we can all just work through the angst of all that has gone on before. I feel we are nearing effectiveness again. Posted Image


ys, JR

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To make some historical sense of how this clicqueshness of ignoring guests happened, devotees who joined in 75, maybe earlier, were never allowed to preach. They took us on sankirtana and if we met someone interested and started sharing our personal feelings for Krsna, as His Divine Grace wanted, we were interrupted and shamed. Gradually this crippled the sparks of sankirtana spirit in the hearts of many a devotee. We were also NOT ALLOWED on harinam, despiter repeated begging to get them to let us go. We, of course, being the 'sankirtan' devotees, whose fire of Krsna consciousness was exploited by the leaders to increase their bank accounts. It was only years later we learned this about them though.


You may say that's no excuse, and sure, I agree, but consider what happens to a child when you 'break their spirit', as the old puritanicals believed was for the development of higher moralistic living. No, such broken persons become mysogenists, tyrants, addicts and even criminals. Often they keep it hidden in the family, so it's only nowadays when things are being scrutinized, that we are aware of the preponderance of these types of sins of the past.


I remember too when I had little kids at the Manor, a temple self-proclaimed as a brahmacari temple. It took all I had to get to the temple, and I wasn't capable of activity at the temple, nor could I watch my kids properly if I were to take up the preaching. Occasionally Krsna let opportunities fall in my lap, and I did my utmost to make use of them, but being crippled inside, I don't think anything I could say was ever helpful to the guests I met. I didn't believe in myself anymore, and my belief in Krsna and Srila Prabhupada was more suppressed internally, than expressed through the surface bliss of preaching.


I was in the UK too, at the Manor, and confirm also of the deplorable attitude their. When my kids were little, I so wished that it wasn't such a ridiculous effort needed to get them through the 'prasadam yuga', keep them happy and engaged, and be part of the activities. I remember there was much hatred focussed on the kids, much. Daily when it was just devotees, and on guest days too. Well, the solution was so simple and I effected it. We arranged, after much 'political' opposition, that the women and kids come in and sit down at one set of tables and be served while the line continue for the single women. I personally organized and did most of the serving. It was easier to control my own kids this way, sitting them down and serving them with the rest, then to try to keep them happy in a long line.


Well, this lasted about a week. It's success was undeniable, but the brahmacarini's watched us and I could see the envy in their eyes. Thus is was stopped, as well as the order and sanity of it. And by the by, for the record, we invited the guests with children to sit down too and served them as well. In fact I was so excited cuz this was the best 'preaching' opportunity to come my way in years.


Anyhow it was stopped due to envy, what can be said?


Another thing about the Manor is that, opposed to Srila Prabhupada's desires, it has been turned into a Hindu temple, celebrating the festivals that the guests want celebrated, and the festivals Srila Prabhupada established, even Janmastami, are moved to weekend days to make them guest celebrations, not worship of Krsna. It is all based on money, completely, and the temple is even run by Hindu-devotees, devotees completely ignorant of any of Srila Prabhupada's original intentions.


I haven't been there since 1994, but from what I've heard, the temple has just become ever more fascist. One I know to be a violent wife abuser is in charge of security, and thugs work for him. It is worse than sad, the pain of watching it in person was more than I could bear.


And as for cliques, I also never knew 'cliquish' devotees till moving to England in the early eighties. The strange thing is that the 'incrowd', who sat and gossiped hatefully about normal people, influenced and controlled a significant portion of the society, was comprised of American women, guess they didn't make it in the American high schools and had to spend their adult life trying to be 'the incrowd'. This was so unbelievable to me at the time, I had NEVER encountered devotees like this before. These bullies were carrying a lot of power in the community, and definitely had something to do with the gradual social de-growth that you witness. Sad sad sad, I had to flee it in the end, hide, give up wearing saris even, to disidentify with this degraded temple community.


Some will criticize me here for 'criticizing'. Personally I'm sick of the untruths and injustices hidden under the cloak of 'don't criticize'.

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