I was reading my friend Ananda's blog at Half-Satori.com and one of these brave folks targeted me:
Ananda you may not actively make complaints here but you do join the complaint at GR as if one and the same with yours. Your support of Tapati's cause on the basis of you being an ex-Iskcon member is not quite honest. You have not left just Iskcon. Yet you treat the issue of "leaving" as if all one and the same thing. People who left Iskcon only did not have the opportunity to try for themselves whether there is indeed a wider tradition which would be more compatible with the ideal presented by the GV philosophy. (I refrain from referring to any of the GV sects as "cults" - the term is clearly being used in a pejorative manner by angry dissidents, especially of Iskcon only background.) Sects, religions, institutions, organizations, yes there are many of these in society. Communities. Is it avoidable? Tapati herself is hard at work trying to build a community of sorts. Yet, she herself has already incurred in a pretty damning blunder: she neglects to pursue clarity and honesty and invite innocent women to come and be "represented" by a man who lies about his identity, a man of very questionable character as a male.
I can only guess that some of this was in response to something I wrote in response to a topic question posed on my forum, Gaudiya Repercussions:
Question: Has the Vaisnava religion been improved by our absence?
My answer: For one, I don't feel obligated to improve the presentation of a religion I left completely behind. Since Prabhupada's proposition was all or nothing, once I questioned one part (that I was automatically fallen/in maya etc because I was queer) the rest of it was suspect. It was a complete package...and I left it on his doorstep.
Are there elements that I feel contribute to a world view of Divinity? Sure. I just don't think one has to accept the package in order to appreciate those parts or even to incorporate them into your life, as some here have done.
If I have an agenda for improving GV from outside, it is to make people think before they constrict their lives on the advice of an elderly gentleman who, however sincere, was mired in his cultural point of view and his personal prejudices. In that vein I wrote a piece for Chakra awhile back pointing out that if they (ISKCON) chose the course of limiting the lives of their GLBT members, they would lose more devotees like myself who had been passionately committed to Gaudiya Vaishnavism.
Follow-up question: Does no one here opine that there is a case for a more grass-roots 'movement', consisting of folk not that unlike ourselves - a multi-faceted (diversified), non-centralised revolution, that would make 'em a-quiver in their over-sized diapers? I am curious.
My answer: Religions would be great--if it weren't for the people in them.
No really, I have no desire to be part of a movement, and especially not a Vaishnava-based one, no matter how open it is. When I write about this stuff at all, it's with the thought that newbies attracted to the various GV orgs should be fully informed and go in with their eyes open rather than innocent and naively trusting as I was, as many if not most of us were.
Sure, if a non-denominational group put on a public festival it would be fun to participate in their kirtan. I'd enjoy a Mass at an alternate Catholic church too, but that's not going to happen.
I think it's already a fact that there are people who practice GV like solitary witches practice Wicca. They are mostly people who were burned by orgs and have no desire to group together in that way again, other than maybe doing kirtans on the weekend with like minded friends. As soon as you try to turn it into something with membership, advertising, and so on, you spoil it.
---So, having read this and other posts in the topic, Mr. Anonymous was disturbed that his (I'm guessing his) religion was being dissed. Well, what do you expect if you choose to read a site called Gaudiya Repercussions? While we don't go in for gratuitous bashing, we aren't always flattering because there are valid reasons why we left.
My response to this Anonymous and all the other scairdy cats of the world who hate the fact that I speak up:
To answer some of the questions posed by Anonymous:
I do speak out about issues of mental illness and parenting, the lack of quality foster care situations, domestic violence, and other such things that contributed to my impulse to escape my severely depressed mother and emotionally abusive extended family. I am all over the internet and write about a great many things. In every case all I can do is describe what I've observed in society and share the conclusions I've drawn. I've been guest blogging at a site that examines coercive religious movements in Christian tradition and have been drawing parallels between that and my ISKCON experience. However, I was careful to make it clear that GV is an authentic religion and that the cult-like aspects came from the transplantation into Western culture in a communal environment. Most people in the West do not get to access GV in its traditional form and when they do, are always going to view it from a Western perspective. Each individual has to decide if it's possible for them to live a GV life in accordance with its native origins or not.
I don't feel a need to express every positive thing about the tradition, though I certainly am writing about some of those things in my guest blogging. There are many, many sites that will give the positive spin on GV. Even on GR we've had topics about the positive things we gained from our experiences, so it's not all negative all the time. :)
I don't pretend to know who Vrajabhumi (of harekrishnawomen.wordpress.com) is. I only know that some of what Vrajabhumi writes resonates with me. I disagree with some of what is written and when I do, I say so.
I was told repeatedly that I should not pursue "material education" and didn't need high school or college. At one point when I left the temple and was taking tests to get into college I was specifically told that this was "maya" and that I belonged in the temple. That was not the action of my family; that was the teaching of the Secretary of the Krsna Consciousness Movement who was also told to drop out and join the temple when he was in high school. My mentally ill mother wasn't equipped to combat this influence in my life. I left without her permission at 17 to return to the temple--we lived in a state where I was free to do so.
My children and I suffered years of poverty while I worked to put myself through school. That was partly my fault, to whatever degree a 16 or 17 year old (who, we know now, doesn't have a fully matured brain) can make an informed decision with such serious consequences.
It is also partly the fault of my mother, her doctors, my extended family who could have helped me endure her condition, and partly the fault of the person telling me that all I needed was devotional service and implied that the temple would care for my needs. (The aging devotees who are not big shots in ISKCON are finding out what a hollow promise that was, as the Gurukula children, abused women, and exploited SKP devotees before them did.)
I never try to persuade anyone not to practice GV. It may no longer be for me but I'm happy to support my friends who still practice it. I am all for speaking out against dysfunctional organizations that have so much power over the lives of the core members who do most of the work, no matter what that organization is, religious or other.
Finally, Anonymous, I write everywhere under my own legal name. I stand by my words and am happy to be held accountable for them. Can you say the same? What fear keeps you from sharing your name?
Will the real Anonymous please stand up? Or does Anonymous not have the strength of conviction?