Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakura
Srila Bhakti Vedanta Swami Prabhupada
Tridandi Swami Bhakti Hridaya Vana Maharaj
Akinchan Krishnadas Babaji Maharaj
Avadhuta Ramesh Babaji Maharaj
Memories of Srila Prabhupada
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(C) 1995 by Richard S. Brown All rights reserved.
ISKCON Or Gaudiya Math
By Richard Shaw Brown
Dear devotees of the Lord, dandavat to all of you. Sri Sri Guru-Gaurangau
Because different stories about my own past are circulating around ISKCON
I have written the following reply to clear the matter once and for all.
Please don't take it that I am acting out of pride, I just want the devotees
to know the truth... Could you send this to any interested godbrothers
Recently I have posted a few memories on the VNN and the response has
surprised me. Many devotees sent me e-mail with both thanks and appreciation's
as well as questions. One of the main questions were variations of "What's
your story?" I know very well that I am no bigger than 1/10,000th
the tip of a hair; but because the devotees have spread so many stories
and others have asked me about my relationship with Srila Prabhupada and
Sri Gaudiya Matha, therefore It is my duty to the devotees to tell the
Here are two sample questions followed by my explanation:
Question 1: (Dear Hrsikesananda) "There is one thing that I do not
understand. That is, some devotee told me some time ago, and I forget
the exact story, that Srila Prabhupada instructed you at one point not
to go to such and such place or to associate with such and such person
but you went against his instruction. I know that the great majority of
Srila Prabhupada's godbrothers were not envious as fanatics proclaim but
were in fact highly advanced and realized Gaudiya Vaisnavas. Is there
any truth to this story, and what are the circumstances?"
Question 2: (Dear Hrsikesananda) "I also remember finding in UCLA's
library a shorter book, which if I remember correctly was titled, "Bhakti
-- Positive and Negative Culture" by Swami Lalitananda Vana. It made
a deeper impression on me at the time than anything I had read by ISKCON's
"11 acaryas" and perhaps in its small way it helped prevent
me from falling into the abyss of Vaisnava aparadha into which so many
descended after Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's passing. So I am
My reply: I was Lalitananda Vana the author of that small book. It is
a long story: In 1967 I was robbed of Rock music super-stardom by the
Vietnam War draft. My innovative band, The Misunderstood, had just been
launched in Britain when the draft notice came. I was the lead singer
and we were original pioneers of early, meaning full psychedelic rock.
At that time I had already become a strict vegetarian and aspiring transcendentalist.
(Note of interest: The band fell apart when I was finally nabbed by the
US Army. Subsequently, after 30 years, the band has now become cult hero's
in UK, Europe, and among serious collectors in the USA. There are three
"Misunderstood" CD's presently on the world market. The Misunderstood
are also featured in "Unknown Legends of Rock 'n' Roll" by Richie
Unterberger (1998), and a professional book and screen play are also written
about The Misunderstood's crazy story.)
I first met devotees in Golden Gate Park during the "Summer of Love"
1967, the morning after I had deserted from the Army and become a fugitive.
Later that year Sri Mukunda das took me to be initiated alone by "Swamiji"
at Stinson Beach. When I first met Swamiji I was surprised at how small
he was. I reached out my hand and Swamiji shook it. Later the same day,
after finally bowing down, I was given "Hari-Nam" initiation
and named Hrsikesa das.
I told Swamiji about my fugitive status and false passport and he advised
me to join him in Vrndavana. After a harrowing escape via England I made
my solo journey, penniless and hunted, to India. By the time I reached
Old Delhi in Jan. 1968 Sri Swamiji had already returned to the West. But
before learning about this, my first major 'experience' was finding "Chippiwada
Kalan,"---Swamiji's Delhi address (printed inside the Bhagavatam
which I carried in my hand). It was a needle in a haystack. What I finally
found was dark, damp and very austere. There was an old lady praying before
a Shiva-linga downstairs and a happy young Indian chap who informed me
that, "Swamiji has gone to Vrndavana."
Arriving in virtually *pristine Vrindavan* from Mathura by Tonga I finally
reached the other address mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam: Sri Radha-Damodhar
Mandira. An old Goswami with thick glasses who spoke a little English
said, "Swamiji has returned to America." Wham! He advised me
to take shelter of Swamiji's Godbrother named Swami Vana (Bon) Maharaj.
When I arrived at Swami Vana Maharaj's Gaudiya Matha ashram (Bhajan-kutir),
he also was absent for one month. But I was allowed to stay provided I
was careful with all the rules. If I would step on any devotee's shadow
they would bathe. I was a mleccha, a "sahib." The Gaudiya Matha
devotees thought 'rightly' that I was a stupid, untrained, mute, low-life,
(former) cow-eater incapable of understanding the sublime teachings of
When Swami Vana finally returned, I told him I was a disciple of Swamiji,
and I also told him about my fugitive status. He said I was welcome to
stay and practice Krsna consciousness, but I must learn all the Vaisnavata
(Vaisnava etiquette) and join all the ceremonies.
Subsequently Swami Vana vouched for me to get six one year visas and
eventually apply for Indian citizenship. The President of India, H.E.
Sri V.V. Giri was one of my signed guarantors for citizenship, along with
the Mayor of Delhi and also the Chairman of India's Law Commission.
I wrote a letter to America telling Swamiji about my situation. I never
received a reply but was told by Vana Maharaj that news had come to him
saying that I should stay with him and study. Thereafter, I never again
heard any news from Swamiji. But within a few months I did receive a letter
from the U.S. Embassy in Delhi addressed to my devotee name at Swami Vana's
ashram. The letter was an order for me to surrender for deportation to
face US Army desertion charges. How they got my address is another story
which is not important. With trembling hands I took the letter to Vana
Maharaj, who advised me to burn it and then to do parikrama of Govardhana
By the grace of Krsna no police came to Vraja and I immersed myself in
spiritual life. I had a private tutor in Srila Vana Maharaj for six years
and met many of his Godbrothers and their disciples in different Gaudiya
Math's while traveling with Vana Maharaj. After 2 (almost eternal) years
of carefully following all the GM rules and practice, Srila Vana Maharaj
gave me diksa (at my request) but didn't change the name given by my Sri
Harinam Guru (Srila Prabhupada).
It was one year later, at the suggestion of Paramahansa Krsnadas Babaji
Maharaj (Prabhupada's senior Godbrother), that Srila Vana Maharaj offered
me sannyasa, and that is when my name was changed to Lalitananda Vana.
Years later, in mid 1973, when I returned to Srila Prabhupada, it was
on HDG's written condition that I leave sannyasa ashram, and return as
a brahmacari with my old name Hrsikesa das (ref. VedaBase).
The reason I left Vana Maharaj was because I became polluted by the mundane
association of ISKCON devotees, who convinced me that Vana Maharaj (and
everybody else) was NO good. It was my bad karma, but also the greatest
spiritual mistake of my life leaving the sweet shelter of my Shiksa &
Diksa Guru Srila Bhakti Hrdaya Vana Maharaj; and since returning to ISKCON
I found so many things different, even opposite, to the bona fide Gaudiya
Math system of Srila Param-Gurudev. I started to wonder if "Ignorance
Ever since returning to ISKCON in late 1973 I was stunned to see the
ill-consciousness and bad behavior of rude ISKCON devotees. Going from
Gaudiya Math to ISKCON was worse than "falling down." Like going
from heaven to hell. The devotees were NOT trained in Gaudiya thinking,
Vaisnavata (etiquette), puja, nor achar. It was such a shock. It went
against everything I had learned for six years from Caitanya-caritamrita,
Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, etc., in the association of REAL devotees.
I watched in horror as an ISKCON sannyasi used his feet to kick other
devotees during kirtana in front of the Deities (to make them dance);
to see the puja standard performed incorrectly; to see men and women living
in Ashram life together like cats and dogs; to see women during their
stated monthly period directly worshipping bona fide Deities; to witness
the complete lack of knowledge and Vaisnavata; and to see the mundane
attitude of all these total kanistha beginners who were more like fanatic
Jesus-freaks than a group of humble devotees. It was such BAD association.
Everyone was running in circles like headless-chickens chasing after material
goals in the worst way. It was like real "communism" but with
Prabhupada (in his 'old man' vapu) as the center.
Since then I lost much respect for my godbrothers; it was obvious that
they didn't understand Gaudiya dharma prayojan, and they were dead-set
against taking help from or showing respect to Sri Gaudiya Math devotees
nor Prabhupada's still living great Godbrothers. They were so sure that
they were already liberated and all-perfect. But I knew, clearly, that
just the opposite was the truth.
A perfect example is the zonal acarya guru worship I had to endure in
L.A. before the "something-pad" fell down completely, leaving
hundreds or even thousands of individual jivatma's with their faith completely
shattered and their lives up-side-down. It was and still is disgusting
I take "svarupa-siddhi" to mean self-realization. These untrained
fools were bad-mouthing all of Prabhupada's Godbrothers and Sri Gaudiya
Math, while kissing the ass of rich karmis. It was the greatest mental
suffering for me to be a part of it all.
When I returned to Prabhupada in Mayapura, 1973, I asked him to give
me diksa; Prabhupada asked me (tumi jani na?) "You already know it,
no?" I replied, "yes Gurudev, I know it" (from Srila Van
Maharaj). Prabhupada replied, "Tik achi!" (then that is OK).
And that was that.
So Vana Maharaj never "stole" me because I belong to Krsna,
not this or that manifestation of Guru tattva. It didn't matter this group
or that group. My Godbrothers called me a traitor, and I was surprised
at this after having sincerely practiced Krsna consciousness in Vraja
Dham at the feet of Prabhupada's own Godbrother. This is material duality
and nonsense! And most of my Godbrothers are full of it! In the event
I became polluted which caused me to adopt the mundane fault-finding party-line
of ISKCON; and become a prakrita-kanistha semi-devotee full with misery
at having traded the feet of Lord Caitanya for life in an out-cast American
After being a sannyasi for 3 years accepted by all the Gaudiya Math devotees
it was hard to return to brahmacari ashram. So out of a material desire
I begged Prabhupada to give me Sannyas again. Prabhupada did so and lengthened
my name to Hrsikesananda.
Then I had the good fortune of working with Srila Prabhupada in Mayapura
on the Nectar of Instruction to completion. And Srila Prabhupada allowed
me to put "asta-kaliya-lila" into the sloka 10 translation of
Sri Upadesamrta. That is the only place you will find it positively mentioned
in the entire VedaBase. When speaking (almost always in Bengali) with
Prabhupada (after 6 years training under Srila Vana Maharaj) about the
esoteric matters he never once treated me like some fool the way he did
with his other disciples. He knew that Vana Maharaj was a Gaudiya siddhanta
expert and that I knew the inside truth and the Nitya-lila.
During this time Prabhupada (at my humble request) also corrected a mistake
in the "sannyas mantra" which was being passed around ISKCON.
But to this day many fanatics still chant it wrongly and give it wrongly
to others, believing that Prabhupada is right even when it is wrong. FYI:
Correct Sannyasa Mantra is "Kim gopibhavasrayaya svaha" Ref.
Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati.
Due to my being a fugitive having no valid PP in India for over 6 years
I was forced by the US Embassy to flee India (bare foot) into Nepal. Later
I got married and adopted Sri Salagram Sila Puja as my sadhana; and when
I wrote Prabhupada about it he replied to me by letter (found in Vedabase)
giving his blessings and yet still referring to me as "Hrsikesananda
das." In a later letter just before he passed away he also called
me that name. So it has stuck by HIS will. (The name means, the servant
ofSrimati Radharani (Who is the ananda of Lord Hrsikesa).
In 1970 I wrote a book published as Sri Bepin Shakhi Vilas which is all
about the nitya-lila. Later I published a small book (before mentioned)
named Bhakti Culture. In 1981 I wrote the "Devotee's Guide to Vraja
Dham" which many of my close Godbrothers appreciated. Presently I
am still working on a new book called Vraja Rasa Bindu which may be published
by the Lord's will.
On the material platform I am considered by some jivatma's to be successful
a Gemologist and Jewelry designer of Astral Gemstone Talismans, with head
quarters in Bangkok, Kingdom of Thailand. I started this business of making
Vedic astrological jewelry with Prabhupada's blessings in 1975, after
having been introduced to gemstones by my dear Godbrother and Prabhupada's
legendary secretary, Sri Shyamsundar Prabhu.
Since then my business has become very well known, especially around
Asia, and this has enabled me to donate over Rs 5,000,000 to ISKCON over
I have a Thai devotee wife (of 19 years) named Champakalata Devi Dasi
(initiated by me) and we have a 9 year old son named Jiva who studies
in the Palace. We live in Thailand right next to the King.
Besides English I have learned Sanskrit, Hindi, Bengali and Thai.
FOR ME "GURU TATTVA" IS AS FOLLOWS:
1) My Harinam Guru is Srila Prabhupada;
2) My Diksa Guru is Srila Vana Maharaj;
3) My Siksa Guru is both of them (plus the lowest Gaudiya Math brahmacari);
4) My Chaitya Guru is Sri Salagram Bhagavan.
I hope there will be no more rumors about me any more. I am insignificant
and hardly worth your speculation's. OM TAT SAT!
Dear Hrsikesananda Prabhu,