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Krishna Consciousness In Vienna - "The pangs of separation"

Jagat - Fri, 19 Mar 2004 20:08:25 +0530
I am not sure where this belongs, but I found the following exchange over on to be rather poignant. I often think that we are all pilgrims--strangers in a strange land. How often nostalgia for something lost alienates us from ourselves and the present moment.

Report from Vienna, Austria, by Santimati Das

The history of ISKCON in this, supposedly the third richest country in the world, is a never ending story of failures, blackouts and flops.

ISKCON completely closed down its only center in Vienna between 1996 and 2002. Now Prithu Prabhu has been named GBC and has opened a Govinda incense-store and rented a substandard apartment to serve as a temple. Prithu is a very nice devotee and has made tons of devotees, but when his record as a manager, judging by the long list of places from which he has been removed, is terrible.

We have to ask why Krishna consciousness has not been able to take root in Austria after thirty years of trying. Austria has heavy laws against selling books in public; it is also difficult to get official recognition as religion. This has forced devotees in the past to live in an illegal zone, where they are in constant fear of being caught. Most Austrian devotees have left the movement and even given up Krishna consciousness altogether, feeling cheated by ISKCON's lack of a viable strategy in Austria.

Prithu Prabhu came here with a number of very young disciples from other countries. The temple president is only about 20. Unfortunately, he is doing exactly the same things that have caused Krishna consciousness to fail in Austria for the past thirty years: selling on Vienna's streets without permission, running the Govinda shop with manipulated bookkeeping, smuggling Prabhupada's books into Austria from Germany for sale, hiding and causing disciples unnecessary anxiety. Some may be able to tolerate this for a while, but in the past we have seen that most get burned out after three of four years of such a life and leave, never to be seen again.

I would also like to bring up the question of the treatment of children. Almost all of Prithu's disciples have married, which means in the next two or three years there will be a number of devotee children who will sooner or later find out that their parents are living like criminals in this country.

I have known Prithu Prabhu since 1972. When he invited me to his temple, I told him repeatedly that he should give up the "quick-money" strategy in Austria and strive instead to first give Krishna consciousness and his disciples legal status, which would create future prospects to open a farm, a school, etc. He just laughed and told his disciples that I am a sad failure and in Maya.

I served in ISKCON for fifteen years, mainly as book distributor. I came to Vienna in 1982 and so I know a little about the history of Krishna consciousness here. I write in order to avoid getting the karmic reaction that would surely come if I remained silent about this unjust treating of very young devotees, causing them so much unnecessary future suffering, as happened in the past to so many under Harikesa's reign.

"And does the same what caused Krishna consciousness to fail in Austria the past 30 years."

ISKCON maybe, but NOT Krishna consciousness.

Perhaps Prithu Prabhu kept trying over and over because he noted the success of this Vienna mandir:

Om Vishnupada Sri Srimad Bhakti Vaibhava Puri Goswami Maharaja's temple is nice, but followers of Srila Prabhupada don't go there. It's another world. It hardly reminds you of Prabhupada. You just don't feel at home there. It makes you sad, like a child who lives in an orphanage. Everything might be there, but still the child doesn't feel at home. When he sees others laugh and joke, he rather starts to cry. And this very sadness will never go away during the rest of its life.

The pain of separation...