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History of the Gopi Bhava Club - Looking for a little context...

DharmaChakra - Thu, 23 Sep 2004 17:59:42 +0530
Its come up in a few posts (from now 'disappeared' threads tongue.gif ), and since I have no history with ISKCON in any real, meaningful way, I'm curious about the history of the gopi bhava club. Can someone please explain what exactly happened?

Here's where I'm confused:
1. From my understanding, devotees had done much worse, and been accepted back into the fold.
2. The 'guilty' were reading books published by ACBSP, so this information was already in the open as it were.
3. ACBPS encouraged devotees to 'talk about Krsna's pasttimes', in fact, this was the purpose of a temple, where like minded people could gather & discuss Krsna, so what was so wrong in this situation?
4. It seems to have been a pivotal moment for ISKCON and its relation to raganuga. It is dredged up every now and then, and tossed around as showing ACBSP's response to raganuga.
5. What became of the various parties involved?

I'm not looking for any muck-raking, and in fact, I have a historical curiosity in the topic only. Anyone have first hand experience with the situation? How about some recollections of it from within ISKCON?
babu - Thu, 23 Sep 2004 18:19:17 +0530
I was not there but elsewhere in Iskcon, the impression was that poisonous elements were endangering the society. Here is some historical background.

"In spite of this, a group of his disciples - perhaps twenty-five women and an equal number of men - began meeting surreptitiously to read the portions of Chaitanya-charitamrita that describe Radha and Krishna's intimate pastimes. News of the 'Gopi-bhava Club' reached Prabhupada during his visit to Los Angeles in June of 1976. Calling the available GBC members and sannyasis, Prabhupada ordered an investigation. He expressed grave concern that such meetings, if allowed to go unchecked, would lead to illicit activities, thus thwarting the preaching mission.

The club leaders appeared before Prabhupada explaining that they were not trying to imitate Radha and Krishna's love affairs but simply studying the descriptions in order to develop such desires. Prabhupada's lips quivered with anger: "First deserve, then desire! . . . So long as there is any pinch of material desire there is no question of desiring on the spiritual platform!" (dasa, H. 1992: Vol. II: 268)

When another of their leaders asked what harm there could be if they restricted their readings to Prabhupada's books, Prabhupada quickly refuted his argument: Many medicines may be available in a drug store but that does not mean one can get them without a prescription. Medicines are prescribed according to the disease. Similarly, his books might contain descriptions of every stage of devotion from the beginning practices to the highest development of love of God, but one should concentrate on those sections suitable to one's level of realisation.

Prabhupada's experience extended far beyond the limited knowledge of his disciples. Growing up in Bengal and later on living for years in Vandavana, he had ample opportunity to observe the behaviour of the various sahajiya sects who attempted to sacramentalise mundane, human sex. The sahajiyas were renounced in appearance, dressed in a bare loincloth of babajis and living on the simplest of diet. But their illicit sexual behaviour belied their appearance and drew heavy criticism from the orthodox Gaudiya Vaishnavas. Prabhupada inferred that some of his disciples must have associated with Vrindavana babajis and become contaminated. He required no further facts to reach his conclusion. Walking the next morning with a group of disciples, he explained the background of the contamination. (Prabhupada1990: Vol. XXI: 1-3) A segment of Chaitanya's movement had deviated from his strict principles, appropriating the model of Krishna and the gopis' love affairs for their debauchery. Lacking any spiritual qualification, they still aspired for the highest transcendental level of understanding. Prabhupada likened the attempt to an ignorant fool's desiring a Ph.D. As his predecessors had laboured to free Chaitanya's movement from the sahajiya stigma, Prabhupada acted to protect ISKCON in the same way. "Keep your movement very pure. Don't mind if somebody goes away. But we must keep our principles pure." (Prabhupada1990: Vol. XXI: 5)

This appeared to be a marked departure from Prabhupada's response to other deviations. He seemed more willing to sacrifice a few for the protection of the many. ISKCON's swelling population may have provided him the confidence that his movement would survive such losses. At the same time, a large organisation offered the risk of many becoming contaminated. Based on what had happened in Chaitanya's movement, there was historical precedence to justify such fear. The promiscuity prevalent in Western society seemed to make such a possibility all the more likely, ISKCON's puritanical rules notwithstanding. The danger was misapplying theological doctrine. To use Prabhupada's medical analogy, it was a case of wrong prescription. If a disease was wrongly diagnosed and too strong a medicine supplied, the result, as Prabhupada later stated, would not 'purify,' but rather 'putrefy.'
suryaz - Sat, 09 Oct 2004 00:37:27 +0530

Who is dasa, H. (dasa, H. 1992: Vol. II: 268) and what is the name of the book.

Babhru - Sat, 09 Oct 2004 02:00:58 +0530
That sounds like Hari-sauri das' Transcendental Diary.