Dear Devotees, Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. I am humbly writing you today to explain my situation. I joined ISKCON at New Vrindavan in 1974, was first initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1975 and second initiated in 1976. For the first ten years of my devotional life I was a "surrendered brahmacari" under the care of Kirtanananda Swami, my main siksa guru. My services were gardening, construction of Prabhupada's Palace, book distribution and collecting laxmi, selling paraphernalia.
In 1981, I became the part time personal secretary for Kirtanananda Swami accompanying him on occasional excursions away from New Vrindavan to India, Pakistan and Africa. In 1984, without ever discussing it with me he put me on the ISKCON waiting list for sannyasa. I never took it seriously because I was not in training for the duties of a sannyasa nor did he nor anyone ever asked me if I wanted to take sannyasa or what the challenges of sannyasa life were. One day in 1986, he called me into his room and declared that he was having a big initiation in the temple the next day. He then began pressurizing me to accept sannyasa along with several of my godbrothers who had already agreed to. He explained that spiritual life was progressive and anyone over 30 should forget about marriage, it was too late. Since I was 33 and still a brahmacari, naturally I should take sannyasa! I told him, "But I don't want to take sannyasa, I'm not qualified." Pressuring me again to just surrender, I firmly declined, knowing my own personal inclinations and weaknesses.
I also knew that my lack of training in preaching and never having undertaken a disciplined study of Srila Prabhupada's books truly disqualified me for such a responsibility. Then he threatened, "Either take sannyasa or get married!" End of discussion. Needless to say I was very bewildered by this instruction, being totally unprepared for either ashram. With a saddened heart, I silently left his room and took a long walk in the woods, sat down in a field of tall grass and began to pray.
Being under Kirtanananda Swami's care since the day I joined, having a lot of faith in his guidance and being surrounded by hundreds of godbrothers and godsisters whose mood was that he was a pure devotee in touch with Supersoul, I knew no other shelter. Knowing that he really wanted me to take sannyasa, I weighed the social and spiritual consequences of disobeying him. Sincerely believing the preaching and influenced by the mood of the time, "if you just surrender to your authority, prabhu, everything will be all right", I accepted the vow of sannyasa from Kirtanananda Swami the next day. I take responsibility for that fateful decision, however I soon had serious doubts and felt betrayed. In 1987 Kirtanananda Swami and New Vrindavan were excommunicated from ISKCON and a couple of years later Kirtanananda Swami began awarding sannyasa indiscriminately to dozens of unqualified men and women. The whole affair became a farce and being outside of ISKCON loosened the traditional safeguards of proper behavior, even for sannyasis. When facts began to surface of Kirtanananda Swami's moral delinquency I wondered if the person who gave me sannyasa could not maintain his vows, how could I? Being thus weakened by a lack of spiritual conviction, I precariously toed the line between renunciation and sense gratification for the next few years as New Vrindavan drifted off into interfaith experimentation and philosophical deviation. In 1993 Kirtanananda Swami admitted to moral deviations and it became clear, even to the New Vrindavan devotees, he could no longer have anything more to do with the community.
Thus I took the lead in transforming the community back to a standard acceptable for readmittance back into ISKCON. In 1995, those who had taken sannyasa from Kirtanananda Swami and wanted to serve in ISKCON were requested to reconfirm their sannyasa with the ISKCON Sannyasa Ministry. Some of them took that opportunity to change ashramas. Despite my own serious misgivings, as the prominent leader of the New Vrindavan reform group, I felt that if I did not reconfirm my sannyasa at that time, it would make my service of bringing New Vrindavan back into ISKCON so much more difficult than it already was. So on I went. In 1996, I seriously considered adopting brahmacari cloth again so if I decided to marry it would not be so noticeable.
After consulting with some godbrothers, I decided against that option. In 1998, I concluded that according to my nature I was not suited to be a sannyasa and needed to make a change. In dealing with my predicament, I took shelter of my senior sannyasa godbrothers, H.H. Radhanatha Swami and H.H. Chandramauli Swami, revealing my heart and doubts. In their friendship and love for me, they advised me to strengthen my sadhana before I made any decision. The last 2 years I have experienced very high moments serving Srila Prabhupada as a sannyasi by enlivening devotees in different places around the world. I have also experienced too many low moments under the influence of material desire. I now realize that I was much too young to accept a life long vow of celibacy. A more thoughtful and spiritually advanced leader would have seriously discussed with me how such a vow would alter my life. Such a leader would have also led me to see my own conditioning, and never have coerced me in that way.
Unfortunately, like many, I had chosen to follow a very immature and reckless leader and suffer as a result of his ill advice. I would like to offer my most humble and sincere apologies to Srila Prabhupada and all the devotees I have offended in my unsuccessful attempt at renunciation on the level of a sannyasi. It is interesting to note that Srila Prabhupada was quite disgusted by the state of affairs in the sannyasa ashram right before he left. In Jan 1977 he said, "There have been so many (sannyasis) fallen down. FIRST OF ALL THERE WILL BE NO MORE SANNYASI ANYMORE. I have got very bad experience. AND AT LEAST WE ARE NOT GOING TO CREATE NEW SANNYASIS. And those who have fallen down, let them marry, live like respectable gentlemen. I have no objection". If the gurus who were eager to create sannyasis or the young brahmacaris were aware of Srila Prabhupada's strong statements in this regard, maybe the status of ISKCON's renounced order would be different today! Fortunately, ISKCON no longer allows young men to take sannyasa, one has to be over fifty years of age. Over the years I sincerely tried my best to perform the duties of my ashrama and set a good example for the devotees. However, I have to admit I have not gained the spiritual realization necessary to remain in the sannyasa ashram.
Nor have I been able to overcome my conditioning and the desire for sense gratification that is not allowed for a sannyasi. This has caused me to suffer great inner turmoil to the point of actually contemplating two very unsavory but not unheard of options- namely suicide and blooping. Both of those options have the benefit of not having to face the devotees and accept the public humiliation of spiritual failure. However, the more humbling choice is to continue to serve the Vaisnavas in a more suitable ashrama. I believe I have been very much weakened by trying to fight maya from the wrong position. Srila Prabhupada uses the example of Gajendra the elephant, a land animal getting gradually weaker by fighting the crocodile in the water. "The soldiers in this Kanea consciousness movement must always possess physical strength, enthusiasm and sensual power. To keep themselves fit, they must therefore place themselves in a normal condition of life. What constitutes a normal condition will not be the same for everyone, and therefore there are divisions of vareacrama-brahmaea, knatriya, vaicya, cudra, brahmacarya, gahastha, vanaprastha and sannyasa. Especially in this age, Kali-yuga, it is advised that no one take sannyasa. acvamedhaa gavalambhaa sannyasaa pala-paitakam devareea sutotpattia kalau paica vivarjayet [Cc. Adi 17.164] (Brahma-vaivarta Puraea) >From this we can understand that in this age the sannyasa-acrama is forbidden because people are not strong. Cre Caitanya Mahaprabhu showed us an example in taking sannyasa at the age of twenty-four years, but even Sarvabhauma Bhaooacarya advised Cre Caitanya Mahaprabhu to be extremely careful because He had taken sannyasa at an early age. For preaching we give young boys sannyasa, but actually it is being experienced that they are not fit for sannyasa.
There is no harm, however, if one thinks that he is unfit for sannyasa; if he is very much agitated sexually, he should go to the asrama where sex is allowed, namely the grhastha-acrama. That one has been found to be very weak in one place does not mean that he should stop fighting the crocodile of maya. One should take shelter of the lotus feet of Kanea, as we shall see Gajendra do, and at the same time one can be a gahastha if he is satisfied with sexual indulgence. There is no need to give up the fight. Cre Caitanya Mahaprabhu therefore recommended, sthane sthitau cruti-gataa tanu-van-manobhiu.
One may stay in whichever acrama is suitable for him; it is not essential that one take sannyasa. If one is sexually agitated, he can enter the gahastha-acrama. But one must continue fighting. For one who is not in a transcendental position, to take sannyasa artificially is not a very great credit. If sannyasa is not suitable, one may enter the gahastha-acrama and fight maya with great strength. But one should not give up the fighting and go away." Srila Prabhupada Purport SB 8.2.31 Therefore, I am begging for the love and understanding of the Vaisnavas to allow me to humbly serve them as a grhasta. I have decided that this is the honest path for me. I have firm faith in the process of Krsna consciousness and will dedicate the rest of my life as a servant of Srila Prabhupada and a hard working servant of the New Vrindavan Community. After trying to be a sannyasa for almost 15 years, I have gained the utmost respect and admiration for those great souls who have been able to live a life free from sex desire. Now it is time to admit to the world that I am not one of them. I am sorry to let you down. Please do not kick me away.
Your fallen servant,
PS I have already consulted with selected senior New Vrindavan devotees. For now, I will be keeping all my present community responsibilities but I will be changing cloth in a few days. If any of you would like to come and see me and talk about my change, I would be happy to meet with you.