Princes of the Zonal Acarya Kings, Part Four

BY: ROCANA DASA - 7.11 2018

On the Zonal Acarya king, Hridayananda.

In today's segment, we will discuss the princes of the Zonal Acarya king, Hridayananda. We have presented many articles in the past about the activities of the once powerful Zonal Acarya, Hridayananda, who is now [at time of writing, in 2011] a retired GBC but still presenting himself as a sannyasi and guru. In some circles, Hridayananda is considered to be a surviving Zonal Acarya, along with Jayapataka Swami.

Hridayananda's history during the Zonal Acarya period is well documented and we won't repeat it here. In this series, we're dealing primarily with the princes of the Zonal Acarya kings, and Hridayananda also had his progeny.

When he first became a Zonal Acarya, like others, Hridayananda was not satisfied or pleased with his zone, which comprised Central and South America. An America from the United States, Hridayananda was originally given the South American zone by Srila Prabhupada, although he spent little time there.

Over the years, Hridayananda was been most renowned for his academic credentials. One of the reasons he's had such a Teflon relationship with the GBC is because he authored, or point his name to the 11th and 12th cantos of Srimad Bhagavatam after Srila Prabhupada's departure. He got the mandate to do this work after he'd orchestrated getting rid of Pradyumna, who actually had Srila Prabhupada's authorization and blessings to finish the Srimad Bhagavatam. But Hridayananda wanted to have that position, name and fame, so with the help of his fellow Zonal Acaryas, he drove Pradyumna out.

Personally I never traveled to South or Central America as a devotee, and I'm not sure of exactly what transpired there, except for the descriptions other devotees have given of Hridayananda's Zonal Acarya reign there. Just like Hansadutta was not satisfied with Sri Lanka, Ravana's territory, Hridayananda was not satisfied with the zone he was given. Like Hansadutta, who was given as a token both Berkeley and the temple I was president of at the time, Seattle, Hridayananda also immediately tried to expand his zone beyond Central and South Americas.

It's a well documented fact that Hridayananda had arrogant disdain for the South Americans. In fact, he coined the phrase "Sudra America', giving this blanket designation to anyone who lived there, devotees and non-devotees alike. Nonetheless, soon after his Zonal Acarya position was established, Hridayananda made politics to take over Miami, which is the main city in America that the South Americans relate to as their 'home away from home'. To do this, Hridayananda had to unseat Balavanta, who was a non-Zonal Acarya, but a GBC. He pulled this off with the help of one of his princes – HH Bir Krishna das Goswami.

Bir Krishna was President at the time of the Coral Way temple in Miami. On Hridayananda's behalf, he made his maneuvers to get rid of Balavanta, slandering him by saying that he was a 'fallen grihasta' and that only a sannyasi such as Hridayananda or himself should be in charge.

At this point in time, Bir Krishna saw that his path to institutional advancement -- a zone of his own and the accompanying name and fame -- could be had by hooking his wagon to Hridayananda. In doing this, of course, he had to proclaim Hridayananda as a pure devotee, praising him as much as possible during Bhagavatam classes. There are still copies of Hridayananda's Vyasapuja books around, which contain Bir Krishna's worshipful hymns to him. Whether Bir Krishna actually believed these glorifications, or whether they were just a means to get ahead is anybody's guess. Either way, it's disgraceful, considering the history that has unfolded, showing that Hridayananda is not, and never was worthy of the title of sannyasa, or anything else. He was simply riding on his karmic credentials… a silver tongue that's attached to a big brain.

Over time, Bir Krishna made it to where he is now, securing his GBC title and getting Tamal Krishna Goswami's territory as his own zone after Tamal departed. Having been made a GBC, this also made him a de facto Zonal Acarya. The zone Bir Krishna took over from Tamal included Fiji and Texas. And of course, Bir Krishna acquired his own separate land and temple, which is strictly his and nobody else's in terms of ISKCON ownership or GBC board control. Although from ISKCON's point of view Bir Krishna das Goswami is not a big prince, he's still a powerful person in the institution.

Bir Krishna eventually left Hridayananda on account of Hridayananda's shamelessly public relationship with Devamrita dasi, who Bir Krishna didn't like. He then opted to move out of Miami Beach, even though he was the one who had bought that white elephant of a building. Even though the property turned out to be a big disaster. Hridayananda always loved the location and opulence of the Miami temple. He had a whole floor to himself looking out over the ocean, and he could walk on the beach at his leisure.

As Hridayananda's star began to fall and the Zonal Acarya period transitioned back to the 'ultimate GBC', Bir Krishna acquired his own piece of property in North Carolina with whatever money he'd managed to squirrel away or inherit. And the rest is history.

There is another active member of the GBC who can be considered a prince of Hridayananda's. Of course, there are different echelons of princes, but in this series we're focusing primarily on those who are still alive and in power in the institution today. One of the princes who's still involved down in Central and South America is HH Guru Prasad Swami, who was working with HH Pancha Dravida Swami throughout the Zonal Acarya period in Central America. In 1986, Pancha Dravida gave up ISKCON and went over to the Gaudiya Matha, and that's when Hridayananda hurriedly appointed Guru Prasad to be the in-charge in his place. Not surprisingly, Hridayananda didn't promote, empower or entrust any actual South Americans to the job.

In 1978, Hridayananda summoned Guru Prasad to come work with him in Brazil. After some time the Swami got fed up with Hridayananda, left Brazil and took brief shelter of Tamal Krishna Goswami in Texas. Then Pancha Dravida offered him a position in Mexico, which he accepted. Pancha Dravida left, and Guru Prasad became what he is today -- a GBC/Guru/Sannyasi, replacing Pancha Dravida. From all reports, he is doing a very poor, if not a disastrous job in this zone. The preaching there has not only gone nowhere, but there have been many controversies. It appears that he has basically maintained the same attitude towards Spanish seeking devotees as his mentors, particularly Hridayananda, essentially considering all these people to be low-class, illiterate sudras.

So this is the circumstance of how Hridayananda, who has had a huge negative impact on the movement since Srila Prabhupada's departure, spawned his own line of princes. I'm not sure of what others may be minor players in addition, but Bir Krishna and Guru Prasad are the princes I've been aware of who are still playing a part in ISKCON today. Directly or indirectly, Hridayananda relinquished his power to them. They help to protect him now, when common sense, etiquette and the application of Vaisnava sastra would have the GBC and these so-called princes strip Hridayananda of his titles and notoriety within ISKCON. But somehow or other, with the support of his princes and other friends, Hridayananda remains a Teflon king, permitted to parade around and pretend he's a sannyasi and qualified guru in Srila Prabhupada's society.