By Krishna-kirti das, 21 Sep 2014
I have been informed by Prabhu Nagaraja, current editor of Back to Godhead magazine, that they will not run any of my articles because I have written “controversial” things on other online forums. (I put “controversial” in quotes for a reason, which I will soon explain.)
This is our initial chain of correspondence:
Forwarded conversation Subject: Article for submission: Reforming Marriage in Society ------------------------ From: *Krishna Kirti Das* <kri...> Date: Tue, Aug 26, 2014 at 2:35 PM To: firstname.lastname@example.org Dear Editors, PAMHO AGTSP. Please accept the attached article for submission to Back to Godhead magazine. Your servant, Krishna-kirti das ---------- From: *Nagaraja Dasa* <email@example.com> Date: Wed, Aug 27, 2014 at 9:12 AM To: Krishna Kirti Das <kri...> Thank you, Prabhu. We'll review it, and I'll get back to you. Your servant, Nagaraja dasa ---------- From: *Nagaraja Dasa* <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Mon, Sep 8, 2014 at 9:54 AM To: Krishna Kirti Das <kri...> Dear Krishna-kirti Prabhu, BTG is aimed at the ISKCON congregation, especially people who don't know ISKCON inside-out, and therefore we prefer to avoid controversies within the movement. Considering your controversial writing in other forums, we've decided that the safe course for BTG would be not to run your articles. Hare Krishna. Your servant, Nagaraja dasa
According to Nagaraj, BTG’s readership does not know “ISKCON inside-out”, so unless the BTG reader is already someone who does know “ISKCON inside-out”, how is he (or, she) going to know that I am (in Nagaraja’s estimation) “controversial”? The article itself (available here) contains no mention of past or current ISKCON controversies, neither directly nor indirectly. It’s just a straight-forward critique using the three modes of nature as first principles to evaluate modern family therapeutic practice. No ISKCON controversies here.
And then there is this problem with who counts as “controversial”? What is your criteria? One man’s “controversy” is another’s settled truth. It’s a propaganda word that has no meaning. Essentially, he is just calling me names because one or more issues I am on the side he doesn’t agree with.
I subsequently asked a senior devotee and disciple of Srila Prabhupada who was also formerly an editor of the magazine if he could intervene, and he was kind enough to do so. After getting little more than the same response given to me, it was evident that Nagaraja was determined to be unreasonable.
Here is my below response to him:
Date: Sun, 14 Sep 2014 07:37:19 -0500 Subject: Re: Article for submission: Reforming Marriage in Society From: Krishna Kirti Das <kri...> To: Nagaraja Dasa <email@example.com> Dear Nagaraj Prabhu, I am sorry to hear about your decision and about your feelings towards me. The real losers in this, however, are ISKCON's congregational members that you are allegedly preaching to through BTG. Last month at the San Antonio preaching center, I was asked by the president there to give the Sunday Feast lecture, to people "who don't know ISKCON inside-out". And the lecture was very well received by the guests. In particular, one young man and his fiancée warmly thanked me afterwards for it. Using the content of that lecture I wrote the article that I submitted to you and which you apparently found no reason to review because of my "controversial writing" in other forums. As far as the article is concerned, there is nothing "controversial" in it; I took care to avoid touching on any ongoing ISKCON controversies. And except for excerpts from the APA article, which was the focus of the article's critique, the content closely follows Srila Prabhupada and the Gita. It was a good faith attempt to help create a revolution in the consciousness of the members of a misdirected civilization. But none of that matters because the content of the article itself was irrelevant to your decision to perpetually ban anything I write from BTG, which then brings us to consider what, exactly, are your purposes by name-calling and labeling me "controversial." All controversies have at least two sides. One man's "controversial" statement is another man's "moderate" statement. One man's "extremist" is another man's "freedom fighter", and so forth. It is unfortunate that as an experienced editor you have descended to using such newspeak. And your response is disingenuous because you have knowingly chosen a side of a controversy yet pretend to be "uncontroversial." Mother Urmila, a member of BTGs board of editors, writes plenty of controversial things on other forums, especially when it comes to advocacy for women's equality. For example, on the Dandavats website is a transcribed lecture of hers that very quickly became controversial because other women started objecting to her promoting women's equality. (Here is the lecture:http://www.dandavats.com/?p=3D9349) That article has more than 400 comments, and you want to pretend that she does not write or say controversial things? Hence your response has been thoroughly disingenuous. And as far as Urmila is concerned, this isn't just a gaffe. Her struggle for women's equality in ISKCON overshadows her other work. As a member of the Shastric Advisory Committee, she and another female devotee were contributors to the recent SAC paper endorsing female diksha gurus, which was noted both by some GBC members and ISKCON India leaders as constituting a substantial conflict of interest. Her participation gives all the appearance that she is contributing to an unbalanced effort to persuade others to elect her to be a diksha-guru. That is what a conflict of interest means: not only must justice be done, it must appear to be done as well. She and the other female devotee should have recused themselves from this project, like justices do when a potential conflict of interest in a case exists. But they didn't. Indeed, on receipt of the paper by the GBC, it was disclosed to the GBC, and later to the public, that the paper itself excluded the views of dissenting SAC members. Its purpose was not to inform but to sway an audience by presenting a view on the matter the authors knew was biased. Mother Urmila made a leading contribution to that baldly ambitious piece of propaganda, and I don't recall that she ever distanced herself from it. And here you are playing make-believe that she is not controversial. If you had been practicing what you have been preaching about avoiding controversies, you would have banned Mother Urmila from BTG long ago and taken steps to remove her from the editorial board. And it's not just Mother Urmila who writes, says, and does controversial things and who is more than welcome to grace the pages of BTG. There is a certain Swami who for years has been advocating and continues to advocate something he calls "gay monogamy", who routinely and publicly mocks temple attire of dhoti and sari and street harinama sankirtana, and who has a project called "Krishna West", which is itself a controversial undertaking. And it is without doubt that you would welcome his contributions to BTG. Why? Not because he does not write controversial things in other forums but because in terms of controversies, you are more or less on the same side of them, at least most of the time. That is why your labeling me "controversial" is hypocritical. You don't mind at all someone who writes things that are controversial so long as you agree with them. And let us not forget your own wife, Mother Pranada, who, when women's rights in ISKCON in the 90s and early 2000s was a hot issue, earned herself a reputation as a firebrand (ahem, your "freedom fighter") for that cause and contributed at least one article to BTG to that end. But in your argot that's decidedly not controversial, because you agree with her views. Things you disagree with are "controversial", and things you agree with are "reasonable." (Funny how language works like that.) And then later on, because of trying to practice the equality she preached, she found herself at the center of a public scandal that resulted in the marginalization of one of ISKCON's most important early leaders and literary figures as well as the marginalization of his own literary contributions. Oops! Maybe there was some truth in what all those people you disagree with and label "controversial" have been saying all along. You can say a lot of things about your wife's involvement in that incident, but you cannot say that it was not controversial--especially in light of her equal rights advocacy. It was orders of magnitude more controversial than anything I have ever written, said, or done for that matter. But without doubt your good wife would be welcome to contribute more articles to BTG, would she not? So, what are we to make of this? It's certainly not the content of what I submitted to you that matters now, for that was irrelevant to your decision. As far as controversies are concerned, you have misused language to engage in name-calling and to hide the fact that you and like-minded others endorse or write plenty of things that are controversial and are still welcome to write for BTG. And by refusing to deal with substantive matters--like the content of my article--you have signaled loud and clear that for your editorial decisions you and the BTG institution place your own personal agendas and ambitions above any kind of objective criteria, like sadhu, shastra, and guru. If my article is at an acceptable standard of writing for your publication and does indeed faithfully represent the parampara on the topic that it addressed, then by withholding it from your readership solely for reasons unrelated to the article's merits you are committing spiritual violence against them. That I may have written something controversial in another forum is irrelevant because so have a good many of you. The unfortunate outcome of this is that BTGs readers, who mostly don't know the ins and outs of ISKCON, will in good faith imbibe the materialistic content representing your personal agendas along with the genuinely spiritual content that still makes its way into BTG today. It is unfortunate that Srila Prabhupada's historic publication under your guidance has begun to place petty politics and personal agendas above its original, spiritual mandate. Yours in the service of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai and Srila Prabhupada, Krishna-kirti das
So, that is it. Nagaraja defines “controvesial” as something someone says or writes and which he does not agree with. Not unlike how Mayavadis indulge in the grammatical manipulation of shastra to make it say what they want it to mean, Nagaraja’s use of language here depends on the corruption of language. The only difference is the Mayavadis do it as a part of a formal, trained process whereas Nagaraja et al do it because similar processes are “in the air”, so to speak, a part of their culture. When Srila Prabhupada says in his second pranama mantra that he is delivering the Western countries from impersonalism and voidism, here in Nagaraja’s dismissal is exactly the kind of thing Srila Prabhupada tried to save us from.