The Bhaktivedanta Climate Change Collaboration Group might best be described as the product of the Vaishnava Foundation of a number of years ago, with emphasis on Srila Prabhupada as the real link with transcendence. Bhakta Eric Johanson manages the site and writes most of the articles. Others engaged in the distribution of Srila Prabhupada’s books edit them for pure Krishna consciousness. We see ourselves as part of what might be called “the greater Krishna consciousness movement.” This could be described as what Srila Prabhupada founded and everything that has undeviatingly acted under his instructions since. Being the last fully recognized guru in the line, as well as the last sampradaya acarya, these instructions are our only real shelter and what will define Krishna consciousness until the next pure devotee manifests.
“Make it a honey society. At least, give chance, those who are seeking after honey. Don’t cheat people.” Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam 1.5.9-11, June 6, 1969, New Vrindavana
Bhakta Eric was a co-founder of the Vaishnava Foundation with Kailasa Candra dasa when it incorporated in 1987 and acted, more or less, as his personal secretary from 1986-2012. The initial idea of the Introductory Article took shape a few years ago in a Vaishnava Foundation reply to an intellectual by bhakta Eric. Kailasa Candra dasa liked the e-mail and later mentioned that an article should be written.
We also want to give special thanks to Dr. Edwin Bryant (Advaita dasa) who advised that we not quote P. N. Oak but rather pursue the Indo-European evidence found in the introductory article.
Bhakta Eric Johanson
I was born in Brooklyn, NY and was raised on Long Island. I have a degree in civil engineering with a minor in math and work in that field. Raised by my Lutheran Sunday school teacher mother and subject to the draft during the Vietnam War, he was jarred in 1967 when he read someone’s assertion that Jesus would not support it. I was also led to vegetarianism after I read a 1968 column by devotees from the 26 Second Avenue temple in an underground newspaper, the East Village Other. Although I considered visiting the temple, I thought it too culturally foreign and concluded, using second-class intelligence, that “if this really was the absolute truth, then at a certain point it would be all that is left.”
I later refused induction in the US army after being repeatedly turned down for conscientious objector status because of his Lutheran upbringing. I was not arrested, probably due to the large numbers of others doing so at the time. In 1971 I began graduate school at Ohio State University in Geodetic Science (global surveying) with the aim of getting a PhD and teaching there. However I dropped out half a year later when I understood that virtually all of the applications of Geodetic Science in the US were military related, and that teaching military personnel was largely what the faculty there did.
While an undergraduate I read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and Thoreau and later attended one of the first US environmental protests at the Boston airport in 1970, a “die-in” to protest proposed trans-Atlantic supersonic transport flights. I also became an amateur naturalist during both long and short bicycle tours. I later joined the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in December 1977 at the Berkeley, California temple after having lived in that city for 5 years.
Prior to joining the Hare Krishna movement, I was convinced that spiritual realization was individual and that organizations were counter-productive and often pretentious. However, the demise of my first marriage in late 1976 brought no small amount of distress. Spiritual life became “all that was left.”
I was trained as a bhakta by Vatsala dasa. In May 1978 I was among the first batch to become so-called disciples of the zonal acarya that was posted in Berkeley, Hansadutta “swami.” Then called Vrindavana Candra dasa, I was trained in book distribution by Mahanidhi dasa, but wasn’t especially adept at fund raising in general. Having helped Vatsala dasa build new carts in 1978, I annually assembled the Ratha Yatra cart for the yearly festival in either San Francisco or Berkeley. A number of elements of the cart were a different form of prasadam, having been earlier handled or built by Jayananda prabhu.
I later became involved in the management of the zone’s rural community in northern California, Mt. Kailasa Farm, and became one of the directors, the corporate secretary (under the able brahminical guidance of Berkeley’s Hanumat Presaka dasa) and in 1985 president. Because of this I was more familiar than most with Hansadutta “swami’s” ongoing spiritual difficulties. For apparently not much more than a show of defiance to ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission (GBC) in 1983, Hansadutta dasa decided to independently make nine sannyasis. I was chosen, despite my feeling that I was completely unqualified. I just did what his so-called guru ordered. Another perhaps more appropriate question would have been if then Hansadutta “swami” was actually qualified to give sannyasa to anyone. Generally one receives genuine sannyasa from a sannyasi who is truly following the vows of the renounced order.
Sometime in early 1985 on a traveling fund raising mission, I finally came to the conclusion that it was impossible to have absolute faith in someone with the loose habits of Hansadutta dasa (then remarried) and realized that such faith could only be placed in Srila Prabhupada. I began personally chanting Srila Prabhupada’s pranam mantra instead of that of Hansadutta dasa. As confirmation, I received Srila Prabhupada’s guru puja garland the morning I returned to the temple. This was many months before many other so-called disciples more angrily gave up on Hansadutta dasa. I am, however, quite grateful to Hansadutta dasa, a legendary cook, for personally training me in the farm’s outdoor kitchen.
In the summer of 1985 I read Sulocana dasa’s The Guru Business and realized that I had yet to achieve any genuine link with the disciplic succession. Shortly after, I met Kailasa Candra dasa and understood that it was he who had injected the philosophical knowledge and conviction into Sulocana prabhu’s writing. I invited Kailasa Candra dasa to the farm in the summer of 1986. Although he was not requested to do so, Bay Area GBC Atreya Rsi dasa then ceased visiting the farm and also had his associates, such as Shivananda dasa and Vipra Mukya swami, leave.
I served more or less as Kailasa Candra dasa’s personal secretary from 1986 to 2012. On the recommendation of Kailasa Candra dasa, and as part of the transfer of the Deities at Mt. Kailasa Farm to Hansadutta dasa, I received Hansadutta dasa’s permission to be freed from any previous vows or “spiritual” connection with him.
I co-founded the non-profit Vaishnava Foundation with Kailasa Candra dasa when it incorporated in 1987 and had a hand in most of the day-to-day functioning of the farm from 1985-88. However my dream for Mt. Kailasa farm did not go as planned. I had thought that bringing the right perspective and siddhanta there in the person of Kailasa Candra dasa would automatically attract many sincere devotees who would work to bring back Srila Prabhupada’s pre-zonal acarya movement. Although I got free from the personal burden of possibly misusing a huge asset, there were apparently other reasons why devotees would not stay or come.
During his stay at Mt. Kailasa Farm from 1986-88 Kailasa Candra dasa initially allowed a couple of would-be disciples to treat him as their prospective guru. I also later got caught up in the fervor. Kailasa Candra dasa went so far as to write his own Sanskrit pranam mantra which was then used when the would-be disciples offered him or the Deities obeisances. At one time there were as many as four possible disciples, and they were all given Sanskrit names by him. Mine was Riktaharsan dasa.
The names are what led Puranjana dasa, who had been sharing an apartment with Kailasa Candra dasa in 1986 when he moved to the farm, to tell others and later write on his PADA website that Kailasa Candra dasa had initiated me in secret. By the time the farm was sold in the summer of 1988, I was the only would-be disciple left. When the ordeal ended later that year, Kailasa Candra dasa told me that he never intended to initiate any of the would-be people, and that he had only done it to entertain our misplaced desires.
Another rumor circulated by Puranjana dasa was that Kailasa Candra dasa and I had allowed the farm’s cows to be sold for slaughter. As is often typical of Puranjana dasa, however, he gave practically no evidence for this. In 1988 I received an inheritance from my grandmother and used the money to buy a used Ryder moving van. The roof was temporarily removed from the rear and a hefty livestock gate installed. Seven or so cows and calves were taken by night to Paramesvari dasa’s land in Oregon. He also received $5,000 and promised never to allow them to be slaughtered.
The dangerous bull Bhima dasa was initially boarded at a veterinarian in Petaluma, Ca. and later taken in the truck to an animal sanctuary near Dallas, Texas. On the trip Bhima dasa was quite happy to recognize me, and that someone from the farm was seeing to his welfare. Although quite large for a brown Swiss, Bhima dasa was puny compare to the vet’s Guernsey studs, whose bellows could remind one of dinosaurs.
The other half of the farms cows were taken by Ken and Merrill Snell (Advaita Acarya dasa and Madana Mohan dasa), two other so-called disciples of Hansadutta dasa who retained directorship of the Mt. Kailasa Foundation, the original non-profit of the farm that Hansadutta dasa had taken over in 1978. When the farm was sold to settle its bankruptcy case in 1988, the Mt. Kailasa Foundation and The Vaishnava Foundation split the approximately $80,000 that remained after the creditors were paid.
In 1995 I understood that the internet would provide an alternative means for devotees to preach and communicate. Under the direction of Kailasa Candra dasa, I started the Vaishnava Foundation’s website in early 1996, managed it and replied to virtually all inquires. Previous to this the Foundation had been limited to posting classified ads in Yoga Journal. Besides posting many articles from 1996-2012 on the foundation’s website, many were simultaneously posted on the Vaishnava News Network (VNN) and the Sampradaya Sun.
I aspire to become sincere enough to contact a devotee on the highest level of Krishna consciousness.
More on Mt. Kailasa Farm
The farm had been purchased in early 1978 with monies collected by the Berkeley temple devotees, mostly Jiva dasa’s mothers party, under the leadership of Caru dasa and was originally called New Hrisikesa. It was about 90 miles north of San Francisco in what was called the Ben Moore valley atop a ridge on the border of Lake and Mendocino counties, between Hopland and Lakeport. Ben Moore was a one-time local horse thief who apparently kept them there. A householder disciple of Srila Prabhupada, also named Vrindavana Candra dasa, was an early temple president. Hansadutta Swami took over the zone in May 1978 and shortly after renamed the farm to Mt. Kailasa. There was a late 70’s scandal regarding items purchased for the farm using a credit card stolen from Bhakta dasa (William Benedict) near the Berkeley temple.
Early on Hansaduta moved the small 5-7 boy gurukula from Berkeley temple to the farm and also replaced the teacher, Nagaraja dasa with a German devotee, Jalandhara dasa, who had come to the zone because Hansadutta, who had opened the original German temple in the late 60’s, became the northwest US zonal so-called guru. Nagaraja, a very capable devotee, was moved to manage the Berkeley men’s fund raising party. The problem, however, was that Jalandhara was actually a pedophile. Subsequent reports of strange sounds coming from the gurukula bathroom by other devotees using the outdoor latrine late at night led to investigation by the Hare Krishna movement’s (ISKCON) overall children’s ministry head, Jagadisha dasa, who visited the farm. By 1980 Jalandhara had been sent to India, where there was no extradition, and replaced.
I first came to the farm in late 1980 after Hansadutta’s return from GBC-forced exile in India for un-“guru” behavior with Tamal Krishna Swami. I became the temple commander or a kind of vice-president for Rahugana dasa, who had become a kind of zonal secretary for Hansadutta after his return, and was often away from the farm. I was one of Hansadutta’s disciples who had been isolated by GBC-replacement “guru” Hridayananda Swami and convinced that Hansadutta had somehow fallen down. Earlier in Berkeley the mass of Hansadutta’s followers had left the temple and moved to Santa Cruz rather than hear this supposed blasphemy of their “guru.” Rahugana had been vocal in his faith in Hansadutta and became one of the leaders of the Santa Cruz disciples. Earlier I had trained Rahugana the first time he did record distribution from a van, so when he became regional secretary after Hansadutta’s return, he returned the favor by giving me responsibility at the farm at a time when I was looked down upon by the other disciples for being apparently unfaithful.
The farm prospered through the early 80’s with the money from the Berkeley temple painting sales. I did this sparingly, spending most of my time managing at the farm. One thing from this time of note was the recording of a frivolous note-in-deed-of-trust on the farm property. Hansadutta and Southern California “guru” and Bhaktivedanta Book Trust manager Ramesvara “Swami” did not get along (a laughable acrimony between two supposedly “spotless” personalities), and I am pretty sure Hansadutta was not remitting the required collections percentage to the trust. Hansadutta and Rahugana and others were afraid of a lawsuit and wanted the note to give the impression that the zone was tied up in financial debt. I believe the idea came from Hanumat Prasaka dasa, the Berkeley temple secretary. The actual note always resided in the farm safe where I, the farm corporate secretary, kept it.
Hansadutta had a number of well known spiritual difficulties regarding guns and intoxication through the early 80’s. It was somewhat well known at the farm that in 1983-4 he was nightly driving to town to a bar. He never attended the morning program at the temple but would show up around or after breakfast prasadam. His alcohol use apparently started with an Indian medicine, saribadi salsa. Around 1984 a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, Ripugna dasa, also from Germany, became farm president. He took it upon himself to try to rehabilitate his godbrother Hansadutta and befriended me in this process. Hansadutta had some apartment in the Bay Area where he would indulge in sexual and other adventures. There was also a letter of declaration from one of the farm women, Uma dasi, another old German temple import, of “divine” pastimes of Hansadutta, a supposed incarnation of Lord Siva, and a number of the farm women. One eventually became pregnant, Laxmi devi dasi, a Hansadutta “initiate.” He married her shortly after. Ripugna had some communications with San Francisco GBC Atreya Rsi dasa, who was also interested in helping Hansadutta spiritually.
Needless to say, this questioning of Hansadutta’s “perfection” was a very sensitive issue, and Ripugna may have been too vocal about it with Hansadutta’s other disciples in Berkeley. He and I became again associated with being “unfaithful” to our so-called guru or superior godbrother. Ideologically Berkeley temple was led by Rohini Kumar dasa, an early 2nd Ave temple devotee, and Kapilesvara dasa, also an early German temple disciple of Srila Prabhupada and the zonal men’s collecting party leader. Kapila was an especially heavy personality who was very dependent on his ten or so collectors having absolute faith in Hansadutta. In the confrontation Ripugna left the area, leaving me again associated with being a kind of traitor, all despite the boatload of facts implicating Hansadutta in all sorts of sin. It was clearly a theater of the absurd. At one point I resolved to leave the zone, packed up my belongings and walked down the mountain to Hopland where I could hitchhike to San Francisco temple on US 101. One of the first cars to pass by was the farm devotees going shopping in Ukiah. So much for my plan.
In September 1985 Kirtananananda “Swami” “Bhaktipada,” the so-called guru at New Vrindavana, West Virginia, was almost killed by Triyogi dasa when he hit Kirtanananda over the head with a solid steel curb construction stake. Hansadutta, who had become a devotee in 1967 after being preached to by Kirtanananda, took the news very personally, almost as if his sinful act of the recent past had caused the blow. Within days he journeyed to New Vrindavana, and shortly called for his disciples to come and join him in surrendering to Kirtanananda, “the real pure devotee.” Only a few of the Berkeley devotees resisted, although most at the farm did not go. In December a “raiding party” of ex-Berkeley devotees came to the farm to convince the farm devotees to join them, as well as to steal Srimad Bhagavatam sets from a shipping container. Bhakta Eric told them, “Don’t think the same thing that happened here (with Hansadutta’s sinful activities) won’t also happen there (with Kirtanananda).” He explained that if Kirtanananda was really a pure all-knowing devotee he would never have endorsed Hansadutta as a guru because it would involve him in misleading others. It took another 8 years for the truth to come out about Kirtanananda who was also a pedophile.
to be continued