Ravindra Svarupa's Statement

Rochana Dasa

We were interested to read the response from Ravindra Svarupa to recent Sun articles regarding Radhanatha Swami and the New Vrindaban murders. For me and many other longtime members of ISKCON, Ravindra Svarupa's article exemplified the mood of the ISKCON GBC. His response was practically a cookie-cutter product of the Zonal Acharya era mood. Anyone who dares to question the leaders is immediately charged as being a "fault-finder", and is often threatened with ejection from the community of devotees-in-good-standing. If the challenge hits a real nerve, the devotee who dared to raise the question is pounced upon by one of the literary appointees of the GBC. Like Hridayananda, Ravindra Svarupa performs like a literary 'hired gun' for ISKCON. When ISKCON's hot button is hit, these two personalities are often called upon to respond, crushing the challengers with their philosophical brilliance.

Let's keep in mind the various ISKCON leaders who have fallen down and committed horrendous activities under the guiding hand of the GBC. In addition to Kirtanananda, there's been Jayatirtha, Hansadutta, Rameshwar, Bhagavan, and Harikesh, to name just a few of the bigger ones. Prior to the "official fall downs" of these individuals, if anyone had questioned or complained, as many are doing today about Radhanatha and other leaders from the New Vrindaban diaspora, they would have instantly been shot down, just as Ravindra Svarupa is attempting to shoot down Giri-nayaka and Janmashtami das today.

In fact, it's ironic that Ravindra Svarupa is writing this letter, considering the fact that he likes to tout himself as being the head of the 'reform movement', which helped to officially dismantle the Zonal Acharya system. All the things he says about people who find fault in others also applied to him during his participation as a reformer in the mid-1980s. At that time the limelight was on him, and the GBC were saying similar things about him that he's now saying about other devotees. He tells us that his memory is very sharp when it comes to the New Vrindaban murder trial that took place 15 years ago, but it obviously isn't so sharp when it comes to remembering the reform era. He now pats himself on the back for his bold actions in those days, and apparently doesn't see the hypocrisy of his situation.

According to Ravindra Svarupa, Mr. Stein concluded that Radhanatha was a very saintly person, because "everyone says so". But who is that 'everyone'? The residents of New Vrindaban, who were so bewildered they didn't know they were under the direction of a violent criminal and pedophile for many years? Or was 'everyone' the ISKCON leadership, who had a vested interest in Radhanatha not being implicated in the murders?

We're supposed to accept Mr. Stein's authority as evidence of Radhanatha Swami's character. Ravindra Svarupa says ISKCON's cooperation with law enforcement on the murder investigation began in 1987. The situation wound up in 1993 with the Winnebago Crisis. Let's not forget that during the period of time when Radhanatha was fully a part of the murder investigation and aftermath, which spans almost a decade, Radhanatha was considered persona non grata within ISKCON. In fact, his preaching work in India, primarily in Bombay, was really looked down upon by the GBC, and especially by those who were preaching in Srila Prabhupada's temple at Juhu Beach in Bombay. So for Ravindra Svarupa to now say that Radhanatha was a saintly person on the basis of Michael Stein's observations at that time completely contradicts ISKCON's own position on Radhanatha Swami. Ravindra Svarupa's statements in this regard are clearly tainted by political considerations.

Ravindra Svarupa states that Michael Stein had concluded based on his investigations that Radhanatha Swami was not implicated in any of the criminal activities at New Vrindaban. Yet in today's Sun article, Factual Errors by "Anonymous", who appears to have had a lot to do with the trial, we hear a different story. This individual was directly involved with both the attorneys and the FBI, and he testified in court himself. This is his statement:

"The U.S. Attorney and the FBI guys I spoke to were convinced there were other “fish” who escaped their nets in connection with this case."

In Ravindra Svarupa's article, he indicates that he remembers exactly what he said to Mr. Stein and to Tirtha. Of course, this is likely just a literary technique employed to make him look important and crucial to the whole circumstance at that point in time.

It's interesting to see how Ravindra Svarupa slyly insinuates that Radhanatha was "difficult", without coming right out and saying what everyone knew to be true at the time - that Radhanatha was hiding out in India. The FBI had to pressure him with the threat that he could never safely come back to the U.S. unless he showed up for a 'meeting' with them. Ravindra Svarupa covers himself on the "meeting" point by adding "or maybe an interrogation". Yes, maybe. There's no question that it was an interrogation, and Radhanatha was considered to be implicated at the time. We've already heard from persons directly involved in the murders that he was implicated -- that he was personally involved. But according to Ravindra Svarupa, we're supposed to have faith in Radhanatha Swami's saintliness based on what Mr. Stein supposedly had to say, ignoring the recent statements of people who were directly involved in the murder, who say it was Radhanatha that orchestrated Sulochana’s murder.

It's also important to note the genesis of these conspiracy allegations. This was obviously not a staged attack on Radhanatha. These disclosures came as the result of what was clearly a spontaneous thread of discussion - what the court would call "excited utterances". One after another, individuals who have apparently had little connection to one another for many years have come forward with this information. So for anyone to casually brush that aside on the merit of Ravindra Svarupa's arguments would be questionable.

Ravindra Svarupa tells us that Mr. Stein accepted a plea bargain, as though that were another indication of Radhanath’s innocence. But in today's Factual Errors article, a very different scenario is provided.

We should also remember how the U.S. judicial system works. Decisions on how and when to prosecute are not made simply based on findings of innocence or guilt. Every day, government prosecutors come up against America's toughest lawyers, which ultimately means that it's not always financially expedient to carry on prosecutions beyond a certain point. Like any businessman, the judicial officers weigh the cost-benefit ratios of each case. That's how it works. You hire a good lawyer and the prosecutors have to consider the economic factors -- how much time, money and personal reputation is at stake, and what are the risks vs. the potential benefits? Let's also keep in mind that Radhanatha did not simply rely on devotee legal representation, believing his innocence would protect him. As Janmashtami dasa points out, Radhanatha arranged to be protected by a high-powered lawyer.

Ravindra Svarupa states that "The government is not going to reopen its case". How is it that he has such absolute information about what the law enforcement officials will and will not do? According to the comments above, they did believe that other "fish" had escaped their nets. It's not that they had investigated and they felt totally confident that they had achieved and executed pure justice, the way Ravindra Svarupa is making it out to be. While he tries to reassure the rest of the movement that this case will never be opened again, he has absolutely no guarantee of this at all. It's just wishful thinking on his part, and dishonesty, because it can't be known to be true.

All it would take for this case to be reopened is for Tirtha to turn on Radhanatha, and for individuals like Janmashtami dasa and others with direct information and evidence, who never came forward during the investigation, to now publicly disclose what they know. All it takes is for the right new pieces to fall into place. Add to that the possibilities of political expedience, wherein the right political circumstances present themselves: somebody wants to be elected, or appointed, or wants to prevent someone from being elected. This case could be leveraged by someone in the system. Thanks to new technologies like DNA testing, cold cases are being re-opened all the time now. In fact, thanks to American television, cold cases have actually become trendy.

While Ravindra Svarupa states time and again in his article how much faith he has in the American legal system and their prosecuting attorneys, he apparently has no faith whatsoever in anyone who is concerned about this whole situation, and dares to question the GBC about it. Such persons are only interested in causing "distress, agitation, and misgivings". That's their only motive. At the same time, Ravindra Svarupa makes Tirtha Prabhu out to be practically a saintly person. His narration of events during the investigation, and Tirtha's intimate conversations with him, almost sound as though he's acting as Tirtha's guru, giving him all good advice. Now he tells us that Tirtha dasa is very wonderful, because he's taken shelter of the Holy Name. Never mind that Janmashtami dasa and Giri-nayaka dasa have also taken shelter of the Holy Name. That comparison doesn't matter - all that matters is that one prabhu doesn't challenge the ISKCON authorities, while the other two do.

And while Ravindra Svarupa is so moved by the importance of Tirtha having taken shelter of the Holy Name, we note that in the midst of the crisis, when Tirtha phoned him for help, Ravindra Svarupa's advice then wasn't that he simply take shelter of the Holy Name and pray to Krishna and Srila Prabhupada. He advised him to just cooperate with the prosecuting attorney, emphatically saying that "truth is the best prayaschitta". Not chanting the Holy Name or praying to Krishna in his heart, but cooperating with the government authorities and turning against Kirtanananda, despite the fact that Tirtha said it would be physically dangerous to himself to do so.

Ravindra Svarupa goes on to describe how he personally met Tirtha dasa. Now how is it that he took the time, energy and obviously we assume some of ISKCON's funds, to go and visit Tirtha and observe how he was healing from his wounds after being attacked? He tells us the story of Tirtha's having said "I belong in here", in prison for my crimes. Ravindra Svarupa concludes that Tirtha had reached such a high level of purification on the basis of this statement that he deserved all forgiveness from Krishna for killing two devotees. Then he goes into using our philosophy to essentially justify protecting Radhanatha and, of course, ISKCON's prison ministry.

It would be interesting to know just how many times Ravindra Svarupa has visited "Tirtha Prabhu/master" in jail. It must have been quite often, because according to him, Tirtha "clearly exhibits the symptoms of one advanced in sincerely cultivating the Holy Name." So what are these symptoms? Tirtha can't give up everything, because the State took it all away, so he has nothing to renounce. Is this a great solution for anyone who wants to make advancement in Krishna consciousness - to be sent to jail?

It is also fascinating to note the degree of direct, personal support Ravindra Svarupa offers to Radhanatha Swami in his article. Basically, he only states that Radhanatha "clearly exhibits the symptoms of one advanced in sincerely cultivating the Holy Name." That's the extent of the detail Ravindra Svarupa provides in his personal testimony.

As part of his so-called Vaishnava "siddhantic explanation" of how great Tirtha is, Ravindra Svarupa tells us that Tirtha personifies how all devotees should approach Krishna. Yet we heard directly from Tirtha just a few days ago, and got a very different impression. Here's the person who's supposedly chanting such beautiful rounds, yet the letter he wrote doesn't indicate that mood one little bit. He didn't forgive Janmashtami, and he didn't communicate any indication of remorse -- all the symptoms that Ravindra Svarupa is projecting onto this person. In his letter, Tirtha calls Janmashtami a "blasphemer", which is certainly a case of pot-kettle-black. Tirtha admits that he shielded Janmashtami, and given the fact that to this very day, Tirtha has not come clean and disclosed these circumstances to the public, let alone to the law enforcement officials, we can see that he is not yet remediated into the honest, blissfully chanting devotee Ravindra Svarupa would make him out to be. After attempting to defame him as a marijuana grower, Tirtha goes on to outright threaten Janmashtami, suggesting that he could make arrangements to have Janmashtami "interviewed" by the U.S. Attorneys Office if he continues his "moronic rantings". Does this sound to you like the mood of a humble, repentant Vaishnava simply absorbing himself in the Holy Name as he sits out his prison sentence?

Ravindra Svarupa obviously thinks so - enough so that he's willing to characterize Janmashtami and Giri-nayaka prabhus as having 'wandered into the quicksand swamp of fault-finding' for having raised questions and disclosed facts about the case. Ravindra Svarupa clearly infers that Janmashtami and Giri-nayaka are like the worst of the full-time fault-finders, members of the Ramachandra Puri sampradaya. Their only motive is to cause havoc within ISKCON, and this is an indication of some deep rooted mentality wherein they don't want to purify themselves. So they can just go on fault-finding all those pure souls like himself, and the GBC, and of course, Radhanatha Swami.

In his attempts to smash the ISKCON critic, Ravindra Svarupa goes so far as to describe Giri-nayaka dasa in the same breath as even Janmashtami, who by his own admission was implicated in the murders. Yet Giri-nayaka's only fault was that he asked the GBC to respond to the allegations against Radhanatha, all the while stating that he had not personally taken sides and was simply interested in understanding the GBC's position on the matter. By doing so, he unfortunately "fell into the quicksand". Ravindra Svarupa is essentially saying that fault-finding the GBC is worse than killing devotees and going to jail for life.

For Ravindra Svarupa to use the Holy Name as a weapon, and to claim that the Holy Name will not act on such fault-finding persons, is most questionable. He is essentially using the ultimate weapon against devotees. And this is his proclamation, as such a great spiritual leader -- that the Holy Name is not going to work for anyone who fault-finds the GBC.

Perhaps the most telling statement of all in Ravindra Svarupa's article is the last, wherein he essentially threatens Janmashtami and Giri-nayaka with death. Having already clearly told them that they were simply fault-finders, he now reminds them that by falling further into the quicksand swamp, they may be falling into mortal danger. He doesn't suggest that their spiritual lives will be in danger… he uses the term "mortal danger", which means the death of their physical bodies. So this is really a threat. On this note, he signs off by calling himself a "fallen servant".




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