There’s been a lot of commotion recently over the 500 or so tapes that the Bhaktivedanta Archives has yet to release, and I even helped promote the petition for them to just do it already. However, considering that we have so many recordings and that Krishna consciousness is conceptually simple, I would be surprised if there is anything being withheld that he hasn’t said somewhere else already. Of course without hearing the tapes one cannot be sure, but my main interest is the tapes that never made it to the archives.
I say that with a little reserve, because I don’t have absolute PROOF, however I’ve heard many devotees talk about some large number of tapes that went missing, apparently more than one batch. The most often number I’ve heard was about 150.
That’s hearsay, I know, certainly not the most reliable form of evidence, but there’s more. First consider the following conversation:
Tamala Krsna: We tape everything Prabhupada says. Everything he says, we tape, whether you’re here or not here.
Guest (3): No, I don’t want to talk on the machine.
Tamala Krsna: We’re not taping for any other purpose, but our Guru Maharaja’s words are very sacred to us, so we tape all the time, whether you’re here or not here.
>>> Ref. VedaBase => Short Dissertations — May 24-25, 1977, Vrndavana
Please take note of the date too, because it’s just a few days before Srila Prabhupada announced that initiations would be conducted by rtviks after his disappearance, and (not) coincidentally also just a few days before the frequency of available audio recordings of him radically dropped. It looks like a coup.d’ISKCON, and please read on to see why I dare suggest this.
Naturally Tamala Krsna was saying exactly what anyone would expect. Every morning devotees would chant, “My only wish is to have my consciousness purified by the words emanating from his lotus mouth,” that being Srila Prabhupada’s lotus mouth. These tapes would ensure that we could listen to Srila Prabupada practically forever, and others (like me) could hear him too. I’m grateful for these recordings, and so glad that they were so diligent in recording his speaking.
When the issue of tapes being withheld arose recently, it reminded me of a document I received last year that contained copies of the records of tapes from 1977 in the Bhaktivedanta Archives’ possession. Recently I decided to do some basic statistical analyses on these data. I think the findings are quite interesting.
Unfortunately the data I have are interrupted in two places, so I analyzed them in three groups that are still useful for comparison. First, the overall distribution:
The bar lengths represent the frequency of a certain number of tapes per day that are held by the archives, and third order polynomial trendlines are added to aid with visualization. For example, the tall red bar means that for May 28 to November 14, 1977, the Archives has zero tapes on over 56% of the days. One can also look at the absence of a blue bar over the zero column (to the left of the tall red line) and understand that from January 2 – 9, 1977, there were no days without tapes, or in other words, the Archives has at least one tape every day during that time period.
Notice that the first series, colored blue and dated from the beginning of January 1977, resembles a slightly irregular bell curve. A majority of days had 2 or 3 tapes. The second series, colored green and covering late winter 1977, is another bell curve skewed to a plateau shape. This again would be a fairly normal distribution. The third series, which is most interesting is not a bell curve at all. It is a sharp decline, indicating that on most days there are ZERO tapes and the overall shape suggests that taping was abnormally rare. Another explanation that seems more likely, given other circumstances briefly discussed below, is that some tapes were hidden or secretly destroyed. I have heard multiple accounts of devotees claiming some knowledge of that happening.
The first set, below, goes from January 2, 1977, to January 9, 1977. In this series there were an average of 2.875 tapes per day, with the most often number of tapes being 2, with that number on 37.5% of the days. Every day had at least one tape.
The second series, below, goes from January 22, 1977, to March 2, 1977, with an average of 2.375 tapes per day. In this group, we had a fairly even distribution of numbers of tapes per day, with five days without any tapes, eight days each with 1, 2, 3, and 4 tapes, and three days with 5 tapes.
The third series, which coincidentally went from May 28, 1977, to November 14, 1977, was the most interesting. In this time period there was an average of only 0.8 tapes per day. More than half the days (56.14%) have 0 tapes. The distribution was as follows:
Probably the most notable anomaly was that during one stretch (August 18 – October 1) there were 45 days in a row with zero tapes! In the 85 days between July 9 and October 2, there were only 15 tapes. That’s only 1.2 tapes per WEEK, compared to almost 2.5 tapes per DAY before the May 28, 1977, data presented here. Has a plausible explanation been given for the dearth of tapes at that time? This is precisely when I would expect Srila Prabhupada to be responding to questions about the July 9, 1977, document and elaborating on how he wanted initiations to be conducted after his disappearance.
One may assume that Srila Prabhupada was too ill to speak, but in Tamal Krsna Gosvami’s diary there is an entry dated 4 September 1977
which definitely contradicts that idea:
Prabhupada announced, “As soon as I get green card, I will go to New York.”
“How long will you stay there?” I asked.
“As long as you like.”
“Srila Prabhupada, you are just like a cow. You will go wherever we lead you, but you never stop giving milk.”
“That is because I am a surabhi cow. …”
It sounds like a nice discussion; too bad we can’t listen to it. Two days later the Vedabase shows there is a letter dictated by him indicating that he was at the Bhaktivedanta Manor, mentioning his frail health but is clearly very spunky and says he is looking forward to touring all over the world to see all his disciples and the temples again. Obviously he was speaking, so there must be another reason why there are no tapes.
I think Tamal Krsna Gosvami gives the real answer here:
“Actually Prabhupada never appointed any gurus. He appointed eleven ritviks. He never appointed them gurus. Myself and the other GBC have done the greatest disservice to this movement the last three years because we interpreted the appointment of ritviks as the appointment of gurus.” (December 3, 1980)
In order to scrap the rtvik system Srila Prabhupada established and institute a zonal acarya system instead, any relevant instructions Srila Prabhupada may have given would have needed to be suppressed. Don’t believe for a moment that Tamal Krsna’s confession was entirely honest. He could not have misinterpreted what Srila Prabhupada was saying. If he were fully honest, he would have said “fraudulently interpreted.”
A little over a year before Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance, he made this strong statement:
“Why this Gaudiya Matha failed? Because they tried to become more than guru. He, before passing away, he gave all direction and never said that “This man should be the next acarya.” But these people, just after his passing away they began to fight, who shall be acarya. That is the failure. They never thought, “Why Guru Maharaja gave us instruction so many things, why he did not say that this man should be acarya?” They wanted to create artificially somebody acarya and everything failed. They did not consider even with common sense that if Guru Maharaja wanted to appoint somebody as acarya, why did he not say? He said so many things, and this point he missed? The real point? And they insist upon it. They declared some unfit person to become acarya. Then another man came, then another, acarya, another acarya. So better remain a foolish person perpetually to be directed by Guru Maharaja. That is perfection.”
>>> Ref. VedaBase => Room Conversation — August 16, 1976, Bombay
Considering Srila Prabhupada’s obvious frustration with his godbrothers’ failed attempt to appoint gurus independent of any order from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, it is completely unbelievable that Srila Prabhupada would be negligent in the matter of giving clear orders on the subject of guru succession in ISKCON. Sometimes devotees say that the matter of guru succession was obvious, and that everyone knew whatever that particular devotee thinks. But it was certainly not obvious, and the proof of this was the fact that Satsvarupa, speaking on behalf of the GBC, felt the need to ask Srila Prabhupada directly:
Satsvarupa: …Then our next question concerns initiations in the future, particularly at that time when you’re no longer with us. We want to know how first and second initiation would be conducted.
Prabhupada: Yes. I shall recommend some of you. After this is settled up, I shall recommend some of you to act as Officiating-Acaryas.
Tamala Krsna: Is that called Rtvik-Acarya?
Prabhupada: Rtvik. Yes.
(May 28, 1977)
If the GBC already knew the answer to this based on Srila Prabhupada’s prior teachings, then they would not have wasted his time asking that. I’ve read the complete conversation on that topic many times, and for a long time I just found it incomprehensible. My impression was that the discussion seemed like their communication was broken, almost incoherent, like Srila Prabhupada and his disciples had different ideas in mind and could not bridge the gap. I remember when I would get to the point where Tamal Krsna said “That’s clear,” and I would practically exclaim “What?! That’s not clear at all!” Then last year I finally got a clue about this and it all made sense.
I don’t know how it happened, but in 1997 the GBC passed a resolution to have this tape examined by a forensic specialist, and they employed Norman Pearle for the job. It was the same year that Mr. Pearle was recognized as “NAIS High Tech Investigator of the Year.” (http://www.pimall.com/nais/n.perl.html)
Mr. Pearle had this to say about the tape:
“In conclusion, this recording exhibits strong signs suggestive of falsification. I do not believe that these deficiencies might possibly be the product of some mechanical process or problem within the recording or duplication process and I believe that they exist at what is considered to be a higher degree than that of a coincidence. I strongly recommend that an independent Forensic Analysis be conducted the Master recording in order to determine the authenticity and originality of the evidence. This analysis requires what is represented as the original recording and the original tape recorder upon which this recording was represented to be made.” (September 22, 1997)
This was the so-called “Appointment Tape” that the Zonal Acaryas claimed gave them the seats as Srila Prabhupada’s authorized successors. It should be no great surprise that the tape was not made available to the devotees until several years after the so-called Zonal Acaryas had taken their thrones, nor is it a surprise that the GBC did not heed the investigator’s advice to provide the ORIGINAL tape and equipment for a more conclusive analysis.
Despite the fact that serious doubt about the integrity of the tape has been raised through professional forensic analysis, it still has some validity in the sense that an impeached witness can still incriminate himself. In other words, “anything you say can be used against you,” although a criminal suspect’s words in their defense are not necessarily trustworthy. Even though this tape that GBC apologists have called the “appointment tape” has been disqualified for supporting their position, they continue to quote from it out of context as if it were reliable. Still that is not a problem for their opponents, as Srila Prabhupada’s begins by indicating that initiations after his disappearance were to be conducted by rtviks and concludes by saying that they could become regular gurus only on his order, an order which he apparently never gave.
Considering all these facts along with many others too numerous to mention, I find it impossible to believe that the Zonal Acaryas erroneously thought Srila Prabhupada had appointed them as his successors. It was fraud and an almost unimaginable offense against the parampara. As stated by Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur, “apujya yatra pujyante pujyanam ca vyatikramah. (In the place where those who are not to be worshiped are worshiped, there is offense to those who are actually worshipable.) and “pratibadhnati hi sreyah pujyapujya-vyatikramah. (Improperly understanding who is to be worshiped and who is not to be worshiped will impede one’s progress in life.)” >>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 10.74.30
They say there was reform, and many devotees want more reform so that anyone can become guru if they can somehow get an aspiring disciple, but none of it was authorized by Srila Prabhupada within ISKCON. Srila Prabhupada’s order was abandoned practically as soon as his body stopped breathing, just as leaders ignored many of his orders even before. Said Tamal Krsna, “Guru, oh wonderful! Now I am guru, and there is only eleven of us.” (December 3, 1980) So now there are many gurus, and many have fallen, but none were appointed by Srila Prabhupada. Nor is the GBC authorized to appoint or vote for them. “A guru can become guru when he is ordered by his guru. That’s all. Otherwise nobody can become guru.” (Srila Prabhupada Bg. Lecture. October 28, 1975)
So now I look back at the Bhaktivedanta Archives’ collection and it makes perfect sense why there are only fifteen tapes in the 12 weeks following July 9, 1977. Unfortunately it leaves to the imagination exactly what Srila Prabhupada was saying then, but any sane person would expect that he had been giving instructions on how to manage ISKCON after he was, as Satsvarupa put it, “no longer with us.” Considering so many corroborating facts, including:
- Srila Prabhupada’s response to that May 28, 1977, question, saying “officiating acarya… rtvik, yes.”,
- the forensic report saying that recording “exhibits strong signs suggestive of falsification,”
- the content of the July 9, 1977, letter, with its opening reference to the question of initiations after Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance,
- Srila Prabhupada’s apparent choice to not name any successor acaryas,
- Srila Prabhupada’s criticism of his godbrothers’ disobedience to their guru in the matter of succession,
- the obvious desire of the 11 appointed rtviks to illegitimately capture the title of acarya,
- numerous self-appointed and voted-in guru fall-downs,
- the extensive corruption in ISKCON’s history,
- one devotee’s testimony of personally hearing Srila Prabhupada say in early July that he wanted the rtvik system to continue,
- various reports devotees have given about tapes that disappeared,
- Tamal Krsna’s assertion that everything Srila Prabhupada spoke had to be recorded,
- proof that Srila Prabhupada was speaking and even travelling during the period of no tapes,
- and many other facts,
…the conclusion becomes obvious. These tapes are gone because that was necessary for railroading Srila Prabhupada’s order for initiation to be conducted by rtviks on his behalf and the creation of false acaryas instead. The next question is what to do about it.
P.S. Source Data is available for download here: Source Data (232)