Mar 21, USA (SUN) — I want to inform the assembled devotees of my experience when visiting Philadelphia on a business trip. I in no way want to offend anyone and have struggled with my experience, and it has weighed heavily on my conscience ever since. I feel that Krishna wants me to write about what I saw and heard in an attempt to let the worldwide devotees know what is going on there.
My first experience was going to the local Govinda’s restaurant. I was obviously really excited that there was a Govinda’s, as any weary devotee traveler would be. I was completely dumbfounded by what happened. I placed an order at the counter after looking over the menu, which was a collection of various sandwiches which were made with different fake meats. It was rather expensive, but I figured that prasadam was worth it. I was looking around and saw that the cook was not wearing neck beads, and no one else there was wearing them either. The cook approached the counter and I asked him how long he had been a vegetarian. He told me that he wasn’t one and most of the people that worked there weren’t, either. I was floored!
Could you imagine, not only was the person cooking not a devotee, but he was also a meat eater! I asked him if the food was offered to Krishna and he looked at me like I was crazy. He told me that the boss was a Krishna, but he didn’t know anything about it.
I was absolutely flabbergasted. A restaurant that is run by a devotee (my friend told me his name was Hari ashva) and the food isn’t offered to Krishna. I mean, isn’t this Harekrsna 101 — you offer the food to the Lord? Obviously, this is impossible when there are non-devotees cooking it, what to speak of carnivores. I just couldn’t believe it and feel deeply that this is a total misrepresentation of the Govinda’s trademark, and devotees should know that the food is not sanctified. I can’t imagine a devotee not following this basic tenet and denying all of these poor people the opportunity to receive the Lord’s mercy.
I went to my devotee friend’s house, who I was staying with, and told him about what happened. He wasn’t shocked at all and told me that everyone knows what’s going on there. He then told me that this was the least of ISKCON Philly’s problems. He proceeded to tell me about Philly Food for Life.
Philly Food For Life is run by a Srila Prabhupada disciple named Dave Dobson (Devideva das). It is the farthest thing from what you would think it was. He runs, or ran, homeless shelters that actually, according to my friend, served meat! Not only was it not prasadam, but they actually gave people flesh. He told me that I could ask anyone about it. He showed me their website, which anyone can Google, and not one thing is mentioned about Krishna, vegetarian food, or prasadam. What is mentioned is a hodge podge of Mayavadi activities that would make a normal devotee’s head spin. Well, one search just gives a place called Minsec, that looks like an abandoned building. It seems to be a halfway house for prisoners. It’s shady, to say the least. Now they have bought this big mansion and, according to the website, it seems to be the furthest thing from Srila Prabhupada’s idea of what Food For Life is.
I asked my friend why devotees, and particularly Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu, allow this charade of Hare Krishna programs. He looked at me and told me that he wasn’t sure he wanted to go there. I persuaded him, and he told me what was going on at the temple.
He said that Ravindra Svarupa basically hangs with this young devotee disciple named Shraddha and travels around the country and the world totally alone with her. He said it was common knowledge and they were actually in India together, and had traveled alone. He said the whole congregation knows about it and is privately up in arms, but no one knows what to do. Shraddha goes around bragging that she and Ravindra Svarupa watch karmi movies together, and she is always alone with him and can be seen by his side at every moment. They go to North American GBC meetings and conferences together, traveling alone sometimes, so everyone must be aware of it.
He also told me that the temple is infested with bed bugs and a lot of people don’t go because of this. The asramas are filled with Bengali devotees who sell bhoga flowers in the train stations and leave in the middle of the night as soon as they get their greencards. One of them was literally caught watching pornography in the congregation office and nothing was done about it. Another one of them was caught smoking cigarettes and was still allowed to stay. He said that all of this could be confirmed by others. So I asked a few other devotees I knew, and they said it was all common knowledge.
After leaving Philadelphia, I felt extremely depressed. I have been thinking that this is where ISKCON is heading everywhere. There were some nice devotees there and I feel so sorry for them. This is all they have and where else are they going to go? Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu is such a brilliant devotee and it is disheartening to see that all of this is happening under his watch. I mean, these are very simple things, like offering food and flowers to Krishna. It’s hard to imagine that devotees don’t get this. And associating with matajis that are decades junior? What would Srila Prabhupada think? Food For Life serving meat? I mean, how low can Kali Yuga go? How can devotees, especially senior Prabhupada disciples, get this covered over and not see that these things are absolutely wrong?
I in no way want to offend and I think that calling a thief a thief, as Prabhupada said, IS NOT AN OFFENCE. Everything I said here, sadly, can be verified by anyone who wants to go to Philadelphia. I am praying that the devotees, including the ones mentioned, will forgive me for disturbing their minds and lives. I really hope that Krishna saves ISKCON Philadelphia. The city of Philadelphia is a terrible place, full of immense suffering, and it sorely needs the mercy of the Vaisnavas.
Chaitanya Simha dasa