Princes of the Zonal Acarya Kings – Part Two

BY: ROCANA DASA - 5.11 2018

On the Zonal Acarya king, Tamal Krishna Goswami

In this second part of our series on 'Princes of the Zonal Acarya Kings', we are discussing Tamal Krishna Goswami and his 'sampradaya'. First, I have to make a disclaimer: I have never worked directly under Tamal Krishna Goswami, either during the Zonal Acarya period, or during Srila Prabhupada's lila period. Of course, Tamal Krishna is larger than life, in the sense that he made his presence obvious to all his fellow disciples, and most of the details of his history in ISKCON are now well documented.

In this article, it's not my intention to go over the history of Tamal Krishna Goswami, or even to comment on his personality traits, about which much has already been written. He has departed and is no longer present in his body, it little more seems to need saying on that subject. What I am interested in establishing, in terms of the concept of the princes of the Zonal Acaryas, is Tamal Krishna Goswami's influence over his protégés, who were essentially trained up by Tamal and therefore adopted his mood and methodologies for managing and preaching. Their influence is still very much present in ISKCON today.

Directly after the leaders formulated the Zonal Acarya concept, Tamal Krishna Goswami was assigned his zone, which primarily consisted of the United States Midwest, including Chicago, St. Louis and Texas, as well as New York. He shared duties for the New York temple with Bhavananda. He was also in charge of parts of India, Fiji, Hong Kong and China.

Once announced as a Zonal Acarya, Tamal immediately embarked upon a program of recruiting and promoting his key men – those he felt could directly assist him in establishing himself as a great acarya. He initiated into sannyasa both Dristadumnya and Adi Kesava ('Adi the Kid'). Adi Kesava was put in charge of New York and caused great damage there. He was the primary contributor to the dismantling of what Srila Prabhupada had established in New York, selling the temple in Manhattan and dispersing the funds to places like the Lake Huntingdon school, which was also a big disaster. Bhavananda was involved in that project, as well. Some of the funds went to New Jersey, and to relocating the New York temple to another location, which was also a disaster. In due course that temple was moved to its present location in Brooklyn.

From my personal dealings with him, I can say that Adi Kesava was very arrogant, like his mentor Tamal Krishna Goswami. He definitely adopted all of the managerial techniques that made Tamal Krishna Goswami such a formidable and feared manager, but he never had the class that Tamal did. In addition, unbeknownst to many devotees, Adi Kesava was also a pathological liar. He constantly and obsessively fabricated stories about anything and everything, which made dealing with him essentially impossible.

Adi Kesava was also in charge of the Gita Nagari farm project in Pennsylvania. Although he was established enough to have had his own underlings, he never became a guru, because he fell down prior to the Zonal Acaryas opening guru-ship up, in the mid-80's.

Dristadumnya was a young, somewhat dynamic and attractive personality who fell victim, really, to Tamal Krishna Goswami's ambitions. Obviously, neither Adi Kesava or Dristadumnya had been ready for sannyasa, but that didn't discourage Tamal Krishna from encouraging them to accept it. It was the trend or methodology of the Zonal Acaryas to expand themselves in this way, by inviting their friends and cohorts to take sannyasa. The more saffron that appeared in their ranks, the more powerful the Zonal Acarya appeared to be.

Dristadumnya had a far less negative impact on ISKCON than Adi Kesava. After taking sannyasa from Tamal Krishna he later married. More recently he tried to make a comeback as one of B.V. Narayana's sannyasis, also without success.

Sivarama, was in Chicago at the time the Zonal Acaryas took over. He also took sannyasa under the Tamal Krishna Goswami zonal umbrella. However, he later abandoned Tamal Krishna, around 1979, moving to Jayatirtha's zone, just at the time Jayatirtha was falling down. Within a year, Sivarama was under Bhagavan's whammy.

Sivarama Swami is presently one of the big princes in ISKCON, although we can't say that he's directly descended from the Tamal Krishna Goswami lineage. He's more a combination of Bhagavan and Tamal Krishna Goswami in terms of adopting their mood and mentality.

Tamal Krishna Goswami was well known for his tendency to come up with bright ideas, and he actually got in trouble with his own lineage – the other Zonal Acaryas. In fact, he was one of the few Zonals that the other Zonal Acaryas reined in, taking away part of his zone. The U.S. Midwest, Chicago and St. Louis, in particular, were taken away from him because he ran afoul of Rameswar and some others whose name and fame were associated with book distribution. Rameswar was in charge of the BBT at the time when Tamal Krishna Goswami began advocating a new approach to Krsna Consciousness which involved the de-emphasis of book distribution, instead favoring a plan for the grihastas to live outside the temple, making money to fund ISKCON activities.

Tamal Krishna Goswami also had under his wing, as part of his 'sampradaya', Bhakti Caru. Right near the end of Srila Prabhupada's manifest lila, Bhakti Caru, who was then just a newcomer brahmacari from Bengal, joined Tamal Krishna's group of servants in supporting Srila Prabhupada during his last few months on this planet. Because of Tamal Krishna's influence Bhakti Caru also became a sannyasi, and eventually became what he is today – one of the big princes in ISKCON.

Bhakti Caru Swami can attribute much of his success to Tamal Krishna Goswami, who gave him his head start, giving him a place in the power structure that enabled him to become what he is today in ISKCON. The degree to which he adopted Tamal Krishna Goswami's management style is something I can't comment on, because I don't have direct knowledge, but there's undoubtedly a certain degree of influence there.

Giriraja Swami, who was the long-standing leader in Bombay, was also a close friend of Tamal Krishna Goswami's and helped Tamal get into Bombay as Zonal Acarya at the very beginning. The two remained friends, and Giriraja was heavily influenced by Tamal Krishna. In fact, when Tamal met his tragic demise, Giriraja Swami inherited a large portion of Tamal Krishna's personal wealth.

Giriraja had some legal problems in Bombay, then he was give South Africa as his zone. There was more trouble in South Africa, and he's now retired to Santa Barbara, California, with Tamal Krishna Goswami's wealth and supposed health problems.

Compared to some of the other Zonal Acaryas, Tamal Krishna Goswami really doesn't have any direct princes in his lineage. More secondarily, we can consider Bir Krishna Goswami, who took over Tamal Krishna's Fiji zone and many of his other areas, basically inheriting his own Zonal mood and mentality as a result. But Bir Krishna's lineage can instead be traced back to Hridayananda in South America, so he's also in the mixed category. Like others, Bir Krishna jumped from branch to branch, if you want to call these Zonal Acaryas 'branches' on Srila Prabhupada's ISKCON tree. I would consider them rotten branches, or branches that should be pruned from the tree, but as it stands today, some of these branches are being represented by ISKCON princes: the rich affluent swamis who are more princes than sannyasis.

So while he wielded much influence in the society, Tamal Krishna Goswami doesn't really have a direct lineage to anyone who is now considered a prince among the ISKCON princes or survivors of the Zonal Acarya kings. Sivarama Swami comes about as close as you can get to Tamal Krishna Goswami, while Giriraja Swami has waned, and has relatively little influence in ISKCON today.

As I stated in my first article in this series, we have never been given an accurate account of how the Zonal Acarya program came into being. None of the leaders have disclosed what happened in the meetings leading up to the Zonal system: who was outspoken, who was most adamant about establishing this program, or who was against it.

Linked to my last article is the 'Peons of Perfidy' video, which confirms my assertion that it was Kirtanananda was the real architect of the Zonal Acarya mood. In the video we hear him preaching to Jayapataka, basically articulating the Zonal Acarya position. Kirtanananda had been operating as a Zonal Acarya all along, even while Srila Prabhupada was here, and the others knew that he would continue on in that mood, regardless of what they all decided to do. They were either going to have to join him and adopt his views, which are stated in 'Peons of Perfidy', or risk being less successful than he appeared to be.

There's no question that Tamal Krishna Goswami had vaulting ambitions, and would be only too ready, willing and able to adopt this Zonal Acarya mentality. As history shows, he did just that. Of course, he was immediately faulted by many devotees for going overboard (which was his nature and personality) in establishing his own worship and position in the temples. It's my viewpoint that ultimately, he was simply too ambitious, too arrogant and too foolish to really set-up a dynasty in the same way the others did.

None of these Zonal Acaryas, not even the discredited and retired ones, or those who've gone off, outside of ISKCON – not even Hansadutta or Rameswar or Bhagavan – have ever been heard to reveal what went on during those few months between the time Srila Prabhupada departed and the time they launched their Zonal Acarya system. They obviously had many meetings with one another to discuss their plans. By the time they announced the official position they had taken, at the Mayapur festival GBC meetings in the spring of 1978, there had been plenty of get-togethers and strategy sessions. How much of a role Tamal Krishna Goswami played in all that, none of us can be sure. Only the Zonal Acarya participants themselves know the truth, and they're not talking.

I've discussed Tamal Krishna Goswami as the #2 Zonal Acarya in this series primarily because there's a whole nest that has developed around him in the society. But if you want to judge Tamal's influence in ISKCON today based upon who survived him as a prince of this original Zonal Acarya king, then Tamal Krishna would be far down on the list. Likewise, how much influence he had over the other Zonal Acaryas, and princes of the other Zonal Acaryas is also difficult to determine. To what degree they adopted his style and mentality we don't know, but suffice to say, Tamal Krishna Goswami was a formidable influence at that time.

Our next article in this series will focus on Bhagavan, who spawned some of the major princes operating in ISKCON today.