Haha, well you definitely weren't getting the full rap then! I bet you were with Sridhar Maharaja; he was of a more philosophical bent, and in fact I remember enjoying his writings and insights a great deal back in the days. He was a man of a broader mind, while the same can unfortunately be said of very very few others. Oh, and I also enjoyed the biography of Radharaman Charan Das Babaji a great deal; a very broad-minded and enthusiastic saint, but then again he was hopping mad half of the time and I dig inspired free-floating freaks in general, so that just tells something about my personality rather than my perspectives on GV. (And he is of course among the heretics according to both IGM and the mainstream babaji folk -- even though the latter are being a bit more hush-hush about it these days for political reasons.)
At its best, fundamentalist and orthodox Gaudiya Vaishnavism can get about as divisive as a pair of scissors. You find the rabbit trail leading straight back to the likes of Krishnadas and Jiva, who both spiced their writings with very divisive and practically hate-inciting material (KD with his "who doesn't accept Chaitanya but accepts Krishna is a demon in this age" and all the spoof biographies that put down every other figure of his age before Chaitanya, and Jiva with his endless pedantry and diatribes against everyone before him who was able to write).
Rupa and Sanatana (that is, if you attribute HBV to Gopala Bhatta or take it as something didn't write of his own will) come across as more moderate, on the other hand, and I rather enjoy some of their works, beginning with BRS and the way Rupa took the old dramatic theory and redeployed it with a great deal of imagination. Chaitanya seems to also have been a fine inspirational figure with a good gig going on, but it's a bit hard to find him because the tradition buried him with megatons of sectarian biography to advance their own agendas. Needless to say I of course don't have too much sympathy for the GV strait-jacket (or straight-jacket) into which the good stuff was packed.
My personal background comes first from a local ISKCON temple and initiation from Suhotra, and service under a former army captain who took over the reins after ousting out the previous temple president; followed by their painting me black and booting me out after I reported Suhotra's abuses in quite some length; followed by my finding Narayana Maharaja, and you know the deal there; when I concluded that chapter by submitting some uncomfortable but legitimate questions, I was ousted and the entire Finnish congregation (whom I was organizing) were told to completely shun my association. That was followed by Radhakund and the über-orthodoxy of the babaji-tradition under several mentors (in hindsight, among whom Ananta Das Babaji was by far the wisest in my sense of the word, but also the oldest and busiest, which led me to seek additional guidance). Vinod Baba of Varshana is a genuine holy man whose company and broad heart I enjoyed a great deal. And that one grizzly babaji whom I followed at the end and who set himself up as a super-guru was the worst con man, abuser and criminal I've ever met in my whole life.
I like to think I got a a fair cut of the GV landscape along the way. I notice in your CV you were with Maharajas Sridhar and Puri; you got a really mellow ride there, I can tell you that much, just to get a bit of a context to your experiences contra those of many of us. If you weren't in Harikesa's zone in Central/North Europe for example, both during his reign and after his exit with the monies and the missus, you have no idea what kinds of tarballs ePiTau, Dhy, myself, Zanardi and others "in the zone" got served for their Hare Krishna love feast of spirituality and book production+sales. Did you ever go on a month-long marathon to pull 10 hours a day in -20°C freeze to be able to jump up and down before the dolls and celebrate the "lakshmi-point" readings "for them" while temple budget was having a chronic deficit? In general, we got it a bit harder in the Euroland ISKCON than you'd get in the Gaudiya Math anywhere (except if you joined full-on the Mahabhagavata Narayana Maharaja Nityasiddha cult and became one of their many dedicated groupies).
When I tried to render countless free services working my ass off and paying for everything, jumping wherever the kengurus told me to jump with faith that Krishna will take care of everything, I'm still 10,000 euro on the dark side from my GV times, and have an ex-wife in India hooked up with a babaji as his elite discipless, a babaji who practically forced the issue of our split by forbidding her to eat anything I cook or touch after I disagreed with him on some of his dealings, and she sure as hell won't be paying her half of the shared GV investments anytime soon. I also worked my ass off creating a 100 gig media library
to collecting countless threads of information
, building devotee support forums and attempting to network and support the GV devotees scattered the world around, yet I got next to no support or sense of solidarity from the audience of "spiritually advancing sincere devotees" (a handful of exceptions aside), and frankly got more of a sense of goodwill and gratitude from the local dogs I used to sit with to eat and share my madhukari almsfood. In the end, I was also booted out of my own GV support forums with an ultimatum when the word got out that I might not be a strict and straight GeeVee any longer. With all that, I lost my faith in the general sense that GV was a spiritually beneficial tradition, as I saw the pits of it in too many directions and in too many ways, and it looked like an ongoing pattern across the board.
So please don't mind if I have a bit of a larger echo base for repercussing about my GV experiences from over the years. I understand it's been more mellow for you, and I don't want to make you think otherwise of your good experiences; consider yourself very fortunate. Let's be reciprocal however, and let me ask you to also grant us the liberty to repercuss our experiences' worth to make more sense and churn some more worth out of all those years, or at least have a hearty laughter about how mad it all was, and give it a light-hearted twist back towards the forbidden cavities it emanated from.
We can have a separate GV appreciations thread if you like; I also want to keep a space for our repercussion jams, and I don't feel a need to constantly be pussyfooting around the holy cows because it thwarts straight-forward progressive dialogue and curtails the evolution of new angles and insights, as everyone will be wondering what others might say and think about what they post. Is that alright, sound like a sound idea?