News / Opinion
Recently there was a meeting with the leaders of the World Vaishnava Association – Vishva Vaishnava Raj Sabha (WVA -VVRS), where former Paramadvaiti Swami (Ulrich Harlan) was asked to hand over all the WVA Organisations formal documentation in his possession, after senior WVA leaders learned about his misconduct with dozens of his female disciples. He was also informed about his removal from all WVA positions which he currently held. Following his removal, a new Secretary was appointed.
Former Paramadvaiti Swami played a major role in the revival of the WVA in 1994 and in the following years, for which he gained a lot of respect and many friends in the Gaudiya Vaishnava community. His name is associated with the WVA, like Steve Jobs is associated with Apple.
Unfortunately in recent times, he tried to use (or shall we say misuse) the WVA, an Organisation which was originally founded by Jiva Goswami in the 16th century, to whitewash his misconduct. Since many of the Vaishnavas are/were his close friends as well, it was a difficult decision to expel him from the WVA.
The WVA leaders came to realise, that former Paramadvaiti Swami does not represent the values of their guru-varga at this point and thus cannot be associated with the World Vaishnava Association – Vishva Vaishnava Raj Sabha (WVA – VVRS).
Forgive and forget – forgive former Paramadvaiti Swami and forget his misconduct?
In a previous (also recent) WVA meeting, former Paramadvaiti Swami wanted to discuss the topic “Forgive and forget” with senior Vaishnava leaders. Forgiveness can only be asked from those affected. Similarly, when committing Vaishnava Aparadha, Krishna won’t interfere or forgive, because only the person who was offended can forgive.
It is unfortunate, that former Paramadvaiti Swami (Ulrich Harlan), who taught us these very principles, does not seem follow them himself. He is trying to utilise a respectable Organisation like the WVA to cover up his misconduct and to portrait himself before other Vaishnava leaders as a victim.
Meanwhile the real victims still suffer the consequences of his actions and face harassment from his zealous disciples. But it seems that former Paramadvaiti Swami only seems to care for his own forgiveness and hopes that others will forget what his victims won’t be able to forget their whole life.
To make things worse, his disciples search for Photo-opportunities at those meetings, framing former Paramadvaiti Swami with other senior Vaishnavas to show how apparently they support former Paramadvaiti Swami as a guru in good standing. According to our information, this behaviour was not welcomed at the last WVA meeting by the Vaishnavas present.
Since devotees worldwide associate former Paramadvaiti Swami with the WVA, we wanted to get this news out to you.
“One should not become a Spiritual Master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikari.” Nectar of Instruction, Text 5, purport
“Unless one is a resident of Krishna Loka, one cannot be a Spiritual Master. That is the first proposition. A layman cannot be a Spiritual Master, and if he becomes so then he will simply create disturbance […] So to summarize the whole thing, it is to be understood that a bona fide Spiritual Master is a resident of Krishna Loka.” Srila Prabhupada Letter, June 10
“There is no possibility that a first class devotee will fall down.” Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya, 22.71
“When one has attained the topmost position of maha-bhagavata, he is to be accepted as a guru and worshiped exactly like Hari, the Personality of Godhead. Only such a person is eligible to occupy the post of a guru.” Sri Caitanya-caritamtra, Madhya-lila, 24.330, purport
“… You are correct when you say that when the Spiritual Master speaks it should be taken that Krishna is speaking. That is a fact. A Spiritual Master must be liberated…” Srila Prabhupada letter to Mukunda, June 10, 1969
“Therefore, the conclusion is that a spiritual master who is one hundred percent Krsna conscious is the bona fide spiritual master, for he can solve the problems of life.” Bhagavad-gita 2:8
“The pure devotee is always free from the clutches of Maya and her influence.” Srimad Bhagavatam 5.3.14
Our new digital world has made it impossible to believe in infallible teachers. What comes next is up to us.
Changing cultural attitudes are not the only only reason that public revelations of institutionalized sexual abuse have been at the forefront of mainstream consciousness. Abuse is nothing new. What is new is the way it is being revealed to the public—and what the public is doing with the information.
In the following interview, Ursula Richard of the German magazine Buddhismus aktuell discusses with Pörksen the exposure and aftermath of scandals in Buddhist communities today and how we can understand the emerging role played by digital media.
Ursula Richard: In an article you wrote for the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit entitled “Demystified Gurus,” you speak about the end of the era of religious and spiritual heroes. In the past few years, in fact, a number of Buddhist gurus have been unmasked. Why is this happening so frequently just now?
Bernhard Pörksen: I see it as a media effect. In our age of digital networking, the authority of gurus or masters— something that was unassailable until recently—has become vulnerable. Suddenly anyone can compose a petition or post a description on blogs and forums of what has been done to them. What we are experiencing at the moment in Tibetan and Japanese Buddhist groups and at the same time in yoga schools and communities around the world is an implosion of spiritual authority.
Western sadhus are suffering!
So many vaisnava devotees living in western countries are struggling to maintain strict standards in their spiritual life. Living in western society is simply not conducive to Krishna bhajan.
The many devotees who have taken shelter in the holy places of India find it easy and pleasing to do their sadhana( spiritual practice) here.
Even though they have given up comforts of living in the West and undergo many difficulties, the biggest problem they face is that it the government of India has not helped them obtain long term visas, OCI or permanent stay.
On the contrary they face abuse and fear the government authorities they expected protection from.
These devotees number in the thousands and suffer continuously from neglect and lack of recognition of Indian government of the good work they are doing.
I personally know 2 different devotees who have started goshallas for protection of neglected or injured cows of vrndavan. I have seen some devotees who’s first language being English took so seriously to the path of Hindu dharma that have become experts in Sanskrit and translated many important scriptures into many western languages. I know devotees from western backgrounds who are so learned in Bhagavat and other vedic scriptures and can deliver amazing lectures in Hindi ,Bengali and other indigenous Indian languages. I have seen some devotees so renounced they sleep under trees or on the banks of holy rivers without hesitation.
I know devotees who go into deep jungles on the banks of Ganga to perform meditation and bhajan.
Do they not deserve recognition as pillars of Hindu dharma? Should not the government officials recognize the amazing faith and dedication to the path these great souls exhibit?
Now that PM Shri Narendra Modiji and other Dharmic leaders have come to power it is the desire of the devotees both foreign and Indian that these devotees recieve due protection under the now Hindu government.
These devotee are spending so much energy in preaching and teaching Sanatan dharm throughout the world. But their homebase should be holy Bharat.
Please help us bring this to the attention of the powers that be. I have faith that they will do the needful and surely receive the well wishes and blessings of the thousands of grateful devotees.
Let us protect the saintly no matter where they have taken birth.
On October 20, 1956, Srila Prabhupada described the qualities that he wished to invoke in the members of his new society, The League of Devotees:
“To evoke the qualities of ‘goodness’ particularly (Satwa-guna) in every member of the ‘League’ individually by the process of spiritual initiation (Diksha) by establishing him in the status of a qualified Brahmin (good and intellectual man) on the basis of truthfulness, forgiveness, equality, tolerance, education, purity, knowledge (specific and general) and faith in the transcendental service of Godhead.”
From the above description, we can understand that Srila Prabhupada wanted to create devotees of first-class character and behavior. He particularly mentioned the brahminical qualities of goodness as outlined in the Bhagavad-gita (18.42). These qualities are possessed by what Prabhupada called a “good and intellectual man.” In his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam (5.18.12), Srila Prabhupada listed the 26 qualities of a devotee in the following manner:
“Sri Krsnadasa Kaviraja, the author of Caitanya-caritamrta, says that all good qualities become manifest in the body of a Vaisnava and that only by the presence of these good qualities can one distinguish a Vaisnava form a non-Vaisnava. Krsnadasa Kaviraja lists the twenty-six good qualities of a Vaisnava:
(1) He is very kind to everyone
(2) He does not make anyone his enemy
(3) He is truthful
(4) He is equal to everyone
(5) No one can find any fault in him
(6) He is magnanimous
(7) He is mild
(8) He is always clean
(9) He is without possessions
(10) He works for everyone’s benefit
(11) He is very peaceful
(12) He is always surrendered to Krsna
(13) He has no material desires
(14) He is very meek
(15) He is steady
(16) He controls his senses
(17) He does not eat more than required
(18) He is not influenced by the Lord’s illusory energy
(19) He offers respect to everyone
(20) He does not desire any respect for himself
(21) He is very grave
(22) He is merciful
(23) He is friendly
(24) He is poetic
(25) He is expert
(26) He is silent”
Here we have a perfect description of the completely surrendered devotee. With such definitive information and criteria available, there is no room for speculating as to who is truly surrendered, and who is not. The good qualities of the demigods are automatically displayed in the character of a pure devotee. It’s not that he says one thing and does another; so there is no question of acting or posing in devotional service.
This morning I passed a mother and child on the street. I heard the mother say to the little girl, “I don’t want you to see me smoking.” She then stood behind a door and puffed on a cigarette, while shielding herself from the view of her innocent daughter. Unbeknownst to her, the mother had already given away her secret and had taught the child a good lesson in hypocrisy. This type of confused logic has been condemned by Srila Prabhupada in his purport to Bhagavad-gita As It Is (3.7):
“A sincere sweeper in the street is far better than the charlatan meditator who meditates only for the sake of making a living.”
The term, “No Hypocrisy Allowed” has been aptly utilized by the Bhaktivedanta Tape Ministry for the title of one of Srila Prabhupada’s lectures on the subject of honesty in Krsna consciousness. There is no sense in trying to imitate a pure devotee of Krsna because if one is not genuinely situated on that platform he will ultimately fall down to the material plane. The self-realized acarya is therefore worshipable by all conditioned souls, since he has achieved qualitative oneness with the Supreme. In the eleventh Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Lord Krsna tells Uddhava:
“One should know the acarya as Myself and never disrespect him in any way. One should not envy him, thinking him an ordinary man, for he is the representative of the demigods.” (S.B. 11.17.27)
As a pure representative of the Supreme Lord, Srila Prabhupada never accepted anything for himself. He did not enjoy the facilities offered to him by his disciples and followers. Those who had the good fortune to serve or spend time with Srila Prabhupada all attest to this fact. He was cent per cent engaged in the service of Krsna twenty-four hours a day. It was his total surrender and dedication to the Lord which inspired so much love and adoration in the hearts of his followers. Prabhupada not only talked the talk, but he walked the walk. Therefore he was — and always will be — so endearing to godly persons everywhere.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
by Satyanarayana Dasa
There are popular statements found in smṛtis and nīti sāśtra that women have eight times more kāma than men. For example:
kāmaśca aṣṭā-guṇaḥ smṛtaḥ
(Garuḍa-purāṇa 1.109.33, Hitopadeśa 2.71)
The word kāma in these statements is often thought of as sexual “lust,” giving the impression that śāstra considers women to be eight times more sexually lusty than men.
History and experience, however, seem to show just the opposite: that men have a lot more lust than women. Throughout history, female prostitution to satisfy the lust of men has been very lucrative. Men are willing to pay for sex. If women had more lust, wouldn’t it be they who pay men for sex?
The history of polygamy and harems also support the observation that men have more lust. The incidence of sexual crime further supports it. Every day there is news about women being raped by men, but how often do you read that a woman has raped a man?
Marriage also generally confirms the observation that men are sexually lustier than women. It is usually the wife rolling her eyes because she has to comply with the husband’s need (or demand) for sex.
These observations do not tally with the idea that women are eight times more sexually lusty than men. So, either sāśtra is wrong or it has been misunderstood. I suggest the second option.
The word kāma has various meanings besides simple sexual lust. It also indicates desire, an object of desire, affection, love, passion, cupidity, semen, an aphrodisiac, pleasure, amorous sport, the male organ, and a mango tree. It can even refer to Balarāma, Pradyumna, and others. In English also, the word “lust” has various meanings other than sexual appetite. It simply indicates strong passion for anything. For example, the famous, positive phrase, “lust for life” (indicating enthusiasm to live).
We therefore have to select the specific nuances of a word meaning that do not make a śāstric statement contradict other śāstric statements, and the verifications of anumāna (logic) and pratyakṣa (experience). Sexual passion is certainly one possible implication of the word kāma, but is that the meaning that tallies with other statements, and with logic and experience? No.
A far more reasonable meaning to select from the possible meanings of kāma is “strong affection.” In other words, this means that the quality of a woman’s love is eight times more intense than that of a man’s. This is supported by a story told that Bhīṣma told King Yudhiṣṭhira (MBh, Anuśāsana Parva, Ch. 12). Yudhiṣṭhira asked Bhīṣma, “Who gets more pleasure during copulation, the man or the woman?” In reply, Bhīṣma related a story about King Bhaṅgāsvana.
Bhaṅgāsvana was a pious king with no children. He performed the agniṣṭuta yajña to rectify this. A peculiarity of this yajña is that it does not include Indra. Because of this, Indra felt insulted and he planned revenge.
One day, the king went hunting in the forest. Indra made him confused and lost. He wandered alone and became tired, hungry, and thirsty. Soon, he saw a beautiful lake full of clean water. After taking his horse to drink, he himself entered the lake to bathe and drink water. To his utter surprise, when he entered the water, he was transformed into a woman.
As he (now she) looked at herself in the lake’s reflective water, she felt bewildered, ashamed and anxious. Her mind became blank and did not know what to do. “How will I ride the horse as a woman? How can I go back to my kingdom like this, what will my people think? How will I deal with my subjects now? As a king I was valiant and courageous, but the qualities of a woman are much different than those of man. Now I feel very soft and weak.”
Eventually, she mustered the courage to ride the horse and returned to the kingdom. When she arrived, everyone was astonished, because they could see that the woman was the king: riding his horse and wearing his clothes. The king’s wives and sons asked what happened, and she explained. Then she asked her sons to look after the kingdom and retired from royal responsibilities to live in the forest in the āśrama of a hermit. After some time she married the hermit and had another 100 sons with him.
Eventually, she returned to the kingdom to reunite with her older 100 sons. She introduced the younger to the older, asked them to cooperate peacefully, and returned alone to the forest āśrama. Her 200 sons lived happily together and cooperated peacefully. This made Indra very unhappy. “I wanted to harm the king,” he thought, “but I seem to have done him a favour.”
Indra decided to create an argument among the brothers. Disguised as a brāhmaṇa, he incited the kṣatriya men to hate the brāhmana men. Thus the 200 sons wound up killing each other down to the last, making Indra happy. Their mother wept bitterly and Indra, still disguised as a brāhmaṇa went to her and asked, “O beautiful lady, why are you wailing so bitterly? You are a renunciate, it is unusual for renunciates to cry.” She explained that she was once a king, who had been transformed into a woman and that she had just lost all of her 200 sons.
Indra relished the sight of her weeping and felt satisfied with his revenge. He revealed himself as Indra and explained that the king had insulted him and he therefore took his revenge by having her children kill each other. Hearing this, she fell at Indra’s feet and begged forgiveness. “I did the yajña to get children, and I did it under the guidance of my guru. I had no intention to insult you.”
Indra offered her a boon, “I can revive one set of your sons. Which set would you like me to revive?” The woman replied, “Please revive the sons who were born to me in this female form.”
Surprised, Indra asked, “Why do you have more affection for them?” “A mother’s love,” she explained, “Is stronger than a father’s.” Indra was very pleased. He revived all 200 sons and offered one more boon, “I also give you the option to regain your male form or you can continue as you are. Which form do you choose?” “I prefer to remain as I am,” she said. “I do not want to become man again.” Indra asked why. She replied, “I have enjoyed sex both as a man and as a woman. It is better as a woman.”
This story shows two appropriate implications of the word kāma in the statements saying that “woman’s kāma is eight times superior.” It shows that women love with greater intensity of affection and attachment. It also shows that women have greater capacity to enjoy sexual pleasure. It does not show that they are eight times more sexually agitated, but rather that they have eight times better capacity to enjoy sexuality.
Q&A with Satyanarayana dasa Babji, originally published at the Jiva Institute.
Question: I have been practicing bhakti for about 10 years and somehow I have become discouraged in my practice because of doubts, thus I am humbly asking for help.
First of all, since we are endeavoring for Goloka, is there a sign that confirms that one will go there after this life (and not after many), i.e., signs which indicate that this life is the last?
Answer: One needs to study one’s own mind. If one’s mind has no attachment to any material pleasures whatsoever, the mind does not brood over sense pleasures, and the mind is naturally attracted to the Holy Name, then such a person will not take birth again.
Question: Why do I often meet devotees who have mental sickness? Shouldn’t bhakti lead to mental clarity as a side effect?
Answer: You are right. Bhakti should remove the mental aberration. But one must engage in bhakti properly. This only proves that these people are not doing bhakti properly. Somehow you are meeting such people, but this is not the complete picture. There are many more devotees who are not mentally sick.
Question: It is a difficult topic but nowadays many bad things (lustful videos, etc.) are available on the Internet and my mind gets easily attracted to them.
Answer: Why do you watch them? Is someone forcing you to do it? There are also many good things on the Internet, many nice lectures, articles, essays are available. But if your mind is attracted only to bad things, then the problem is with your mind, and not with the Internet. You should first pinpoint the problem. Then you can hope to solve it. If you blame the Internet, then you are just trying to avoid the problem.
Question: I fear that this Internet may drag me down to hell. At the same time, I seem to not have any control over using it.
Answer: Internet is not dragging you down; it is your own mind. Hell is not somewhere else. It is in your own mind. Sri Krishna says that the mind is our enemy and the mind can also be our friend. At present, your own mind is your worst enemy. It seems that you are addicted to watching such videos, and that is the problem. Better you do something about it.
Question: What to do?
Answer: First you need to diagnose the problem. The problem is in your own mind. The first step is to know this. Then you can think of the next step. But if you do not take the first step, there is no second step. You can go on blaming the Internet and remain stuck in your problem. Better you get counseling from a qualified therapist.
Question: I have a question about causeless mercy. My understanding is that it descends upon a jiva, but then the jiva may accept or reject it. I am trying to understand the mechanism behind the jiva accepting or rejecting that mercy. I can see three possibilities for the jiva to accept the mercy:
(1) Karma. Good karma will be the cause of favorable attitude toward mercy.
(2) The mercy itself. There is no cause for the acceptance from the jiva’s side – all is coming from the mercy (it also includes the favorable attitude of the jiva).
(3) The jiva itself. The jiva accepts the mercy by a spiritual action, and there is no cause to it also. Both, the descent of mercy and acceptance are spiritual and causeless.
The problem with the first alternative is that everything depends on karma and bhakti is not independent in that case. With regards to the second option, there is no free will on the part of the jīva and everything becomes mechanical. And in the third option, there is a manifestation of the free will with bhakti remaining independent at the same time, i.e., the jīva starts to act spiritually, either by accepting or rejecting the mercy.
Is my analysis correct, and is there a fourth option?
Answer: It is option two. The soul does not make any such decisions. All decisions are made by the intellect, which is material. Mercy is an inspiration that comes by the grace of a devotee. It is a higher power and can overpower anything material. But this mercy comes in quanta. After one gets the first inspiration, then one’s conscious choice can influence one to accept the inspiration or reject it.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead / Krishna has all these fifty transcendental qualities in fullness as deep as the ocean. In other words, the extent of His qualities is inconceivable.
(1) Beautiful features of the entire body
(2) Marked with all auspicious characteristics
(3) Extremely pleasing
(6) Ever youthful
(7) Wonderful linguist
(9) Talks pleasingly
(11) Highly learned
(12) Highly intelligent
(15) Extremely clever
(18) Firmly determined
(19) An expert judge of time and circumstances
(20) Sees and speaks on the authority of Vedas, or scriptures
(28) Possessing equilibrium
(37) The protector of surrendered souls
(39) The well-wisher of devotees
(40) Controlled by love
(42) Most powerful
(45) Partial to devotees
(46) Very attractive to all women
(47) all-worship able
(50) The supreme controller.
Besides all of the above-mentioned fifty qualities, Lord Krishna possesses five more, which are sometimes partially manifested in Lord Brahma or Lord Shiva. These transcendental qualities are as follows:
(53) Ever fresh
(54) sac-cid-ananda (possessing an eternal blissful body)
(55) Possessing all mystic perfections.
Krishna also possesses five other qualities, which are manifest in the body of Narayana / Vishnu, and they are listed as follows:
(56) He has inconceivable potency.
(57) Uncountable universes generate from His body.
(58) He is the original source of all incarnations.
(59) He is the giver of salvation to the enemies whom He kills.
(60) He is the attractor of liberated souls.
Besides these sixty transcendental qualities, Krishna has four more, which are not manifested even in the Vishnu / Narayana form of Godhead, what to speak of the demigods or living entities. They are as follows:
(61) He is the performer of wonderful varieties of pastimes (especially His childhood pastimes).
(62) He is surrounded by devotees endowed with wonderful love of Godhead.
(63) He can attract all living entities all over the universes by playing on His flute.
(64) He has a wonderful excellence of beauty which cannot be rivaled anywhere in the creation.
The Absolute Truth is anandamaya (desiring to increase His joy), hence from His original form He expands and becomes many. These emanations from the Supreme Person are of two categories: full expansions and partially manifested expansions. The Lord’s various full and partial expansions and the Lord Himself simultaneously co-exist, only appearing to manifest under the influence of time. These expansions of the Supreme Being are known as Vishnu-tattva, and they are also Supreme Absolute Truth. While non-different from the Lord, the Vishnu-tattvas all accept their own role as Godhead in the mood of Servitor to the “original” Supreme Being. This relationship is the foundation of Vedic monotheism, which encompasses the inconceivable, absolute personal nature of the original Godhead.
The Supreme Being possesses two other expansive qualities known as Shiva-tattva and jiva-tattva. Together with Vishnu-tattva, these three qualities are representative of the Absolute Person’s internal, external and marginal energies. The Lord has expanded Himself as Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma, and we, the living entities, are also expansions. Like us, Lord Brahma is also jiva-tattva. Lord Siva is between Vishnu-tattva and jiva-tattva. And Lord Visnu is Vishnu-tattva. Vishnu-tattva, via media, and jiva-tattva – they are all expansions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Therefore we can summarize as
Lord Krishna. 64 qualities or 100%
Vishnu Tattva. 60 qualities or ~93%
Shiva Tattva. 54 qualities or ~84%
Jiva Tattva. 50 qualities or ~78%
This is the reason why Krishna is called Param Purushottam, Purnavatar or Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Reference from (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.3.29):
“Learned scholars in transcendental subjects have carefully analyzed the summum bonum Krsna to have sixty-four principal attributes. All the expansions or categories of the Lord possess only some percentages of these attributes. But Sri Krsna is the possessor of the attributes cent percent.
And His personal expansions such as svayam-prakasa, tad-ekatma up to the categories of the avataras who are all visnu-tattva, possess up to ninety-three percent of these transcendental attributes.
Lord Siva, who is neither avatara nor avesa nor in between them, possesses almost eighty-four percent of the attributes.
But the jivas, or the individual living beings in different statuses of life, possess up to the limit of seventy-eight percent of the attributes. In the conditioned state of material existence, the living being possesses these attributes in very minute quantity, varying in terms of the pious life of the living being. The most perfect of living beings is Brahma, the supreme administrator of one universe. He possesses seventy-eight percent of the attributes in full.
All other demigods have the same attributes in less quantity, whereas human beings possess the attributes in very minute quantity. The standard of perfection for a human being is to develop the attributes up to seventy-eight percent in full.
The living being can never possess attributes like Siva, Visnu or Lord Krsna. A living being can become godly by developing the seventy-eight-percent transcendental attributes in fullness, but he can never become a God like Siva, Visnu or Krsna. He can become a Brahma in due course.
The godly living beings who are all residents of the planets in the spiritual sky are eternal associates of God in different spiritual planets called Hari-dhama and Mahesa-dhama.
The abode of Lord Krsna above all spiritual planets is called Krsnaloka or Goloka Vrndavana, and the perfected living being, by developing seventy-eight percent of the above attributes in fullness, can enter the planet of Krsnaloka after leaving the present material body.”
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said Friday she will run for president in 2020.
“I have decided to run and will be making a formal announcement within the next week,” the Hawaii Democrat told CNN’s Van Jones during an interview slated to air at 7 p.m. Saturday on CNN’s “The Van Jones Show.”
Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran, currently serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She is the first American Samoan and the first Hindu member of Congress.
“There are a lot of reasons for me to make this decision. There are a lot of challenges that are facing the American people that I’m concerned about and that I want to help solve,” she said, listing health care access, criminal justice reform and climate change as key platform issues.
“There is one main issue that is central to the rest, and that is the issue of war and peace,” Gabbard added. “I look forward to being able to get into this and to talk about it in depth when we make our announcement.”
Rania Batrice, who was a deputy campaign manager for Bernie Sanders in 2016 and is now a top aide to Gabbard, will be the campaign manager, Batrice says.
In 2015, Gabbard, then a vice-chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, was sharply critical of its then-chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz for scheduling just six presidential debates during the 2016 primary election cycle. She later resigned her post as DNC vice chair to become one of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ highest-profile supporters, aligning herself with his populist economic message.
Gabbard has staked out anti-interventionist foreign policy positions in Congress. Her 2017 meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad drew widespread criticism. “Initially, I hadn’t planned on meeting him,” Gabbard told CNN’s Jake Tapper in January of 2017. “When the opportunity arose to meet with him, I did so because I felt it’s important that if we profess to truly care about the Syrian people, about their suffering, then we’ve got to be able to meet with anyone that we need to if there is a possibility that we could achieve peace, and that’s exactly what we talked about.”
Gabbard joins a quickly growing field of Democrats eager to take on President Donald Trump for the presidency.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced on New Year’s Eve that she was forming an exploratory committee for a presidential run. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro also formed an exploratory committee and is expected to announce his 2020 plans Saturday.
A number of other potential Democratic candidates, including heavyweights like former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, are currently weighing whether to run for president and are expected to announce their decision soon.