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GBC Gathering in New Vrndavana

Tuesday, 05 June 2007 / Published in Editorial, GBC, Praghosa Dasa / 6,320 views

By Praghosa Dasa

Day 1

As part of their ongoing effort to develop a strategic blueprint for ISKCON’s future, the full GBC body gathered at the New Vrndavana community surrounded by the beautiful Appalachian hills of West Virginia.

The first session of the first day commenced with a reconfirmation from the body that notwithstanding their other duties and services, they recommit to the task of completing the above mentioned blueprint. While the body did confirm its dedication to this process, they also clearly recognized the need to include other ISKCON members in this important work.

Following that reconfirmation each committee chairperson from the six committees established at the first of these extra curricular GBC meeting in Italy last October, gave a report of their committees progress.

Just to recap – those six committees are:

* Srila Prabhupada’s position

* Parallel lines of authority and guru issues

* Succession and leadership training

* Preaching strategies

* GBC team building

* Constitution, job descriptions and leadership assessment

There were varying degrees of progress achieved since the last GBC meeting in Mayapur, this progress was reported by the different groups to the plenary body. Probably the most comprehensive progress achieved to date was from the committee dealing with the constitution. That said, significant work has been done by all the groups and the overall mood was that a lot has been done but there’s a lot more to do.

In the afternoon the committees met separately to collate all the work done to date and to set targets for their future efforts, ultimately bringing their work to completion.

Day 2

Day two began with the committees again meeting separately to continue their deliberations. In the afternoon there was a plenary session and some of the committees reported back to the plenary, while also seeking feedback and direction from the body.

The constitution committee took the lions share of that plenary time, and it is becoming very evident that drafting a constitution is a huge body of work. The core committee will be co-opting other members (this process has already begun) and will also be consulting far and wide for input and feedback on their work.

It was also clear from their report that they are delving deeply into all aspects that a constitution needs to cover. While the desire is to produce a ‘user-friendly’ document, it is pretty obvious that in addition to the user friendly document there will need to be a considerable set of back up documents to explain in detail all the issues dealt with in the core document.

Issues such as:

– Ensuring that the constitution reflects the mood and mission of Srila Prabhupada
– The balance between rights and responsibilities
– The rule of law vis a vis the constitutional framework and how it will be upheld/enforced
– Is a constitution viable in the absence of an independent judiciary?
– What would the relationship be between an independent judiciary and the ultimate managing authority – the GBC?

Establishing a culture of equal opportunity and a level playing field, while maintaining the natural system of vaisnava etiquette and spiritual authority
Defining all the different categories of membership
Defining both the financial accountability of members and the authority of members to raise funds on behalf of the society

We then had a report from the Parallel Lines of Authority committee who also raised questions that were closely connected to constitutional issues. In particular the issue of the potential conflict between financial accountability/reporting and the Vedic tradition of brahmanas begging alms

The session concluded with a sweet kirtan

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2 Responses to “GBC Gathering in New Vrndavana”

  1. Akruranatha says :

    I remember Krishna Dharma Prabhu writing about the need for an ISKCON constitution some time ago (at least 12 or 13 years ago). I remember thinking at the time he made sense, but my memory is a little fuzzy about all the reasons and arguments pro and con. (I don’t even rember if I heard any “con”)

    It seems the GBC is now working very seriously on creating some written constitution for ISKCON. This could be a good step in addressing some needs of a growing movement, for example to form the basis for a system of canon law and ecclesiastical polity.

    [In the U.S. at least, the freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has been interpreted to prevent the secular government from interfering in churches’ internal affairs under certain circumstances. Churches get to decide for themselves how they will be governed and constituted, how members and officials of the church can be recognized, appointed, expelled, etc. Sometimes the existence of an established ecclesiastical method of resolving internal church disputes severely limits the extent to which U.S. courts can intervene in resolving questions of property ownership, investiture or ordination, excommunication and so on.]

    Has the GBC or anyone else commissioned a paper or article explaining why a constitution is needed at this time, and the pros and cons (if any) to be considered? Are there any official statements in that regard available on the internet?

    What is being constituted, exactly? A church, I suppose. Right? ISKCON is kind of a church, isn’t it?

    I mean, in addition to being a branch of a particular sampradaya, ISKCON seems to have the characteristics of an organized church, with a mission to fulfill various desires of Srila Prabhupada on the earth.

    ISKCON has its own system for insuring a certain amount of decentralization and scope for innovation and individual initiative of seperately run centers and programs, as many churches do, but it still has an ultimate managing authority in the GBC as established by Srila Prabhupada.

    The U.S. Constitution of course was aimed at constituting a new Federal government for a group of 13 separate states which had entered into a confederation that was felt, by the Federalists, to be too week and decentralized. The framers wanted to establish the basis of the government of a modern political nation state. They said so in the “preamble”, setting forth the various purposes for which the constitution was being adopted.

    Is there going to be an equivalent statement of the reasons for which the ISKCON constitution is being created, and the purposes and needs it is intended to fulfill?

    I am sure much thought has been given to ISKCON’s place in the history and contemporary practice of Vaisnavism in general, and our sampradaya in particular, as well as Srila Prabhupada’s own instructions regarding how ISKCON is to be constituted, organized and governed. Can anyone recommend any articles or official statements about these topics?

    Any thoughts by anyone on these topics?

  2. Vrindavan Lila Dasi says :

    this controlling mood is gone far to far… Constitution? It is constitutional RIGHT of every living entity to serve Krishna and to endevour to come back to Krishna. Any other “constitution” will simply make ISKCON into a sect, thus defitting the preaching purpouse of this movement.
    Control kills the movement, in order to control nicely things are kept as still as possible.
    Movement is in PEOPLE who already have the “constitutional” right given by Krishna to be devotees.
    Please do not kill this movement even more.