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Nine Reasons to Change the Design of the TVP

Friday, 22 August 2008 / Published in Appeals / 28,873 views

By Tattvavit Dasa and Janaki Ram Dasa

The 3-D animation of the current Capitol design of the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium (TVP) has been viewed more than six thousand times:

http://www.dandavats.com/?p=5543

One reason for this U. S.-Capitol design is that land planned for the previous and larger Indian-style temple is temporarily unavailable from the government. Only five acres between the puspa-samadhi and the long building in Mayapur are now available. Another reason is the cost of the Indian-style temple. So there were two alternatives:

(1) scale down the Indian design and modify it to cut the cost and
(2) make a totally new design.

Ambarisa Prabhu and the design team chose the second option. Recent discussions have suggested to us that this choice is problematic.

We have therefore submitted a GBC proposal, sponsored by Bhanu Swami, to change the design of the TVP. It has been given to the Executive Committee of the GBC in the hope that it will be put on the agenda of the GBC meeting in October.

Giriraja Swami wrote to us: “I too have heard many devotees express dissatisfaction with the present design, and I encourage the GBC to reconsider the plan.”

We are now trying to determine, before the October GBC meeting in Mumbai, whether or not the majority of devotees and leaders in ISKCON approves of the Capitol design and thinks it is what Srila Prabhupada really wanted; if it is not, then the GBC, in consideration of the devotees’ and leaders’ disapproval of the Capitol design, can take advantage of its last opportunity to change the TVP design.

Do you find the U. S. Capitol design suitable for the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium, or do you want it changed? Please read the following information and then vote using the ballot provided. And forward this message to free forums in your country or have it translated. It is urgent, in our opinion, that the GBC reconsider, before construction starts, what design will best fulfill Srila Prabhupada’s desires for the Mayapur project.

All of us appreciate Ambarisa Prabhu and his team’s dedicated service. As the backer and the planners of the Capitol design, they understandably hope to construct the TVP within their lifetimes, and they deserve respect for wishing to fulfill Srila Prabhupada’s desire as soon as possible. However, it is not clear that changing the design would necessarily have to delay the TVP for very long.

Our position is that the decision to build the current, Capitol-inspired temple should be changed in favor of a first-class Indian design.

NINE REASONS TO CHANGE THE DESIGN OF THE TVP

1) Srila Prabhupada, in mid-1976, made three brief statements (added at the end of this file) which suggested that the TVP should look like the U. S. Capitol. But he never insisted that the latter must be its exact model. He said only that the TVP, like the Capitol or the Victoria Memorial, should have a big dome. Five years before these statements, Srila Prabhupada approved Ranchor Prabhu’s very different design for the TVP, and after the statements he did not object to, and seems in fact to have approved, Saurabha’s Indian design; he allowed Saurabha to make a model of it and to display it outside the Lotus Building. It is therefore unclear to what extent he really wanted the TVP to resemble the U. S. Capitol. Hari Sauri Prabhu describes, in Transcendental Diary, Srila Prabhupada’s “extreme enthusiasm” for Saurabha’s drawings of an Indian design, in January 1976 – the very drawings that resulted in the model that was put on display. We are on safe ground if we give priority to Srila Prabhupada’s direct statements about the architecture of the TVP. The problem is that there are not many such statements. The brief and never repeated ones about the Capitol dome, at least two of which were made in the course of long conversations about other things, are supportive only of the idea that the TVP should have a big dome similar to that of the U. S. Capitol, to the extent of being a dome and big. This being the case, the exact nature of the dome should be decided on the basis of other related instructions Srila Prabhupada gave in his works. Such instructions of course suggest that the architecture should be Indian. Srila Prabhupada said that the whole world will come to Mayapura to see “the architectural culture, they’ll come to see the civilization culture, the philosophical culture, the religious culture.” (Feb. 28, 1976, Mayapura)

2) The purpose of the planetarium, to display the Vedic cosmology, is thwarted by the U. S. Capitol design. The exterior is the first impression people will get, our first statement to the public, and it will be the only one on many pictures. But people will be puzzled as to what it is. It looks like a government building rather than a temple. With an added crescent moon and star or a cross on top of the dome it could be taken to be a mosque or a church. And Western Renaissance and neoclassical architecture symbolize a different worldview than the one the planetarium temple has as its purpose to display. The architecture represented by the U. S. Capitol was partly inspired precisely by the modern Western scientific cosmology to which the Vedic planetarium is intended to provide an alternative.

3) The design is eclectic, i. e., it represents a poor, artificial, external combination of disparate – Western and Indian – architectural elements rather than a mature, integral, credible synthesis.

4) The design’s combination of Eastern and (predominantly) Western architectural elements is considered by some to symbolize the synthesis of East and West – explained metaphorically as the cooperation of a lame and a blind man – that ISKCON as a whole is often seen as representing. But this view of ISKCON is problematically one-sided. Although the idea of East-West synthesis, and its architectural and other symbolization, is relevant in the West, it is less so in the most important dhama of Gaudiya Vaishnavism in India and at ISKCON’s international headquarters. Srila Prabhupada’s samadhi already includes Western architectural elements to an extent that is controversial to some, but since it is relatively successful as an East-West stylistic synthesis in comparison with the current TVP design, this may be acceptable as a symbolization of Srila Prabhupada’s personal prioritization of the West, in the sense of his choosing to first take Gaudiya Vaishnavism there. Yet the mission of Srila Prabhupada is a global one, bringing Gaudiya Vaishnavism to all cultures and civilizations, and thus producing also other syntheses than that of the East and the West (and the East of course includes other cultures than that of Hindu India). It would therefore be wrong to symbolically link the whole of the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition to the West, as the current TVP design does. The TVP should represent, neutrally in relation to all other cultures, only the Vedic tradition in the language of its architectural form.

5) The current design gives misleading American and Disney associations and connects ISKCON with problematic, arrogantly imperialistic American politics and culture – problematic not least in view of the spiritual mission of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. The U. S. Capitol is of course a Western architectural masterpiece, as are even more the European domed buildings, like Brunelleschi’s Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence and Michelangelo’s St. Peter’s in Rome, from which the designers also draw inspiration. The U. S. Capitol was also built at a time when the U. S. A. represented other values and ideas. But the very idea of building today a temple resembling the U. S. Capitol in Mayapur, India, is Disneyesque, and the kitsch features of the design add to this impression. The design will reinforce and consolidate the view of the critics who regard ISKCON as an all-American sect. The assertion by Hari Sauri Prabhu (see Dandavats) that American culture has conquered the world even suggests that the associations and the critics’ view are correct. (ISKCON’s Western leaders may even be pushing their Capitol design on the Mayapur management without its support.) The design will compromise ISKCON and diminish its, Srila Prabhupada’s, and Ambarisa Prabhu’s reputations. This central ISKCON temple should instead express only the integrity, the authenticity, the unadulteratedness, the primordiality, the bona-fidelity, the authority, and the beauty of the Vedic tradition, on which Srila Prabhupada always put so much emphasis – and which ISKCON must, to a much greater extent than today, be seen as representing in the rest of the world.

6) Tourists will want an Indian-style temple. If they want to see Renaissance and neoclassical architecture, they go to Florence, Rome, Paris, London, or Washington and get the real thing.

7) Much work has already, with the support of Ambarisa Prabhu, been done on first-class Indian designs. Locating the temple in a congested area is architecturally far inferior to surrounding it with open space, and building it without provision for creating a tourism infrastructure will defeat the main purpose of attracting and hosting visitors, especially international tourists. Our efforts to overcome the current obstacles to acquiring land from the West Bengal government have been frustrated, but ISKCON’s influential members in Mumbai, Delhi, and Calcutta could become involved in negotiations with this government. Support might even be gained from the central government of India since, with the mentioned Indian designs, the project can be presented as being of even greater national importance than the Swaminarayan Akshardham in New Delhi; the government-approved Swaminarayan project did not involve a vast international community of foreigners friendly to India, as our TVP project does. A world-class Indian design, produced by the best professional architects, would be a cultural and religious project of historical importance, fulfilling in its grandeur Lord Nityananda’s prophecy. That is the only kind of project worthy of Mayapur and of Srila Prabhupada.

8) If, for some reasons, the temple must be built on the Lotus Park, one of the previous designs could be scaled down, or a new Indian one of the required size could be produced within a year or two.

9) Dina Bandhu Prabhu said (on Dandavats) that he has “not met a single person who likes this design, and a lot of people come through Vrindavan,” (Dina Bandhu lives in Vrindavana). Other reports confirm that there is widespread dissatisfaction with and opposition to the design in ISKCON. But most opponents do not speak up because they tend to think that something is better than nothing. We argue that this is not always true, and that it would be better to postpone realization of the project until the requisite land and funding for one of the previous Indian designs is available, or one of them is scaled down, or a new design of similar quality is available. The many who dislike the U. S. Capitol design have no reason not to speak up, and we hope they will do so now, before construction begins, and thus help persuade the GBC to change its decision on this centrally important issue.

VOTING

Please answer this email or reply to tattvavit.acbsp@pamho.net< if you wish to vote. You can use this ballot:

1) I approve of the present design.

2) I disapprove of the present design, but I will go along with.

3) I disapprove of the present design, but I am willing to keep the same basic structure, with some substantial improvements that minimize the controversial features.

4) I disapprove of the present design, and I am only in favor of a change to a better design, which will not delay the project more than a year or so.

5) I disapprove of the present design, and I am only in favor of a change to a better, Indian design, which will not delay the project more than a year or so.

6) I disapprove of the present design and prefer that nothing be built in the Lotus Park now and that ISKCON wait until a better design is made and/or better land is available and/or some other condition is met.

–Your servants, Tattvavit Dasa and Janaki Rama Dasa

SUPPLEMENTARY DOCUMENT: QUOTATIONS FROM SRILA PRABHUPADA

Srila Prabhupada on the TVP in relation to the U. S. Capitol

There are three brief statements in the Vedabase.

1) In 1976, Srila Prabhupada was visiting Washington, D. C. and he was impressed by the U. S. Capitol. He asked Yadubara and Visakha to photograph the building, inside and outside to “have picture, planetarium in Mayapur.” It was not clear in what way the photographs were to be used or what the instruction meant regarding the Vedic Planetarium.

Prabhupada: . . . I wanted both of you to take various detailed photographs of that Capitol.
Yadubara: The Capitol Building. For what purpose, Srila Prabhupada?
Prabhupada: We shall have picture, planetarium in Mayapur. [break] . . . spiritual world, material world, and so on, so on. Planetary . . . succession of the planetary systems, everything. A building like that.
Yadubara: That would be a separate building from the temple?
Prabhupada: Yes. We are acquiring 350 acres of land for life for constructing a small township . . .
Yadubara: I think we . . .
Prabhupada: . . . to attract people from all the world to see the planetarium.
Svarupa Damodara: Is this near the temple?
Prabhupada: Yes. Planetarium name, actually it will be temple. But all round, things will be . . . anyway.
Yadubara: I know before the idea was to have it inside the main temple.
Prabhupada: Hm?
Yadubara: As you walked up the outside of the, or the inside of the main temple, inside that dome, they would have it on the walls. But that would . . . That original plan was to have it inside the main temple.
Prabhupada: Yes. You take all details, inside, outside. That will be nice.
Svarupa Damodara: Can you take inside? Is it allowed?
Yadubara: Yes, I think so.
Ref. VedaBase / Room Conversation, July 6, 1976, Washington, D. C.

2) The next day, Yadubara and Visakha returned, having taken the photos, and Prabhupada asked that copies be sent to the Mayapur GBC, the architect, and himself. It is still not clear for what purpose the photos are to be used.

“Srila Prabhupada had his noon massage as soon as we arrived back in Potomac. Yadubara prabhu came along to report that he and his wife had taken about twenty-five photos of the Capitol. Prabhupada was pleased they had responded so quickly to his request. He asked for three sets to be developed: one for himself; one to be sent to the Mayapur GBC, Gargamuni Swami; and one for our architect, Saurabha prabhu.” Ref. VedaBase / Transcendental Diary: Washington, D. C., July 7, 1976

Prabhupada: . . . So these pictures are available to be seen?
Yadubara: I think today they will, by this evening, they will.
Prabhupada: How many?
Yadubara: I took about . . . Well, one boy is doing it for free of charge, he’s producing ten of them just to get the idea. If we want
more, we can get more. I took about twenty-five.
Prabhupada: All detailed?
Yadubara: Some detail, yes.
Prabhupada: Yes, that’s nice. . . . One set to Gargamuni and one set to Saurabha and one set for me, three sets. And if you like, you can keep one set for you. The negative will be with you. What is the height altogether?
Yadubara: Actually, I don’t know, I didn’t get that. I can get that information also.
Prabhupada: So, guessing?
Yadubara: Oh, I don’t know; two hundred fifty feet? Something like that. Three hundred?
Rupanuga: That’s too big, three hundred. The Washington monument is five hundred fifty feet.
Prabhupada: Then it is all right.
Yadubara: Maybe two hundred.
Rupanuga: Maybe a hundred seventy-five. We can check a reference book easily. You’ll find out today.
Room Conversation, July 6*, 1976, Washington, D.C.
*probably a mistake; it should be July 7

3) In the third and final quote, Srila Prabhupada says to George Harrison that the construction should be like the Capitol building. But it is not clear that the construction should be like the Capitol in any other respect than having a big dome.

Prabhupada: . . . We are just attempting a big planetarium in Mayapur. We have asked government to acquire land, 350 acres. That is negotiation going on. We shall give a Vedic planetarium.
George Harrison: Is that the one you were talking about? With all the . . .
Prabhupada: In the Fifth Canto.
Gurudasa: The planetarium will be 350 feet high and show the cosmology of the spiritual world.
Prabhupada: The construction will be like your Washington Capitol, like that.
George Harrison: A big dome.
Prabhupada: Yes. Estimated eight crores of rupees.
Conversation with George Harrison, July 26, 1976, London

Other quotations that cause us to doubt that Srila Prabhupada wanted the Capitol design in Mayapur

There are no quotes after July 26, 1976 to indicate that Prabhupada wanted the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium to look like the Capitol building. He mentions the temple often, but does not describe its external appearance, except to emphasize its grand size and height. In the following conversation, he describes a future Vedic city at Mayapur. It is difficult to imagine a Capitol building as the centerpiece.

Prabhupada: We have applied for 350 acres of land from the government. The process is going on. If we get, then we shall spend crores of rupees for . . . The description is . . .
Jagadisa: “Within the next ten years, according to ISKCON plans, the Mayapur project will extend to a complete Vedic city with fifty thousand inhabitants, its own university, airport, and stadium. It will also claim the world’s largest planetarium with a 410-foot-high Temple of Understanding.”
Dr. Kneupper: It sounds like a beautiful project. That is near Bombay?
Prabhupada: No, that is near Calcutta.
Dr. Kneupper: Calcutta. Prabhupada: About sixty miles.
Dr. Kneupper: Have they progressed much now? Prabhupada: Yes, the enquiry is finished. Now government is considering to give that land. [indistinct] that land.
Talk with Dr. Theodore Kneupper, Nov. 6, 1976, Vrndavana

The following is one of the earliest statements about the TVP:
Prabhupada [quoting Brahma-samhita 5.43]: Goloka-namni nija-dhamni tale ca tasya devi-mahesa-hari-dhama . . . About our temple contemplation, it will be almost a skyscraper building. Bhavananda: Will be . . . .?
Sridhara Maharaja: Eh?
Prabhupada: Skyscraper building in temple shape, with four divisions. Goloka-namni nija-dhamni tale ca tasya devi-mahesa. So Mahesa-dhama, how it will be depicted?
Conversation with Sridhara Maharaja, June 27, 1973, Navadvipa

Note that the U. S. Capitol is not a “temple shape”.

In February 1976, in Mayapur, Srila Prabhupada said:
Prabhupada: . . . the architectural culture, they’ll come to see the civilization culture, the philosophical culture, the religious culture . . .
Morning Walk, February 27, 1976, Mayapur

In his Transcendental Diary, Hari Sauri writes about Srila Prabhupada’s response, in January 1976, to Saurabha’s drawings: “In the evening Saurabha prabhu showed Prabhupada the preliminary plans for the new temple. He estimates the cost will be at least eighty crores of rupees ($80 million). Saurabha’s drawings revealed magnificent plans for an entire city, centered around a huge temple structure. It will be surrounded by satellite temples, a gurukula campus, a commercial area, bathing ghatas, and other facilities. The whole area will be protected from flooding by a latticework of canals. The main feature is to be a gigantic planetarium within the dome of the main temple. Srila Prabhupada was extremely enthusiastic about the plans. He wants the planetarium to demonstrate the Vedic alternative to modern scientific cosmological propaganda, illustrating the structure of the universe as described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Impressed with Saurabha’s work, Prabhupada suggested that the plans be presented to the state government with an application for official acquisition of the land we require.”

“[T]he Vedic alternative to modern scientific cosmological propaganda” and “the structure of the universe as described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam” simply cannot be credibly displayed in a temple that looks like the Enlightenment, neoclassical U. S. Capitol.

Hari Sauri Prabhu did not bring this paragraph from his book to anyone’s attention on Dandavats in June, but argued instead that “If it is a question of preferences, why not accept Srila Prabhupada’s own preference – the Capitol dome?”.

24 comments

  1. 0
    Carana Renu Dasi ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The poll is not biased. There are basically two options – approve or disapprove.

    Now, if you approve of the present design, you will see no need for further action. However, if you disapprove, there are five options provided in the poll for what action the designers could take in order to achieve your approval.

    The first decision that the voter has to make is whether he/she approves or disapproves of the present design as it is. If you approve, then vote for option 1 but if you disapprove, you can choose one of the other five options.

    Some people may disapprove of the present design but think that the basic structure is OK as long as some features are adjusted, others may only be satisfied by a new Indian design, etc. This poll fairly allows for several options in terms of recommended future action, without lumping everyone into the same category of simply “I disapprove.”

    This poll would be biased if the voters were choosing their vote, from 1 to 6, by some random process, or if the voters were somehow influenced (by the greater number of options for disaapproval) to change their vote from approval to disapproval. Hopefully that is not the case and the voters are intelligent human beings who can vote acording to their own opinion.

    I assume that the final results will be fairly presented according to the number of votes for each of the six options.

  2. 0
    ramani ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    So let’s get this straight. FIVE of the six options are “I disapprove”. It’s not what you’d call a balanced survey is it?

  3. 0
    ramani ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    To be more precise, there are six options: approve, disapprove, disapprove, disapprove, disapprove or disapprove. When you have so many negative options and only one positive, then that is a bias which betrays its creators’ preference.

    And of course, putting a survey immediately after a long explanation of why we should vote in a certain way merely adds to the bias.

    The survey would be unbiased if it came after a balanced discussion of the topic and if the questions were more fairl weighted.

    As it is, it’s not serious. Just another internet drama.

    (btw, I don’t much like the current design, but I dislike biased internet surveys even more:)

  4. 0
    sdmuni ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Unfortunately the wording of these questions are slanted towards a disproving response. That undermines the credibility of whatever the tally turns out to be.

    On the other hand if the pollsters want to solicit opinions critiquing the status quo, then the information could prove useful in that context.

    As Carana Renu Prabhu points out, “Now if you approve the design, you will see no need for further action,” which is likely true. I doubt approvers will feel encouraged to write in, especially with only one positive option available versus five leading off with a negative declaration.

    What to speak that the critical opinions of the pollsters are made so clear in advance. While that can be lauded as being honest, unfortunately it doesn’t inspire confidence that this is a poll designed to deliver an objective result.

  5. 0
    AbhayaDasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I have to agree with Mother Ramani. The survey is being undertaken by those against the design. It is like the Obama camp organizing a poll on whether Mccain should be president.
    In the mood of disclosure, I must say I like the design.
    Having walked around India on Padayatra, I wonder what is meant by an authentic “Indian” design. Do you mean like the Badrinath temple in Badrikashrama that looks like a Swiss ski chalet? What about Sri Ranganath or Minakshee Devi temples in the South that look like Pyramids with horns covered in Deities?
    What about the Puri temple that resembles a giant lingam with a giant Michelin tire on top? It kind of resembles Madan- Mohan in Vrndavana – but not really.
    Have you seen the Brihadishwara Temple in Thanjavur? It is accepted by scholars as being one of the oldest temple in India and it’s greatest architectural gem. It looks like a rocket ship!
    What about the Dwarkadisha temple? Udupi or Tirumala? Shall I go on?
    I will say that when I was travelling in Washington D.C. in 1988 with my Gurudeva H.H.Lokanath Maharaja (who I accept as being genuinely Indian), when he first set eyes on the Capitol building, he smiled and said “It is just like an Indian temple!” I remember this clearly, because it was during this car ride, I got one of those lifelong instructions that you don’t forget.
    After seeing the Capitol,we were passing by the different white marble edifices like the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, the Supreme Court and National Archives buildings when my Guru turned to me and said ” Actually, everything is very nice. We simply want to change the consciousness!”
    This was really important for me to hear, as in my neophyte condition, I believed that anything remotely American had to be vaporised for the Golden Age to ensue.

  6. 0
    antardwip das says:

    I was very happy to see the positive way in which the arguments concerning the design were given.

    Especially : 6) Tourists will want an Indian-style temple. If they want to see Renaissance and neoclassical architecture, they go to Florence, Rome, Paris, London, or Washington and get the real thing.

    This reminds me of the move in the 80’s to go for Italian classical style paintings with flowing garments etc to illustrate BBT books. While we, devotees, were gasping at the improvement of our artists’ techniques, for the outsider, artistically they invited unfavourable comparison with the (vastly) more compotent non-devotee artists of the Italian rennaisance. Our earlier, obviously devotional, work, however, stood on its own merit.

    If we are to do something related to the western architecture, it would have to be better than existing buildings to be the temple predicted by the previous acharyas, “Adbhuta”. Something people world-wide would want to see, not something based on what is in their own country, and a lesser version.

    The problem is that we have not been granted permission to build on open land that we had aquired for that purpose, thus we now have a design brief which is restrictive – fit a temple with a huge dome – and some Indian elements – in-between existing buildings. That is not fair on the architects or the team managing the construction. I do not think the builder’s of St Peters or the Capitol faced such pressures. How can we do Lord Chaitanya justice with such strictures?

    Is it really impossible to get permission to build on the open fields in Sree Mayapura? I am not convinced we do not have devotees with that ability lurking within ISKCON. It seems odd we cannot get planning permission for a temple at Sree Dham Mayapura when we can get planning permission to build a temple in Moscow.

    I say, give the project more time, focussing on getting permission for the land and pray to Lord Chaitanya to bless Ambarish prabhu with as long, prosperous and happy a life as he needs….

    Hare Krishna

  7. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I did “speak up” in criticizing the 3D design when I first saw it on Dandavats, but I really do not think it is my place to “approve” or “disapprove” it.

    As a “wannabe” architecture critic, I would say I do not like the current design, compared to the much more elaborate (and apparently too expensive and too large) design that I saw from the team working with Harikesh in the mid to late-1990s.

    As a general ISKCON member, I do not feel the design should become a “political football” (although I see why it might). Personally, I do not expect to have any say in the decision as to what the building will look like. If I did, I would have to take into account a lot of factors such as: cost, available space, personal feelings of those involved in the project a long time and who (like Ambarish) are contributing astronomical personal resources to the project.

    The idea that the design should be selected based on a general vote of the devotee public seems like democracy gone wild to me. It is just not the way we have traditionally done things in ISKCON. I do not feel comfortable with it somehow, as if it is the wrong mood, disrespectful to the devotees responsible for the current design.

    Or maybe the idea is just that if the responsible committee truly sees how unpopular the new design is from an aesthetic standpoint, they will see fit to make adjustments. That’s okay I guess.

    If I had to vote, I would say something like choice number two, but I would not use the term “disapprove”, because that would be presumptuous. Rather, I would say something like,

    “I have to admit I honestly do not like the current design. I think it will not particularly attract discriminating tourists and will not win critical praise in art and architecture circles, and in that sense will be a missed opportunity, if not a mild embarrassment. Still, I do not feel my own opinion really matters very much, and I am not familiar with the details of what it takes to build the project and the various considerations that need to be met. I believe the hard work of many devotees in creating it needs to be respected, and I am sure I will grow to love the building because of the mood of service of those who designed it and will build and operate it, and because of what will be inside it. So, while I do not really like it, I go along with it. And if it the design is improved, all the better.”

    Mainly, we do not need more politics and quarrels. We need unity, above all.

  8. 0
    ccd ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The fact that obviously critical elements are included in the voting is simply an attempt to have a balancing act to the previous articles that were slanted towards the approval. The article that is promoting current design is linked in the first paragraph of the text.

    This post will attract sufficient amount of responses by people who like the design, but provides a few very considered and nice way of saying yes, even if you do not like or appreciate it fully.After all it is not a secret that all designs go through design development stage, and this design development it appears should take place and is covered by the spectrum of intermediate opinions.

    Unlike dealing with guru and the Vaishnavas, dealing with architecture is mainly critical and expressive at that, not very gentle; people in general would have and express more then likely critical views. Keep in mind that it is GOOD to be critical of a design, because overly positive feedback usually spoils but a very best design. Of course more appropriate and productive is to take a sample of the professional opinion. Just ask a friend or a relative who is an architect or a town designer to comment from a more professional perspective. Architecture is not the Sunday feast prasadam, it is not “always good”, and more then often it is substandard, so critique and peer review is very very helpful.

    On even more positive note (which should be there as we all know), the news that government of Bengal has allocated quite a few crores of Rs.- for the development of jetty in Mayapur and Navadvipa linking it with multi-million investment for the Ganga port in Kalkutta, is out just a few weeks ago. And definitely this puts already existing attraction of our Mayapur very much on the map and very soon we will be able to take a luxury (Indian luxury but still…) boat ride to Mayapur avoiding the horrible road, that will become double as bad with all that construction traffic which will happen, and that is for sure and very soon!

  9. 0
    scooty.ram says:

    Hare Krishna,
    Atlast it is so nice to see an attempt to hear public’s view thro this poll
    Thanks a lot

    Dasan
    PS: i too do not like this capitol building structure.I understand the amount of time and labor spent but am sure it is worth revisting the whole case

  10. 0
    sucih ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    8 reasons to stay with the TVP Design.

    1. What is the point of scaling down the old temple design? An architect makes a plan for a reason and the measurement can only be adapted to a point. It would be odd and disproportionate.
    2. What is the point of two years of meetings, discussions, presentations and finally a vote of affirmation and then to discard all the time, money and planning.
    3. How can a statement that ‘I have heard many devotees are not happy with the design’ have any context in the world of vaisnavas. Is it 10, 100, 1000, 5000, devotees? What is the audience that we are hinting at: Devotees with email, devotees with taste, devotees with money, western devotees, devotees who will vote on a petition, congregational members or guests? I have never met anyone here in Mayapur: devotees, residents and guests in Mayapur dham that doesn’t like it, even understanding that it is not finalized in specific palette or design features.
    4 Why whip up this anti-sentiment for the Projects finished vision, when it is not even finalised. If we really, appreciate Ambarisa Prabhu and his team’s dedicated service, then this is not the way to do it.
    To suggest that one of Ambarisa Prabhu’s main considerations is that it has to be constructed within his lifetime is misleading. After all he has backed all the previous plans.
    5. For those who do not know what the contingencies are in regard to the planning, materials, backing and permissions needed for the project, a statement like. ‘it is not clear that changing the design would necessarily have to delay the TVP for very long.’ is a reckless statement.
    6. When we say a first class Indian design, do we mean Vedic or Indian, because there is a big difference.
    7. If it is unsure what the temple should be exactly like then given that a decision has been made, why change to an Indian design. Vaisnava temple designs, are more famous for their antiquity and conformity to the vaastu than their sheer elegance. Given that the most famous Indian landmark is the Taj Mahal, which the Iskcon ideologues are promoting as a converted Siva temple, then simplicity and domes are in.
    8. The purpose is display the Vedic cosmology, and what better than a dome, Anyone who visits Sri Dham Mayapur will come to visit the largest single Vaisnava temple and religious structure in the World. If Srila Prabhupada liked the architecture represented by the U.S. Capitol then perhaps he wanted to subvert the Western scientific paradigm.

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    sucih ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Another 8 reasons to keep the Design
    9) Never show an unfinished painting… give it a chance.
    10) Srila Prabhupada, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur and Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur, all looked to the west, Why? Because they wanted to fulfill the desire of Lord Caitanya and the acaryas. The TVP as a representation of spirituality will never be considered neutral. If it is representing the alternative to cosmology and architecture, then it is symbolically Vedic as it is drawn exclusively on vaastu proportions.
    11) If we want to get into the critical theory of what western imperialism really represents and what it represented way back when, then I think that the sponsors should do a extended search of all the available literature on the values and ideas that US has always represented. But it is problematic to suggest that ‘in view of the spiritual mission of Gaudiya Vaishnavism’ that it has ever chosen the aesthetisization of its temples and design features as the prime reflection of its identity. It is also unappreciative of the enormous sacrifice that Srila Prabhupada’s American disciples contributed most prominently to spread Krsna Consciousness in its early years.
    12. Are we so separatist that now that the GBC is presented as having neo-colonialist cliques prowling the subcontinent and forcing their occidental views on the Bengalis?
    13. To suggest that Srila Prabhupada’s and Ambarisa Prabhu’s reputations are resting in the architectural demureness of the Indians is to undermine the basis of the Bhagavat dharma and the acaryas of modern era. If anything the Vedic tradition is a tradition of change and cultural adaptation, with its feet firmly in the pillars (sorry) of ancient spiritual codes.
    14) If we are building the temple for the tastes of the Indian Tourists we would build a conglomeration of western pastiche and eastern kitsch, but I thought we have decided that we weren’t taken in by the masses or by the tourists but by the Vedic purity.
    15) The video shows the area outside the temple is quite spacious. The future of the ISKCON and Mayapur as pilgrimage centre will have the same problems whatever design is chosen.Whatever temple is built, it will fulfill Lord Nityananda’s prophecy. The project worthy of Mayapur and Srila Prabhupada will be the one that gets built.
    16.I would argue that you cannot know who does not speak and then argue what they would have chosen to say. If you are confused do nothing, its a vote!

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    sivabd says:

    Hare Krishna,
    Not sure why some are opposing the current design. As long as Radha,Krishna,Mahaprabhu team is there in temple, this should be a huge success. This modern design is what is expected of the younger generation. Considering the inflation and financial factor, the more you delay we will be able to build only huge hut and not temple.
    Hare Krishna
    Sivakumar/-

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    Acintya Caitanya das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Tattvavit and Janakiram Prabhus,
    Hare Krishna!

    Comment 1

    My vote:

    I approve of the present design. In fact I like it.

    Hari Sauri Prabhu’s article was brilliant, coherent and well balanced. It was internally consistent and the contents of it were put together in a way that preserved the direction of Srila Prabhupada’s mind.

    Referring to the January 21, 1976 anecdote which Hari Sauri Prabhu did not bring up in his article, your goodselves wrote : Hari Sauri Prabhu did not bring this paragraph from his book to anyone’s attention on Dandavats in June, but argued instead that “If it is a question of preferences, why not accept Srila Prabhupada’s own preference – the Capitol dome?”.

    Kindly note that this incident that your good selves have mentioned took place on January 21, 1976. However on July 6, 1976 Srila Prabhupada requested Yadubara Prabhu and Mother Vishaka to take pictures of the Capitol dome. On July 7, 1976, he expressed happiness with the pictures “He asked for three sets to be developed: one for himself; one to be sent to the Mayapur GBC,Gargamuni Swami; and one for our architect, Saurabha Prabhu” Finally on July 26, 1976 he told George Harrison “The construction will be like your Washington Capitol, like that”

    So where does that leave us?

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    Acintya Caitanya das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Comment 2

    I think Hari Sauri Prabhu’s presentation was well balanced because he brought out something apparently more stronger in your favor than the January 21, 1976 anecdote. The “omitted” January 21, 1976 incident is less in your favor than what Hari Sauri Prabhu wrote. Please read the folowing section from his article carefully:

    “Thus Srila Prabhupada several times expressed his desire to have the TVP modelled after the Capitol building.

    However, in Mayapur just prior to the 1977 Gaura Purnima festival Saurabha prabhu presented Srila Prabhupada with simple plans for a varnasrama city. He had designed a TVP with 108 domes around its main dome. There is no information as to whether Saurabha ever received the photos from Yadubara so we don’t know whether he didn’t know about Srila Prabhupada’s idea, or he just ignored it. At any rate, Srila Prabhupada allowed Saurabha to make a model of his own design and this was displayed on a pedestal just outside the Lotus building”

    Thus there are two facts to consider:

    #1 Srila Prabhupada specifically expressed his desire/liking about the Washington Capitol and even said that the construction will be like that.

    #2 Srila Prabhupada allowed Saurabh Prabhu’s design to be displayed on a pedestal just outside the Lotus building.

    Fact #2 shows that Srila Prabhupada was open to other designs but does not show that Srila Prabhupada had given up his desire about Washington Capitol design

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    Acintya Caitanya das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Comment 3

    Your good selves wrote :There are no quotes after July 26, 1976 to indicate that Prabhupada wanted the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium to look like the Capitol building.

    This kind of reasoning is problematic. I’ll explain.

    There are no quotes after July 26, 1976 which indicate that Srila Prabhupada changed his mind from the Capitol design which he explicitly mentioned to George Harrison.

    I think that is how we have to look at things.

    In my opinion we can safely apply Jayadvaita Maharaja’s general rule of the thumb here which goes something like “If Srila Prabhupada did not explicitly state it and it first came up after 1977, whatever it is, reject it” There is no explicit statement that Srila Prabhupada had changed his mind about the Capitol design. We are rather left with an explicit statement that “the construction will be like your Washington capitol, like that”

    The burden of proof lies with the plaintiff. If Srila Prabhupada changed his mind after July 26, 1976, it needs to be proven. The onus is on your good selves to prove that. Utimately it is Srila Prabhupada’s specific desire that weighs the most although he may have been open to other designs. In our case his specific desire was “The construction will be like your Washington Capitol, like that”

    The safety of Srila Prabhupada desire is the best risk (considering the fact any design may be subject to controversy) to take for us and for mankind. So let it be like the Capitol design. All possible objections like neoclassical design, need for cultural neutrality and so on fly in the face of the absolute status of his desires.

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The founders of the U.S. nation in the late 18th century were influenced by Liberal ideals of so-called “Enlightenment” thinkers. They were, many of them, attracted to principles of “natural religion”, the conception that sincere, intelligent people could come to appreciate truths about God and the soul simply by examining nature in the light of their own reason.

    Thomas Jefferson, a genius of his time, who was very attuned to those ideas, when he was still quite young, enshrined in the Declaration of Independence these words (I am not sure I remember them verbatim): “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain inaliable rights, among which are the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

    The Liberal ideals on which the U.S. was founded were often observed in the breach, the institution of legally-sanctioned slavery and the mass deportation of Indians from their native lands being just some of the most glaring examples. In the material world, ideals often fall short of the realities opposed on us by our lower natures (daivi hy esa gunamayi mama maya duratyaya).

    The fatal flaw of the contradiction between race-based slavery with the ideal that “all men are created equal” reached a dramatic catharsis in the tragic Civil War (1861-8164), and after a decisive battle in that war, President Lincoln delivered a famous address in which he recalled that the U.S. nation had 87 years earlier been “conceived in liberty” and “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”.

    Those lofty ideals came to be symbolized in the public architecture of the nation’s capital at Washington D.C., mostly in Neoclassical style which conveyed a sense of natural laws or eternal, Platonic or spiritual ideals being reflected in the material institutions of humans.

    I grew up in D.C. suburbs (Chevy Chase and Silver Spring, Maryland), and never much cared for the D.C. architecture, or took it for granted. But the ideals those buildings symbolize, especially the U.S. Capitol, point in their own way to the spiritual oneness of all living beings, that all jivas are Krishna’s amsas, and by their eternal nature are endowed with the tendency (however covered) to perform His devotional service, in true freedom from the shackles of the three modes.

    vidya-vinaya-sampanne brahmane gavi hastini suni caiva sva-pake ca panditah sama- darsinah (B.G. 5.18)

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The other day I had the good fortune to attend a meeting in San Francisco with an interfaith organization called “United Religions Initiative”. URI had invited H.H. Bhaktipurusottama Swami to their offices in preparation for a planned visit of more than 300 URI members from around the world to ISKCON Mayapur, to take place in November of this year.

    In discussing the importance of Lord Caitanya at the meeting, Maharaja emphasized how Lord Caitanya looked beyond caste or creed in His liberal distribution of love of God everywhere.

    That is an important principle ISKCON offers to teach the world. In this Iron Age, various religions and nations hypocritically quarrel on the basis of false ego, without properly appreciating the true oneness of all spiritual energy. Quarrels over superficial differences fuel violence and even threaten nuclear annihilation, but the Sankirtan of Lord Caitanya will provide the real basis for peace and prosperity.

    “A person who knows Me to be the beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the dearmost intimite friend of all living entities, attains peace.” (B.G. 5.29)

    sarva-bhutesu yenaikam bhavam avyayam iksate avibhaktam vibhaktesu taj jnanam viddhi sattvikam

    “That knowledge by which one undivided spiritual nature is seen in all living entitiess, though they are divided into innumerable forms, you should understand to be in the mode of goodness.” (B.G. 18.20)

    When I was in 7th Grade Social Studies class, the benighted teacher told us (they would never be so insensitive these days, at least so I hope), that the people in India were hungry but foolishly would not eat the cows and other animals, because (she said), they believed in reincarnation and therefore feared they could be eating a dead relative.

    She did not realize that all living beings, even the plants (even clouds, hills and rivers!) are truly relatives as the offspring of Krishna (aham bija-pradah pita).

    “The foolish cannot understand how a living entity can quit his body, nor can they understand what sort of body he enjoys under the spell of the modes of nature. But one whose eyes are trained in knowledge can see all this.” (B.G. 15.10)

    Anyway, these ideals about the inherent equality of all living beings, associated with U.S. political ideology (if not practice), really come, in their purest form, from Lord Caitanya. Maybe that is why this TVP will look like the U.S. Capitol.

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    n.r. dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    words of wisdom. “too many chefs spoil the soup”. Let the chef finish the soup the way Srila Prabhupada said he liked it. Not the way “other devotees feel” or allow the masses to design / make the soup via internet poll!

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Regarding my “all men are created equal” post, I know I am off on a tangent. I beg the devotees to forgive the sweep of my speculations. I am addicted to speculation but at least I am dovetailing by trying to understand Lord Caitanya’s great movement and its amazing ISKCON branch.

    I do get reckless sometimes. I sincerely hope I am not disturbing anyone, and I pray for all your blessings that I may some day understand a drop of Srila Prabhupada’s and Lord Caitanya’s intentions.

    The French Revolution had its own ideals of “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite.” Somehow the anti-clerical aspects of that movement, or the alliance between Church and privileged classes which engendered such opposition, seemed to push European revolutionary spirit towards atheism and ideological materialism.

    But how can there be any real fraternity without acknowledging who are real common parents are? And how can there be any real equality on the material platform, where everyone is constantly struggling for survival and dominance?

    Like most Americans I grew up in awe of Europeans. In matters of art, literature, and philosophy, we were just backwoods country cousins. Despite our growing wealth and power, we still bore the cultural stigma of mere colonials. Henry James may have epitomized what many educated Americans still somehow cannot escape: a deep sense of cultural inferiority.

    American materialism did not have to justify itself as against an other-worldly Catholic ideology. Pragmatic, largely Protestant, business-minded, without aristocracy, we were unapologetically this-worldly by nature. But our guiding motto that “all men are created equal” pointed to some spiritual ideal (I mean, obviously they are not materially equal, and are not even meant to be).

    For most of my life a cold-war political struggle raged between the ideals of American bourgeois liberalism and Marxist-Leninist communism.

    At present, international communism having seemingly lost its luster, the same bourgeois democratic ideology is locked in a struggle with blindly chauvinistic militant Islam.

    Our fervent hope is that the pure, profound theology of Srimad Bhagavatam will unite all nations and religions of the world in Sankirtan and daivi-varnasrama dharma.

    The U.S. Capitol may carry for me some negative cultural baggage. And who cares if the TVP looks like a mosque? Or kitsch? It will be a home to Lord Caitanya’s revolutionary kirtan (and more temples will follow).

  20. 0
    Tattvavit Dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Part One
    Of course the survey is, as Abhaya says, undertaken by those who are
    against the current design. This was inevitable, since no one – the
    design team, the GBC, or anyone else – was undertaking it.

    And of course we who undertake the survey want and seek, through our
    Nine Reasons, to persuade devotees to vote against the current design.
    Since we had to protest now, given that there is very little time left
    to change the design, and since we had to make the survey ourselves, there was no possibility of avoiding presenting the questions in connection with our preferences and critical opinions – in ramani’s words, our “explanation” of why the devotees should vote
    in a certain way.

    But our intention is not, as ramani and Abhaya suggest, to manipulate the respondents or the result in favor of our position – to simply present the result that all who vote for 3, 4, 5, and 6 disapprove. There is nothing “precise” at all in ramani’s statement that “there are six options: approve, disapprove, disapprove, disapprove, disapprove or disapprove”. The intention has not been to “slant” the question “towards a disapproving response”, since the purpose is not to find out simply how many approve and how many disapprove, but to find out what measures (if any) those who disapprove think should be taken. Finding out what measures should be taken is of course, as Carana Renu writes, relevant only in the case of those who disapprove – no discussion of measures is needed for those who approve. Therefore several different options for those who disapprove, and only one for those who approve, were given.

    It would of course have been possible to formulate slightly different
    options, or to formulate 2 and 3 in the following more positive ways:
    “I approve of the present design but only because I am willing to go
    along with it,” “I approve of the present design, but would want some
    substantial improvements that minimize the controversial features”.
    This would have resulted in three “approve” and three “disapprove”
    options. Yet in substance, with these changes, 2 and 3 still imply
    disapproval.

    It would of course also have been possible to present a survey in two
    parts, the first with the questions: 1) “Do you approve?” and 2) “Do
    you disapprove?”, and the second, introduced by the formulation “If
    2″, with the question “Which of the following alternatives best
    describes your position?”, followed by the five disapproval
    sub-options.

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    Tattvavit Dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Part Two
    But the survey’s formal difference from this way of presenting the questions is not due to any effort to illegitimately influence the respondents by presenting more disapproval than approval options, but to the simple fact that, in substance, there are several disapproval options but really only one approval option.

    There would, however, have been no reason whatsoever, even for the
    most neutral, to present options like “I approve of the current design
    because it looks like the U.S. Capitol”, “I approve of the current
    design because I do not want to be seen as opposing the GBC”, “I
    approve of the current design because I love and respect Ambarisa and
    do not want to hurt his feelings”, “I approve of the current design
    because I am a Westerner”, “I approve of the current design because of
    its blue domes and other colours”, “I approve of the current design
    because American imperialism and globalism have taken over the world”, “I approve of the current design because I don’t think architecture is
    important”, “I approve of the current design because I love Western
    Renaissance and neoclassical architecture and what it symbolizes”, “I
    approve of the current design because it can be taken to be a mosque
    or a church, which would facilitate interfaith dialogue”, “I approve
    of the current design because it symbolizes the East-West synthesis,
    which I think is everything ISKCON should stand for”, “I approve of
    the current design because all architecture is eclectic and
    there really is no such thing as Eastern or Western architecture
    anyway”, “I approve of the current design because I really don’t
    care”, “I approve of the current design because Western culture is
    really Vedic too”, “I approve of the current design because its
    Bhagavatam cover paintings on the walls”, “I approve of the present design because at least something will finally be built”. Or to add such options in a second part of the survey, introduced by the formulation “If 1″.

  22. 0
    Tattvavit Dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Part Three
    The important thing is that the survey seeks to find out which of the relevant, real, and possible alternatives (or at least some of them that we could think of) the devotees favor. By making it, we run the risk that the survey yields a result that goes against our protest,
    namely that a majority of devotees are in favor of the current design (or are in favor of it with some changes). Why should we want to take that risk? Why do we not just try to mobilize the many devotees who we think disapprove of the U.S. Capitol design, and to persuade all others by presenting the arguments for our own position only?

    Since it is not clear that a majority is against the current design, the reason for undertaking a survey at all is only our interest in finding out, with a reasonable degree of objectivity, what the devotees actually think. And this interest can only be explained by
    the fact that we respect the positions of those who do not share our own, and would find a result that is negative for us important.

    The survey gives the devotees the opportunity to vote for no less than three options that accept the current design or accept it with some changes. As is clear from the Nine Reasons, we favor only two of the six options, options 5 and 6, and are against all of the other ones, i.e., including three of the five “disapprove” options. Only if the
    majority votes for 5 or 6 is it in favour of our position. If the majority votes for 1-4, we belong to a minority.

    The results of the voting so far show that 11% approve the existing design, 6% go along with it or want various changes (options 2 – 4), and 83% want an Indian design (option 5) or want the project not go to go forward in its present form and location (option 6).

    Our goal is to achieve something we think would be better for ISKCON than the current design, and something that better corresponds to what we think Srila Prabhupada wanted. The reason why we were willing to risk a negative outcome of a survey is only that we would have wanted to take it into account in considering how to proceed. Our intention with the Nine Reasons is to set forth constructive, not destructive, criticism.

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Tattvavit Prabhu,

    Of course you are seeking to set forth constructive criticism. We know that the reason you and other very senior devotees like Dina Bandhu and Drutakarma are voicing your concerns is that you are deeply committed to doing something very nice for Srila Prabhupada and doing it well.

    Actually taking a survey of devotees’ feelings is also a good idea, inasmuch as it is good to take stock and get honest feedback. There is some mischief (at least I feel there is) in the idea that a poll or survey or election should decide the outcome of a decision of this kind: it could be seen as an invitation to divisive politics. Still, I am curious to learn how devotees really feel about things.

    It does not particularly bother me somehow that devotees have even strongly held divergent opinions on matters of style and taste, as long as there is a sense of unity in our purpose. We may think, as I do, that its not going to be the most beautiful building in the world, but we can all agree that the purpose of the TVP and the motivations of those who will build it are “most beautiful”.

    I am curious to know, how many people voted and whether they qualified their responses in different ways?

    I would also be curious to hear your thoughtful response to the points raised by Ambarish Prabhu, Sivarama Swami and others, that if we do not build this design now, we will simply spend more time spinning our wheels and never carry out this long overdue order of Srila Prabhupada. How about the point that Mayapur does apparently need a larger temple immediately, and that here is at least a pragmatic, down-to-earth opportunity to meet that need in the short run? How about the point that there does not seem to be an existing, practical alternative that could be built soon (if ever)? How about Hari Sauri’s and Braja Sevaki’s point that there are, apparently, a number of devotees in Mayapur and elsewhere who for whatever reason strongly favor the current “U.S. Capitol-style” design and honestly believe it is what Srila Prabhupada really wants, (and that among their numbers are the specific devotees who have taken on primarily responsibility for actually erecting the building and paying for it)?

    To continue to move the discussion in a constructive direction, it seems that the critics of the current design should actually offer practical solutions (including money and manpower rather than just thoughts) to accomplish something better.

  24. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    It does not bother me that devotees do not agree on this or a number of other issues, as long as we can keep priorities straight and agree on what is most important to keep moving the sankirtan misson forward.

    It raises ideas about our group dynamic in terms of how to improve relations between devotees and how we learn (as we will have to as ISKCON grows in membership and influence) to properly deal with divergent opinions among devotees.

    A few weeks ago I looked up an intellectual godbrother who “left” ISKCON a number of years ago, and took him out to a vegi restaurant. One of the things he told me was that he felt he had to leave ISKCON because his service entailed providing justifications and rationalizations for all the different things ISKCON was doing, many of which appeared embarrassing on their face. He was engaged in apologetics to academic and religious leaders, but he really did not believe what he was saying anymore, and the gulf between his own views and what he was called upon to defend kept getting wider and wider. (He left in the mid-1980s)

    Now, I am sure that other things were going on in his heart, impelling him into maya. I mean, he left the society of devotees and not surprisingly took on the habits and attitudes to some extent of his new friends and associates.

    But I could sympathize with his explanation, and I was thinking to myself, “Why couldn’t he just tell his audience that he agreed that this or that aspect of ISKCON was wrong, but that the essential message, the books, the mantra, the Founder-acarya, the essence at least of the practice was something very valuable for the world to appreciate?”

    In those days I suppose that did not seem like an option. So much of our preaching was geared to the idea of proving ISKCON was right and non-ISKCON was wrong. Besides, he was engaged by his bosses within ISKCON to do just that.

    I feel that nowadays ISKCON has grown, it is more diverse, and there is more scope for accommodating divergent strategies and styles, as long as the essence is not lost: Krishna consciousness is right, Prabhupada’s books are right. We can say, “I do not like the way they do things in that temple, but I appreciate their sincerity.”

    In matters of architecture it may be that there is “no accounting for taste”, and there are also practical limitations and budgets involved. But it’s nice we can say “I think its a bad design” and still have deep love for each other as Prabhupada’s family

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