GBC Meeting Report #4

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February 11-12th

By Sraddhadevi dasi

Governance of ISKCON’s managerial bodies was the main topic of discussion for the sixth day of ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission’s Annual General Meeting in Mayapur, India.

At present, ISKCON not only has an international Governing Body Commission (GBC) which is responsible for the overall management of ISKCON, but in some regions there are additional lower level governing bodies such as Regional Governing Bodies (RGBs), National Councils, and Continental Committees. What was at question is how these bodies, which hold regular meetings and pass resolutions, interact with and report to the overall managerial authority, the GBC.

Given the intricacy and importance of the topic, the GBC proposed to form a Rules of Order committee composed of representatives from the lower-level managerial bodies who will explore the topic in greater detail. The committee will consider not only practical issues of management, but also the desired management structure of Srila Prabhupada. The issue will then be discussed with more information and in greater detail during the GBC meeting next fall in Juhu.

The following day, another complex topic was brought to the GBC Body for discussion by Sivarama Maharaja. This was the topic of membership in ISKCON—who should be considered a member of ISKCON as a spiritual society and by what standards?

Romapada Maharaja, the GBC Chairman, made clear that Sivarama Maharaja’s presentation is not the official position of the GBC, nor is it a formal proposal to the GBC. Rather, the intention of the presentation was simply to reflect on the question and engage in thoughtful discussion.

Sivarama Maharaja initiated the conversation regarding the definition of ISKCON and ISKCON membership by first exploring the notion of “society.” He pointed out that in general, citizens within a society hold common rights and individual rights. For example, there are general laws to be followed in a country, but individuality can also be expressed within the country as long as a citizen acts within the constraints of the common law. Therefore, a citizen is someone who allows his or her individuality to be subservient to the common law of the society.

Following this logic, Sivarama Maharaja asked if ISKCON, a spiritual society, should require devotees to follow defined standards in order to be considered a member of ISKCON. Such standards could include anything from following the four regulative principles and chanting sixteen rounds of the Hare Krishna Maha-mantra daily to perhaps even not watching television for enjoyment. More general standards would be loyalty to Srila Prabhupada, following the GBC as the ultimate managerial authority of ISKCON, and actively engaging in some service within one’s local devotional community.

Sivarama Maharaja suggested that if we clearly define rules of membership for ISKCON, there is still a place for those who are not at the point of complying with the common laws of the spiritual society and yet who still hold faith in Krishna consciousness. Those who are not official ISKCON members, Sivarama Maharaja suggested, would share some of the same rights as ISKCON members, such as attending the temple functions, but would not receive the same benefits as official ISKCON members, for instance being allowed to reside in ISKCON temples or farms, serve in official leadership positions within ISKCON, or take part in ISKCON initiative projects.

Gopal Krishna Maharaja pointed out that in ISKCON we have members at various levels in their spiritual life. Creating strict membership guidelines for ISKCON could exclude from ISKCON a substantial number of sincere devotees who are not practicing at such high levels.

Sivarama Maharaja responded with understanding to this point and again explained that his intention was simply to present ideas to consider and discuss, rather than a fixed idea on how ISKCON membership should be defined. However, he did express that a clear definition of what it means to be a member of ISKCON should be further discussed and explored.

Following Sivarama Maharaja’s presentation, Radha Krishna Prabhu and Radhradhya Prabhu gave an inspiring update on the Eco Valley project in Hungary, a model village working toward self-sustainability. Eco Valley, through its Sustainable Science Research Center, recently began a program where university students live at Eco Valley for two months to study and train in developing self-sustainable communities. Radha Krishna Prabhu also reported that Eco Valley now has eight university affiliations and eleven university students writing dissertations on the Eco Valley project. For more information on the Eco Valley project, visit www.ecovalley.hu.

Hari Sauri Prabhu concluded the evening with an enlivening presentation on the new Bhaktivedanta Research Centre located in Kolkata. The Bhaktivedanta Research Centre, dedicated to gathering, preserving, and making available Vaisnava and Vedic Cosmology texts, officially opened in June 2009.

The Bhaktivedanta Research Centre initiated from a need to house and make available texts related to Vedic cosmology for the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium’s Cosmology Project. The building, kindly donated to ISKCON by Mr. MC Shamsukha in 2000, was completely renovated to create an excellent library space for 15,000 books along with comfortable guest rooms for visiting devotees and scholars. Suitable space is also available in the building to function as a temple and lecture hall.

Most astonishing was a recent library acquisition that contained many rare and valuable pieces including a personal diary of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, a postcard written to Bhaktivinoda Thakura by his daughter, and a 400-year old manuscript of the Madhya Lila of Caitanya Caritamrta. The Bhaktivedanta Research Centre, under the academic direction of Pranava Prabhu and Krishna Abhiseka Prabhu, is currently working to catalog and professionally preserve this acquisition before the texts disintegrate even further.

Thousands of Vaisnava manuscripts and texts have yet to be located and preserved, and due to the effects of time, these texts are disappearing. Hari Sauri Prabhu thus conveyed the important work the Centre is already doing and the immediate need to support furthering the work of the Bhaktivedanta Research Centre. For more information on the Bhaktivedanta Research Centre, please contact iskconbrc@gmail.com.

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1 Locanananda dasa

Our society owes a debt of gratitude to Hari Sauri Prabhu and the team of Pranava and Krishna Abhiseka prabhus for establishing a library that will preserve historical Vaisnava manuscripts. As devotees advance in age, they think more in terms of what they can do to benefit future generations.
The library was founded in pursuance of the direct instruction of Srila Prabhupada to protect the legacy and writings of great devotees and acaryas of the past. And all of Srila Prabhupada’s books will also be prominently displayed there. It is a beautiful concept.

Everyone should see the video presentation above and take pride in the wonderful efforts that are being made by our godbrothers to carry on and expand Srila Prabhupada’s mission.

Comment posted by Locanananda dasa on February 17th, 2010
2 Puskaraksa das

Dear Maharajas and Prabhus

PAMHO All glories to Srila Prabhupada. All glories to Sri Guru & Sri Gauranga.
In regards to the point raised by H.H. Sivarama Swami, whether the GBC body should establish a list of different criteria by which one could be acknowledged to be a member of ISKCON or not, several levels of consideration are to be addressed. At the outset, the example of a citizen of a country having to abide by the laws of the country doesn’t really serve the purpose of Maharaja, as a citizen doesn’t loose his citizenship by braking the laws. Besides, in order to explore the topic raised further, one may have to first define what ISKCON means and what is the purpose of the Movement created by Srila Prabhupada. Another important point would also be to analyze whether or not, Srila Prabhupada established such distinctions as those proposed to define who is eligible or not to be part of the Movement he founded, which is meant to host the whole world. Here we may also have to address a distinction in between full time residents of an ashrama or temple and devotees practicing Krishna consciousness at home, the same way one may establish a distinction in between the congregation of devotees and clergy members, moreover within the global context of establishing Varnashrama. One may also have to define whether the most important criteria, is being a devotee, i.e. having some devotion for Srila Prabhupada, Sri-Sri Gaura-Nitai and Sri-Sri Radha-Krishna or being a strict obedient of some rules and regulations, the appreciation and number of which may fluctuate, as “watching TV for enjoyment” is also suggested as a sufficient cause for not being in a position to be considered as an ISKCON member. Besides, another main question occurs: how will one decide and judge of who is fit to be a member or not? Can we count on each and every postulant to be truthful or should the practice of denouncement (as well as inquisition) be encouraged? Should some secret police force be created, in order to spy on devotees, in order to check whether they comply with the set of rules and regulations, or not? Besides, should their membership card be withdrawn from members facing temporary difficulties? And ultimately, what would be the measuring rod to define the degree of Bhakti of one another? Or would Bhakti be no more a criteria and then, wouldn’t there be a risk for our Movement, to miss its real target, which is to develop love of God…?
Your menial servant
Puskaraksa das

Comment posted by Puskaraksa das on February 18th, 2010
3 Akruranatha

The discussion started by H.H. Sivarama Swami is an interesting one and the comments by Puskaraksa are also important to discuss.

“Sivarama Maharaja … explained that his intention was simply to present ideas to consider and discuss, rather than a fixed idea on how ISKCON membership should be defined. However, he did express that a clear definition of what it means to be a member of ISKCON should be further discussed and explored.”

On the one hand, our goal is bhakti, and many people might follow rules very well (or pretend to follow) and yet not have bhakti.

On the other hand, those of us who do not come up to the high standards Srila Prabhupada established should recognize that we honestly do not have very much sincerity or devotion. If we really make guru’s orders our life and soul, giving up television or coffee should be fairly trivial compared to the even greater sacrifices we would be inspired to make.

But how should we judge others, and how will such judgments be used?

Real bhakti is very rare and even a little of it is something wonderful. We might quibble over whether ISKCON is really meant to “host the whole world”, but as preachers we have to recognize and appreciate when someone even shows a slight interest in Srila Prabhupada’s books or in chanting Hare Krishna.

We do not like feeling that ISKCON “authorities” are judging us. We want to feel liked and appreciated by those around us, not found wanting and rejected. We fear a situation where our weaknesses can be used against us by those who would dominate us. That’s natural. Those who do not love us should not be in charge of us. These are crucial pressure points in ISKCON today.

Yet sometimes Srila Prabhupada said things like it was a GBC member’s main function to travel to temples within his zone and make sure all the members were strictly following the 4 regs and chanting 16 rounds.

Obviously we do not want an ISKCON with a secret police force, nor can we make people follow by bullying, humiliating or expelling them, but how *can* we see to it that everyone is following? How can we inspire and encourage and get good results?

And shouldn’t we distinguish between those who are trying to fully surrender and those who feel like supporting in less committed ways? But how to do so without hurting feelings?

It would be nice to have an atmosphere where we all felt comfortable about honestly finding our real place and level, without fear or deceit.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on February 22nd, 2010
4 Locanananda dasa

Definition of a Member of the Hare Krishna Movement

One who worships Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who sees himself as the eternal servant of Krishna, who understands that Lord Caitanya is Krishna Himself appearing as His own devotee with the complexion of molten gold, and who acknowledges that Srila Prabhupada is the bona fide spiritual master empowered by Krishna to represent Him by introducing love of Godhead throughout the world, is a member in good standing of the Krishna consciousness movement.

Comment posted by Locanananda dasa on February 23rd, 2010
5 Akruranatha

Locanananda’s comment #4 indirectly raises an interesting point.

There may be people who are members of the “Hare Krishna Movement”, as such, but are not sympathetic to ISKCON or its leadership. Are they members of ISKCON?

For example, those who have attached themselves to other Gaudiya Math leaders or their followers may have respect for Srila Prabhupada as bona fide guru and empowered acarya, and yet do not feel any duty to work within the organizational structure Srila Prabhupada established for managing ISKCON’s preaching activities. They may belong to some other Vaisnava organization, but do not identify themselves as belonging to ISKCON.

Some even go so far as saying their group is the “real” ISKCON, and that their leader should be accepted as successor acarya to Srila Prabhupada. (I know it sounds funny, but I have actually heard such theories). They are still members of the “Hare Krishna Movement” by Locanananda’s criteria, and in some ways I guess they really are. We think they are mistaken, but we need not question their sincerity or integrity or ability to receive Lord Caitanya’s mercy. Still, in an important sense we cannot accept them as “members of ISKCON.”

And there are others who consider themselves followers of Srila Prabhupada but who consider the leadership of ISKCON to be deviating from Srila Prabhupada’s teachings in significant ways (mainly with regard to issues about disciplic succession and the process of initiation). Sometimes they form anti-parties or reform groups and try to convince us not to cooperate with ISKCON’s leadership. They may be members of the “Hare Krishna Movement,” and yet in an important sense they are not members of ISKCON, due to their lack of sympathy for ISKCON’s activities and organization, and even sometimes hostility to ISKCON.

So it seems that one criterion for membership in ISKCON, as opposed to membership in the more general “Hare Krishna Movement”, should be a sense of common purpose or duty to serve within the ISKCON enterprise, and in the legitimacy of the GBC as the bona fide executors of Srila Prabhuada’s will.

Not that one needs to agree with every decision of the GBC to be a member of ISKCON, but one should at least agree with the basic principle that the GBC has the legitimate authority to make such decisions.

One should feel a commitment to the goal of making ISKCON successful, without which, though one may be a Vaisnava, one is not a member of ISKCON.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on February 23rd, 2010
6 Unregistered

I recall a quote by a senior swami, ‘Krishna Consciousness is for everyone but initiation isn’t.’ And isn’t that the crux of this? Everyone should be encouraged to serve Krishna with love; in whatever way they are able. But for those who would like to take initiation there are stricter rules and regulations.

Because there are very few people who are able to follow the rules and regulations but there are many who are able to do loving service to Krishna, we should encourage inclusiveness more than exclusiveness.

Comment posted by Mukunda das on February 25th, 2010
7 Akruranatha

I have listened to the new discussion on www.sivaramaswami.com about his rights and responsibilities proposal for definition of membership.

I do agree with Puskaraksa Prabhu that the “country” analogy seems to suffer from the faulty legal premise that one becomes a citizen of a country by agreeing to obey the laws of the country, and remains a citizen only so long as one abides by those laws.

I don’t know how it is in other countries, but in the U.S. one who is born in the U.S. is automatically a citizen, even as a baby. One does not forfeit citizenship by breaking the law. I think it is so in other countries. I never heard of a native citizen being stripped of citizenship due to breaking the law.

Even in political philosophy, the whole “social contract” theory of a citizen’s duty to obey the law always seemed artificial to me. It is not a contract like other contracts, that has to be formed by a person with capacity, voluntarily agreeing to the offer of another, such that a meeting of the minds occurs.

The question arises whether in Vedic culture a sovereign’s duty to protect the praja depends on the praja’s loyalty and obedience. When someone breaks the law in varnasrama society, is that person automatically deemed no longer a subject of the raja? It would seem strange if it were so, but I don’t know.

I do think Maharaja raises a good point as to whether the ISKCON “society” is more like a national state society rather than an organization such as the “Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.” I do not agree that it is like a nation state. After all, its very name declares it is an “International Society,” implying that its membership is composed of members of various nations.

I honestly think it most closely resembles a church, such as the Catholic Church or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It is a community of believers who share common ideals and a common mission, namely to propagate the teachings of Lord Caitanya and the culture of sankirtan in accordance with the orders of the Founder-Acarya.

Most such “churches” have their own canon laws, including laws of how to resolve disputes over religious authority (e.g., the ordination of priests or investiture of bishops). Most have “lay” members as well as “clergy.” Most have members within different nations who also obey the laws of their own state. Most expel members only in extreme circumstances.

All of those features seem desirable in ISKCON, too.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on February 26th, 2010
8 Akruranatha

It might be fruitful to consider how, if at all, ISKCON differs or ought to differ from the kind of organization (social phenomenon) known commonly as a “church”.

Srila Prabhupada did condemn “churchianity”, in which people are more concerned with their social standing within the organization than whether they are actually receiving enlightenment and coming in contact with God through devotional service.

However, the problem of “churchianity” or ISKCON “institutionalism” should be combated by exhorting our members, or at least those members who are willing and able, to keep their priorities straight and sincerely devote themselves to the teachings and core principles of the society.

I do not know that defining membership in an exclusive way (”only the fully committed, strict followers may be considered members”) is the best or even an effective way of combating “churchianity.”

The thing is, “membership” should be defined in a way that serves the mission of the institution. People who consider themselves “members” of ISKCON and feel they have a stake in its successes (and failures) will help ISKCON succeed in its mission. People who help even in some small way should be appreciated and drawn into closer association with the other members through that sense of solidarity with the mission.

That’s the way it works with the S.P.C.A., with other churches, and even with nation states. National patriotism seems mostly phony to me, what Kurt Vonnegut might call a “granfaloon,” but through appealing to feelings of patriotism nations call upon their citizens to make sacrifices and even risk their lives in combat.

Watching the Olympics I find it strange that they are organized in terms of national teams and then the play the anthem and lift the flag of the country whose athlete won the gold medal. It just seems that most of the athletes are more interested in achieving some perfection in their respective sports than in making any patriotic statement. This was displayed most dramatically when two black students from U.C. San Jose raised the Black Power salute during the award ceremony in the Mexico City games of 1968. They had not come to support the nation that was oppressing their people and fighting the Vietnam War. (It was a travesty that they were stripped of their medals).

But ISKCON devotees really stand for something tangible, important, greater than national pride, and eternal. We should foster that ISKCON patriotism.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on February 26th, 2010
9 Akruranatha

Giving people a sense of “membership” in ISKCON will foster their sense of ISKCON patriotism and being part of something bigger, something like a family or community, a procession marching to the spiritual world.

Nobel laureate (for literature) Elias Canetti wrote a very interesting book called “Mass und Macht” (”Crowds and Power”), back in the early ’80s sometime (I think). It talks about the importance of a sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves in human social psychology, politics and religion. It is full of sweeping claims and broad generalizations that a lot of readers might find hard to swallow (and I know many devotees shun all forms of mundane literature, which is great for those who are really pure), but that is just his style, and if one sticks to it and reads it all the way through one will take away a lot of profound insights. Canetti sees the desire to belong to religions and national states (and the willingness to be governed by their leaders) as aspects of this crowd behavior. I am not doing it justice here, but I recommend it for those devotees who may read that sort of thing.

My point (if I have one) is, the fact that people *want* to belong to ISKCON is something valuable we should not squander. What book distributor is not happy when he or she encounters someone who says, “I was looking for this. I want to join you guys!”?

We should say, “Yes, you belong. Your membership is important to us. We value you as people. We are your real friends.” We should say it and mean it. It is part of our sacred duty as preachers.

And then, we should also impress that those who really belong in the most important way will always fix their minds on Krishna in rapt meditation or, failing that, will observe the regulations of bhakti yoga in order to develop the ability. Failing that, we should encourage people to at least sympathize with the mission of ISKCON and try to help that work in some way, through offering some work, some money, or some other kind of support and appreciation. All these three kinds of activities represent different kinds of membership, I think.

We should encourage everyone to become members in one of these three ways, and not make them feel bad or inadequate if they only can come up to the third-class level of membership. We should value their support, their membership, their patronage.

And if for some reason they feel like leaving our society, we should try like anything to convince them to stay.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on February 26th, 2010
10 Locanananda dasa

In my humble opinion, the presentation being made here is way too judgmental. It seems to want to turn ISKCON into a very exclusive club with an undertone of elitism and an “us against them” mentality. Srila Prabhupada built a house in which the whole world can live. To me, that means that whoever thinks of himself as a member of this movement is a member of this movement. It’s about self-identification and not about the politics of exclusion.

If you want to make it more selective than that, begin by enumerating the rights and privileges that accrue to someone who is a member. Let’s see. A member can attend temple functions. He or she can receive a temple newsletter. That seems to include anyone interested in becoming Krishna consciousness. In this way, based on the rights and powers of a member, one can define who is and who is not a member. By preparing a list of what every member can do, you will see what the minimum qualifications of membership actually are.

If you were to say, for example, that any member can take part in cleaning the temple, what you are really saying is that the qualification of a member is that he is qualified to clean the temple. What else can any member do that a non-member can’t? In other words, tackle the question from the perspective of a member, not from the point of view of someone who is trying to judge the members.

So let’s say that whoever is interested in becoming Krishna conscious is a member. From that starting point, you can break out many different categories of members. For example, those who donate regularly are contributing members or life members. Then you have members who are regular attendees at temple functions. Many of them practice Krishna consciousness at home. Then there are those who live in temples and follow the daily program of sadhana bhakti. Of those, there are first initiated and second initiated devotees and also those who are qualified to be initiated but who have not yet taken that step. All of the groups of members you can list in this way, taken together, constitute the family of devotees.

Comment posted by Locanananda dasa on February 26th, 2010
11 Puskaraksa das

Srila Prabhupada gave, as usual, some very interesting and appropriate instructions, on how to think “big” ISKCON, and not shrink ISKCON, via some material approach:

“Material nature means dissension and disagreement, especially in this Kali yuga. But, for this Krishna consciousness movement its success will depend on agreement , even though there are varieties of engagements. In this material world there are varieties, but there is no agreement. In the spiritual world there are varieties, but there is agreement. That is the difference. The materialist without being able to adjust the varieties and the disagreements makes everything zero. They cannot come into agreement with varieties, but if we keep Krishna in the center, then there will be agreement. That is the difference. This is called unity in diversity.
I am therefore suggesting that all our men meet in Mayapur every year during the birth anniversary of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. With all GBC and senior men present we should discuss how to make unity in diversity. But, if we fight on account of diversity, then it is simply the material platform.
Please try to maintain the philosophy of unity in diversity. That will make our movement successful.
One section of men have already gone out, therefore we must be very careful to maintain unity in diversity, and remember the story in Aesop’s Fables of the father of many children with the bundle of sticks. When the father asked his children to brake the bundle of sticks wrapped in a bag, none of them could do it. But, when they removed the sticks from the bag, and tried one by one, the sticks were easily broken. So, that is the strength in unity. If we are bunched up, we can never be broken, but when divided, then we can become broken very easily”. (Letter to Kirtanananda, 18 October, 1973)

Comment posted by Puskaraksa das on February 26th, 2010
12 Suresh das

I believe it is important to address one type of member of ISKCON that has often been ignored. What type of member does one become in ISKCON if he was once an initiated disciple of a bonafied spiritual master, with a initiated Vaishnava name, but is no longer following strict principles, such as the chanting 16 rounds each day, or following the four regulative principles? It was once unthinkable that such a thing could happen within ISKCON, but today it is quite commonplace. There may be thousands of devotees in this catagory. What happens when someone leaves. What are they stripped of by ISKCON, and how does their membership status change?

Apparently membership designations can change too. There a sannyasis who left the order, and became householders again. There are some younger women, whose husbands left them at an early age to take sannyas, but who will not accept the status of widow. There are four ashrams and varnas of life, according to Vedic culture, but at least in the West, many people don’t fit into any specific group. That is one thing I always appreciated about our philosophy. A living entity can rise higher by his actions, but he can also move to lower positions as well.

ISKCON is a type of honor society. How can you verify if someone is really chanting 16 rounds per day or not? You can really only take it on someone’s word if they are following or not. The same holds true for the four regulative principles. Cheating is easier to hide for some of the principles more than for others. You might easily detect if someone is taking intoxication such as drinking wine or taking drugs. However, there are many subtle ways to enjoy illicit sex, that are not as blatant as being in direct physical contact with the opposite sex, but are still to be considered subtle falldowns by scriptural definition.

One thing I have always appreciated about ISKCON though is you can travel to any ISKCON temple, anywhere in the world, and the same strict principles and standards are being followed almost universally.

Comment posted by Suresh das on February 28th, 2010
13 Puskaraksa das

cirad adattam nija-gupta-vittam
svaprema-namaritam atyudarah
apamaram yo vitara gaurah
krsno janebhyas tam aham prapadye

This prema had not been given until now. It is the most secret and hidden asset of Goloka Vrindavan. Now Krishna, in the form of Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu, distributes this indiscriminately through the chanting of His holy name, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. Gaura freely distributes this prema. He never discriminates whether one is most fallen or most degraded. Such a wonderfully munificent, wonderfully merciful and wonderfully magnanimous incarnation is Gaurakrishna. I completely surrender unto Him. (C.c. Madhya 23.1)

This is the mood of Mahaprabhu and our parampara. This is the spirit of the ISKCON Movement, founded by Srila Prabhupada.

Comment posted by Puskaraksa das on March 1st, 2010
14 Akruranatha

I really like all the comments here. It seems that the “self designation”, i.e. the *desire* to be a member of ISKCON, should be the main criterion, at least for the most general level of membership. Obviously we are not speaking of “voting members” or any such concept from corporate law. If someone wishes to make common cause and feel himself or herself a part of ISKCON, why shouldn’t we encourage that?

Of course, guidance is also necessary. How should a serious member of ISKCON behave? Or, what are the different kinds of ways one can behave and still be accepted as an “ISKCON devotee”?

The issue raised by Suresh is critical for today’s ISKCON. We know what the standards are. We know Srila Prabhupada asked the GBC to travel within their zones and see to it that the members were chanting 16 rounds and following four regs. But what about those who aren’t? How to deal with them?

The following excerpt from Giriraj Swami’s Gaura Purnima address published here on Dandavats is very significant:

“…So if we chant the holy name only once with such faith and humble submission to the holy name and the devotees, we can progress step-by-step to the perfect stage of chanting and loving and serving Krsna.

“Of course, it was also Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s desire that we encourage others to chant the holy name as well. If one is actually chanting the holy name properly, he or she will naturally feel happiness and compassion for others. Such a blissful devotee will want everyone to experience the same happiness, and think of ways and means to induce them also to chant the holy names of Krsna. But the first instruction is to chant the holy name and serve the devotees.

“Thus, as Srila Prabhupada said, ‘It is more important to maintain a devotee than to try to convince others to become devotees.’ So if the devotees come together and chant the holy names nicely and deal with each other nicely, they will stay and continue with the process and make advancement. Then, with the strength of unity, on the strength of loving, humble service to the devotees, we can go out and preach. And people will be attracted and want to come to our association and stay in our association. Then the sankirtana movement will really spread in a very consistent, steady, and wonderful way, as desired by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Srila Prabhupada.

“Hare Krsna.”

The questions and answers continued as follows….

Comment posted by Akruranatha on March 2nd, 2010
15 Akruranatha

Giriraj Swami lecture, continued:

“…Any questions?

“Phalguna dasa: Thank you, Maharaja, for a very nice class. Sometimes we get caught up in the routine of practicing Krsna consciousness and chanting the holy name, and then we relate in not such a respectful way with devotees who are not following everything we do. How can we bring them to the right standard and help them?

“Giriraj Swami: Phalguna Prabhu says that sometimes we are very busy in devotional service and do not encourage devotees who are weak. So how can we remember to encourage them? Again we come to the point of humility. After some time we may become impressed with the importance of our service–and certainly our service is important–but what is the goal of our service?

“ISKCON is a preaching mission: Our goal is to become Krsna conscious and help others become Krsna conscious. Srila Prabhupada gave the example of Alexander the Great. Alexander would advance with his army and very quickly conquer new territories. But he wouldn’t consolidate the territories he had already conquered, and while he was going ahead to new territories, he would lose some of the old territories he had conquered. So Srila Prabhupada said, ‘Don’t make me Alexander the Great.’ In other words, preserve what I have done, and in the name of rushing ahead to conquer new frontiers, don’t lose what is already there.

“As Srila Prabhupada said, ‘It is better to maintain a devotee than to try to convince others to become devotees.’ With so much effort we get a devotee to join, and then if he or she leaves, it is a great loss. Devotees may get married, or go out and work, but still they can be devotees and serve Srila Prabhupada. We should see first if they are devotees, and if they are, we should, in a mood of humble service, encourage them. We should not think we are too busy and too important to help them.”

“In India we used to see a nice statement about the customer: ‘The customer is not an interruption to our work; the customer is the reason for our work.’ So, devotees are not an interruption to our work; devotees are our work. We should take care of them and engage them. And if some devotees feel the need to marry or live outside the temple and engage in service from there, still we should encourage them. They are devotees. In fact, they may need more encouragement, because they have less association and less opportunity for direct service. So we should encourage such devotees and not be envious of them.”

Comment posted by Akruranatha on March 2nd, 2010
16 Akruranatha

Probably there at least should be a standard that unless devotees are initiated brahmanas and are following strictly they should not go on the altar to perform Deity service or cook for the Deities, and they should also not serve as initiating spiritual masters (or at least should not be accepting new disciples).

Srila Prabhupada did make exceptions at times for fallen disciples whom he sent right back onto the altar, but I think there was a tacit understanding that they were doing so in a mood of renewing their commitment to follow all the principles.

It is not good for a devotee to worship the Deities with an offensive mentality (”I will commit sinful activities, I do not intend to stop”). It is not good to reside in the holy Dhama with such a mentality. Devotees should understand these points and act accordingly, for their own sakes.

It is an offense to chant the holy name with such mentality, too, but we do not discourage anyone from chanting. They should keep chanting for purification. But they should not cook or go on the altar. Right?

So these are at least some of the privileges of certain types of membership, twice-born membership. We understand, at least in theory, that spiritual initiation is supposed to be a spiritual birth in which someone becomes a spiritual person. Of course it is a process, not just a ceremony, but the ceremony involves a solemn vow and the expectation of strict adherence.

Those who break the vow are probably something like “dvija bandhus”. Srila Prabhupada was saying in the famous varnasrama conversation with Hari Sauri and Satsvarupa Maharaja that it was not necessary to give brahman initiation to those who were not actually qualified by nature to follow strictly without falling down.

Otherwise, we dilute the meaning of being twice born. We damage our brand.

Not that we need a police force to examine everybody. We should be able to rely on people not to cheat. Who are they cheating? Why?

It is an uncomfortable subject because so many of us have had (and continue to have) problems. I think Sivaram Swami must be partially motivated to address this issue: How can we stop the dilution of the actual standards Srila Prabhupada established?

But to simply establish strict criteria for membership in good standing, we might discourage people who are already our loyal customers. Membership should be defined in a way that helps them and accepts them without watering down the standards we all know.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on March 2nd, 2010
17 Akruranatha

Yes, Puskaraksa. Lord Caitanya distributes Goloka Vrindavan prema indiscriminately through chanting the Maha Mantra, without considering who is fit or not fit to receive it.

However, those who really receive that prema are never again attracted to the stale allurements of Maya. How could they be?

Still, even when we get a tiny inkling of the foreshadowing of the taste of that prema, we become very inspired to serve in ISKCON and to help in the distribution to others, in this mood. And we try to become trained in the ways of bhakti yoga so that we can eventually chant in pure prema.

We are enjoined to respect even the devotees who just once chant “Krishna”, even if they do so neglectfully! We have faith that the Holy Name is so great, that if it even appears on the lips of some person, however sinful or deluded they may be, they are to be accepted as having already surpassed all rituals of the Vedas, even if they come from a family of mlecchas or candalas!

If even the great devotees who are free from all vices are thus indiscriminately distributing the Maha Mantra with such great faith, how anomalous it would be for the beginning devotees who still have some unfortunate habits to be more discriminatory than the perfect devotees are?

And yet there is a need to teach the standards of moral behavior and sadhana bhakti to those who have become inspired by this movement to try to achieve perfection in the chanting. We would be short-changing the world if we did not give the actual method for chanting correctly, free from all material association of unwanted things.

So… the definition of “membership” has to take such considerations into account.

It seems necessary therefore that we have different kinds of membership. One kind of membership for serious initiated devotees who continue to strictly try to follow the process correctly. Another kind of membership for those who, whether previously initiated or not, have not been willing to make or keep such a firm commitment.

And yet, nobody wants to hear about how fallen we are, do they? Do we less committed devotees have to walk around with shameful insignias, like “dvija bandhu” armbands? We just ought to discretely not perform services (like Deity worship) that is meant only for the committed, initiated devotees who are keeping their vows very strictly.

But it is really not so shameful to be a beginning Hare Krishna chanter. It is, as noted above, a very respectable thing to be.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on March 2nd, 2010
18 Akruranatha

Service in an official capacity as a spokesperson with a high profile as sannyasi, TP, GBC, may also be something we ought to reserve (as we generally already do) for those who are following vows strictly.

I think I am in general agreement with all the commentators here, Locanananda, Suresh, Pskaraksa, and Mukunda, that there are some senses of membership in which very few requirements or qualifications apply.

On the other hand, if someone is called upon to speak on behalf of ISKCON, there may be reasons to restrict the group of eligible persons who can perform that service, so that ISKCON’s message is properly presented.

To use an obvious example, a Mayavadi sannyasi may be very strict in observing severe vows and living a holy, simple life, but we would not want such person to speak on ISKCON’s behalf, or to give a lecture in an ISKCON temple, even if he knows Sanskrt and can recite a lot of verses. He may want to do so. He may even think of himself as a member of ISKCON (or qualified to show us how a real member of ISKCON should be). I have actually seen such cases.

How does this fit into our understanding of ISKCON membership?

And what about the ongoing internecine debates among devotees of different “camps” or splinter groups who have left the main branch of ISKCON? Are they members of ISKCON if they want to be? Or if they say, “We are the real ISKCON”?

Isn’t Srila Prabhupada’s decision to delegate to the GBC the authority to manage ISKCON an important instruction or strategy of Srila Prabhupada to maintain the integrity and unity of ISKCON, to keep us focussed on the task at hand as a united preaching mission and not be divided by squabbles over power, leadership, or authority?

Therefore, perhaps it should also be a criterion of basic membership that one both wants to be a member and one accepts the legitimate authority of the GBC to make final decisions on ISKCON’s policy.

Mind you, that is not the same as saying every ISKCON member agrees with all decisions of the GBC. Just like I may not agree with every law passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by the President, but I still accept that that is the legitimate process by which U.S. laws are made.

As a U.S. citizen I have a basic duty to obey such laws. But even that is a different issue. I may drive above the speed limit, but if a cop catches me I accept: “Yes, he has the authority to give me a ticket.”

Acceptance of such “legitimacy” of the GBC is crucial, IMHO.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on March 2nd, 2010
19 Suresh das

For myself, I can no longer chant 16 rounds per day. I no longer feel qualified to represent ISKCON, so I don’t for instance distribute books anymore, or do temple services like Akruranath alluded to,since I don’t chant all my rounds. At the same time, I believe that nice quality rounds should be chanted, so each day, after work, I perform a ritual in my home temple room. I light candles for all my Deities. I offer fresh flowers from the garden. I offer the Deities fresh water to drink in silver cups. I burn nice incense. I bath and put on clean cloths, tilak, etc. I play a CD of Srila Prabhupada singing in the background. Then I sit down and chant as many rounds as I can, but it is usually just one or two. I am much older now, and my life has slowed way down. When I chant japa now, I like to chant along with the older japa recording of Srila Prabhupada. According to Parama Rupa Prabhu who recorded the Japa CD, Srila Prabhupada used to chant one round with the devotees, either each day, or for the Sunday feast. They would all chant very slowly together. That’s how I chant my rounds now, very slowly and carefully.

I think it is important to encourage devotees who have left ISKCON to continue chanting. In speaking with Akruranath Prabhu, he stated to me that there can be no compromise in the chanting 16 rounds by initiated disciples, and yet at the same time there are many initiated devotees who have completely given up all japa, because they can’t chant 16 rounds any more. I like to encourage devotees to continue. Start with one round each day, and go from there. It should be a pleasurable, non-forced service.

I knew one initiated disciple of Srila Prabhupada and former head pujari, who was living only one block from the temple, but who never went again, because she was widowed in her early 20’s, when her husband took sannyasa, and she could not accept being a widow, so she left ISKCON. She could not go to the temple, even though it was only one block away out of embarressment and resentment as well. I always tried to encourage her just to do her best, however small and not give up.

Comment posted by Suresh das on March 4th, 2010
20 Unregistered

‘On the other hand, if someone is called upon to speak on behalf of ISKCON, there may be reasons to restrict the group of eligible persons who can perform that service, so that ISKCON’s message is properly presented.’

Yes. The standards for our representatives should be of the highest level. But the MOOD of our representatives should be unjudgemental and all encouraging. The goal is to bring the fallen souls to Krishna, not restrict their access.

Comment posted by Mukunda das on March 4th, 2010
21 Puskaraksa das

It seems that the topic raised by H.H. Sivarama Maharaja, leaves a lot of room for discussion.
First of all, we should clarify the definition of words.
For instance, as far as I know and have been experiencing for the last thirty years, when one speaks of “The Hare Krishna Movement”, one refers to ISKCON, which is quite normal as it is a way by which we, as ISKCON members, have also been communicating… As an evidence to that, Indian people commonly identify us as members of “The Hare Krishna – Hare Rama Movement”, which in their mind refers to ISKCON.
So, rather than identifying all believers as part of the “Hare Krishna Movement”, I would rather say that if we talk of belief, then we should rather refer to a religion. For instance, if we get into drawing parallels, as in the initial presentation, we could speak, as a premise, of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, as a religion or a set of beliefs, in the same way we speak of Christianity as a religion. For instance, as a tentative definition for Gaudiya Vaishnavism, we could state that the followers of that religion (even though we know it is the conclusion of all religions) all accept both Sri-Sri Gour-Nitai and Sri-Sri Radha-Krishna as their Lords and worshipable Deities.
Then, within that same religion, such as Cristianity or Vaishnavism, we have different churches or religious organizations or spiritual movements (whatever way you want to name them), such as the Catholic Church holding an organization functioning under a hierarchy and accepting the authority of the Pope, as an elected member on top of that hierarchy. Similarly, there are different mathas and religious organizations within the religious or spiritual trend or school of Vaishnavism, sharing the same religious beliefs, such as different mathas of the Gaudiya Matha, as well as our ISKCON Movement. Thereby, each religious organization - or church, so to speak – shares not only the same beliefs but is operating within a same structure and cooperating within a given system of functionment and hierarchy. For instance, as ISKCON members we all accept the authority of the ISKCON Founder Acarya, Srila Prabhupada, through his teachings and personal example. We also accept the authority of the GBC, meant to be a board composed of senior qualified members, in charge of defining the ISKCON policy and coordinating the development of our Movement, which is meant to be - let us not forget - an expansion of the Sankirtan Movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu…!

Comment posted by Puskaraksa das on March 5th, 2010
22 Puskaraksa das

(following)

Then again, within this same Religious Organization or Church, such as ISKCON or the Catholic Church, we have different groups of followers or devotees (somewhat similar to what is called “an Order” within the Catholic Church, such as the Dominicans, the Franciscans, etc) each one rallied under the spiritual authority of a charismatic figure such as a Saint within the Catholic Church (as Saint Dominic for the Dominicans, or Saint Francis for the Franciscans) or of a Guru, in the line of our ISKCON Founder Acarya, within ISKCON.

In the light of this first step concerning definitions, we can start asking the question of who is a Catholic or who is an ISKCONite ?

Comment posted by Puskaraksa das on March 5th, 2010
23 Puskaraksa das

Understanding that it is more appropriate to compare ISKCON with a Religious Organization or a Church, rather than with a country in which one is in most cases a citizen by birth, we can now ask the question of who is a member of that church or religious organization / society, named ISKCON.

As Locananda Prabhu rightly outlined it straight away, the definition of who is a member of ISKCON should be based on faith.

Why is belonging to such or such Church or Religious Group based on faith ?
Because spiritual life starts with faith !

ādau śraddhā tatah sādhu-sango ‘tha bhajana-kriyā
tato ‘nartha-nivrittih syāt tato nisthā rucis tatah
athāsaktis tato bhāvas tatah premābhyudañcati
sādhakānām ayam premnah prādurbhāve bhavet kramah
[Cc. Madhya 23.14-15]

First comes faith and then, by associating with saddhu, one will start performing bhajan and from there will start the purificatory process.

The question raised by Sivarama Swami in its original version, was whether we should consider only as an ISKCON member, whoever would be free from anarthas, which you could also call defects.

We understand that with such a policy, there may not be many members left…!

So, as the spiritual process is meant to free oneself from anarthas, shouldn’t one be given a chance to practice spiritual life and get purified, by belonging to a Church or Religious organization, such as ISKCON, on the basis of one’s faith both in the religious dogma and in the validity of the spiritual process, promoted by this spiritual organization?

Then, it is up to ISKCON members to be enlightened enough to recognize who is a real saddhu , by being nirmatsaranam satam, non envious and honest, and be able to serve Srila Prabhupada Movement’s interest, rather than whatever personal ambitions or material agenda they may have or still retain…

It is also the responsibility of ISKCON leaders to ensure that all ISKCON members, starting from this first stage of faith, will be given the opportunity to practice their faith (bhajana kriya) and engage in the process of purification (anartha nivritti).

At last, it is also their responsibility to ensure they select within their managerial committees, devotees blessed with some saintly qualities, who will act as facilitators for others to engage in spiritual life (by providing them with saddhu sanga) and then awaken and develop their dormant love of God and reach the stages of nistha, ruci, and so on…

Comment posted by Puskaraksa das on March 24th, 2010
24 Puskaraksa das

Srila Prabhupada explains very clearly this gradual process of spiritual life “So our, this Krishna Consciousness Movement is enacted just to create little faith in Krishna.” in this lecture given in Ahmedabad on December 12, 1972, of which you will find the relevant excerpts here below:

“ … / …

yoginām api sarvesām
mad-gatenāntar-ātmanā
śraddhāvān bhajate yo mām
sa me yuktatamo matah
[Bg. 6.47]

This is conclusion, that of all yogis, who is always thinking of Me, śraddhāvān… Without being śraddhāvān… Śraddhā is the beginning of everything. Faith, śraddhā, respect. If you have no respect for Krishna, if you have no faith in Krishna, there is no advancement of spiritual life or yoga life. Therefore it is said śraddhāvān. Ādau śraddhā. The beginning of spiritual life is śraddhā, faith. Ādau śraddhā. Ādau śraddhā tatah sādhu-sangan [Cc. Madhya 23.14-15]. First of all, faith, and faith has been described by Krishnadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī as, faith means: viśvāsa.

So he explains:

‘śraddhā’-śabde-viśvāsa kahe sudridha niścaya
Krishne bhakti kaile sarva-karma krita haya
[Cc. Madhya 22.62]

This is the śraddhā. Śraddhā means firm faith. As Krishna says, sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekam śaranam vraja [Bg. 18.66].

So unless one has got faith. Why one should consider himself that “I must be completely surrendered to Krishna,” unless one has got faith? Therefore faith is the beginning. And to create faith, Krishna has explained about Himself in the whole Bhagavad-gītā. So one who is fortunate, after reading Bhagavad-gītā thoroughly, he’ll have a strong faith in Krishna. If you have failed to achieve this status of faith, then there is no question of progress. That is explained by Krishna dāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī: śraddhā-śabde viśvāsa kahe sudridha niścaya [Cc. Madhya 22.62]. Śraddhā means firm faith, with conviction, “Yes, if I surrender to Krishna, then all my business will be perfect, all my spiritual life will be perfect.” Therefore Krishna says: śraddhāvān bhajate. With śraddhā, with full faith. Ādau śraddhā. Beginning is śraddhā. If one has developed a little śraddhā. Just like we are giving chance throughout the whole world by this propaganda, opening centers to create little śraddhā. And if the śraddhā is there, then next stage is sādhu-sanga [Cc. Madhya 22.83], if one wants to become Krishna conscious, if he has developed a little faith in it, the next stage is to associate with sādhu.

Comment posted by Puskaraksa das on March 24th, 2010
25 Puskaraksa das

(Srila Prabhupada’s lecture continuing)

And who is sādhu? Sādhu, sādhavah sādhu-bhūsanāh. Titiksavah kārunikāh suhridah sarva-bhūtānām. So sādhu means very tolerant. In another place, sādhu is described in the Bhagavad-gītā: bhajate mām ananya-bhāk sādhur eva sa mantavyah [Bg. 9.30]. Api cet su-durācāro bhajate mām ananya-bhāk sādhur eva…

In another place in the Bhāgavata the sādhu is described:

titiksavah kārunikāh
suhridah sarva-dehinām
ajāta-śatravah śāntāh
sādhavah sādhu-bhūsanāh
[SB 3.25.21]

A sādhu, the first qualification is he must be a staunch devotee of Krishna or God. Whatever you say. That is sādhu. That is the basic definition… Religion means to abide by the orders of God. And sādhu means who is staunchly a devotee of Krishna. These are the description of sādhu. Therefore sādhu-sanga [Cc. Madhya 22.83] means to associate with devotees, those who are devotees of Krishna.

That is sādhu-sanga. Caitanya Mahāprabhu, in another place, says: sādhu-sanga sādhu-sanga sarva-śāstre kaya, lava-mātra sādhu-sanga… Sādhu-sanga sādhu-sanga sarva… lava-mātra sādhu-sange sarva-siddhi haya [Cc. Madhya 22.54]. Sādhu-sanga is very important. If we can associate with real sādhu, means real devotee, unadulterated devotee, anyābhilāsitā-śūnyam jñāna-karmādy-anāvritam [Bhakti-rasāmrita-sindhu 1.1.11], then the recommendation is that simply by associating with sādhu all perfection will come.

By simply associating… Sādhu-sanga sādhu-sanga sarva-śāstre kaya, lava-mātra sādhu-sange sarva-siddhi. So this is very practical. We have got little experience how sādhu-sanga is powerful.

So ādau śraddhā tatah sādhu-sangah. First thing is faith.

ādau śraddhā tatah sādhu-sango ‘tha bhajana-kriyā
tato ‘nartha-nivrittih syāt tato nisthā rucis tatah
athāsaktis tato bhāvas tatah premābhyudañcati
sādhakānām ayam premnah prādurbhāve bhavet kramah
[Cc. Madhya 23.14-15]

These are the steps, krama. Krama means one after another. So our, this Krishna Consciousness Movement is enacted just to create little faith. In Krishna. Then the person whom we are trying to help, his business is to associate with sādhu. Satām prasangān mama vīrya-samvido bhavanti hrit-karna-rasāyanāh kathāh [SB 3.25.25]. Satām prasangāt. If we discuss Krishna consciousness… Boddhayantam parasparam tusyanti ca ramanti ca. Everywhere, the same thing. So śraddhā is required. Then sādhu-sanga [Cc. Madhya 22.83], then bhajana-kriyā.

Comment posted by Puskaraksa das on March 24th, 2010
26 Akruranatha

Oh, Hi. It seems I have been missing some of this discussion for the last few weeks or so.

Suresh Prabhu says,

“I think it is important to encourage devotees who have left ISKCON to continue chanting. In speaking with Akruranath Prabhu, he stated to me that there can be no compromise in the chanting 16 rounds by initiated disciples, and yet at the same time there are many initiated devotees who have completely given up all japa, because they can’t chant 16 rounds any more.”

I do not know exactly what I said to Suresh about that, but I do agree that everyone should be encouraged to just do the best they can and should not let their sense of failure or inability prevent them from favorably associating with devotees.

The devotees should not be judgmental, I agree. We all have to “fly our own airplanes” or, as stated in a Jimi Hendrix song, “I’m the one who’s got to die when its time fo me to die.”

Therefore, we should be friendly with other devotees and not judge them or make them feel inferior or ashamed about not coming up to the standard.

I think we have motivated people in the past by encouraging them to “move in” to a kind of fully-committed communal environment, and to accept the hierarchical structure of the organization.

Sometimes it pinches, though. The high standards Srila Prabhupada set for us are actually higher or harder than we might at first realize. “Simple for the simple”, but not actually all that simple for most people to do it steadily and do it right.

And we pinch each other, too, sometimes demanding they submit to us based on our position in the hierarchy, based on some egotistic motive or exagerated pretense of being especially respectable or honorable.

There is a danger of getting too caught up in issues of dominance and control, which is basically the material disease. Everywhere we go in the material world these questions of power and dominance confront us.

There are hierarchies in the spiritual world, and even in ideal varnasrama society, that are sweet, free from false dominance and exploitation. And the realities of trying to get anything done requires us to accept some form of hierarchy in ISKCON, a society of Vaisnavas, being able to take orders as appropriate and submit to proper authorities. We have to make it sweet though, these dealings between devotees.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on March 25th, 2010
27 Akruranatha

So, there is the organization ISKCON, and then there is the broader Krishna Consciousness Movement inaugurated by Lord Caitanya.

ISKCON used to have this model of “members” as those developing enough faith in the process and in Srila Prabhupada to “surrender” and move into a temple under the direction of Srila Prabhupada through the hierarchy of ISKCON authorities, sort of like an army with officers above us and possibly below us in rank.

But as history went on, many members no longer live directly under this hierarcical regime, exactly. As they are less economically dependent on the temple, they also feel less beholden to follow commands of higher-ranking officers.

But they feel the process of “surrendering” to Srila Prabhupada can go on, by keeping the regulative principles very carefully andchanting the porescribed number of rounds, the faith is developing more and more, the bhakti creeper is being watered and protected and is growing stronger.

And we can accept that devotees who practice Krishna consciousness in other associations or outside the direct control of some ISKCON authority may still develop great faith in Krishna and pure love of Krishna. ISKCON is one branch on the Caitanya tree, but the way it is described in Caitanya Caritamrta it sounds like a vey big tree.

Ideally, though, we want to make ISKCON into a great powerful exponent or change agent to bring the world to the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya. Practically speaking ISKCON is still more or less synonymous with “The Hare Krishna Movement” because it is the most vital exponent of Lord Caitanya’s message throughout the world, distributing so many books, having so many classes, kirtans, aratis, engaging in so many outreach programs throughout the world. And that is a good thing. If people see ISKCON as synonymous with Hare Krishna it is because in one sense we are doing a good job of making propaganda for Hare Krishna.

But ultimately ISKCON is defined as an organization in terms of those who accept Srila Prabhupada’s instruction to give ultimate legitimacy for making decisions on ISKCON’s behalf to the GBC. That was the organizational structure Srila Prabhupada selected for ISKCON. When we say “ISKCON” as opposed to some other group or faction, we refer to the main branch or organization that remains loyal to the GBC system Srila Prabhupada established.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on March 26th, 2010
28 Akruranatha

I think we have to see the organization in some sense as a means to an end. We are trying to do something nice for the world, as Srila Prabhupada wanted, to bring everyone the enlightenment of the holy names, of Srimad-Bhagavatam, of Lord Caitanya’s movement, and we have adopted (on Srila Prabhupada’s order) certain strategies in terms of organization for doing it.

Like any other service, what counts most is the devotion and faith with which we do it, but at the same time our devotion and faith impells us to try to achieve good practical results.

When we cook chutney for Krishna, our devotion makes us try to make it taste nice, but Krishna really accepts the devotion. “bhakty upahrtam asnami”

And when we preach, our devotion makes us try to increase the number of books sold, of books read and understood, of devotees made and of becoming happy and steady and successful in chanting and dedicating their lives to Krishna.

And when we serve as members of ISKCON we try to make ISKCON successful in being a powerful, united, influential force for actually bringing people into contact with Krishna consciousness, the holy names, Srila Prabhupada’s books and all the practices of devotional service taught there in, so that more and more people can advance nicely from sraddha to prema.

I think I would like to see ISKCON temples more as training centers or educational centers, where (mostly young), surrendered “trainees” could live for a time and learn the basic skills necessary for being productive congregational members, and “teachers” could be mostly permanent residents of very high calibre who could do the training. Some of the “trainees” would excel well enough to graduate into the status of permanent residence as “teachers.”

Others might find that after they complete their training and move out they are not as committed to morning program and all of the strict practices, but still have a favorable relationship and a nice feeling about their training years, that might stick with them and help in older age. Others will remain very committed even though living and working “outside”, tithing and supporting ISKCON projects in many ways.

We should not make members feel ashamed for not being able to remain strong enough to be permanent “teachers.” We should be happy to see that people still like ISKCON and want to both grow in their own devotion and faith as they help the organized preaching activities of ISKCON in whatever capacity they can.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on March 26th, 2010

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