Saturday, May 7, 2011

What Services are Rendered by the GBC?

What Services are Rendered by the GBC?


May 06, 2011 — Recently I was ‘put in my place' by an older member of ISKCON after I politely questioned something about the GBC on an open forum. I was told: "Just follow regardless and do not question. At least they're doing some devotional service".

This got me to thinking, seeing as I had never met this person who took it upon himself to instruct me, so I decided to analyze his emphatic pronouncement based on my observation of our GBC's over the last couple of decades.

The ideal of devotional service, or at least as I understand it, means to serve, to become a servant, to ‘do some service' for others, to give of yourself in such a way as to spiritually uplift another. In my experience, I see our GBC take a lot of service, but I can't say exactly what they give. Simply having a GBC title after one's name does not, by definition, automatically mean someone is doing a lot of devotional service, does it?

So let's see if we can figure out what our GBC's service within ISKCON is, given that they receive a salary for this ‘service' that supports a jet-setting, festival-going, highly privileged lifestyle!

Whenever a GBC member visits our centre (flying in on expensive Business or First Class), their bags will be carried by servants to a waiting car where they are chauffeured from the airport to their private rooms, complete with free phone and Internet service (many times leaving us with large international phone bills upon departure). Over the next few days, different teams of servants cook them their exclusive breakfast/lunch/dinner, often with expensive organic ingredients or specialized dietary needs. A second team personally serves out, and yet another team cleans up (albeit quietly, as the GBC may now be having a post-lunch nap). Each morning a servant takes away their dirty washing, cleans their room and makes their bed, then fills their closet with freshly cleaned and pressed cloth that another servant had prepared the night before.

A servant driver may take them out during the day in one of the centre's vehicles to the local pool for a swim, a stroll around the park, or maybe down-town for an appointment to receive the very best medical or dental care money can buy. They may purchase new eye-wear, top of-the-line clothing or footwear, an iPod, upgrade a camera lens, buy musical equipment, or find the latest must-have software upgrades for their laptops.

They don't engage in any Deity worship, and very rarely, if ever, go out on Hari nama or book distribution. They live in what some call a ‘bubble of comfort' that demands very little austerity, despite their being sannyasis, as they skip from heated rooms to heated cars. They preach to the choir, but often create confusion in the minds and hearts of the devotees with their ‘do as I say, not as I do' approach.

They give some Srimad Bhagavatam classes.

They install their disciples in positions of power over others, remove dissenters, and sanction special salaries to a select few who are in allegiance. They never divulge to those who make donations to ISKCON exactly how much money they take through their GBC zonal tithes, nor how much laxmi in the form of undisclosed cash donations from disciples and aspirants leaves the building - leaving behind the Deities and Their servants to struggle on financially.

They spend hours locked away simply ignoring their hosts (though you may get their audience for a designated time if you go through the right channels to make an appointment). They never enquire into who is chanting their 16 rounds, and seldom chant their own rounds in the company of devotees. It's never been known for our GBC to make any effort to contact those who have fallen away, or who may be struggling spiritually, despite perhaps having taken years of service (and much money) from these devotees.

They can be very confrontational if questioned on certain issues, and may mock you if approach with a genuine concern. What some consider as their authoritarian strangle-hold over their zonal temples and centres sees them have the final say in ANY and ALL significant financial decisions, services or changes, regardless of what the majority local opinion may be.

Finally, a servant driver again carries their bags to a waiting car and chauffeurs them back to the airport, but not before a small team of servants have prepared sumptuous prasadam to have on the plane.

And that kind of sums up a GBC's visit.

Some say they live just like multi-millionaires, but I think even rich men have to pay their way. Our GBC's get served AND paid!! But I might be missing something, and will happily stand corrected if someone can explain what tangible service a GBC honestly does, or how they justify siphoning off so much money to support the comfortable lifestyles they lead, all in the name being on the Governing Body as their ‘service'.

"In Krsna Consciousness we are getting sufficient money, but we should never think that the money belongs to us: it belongs to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and should be equally distributed to the workers, the devotees"
(Srila Prabhupada Purport: Srimad Bhagavatam 8.1.10)

Your servant,
Maha Mantra das

PS: BBT, please don't edit or remove this quote from Srila Prabhupada's books. Though it may be less than grammatically perfect, the instruction therein is perfectly clear.


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