Tuesday, September 13, 2011

GBC has failed ISKCON pt.1

by Prahlambaha dasa
Part One: Service Attitude

The niti shastras advise caution towards one who has been your adversary, yet suddenly approaches you in a friendly way seeking your companionship and counsel. The Panchatantra lays wide open such an opponent's ruse with the words, "Never trust an enemy who suddenly appears as your friend." And so it is that the GBC, who has long held a dynastic strangle-hold on their peers in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, now comes forward with a sunny smile and begs for opinions from the very persons upon whose lives they have unremittingly wreaked havoc for decades.

A few weeks ago the following impersonal, cold and officious GBC letter marked "Fw: Assistance for the GBC" was sent around the net as far and wide as the autumn leaves. The letter contains the usual impersonal bureaucratic double talk, and anyone can read between the lines (except perhaps the GBC members themselves). Many devotees who had been around for three or four decades were taken aback, wondering why the GBC, who has never cared to ask for their opinion in the past, is suddenly so taken in with their wisdom.

Did you receive your copy? Did you send in your reply? In this article I have publicly answered their interrogatives with an attitude to correct the wayward mentality that seems to be a chronic problem with ISKCON's highest echelon, and not with the airs of a fault finder. The GBC have asked for honest opinions, which we have taken the time and effort to oblige them with in a helpful and straight-forward way. Those who are without discrimination will form their own opinions regarding our views, but for them we care but little because ours is an honest attempt.

The GBC wants us to know that our opinions count. Their letter in essence confesses that the GBC--after spending millions and millions of dollars on their semi-annual meetings--have finally concluded that they should try to get along with one another: a brilliant revelation to be sure. Our answers to the GBC questionnaire appear after their entreaty, which follows.

Questionnaire from the GBC
Dear Prabhu,

Please accept our humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. In 2007 the GBC body empowered a Strategic Planning Team [SPT] to work with them with a view to chalking out and then executing a clear plan of action to assist in fulfilling Srila Prabhupada's and by extension the previous Acharyas, vision for the spreading of the Hare Krsna movement globally.

Certain key areas were identified as being crucial to the success of the above. One was to ensure a greater unity and cohesion among the GBC members themselves and the body as a whole.

To that end we are seeking your help and are requesting you to give your thoughts, comments and realisations on the online survey (web link posted below) concerning the GBC.

You are one of a select group of nominated devotees we are approaching, from various parts of the world, whose input we feel would greatly assist in the development of ISKCON's future. We are aware that you have a busy life with many services that already take up many hours of your day, however as the saying goes 'if you want to get something done ask a busy person', it is precisely because you are so busy in the service of the Lord that we would appreciate your considered thoughts on the questions raised in the on-line survey. We hope you will be able to assist.

From the time you receive this e mail we would humbly request that you send your response within a two week framework. If you do then it will be included in the feedback that our committee will present to the GBC with a view to implementing as much of that feedback as is possible to the workings of the GBC body.

You may access the survey at the following web link:

Thank you in advance for considering this request.
All glories to your service!
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
Your servant,
Varsana devi dasi
On behalf of
Bhakti Caitanya Swami,
Lokanath Swami,
Laxmimoni devi dasi
Malati devi dasi
Praghosa das

1. NAME: Pralambaha das
COUNTRY of SERVICE: The country where there is no GBC

2. What is your understanding of the service description of an individual GBC member?

Well, since you asked, Prabhus, the general opinion of devotees, including me, is that the GBC members are like ego-maniacal spoiled brats who think they have inherited the Hare Krishna Movement for their own enjoyment and exploitation. The GBC is seen as an ambitious bunch of dubious characters that draws its power from those who they imagine in their crooked mentality to be far less than they are. Therefore it is ironic that those who have no ambition whatsoever but to freely give of themselves in the service of the Supreme Lord have become the fodder for their own domination by a body that has yet to understand the message of Shrila Prabhupada. But what is true is that the assumption of self-glory lies within the collective imagination of the GBC and does not stray far from those parameters. And since it takes a questionnaire for us to point out these facts to them, we are happy to oblige.

Take for example Lokanath Swami, whose name appears on this letter. Wasn't he suspended from his duties by the GBC for questionable activities with an eleven-year old Indian girl? If you'd like to have some opinions, why not ask the girl who was offended by him? She's grown up now and can speak for herself. In case she wasn't one of the "select devotees" on your exclusive roster, you can have her opinion here.

Of course it is probably not true that every individual member of the GBC is a spoiled brat, but this is the GBC's collective reputation. And it is an eminence that the GBC has royally earned for itself; and I do mean royally, because they are wont to live like royalty at the expense of sold-out Vaishnavas.

Lies My GBC Told Me
It is undeniable that since the disappearance of Shrila Prabhupada, this feeling of resentment towards the GBC's misused authority has been so rampant amongst devotees that 95% or so of the original devotees have simply packed up and left. The loss of so many wonderful Prabhus while the GBC fiddled self-confidently is the saddest chapter in ISKCON history. These rare surdurlabha mahatmas have had their valuable human forms of life severely curtailed because they were forced out of their spiritual family and made to compete in the karmi world rather than compromise their devotion to Prabhupada by existing in a totalitarian regime based around the sense gratification of a few self-important tyrants.

Entire communities have been destroyed by the deviations of individual GBC members like Satsvarupa, Rameshvara, Harikesa or Bhagavan, to name a few. Neither does the GBC learn its lesson and deal with devotees in a straight-forward manner, but in every case covers up other members' deviations like good old boys in a country club. Little has been done to rectify the malodorous stench left behind by deviants fallen from the GBC body and, though faces come and go, the foul reputation the GBC has earned for itself lingers. For example, what are those mahatmas to think -- the ones who the GBC considers their underlings -- when a one-time GBC member who has been accused of innumerable child molestations is back in good standing at Mayapur? For the elite, it is business as usual, and for the others, no matter how austere or sincere, they are treated as dispensable.

Remember that reputation is how you are viewed by others while character is what you are. And reputation is the essence of the second question because it is the GBC's reputation that influences how we feel about them. The fact is, the GBC is a public relations disaster, despite any good characters that may admittedly continue to work on the GBC body. What has really destroyed the GBC is their overriding mentality that the yuga dharma -- street sankirtan and the distribution of Shrila Prabhupada's books -- is meant for inferior members of the movement and not for them. The GBC wants to be dictators and they want others to be servants. Brahmana preachers who give their lives to enlighten others are treated like second-rate members. In this way, arrogant GBC members have destroyed the Hare Krishna Movement's potency in many places on earth. Their neglect of sankirtan has allowed a veil of ignorance to descend not only upon the movement, but upon the world in general, thereby causing wars and other horrors to infect Mother Earth.

What is ironic in the GBC is that they have created a Communications Minister whose whole approach to preaching is to lie to the public with an impersonal, Hinduized form of "ISKCON", while any attempt at a straight-forward conversation with any GBC member appears almost an impossibility. Rank and file devotees no longer bother to even e-mail the GBC members because virtually none of them will bother to answer letters. The GBC may know how to appoint ministers, but they do not know how to communicate because of their impersonal attitude towards ISKCON's genuine mahatmas.

It is not the fault of the individual devotees that this unfortunate point of view regarding the GBC's reputation is so rampant amongst thousands of genuine, true and faithful members of the Hare Krishna Movement. But it is a fact that this opinion is shared by a great majority of members within the temples, as well as probably by each and every devotee who has felt forced out of ISKCON. Why the GBC -- both individually and collectively -- refuses to own up to their offensive behaviour against Vaishnavas by treating them as inferiors is a mystery. Their tactic of a layer-by-layer whitewashing of their offenses while refusing to take responsibility for their egregious deeds is the root cause of the public relations disaster that they have created for themselves.

In a movement that is based upon being humbler than a blade of grass, the GBC is known to act as though such instructions of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as trinadapi sunicena were written only for the plebeians who were born to worship them. Whether certain GBC members actually believe in the conclusions of the Gita and the Bhagavat it is hard to say, though the activities of many have shown that they do not accept that there is a Supreme Personality of Godhead named Bhagavan Shri Krishna. Some have come out and contradicted those teaching after years of exploitation, like Harikesa, and have revealed their deep-seated mayavadi convictions after years of demanding personal worship and obedience.

One who joins ISKCON motivated by an all devouring desire to enjoy an elevated post should know that when his machinations are exposed there will be very severe reactions, for not only him and the GBC body he represents but for the Society as a whole. With the responsibility of a superior position comes the burden of living up to that post. Those who have joined ISKCON for the rare privilege of merely rendering seva unto Shri Shri Radha and Krishna are more or less insulated from that suspicion by virtue of their humble position. Therefore the burden of proving their bona fides rests upon the shoulders of the individual members of the GBC themselves, and not on meaningless public surveys.

ISKCON is a society for devotees who actually believe in the process that Shrila Prabhupada brought from Vaikuntha. From the time the GBC created the Zonal Acarya system, which nearly ruined Shrila Prabhupada's movement, to the present-day watered-down injection of non-parampara elements like "interfaith" and "Hinduization" into ISKCON, the GBC has shown a very thick skin when it comes to criticism of their disastrous policies. Any faithful devotee who questions their carte blanche has been summarily ejected with no remorse or rectification due to the impersonal policies towards the movement's rank and file. To replace an interchange of love and respect, the GBC has instead developed a corporate multi-tiered structure of bureaucracy run by obedient "ministers" and committees that really do nothing to augment street sankirtan and book distribution.

The GBC mentality displayed in 1978 when Hridayananada, representing the entire GBC body, dubbed Shriman Pradyumna das Pandit "an envious demon" is still prevalent today. Pradyumna's crime was that he was the first devotee to meticulously point out the dangerous deviations of the GBC who were erecting thrones for themselves (when Shrila Prabhupada's Samadhi was not even completed). In fact, few devotees will honestly answer this questionnaire because of an abiding fear of being blacklisted in exchange for their honest opinions. Therefore, this questionnaire reflects the old GBC mentality of keeping a chorus line of rewarded flatterers and cheerleaders who are card-carrying members of their personal choir. And of continuing the deaf ear policy when it comes to offering sound and honest counsel.

If the general population of GBC members wishes to change this inky aura that surrounds them like a school of squids, then they must create programmes whereby they no longer reside in ivory towers that are paid for and polished by a clique of unwilling servants. An adjustment of their mentality to lord it over other devotees must be abnegated in favour of the attitude shown by the genuine sannyasis who offer obeisances to the other devotees each morning, and who eat temple prasdam alongside the rank and file. This means that to improve their sagging reputation, the individual GBC members must actually engage in sankirtan on the streets with the other devotees. They must show by example how to sell books to passers-by. This is the time-tested method of pushing on the Krishna consciousness movement, whereas none of their concocted inventions or innovations will push Shrila Prabhupada's movement even one inch forward. Rather, we have seen so many inventive GBC-sponsored disasters such as:

-Hiring homosexuals to teach young boys, which resulted in losing a multi-million dollar law suit,

-Allowing charismatic cults to develop around individual members like New Vrindavana's Kirtanananda, which resulted in federal prosecutions for murder and racketeering,

-The Bhaktivedanta Institute which wasted millions of dollars without making one devotee;

-Introducing mayavadic nonsense like interfaith, which has destroyed straight-forward preaching to outsiders in favour of a neatly manicured soft-soaping of the public.

-Selling out New Vrindavana to the oil companies who are now contracted to drill for natural gas there, in complete violation of Shrila Prabhupada's orders. When the GBC is in violation of the pure devotee's vision for them, how can this very GBC stretch out its hand for accolades from the very persons they have driven off?

Of course it is to the credit of the GBC that they have created many Hare Krishna centres around the world, and for this we congratulate them. But the general public opinion regarding the GBC is that Shrila Prabhupada's movement continues to grow despite GBC mismanagement, and not because of good organization. Had the GBC set a proper example, the Hare Krishna Movement would be a much more powerful force in the world today, especially in America.

Further, there also persists the feeling that an old form of Zonalism still remains, because it is easier to fill temples with lackeys who can be counted upon to agree with any mandate, whether it follows shastric lines or not. These paid lackeys will agree as long as they are not called upon to preach on the street. And for that matter, no hard core preaching has developed since the GBC polluted the movement with personality cults and inter-cultural compromise. Therefore for many on the GBC, temple expansion appears to be a form of personal over-lordship and a means of expanding personal assets. To succeed in their efforts, the GBC simply fill their new temples with Green Card Beggars from third world countries (who disappear once they get their paperwork in order.)

So in a word, what do I think is the service description of the individual GBC members? With some exceptions, I think they are generally interested in serving their own forms of sense gratification through imagined airs of power and authority. They are keen to get free vacations, to exploit other devotees who wash their clothes and cook for them and meet them at the airport with a garland, and to generally create their own exclusive fiefdoms. If I am wrong, I beg any GBC spokesperson or Communications Minister to come forward and prove it, and I promise to include your explanations in my forthcoming treatise, Sordid History of ISKCON's GBC.

Truthfully, I have never met a single devotee who loves his GBC member. This is a great failing in a society that is supposed to be based upon love. Rather than soliciting opinions, the GBC should be asking for forgiveness for thirty-five years of crimes committed against the innocent members of ISKCON.

Next… Part Two

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