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|[Posted July 8, 2007]
Attention North American Temples: Role
of the GBC
The Authorized Oath of Allegiance
attempted to have longer version of this letter published on the
Dandavats.com site. I did so specifically because HG Rabindra Swarup
Prabhu had published his comments there, and it was obviously necessary
to discuss the issue amongst the wider devotee community that frequents
HG Praghosa Das - the monitor of the site declined to publish it, preferring to allow the comments of Rabindra Swarup Prabhu to stand as the supposed "final word" on the issue. He has his reasoning, and I will not assess that. Perhaps he feels it to be too exclusive to the US and Canada and not important to the worldwide community of devotees. However the issue is important enough to warrant a deeper study.
This issue - the attempt by the NA GBC to secure compliance with their effort to standardize all the By Laws of the US and Canadian Temples, in a fashion that does not reflect Srila Prabhupada's instructions in total, is one of the most important issues facing the preaching effort in North America.
All other issues of management pale in comparison to this.
The preaching of Krishna Consciousness - like the chanting of our own 16 rounds of japa - is completely local. No one can chant our rounds for us. Likewise - no one from outside a particular local region - can affect our preaching locally - unless we encourage or allow it. The GBC Executors can only be a help to the local preaching. Srila Prabhupada did not establish his mission in such a way that the GBC Executors could be a hindrance to the local effort in any way, unless a less than vigilant community invited such interference.
So this matter must be fully discussed and understood by every single initiated disciple of Srila Prabhupada in order that his interests are given the priority in each and every single aspect of the local preaching effort. I have made some adjustments to the content of this article - to avoid any distraction with detailed examples of mismangement and have tried to address merely the important principles at stake.
Threadbare discussion of this issue is not to be avoided. We are adults and our Krishna Consciousess is based upon the scientific process given us by Srila Prabhupada. It is not a fragile faith - rooted in unverifiable "beliefs" that will be threatened by honest, careful and respectful discussion.
I publish this here on the Sun site - knowing full well that though I tried to publish it on the more "acceptable" site, dandavats.com and they refused to comply with my request, there will be some like Rabindra Swarup Das - who will attempt to minimize the content of my comments merely by minimizing the medium I now employ to make these concerns public. I would caution anyone from doing this however. Let us confine ourselves to a healthy discussion of that actual issue only in the spirit of isthaghosti.
Praghosa das - NYC
Attention all NA GBC Executors and Temple Presidents and initiated Disciples of His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
I want to offer a response to the recent article by HG Rabindra Swarup prabhu found here at dandavats.com, concerning the purported NA GBC effort to consolidate or "centralize" their authority over the individually incorporated ISKCON branches in the US and Canada. With this article, the NA GBC attempts to convince all concerned with this venture that this effort by them, in no way conflicts with Srila Prabhupada's clear instructions on any such attempt and poses no risks of any kind to the present status of the NA Temples.
The issue is indeed important and needs to be discussed very carefully because if not handled correctly - the preaching in North America can be negatively affected and yield the opposite result. I approach this in a spirit of service to Srila Prabhupada and his servants, Temple Presidents and GBC Executors and most importantly - his Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
On April the 4th 1975 in Sridhama Mayapur, many of us were fortunate to be with His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada when he gave class on the Chaitanya Charitamrita in the morning. Anyone who attended can attest to the amazing comments he made near the end of the class. Srila Prabhupada gave special importance to the preaching of Krishna consciousness in the United States. He said he was especially speaking to his American disciples "because at least in your country - they are still enthusiastic to stop the spread of this atheistic communism". He said that the world was at "great risk" on account of the influence of worldwide communism and its enhanced animalistic influence upon the balance of the world. So he asked us to go back to our country and preach vigorously so that the Americans would be strong to fight this materialistic philosophy.
Later, he wrote to HH Tamal Krishna Goswami in December of 1976 and affirmed the value of HH TKG's conclusions that we were, under Srila Prabhupada's guidance - commissioned with the responsibility "to induce the United States to become a Krishna conscious country by means of book distribution all across the nation" and saying "this is wanted" by Lord Chaitanya Himself! He said in this respect "I think 100 Buses is not sufficient. When all of America becomes Krishna conscious then our Krishna conscious boys can take responsible positions - within the Government - and THEN we can save the whole world". To most this sounds like hyperbole offered us in a quaint effort to inspire us. It is anything but. As Americans - North Americans - we have a grave responsibility and it is this very responsibility that compels me to compose these comments for everyone's careful consideration.
In Hawaii, in 1974, he told us: "If by your preaching you can make 1% of the population Krishna conscious - then the world would become like a Heavenly planet and 10% and it would become like Vaikuntha!" So with such a straightforward objective - between 3 million and 30 million only - we need to carefully take aim at this attainable goal armed with all the provisions given us by Srila Prabhupada to achieve it.
Our mandate is nothing less than capturing both Houses of the US Congress and finally - the Presidency - fair and square - with the enthusiastic support of the needed number of US citizens, purified by means of the nation-wide purification of the Holy Names, who recognize that Srila Prabhupada's Krishna conscious boys can lead them and change the world for the better. THAT is a very tall order but it was in fact stated by Srila Prabhupada and anything or anyone - that might prove to be an impediment to meeting this mandate - must be exposed and neutralized.
Seen in this light - ISKCON should be seen as the single most important institution on the planet and every single detail connected with preserving and enhancing its influence upon the balance of society - given us by Srila Prabhupada - must be embraced. Likewise - any action taken by any leader within - needs to be analysed in direct relation to this principle and if it can be seen that this single principle is being mishandled in anyway - we must do the needful to correct that ASAP.
Srila Prabhupada said that if his arrangements to empower and keep his local preaching program independent and healthy were interfered with by unwarranted outside encroachment - then "The whole thing could be killed". What he meant was that our mission - fighting against the influences of maya that would distract or dissuade us in our our efforts to spread Krishna consciousness - would be turned on each other and leave us quarrelsome and burdened by politics and the party spirit. He said "Quarrel? Quarrel is not good. Quarrel is material."
Rabindra Prabhu, speaking on behalf of the entire NA GBC body states, "I can state without equivocation that none of these charges is true. That the claims made in these posting could be accepted as true is, to me, heartbreaking testimony to the state of fragmentation and isolation among devotees who ought to be unified in Srila Prabhupada's service. The postings also attests to the distressing degree to which ISKCON's own history has become hazy, distorted or lost in memory."
It was John Adams who said "Facts are stubborn things, and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."
The facts either support the conclusions of those who see the new By-laws as indeed an attempt to assume more authority over the local temples than Srila Prabhupada sanctioned - or they do not. If they do, then expressing "heartbreak" over any resistance to this plan is misplaced sentiment only. Disciples of Srila Prabhupada are most naturally inclined towards the "unity" that the NA GBC claim "ought to be there" but have up till now been unable to generate. But we can only be united - where all efforts are squarely supported by the directions of Srila Prabhupada - as the "supreme authority" of his ISKCON.
Without pointing out each and every discrepancy contained within the new By-laws they endorse and to which they seek collective acceptance, I will say in direct opposition to Rabindra Prabhu - that these new By-laws are indeed far from acceptable and should be rejected by the NA Temple Presidents until they are in complete harmony with Srila Prabhupada's direct instructions on these matters.
At the very heart of the defects within these new By-laws is the anticipation that every officer in ISKCON will sign on - literally vowing an allegiance to the following principle:
SECTION 3. GBC ADHERENCE
Although ISKCON of _____________, Inc. is legally, financially, and managerially independent, all activities and powers of the corporation shall be carried out and executed in accordance with the teachings and instructions of Srila Prabhupada, as construed and applied by the GBC. The corporation shall not conduct itself in any way contrary to the ecclesiastical policies of the GBC.
misrepresentation of the mandate given the GBC by Srila Prabhupada
has been the very essence of each and every single act of mismanagement
by the GBC since 1977.
The GBC body is authorized by Srila Prabhuapda to represent his teachings, directives and his Last Will to the balance of the society. That is all. They have been duly entitled as Executors by HDG in the Direction of Management. The GBC body is not authorized to "construe" or "interpret" Srila Prabhupada's teachings or instructions. Their simple duties are clearly provided by Srila Prabhupada in the Direction of Management. They are simply auditors in function and, in Srila Prabhupada's own words, meant to "inspire" the temple leaders to work with enthusiasm in meeting the goals given us all by Srila Prabhupada to "preach vigorously" this great science of Krishna consciousness. They lead by example.
They are not an "ecclesiastical governing body" as they claim. ISKCON IS not a church, and Krishna consciousness is a science - not "a" religion. They are the ultimate managing authority for Srila Prabhupada's ISKCON, and their job is to ensure with all their effort that no temple gets "derailed" by financial debt or the spiritual diseases that naturally follow a lapse in "seriously" chanting 16 rounds or following the 4 regulative principles by any one member of the temple. They are authorized only as "executors" of Srila Prabhupada's clearly expressed will.
As Rabindra Swarup Prabhu explains - the Direction of Management - was in place and served as the template for the simple system of management employed by Srila Prabhupada to successfully to deliver the science of Krishna consciousness to every major country in the Western World by 1977 - a feat unimaginable prior to His expert and empowered efforts on behalf of the entire parampara.
This Direction of Management has not been correctly emphasized by the Temple leaders in North America, and they need to understand its importance.
In order to fully grasp the importance of the DOM and Srila Prabhupada's actual reliance upon it - every single devotee who is responsible for managing anything in ISKCON needs to visit the VedaBase and study the GBC minutes of the opening sessions of the GBC meetings on March 27th, 1975. The entire discussion is very long and it is, to put it mildly - incredible - in the wide range of subjects covered by HDG Srila Prabhupada, and the clarity he provides us all.
This DOM has been available to ISKCON for quite some time on the GBC's own website - however - the adjustments to the Particulars now provided us all by the NA GBC in Rabindra Swarup Prabhu's article are not included there.
This "fact" alone makes the statement of "heartbreak" over any disunity on this matter appear vary strange, to say the least. Had these "adjustments" made to the original DOM - been published for all to see - at least this misunderstanding would not sully the issue.
I have read the "adjustements" which Rabindra Swarup provided in his article. After reading the full transcription of the March 27th GBC meeting with HDG, it remains unclear whether their decision to NOT ELECT any more GBCs at that time - "to hold no elections" - nullfied that aspect of the Direction of Management. It appears after carefully reading the minutes of that meeting that that decision to forego elections - was specifically connected to Srila Prabhupada retaining his authority and expressed intent to appoint the needed members at that time, but that the DOM stood as the legally established system he wished to see serve his mission in the future.
However - for now - just for now - I will at least temporarily concede this small detail to Rabindra Swarup Prabhu and the NA GBC body.
Precisely because - the two adjustments - do not change the overall impact of the DOM. Nor does Srila Prabhupada making these two changes alter by one scintilla - the authority of the Direction of Management and its place as the very source of what is to be done and not to be done - by all men commissioned to responsibly lead his mission. They are fixed and unchangeable - and Srila Prabhupada's Last Will asserts this - "unequivocally"- to steal a word from the NA GBC themselves.
How the GBC Executors come to that position is not nearly as important as understanding clearly what are the "powers and disabilities" attached to this important position in Srila Prabhupada's overall scheme for meeting his long term plans for his mission.
For now then - let us assume that in 1975 - the original arrangements for adding or subtracting or changing representatives of the GBC Body - elections by the collective temple presidents - was replaced by Srila Prabhuapda and the GBC - with the simple appointment of such by Srila Prabhupada and we must assume now - the GBC themselves in his absence. Likewise - the "discrepancies" that could warrant the removal of a Temple President were systematically enumerated. Other than those basic changes - the mere fact that Srila Prabhupada himself saw fit to participate in the process of adding those two simple adjustments to the Direction of Management - only served to underscore the significance of this simple yet effective system of management given his ISKCON mission. This in fact is the "system" that according to the direct statements of Srila Prabhupada in his Final Will -" required no further changes".
There is no mention by HDG that in his physical absence - any individual or collective of disciples - was now authorized to demand a separate oath of allegiance to the GBC body or the teachings or instructions of Srila Prabhupada - as construed or interpreted by them. A separate oath of allegiance to the GBC implies that there could be an apparent divergence in purpose or method between the demands of the GBC and HDG Srila Prabhupada - yet the aggregate of ISKCON temple officers would be obliged to accept the authority and wishes of the GBC - even if there was no clear-cut evidence that would establish the GBC demand as being 100% representative of Srila Prabhupada's actual instructions.
Now - what the Devotees will find amazing is that on March 27th 1975 - The very Oath of Allegiance each and every GBC man and Temple President was to accept, swear and sign to - was in fact - given to us WORD for WORD by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada! Word for Word! It does not provide for any oath of allegiance to the GBC body separate from their role as mere "conduit" for the direct instructions of Srila Prabhupada. In fact in that recorded discussion - it was clear by reading each of the words of Srila Prabhupada and the various GBC Men - that not one GBC man - would ever submit to an oath of allegiance - that left anyone BUT Srila Prabhupada himself - as the ULTIMATE SUPREME AUTHORITY! The GBC themselves - would not concede an inch on this and there was no question of even attempting to place such a demand within the oath; they could not implement amongst the Temple Presidents - what they themselves would absolutely never accept.
Common sense would dictate that such an oath of allegiance to the GBC body - separate from the Supreme Authority Srila Prabhupada - would inevitably lead to serious and costly problems. Religious sentiments are just that; sentiments. Under the pretense of being in the "interest" of Srila Prabhupada - the GBC themselves could and indeed have quite easily become the source of serious deviation. "Belief" in the sanctity of their purpose could and indeed has often replaced the clear and direct instructions of Srila Prabhupada. Their duty is to ensure that the actions of a local temple are in keeping with the teachings and instructions of Srila Prabhupada; nothing more and nothing less. The GBC Exectuors' mandate - spelled out in the Direction of Management and Srila Prabhupada's Last Will - establishes their duty to ensure the preservation of Srila Prabhupada's will and his teachings that support it. There is no instruction of Srila Prabhupada authorizing them to assert that their collective "Will" is now "THE Will" of Srila Prabhuapda and whatever they collectively decide - the local temples are to view as the will of Srila Prabhupada. Anyone who imagines this to be their mandate - is wrong in the extreme.
The recent GBC meetings in Mayapur reported that the GBC viewed the importance of the entire movement being made to understand the necessity of a "strong GBC" as being of utmost importance. However it was never clearly spelled out what that actually meant according to the will of HDG. A "strong" GBC means a GBC Body that derives its "strength" from the stated principles upon which its actions are established - in Srila Prabhupada's Direction of Management and his Last Will. These two documents enumerate the duties and authority of the GBC, Temple Presidents and sannyasis - directly. The disabilities are likewise clear; only the enumerated duties of the GBC are "constitutionally" supported by Srila Prabhupada and any direction or action of the GBC they seek to enforce upon the temples cannot be supported merely with the statement that the GBC is "ultimate managing authority". They have no authority over a temple or its resources or its officers - save and except to affirm the legitimacy of a temple's actions and the bonafides of that temple's officers in their conducting the affairs of that temple - according the Direction of Management - and the "oath of allegiance" they had taken to uphold it.
It is vitally important that every single disciple of Srila Prabhupada understand the importance of this "oath of allegiance" to which every Temple President and GBC Executor was expected to accept. When Srila Prabhupada was discussing his Last Will on June 2nd - this "oath of allegiance" was referred to by HDG and he stated "unequivocally" - "That oath of allegiance should be maintained." Why this "oath" has not been given its just place in ISKCON up till now - is perhaps made evident - by a simple and honest reading of the oath itself. Srila Prabhupada - in that conversation actually ordered HH Tamal Krishna Goswami to send this oath of allegiance to every single GBC and Temple President, to which HH TKG said "I am doing that Srila Prabhuapda as you ask."
I was a Temple President for 5 years. I never ever heard of this oath; what to speak of taking and signing it!
Below is the very oath of allegiance to which Srila Prabhhupada referred on June 2nd 1977, stating that this oath "should be maintained" by all his officers in his ISKCON. It is profound and I leave it to all of you to assess the withholding of this oath of allegiance by the NA GBC from all of us over the last 30 years.
I ...[enter legal name and then initiated name - date of birth at present residing at, particular nationality (i.e. American, German etc)] do hereby solemnly affirm, declare and state as under as follows: I state I have been elected or nominated a member of the Governing Body Commission/or Temple President - under the recommendation of my Guru Maharaja His Divine Grace AC BSP , Founder, Acharya and Supreme Authority of the Krishna Consciousness Movement, under the banner of the ISKCON. I state I have imposed all my faith, integrity and honesty in my aforesaid Guru Maharaja, with the result he is the sole responsible person and Supreme Authority of my present position and status which I have gained and I am holding in the organization of the ISKCON. I, the said [enter legal and initiated name] do hereby swear in the name of Krishna that I will bear truth and alliance to the Constitution, By-laws, rules and regulations and directives which have been given, including the 4 regulative principles [listed], chanting of 16 rounds very seriously or directions given me directly by my aforesaid Guru Maharaja, His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada, or through his authorized person or persons, and I shall obey faithfully all instructions and directions, which shall be binding on me and that I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of my Guru Maharaja His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada and the managing body commission and or any other body appointed by His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada, working under the said International Society for Krishna Consciousness, and I shall faithfully discharge the duty upon which I am about to enter or have already been appointed to that effect. I further pledge that His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada is the only source of authority, represented by his instructions and books, and I shall follow his instructions and I shall follow the instructions only - of these books."
When reading through the discussions between Srila Prabhupada and the GBC members on March 27 1975 - Srila Prabhupada emphasized that his "Directives" take precedence over his books. Read them carefully. You will be pleased and astounded.
While Rabindra Swarup Prabhu asserts "without equivocation that none of these charges" of egregious centralization are true" the facts speak otherwise. Establishing that the locally incorporated temples exist as "assets held in trust for the West Bengal incorporation" and that "all activities and powers of the corporation shall be carried out and executed in accordance with the teachings and instructions of Srila Prabhupada, - as construed and applied by the GBC" is the most problematic aspect of the entire program. It is plain and simple - a misrepresentation of Srila Prabhupada's direct instructions.
This being said - it is imperative that an meeting of all North American Temple Presidents and concerned devotees be convened to fully discuss this attempt by the NA GBC to move forward with their plans.
"As construed and applied by the GBC" --- Just allow that to sink in for a moment.
A small collective - authorized to "represent" HDG as the "ultimate managing authority" now assume on the basis of their "belief" alone, they now have the authority to interpret the instructions of Srila Prabhupada - as opposed to representing them - word for word - according to the instructions contained within the Direction of Managment of Srila Prabhupada.
"Belief" is acceptance of something as factual - with no objective evidence to support such acceptance. There is simply no instruction to the temples to endorse any such "interpretation" by the GBC Executors. In fact - it is the GBC Executors themselves - who are "commissioned" by His Divine Grace to travel to the various temples in their respective areas of responsibility and work with the local Temple presidents to ensure that the aims and actions of that local temple and its officers - are pursued by them according to the directives of Srila Prabhupada, without any interpretation! It is these very directives upon which the GBC must rely to demonstrate the legitimacy or lack thereof - of the local temple's conducting of Srila Prabhuapda's mission. Anything other than that is purely an assumption of authority that simply does not exist.
The last 10 years alone - have provided us with ample examples of the consequences of management supported by assumption only. The missteps of the NA GBC - all completely avoidable - have cost Srila Prabhuapda - literally millions of dollars. This is no exaggeration whatsoever. This and other actions automatically disqulify the present NA GBC body from being given even the slightest benefit of the doubt where it concerns their altering any local temples By-laws.
Rabindra Swarup Prabhu finishes his article in a manner that does not reflect the "heartbreak" he professes in the beginning. "One would have to be deluded about both the present and the past to equate this effort with the transgressions of 1972." I see this present effort as far worse than the transgressions of 1972. Precisely because - in 1972 all had not been discussed and clarified so completely by HDG. But today - with 35 years of unnecessary trial and error behind us - and all the arrangements and directions of His Divine Grace to adequately prevent such mismangement - but the NA GBC has elected to ignore the simple arrangements of HDG and move ahead with this effort without the very source of their authority - Srila Prabhupada's Direction of Management - as their beacon.
The present effort of the NA GBC is an attempt to establish under "color of law" - an assumption of authority they were never granted by Srila Prabhupada and the Direction of Management. The DOM was given its just postion by none other than His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada when he voted to alter two minor details to it in 1975, leaving the balance of the document intact and there is simply no provision in the Direction of Management authorizing the NA GBC to demand a single dollar from any temple. This is the brilliance of Srila Prabhupada. He left the GBC with a specific mandate and outside of that mandate they have no authority. They were an unincorporated and unfunded body. They may attempt to "construe" or interpret Srila Prabhupada's establishing them as the "ultimate managing authority" for his mission also means they can lay claim to Srila Prabhupada's resources in any temple. It does not. In fact - if we study the discussion of March 27th, 1975 - we find that Srila Prabhupada directly refutes this misunderstanding. The GBC cannot "demand" any of the manpower or resources of the local temple. They are not to be connected with the local temples accounts in any way. This is clear. So their influence is entirely dependent upon their ability to serve as a positive influence upon the local preaching effort. If they are not - then the local temple will not be inclined to assist them in any way with men or money. They cannot "demand", but they most certainly can "command" the cooperation of the local preachers. This arrangment by Srila Prabhuapda prevented the development of beaucracy and all the ills that flow from it.
Sannyasis who travel and preach - were and are traditionally funded in their efforts by the "voluntary" donations large or small - freely provided by a grateful public who acknowledge the help they receive from these preachers in their Krishna consciousness. But they were NEVER permitted to demand that any temple or person give them even one thin dime.
Neither were the GBC men allowed to commandeer the resources of any temple for this that or the other. Their responsibilities are clearly spelled out. They cannot "interpret" the philosophy or directives of Srila Prabhupada, nor can they demand a dime from a Temple or its local congregation. However - if by their association, example and effort - the local preaching benefits - any assistance they may require will be seen correctly as a small price to pay for what is recognized as a very positive influence. Conversely - if their actions are "all bark and no bite" then the Temple Presidents will reciprocate with their lack of positive input - with the apathy they richly deserve.
This present effort to standardize the incorporated By-laws of the local corporations - while perhaps well intended - needs to be approached with a cool and careful precision by all involved. Otherwise the effort will yield a less than perfect result, and that will not serve the interests of Sriila Prabhupada. The NA Temple Presidents and GBC Executors need to construct this effort exclusively upon the solid foundation of Srila Prabhupada's Direction of Management. Nothing less than strict adherence to its principles in distributing this great science of Krishna consciousness should be the substance of our loyalty and allegiance.
I will state again that I see it as imperative that a meeting of all North American Temple Presidents be convened to fully discuss this attempt by the NA GBC to push forward their misguided plans.
I would suggest that the NA GBC consult a few more knowledgeable men who are experienced in these matters - having perhaps served as Temple Presidents while Srila Prabhupada was with us. They can help steer this effort correctly. Then meet with the NA Temple Presidents and see to it this effort meets with the direct instructions of Srila Prabhupada. Until this is done - no one should move an inch towards compliance with this present effort by the NA GBC.
My only purpose in addressing this is to help achieve the unified effort in meeting Srila Prabhupada's goals here in North America. There is so much - so many - can contribute to this effort. We need only rely upon the clear directives of Srila Prabhupada and our sincere Godbrothers and Godsisters and it can be realized.
Praghosa Das NYC