Citadels of Love -- a call to action
Posted March 12, 2005
In response to Subhadra- mayi's article, I can certainly commiserate with her grievances about some of the social aspects of ISKCON. Many of our temples are indeed very cold-hearted in their dealings, particularly with women and minorities, and I have experienced this firsthand as a third-gender (gay) devotee. Nevertheless, we should not be so entirely pessimistic and hopeless. I've seen some really great examples of ISKCON temples, too!
I don't think I could have remained a devotee of Krsna for the past 31 years were it not for the love, kindness and understanding I received from so many softhearted Vaishnavas. When I first joined the movement in 1974, I told the devotees I was gay after just a few months (I suspected they knew anyway). It was a very small temple and the devotees proved to be true friends and family members. My being gay was a complete nonissue for them and they continued to love and support me in Krsna consciousness without interruption. As a result of this proper attitude, my faith in the devotees blossomed along with my devotion to Krsna.
I've had other positive experiences as well and can recount numerous temples where I was received with kindness and acceptance. The recent social problems and horror stories within ISKCON seem to have developed once we lost the direct guidance of our beloved spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada. I can't imagine him tolerating any type of non-Vaishnava, cold-hearted behavior between devotees or toward guests. He would have checked it immediately!
How we treat others, whether collectively or as individuals, is always a critical defining point for any society or person. It is a test of our true spiritual advancement and humanity. Up until now, many ISKCON temples and leaders have simply chosen to ignore the social prejudice and cruelty in their midst. While some temples are genuinely understanding and softhearted in their approach toward women and minorities, others have become social nightmares of exclusion and intolerance. I see no reason why ISKCON should maintain such disparate temple climates--there should be a clearly spelled-out, uniform standard of kindness and respect for everyone.
Lord Caitanya is forcing us to address these issues because He wants
His temples to be citadels of love. Similarly, Srila Prabhupada
stated very clearly that he wanted his ISKCON centers based on love
and trust. People who love Krsna will automatically love all others,
whereas people who treat others like expendable garbage can never be
true devotees of the Lord. Krsna and Bhakti-devi will go far away
from such unfortunate persons. Articles by Subhadra-mayi and others
send us a clear warning sign with their question--Where is the love?