Chakra Discussions

The Need for Diversity

by Urvashi Patel

Posted June 8, 2006

In response to Agni Elen Moe's letter (Wrong To Portray Manor School As Just a Hindu Establishment) and the previous article from Mahavidya ACBSP (Racism In ISKCON) I would like to make the following points.

It is undoubtedly a worrying trend in the UK and elsewhere to jump on the Hindu bandwagon. Yes, the movement has reached stability by this move. However, this trend has also negative ramifications. There have been numerous articles of concern about the Hindufication of ISKCON. Raising such concerns I can already hear shouts of racism coming from those who have established their comfortable management positions and salaries with the help of the Hindu money. But it is not racism to express concerns about ISKCON being overly influenced by the Hindu community. If anything is racism then it is picking out the 'white kids' in order to paint a fitting picture of a Hindu school for the media. It is dishonest and hurtful to the children as we have heard. Of course it is all justifiable in the name of 'preaching', isn't it?

However, this is not why I am writing this article. The worrying trend is rather that due to the vast financial input of the Hindu community ISKCON's core values are watered down and are in danger of getting lost altogether. In not more than one generation much will have disappeared. Money obliges, especially if it is coming repeatedly from the same source. Influence is being bought and vision is being changed. Srila Prabhupada wanted the help of the Indian community no doubt but he didn't want the preaching to the Westerners stagnate or directed entirely towards the Hindus.

Let me give an example to show what I mean. It is obvious that book distribution has massively declined in the past so many years. There is no immediate economic need any more to distribute books as the temples are secure because of donations from the Hindu community. Naturally book distribution is in the decline.

Hardly any new devotees are being made either. Those serving at the temples are mostly imported from Eastern Europe or from India. We don't even have to sincerely look after or care for devotees any more because we are rich enough to 'buy' and 'import' any devotee we want. It has regrettably left temples with much of an impersonal atmosphere.

Visiting Bhaktivedanta Manor you are forgiven to think you are coming to a 'Hindu Mandir' as perhaps 95 percent or more are Hindus who attend the programs. Any Westerner will definitely feel out of place. I have been told there was once a thriving devotee community of hundred or more Westerners living around the Manor. They have almost all moved away because there was no need for them anymore.

The Hinduization in the UK has also implications for the wider preaching. Due to historic reasons all temples in the UK are managed by one centralized charity. This is in direct contradiction to Srila Prabhupada's instructions on management. Everybody knows those instructions. There is no need to repeat them here and I am sure most would even agree. There have been moves towards de-centralization in the UK but more than five years have passed without any tangible result. One can only assume there is no real will for it anymore.

This has far reaching implications for the overall preaching. A rigid central management is trying to control almost every aspect of development throughout the country thus stifling the preaching due to fear of loosing control. Only one vision is being pushed, the 'Hindu Paradigm'. After all one needs good press more than anything else, especially if one shakes hands with ministers, rich Hindu industrialists and even the Prime Minister who himself needs the Hindu votes. Political influence is being bought. But there is a high price to it. The preaching to the indigenous people of the UK has more or less stopped. One can only wonder why Srila Prabhupada came to the West. To liberate the two percent of Hindus in the UK? Their Krishna consciousness is just under their skin. But what chance do the 98 percent of Westerners stand if the outreach towards them has trickled to almost zero? How will they get liberated or receive Lord Nityananda's mercy?

In short, the 'Hindu paradigm' is so strong and all encompassing that any other preaching endeavour is made almost impossible by default. Bhaktivedanta Manor, the UK's headquarter, is the heart and powerhouse of the Hindu preaching. It is leading the centralized management in the UK. This is a worrying trend I feel.

What we need more than anything else in order to bring Srila Prabhupada's preaching, vision and outreach back is de-centralisation and diversity. Why should we be afraid of it? Why not give it a chance? Our philosophy is after all 'Unity in Diversity' and NOT 'Unity through Centralisation and Control'. I feel the Hare Krishna movement in the UK would rise to new heights if the 'Hindu paradigm' was not the ONLY possible preaching and outreach route. I know from my own experience and community that Hindus do actually respect and support ISKCON for preaching to the Westerners. We know they need it most. We also know why Srila Prabhupada left India and took on great austerities to preach to the mlecchas and yavanas. Let's therefore make a concerted effort to bring Srila Prabhupada's legacy back before it is too late.