Chakra Discussions

Response to the article "The Hindufication of ISKCON"

by Urvashi Patel

Posted May 4, 2005

In response to the article of Ragaputra das, "The Hindufication of ISKCON", posted March 31, 2005 and the article of Nimai Nitai dasa, "Hinduization of ISKCON", posted April 13, 2005 I would like to add the following observation.

It is true, and it is a worrying trend that ISKCON seems to more and more take shelter of and accommodate the Hindu community. This has also been seen in the UK. Bhaktivedanta Manor for instance has become a major Hindu Temple which can show results in terms of great numbers such as thousands of visitors on Janmasthami day, hundreds of visitors every Sunday, Holi, weddings and the whole lot of the Hindu calendar.

Analyzing it we come to the conclusion that it is all tied in with vast donations from the Hindu community. The management feels obliged to their donors if the flow of laksmi should continue. That is not to say that there is no other preaching. There are school programs where hundreds of children are taught Hinduism/Krishna consciousness in some sort of balance, there are open days for everyone, workshops etc. That is good and laudable. However, it remains that the vast bulk of time, finances and resources is devoted to accommodate the Hindu community. The worrying thing is that this is a trend which is dictated by financial considerations.

The importance of the Hindu community has also been recognized by the Prime Minister, Tony Blair. He has for the first time spoken openly about the Krishna consciousness movement, a pad on the shoulder for ISKCON UK/Bhaktivedanta Manor no doubt. I am sure Srila Prabhupada would be proud of such an accomplishment. However, this has some deep ramifications for the whole of the UK yatra.

Now suddenly ISKCON is in good terms with the Prime Minister, the major of London and other top ranking politicians who promise themselves a sizable slice of the Hindu votes. This ISKCON/Hindu image has to be maintained at any cost by the Bhaktivedanta Manor/UK management. The Hindu community has become a political powerhouse. And the cost/loss is actually great in terms of preaching, as any other endeavour to present Krishna consciousness in the UK is crushed in its very beginnings. The ISKCON establishment has established itself and its financial basis. Bhaktivedanta Manor is its headquarter. The finances are not to be underestimated. It is a multi-million business. Along with it comes that the top ranking managers are on a sizable and ever increasing payroll. Other junior managers follow suit to various degrees.

This newly found wealth has given rise to another interesting phenomenon. The majority of devotees who do the essential services are imported from abroad and overseas. This is not a problem in itself. However, the problem is that the Manor has become too rich too quickly. There is no need anymore to care for the well-being of devotees. If it doesn't work out with a particular devotee one can quickly 'purchase' another one from India, Russia or any other third world country. In contrast, a purer yatra or a smaller temple will have to look after its devotees. They are their life and soul. It is a healthy relationship.

On the GBC level it doesn't look much different. The GBC secretary feels more obliged to those holding the financial and political power than to uphold the all around preaching in its various forms and facets. Control becomes the major instrument for upholding and securing the status quo with the consequential effect that Srila Prabhupada's actual preaching mission gets distorted or even lost in order to accommodate the Hindu community. It is sad to say the least and it is disastrous in the long run as the once so vibrant yatra becomes more and more institutionalised by favouring those few in positions and neglecting the many with the consequence that the UK yatra becomes fragmented. The majority of devotees have no role to play anymore and either they take shelter in the material energy or else join Narayana Maharaja or any other grouping. In fact we have created and are feeding those groupings and one day they will have so much increased in size and importance that ISKCON will be marginalised altogether. By then we will have lost our purity and shakti due to not following Srila Prabhupada's order.

In summary it can be said that we are on a dangerous trend by too much accommodating the Hindu community. It happens slowly but steadily month after month and year after year and before we really wake up from this unfortunate paradigm all our valuable preachers, Prabhupada disciples and dedicated followers will have moved either to other Vaishnava groupings, become victimised by the illusory energy or will have organised themselves in one form or other. What a loss! All spiritual leadership will have disappeared by then having been replaced by institutional leadership and managers who are more concerned about themselves then about their suffering god brothers and juniors, what to speak about the actual preaching. The good thing is that Krishna will not tolerate that His devotees are neglected, i.e. He will bring about a change in the whole situation in as much as we have seen some major changes when the majority of devotees feel neglected and dissatisfied. But then it will be too late to settle things peacefully.

Urvashi Patel