Chakra Discussions

Reply to Baladev das

by Kapiladeva das

Posted February 9, 2005

It appears that Baladev das, despite his professed good intentions has missed the main point - financial transparency when dealing with public funds. Baladev wants to know what a particular guru has done with his inheritance. In terms of the laws governing donations, what this guru does with money inherited from his father is his own personal business. That is not considered public money because his father has given the money due top their family connection, not because of this guru's connection with ISKCON. On the other hand, money that this guru receives from disciples and well wishers has been given because of his connection to ISKCON. If Prabhupada had never come to America, would these people be giving this person donations? Donations are considered "public money" because they are the property of the public in the sense that the public has the right to know how this money is being spent For example, if the United Way, Red Cross or such similar organizations collect money for tsunami relief, the public has the right to ask into the proper dispersal of funds - has the donation been used for the purpose intended? This is called "accountability". In the same way that the Red Cross is accountable to the public for the proper dispersal of funds, according to the purpose intended, so this guru and indeed any ISKCON member who collects donations is responsible for the proper dispersal of funds according to the desire of the giver, and for transparency in accounting for these funds. If a donor has donated money to protect cows, that money must be used for protecting cows. If it is given to repair a temple room, the money must be used to repair the temple room. I have heard a story about a very famous Indian multi-millionaire who made a donation to a temple president to fix the temple room. The well meaning but financially irresponsible temple president used up the money for other things which he considered important. When this millionaire came back to the temple several months later and found that the temple room was not repaired, what would you imagine he felt? Do you think he will very easily donate again? Did the devotee do his part to instill faith in ISKCON in this man? This is only one example. Unfortunately it has been replicated an uncountable tens of thousands of times - so much so that many naïve devotees imagine that this is appropriate behavior. But the plain truth is that it is not acceptable - materially or spiritually This is the main reason why this movement has not spread - universally irresponsible, often fraudulent handling of money.

Now, if a guru's disciples wish to donate money to their guru to assist him in his personal preaching mission, that is fine. What is the problem? Still that money is public money and must be properly accounted for according to the system Prabhupada has given, not stuffed in the back pocket. Don't think,"I am a guru, this is my disciple, therefore his donation belongs to me, and it is no business of ISKCON or of the society in general" This is absolutely bogus, unacceptable. If you think like this, understand that you are making a very big mistake - go back and read the books again. Try to understand. If however you are aware of the correct way to deal with donations and still insist on putting the money in your pocket, then you are an embezzler. (In the eyes of the law, it does not matter very much whether you understand the proper procedure for handling donations or not - you are expected to know and to follow, and your non-compliance will not be tolerated.).

What is Prabhupada's system for handling donations? It should come as no great surprise that it is essentially the same as that which is legally required in all Western countries. The donor must be issued a receipt from the society, 100% of the funds collected must be turned in to the appropriate office, which must audit the funds against the receipts. The financial office may, upon receipt of appropriate receipts, then issue funds to cover expenses incurred in carrying out the work specified by the donor. The receipts turned in must exactly equal the funds dispersed. The financial office must be ready to face an outside audit at any moment - therefore it may not release funds without appropriate receipts. at any time. This is called "transparency". We are familiar with the term "transparent via media' which describes the position of a spiritual master - the guru is supposed to link the disciple with Krsna without interceding personal ambition of any kind. Please understand that without financial transparency, there is no question of spiritual transparency. And if there is no transparency, one is not guru.

Therefore, all ISKCON devotees, guru or otherwise, engaged in collection of public funds who do not at present follow the principles of accountability and transparency, are heartily encouraged to end all embezzlement and follow Prabhupada's system..

Kapiladev das