Chakra Discussions

ISKCON leaders absolutely must submit financial statements

by Jada Bharata das
Gainesville, Florida

Posted November 9, 2004

I recently read a letter from a sannyasi in response to the GBC resolution that leaders should submit financial records of money they have collected. His response, paraphrased, was that he had done years of service in ISKCON, so why should he be required to submit financial records; he absolutely refused to do this and, if the leaders didn't like this, they should fire him.

I immediately thought, sure, I would fire him immediately. I studied to be an accountant (I took seven accounting courses) and have kept fairly up-to-date with the accounting rules in the US, England and India in reference to non-profit organizations. There are very strict rules in reference to collecting money for a charity and for people working within that charity. For instance, all money should be accounted for and entered correctly into the books.

This is something that Srila Prabhupada has very clearly instructed all his disciples to do and, from what I have read, he did, to the penny or rupee. I was always really impressed, when I read Srila Prabhupada's instructions in reference to accounting, that they were always up to the highest accounting principles, which he totally followed in his personal life. He never missed a beat, and I only wish I could come close to his perfect standard.

On the other hand, the absolute refusal -- and I am saying not merely neglect, but absolute refusal -- of ISKCON leaders to submit financial records is totally outrageous and may be the most important reason why the movement that Srila Prabhupada started using the highest standard has reached the point that it is now in, with many of the devotees fighting between each other.

I have never talked to one devotee (I talk mainly to older devotees) who didn't feel that the ISKCON leaders should submit financial records, and I doubt that many people (except, perhaps, these leaders) would disagree with me on this issue.

Besides submitting financial records, ISKCON should also set up a policing (audit) agency to check these financial records and actually check to see if they are correct. It is a little ridiculous that the ISKCON leaders submit their financial records to themselves, unless someone is going to look at them and in some cases challenge them.

I believe that all ISKCON leaders, especially sannyasis, as they are renunciates, should have to answer any questions in reference to their financial records, which is the law in the US, England and India. I tend to doubt that many of the sannyasis and present Gurus had large bank accounts when Srila Prabhupada was on the planet. No individual within a charity can spend money independently without it being recorded by the charity.

I don't see why devotees who do full time service in ISKCON wouldn't want to report what they are collecting if this would enable the public to have more trust in how donated money is used, which would naturally lead to much more being donated. I saw a friend of mine get up in Mayapur several years ago during a public meeting with the GBC and say that, for the most part, he felt ISKCON leaders were interested only in power and money. Public financial records would prove that this was not so.

It could be said that various leaders are collecting money independently and that they are receiving personal donations. My immediate answer to this is that, except in rare cases, without ISKCON, most of the leaders would have a problem collecting any donations at all. Either way the money should be recorded somewhere, either under an ISKCON account, their own charity (in which case they should collect using its name), or as personal income.

I came to ISKCON with $9 and left with $7. When I decided to leave the temple in England after 13 years of service in ISKCON, I asked the acting president of Soho Street temple, Maha Dyuti das, for plane-fare back to America and he told me that he wouldn't even give me the fare to the local train station. According to him I had an attitude problem, which I guess I did. At the time I wished I had put a few thousand dollars in the bank just in case, but it didn't really bother me because I didn't join ISKCON to make money, but to serve Srila Prabhupada and Krishna, or at least because I thought it would make me happy.

So I really wonder why renounced sannyasis can independently, in some cases, put hundreds of thousands of dollars (I have heard, in some cases, millions of dollars) into their personal bank accounts and not have this recorded.

It could be argued that this is just rumors; my answer would be to prove it to the public. Unless financial records are submitted and checked, how else can this proof be got?