Chakra Discussions

Sannyasis should not accumulate wealth

by J. B. Miller

Posted November 24, 2004

I would like to support the opinion of Jada Bharata das on the issue of financial statements in ISKCON.

The fact of the matter is, if some individuals were forced to expose their financial statements, that would expose a situation to their godbrothers and godsisters which is basically undesirable for them — especially in the case of sannyasis, who have taken a vow of poverty for the purpose of preaching the glories of Krsna throughout the world. Sannyasis, in particular, would stand to be placed in an embarrassing (if not suspect) position if they revealed accumulated wealth unbefitting their asrama. Plus, the sources of those donations may in itself be questionable.

I remember when I was an active member of one of the ISKCON temples in the '90s. There were financial difficulties at that time and the loan note on the Temple building was in serious trouble. A devotee came up to me one day and said, "Hey prabhu, did you hear? We are saved! H.H. —— Swami just loaned us $30,000 from his personal funds so the loan can be paid off. And guess what?", he added. "Maharaja is only going to charge us prime rate!"

When I heard this, I knew we were "in big trouble". Not because the Temple was saved. . . . that was good. I was freaked out because it appeared that the sannyasa order had now become a savings and loan institution. Above and beyond the insult of only "charging prime rate," how is it that swamis are accumulating so much money in the first place? They are supposed to be examples of renunciation for everyone else, is it not?

After ten years of full-time devotional service, I also left ISKCON, because of politics and what have you. After coming into ISKCON and donating my bank account, clothing, car, band equipment, and just about everything else, including my wrist watch, I also left with nothing but the clothing I had on. A family member picked me up from the temple because my only other option was walking.

After everything that my wife and I went through, I look back at it all and thank Krsna for the whole experience. I am so happy because I'm actually more Krsna conscious now than I was when I was in full-time temple service. There actually is life after ISKCON.

However, that still doesn't change the fact that members of ISKCON (especially GBC, Temple managers and sannyasis) should produce public financial reports. These types of checks and balances keep management 'clean', and 'clean' management means regular devotees (such as myself) may not have to leave the house that Prabhupada built, just because of politics and mismanagement.