Chakra Discussions

Temples are not hotels - everyone is welcome

by Dharmaraja das

Posted September 1, 2004

The statements below from Srila Prabhupada clearly prove that, by banning devotees from temples, ISKCON authorities are in flagrant violation of our Founder-Acarya's instructions.

If someone is behaving in a law-abiding and peaceful manner on temple property, there is NO reason to prevent him or her from participating in worship, festivals etc. Yet simply for holding a different philosophical view, such as ritvik etc., you are BANNED from the temple. This is tantamount to "thought-crime", and no doubt also in violation of the US Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, both of which specifically protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

As we see below, Srila Prabhupada welcomes Christians, Moslems, meat-eaters, drugged up hippies etc. to his temples - people not usually regarded as Vaisnavas. In an old issue of BTG, we find the following statement in connection with the protest against the closure of Bhaktivedanta Manor in England:

"On that day, 36,000 people, from all over England, marched in central London to protest: Today we are banned from worship--shame on the British government." (BTG #30-04, 1996)

But ISKCON authorities BAN devotees of Srila Prabhupada! Shame on the GBC.

Prabhupada: "Oh. So that we cannot cancel: "These hippies are not admitted." No. We admit everyone. We cannot say that "Such and such person cannot enter into our temple." We cannot say. Everyone is welcome. Everyone is welcome. And, if they do not come, how they'll converted?

Miss Rose: I think that the confusion is...

Prabhupada: We cannot say, just like, in some hotels, that "Such and such persons are not admitted." No. We cannot. We admit everyone. Our mission is to elevate persons from down state of life to the highest state of life. So everyone is in down state. Lord Jesus Christ also said that "You do not hate the sinners, but hate sin." Is not that, Lord Jesus Christ said? So hippies may be sinners. We raise them to the pious life. But we say, "Don't do this. Don't do this sinful act. Don't take intoxication. Don't do this. Don't do this." We hate sin, not the sinners. Actually. If we hate sinners, then where is the possibility of preaching?" (Conversation, 29th April 1969, Boston)

"Temples are meant for the assembly of the general public" (SB 3.22.33, purport)

Prabhupada: "Yes. Temple is open for everyone. Let them come and sit down, chant Hare Krsna, hear Bhagavad-gita. We don't say, "Oh, are you potter? No. You are not allowed." We don't say that. "Are you cobbler? Oh, you are not allowed." No. We don't say that. Everyone is welcome. Come on." (Room conversation, 16th July 1968, Montreal)

"Regarding Narottama das, our policy should be to keep members as much as possible. We should not flatly say 'You must leave.'' That is not our policy." (Letter to Jayapataka, 12th August 1969, Los Angeles)

"In our Temple all Europeans, Indians, Mohammedans, Christians, everyone is welcome." (SPL Ksirodakasayi, 29th January 1970)

"Our initiation system is as follows: In our general thrice weekly classes we chant Hare Krishna Mantra in the beginning and at the end, and in the middle we speak on Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam regularly. In this class we do not prohibit anyone to come within the Temple, everyone is welcome. The only thing we ask visitors to leave their shoes at a specified place and sit down in the Temple crosslegged." (SPL Hanuman Prasad Poddar, 5th February 1970)