Response to the "Initiative Committee"
Posted February 16, 2005
PART A: Bureacratic Resolutions:No Solutions
Personally I am well familiar with ISKCON bureacratic processes, and so naturally it came as no surprise to me that the initiative to reform ISKCON, to make the leaders accountable for their actions, and other similarly laudable resolves, is once again the appointed responsibility of an "initiative committee" and its various hand picked teams. I would like to ask that committee: Will the process of bureacracy itself come under scrutiny? After all Srila Prabhupada warned us very firmly to avoid it at all costs.
We are very fond of warning each other about the vaisnava aparadha one commits when one speaks of unpleasant, necessary facts to "senior vaisnavas", despite the fact that there is no basis in sastra that such unpleasant truth is ever offensive. But when will we heed Srila Prabhupada's warning that bureacracy "will finish everything"? When will each of the rank and file devotees be encouraged to speak up when something is amiss, and when will such action be acclaimed as courageous, rather than branded offensive?
When Duryodhana criticized Vidura for his birth, that was offensive. But when Vidura, who was socially inferior, criticized the king in scathing language, it was glorious. We read the example of these Mahajana's but do not follow their meaning what to speak of their footsteps. Drtarastra appreciated and acted on the criticism of Vidura, because despite his faults he was honest; it was his honesty that saved him. Rama in all his glory heeded the criticism of a lowly washerman and acted on it. Honest leaders appreciate critical feedback from minors; they do not manipluate a philosophy based on truth to protect their positions.
We do not need more committees for reforming ISKCON. As long as reform is in the hands of the few and priveleged we will have more abuse of the philosophy to maintain the status quo, and reform will only be cosmetic. Truth is the basis for reform, whether the problem is abuse of philosophy, people, children, cows or finances. The witnesses to such abuses are the everyday rank and file- the potwashers, the sweepers, the cleaners of bathrooms, the very fresh newcomer. Any criticism if found to be truthful, should be welcomed and taken on board, regardless of the source. To speak the truth is not the responsibility of the few, but the many.
Truth is, everyone has a conscience, a sense of right and wrong, and to protect what is right and reject what is wrong. This inborn sense is the Supersoul within, guiding us. To connect each member of ISKCON with Him, is our mission. In addition to guidance from within, everyone in ISKCON studies, or should study, the sastra. They should learn to see through the sastric eye. So everyone is potentially qualified to reform, but our bureaucracy castrates them, for bureacratically one must be in a position, or appointed by one in position, to enact change.
Srila Prabhupada gave us advice how to avoid this and have the conscience of the individual as paramount. His advice was that if a temple member observed a leader transgressing vaisnava principles, he was to complain directly, and if that was ineffective, to complain to the leader above that leader, and if that was ineffective, to take it to the top. Never did he request that the individual be silenced because he could commit aparadha. He wanted change from the bottom up.
PART B- The Organizational pyramid: Flip it over
This pyramid on the strategic committee's website is more proof of bureaucracy, being based on marketing strategy instead of spritual values of the individual. It is upside down, as it is not our strategy that should support our values but vice versa. It seems therefore that the committee has looked to corporations for its solutions, instead of varnasrama, blueprint for a spiritual culture.
The basis of varnasrama is the qualities of the individual- it is these qualities alone which determine the organizational structure. Truthfulness in all circumstances, regardless of position or backlash, is recognized as being brahminical, an indicator of a deeply independent thoughtful person, and therefore qualifies one as a leader/reformer in society. On the other hand, one who is affected by power, either in a sense to worship it or possess it, is not in the category of brahmana. For him, profit, control or comfort are more important, and accordingly, one is vaisya, ksatriya or sudra, respectively. A brahmana will be in no one's pay or favour in any way, even if it is offered.
Since his integrity is not affected by circumstances, he is easily recognized in a varanasrama society such as ours. For example, when he is threatened to keep quiet (as we do), he disregards the consequences in favour of speaking that which he feels needs to be said, which is truthful and beneficial to all. For though it may put him at a material disadvatage, he feels more under the protection of the Lord by cleaving to truth, regardless of backlash.
When such defacto leaders are recognized by their guna and karma and
when our very powerful mundane executive heads listen to them and go
to them for advice, then we will have some sattva guna in our society-
purity, steadiness, integrity. Srila Prabhupada's final instruction
was to introduce varnasrama within ISKCON specifically for this
purpose "to bring our members to the mode of goodness". We have
ignored this instruction, ignored his warning against bureacracy, and
are using this disregard for his instruction as a means to achieve his
mission. Thus we have no faith in the process itself, but hope to make
it a solid fact and spread it all over the world. This is the problem,
and it cannot be solved by a committee. Sorry.