Chakra Discussions

Let's Kick Out The 'Kick-out Culture'

by Urvashi Patel

Posted February 21, 2008

I have been reading about the plight of Narahari and Nandimukhi Matajis at Simhacalam in Germany and I am aware of the various postings on this issue. Thank you Kula-Pavana Prabhu for bringing this to our attention (Click Here, Click Here). I am not alone asking myself the question what heinous crime those two Matajis have performed to deserve such a treatment. Did they murder a Brahmin? Perhaps they killed a cow?

We hear from Vaishnava Dasa phrases such as their 'service attitude and behaviour towards the authorities' and their 'reluctance to accept any authority above them'. After 27 and 18 years of service to Lord Narasimhadeva these two devotees get nothing more than 'of course they served the Lord for many years and we are very grateful to them, but ... '? This is unbelievable to me or any devotee who cares for the future of ISKCON and especially its devotees.

Sorry, we have heard those phrases too many times to justify the behaviour of unqualified leaders within our society, leaders who are only after name, fame, respect, glory and nowadays a good salary paid by the Hindu community, may they be temple presidents, regional secretaries or even GBCs.

When the child abuse occurred in our temples we were told that we were not following authority when we raised unpleasant questions. Therefore we kept quiet. *I wish we had spoken out!* When women were mistreated and sent to the back of the temple room during arati or out of the temple room during japa we were also told not to question authority. So we kept quiet again. *I wish we had spoken out!* When the zonal Acharya system was introduced we voiced our concerns whether that was really what Srila Prabhupada wanted and we were kicked out of the temple altogether. This saga goes on and on and countless devotees could write volumes about it. By now we have lost faith in such unqualified authorities and are therefore prepared to rather give the victims the benefit of the doubt.

Please Prabhus at Simhachalam, limit the damage and come to an amicable solution. I bet the temple authorities in charge are many years younger than Narahari Mataji with her 27 years of service history. She is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and deserves more than that. Why not give her a voice on the management board. That would be a clever move. But no, it is so much easier to kick-out, to ostracise and to ban even though the repercussions have such a devastating effect on our worldwide ISKCON society especially if the brother of those two matajis, Councillor Rashmikant Joshi, is contacting the two most powerful International Gujarati newspapers - the Gujarat Samachar and the Garvi Gujarat. Please our GBC representatives wake up and do something. It is not anymore a German problem. It has gone far beyond that by now and we are all affected by its fallout.

I doubt, however, that these two matajis would return and live at Simhachalam after all they have been put through. The least what we can do now is lift the ban so they can visit Simhachalam and other temples in Germany. That is the very least we should do right now.

This incident at Simhacalam is not an isolated case. It has unfortunately become a deep routed culture within our society which may take a generation or more to stamp out. It is a systemic failure and a disease based on name, fame and glory of our 'want to be leaders'. The recent article of Kurma Rupa Prabhu "Leadership's Response to Criticism: An Analysis" (Click Here) gives detailed insight into the subject matter. Unfortunately this 'kick-out' and 'silence' culture of any criticism within ISKCON is nourished from the very top of our society, namely the GBC, and has therefore the long term effect of eroding authority altogether. Is that really what we want?

A mature and genuinely caring leadership would address the actual problems rather than banning and ostracising devotees if they cause disturbance. Nobody causes disturbance without a reason, especially not devotees who have been in devotional service for 27 years. Why not tackle the actual problem, may it be marital or otherwise, rather than the obvious unpleasant symptoms for which we seem to find no other answers than banning devotees. This appears to be the easy way to solve problems but has unfortunately very grave and long reaching consequences for our society. It accelerates the ongoing exodus of qualified and committed devotees from ISKCON who then look for shelter amongst other Gaudiya institutions thus contributing to the bloodletting of generations of sincere Vaishnavas. Ratimanjari mataji's recent article, ISKCON and the Hare Krishna Movement' is a good analysis in this regard (Click Here).

When will we ever get a mature and caring leadership by devotees who will not hanker for name, fame, respect and glory, who will command respect and not demand respect, who will fully commit themselves to a long term solution, who are pro-active rather than re-active, who have a long term vision rather than a quick fix, who lead and govern with genuine compassion and love and not with fear and who will dedicate and sacrifice their life for serving the devotees of Srila Prabhupada's ISKCON society. We dearly long for such qualified authority. Such leadership has to come right from the top, namely the GBC. If the GBC sets the proper example it will gradually filter down to other managers as well. In the meantime and until this happens everyone is duty bound to expose unqualified leadership anywhere and everywhere within ISKCON in order to protect such devotees as Narahari and Nandimukhi Matajis.