GBC should respect all devotees
Posted March 31, 2004
In response to the article posted by Malati dasi prabhu, I would like to share my own experience, and the experience of others, of GBC repression and demand of blind allegiance.
I was raised in a multicultural household. In the late '60s my parents were mesmerized by Srila Prabhupada, and became regulars to the Sunday Feasts. After I grew up, I studied all religions and found my home in the center of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. While in college I preached, distributed books, and helped open a center.
I am not the most educated, and I certainly do not consider myself a great devotee. However, my family and I regularly go to the temple, hold programs at our house, preach, and serve the deities in our home. People are for the most part nice; however, there are those who expressed their fears of associating with us because my spiritual master is not "formally in ISKCON." Although he is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, he serves outside of the formal institution of ISKCON so that he can serve his guru according to the instructions he was given.
In my area, it is considered defiant and heretical that I am initiated by my guru -- very sad considering he is adhering to Prabhupada's teachings strictly and has never deviated in 30-plus years. The GBC most definitely blacklists and disregards anyone with any affiliation that is not formally ISKCON. There are so many Indian devotees who come to America and are afraid to speak out, or are confused at the hypocrisy of GBC policies.
How can you possibly regulate one's faith and tell someone who they can and cannot hear from? Due to the sensitive nature of this subject, I will not name names, or give exact details of Vaisnava aparadha that are occurring on a daily basis. I will, however, make a few suggestions, towards positive growth.
- Now that ISKCON has a Sastric Advisory Committee, this
committee should be used to reform the offensive postures that have been
instituted and upheld by the GBC over the years. We must realize that
the GBC is not the highest authority, Krsna is.
- If we are to accept Krsna as the Supreme Personality of
Godhead, and all Vaisnavas as worshipable, then we must immediately offer
respect, association and camaraderie to all those who choose to offer the
same in return in Krsna's service, without criticsm.
- ISKCON should not be considered a business for acquiring
devotees. The goal of Srila Prabhupada was to make at least one person
Krsna conscious. It does not matter who is helping. How can we deny
someone the opportunity to serve? We must allow all devotees and
prospective devotees to choose their spiritual guide on their own
volition, i.e., free flow of faith. We cannot deny this principle.
- If the GBC is too scared to implement real reform, then
perhaps we need a complete changing of the guard, with real elections,
where the community members can vote for a GBC representative, instead of
the parliamentary type atmosphere that exists today. By instituting real
term limits and accountability, ISKCON will be forced to reform for the
better and grow as Prabhupada envisioned.
- Last but not least, the "powers that be" should implement an ISKCON affiliate program. Much like airlines and universities do today, we could have affiliate organizations, and individuals, who are authorized to come and speak and preach to the ISKCON community. This idea would truly personify Prabhupada's ideal of unity in diversity. In Mayapur, Jayapataka Maharaja heads the SGVA, a little known organization uniting the Gaudiya Saraswat family. This concept should be woven with the idea of the affiliate program and implemented all over the world.
I mean no disrespect to any devotees. If Malati dasi would like names and details of daily occurences, she can freely contact me by email and I will gladly give my phone number as well. I fall at the feet of all the Vaisnavas, in service to Guru and Gauranga, regardless of affiliation. If this letter gets printed, then today will be the day real reform will start in ISKCON.
Here is to a bright, beautiful and happy future.
Vrndavan das welcomes correspondence at firstname.lastname@example.org