Oversight Committee Lacking in North America ISKCON
Posted March 20, 2009
Sandamini and I have worked so hard to establish and grow the temple in Phoenix. It used to be one of the jewels in North America Iskcon. Unfortunately it has succumbed to politics over the years, and the congregation and participating full time devotees has gradually dwindled.
Now there dawns another kind of problem. Our GBC of one year, Hridayananda Maharaj, has been replaced by Hari Vilas, without the proper protocol or staightfowardness expected of the North American GBC body. A statement was issued to the temple secretary (who has since resigned from any temple management involvement) by Kuladri prabhu, on behalf of the NA GBC, saying that Hridayananda Goswami was resigning, and that the temple board secretary should sign some paper making it legitimate for the NA GBC to replace him. Meanwhile, some members of the NA GBC executive committee were telling Hridayananda Maharaj that the temple managers in Phoenix don't want him to be GBC anymore. Based on this information, the matter was put before the International GBC body in Mayapur and they installed Hari Vilas as the Phoenix GBC.
I called Hari Vilas, GBC and Temple President for the Seattle temple, several days back, as he called me a week before to ask me what I thought of him being the new GBC of Phoenix. His initial call to me was cut short as he had to respond to a call from some customer for his Uncle Harry's business. What he told me shocked me beyond belief, and I wish that I had recorded it for the benefit of the devotees. I only produce his staements here to illustrate how politics and abusiveness of power, even with Iskcon top level of management, can destroy the faith of devotees and the work someone else offered to their spiritual master.
Hari Vilas said that there will be no Temple President in Phoenix, that he will run things via conference call to the Phoenix temple treasurer, an uninitiated Indian lady who, although trying to offer her services to the temple, owns a resort hotel that houses a bar/lounge that sells liquor and soon non-veg food. I said that Srila Prabhupada always had a Temple President in charge. He replied that he is the Temple President in Seattle, Oregon, and now he will also be the man in charge of Phoenix. He said it works in those places and it will work in Phoenix.
He said he told the treasurer to sell the only temple vehicle immediately. "We don't need it", he said. "It is just a liability. Outside people can do everything that would require a car". I said to him that this doesn't sound like Srila Prabhupada's way of management. He then said the following words: "You want to become my enemy, I invite you. I already have 100 enemies in ISKCON among various leaders. You can be the 101st"! I was shocked.
He continued, "Some leaders and GBC's stigmatize me and brand me. If you want to do that too, go ahead. Broadcast it to the world. See if I care. I couldn't care less. There is not one single godbrother on the planet that I trust. Not one! ISKCON is simply an institution of people who like to argue and fight. That's all". I replied that I think ISKCON, as imperfect as it may be sometimes, is a vehicle for spreading love of God. He again stated that it was just an organization of people who like to argue and fight with each other. He said, "I trust the karmis more than I trust the devotees. I wouldn't even be in ISKCON if it wasn't for Srila Prabhupada. I am the most disliked person on the GBC. Ask anyone. I am telling you this right now, I am not a nice person! I repeat, I am not a nice person! That's who I am. And if you don't like it, I couldn't care less".
I interjected that although I have some disagreements with some of the North American GBC members, I disagreed with his attitude. I said, "Srila Prabhupada trusted his disciples". He replied, "So you are Srila Prabhupada? I don't have to listen to you. You are not my disciple. We are all different, and this is who I am. If you don't like it, get me kicked out. See if I care".
First of all, Hari Vilas' instatement as GBC appears to have been done by duplicitous means. Now he is showing disrespect and disregard for the devotees who started the temple, not to speak of how his attitude clearly lacks the humility to attract trust that he himself said he lacks in practically all the devotees. How is he going to be able to enthuse the congregation with this kind of attitude and representation? How is he going to be able to enthuse the only three temple devotees left living in the temple (we used to have twelve when I started it, diminished due to years of politics), but who are still trying to do their service.
Is this another good reason why the local Temple Presidents should be allowed to choose amongst themselves who the person is they would want to be GBC in their area (Srila Prabhupada's Direction of Management )? There are more numbers of Temple Presidents in North America whose vote Srila Prabhupada trusted, who could count in weighing in a GBC person amongst themselves, whom they trust, and even that window, a post for a limited time of four years. During that time, if the person did well as a GBC, they could get re-elected. And if some person as GBC is doing badly or becomes too attached to power and control and misuse it, then they could find some other service in Lord Caitanya's mission that might be more helpful. Srila Prabhupada said that the worst maya that could destroy our Movement is fighting from within, and these kinds of politics seem to do just that.
The original GBC to the Phoenix temple, Guru Prasada Swami, said to me recently, "In my opinion, the NA GBC has tried everything and it is not working. Therefore they should simply give the Phoenix temple back to the devotees who started it, Sandamini and Dasarath". The temple is already securely under their new bylaws. Anyone can ask the present Vice President of the Phoenix temple who continuously tells me, "there was none of these politics or problems present when you were here and in charge." With the authority of the GBC Hridayananda Goswami, we had a nice new Temple President lined up and all ready to come to Phoenix and spur our preaching and temple growth to new heights. I told this to Hari Vilas and said that, "we don't need one. The devotee can come and render some sincere service, but I will run things here from Seattle".
I believe Hari Vilasa prabhu has some serious issues, as he himself disclosed to me, and that the NA GNC is putting such a person in the position of overseer of our temple, makes one question such judgement. For some reason, Hridayananda Maharaj has finally conceded to the decision and his own removal as Phoenix GBC, but we are left here in Arizona with the aftermath.
I invite anyone who wants to address me further on this topic, to email me
at email@example.com. And I sincerely hope that there are no
other Vaishnavas out there who will invite me, or anyone else, to become
their enemy. Hare Krishna.