Chakra Discussions

In Need of a Few Good Temple Presidents; Phoenix is No Exclusion!

by Dasarath das

Posted March 26, 2009

Why is is so hard to get qualified devotees who have spent so much time in Iskcon, who have gone through so much training in devotional service, to come forward and take up some responsibility again in their guru maharaj's movement? Although there are several reasons, one reason is the lack of ability on behalf of the GBC, to gain their trust.

"Phoenix temple has lost its' luster". This was a quote from an Indian congregational member, told to me by Caru prabhu, several years back. The man had seen our Phoenix temple from the beginning, and then seen it get covered by mismanagement and lets just say, a lack of caring. He told Caru that there is at least one temple he can still identify with - Caru's temple in Utah.

We do not have a TP at present in Phoenix, and before Hari Vilas was appointed as the new GBC there, the spot needed to be filled. One devotee from New Vrindavan, who is in charge of congregational development there, expressed his interest, and, he also had other offers to become TP in various temples around the world. So he was invited by me to check it out. No one else had any candidate in line.

One thing that attracted this devotee to perhaps work and preach in Phoenix was, 1)the huge potential of developing the congregation in that area, the 5th largest city in the USA (there has been practically very little congregational development going on); and 2)he was attracted to my pioneering spirit for Srila Prabhupada, as well as our plans to build a large temple in Tucson, and an even bigger project, by the grace of Krishna, in Sedona. He said when he sees that things are expanding. I think he also said something to me about the love and appreciation that we showed him during his visit. To involve his name in frivolous, concocted, and speculative assumptions of politics, questioning his motives as well as mine, without even bothering to talk with this nice Vaishnava, is unfortunate indeed.

This devotee is a householder, who is working full time as a very fired up preacher in the northeast U.S. He takes a modest salary from the temple to support his family and their needs, and in no way proportionate to what he collects for the temple (which is over $400,000 yearly). He does not have a personal business like Hari Vilas. His "business" is preaching, or as he himself calls it, cultivating loving relationships with the congregation. He promised our temple board in Phoenix that he will only begin to take his so-called salary, after he has started to increase the donations of the temple, significantly. The temple would not be out of pocket for his maintenance. And, he would not take any of the names of people he was cultivating and receiving donations, from New Vrindavan.

If I wanted to ask him to help me with the Sedona project (, I wouldn't need to get him "planted" in the Phoenix temple where hardly 25 people go to the Sunday lecture (more do show up for artike and prasad). We could start our own separate project office for Sedona in Phoenix. Putting aside my vision for the Sedona project, Phoenix badly needed and still needs some one who can gain the trust of the community (they are mostly Indian), and inspire them in their Krishna consciousness. He was interested. He met with the other temple leaders, and got their approval. He also got he approval of the then GBC, Hridayananda Maharaj.

What I am mad about, is not how this qualified person is being shoved aside and not even brought into a discussion in a vaishnava and caring way, as still a possible candidate for being the temple president. What I am mad about, is not that I spent $400 to fly him in to see if we could encourage this nice vaishnava to serve our beautiful Deities, and perhaps give the temple what they badly needed, and what the Deities deserve, a good temple president that was enthusiastic to preach and get things rolling there again. Mad about not getting my way? Huh!

What I am mad about, is the haphazard way this North American GBC operates in some of its' business. Sandamini wrote a thoughtful and concerned letter to five NA GBC leaders regarding the way the GBC was changed in Phoenix. NOT ONE GBC responded to her concerns. Not one called me, to try and smooth over some really crazy statements Hari Vilas, their new appointee, said to me about his personal views of Iskcon, and his general lack of trust in his godbrothers (karmis get a better seat with him - his own words), etc. No wonder devotees in general have lost their faith in this GBC. The international GBC body has meetings with this topic sometimes at the top of their list (like the GBC meeting in Italy a few years ago). Where is the GBC minister of communications??

I did start the Phoenix temple for Srila Prabhupada, and I still am concerned if some person is being thrown into the mix, who has no respect for the founders of the temple, and thereby wants to divide our cooperating spirit of our Tucson and Phoenix yatras, who wants to use a centralization method of temple management instead of Srila Prabhupada's method of temple management(how many temples is Hari Vilas TP of?), and who by his own statements, thinks Iskcon in general, is an institution of people who like to argue! Again I humbly challenge, where is the sane GBC management in this scenario? Why does the NA GBC want to put one of its' own in charge of every detail of temple management, without allowing for the process that Srila Prabhupada instated. And, a big why, has none of these GBC's have yet to personally address why they removed Hridayananda Goswami from his GBC position in Phoenix and installed Hari Vilas, in a very "not" straight forward manner, of duplicity, and manipulating some innocent members of the temple board, alienating them from their involvement in the management of the temple they love. Basically this GBC lied.

So why did I push, or bring this person forward to become the next TP in Phoenix? Come visit the beautiful Phoenix temple and see for your self.

Again, my, or I would rather say, Lord Jagannath's temple in Sedona, is being managed as an Iskcon friendly temple, as is the Utah temple, but not under the control of this NA GBC, ONLY for reasons I perceive as their mismanagement, again, as in this Phoenix temple example. We are working very hard to build these temples.