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“We devotees must learn how to disagree without attacking each other's character.”


The debate: Should Temple Presidents be Elected?

CHAKRA wants to thank all the devotees who have contributed their time and thoughts to this debate. The debate is now over on CHAKRA, but we hope it has stimulated discussion and improved communication about these important issues in your local communities. 

Did Prabhupada want temple presidents elected?
Temple Presidents Elected?
Temple Presidents not to be elected - by Ramabhadra dasa
Response to Ramabhadra by Narottama dasa
Electing the temple president - issues behind the debate
TP Elect: Round Pegs in Square Holes? - by Krsnacandra dasa
TP's elected: Response to Narottama das - by Ramabhadra das
A President Can Only Be Changed by Vote - Chaitanya Chandra
My Impression of the TP Debate - Prananantha
Removal and Appointment of TPs - Jayapataka Swami
Prabhupada Favored Self-Sufficiency - Ranchor das
Elected by Members of the Center
Response to Jayapataka Swami
Prabhupada said: Elect the TP










“Admittedly, in the current political climate, very few devotees want to stpe forward to take up the post. However, there is a need for a new job description for the temple president and for the role of he congregation of initiated devotees to reflect the time we live in.”

Electing the Temple President - Issues Behind the Debate
By Karnamrta dasa

I read with much interest, Chaitanya-Chandra's article about the Temple President being elected. I also found New York Temple President Ramabhadra's angry response very telling from many points of view. While I certainly appreciate his sincerity to follow Srila Prabhupada by giving all his quotes from the direction of management, the implication from Ramabhadra is that Chaitanya-Chandler is "off" and shouldn't be allowed to express his opinion.

We devotees must learn how to disagree without attacking each other's character. (A fine art no doubt as I am sure Ramabhadra Prabhu won't like what I am saying-but I don't know how else to bring up these points. Forgive me please.) Although this is an admittedly a mild exchange, it represents a common practice nowadays to condemn those who disagree with our "Absolute" understanding. This black and white "absolutist" thinking and our inability to have "civil" dialog with different "camps" are the root of many of our ISKCON societies' problems. Do those who disagree with us become permanently banned from our circle-like a person with a contagious disease?

Apparently many of us have lost all respect for each other, or for those who differ from us. Can we not begin with the assumption that devotees are sincere and trying their best? Where is compassion? Where is mercy? Where is empathy, and understanding?

I have a devotee friend who is a veteran Prabhupada disciple in good standing who is trying to see the rationale for some things Srila Prabhupada did, that he really couldn't understand. Upon sharing his doubts with other devotees, they couldn't hear it, and told him this was offensive. He said to them that if he couldn't share these issues with devotee friends, then what persons can he discuss them with? While the issue in question is very different from this situation it still brings up the topic of sharing our feelings and understandings with other devotees.

If we can't have a forum to share our understandings of Krsna consciousness-even our doubts and reservations-or perhaps novel ideas, and also our view of what Prabhupada actually said, and meant, we are in a sorry state of affairs.

As a Society we are sometimes more expert in following the externals of what Srila Prabhupada set up, then in catching the spirit of his teachings which is really the essence we must uncover. Certainly following the externals is safer and more "politically correct", but it may not be in keeping with the "time, place, and circumstance".

The situation in point of electing Temple presidents is something I have been thinking about for a long time. Nowadays most of the devotees live outside in the surrounding area and not in the Temple, and are long standing initiated devotees. Shouldn't they have a voice to say who the Temple president is, especially if many of them feel he is not representing them or their needs-or the needs of preaching? Who is the Temple for anyway? This is an important issue faced by many Temple congregations.

Admittedly, in the current political climate, very few devotees want to step forward to take up the post. However, there is a need for a new job description for the Temple president and for the role of the congregation of initiated devotees to reflect the time we live in. Devotees need to feel empowered and responsible. Otherwise there is a reluctance to be involved, and a pervading apathy.

If congregations felt more empowered to have an impact, more devotees might come forward to take responsibility. If Temple Presidents felt more accountability to their congregations they would be more inclined to be responsive to the congregations needs.

The question for the GBC and management is: Are the congregations' needs important, or, do the GBC and/or Temple president only decide what is? Do we rule by autocracy or democracy? Many fundamental questions must be revisited in open dialog. We need to be able to listen to each other with open hearts and respect. Otherwise we have no chance of having a cohesive society that practices Unity in Diversity. Do we want that, or is there only one way?

Rather then being on the defensive against new or old ideas (and the people that make them) that don't "look" right, like electing Temple presidents, we need to consider the needs of all the devotees and the current situation. To me, this is being broad minded, and progressive.

This brings up the pressing issue for ISKCON: can we remain relevant to the times and the present devotees and people in general, while also remaining a potent preaching force following the siddhanta of scripture and the vision of Prabhupada and the acharyas? Everything requires balance and not fanaticism. Even having the best philosophy in the world will not create a living, dynamic force for good if we don't practice it amongst our selves.

© CHAKRA 24-April-2000

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