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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
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.
Temple President - Issues Behind the Debate
By Karnamrta dasa
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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".
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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
© CHAKRA 24-April-2000
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