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“That clearly means it is Chaitanya Chandra's interpretation and not Srila Prabhupada's direct expressed wish.”

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

Removal and Appointment of a Temple President
By Jayapataka Swami, GBC member

I am surprised that Chaitanya Chandra das is saying that his admitted interpretation of Srila Prabhupada's words is actually "Srila Prabhupada’s expressed wish."

In his recent article on CHAKRA, Chaitanya Chandra stated, “Well, the relevant part of the Direction of Management is this: ‘8. Removal of a temple president by the GBC requires support by the local temple members.’ Now, I would interpret that to mean that the local temple members have the veto over what happens with regard to removal of the temple president. And by implication, they have the power to appoint.”

Here he clearly says, "I would interpret that to mean...." That clearly means it is Chaitanya Chandra's interpretation and not Srila Prabhupada’s direct expressed wish.

What is Srila Prabhupada's expressed wish? That is clearly mentioned by Srila Prabhupada in regards to removing a temple president. It should be by GBC vote and should have the approval of the local devotees. This shows that if local devotees are aggrieved about the wrong dealings of a temple president then their lack of support is a factor the GBC must take into consideration.

I proposed this year that temple presidents should be considered for removal if a vast majority of Temple members formally express their disapproval of the temple president. It was shot down in the GBC Deputies meeting and didn't get beyond that. Now here we see that Srila Prabhupada did want to have temple devotees’ opinion considered.

That isn't my interpretation. It is clearly what Srila Prabhupada said.

Now in regard to appointing a temple president it is a different situation. That Srila Prabhupada personally did or had his Zonal Secretary GBC members do. There are so many examples of that. Some temples are new and have no devotees to ask. I am personally in favor of hearing what devotees have to say about a new temple president in an established temple, but don't say that it is Srila Prabhupada’s directive that local devotees have to vote the temple president in. Srila Prabhupada wasn't for total democracy, which is what is being proposed here. That opens up other political potentials.

Chaitanya Chandra also wrote, “What matters of course, is what Srila Prabhupada meant by this. Not anyone else's interpretation. Thankfully, there is a direct reference to this point by Srila Prabhupada. ‘Regarding the election of president, a president can only be changed by vote. If no vote was taken, then the president cannot be changed. Neither Hamsaduta can change the president whimsically or can anybody else change the president. According the 'Direction of Management' the GBC cannot change the president but only by vote can it be done. The GBC's business is to see that the president and the members are doing nicely, following the regulative principles, and chanting 16 rounds and that other things are going on nicely’ (letter to Mukunda at Bhaktivedanta Manor, 29th September, 1974).”

Again this is all for removing or changing a Temple President. Explicitly appointing a new temple president isn't mentioned. It is Chaitanya Chandra Prabhu's interpretation again.

In his article, Chaitanya Chandra wrote, “Now, what could be clearer than that? Srila Prabhupada dispels any confusion by stating, ‘a president can only be changed by vote,’ and specifically ‘According the Direction of Management the GBC cannot change the president but only by vote can it be done."

Yes. This is in regard to changing/removing a temple president.

“I cannot understand why,” says Chaitanya Chandra, “anyone would fail to see that it was Srila Prabhupada's expressed wish for the local devotees to elect the local temple president.”

It is easy to fail to see it, as Srila Prabhupada didn't say it.

“But that is that the case in practice and according to ISKCON law? The ISKCON law book states, ‘The GBC zonal secretary shall be the authority to appoint or approve a new temple president....’ ( ISKCON law book 1997. (That is the latest issue available to me.) This law means that all of the power to appoint a new temple president lies with the GBC zonal secretary. And in reality this is just what happens,” writes Chaitanya Chandra.

But I would point out that it was happening during Srila Prabhupada's time also.

When Chaitanya Chandra writes in his article that no one has yet come forward to satisfactorily show why we are behaving in a way that is the “direct opposite of what Srila Prabhupada stipulated in ‘Direction of Management,’ and later clarified in the above letter,” I say that this is only against Chaitanya Chandra’s interpretation of Srila Prabhupada's instructions.

Now having said all of this, my purpose was to show that it isn't Srila Prabhupada's direct order that a temple president is to be elected. Still I don't see anything wrong with a Zonal Secretary (GBC) taking the opinion of local devotees in case there is a vacancy for temple president position and he/she has to appoint a new temple president. Just like the GBC has passed a Law that to appoint a Zonal Secretary (GBC) for a zone the local temple presidents it affects should be consulted. So why not consult local temple devotees? In principle there is no problem with this. It is still the GBC Zonal Secretary who would make the appointment of the new temple president.

Srila Prabhupada was very careful about abruptly and improperly removing temple presidents. That is why he put in the requirement for taking a vote. This was to insure that a local GBC just couldn't remove the temple president without going through proper procedure. I was personally removed many times by one of my local GBC's when I was a temple president and Srila Prabhupada chastised him and re-established me in the same temple president position. He said local GBC Zonal Secretaries can't just remove a temple president, but had to go through proper procedure. So don't mix up the different ideas of appointment and removal. They are two different things.

Many temple presidents have fried out devotees in their temples and there is little scope for any devotee to get justice. If something gets to such an extent that the temple devotees just don't want a temple president any more then why shouldn't the GBC consider this? That is supported by what Chaitanya Chandra dasa has cited from the Directions of Management.

Yours in service,

Jayapataka Swami

© CHAKRA 2-May-2000

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