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“GBC members should only have zones in the area where they can have profound influence. The GBC representative should be from the local area.”


Further Thoughts on the Reform Discussion
By Isvara dasa

Krishna Dharma Prabhu has touched upon serious points. It addresses some of the thinking that has been going within the minds of the devotees who are not gurus or who are neither Srila Prabhupada's direct initiated disciple but has been in the movement for more than twenty years.

The idea to have a group of individuals labeled “gurus” and another group of individuals labeled “managers” within the ISKCON organization seems speculative to me.

In the history of Gaudiya Vaisnavas, the line of authorities was never vested in the hands of the few people known as gurus. Rather it was always based on spiritual advancement regardless if the person was a manager or guru.

The six Goswamis didn’t have many disciples. For example, Srila Jiva Goswami didn’t initiate any disciples, yet his authority superseded the authority of other gurus. Srila Narottama dasa Thakura, Srila Srinivasa Acarya and Srila Syamananda Thakura all had different initiating spiritual masters, but took the order of Srila Jiva Goswami, whom they all studied under, to distribute the Gaudiya Vaisnava literatures, as their life and soul.

Here in India, a traditional temple manager is generally known as “mahant” and people address him as “Maharaja.” Temple attendants have veneration for him whether or not he initiates disciples.

How can we separate a spiritual authority from the temple manager? I feel that this is speculative.

Generally, after a new devotee joins the temple, he undergoes some training under the bhakta leader, sankirtana leader and temple president. After a year or more, a guru recognized by ISKCON initiates the bhakta. Yet, even though the day to day affairs of spiritual life is actually in the hands of the temple authorities, the disciple may start to see his temple authorities as a hindrance to his relationship with his guru. I have personal experience that the guru may even tell his disciples that the temple authorities are envious of the guru, undermining the temple authorities. Since, as Prabhupada says, “familiarity breeds contempt,” the disciple may then start to see the temple authorities more as material facilitators for his temple life and the guru as the only means of spiritual advancement.

In my humble opinion, to begin reform we need to implement the following:

  1. ISKCON Srila Prabhupada’s movement. He is the real and only absolute authority for all ISKCON devotees (this is not ritvik).
  2. The temple leaders whether GBC or temple president, represent Srila Prabhupada only as long as they are following Srila Prabhupada’s instructions.
  3. Guruship in ISKCON should be only an individual preference. No one needs to know who initiates people. It should be a personal affair that individual ISKCON devotee wants to accept as a spiritual authority.
  4. All public initiation in ISCKON temples should be stopped. Also all public exhibition of Vyasa-puja celebrations should be stopped in all ISKCON temples. Disciples of particular gurus are free to honor their gurus in whatever format, but it should not be an ISKCON function.
  5. GBC members should only have zones in the area where they can have profound influence. The GBC representative should be from the local area. It is absurd to have a GBC has the East, the West, South Africa, Europe, North America, and India all at the same time.

I have more suggestions, but that is enough for now. I’d like to hear the opinions of other devotees along similar lines. It is time we do some soul searching and find a common solution so we can be the spiritual movement we are meant to be.

Your servant,

Isvara dasa.

© CHAKRA 17-May-2000

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