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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


Temple President Election Thoughts - Response to Jayapataka Swami
By Niscala devi dasi

I found the debate on CHAKRA about temple president elections very interesting. However, there are some apparently contradictory statements in the article by Jayapataka Swami, "Removal and Appointment of a Temple President."

He wrote: "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.’"

I would like to point out this is not a fact: Chaitanya Chandra's 'admitted interpretation' was only in relation to the Direction of Management.

He wrote, "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."

On the other hand, Caitanya Chandra’s mentioning of "Srila Prabhupada's expressed wish" was made later, in relation to the letters. I think we all can agree there can be no room for interpretation of those explicit letters. I wonder why Jayapataka Swami has not addressed the concrete evidence in the letters? One of the letters definitely confirms that Chaitanya Chandra's “admitted interpretation” of the Direction of Management is the correct one, as seen below.

Srila Prabhupada writes: "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."

Commenting on Chaitanya Chandra’s points, Jayapataka Swami said, "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."

Jayapataka Swami seems to be undermining Chaitanya Chandra's motive for using the word "interpret", when all Chaitanya Chandra is doing by use of the word is admitting the Direction of Management is open to interpretation, since it clearly refers to removal of temple presidents. Nowhere does Chaitanya Chandra say that it is Srila Prabhupada's "expressed wish" in regard to voting. That point is in Srila Prabhupada’s letters.

Srila Prabhupada's own interpretation of the Direction of Management in the letter above is in regard to elections. Nevertheless, even if we choose not to take that into account, the Direction of Management alone indicates Srila Prabhupada’s attitude towards the accountability of temple presidents to the devotees, the importance of their opinion of their temple president and that he can't be removed without consent. In other words, it points to democracy.

Still, the prime evidence is the letters - particularly the letter which refers to the Direction of Management. That is the only "Srila Prabhupada's expressed wish" that Chaitanya Chandra refers to. In addition, the prime evidence is the direct experience of temple devotees that the current system is a failure, or at the least, a stumbling block to progress.

It therefore appears to me to be questionable ethics that Jayapataka Swami pinned down Chaitanya Chandra for using the word “interpret." Too often we consider the word "interpret" to be taboo and that interpretations themselves have some kind of dastardly intent.

The logic goes like this: "Rascals interpret scripture according to their own motive, therefore anyone who says ‘I interpret’ for whatever reason and in whatever context, must be a rascal." Never mind Chaitanya Chandra’s use of the word pointed to a fact. The very fact that the word was used earned him a “thumbs down.”

Your servant,

Niscala devi dasi

© CHAKRA 29-May-2000

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