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What Happened In Mayapur?
By Sri Rama Dasa

At the suggestion of one of our members, I put in an official request to the Executive Committee:

Dear Kalakantha Prabhu, PAMHO, AGTSP.

Our GBC Restructure committee requests an Official point-by-point explanation from the GBC Executive Committee explaining why the GBC Body chose to reject our proposal for restructuring and reform. My understanding is that you are the designated person who forwards such requests to the EC.

I had considered including Braja Bihari Prabhu in this request, but I believe now it is best that we hear the answer from the very top level. To the degree the GBC rules allow it, we would also like a list of how each member voted on the various reform proposals. I assume the current rules preclude publishing this information, but I believe the Executive Committee has the power to override these restrictions. This will help put to rest a plethora of doubt about the positions of individual GBC members.

We also request a clear statement from the EC as to the meaning of "tabling" the reform/restructuring issue for a year.

Thank you, as always, for your assistance and cooperation.

Your servant, Sri Rama dasa Conference Moderator

Ramai Swami, this year's GBC Chairman, replied:

Dear Sri Rama Prabhu,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Thanks for your efforts in stimulating discussion among many devotees about GBC reform. I'll do my best to answer your questions.

Let me answer your last question first. The report on Chakra that the GBC 'tabled' reform initiatives is erroneous. The reporter had left Mayapur before the GBC acted on them. If you have not yet seen the results of the meeting, the Minutes are available on Chakra or from Mother Divyambara, the GBC Secretary.

Regarding a point-by-point explanation of the GBC's decisions on your proposal, as I recall, your proposal called for a revised, smaller GBC comprised of non-sannyasis. I can offer you the following summary of considerations of the GBC reform committee regarding these two key elements.

All proposals were considered by a brainstorming process calling for everyone present to define pertinent Plus, Minus, and Interesting points. These points are elucidated below.

Our pledge of confidentiality prohibits me from disclosing who voted for what, but the straw vote totals are included where applicable.

The committee that reviewed your proposal included half GBC and half non-GBC members. We sought to include on it devotees representing a variety of views and geographical areas. It included:

Acutya Priay (Ukraine) Braja Bihari (India) Kesava Swami (Brazil) Pancaranta (India) Atmarama (Australia) Hrdaya Caitanya (Belgium) Radha Krishna (India) Bhima (India) (came only part time)

Badrinarayan (US) Gopal Krishna Goswami (India) Romapada Swami (US) Radhanatha Swami (India) Ramai Swami (Australia) Anuttama (US)

In your absence, I understand that Pancaratna did his best to represent the views that you and the conference members raised. We invested considerable time in discussing them.

Romapada Swami and Badrinarayana Prabhu have both written descriptions of their subjective experiences as Reform committee members. If you haven't seen them, please let our secretary know.

I hope this information helps you better understand the decisions the GBC took on your proposal and related topics.

Once again I thank you for your interest and involvement.

Your servant, Ramai Swami

Note by Sri Rama dasa: Below is what appears to be Ramai Swami's answers to my specific requests. However, he does not directly refer to our proposal. Rather, it seems he groups general issues together from a number of proposals and deals with them as if they were all the same. "Elements One and Two" look as if they are amalgamations of what he views as two general themes. In this sense, it does not appear that our request for a point for point response to our proposal was provided. At least that's how I read it. If I'm incorrect, then I apologize in advance to Ramai Swami.

Ramai Swami:

Two key elements of 2001 GBC reform proposals with considerations from GBC restructuring committee and outcomes of GBC straw voting

ELEMENT ONE: Separating Management and Spiritual Leadership by having only Grihasthas and Vanaprathas on the GBC

Positive points
* Relieves spiritual leaders from burden of management (11/1)
* Deals with problem of dual roles (Guru and GBC) from all prospectives (disciples, local leaders, and gurus. (12/0)
* Helps restore faith in spiritual leaders as they will instruct without conflict of interest (7/5)
* May alleviate problem of "guru/managers" being biased towards their disciples (11/1)
* Provides more freedom for gurus to lead without constraint of management responsibilities (9/3)

Negative points
* Limits the natural tendency for Gurus and Sannyasis to develop personal preaching projects (11/1)
* Body too specialized-no mixture of ashramas (10/1)
* Proposal assumes that majority of decisions of GBC are simply managerial. (10/1)
* Doesn't necessarily address the real problem (10/1)
* Insufficient resources to fill gap-not enough grihasthas and money to support them (9/2)
* Image of ultimate authority as management (9/1/1)
* Tends to create the impression that management is "non spiritual" (10/0)
* The GBC's image is not so respectable if only grihasthas (9/2)
* Discriminates in regards to ashrama rather than competency (10/1)
* Excludes some of the most renounced and powerful preachers from management decision making (10/2)
* Grihasthas are more expensive (9/2)
* Adverse effect on the family life of grihasthas (10/1)

Interesting points
* Proposal implies innate separation between spiritual (sannyasis and gurus) and management. In practice, management is an inevitable, and integral part of the preaching development.
* Proposal implies that the problem with spiritual leadership is inherently linked to Sannyasis and gurus on the GBC body. This may be a simplistic assumption-possibly incorrect philosophically as well.

Conclusion of Group:
The majority of the sub-committee did not favor this proposal, but it was presented, with all the above points, to the GBC body. The straw vote came back 2 in favor, 30 opposed, so it did not go to a final GBC vote.

ELEMENT TWO: Smaller, Global GBC Group (Under the GBC Body, with Executive Powers)

Positive points
* Provides for proper time and energy to serve the Society globally (7/0)
* Provides more effective mechanism for good leadership (6/1/0)
* Less abdication of leadership responsibility (the buck stops somewhere) (9/0)
* Larger group tends to be dysfunctional (5/4)
* Small group can develop better team dynamics (10/0)
* Enhances productivity (more things can get done throughout the year) (9/1)
* More global work can get done during the year
* Facilitates visibility and identification of leadership during the year (5/1/4)
* Free from local concerns to think globally (7/1/2)

Negative points
* Changes "system of management"
* Less diversity of input (4/5/1)
* Danger of concentration of power in small group (4/5/1)
* Easier for smaller group to deviate-become elitist (4/4/2)
* Could lose touch with local realities/become impractical (4/4)
* Policy making divorced from implementation (5/5)

Interesting points
* Should comprise some best managers-not just theorists
* Present situation like 50 people trying to get through a door at once

The subcommittee favored the general concept. However, in the final voting the GBC body ended up preferring the concept of delegating more responsibility to the GBC Deputies.

Next is the informal response from Badrinarayana dasa, a GBC member:

What Really Happened at the Mayapur Meetings Badrinarayan dasa

Dear Maharajas and Prabhus:

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

What follows is a response to the picture being painted in some circles that the GBC rejected the reorganization plan coming out of the European and North American IC meetings due to attachment, ineptitude, or systemic paralysis. I should state in the beginning that the following comments are my personal opinion alone. I am not writing as an official spokesperson for the GBC. But having attended the Mayapur meetings and been a member of the subcommittee assigned to review the proposal, I felt it my duty to at least offer an alternative view of the situation, in hope of broadening and balancing the discussion.

I would like to touch on three points: why the GBC decided as it did, what they offered as a positive alternative, and the tone surrounding the subsequent debate.

As for why the GBC decided as it did, there are several reasons. One was the opinion that this proposal attempted to do to the GBC system what the rtvic idea would do to the guru system. The rtvic idea is based on the premise that we are all inherently and perpetually flawed. It assumes that no one is or ever will become qualified as a genuine guru and that we therefore need a system to provide for guruship without personal qualification: a spiritual system minus spiritual qualification, if you will. Rtvicism is based on a negative and builds a system from there.

The IC proposal is a complicated system of term limits, checks and balances, and elections. Although unstated and perhaps not consciously intended, it is a system designed to defend against abuse but not necessarily to bring out the best in the individuals involved. Amongst other problems, it adds layers of bureaucracy, would be expensive to run, and is rife with breeding grounds for factions and power politics.

Additionally, we have been given a management system by our founder-acharya. It is not our right to reject what he has established in favor of what we, with our limited vision, consider a better idea. It is our duty to take the system he gave us and make it work.

Finally, simplistic as it may sound, the essential element for improving ISKCON is Krishna consciousness. No matter what the system or means of organization, how well it functions will depend on the quality of the people involved. In the ultimate issue, our future will be determined not by the latest resolutions or revised system of management but rather by an improvement in our individual and collective standard of spiritual life and vision.

The men and women assembled in Mayapur did in fact do their job. (It should be noted that the decisions in Mayapur are the combined work of over fifty devotees: the GBC members, deputies, ministers, and GBC secretariat). Seeing a flawed plan for what it was, they tried to take the best from it and present a positive alternative. Here is the vision the GBC is working toward: We would like to see the management of ISKCON handled more efficiently, with more regional representation and involvement. We would like to see management authority delegated. We would like to see a GBC that is spiritually strong, materially qualified, and able to give association and inspiration to the members of ISKCON. Toward these ends, here is what was decided in Mayapur: A serious system of on-going job assessment will be implemented for all GBC members. (A task force has been established to study different models and make its recommendation by the middle of this year. That proposal will then be reviewed by the GBC members, with a final version in place by next year's GBC meeting in Mayapur, March 2002.) This system of performance review will include spiritual standards, management ability, interpersonal skills, etc. This way shortcomings and areas needing improvement will be flagged.

Training will then be provided in the required area. Next, a period in which to implement that training will be assigned, with another review at the end of that implementation period. If, after adequate training and sufficient time for implementation, there is not significant improvement, the GBC member will be asked to step down.

Secondly, we will accelerate the process of involving GBC deputies in dealing with proposals and decisions at our annual Mayapur meeting and during the year. These deputies are to be selected by regional councils, the local GBCs, and the GBC secretariat.

Thirdly, the creation of a brahminical council was approved. It will consist of scholarly, experienced, and detached brahmanas. Their duty will be to provide shastric and ethical advice to the GBC deputies and GBC members.

Here is an idea of how our annual meetings at Mayapur would work. Proposals and issues to be discussed would first be vetted by the GBC deputies and the brahminical council. The results of their work would then be presented to the GBC members for short discussion and, in the majority of cases, approval. (These two bodies, the deputies and brahminical council, would have the full support and encouragement of the GBC to do all they can to resolve issues before they come to the GBC members.)

The GBC members would meet for two or three days to review the work of the deputies and brahmincal council. Rather than being inundated by the waves of nuts-and-bolts management issues (that work now being handled by the deputies and brahminical council), the GBC members could instead spend the next few days discussing long-term vision, preaching programs, philosophical issues, and how better to serve the devotees in ISKCON.

The GBC would then meet again for two days to consider the work the deputies and brahminical council have done on revising proposals sent back to them for review. Under this system, the GBC meeting could be completed in a week. When the GBC is freed from the current system, in which the meetings go on for over two weeks, a mandatory part of every GBC's duty would be to attend the full Mayapur festival, to give association to the general devotees and gain theirs in turn.

Those assembled at Mayapur this year felt that the above changes were solid steps forward. They also felt that these changes embodied a sincere attempt to address the concerns expressed in the IC proposal while avoiding its pitfalls and staying within the system of management given to us by Srila Prabhupada.

This brings us to the last point I wanted to address: the tone surrounding the debate after the GBC decision. Most of this debate has taken place in cyberspace, and the mood on a number of Web sites and e-conferences has been that the GBCs who rejected the IC proposals are reactionary, are attached to their positions, just don't get it, or are "out of touch.” But I would offer that listening only to the voices heard on these conferences or in meetings held only with like-minded individuals will give one a limited and slanted sampling of the opinions in ISKCON.

The fact is that a vast number of devotees have dropped out of these e-conferences, etc., having had their fill of the acrimony, inaccuracies, and condescending tone. The entire UK national council rejected the IC proposal. The GBC deputies, drawn from communities all around the world, overwhelmingly rejected it. The more accurate picture is that many devotees are in fact satisfied with the course of action taken in Mayapur.

I recognize that there are intelligent and sincere devotees who will not agree with the views I have expressed here. Now, if they can offer the same courtesy to those who disagree with them, we should be able to find common ground where we can work together to improve ISKCON and spread the sankirtan mission.

Your servant, Badrinarayan dasa

Comment by Sri Rama dasa Regarding these "acrimonious, inaccurate, and condescending" e-conferences, in the GBC Restructure conference, we began last September with 88 volunteer members in an open conference. Since that time, about seven participants have dropped out and been replaced by 18 new members, bringing the current total to 99.

By the way, the assessment process described above may sound to many as a strong argument in favor of Pancaratna's original proposal that the GBC resign en masse. As for training, that is normally done in youth. For example, our ability to memorize information peaks at six years of age. It is no accident that education is done in youth. It is debatable that meaningful training can be absorbed by 40, 50, and 60-year olds. Better to put the training time and money into the next generation.

I don't seem to have the letter from Romapada Swami referred to above, unless Ramai Swami is referring to a private letter. However, I don't normally reprint letters unless they are sent to a public address.

Part 3 will be about the reactions of devotees to our proposal and the GBC response which we've received.

Your servant, Sri Rama dasa


© CHAKRA 03 June 2001

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