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“The IRG has seen fit to pursue their own agenda through aggressive anti-ISKCON maneuvers and behavior embarrassing to the Society. We do not agree with the philosophical veneer that coats their actions.”


Letter of grievance from ISKCON New York

To ISKCON Bureau Members [India], and Chairman Gopal Krsna Maharaja

Dear Gopal Krsna Maharaja and all members of the ISKCON Bureau,

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

This letter is to request your support in sanctioning organizers of the ISKCON Reform Group (IRG) who have moved to the New York area. We believe that their actions constitute a breach, both legally and ethically, of ISKCON practices and that ISKCON temples in other cities risk similar encroachment if IRG activity here is not addressed.

Before enumerating the specifics of their transgressions, we wish first to acknowledge the many years of service and the remarkable accomplishments of the IRG leaders on behalf of Srila Prabhupada. It is well known that the strong foundation of our Society in Calcutta is due in large measure to the devotion and dedication of Adridharana Prabhu. He has been a pillar of Srila Prabhupada’s movement. His achievements have not always received the recognition they deserve, and he has persevered even under duress from within the Society. Madhu Pandit Prabhu has elevated the stature of Srila Prabhupada’s Society in India by his superlative services, in particular the successful design and construction of the Bangalore Cultural Center, a world-class cultural attraction and an ISKCON center of which the entire Society is proud.

We regret that differences with ISKCON’s philosophy and administrative policies have compelled these Vaisnava leaders to distance themselves from the operational structure established by Srila Prabhupada. The IRG has seen fit to pursue their own agenda through aggressive anti-ISKCON maneuvers and behavior embarrassing to the Society. We do not agree with the philosophical veneer that coats their actions. We accept, however, that divergent interpretation has a long-standing role in Vaisnava tradition, and we would like to extend an invitation to the IRG to meet with us to explore more fully their position on initiation and related matters. We are, however, unable to extend such an invitation as long as their reprehensible mode of conduct continues.

We object in the strongest possible terms to the following actions by the IRG organizers in the New York area:

1. Intention to Open a Competitive New York City Temple. A letter sent recently to New York area devotees and friends of ISKCON publically announced IRG’s plan to open a New York temple. IRG’s intention to establish a temple without following procedures outlined in GBC resolutions is a breach of policy as well as etiquette.

2. Intention to Incorporate as “Sri Sri Radha Govinda Mandir.” That such an unauthorized temple would be named after the ISKCON New York Deities is an insult to Sri Sri Radha Govinda and constitutes a legally actionable offense. It is appalling to think that the IRG devotees, who espouse allegiance to Srila Prabhupada as their motive for breaking with ISKCON, would act with such flagrant disrespect for the Deities that he himself worshipped.

3. Canvassing New York and Towaco ISKCON Members to Join the IRG Fund-Raising and Temple Management Team. At least two senior devotees, Bhakta Avatar das in Brooklyn and Srivas Pandit das in New Jersey, have been approached to help Adidharan dasa and Madhu Pandit dasa by joining IRG’s efforts to establish a temple in Manhattan; appeals for assistance included invitations to become their Temple President, assist in fund raising, and serve on their Board of Directors. Many of our New York area congregation members have received at least one phone call soliciting support for IRG activities. This sort of solicitation is against GBC policy, which is meant to protect the integrity of Srila Prabhupada’s temple communities.

4. Canvassing for Support on New York ISKCON Temple Property. It has been difficult to remain calm while watching the IRG organizers solicit Sunday feast guests and devotees inside the New York area temples. They have been politely asked to desist, but they have chosen to continue. On at least one occasion, when Ramabhadra Prabhu attempted to stop the canvassing on Temple premises, the IRG organizer threatened to have him “blacklisted from India.”

To these offenses must be added rumors of IRG’s intention to bring a team of fund-raisers from Bangalore, their plans to use a large photo of Sri Sri Radha Govinda in their fund-raising effort, and their threats of violence if prohibited from attending Brooklyn ISKCON functions.

We prefer not to resort to legal action. We wish to reconcile with our IRG Godbrothers and are sorry that they have seen no alternative to their present strategy. However, we believe such behavior is spiritually destructive to them as well as those whom they are approaching, that it is contrary to the spirit of Srila Prabhupada’s movement, and legally sanctionable.

We call upon you to support our petition, irrespective of philosophic position on the protocols of initiation. As in diplomatic affairs, peace talks can begin only after aggressions have ceased. Differences can be resolved, shortcomings of the past can be corrected, and new procedures established. Such progressive movement, however, can only take place within the dignified parameters of proper Vaisnava behavior.

© CHAKRA 19-Oct-1999

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