SPIRITUAL SOLUTIONS TO MATERIAL PROBLEMS

Premarnava das and Bhaktavatsala das - 23.4 2021

Introduction

Moving into the twenty-first century is no longer simply a hackneyed catch line, it is a current reality. Despite predictions of the dawning of a new era, ISKCON seems more plagued by problems than ever before. One might argue that in our mature awareness, we are simply now more abreast of problems that existed all along, but this ignores the fact that many of these problems confront us in the form of disgruntled members and ex-members calling for requital.

 

The fruits of our mode of action are catching up with us, imploring and forcing us to become painfully aware of our shortcomings, past and present. It has been said that at the current moment the ISKCON house is on fire, so before we continue with our efforts to save the world, we have to save our own house.

In the following outline, we attempt to show that there are fundamental flaws in our basic paradigms, bugs in our program, which will continue to confound our good intentions and hamper ISKCON's progressive development as a spiritual movement. We look at the movement's various problems as byproducts of obsolete recruitment policies, a gross imbalance of power and undefined areas of responsibility.

We attempt to show how many of "our" problems, we have simply taken on from others and made them our own. We are not the cause of these problems and are not responsible for solving them either. We suggest that debugging ISKCON of this apparent cumulative error is mainly a matter of redistributing responsibilities, reprioritizing and managerial restructuring. This is roughly thrown together material and not meant to represent the absolute truth.

We are aware that in many places some of the practices we criticize have been and are being addressed and in one sense our descriptions represent a "worse case scenario" because we take things to their logical conclusion. We don't feel that it detracts from our general point that we are laboring under a faulty paradigm. We would greatly appreciate your comments on any of our observations and ideas, especially in the sections dealing with solutions.

Ys Premarnava das and Bhaktavatsala das

 

Some of the Current Problems in ISKCON

 

Organizational/managerial confusion and chaos

 

There is no clear understanding of what should be managed, what to speak of how. There is no clear definition of what ISKCON really is. There is no clear definition of what a temple is. There is no clear definition of what a devotee is.

All kinds of speculations of how things should be managed are rampant We have no standard systems of management. Although our current organizational paradigm may have been sufficient for the largely communal social structure of ISKCON in the past, it needs to evolve to cater to ISKCON's current and future social structure The organization is entirely top heavy. ISKCON's ultimate managerial authority, the GBC, has great difficulties delegating responsibility to lower levels.

There is little opportunity for people to grow with responsibility, which results in a gap between the top level of management and the rest of the organization. Because of lack of qualified people being allowed to take up "middle positions" within the organization, the GBC members must try to fill those positions. This results in them becoming entangled in doing things that could be done by others. Or that the jobs don't get done.

The GBC tries to delegate and not delegate at the same time. It's politically correct to delegate They don't feel confident to delegate to anyone outside the GBC body, so they delegate laterally, to each other. This lack of the ability to delegate helps make micro management the modus operandi within ISKCON The GBC set the standards for micro management and other authorities follow the example. The GBC body is seen as elitist and some lose trust in and respect for them. They become a popular target for blame and criticism.

People are told: "Come to us, surrender everything and we'll look after you." Not considering that we are promising more than we can deliver in terms of fulfilling people's material needs. We are thinking in terms of minimal material amenities and four square meals a day, long term material needs are overlooked.

We encourage people to move in without properly considering their suitability for temple life. Unfulfilled expectations create frustrations and suffering Experience shows that most people are not satisfied with the austere life style that long-term temple life demands. When the individual realizes this it creates a very difficult situation since, by social pressure it is seen as a great defeat to move out, but he is not able to stay either.

Single ladies find no shelter, and the TP finds himself acting as a surrogate husband to them all Short term benefits of the few material acquisitions the "new recruit" brings with him, and the prospect of another worker for the temple is attractive to any temple manager

People give up their settled and established lives, and start from scratch as temple devotees, only to discover five or ten years later that it is not right for them (since in the temple they only did the needful and were not able to engage in an occupation according to their nature). They then have to go out into the world, and start from scratch again

They leave the temple empty handed because brahmacaris have no possessions They will often feel as if they gave the best years of their life, and now the movement is throwing them out to fend for themselves

During their time in the temple they may well have been wrongly engaged and therefore less productive as they could be, thus we have wasted their potential

Much of what they had learned in those five or ten years could probably have been just as effectively learned through, intensive, goal-oriented courses

But they are five or ten years out of their chosen occupation This may make it impossible to continue in the occupation they learned This may necessitate re-education

This may be difficult due to devotee-lifestyle induced illnesses They have to re-establish themselves in the world, (home, car, job) which may take another five or ten years, during which time they probably wont be able to support the temple (many feel that they have anyway done their part during their brahmacari time)The individual and the temple authorities

Autonomy or self-sufficiency is often viewed as defying the principle of "surrendering everything to the authorities".

Material competence is sometimes viewed with suspicion (e.g. Pundarika Vidyaniddhi) Everyone is expected to surrender to the authorities, regardless of the managerial competence or social maturity of that authority. Such surrender is seen as humility.

Calls for accountability of authorities are viewed as rebellion, or offensive. Living outside ISKCON property is still considered maya in many places. Rather than live as outcastes for the rest of their lives, people not suited for temple life have prefered to bloop in the middle of the night

Many have continued to practice Krsna consciousness aloof from ISKCON Therefore, what kind of people is mainly attracted to the ISKCON society? People who don't want to take responsibility for their own lives. Unsettled, restless people. Vagabonds.

Who continue this tendency as devotees and are unsteady in service, location, asrama, choice of partner Tend to be whimsical and irresponsible This creates chaos and uncertainty throughout the movement Necessitates perpetual crisis management

People who are not capable of taking responsibility for his or her own lives. In other words, social misfits. And we promise to take care of them and all their problems from now until they die. We have succeeded in institutionalizing some of these social-retards into our movement, and now have to live with them. Some of them have attained positions of great responsibility

We preach to them that they should renounce everything Some equate shirking responsibility with spiritual renunciation This happens in regards to responsibility to oneself as well as to responsibility towards dependants such as family members

It may have been more socially relevant to preach giving up family obligations and surrendering to Krsna in the context of Indian culture, where extended family ties are strong. In the West however many had already rejected their families because they represented social responsibility. We validate this renunciation which is actually based on irresponsibility (sense gratification).

Practicing Krsna consciousness has become a little deeper and more complex then simply "Stay high forever." We have set these irresponsible people loose on the public as book distributors, representing our movement We strongly encourage big scores with very few real checks on how devotees are dealing with the public Unchecked this may degenerate into "hit and run" culture rather than preaching culture Sometimes short term results such as big scores, are glorified, whereas long term consistency and steadiness are taken for granted, or even minimized

Then they distribute anything, saying anything, and call it sankirtan They carry this throughout their life and as householders collect on charity lines at the cost of ISKCON's reputation

Encourages a personal ethic of dishonesty, in the name of utility or transcendence This generates a restless, hunters and gatherers mood and a hand-to-mouth economy Even if they are well behaved, they are not representative, since they are mainly renunciates, and mainly quite young and inexperienced

In the name of loyalty to ISKCON, the interests of the individual are sacrificed in the form of irresponsibility towards dependents, thus the interests of the institution are put above those of the individual. This allows us to avoid the more difficult responsibility of taking care of people as individuals and rationalize putting the institution before the individuals within it

The institution becomes a symbol for "us" and the rest of the world becomes "them" to demonize and vilify Encouraging elitism

Fortifying the insecurities that give rise to this dualistic vision Justifying claims that we are a cult

People who like to control other people's lives. Attracted by the autocratic structure and the prospect of someday becoming the ultimate authority in other's lives Organized, competent people often cannot identify with such an atmosphere of irresponsibility, and look elsewhere for spiritual knowledge.

They cannot reconcile our high philosophy with our bizarre application of it. They perceive a lack of integrity and lose trust - "Maybe it is a cult." Some competent people may join but are subordinated to our management style A society dominated by such people will:

Attract more such persons. Ward off people from a normal, or cultured background. Perpetuate the problems mentioned in the beginning of this document An enormous amount of time and energy is spent on trying to accomplish the impossible task of managing our member's lives and fulfilling their material needs.

Because we are not able to deliver what we promise, some people become embittered enemies of our society for the rest of their lives.

Due to our failure, many feel cheated As soft hearted Vaisnavas, when we see how miserably we are failing at micro-managing everyone's lives, we apologize profusely and redouble our efforts to become more expert in micro-managing everybody's lives Thus instead of questioning the paradigm, we entangle ourselves deeper in a viscous circle (and congratulate ourselves that we are making progress, hacking through the undergrowth, unaware that we are in the wrong forest)

Which impels many devotees who should normally be preaching, to spend lots of time, money and energy on learning to be better managers

Ironically, the final conclusion of all the state of the art seminars, courses and books on management is: "Don't try to micro-manage your organization.

Why are we so obsessed with micro-managing each other's lives? Could it be that our inability to deal with the underlying values and principles of Krsna consciousness leads us to instead take shelter of and become absorbed in the "external" superficial logistics of our lives

For example, in our eagerness to micro manage the marriages of the members of ISKCON, we forget to teach them what marriage actually means, in terms of values such as responsibility and mutual respect.

We stress he importance of initiation, and are eager to get people initiated as fast as possible, as this increases our prestige as a preacher, even though young initiates are often unaware of the responsibility they are taking on by vowing before the Lord. From the side of the uninitiated, initiation may become primarily a status symbol

The question may arise; what business does a spiritual personality or movement have in getting involved in people's private lives and where does one draw the line? Any decision made on behalf of another, will implicate the decision-maker in continuos repercussions, and the concomitant karma connected with that decision. In the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna instructed Arjuna in spiritual knowledge, then left it up to him to implement it in his life. Are we following that example in ISKCON?

The Gurus grew up within the same paradigma

Therefore many think they have to manage every detail in the lives of their disciples, making sure they have a proper engagement, wife, income, house, making sure their mind is happy and their babies backsides are wiped. It's no wonder they have breakdowns. It's no wonder they are not capable of properly taking care of all their other managerial responsibilities. Dealing with all these nitty-gritty material arrangements may weaken their spiritual position and contribute to fall-downs.

Because devotees are not able to take care of themselves or because we are paranoid of letting them try, make their own mistakes and learn, we feel we have to be involved in all details of their lives. The result of all this is that gurus are obliged to act as:

business advisors financial consultants marriage counselors bankers policemen psychotherapists judges Politicians etc. etc. etc..

Doing all these jobs will: Introduce conflicts of interest, either perceived or real. It may not be so easy or even possible for a guru to remove the guru-hat and put on the manager-hat.

Thus questioning his decisions might be viewed as irreverence or offensive This will stifle input - disciples will be reluctant to question or contribute to any managerial decision proposed by their guru, for fear of being labeled a heretic

 

Managerial authorities who question the managerial decisions of gurus, become demons in the eyes of that guru's disciples He may back up his managerial decisions with guru clout

 

The guru may be so accustomed to unquestioning obedience that he expects it from all his subordinates, and forces it through by overruling subordinate's decisions, and ruining trust

 

A person treated as untrustworthy will probably become untrustworthy, seeing no reason to be trustworthy Mistrust is rarely one-sided, it becomes mutual and grows in a downward spiral

 

This mistrust spreads like an epidemic throughout our whole "love and trust" society It also spreads laterally and even gurus and GBC men show a lack of trust and integrity towards each other - this is sometimes painfully public

 

Disciples and non-disciples may view this inability as a lack of integrity Some may view it as political tactics or downright manipulative Creating factions and evoking feuds, enmity and counter politics Gurus may pull disciples out of important services to support the guru's own project/ministry, without consulting the disciple's managerial authority (poaching)

 

Some gurus may factually take advantage of this situation to achieve their own material ends The possibility to do this may attract unscrupulous persons to become gurus

 

He may entrust his managers to decide who is a fit candidate for initiation, but their decisions may be based on managerial expedience, e.g. the need for another initiated devotee to cook, the need for a second initiate to do puja. Thus the conflict of interests between managerial and spiritual responsibilities becomes all pervasive This minimizes the significance of  initiation

 

This endangers the guru (who has to accept the karma of persons who are not qualified) Drain them of the energy they need to spiritually enliven their disciples, (who will be then inspired to take on these responsibilities themselves)

 

Add further to an already unbalanced, top-heavy authority structure Create doubt in the disciples who think that guru must be infallible in every area of endeavor When a material arrangement ordered by the guru fails, the disciple has a crisis of faith or blames the guru and makes offences

 

Because of the disciple's lack of ability to discriminate between material and spiritual competence, gurus lose all credibility if their micro-management fails

 

Even if the instructions of the guru is perfect, they may fail due to:

 

Being misunderstood Being misinterpreted Being purposefully twisted Being improperly executed Circumstantial changes

 

They will inevitably favor one party over another and thus be viewed as partial Someone will disagree, you can't please all of the people all of the time Disenfranchise those who should normally do these jobs

 

By fulfilling many ksatriya functions, they inadvertently challenge real ksatriyas to compete with them By being so active within the managerial realm, gurus create an unhealthy atmosphere of competition between the spiritual and managerial authorities

 

Ksatriyas in the movement feel that they have to become a guru to be important It is better to engage in one's own occupation, even though one may perform it imperfectly, than to accept another's occupation and perform it perfectly. Disenfranchise individuals in general in ISKCON Creates an atmosphere of non-delegation

 

Creates a general apathy towards taking up responsibility Create irresponsible yes-men, who will not be capable carrying on the movement in their guru's absence (rather than independently thoughtful individuals)

 

Responsible for the present authority vacuum between those in charge and the mass of devotees, whereby hardly anyone is able to come up and take over the responsibility for the succession of our movement

 

Qualified persons are sometimes kept down by those above who fear competition from more competent subordinates

 

Srila Prabhupada would give substantial responsibility to relatively inexperienced people, and they would learn to deal with it, and take more responsibility

 

Some think we have to protect the society and it's assets from inexperienced managers, but by not allowing them to learn, there will be no one to run the society within a few years

 

They may worry about the philosophical integrity of up-coming devotees, but if the senior preachers would spend more time teaching the philosophy instead of micro-managing everybody, then the next generation of managers would be philosophically stronger

 

Creates a confusion between spiritual and material competence

 

Has led to grossly under qualified people trying to manage other's lives, resulting in disaster Creates the situation where the guru's intervention will be seen as taking unfair advantage of his position as absolute authority In the lives of his disciples

 

This can easily create animosity between guru and:

 

God-brothers Other non-disciples Other managerial authorities Disciples

 

It creates an environment wherein deviant philosophies flourish (rtvik et al)

 

Among those who perceive the gurus as abusing their power Among those who cannot maintain the highest standard, and need to pacify their conscience with some philosophical rationalization

 

Is seen as proof that the gurus are not properly qualified

 

Since this mode of action is more visible than visionary work or spiritual guidance, some may perceive that it is the guru's main activity

 

And may conclude that managing nuts and bolts is the ultimate goal of Krsna consciousness. Through the movement's most spiritually advanced persons being so engaged in managing the external aspects of their disciple's lives, the internal spiritual perspective is minimized or neglected

 

A whole paradigm of judging things on externalities is perpetuated

 

By default, the internal principles and values that are the real symptoms of Krsna consciousness, are forgotten (proof - the questionable morality of practices and attitudes throughout the movement)

 

Produces superficiality in all spheres of activity. We become active in terms of external mechanics rather than underlying values and principles (ironically we end up with people who have changed their external duties but remain the same internally, whereas the BG encourages that one retain one's external duties and change the internal consciousness)

 

By validating people according to an external hierarchy, people are encouraged to situate themselves as high as possible on the hierarchy of external activities, rather than situate themselves according to where they fit

 

In a management-culture, activities such as Deity worship are seen as liabilities

 

Although gurus may try to fulfill these functions with good intentions, it may be perceived as manipulative/political (the road to hell is paved with good intentions)

 

The gurus will be subject to overload and subsequent burn out By the shear magnitude of the work load they attempt to take on

 

Prohibits effectiveness and efficiency

 

Someone who is only engaged in putting out fires, may lose sight of the bigger picture (can no longer see the forest for the trees)

 

Overburdened, gurus may opt for the easiest alternative - to demand obedience, placing themselves above accountability, and oppressing their subordinates

 

Never have time to review their own efficiency, often think they are doing quite well, and that their way of doing things is the best way, and set a standard of incompetence (that they are prepared to defend at all costs). Rarely have time or see the need for further education in the appropriate field, thus creating an atmosphere not conducive for education (culture of incompetence)

 

By the nature of the work

 

When the guru is overloaded and suffering because of the workload due to disciples, he may perceive them as a tiresome burden (a cross to bear) rather than his spiritual sons and daughters that he dearly loves He may feel as if he is standing in the pounding surf of his disciple's problems, and may be knocked over by the waves (in the form of):

 

Physical breakdown

Mental breakdown

Psychological breakdown

Emotional breakdown

Nervous breakdown

Spiritual breakdown

 

Disciples will relate to them as problem solvers rather than teachers and guides They will approach them expecting a quick fix for all their problems, spiritual and material This relationship validates disciple's tendencies to shirk responsibility

 

Guru feels like a garbage bin

 

Perpetuate a culture of incompetence, a culture that has gotten ISKCON where it is today (namely in a mess) This tendency to micro-manage other's lives filters down through the whole movement

 

If husband and wife have different gurus and both claim the right to micro-manage their disciple's life, then this causes major chaos and conflict, and undermines the stability of the marriage

 

TP's micro-manage dept. heads etc. Which sometimes creates conflicts between micro-managing gurus and micro-managing temple authorities Causes a bottle-neck in the decision-making process, which further hinders the guru from making proper, well considered decisions

 

This undermines disciple's faith Supports case that he is incompetent Should ISKCON Be A Temple Centered Institution?

 

Bhaktivinode Thakura only established one temple, but still did plenty of preaching. Where? To people who were already situated in life. He didn't think he had to first organize their life for them and then make them Krsna conscious.

 

Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Maharaja had 60 000 disciples, but still only opened 64 temples. And that was in the land of Dharma 100 years ago, a socially favorable environment.

 

Srila Prabhupada also wanted everyone to just marry and move out, but somehow things got pushed in another direction.*

 

Much needs to be redefined in how we proceed as a movement, and a lot of the responsibility to do this falls on the leaders. Whether they like it or not.

 

The householders should be responsible for managing their own social affairs If they want to organize things in small groups or communities in an interdependent way, then that is even better.

 

We are naturally and inexorably moving in the direction of a congregation/community based movement, thus attempts to reverse this trend are not only doomed to failure but counterproductive to the movements organic development

 

By consciously endeavoring to make the transition a smooth and swift one, we become a part of the solution (rather than remaining a part of the problem)

 

Temples should be for education and worship.

 

If people want to organize farming communities, co-operatives, businesses, let them do it. Proprietorship turns sand into gold - if it is their project . . .

 

They will think very carefully about what kind of project they start and with whom they do it They will do something they can do and like to do

 

They will work together with people who they can get along with and who are competent in the relevant areas They won't just do it to please someone else who put (micro-managed) them there They will be committed to making it successful

 

They will be careful about who they allow to participate No free-loaders, lazys or crazys No dead-wood - stream-lined for productivity

 

They will not whimsically drop it, especially if they are dependent on it for their livelihood They risk their own capital

 

If it is a success they may be able to provide donations to support the temple, or to offer other devotees benefits such as employment

 

It can grow at a natural rate and not be artificially pumped up with funds or free labor Which means it will develop organically as the different necessary elements are available

 

If it fails they won't be able to draw on an unlimited pool of free labor in the form of temple devotees, or unlimited SK funds

 

Persons or movements offering spiritual guidance should not get involved in anybody's social or private life, unless requested to by those persons.

 

There should be experienced and qualified counselors available in the congregation that can be approached by anybody who needs help. They should be able to get help from somebody they trust. This is how the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses arrange their society.

 

We are a movement that is dedicated to give spiritual knowledge and not a movement that is meant to get entangled in people's private affairs.

 

 

Summary of the old Paradigm

 

"Give up your present situation which is maya, and join the temple. We will take care of all your needs, as long as you do what you are told by everyone above you (managerially and spiritually)."

 

Summary of the revised paradigm

 

Temples are places for education and worship, and only those for whom we can provide a fitting service should be offered the opportunity to become a resident. Others should stay where they are and be encouraged to do their duty as a service to Krsna

 

Persons or movements offering spiritual guidance should not get involved in anybody's social or private life, unless those persons request them to.

 

Steps Towards a Positive Change

 

General Strategy

 

Introducing systems and policies that ensure that the movement develops in such a way that the current problems are not perpetuated

 

This entails replacing current systems with systems compliant with a revised paradigm, consistent with ISKCON's current stage of development

 

We could greatly benefit by looking how other religious or idealistic movements organize themselves Transition should be quick yet smooth, and not cause a cataclysmic crash of the present system

 

Management:

 

Management style

 

Develop a culture of delegation, focused on results instead of  methods. This gives people a choice of method and makes them responsible for results.

 

Establish clear, up-front mutual understanding and commitment regarding expectations in regard to: Desired results (in terms of quality and standard rather than a numerical quota)

 

The parameters within which the individual should operate (as few as possible to allow person to use initiative). Resources (human, financial, technical, or organizational) that the person can draw on to accomplish the desired results

 

Accountability - standards of performance that will be used in evaluating the results and the specific times when reporting and evaluation will take place

 

Consequences:  Specify what will happen, both good and bad, as a result of the evaluation. Involve all concerned parties in the decision making processes Commitment will be a byproduct of their involvement

 

This will ensure that all perspectives and interests are represented The process will deepen relationships and build trust The process will deepen our understanding of the task and increase our respect for the person doing the task The process will broaden the management horizons and help leaders break out of the viscous circle of crisis management

 

The role of the individual

 

We need standard descriptions of duties and rights for all, from guest to guru These can be refined on the individual level

 

Only then can services be properly assessed. This allows for deficiencies to be corrected and standards to be raised

 

We need to develop standard training and education within all areas that we offer service (otherwise we have no business offering the service)For some positions there must be mandatory minimum educational standards Managers must learn the advantages of delegation and empowerment and the disadvantages of authoritarian power

 

We need standard levels of qualification corresponding to the various duties

 

The role of the temple

 

The temple is primarily a place for worship, education and preaching, although much of the preaching will go on from and within the congregation

 

The goal should not be to get a person to move into the temple, or shave up. The goal is to help people become pure devotees which will take some timeThere should be facilities for congregational members to be engaged in devotional service which is meaningful to them and to the mission, and according to their nature or varna, so that they can safely make advancement in Krsna consciousness without having to live in a temple. Or without having to feel the social pressure that they would be doing better if they lived in the temple.

 

The temple should provide courses, taught by qualified devotees from temple or congregation. They should teach the knowledge, skills and values necessary for devotee life.

 

Qualified devotees can provide courses in the homes of congregational devotees

 

Temple enrollment policy

 

Since the functions of the temple are predominantly brahminical, the temple is a place suited for those willing and able to take up brahminical responsibilities. Others can take advantage of the facility the temple provides,  and while taking responsibility for the material aspects of their lives, practice Krsna consciousness and contribute to the temple what they can.

 

Giving new members realistic expectations about what ISKCON is able to provide for them in terms of Spiritual education

 

Counseling (only to the limits of our qualification)

 

Festivals Careers

 

The only careers ISKCON can presently provide, is training for those within the temple environment, i.e. for priests, cooks, preachers. Others should make their career arrangements elsewhere.

 

Making a realistic timeline for any educational engagements Time-bound educational engagements - with a conclusion that is known from the beginning (long-sighted study plans)

 

Standardized curriculums that are for all of ISKCON.

 

From the very beginning, the goal of our educational system should be to guide the student to his natural position within society

 

There should be regular assessments for those involved in educational programs, so that they know where they stand. Long term possibilities should also be discussed. This must involve teachers and managers together. (some models of this are already existing in ISKCON)

 

Situating our current members

 

Many joined when the paradigm was that being a devotee means to live in the temple, but are not suited for temple life

 

The majority of the devotees currently living in temples are not suited for temple life. Those living in the temples should adhere strictly to the Vaisnava principles and the Vaisnava standards of social conduct.

 

When we only have people living in the temple who are fit for temple life, then the temple standard will be easily maintained and there be no need for propaganda and hype that is not true. Sometimes we preach things that we cannot practice, thus perpetuating a culture of dishonesty, and breeding low self esteem and a lack of integrity - examples would be good here

 

This necessitates de-stigmatizing working at a non-ISKCON job Srila Prabhupada had many disciples get jobs to maintain the first temples The current ratio of temples/devotee is unbalanced.

 

Which necessitates an enormous endeavor to maintain these facilities in terms of

 

Manpower Money Blood, sweat and tears

 

Which further taxes and drains the devotees of energy and time to preach

 

And if there are relatively few congregational devotees attached to the temple, they have to give very large donations to have any substantial effect on the temple's economy

 

If they don't give enough, resentment and envy may arise It can result in congregation (including life members) being seen purely in terms of their ability to give financial support, which leads to mutual mistrust and feelings of exploitation

 

Spiritual guidanceGoal clarification

 

Here we need to define what the goal is. To engage as many people as possible in the preaching mission (paraphrase 7 purposes, but elaborate and unpacked)

 

Many still think that the goal is to move into the temple or be a brahmana, TP, GBC or guru, because that is the culture we are validating

 

Many think that the goal is that the world becomes ISKCON, or ISKCON becomes the world, but as a society we should have no aspirations to be the ones who organize the garbage collection and other amenities Identifying problem ownership

 

Making sure that we and others understand that our institutional aim is not to solve all their material problems for them

 

Helping people accept that they are responsible for solving life's problems and that we can provide the spiritual knowledge which will help them do that, but cannot solve the problems for them. It could be that at some future date we will be able to help people solve their material problems, but this is not an aim of our movement, although it may later develop within the society.

 

Gurus should also understand that they do not own the material problems of their disciples Should be researched in what areas a guru should/may be involved

 

The guru should be primarily concerned with preaching and giving spiritual guidance. Srila Prabhupada initially helped arrange marriages, but at a certain point withdrew completely and said that it was not his business

 

Validation of devotees in terms of service In terms of their devotional qualities In terms of steadiness

 

Considering individual capacity and circumstances Not in terms of geographical location Not in terms of artificial, short term results Not in terms of bodily designation

 

Gender Nationality Previous status Asrama Varna

 

In terms of our language

 

Language reflects and influences attitudes greatly

 

"Friends of Krsna" = devotee-bandhu (they are not really devotees, they are unqualified friends of devotees) Devotees and congregational members (implies 1st class, 2nd class) Rather just call them what they are: "devotees." If some differentiation is necessary, then they can be referred to "temple devotees" and "congregational devotees"

 

Clear identification and definition of the roles of temples and temple dwellers Temple a place for:

 

Further education if emphasis is given to congregational expansion, this gives rise to the need for highly trained "ministers". Such training may best be effected through residential courses.Meeting Worshipping and conducting festivals

 

Research Retreat

 

Introductory education Rendering service to the Deities Temple visitors

 

Devotees engaged in the above activities (who are aware that their involvement is as a short or long term visitor) Temple dwellers:

 

Teachers Priests

 

Devotees who are satisfied with the bare necessities and a brahminical standard Teachers and priests can also live in the congregation and serve in the temple Clear identification and propagation of people centered paradigm For those being introduced to Krsna consciousness for the first time.

 

By example of teachers and senior devotees Through educational courses and materials For long-time members already accustomed to the old paradigm Must be helped to adjust

 

Through all our educative processes

 

Gurukula Introductory course Further education Preaching materials

 

This should start from the top

 

Gurus, GBCs, TPs, should be aware of the way the rank and file of the movement is developing, and be prepared to examine and change their own paradigms

 

This must include coming to terms with past mistakes No finger-pointing, demonizing or witch-hunting Validation of past contributions

 

Validation of previous phases of ISKCON's development Must be shown to be based on the principles and values of Krsna consciousness Sastric proof may be researched

 

Should not be presented as a new dogma - devotees should buy into it because it is actually what Krsna consciousness is really meant to be about

 

This must be done with the aim of starting a new culture within ISKCON This is one of the most important aspects of a positive change within ISKCON. ISKCON needs a new culture. The hippie culture of the olden days that we are perpetuating is dysfunctional and not representative of our tradition.

 

Those seen to be doing this should be recognized and encouraged, regardless of their institutional status (or lack of it)

 

Standardizing of educational material

 

Not that someone is allowed to propagate the old paradigm simply because of his status according to the old paradigm

 

All educational materials (Bhakta program, communications, preaching) must consistent, based on the same paradigm

 

Defining the role of spiritual authorities (especially gurus) This can researched in sastra and Srila Prabhupada's books

 

All gurus should be encouraged to understand and adopt the role of spiritual rather than managerial authority, at least in regards to their disciples

 

Where possible and applicable, spiritual authorities should be relieved of managerial responsibilities Melas should be organized so that current gurus can associate together and discuss their roles and come up with guidelines and a "job description" in terms of rights and responsibilities

They should be informed of the advantages of reorganizing as mentioned here Defining preaching

In terms of what ISKCON has to offer a pluralistic society In terms of bringing people (including ourselves) from sradha to prema

Summary of Proposed Development Strategy

1. Spiritual Guidance

1.1 Defined roles and goals derived through seminars, commissions or whatever method is agreeable to those concerned - segregation of spiritual and material duties

1.2  Those concerned must be brought to understand that what we are suggesting is consistent with our tradition, Srila Prabhupada's instructions and what the mass of devotees want (according to our investigations)

2. Management

2.1 Define roles and goals of the society's members, especially anyone in a position of responsibility, this should be developed by the leaders together with local guides (brahmanas) 2.2 Define duties and responsibilities and stop our culture of dis-empowerment by encouraging devotees to take responsibility for their own lives.

2.3  Reconsidering enrollment policy, in terms of temples being centers of education and worship 2.4 Establishing educational programs, or long term development plans taking the current trend of the movement's development into account

3. Education

3.1 Development of standard, systematic educational programs that are consistent with the defined roles and goals of management and spiritual authorities 3.2 Aimed at graduation to a qualified position in the temple or congregation

What will be the effect - a model for future development

Power to the people

People will be forced to become responsible for their own lives Other responsible individuals will be attracted to our movement

Irresponsible individuals will need to get themselves together before we accept them Irresponsible people will be appropriately situated - somewhere outside the temple. Taking up responsibility will allow people to develop to their full potential

Empowers the congregation to take up preaching and managerial responsibilities without being subject to a "2nd class citizen" stigma

The vast majority of the movement will be "normal" citizens This will make them more approachable

They will infiltrate all avenues of society They will make many small preaching centers and thus become effective tools in the SK movement

This is one of the main principles of the highly successful bhakti vriksa (cell group) program which involves Empowering congregational groups to become self-motivated, self-perpetuating preaching units De-monopolizing preaching and allowing all to participate free of inferiority complexes

Discouraging passive participation

A broad and accessible range of participation levels, so that each can find his own level without undue social pressure to try for everything at once

This will increase the potential to distribute books in a variety of ways It will contribute to breaking down the paradigm that the only worthwhile method of book distribution is one on one street distribution

It will empower congregational devotees to open up new methods and markets They can create a SK culture within the congregation, and provide role-models of their particular form of SK for other congregational devotees to learn from

This will make us more acceptable to potential troublemakers After all, the fact that we are manipulating and influencing people's material lives is their main complaint

Family Church Anti-cult movement Government Media

Broaden the base of power within the movement's authority structure Large congregation will necessitate an effective interface with the institution, creating engagement for many preachers

Many of the competent, empowered devotees from the congregation will step forward to take up managerial responsibilities

Free up visionaries and spiritual guides The functions of authorities will be mainly spiritual, rather than taking over people's material problems

This is what they are good at This is what they are supposed to do This is what they want to do

They will have more time and energy for these most important considerations They wont be wasting their talents (you don't hire an engineer to clean your toilets) Can develop or settle within devotee communities, and live "among the people" People can develop Krsna consciousness at their own pace

Won't be pressured into a standard higher than they can maintain, only to have to go back on it later. Just add Krsna consciousness to their lives, not that they have to give up everything and start from scratch Communities with all their concomitant benefits will develop organically

Temples can develop organically According to the quality of the service they provide According to the size of the congregation it serves and the growth of that congregation As educational institutions, they will attract intellectuals

As educational institutions, they will attract donors Temples can be established by congregational members when sufficient interest, funds, manpower, etc., is already there.

Temples will be assets for the preaching and not burdens Those fulfilling the functions within the temple will be free to develop their abilities and become very expert in their field

They will develop high self esteem Temple guests will be very appreciative and be enthusiastic to support the temple's programs They can start traditions of excellence in their field of expertise

The temple will gain a prestigious reputation Temples will become showcases and beacons from which Vedic knowledge and culture will radiate out into the homes and lives of the congregation

So many cultural events can be guided and encouraged by the experienced learned experts in the temple Disillusioned and distanced devotees will regain faith and trust in the movement when they see that things are actually changing on a fundamental level

What are the obstacles?

General resistance to change Many are against change because they became attracted by the culture that has been in ISKCON since the sixties and seventies and if that changes then what will they do?

Some think they'll lose out in some way. Some leaders may only be there because they were attracted by the position, and see any challenge to the status quo as a potential threat to their coveted position.

Groups of such persons may band together for mutual support ("Old boys club"). They might use the political leverage the current system provides them with to actively fight change and those that represent it

They might pull rank on those who represent change (silencing them in the name of Vaisnava etiquette). Lack of vision

Fear (due to the present social paradigm) "Who will take care of me now?"

"What will everyone think if I move out and finally admit that I'm not suitable for temple life" "This isn't what Srila Prabhupada taught us"

But Srila Prabhupada delegated a management authority to take care of management, so that he could concentrate on spiritual leadership. Now that the responsibility of spiritual leadership has fallen on the shoulders of the present leaders, they should also be prepared to delegate managerial affairs

Of losing position/social status "Is it possible to live outside the temple and make advancement in Krsna consciousness, and not fall in maya?" Etc. etc. etc.

It may seem like too big a task to introduce such a fundamental change throughout the entire ISKCON But it must not happen simultaneously throughout the whole movement, it can also be introduced locally if encouraged from above, and develop step by step

It is a large step, that it will take some time to realize and the benefits may not be immediately apparent Gurus and other leaders are attached to micro-managing others

Others are attached to being micro-managed, afraid of accepting responsibly for their own life We are currently over-committed in terms of facilities that have to be maintained

Too many temples Overly large projects

Projects that were built more to increase the prestige of the local authority than to cover an existing need Projects that were set up during the "golden years"

Proof - almost every ISKCON project in the West is either undermanned or in financial difficulties, or (usually) both This means that our present paradigm has been "etched in stone" in the form of the hard realities of these commitments If we start re-situating people outside the temple, how are we going to maintain the temples? No immediate financial advantage

But long term results based on a happily situated community of devotees will certainly be more financially stable than our current on-going economic crisis (that has lasted almost 30 years) Living outside means bad association

To avoid taking bad association, one must give good association, thus all are encouraged to preach Devotees will learn to more appreciate sat-sanga, and not take it for granted But how will book distribution go on?

This is a common objection by those who think that book distribution is limited to one on one street distribution Most devotees cannot do one on one street distribution for very long, and when they quit, they rarely participate further in book distribution

Experience has shown that this sort of distribution is most appropriate for young, strong, enthusiastic devotees If there were cultures of other book distribution styles, then devotees no longer able to do one on one street distribution would have a choice of other styles and there would be persons to encourage and train them in it As mentioned previously, this would potentially increase book distribution exponentially

Concluding note

In this paper, we have discussed a paradigm shift which we perceive as a current irreversible trend in our movement. We have suggested various measures to aid ISKCON's development in the positive direction in which it is already headed, at least for the sake of those yet to join our movement. Some of these changes must take place at higher levels of the authority hierarchy, but we are convinced that everyone, regardless of  position in the structure, can play a role in transforming our institution to a people centered movement. To change a culture, everybody can and must be involved, it is a grassroots affair.

If you like what we have suggested, then we simply ask you to try to implement change in the area in which you can influence others. We may have the good of the whole world at heart but not the resources or capacity to change the whole world. So rather than wasting energy on activities that yield little or no result, we suggest working on the circle of influence that you have already established (be it your family, friends, temple, yatra or zone). The simplest approach is to deal with those willing to make changes happen, not those that get in the way. Be satisfied with what you can achieve as a team and if more people want to come onboard, all the better. ISKCON is so big that there is no one person able to influence everything. Therefore a few who share a common vision, each working in their own areas of responsibility, influence those they can. Then it will be like circles of influence moving outwards until they all finally overlap. Viva la evolution

Footnotes * CC Mad. 7.128 "Instruct everyone to follow the orders of Lord Sri Krsna as they are given in the Bhagavad-gétä and Srimad-Bhägavatam. In this way become a spiritual master and try to liberate everyone in this land." PURPORT This is the sublime mission of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Many people come and inquire whether they have to give up family life to join the Society, but that is not our mission. One can remain comfortably in his residence. We simply request everyone to chant the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, . . . Instead of living engrossed in material activities, people throughout the world should take advantage of this movement and chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra at home with their families. One should also refrain from sinful activities-illicit sex, meat-eating, gambling and intoxication. Out of these four items, illicit sex is very sinful. Every person must get married. Every woman especially must get married. . . The real purpose of human life is to attain the spiritual platform and return to Godhead. That is the summum bonum of spiritual realization. The Krsna consciousness movement is trying to elevate human society to the perfection of life by pursuing the method described by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in His advice to the brahmana Kurma. That is, one should stay at home, chant the Hare Krsna mantra and preach the instructions of Krsna as they are given in the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.

Letter to: Mangalamaya, Madhupuri, Calcutta, 20 February, 1972 Regarding your question whether grhastha couples can live together in the temple, no, they may not, that is a strict regulation. They can live in the temple, that's all right, but they must live separately men and women. So I am encouraging the grhastha devotees who want to live together to start householder asrama outside the temple in a nearby house, just like in Los Angeles there is one such householder asrama.

CC Mad 24.266 There are certainly many householders in our Krsna consciousness movement. They join the movement and live in the society's centers, but if they take advantage of this opportunity and do not work but live at the expense of the movement, eating prasäda and simply sleeping, they place themselves in a very dangerous position. It is therefore advised that grhasthas should not live in the temple. They must live outside the temple and maintain themselves.

BG 18.11, PURPORT It is said in Bhagavad-gita that one can never give up work at any time. Therefore he who works for Krsna and does not enjoy the fruitive results, who offers everything to Krsna, is actually a renouncer. There are many members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness who work very hard in their office or in the factory or some other place, and whatever they earn they give to the Society. Such highly elevated souls are actually sannyäsés and are situated in the renounced order of life.

Letter to: Isvara, Bhaktivedanta Manor, 17 July, 1973 I can understand that you wish to remain as householders living outside the temple, and that you have bought your own cottage in Argyll, Scotland. That is perfectly all right. Narottama dasa thakur has sung that it does not matter whether one is sannyasi or householder, simply that one should be always in Krsna Consciousness chanting the holy name. So you describe that you have set up an altar in your home and you are offering prasadam, and this is all approved by me. . . . If you wish to live separately you have to earn your livelihood by business, by taking some employment to maintain your home and family.