Dear Kanva prabhu, please accept my humble obeisances.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
When I read your letter I felt impelled to offer another perspective.
Although I fully agree that management as well as any relationship, will
blossom if handled with love, care and simplicity, but I do not agree with
the assumption that "ISKCON" is run based on politics, diplomacy, power and
ISKCON is a huge organization comprising of thousands of individuals,
temples and communities in many countries around the world. To make a
blanket statement about ISKCON is unrealistic. We also have a choice on how
to look at a situation (the glass being half-full or half empty).
Personally, in my 19 years experience being in ISKCON, I have been, in
countless occasions, the recipient of many devotees love and care. I have
visited and stayed in temples, in Canada, US, Hong Kong, Taiwan, France,
Ireland and India, and I only remember the sweetness, kindness and
dedication of the devotees involved in those yatras.
I have yet to meet a devotee who is solely driven by politics, diplomacy,
power, and envy. I have only met devotees who were sincerely trying their
best to serve Srila Prabhupada and his mission, there might have been some
shortcomings due to their past, to stress, being overworked, under pressure
or not particularly skilled in interpersonal communication. But at the core,
they are sincerely serving Srila Prabhupada’s movement, they have love for
their guru, Srila Prabhupada and Krishna.
To give you a specific example, when my little 21 month old son, back in
2001, was diagnosed with cancer along with a debilitating auto-immune
disorder, the Dallas temple community, offered us varieties of support;
financial, prasadam, house cleaning, a loan of 8 months rent, prayers etc.
The temple president, Nityananda prabhu would monthly give some of his blood
to be kept for my son, if need would arise, his wife kept my son alive with
her iddlis, which was his sole prasadam while undergoing chemotherapy, as he
couldn’t keep anything else down. Tamal Krishna Maharaja, who had just met
us a few months earlier, wrote us regularly beautiful, heartfelt letters and
even once, he quickly responded to my letter, from a train, while travelling
extensively in the Philippines.
Devotees from different parts of the world prayed for my son’s well-being,
over his 7 years of chronic health conditions. Once when he almost died, the
whole Dallas community came together in the temple to chant and pray to
Radha Kalachand’ji for his protection. The Alachua community, where we are
now residing, have also been there for us whenever we were in need. I am
convinced that by the power of the devotees love and prayers, my son has
survived a Neuroblastoma (the most aggressive type of childhood cancer), OMS
(an extremely rare auto-immune disorder) and CVID (a severe immune
deficiency). As for my husband and I, we would have never been able to pull
through all this without the love, care and sincere prayers of the
Here in Alachua, they started a community service called Ashraya, to provide
different services to its community members in times of need.
Another example is when Syamasundhar prabhu needed a liver transplant and
they couldn’t find a suitable donor. Mother Malati announced it on "pamho"
and shortly after, about 10 devotees, who had never met Syamasundhar prabhu
offered to donate part of their liver; which is an extremely painful and
dangerous procedure. The hospital staff were amazed, they said that this
never happened before, they were wondering what kind of movement is this,
where its members would exhibit such selfless love for one another. They
selected one devotee and the surgery was successful. That is not ordinary!
There are so many examples of extremely loving, selfless and compassionate
devotees in our movement, I wish I could name all of them but this letter
would become too extensive, it would be such a beautiful meditation though.
This movement is no ordinary movement, it is Lord Chaitanya’s movement and
the vaishnavas aren’t ordinary either, it is sometimes so easy to judge by
the externals, but once someone sincerely chants the Holy Names, he or she
comes under the direct protection of the Lord.
Devotees are very special and very dear to the Lord and we should be very
careful how we talk about them, especially when it is written and
I am not saying that there is no need for improvement but each issue must be
addressed individually and specifically, as every situation is unique.
Radhanath Swami and the Radha Gopinath temple’s spiritual counselor system,
as been successful in achieving what you have described as a temple
community which is based on love, care, simplicity and a high spiritual
standard. As ISKCON is expanding more and more, we can see the need for such
models, to provide the level of care each devotee requires.
Instead of demanding from our leaders, who are already spreading themselves
so thin that they are ruining their health, if we all offered them
assistance by extending ourselves in caring for 5 or 10 devotees in our
local community, or taking on some responsibility in our temple, or offering
some financial support, or some training, counseling, using whatever talents
we have in service or to BE the servant who would greet Krishna’s guests in
His temple with genuine love, care and a beautiful smile.
Recently I read a quote from Gandhi which said: "Be in the world what you
want to see in the world."
It’s quite simple but it works, if we treat others with genuine respect,
love and care, they will open their heart to us. And especially, if we look
for a devotee’s unique qualities instead of their shortcomings, we will soon
find ourselves surrounded by exalted, jewel like, vaishnavas and we will
thank the Lord everyday with tears in our eyes and a grateful heart for the
unbelievable great fortune that has been bestowed upon us.
The Association of Krishna’s devotees! It is very rare!!!
Vaishnavi Devi dasi.
# – Prahladananda Swami – 12/5/09; 10:24:11 PM
Dear Kanva prabhu, please accept my humble obeisances.