resolution in ISKCON
As part of their attempts to show a more user-friendly face, the GBC
have made many attempts at a “make-over” to project a more
inclusive and rational approach to solving conflict and dealing with
schisms in ISKCON. This has included setting up an Ombudsman service,
and at this year’s GBC meetings, HH Jayadavaita Swami was invited to
give a whole presentation to the GBC on how to resolve conflict. His
presentation was heartily appreciated by the GBC, and two of his
Recognize that efforts to shut down or drive out dissenters -
while sometimes perhaps required or inevitable - have only
limited effectiveness, and may sometimes backfire.
6. In response to competition, recognize that combative
responses alone are likely to fail without improvements in your
“product, marketing, and customer service.” ”
(HH Jayadvaita Swami, Presentation to the GBC, 2006)
At this year’s Rathayatra festivals, we saw
evidence of just how ISKCON has decided to apply the above
recommendations for conflict resolution.
- At the London Rathayatra this year, one of
our BTP distributors was punched in an attempt to stop him
distributing. Luckily, the attacker was caught on film and a
criminal complaint has already been filed. A Police investigation is
- At the Detroit Rathayatra, a temple devotee
is caught on film violently ripping up a copy of BTP. This despite
the fact that BTP’s cover and the inside pages throughout have
pictures of Srila Prabhupada, and Srila Prabhupada has stated in
regards to his picture:
“There is no difference between me and my
picture. Therefore we should honor and keep pictures in that spirit.
If we throw pictures this way and that way, that is offense. The
name and picture are as good as the person in spiritual world. In
the material world either picture or person, everything is
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, September 4th, 1972)
- At the same Rathayatra, GBC member and
GBC-elected guru Ravindra Svarupa Das is also caught on film
instructing accomplices to “get that camera” (referring to filming
that was being carried out of assailants physically attacking our
BTP distributors). To forcibly take away someone else’s property is,
of course, a criminal offence.
All these activities show just how seriously
ISKCON is taking Jayadvaita Swami’s advice to NOT try and
“shut down and drive out” dissenters, and that “combative
responses are likely to fail”. Of course, Jayadvaita Maharaja showed
himself what he thought of his own recommendations when he organised an
operation at the 2004 Los Angeles Rathayatra to take back BTPs from
those who had already received the magazine.
Los Angeles Ratha
Again, IRM devotees from all over the
country came together in LA to work unitedly to ensure that as
many devotees as possible received the truth about Srila
Prabhupada's mercy being freely available to all.
However just before the trip, to ensure that enough IRM New York
devotees could attend, a staunch Srila Prabhupada disciple,
Mother Akara, who used to serve at the original 55th Street
skyscraper temple in Manhattan, went out on sankirtan on the
streets of New York and collected enough funds for herself and
five other devotees to fly to the event! Not wanting to run into
the same problems of running out of stock as we had in New York,
this time our devotees had come armed with 1500 magazines!
Again the parade was swamped very quickly with devotees and
magazines. Devotees by the dozens were reaching for BTPs.
Everywhere appreciative hands were grabbing magazines and
everyone was all smiles. There were so many BTPs in everyone's
hands, and so many of us, that the usual "devotee/thug"
contingent which normally tries to stop our preaching efforts
with violence, didn't know what to do.
They began shouting, "They're everywhere! Don't take those!". Of
course, these shouts were drowned out by so many more shouts of
"Can I have one!" After a few hundred magazines were
distributed, HH Jayadvaita Swami went into a panic
(perhaps unsurprisingly, since he was exposed in BTP4 as having
admitted that the GBC's philosophical justification for Guru
successors "stretches the truth"), and he organised a group
of devotees to go around taking magazines back from the devotees
who had already received them.
He then boasted that he was going to use the magazines as
"firewood". After a while, he and his team had managed to
collect a boxful of magazines back, and a brahmacari was
charged with disposing of the box. On the way, however, he was
intercepted by Ghanashyama, one of the IRM devotees from New
York. Somehow, he managed to retrieve the box from the
brahmacari, and all the magazines were re-distributed!
Nevertheless, by the end of the day Jayadvaita Swami had
managed to collect another half-box of BTPs, which was placed
behind the BBT book table guarded by numerous devotees. However,
as the last beat of the drum on a perfect day, the IRM's lion
Jayananda Das walked behind the BBT table and just simply took
the box away.
Nobody moved or said a word. And quickly all these magazines
were distributed again. Then Jayananda marched over to
Jayadvaita Swami and said with a smile, "You won't be able to
set Srila Prabhupada on fire this winter, because I have taken
all the BTPs back and redistributed them!"
Obviously, ISKCON does not believe in devotees
being allowed to read the arguments for themselves and making up their
own minds. These violent responses are even more bizarre when one
considers that in a recent academic publication the GBC have also stated
|“There is no doubt that both ISKCON’s
leadership and the IRM have acted and are acting to establish
what each considers the correct theological conclusion with
regard to the affairs of gurus and disciples.”
(GBC submission, “The Rival Positions in the IRM-GBC
Controversy within ISKCON”, Martin Luther University, Germany,
The GBC admit the IRM is acting only with
sincere theological considerations, so why try and combat it with