Apr 02, USA (SUN) — In his recent article, “Why Throw the Blame on ISKCON“, Basu Ghosh das attempts refute my recent article, “More on ISKCON Philadelphia“. I feel his arguments fall short of alleviating the burden of dysfunction that seems to plague ISKCON Philadelphia.
First, his minimization of ISKCON Food for Life, in its original intent and function, is extremely insulting. I am sure that the sincere devotees who have worked tirelessly to distribute almost a billion plates of prasadam to needy persons will not appreciate his comparing it to the Ramakrishna Mission and “mundane social work”. In actuality, according to the legitimate Food for Life Global website, ISKCON has been distributing sanctified vegetarian offerings as Food for Life since 1974. I think his tone and statements are highly offensive and a great insult to one of the most successful preaching programs in ISKCON to date. He should immediately apologize to ISKCON Food for Life and the sincere devotees who have tirelessly given the mercy of the Lord to so many millions of souls. It’s hard to imagine how a Srila Prabhupada disciple would say something so bad about this sacred program.
Instead, he chooses to defend Govinda’s Cafe, run by Haryasva dasa and Philadelphia Food for Life, run by Devideva dasa and ISKCON of Philadelphia. His arguments are that ISKCON of Philadelphia has no blame in the fact the Philadelphia Food for Life serves meat to people and Govinda’s Cafe has meat eating cooks. He compares Food for Life to other NGO, or non-government organizations in Philadelphia. The problem with his arguments is that Food for Life and Govinda’s are ABSOLUTELY associated with ISKCON, everywhere in the world. Actually, these names are almost synonymous with the ISKCON organization.
I feel that it is important that devotees know that when they go to Govinda’s Cafe in Philadelphia, a meat eating karmi may be cooking for them and this food is, therefore, not prasadam. I think they have this right. Also, I think the worldwide ISKCON community and ISKCON Food for Life need to know that Philadelphia Food for Life, run by a Srila Prabhupada disciple, serves needy people meat instead of prasadam. Basu Ghosh seems to think this is just “fault-finding” and I should just “see the good” in the situation. Unfortunately, these are major philosophical, ethical and scriptural deviations that need to be addressed.
And the fact still stands that these two organizations originally were started as ISKCON of Philadelphia projects. Of course ISKCON of Philadelphia is responsible for addressing these situations. Temple funds were used, at least at one time, to set-up these projects. The actions of these businesses caused those funds to be eventually used in a way that is against the order or Srila Prabhupada. It is the responsibility of the GBC, according to ISKCON Law, to make sure that temple funds or properties aren’t misappropriated. Actually, according to the latest GBC Report, this is cause for losing one’s hierarchical position.
Basu Ghosh’s next argument is that it is OK for ISKCON of Philadelphia to take money from Philadelphia Food For Life. It is a fact that ISKCON takes money from everyone. But if by taking those funds, ISKCON or an individual spiritual leader becomes unable or unwilling to preach the message of the Acarya, because of fear of losing those funds, than his preaching and brahminical standards have become severely compromised. This is a simple conflict of interest. The interest of our movement should be more about establishing devotional service and religious principles than accepting donations.
The point I made about ISKCON of Philadelphia accepting funds from this individual is that obviously this has created a conflict of interest. The fact is, they have failed to address major religious principles being violated: the killing of animals and misappropriation of ISKCON funds and trademarks. Also, it seems that Devideva is actively involved on various ISKCON Philadelphia boards and committees. This person is even being given the power to have a say in the decisions and future of the Temple! So how can you say that underlying Vaishnava religious principles haven’t been compromised by the taking of money from him, or that ISKCON of Philadelphia is failing to publicly rebuke him for fear of losing donations? The sad fact is, to this very day, neither Vishnugada dasa, ISKCON of Philadelphia, or Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu has publicly denounced Food for Life of Philadelphia’s horrible offenses. This proves that their power to address this terrible deviation within ISKCON has been severely compromised by their taking of donations from this individual.
I am have been waiting patiently for an official ISKCON or ISKCON of Philadelphia response about these allegations. They have an official obligation to address these issues, which are real and severe and are damaging to ISKCON’s integrity, reputation, and spiritual purity.
Getting a response like this from a Srila Prabhupada disciple is certainly disheartening. I would think there would be more sympathy for the poor animals being slaughtered and served for Philadelphia Food For Life, and more outrage in the deviations being perpetrated by ISKCON of Philadelphia. These are major philosophical deviations: Food for Life serving meat, Govinda’s serving bhoga, Ravindra Svarupa’s inappropriate association with a woman, religious visa violations, abuse and neglect of temple devotees, and misappropriation of ISKCON trademarks and assets.
It is important that devotees everywhere see that the situation at ISKCON Philadelphia is extremely bad and anyone from the outside would see it this way. I know that many devotees are plagued by apathy and feelings of dis-empowerment, and feel that there is nothing they can do about the problems in our movement. The last thing we want to do, however, is normalize our dysfunction. As soon as we think our dysfunction is normal, there is no way to ever rectify our situation. Most of the problems in this movement are caused by a simple lack of checks and balances. The leaders of ISKCON have had mostly absolute control over this movement for a very long time. Srila Prabhupada was very pragmatic and said that we can judge any process by its result. The result of this absolute power has been terrible on many levels, and I think most anyone in our movement can verify this. The first step in establishing checks and balances is speaking up about major deviations and transgressions of our beliefs by different ISKCON temples and leaders, which the Sampradaya Sun thankfully facilitates. Without the recognition of a disease or dysfunction, there is no hope for cure or treatment. Living in denial will only prolong and complicate any pathology. The spiritual and hierarchical pathologies that exist within our movement are no exception.
Chaitanya Simha dasa