Hinduization of ISKCON? What do you mean exactly?


A humorous billboard advertising a play at the recent Janmasthami. Put on by brahmacari actors, the play was successful at encouraging the festival-goers to get involved in ISKCON activities.

I was master of ceremonies last week for our Annual Supporters Dinner, and also yesterday for our weekend Janmasthami celebrations. We have a large, high-ceilinged marquee that can seat one thousand people comfortably, and the large stage  offers a very good view of the entire crowd. As I surveyed one thousand friendly faces at the annual dinner and the audience at the festival, I could not help but feel grateful for all the support that comes from  our friends who provide both funding and hours of volunteer service. Without them, such a large project as Bhaktivedanta Manor could not function. With their support and help, it is an indisputable fact that the Manor has gone from strength to strength, and has succeeded in implementing at least some of the orders that Srila Prabhupada gave. I am very happy with that. There is so much more to do, that’s true, but we can see improvements year on year.

But my sense of gradual growth is not shared by all. I know that some devotees  are concerned by the fact that the Manor has come to represent some of the changes within ISKCON that they perceive as unwelcome and a hindrance to spiritual progress. They are not in the majority, yet they are vocal. They say that ISKCON has changed significantly from its early years; from a  membership of mainly young, idealistic and frugal western converts, to a diverse movement of all ages, from all walks of life. They feel that through this change the movement has  somehow lost its initial spiritual potency, and perhaps, as a consequence, its appeal to young people. They argue that the original purpose and pioneering edge has been eroded, and we have gone from a rugged, highly committed campaigning group on the fringes of modern society, to a much more socially accommodated organization for the middle classes – an established ‘religion’ even. This they find troubling.

In addition to this, somewhere along the way, during all the years of ups and downs, through all the meandering twists and turns that such a growing movement takes, we have attracted a huge amount of support from those of Indian background (or ‘east Indian’ if you’re  in the USA). And when Indians come to ISKCON they bring with them, just as the western converts did, their cultural conditionings and existing religious perspectives, namely those of Hinduism.

Now, I’ve written about Hinduism before, and how its a generic, catch-all term that in its broadness defines  nothing at all. Its a geographical designator, not a theological one, and was stuck on as a false label by both Muslim and British overlords in the days of invasion and subjugation. But now the label has stuck and most people of sub-continental origin, no matter what their particular religious affiliation, are quite happy to be regarded as Hindu, whatever the term means to them.

What devotees in ISKCON mean when they speak somewhat disparagingly about Hinduism and Hindus boils down to just three simple ideas. Ideas they find objectionable. The first is the notion that there are ‘many gods’ and that ‘all the gods are the same’. The second is that by religious ceremonies, morality and virtuous behaviour one can aspire to enjoy more sensual gratification in this life or the next. The third is that the ultimate state of existence is the soul’s merging with the divine, formless light known as Brahman.

Now these three ideas are also condemned as inferior beliefs by all Vaishnava schools of thought in India. Indeed, you will not find a great Vaishnava teacher, and certainly not the head of any of the traditional Vaishnava institutions, that will not have strong words about each of these notions. They are held as popular beliefs within other strands of Hinduism. But popularity does not mean they are true or in the best interest of the soul. All Vaishnava acaryas have consequently seen it as their duty to elevate mankind above those primary level religious ideas that are, in essence, selfishly motivated. The Vaishnavas want to help others towards selfless love of God, which includes the greatest and everlasting rewards for the true self . Accordingly, the founder of ISKCON also had strong words about such notions that were prevalent within the broad Hindu population. What is often seen, and what he spoke about, is that while on the surface many Hindus will vocally espouse the conceptions of selfless devotion of bhakti to Krishna, the three ideas mentioned above still lie just beneath the surface and therefore need to be addressed by robust teaching.

ISKCON devotees, as Vaishnavas, naturally feel they have a duty to carry out their duty to Srila Prabhupada by similarly condemning philosophies of life that he indicated as errors of  philosophical judgement. And they also feel duty bound to convey the positive conceptions of Krishna bhakti as taught by all Vaishnava acaryas throughout history.

But they should also understand if Hindus residing in the west, brought up from childhood to admire and respect Krishna, are drawn to ISKCON. And if they come in their thousands because of the beauty of our religious services, festivals and shrines, that is certainly not a threat. What is a threat is if ISKCON compromises its theology, liturgy or governance structure to accommodate any one of the non-Vaishnava ideas identified above. Has that happened? I don’t know for every branch of our Society. I can say that it has not happened here. Could it happpen? Yes, of course. There is always a chance of ISKCON’s growth being compromised by any one of a number of factors.

So far as I see at Bhaktivedanta Manor, the reverse influence is taking place: our local Hindu community has been singularly affected by ISKCON and its message of practical devotion to Krishna; the very opposite of what is feared by some. New converts from ‘generic Hinduism’ to Vaishnavism are coming forward every year, and last year more than one hundred became initiated. During our last Summer Book Distribution Marathon – a core ISKCON missionary activity if ever there was one – over 70 participants were from Indian backgrounds. Our Janmasthami Festival, this year attracting some 70,000 visitors over two days; almost entirely staged by 600 volunteers who came every evening after their day’s work finished to give ISKCON an average of  four hours voluntary service each. Then there is the considerable financial support: 400 major supporters and many thousands of donors, all of whom help to realise what Srila Prabhupada wanted for Bhaktivedanta Manor: the new agricultural land and driveway (£1 million), the new roof (£1.5 million), the new cow and oxen protection centre (£2.5 million), the new school, pushed forward by a combination of community involvement and central government funding (total £13 million) and many other projects, all of which help to establish the core activities that ISKCON’s founder identified as being essential.

We can never become complacent, however. Many is the religious organisation that was inadvertently, and gradually – sometimes over many years – profoundly affected by the divergent ideas of its members. Core values and foundational principles can be set aside for more pragmatic ones; policy making based on the founder’s wishes can fall victim to popular notions and more liberal philosophies or the process of modernization. Can Bhaktivedanta Manor’s outreach activities and considerable resources be more directed to the young spiritual seeker from a Christian, Jewish or Atheist background? As Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura termed them, the ‘fair-skinned English?’ Of course, more could always be done.

But we do not accomplish more in one direction of outreach by disparaging attempts in another. And far less is achieved by criticizing those attempts when they are successful, as they are at Bhaktivedanta Manor. To all those who would challenge that ISKCON has become ‘Hinduized’, I would ask: “What do you mean – exactly?”

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86 Comments

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86 responses to “Hinduization of ISKCON? What do you mean exactly?

  1. Hare Krishna prabhu

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

    I would like to know about “kalash abishek” and its relevance to ISKCON? I know on Krishna Janmashtami devotees or “hindus” sponsor Kalash abishek for Krishna in ISKCON? Now, I do not know if this is standard practice in all ISKCONs that was recommended by Srila Prabhupada?

    I also once remember fire sacrifice performed like a homam for a particula festival day. I think it was Narasimha Chaturthi where “hindus” sponsored this fire sacrifice and was carried out in one ISKCON center.

    Prabhu, please share your thoughts to these fire sacrifice ritual and kalash abhishek ritual and if it was recommended by Prabhupada or is this is a recent addition to appease the “Hindus”?

    I am a native of South India myself and “hindu” by birth. I am aware of these rituals but would like to know if these are relevant to our Sampradaya as per taught by Srila Prabhupada and if it was recommended by Srila Prabhupada to be done in ISKCON centers.

    Thank you.

    your servant
    ananda jagannath das

    • Good question Ananda Jagannath prabhu. I personally do not know whether Srila Prabhupada ever specifically asked his disciples to organize contributions to his temples in those particular ways. But there were, of course, many occasions when he encouraged interested persons to kindly make a contribution towards the costs of running a temple and all its activities.

      If someone becomes inspired to contribute as part of a puja of some kind, I cannot imagine that would be displeasing to His Divine Grace. After all, both our wealth and our attraction for ritualistic ceremonies are meant for offering to Lord Krishna. But such opportunities for service must not descend into a mercantile transaction. Neither should there be any coercion. They must always be conducted in such a way as to be an offering of love, from the surrendered heart of the devotee.

  2. Respected Sir,

    // What is often seen, and what he spoke about, is that while on the surface many Hindus will vocally espouse the conceptions of selfless devotion of bhakti to Krishna, the three ideas mentioned above still lie just beneath the surface and therefore need to be addressed by robust teaching. //

    You have elucidated the difference very clearly. Nammazhvar says “Listen, let me tell you the Truth, even though you may not like it”. Even Sri Adi Sankara declares in the Brahma Sutra Bhashya: “Elucidating the correct system of Vedanta does not amount to a blind personal hatred of those who hold different beliefs. Rather, the lay are often led astray by these incorrect systems as they appear and claim to be weighty systems. For this reason we must endeavour to demonstrate their intrinsic worthlessness.”

    Unfortunately, we have lost the value of the above teaching in this post-modern world. Filled with naive ideas of political correctness, celebrating “diversity” etc., people tremble at the thought of declaring the Supremacy of Lord Krishna to others.

    The so-called “Hindu revivalism” has only helped corrupt teachings spread like forest fire in India. While the so-called scholars and intellectuals of “Hindu revivalism” revel at empty meaningless ideas such as “diversity”, “all gods are the same Brahman” etc, we find the lay people who form 99.99% of the population in India throng to temples of demigods, planets, Rudraganas, etc. seeking silly materialistic ends. This is the real state of “Hindu revivalism” today.

    The sort of clarity you have thus elucidated will definitely help Vaishnava movements. Another way is to organize weekend/festival day satsangs/classes/question-answer sessions, clearly establishing the supremacy of the Lord Krishna and the teachings of Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, etc.

    We should never aim for “mass acceptance”. Our first committment is to the Lord, and not to the “masses”. When someone comes to us, we should say in very clear terms “This is what we are, if you find this acceptable you are welcome to join the movement. Otherwise, you can just come and enjoy the services and the prasadam”. Even if they find us unacceptable, even if there are only a handful of followers in future, we should stick to our primary values, and not fall for flowery poetic language like “adapting to the demands of the modern world”.

    • Prahladadasa, my pranams to you. You have spoken correctly, thank you.

      You and I are in different sampradayas but our aim is one: to help others towards an understanding of Lord Sri Krishna and through divine service to achieve His grace.

      It is a fact that in order to put an end to the worst forms of religious extremism and establish peace on society, the intelligent classes have sought to reduce all distinctions between religious beliefs. But one cannot be a Vaishnava mission without teaching about distinctions between sense and nonsense; and truth and illusion. Unfortunately that will sometimes upset people who cherish certain ideas.

      Much can be established within this world by making friends with influential and affluential people. By attracting support for its cause, a Vaishnava mission can have the resources to have its messages heard and understood by even more people. But making friends can never be done at the expense of the message itself. As the old English expression goes: ‘The disease will be cured, but the patient will die.’

      While the mission I belong to, ISKCON, needs friends and supporters, it must always remain fixed on its goal to deliver its messages to the world which, as you say, can sometimes lose us potential friends – or even existing friends – when we fail to do what modern intellectuals expect of us.

  3. Pusta Krishna das ACBSP

    This is an excellent topic to discuss. I want to begin that discussion by citing the essence of success in association between anyone, of any cultural heritage, and the Krishna consciousness movement. Those who come into the association of ISKCON or any genuine association of vaishnavas must accept the conception and reality of a Supreme Creator, or God. Janmadyasya yatah…from Whom everything has its origin. This is the topic of Bhagavat Dharma in the most general terms.
    Next, we must accept that each individual has a covering of karma in the form of a body and senses, and a subtle covering of mind, intellect and ahamkara, false ego. These coverings are determined by higher arrangement. Thus, neither can a “hindu” be equated with a “westerner” culturally based on their karma and culture. But, their consciousness of self and relation can be similar if not identical because of the central connection each and every soul has with Krishna (mamaivamso jiva loke).
    But, I do not think that the critics who claim that ISKCON has become a hindu movement are opposed to the above conception. I think that they are sufficiently steeped in Krishna-tattva to appreciate that individuals of different cultures can and should join the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, as Srila Prabhupad intended. Rather, these individuals are objecting, I think, to the alteration, if not deviation, from the practice of Krishna consciousness as it was handed to us by Srila Prabhupad during his time. Certainly, many of us are challenged by the ritual that is involved in the temple practices that are very different from practices which we may have grown up with in the Judeo-Christian upbringing. Then, on top of that, to have many of the rituals inherent in the Indian culture, so called hinduism, come into practice in the ISKCON temples, challenges us even further. We understand and accept that the ritual practices of Puja are intended to please Krishna, and to give us opportunity to recognize God’s Personality and Form.
    So then, what is the principle that must be followed in order to engage a culturally diverse group of people in Krishna consciousness without “watering down” the entire experience? One sloka comes to mind from Rupa Goswami:
    akama sarvakamo va mokshakamo udaradhi…
    Whether one is without desire, one is full with all desires, or one is desiring liberation…they must realize that Krishna is the necessary element in proceeding. We have seen in the Bhagavad gita also, that those who approach Krishna initially (chatur vidhi bhajante mam…) have other ulterior motives in approaching Krishna. No one is approaching Him initially for love. Only later, if they are fortunate through association with pure devotees, they may come to the platform of suddha-bhakti, pure devotional service.
    I bring all this up because we must realize that ISKCON is a major entry-way into the path of devotion, and you cannot divorce your self from others who come to Krishna because they may lack the determination or inclination at first to practice devotional service in its pure form. There must be entry…adau sraddha sadhusanga…entry must be there by some faith first, then through association with devotees, the inclination for service takes place.
    How you reconcile this will depend upon your own capacity for teaching others about Krishna consciousness. Remember, that there is no one more dear to Krishna than those who teach the science of surrender to aspiring devotees. And, utility is a principle that cannot be overlooked. One can say that they want the entire storehouse of a merchant for Krishna, but will they be able to again fill that storehouse so that the merchant can again make a devotional offering to Krishna? Engaging others in Krishna’s service is an art, taught best by Sri Chaitanya…trinadapi sunicena, we must practice humility, give honor to others, make them feel important to draw out the best of one’s existence, ie devotional service to Krishna.
    Now, we come to the issue: Can one compromise their principles in order to achieve the fulfillment of their Acharya-deva’s orders. For example, Srila Prabhupad in New York City, lived initially in the home of meat-eaters, sharing a refrigerator with them initially, in order to begin his preaching work there in the Bowery. Certainly, this was a compromise in order to teach others about Krishna. Later, once established, we could not imagine that Srila Prabhupad would permit such things when the situation did not mandate it. Srila Prabhupad came into an environment filled with mlecchas and created vaishnavas. Certainly, the Indians, who Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has said have taken a very auspicious birth, must be starting at a far better position than the westerners who were first introduced to Krishna consciousness by His Divine Grace. Therefore, it rests with the management of local temples to keep the program on track with devotional service to Krishna as the central focus. Variations in the congregation must be accepted. The devotees of Nigeria will have cultural karmic baggage that is different from the karmic baggage that East Indians have, yet they can all make Krishna the Center of their existence…Krishna centric, Krishna conscious. It has been made so easy by the congregational chanting of the Holy Names.
    Neither attachment nor aversion to different cultures have any role here. Rather, engagement of others in reawakening their Krishna consciousness is the basis for ISKCON’s service to humanity, and service to Srila Prabhupad.
    Things of a relative nature must change. Thesis-Antithesis gives rise to a new Synthesis, which in itself is a new Thesis that must be challenged by Antithesis…and so on. These are relative factors. The non-changing Absolute Truth, however, cannot be permitted to become watered down. That is the basis of Parampara. Such interaction between the unchanging Truth and the always changing relative environment are perpetually going on. You cannot curse the environment without leaving some of the Truth aside, because the Truth is also the moving force behind the relative reality (mama maya).
    Now, I will suggest to you something even more radical to the western devotees, that is this: Our Indian brothers and sisters either are or are becoming ‘en mass’ Vaishnavas. What a great day this is! Do you think that Srila Prabhupad created the many centers in India for the westerners? Certainly, Srila Prabhupad had visions of re-vitalizing the Krishna conscious spirit within India, and in Indians who have migrated throughout the world. Seriously, this is a most wonderful phenomenon. When we first started out in Krishna consciousness, we often would think that if you scratch the surface of a Hindu long enough, you would find beneath a mayavadi. Now, it is evident that this logic was incorrect! So many beautiful souls of Indian origin have come forward to serve Srila Prabhupad with love and devotion, and not merely with their wealth as has been hinted at in the article to which I have commented. Truly, we are seeing a revolution in consciousness amongst the Indian population as well. And, I might add, it is just as liberating for them, if not more so, than for the westerners who have felt so much relief and happiness by coming to Krishna consciousness. Try to place all of this in perspective.
    Now, the art of application will come forward. A little swing of the pendulum too far to the left and then too far to the right, etc etc, must occur…but the central point and the path of devotion have been established by Jagat Guru Srila Prabhupad. Have no fear! Let criticism be constructive, and not destructive. We want the Krishna consciousness movement to be inclusive, not exclusive. And, we must be tolerant of the cultural differences, the karma, which individuals and groups of individuals bring to the movement. They may all be united in the congregational chanting and service to the Holy Name. Hare Krishna. Sincerely, Pusta Krishna das

    • Thank you Pusta Krsna Prabhu, for this well-considered and carefully written, lengthy response. My obeisances to you. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. Your comments are very welcome and help to illuminate an important subject. I hope that other readers will carry the discussion further.

  4. Ramnath

    For me the Manor is now a Hindu temple. As a Hindu and as a member of ISKCON I firmly believe it is a Hindu temple now. I’ve listened to your weak argument , sorry, don’t try and fool me, I attend the Manor every day.The prasad is often cooked by Hindu ladies who believe in all gods and eat meat at home. During kirtan only about ten to fifteen people join in and say Jay Prabhupada , do the other hundred even know who he is , or know who Lord Caitanya is. You guys need a wake up call.

    • Ramnath, the point of my last post was to remind some readers that people from Hindu backgrounds are making a committment to Krishna consciousness as Srila Prabhupada taught it, and also making a contribution to his mission which was established for the spreading of Krishna consciousness. You say that you are a Hindu, so you are part of the proof that such committments are being made. I am very happy that 15 people in the temple join in the kirtan and have some understanding of who Srila Prabhupada is. I am also happy that the other 100 are there at all. Certainly I’m happy that they are listening to the kirtan sung by committed devotees like yourself.

      I’m afraid I cannot agree with your assertion that the cooking is not done by committed devotees. But I do agree with you that we need a wake up call. I pray that we will always hear the wake up call of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

  5. your servant

    I think the bigger question is whether or not ISKCON temples are being used in the way Srila Prabhupada has envisioned. Are temples used as dynamic preaching centers for showing the mass public how to engage directly in the service of the Lord? Or, are temples used as centers for particular Indian cultural and congregational development? This is where I think the line is drawn to differentiate ISKCON as being a sectarian religious tradition/organization, or a genuine spiritual movement that can be implemented amongst all cultural traditions.

  6. Akruranatha Dasa

    I think what some people are objecting to is incorporating a lot of flattering fund-raising techniques, the “selling” of blessings, the playing down of pure Gaudiya Vaisnava philosophy and pretending to be all things to all people.

    Of course we should not allow ISKCON to become preoccupied with fundraising over pure preaching. But some preaching does involve encouraging those who may be so inclined to donate resources to help the preaching mission.

    We must always preach pure devotional service as explained by Krishna in the 12th Chapter of Bhagavad-gita.

    Arjuna asks, “What is better? Devotional service or impersonalist meditation?”

    Bhagavan Sri Krishna replies, devotional service is definitely best. Spontaneous devotional service is recommended, but for those who are not on that level, they can follow the regulative principles under the guidance of an expert Vaisnava guru in order to purify the senses and awaken such spontaneous bhakti. Failing that, one should at least work for Krishna, provide different kinds of resources such as land, capital, organization and labor for the propagation of Krishna consciousness by the pure devotees. These are the direct methods for approaching Krishna’s devotional service.

    If unable to even work for Krishna, one can take to the indirect (impersonal) methods of giving up the results of work and trying to be self situated through cultivation of knowledge, meditation and renunciation. However, ISKCON is more interested in promoting the direct methods, starting with working for Krishna, but preferably cultivating serious disciples and at least some spontaneous devotees.

    In the past hippies were our best customers. In those days there were plenty of people among the best and brightest of our generation who had embraced the counterculture and a wholesale rejection of the materialistic values of modern society, and some small percentage of them came to appreciate Srila Prabhupada and embraced the pure Gaudiya Vaishnava teachings and practices he gave them, trying to strictly follow the regulative principles of bhakti yoga under his guidance.

    Nowadays, it seems our best customers are those who already have some affinity for Vedic culture and some affection for Lord Krishna. (This is to be expected as those who do not have at least some background in Hinduism tend to have hardly any chance of understanding Krishna consciousness at all.)

    Many of these devotees from Indian families are becoming serious devotees and embracing the pure Vaisnava philosophy. This is obviously Lord Caitanya’s arrangement for rapidly spreading Krishna consciousness throughout the world.

    Srila Prabhupada is sending all these nice devotees to us. Otherwise where would we be in trying to fulfill his desires? How will we make Hare Krishna the principal mantra and Bhagavad-gita the principal scripture of the world? How will Lord Krishna become the principal Deity and His bhakti become the principle religion? How will Lord Caitanya’s names be chanted everywhere?

    Those who move from India in search of better economic opportunities will find that their kids and grand-kids are becoming, culturally speaking, Americans, Europeans, Australians or whatever the host country is. (Even those who stay in India will find that modern world culture is creeping in, destroying old traditions).

    ISKCON has something truly great and authentic to give, and it has the capacity to transmit this Vaisnava culture to future generations and to keep it relevant in the modern world and for those with modern, scientific educations. ISKCON has the capacity to explain the authentic Vaisnava tradition to the inquisitive, sophisticated children of the Indian diaspora.

    Many of these Indians who are moving to the U.S. and other industrialized countries will soon be very influential, wealthy, and famous, and we expect some of these movers and shakers will be ISKCON devotees or at least sympathetic to ISKCON’s propagation of Krishna consciousness. By their influence, many who might have assumed ISKCON to be an irrelevant or obscure cult will see it as a great ambassador of a fascinating, hitherto unknown bhakti culture.

    Hopefully as ISKCON becomes broader and more mature and more successful and accomplished, we will eventually see a convergence of all the most spiritually intelligent people of the world in a very widespread and powerful appreciation of Lord Caitanya’s sankirtan, of the Caitanya Caritamrta and the literature of the six goswamis, and an appreciation of the unique greatness of Srila Prabhupada, of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, Gaurakishore Das Babaji and Bhaktivinod Thakur. I expect to see this in my lifetime. I am sure I am seeing glimpses of it beginning already.

    • Thank you for your, as ever, thoughtful and encouraging comments Akruranatha prabhu. It seems that ISKCON must always preserve a balance; neither capitulating to any social, cultural or religious pressures inherent in its predominant membership, nor being so inflexible in its style of outreach that no-one can become involved. That ability to balance is always coming from the mode of goodness.

      A thought worth considering is that ISKCON may have imbibed many cultural elements that are merely American or European, things that have nothing to do with vaishnavism per se. As westerners we may not notice them, but others from a vaishnava background certainly do.

      So while some people decry the ‘Hinduization’ of ISKCON, there are others who talk about the ‘Americanization’ of vaishnavism as expressed within ISKCON.

  7. dusyanta dasa

    Hare Krsna.
    To be honest with you i would probably be one of those devotees who would say Iskcon has become “hinduized”.
    The reason for this are many fold.There is one reason that i would focus on to illustrate the point as far as i am concerned.
    I think the main problem has been one of self-identity.I dont think iskcon and its members have been established long enough to actually define and practise what iskcon actually is.I think we are still in a “honeymoon” period in Iskcons existence still struggling with identity,establishment,definition,practice,organisation,leadership and community dynamics.As we have all experienced and witnessed over the last 30 odd years iskcon has struggled internally with many issues.I dont believe those issues have been any where nearly resolved.We find so much criticism from our own members even years after our own creation.
    The problems associated with these kinds of issues are multi folded.
    1 We are vulnerable from outside influences.
    2 We are not strong on our own identity.
    3 We dont practice what we preach.
    4 We dont agree on our definition.
    5 We are poorly governed and led.
    6 We have too much in- equality within iskcon.
    7 Our preaching is weak and not spear headed.
    8 Our overall strategy for progress is ill defined
    and not agreeable.
    9 We are still not all-inclusive even with members of Iskcon.
    10 There is a touch of untrustworthiness that subtly extends around the Iskcon camp.
    In my mind because the “Institutional” Iskcon has focused on itself and built up its own portfolio due to the influx of attendance to the institution,the “lifestyle” and “community” Iskcon has suffered from under investment both economically and personally.The “Institutional” devotees have focused on their situation where the wealth of Iskcon is situated inherently and has not been shared equally amongst Iskcons members.This has meant that iskcon has evolved lop-sided.
    So when it comes to defining what Iskcon is we find that the Hindu influence has side tracked the progressive development of Iskcon in an unnaturally one sided way.What iskcon could of done was to have funnelled wealth,labour and investment in setting up the “lifestyle and community” Iskcon so that Iskcon could have developed its definiton and self-identity before being overrun in a one sided way.
    If we ask ourselves where Iskcon is in the UK we would naturally answer with Institutional definitions ,The Manor, Soho Street, and so on.This has meant that our teaching to ourselves has been limited by how we understand who we are .If we then want to find out how our community and lifestyle as Vaisnavas exists then it is very difficult to find out where this is happening and what it is.
    I believe this has all come about by trying to be something we are not and then letting a bigger organisation influence who we are and trying to accomodate them by bending over backwards.
    This has been like trying to run before we can barely walk.So the defintion and practice of that definiton of Iskcon has become so watered down by now its hard to know what,who and where is Iskcon.And thats without even looking into our own internal unsavoury history.
    It could be that its not just a “hindu” styled influence that has stunted our growth,maybe its just the material energy herself.But what i do know is that Iskcon would have been stronger in itself if Iskcon had worked together.I think we would all agree that we have not done this.
    Hoping you find the comments helpful in our debate on this subject.I think we in iskcon have missed the opportunities to establish at least 50% of what Iskcon is by definition and our mission statement.Opportunities are always arising and hopefully the personnel who we need in the right place of power will be there at the right time sooner rather than later.

  8. your servant

    I think the point of defining ISKCON is a very important premise. Is ISKCON a cultural religious tradition and organization? Or, is it an organized spiritual movement transcendent to all cultural norms? In other words, are we in the business of converting people towards “our” tradition? Or, are we encouraging and inspiring others to be better at following their own traditions? Futhermore, are Americans supposed to be more like Indians? Or, can Americans just be Americans but adopt universal spiritual principles of devotional service? Why do we place so much emphasis on dhotis, saris, Hindu terminology like “mataji”, etc…? Are these like components and rituals necessary for developing love for God? In my experience and opinion, these things can become huge obstacles for positive public image, public interest, and differentiation from other sectarian traditions. Why not encourage people to just chant the names of God (according to their own tradition), offer vegetarian food to Him (as all traditions prescribe), and try to become compassionate human beings?

    • Interesting points. We are Vaishnavas practising in a sattvika culture, aren’t we?The culture of the mode of goodness simply helps to keep the mind free from rajas and tamas so that higher consciousness can be cultivated.

      The runway helps the airplane to take off but the runway isn’t the airplane. Wearing a sari or dhoti, or having a particular hairstyle is not Krishna consciousness, but when you add up all the small external details you find a helpful influence is gained.

      Of course, not everyone is the same, and not everyone wishes to live a sattvika culture. Nor does everyone want Krishna to the same level. That’s alright, there should be something for everyone – something by which they can move forward in their spiritual journey.
      The spreading of Krishna consciousness will consequently take many cultural forms and I am sure we are all in for many surprises as the decades roll by. I may not be here to see it (in this body at least) but I think it will be amazing.

  9. dusyanta dasa

    Hare Krsna.
    Yes the whole idea of a sattvika culture is the part in iskcon we have not developed,we have neglected our culture.Vaisnava culture is low impact sattvika life style.Low impact farming and cow protection,low impact housing and energy,low impact clothing and shoes,low impact lifestyle and sustainability.
    The whole idea of sattvika lifestyle in a Vaisnava culture is to have economy based on a symbiosis with cows and land.It looks a bit like this;
    1 Community dynamics.
    2 Cows and Land .
    3 Symbiosis.
    4 Economic development based on a symbiotic lifestlye on Cows and Land.
    Thats how we live as Vaisnavas in this material world.Thats the alternative example to industries ,supermarkets,chemical/petro dependance and paper money.
    Our real wealth is the Land ,Cows and Us.We have no need for outside influence otherwise how can it be sattvika-the outside influence is inherently of lower quality.
    If we had taken the time earlier on in Iskcons life to define who,what and where iskcon is and solidified a coherent strategy for all the members of Iskcon to be taken care of and supported in a Sattvika way then alot of Iskcons unsavoury history would not have transpired.The Sattvika quality would have meant honesty,truthfulness etc and clearly we have not had those qualities in a plentiful supply.
    The lifestyles of Vaisnavas in the Sattvika quality is dependant on Sattvika economy,houses,business and food.Thats why its our portfolio as the created Iskcon to provide these opportunities for ourselves,our brothers and sisters and our next generation.We are not supposed to perpetuate capitalism,unsustainable lifestyles,eco unfriendly practices and dependancy on others.
    The conclusion for me is that the outside influences on iskcon have impacted negatively on the natural progressive development of Vaisnava community,lifestyle etc.The Hindu support financially has been misdirected into the “Institutional” iskcon for exclusive benefits for the minority members of Iskcon whereas it could have been used more Sattvika-ly to create the “community and lifestyle” Iskcon for the majority.The responsibility for the steering of Iskcons definition and identity has been in the hands of the few not the many and this dynamic of decision making has itself a very limiting effect.
    If we in Iskcon managed Iskcon in a community dynamic ,handing over the responsibilty to all the members then the influence of outsiders is minimised.The community management dynamic is inherently safer , self protectionist and shared.We have to remember that all members of Iskcon are equal.And the more heads involved in a decision the better it serves the majority.
    Instead of being so caught up in the power and worship of being a Guru in the post 1977 Iskcon we had the opportunity to establish the whole farm Community dynamic and by now we would have had huge food producing farms,milk coming out of our ears,beautiful Sattvic Villages,our own cloth producing centres,cottage industries and the perfect example of Vaisnava life.
    Thats why it is so important to understand who,where and what we are first and practice that for a few hundred years.Then we can think about the Hindus,and whatever,we need to be strong first as individuals and as Iskcon.Why we need even to ask what is Iskcon and who is a member illustrates our weaknesses and the outside
    influences we have let in to iskcon.If we dont know what,where and who is iskcon then we need to start again.

    • gpd

      hare boll
      dsushanta prabhu
      heres my e-mail address i am in leicester please e-mail me
      nice to see you some time may be at rathiatria in london this year or somwhere hope you are well
      gaura purusa dasa
      —————————-

  10. k.s.subramanian

    Hare Krishna!
    Debate within ISKCON Society never fails to amaze me. There is tremendous sincerity and genuine concern to improve things from wherever they are. And such a wide variety of ideas that I feel like saying ‘you are right” to everyone. It makes me thank KRISHNA for making souls in such wide diversity of ideas and yet they can all be united on the fundamental principle of pleasing the Founder Acharya with our actions. It takes away my breath to think a day could come when devotees may no longer be wrapped only in saree and dhotie and saying mathaji and prabhuji to all but still be deeply in love with the theology and preaching KC sincerely in their own ways. Or perhaps folowing in their own religions but with a pure motive of developing Love of God.
    All said, I am increasingly convinced that the power of Srila Prabhupad will continue to lead the movement and sincere seekers will always find right guidance to advance in this eternal journey.

  11. your servant

    Aren’t compassionate human beings, by definition, under the influence of “sattva”, goodness? I would bet most transcendentalists are striving to be in goodness, although for most of us, it is not 100% 24/7. Same as many other practitioners of various religious traditions. In fact, Krishna has outlined/described actions favorable in goodness, and those actions not in goodness, in various scriptures adopted by various traditions.

    To think that the modern day ISKCON has the monopoly on “goodness” or “sattva” would be only wishful thinking. Are not many Buddhist practitioners (whether thiest or athiest) exemplars of humans operating under the mode of goodness, as described by Krsna in BG? That’s just one example.

    If wearing traditional Indian dress helps one get closer to God, then by all means. In my limited experience, traditional Indian dress has done nothing for my spiritual elevation, not for the elevation of others. In fact, if anything, it became a deterrent and had to be cast away. I see that these things can promote sectarianism if adopted in any sort of a mandated way.

    As for being called “Vaishnavas”, I think this is a traditional label used amongst Indians to differentiate one’s adherence to different portions of the Vedas, or “Hindu” dharma. Why can’t we all just be eternal spirit souls trying to reach our Father’s eternal abode through various spiritual prescriptions? Chanting/prayer to the Lord, offering or recognizing everything belongs to Him, and cooperate with each other to please Him. This is whether we call/label ourselves Christians, Hindus, Vaishnavas, Hare Krishnas, or whatever silly names we label ourselves, only to differentiate or segregate ourselves from others. We are all conditioned and need purification of the heart. Devotion is not confined to one scripture, nor one tradition. To think so would be fanatical and erroneous.

    As followers of Srila Prabhupada, we have a duty to engage people, and ourselves, in spiritual life practices. This does not mean converting people to our own tradition. It does not mean that people need to adopt “Hindu” or traditional Indian culture. This is a big misunderstanding and I hope that this weed gets removed from this purely spiritual movement sooner than later, before the weed gets too big to pull.

    • There is no monopoly on the mode of goodness. Just like fresh air, its available to everyone. And God also makes Himself available to all. He is not Christian, Muslim, Hindu or any other label. Those are our labels. And God is not influenced very much by our labels, or our modes of dress or hairstyles. He sees us as we are.

      Vaishnavism begins when we understand that we belong to God and begin to develop our life accordingly. Anyone who lives in consciousness of God is a Vaishnava, no matter what label they may have.

      Those who find a Vaishnava acarya an inspiration in coming closer to God will seek out his advice and guidance, that’s all.

      But there are degrees of spiritual advancement

  12. Sir,
    i was, and am, always amazed by how Krishna is everything in ISKCON.
    It is such a parallel with the atmosphere i grew up in, as a Sri Vaishnava.

    i believe that as Vaishnavas, we (thankfully) have lost the right to discriminate. So, when we begin discriminating devotees, as ”Hindus” or “westerners”, we lose the very essence of what we have been, or are being taught. If we must spread the glories of His name, by His mercy, it shouldn’t matter whom it’s being directed to.

    If Srila Prabhupada had entertained doubts about whom to preach Vaishnavism to, would he have travelled halfway across the globe?
    And, if he had given place to ‘sectarean’ thoughts, would there have been a great institution like ISKCON today?

    Even in India, you will find Vaishnavas a seperate group from the rest of the Hindus. He blesses upon us the ability and knowledge to surrender unto Him. Mustn’t we use that to spread the same thought to others?
    While Vaishnavas will remain Vaishnavas, isn’t it a duty of one to try and spread that goodness?
    Whether the person decides to try and understand Him, or would leave happily with a little ‘prasadam’, is upto the will of God.

    Wasn’t an all-encompassing spiritual umbrella the basis of ISKCON movement? Then, to say that ISKCON is for a few people, sounds more like racial/sectarean divides deeply rooted in our minds, the very kind that Vaishnavism condemns in full throttle, the very kind that Krishna condemned in the Bhagavad Gita.

    This thoughtfully written post of yours has spurned a discussion on rituals and customs.
    But Krishna says anything that is offered with love pleases Him.
    So, the difference between a ritual and an offering remains within our heart.
    If you are just chanting His name, it’s a ritual-if you are thinking of Him, it’s an offering.

    If you are just offering prasad, at the end of the Puja, as it is a custom, it is but a ritual, but if done with love for Him, it’s an offering-the best of its kind.

    So, if someone sponsors a certain Pooja, he/she is putting their hard-earned money into it to please Krishna, so it IS an offering.

    And if, like i used to, u can stop thinking of it as a ‘ritual’, but celebrate the Lord of the Universe (royalty is entitled to extravagant offerings, right?), and appreciate how wonderful He is, the ‘ritual’ part ends, according to me.

    As far as the dress is concerned, as someone who will always prefer a pair of jeans over a half-saree, i have wondered a lot.
    Then i reasoned for myself like this: well, i get to dress like Him. :))
    How many gopis wore skinny jeans? :))

    Talking about rituals takes me to this thing where we are supposed to say ”Rangam” after we sneeze (Sri Rangam is one of the foremost of Vaishnava pilgrimage spots, first of the 108 divya deshams).
    I found it really unnecessary to say it out loud, especially when going to school abroad in a country that was stringently Muslim, and would rather think of Him inside my mind everytime i sneezed! :p
    Once, i said it out, and my friend asked me-”what does that mean?”
    And, when i was explaining to her in exquisite detail, and even promised to get a picture of Him, i understood the real meaning behind this ‘ritual’.

    And now its always Rangam! Sri Rangam!
    Way to go!
    And, a little explanation follows always on why i do that. :))

    • Yes, thankyou for these thoughts. There is the story of Vidurani who, out of love for Krishna, offered him banana peels instead of the fruit. The Lord ate the peels to accept the offering of his devotee. So all forms of external may not be there, but if there is love then the Lord will accept. Still, if the Lord asks for something in a particular way we should at least try to serve him as he wishes. That is also a mark of love.

      We do not want to be overly bound by so much ritual that we forget the love, but neither should we forget that there is a certain amount of ‘ritual’ when we try to do something to please the person we love. There is meaning within ritual, and we can connect with the deeper emotions when we know the purpose of the ritual.

      Why do we honour Lord Krishna with a tulasi leaf? Why not the leaf of the eggplant? Or the chestnut tree? If you have love for God then any leaf sincerely offered will be accepted – but still he has his personal preference, and that is tulasi. So we try to do that.

  13. I also see that many of Indian origin are very good devotees and doing wonderful preaching. They are also the main financial life of many temples.

    I also see that where there are a vast majority of Indians we are not making devotees from the local population. If some sees any festival the appearance is that the movement is for Indians. The adivasis (Ed: ‘original people of the land’) do not feel comfortable in that environment.

  14. Payonidhi das

    Some devotees bless cars and make a business out of it in the temples. Others do Satya Narayana pujas, the GBC needs to stop this.

    One devotee wrote:

    ‘Some ISKCON devotees do samskaras for the Hindu congregation, but isn’t car pujas taking it too far? This car puja practice is quite widespread. Some congregations bring their new cars to get consecrated at ISKCON. I personally think this should be raised to the GBC’.

    Many temples in the US used to do demigod worship, Satya Narayan pujas (some even still do though it is banned by the GBC),reading of Ramacarita Manasa in front of the Deities is also banned as this book is full of impersonal ideas, some temples allow it still on Ramanavami.
    When will this nonsense stop?
    It is mayavadi mentality to ignore these deviations.Why pretend such things are not there? Or condone them by silence, what to speak of doing them?
    your servant
    Payonidhi das

    • Dear Payonidhi Prabhu, thank you for writing. Of course samskaras are legitimate and are described by Sanatana Goswami in the Hari Bhakti Vilas. Car pujas? Well, you are also a brahmana priest and you know that as Vaishnavas we do puja to Krishna, not to inanimate objects such as cars. There are ceremonies in which an object, such as a house for instance, gets offered to Krishna as part of a ritual of blessing. You will also read of such things in the Mahabharata.

      My understanding of the Satya Narayana Puja is that it is also a puja dedicated to Vishnu, although prefaced by a puja to Ganesh. The stories narrated during the ceremony are from the Skanda Purana. Being one of the tamasic Puranas, that narration is accompanied by explanations of the heavenly rewards that accrue to those who perform the puja, and dire consequences for those who do not. You might say that the tamasic Puranas are for those who like a little extra motivation along with their ceremonies. Nevertheless the Skanda Purana is a Purana, and therefore for the upliftment of mankind.

      Rama Carita Manasa is, as you rightly say, mixed with some impersonalist conceptions, albeit in beautiful poetry. If these things are already ‘banned’ by ISKCON’s governing body, the GBC, then obviously the temples concerned should desist from them. If you feel strongly about it, which obviously you do, why not write individually to those temples, or to those responsible?

      Rest assured that we do not worship cars here in England, nor conduct Satya Narayana Pujas, nor engage in demigod worship, nor study or read publicly the Rama Carita Manasa. Just so you know.

  15. Pusta Krishna das

    There has been much good discussion and it is very cleansing for all concerned. Krishna says that all living entities are His parts and parcels. We must avoid material designations (tat paratvena nirmalam) and then our true relationship with Krishna may be awakened. When we awaken from this dreamlike material existence, we shall further appreciate that all are Krishna’s. There should be no attachment to material designation, as there is no shelter there, but rather only pain and alienation. Neither do westerners want to identify themselves as Indians. But, the westerners must not identify themselves as westerners either. It is a conditioned and temporary bondage. Srila Prabhupad came to free us from all such bondage.
    Regarding the dress of the bhakta and the tilaka, these are both temporal and spiritual (eternal) issues. In the spiritual world there is some correlation between the dress of the spiritual body and the dress we take as “Indian”. Tilaka also has a similar role. These are very high matters. But, the main reason for these external displays is that it both helps us remember Krishna, it helps others remember Krishna, and it pleases Srila Prabhupad. Pusta Krishna das

  16. your servant

    Thank you Maharaja for bringing this discussion back to the earthly realm. The point that needs to be addressed is whether or not ISKCON centers, programs, festivals, etc…are centered towards attracting the native people of the particular local area. What works in India, may not and probably won’t work in America.

    It’s fine if certain individual transcendentalists are interested in yajnas, various mantras, mudras, Vedic architecture, orthodox Vaishnava dress, etc… To each his/her own. The main point of this discussion is the overall presentation and public image portrayed in ISKCON centers, etc…

    If I take the approach that works for a particular cultural demographic, and apply it to a totally different demographic, the outcome is going to be drastically different. For instance, if you travel to almost any American temple/center…you will find a predominance of Indian bodied individuals. You will see many more Indians than mainstream Americans. Why is that? Indians (from India now living in America) are a small minority of the population. Is it that Indians are by birth and nature more spiritual? No. In fact, a recent survey showed that 72% of Americans consider themselves more spiritual than religious. So what is the answer?

    My experience and observations arrive at the conclusion that ISKCON programs, temples/centers, festivals, etc…have fallen into the habit of being presented as part of Indian cultural heritage and tradition. I’ve seen many times where someone from the public asks a “Vaishnava”…what religion are you? The answer is…Hindu. At temples, you can see Janmastami Kalash being sold at temples, $108 arati trays sold, hair cutting ceremonies, name giving ceremonies, the infamous “pick your caste/varna” game, Siva and Durga puja even at some temples, etc… None of these are geared towards attracting the general American public towards genuine spirituality. These are activities which Indians relate to, culturally, and that’s why you will see mostly Indians at ISKCON functions today. Not because Americans are so fallen and that they just aren’t into spiritual practice as they were in the 60s and 70s. It’s because they are being presented with a cultural religious tradition (perceived as Hindu) rather than the essence of a genuine spiritual practice. They simply cannot relate to this cultural presentation.

    If someone has a better explanation, please share. I’m not saying that Indians in America don’t need to be “preached to” or engaged in devotional service. However, it should not come at the expense of engaging the general (majority) American public. Srila Prabhupada picked America as the destination for kicking off this transcendental movement. He said many times that America is the most important place in the world for this movement to be successful. Why? Because the entire world is following the American lifestyle and way. So if Americans become Krsna/God Conscious, the rest of the world will follow, especially India. Unfortunately, today most people engaged in the American temples/centers and programs are Indians, born in India, and will one day return to India. So what good is this movement, overall, doing for the American people?

    Ask the next local that steps foot into your temple/center what their overall impression is. Ask them if they are under the impression that it is a “Hindu” temple or a non-sectarian spiritual organization. See what their impression is and you will find out if ISKCON is “Hinduized” and what that exactly means…

  17. your servant

    I just wanted to share some interesting quotes and links related to this topic:

    “The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), also known as the Hare Krishna movement, is a Hindu Vaishnava religious organization.” – Wikipedia –

    http://hinduism.iskcon.com/

    http://www.hinduismtoday.com/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=4499

    http://namahatta.org/en/node/8448

    Just google ISKCON and Hindu and you will find plenty out there that describes ISKCON as “Hindu”.

    • The word ‘Hindu’ has become established as a word to describe the broad family of traditions from India. It is particularly used by academics, although many of the same academics know that the word has its theological limitations. Sometimes when speaking to academics or, in Europe, to politicians, ISKCON also employs the term to describe itself. It is not wrong to do so, especially with those particular audiences or those who use such terminology, and often it helps certain types of people to correctly identify us as an authentic tradition. But we should always be aware that the term cannot be used to indicate the specifics of ones particular sampradaya.

      I am aware of all of Srila Prabhupada’s uses of the term.

  18. Pancha Tattva dasa

    Dear Krpamoya Prabhu,

    Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

    Your blog always provides a forum for thoughtful discussion. Thank you for writing on this subject and for attracting the viewpoints of the intelligent Vaishnavas as given above. (I hope I can contribute in some small way, though I doubt it will be of the value and caliber I have already read.)

    What matters to me, when discussing the impact of increasing numbers of Asian Indians joining ISKCON, is whether or not they are becoming Gaudiya Vaishnavas, worshipers and followers of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Lord Nityananda. If they have this fundamental grasp of our Vaishnava siddhanta – that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the Yuga Avatar, the Supreme Lord Krsna appearing in the mood of Krsna’s pleasure potency personified, Sri Radha, to teach the process of pure devotional service, and that Lord Nityananda is none other than Balarama, the Personality of Godhead as the adi-guru preceptor of devotional service, then everything positive will come as ISKCON goes forward.

    However, if, in the name of spreading Krsna consciousness, we do not bring these enthused newcomers to the proper Gaudiya Vaishnava siddhantic conclusions, but in the name of gathering followers, allow all sorts of misconceptions to remain, then there is ultimately conflict, anomaly, and failure.

    In other words, if ISKCON is to remain ISKCON, we must train members to be Gaudiya Vaishnavas, surrendered at the lotus feet of Sri Rupa and Raghunatha, actual followers of Srila Prabhupada.

    One devotee here in the United States who has grasped this essential truth is His Holiness Romapada Swami. In the Saint Louis and Chicago temples I’ve seen how the Indian-bodied congregations are becoming surrendered followers of Srila Prabhupada, taking initiation, understanding the philosophy and dedicating themselves to spreading the glories of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. They may have previously been Mayavadis, Shaivites, demigod worshipers, or even from Vaishnava families in another parampara. But now they’re followers of Lord Chaitanya, practicing Krsna consciousness in our line.

    Not everyone who is attracted to serving in ISKCON or associating with the devotees will come to the point of Hari Nam initiation or diksha, but the preaching of the devotees must always be consistent with our Gaudiya parampara.

    I’ve seen that this is not always the case. In the name of conciliation, accommodation, acquiring funds, winning friends, and interfaith dialogue, there is sometimes a tendency to be silent about misunderstanding or even offenses from our Indian supporters. We should not make this mistake.

    If we give the real thing, we will be successful. Then, Sriman Mahaprabhu’s request, “bharata-bhumite haila manusya janma yara…”, will be fulfilled very powerfully.

    Prabhupada’s white elephant American and European devotees spread Krsna consciousness all over the world, and in particular they revived the message of Gaudiya Vaishnavism in India. At present, in many temples in the Western countries, the number of European- and American-born devotees has declined. Now the India ISKCON temples are booming. Its time for all of us, and especially those of us born in the land of Bharat-varsa and trained in Krsna consciousness, to bring a Second Wave of mercy to the world.

    Your servant,

    Pancha Tattva dasa

    • Yes, I agree with you. We have something important to give as custodians of Srila Prabhupada’s great legacy. Of course, in order to attract practical support we increase our membership. Not all of those members – even the ones who gladly support us – will accept our philosophy completely. But we can still be friends. The danger comes if the movement changes its fundamental philosophy, liturgy or governance structure (or, as you say, fail to teach it) simply to garner more popularity.

      • Pancha Tattva dasa

        Dear Krpamoya Prabhu,

        Your comment that not all will fully accept our philosophy, but can at least be our friends is quite appropriate. It reminded me of Ramesvara Prabhu’s remembrances of Srila Prabhupada on the new volume #50 of the ITV series produced by Siddhanta Prabhu. Ramesvara said Srila Prabhupada told him that, in the future, there would be mass unemployment, and millions of persons would be coming to the devotee farms looking for shelter and guidance. Ramesvara Prabhu said it was clear that they weren’t all going to become Hare Krsna devotees, but they would turn to the devotees out of respect for their character and values.
        And what to speak of persons with at least some foothold in what remains of Vedic culture? The beauty of the Deity, the external cleanliness and piety of the ISKCON devotees, their gentleness and kindness, these are universally attractive features of our movement.
        And we should recognize the importance of patience as a Vaishnava quality. It can take a very long time to come to the point of surrender. As we expect others to be patient with us, so should we extend that courtesy to others.

        Your servant,

        Pancha Tattva dasa

  19. Pusta Krishna das

    We already have experience of what American Krishna Consciousness can be at its best and at its worst. The forest is made up of trees, many different types of trees. We have seen great good come out of the early development of Krishna consciousness in the USA, the spreading of Krishna consciousness throughout the world by Americans and other westerners with great missionary spirit. That capacity to give was extraordinary, and rest assured that Krishna has taken note.
    Now, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has personally represented that those born in Bharat-varsa, India, have the duty to take up Krishna consciousness and help to spread this culture throughout the world. It is not a political issue but rather a commandment from Lord Chaitanya. I therefore am very happy to see this process beginning. And, the Indians are not only consumers of Krishna consciousness, they are ‘givers’ of themselves and their resources. That is a great beginning. We should expect, more and more, that Indians will come to the forefront of Krishna consciousness in teaching as well. There is no need for envy. It is ordained. We may not be seeing it perfectly at present…but it will take place. Yes, we do not want to see the many rituals of Hindu life enter into the ISKCON institution of Srila Prabhupada’s creation. It is intended for the worship and service of Sri Sri Radha Krishna, combined as Lord Chaitanya. That must remain the focus. It matters little that items may be sold for service donations. After all, we were once not discouraged by Srila Prabhupada to dress up like Santa Claus or Paul Revere in order to distribute books and receive collections. That is a fact that I am personally aware of. So, if local temples are able to reach for service donations by creatively engaging the Indian population, so be it. There is no harm in that, it is praiseworthy. But, the focus of the worship and service must remain on Sri Sri Radha Krishna, Sri Sri Gaura Nitai. Sriman Mahaprabhu warns that: na dhanam na janam…we must not be concerned with amassing wealth for its own sake, or collect followers for our own satisfaction…rather, all must be directed to the service of Sri Sri Guru Gauranga. Proper management means engaging the aspiring bhaktas under your charge with inspiration to serve Krishna. However creative one must be to achieve this goal, that is praiseworthy. And, I for one am happy to see the Indian influence upon ISKCON in America. We Americans did so much good for the early Krishna consciousness movement, and also so much bad. We do not have to list the bad things, they are known. Unfortunately, those who linked up with the movement in earlier times were not always of clean character. I think that the inbred culture of the East Indians is generally much cleaner than that of the westerners. Now, we shall see how all of this evolves. It is a great adventure, no doubt. And, we must protect the Vaishnava-Parampara in the process, and respect the focus that Srila Prabhupada gave us into the distant future.

    Sincerely, Pusta Krishna das

  20. Pancha Tattva dasa

    ‘Your servant’ has made the following comment above:

    “Why do we place so much emphasis on dhotis, saris, Hindu terminology like “mataji”, etc…? Are these like components and rituals necessary for developing love for God? In my experience and opinion, these things can become huge obstacles for positive public image, public interest, and differentiation from other sectarian traditions. Why not encourage people to just chant the names of God (according to their own tradition), offer vegetarian food to Him (as all traditions prescribe), and try to become compassionate human beings?”

    The main reason we put emphasis on these customs is that Srila Prabhupada did. He wanted us to take on these traditions. For example, a friend of mine was to take initiation from Srila Prabhupada in Detroit, and when Srila Prabhupada saw he had kept his hair rather than shaving, he sternly inquired why. Only when he heard that the devotee was working outside and giving his income to the temple, and therefore needed to keep his hair, was Srila Prabhupada pacified and then proceeded with the initiation.

    Prabhupada also famously told how a New York ‘guru’ advised him to take up the use of a knife and fork for eating, and urged him to compromise his principles in other ways. Prabhupada was unmoved. He came to give something, not take something.

    These may seem like small details but, as His Grace Krpamoya Prabhu has written, they ‘add up.’ Wearing devotional clothes, tilak and kanti mala, men keeping the head shaved with sikha or at least cut well short, women wearing sari and (heaven forbid!) covering the head, and observing the many attributes of Vaishnava culture are an assist in remembering Krsna. Granted, they do not guarantee such remembrance, but they give an advantage. They also signal, to others, that this man or woman is attempting a serious practice of spiritual life. And if others do not yet know these signals, they will learn. They certainly won’t learn if we don’t practice them.

    As for myself, I can give the example of at least keeping a sikha and wearing tilak as outward signals which I am stubbornly clinging to in my elder years – what to speak of another outward sign, chanting on beads and keeping my bead bag with me as much as possible. And I wear devotional clothing whenever practical. I’m always ready to respond when someone asks why the mark on the forehead or the bead bag, etc. I know what I’m doing – I’m engaged in my own small way in cultural conquest.

    So the next time they see someone with tilaka and a bead bag, they’ll say, “Oh, he’s a Hare Krsna!”

    And if they don’t like tilaka and chanting Hare Krsna and beads and bead bags and dhotis and saris, well, tough nuts. I’m unmoved and unimpressed by such people.

    • @Pancha tattva dasa:
      //They also signal, to others, that this man or woman is attempting a serious practice of spiritual life. And if others do not yet know these signals, they will learn. They certainly won’t learn if we don’t practice them.//

      This comment of yours is so wonderfully true.
      Bhakthi is, in one way, a commitment- a commitment unto Him.
      By wearing a tilaka, it is perhaps our way of telling Him that He is most important to us- that even when we adorn ourself, we do so in a manner that cements our relationship with Him.
      And, it is always a mysteriously blissful feeling wearing a tilaka (naamam, as i would call it) for me (like this very moment, when i am wearing one on my forehead).

    • dusyanta dasa

      Hare Krsna.
      There has been a huge discussion on another site concerning the dress code. And i must say I found it rather eye opening . Maybe we have made some presumptions on what is Vaisnava and Vedic dress code.
      Wearing a sari for instance.Is that Vedic and Vaisnava ,and if so what is the sanscrit word for sari and where is the evidence that it is traditional Vedic and vaisnava dress.
      From what i have read the “sari” was adopted in India from the Muslim influence and seems to come from a rather repressive male influenced phenomena.Not Vedic or Vaisnava.
      There was more on the Brahmana dress code which conflicts with the idea of pukka peacock dressing that we have witnessed in iskcon.According to the debate Brahmanas dressed very frugally and owned very little cloth.
      Some of the quotes that i read ,and i am sorry i cant reproduce them here, from S.Bhagavatam showed a certain word for word translation and then in the Text showed added concepts that just were not there in the original sanscrit texts.
      The idea that saris are traditional Vedic dress is not borne out of the evidence that is available.Rather the opposite is evident from Vedic sources such as artifacts,histories and paintings and drawings.
      The evidence shows that ladies wore very little dress and sometimes had no top garment at all but only dressed according to temperature rather than some ideal of chastity.
      The concept of sari seems to have come later in Indias history and reinforced by British Victorian suppression or conservative ideals.Women should be covered for chastity and moral ideals than for any other reasons,there seems no influence from Vedic history and Vaisnava tradition.
      I have done my best to trace out the history of the dress code and there is very little scriptural evidence.There is some that has been added by Srila Prabhupada in much the same mood of chastity for the females.It was expressed that Srila Prabhupada had been influenced by the Victorian dress code.How true that is, is anyones guess but there is evidence for this in S.Bhagavatam where Srila Prabhupada has added his translation beyond the available Texts.
      Perhaps we have assumed and presumed beyond our understanding and rather like the “Guru” issue we have rushed in rather foolishly where angels would not tread.

      • Dusyanta, Sanskrit for ‘sari’ is ‘sadi’ and it simply means a ‘long strip of cloth.’ Often words change as they get adopted by speakers of other languages such as Hindi, a combination of Sanskrit-derived language and Persian.

        Originally women would often wear two pieces of cloth, as in the ancient mundum neriyathum of the Tamil-speaking lands in the south of India.

        You are right that the idea of women covering the head seems to have come from the Persian Muslims who invaded northern India, and covering the breasts may have come from the Victorian British as well. Although you must keep in mind that if the Muslim Persians insisted on women covering their head, they would also have insisted on them covering their breasts as well. Not much point in trying to enforce an Islamic notion of modesty if the head is covered but the breasts exposed. I have heard that there is anecdotal evidence for the Victorian British at least in Bengal to insist on the native women wearing cholees to cover their breasts.

        In southern India, where the Muslims did not dominate as much, there does not seem to be the universal covering of the head by women. Rather, they like to decorate their hair with flowers. Of course, it is not that because there are ancient statues of beautiful women with breasts exposed that this indicates that every woman dressed like that. There are also differences according to varna (occupation) and ashram (life stage) as well. Vedic culture means that people are all different and the differences are celebrated, not artificially homogenized into a forced standard.

        What we’ve seen in the first decades of ISKCON has been the creation of a religious missionary institution with a certain attempt at micro-communal living and a standard dress code. That’s all. It is not a revival of the diverse living patterns of Vedic culture with the attendant dress codes. But look, at the moment almost every member of ISKCON does not conform to any kind of standard dress code since they do not live communally. But ISKCON has never been ‘the international society for dressing in a particular way’ – the main aim of the Society is to promote and preserve Krishna consciousness.

        Was Srila Prabhupada unduly influenced by British Victorian values such that we need to reject some of the things he said as being redundant? I hear that idea from some people now, usually those who don’t necessarily feel grateful to him, and want to sideline him as part of history. And for those people ‘history’ means ‘the past we no longer need.’

        I can agree with you that our particular clothing is not entirely ‘Vedic’. Vaishnava men in our line did not wear kurtas (shirts) until it was introduced by Srila Prabhupada’s guru; and the wearing of the saffron colour was adopted by him from outside the line of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as it was at the time. Srila Prabhupada gave us sarees for women and dhotis for men and so we wear them. They are relatively simple to produce on a handloom, can be tied in different ways, and can be an aid to modesty if worn with that in mind. Having said that, there are many prostitutes in the red-light districts of India’s modern cities that wear sarees immodestly! But you know, any clothes can be worn according to the consciousness of the wearer. Modesty within will always show on the outside.

        I think in general that no-one who is a devotee should feel discouraged at what they may feel is a request to conform to a dress code. Every devotee should wear what is comfortable and pleases them. My only personal suggestion would be that in the presence of those who have taken vows of celibacy, male or female, they adopt their dress and behaviour to favour the ones who have taken the stricter vows. That’s one way we can help them.

      • Pancha Tattva dasa

        To Dusyanta and Krpamoya Prabhus, very interesting comments on Vaishnava dress and historical perspective.

        I didn’t mean to cause digression from the main points of the discussion, but I’m kind of glad it happened. Very interesting. And, in a way, it does bear some significance.

        I like Krpamoya’s remark that “any clothes can be worn according to the consciousness of the wearer.” And it’s true that “Modesty within will always show on the outside.” So will a lack of modesty.

        And then there’s blind fealty to rules and regulations, which is simply a source of irritation.

        I’m reminded of a Prabhupada story – oh, where did I hear it; maybe on one of the Remembering Srila Prabhupada video DVD’s produced by ITV. One of Prabhupada’s disciples was complaining about his sister Pisima or one of her elder friends not wearing a choli, but only covering herself with the top of her saree, as is common among the older Bengali ladies. Prabhupada chastised him as a fool, saying she was an old woman and to leave her alone.

        Nevertheless, I’ve always liked our ISKCON “uniforms” and I hope they don’t get waylaid by changes in fashion. Prabhupada liked to see his disciples in dhotis and saris, and that’s good enough for me.

        But even if the clothing is a secondary issue, certain things for Vaishnavas, such as tilaka and kanti-mala, are not. See chapter 9 of Nectar of Devotion for the sastric evidence.

  21. Pusta Krishna das

    With all respect for our Godbrother, Panchatattva das, we want to analyze things with a broader analysis. Again, Srila Prabhupad wants the culture of Krishna consciousness to be spread far and wide. It is not that everyone will live in temples (few in the West do anymore), or even take initiation into the vaishnava sampradaya. Still, I know for certain, that Srila Prabhupad wants to accommodate individuals with piety who have approached Krishna in order to nurture their interest in spiritual life with Krishna.
    If we want the Krishna consciousness movement to provide the guidance for humanity that Srila Prabhupad intended, we have to have the capacity to spread our wings more broadly to give shelter to the population in general who are attracted to Krishna. There will certainly be those who will challenge external displays of devotion, even when they are intended to help the practitioner and others, and there will be those who embrace the culture more fully. Leadership must be expert enough to give encouragement to both classes of individuals….to give encouragement to chant the Holy Names, take Krishna prasadam, and engage in devotional service as possible. Others have delved more deeply into devotional service and need full immersion in the 24/7 moment to moment practice of making Sri Krishna the be-all of one’s existence. Ideally, those who are fortunate to have the opportunity for total immersion in Krishna consciousness must cultivate humility (pride precedes the fall). That divine position can change as many of us have experienced through the years. And, those who practice Krishna consciousness a bit more from the distance should ideally lament for not having greater personal immersion in Krishna consciousness (perhaps shadow-lalasmayi). But, this culture has to be maintained by enlightened leaders and managers. Without that, misconception can cause so much needless pain.
    The leadership must not take immersion in Krishna consciousness for granted. The external energy of Sri Krishna, maya, is very powerful indeed. You cannot control maya. Krishna controls maya…therefore our hope is that through surrender to Krishna, taking shelter of Krishna at every moment, we may be protected from illusion by Krishna.
    This discussion, like many on Dandavats.com, is a very good forum both for reading, and for formulating one’s ideals. Ideals are necessary, especially for the leadership of devotees. If we are fortunate, we will have good association with which to make progress. Patience and perseverance are necessary, however. Krishna’s plan is supreme, and we have the wonderful guardianship of both Krishna and good-hearted devotees….we pray.
    Pusta Krishna das

    • Pancha Tattva dasa

      Dear Pusta Krsna Prabhu, I don’t think we are in disagreement here. Of course we should give direction and engagement to persons who are favorable to the goals of Krsna consciousness.

      My concern, although narrow in focus, is of critical relevance to this discussion, since the main question is whether our temples are becoming Hinduized. How are we training persons of Asian-Indian origin who step forward with more commitment to the movement than giving some donation or attending the Sunday feast program? If we sit them on our temple boards and they’re not Gaudiya Vaishnavas (maybe there’s some room for this, but it would depend upon the temple board’s powers), if they have management positions in our temples and they’re not Gaudiya Vaishnavas, if we have them cooking in our kitchens (meaning, tending the fire) and they’re not second-initiated Gaudiya Vaishnavas, if they are taking initiation and not actually trained as Gaudiya Vaishnavas, then what are we doing to ISKCON except dispensing with the mission of the society?

      Let me emphasize that I don’t believe these concerns apply to the Bhaktivedanta Manor, which is also a topical part of this discussion. I’ve not been to the Manor in many years, but I trust the statements of His Grace Krpamoya Prabhu, who I know to be an advanced, learned, truthful devotee and a fully dedicated disciple of Srila Prabhupada.

      I heartily acknowledge with deepest gratitude that, in the face of terrible turmoil in ISKCON after Srila Prabhupada’s departure resulting in the mass exit of American and European devotees, the Asian Indians who’ve stepped forward have in many cases saved our temples from shutting down.

      And I also recognize that there may be emergency situations. Let’s now, however, institutionalize our emergencies.

      We must safeguard the purposes and purity of the society. That will benefit all those who join and deliver the unblemished message of Mahaprabhu to future generations.

      • Pancha Tattva dasa

        Sorry, should have written “Let’s not, however, institutionalize our emergencies.” A typo can really mess things up!

  22. Vrindavan

    Dandavats,

    Thank you for the nice topic – As a regular at Bhaktivedanta Manor and bought up in a Hindu family, and now initiated – I tend to agree with Maharaja, that a lot of our energies do go towards maintenance and preaching to the Indian crowd which makes up a fraction of the UK population.

    During ISKCON’s turmoil days this may have been a necessity but now it seems to be entrenched. Practical examples are, Hindu weddings in the temple room most Saturdays, services like samskaras, homas etc conducted at the temple, most house programs with sanyasis and senior guests seem to be at homes of affluent Hindu families.

    One thing I can say is that it’s easier to preach to Hindus as they already have some background and familiarity with both the philosophy and culture, and they are more likely to donate. However both of advantages will decline or dry up with the next generation of Hindus so it may not be so sustainable.

    Care must be taken to make the atmosphere conducive for the rest of the western population. Birds of a feather flock together and it’s natural that where people see a more similar group of people they feel more at home, and a more alien culture deters people.

    Promoting our activities as Hindus also does not help the cause much. “Hindu” in the handful of times Srila Prabhupada used this word was to describe the movement for legal or cultural purposes. As far as I know he never used it as the general way of describing temples or festivals. Using the word ‘Hindu’ may be more academically correct and may also often opens doors but it also does end up closing other doors. You become more appealing to Hindus but less appealing to others.

    Srila Prabhupada’s vision was broad and long term and used the appropriate labels to reflect and describe the movement. These labels remind us to make management decisions based on his vision. The main label he chose was International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Vaishnava, devotee etc. He used the word Hindu rarely sometimes positively and sometimes negatively.

    • Pancha Tattva dasa

      Nice, thoughtful comments by Vrindavan prabhu.

      Let me offer one more encouraging comment about Asian-Indian devotees becoming Gaudiya Vaishnavas. I have seen, in the Chicago community at a function for the newly-opened suburban temple in Napierville, Illinois, that these devotees are enthusiastic for kirtan the way we were as young men and women when we were new to Krsna consciousness. In the inaugural kirtan, I closed my eyes and could not distinquish between their kirtan and those uproarious kirtans of so many years ago. Devotees laughing, shouting, practically crying in ecstacy. And then, opening my eyes, to see the devotees jumping into the air, spinning around and dancing exuberantly, all the while chanting at the tops of their lungs the Holy Names.

      On the last day of that long weekend I spent with them, we had at least 50 or 60 devotees sitting in the temple room, without distraction, profoundly concentrating on chanting 32 rounds together. Very nice!

      When I see the Indian-born devotees enthusiastic for book distribution, kirtan, japa, associating with senior devotees, putting on festivals to attract the public, etc., I feel encouraged that the movement will go on nicely.

      Now, in regard to samskaras, there are plenty of places in Srila Prabhupada’s books and lectures where he mentions their importance. Why should they not be reintroduced?

      I do take Vrindavan’s point seriously, though, when he suggests that ways must be found to attract and engage Westerners.
      It’s a fact that it’s easier to approach the Indians. Maybe we should deliberately get outside of our comfort zones to reach out to others. Any ideas on how to push that? Certainly our sannyasis and senior, learned devotees should not limit themselves to courting Indians with deep pockets.

      I don’t necessarily agree with Vrindavan when he says that the advantages of engaging Asian-Indians in activities of Krsna consciousness will dry up with the next generation. If our preaching is effective, the next generation will be saved. Hence, the great importance of education programs for the youth, as is being attempted by the British devotees in the form of a school mentioned in Krpamoya Prabhu’s article.

  23. pusta krishna das

    Great discussion. One thing I would like to suggest is that certain rituals be performed outside of the temple room. For example, whether an infant crawls toward the Srimad Bhagavatam or toward money, that ritual should be done outside of the temple room. The service in the temple room should be focused on the worship and service of Radha Krishna. Other rituals should be done outside of the chamber of the temple room, if at all possible. That may go a long way toward easing the skepticism regarding hinduization of the temples. And, I agree with Panchatattva Prabhu, it is wonderful to see the growth of so many Indians into wonderful vaishnavas. This is mercy of Sri Sri Guru Gauranga. Pusta Krishna das

    • Pancha Tattva dasa

      Pusta Krsna Prabhu makes a very good suggestion. To mollify feelings of the congregation on these matters, perhaps the ‘samskar’ room could have an uninstalled deity. What do you think? I would also argue that, unless the couple are initiated devotees, weddings should not be conducted in front of the deity in the temple.

      As an aside, I cringe a little when I see people stand in front of the altar, with their backs to the deities, and have their pictures taken with the deities as a backdrop. I don’t say anything to them, of course, but in my opinion, it’s not a very nice thing to do.

      • Of course, during a marriage samskara the deity is the fire, non-different from the Lord. Vedic marriages were traditionally never conducted inside temples.

        Here at the Manor, no-one is married before Radha and Krishna, whether initiated devotee or not. Only activities of pure devotional service should be conducted before the Deities.

        And naturally, every temple authority must explain to all guests the importance of not turning their back on the altar.

  24. Vrindavan

    Thanks for the different perspective prabhus.

    I agree – Indians taking up the process seriously and engaging in preaching and out reach activities is very inspiring. They generally have a stable base as many are from sattvic backgrounds, however the next generation are more westernised which is also good in some sense as they can relate more to the western mind combining best of east and west hopefully ( the other way round from the 70’s) – from my knowledge of the UK, many Indian bodied devotees are going out regularly on books, organising retreats, western preaching through yoga and the youth group have a wing at universities as well as many other projects which Kripamoya prabhu is more aware of than I am.

    What I meant by the next generation drying up was that as the Indians become more westernized over time they wont easily come to Krishna consciousness like they are now either in terms of taking easily to the philosophy or giving donations.

    Regarding samskaras although Srila prabhupada glorifies them I don’t know of any specific instances of where he asks for them to be reintroduced? In many cases when he glorifies them he sometimes qualifies how in this age the nama yajna for this age is the ultimate cleansing process.

    I guess this is another discussion but here is one place where prabhupada is asked directly about samskaras and to what level they should be re-introduced. Go to where question thirteen is being asked. http://www.prabhupadavani.org/Conversations/Text/219.html

    Thank you Kripamoya prabhu for bringing this topic up! It’s nice when different views can be heard and it’s inspiring to see devotees thinking about the direction and future of the movement.

    • Personally I feel samskaras and other community celebrations give shape and a sense of occasion to our devotees, whatever ethnic background they come from. Of course, samskaras are not processes of self-realization, merely sacraments for the different stages in our life. Even when they are described in the Hari Bhakti Vilas, the text says that they should be prefaced and concluded with the Harinama. And of course, the name of the Lord is the most important factor in the conducting of any such samskara.

      What is happening now though, is that some of our devotees, perhaps under the influence of ‘anti-samskara propaganda’ are not even having the marriage samskara, something our founder certainly did introduce.

  25. Govinda dasa

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

    Wouldn’t the following be examples of Hinduization of ISKCON:

    At Bhaktivedanta Manor reception they sell murtis of Ganesha, Lakshmi (without Narayana) and Shiva to the Hindus. So demigod worship is encouraged. In Krsna book Srila Prabhupada says, “The Vaisnavas generally do not worship any demigods. Srila Narottama dasa Thakura has strictly forbidden all worship of the demigods for anyone who wants to advance in pure devotional service.”

    In a letter Prabhupada wrote, “Dipavali or Devali is observed as new years day by certain mercantile community. The Vaisnavas have nothing to do with this ceremony…”. Why would ISKCON centres celebrate Dipavali if not to satisfy the Hindu community?

    • Good points, Govinda Dasa, prabhu. Selling images of devas would indeed seem to be giving tacit approval of deva worship, if not direct encouragement.

      As for the Festival of Lights, Diwali, it is such a fixed date on the annual calendar of the Indian community – as is Christmas for others – that our temples in Indian areas seem almost duty-bound to host large crowds at this time. Of course, when they come to any Hare Krishna temple, the visitors receive kirtan, darshan of Radha-Krisna, and the Lord’s prasadam.

      What do you think the temples should do at this time of year?

      • your servant

        If celebrating Dipavali is to be celebrated as a way to encourage people (of Indian origin) to come to the temple to chant, and engage in devotional service, at least do the same on Christmas, Hanukkah (Festival of Lights), etc…to appeal to the other ethnic groups, which might even bring larger crowds of locals to the western temples. The reality is that ISKCON doesn’t. This is just one example of how ISKCON can be perceived as “Hindu” by the general mass of western people.

      • Fair comment, your servant. But I can predict that not everyone would be happy – even with that adjustment. Some devotees would think that ISKCON had really gone too far in its bid for mass popularity if we had big Christmas parties. I don’t think we’d be able to please everyone.

        But the idea is a good one. It has actually been tried before with some success, in Italy, where the Hare Krishna Festival crew would turn up on the day of the local saints birthday and stage a show for the village.

        For a new spin on Diwali see the comment from south India (In love with Krishna).

      • @Govinda Dasa Prabhu: @Deshika Prabhu:
        Just to add my thoughts to this discussion:

        Deepavali is a ‘festival of lights’ for the mercantile community in the North of India.

        Down South, we celebrate it as the day Krishna killed the demon Narakasura.
        Actually, Deepavali, as we call it down South, is celebrated on the amavasya day, which comes one day before or after the day the North celebrates Diwali.
        Celebrations begin early in the morning, at around 3 o’clock, when you go burst crackers, take your bath, etc. Then comes the Pooja, and all the delicacies are offered to the Lord.
        As it is the amavasya day, my father usually does his ‘darpan’ also.
        Festivals and utsavs galore are a standard, especially in Vaishnava temples.
        It’s beautiful, coz the Lord comes out for the yatra, beautifully adorned. Every house takes turns to adorn the Lord’s path with Rangoli, and they keep bursting crackers all along the path, in front of the Lord, so He can see.
        It is blissful, when you get to celebrate Deepavali with Him, as He is the centrepoint of all the celebrations. 🙂
        So, according to me, Deepavali has always been a way of celebrating Krishna, and His triumph over evil.

  26. Govinda dasa

    As well as spiritual exhibitions Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati included secular exhibitions as part of his preaching…..medical, agricultural, arts and crafts, cattle and livestock, child welfare, athletics, amusements, wrestling, boxing, sword and stick play….

    Perhaps we should be branching out in our preaching.

  27. your servant

    Just to clarify, I am not advocating the inclusion of secular holidays to be celebrated within ISKCON, this includes Dipavali. Srila Prabhupada did not initiate the celebrating of Dipavali. However, many temples have adopted Dipavali but not other secular holidays. This shows favoritism to a particular group.

    One can try and justify certain links to Lord Krsna or Lord Rama, but one can do the same with Christmas, etc… Many times Srila Prabhupada spoke of Jesus Christ as being a “Vaisnava” or pure devotee. So this is just one undeniable example of how ISKCON has become “Hinduized”.

    • Does your local temple not celebrate Rama Vijay Dasami, the day Lord Rama defeated Ravan? We celebrate Diwali here at the day Rama returns to Ayodhya. Its therefore a Vaishnava occasion, not a secular one.

  28. your servant

    Prabhupada: No, no. Christianity is Vaisnavism.
    Dr. Patel: Vaisnavism? Absolutely Vaisnavism.
    Prabhupada: Anyone who… Mohammedan is also Vaisnavism.
    Dr. Patel: Mohammedanism is not Vaisnavism.
    Prabhupada: No, no. Caitanya Mahaprabhu had talk with the Pathanas. He proved that “Your religion is Vaisnavism.”
    Dr. Patel: Christianity is Vaisnavism 100%.
    Prabhupada: Therefore in Caitanya-caritamrta there is. I have already explained that.
    Dr. Patel: No, Christianity is 100% Vaisnavism. I have studied Christianity very well.
    Prabhupada: Not hundred percent, but…
    Dr. Patel: More or less.
    Prabhupada: Yes.

    If ISKCON were to adopt a universal approach that shows a truly non-sectarian genuine spiritual movement by honoring/celebrating various names and remembrances of the Lord, then we wouldn’t be having this discussion. However, we currently do not celebrate/honor the names of Allah, Buddha (Das Avatar), Jehovah, Yahweh, Elohim, Adonai, etc… In fact, we clearly separate ourselves from those that do.

    We are supposed to be advocating the widespread chanting of the Names of God and engaging people in devotional service. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu toured India chanting many Names of the Lord, especially the Maha Mantra. In fact, Mahaprabhu did not reject the Koran, but rather encouraged the Muslims to recognize its authentic meaning.

    Why do we not adopt this approach in a widespread fashion, especially in the West? Because…we are currently plagued by sectarianism and an affinity for adopting Hindu rituals and celebrations that Srila Prabhupada did not institute. Therefore, I am convinced that ISKCON is currently “Hinduized”.

    • I would be interested in discovering exactly how many of our 600+ centres of our movement actually fit your description. If everything matches your description then we are genuinely in trouble – if not, then we should all allow for some regional variation and leave it in the hands of those who run the centres.

  29. your servant

    As far as dress is concerned, I see many signs of sectarianism and a widespread cling to Indian dress that is neither “Vedic” nor traditional Vaisnava. Bleached white dhotis with fancy borders and pinstripes, long silk kurtas, combed over hairdos with sikhas, fancy wristwatches and nice rings, sneakers, stylin sunglasses, gopi skirts, half saris, etc…and a combination of everything else can be seen adopted at any ISKCON temple. A blend of “Hindu” and western dress is what will be seen. Sannyasis and brahmacaris wearing the traditional dress of a monk is one thing, as well as those directly engaged in priestly services. In fact, it is generally accepted and looked upon with respect in the western world. However, devotees that hold jobs, have homes, have money, living an everyday life like everyone else, look strange/weird to the general public in their attempt to adopt Indian dress combined with fashion. It is not seen as any sign of spiritual advancement, spiritual movement, or any spiritual qualities. It is more looked upon as a statement at best. Of course some will see and have thoughts of appreciation, but most will just think it’s weird and wonder why any non-Indian person would adopted such attire. Therefore, I do not see any advantage to a genuine spiritual movement, concerned with the uplifting of humanity, to endorse such attire as necessary. Plus, if you’re going to wear such attire, either because you like it or think it’s beneficial in some way, then why not wear it all the time? Wear it while at your jobs. Wear it throughout each day, everyday, in every situation. Wear the “traditional” dhoti, kaupin, chaddar, shaven head, sikha, tilak…that’s fine. But where do these other accessories come into place? Where did Srila Prabhupada say these accessories are part of a spiritual dress, can aid in the advancement of Krsna Consciousness, and will help spread this movement?

    There are several things Srila Prabhupada spoke in reference to dress, or appearance. First, Srila Prabhuapda was big on winning the general public’s appreciation and approval (especially America) as a serious and genuine spiritual movement. At the time 1965-1977, the counterculture was negatively looked upon by the general public. Therefore, you will see that, although many of Srila Prabhupada’s followers, disciples, well wishers, etc…were from the counterculture movement, he was always quick to separate this purely spiritual movement from the ill conceived counterculture that many other movements of the time were grouped into. In other words “We are not hippies”. He publicly spoke about long hair on males, etc… Srila Prabhupada was after a good public image for his genuine spiritual movement.

    Although we can come up with some statements where Srila Prabhupada said he expressed some favor of a clean shaven head, sikha, tilak, dhoti, etc…(especially for the brahmacaris/sannyasis/monks). He also stated several times that his followers were to either dress like Vaisnavas, or dress like ladies and gentlemen. So, if dressing like ladies and gentlemen was going to have the better impact on influencing others to take up Krsna Consciousness, why should we not advocate it across the board? Why do we cling onto some pseudo-Vedic dress that was not even implemented by Srila Prabhupada in the first place? Why not just dress “normal” and tastefully, and let our spiritual science speak for itself? Why allow any chance of our outward appearance to potentially get in the way of our transcendental message?

    Again, those who do not perform priestly services, and are not monks, look out of place and strange when wearing pseudo-traditional Indian clothing, and are not of Indian cultural descent (especially a big group of them engaged in something that is perceived to be associated with India). That’s just the common perspective of the general mass of Western people. Some like it and think it’s beautiful, but hardly any would ever consider dressing in that way. And let’s again stress, that to common people, especially Western people, dress and image are everything. Therefore, people will not relate and most will think it is Hindu dress.

    • Some very good points, thank you. We should all think very carefully about how we speak and how we dress, and how that may be able to help any others on their spiritual journey.

  30. I really appreciate Kripamoya Prabhu for brining it up, and from the feedback it is obvious that the topic is rather deserving. In fact with the feedback already received it is not something that current administration can just swipe it under the carpet.

    At the same time it is shocking that we are seriously discussing something that is so fundamentally contrary to the basic knowledge of Krishna consciousness, e.g knowledge of the soul and the fact that soul is not this body. Moreover how could anyone ignore a simple instruction, that to think of a Vaisnava according to his family or place of birth is an aparadha that leads to hell. Now is there even a place when you can start labeling devotees as English “vaisnavas”, Hindu “vaisnavas”, Russian “vaisnavas” or Jew “vaisnavas”? Why can not we realize that this is an offense (besides being contrary to EU Equality legislation framework.) if according to the Padma Purana, “Anyone who thinks of the Deity of Visnu as merely stone or the guru as an ordinary man, or who thinks a Vaisnava belongs to a particular family or country, is a resident of hell.” There is no such a thing as Hindu and non-Hindu Vaisnava. It is just ignorance to even think like that. Both on the part of those who “facilitate” Hindu “vaisnavas” needs in preference, and those who feel that English “vaisnavas” should be cared for. Unless we stop thinking and will prevent any action in this mindset, the whole temple will go to Hell. It is sastra that speaks it very clearly. nasti tesu jati-vidya-rupa-kula-dhana-kriyadi-bhedah — In the name of “social development”, by people names I do not want to mention here, we are making distinctions among such followers of Prabhupad in terms of social class, education, race and cultural background. And as we started to do it, we ended up in a mess. And it will get worse before it gets better.

    Can someone explain to me what is the difference of Subhaga (Swami) joining ISKCON in England in early 1970s ( a young man from a Bengali family – Ed) and any other person doing it today? The only difference that I see, is that he had to put behind him his own identifications and actually act and think in the framework of devotional service that is free from designations, free from fruitive motives (or karma-misra bhakti) and free from a feeling of social or cultural superiority. Is this being facilitated at present? Do we treat all newcomers in the same spirit? I do not think so.

    It is true that there is a specifically designed and organized Hindu-conscious Krishna oriented preaching. Yes Hinduization means nothing, Kripamoya prabhu. Hinduism is such a vague and polluted term, that anything describes as such is vague. But let us just leave it aside and leave politics aside and instead of so-called social focus, finally give to everyone, regardless, pure and very demanding atma-nivedanam practices that Srila Prabhupada asked for. In fact it is not about distinctions among vaisnavas in terms of social class, education or colour. It is about non-distinction and making the Manor again universally accessible and functioning free from social agenda. In fact let’s equally invest into all social groups, all interests, regardless who is bringing in the funds. And as a result of such approach both Indian community will grow spiritually and all others will be satisfied.

  31. Mithuna Das

    One of the distinctive features of religions (including Hinduism) is that in its execution there is far more apparent focus on God, than focus on what God says we are. In Krishna consciousness this means developing transcendental faith not only in Krishna , but also the ontological nature of our very being as ” Jivera Svarupa haya Krishnera nitya das ……”. (The soul is by its very nature a servant of Krishna – Ed) And for those who are advancing even more nicely this means developing firm faith that despite its variegated appearance , the entire material phenomenon is actually a divine energy meant for Krishna’s enjoyment.

    One major challenge faced by people coming from group based cultures (as are most South Asian cultures) is confrontation of the consequences of accepting that one is not this body, nor the labels associated with the body. New views may develop towards family members, and behaviors like marriage. Very often the group resist/resent these implications , and it is much more comfortable for the individual to remain as a ” Hindu or Indian devotee”. This accommodating stance can become like an acceptable sub culture within ISKCON, and so many people feel it is a compromise.

    • Good points. And yet even as Vaishnavas who endeavour to become free from such mundane and social labels, we are encouraged to participate in the social system of varna and ashram until we are actually liberated from mundane vision and identification. That means we do hold marriage and family – and ‘the group’ – to be an important element of social organization which in turn provides a context for daily spiritual practise.

      Sometimes ISKCON devotees become very confused because they think they have nothing to do with varna and ashram labels. This mistaken sense of ‘premature liberation’ can lead to social chaos and immorality.

      ISKCON has a lot to say about ashram labels of course; we are rigidly divided (in our micro-communities) into the four ashrams. But we rarely talk about the other side of the Vedic social system: the varnas. Generally devotees do not talk about which varna they are in, yet we speak of Srila Prabhupada wanting to re-establish the varna-ashram system. We like to think that we are all brahmanas by dint of being Vaishnavas, but how many devotees actually live by teaching others, as brahmanas are meant to do?

      • Vrindavan

        It’s true that we should be honest about where we are. I’m not too sure that “teaching” is an exclusive qualification to become a bramana though. There are many qualities such as satyama saucha titksa etc.

        The discussion on varna is probably not discussed as it’s not as cut and dry as ashrama and is probably more prone to abuse than ashrama has been in the past.

        Srila Prabhupada gave a few instructions on varnashrama

        The system of caste, or varṇāśrama-dharma, is no longer regular even amongst the so-called followers of the system. Nor is it now possible to reestablish the institutional function in the present context of social, political and economic revolution. Without any reference to the particular custom of a country, one can be accepted to the Vaiṣṇava cult spiritually, and there is no hindrance in the transcendental process. So by the order of Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the cult of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam or the Bhagavad-gītā can be preached all over the world, reclaiming all persons willing to accept the transcendental cult. Such cultural propaganda by the devotees will certainly be accepted by all persons who are reasonable and inquisitive, without any particular bias for the custom of the country. The Vaiṣṇava never accepts another Vaiṣṇava on the basis of birthright, just as he never thinks of the Deity of the Lord in a temple as an idol. And to remove all doubts in this connection……… The injunction of Vaiṣṇava regulation in this connection runs as follows: arcye viṣṇau śilā-dhīr guruṣu nara-matir vaiṣṇave jāti-buddhiḥ śrī-viṣṇor nāmni śabda-sāmānya-buddhiḥ, etc. “One should not consider the Deity of the Lord as worshiped in the temple to be an idol, nor should one consider the authorized spiritual master an ordinary man. Nor should one consider a pure Vaiṣṇava to belong to a particular caste, etc.”

        I’ll try and dig up the quote on samskaras where prabhupada says the important ones should be introduced.

        As you mentioned there can be a concern with people being |”anti samskara” or anti varnashrama however the scriptures place more importance on the injunction that everything should be there to help remember Krishna and never forget him. The social aspects are important but secondary and used to help elevate us. The bigger danger is when people are too pro the secondary aspects and minimise sankirtan and the holy names for aspects of varnashrama/samskaras. There is a fear that this can be abused and where there is a lack of love and trust any system where whether its ashrams varnas women etc are labelled in a hierarchy can lead to fear especially with ISKCON’s history. As the Srimad Bhagvatam says better to have a person who doesn’t follow many rules but worships the Lord than to someone who follows perfectly. I have heard pro samskara devotees say devotees marriages aren’t bona fide as the marriage procedures/mantras were incorrect, chanting just 50 rounds and not doing the Garbhadhan samskara is akin to having illicit sex.
        Same devotees see vaishnavas as bramana, sudra, etc rather than devotee’s first.

        This mentality is the same which took Hinduism away from its essence therefore I guess the concern among devotees is those devotees who try to introduce or expand on Prabhupadas instructions further than he did or instructed may inadvertently being sowing the same seeds – The unintentional/minimisation or loss of the essence which is the holy names of Lord Krishna being complete and most purifying.

        At the same time there does need to be a good social example being set, however to introduce this in any beneficial way that is not going to be abused and is actually helpful there needs to be an atmosphere of love, trust and credibility else resistance will always be there as well as unqualified people trying to get the brahmana label for egoistic purposes. Just like the sannyasa/guru symbol was seen as a quick way to get respect and power.

      • Mithuna Das

        Prabhu Deshika extolls the group’s importance in providing a context for the daily execution of spiritual practice; but there are alternative views to this. It is given that we need a basic identity , and physiological sustenance to sojourn in this world. These things should be kept simple in order not to overlay our sense of “I” with many intricate labels ( including the sense that I am a “Hindu Devotee”). It is a fact that the more we perform devotional service properly , we increase our eligibility to firmly conceive our self as a servant of Krishna , and this in turn opens the doorway for us to truly acknowledge our helplessness in the ” force ” field of karma and hence the redeeming role of the Lord’s mercy. This redeeming mercy is an indispensable part of this non-mechanistic science, which Krishna Consciousness is. As this new /true sense of self becomes firmly established to a proportionate extent the self conceit is lifted from our heart, and the practice of the angas of bhakti ( especially chanting the Holy Name) takes on a much deeper significance. As advancement even develops further we become inspired to beg for the mercy to acquire the firm transcendental faith that the entire material phenomenon ( despite its variegatedness before the material eyes) is a divine energy , meant for Krishna’s preferred purpose. If we are at all granted even an iota of this latter vision, belonging to some ethnic group based on the body becomes extremely trivial.

        As mentioned before the strong need to belong to some group based on the body can easily become dysfunctional.

  32. Certainly we can not just accept that because Srila Prabhupada wanted to introduce Varnasrama system (to educated Westerners etc) it is only acceptable to introduce another sub-para-dharma (or religion described in the second verse of the Bhagavatam as kaitava-dharma) to facilitate those who are not yet up to scratch to understand what bhakti-yoga is about. It is a diversion in logic. The fact remains that we do not even understand what means to be a Vaisnava or someone who is qualified to be taking Vaisnava initiation, and now we try to change the system. And as a result we are ready to label Vaisnavas into “brahmana” “vaisnava” and those who “non-brahmana” “vaisnavas”. Moreover we are ready to forgive other calling Vaishnavas as Hindu, English or African “vaisnavas” because we think that it is similar to calling them “sudra” or “vaisya” Vaisnavas, and probably the worst part iis to assume that “what we think” is Srila Prabhupada’s desire. How far can we be from the truth and what can be expected if we promote this separatist methodology? Besides the fact that brahmanas are supposed to teach others, there are literary hundreds and hundreds of acceptable livelihoods for brahmanas, and that includes paid employment, provided it is not in the role of a sudra, and there is no restriction like that for a Vaisnava, whatsoever. But why is this diversion? Because we think our Founder-acarya gave an escape to the bodily consciousness and lowering the standards to karma-misra bhakti from pure atma-nivedanam, what a diversion! Do we hanker for such escape? If we already did everything else based on the bodily labels and segregation instead of involvement, we are ready to sacrifice the essence of unalloyed bhakti teachings for some apparent material gain, or sreyas. So we will continue to wonder what is wrong with having Gujarati kula or gana, Punjabi kula, Welsh kula and French kula, only later realizing that such kulas (family) or ganas (social groups) will take apart out movement? Such labels and whatever comes with it, be it group consciousness or kula-consciousness, are not compatible with Vaisnavism, except for it remaining an “apparent Vaisnavism” only. Both Srila Prabhupada and Bhaktidisiddhanta spoke well about the labels, and if anyone claims that Srila Prabhupada did not execute his orders, he should be re-examined, the concept of Gujarati Vaisnava or brahmana-vaisnava or this-vaisnava or that-vaisnava is a no-concept: “When one rejects the pride arising from being a proper follower of the system of -family, nation, and bodily consciousness-, he becomes eligible for the transcendental service of Lord Hari. Unless a sudra gives up his sinful nature he cannot become a Vaisnava, and unless a brahmana gives up his pious fruitive activities with his body, mind, and speech he cannot become a Vaisnava. The Supreme Lord has said in Bhagavad-gita (4.13) as follows: catur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah. The Lord has created the four varnas according to their qualities and activities. Until the indulgence in material qualities is not diminished by the propensity for serving Lord Hari, a living entity continues to perform fruitive activities. In other words, he continues to wander in the kingdom of material enjoyment. If a person who is situated in the principles of varnasrama serves Lord Hari while maintaining the pride of being a brahmana, there is no possibility of his attaining unalloyed devotional service to Lord Hari. Then the living entity engages in devotional service mixed with fruitive activities. Then the brahmana engaged in devotional service mixed with karma becomes qualified to possess the twenty-six qualities of a Vaisnava and be identified as a Vaisnava in this world. But when he begins to worship Hari without fruitive desires, then he achieves pure devotional service.” Are we to retain our pride of being Englishman, a pride of being a Gajja? Are we retain the pride of being a Jew or an Affrican? Are we to be proud to be born in China or Russia or Kenya?? So who said that we should aim at remaining at this material world, just because some of the congregation prefers to be identified as brahmanas, Gujaratis or Englishman? Why can’t we just stop this apasiddhantic slagging? If that was the case, why do we need to consider such material opinion that is not based on the sastra? Tarhi ko va brahmano nama. yah kascid atmanam advitiyam jati-guna-kriya-hinam — This is the logical definition of who is Brahmana — Anyone who knows the Self as being, devoid of mundane caste, qualities, and activities; — In other words anyone who is suggesting strengthening identification with your nature of nationality, race, family culture (even if it is South Asian culture) is acting and is the agent of illusion, not even a preliminary Vaisnava. It is not about if you are actually transcend to the modes, it is about what you preach, if you preach and encourage social and bodily bondage, you are preaching adharma. This is precisely the objection and resentment we face. Both sides are guilty of being on the adharma platform, and the only solution is to remove such kula-conscious ideology of nationalism from the circulation. Why do we use the false argument that not all devotees are Vaisnavas or not all of them are brahmanas? It is false logic, because we forget the order of priority and true definition of brahmana (as one who is free from bodily identification). Srila Prabhupada never used this argument as a loaded question. One should not consider a Vaisnava who is duly initiated into Visnu mantras but born in a non-Hindu family, in anyway inferior to a so-called Hindu-brahmana Vaisnava and v.vs. Historically it was Akhandadhi and Bhagavat Dharma who gave priority to a particular group based on the bodily and cultural identification, it was part of the social experiment that obviously did not work and substantially destroyed the preaching based on pure Vedanta, replacing it with rather mixed socially bewildering and generally unattractive concepts, where Western guests feel out of place in {almost} ethnically homogeneous temple. It is now surfacing and needs to be addressed, and to say “it is okay” because Prabhupada wanted to build Varnasrama, we will continue to impose group consciousness based on family and national designation, is just unsatisfactorily.

  33. dusyanta dasa

    Hare Krsna.
    Your comment has re-inforced the point that Iskcon has not understood its own identity-because of Hindu influence.
    Vaisnavas can appear to be very similar in external dress and behaviour to Hindus and because of the close association and popular influx of Hindus to Vaisnava Temples such as Bhaktivedanta Manor,Iskcons mode of operandii has been affected.
    If Vaisnavas in iskcon are just transfixed on their Ashrama and have no idea of their Varna then the “lopsided” effect is proof of the outside influence that iskcon has suffered.
    What has happened in terms of historical evolution is that the Temple side of Iskcon has grown at such a rapid speed because of the Hindu interest,the Community side of Iskcon has suffered from the “on the shelf” syndrome.
    When we come to analyse what Iskcon is there is only a certain portion for us to examine that iskcon manifests so we get an incomplete picture all the time.
    Many Vaisnavas operating in Iskcon at the stage of Kanishta and early Madhyama Adhikaras ,ie before the stage of irrevocable liberation,think of themselves in terms of Ashrama only and have no other purpose to fulfill.The Iskcon teaching of philosophical understanding of our identity in terms of Varnarshrama has been hampered by Iskcons artificial influence from Hindu association.If we transplanted Bhaktivedanta Manor to another location where there were no Hindus then the Manor would have a different history and therefore future.
    The self-interest of members of Iskcon that are outside of the purview of Hindu association have a different vision of Iskcons identity and therefore iskcons practice.
    Maybe with a balanced marrying up of these two seperate visions of Iskcons identity a wholistic iskcon would emerge that would be mature and understanding enough to shrug off these outside influences and thereby serve the actual interests of members of Iskcon.Otherwise isnt the “Institutional” Iskcon doing a disservice to the “Community” Iskcon that is waiting in the wings to be recognised and served.If Iskcon is just taking care of the temporary members of Iskcon managers that reside at the Temple and forget the needs of the other members of Iskcon then Iskcon has been seriously affected by the Hindu association to neglect its own members.
    Questions need to be asked and answered concerning the actual direction that Iskcon has taken . Who in Iskcon is steering the needs of the Community? How is Iskcon developing the Varnashram strategy? How is the Community being included in the decision making in Iskcon?
    There are so many questions not asked and so many answers not catered for.
    If WE are receiving huge donations of money from Hindus into Iskcon then what is the strategy for dealing with these donations for the members of Iskcon?How does the member of Iskcon benefit from them?
    For example some money has been donated for a Goshala.How does the members of Iskcon become consulted on how best to invest this donation for the integrity of Cows,Land and Community?If its just a matter of pleasing the donators by erecting a building for the exhibiting of protected Cows then how has Iskcon understood what Cow protection is by allowing a building to be erected just to house Cows?Cow protection exists within a Community dynamic that is Symbiotic and economically dependant but if we just use a donation to house protected Cows isnt that just a Non-violent Cow sanctuary that teaches what? Don’t you just have really expensive Cows as pets?How does that demonstrate a Cow protected symbiotic dependancy on them?
    This is an example where we have received a donation of millions of pounds from a Hindu origin and has not been used wisely because of lack of communication and being influenced by an outside influence that has compromised Iskcons principles-in this case what Cow protection stands for.
    If we audited what the dynamics of Iskcon are and compared that to the amount of donations received we would have a clear picture of how the Hindu influence has compromised Iskcons principles. Iskcons members are the number one priority of Iskcon otherwise our members are just a rapid changing population and Iskcons principles will always fluctuate depending on the personnel of Iskcon at one given point in time.This is a self-defeating management system.Unless we keep members of Iskcon to manage Iskcon with Iskcons principles at heart Iskcon will slowly evolve into another Hindu organisation that worships Krsna.But the Vaisnava culture would have disappeared.Members of Iskcon dont want that and so we need to define who we are so that we can recognise our identity and recognise what is not Iskcon!

    • syamasundara dasa

      Dear Dusyanta Prabhu,

      Just thought I would offer a few words of clarification. Notwithstanding the need for communities that are actually dependent on cows and bulls for their existence the Goshalla at the Manor is not trying to demonstrate that type of model. The funds that were raised for the goshalla were for the goshalla. It was not that money was raised for cow protection in general and then there was a decision on how to spend it. Rather there was a thought of improving the facilities for the cows and the visitors to the cows at the manor and then there was a design and then there was a cost and then there was fund raising to attain that cost. So the goshalla that was fund raised for and built is what was planned.

      There is a need for self reliant farm projects dependent on the produce of the land and the cows and the bulls. This is a desire Srila Prabhupada wanted. To date there is no significant model in that way but there are projects that are doing what they can. Society needs persons to make successful models of cow protection and self reliance. ISKCON needs these models also.

      In the letters of Srila Prabhupada we can see his support for a number of different cow protection models. From this it seems we need to have cow protection in whatever model works. Something is better than nothing.

      ys Syamasundara dasa

      • dusyanta dasa

        Dear Syamasundara Prabhu,
        Please accept my humble obeisances.
        All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
        Stating the obvious about Cow protection within Iskcon is that the project of Cow protection has attracted many negative comments and questions from the assembled devotees worldwide.There may be different models manifest globally but that does not make them the best example of how Cow protection can work.
        The problem is why does it all cost so much money(Paper)?The whole idea of Cow protection in its most practical and pragmatic form is to be able to generate wealth so much so that a Symbiotic Community exists on its wealth.The example of when Krsna was manifest on this planet comes to mind.The Community of Vraja depended on Cows and Land.There was no question of animal slaughter but that is just a peripheral point.Once there are Cows and Bulls being protected then what is the next step?It doesnt stop at a Non-violent Cow sanctuary concept -there are the next steps to put into place.
        When Iskcon recieves donations for a Cow shed then it must be apparent that this is linked with Cow protection.So to get the best idea on how to develop Cow protection for the future it behooves us to include all the advice we can get.
        Further to receiving donations of millions of £ for a particular project -a Cow shed- then Iskcon needs to realize its brief relating to Cow protection.
        As a preaching tool we can exhibit the lifestyle of Eco friendly techniques,sustainability and Community involvement in developing the Cow protection project.By using low impact materials ,practicing what we preach,inclusive involvement we as iskcon can establish what it means to function as Society(iSkcon)for the benefit of our members and for the world at large.
        The more heads included in a decision making scheme the better the outcome will be for the members of Iskcon.
        When building for the future of Iskcon in our portfolio of Cows,Land and Community we as members of Iskcon need to show the example of Farming without violence.And then to further that concept to show examples of Community based on this agrarian symbiosis.This example may be achieved in a series of steps but who is co-ordinating the structure of establishing those steps?
        What if we just wind up with a really expensive Cow shed! How does the Cow shed manifest the criteria for Cow protection to exist with Community built in mind.What is the point in just a Cow shed otherwise?
        If all the integrated principles of Cow protection are not in place then what would be the point in building a really expensive Cow shed in that part of the world?
        Doesnt Iskcon want to show the topmost example of Cow protection working within Community dynamics?
        Dont we know what are all the integral components in Cow protection working properly?
        As far as i see it Cow protection in iskcon to date has just been about a Non-violent environment where Cows are kept.Money,donations and outside help all seem to be necessary for this kind of Cow protection.For me that is no demonstration of Cow protection.There is no alternative demonstrated apart from not killing.
        It just looks like a Cow protection show,like going to the zoo and viewing some animals and thinking how wonderful and great the animals look but having no relationship with them .And especially not being dependant on them for your lifestyle.Then thirdly not having an economy dependant on Land and Cows.
        All the Cow protection projects i visited over the years basically fit into that paradigm-non-violent cow sanctuary,zoo type defintion.
        Dont Cows want to be part of our Community?Why dont we involve the Cows in our lives.?
        Once we start depending on Cows and land and developing our lifestyles away from factories and industry then automatically our Community will work.We cant use industrialised metal food troughs for Cows,its a contradictory message.We cant use loads of Concrete for our buildings its non sustainable and a huge pollutor.We cant import materials from other countries ,its not eco friendly.Our whole paradigm has to shift to the mode of goodness as a minimum requirement.
        In Wales there are already Communities living depending on horses,a low impact lifestyle, low impact housing and clothes and energy but they dont have Krsna Consciousness.So what are we doing as Iskcon. How are you stretching out into the Community to deliver your Krsna Conscious message on green lifestyles,sustainability,non-violence,land and cows,how does the really expensive cow shed teach the public that strategy?

  34. Govinda dasa

    Many comments so far but as yet we haven’t answered the question: Hinduization of Iskcon. What exactly do we mean?

    Without passing judgement, I have noticed the term being used in at least five separate ways:

    1. Knowingly or unknowingly adopting hindu beliefs and practises within Iskcon that are not authorised by the vaisnava acaryas.

    2. The increase in the percentage of members and visitors to Iskcon coming from hindu backgrounds, regardless of whether or not they accept pure vaisnavism.

    3. The lack of effort within Iskcon to recruit persons from non-hindu background. [A society of hindus for hindus.]

    4. The false perception of people in general that Iskcon represents hinduism when in truth it represents the universal science of self-realisation.

    5. The tendency within Iskcon to compromise spiritual ideals and cater for hindus because of being financial dependent on them.

  35. Acaryavan das

    Dandavat to Krpamoya Prabhu.

    Thank you so much for your honesty to speak about this so call problem in ISKCON, which is actually not.
    Yes me too I heard many time some devotees were saying that Bhaktivedanta Manor is becoming a Indu temple now, it hurt me to hear that after all the endeavor Srila Prabhupada and his disciples great disciples did to maintain and expend the Bhaktivedanta Manor(gallons of bloods of yajna sankirtan).

    Srila Prabhupada teach us that if we want to know our father, we should ask our mother. The Bhagavad-Gita is our mother, in there Lord sri Krsna say:he is the father of all living beings, so the next question is to know if krsna is Indu or not. If Krsna is Indu we are Indu, If Krsna is not Indu we are not Indu that will finish all speculation going around, it seem a simple argument but Vaisnavism is simplicity

    Yours
    Acaryavan das

  36. Bharat

    To all dear devotees—Shastric Evidence

    Hare Krishna,

    OK, so I’m not a big fan of the ‘Hinduization’ of ISKCON and of course, the much revered “Car Pooja”…but here is some shastric evidence.

    Maharaprabhu said “Even the sinners reject or flee to foreign countries, still they will get the mercy. I will send ‘mor senapati bhakta’ to go there and deliver them. ” This is from the CC.

    So this was predicted..Indians are thronging to foreign shores in their millions and somehow they have got the mercy of Srila Prabhupada.

    Yes, many arguments in the above post make a lot of a sense but maybe we cannot see the bigger picture.

    Indians overseas are becoming influential and can make big differences on a global scale.

    ISKCON management over the last three decades has been pathetic and their only saving grace has been the financial and social contribution by the Indians.

    If we are truly concerned about the “Hinduization’ of ISKCON ..who is stopping us from preaching to the ‘non- indians’??

    Your Servant,

    Bharat

  37. Ram

    Hinduization of ISKCON

    My notion of Hinduization of ISKCON comes from my experience that ISKCON is no longer the house Prabhupada built for the hippies but a place for people who fit certain Hindu norms of behavior to socialize. People with the hippy mentality are not welcomed in or are looked down upon. The managers expect perfection from the start.

  38. Aparna

    Pranaam Deshika ji,

    “Now these three ideas are also condemned as inferior beliefs by all Vaishnava schools of thought in India.”

    “inferior beliefs”? Even the most mild mannered of the ISKCON can’t sometimes help being cynical is it, sir? I ask this question with utmost sincerity.

    In these times when the essence of Sanatana Dharma is being eviscerated in India by the minute, here we are discussing the purported “superiority” of a belief system? ISKCON, which can appreciate Christianity/Islam and every other expansionist religion that ever existed on this earth, can’t find in itself the magnanimity,to rise above the divisions, to appreciate other schools of thought within the Sanatana Dharma, which like a banyan tree has give shelter and nourished every school of thought ? Quite frankly, very befuddling.

    When the Catholics in Rome can be viewed as brothers in humanity, what stops the Vaishnavas to slam the beliefs of a, say, Smarta Shaivate ? When did Lord Krishna say something is superior to the other?

    आकाशाथ्पतितम तोयं सागरं प्रतिगाच्चाती

    सर्व देव नमकारह केशवं प्रति गच्चति

    If you have visited the Krishna temple in Udupi, you may have also noticed the Ishwara temple next it, where the Madhwa (Vaishnava) priests have performed the pujas for centuries now. Do they also perform their pujas thinking they are serving something inferior? God forbid, no.

    In these atheistic times, we need theism to develop through peoples’ appreciation of philosophies; not a scenario, wherein, all of us are like little children who sometimes like to squabble amongst themselves as to whose father is the strongest/smartest?

    As children grow up, they do realise their childishness and also realise that every father loves his children and a father anywhere also has the ability to treat another’ child with the same affection and kindness with which he treats his own. That is the universal truth.

    Let us all recognise this universality and not create divisions among the followers of Sanatana Dharma.

    With best regards

    Aparna

    • Thank you Aparna. There are always two principles which are respected in these types of discussions. The first is that we have a particular set of concepts that we hold to be true. This site, as you know, is called Vaishnava Voice and therefore you’ll have either myself writing on subjects that may be of interest to other Vaishnavas, or Vaishnava readers writing in with their comments. It is a specialized site, not one dealing with all the different ideas that make up what you term the ‘banyan tree of Sanatana Dharma’

      However, I am also interested in promoting general social welfare and I believe that religion and spiritual development can play a big part in that. I am well aware that religion is under attack in the world from aggressive secularism, and that in India, the followers of the Vedic path are under attack from expansionist religions such as Islam and Christianity.

      There are times for seeing the differences between us, and there are times for seeing the similarities. Both of those principles can be honoured. Unfortunately not always in the same discussion.

  39. Ram Prasad das

    Dear Prabhus:

    Some of the replies here are extremely long, so I’ll do my best to keep my thoughts to a minimum (kidding).

    I went to the Manor in 1996. I accompanied a temple devotee to a neighbor’s house to drop off some maha sweets. I commented: “You have a full set of Srila Prabhupada’s books.” She showed me someone else’s version of Bhagavad-gita and began to explain how eating meat, not eating meat, drinking vodka, it’s all the same.

    Something she said reminded me of the purport His Holiness Sacinandana Maharaja read in the Bhagavad-gita class the night before. I asked her if she had Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita and started to read the purport, but she showed no interest.

    We left. I commented to the devotee who took me there: “She’s a bit of an impersonalist.” The Prabhupada disciple said to me: “if we see the face of an impersonalist, we must take bath in the Ganga.” I chuckled, then realized she was serious. I tried to calm the devotee down, assuring her that we would not be affected by this lady’s impersonalism; she would be affected by the maha sweets.

    So, that’s how subtle it was: Prabhupad disciple didn’t notice the impersonalism, I didn’t get into an argument with this lady. I wasn’t ‘Gita-thumping,’ so to speak.

    When I returned to Los Angeles, there were numerous messages on my answering machine, and a devotee at the Manor had called my guru and the temple president demanding that I apologize to this lady, and said I was not to come back to the Manor.

    I explained exactly what had happened, which part of which purport I read, and suggested that perhaps the Prabhupad disciple had gone back to her house and discussed the “impersonalism,” but that nothing resembling an argument even remotely occurred during my visit. The Manor devotee did not believe me (twice initiated, living at temple, following 4 regs, chanting 16 rounds, etc.) and asked me to submit an apology.

    My friends in London called this devotee on my behalf to vouch for my character. He asked them to write an apology to this lady as well. We all wrote apologies, and life went on.

    Now, I might not have remembered this incident, until a Bhaktivedanta Manor devotee asked “what does Hinduization mean?”

    Do I need to elaborate? When the banker’s wife, I believe that’s what I was told, that she was the wife of a banker, a friendly neighbor of the Manor, and the Manor needs all the friends it can get, doesn’t like a Bhaktivedanta purport, and the devotees at the Bhaktivedanta Manor ask devotees who do like Srila Prabhupada’s purports to apologize to her for reading one, we’re well on our way to Hinduism.

    In other words, there have always been a billion Hindus (geographical distinction), but there is only one Srila Prabhupada. ISKCON is The International Society of Krishna Consciousness, but what is that “Krishna Consciousness” without Srila Prabhupada if not Hinduism?

    I seem to recall that the banker’s wife said that her husband was from India, and therefore he knew Krishna since he was a child — but his “consciousness” of Krishna is not ISKCON (imho). ISKCON’s Krishna consciousness is based on Srila Prabhupada’s consciousness, nothing more and nothing less. To borrow a phrase from a disciple of Adwaita Acharya, “we hold his opinion in the highest regard.”

    I hereby name this portion of your blog “Re-branding ISKCON’s ‘Bhaktivedanta Manor’ as ‘The Manor’ to Appease the Banker’s Wife.”

  40. One thing that many people don’t seem to be getting here is the mindset of these Hindus, that have now been “marginalised” as a separate group by ISKCON.

    There is something about Hindus, native Indians, who are not necessarily Vaishnavites, that people need to understand
    1)These are people who were made to sleep hearing stories of Krishna’s charm and Ram’s valour.
    2) These are people for whom Janmashtami was a national holiday, and also a day where they celebrated the birth of India’s dearest superhero. (Not for nothing are the superhero movies labelled “Krishh(na), for Krishna is anybody’s hero in India.
    3) These are the people who were “taught” to regularly go to temples, and do pooja, and etc. etc.
    Some might have done out of faith, some might have done as a ritual, and some might have escaped, as it seemed mundane stuff to them.
    4) Directly or indirectly, they have been devotees of Krishna from their childhood.

    While bhakti is a part of a traditional Indian household (ie most), it is not when they migrate to foreign lands.
    It is when you are abroad that you truly “miss” Krishna.
    There is a reason they flock to ISKCON, they have grown up celebrating Him, or perhaps taking Him for granted, and now miss Him.
    For you can’t see Him come out for procession when you are abroad.
    You don’t see Him at every nook and corner, on a signboard.
    You don’t have your parents around to take them with you to the temple.
    You don’t get to take part in matki phod, as there simply isn’t one.
    You end up in a mechanical life when abroad, that seems far, far, far away from Krishna.
    And that is when they realize perhaps how they had taken Him for granted.
    (Many of this is what i have heard personally from people)
    They feel the separation, and they flock to ISKCON to reconnect.
    And, what better way than ISKCON to get them into Vaishnavism?
    You talk of how the Hindu culture is misleading, the word “Hindu” is by itself misleading, except when I tick my name against Hindu in a government certificate, where it separates me from a Buddhist, Jain, Christian, Muslim, or any other.
    A “Hindu” has got Krishna at the core of his religious beliefs, whatever else. For such is Indian culture.
    And, it is irksome, of course, when a person puts all his bhakti marg efforts on Sai Baba, or the like, but really, he always does worship Krishna, and all he needs is a bit of an encouragement to understand Krishna.

    I don’t like the trend here where Hinduism is being seen as a separate issue, by a movement which has embraced every religion, and showed them the right way ahead.

  41. Pusta Krishna das

    This essay and replies is, I think, something like preparing ghee. The impurities are coming to the top, to be skimmed off. Hopefully, we will be left with the pure thing. Those of us who experienced Srila Prabhupad personally (and don’t misunderstand, because I believe Srila Prabhupad lives in his books), would often note that he would emphasize “this is not Hinduism”. In my opinion, he emphasized this in order to differentiate Krishna consciousness (where service to Krishna is not only central but all in all) from Hinduism where “all the gods can be worshipped, it makes no difference, in the end there is only the Oneness of Brahman.” We understand that the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, is the basis of everything, that everything comes from Him, is pervaded by Him, and are expansions of Him.
    Naturally, what we never want to see is a temple (like one Hindu temple in San Jose, California, which has pictures of every conceivable demigod, and Krishna, and on and on, to satisfy the whims of the guests).
    In 1976, while in New Vrindaban, we had a question and answer session stimulated by Bhavan’s Journal. I was Srila Prabhupad’s secretary, and so I read the questions, often drawing out more commentary from Srila Prabhupad, and His Divine Grace would answer these questions. This was published in one of ISKCON’s publications, Civilization and Transcendence. One of the questions was about the necessity of GURU. What is Guru? Is Guru necessary? During that discussion, I asked Srila Prabhupad, that some commentators of the Bhagavad Gita use the knowledge for their purposes, but they fail to highlight the conclusion of Krishna, “to abandon all varieties of religiosity and simply surrender to Krishna.” I asked Srila Prabhupad, “what is the position of these people?” Srila Prabhupad answered: “They are most dangerous! They simply tell people what they want to hear to get money from them!”
    This is important to reflect upon. To maintain the parampara, one must remain a transparent medium to our teachings. If we have ulterior motives, to get money, subordinating the teachings of Krishna, then it is a dangerous proposition.
    I was concerned that Ram Prasad das was treated in the manner (not Manor) that he was treated. Where does this come from? I have lived amongst many Indian friends from my earliest days in South Africa in 1973 to present. I have a very good feel for the sensitivity of the Indians. You never want to insult them. They may never forgive you. But, I never experienced an Indian being insulted by being given the Truth. Something is missing here. Is the temple authority concerned that a ‘donor’ might be insulted by the Truth? I am not a basher of temple authorities, but I feel compelled to protect Ram Prasad’s honor, if this is what happened.
    I never expected that anyone should be a pure example of Krishna consciousness when they come to offer service. I am not pure, how can I expect that of anyone else? But, Krishna is pure, and His teaching is perfect. That we must protect, or we may find ourselves back in ‘the soup’.
    Respectfully and humbly submitted,
    Pusta Krishna das

    • That discussion with Srila Prabhupada from 1976 is very informative for any contemporary reader. Thank you for your contribution!

      Regarding Ram Prasada prabhu’s letter: I don’t know the precise occasion he refers to, or the circumstances, but the person he mentioned is English – a resident of the village in which the Manor is situated. We make every attempt to keep our relations with the village residents as good as possible since they were previously somewhat strained.

      • das anu das

        I actually appreciate your post. Thank you. As a second generation “devotee”, seeing ISKCON go through a lot of change, seeing a lot of “fall downs” and seeing many people, including friends I grew up with come and go, the importance of being caring and open and non-sectarian as Srila Prabhupada always said, is propounded. I do not know why people are so worried about the “Hindu-ization of ISKCON”. Using that same argument, we could talk about the “Westernization of ISKCON” and how yoga is being done in temples, and how some people dress these days, so many other “western things” go on that did not, during Srila Prabhupada’s times. But that is not the point. We can’t expect everyone to become a devotee immediately. It takes time. So if they’re not chanting or “saying ‘Jai Srila Prabhupada” then give them time, teach them, nurture them. DON’T JUDGE THEM. YOU”RE NOT BETTER THAN THEM. Show some humility. You think Krishna is happy with you judging others like that? Srila Prabhupada didn’t judge the druggies, but you are allowed to judge the “hindus”, or gurukulis and others that may not be as well informed or have your level of faith? If people truly lived up to Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s teachings, we’d have a “nicer”, non judgmental, more caring, ISKCON and more people would come, including more of us who grew up in the movement. I pray that we can one day attain that. And in the mean time, chant and do kirtan, because that’s the yuga-dharma.

      • Thank you das anu das. I really like your comments. Growing up in ISKCON and remaining a committed devotee shows you have great hope and that you have confidence in the future of this great movement. Indeed, you are the future!

  42. your servant

    We still have not reached a conclusion in this important topic. Many have given examples and explanations, based on observations, public feedback, & personal experience, the modern day ISKCON is “Hinduized”. The question was, “What does that mean?”. I would like to present a different and less confusing question that would better address the concerns on this topic.

    Is ISKCON today truly non-sectarian? Explain how it is, or how it is not.

  43. Ananda Hari das

    Dear Krpamoya Prabhu
    Thank you for your article and comments, I really like the way you represent Srila Prabhupada in a caring and balanced way.

    As a westerner who joined ISKCON to try to become a vaisnava and devotee of Krishna, I do not really like it when I am labeled a Hindu.

    However I have no problem whatsoever with another devotee who considers themselves a Hindu. To my mind it shows a level of honesty. They are saying that they still identify with their body and their bodily mental and social identifications are to some extent Hindu.

    Initially when I joined and for a short time after I aspired for spiritual perfection, I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to have done so; however it became obvious after some time that I was not going to become a perfect practitioner and eventually,even I got it.

    This left me scrambling for social identity and a way to adjust my life so that I could aspire for spiritual progress rather than perfection. It is still a work in progress but to some extent I feel I have made a little headway and am mostly happy with my life as an aspiring devotee who tries to help the devotees when possible.

    My wife (a serious aspiring Vaisnava) comes from a Hindu background and I often learn so much from her about duty and values. We would love if our daughter became an aspiring Vaisnava who only identified with devotees however if she chooses not to I would be quite happy if she identified herself as a Hindu and felt welcome in our temples.
    Your servant Ananda Hari das

    • Thanks Ananda Hari Prabhu. As the name of this blog suggests, I am interested in promoting the sacred path of Vaishnavism, hence ‘The Vaishnava Voice.’

      But if I am speaking to a university professor who would describe me as a ‘Hindu’ meaning ‘one who practises one of the Vedic paths’ I would not disagree with him immediately. Later on in the conversation, perhaps, I would explain why I much prefer a specific term rather than a misleading, generic term – a word that appears nowhere in the Vedas!

  44. Given that there are so many people talking about ‘Hindu’ here, i thought we’d do better with a definition (sourced from Wikipedia):

    //The word Hindu is the Persian name of the Indus River (Sanskrit Sindhu) in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent.[3] The Persian term was further loaned into Arabic as al-Hind referring to the land of the people who live across river Indus, and into Greek as Indos, whence ultimately English India.[4] By the 13th century, Hindustān emerged as a popular alternative name of India, meaning the “land of Hindus”.[5]

    Originally, Hindu was a secular term which was used to describe all inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent (or Hindustan) irrespective of their religious affiliation. It occurs sporadically in some 16th-18th century Bengali Gaudiya Vaishnava texts, including Chaitanya Charitamrita and Chaitanya Bhagavata, usually to contrast Hindus with Yavanas or Mlecchas.[6] It appears in South Indian and Kashmiri texts from at least 1323 CE,[7] and increasingly so during British rule. It was only towards the end of the 18th century that the European merchants and colonists referred collectively to the followers of Indian religions as Hindus. Eventually, it came to define a precisely religious identity that includes any person of Indian origin who neither practiced Abrahamic religions nor non-Vedic Indian religions, such as Jainism, Sikhism or Buddhism, thereby encompassing a wide range of religious beliefs and practices related to Sanātana Dharma.[8]//

    (Source: Wikipedia)
    So, by belief, one can be a Vaishnava, but on paper, in India, one is a Hindu.
    And i don’t see many Indians having problems with that, as it is a kind of identity in a diverse, secular country that India is.

    Vaishnavism is more like a specialized sect in Hinduism itself.
    And, since ours is a Vedic relegion, Vaishnavas do fit the definition of ‘Hindu’.

    i do not mean to contradict anyone with this view, but, going by that definition, ISKCON is Hindu, only it is specifically Vaishnava temple.
    As long as it does not lose out its ‘specific’ identity, i don’t think there is any reason to worry about it.

    Take the Vaishnava temples in India. They function strictly according to Vaishnava norms, and are, in essence, Vaishnava temples, but ofcourse, also Hindu temples, both by law and by nature.

    • Yes, I suppose that the English-speaking people only have themselves (or their ancestors) to blame for the catch-all term Hinduism since they invented it. I know that within the lifetime of myself and my parents the prominent language of India has gone from being known as ‘Hindustani’ to ‘Hindi.’ Terminology changes through time and words appear and disappear from a common lexicon.

      Vaishnavas of ISKCON would simply argue that since the very word ‘Hindu’ does not appear anywhere in the Vedas, then its usage should ultimately be phased out. Certainly they would not wish to be responsible for the perpetuation of an inaccurate term. We much prefer the term ‘sanatana-dharma.’ Maybe that will not happen in this century, though.

      One word which does upset us very much is another word given to India by the English-speaking people, and that is ‘idol.’ The word ‘idol’ is used to describe the worshipable archa-murti within the temple, but what many Indians do not realise is how loaded the word is with Abrahamic interpretation.

      ‘Idol worship’ is mentioned in the Bible and the Koran as the worship of man-made images, or ‘graven’ images, which are in themselves not God.

      So continued employment of the word ‘idol’ within Indian society – even by Vaishnavas themselves – is desperately unhelpful and only serves to perpetuate much western cultural chauvanism.

  45. Vrindavan

    An interesting letter by prabhupada

    “I have just received one letter from the black devotees in Cleveland who wish start their own ISKCON Center independently of the white devotees there. In principle, it is all right, birds of a feather will flock together. We should not discourage them in any way from opening their own center, but I want you to go there and see how their things are going on and that the standard of Krishna consciousness is being maintained on the highest level.”

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