Victor Epand asked:
Dear GBC members, please accept my humble obeisances. I’d like to take this opportunity to express my genuine gratitude for all you have done and are still doing for our beloved Srila Prabhupada and Sri Caitanya’s Sankirtana mission. To assist you and Srila Prabhupada, I’d like to offer my humble contribution to the improvement of the efficiency of our ISKCON society by submitting to you this letter, which is based on my study of successful societies, communities and companies.
Therefore, I am offering here the leadership model that would tremendously improve performance of all ISKCON programmes and of course – relationships, on which everything else is based.
At present, we have so many seemingly insurmountable problems and crises within our society, to name but a few. Devotees are leaving the movement; ISKCON property is being mismanaged, squandered and stolen; our devotees are not properly taken care of, not trained and educated; some of them are even abused in various ways … etc. Fortunately, there is a simple, yet powerful solution to many (if not all) of ISKCON’s problems.
The present leadership/hierarchy structure where one GBC representative is ‘in charge’ for more than one country (in which he spends at best two weeks per a year) – is highly dysfunctional. Why? For the simple reason – he doesn’t know what is going on in the local yatra. When he eventually appears in his preaching zone, he is exposed to many twisted truths and rumours fabricated by local devotees who are highly involved in ISKCON politics, hiding behind their hidden agendas. I am not going to mention any names here, but I know two GBC representatives who visit ‘their’ GBC zones once a year for less than five days! As they don’t even know local devotees, how can they be effective in resolving accumulated problems and crises?
Now, you may ask yourself: Is it really the GBC representative’s business to travel around and solve somebody else’s problems (instead of simply preaching the message of Bhagavad-gita)? To this question I would answer: YES! First of all, those (social) problems are not just ‘somebody else’s’ problems, because they hamper efficiency of our whole ISKCON society and imperil worldwide reputation of Srila Prabhupada. More often than not, many seed-like problems turn out to become baobab-like problems if not dealt with properly at an early stage. Sometimes they become widely known public scandals that leave ugly scars and stigmas on ISKCON’s face. We have such experiences, haven’t we?
As a result of my study of successful societies, I came to the conclusion that the first duty of the GBC representative should be problem solving (on all levels). For that dirty but rewarding job, we need experienced, practical and daring devotees who understand very well the basis of vaishnava philosophy and are above all able to have time for EVERYBODY who wants to communicate with them. Excellent examples were H.G. Jayananda prabhu and H.H. Bhakti-tirtha Maharaj, who were not task-orientated, but people-orientated (with genuine love and appreciation). That is why they accomplished so many tasks efficiently.
I remember H.H. Radanath Maharaj saying (something like this): “ISKCON can be successful only when EACH AND EVERY devotee is properly taken care of, appreciated and encouraged”. So true.
There is an unfortunate trend among many of our ISKCON leaders that they are caught up in beaurecracy, not recognising that Krishna is the ability in all men (even in their subordinates and dependants). They consequently use other devotees as tools for achieving their goals (which are not always purely spiritual). I have been a devotee for nearly 20 years, and I can definitely say that there are too many dharma-dvajis in our ISKCON society. [Dharma-dvaji is a person who only looks like a devotee and seemingly follows rules of sadhana, but who is actually interested in his/her personal selfish goals – position, recognition, prestige, financial gain … etc. – rather than in making serious spiritual advancement by serving Srila Prabhupada]. Those dharma-dvajis are the most common sources of ISKCON politics and are very successful in creating crises (emotional, financial … etc). Such parasites must be rooted out; and THAT should be the primary service of the GBC representatives.
As long as those dharma-dvajis are allowed to freely run their own show and manipulate many sincere souls who have joined the movement to contribute to Srila Prabhupada’s Sankirtana mission – that long the performance of our society in all fields will be obstructed, watered-down, slowed-down (you name it).
So, the conclusion of the first part of this letter is that our society needs full-time dispute/crises/problem solvers who know very well all devotees in their zone and who LIVE in their GBC zone.
This second part of the letter focuses on the viability of this option and offers some practical solutions. Now, you may ask yourself: If our GBC gurus are to be confined to their GBC zone (only one, maximum two small countries), how will they tend to their duties as initiating gurus and preachers? That’s a good question, but my answer is straight to the point. Gurus should only travel and preach to new people only if they can at the same time reserve more quality time for their own disciples, who often strive for attention and spiritual support. Sometimes, their gurus are in a remote part of the world busy with so many preaching programmes (trying to recruit new devotees) [all glories to that!], but at the same time they are too busy to pay attention to and be available (in person, by postal letters or by e-mail) for many of their disciples who are emotionally and spiritually bleeding and are being ignored by their spiritual masters.
Results? Many devotees feel alienated, ignored and discouraged – and consequently leave the movement in search for a ‘warmer’ spiritual group or institution. (I am not saying that this is the only reason for which many ISKCON devotees are leaving the movement, but certainly – it IS one of the reasons). This is called ‘Alexander the Great’ syndrome. Srila Prabhupada definitely didn’t want that. After all, who is the winner in such a repetitive game? I think Maya is, as she leaves gurus happily engaged in preaching programmes while she is simultaneously taking a heavy toll on initiated devotees who could play an important role in Prabhupada’s mission – if taken care of properly, if encouraged and offered support they might need. (I see that many devotees in ISKCON are loosing their feeling of belonging to a caring spiritual family. That’s why they go somewhere else. Why can’t ISKCON provide that facility?)
By all this, I mean to say: gurus’ (this applies to siksa-gurus as well) primary duty is to take good care of their disciples and preach only if there is enough time for that. According to varnasrama system – this occupation is exclusively reserved for brahmanas. This further suggests that the (problem solving) GBC representatives should ideally be vanaprasthas or grihasthas who are good leaders and managers, as this kind of service is suitable for ksatriya-natured devotees who like to implement justice (on Srila Prabhupada’s behalf) and see that the society’s social issues and preaching programmes run smoothly. In the first part of this letter I already mentioned some of the qualities of such devotees who in addition, should closely cooperate with experienced brahmanas. You see? I am not reinventing the wheel; I am just proposing going back to Vedic roots – implementation of varnasrama system.
This third (the last) part of the letter finally gives detailed explanation and conclusion. Now, you may wonder: if we are to have one GBC representative in only one country (or a few of them in big countries such as the USA, Canada and Russia) – we would need more than 150 GBC representatives aroun
d the world. Right? RIGHT! Now,
we are coming to the main point.
Extremely successful companies, communities and societies are very much ramified. They keep a reasonable amount of power in small units and they play the game of excellent team work. Just see what Mormons, Jehovah’s witnesses, McDonald’s, Microsoft Corporation, Coca-Cola, Yamaha … etc. are doing. Each sub-sub-sub…branch of those giant companies/societies know VERY WELL what is going on in their assigned (small) territory, which means they KNOW the needs and interests of potential customers, they work very hard on trust/relationship improvement, they expel ‘rotten apples’ (their version of dharma-dvajis) at the very sniff of them, they really make sure that everything runs smoothly in their zone, their hierarchy pyramid doesn’t have gaps.
ISKCON’s hierarchy pyramid has a serious gap in between GBC and local temple presidents. By this I mean to say that the GBC representatives who visit their zones only once or twice a year (for few days only) – are simply NOT good enough. Not a single serious multinational company would agree with such an amateurish arrangement. They operate on a higher, more effective level – SO CAN WE! (Better later than never).
Finally, here is an explanation of how we can emulate their practice and implement it within ISKCON society.
Every yatra (National Council) should elect one local devotee with exemplary qualities to carry out the rule of what the GBC representative is supposed to do. We can call this position the GBC assistant (or whatever you like; the name is not important). The GBC assistant should be elected (by all local devotees) once a year. If he /she is very sincere and performs his/her service very well – he/she could be re-elected again and again. In case of big yatras, such as Russian – a few GBC assistants should take care of their assigned zones.
Total number of GBC assistants should be divided by number of GBC members. For example, 15 GBC assistants could be assigned to one GBC member. Every GBC member must be available to his assistants at all times (in person, by phone or by e-mail).
The GBC member should travel to a zone where there is a serious crisis and his personal presence is requested by a GBC assistant. At other times, the GBC member could travel and preach wherever he wants and give more quality time to his disciples (if he is a guru).
Every GBC member should make sure that his relationship with his assistants is based on mutual trust and love, and that everything runs smoothly in their respective zones.
Once a year, at the GBC meeting in Mayapur – all GBC members should give a report of successes and failures in connection to their respective GBC assistants and their zones. At that time solutions to major crises and
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF YOU DIDN’T IMPLEMENT THE PROPOSED LEADERSHIP STRUCTURE:
Ongoing social problems would only multiply, which would discourage many devotees and cause their leaving ISKCON.
Our preaching efficiency would remain slow-paced as it is now.
Many potential devotees would remain wary of joining ISKCON for the lack of efficient organisation. They would see already existing members leaving ISKCON, which would minimize their hope of finding a warm, loving and caring family within ISKCON society.
Some untreated crises might become new well-known international scandals.
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF YOU (GBC) IMPLEMENT THE PROPOSED LEADERSHIP STRUCTURE:
Relationships amongst devotees would significantly improve, which in turn would minimize social problems.
Encouraged by (finally) proper and effective leadership structure, instead of leaving ISKCON – devotees would stay with us and happily contribute to Srila Prabhupada’s mission.
New potential devotees would be encouraged to join the movement.
Many acute problems and crises would be eradicated at early stage and many potential problems would be prevented.
All above mentioned results would inevitably influence efficiency of our preaching programmes in many positive ways.
This would greatly please Srila Prabhupada.
Is that what we want? Of course. And now, it’s up to you dear GBC members to make this simple but powerful move and put it into practice as soon as possible.