In 2001, Sripad Jayadavaita Swami gave a lecture series titled “Food for Death”, which is still available on his website at http://www.jswami.info/seminars#food and which examined how prasadam distribution seen by the public as ordinary welfare work affects ISKCON’s core values. Sripad Bhakti Vikasa Swami in his 2011 lectures titled “Some Concerns About ISKCON” and “Further Discussion on Concerns About ISKCON” addresses the same issue Jayadvaita Swami addressed but in a more generalized context that includes other welfare initiatives. Bhakti Vikasa Maharaja in his lectures also addresses what he identifies as fundamental, philosophical differences that have emerged within our society.
As far as social welfare is concerned, the lectures of both Swamis make a common point: the time and resources devotees increasingly give to indirect preaching in the form of welfare work, at the expense of direct preaching, reflects ISKCON’s growing acceptance of karma-kanda as a part of its core mission and, hence, core values.
Mission drift and Vyasa’s dissatisfaction
That as grand a spiritual institution as ISKCON could itself become mundane is not a new idea. In the Bhagavad-gita at the beginning of the 4th chapter, Krishna describes the system of the guru-parampara and how, in the course of time, the succession had been broken and the knowledge of the science of yoga was lost. On some occasions, Srila Prabhupada himself said that ISKCON could be destroyed not by outsiders but by insiders. Such changes are the result of a gradual drift of the disciplic succession away from its original message and mission.