Community by Design – Preface & Introduction

In the spring of 2014 a discussion amongst friends centered on how we would go about starting a rural community in the United States if a large sum of money happened to fall into our laps. We thought about the need for intentional design and considered the logistical reasons as to why community development has not yet happened successfully for ISKCON in America.

When, in the fall, devotees from an urban temple expressed their desire to start an ISKCON rural community someday, my thoughts precipitated as a four-page letter which was meant to express my initial, rough understanding as to why ISKCON in America, due to limitations inherent in its federal tax-exempt church status, could not be the entity to establish such communities. I also shared information about an alternative legal structure which potentially could work—one referred to by the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as “501(d),” or tax-exempt “Religious or Apostolic Association,” which, according to the Internal Revenue Manual, is for the purpose of operating a “religious community where the members live a communal life following the tenets and teachings of the organization.” read more

Avoiding Scandal: The Case for Gender Segregation in Society

There is a wave of incrimination in the United States against powerful men in politics and the entertainment industry and who are being publicly accused in very large numbers of being raped and molested.

But then something that no one could have predicted happened. It was a pre-Twitter, pre-internet, highly analog version of #MeToo. To the surprise of millions of men, the nation turned out to be full of women—of all political stripes and socioeconomic backgrounds—who’d had to put up with Hell at work. Mothers, sisters, aunts, girlfriends, wives—millions of women shared the experience of having to wait tables, draw blood, argue cases, make sales, all while fending off the groping, the joking, the sexual pressuring, and the threatening of male bosses. They were liberal and conservative; white collar and pink collar; black and white and Hispanic and Asian. Their common experience was not political, economic, or racial. Their common experience was female. read more

Vāṇī vs. Vapuḥ

As followers of Śrīla Prabhupāda, we have been taught that service to the instructions of the guru (vāṇī) are given more importance than service to the form of the guru (vapuḥ). All of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s followers know this. However, sometimes according to personal taste or circumstance, we may focus more on one or the other.

This year in Vṛndāvana on Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disappearance day, there was an occasion to see this. In the morning during the ceremony in honor of His Divine Grace, various disciples of his were called upon to glorify their eternal spiritual master and share some remembrance of him with the rest of us. Many told personal stories of some pastime of his they personally witnessed or had the great fortune to be a part of. read more

Google Sexism Scandal from Another Perspective: Chess

In the world outside of ISKCON, the controversy over the firing of a Google engineer for distributing an allegedly sexist manifesto can be seen from another non-spiritual perspective: competitive chess. In 2015, a similar firestorm within the sport arose when Nigel Short, a U.K. Grandmaster said that “we should ‘gracefully accept it as a fact’ that men possess different skills to women that make them better able to play chess at a high level.”[1] The reaction was widespread and brutal yet irrational.

For example, many, including many women international grand masters, pointed out that former women’s world champion Judith Polgar had formerly trounced Short in a series of games and held this up as proof that he was wrong. “Judith Polgar, the former women’s world champion, beat Nigel Short eight classical games to three in total with five draws, said Amanda Ross, who runs the Casual Chess Club of London. “She must have brought her man brain. Let’s just hope Nigel didn’t crash his car on those days, trying to park it. At least this resolves the age-old debate as to whether there’s a direct link between chess-playing ability and intelligence. Clearly not.” read more

Gender Equality and Google: Some Lessons for ISKCON

So, there is a lot of discussion in the news about a Google engineer who posted a 10-page internal memo at Google about improving work-place gender diversity without resorting to the usual affirmative action policies and who subsequently (and very quickly) got fired for it. Many have characterized the engineer’s manifesto as a heresy, most condemning it and others lauding it, one even comparing it to Martin Luther’s act of nailing his 95 Theses to the wall of the Roman Catholic Church.

But the most interesting part of this open discussion so far has been what some experts in the field of psychology have been saying. For the most part, the experts seem to agree with the engineer. read more

What about Srila Prabhupada’s Books?

“I am so much disgusted by this troublesome business of marriage, because nearly every day I receive some complaint from husband or wife, and practically this is not my business as sannyasi to be marriage counsellor, so henceforward I am not sanctioning any more marriages. . .

TKG – How Prabhupada was and was not equal to women

From a talk by Tamal Krishna Goswami
8-24-2000, Hungary
I will give you some instances to show you that Prabhupada was not equal to women. I was sitting with Prabhupada at 7 Bury Place, our first temple in London. He told me that if Jamuna Devi who was the wife of the temple president, had been a man, it would have been she that would have been the temple president. In other words, she was more qualified than her husband. But because she was a woman, he could not make her the temple president.

Later on, I was handed three slips of paper in which the names of different persons were listed when Prabhupada was preparing to form his first GBC. They finally found these three pieces of papers in the archives. They are in Prabhupada’s own handwriting on backs of envelopes and on the first two he lists, on one of them he lists three women, on one he lists two women and in the third list that I got, he lists only eleven men. And when he formed the GBC, there were no women. Now he wouldn’t allow women to be temple president, so how could he allow women to be GBC? I am just showing you how he was not equal. read more

BLAST FROM THE PAST: NECTAR OF THE FAMILY LIFE (2001)

In these matters woman is more than intelligent – she is brilliant! She so surpasses man in this regard it isn’t a contest! And it is only when man seeks to delight in her company and swim in the bountiful praise and glorification which she is so eager to shower upon him, does he also find meaning or purpose and indeed pleasure in sharing her vision of a permanent home in this miserable and so very temporary material world!