To all who aspire to serve and those who do serve Srila Prabhupada,
My sincere obeisance.
I have been reflecting on the FDG issue, which some of you are currently debating with a majority of our GBC Godbrothers and feel that understanding of any such issue requires it firstly to be put into context.
Please keep in mind that I do not enter this discussion enthusiastically, but as a concession to requests by a few beloved godbrothers. So at risk of appearing presumptuous, I beg for all who may read this to forgive me if you find this offends. It is not intended and I clearly understand my own numerous disqualifications to advise any vaishnava.
Firstly, let us consider the forum for which this new approach (FDG) to diksha has been sanctioned, namely the GBC.
This is the same forum with a history of making some massively destructive decisions, such as the full endorsement (and in fact enforcement) of the disastrous Zonal Acharya System. This was the forum that oversaw the gurukula system for decades, only scrambling to ‘reform’ (not yet done well) gurukula and protect our children (also currently underfunded) long after it was impossible to avoid. This is the same forum that blindly supported fallen sanyassis and even so-called gurus, until the evidence was impossible to ignore. Most certainly the above are just a few of numerous errors in judgement, proving to any rational mind that this GBC body is far from perfect and even far from being very good at their job as ISKCON’s ultimate managing authority. In many, many crucial moments in our institutions history, in fact, the GBC body did the very worst thing, often to appease the strong and popular while compromising the purity and integrity of ISKCON. Please consider this my first piece of evidence, for what I hope will be a useful suggestion for preserving the institution and that is that our GBC has failed as much as succeeded and in the most crucial times failed more than succeeded in preserving the integrity of the institution. If we cannot learn from history, or reflectively review our past, we are doomed. From this point I intend sounding the alarm of caution to not ‘rush to judgement’ as humans in power are want to do.
Next I suggest another aspect of the big picture within which this FDG issue is being considered and that is the argument of expediency and need to attract ‘modern’ westerners to our flock. Please consider for a moment if the pace and size of growth to which we unthinkingly assume is our duty to achieve, was truly what Srila Prabhupada wanted. What did he mean by so many statements like ‘those selling diamonds should not expect many customers’? Why did he close down Vishnujana Swami’s Roadshow when it was so popular? Why did he caution us about enjoying kirtan vs seeking only to please the Lord (calling that mood “Kali Kirtan”)? And why did he repeat on a number of occasions “Boil the milk”?
In my presence in late 77 he again said: “No more growth”. What this would have required of us was so unthinkable that the leaders present never once repeated it, what to speak of considered it, because it would require us to come up from devotional service in rajagun to performing our devotional service in more pure goodness. Why also when Srila Prabhupada approved (again in my presence) any and all devotees to come to be with him in Vrndaban did the leaders (GBC) decide that they knew better and hide this fact, in favor of the book marathons going on in the Christmas Season? I suggest the reason was that from the mode of passion they ass-ummed that this was not the right choice and thus chose to violate his desire/order.
Now, we face a new challenge, a new crossroads, which will have far greater consequences than the Zonal Acharya System and all the other blunders put together. If we claim that this will increase our success, have we first tried the methods championed by Mahaprabhu and Srila Prabhupada, such as massive HariNam Sankirtan in the USA? I recall my own last attempt at this, sitting on the cement of Union Square with a band of true believers for five years, when I had already crossed my 60th birthday, but getting only token participation from my senior godbrothers. But now, having abandoned traditional methods of propagation, we come up with new ways to attract. And do we want those recruits so badly that we allow them to dictate abandoning tradition in favor of untested social reconstructions? Have we also decided that growth alone, no matter the quality of surrender and in spite of statements to the contrary by Srila Prabhupada is the goal? There is no evidence that large popularity amoung the foolish populace is a better result than a few devotees with a deep conviction and eagerness to surrender.
Then to disregard all other vaishnav sampradayas, as if they are fools. To Americanise, modernise and alter age old traditions without much deeper review seems reckless at least. Currently, ISKCON has become very dependent on the participation and support of Indian devotees and congregations. Despite the impressions they give, due to their culture, they are only faithful to the traditions that they currently believe ISKCON embodies. As soon as they doubt our commitment to those traditions, they will depart or reorganise (outside of GBC leadership) in droves. Please consider that our stock of gurus and GBC are not half as impressive or charismatic as we think we are. It is substantially because of the gold standard of Vedic Culture and their belief that Srila Prabhupada is a genuine acharya of vedic culture that attacks them.
This is an extremely emotive, weighty issue, whose consequences could be catastrophic if gotten wrong. When the GBC cannot conclude on a Constitution for decades and even minor issues can remain in debate and committees for years on end, is it wise to rush on this monumental issue?
Has anyone requested vaishnava scholars to write papers on the subject? Has anyone asked Pradyumna Prabhu to chime in, after he alone saw the folly of the Zonal Acharya System before anyone even suspected?
To rush to judgement on an issue that requires far more consideration, to appease, appears to be highly irresponsible and even arrogant.
This is as far as I wish to tread at the moment, for I am not a scholar, nor can I lay claim to the lofty title of vaishnav, but I have been around since 1969 and had my eyes partially open and observing and considering the lessons of history is one thing that I do a little well.
Again, I beg your forgiveness to my impertinence, but I have been forced by both insistance from some revered godbrothers and by my sense of obligation to the truth and Srila Prabhupada to speak something. I sincerely hope it helps stimulate thought, rather then offense.
Abhiram Das (ACBSP)