Any intelligent newcomer to ISKCON will surely want to check what he is getting into. On the internet can be found innumerable articles treating internal matters within ISKCON, mostly presented in a manner that would turn off any newcomer, or at least awaken in him a strong sense of doubt. Almost all these articles are written by disaffected ex-members of ISKCON. Their writings are often exaggerated or unfair, but they are published on non-ISKCON venues, over which ISKCON has no control.
Apart from this, there is also a long history of ISKCON leaders publicly airing controversial internal issues, and to date the GBC has not objected to this practice. In fact, often the GBC-sponsored Dandavats website does this.
For example, more than twenty years ago, several senior devotees were privately discussing about making a presentation to the GBC regarding their concerns about rising feminism within ISKCON. Their emails were hacked and selectively quoted in a presentation designed to show those devotees in the worst possible light. The “expose” was published on the Chakra website, which was a precursor to Dandavats.com and at the time was unofficially the public voice of ISKCON. For months thereafter, a furore of criticism against the “misogynistic plotters” appeared on Chakra, and the North American GBC Executive Committee, without consulting the accused devotees to get their side of the story, issued a public statement condemning them. Later a counter-paper was issued, refuting all the accusations. See:
The ISKCON Communications Journal (1993–2001) regularly featured articles, by Tamala Krsna Goswami, Ravindra Svarupa Dasa, and other ISKCON leaders, among others, discussing problems of ISKCON such as child abuse, mistreatment of women, misuse of power by ISKCON authorities, falldown of gurus, internal disagreements, conflicts within the congregation, devotees’ marital problems, the zonal acarya heresy, human rights in ISKCON, lack of trust in the GBC, and the danger that ISKCON will “sink into a mire of internal petty squabbles and lapse into the obscurity of a minor cult.” Back to Godhead also reported on some of these issues.
ISKCON Communications Journal reporting of child abuse in ISKCON created a major news flurry, including front page coverage in the New York Times.
In ISKCON Communications Journal #7.1 – January/June 1999, Ravindra Svarupa Dasa stated, “ISKCON — I put it starkly — has no brain.”
Here are some extracts from ISKCON Communications Journal #8.1 – January/June 2000:
I have come to the conclusion that even if (a) ISKCON’s problems are identified precisely and (b) real, practical and viable solutions are proposed, the GBC body lacks the foresight, resources and authority to act on behalf of ISKCON’s membership and in the best interests of Prabhupäda’s movement.
The GBC is viewed by many as politically self-interested and increasingly irrelevant.
ISKCON and its leadership face a crisis of trust.
Over and over, I hear devotees saying that the GBC is simply irrelevant. It makes little difference what the GBC has to say. For leaders, the biggest threat is not disagreement and conflict. Rather, it is members coming to feel that the leaders and their policies have lost relevance.
ISKCON’s leaders must be careful about how they interpret organisational problems. This is not the time to blame individuals for what amounts to organisational troubles.
It is time for leaders and other devotees to stop acting on the basis of pretence, position or, more accurately, hiding behind these things. It is time to set the dandas aside—one’s real and imagined authority—and talk straight.
This is a time for honesty and openness about ISKCON and its needs. Bluffing will not do.
a lack of trust, vision and unity amongst devotees,
concern and disappointment about ISKCON’s leadership and organisation
lack of vision and identity.
How much I must criticise you, my ISKCON; Never in this world have I seen anything more compromised, more false,
an identity crisis within the movement
the GBC has become very, very weak. The principal reason for this has been the fall-down of spiritual masters and the decay of spiritual authority in general. This applies to sannyäsés, gurus and the GBC. There has been a big overlap of these three categories, and they are all in disrepute. The renounced order of life has come to be called the denounced order of life—we hear that all the time. People are very dubious about gurus—everyone is wondering when the next one is going to fall. And the GBC seems to be floundering and cannot do anything about it.
ISKCON urgently needs to heal itself.
ISKCON Communications Journal, with all these articles, is featured in the Bhaktivedanta Vedabase.
Hridayananda Dasa Goswami, a founding and current member of the GBC, has published several papers addressing all kinds of controversial issues within ISKCON. For instance, he analyzes the lack of a fair justice system within ISKCON.
He makes a case for acceptance of gay monogamy (homosexual marriage) within ISKCON.
Dandavats.com, which is GBC funded and thus may be taken as the official voice of ISKCON, has several times published criticisms by ISKCON devotees of other ISKCON devotees.
For instance, Sadaputa Dasa charged several devotees (some of whom he named) with indirectly promoting atheism.
On Dandavats also, Priyavrata Dasa (TKG) openly attacks Bhakti Vikasa Swami.
The GBC resolutions of 2016, published on Dandavats, included a statement that the GBC had two immediate areas of concern with Hridayananda Das Goswami:
- His strong criticism of the GBC and ISKCON.
- His relaxed behavior as a sannyasi.
Also among the published GBC resolutions of 2016 was one denouncing Bhakti Vikasa Swami for his book “Women: Masters or Mothers?” although at that time none of the GBC members had read the book. Bhakti Vikasa Swami pleaded with the GBC to discuss the issues before publishing this condemnation, but his pleas were ignored and the resolution was published by Dandavats.com. Later, after the resolutions had been widely read, the GBC decided that they had been mistaken in publishing the most condemnatory part of the resolution, which was then quietly withdrawn, without informing on Dandavats.com or anywhere else.
And recently Dandavats publicized a newspaper article which discussed the female diksa guru controversy, and cited ISKCON guru Kalakantha Dasa using the word misogyny to accuse those ISKCON members who disagreed with him as being woman-haters:
The GBC has published whole books on issues that have been highly controversial within ISKCON: one concerning the question of whether souls fall from Vaikuntha, and another addressing claims that Srila Prabhupada was poisoned.
Among the seminars on Jayadvaita Swami’s website are “Food for Death,” criticizing ISKCON’s Food for Life Program, “Unity and Perversity,” “How to put up with the Hare Krishna movement,” and “Hopes and Horrors of Household Life,” and a discussion of mundane psychology within ISKCON.
Within the last three years, Jayadvaita Swami ran a series of articles on the Sampradaya Sun website, naming the temple president of ISKCON Brooklyn (New York) and his GBC as being complicit in their efforts to illegally sell the temple and in misleading the GBC body. There were no official complaints against Jayadvaita Swami for publicly airing such controversial issues, and ultimately it was seen as good that he did so, for his campaign was instrumental in stopping the sale of the temple and keeping it within ISKCON.
See also Mukunda Datta Prabhu’s letter in which he elaborates how the Sastra Advisory Committee is “contaminated by partisan interests”:
Thus it is seen to be a well-established practice for ISKCON leaders, including the GBC body, to publicly air grievances and concerns regarding internal ISKCON matters, to do so in both official and non-official channels, and to accuse and name others in the process.
– His Holiness Bhakti Vikasa Swami