September 6, 1999 VNN4670 Comment on this story
The Children Of Krishna
FROM THE TIMES OF INDIA
INDIA, Sep 6 (VNN) THE TIMES OF INDIA (02-09-1999)
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), established by A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada, an elderly Vaishnav monk, in New York in 1966, has recently been embroiled in a spate of controversies. On the occasion of
Janamashthmi', Gopal Krishna Goswami Maharaj, one of the spiritual masters of the organisation spoke to Man Mohan about several spiritual and organisational issues.
Is ISKCON a cult?
ISKCON was registered as a religious society in America for propagating the essence of the vedic system of religion -- Krishna consciousness -- all over the world. It is not a cult but a religious movement, and a major branch of the "Brahma-Madhava- Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya," which is one of the four theistic philosophical schools of thought recognised by scholars. He introduced theistic Hindu Vaisnavism to the west for the first time. ISKCON today world over has over 400 centres, temples, ashrams and farming communities functioning under the authority of a Governing Body Commission (GBC).
What is the connotation of the term Prabhupada'?
It is used to address a great saint, one at whose feet (pada) are many prabhus (masters), or one who is always found at the lotus feet of Krishna, the supreme master.
What rules and regulations govern ISKCON?
They are based on the instructions given in Srila Prabhupada's books, letters, recorded conversations and last will. They, in turn, are based on Lord Krishna's teachings as contained in Bhagavat-Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, Caitanya Caritamrita and other vedic texts.
Are these flexible or subject to change?
Some of Srila Prabhupada's instructions are basic principles and some are details. Basic philosophic principles can never be changed or adjusted. Details, however, usually deal with the application of basic principles and may be adjusted according to time, place and circumstances.
Who are the people associated with ISKCON?
ISKCON includes devotees living within temples and engaged in full-time missionary activities; devotees living outside with families, who hold jobs and spend their free time to preach and serve the organisation; life members and friends of ISKCON who follow some of the principles and render service according to their convenience.
Whom do you call a devotee?
Anyone who can chant Hare Krishna, those who regularly chant Hare Krishna mahamantra and follow the four regulative principles which include no meat eating, no gambling, no illicit sex and no intoxication is a devotee. Also, those rare persons whose very presence inspires others to chant the holy name of Krishna.
Are there many spiritual masters in ISKCON?
Yes. The 16th century Gaudiya Vaisnava textbook titled Updeshamrita gives the qualification of a bonafide spiritual master as: "A sober person who can tolerate the urge to speak, the mind's demands, the actions of anger and the urges of the tongue, belly and genitals is qualified to make disciples. A spiritual master must strictly follow and preach the teachings of the Lord as they are being passed down through the "guru parampara". Srila Prabhupada established that purity is the essence hence we have to lead a pure and honest life to have spiritual potency.
Who developed this system?
Srila Prabhupada, in accordance with the teachings of the Vedas. He did not concoct or invent any practice. He just passed on the teachings as they came down through the disciplic succession.
What is the difference between a spiritual master and an acharya?
Srila Prabhupada is the 32nd spiritual master in the disciplic succession and ISKCON's founder-acharya. An acharya is empowered to present the eternal message of the Vedas in a way that is suitable for a particular audience at a particular time, whereas an ordinary spiritual master can simply repeat what his spiritual master has taught and act accordingly.
Is Srila Prabhupada the only acharya in ISKCON?
Yes. His nearly 100 books, translated in the world's major languages, are our law books for the next 10,000 years.
Recently, four senior ISKCON temple heads have moved the Calcutta High Court against the organisation challenging the "guru parampara."
Till recently, ISKCON has not had any litigation. Members the world over have worked together under the GBC's direction. Today, some members have a difference of opinion about how initiations should go on after the Founder/Acharya's disappearance. The GBC unanimously, and the overwhelming majority of temples and devotees world over have voted in favour of maintaining the traditional vedic system of "guru parampara" wherein spiritual knowledge is handed down by successive generations of spiritual masters. Although a small group of individuals have registered a case to establish that the Founder/Acharya be declared as the sole-initiating guru for all future time in the court, this idea goes against the principle of guru parampara as described by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavat-Gita. The Lord himself accepted Sandipani Muni as his spiritual master just to show us the right path. The whole litigation is about philosophical differences.
There have been some reports of child abuse in ISKCON "gurukuls."
There was some problem in American gurukuls but it has now been corrected. ISKCON established a Child Protection Office (CPO) run by professional social workers, and the Children of Krishna, an organisation that provides financial assistance for Krishna youth for educational needs and counselling. The CPO investigates allegations of child abuse, provides support to victims, trains children in understanding the dangers they face and also watches out for potential dangers.
What are the main problems ISKCON faces?
All devotees are expected to chant 16 rounds of Hare Krishna mahamantra, get up at 4 a.m. and follow principles of no meat, no gambling, no intoxication and no illicit sex. Sometimes members, especially in western countries, are not always able to maintain these strict spiritual vows. In "kali-yuga" people may not be able to always follow strict spiritual standards. People leave ISKCON due to uncontrollable material desires, economic needs and in rare cases due to disagreement on philosophically or managerial issue.
How do you deal with them?
A temple president oversees each ISKCON centre. The individual GBC members for the area oversee the temple presidents. The GBC is the ultimate authority to deal with all managerial and spiritual issues.
Many ISKCON devotees suspect that Prabhupada was murdered by poisoning?
Not true. He left this planet in 1977. During the last months of his life in the USA, he was suffering from high fever, diabetes, serious digestive and kidney problem, and his body was full of urea. He never followed the doctor's advice thoroughly. Once, he complained of medicine being bitter. He was always surrounded by devotees doing non-stop kirtan. On November 14, at 7.24 p.m., he opened his eyes, his mouth opened, his tongue moved and then he became still. His last words were: Hare Krishna.
ISKCON has been accused by many of being a 'front' of a powerful western intelligence agency?
There has so far been nothing to establish this. No intelligence agent can penetrate ISKCON as Lord Krishna will purify the person!
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