Don’t Criticize Iskcon or the Devotees

“Don’t Criticize Iskcon or the Devotees”

( – “Don’t Criticize Iskcon or the Devotees” (4 min video)
Mahatma das: Prabhupada would tolerate disrespect of himself in order to keep a disciple engaged but he did not tolerate disrespect of Iskcon and his disciples. Although we were incompetent, he did not allow disciples to criticize other disciples.

“The intention of this video is not to defend the misdeeds of leaders and I agree that there needs to be a system in which complaints can be heard and addressed. In fact, I just mentioned this in a seminar this past weekend. I have been concerned about this since my early years in Krsna consciousness and even then suggested we need systems in which devotees can be offer feedback to leadership. Also, I instruct anyone who wants me to be their guru to be honest with me if they have a doubt about something I say or do. So please don’t think this video was meant to defend those who act improperly. I am totally in agreement that there needs to be mechanisms in place to effectively deal with problems, misbehaviors, deviations, etc.

However, I have observed within our society that we sometimes deviate from the mood Prabhupada demonstrated towards those devotees who made mistakes but who rendered years of sincere service, and I just wanted to make devotee aware that Prabhupada sometimes did not condemn those who made mistakes, especially those who had sacrificed their lives for him, and especially when they were repentant and willing to improve. Yes, there are cases where a dear disciple went off the deep end and Prabhupada condemned them. But in many cases he did not allow their mistakes to be the dominant criteria by which they were to be judged or dealt with. Yet not all of us reflect this mood. So there needs to be a sensitive balance between affection and correction. What the stories I told bring to light is the gratefulness Srila Prabhupada had for the service rendered by his disciples.

The challenge we face is to deal with mistakes of leaders in a way that represents how Prabhupada would want us to deal with one another (according to the heart and behavior of a vaishnava) and at the same time create solutions to problems leaders have created. I have seen a lot of upset devotees – and upset for good reason – that throw out vaishnava etiquette to make their points. And that is a mistake. Of course, it is also a mistake to not have systems well in place for complaints to be heard and dealt with and this can drive devotees to be very outspoken in order to be heard, and even force them to expose someone’s mistakes online to the world, something that Prabhupada was against doing.

Regarding Prabhupada’s criticism of his godbrothers, he asked forgiveness to them for doing so and said he did it for his disciple’s edification (pointing out their mistakes to warn us not to do the same). However, when any devotee criticized his godbrothers he stopped them and said although he can do this they have no right to do so.

So devotees have the sensitive task of dealing with leaders who make mistakes, some of whom may be the godbrothers of their gurus, and do it in a way that maintains proper respect and appreciation (in order to not make offenses). If we discuss problems in a constructive way without malicious intent, and are careful to not commit offence, and also appreciate the service and devotion of that leader, then we will be following well the mood of Prabhupada. If not, sometimes solutions can also create problems if vaishnavas are being offended.

If leaders encourage feedback and are willing to listen and respond well to it, it will make the job of pointing out problems that we see in administration much less problematic (perhaps not even problematic at all). If both the leader and rank and file have the “heart of a vaishnava,” then problem-solving will be an easy, effective and unoffensive process. We desperately need such effective problem solving/feedback systems that are grounded in vaishnava etiquette”
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