Making a “Case” for the Reconstitution of Srila Prabhupada’s “Mission”
The Management of Srila Prabhupada’s “Mission” Issue?
I joined ISKCON in the summer of 1972; I was a student of Mathematics and Physics at UCLA. I joined because I was impressed with Srila Prabhupada’s intelligence that was projected like a “torch light of knowledge” in his small books, and in Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Teaching of Lord Caitanya, and the first few Cantos of the Srimad-bhagavatam. Those were the only books available at that time. Likewise, I begin to appreciate the intelligence of the leaders at the community at the Los Angeles Rukmini and Dvarkadish Temple. I developed a high degree of respect towards the members of this community, and especially towards the leaders.
The first devotee whom I developed a close friendly relationship with, was Madhukantha Dasa, who was the Temple treasurer. He had close ties to the GBC, Karandar Dasa, who lived at that community. Karandar was a GBC and one two BBT Trustees. In the due course of time, I came to understand, that Karandar was the most powerful leader in ISKCON. His ability to explain the Krishna-consciousness philosophy in simple terms, simply amazed and inspiring to us devotees at the Los Angles Temple.
I believe, that in the end of 1973, Srila Prabhupada asked all the ISKCON communities, if it was possible, to send 2 men to Bombay India. At that time there were not many devotees in India. At that time, Giriraj-dasa came to Los Angeles, to recuperate from some illness. He also came to recruit someone to come to India to help organize the establishment of the BBT in India. I had some conversations with Giriraj-dasa about this, and it was agreed that I would come to India to assist him. So just before I departed, in the January of 1974, Karandar gave me a letter to be delivered personally to Srila Prabhupada. In those days sending mail by post, would take around two weeks to get to India; so one can say, that I personally delivered this letter to Srila Prabhupada by air-mail, personal carrier. At the 1974 Gour-purnima Festival in Mayapur, I found out that I had personally delivered Karandar’s resonation letter to Srila Prabhupada. Nevertheless, my stay in India did not go well, and I decided to return back to Los Angles. That story is long and interesting, and you will have to read about it in some other essay or something.
Madhukantha, being the Temple treasurer, naturally had the combination to the Temple Safe, which was in Karandar’s office. After Karandar left, Madhukantha did an inventory of the contents of the safe. He was amazed to find a letter from Srila Prabhupada to Karandar, that Srila Prabhupada sent to him in December of 1972. So, he made a copy of it.
Knowing my nature-Madhukantha came to me one day and said,
“I have a copy of this letter that Karandar just received back in late 1972. I had never seen it, nor had other devotees who I asked. I will let you make a copy of it, for I think that you might be interested in its content.
My mind was blown when I read it, and I would like to get your impression on its content”.
I read it and promptly said,
“Wow, this is really strange to me because I have developed a special understanding of the members of ISKCON, and especially at this community; and it appears that I have been very naive. Now I can understand a little, why Karandar left the movement; even though he was the most powerful leader. I find it distressing, that actually there are many problems in the ISKCON society. This letter has inspired me to now become part of a ‘solution’ instead of ‘the problem’
I made a copy for myself because I aspired to develop my Krishna consciousness to the point that in some way, I may become part of the leadership at this Temple.
I refer to this letter to Karandar das (GBC and one of two BBT Trustees) in 1972 as the “Art of Management” letter, because in the letter, at the end, Srila Prabhupada said,
“This is the Art of Management”.
I will give a little history of what was happening at that time. It is a fact that, Srila Prabhupada wanted a decentralized institution. At that time Karandar Dasa was without a doubt Srila Prabhupada’s “number-one” GBC. His biggest contribution was that he organized the “mass” distribution of Srila Prabhupada books. He also managed the book publication facilities of the BBT and ISKCON Press). This history is simply unbelievable. It caused ISKCON, at that time, to make an “impact” all over the world. At least in the USA, the “Hari-Krishnas” were well known by a large segment of the population.
At that time, Karandar Dasa, got all the other GBCs to meet with him. This meeting was not known by Srila Prabhupada at that time. At the meeting, Karandar proposed to the other GBCs, that they should create a “Centralized” form of management in ISKCON.
Eventually Srila Prabhupada found out that this meeting took place, and what its purpose was, and thus, he wrote this letter to him.
Srila Prabhupada wrote his 1970 letter, (the DOM), that establishes how ISKCON should be managed; period! Unfortunately, in just a few years, there were significant signs of decay in his institution. Hence the reason to write this letter. Srila Prabhupada became aware of the problems both with the leaders, and with the rank-and-file devotees as well.
In the beginning of the letter there is just business concerning book printing, and some other accounting communication. That part in not presented here.
I present the remaining 95% of this letter. This letter is pregnant with the diagnosis of the state of affairs in ISKCON, and squarely puts the blame on the management and its leaders.