M O V I N G F O R W A R D
The Art of Management According to Srila Prabhupada.
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.
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 showed him this letter written by Srila Prabhupada and written to him personally because he was the most respected ISKCON leader at that time. Nevertheless, during those first 6 months, I developed a high degree of respect towards the members of this community, and especially towards the leaders. Especially Karandar. Knowing my nature-Madhukantha came to me one day and said,
“I have a copy of this letter that Karandar just received today. He let me make a copy of it and 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 replied to him in disbelief,
“Wow, this is really strange to me because I have developed an understanding of the members of ISKCON, and especially at this community; and it appears that I have been very naïve. I find it distressing, that actually there are many problems in the ISKCON society. This letter has inspired me to 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 wrote in the end,
“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 ISKON, and squarely puts the blame on the management and its leaders. Srila Prabhupada received so many letters complaining about many different troublesome matters, hence he wrote instructions on how to remedy these defects that were festering in his ISKCON.
Letter to: Karandhara—Bombay 22 December, 1972 Los Angeles:
“Regarding your points about taxation, corporate status, etc., I have heard from Jayatirtha you want to make big plan for centralization of management, taxes, monies, corporate status, bookkeeping, credit, like that. I do not at all approve of such plan. Do not centralize anything. Each temple must remain independent and self-sufficient.
That was my plan from the very beginning, why you are thinking otherwise? Once before you wanted to do something centralizing with your GBC meeting, and if I did not interfere the whole thing would have been killed. Do not think in this way of big corporation, big credits, centralization—these are all nonsense proposals.
Only thing I wanted was that book printing and distribution should be centralized, therefore I appointed you and Bali Mardan to do it. Otherwise, management, everything, should be done locally by local men. Accounts must be kept, things must be in order and lawfully done, but that should be each temple’s concern, not yours.
Krishna Consciousness Movement is for training men to be independently thoughtful and competent in all types of departments of knowledge and action, not for making bureaucracy. Once there is bureaucracy the whole thing will be spoiled. There must be always individual striving and work and responsibility, competitive spirit, not that one shall dominate and distribute benefits to the others and they do nothing but beg from you and you provide.
No. Never mind there may be botheration to register each center, take tax certificate each, become separate corporations in each state. That will train men how to do these things, and they shall develop reliability and responsibility, hat is the point.
I am little observing now, especially in your country, that our men are losing their enthusiasm for spreading on our programs of Krishna Consciousness movement. Otherwise, why so many letters of problems are coming, dissatisfied? That is not a very good sign.
The whole problem is they are not following the regulative principles, that I can detect. Without this, enthusiasm will be lacking. Even mechanically following, and if he gets gradually understanding from the class, he will come to the point of spontaneous enthusiasm. This spontaneous loving devotional service is not so easy matter, but if one simply sticks strictly to the rules and regulations, like rising early, chanting 16 rounds, chanting gayatri, keeping always clean—then his enthusiasm will grow more and more, and if there is also patience and determination, one day he will come to the platform of spontaneous devotion, then his life will be perfect.
All of this I have told you in Nectar of Devotion. So, I do not think the leaders are themselves following, nor they are seeing the others are following strictly. That must be rectified at once.
Each center remains independent, that’s all right, but the president and other officers must themselves follow and see the others are following the regulative principles carefully, and giving them good instruction so they may understand nicely why this tapasya is necessary.
And GBC and Sannyasis will travel and see the officers are doing this, and if they observe anything lowering of the standard, they must reform and advise, or if there is some discrepancy I shall remove it.
Of course, if new men are coming, they may not be expected immediately to take to our regulative principles’ cent per cent. Therefore, we should not be so anxious to induce them to live in the temple. Anyone who lives in the temple must agree to follow the rules and regulations without fail. So, if some new man moves in with us he may become discouraged if he is forced in this way. Therefore, let them live outside and become gradually convinced in the class, why they should accept some austerity, then they will live with us out of their own accord and follow nicely everything. It is very difficult to give up very quickly so many bad habits as you have got in your country, so educate them gradually, first with chanting, and do not be so much anxious to count up so many numbers of new devotees, if such devotees go away later being too early forced. I want to see a few sincere devotees, not many false devotees or pretenders.
So, my point is that the regulative principles must be followed by everyone. Otherwise, their enthusiasm dwindles and they again think of sex and become restless, and so many problems are there. There is some symptom of missing the point. The point is to be engaged in doing something for Krishna, never mind what is that job, but being so engaged in doing something very much satisfying to the devotee that he remains always enthusiastic. He will automatically follow the regulative principles because they are part of his occupational duty—by applying them practically as his occupational duty, he realizes the happy result of regulative principles.
So, the future of this Krishna Consciousness movement is very bright, so long the managers remain vigilant that 16 rounds are being chanted by everyone without fail, that they are all rising before four (in the) morning, attending mangal arati—our leaders shall be careful not to kill the spirit of enthusiastic service, which is individual and spontaneous and voluntary. They should try always to generate some atmosphere of fresh challenge to the devotees, so that they will agree enthusiastically to rise and meet it. “That is the art of management”: to draw out spontaneous loving spirit of sacrificing some energy for Krishna.
But where are so many expert managers? All of us should become expert managers and preachers. We should not be very much after comforts and become complacent or self-contented. There must be always some tapasya, strictly observing the regulative principles—Krishna Consciousness movement must be always a challenge, a great achievement to be gained by voluntary desire to do it, and that will keep it healthy. So, you big managers now try to train up more and more some competent preachers and managers like yourselves.
Forget this centralizing and bureaucracy.”