From The Archive: Morality & Ethics in ISKCON Leadership tagged:

From The Archive: Morality & Ethics in ISKCON Leadership

Posted by in Devotional Community

Kṛṣṇacandra Dāsa – Śrī Vṛndāvan Dham: In “On the way to Kṛṣṇa” [reference below] Śrīla Prabhupāda explains morality very clearly. The position of GBC, Sannyāsa and Temple President in ISKCON must be filled by a virtuous person who is spiritually and morally qualified.

The word ‘ethics’ is commonly used interchangeably with ‘morality.’ Morality means the moral principles of a particular tradition, group, or individual which gives rise to notions such as duty, obligation, and principles of conduct while ethics is in regards to pragmatic reasoning, based on the notion of virtue in relation to moral considerations.

A leader in our ISKCON society or any Religious Group or Society is represented by their good actions, ideal character and esteemed virtue or in other words, they should be of moral excellence. The GBC and our Sannyāsa ashram must be comprised of virtuous devotees who are dedicated to serving Śrīla Prabhupāda and the Supreme Personality of Godhead Śrī Kṛṣṇa through being able to demonstrate their loyalty to Śrīla Prabhupāda and his ISKCON society by being of high moral and ethical character and therefore demonstrate that they are able to distinguish between right and wrong according to the standard established by Śrīla Prabhupāda and the previous Ācāryas.

In this way the general devotees are able to understand that their leaders have a thorough working knowledge of śāstra and Śrīla Prabhupāda’s instructions and teachings and are not simply paying lip service to our religious tenets while ambitiously occupying positions of authority within the upper echelon of our ISKCON society.

They must be a sādhu in order to offer true sādhu sanga for our spiritual upliftment. Śrīla Prabhupāda established his ISKCON Society to be the leaders and final word in dharma or true religious principles for the next ten thousand years. As the śuddha bhakta / Ācārya and the perfect Sannyāsa, what to speak of perfect Gentleman, he established himself as the dīkṣā guru of ISKCON so we can understand the process of authority in our Kṛṣṇa Consciousness Society.

In the guru/sādhu/śāstra process of interrelationships between devotees, Śrīla Prabhupāda is the guru, sādhus are the members of the ISKCON society who both now and in the future have accepted Śrīla Prabhupāda as their spiritual master and have therefore taken dīkṣā from Śrīla Prabhupāda and are performing in the role of śikṣā guru to each other, and śāstra is our Vaiṣṇava śāstra as given by Śrīla Prabhupāda. Without such fundamentals we have nothing but a cheating religion full of leaders who have failed Śrīla Prabhupāda and have failed us all. If we cannot understand this and if we allow devotees of poor dharmic ethic and morality to hold any leadership role or function within our Kṛṣṇa Conscious society, we will never be able to please Śrīla Prabhupāda and Kṛṣṇa.

The word sādhu in the verse quoted above, beginning paritrāṇāya sādhūnāṁ refers to a holy man or a saintly person. A saintly person is tolerant, very kind to everyone, is a friend to all living entities, is no one’s enemy and is always peaceful. There are twenty-six basic qualifications for a holy man, and in the Bhagavad- gītā we find that Śrī Kṛṣna Himself gives the following verdict: 

api cet su-durācāro

bhajate mām ananya-bhāk

sādhur eva sa mantavyaḥ

samyag vyavasito hi saḥ

“Even if one commits the most abominable actions, if he is engaged in devotional service, he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated.” (Bg. 9.30)

On the mundane platform, what is morality for one person is immorality for another, and what is immorality for one person is morality for another. According to the Hindu conception, the drinking of wine is immoral, whereas in the Western world, wine drinking is not considered immoral but is a common thing.

So morality is dependent on time, place, circumstance, social position, etc. There is, however, a sense of morality and immorality in all societies. In this verse Kṛṣna points out that even if one is engaged in immoral acts but at the same time is fully in Kṛṣna consciousness, he is to be considered a sādhu or a saint.

In other words, although a person may have some immoral habits due to his past association, if he is engaged fully in Kṛṣna consciousness, these habits are not to be considered important. Whatever the case, if one becomes Kṛṣna conscious, he will gradually be purified and will become a sādhu. As one progresses in executing Kṛṣna consciousness, his bad habits diminish, and he attains to saintly perfection…

In this regard there is the story of a thief who went on a pilgrimage to a holy town, and on route he and the other pilgrims stopped to rest overnight at an inn. Being addicted to stealing, the thief began making plans to steal the other pilgrims’ baggage, but he thought, “I’m going on a pilgrimage, so it doesn’t seem appropriate that I should steal this baggage. No, I shall not do it.”

Nonetheless, due to his habit, he could not keep his hands off the baggage. So he picked up one person’s bag and placed it in another place, and then another person’s bag and placed it elsewhere. He spent all night placing different bags in different places, but his conscience bothered him so that he could not take anything from them.

In the morning, when the other pilgrims awoke, they looked around for their bags and couldn’t find them. There was a great row, and eventually, one by one, they began to find the bags in various places.

After they were all found, the thief explained: “Gentlemen, I am a thief by occupation. Being that I am habituated to stealing at night, I wanted to steal something from your bags, but I thought that since I am going to this holy place, it is not possible to steal. So I may have rearranged the baggage, but please excuse me.”

This is the characteristic of a bad habit. He does not want to commit theft anymore, but because he is habituated, sometimes he does. Thus Kṛṣna says that one who has decided to refrain from his immoral habits and make progress in Kṛṣna consciousness is to be considered a sādhu, even if out of past habit or by chance he yields to his fault. In the next verse we find that Śrī Kṛṣna says:

knipram bhavati dharmātmā

śaśvac-chāntiṁ nigacchati

kaunteya pratijānīhi

na me bhaktaḥ praṇaśyati

“He quickly becomes righteous and attains lasting peace. O son of Kuntī, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.” (Bg. 9.31)

Because one has committed himself to Kṛṣna consciousness, it is proclaimed here by Śrī Kṛṣna that within a very short time he will become saintly. One may pull the plug out of an electric fan, and the fan may still go on even though the juice has been disconnected, but it is understood that the fan will soon come to a stop. Once we take shelter of the lotus feet of Kṛṣna, we turn the switch off for our karmic activities, and although these activities may still revolve, it is to be understood that they will quickly diminish.

It is a fact that whoever takes to Kṛṣna consciousness does not have to endeavor independently to become a good man. All the good qualifications will automatically come. It is stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam that one who has attained Kṛṣna consciousness has simultaneously attained all good qualities.

On the other hand, if a person is devoid of God consciousness and yet has many good qualities, his good qualities are to be considered useless, for he will not in any way be prohibited from doing that which is undesirable. If one is devoid of Kṛṣna consciousness, he is sure to commit mischief in this material world.

It has now been three and a half decades since Śrīla Prabhupāda entered into Samādhi and in that time we as a society should have produced devotees in our leadership of high moral and ethical integrity. If a devotee after 30 odd years of being an aspiring Vaiṣṇava is still exhibiting a lack or moral or ethical behavior then how can we say with all honesty and integrity to ourselves and the absolute truth that they are qualified to hold leadership positions within our ISKCON Society? How can we say that the GBC and Sannyāsa ashram have been even remotely successful in maintaining an institution that is able to progressively develop their own leadership and Vaiṣṇava qualities?

If after thirty to forty years they are still engaging in illicit sexual relations, still hungering after money, power, fame and worship, still want to be considered a dīkṣā guru or a pure devotee, still want disciples to fawn after them when they know full well themselves that they are not qualified, then what does that actually say about their loyalty to Śrīla Prabhupāda and what does that say about their level of Kṛṣṇa consciousness?

The naked truth about our leaders is that due to the fact that they have failed to serve Śrīla Prabhupāda by ignoring his role, function, instructions and teaching as the only dīkṣā guru of ISKCON and our spiritual master, they have instead served their own selfish sensual desires and so they are not able to grow in their Kṛṣṇa consciousness and have lead us all into a hellish condition.

The stark example of this is that after three and a half decades we still have Sannyāsis who take photos of little girls in bikinis or having sexual relations with their disciples or therapists, Temple Presidents who are having extramarital affairs and being paid a salary for their so called seva, less than kaniṣṭha adhikāra devotees performing the role of dīkṣā guru, Sannyasa/Diksa Gurus preaching impersonalist doctrine and jamming with a Harmonica to the blues…

This, if anything, demonstrates their actual level of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. An aspiring devotee who possesses even the kaniṣṭha level of realization possesses good qualities and is virtuous and moral even though they do not understand the science of Kṛṣṇa Consciousness. Being not in possession of the basic adhikāra to be able to understand Śrīla Prabhupāda’s preeminent role and his function within human society by occupying his divinely inspired role as dīkṣā guru of ISKCON, they can only perform a perverted semblance of devotional service.

After all this time the leaders should be at least what would be considered a normal ‘good guy’ who is a moral law abiding citizen. Surely? This is really not much to ask of our leaders.

In actual fact, by engaging in amoral behavior, they are displaying the attributes belonging to low class uncultured members of society, qualities which are less than the qualities of the sudra class. This clearly demonstrates that they have not matured emotionally what to speak of spiritually over these past several decades and are most certainly not qualified to hold such exalted positions within our international Vaiṣṇava society and will only bring shame and embarrassment to our glorious ISKCON Society and the good name of His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Śrīla Prabhupāda.

One who has actually surrendered to Śrīla Prabhupāda has also surrendered to Lord Kṛṣṇa and so He has removed the mountain of sin accumulated from their past misdeeds however, it seems that for these so called ISKCON leaders that the fan is still plugged into the wall, the switch is in the on position and the blades are spinning at high speed…

Originally Published: 16th October 2011