Kṛṣṇacandra Dāsa – Śrī Vṛndāvan Dham: As the GBC pursues its corporatization and centralization of our ISKCON society we are increasingly seeing secular corporate policies and programs being instituted into our Vaiṣṇava society. The newest and possibly the most insidious is the Mentor / Mentee system that is being introduced across our ISKCON society. Radhanatha Swami was one of the first so called gurus to begin a structured / mandatory mentoring program in his Temples and the likes of which are now being officially inculcated into our Vaiṣṇava Society by Greg Stein [AKA Gopala Bhatta Dāsa] the businessman / ‘devotee’ in charge of the ‘Strategic Planning’ Department of the GBC.
Before going into the pros and cons of introducing a ‘foreign’ program into our Vaiṣṇava culture one must first understand what its purpose is in the secular world and then one must see if it is compatible with the policies and programs that His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda has instructed us to do in order to grow and develop our International Vaiṣṇava Society.
Mentoring or mentorship in a classical sense is when a professor / guru / artist or craftsman takes under their wing a student / apprentice / or disciple in order to teach / train them in their particular field of expertise. This is the archetypical guru / disciple relationship and is the most effective form of teaching known to man.
The modern day idea, however, has been born out of modern business management training programs which has more or less done away with the original guru / teacher system and have concocted a ‘structured’ system of ‘peer’ based mentoring with the ‘peer’ being a fellow student who is a little further along the course of study. The modern day mentor system being a peer based process, it is claimed, is designed to aid in the assimilation of the novice into the aims and objectives of the course of study.
This is a similar system to ones used in residential substance abuse rehabilitative programs where they have a level system for addicts who are ‘mentored’ by the previous candidate intake and so on up to the oldest and most advanced resident. This however is supervised to the point of micro managing the residents by professionally trained and experienced counselors who operate under strict guidelines based on a specific model and the residents are never left to their own devices.
However this system of training or teaching is open to abuse with unqualified / inexperienced students being the mainstay of the program rather than qualified practitioners of the various disciplines being offered for study. This system does not encourage individual non-coerced or voluntary progress within the course of study but is open to abuse from over enthusiastic novices who, since students themselves, push the mentee to conform to the program rather than voluntarily proceed at their own pace. Or in other words the process becomes more important than the course of study, itself.
This system is also open to abuse in the form of the ‘mentors’, being novices, overtly or covertly attempt to influence the mentee to take guidance from a guru / professor / teacher etc that the particular mentor is connected to and so may act as a ‘scout’ to procure prospective students / disciples.
It must also be noted that this ‘peer’ mentoring system is still in its experimental stage and there has yet to be any studies conducted to ascertain it actual effectiveness in effectively training mentees.
Yet the GBC is not only incorporating it into the core teaching / training of our Bhakta Training programs superseding the system that Śrīla Prabhupāda established, it is being made ‘mandatory’ within our ISKCON society. The GBC envision this mandatory mentoring system will be incorporated into not only Temple programs but all ISKCON Educational Services.
This is yet again another concocted addition to the corporate ISKCON institution that the GBC have foisted upon our Vaiṣṇava Society that is not based on Vaiṣṇava śāstra or His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda’s instructions and is purely a creation of modern day secular society.
Any community that is not fascist or authoritarian in orientation allows for relatively free association of its members and the Vaiṣṇava society is not different. Our Vaiṣṇava society operates under a system that is based on seniority drawn from spiritual and material maturity of the leaders, in other words – adhikara. In any free community these leaders are naturally sought after by the members to provide natural sādhu sanga, if and when it is required, by its members. The novices are taught how to discriminate as to who is senior and more advanced in spiritual / material maturity and those who are actually mature devotees give freely of their association to the sincere student. There is no need of a mandatory structured mentoring process in an open Vaiṣṇava society.
In the secular world, structured or organized mandatory training or rehabilitation programs are for the criminal or dysfunctional element while the rest of the community is left alone to seek help and assistance without state interference. These take the form of Prisons, Drug Rehabilitation Programs, Psychiatric Clinics and Hospitals etc. In fact many of our so called leaders would probably be eligible for such mandatory rectification programs as offered by the State.
The bottom line is that by the GBC allowing mandatory structured programs like this into our Vaiṣṇava society they take away the freedom of choice in the individual as to how and when they will proceed along the path of devotional service.
That is not to say that impersonal structured programs cannot exist, but they need to be private voluntary – ancillary or alternative methods for those newcomers who require a more structured approach to Kṛṣṇa consciousness and not a mandatory part of official Vaiṣṇava Community Development. I am sure if this stupid mentor system was made voluntary and not supported by the GBC and Temple Authorities then no one would sign up for it.
What makes this kind of impersonal system even more controlling of the members of our society is that the GBC is offering; officially supported programs, where mentors or mentees can be semi supported by the Society to attend their educative programs such as the Bhaktivedanta College where 90% of their course fees and board will be paid by the institution with the proviso that they commit to two years full time service at an ISKCON facility upon course completion – which is nothing but a gimmicky ‘carrot on a stick’ method designed to lure the student or ambitious devotee into the corporate structure by ‘locking’ them into contractile obligatory schemes.
This brings up many concerns, the least of which is – why should a ‘devotee’ or novice Brahmin be charged a tuition / prasadam, fee? There also remains the question of the student being left to pay 10% of their tuition fees… If the “Bhaktivedanta College” is comprised of qualified Vaiṣṇava Brahmins then why should there be fees for tuition and prasadam? Brahmins take no salaries and they most certainly do not charge for teaching services and Prasadam is given freely…
If the GBC desires to train Brahmins then why train them in sudra schools and colleges with sudra teachers, which pander to the secular academic world which is based on credentialism? This is evident in the two ‘academic’ divisions of the Bhaktivedanta College where the main course of study is the degree program which offers degree courses in Theology supported by the Bologna process which is a standardized system of education that comes under the European Commission which is a part of the EU. The EU’s sole interest, as we should know, is to create a one world secular government based on economic unilateral and bilateral commerce, trade, military and financial agreements.
In itself the Bologna process is a speculative new initiative supported by the EU and has been criticized for creating an educational system that answers to the European Union and not any country and is therefore by definition undemocratic. It has also been criticized for creating ‘diploma factories’ which churn out cheap certificates / diplomas and degrees etc, whose influence is evidenced by the fact that the Bhaktivedanta College offer dime a dozen ‘online’ certificate courses.
What has also been criticized with regard to the Bologna process is the course credit system which not only creates a ‘unit scramble’ but also finds the students ‘mixing and matching’ their units to tailor make their own program and outcomes. This lends itself to creating non specialized training which tends to create graduates who are more interested in qualifications rather than a competency based system as found in traditional educative systems.
The secondary part of the Bhakivedanta College is that their Bhakti Śāstri program is a ‘non degree’ course and therefore appears to be not worthy to be made into a degree course.
The question should be asked; why does the ISKCON institution, which is allegedly a Vaiṣṇava society, need to get itself involved in secular academic syncretic systems which are actually meant for secular governments?
Surely they could offer degree courses in Bhakti Śāstra and Bhakti Vaibhava instead of homogenizing with secular humanistic studies and accreditation systems? On top of that we have salaried lecturers and paying students which automatically destroys brahminical culture. Whether you call it ‘service charges’ or ‘tuition fees’ the ‘sevā’ is paid for and not free of charge. Teachers are Brahmins who are either independently financed through book distribution etc or they are in one of the social orders of life – brahmacaris, sannyāsīs or varnaprastha. The professional teacher is not part of the brahminical structure and therefore any income they receive from teaching is to be considered a salary or wage and subsequently eliminates them from being considered as Brahmins.
The apparent intention of the GBC is to produce the new leaders of our ISKCON society yet what spiritually mature forethought has gone into this? Very little it seems in the way of spiritual foresight and forethought but a hell of a lot in the way of modern day impersonalist speculative thought and process has most certainly been put into concocting such an impersonal system.
The GBC and their ‘strategic planning’ corporatization scheme has in effect created a watertight modern secular system, the likes of which will be hard to find in any liberalistic religious society of today. Children to adults and new comers to older devotees will all be streamed together either from primary and secondary secular schooling educative programs or adult mentoring systems – which are then channeled through ISKCON adult secular [academic affiliate] educative programs which in turn would lead to salaried jobs in the corporate ISKCON institution.
The GBC have successfully created what could have been the answer to mankind’s spiritual and material salvation in the form of Bhāgavata Dharma, as prescribed by the Maha Bhāgavata, but due to their less than sudra intelligences, they have instead driven our Vaiṣṇava society into the waiting arms of māyā and her general the demon Kali with his impersonalist modern materialistic cultural agenda. By doing so they have corrupted what was a society based on pure religious principles and turned it into a mundane cheating religion which is more interested in affiliating itself with modern day kali yuga culture than engaging others in pure devotional service.