A CRUCIAL NATIONAL CENTER OF HINDUISM:
REFORMULATION OF ISKCON IDENTITIES

Commentary by Kailasa Candra dasa

“ . . . one significant development of ISKCON has been the gradual realignment of the movement to be seen as a sectarian part of  the broader religious category of ‘Hinduism’.  This development was not only a theological and categorical shift, but also had very important political consequences . . .”  (Multiculturalism and Minority Religions in Britain:  Krishna Consciousness, Religious Freedom and the Politics of Location  by Malory Nye  p. 27) All emphases added. 

The title of this article is a dual-compilation formulated by combining direct quotations from the text of the above cited book as quoted on pages 140 and 32, respectively.  To make Krishna consciousness seen as part of Hinduism turns the meaning of Prabhupada’s movement upside down.  Besides the abovementioned ones, the main negative consequence for this gradual and insidious deviation is the creation of just another apasiddhanta, fully qualified to be considered part of Hinduism—but not part of the Vaishnava disciplic succession.

“ISKCON leaders have instead promoted an interpretation that they are (almost) synonymous (with Hinduism), and that Krishna consciousness can be definitely placed within this (Hindu) religious culture.  In the majority of their public statements, ISKCON have been very clear in saying that they are most definitely Hindu . . .”  (pp. 31-32) (All emphases added; the parenthetical “(almost)” was in the text.) 

To interpret means to change.  To make public statements that Krishna consciousness is Hindu is to bring Lord Caitanya’s movement down to the mundane plane for the purpose of public approval.  This is a foolish delusion and Maya’s trick; the trap was set, and the “ISKCON” leaders walked right into it.

“ . . . the model of Krishna consciousness that they (devotees) had envisaged . . . at the time of initial conversion needed to be contextualized within a wide and very rich picture of social development that was rooted in Bengali society and Hindu/Vaishnavite theology and philosophy.”  (p. 17) All emphases added. 

The model that the real workers envisaged was not changing the thing into something it was never meant to become.

“ . . . a shift from ‘the temple to the congregation’ is perhaps one of the most important sociological changes that has occurred within ISKCON.” (P. 20) All emphases added. 

A particular motivating factor behind this recognition, beyond the maturity and skills which many of these congregational devotees could bring to their temple, was the fact that many were in salaried employment (‘in the world’), and so were potential financial benefactors . . .”  (p. 20) All emphases added. 

“The role of the congregation is to financially and socially support the temples and core activities of the movement . . . the congregation is one of the places where former temple residents should be expected to go . . .” (p. 21) All emphases added. 

“ . . . if they decide not to take on a leadership role within the ‘CLERGY’ . . . (then) the crucial principle of this scheme is that ‘anyone joining the temple’ does not stay there . . .”  (p. 21) All emphases added. 

Cha-ching! The shift was to change everything into an ecclesiastical bureaucracy (“clergy”) and revenue machine, turning those who would not directly partake of this corruption into money-surrendering karmis in order to provide facility and a comfortable livelihood for the vested “ISKCON” priesthood.  This eventually has devolved into an institutionalized situation in most temples, and now newcomers are “expected” to leave the temples, the sooner the better.  In 1986, Srila Prabhupada revealed to one of his early disciples the essence of this scheme: 

“It’s church! It’s church! It’s church!”

“ . . . (eventually) a process of routinising his (Prabhupada’s) charismatic authority into the bureaucratic institution of the GBC . . . would be the only effective machinery for preventing the disintegration . . .”  (pp. 15-16)

 “Many of these non-Hindu (and non-Indian) devotees wish to retain the internationalism of ISKCON, and see the primary purpose . . . to preach . . .”

“This perspective is largely justified by passages of Prabhupada’s own teachings, in which he makes a clear point about distinguishing ISKCON from Hinduism, clearly stating that Krishna consciousness is not Hindu.  For him, this ‘Hinduism’ was a hodgepodge, a khitchari of religious beliefs and practices which misrepresent and distort the Vedic teachings . . .” (p. 30)

All emphases added here, as well as in the immediate section just previous to this one. The parenthetical was in the text.  There is one exception here regarding the emphases, however: The statement “Krishna consciousness is not Hindu” contained the emphasis in the text itself. 

The meaning of this section is self-evident and requires no further elucidation whatsoever.

All the excerpts quoted above have been culled from the following book:

Multiculturalism and Minority Religions in Britain:  Krishna Consciousness, Religious Freedom and the Politics of Location  by Malory Nye  2001 hardcover Curzon Press, Richmond, Surrey, England

 

Related Information: The Hinduisation of "ISKCON."

 

“Regarding the Hindu community: Don't expect anything very wonderful from them, as we have got experience in Montreal -- they have come in the foreign countries to earn money. As such, you cannot expect any cultural contribution. So you will tactfully deal with them, and whenever possible, vehemently protest against their foolish ideas. But you should try to support your statements on the strength of Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita. Best thing will be to avoid them as far as possible. I am concerned to preach this gospel amongst the Europeans and Americans, and I am not at all interested to preach amongst the Indians, because they have now become hodge-podge, due to so many years of subjugation by foreigners, and having lost their own culture.” Letter to: Gurudasa  --  Seattle 29 September, 1968

 

“Regarding the Hindu centers in the foreign countries, none of them are bona fide. There is a similar hodge podge center in London. Actually Hindus and non-Hindus everyone is at the present moment out of touch of the real science of spiritual knowledge. Everyone is going under some religious badge only, so it is very difficult to deal with them unless they are very much serious to understand the science of God. Everyone of the Hindu community in the Western world has got some very good feeling for me because superficially they are seeing that I am spreading Hindu religion, but factually this Krishna Consciousness movement is neither Hindu religion nor any other religion. It is the function of the soul. So even though the Indian Hindus are very much inclined in my favor, so far I have experience it is very difficult to turn them into pure devotees." Letter to: Jayapataka  --  Los Angeles 17 April, 1970

 

"These so-called Hindus are generally impersonalists, and we do not want to have anything to do with them. Better we stick to our own standard, and eventually they will all come to us for learning what is God." Letter to: Giriraja  --  Paris 22 July, 1972

 

"We cannot agree to make a mixed up association without any authorized principles. So far as Hindus are concerned, they are not fixed up in one principle. Under the circumstances, do not be misled that because some of the Hindus are taking interest in this movement, they are of the same opinion."  Letter to: Mukunda  --  Seattle 1 October, 1968

 

"Although posing as great scholars, ascetics, householders and svamis, the so-called followers of the Hindu religion are all useless, dried-up branches of the Vedic religion. They are impotent; they cannot do anything to spread the Vedic culture for the benefit of human society. The essence of the Vedic culture is the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu."  Adi 12.73 Purport

 

"There is a misconception that the Krsna consciousness movement represents the Hindu religion. In fact, however, Krsna consciousness is in no way a faith or religion that seeks to defeat other faiths or religions. Rather, it is an essential cultural movement for the entire human society and does not consider any particular sectarian faith. This cultural movement is especially meant to educate people in how they can love God."
"Sometimes Indians both inside and outside of India think that we are preaching the Hindu religion, but actually we are not. One will not find the word Hindu in the Bhagavad-gita. Indeed, there is no such word as Hindu in the entire Vedic literature. . . . . The Krsna consciousness movement has nothing to do with the Hindu religion or any system of religion."  Science Of Self-Rerlization 3: Krsna Consciousness: Hindu Cult or Divine Culture?

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Quotes from the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada are copyright by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust