It was year 1972 and I did join ISKCON, the International Society for Krsna Consciousness. Entirely overwhelmed by the small band of devotees, their seemingly never-ending enthusiasm and above all their absolute dedication to Srila Prabhupada, I layed down on the floor in the temple or next to the other three brahmacaris in an unheated van, only to go out on the street with Srila Prabhupada's books in my hands, books nobody asked for and nobody expected to get. I lived in this way for years to come, and so did my leaders.
We were all young, without any consideration for our own security or financially secured future. Unmotivated selfless surrender to the mission of the Lord was the rule, and those who proved themselves to be most daring in spreading Krsna consciousness (not necessarily experienced :-), were the leaders. This was and this still is the spirit Srila Prabhupada expected all of us to share, the spirit of unconditional mutual help extended to other godbrother-preacher, who was facing the same disapproval and same attacks from an entirely atheistic society.
Srila Prabhupada expected us to stay aloof from the artificial designations being imposed upon us by all those, who believed to be this body, and freed in this way to absorb ourselves into the essential activities of Krsna Consciousness. Of course, there were those more advanced and herewith leaders, but their advancement was proven by they wanted to preach and help others to advance in spiritual life, not in a way that blocked their path by installing themselves as being the center of the universe.
As Srila Prabhupada said on 21st of October, 1977:
"Life means senses. Sarvopadhi-vinirmuktam. Our senses are now upadhi. Senses are there, but designated. We have to free the senses from material designation. When the designation is washed away with those senses purified, one can engage in the service of Krsna. That is called bhakti.
Is that clear? Discuss Bhagavatam daily as much as possible. Everything will be clarified.“
On 22nd of April, 1972 Karandhara Prabhu writes on behalf of Srila Prahupada a memorandum to all temple presidents, stating the essential meaning of ISKCON organization:
"The formula of ISKCON organization is very simple and can be understood by everyone. The world is divided into twelve zones. For each zone there is one zonal secretary appointed by Srila Prabhupada.
The zonal secretaries duty is to see that the spiritual principles are upheld very nicely in all the temples of his zone. Otherwise each temple shall be independent and self-supporting. Let every temple president work according to his own capacity, and improve the Krishna consciousness of his center. So far the practical management is considered, that is required, but not that we should become too much absorbed in fancy organization.
Our business is spiritual life, so whatever organizations needs to be done, temple presidents may handle, and take advise and assistance from their GBC representative. In this way let the Society's work go on and everyone increase their service at their own creative rate.“
When fruits of our preaching started to ripen, the spirit changed. Some got increasingly covered and carried away by money and flattery of their unqualified followers, some got simply dragged away by their senses and re-activated material desires. Some retreated in embarassement seeing the increased immorality and readiness to compromise even the most basic instructions of Srila Prabhupada, by the official ISKCON leadership for the sake of money and their own survival.
Questions we regularly received from the general public, questions like: “Where do you get the money from? Where does the money go to?“ and finally „How are those who collect this money taken care of?“ became again relevant, but this time rather in sense of internal workings of ISKCON, than in terms to answer the challenges of the public in general.
These questions seem today to be more relevant than ever as the flow of money in ISKCON is an undefined and absolutely non-transparent zone.
Every interested soul will be informed by the leaders first about the art of selfless surrender to Krsna and His representatives, kept in believe that Krsna will take care of any of His servants in times of need, giving what you need and protecting what you have. Indeed, Krsna will do that, but will those who act on His behalf, do it as well?
Generations of often forgotten and abondoned devotees are the proof that Krsna's protection and the protection from the side of ISKCON officials are entirely two different issues. After years of intense service such surrendered souls are spilled out into the streets, abandoned, and left at the mercy of material demoniac society. Society, they hoped to replace according to the ideals given by Srila Prabhupada.
As fog vanishes at the first impact of sunrays, ISKCON leaders, often demanding and not commanding authority, appear and vanish again without any trace, often with substantial monetary funds vanishing with them.
Not one word of grattitude, not one word of recognition is given to those, who established what we are today benefiting from.
Gratitude requires intelligence. Intelligence means to understand the origin of things. Based on this statement it wouldn't be far fetched to declare, the majority of ISKCON leadership to be lacking greatly this kind of intelligence, as it seems to be predominantly dominated by ruthless economicaly darwinistic principle „the most shameless one survives“.
Leaders are appointed to their posts not due to the merit of their preaching and their ability to bring others to Krsna consciousness, but by a bureaucratic system of filling in proper papers and being approved by other "institutionaries", so they can join some sort of parliament without any touch to preaching reality. Titles are created for this purpose, titles without any practical value or application. Instead of serving ISKCON, many decided to live from and make money on ISKCON, their presence being only proven by their occasional participation in meetings of no value and no significance.
And so those who „never did it“ become advisors and authorities of those „who are already doing it“.. A truly bizarre situation where the passenger in the back seat, having a free ride, becomes the virtual driver without touching even the stearing wheel once. And so the leaders became the cargo, simply maintained by those who desire to drive in real sense.
Not an uncommon syndrom for an entirely materialistic society, which maintains leadership just for the sake of leadership.
Of course the younger generation of devotees, either already living the lives of family burdened men or getting ready for the life of a family man, have a solution to this ongoing „don't touch my money“ attitude of their leaders: they don't surrender in such unconditional spirit as we did, consequently they are not getting that kind of taste we got, they are simply making their own survival to their priority...and then contribute to Srila Prabhupada's mission according to their liking.
This is natural for grhasta class of men. Even Srila Prabhupada had to do, while being the family man, „the needful“. But he never considered this "doing the needful" the ultimate stage of life of a devotee, but always seeked opportunities to be engaged in some sort of preaching regime.
But he tried to act responsibly up to the point, where it became entirely evident that Krsna's call to act upon the final responsibility, to serve His mission unconditionally, was the ultimate call and the ultimate duty to be fulfilled.
And so the question “Where do you get the money from?“ is more relevant today than ever. Once, sometime in 1976, I entered office of my GBC, who was until then proven to be most inspiring and supportive to the task of book distribution and book production. Being the sankirtan leader, encharged for those who go out and distribute Srila Prabhupada's books, I asked a question which was for long time lingering on my mind: „Dear Sri Visnupada (so was my godbrother called at that time), could the sankirtan devotees, who go out every day and collect so much money, at least know what they are collecting for?“
The answer came instant and was shocking. My GBC became instantly upset and yelled at me: „Sankirtan devotees? They collect for Krsna, that should be sufficiant for them!“ I was speachless, bowed down and left the room instantly. Life was going on for many more years, and eventually our GBC fell down misserably, overcomed by his disease, the decline of ISKCON standards, envy of his godbrothers and his own growing insanity.
But I never forgot this incident.
In today's context I would not only have left the room, but the entire zone of my (by the rest of GBC) highly praised zonal acharya (so much money was flowing from „his“ zone into to us uknown chanells, especially to India), and I would have chosen rather retirement from any officially managerial position in ISKCON than to keep on serving those, who deny me this very essential question: Where does the money go to?
Indeed, EVERYONE who identifies himself with the mission of Srila Prabhupada and is contributing his energy and his funds to ISKCON has the right to demand from his leaders an entirely transparent report about the personal economy of such representative, and the way the money given to him is spent. Such are the standards Srila Prabhupada established. This is especially relevant for brahmacaries and sannyasis, who are supposed not to serve as bankers and money organizers. (This responsibility was given as visible in the letter above entirely to temple presidents and the local managers.)
Finally it is not the money, which is at stake here, but the faith of innocent public being abused in this way by those, who impose upon the donors that their hard earned funds will be properly invested, so they can benefit spiritually. As Srila Prabhupada points out in Caitanya Caritamrta, if even one penny is misspent in this way, the spiritual path of such misspender will be blocked. Managing myself vast ammounts of money in ISKCON for many years, finally not having one penny, working for the benefit of the devotees I was encharged for day and night, I still ask myself today if the service rendered to myself in return and the benefits I enjoyed automatically were justified. I am ready to apologize instantly to any devotee who feels that those days I took some sort of advantage of his service, if he contacts me today.
Seeing the corrupted state of many, who sees ISKCON as some sort of money producing society, I marvel at our brahminical community why it doesn't take stronger stand against such vaisya type of dominance.
Even Holy Dhamas are under the official ISKCON management turned into some sort of money producing entertainment parks, where the innocent public will be fed sense gratification, instead of transcendental knowledge.
Even more so precious are those who take shelter in the essence of Srila Prabhupada's mission and are trying hope against hope to bless the public with Srila Prabhupada's prasadam, the Holy Name and above all His transcendental books.
There were never too many of such transcendental heroes, but as Srila Prabhupada points out in a letter written in 1971:
"I am very pleased that your preaching work is going so nicely. That is the test, that you are making devotees. Especially I want this school and college program. If only the intelligent class of men understands our Krsna philosophy, then our mission is successful. So try to attract these students with profuse prasadam and nice philosophy and they will appreciate more and more. Slow but sure, that's our motto - and class not mass. So never mind some other Christian movements are getting many followers. The competition is beneficial for us. Everything si benefical for Krsna consciousness, if utilized properly.That is the art. Anything without a substance will not last, so just demonstrate sincerely that we have got solid ground beneath us, not that we have only some sentiment, that's all.
Many fanatic spiritual movements have come and gone, but without the flawless philosophy of Krishna, they cannot stand. Therefore I want especially my books and literature should be distributed profusely.
This is our substance, real philosophical information, not some weak sentiments. So try for this, to give all men this Krishna philosophy, and many real devotees will come with us back to Home, back to Godhead.“