Part 1: Discussion on GBC powers
By: Nimai Pandit Das(TP, ISKCON Long Island)
In Srila Prabhupada's Direction of Management it says in Article 8, “Removal of a Temple president by the GBC requires support by the local Temple members.”
But the 1975 GBC resolutions, which meeting it seems was attended by Srila Prabhupada, does not mention about this support of local members to remove the TP. It mentions other conditions:
"There should be no change of Presidents but difficulties should be worked out. In the case of an incorrigible President who
1)doesn't submit reports or submits false reports
2) who mis-spends money
3) who doesn't follow regulative principles he must be changed.
Three GBC men may decide on this in an urgent case and in a non-urgent case it may be done by majority vote of GBC by letter."
(GBC Resolution 1975)
How do we understand this?
Srila Prabhupada gave the 1st documents that gave the initial rules and regulations via the Direction of Management.
“There was a meeting in San Francisco during the Ratha Yatra festival 1970 and many presidents of the centers were present. In that meeting it was resolved that an ad hoc committee be set up to form the constitution which is taken into consideration.
(Srila Prabhupada in the Direction of Management, July 28, 1970)
(Note: the Direction of Management is part of the original constitution of ISKCON-given by Srila Prabhupada- for the purpose of delineating the duties and powers of managers in ISKCON and the basic rights of ISKCON members.)
In December of 1974, Srila Prabhupada wrote to Jayatirtha that further rules and regulations should be formulated in the next year’s GBC meeting.
16 December, 1974
My dear Jayatirtha,
Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter dated Dec. 5, 1974. Regarding the GBC meeting to be held in Mayapur 1975, the meeting should be held five days before the actual festival is to begin and it will be held in my presence. As far as your proposals are concerned, the real thing is that we must make broader constitution of the management by GBC. But the difficulty is that our GBC men are falling victim to maya. Today I trust this GBC and tomorrow he will fall down. That is the difficulty. If the GBC men are so flickering then what to speak of the others. Unless this problem is solved whatever we may resolve it will not be very useful.We shall discuss this at our meeting. If the GBC men can ever manage properly then I shall get some time for writing my books.
I hope this meets you in good health.
Your ever well-wisher,
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
(Note: Here we see Srila Prabhupada's stated desire to make "broader constitution of the management by the GBC". This means:
A basic Constitution, dealing with the part about the management by the GBC, already existed. (i.e. safe to say it is the "Direction of Managemnt", as there was nothing else AT THAT TIME.)
So in the next Annual Meeting of the GBC, March 1975, there were many resolutions taken regarding many of the rights, duties of GBC/TPs etc., it seems in Srila Prabhupada's presence.
The pertinent excerpt is as is quoted above.
The authority structure of the GBC Body---->Local GBC---> TP is not of a corporate organization where each is beholden to one's boss. As we all know Srila Prabhupada's 1st purpose was to create Brahmanas from his organization, those who can be independently thoughtful. Becoming dependent or to be under the direct orders of anyone would be counter productive especially for a leader. But still the TP as an evolving disciple needs supervision, correction, encouragement, education and chastisement. This Srila Prabhupda desired to be implemented in various limited ways, some of which are:
a. Local GBC was only given authority to supervise accounts, temple standards etc., but his main duty was to act as the siksha guru to all the devotees in the center including to the TP. All senior devotees, traveling preachers can point out discrepancies to the TP in private. Generally due to Vaisnava Etiquette the junior would follow the senior devotees hence all suggestions to the TP would be tried to be implemented as generally happened. But still "the fact remains that the Temple President is not under the authority of the local GBC"(Srila Prabhupada letter to Giriraj 1970).
b. GBC Body as a whole was to have more powers over the TP, but not in "All matters". Only in very specific matters as listed above, they can demand/order the TP for "monthly reports, accounts, following regulative principles" etc. and if he does not correct himself after repeated attempts(i.e. incorrigible) THEN the whole GBC Body needs to vote on it (by email now) (or 3 GBCs if it is urgent) and finally pass a resolution to remove a TP from his post.
But as the GBC cannot remove him:
i. from his legal position from the local Society/Trust board without the member’s or other trustee’s legal vote
ii. cannot replace him in the temple without the support of the local members
iii. and as substantiated by written DOM instruction"Removal of a Temple president requires support from the local temple members" which was never rescinded by Srila Prabhupada in similar manner to his putting it forth- signed by him and counter-signed by 2 GBCs.
iv. as Srila Prabhupada himself through letters asked the GBC body to take a vote of the temple members regarding GBCs attempt/desire to remove TPs - Abhiram(Miami) and Damodar (DC) in 1974.
it would seem that both these instructions are not exclusive. Only the 2nd (1975 resolution) sets in place how GBC can set the removal condition and process in motion to finally accomplish the DOM Pt 8 by which the removal can be actually legal, binding, and have actual impact without removing enthusiasm of the temple devotees if they perceive high handedness from "higher ups" but are preached to and are taken into confidence and final decision is left to them. Keeping this instruction in DOM, we considered to put the removal voting right of the members in the local trust/society as in ISKCON, Inc. corporate docs.
If the local members do not agree to follow the GBC Body's resolution for removal of TP, then the only option remaining then with the GBC would be to disaffiliate the temple from ISKCON.
Problem happens when the GBC or ISKCON leadership has put in a lot of resources in developing a project which happens to not follow the GBC ideas and wants to separate and GBC cannot get the members to remove the TP. What to do then? It would appear that Srila Prabhupada has left the conversion in thinking of local members to preaching to change consciousness of devotees and by personal influence of senior devotees rather than legal or other methods, as I am realizing that finally his goal is to change consciousness, and how can one change consciousness by force? If the temple is disaffiliated and left on its own, then in time, hopefully by Krishna'a arrangement or by active/passive preaching to the individual members, the disaffiliated temple can come back to the formal association. Ex-communication(whether individual or selective) has been a powerful tool in Vedic society since the beginning.
(Note: Important temples in the management of the Society seem to be exempted from this like some Indian temples made by Srila Prabhupada)
This thinking is divergent to the views of the capitalistic organization model wherein the resources put into a branch would be calculated and thus it would be hard to swallow a loss hence legal means or organizational policies are created to ensure the branch head can be removed and controlled when going out of line without the need of getting the local branch members approval and if not getting the approval to either do it by large scale firing or legal means. An organization cannot let go of the branch, even for a short time. They are not depending on the Supersoul as the Caitya Guru.
But this method seems to link to the statements of Srila Prabhupada about training independently thoughtful leaders, and managers having the freedom to make mistakes and going off to learn from them if not able to take correction from leaders. Some may never/not long time learn, but many would come back in time.