Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Should the GBC be Incorporated or left Unincorporated?

Part 2: Discussion on GBC powers
By: Nimai Pandit Das(TP, ISKCON Long Island)

1.  Srila Prabhupada created the GBC in 1970, and for 7 years he personally supervised it. He created it as an unincorporated association and not as a registered society with its own legal rules. Even an unincorporated association of persons can have some legal powers, but it is not as clear and well defined as an actual society. Also, for the temples he did create actual registered society's. 

Some members of the GBC felt the need to formally register and they did so finally in 1993 as the current ISKCON GBC Society registered in West Bengal which is different then the legal structure and basis of the way Srila Prabhupada created the GBC.

Why it matters is that as a registered Society, they wanted to be able to easily assert legal control over the temples. That was their main reason to register legally. It is there in their minutes as well as some notes that we saw from Naveen Krishna Prabhu from those times.

Before that, as Srila Prabhupada created it, the GBC did not have legal control of any kind over the temples, hence the TPs were going out of control.(i.e. main reason not accepting GBC's Guru appointments and related directives and other deviations in addition to good directives too due to loss of credibility and respect for GBC) So the general thinking had become that unless the GBC is a legally powerful body, the organization cannot be effective.

Now, the first question that arises is that why did Srila Prabhupada not do this? He did so many things, he organized so many legal entities like  ISKCON, Inc. NY, BBT, MVT, ISKCON Juhu, etc. why did he not register the GBC too? He says to us that his spiritual master's mission failed as the leading disciples did not form the GBC. So why would he not think about its needed power to do its job?

This is another reason I feel that the simple reason was that he did not want the GBC to be a legally registered body, able to assert legal control over individual temples by mentioning of that control in the temple's bylaws. A supervisory(of management) and spiritual advisor role can be mentioned as (which is called ecclesiastical in US) and which can be designated in the local temples' bylaws, but that is a voluntary acceptance by the temple of the GBC to supervise and guide, rather than the GBC's legal right to assert control. It was formally done by July 22, 1974 Urgency letter with its two clauses.

If we argue that Srila Prabhupada did not know about legal matters etc., then we go into dangerous territory here. Also practically, if he did not know about legal matters etc., then why did he register the various society's and BBT in a legally competent manner.

This is the legal crux of the matter in the Long Island case, and i guess in the BLR case too as finding that they could not assert control over BLR temple, they chose to go via ISKCON Juhu route. The problem with them at that time was that even though they wanted to assert legal control over the temples, which the unincorporated association did not provide, as the powers and organization setup of GBC was made by Srila Prabhupada as to be not having legal control, hence even though they legally registered the Society in 1993, they could not/did not incorporate these legal powers in the ISKCON GBC Society's rules and regulations out of the tradition and maybe also due to the resistance by the individual temples hence not able to put it in their local rules legally.

Ravindra Swarup Prabhu, during his deposition(interrogation) here in NY last year, narrated actually what happened then: (Q is from Mr. Chittur, ISKCON inc. NY lawyer , A is Ravindra S. Prabhu)

5 Q. Why was this done?
6 A. So that the temples would be -- so the
7 GBC could exercise legally the minimum amount of
8 authority over the temples that Prabhupada wanted
9 them to have. That's why it was done.

10 Q. What is the authority, according to you,
11 that the founder wanted this GBC to have?
12 A. Well, for example, to make sure that the
13 temples -- that they're preaching according to the
14 teachings of Shrila Prabhupada, that the spiritual
15 standards were being upheld, that financial
16 accounting was done properly.

17 Very early on Prabhupada gave the GBC
18 the power while the GBC was -- in the first meeting,
19 formal meeting of the GBC there were reasons why a
20 temple president can be removed. That was one of the
21 powers of the GBC, to remove a temple president under
22 certain conditions. If there's nothing in legal
23 bylaws to say that, then the temple presidents say
24 you don't have any power to do that.
So we wanted to
25 make it legal. The way it used to be at one time the

2 GBC would say something, the temple presidents do it.
3 Now we find sometimes some temple presidents who
4 won't do it. So in that case we need to have the
5 legal power when necessary to remove a temple
6 president or change the board of directors as the
7 case may be.

8 Q. In other words, you did not have the
9 power, you wanted the power?
10 A. We were supposed to have it. We were
11 supposed to have it. We had the power by Prabhupada.
12 Spiritually we had the power, but it so happened we
13 discovered in a certain case that when the GBC wanted
14 to remove a temple president who was misbehaving or
15 not in order with the line, he simply refused and
16 wouldn't do it.

17 Q. What temple was that?
18 A. Calcutta.
19 Q. What happened?
20 A. We then went to court to do it. The
The GBC was
4 actually found by the Court not to have this power.
5 Now we started to look at all our
6 corporations and found out that some places was fine
7 because -- and of course, in the present case we have
8 a similar situation.

3 Q. Let's put a time frame on that. When,
4 to the best of your recollection, was that lawsuit in
5 India?
6 A. It started earlier. Maybe 1999, 2000.
7 Q. When did it end?
8 A. That I don't remember exactly the year.
9 It ended I think maybe 2001.
10 Q. The Court found that the GBC didn't have
11 the authority over that temple?
12 A. Yes, that local court in Calcutta found
13 that the GBC didn't have -- there was nothing in any
14 of the documents that granted the GBC power to do
15 that.

16 Q. And after that the GBC reviewed all the
17 bylaws of all the temples?
18 A. The GBC asked the different members of
19 the GBC or sometimes from their regional governing
20 bodies if they could see to it that -- just ask them
21 to do it to see if they could make sure that if push
22 came to shove, the GBC had the legal power to at
23 least minimally remove or change the board of
24 directors or the officers of the corporation
25 depending on the case.

5 Q. The sentence goes on, "it was the North
6 American RGB members-temple presidents alike who, in
7 2004, saw the need for regularizing the bylaws of the
8 ISKCON temples. It had become clear that many
9 temples had bylaws or articles of incorporation that
10 did not embody Shrila Prabhupada's chain of authority
11 nor formally give the GBC the minimum powers of
12 oversight needed to maintain the temples' spiritual
13 and managerial standards - the crucial
14 responsibilities that Shrila Prabhupada held the GBC
15 accountable for."

So as you can see, the culture of legal subjugation by the GBC over the individual temples was not setup by Srila Prabhupada.

Now, the reason why it was not done---was it due to legal incompetency of Srila Prabhupada to understand and hence couldn't direct it likewise or that he wanted it to be like that. His many other instructions match this 2nd approach, in addition to "one who knows Krishna, knows everything", Prayer by Vyasadeva to Narada Muni in 1st Canto Chapter 5 on receiving Narada at his aashram and praying, you know everything, and also Sukhadeva Goswami narrating all the details of the Universe and Srila Prabhupada commenting that for a pure devotee all the intricate details of the universe are revealed.

ISKCON GBC Society of West Bengal is thinking Srila Prabhupada did not direct it likewise, hence we need to do it. They are going via the first route.

2. Another incident to support that Srila Prabhuapda did not want to give full authority via legal powers to the GBC over the Temple/TPs is the incident of 1972 when Srila Prabhupada suspended the GBC. If the legal powers were there, then by his saying so the powers of the GBC could not be removed over the temples. It would instead be incorporated in the local temple bylaws with its own set of clauses related to suspension of the GBC etc. He instructed the TPs to pursue their business freely without GBC. It could only be possible if they were NOT under the legal authority of the GBC.

It follows from this incident that as GBC was to be primarily an ecclesiastical function, to be dependent on the Will of Srila Prabhupada, hence he had and did enforce that right by suspending them. If they were a legally registered body, then they would have or could have continued to function as per their Incorporation Documents.

Conclusion from this incident is apparent that Srila Prabhupada only gave spiritual power over the temples/TP/Members plus supervisory management power of the temples, both of which are voluntarily accepted by the local temples IF they wish to be affiliated with ISKCON and all the devotees. Otherwise disaffiliation.

3. Srila Prabhupada's personal example in dealing with a related situation is pertinent. Sai from Hawaii who became Siddhaswarupananda later had a few temples in NZ, Hawaii, etc. who were under his influence. Tusta Krishna Swami regarded him as his main Siksha Guru. This "group" within ISKCON, found it difficult to get along with the directives of the local GBC, especially in their case they were not following the rules of temple living, more laid back hippish mentality . Did not want to distribute books forcefully, long hairs etc., but were chanting Hare Krishna and reading and discussing Srila Prabhupada's books and preaching.

There was a struggle of trying to assert influence over them between local GBC and Sidhha's men. Srila Prabhupada agreed for them to go away from ISKCON, but said to them I will continue to guide you as you have accepted me as your spiritual master. He did not, nor had his GBC say to them, you leaders go away from ISKCON, but these temples are ISKCON's so they will stay with ISKCON. Most of the devotees in those temples regarded Siddhasvarupa as their leader, so they would not have agreed to remove by vote he or his men as Temple leaders etc. So Srila Prabhupada instead of going the legal route, chose this disaffiliation.

(Note: this incident is hearsay. Maybe more devotees can provide better proof of this incident.)

As they were not upto the standard of ISKCON devotees, hence let them practice separately, but they were still his disciples and would gradually make progress, slower, under his direction.

We do not see Srila Prabhupada even one instance where he is trying to have his GBC assert legal control over a temple if the TP cannot be removed by the members in an election as laid out in DOM.

Instead we find opposite examples as in Siddha and Tusta case above.

This system of management creates Brahmans, Srila Prabhupada's first goal from his organization. Natural leaders. For long term pure existence of his paramapara. All other goals of his organization---distribute books, Holy Name, Prasadam, make more devotees etc. are subsidiary to this 1st goal---in this external world. Of course the primary goal is to make lovers of God.

4. Another point is the Will. Therein he writes-the system of management as it is now shall continue, there is no need of any change. This system of management also means unincorporated GBC with no legal control put into any local bylaws as it was then under his personal guidance. That GBC only had managerially supervisory and spiritual guidance duties. No legal authority.

So changing that system of management is also opposite to his this instruction. Hence a registered Society established in 1993 in West Bengal called the ISKCON GBC SOCIETY, cannot be the same as Srila Prabhupada's envisaged Society.

5. Srila Prabhupada often implied that ISKCON is a voluntary organization. That we voluntarily agree or disagree to serve Krishna and hence in his representative's our spiritual master's organization. None of the full time temple members sign a work contract, or pay a bond etc. They are supposed to beall volunteers.

Same is with GBCs and the TPs and even the whole temples too.

TP is not getting paid that he has to obey the GBC(that is the problem now in current ISKCON though where the TPs are getting paid), nor his promotion is on the line if he does not obey the GBC(that also is convoluted now). So what is stopping him to not obey the local GBC or the GBC as a whole if he does not like it.

The ONLY reason that Srila Prabhupada set it up, that is what I think, was for TPs own spiritual advancement. He wants ideally it to be like that, at least. If the TP does not follow, then he should know he is risking his spiritual advancement as anarthas may grow as he may go in the wrong direction when most of his equals and/or seniors are advising otherwise, that he may not please Srila Prabhupada. But if he takes all the temple members with him, then he can be disaffiliated from the organization. But this removal of TP/disaffiliation was to be for 3 specific reasons stated in 1975 resolution.  This topic is covered in more detail in the article “Can GBC really remove a TP?”

But still the acceptance to follow or not to follow is left to the volunteer TP. Now GBCs may be able to influence other members in the temples,for the sake of the spiritual lives of the members and future devotees, as they are supposed to be respected for their spiritual advancement and genuine service attitude, to remove the TP as he is going off, and the members are then supposed to use their critical thinking to judge who is correct and vote accordingly.

Most of the time during Srila Prabhupada's manifest presence, due to the high regard for the GBCs, the temple members accepted VOLUNTARILY to agree to the GBC and as also the TP on his own accord left or acceded to the strong advise and instruction of the GBC. In some cases, the temple members used their critical thinking and votes to bring about the desired change of leadership especially in 1974 when Srila Prabhupada on record enforced this election.

In a few cases, as Siddha and Tusta, the temple(s) left the ISKCON affiliation and association, voluntarily, and that was their decision, for better or for worse for them. There is no question of legal power over any of the officers over anyone else. Love, trust, actual guidance being received, advancement felt,...these are the considerations on which ISKCON organization is supposed to keep together as per Srila Prabhupada, very different from the corporate method.

As we all know, the corporations can move the material energy in the most optimum utilization of the resources, which are required also in KC movement, but what they cannot do is create critical thinking and independent thought and volunteer motive of developing love and affection. Which is the basis of creating brahmanas, leaders who can guide others. Lack of these kind of devotees has been manifest since Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's times, so our KC movement is still trying to find the right balance of organization, a volunteer organization to create Brahmanas 1st as Srila Prabhupada says many times as the first purpose of KC movement.

The legal power he desired to be set up was for misappropriation of funds/property. Property trustees who could be members of the GBC, were appointed by him to each property, but by definition they could not have any power over affiliation of the property to ISKCON, or TP or his obedience/non-obedience etc. –at least outside of India. Their only duty was to make sure that the property was not sold or mortgaged and hence misused. That is all.

Nothing to do with the management.

I see the discussions on the organizational model of Srila Prabhupada future mission to be of paramount importance for the future of the mission.

It is my personal thinking, that one of the main reasons the Blr group(and myself here too) is going through such legal struggles is for bringing us to this mode of organization, which is only possible to adopt by our own voluntarily change of heart, a task which may cause loss of efficiency in the short term for the long term foundation by encouraging more critical and independent thought among leaders.  It may take Krishna to break the organization from the top as he has done in the west, or a real fear possibility of similar break in India for leaders to voluntarily accept Srila Prabhupada's model of organization putting independently thoughtful people first.

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