Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

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Coming of Age: Reflections on the relevancy of ISKCON in this world
By Yudhisthira das   |  Jan 28, 2023

Reflections on the relevancy of ISKCON in this world

If there was a predominant message that Srila Prabhupada left all his followers at the end of his life, it would arguably be, “You will show your love for me by how much you cooperate together.”

Our Founder-Acharya (teacher by example) issued this simple yet profound barometer of our love for him. Clearly, as has been the case with all spiritual institutions, ISKCON struggles with this clear dictum.  

We can all probably agree that ISKCON is arguably the most sectarian appearing non-sectarian spiritual movement in the world.

So, in the middle of Kali Yuga, with a far-reaching international movement full of countless cultural differences affecting the mindset of practitioners, is a high level of cooperation a reasonable expectation? Differences will always be there. That much is obvious. The intent of this column will be to increase respect, understanding, and affection for one another. 

Like and unlike all bonafide spiritual paths, Chaitanya Vaishnavism and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu himself very concisely puts to rest the many apparent differences between all embodied souls and all soul paths with one guiding phrase … that we are “simultaneously one and different.” The implications of these four words (and the other instructions left by Lord Chaitanya) echo around us at every moment to reconcile our inherent and unending external differences. These “guidepost” instructions can also help quiet the mind from exercising its purpose of judging everything around us, in the form of accepting or rejecting. Yes, trying not to succumb to the mind is a constant battle, like standing strong against a raging wind (referring to Bhagavad Gita 6:34). 

In the New Testament of the Christian Bible (Matthew 7:1-5) there are also many statements about this judgment, including “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

“Coming of Age” has multiple meanings and connotations. First is for the interested individual practitioner of ISKCON’s branch of Gaudiya Vaisnavism on their individual journey, and second is about the “Coming of Age” of the ISKCON institution. In this column, we will avoid “political” and potentially divisive rhetoric but will attempt to offer relatively broad perspectives from both the inside of the institution looking out and looking in from the outside view. 

While our column will generally fall on the progressive side of the spectrum, we will make every effort to keep intact the highly esteemed and revered teachings of the Founder A.C. Bhaktivedanta Srila Prabhupada.

Moreover, this column will be reasonably and readably concise, with the goal of provoking and inspiring more thoughtfulness, cooperation, and love both inside and outside the worldwide ISKCON institution. Topics will vary and suggestions are welcome. After experiencing ISKCON for nearly 50 years, often in leadership and management positions while also experiencing the secular business world, it is my hope that we can freely address issues that are not only concerning to the broad institution, but specifically to the individual practitioner. Instead of a “one-size-fits-all” approach, we will conceptually address issues in a “one-size-fits-one” context with the understanding that an increase in well-adjusted members of ISKCON will help the institution itself become more and more effective in helping other souls along their individual spiritual journeys. 

With intention to be of some small service,

Yudhisthira dasa