Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I enjoyed reading Kaunteya’s clear and thoughtful comments on the topic of ISKCON membership.

Just want to interject a few additional thoughts.

Once upon a time, you had to move into the temple, give whatever you had to the temple, get initiated and serve the temple 24 hours a day to be considered a member. Obviously those standards have fallen away and the movement is continuing without that mindset and is actually florishing in many places. But I’d like to understand why now is there a need to define membership? What is the purpose?

In regards to the analogy of citizenship, Prabhupada always said that the trees, cows and other animals were also citizens and should be afforded the same rights of protection as any citizen. A citizen in good standing certainly abides by the rules of the land. As a citizen, one also has certain rights and privileges. What privileges will a members of ISKCON have? To vote? To receive an ISKCON pension? Healthcare? The children of citizens also have the same rights as their parents when they grow up. Citizenship is probably not a good analogy for membership because in most cases citizenship does not require a active decision by the citizen.

Here in New Vrindaban, as I’m sure at other temples, we have long time supporters who strongly identify with the efforts of the community. They might consider themselves members. Will the move to define membership alienate our supporters and well wishers? What category do they fit in? What privileges will ‘members’ that they don’t have?

Our supporters already naturally honor initiated devotees and temple residents. By doing so, they make advancement. Why artificially accentuate this distinction with member and non member status? Will we end up like to Mormons where only members in good standing can enter the Church?