Governing Body Commission
The Governing Body Commission (GBC) is the managerial authority of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). ISKCON's founder, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, created the GBC in 1970 and since then it has met on an annual basis, usually in Mayapur, India.
The GBC is organised largely through a "zonal" system, with regional representatives attending to local matters, and the entire GBC ruling on issues that affect ISKCON as a whole. At the GBC's first annual meeting in Mayapur, Prabhupada guided the proceedings, "showing how the GBC should strictly follow parliamentary procedure". Zones of the world are assigned one or more secretaries regardless of if there is an ISKCON community currently in the zone.
The GBC is entrusted with both spiritual and secular leadership of the ISKCON communities, as well as the power to appoint new gurus. According to a GBC confidence survey "those holding critical views of the GBC were far less committed to ISKCON." As of February 2009, Romapada Swami is elected GBC Chairman. He succeeded Ramai Swami as the chairman of the Governing Body Commission.
Original members of the Governing Body Commission
According to the letter of 28 July 1970 A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada appointed the following members to the commission, all of them non-sannyasis (non-renunciates). After the death of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in 1977 only five of the original Commissioners would be eventually approved to become diksa gurus:
1. Śrīmān Gopal Krishna Adhikari
2. Śrīmān Bhagavandas Adhikari
3. Śrīmān Syamsundar Das Adhikari
4. Śrīmān Satsvarupa Das Adhikari
5. Śrīmān Karandhar Das Adhikari
6. Śrīmān Hansadutta Das Adhikari
7. Śrīmān Tamala Kṛṣṇa Das Adhikari
8. Śrīmān Sudama Das Adhikari
9. Śrīmān Bali Mardan Das Brahmachari
10. Śrīmān Jagadisa Das Adhikari
11. Śrīmān Hayagriva Das Adhikari
12. Śrīmān Kṛṣṇadas Adhikari
This letter outlines the following purposes of the commission:
- Providing a structure to ensure the continuation of ISKCON after Prabhupada's death.
- Improving the standard of temple management
- Promoting Krishna consciousness
- Distributing books and literature
- Opening new centers
- Education of the devotees.
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Shortly after establishing the GBC Prabhupada asked his newly appointed leaders to renounce the everyday world and become sannyasis (renunciate monks). Indicating that those who set policy would not be involved with financial dealings. However, after Prabhupada's death many GBC members adopted lavish lifestyles. A number of schisms tested the notion of the supreme authority of the GBC. Some of these scandals involved GBC members Hans Kary (Hamsaduta) and James Immel (Jayatirtha), as well as one of the leaders of the New Vrindaban community, Keith Ham (Kirtanananda), who surrounded himself with opulence and declared himself the only true successor to Prabhupada.
In 1982 the GBC began the slow process of adding new gurus to original eleven. In 1983 it was announced that the GBC is the highest ecclesiastical authority of ISKCON. In 1985 the decision was made to lower the standard of living for ISKCON leadership. After much heated discussion, the GBC decided to "relieve" a number of leaders and new leaders were selected. The young leaders of the GBC sought the advice of one of Prabhupada's Gaudiya Math godbrothers, and endeavored to become more integrated in the broader Hindu community.
After years of discussion and reforms, a general consensus emerged to accept women as leaders and initiators in ISKCON, overriding the former GBC supposition that "unprotected, 'women leaders become subject to various forms of mistreatment and abuse'". In 1998 Malati Devi Dasi became the first woman appointed to the GBC. The second woman leader Dina Sharana was selected in 2009. However similar proposal was discussed quite a few years previously.
Current or former GBC members include: Bhakti Caitanya Swami, Bhakti Caru Swami, Bhakti Tirtha Swami, Bhaktisvarupa Damodar Swami, Giriraja Swami, Gopala Krishna Goswami, Hansadutta Swami, Hridaya Caitanya Dasa, Hridayananda Dasa Goswami, Jayatirtha Dasa, Jayapataka Swami, Kirtanananda Swami, Malati Dasi, Mukunda Goswami, Radhanath Swami, Ramesvara Swami, Ravindra Svarupa Dasa, Romapada Swami, Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, Sivarama Swami, Tamala Krishna Goswami and others listed below:
Was born on 16 October 1950 in New York City. At the age of seventeen, he received a scholarship to Yale University and graduated in 1972. Upon graduation Devamrita Swami began to study the literary works of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. In 1974, Devamrita Swami became an initiated student of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He accepted the renounced order of sanyasa in 1982.
Was born as Philip Burbank in 1949, in Buffalo, New York. In January 1969, while studying at the University at Buffalo, he joined ISKCON and the same year was initiated by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, receiving the name Prahladananda Dasa. In 1975 he joined the Radha-Damodara preaching bus tour, organized by Tamala Krishna Goswami and Vishnujana Swami. In 1982 he took sannyasa and in 1986 he became one of the initiating gurus in ISKCON. In 1989 he became a member the Vaisnava Institute for Higher Education, in Vrndavana. In 1990 he was appointed to head the Governing Body Commission's committee of Health and Welfare. In 1991, the GBC also made him the head of sannyasa ministry.
In 2008 Ramai Swami was a chairman of the Governing Body Commission. Ramai Swami started the first Hare Krishna Food for Life program in the world at the ISKCON temple in Sydney, Australia. It was called ISKCON Food Relief and was operated through the back entrance of the Sydney Hare Krishna temple.
- List of International Society for Krishna Consciousness members and patrons
- List of International Society for Krishna Consciousness sannyasis
- Forsthoefel, Thomas A. & Cynthia Ann Humes (2005) Gurus in America, p. 89, "ISKCON GBC First Meeting"
- ISKCON GBC site
- Rochford, E. Burke (2007) Hare Krishna Transformed, p. 245, "GBC Confidence Survey"
- "GBC Meetings 2008" in ISKCON News, 21 March 2008, Retrieved on 2008-05-05
- Das Goswami, S. (1982). "Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, Vol 4: In Every Town and Village, Around the World, 1968--71". Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
- A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Letter of 28 July 1970. "As we have increased our volume of activities, now I think a Governing Body Commission (hereinafter referred to as the G.BC.) should be established. I am getting old, 75 years old, therefore at any time I may be out of the scene, therefore I think it is necessary to give instruction to my disciples how they shall manage the whole institution. They are already managing individual centers represented by one president, one secretary and one treasurer, and in my opinion they are doing nice. But we want still more improvement in the standard of Temple management, propaganda for Krishna consciousness, distribution of books and literatures, opening of new centers and educating devotees to the right standard."
- Streissguth, Thomas (1995) Charismatic cult leaders pp 128-132 ISBN 1-881508-18-8
- Bromley, David G. & Phillip E. Hammond (1987) The Future of new religious movements, New Ecumenical Research Association, Mercer University Press, pp. 126-129, ISBN 0-86554-238-4
- Rochford (2007) p. 148 NYU Press
- "Women in ISKCON" by Visakha Dasi and Sudharma Dasi[verification needed]
- ISKCON Communications Journal: About the Contributors ICJ[verification needed]
- Faculty Bhaktivedanta College
- "Member's Profile: Devamrita Swami". ISKCON Governing Body Commission. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
- 2005 Governing Body Commission in Mayapur, India VC
- About the Editor Dandavats
- Faculty council
- Bhaktivedanta College faculty
- Rosen, Steven J. (2004). Holy cow: the Hare Krishna contribution to vegetarianism and animal rights. Lantern Books. p. 118. ISBN 1-59056-066-3.