Vaisnava Charter for Improved Relations

Over the last year I have had several conversations with Krishna devotees from different institutions, who are tired of the continued bickering and criticising that takes place between people who are meant to be more humble than the grass.

As a result of these meetings we ventured forward to draft a proposed Charter of Conduct. At present the charter is being circulated and the initial responses have been positive. Once more feed back has been received we will further amend the document and then submitted to the institutional authorities for their consideration.

The charter is as follows:

Charter of Conduct

In the Chaitanya Vaisnava Tradition it is prerequisite that we are able to cultivate the humility of straw, the tolerance of trees and a high regard for all others. To be negligent of such ideals will result in undermining our efforts to grow spiritually and to begin to love God.
As one of the most critical areas of social intercourse for us all is the holy association of other Vaisnavas , it is quite harrowing that more than often we do not score well enough in this area and more than often tempt the fate of our own downfall .
Through time we have seen again and again that although we are very able to respect members of all faiths traditions, when it comes to those who share the same faith, tradition and culture with, and most specifically other members of the Srila Bhaktissendanta Saraswati Thakur family our relations are not only below standard, or bordering offense- they are in fact blatantly offensive.
It is therefore timely that both members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and the members of the International society of Bhakti Yoga are together proposing this proposed Charter of Conduct for our members.
We pray that the Vaisnava community will look kindly upon this charter of conduct and by adopting it’s principles save us all from ruination.
1. Vaisnavas must respect Vaisnavas.
2. Association should nourish our faith and not detract from it.
3. The Acaryas and Gurus must never be slandered
4. When we refer to Acaryas, Gurus and leaders we should use the correct titles of honour as they are adhered to by their own institution.
5. We must respect spiritual leaders.
6. In cases where we may feel that our Gurus are Maha Bhagavatas or self realised souls, it is not incumbent upon others to see then in the same way. To expect such a status of recognition from others who are not of the same faith or perhaps realization is artificial. Respect and honour are better based upon a general etiquette in terms of years in devotion and seniority within the institution.
7. We must respect the unique character of our institutions, their mood and points of emphasis. Though they may differ, they are what make us unique and suitable for our members. Such differences should not be scoffed at or spoken of in a derogatory way.
8. The character of our institutions is as directed by our Acaryas and as such it should be understood that being friends does not necessitate a compromise of character.
9. When visiting the temples, communities, festivals, functions or congregation of another institution, we must not proselytise, criticize or depreciate the institution, or it’s members and practices.
10. While visiting such places as mentioned in point 9, we should not praise our institution or gurus as better or see the engagement as an opportunity to market literatures or promote our institutions business.
11. On such visits we should be respectful and humble and appreciative of our expanded family members, appreciating their successes and empathising with their challenges.
12. If our institutions members have become disenchanted through situations valid or invalid and chose to enter another institution, or even through greater inspiration chose to do the same, their decision should not be condemned and we should be pleased that they are where they find the most inspiration.
13. In the case of those who have already received diksa within an institution, they should remain faithful to their line, however where there are clearly mitigating circumstances which have lead to a complete breakdown of faith and where the diksa guru is in good standing they may continue in a siksa relationship within another institution.
14. If one’s faith in his diksa connection or guru, due to such mitigating circumstances is damaged and never to recover then re-initiation in another institution should be tolerated for the sake of the faithless person. It is by far not the best practice but in exceptional circumstances it should not be condemned.
15. We should live with or be a member of the institution which is our prominent line of siksa.
16. When visiting other institutions we should respect their necessity to teach their presentation of Gaudiya sidhanta in line with their acarya. We should not expect or request to take the seat of vyasa in their institution. Where we are invited that is a different matter.
17. If invited to speak while visiting a function run by or hosted by another institution we must speak in an enlivening way that further engenders the faith of their members towards their Acaryas, Gurus and mission.

Living Krishna consciousness is synonymous with giving Krishna consciousness, therefore we must all be free to preach. Our resources and energy must be capitalised for this purpose and not wasted in fault finding and fratricidal wars. We must honour each other and in which we will achieve great victories in further the mission of our saviour Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

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