When the history of the rise and fall of Madhu Pandit das is written, one aspect of the personality of Madhu Pandit das that will make very interesting reading is how he has handled the several warnings, pleas and entreaties that have been submitted to him regarding the dangerous games he is playing and the gambles he is resorting to. Neither Madhu Pandit nor any of his followers can now say they were not forewarned (thanks to the ubiquitous websites that are actually doing all of them a great favor) about the possible disastrous consequences and spiritual destruction his path is leading to.
Sadly, one can see an almost fatalistic state of denial prevalent among all his followers.
They are tying themselves into knots trying to deal with the deluge of exposes flooding the internet. Battle hardened as we are, we can see through all his tricks and we are seeing how all of them are collapsing under the weight of their inherent contradictions and we are witnessing a complete erosion of his credibility. What a pathetic, pitiable, moral collapse for a leader who the world once looked upon as the future hope of ISKCON. There were days when there was a general consensus in ISKCON that Madhu Pandit and his team were the answer for many of the ills of ISKCON. Such hopes were dashed by his subsequent actions.
For ISKCON (an organization of volunteers), trustworthiness and credibility is all that matters. Srila Prabhupada earned and commanded a total “surrender” from his followers because of these qualities. As Srila Prabhupada said “I didn’t pay any of you Americans to follow me.”
Looking at Madhu Pandit’s style of management one can see how he recognizes that ISKCON’s originally prevailing model of an organization manned by dedicated volunteers as laid out by its founder, will no longer work on Hare Krsna Hill. The original system demands that the leader be truthful, honest, transparent, deal with devotees and situations with love and care. The more difficult aspect is to be consistent with the principles, practices and traditions laid down by Srila Prabhupada in his books.
The dilemma that Madhu Pandit and his family business faces is that they have made changes and many of them very fundamental in nature so much so that there is a deviation from the very basic and sacrosanct tenets, guiding principles and operating models of ISKCON as found in Srila Prabhupada’s books and recorded conversations. These changes have been unobtrusively slipped in, in small increments as a carefully orchestrated strategy.
As to what these changes (deviations and dilutions may be a better phrase to describe what has been done) make for very interesting reading and are being considered in this and the sequel to be published later.
For the moment the focus shall remain on the management practices and principles of Madhu Pandit Dasa’s family business on Hare Krsna Hill.
A slow and steady march towards corporatization is what we are witnessing on Hare Krsna Hill. Madhu Pandit who touted the claim that he was the sole designer, builder, engineer, fundraiser, manager and so on of the temple complex, is now yielding crucial positions of management to karmis or devotee employees and not to free thinking volunteers. If their own claims are to be believed, there is no dearth of management talent or experience among the devotees or the congregation. While all over ISKCON in India, we are witnessing the phenomena of devotees and volunteers taking over more and newer responsibilities and positions, Madhu Pandit is doing the opposite. He has Chief Operation Officers, Chief Financial Officers and dozens of professional managers brought in from the corporate world, paying them fancy 6 figure salaries. These karmi managers were at first intended to manage Madhu Pandit Dasa’s family business but as Madhu Pandit Dasa turned Hare Krsna Hill into a business enterprise these karmi managers are now slowly beginning to direct and manage the affairs of the temple and devotees.
The very character of Hare Krsna Hill is changing. What we are seeing here is a phenomenon that never occurred during the times of Srila Prabhupada. Paid employees who have no idea about ISKCON or its traditions, management policies, practice, priorities or even basic philosophy are taking over and directing temple affairs and devotees as well. Sort of like the DMK government of Tamil Nadu managing the Srirangam temple with predictably disastrous results regarding the devotional mood.
Why is Madhu Pandit pushing this strange policy? He is not known to do anything without a good reason. A closer look at the power structure at Hare Krsna Hill gives some answers.
There is only one real power wielder
For years, we have known this – Madhu Pandit is the only real wielder of power at Hare Krsna Hill. Chanchalapathi, Jai Chaitanya and to a much lesser degree Chitranga can at best be called co-conspirators. And, among them they share a lot of things that bind them together and they are a distinct and separate unit. That these four are a very privileged lot for whom all the rest work is the clear hierarchy and well laid out in the management structure. All of them handle crores in cash with very little or no personal accountability.
Positions available on Hare Krsna Hill — Free Thinkers need not apply
For full time devotees, bhakti is their only pursuit and Srila Prabhupada’s books their only guide. Madhu Pandit knows fully well, from his own experiences in ISKCON, that they tend to observe anomalies and sooner or later ask questions.
As Ananda Tirtha Dasa said:
Also on another occasion I was personally told by Chanchala Pathi Dasa that the management feels that “it is better to have more karmi employees than devotees because devotees will show quotes, ask questions, analyze situations and are generally unreliable”. This clearly shows what the management of Madhu Pandit Dasa feels about devotees who have given their lives for the service of the society!
In the case of Madhu Pandit das and his gang, given their reliance on very illegal and unethical practices (they have committed forgery, perjury, fraud and theft), know that they neither have the credibility to face up to the devotees nor do they have the answers.
Moreover, many of Madhu Pandit’s actions reveal his fundamental problem -megalomania. Due to this, there is always an underlying threat and uncertainty that could be caused by a group of knowledgeable and assertive devotees. There has been dissent in the past.
The gang of four had many close shaves in the past. That they got away with it was more because the groups of devotees who had earlier raised the banner of dissent were either unorganized or out maneuvered or divided by the palace intrigue that Madhu Pandit is very expert at.
That is how this devious plot was hatched – not because of a burning desire to improve anything at Hare Krsna Hill, but to slowly shift the balance of power from volunteer devotees to paid employees. Paid employees are servile, submissive and seldom ask embarrassing questions lest they lose their pay check. Hence it was imperative for the very survival of the gang of four, that they develop a new work model based on servile paid employees. The employee work ethic is – do what you are told to and here is your paycheck, as for the rest it is none of your business. This is how the employees work and this is exactly what Madhu Pandit and his collaborators wanted.
Like a stranger in your own house
Look at the irony, devotees just by themselves built one of the world’s most magnificent Radha Krishna temple complex all from scratch and ran it very creditably for a couple of years and now at the same place they are reduced to playing the role of adjuncts and second fiddles.
As the corporatization increased, there was a subtle but important shift in the mood and purpose of the Hare Krsna Hill temple complex. Profit out of everything and at any cost replaced all spiritual goals.
The last of the first generation of devotees who were still at Hare Krsna Hill and who had all been a part of the legendary team that built this monument, began to feel like strangers in the very house that they had built. This new culture and relegation of devotees as a second class citizens was not the world order that they had set out to create. For that matter nor was it in tune with the Krsna’s Vedic order of society – varnasrama as taught by Srila Prabhupada where the brahmana is at the top of the social pyramid.
Many of them left, again a strategic blunder as we realize now. This is exactly what Madhu Pandit wanted and it cleared the field for him to further his personal game plan. As for the rest, they had to make adjustments which they did because of the TINA factor (there is no alternative). Again, exactly as Madhu Pandit predicted it would happen. How clever.
The tragic transformation of what was once a great temple is complete.
We are watching painfully how this temple complex, once a beacon of hope for the entire worldwide ISKCON community has morphed itself into a mundane money making enterprise. To add insult to the loss, the change has been masterminded by the man who seemed at one time to be one of the brightest and most promising among the second generation leaders in ISKCON. Along with the transformation of the temple. Madhu Pandit das has shrunk from being a spiritual leader who was destined to take ISKCON into the new millennium into a cheap charlatan who is lusting for mundane recognition and praise by sycophants.
The last word:
The door to greatness is open to all; many make it a long way. But the last mile and the last few steps, where most falter, calls not for heroics or daredevilry or ingenuity, but is all about an exemplary and steadfast adherence to ethics, truthfulness, honesty and how one earns the trust of the community and the respect of his rivals. That is how a leader crosses over from being good to great.
To look at numbers or size alone and confer greatness could be a folly. That would be like falling for the trap that Madhu Pandit has laid out. The story of Madhu Pandit is a tragedy for this very reason. Probably he, like Ramalinga Raju, never had it in him to become great.
The disgraced executive Ramalinga Raju is taken to court by police
(The authors owe many of the lessons they have learnt about life to Madhu Pandit das and especially what is mentioned here under the section ‘The last word’. Madhu Pandit personally shared these and other truths soon after he came back to India after he attended the Stephen Covey leadership workshop in the USA in the 90s. If only he had stayed on with this simple yet profound princples ….)
This like many other articles that have been appearing in the blog are a collaborative effort, between ex full timers, present devotees, present and ex congregation. The last time we all got together, we made history by building the HKH. No prizes for guessing why the good Lord has brought us all together again.
Madhu Pandit is sliding and he has no one to blame but himself for this sad state of affairs. He would like us to believe that he went all the way up all by himself, but here we see the same team that helped him scale those heights helping him come down. Isn’t that why they say, we should be nice to people on the way up as we will be meeting them on our way down too.
[Editor: we are not a fan of Stephen Covey, anything positive that can be found in his or any other book can be found in Sastra in a more profound and spiritual way. To study the nature and qualities of a great leader one need only read Manu Smriti, Mahabharata, Ramayana, or even Kautilya’s Arthasastra. It seems that devotees have inherent lack of faith in Srila Prabhupada and need to pay thousands of dollars to attend a conference by some karmi who will tell them some sub-religious principles leading to material success which are already better documented in the literature of Krsna’s Vedic culture with the added advantage of how to dovetail it for spiritual progress.]
Please visit www.ISKCON-BDA.org to find out more details of Madhu Pandit Dasa’s frauds.