Reforming the Principle of Life Membership

BG 10.9 

mac-citta mad-gata-prana
bodhayantah parasparam
kathayantas ca mam nityam
tusyanti ca ramanti ca


The thoughts of My pure devotees dwell in Me, their lives are fully devoted to My service, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss from always enlightening one another and conversing about Me.

H.D. Goswami speaks about the necessity of having clear standard of membership for our society and about the misunderstanding in ISKCON about the meaning of life member.


H.D. Goswami gives an analytical word-for-word explanation of the verse. He mentiones about faith –  sraddha – which literally means srad (heart) and dha, putting one’s heart into something.

Then he speaks about the topic of life membership and the dangers of fundraising for a spiritual institution.

There is a relationship between spiritual institutions and fundraising. Historically institutions go through different phases where they gradually start getting funds and after some time some of the leaders get corrupted, then there is a reformation. Receiving funds can lead to corruption and hypocrisy. If that doesn’t happen there is a strong chance of mismanagement.

Srila Prabhupada didn’t only want us to ring the bell (but he himself did that also). There are sound principles for organizing human beings effectively. If we study institutions we find that they all have members, and there is some formality involved what it means to be a member (like a registered student in a university). So there has to be clear standard.

ISKCON has to free itself from the misunderstanding what being a life member means.

Here H.D. Goswami gives an elaborate socio-historical explanation what lead to this misunderstanding:

During Srila Prabhupada’s times since in India family members were very attached to each other it was difficult for him to pursue young Indians to join the movement full time. The few one who were joining mostly were attached to material facilities. There Srila Prabhupada established an alternative plan called life membership. Those Indians paid their fee and got certain benefits but they were not fully involved in the movement.

In the collective consciousness of ISKCON the world member took on the opposite meaning because it meant someone not actively involved. But we need normal membership, something tangible and formal to be a member. All meaningful activities have some formal structure in life.

There has to be a steady economical system so that the preaching mission can go on. Not that everything stops if there is an emergency in the temple. We need a support initiative to normalize ourselves as an institution so that we can function as any other spiritual institution and can focus on helping others.

“I want us to become a mature, sincere institution. I don’t want to be associated with eccentricity. I am sorry that I became a hippy and I will not become one again.”