The discussion below was set in motion by Rajiv posting this link regarding the attempt at digestion taking place within an ISKCON formation in the USA.
Second, this evangelism part is very disturbing. It is clear case of totally assimilating into Western ethos. Food, clothing, music and the methods of preaching the religion is going to change a lot. Obviously, within few years it will become the fastest growing / evangelizing Hindu religion of the West.
Since they are also building a massive temple in the suburbs of Kolkota, we have other issues coming up. Ownership of ISKCON and the role of Hindus in the organizational set up now and in the future. Indians made enormous contribution and sacrifice towards the success of the project.
ISKCON in the west is divided into two parts, one, the smallest, consider themselves Hindu. They would have more to do with a hindu outlook of the world, in which respect towards all the paramparas and towards all deities is there. But I am sorry to say that this is the tiny minority. The vast majority have only replaced the western word and meaning of "God" by "Krishna" as a monotheistic monolitic Unique Supreme, distorting the sacred scriptures to the extent of saying that Bhagavan Vishnu is an avatar of Shri Krishna, for example.
A real hindu as far as my understanding reaches, would revere all deities as different aspects of the Ultimate Divine, even having their own istha devatha, and would never try to impose their view on others. With westerners hare krishnas, it is exactly the opposite of what they do, regarding all Devatas as "minor gods" and following their own exclusivist view on Krishna.
I agree with you though when you say that ISKCON in the West is pervaded by the Western ethos; but the concept of Krishna being Supreme and other gods being lower in the hierarchy actually comes from the Indian Gaudiya sampradaya itself.
They were speaking Christianity but not calling it that. I knew I had met the people I was to practice with. My desire was to be a Christian. I had to struggle with the fact that I found it being practised to the highest standard by non-Christians.
Unfortunately nowadays Indians themselves do not understand. I must say, before Rajiv ji brought out perspectives many too dint understand how to “position” ourselves clearly on Dharmic views, and Im sure many in the forum would agree to this. In “all” my interactions so far with various very big “leaders” of various Hindu religious and social organisations, books like BD and IN are an eye opener. This shows how much awareness is needed in these subjects. Hence to expect everyone to be born or be aware of such mature perspectives is absurd. We need to collectively work to push these concepts.
...I feel that to truly understand the word "diversity" one needs to travel within India, not just at tourist places or airports, but by interacting with local temples, local people etc where you can see a vibrant diversity in each aspect of Dharma. Mind boggling diversity amongst same streams of Shaivites, Smartas, Vaishnavites can be seen all across India.
I tend to agree with Anuttam’s mail. ISKCON is a highly diverse organization, highly decentralized and very different style of governing. Some are inspired by ISKCON, they split later but maintain standards, some split and deviate…, some are well intentioned but less informed, all look the same externally. Yet ISKCON is also one of the very few organisations with very high standards in terms of Eating habits, Sadhana, Deity worship, Pilgrimages, Kirtans, etc. But it certainly isn’t perfect in the Absolute sense. Having said this, I dont expect many in ISKCON, especially westerners to understand this view due to their limited exposure on this subject. That doesnt provide an excuse though.
From my honest view, it needs more improvement, and lots and lots of it, than what can be see from outside. But there are very few organisations who even come close to what ISKCON has achieved so far globally and the rigorous effort it continues to put to promote certain basic tenets of Sanatan Dharma, popularly known as Hinduism.
Hence, it is important to see that the various sampradayas of Hinduism strive to find the intrinsic foundational unity that binds them with mutual respect and do a thorough purva paksha on those trying to digest them. It is only when this is done that Hindus can avoid the far too easy traps that they fall into allowing non Dharmic faiths to inculturate and eventually digest them. Indra's Net, Rajiv's book dealing with the open architecture nature of Dharmic faiths, provides defense mechanisms for Dharmics to counter such attempts from history-centric Abrahamic faiths.