The News Agency of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness

Why Dialogue with "Cult-Critics"

By: for ISKCON News on July 6, 2015
Photo Credits:

"The purpose of meeting cult-watching experts is not to change in some shallow way the perception of our ISKCON society, especially among our critics."

My thanks to Kumari Kunti Sherreitt for her recent ISKCON News article about the ISKCON Communications Conference in Radhadesh, Belgium. 

(Please read article here:,4960

As a principal organizer of this event she writes about, I'd like to point out an important aspect of ISKCON's interaction with anti-cult organizations, or cult-watching organizations. The goal of such dialogue is not to ascertain whether ISKCON is, or is not, a "cult." People are free to argue that point as they like, some referring to the historical legitimacy of Gaudiya Vaishnavism to state that ISKCON is an authentic religious tradition, others will point to the problems, past and perhaps present within our society, to claim ISKCON is a sect, or cult. 

The real issue, and the reason we dialogue with cult-watching organizations is to understand the dynamics of what are today known as "cultic behaviors" including undue influence over people, lack of accountability of leaders, lack of transparency, manipulation, and psychological abuse. These are conditions that can exist in any group, or community of people across human society--including families, religious communities, political organizations, etc. 

ISKCON and its membership have suffered from these social problems in the past in some parts of the world, and likely some of those harmful behaviors are still present in some places, to some degree in and around ISKCON. The key to continued progress and growth of ISKCON in this context, and the reason for dialogue with cult-watching groups, is to develop a deeper understanding of the nature of those potential problems and how they undermine the "purity" of our movement, the ethical behavior of our society, as well as healthy leadership and interpersonal dynamics within ISKCON. 

 And, of course, to learn and apply steps that can be taken to avoid the problems. 

The purpose of meeting cult-watching experts is not to change in some shallow way the perception of our ISKCON society, especially among our critics. The purpose is ensure the ISKCON society is in fact, as best we can, promoting and abiding by healthy social, spiritually informed values and interpersonal relationships and structures. 

If we do that individually and collectively, then the real goal will have been achieved. That is, our society will have minimized--and will continue to do its best to guard against--any and all forms of undue influence, mistreatment, and abusive leadership at all levels within our international community. To the degree that such healthy dynamics and leadership structures are the fact, and that we are prepared to dialogue about problems as well as progress, any negative perceptions and labeling of our society will naturally and automatically diminish.

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