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Hungary is a relatively poor nation if compared to the average European countries, and also a somewhat
isolated one its language is not spoken in other countries and has no close relatives, and knowledge of foreign
languages is still scarce; even Engish is not widely spoken. Poor linguistic knowledge and lack of funds that could be
spent on travel ensures that among the Hungarian devotees, few have the possibility to make comparisons with other
yatras, to get informed about what is going on in international ISKCON, or indeed even to have much choice in
choosing a guru (only one, the local GBC, speaks Hungarian, and even he is more comfortable with English) or
communicating with him without a reliable translator, especially if confidential topics emerge. In fact, lack of
widespread understanding of English has prevented the spread of some contemporary issues, like ritvikism, into the
Hungarian yatra. Therefore it is widely assumed that the treatments described below are universally practiced in
international ISKCON.
Preaching efforts since 1979 have been lost during the '80s to discontent over management and guru issues
devotees converted at that time, with the exception of a single family, have since then organized groups separate from
ISKCON and affiliated with Gaudiya Math. Because of that, ISKCON's continuous presence can be traced back only to
1989, and that means that among the devotee population, ISKCON's history is largely unknown, and there is no attempt
from the part of leadership to change this situation. Despite that setback, ISKCON Hungary commands the most
influence among all the existing Vaisnava groups, with an overwhelming advantage in membership numbers, resources
and connections. After some years of legal struggle in the early 1990s, the Hungarian yatra has a good relation with the
state authorities, even managing to maintain its status as an established denomination under the present government that
builds its image on Christian and nationalistic values, and has instituted restrictive laws against many smaller groups.
The yatra runs an efficient PR group that maintains good relations with the state, population and also foreign supporters
its efforts may have contributed to the reversal of early government plans to also include ISKCON Hungary amongs
the churches to be demoted to the level of "association", which would have meant the loss of tax exempt status.
Sociologically, Hungarians in general lack a tradition of standing up for their (and for others' ) rights,
preferring to deal with oppression through individual "deals" corruption , by emotionally identifying with the
oppressor, and by withdrawal, either to the privacy of the home (if that is available) or by leaving the oppressing
environment behind. (One leader was heard to say that "human rights are not revealed by the sastra, but instead were
invented by the karmis and demons" during a lecture.) Throughout the training and education of devotees, it is
emphasized, and supported with references from the sastra, that voicing complaints or criticizing the leadership is
offensive, and this resonates well with such a mindset. Writing such a report, for example, is certainly offensive,
because by doing so, one implicitly claims to be advanced enough to judge certain practices as "bad" or otherwise
unsuitable, thereby elevating one's position above one's authorities ordering those measures, to judge them. For these
reasons, any form of resistance is rare, and victims of abuse prefer that others not to stir up trouble for them, to avoid
offences and even more severe punishment.


2.1. Food For Life and street sankirtan
Contributing largely to the popularity of the Hare Krishnas in Hungary is the successful Food For Life program
that holds public programs of food distribution, both in the large cities and in rural parts of the country often
thousands of poor people congregate around the distribution tents. FFL takes special efforts to distribute food in areas
struck by disasters, like during the Sri Lankan tsunami in 2004 and in the Bosnian floods of 2014.
Due to all this popularity, street book distribution is organized in such a way that the sankirtan devotees solicit
donations on the pretext that it will be spent on FFL, and upon receiving a donation, a book corresponding to the sum
received is handed out as a free gift this method consistently brought in more money than "traditional" sankirtan in
which books were to be sold by their content, so it was gradually introduced in the early 2000s. But in fact, FFL is so
successful that it is actually self-sustaining food distributors and supermarkets themselves seek out the devotees to
share excess food, and the amount of bhoga exceeds that of the needs of the food distribution program itself, so some of
it is even used in feeding the temple devotees, or for cooking in festivals. It could proceed even if street book
distribution would be stopped. Proceeds of book distribution are actually spent on tmple maintenance.
2.2. The 1% campaign
Taxpayers in Hungary have an opportunity to offer one percent of their income tax to a religious denomination
of their choice, and one to a charity foundation of their own choice; the government then forwards the offerings to the
chosen organizations. ISKCON Hungary also used the possibility, and maintained an outreach campaign to persuade
people otherwise not religiously committed to offer this one percent of their tax to the devotees instead of the
government so that it can be spent on community development on the New Vraja-Dhama farm community, to FFL and
for other goals. The campaign is successful the number of offerers is many times the people practicing Krishna
consciousness; actually, by number of collected offerings, ISKCON consistently ranks between 4 th and 6th of all
Hungarian religious organizations, and the proceeds remain a large pillar of the budget of the Hungarian yatra.
The only issue is that devotees were told that some (devotee and sympathizer) bookkeepers for many
employees, the company's bookkeepers fill out all the sheets and forms involved in taxation "divert" the offerings of
those who have not offered their 1%. (It is claimed that valid offerings to other churches are not touched, only the nondenominational ones.) Although for the tax-payer it is "lost money" anyway and this practice harms no one except the
ever-so-unpopular government, this tactic if it indeed exists and still practiced is not a very honest one, and if found
out, its backfire may be tremendously harmful.
2.3. The self-sustaining farm
The New Vraja-dhama farm, known as Krishna Valley by the Hungarian public, is marketed as such, both
among the homeland public and among foreign devotees, and as a consequence the Hungarian yatra has gained some
credentials as an eco-conscious and progressive organization, since its inception in 1993. For the casual observer, the
lack of electric appliances in the homes, the use of ghee lamps for illuminating the whole temple complex, and the solar
panels to supply electricity to the most necessary electric equipment like office computers and mobile phone rechargers
in addition to the vegetarian nutrition of the devotees might be very convincing.
But the claim to the status of "self-sustaining" has many criteria, and the fitting of the community to either of
them may be debatable in many areas. From 2000 to 2006, agricultural machinery, running on fossile fuels, were most
certainly used, and (empty) bags of artificial fertilizer were also seen on the property, meanwhile claiming to be
economically self-sufficient; industrialized agriculture is generally seen to be incompatible with such a claim. Such
practices may or may not have been discontinued, but there are other signs for example, rice is still part of the staple
food of devotees. However, rice is not produced in New Vraja-dhama (which therefore lacks the characteristic rice
paddies), so it must be imported from somewhere else, bought from the income generated by selling surplus locally
produced food and other agricultural products; food transported on oil-powered vehicles for many hundreds of
kilometres also ceases to be ecologically sustainable. Even ghee for the ghee lamps were supplied by devotees of other
centres, collected as a "tax" (with a reference to Krishna's dhana-keli pastime) on Govardhana-puja as an addition to the
entrance fee, until veganism was introduced as an institutional policy; then the ghee produced from commercially raised
cows' milk became unsuitable, and sugar was collected from the devotees instead of it, while the ghee lamps were

switched to plant-based oils.

As for financial self-sustenance, the farm derives a large and necessary part of its income from tourism in the
form of organized groups of karmi visitors brought there by travel companies in cooperation with the farm leadership.

3.1. Overextension of infrastructure
The leadership often decides on very ambitious infrastructural development projects, often overestimating
actual needs and also often without sufficient financial background.
From 2001 to 2006, there was a campaign to build or acquire a new temple building in Budapest, Hungary. The
temple room was indeed small and the building itself was far from the central part of the city according to plans, all of
this would have to change. During these years, one billion HUFs, around 3 200 000 Euros were collected from donation
drives, extra sankirtan marathons and rearranging the already existing sources, and in the end, an old factory building
was purchased and refitted. It is a huge building but the temple room inside is not much larger than in the original
one; all that improvement in size went to offices and ashrams, meanwhile the number of devotees actually living in the
temple consistently decreased in accordance with international ISKCON trends. The interior design has become very
opulent, which is not problematic in itself if it doesn't excessively overload the available resources.
On the New Vraja-Dhama farm, after the old goshala has burned down, a nicely decorated huge building with a
large internal height was built instead, possibly well exceeding the expectations of cows. It was followed by building
(and then tearing down) a separate ashram for vanaprasthas; and finally, the building of several pavilions as
manifestations of the holy dhamas around Vrindavan, and the reconstruction of the altar of Sri Sri RadhaSyamasundara.
The main point is that while these projects resulted in esthetically pleasing structures, their actual potency to
repay all that investment either in preaching value or in material value generally seems to be limited.
Future plans on achieving financial stability
Deity and building maintenance is mostly paid from sankirtan and from income tax 1% offerings, and
occasional donations of devotees. There are two schemes for more systematic contribution. In the
Seva-puja program, a daily cost of the worship was to be paid by the donating devotee yearly for a
selected day like one's birthday etc.; and in the Nitya-seva program, a larger, pre-determined sum was
deposited and the interests generated would be used "forever" for Deity worship. (Both involve large
sums compared to an average Hungarian monthly wage.)
There was an open yatra conference on the 4th October this year, where a plan was announced about
the creation of an investment fund of 5.65 million Euros worth, handled by the leadership, investing
in a mixed portfolio of Budapest city real estate and grazing fields around New Vraja-dhama so as
to ensure profitability either in the case of the Western urban civilization surviving or in a widespread
societal collapse (the possibility of which having been also part of the agenda of the conference). The
intent is that, calculating with an 5% interest yearly, this would ensure the maintenance of the
presiding Deities of New Vraja Dhama, Sri Sri Radha-Syamasundara. A large part of the money is still
missing, and it is expected that congregational devotees will contribute with donations, by raising
Nitya-seva and Seva-puja fees, and with extra physical service that will allow the temple devotees to
go more on sankirtana. (Note that if calculating with 1000 contributing families, that would mean an
investment of 5650 Euros each, around half the yearly GDP per capita in Hungary. The conference
was attended by 320 people.) This decision to add large-scale real estate business to the portfolio of
the church was explained that earlier schemes of finding a financial basis have failed due to the
financial crisis that reduced returns on bank deposits, and, among other things, "not calculating with
the inflation".
3.2. Pressure for donations
Even without these overarching projects, the basic upkeep costs of the institution itself cannot be met with the
resources of devotees only if not for the monies coming from karmi sources like sankirtan, one percent tax
contributions and farm tourism, standards of Deity worship would have been already decreased, pujaris wouldn't have
food, and temple building upkeep costs couldn't be sustained. Because of this, the sense of a financial crisis has become
permanent, and therefore large pressure was exerted upon both congregationals and missionaries (see 4.4.2 for the
meaning of missionary in this context) to bring in more and more money. There were campaign drives aimed at the
devotees form time to time, for Hungarian and international programs like for the new Budapest temple, for the
rebuilding of the burned goshala, for the restauration of the new Vraja-Dhama altar, for the Danda-bhanga project in
Bengal. Devotees that were unwilling or unable to contribute were sometimes shamed before others. Some devotees,
presumably with a rich familial background, were asked by authorities to "bring in" a concrete sum (in one case it was

13000 Euros).
Often great emotional pressure is placed on devotees to contribute to these programs, calling their completion
"responsibility that they took by their own volition", although of course the average rank and file devotees had and have
very small word in what projects to embark on.
Either a tithe or Seva-puja participation is mandatory for those who wish to participate in the advisory system,
started in 2010 and detailed in section 4.4.2.
In the Southern Hungarian city of Pcs, a relatively rich entrepreneur has got in contact with
devotees, and soon became very sympathetic towards them; he actually took to organizing the
morning program at home. As he had the means, he donated generously, and he even offered to buy a
new center to the Pcs yatra (at that time there was no building, and we will return to that issue later).
One of the leaders there, however, sternly instructed him that the proper standard introduced by Srila
Prabhupada is to give fifty percent of one's income for the preaching mission. (That which is
actually Srila Rupa Goswami's arrangement after retiring from many years of royal service is rarely
if ever done here, and in the most cases it would be highly impractical. Nobody has ever tried to
actually enforce it. It is mentioned from time to time, for example in lectures held during one of the
donation drives, and devotees are familiar with both the example itself, and with the fact that it is
sometimes brought up to entice people to donate more. This may haven't been known to the new
person though, who was not accustomed yet to these tropes used in devotee communications, and
such a demand may have sounded simply like greed.) "That wouldn't be so good" the person
answered, - "because I wouldn't be able to pay my employees that way". He turned this back on the
devotees and never showed up again.
In at least two cases, entrepreneur devotees were asked to give over their own companies
with assets and with the network of customers they managed to build up to the local center, and
giving up their financial independence, remain there as ordinary employee managers, subject to
centralized wage decisions and being fired in case of debates. In these two cases, these "offers" were
3.3. Management growing rich and important
Besides the temple and Deity maintenance, the financial situation was made more difficult by some devotees
who used leadership positions to accumulate wealth in the form of real estate (at least three cases), cars, electronics
(namely computers and plasma television sets), travels (to India and to other places), or by collecting an unreasonably
large wage from the institution. Some of such acquisitions was explained away with necessity for preaching. Such
instances of getting rich was often followed by the person leaving the movement later on.
There was a case of a Govinda's restaurant, where three other people were fired and then an ex-leader from the
temple was hired for a newly created managerial position for the combined wage of those three people.
There was a temple president who had an own cook and had special meals arranged directly for him. There was
no health issue that would make such preferential treatment necessary and it is doubtful whether the health issues of a
rank and file devotee would merit an own cook or a separate diet.
3.4. Reluctance to pay employees
Devotees living outside the temple were and are encouraged to work either for the temple or for devotee
entrepreneurs (sometimes the boundary between the two can be fuzzy as large donors may find their way into
management positions in temple projects). Those taking this route often find that it is difficult to get the payment in
time reliably. There were cases when "donations" were forcibly retained from the originally stipulated wage.
3.5. Other forms of financial pressure
In the recently initiated varnasrama program, the intent is expressed to allow temple management (as ksatriyas)
to levy fines on devotees as a punishment, for improper acts (not yet detailed which ones). This means that the
leadership will have an incentive to hand out punishments and be on the lookout for punishable deeds (and, depending
on the methods of implementation, that richer devotees may have more leeway than the poorer ones).

4.1. Management style in general
The dealings of the leadership was often unreasonably harsh towards those led by them the mood was often
like in a military camp. Work done was subjected to very detailed scrutiny to find faults in the result. Actual failures and
faults elicited a heavy-worded critique that diminished self-esteem, questioned one's commitment to Krishna, and did
not add to the problem-solving faculties of the subject such treatment was often done just to instill "humility" into the
subjects. (If something was done right though, it was attributed to the guru's and Krishna's mercy you only own your
failures.) Natural tendencies for certain types of service were often consciously disregarded as a means for
"purification" unless marked lack of success, despite genuine efforts, in one branch of service necessitated
reassignment , and lack of suitable enthusiasm was met with shaming. An "one size fits all" mentality was prevailing,
and the whole style was so ubiquitous that everyone was believing that this is the way it is intended; many devotees
believed (and still believe) that such treatment is an integral part of the process. Some devotees, after being subjected to
such treatment, jokingly shared the stories with others, or reminisced on it, sometimes as part of gaining credentials as
an experienced veteran, sometimes even to glorify the commitment of the leader/authority figure to set the subject
"straight". In some cases later on (years after the incidents) the very same devotees became very resentful of having
been treated as such.
(In the early 2000s, the very same mentality was used in the way children were treated in ISKCON's own
school facility by the teachers; since then it reportedly mellowed. There were very few children of missionaries, most of
them living on the farm; and children of congregationals were not allowed to go to the farm's school.)
A case study: Kecskemt
As an example about how much this conception was ingrained in the minds of devotees: In a 2009
case, a preaching program was initiated in the mid-sized city of Kecskemt, with local congregational
devotees under the leadership of a farm-dweller full-timer B. dasa and a Budapest congregational J.
dasa. The Kecskemt yatra was being reorganized (more on this in section 4.4.1.). After about three
relatively successful events in two months, the last one was a failure with only one guest appearing
and then leaving. B. dasa has delivered a lecture about Lord Caitanya's empowerment which is
available to anyone desiring it, and then attributed the failure of the program of the Kecskemt
devotees sinful tendencies which made them reluctant to share the mercy. And then he asked everyone
what is his specific fault that prevented him/her from full-force participation in preaching activity. As
a response, they proceeded with incriminating themselves, with items from "lust" to "love for sports"
items that rarely if ever interfere with the efforts of organizing a preaching program, and apparently
not interfered with organizing the previous three named as their specific vices. This selfincrimination was the sort of behavior they were conditioned to in case of failure. (This was the last
such program to be held, as later on, the Kecskemt congregationals have opted out of the whole
reorganization process.)
In a few cases, leaders threatened subjects that he will prevent them ever getting initiated. There were
a few cases when a leader threatened his charges with physical violence. In one of such cases, the
target of the threats was a husband (a congregational) who committed domestic abuse against his
wife; but in another case, such threats were issued to a congregational woman who was reluctant to
spend less time with her children and collect donations instead.
Actual violence
In at least one case, in a rural centre, the center leader has slapped a sankirtan mataji over weak
results. In more than one cases, a guru who since then left the movement slapped a male disciple.
This same guru may have treated more than one of his disciples this way.
Other extraordinary approaches
There was one case special in the methods applied, in which a female devotee was brought into a
mental institution after a particularly heated debate with authorities, (falsely) claimed to have been
exhibited behavior that may endanger her own or others' security. Such claims are notoriously
difficult to disprove in a psychiatrical setting. She escaped the next day, and didn't ever exhibited
signs of psychiatric disorders.

4.2. Unreasonable expectations

Expectations often surpass the actual capacities of devotees in spheres other than money as well.
Congregational devotees were especially often targeted with overbearing demands, their familial and work obligations
often being disregarded and pressure being applied to force them to render extra time of physical service (cleaning,
preparing foodstuff) in the temples, or to participate in street sankirtan and other programs to collect donations (the 1%
campaign, for example).
Freshly joined devotees often face great emotional pressure to join the temple full-time, often without being
adequately informed what does this entail. Instead of teaching them how to apply Krishna consciousness in their lives,
they are told that only full-timers can seriously practice spiritual life. (This is a widespread notion that can often be seen
in the treatment of congregationals.)
4.3. Suppressing grassroots initiatives
The leadership in general is not in favor of projects they didn't conceive themselves, even if those don't involve
temple resources, and more over, even if they could usefully contribute to temple preaching efforts. In some cases,
devotees were even discouraged from doing bhajans together privately in their homes, if a representant of the temple
hierarchy was not present. This contributes to a sense of disenfranchisement among the congregationals.
There was a program that was actually organized by the New Vraja-dhama farm families in
other parts of the country were allowed to invite the small Deities from there, and a program was held
in their homes with bhajans, some food being offered by the accompanying pujaris, might be even a
lecture. Such events often attracted dozens of devotees in this way the sharing of costs involved was
also easier. After a certain time, Budapest congregational devotees were forbidden to arrange such
programs at Sunday, so as not to rivalize with the Sunday temple program with this, half the
possible occasions were prevented, as the congregationals' work schedules make it impractical to use
any other day besides Saturdays and Sundays.
One congregational family has organized a get-together for families with smaller children
using entirely their own means, just to strengthen the friendship and cohesion between devotees. For
some reason, they felt the need to ask the temple management whether they are allowed to do so,
although there are no known regulations that forbid to organize such events. Nevertheless, it was
forbidden, even if it was to be hold on Saturday. (They decided to do it anyway, and it was largely
successful, even if some to-be participants were discouraged from participation by the temple ban.)
In Budapest, there exists a grassroots dance group that presents both authentic Bharatanatyam and contemporary modern style choreographies. All the necessary equipment was made or
collected by members of the group themselves. Although even the local GBC prefers them, the temple
leadership has unfairly attempted to halt their production, like last-minute cancelling their
performances on program schedules after weeks of preparations and replacing them with sometimes
less experienced dancers in a more favorable relation with the temple authorities, or even outside
In 2010, temple authorities announced that they won't be using commercially raised cow's
milk and dairy to avoid supporting karmi entrepreneurs that kill cows, strongly urging devotees to
follow suit and only buy milk and dairy from producers that guarantee the life of their cows. This, in
practice, means veganism, as the milk output of New Vraja-Dhama do not meet the level to provide
meaningful contribution to nutriton of devotees living elsewhere, and even if it would, long-haul
transport would make the costs prohibitive. A devotee family living within the rural agglomeration of
Budapest, with experience in keeping large animals and in possession of all suitable assets and funds,
pronounced that they intend to fill in the gap and will engage in cow protection. The national
management responded with passing a ban for devotees to keep cows privately, urging the devotees to
donate to New Vraja-dhama so it may one day grow large enough to supply milk to devotees living in
the cities.

4.4. Centralization
There are two major centers in Hungary the Budapest temple and the New Vraja-dhama farm. Before 2003,
there were more "rural" centers in larger cities of the conutry. With building projects starting in Budapest and in New
Vraja-Dhama, these rural centers had their resources redirected there; local devotees who contributed these resources to
have centers within their reach to help them in spiritual life were left with larger and maybe more esthetic projects
hundreds of kilometers farther, that they have the means to visit once or twice a year instead. Temple buildings were
sold, and full-timers living in these centers themselves were moved, mostly to the farm, until in most of these places
only congregationals have been left (to their own devices). That is how the Pcs yatra has lost its temple, as mentioned
in 3.2.1. (Pcs, that had a quite large body of full-timers before, has been especially badly hit, as their temple president
had a particularly dramatic falldown which concluded with the misappropiation of more than 300 000 Euros, partly the
proceeds of this transaction.)
Later on it was realized that dismantling the rural centers may have not been the best possible
policy preaching has stopped in the affected cities, with a large part of the congregational
membership also lost (or at least became unaccessible to central efforts). Then the reorganization
efforts mentioned in 4.1.1. have begun.
The reorganization in Kecskemt involved renting a flat for "internal" programs, and
assigning a full-timer from the farm to travel there from time to time to organize them. The
congregational devotees were inspired to hold regular preching programs again concurrently they
were enticed to participate in a preaching/marketing course with the course material based partly on
sastra and partly on self-development books of Covey and Dale Carnagie. The intention of the
national leadership was to make them establish a Govinda's restaurant, with the necessary funds to be
collected from the preaching programs mentioned in 4.1.1. Because that would involve losing their
jobs and relative independence in the fragile economy to work for the church institution that once has
proven itself to be less reliable than expected, they were not very enthusiastic, and after the failure of
the preaching program, the plan was rejected by the congregational devotees. Now the same recipe is
in the process of being repeated in Pcs, where there are more "survivors" of the collapse of the
center, and some of them are entrepreneurs with more free funds to invest.
The arrival of the advisory system
In the previous accounts the differentiation between "temple devotee" and "congregational" may have
been very apparent. In the Hungarian yatra, this is a strongly visible boundary. Those congregationals
that do not meet a relatively high standard of temple participation, service and/or donation often exist
in a limbo, somewhat of a failure of becoming serious enough to move into a temple. This was
especially so in the early 1990s since then the boundary has become somewhat fuzzier (at least for
those well-to-do enough to "contribute" seriously). Nowadays the category of "missionary" is used for
those who either live in the temple full-time, or maintains him/herself financially while offering 50%
of his income or at least 80 hours per months in service. Congregationals taking part in the system
detailed below are known as "supporters". (And volunteers are those who didn't yet decided, but
living in the temple for a max. 5 years period, after which they have to decide between the first two
groups this is what newly arriving devotees are strongly suggested to become.)
In the late 1990s, nama-hatta groups were organized for the growing number of devotees living
outside temple communities (until them only ashram life including life in the farm community and
Sunday feasts existed), based primarily on geography and personal friendships, with congregational
membership and temple-based leaders assigned to them by the temple management. In 1999, there
were attempts to introduce the bhakti-vrksa system as presented in the Bhakti-Vrksa Handbook.
Appointed leaders were at occasions overzealous to apply standards presented in the handbook, like
doubling membership numbers in 6 to 12 months that resulted in pressure on congregational
members to bring new members, with the assumption that there is an endless supply of friends and
relatives who are all interested in joining groups like these , and in some cases, larger nama-hatta
groups were forcibly made into two smaller ones so as to successful "new bhakti-vrksas" could be
reported. This latter practice has led to membership losses in cases when members bound more by
social affection than mature determination to serve were left behind, or found it more difficult to
access the homes of those remaining in one group with them.
With the bhakti-vrksa system failing to gain traction, eventually the nama-hattas continued as such, in
some times even organizative/leadership roles being passed to congregational members, until 2010,
when the introduction of the new advisory system, said to be modeled after Kiev and Bombay
models, was announced. Dismantling the nama-hattas, around 15 people, many of them former nama-

hatta leaders, were appointed as advisors to be chosen by the congregational members (the templedwellers also having their own advisors). In the case of married advisors, husband and wife together
fill the advisory position, each acting as advisor to members of their own sexes. The advisor is to be a
friend, delivering personal care to the membership, while in the same time acting as a representant of
the institution, their mission statement requiring them among other things to share the vision of the
institution, to be loyal to its leadership and iots decisions, to regard New Vraja-dhama as the spiritual
capital of Hungary, and to teach unity and cooperation by their own examples. The deeply personal
character of the service of the advisor is contrasted by (in addition to the seemingly arbitrary fashion
in which spontaneously organized activities, serving similar functions, were surressed, as mentioned
in 4.3.) the facts that advisors are appointed to the post; they may step down or might be replaced by
their own authorities; and that they are selected not completely freely (even from the list of approved
candidates), but by casting a ballot on which three selectable advisors can be "voted" on in an order of
preference, and they have to receive at least six votes from members.
There were also restictions placed according to ashrama and gender on choosing advisors: grihasthas
and divorced women, for example, were not to choose brahmacaris as advisors, and this sometimes
meant that the former nama-hatta leader whom one has spent ten years serving together, built mutual
familiarity with and had trust in as a spiritual authority (and of course never falling down during these
years) was not available as an advisor anymore. And -- compared with the old system, where there
were none the entry fees were high: either 10% of one's income, or 16 hours of temple service
monthly AND participating in the Seva-puja program.
4.5. Regional identities
Management in some cities took to fostering an exclusionary regional consciousness in devotees under their
care, endowing them with a sense of superiority while inhibiting their association with devotees serving in different
centers. Temple devotees in Pcs were being expressly discouraged from associating with devotees of other centers, in
an attempt to keep them isolated and more available for raising money for the needs of the Pcs management. (They
were renowned in the whole yatra for their sankirtana results, until the falldown of the temple president.)
In much the same way, New Vraja-dhama has such a special prestige that farm-dwellers are more of a separate
"caste" than being a part of the general "missionaries". They are regarded as brijbhasis and said to be purer than those
living elsewhere, to the extent that they are allowed laxer standards on "puja purity", for example not being required to
bathe after passing urine (though in most other aspects of life, they are controlled much more strongly than devotees in
other centers). Until the middle of the 2000s, the local GBC secretary said in his lectures multiple times that New Vrajadhama is the only suitable place in the yatra for devotees to raise children, and couples desiring children were
accordingly pressured to move to the farm. (Then children have been born to devotees serving in other centers anyway,
and many couples with children have left the farm in the following years, so eventually this trope has been phased out.)
From 1996 to 2004, large summer festivals were organized on the farm around the time of Janmastami, with a
large part of the Hungarian yatra attending, camping on the premises of the farm. In 2005, camping on the farm was
banned (and camping facilities have been demolished), and also farm-dwellers hosting devotees not living on the farm
was disallowed devotees living elsewhere had to either register into the farm guesthouse or reserving places in
establishments managed by karmi entrepreneurs outside in nearby villages. The explanation was that to prevent
"externals" to contaminate the farm-dwellers with their "mentality".
In the same time, devotees of other centers are strongly encouraged to look to New Vraja-dhama as a sort of spiritual
capital, to travel and render service there, and to look upon his own center as an extension of NVD.
4.6. Scare tactics and apocalyptic preaching
From time to time, a sense of urgency and commitment was created through detailed descussion of outside
events, particularly wars, and as of recently, climate change, with a mood of expecting that severity and extent of such
events will grow in the near future. The mood so elicited was used to support arguments for self-sufficiency (that is, to
motivate people to move to the farm), or to expect higher performance in preaching and in donations, either to avert the
disaster, to ensure that enough resources will be available to resist its effects, to efficiently use the "remaining" time, or
to "deserve" higher chances of survival and providence in case it happens. There were cases in which durable food was
hoarded in devotee establishments when the apocalyptic mood have subsided, such stocks were often disposed of.

With the guru having such a central role in Gaudiya Vaisnava theology, guru-disciple relationship was also the focus of
leadership efforts, often with not positive results to the affected members.
5.1. Interfering with choosing a guru
Although the freedom to choose the guru is well-known, sometimes some pressure was applied to influence the to-be
disciple to take shelter of particular gurus. There were arguments that those wanting to accept gurus that live and preach
far away and travel rarely (or not at all) to Hungary are in reality want to avoid being controlled, and the same was said
about people wanting to accept a guru whose language they did not understand.
5.2. Hindering communication with the guru
If there were language differences with the guru, communication with the him was hindered not only by the lack of
language skills, but the lack of reliable translators too. Certain members were forbidden to choose their own translators,
requesting the subject to give his/her letter to a certain person, often the authority himself, thereby getting access to
sensitive information against the will of the subject. Sometimes the appointed (or self-appointed) translator edited the
text, preventing that the disciple communicate with his/her guru freely sometimes responses of the guru were
similarly edited, the Hungarian translation lacking important phrases that the guru did write to his disciple. Letters (and
responses) were occasionally withheld or "forgotten" indefinitely. In one case (happening in the late 90s when home
Internet access was still rare and therefore many devotees depended on the temple for even writing an e-mail to their
gurus), the response was printed on the other side of a document, and after having been shown to the disciple, the letter
itself was withheld because the document on the other side was deemed important and the leader has denied the
possibility to print the response letter on an empty sheet, saying that it would be a waste of Krishna's resources.
5.3. Slowing the initiation process
In the same fashion as the disciples' letters, recommendations were in many cases unfairly withheld for devotees who
had all necessary qualifications. Devotees taking shelter of "foreign" gurus seem to frequently face such treatment,
although they are certainly not singled out for it.
5.4. Ban on Bhakti Tirtha Swami's books
Reading the works of one particular ISKCON guru, namely Bhakti Tirtha Swami, is either banned or severely
discouraged in the Hungarian yatra, and therefore some of his works are clandestinely spread in translation, so as to
avoid being subjected to disciplinary measures. This decision stems from the early 2000s when a small group of his
aspiring disciples had a particularly bad fallout with authorities of the New Vraja-Dhama farm.
5.5. No adequate information on a guru being disciplined
On the other hand, it seems that one guru, Bhakti Balabh Puri Goswami was allowed to be active in Hungary even after
having been placed under disciplinary measures by the GBC elsewhere, without informing the devotees on the existence
of these measures. After BBPG was exposed as having been fallen down, his disciples were encouraged and sometimes
pressured by local authorities to take re-initiation from the local GBC.


6.1. Interventions in formations of marriages
The management was extensively involved in interacting with the marital relationships of devotees under their
care, with the seemingly most major concern being to prevent falldowns (ie. the temporary lessening of sadhana, service
and renunciation levels, as opposed to leaving the movement altogether) in a "damage control" or "medical" approach,
and this often compromised the emotional freedom of the involved, and fostered paternalism. This attitude wasn't
completely successful in preventing falldowns (in both senses) either.
Those in the process of associating were required to spend time together only for a limited time, only in the
presence of an older grhastha, the mentor, appointed for this task they were not to serve together nor to participate in
social interactions together with devotees other than the mentor. (For congregationals, enforcement of this practice was
limited, for practical reasons.)
Arranged marriages
Although there was always ample encouragement (for men anyway) to remain lifelong brahmacaris,
relatively few men heed this advice, and most others finally decide to marry. In certain cases
throughout the years, the management, including the GBC secretary, believed that particular couplings
of men and women will increase service efficiency of the persons involved, staying power (resistence
to falldown) or both, and such couples, often bound by nothing else than similar service assignments,
were advised to take lifelong commitment to each other. In earlier times, with service schedules and
the atmosphere of discouragement prevented devotees of getting to know potential candidates by one's
own initiative, this was the norm to-be husbands and wives vere selected by gurus, temple presidents
and commanders for each other, and the initiation of the whole process was more just another service
assignment than anything else. The affected people had the possibility to say no, but the small size of
the community and the ticking biological clocks did not encourage being too selective either.
Sometimes "widows" whose partner has fallen down and left the movement were driven to marry a
new partner so as to prevent the "widows" falling down themselves out of desperation. There was a
particular case where the potential husband was, known by his authorities, homosexual, and this
marriage procedure was undertaken in the hope that it will prevent those urges to resurface.
Later on, the preferences of the potential grhastha was given more attention. In New Vraja-dhama, the
method for this was a form of ballot casting (similarly to the system mentioned in 4.4.2.), in which the
ladies in the process of seeking to marry were asked to write the three most preferred male candidates.
After (male) leadership figures had much more than one candidates "voting" to them (after all, the
ladies had the most contact and exposure to them, the whole environment being construed in such a
way as to prevent unnecessary meeting between the two sexes and all the necessary meetings were
with authority figures), some of these leaders were married in the "old" arranged way, so as to protect
them from so many females "meditating" on them.
Marriages in ISKCON are often unsuccessful, and Hungary is not an exception either. Some of these
arranged marriages ended quite dramatically, and in general, they weren't anymore successful than
"own-initiative" marriages. Consequently, the practice has declined with time, and the involvement of
the high leadership became rare. The responsibility of guiding and helping devotees wishing to marry
now rests with the advisory system, with the advisor(s) taking the function of the mentor(s). The
management still retains the right to disallow association or marriage for full-time devotees in their
resolutions that regulate the situation of such devotees.
Marriage prevention
This might be the opposite of the arranged marriage, and probably more prevalent. As said above,
marriage was often seen as an inherently dangerous if not degrading procedure. Then, of course, those
who are desiring it are under the effect of maya, and especially those getting particular about whom to
marry are in an imminent danger and are to be saved by decisive action; especially so if the
prospective couple consisted of a temple devotee/missionary and a congregational and it was likely
that the congregational didn't want to move into the temple. Farm-dwellers were prevented even from
building a relationship with temple devotees of other centers, if that would mean the farm-dweller
leaving the farm. Temple devotees were assigned to different services, or even moved to different
centers, to prevent meeting with the person they were attracted to. Suspicious persons were sometimes
"tracked" by reliable cadres (sometimes service leaders themselves), closely following one or both of
the prospective partners to ensure they cannot build their relationship further. Such measures were

employed against congregationals as well.

Fresh devotees coming to the movement with partners were advised give up their commitment "for a
year" to concentrate on service; if the candidate has moved into the temple, he was deployed in other
parts of the country. Strong effort was applied to drive them apart even if both joined.
Congregational parents of adolescents (of the age group 16 to 24) with romantic attraction towards
each other were advised and sometimes pressured quite strongly by nama-hatta leaders and other
temple authorities to prevent their children from seeking each other's company, even if the parents
themselves had no objections, with no consideration of the maturity and commitment of the
candidates. This often undermined the youths' trust in parents and authorities as well as their
commitment to Krishna consciousness, with not much useful result to show for the effort, eventually
driving quite a few into relationships with karmi peers, away from the obtrusive atmosphere
maintained among the devotees, many of them eventually leaving the movement for good.
As a final effort to discourage "illegal" couples, marriage yajna, if sought for, was often denied,
driving some of such couples, still desiring ritual blessing on their relationship, to seek the assistance
of Christian priests, or of Gaudiya Math brahmanas.
6.2. Divorces
Although in principle only allowed if one of the partners have fallen down (as in leaving the movement completely),
divorce rates remained high, and most of the activity of the standing Devotee Court is to process divorces. Maybe as a
deterrent, divorced devotees were often banned from visiting the temple, although the usefulness of this treatment is
questionable if they are to be helped back into good spiritual consciousness.
Devotee women with children, living in physically and emotionally abusive households,
were pressured by their authorities not to divorce, calling the practice demonic and adharmic,
knowing the extent of abuse taking place, and consequently, children were exposed to such abuse
themselves. Much less effort was dedicated to try to set the abusive husbands straight, like
encouraging him to cease with the abuse and to get and hold a job.
In a New Vraja-dhama case, after a man has left the farm and his pregnant wife with another
woman, the authorities have kicked the woman as well, claiming that the situation of the "single
mother" does not exist in the varnasrama system, and that she is unlikely to find a new husband with a
baby. (The motivation may have been to avoid the upkeep of an improductive mother and her baby; in
fact, there was a single mother and a single grandmother living on the farm at that time, although both
had adolescent children instead of newborns.)
Some leaders were allowed a second Vedic marriage after divorcing their first partner, while
in general it is sternly denied for the rank and file.
6.3. Begetting children
Missionaries are required to have a written permit of the management for each child to beget. (A case can be made for
this practice, as temple communities work under relatively tight financial constraints, and members have taken vows of
an austere and renounced lifestyle.) In at least one case, a married couple, where the wife's got pregnant without being
permitted to, was banished from the farm, for breaking the fourth regulative principle. (There were other cases outside
of marriages, which were not followed by such harsh measures.)

The idealized Hare Krishna lifestyle is still very much a monastic affair a life of preaching, service and
renunciation, practiced in an ashram community; this is what is written about in scriptures, heard of in lectures, this is
what informs expected standards. Already marriage (and congregational devotees) were hard to fit into this frame, even
for people who joined the movement on their own decision. Children, on the other hand although no doubt influenced
by their past lives to take birth in the association of those who became devotees often just find themselves in this
frame without deciding to do so themselves, bringing with themselves their own natures, needs and expectations. This is
an extra load on management, and handling that load is often not particularly successful.
7.1. The "detached" way
This is not only a children's problem, but this is where its potential harmful effects are most difficult to avoid.
In the Hungarian yatra, particularly on the farm, great emphasis was placed on human relationships (hierarchical ones
and friendships as well, and especially family relationships) to be conducted in a formal, emotionless and reserved way,
so as to avoid offences of accidentally minimizing someone who is, unknown to us, a very advanced Vaisnava, and also
to prevent attachments that will keep us in the material world. This went as far as reintroducing a thou-you distinction
into the devotee parlance between men and women, which, although part of the formal-polite sociolects of
contemporary Hungarian language (without gender-specificity), it was customarily not practiced among devotees until
around 2007. In the same spirit, parents were strongly encouraged to treat their own children according to similar
7.2. High expectations
Children were often expected to show greater discipline, maturity and sometimes endurance than usual in their
age groups. In Budapest, they crewed preaching programs, and in the farm, they were expected regular service
schedules, some (like certain cleaning and kitchen tasks, or doing harinama in the winter mornings) requiring
considerable stamina, with their results measured to the same very high standards as the adults and if they didn't meet
the expectations, the criticism was just as harsh. Parents also expect the children to be "surrendered" and not to be
bothered by bodily conditions.
Parents with young children were in a certain way disenfrachised, as there was often no proper accommodation
to children that couldn't be quiet and inactive for long enough to sit through a Sunday program or a nama-hatta program
without disturbing the adults. In 1999, Budapest temple actually used the cellar to host such children. In the early
2000s, the New Vraja-dhama farm has banned children from participating in the communal meals, the ordinance citing
their tendency to be situated on the annamaya platform of consciousness and wishing to protect adults from being
contaminated by this low level. This had changed; in advisory group meetings, children of the devotees are expected
and seen important to participate.
In a particular case of high expectations, two boys of New Vraja-dhama, being allowed to
visit "karmi" high school outside the community after completing the elementary gurukula, were
required to wear devotional outfit there, in order to "preach" to their classmates (or to prevent them
"fitting in"). Being unfamiliar with such garments, the children have emotionally abused their devotee
classmates, as it is customary with "deviants" in Hungarian schools where there is no particularly
developed culture of tolerance for diversity.
7.3. Inadequate informing of children
Devotee communities denied their children, particularly girls, adequate and neccessary knowledge of their own
bodily functions, to the extent that in New Vraja-dhama, girls weren't prepared for the experience of periods even after
the periods have appeared, shocking the affected girls, the underlying causes were left in the dark; they were only told
that this will periodically repeat, and were given the list of purity standards and services to avoid. Adolescent girls well
into their puberty were kept ignorant as to how children are created, with even their biology textbook being censored,
by cutting out the pages referring to this topic. It is highly improbable that such ignorance will protect them from the
effect of material desire or contribute to the success of begetting and raising Krishna conscious children.
In Budapest, as recently as 2015, aversion was experienced with instead of an information blackout, as it can
be inferred from the uncharacteristical fright pre-teens spoke about the topic to their parents. This is an unhealthy idea
and not the standard Vedic method of becoming free of the agitation of material energy.

7.4. Restriction of education

In New Vraja-dhama, girls (as opposed to boys) are not to go beyond elementary school. Such forced, artificial
retention of education for young girls in the movement is in marked contrast to the treatment of educated women who
join Krishna consciousness after acquiring an education (or as university students); they are usually not barred in the
Hungarian yatra from serving according to their tendencies and capabilities, being allowed to hold even important
leadership positions.
In at least one case, elementary schooling was intentionally slowed down to hold out until the
end of compulsory schooling age, to avoiding the pressure of Hungarian authorities to send the girl in
high school this was done by reporting the girl as a home-schooler (despite her being taught in the
non-boarding gurukula of the community), and indicating (falsely) that she had failed her end-year
exams and having to repeat that year. In reality, six months worth of course material was taught every
year, artificially halving the speed of her education.
Upon reaching the age of 18, she still wanted to begin high school, and it was denied by the
authorities. With the help of her (single) mother, she enrolled anyway, and consequently both mother
and daughter were kicked out of the farm and moved to Budapest. After this they drifted away from
the movement.
As lately as 2015, local GBC Sivarama Swami gave Hungarian-language lectures, both to
rank and file devotees and to management, as part of his recently introduced varnasrama program, in
which he urged devotees not to over-educate their daughters. That makes them unwilling to execute
proper stri-dharma and to fit into a varnasrama community, and also frightens away potential
husbands. He called it the task of the leadership to spread this conviction among the devotees,
admitting that it will probably meet some resistance.
7.5. Interfering with necessary medical treatment
There was at least one case in which caregivers of a minor were pressured not to provide medical help to their
child. The victim of this incident was an adolescent boy living in New Vraja-dhama, one of those mentioned in 7.2.1.
He was reared by his maternal grandmother, also a devotee living on the farm; his mother worked full-time and living
outside in another city, because she was divorced and being refused to live on the farm (as a single mother), so she only
visited him from time to time. The boy was remarkably intelligent, had a good memory (he reputedly knew the
Bhagavad-gita by heart) and had a wide range of intellectual interests (although his mundane ones were discouraged by
his wider environment, except by his mother and grandmother who were also well-educated materially and thought it
might be useful and important) he was also remarkably reserved, shy, and had difficulty in communicating emotions
and needs. Some say he may have suffered from Asperger's syndrome, although he was never diagnostized. He was
allowed to keep contact with his father (who was not a devotee).
Somewhere between 2003 and 2006, a few weeks after returning from a pilgrimage in India in a weakened
bodily state (having lost much weight and affected by a fungal skin infection), the boy has suffered a nervous
breakdown while visiting his father, becoming delusional with hallucinations. After this news was relayed to the farm
authorities, the mother, travelling to the scene, was pressured not to allow her son to be treated in a psychiatric ward,
with the explanation that having a devotee child requiring treatment from karmi psychiatrists, whatever the underlying
cause be, would harm the interest of preaching. His mother took him to the psychiatry anyway, where his condition
eventually improved, although the treatment required weeks and he remains in need of taking medicine. According to
the mother, the cause of the breakdown was tension between karmi thinking and lifestyle as experienced through
association with the father and classmates, and the restrictive and renounced devotee lifestyle as seen on the farm, and
the inability to harmonize the self-image of being groomed to be a first-class devotee as expected of him, and having
desires like going to a cinema. The family haven't returned to the farm, and the boy has expressed that he is not
interested anymore in being a devotee, although he is not hostile just totally uninterested.
The farm authorities apparently wanted to press charges against the youth organizer who had the boy under his
care during the pilgrimage (he was there with other Krishna conscious youth, mostly from India), believing (or wanting
to present the case like) that he was abused sexually by either the youth leader of one of his fellow pilgrims. The mother
repeatedly denied that any sexual incident has happened, and refused to sign the paper required to press such charges;
later on she found out that her signature was counterfeited onto the paper by her brother (also a devotee, living on the
farm at that time).

As mentioned in 3.5 and 7.4.1., a plan was introduced to "introduce varnasrama" in the course of a relatively short
period. In practice, this means the introduction of varnas, as the ashramas are already established since the existence of
ISKCON. In the lectures given to present the ideas and also in the introductory booklet disseminated among the
devotees, it was mentioned that 75% of all people, and presumably a similar proportion of devotees, are sudras; and
sudras are to be under strict control of the three higher varnas, otherwise they only cause disturbance in society (the
example choosen to illustrate this point, referring to Srila Prabhupada's conversation of the 14 th February, 1977, being
the black population of the United States of America although the issue is not as contentious in Hungary as in the
USA, being racially homogenous for the most part, such talk would certainly jeopardize ISKCON's image, if it was
leaked to the public; and it is also somewhat surprising to presume that devotees, being free of control, would cause
crime and violence). In devotional life, the two immediate consequences of such a system might be that those classified
as sudras are required to treat the higher varnas with a special respect, which means establishing a hierarchy among
devotees based on material characteristics; and the possible discouragement of marrying someone from a different varna
(in order to prevent the characteristics to mix in the children in an unfavorable way).
In lectures dealing with the topic, sudras are also mentioned to have no private property, leaving in financial
dependence of the other three varnas. This may mean that devotees found not to belong in the higher castes may be
pressured to give up their properties. To-be sudras are already encouraged to prefer full-time service to being employed
by karmis.
In the "General principles" part of the introductory booklet, congregational members (those who do not
participate in either gurukula education or as a fulltime volunteer) are automatically classified as sudras, except if the
necessary qualifications are acquired otherwise. The same document also equates brahmanas and ksatriyas with temple
services that are generally only available to full-timers, leaving vaisya the only higher varna available to
congregationals. Those who aren't missionaries nor succesful entrepreneurs therefore may find themselves in a class
that is strongly pressured to give up its financial independency, whether their actual nature (as opposed to present life
situation) is suitable for doing so or not.