Frequently Asked Questions
The Code is the official guideline for minimum standards of ethical behavior by ISKCON members, meaning both leaders and initiated devotees.
- To describe ethical norms to be respected by all members of ISKCON,
- To describe how the Code is enforced, and
- To provide channels of appeal for anyone who has been sanctioned for unethical behavior.
An equally important reason for creating the Code was to build trust and credibility for Srila Prabhupada’s movement, both internally among its members and externally among congregants, government agencies, the press, and the public. Trust and credibility are earned when ISKCON members behave honorably. It is one thing to espouse a philosophy, but more often Srila Prabhupada’s movement is judged by its members’ ethical behavior.
For administrative and operational issues, the first person to approach for guidance is the local temple president. If that does not provide you with the attention you seek, the next person would be the local GBC. If your situation is more personal than administrative, the Code advises that you contact ISKCONResolve. Contact information is available at the back of the Code.
Like any large organization, ISKCON has its share of people who either haven’t understood or are unwilling to follow acceptable standards of behavior. At least now with the Code in place, we have guidelines that give ISKCON devotees a clearer picture of what Srila Prabhupada meant when he said his followers should be perfect ladies and gentlemen—and the Code clearly spells out processes for rectifications as well as consequences for violators. Those consequences include probation and, in more egregious cases, removal from a particular service.
In the privacy of our own homes, each of us confronts our strengths and weaknesses, and that exercise is between individuals, their gurus, Krishna, and their own hearts. But those holding office in ISKCON will be held to a higher standard, since their actions have an impact on other devotees as well as the public’s perception of Srila Prabhupada’s institution. Someone who violates basic ethical behavior shouldn’t be allowed to continue holding office in the movement if they cannot rectify themselves appropriately.
We were a small group at first, so we started by soliciting suggestions from a wider range of devotees. The best advice came from a senior devotee who suggested we read every GBC resolution going back to the first year, 1975, and use existing GBC laws as the starting point—in essence telling the GBC “Look, these are your own words regarding ethics. Here they are in a single document.” Most of what is in the Code was already in place but in need of centralizing. We also analyzed similar codes from a dozen or so religious, business and government organizations and consulted with a few university professors who teach ethics.
The Code was not intended as a tool for any one point of view. The intention was to make everyone aware of what Srila Prabhupada expected, and what the texts and ISKCON describe as “ethical.” Then each individual is responsible for applying that standard following his or her conscience.