By Madhava Smullen
In mid-March, the ISKCON Communications Journal (ICJ) is set to publish its first issue after a fifteen-year hiatus, under the guidance of Mahaprabhu Dasa, Director of ISKCON Communications Europe. The Journal is edited by Tattvavit Dasa and Rupa Sanatana Dasa.
ICJ was known for addressing many important topics and issues, including challenges and crises that ISKCON faced. Articles were written by scholars from both within and outside of ISKCON.
The ISKCON Communications Journal was first published (biannually and then annually) from 1993 to 2005 under the direction of Shaunaka Rishi Das, who later went on to serve as executive director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. It then morphed into the ISKCON Studies Journal, with two more issues being released in May 2009 and September 2014.
Among the article highlights over the years were “Religion and Modern Rationalism” by Richard Thompson; “Reflections on Spiritual Leadership: The Legacy of Srila Prabhupada” by Larry D. Shinn; “The Perils of Succession: Heresies of Authority and Continuity in ISKCON” by Tamala Krsna Goswami; “Insider and Outsider Perceptions of Prabhupada” by Kim Knott; and “Why Should ISKCON Study its Own History?” by Thomas J. Hopkins.
Articles which addressed challenges and crises in ISKCON included “Fundamental Human Rights in ISKCON” by Radha-devi Dasi; “Child Abuse in the ISKCON: 1971–86” by E. Burke Rochford with Jennifer Heinlein; “ISKCON’s Response to Child Abuse: 1990–98” by Bharata-srestha Dasa; “The Principles and Practices of Reform in ISKCON” by Ravindra Svarupa Dasa; and “Editing the Unchangeable Truth” by Jayadvaita Swami.
The first issues of the revived, revamped ICJ will also address timely, important topics such as interfaith dialogue, the empirical study of consciousness, environmental priorities, the welfare of cows, the benefits of ethics and moral philosophy, and relations between ISKCON and the Gaudiya Maths. Contributing writers are Anuttama Dasa, Gerald T. Carney, Akhandadi Dasa, Ravi M. Gupta, Kenneth R. Valpey, Rasamandala Dasa, Ferdinando Sardella, and Tattvavit Dasa.
“In forthcoming issues, as we cover more challenging topics, we hope that the articles will serve both the ISKCON community and the larger society with whom we share interests and concerns,” writes Mahaprabhu Das in his Preface to the new issue. “Our audience includes academics, the media, Hindu organizations and other faith communities, and political leaders and decision makers.”
A highly qualified advisory board of scholars will guide ICJ in its service: Krsna Ksetra Swami, Rasamandala Dasa, Shaunaka Rishi Das, Radhika Ramana Dasa, and Gopinathacarya Dasa.
In his Foreword, Anuttama Dasa, ISKCON’s Global Communications Director, writes: “This revived journal will continue to discuss ISKCON’s growth and its hopes and shortcomings. From its pages, readers will better understand ISKCON’s role as a global Vaisnava society and its potential to uplift people worldwide. I believe that ISKCON’s future is bright — if we keep shining the lights of self-reflection, self-assessment, and self-improvement.”