[This post is shared is in the interest of transparency and raising awareness of such blatantly illegal projects. The public also needs to know that Food for Life Global DOES NOT receive any donations from street collectors. We do not endorse this practice and those that participate in it are disqualified to be affiliated with Food for Life Global.]
I started my career with Food for Life as a volunteer monk at the Food for Life cafe in the Sydney western suburbs town of Paramatma called Gopals. I was always fascinated by this beautiful service and from the beginning, saw how powerful it was for attracting people to Krishna consciousness.
The FFL servery out the back of the Kings Cross temple in Sydney started around 1979/80 and is considered to be the first of its kind in ISKCON. It was this project that inspired Mukunda Goswami to promote FFL as a way to change public opinion about ISKCON. This is when the name Hare Krishna Food for Life was coined and got its legs as a public relations tool for ISKCON and subsequently set FFL on a path of destruction too.
Why? Because by establishing FFL as a public relations tactic it positioned this sacred act as nothing but a show. As a result, it was criticised heavily by the likes of Jayadvaita Swami, and rightly so. FFL should never be about feeding hungry people to gain the favor of the public. It is ALL about expanding the culture of spiritual hospitality and teaching spiritual equality through acts of unconditional kindness. That is why when FFL Global was established in 1995 we worked hard to change the objective and mission of FFL to “Uniting the world through pure food,” thus firmly establishing that FFL was a vehicle for expanding prasadam distribution and the sankirtana movement and not a PR exercise.
Bogus Street Collections
Sadly, though, with the success of projects like Food for Life Sydney came opportunistic devotees set on exploiting the good name of Food for Life. The first example of this was when devotees started collecting donations on the streets using Jagannath stickers and claiming to be feeding kids with those donations. It was totally bogus from the get-go. Very little of that money ever made its way to Food for Life’s bank account and most of it stayed in the pockets of these collectors or paid off debts, cars, and apartments purchased by ISKCON leaders.
I remember one example of their cheating. It was 2005, and the great Asian Tsunami had just struck and the whole world wanted to help. ISKCON Sydney had devotees in full force out on the streets of Sydney with buckets collecting donations for the disaster relief. At that time, I was in Sri Lanka managing a team of volunteers from all over the world feeding people prasadam. I got a call from Rupa Raghunath from Sydney and he was telling me about the collections. He told me that he alone had collected about $20,000 in 7 days. “It was amazing,” he told me. He was one of at least 20-30 others doing the same. It was a collection bonanza and ISKCON Sydney, led by Andre Malice (aka Atmarama das), was taking full advantage to milk every penny they could from the Australian public.
This collection frenzy went on for 3 months and so you can imagine how much they would have collected — most likely hundreds of thousands of dollars and yet when it came to actually donating to the food relief in Sri Lanka they only wired $25,000 to the FFLG bank account. Andrea was called out on this in Mayapur and he told Indradyumna Swami that he donated 50% of what they had collected. Considering that Rupa Raghunath alone had collected close to this amount in one week and that there were over 20 others doing the same, and this fundraising went on for months, who in their right mind can believe his statements!? He was lying to Maharaja’s face and doing it in Mayapur.
Of course, this is one small example of corruption in a veritable sea of corruption that expands over 30 years in Sydney. Literally, tens of millions of dollars have been collected by this temple in the name of feeding children and yet little ever goes to sponsoring prasadam distribution.
So around 2005, I started to put pressure on Andre about his cheating but rather than doing the needful and complying with legal fundraising standards and acting ethically, he basically told me to “jump off a cliff” and changed the name of his project to Caring for Life! Yes, this is the mentality of charlatans. They will always look for a way out.
Apparently, he took this program to support his Govinda Valley project when he moved away from Sydney to the south coast of NSW.
Bogus Claims of Being an International Organization
Now, fast forward to 2017, and what do we find?
Not only is the Sydney ISKCON and ISKCON Govinda Valley still illegally collecting millions of dollars on the streets of Sydney and lying to the public about how they use these funds but they now have the gall to claim that Caring for Life is the international headquarters for ISKCON Food for Life program!
You can see it clearly written here on their page: https://www.caringforlife.com.au/food-relief/
“Caring For Life is the largest vegetarian/vegan food relief organization in the world. We donate more than a million healthy, plant-based meals – every day. These meals feed people living in a crisis such as the homeless, the elderly and the poor. Our worldwide confederation of over 550 centers distributes these meals to people in over 60 countries.”
When in fact, Food for Life Global was founded by HH Mukunda Goswami and myself in 1995 to serve as the official headquarters for ISKCON’s Food for Life programs. Furthermore, Caring for Life is not even affiliated with the Food for Life Global network and never has been.
It is about time that the GBC does something to stop these bogus collection tactics of temples like ISKCON Sydney and ISKCON Govinda Valley and the gross cheating of the public. It is happening ALL OVER THE WORLD!!! The irony of all this is that FFL was pushed forward as a means to change public opinion to something positive and Prabhupada did say that a positive public opinion was important as this statement points out:
In a letter to Rupanuga (January 9, 1975), he wrote:…”Somehow or other we should not become unpopular in the public eye. These dishonest methods must be stopped.It is hampering our reputation all over the world.”
However, that very program is now being used to destroy ISKCON’s reputation and it is all being tolerated because of its ability to bring in lots of money.
I have lost count of the hundreds of times I have received an email or phone call from someone around the world asking me if “such-and-such” person is a bonafide fundraiser for Food for Life Global. I flatly tell them to report this person to the local police because no one is certified to collect funds for Food for Life Global on the streets. These hustlers even have the gall to give the public our website www.FFL.org to lend credibility to their claims!
Furthermore, you can imagine my frustration having spent the best years of my life supporting and sponsoring ISKCON’s FFL projects only to see such hustlers exploiting the good work of sincere FFL volunteers to make money for themselves!
It is not only disgusting, it is downright demonic and needs to be addressed and corrected now by ISKCON leadership!
Paul Rodney Turner
International Director & Co-founder Food for Life Global