A look at Theosophical Society at Adyar
Theosophical Society, since it established its International Headquarters at Adyar in 1882, was led by luminaries such as Blavatsky, Olcott, Annie Besant, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Rukmini Arundale and many others. Blavatsky established schools for untouchables, Olcott started the free school for the children from the fishermen from Urur among other accomplishments. Besant was legendary in working both in the Independence Movement and her social projects including her efforts to prevent child marriages. Jiddu Krishnamurti is today one of the most read philosophical authors in the world. Rukmini Devi revived Bharatanatyam and is a fixture in most major cities around the world not to mention its popularity. So Theosophical Society in a way established it was the forerunner in many areas and many were the men and women who have benefitted by its leaders. But unfortunately, today, it is now led by a very little known part time leader Tim Boyd from the USA and Theosophical Society is mired in multitude of issues and controversies. Here are some of them so that anyone new can see for themselves.
President Election and litigation in Chennai High Court
We all witnessed the election which started with ‘policy of silence’ and lacked transparency and end-to-end control of ballots integral to democratic election. And the matter has now reached Chennai High Court as nothing was done by the Election Committee to address the alleged irregularities and malpractice in the state of Karnataka and Varanasi. The allegation is that it tampered with the outcome of election. Surreptitious arrival of the current President from USA night before the announcement of the results and his hasty assumption of office within an hour of announcement results speaks for itself.
Since there are so many parties to the litigation, an army of lawyers are engaged and a lot of money is going to be wasted instead of it being spent on projects helping the workers at Adyar and public at large in line with the objects of Theosophical Society.
Going forward, a clean election with full transparency and end-to-end control of balloting and tallying is essential to protect the image of the Society and credibility of the President necessary to lead the TS. India has vast experience in conducting clean elections. Professional help can be obtained very easily.
Minutes of General Council Meeting:
The General Council is the top governing body. It is like the Board of Directors or Trustees. The official minutes of the 25th December 2014 meeting is yet to be released. Professionally drawn up minutes should not take this long to be released. What members have seen so far is a leaked draft. Its authenticity has not been questioned by anyone. There are some surprising and questionable details in it.
There was a comment trying to claim that the President is not a part of the Executive Committee which is not true. Also there were proposals from a couple of General Secretaries which were not formally balloted in the meeting but simply discarded. The minutes read like a collection of opinions from some members.
Cutting of Old Trees
Many old trees at Adyar were cut down around the renovated Olcott Bungalow, the newly renovated mansion residence of the President. Hindu Newspaper picked up the story and published it. Hindu stands by the story. A statement in the Adyar TS website confirmed the cutting but merely disputes the number and age. If the official version is true, all they had to do was to invite print and TV media to visit and see for themselves. It was suggested and but was not done. You can see for yourself why. Cutting of old trees without prior permit is illegal and such issues only brings bad name to Theosophical Society.
Gifting of Dairy Cows
Two batches of Dairy Cows were secretly gifted away by the Executive Committee. The first batch was given away in June 2014 in a very secret operation to a little known farmer in unknown location and it was obvious that they will ultimately end up slaughtered. It was not discovered even by the residents of Adyar until months later. The whole deal was obviously fishy. When confronted with the disclosure, Adyar website confirmed the gift. All appeals to retrieve them fell on deaf ears. We do not know how many of the cows are still alive. This whole operation is contrary to the basic theosophical principle of “ONE LIFE.” A second batch of cows were gifted recently, and this was also a very secret operation. It is estimated that the total cows donated so far may be around one hundred.
To this day, there is no transparency on the need to send off the cows when Adyar has 250 acres of land. Apparently the underlying reasoning seems to be the maintenance cost. There are other serious legal issues involved.
Cows are valuable ‘property’ and TS registered under Societies Registration Act cannot gift away any property to any individual. While second batch being sent to a qualified Cow Shelter may be legal, we do not know if there was proper authorization as there is no transparency on these decisions. TS has valuable property in the museum, archives, library and elsewhere and this may set a precedent to gifting to individuals which may land TS into great trouble.
In the cows issue, cost seems to have been used as a fig leaf to justify the decision. Looking at the big picture, with the enormous costs involved in current litigation employing an army of lawyers, as well as other less important projects, cows decision was driven by other undisclosed considerations. This does look bad on TS.
Cancellation of Membership
From day one, anyone who subscribes to Universal Brotherhood is welcome to join the Theosophical Society. No other belief is required.
In the history of TS in India, there has never been a single instance of cancellation of membership in last more than 100 years. It is now obvious that both Mr Krishnaphani Kesiraju and Mr S. Ramu were expelled after they filed law suits. The went to the Courts seeking justice. Such retaliation is violation of law when cases are pending. To this day, members have not been told on the reasons for their expulsion. It is hence seen as acts of vindictiveness and unjust.
Violation of Court Orders
In Mr. S. Ramu’ court case, the Judge has granted him interim relief and allowed him to continue living at his Adyar residence and enjoy all amenities. In violation of court orders, food and laundry services were denied to him and his family and this is not the way one honors the courts and the principle of Universal Brotherhood.
As a charitable organization registered under Societies Registration Act, TS is required to spend 85% of its income towards operations and its objectives failing which as penalty, Income Tax has to be paid. It is reported that more than a million rupees was paid recently. This could have been avoided by spending the money to spread theosophy, provide better benefits to employees, taking care of the cows etc. It is learnt that nearly Rs. 900,000.00 was recently spent in cleaning water wells when there was no urgency in such large expense. TS need to be transparent in confirming or denying the financial details.
Obviously there is incompetence in proper planning of financial priorities and advance approval from GC for large expenditures.
Arbitrary Change of Convention Date
Since 1883, the week long annual International Convention always started on December 25th. The General Council, without consulting the Indian membership of more than 1,000 who attend it, changed it to December 31st. The only reason for the change is to accommodate handful of members from the West so that they can celebrate Christmas in their homes and then fly down to Chennai. The high handedness of the self serving decision is very obvious.
Conflict of Interest
All organizations, especially charitable ones, have policies on Conflict of Interest. There appears to be many persons involved in the management of the TS holding positions of ‘conflict of interest’. This needs to be addressed and fixed as it can harm TS.
Allegations of Sexual Misconduct
Some months back, members world-wide learnt about sexual misconduct in the Indian Section. In spite of the allegations documented, inaction by the General Secretary and his wife (who held an office at the local level) is seen as an act of deliberate coverup. The President too has not initiated any action, despite the matter being made public. This is a dangerous development that cannot be hidden under the carpet; it deserves immediate action. This issue will not go away and would hurt efforts of recruiting new members especially young men and women as TS would be seen as a risky environment. TS needs to have a zero tolerance policy and should be publicized to world.
Neglect at Olcott Memorial Free School
The school serves the poor children from fishermen village in Adyar. It was started by Olcott with his personal funds and after him, Theosophical Society took over its management. There are many complaints about mismanagement and lack of attention from TS. Since the children have no constituency to support them, they are voiceless and no one in the leadership is paying any attention to the plight of the students.
Need for Cleanup
We are dealing with the future of TS and its ability to spread the message of theosophy to the world. Unless firm and decisive action is taken at the highest levels, we cannot restore the damage all of the above are causing to TS.
As a first step, we need to demand the immediate resignation of all International Officers, General Manager of TS at Adyar and the General Secretary of Indian Section. Any cosmetic steps will not work.