Srila Prabhupada established ISKCON as a Religious Corporation in 1966. More can be read here in History of ISKCON pre-1977.
He used this Society in 4 different ways:
1. Hold the Constitution of the Society to which all new registered bodies would model their constitution to.
2. As a binding organization to which ALL centers in the world will be associates of as is evident from Direction of Management and other documents from that time. But it was not meant to be a controlling organization over other centers, temples or registered Societies.
3. As the global registered Society, registered in NY, for which Direction of Management was written for i.e. formally speaking the GBC was made for this registered organization, to which all the centers/temples including the NY temple were associated to.
4. For all these reasons, Srila Prabhupada listed the ISKCON, Inc. as the exclusive beneficiary of his BBT while forming the BBT in Los Angles. The benefit from BBT (Books and funds for temple construction) was meant for all the centers of ISKCON, Inc. at that time listed in Direction of Management and subsequently being formed all over world.
But as time wore on, the then GBC members either did not understand this or neglected the written instructions of Srila Prabhupada. Thus now the “ISKCON”, that is currently more well known, is legally an unincorporated association, of whom all ISKCON centers worldwide are associates of or members of. But to manage this “worldwide unincorporated association” of temples, the GBC itself is a registered body – the ISKCON GBC Society, West Bengal, India.
This puts the following difficulties and differences from the way Srila Prabhupada set it up and desired giving more legal power to the GBC with lesser liability.
1. Where do the Constitution of the Society, the core principles, the core purposes, the core rules and regulations reside?
Ans: The partially made rules and regulations, the GBC Law Book, is being held by the ISKCON GBC Society, West Bengal. There is still no final Constitution made.
2. Which is the worldwide binding organization, that all other local organizations strive to part of?
Ans: The ISKCON GBC Society, registered in West Bengal.
3. What is the founding document of the GBC? What is the character of the GBC?
Ans: It is a Registered Body, different from what Srila Prabhupada created, an unincorporated association, with almost practically no legal powers.
4. Which organization is the beneficiary of the BBT – The association of temples but the ISKCON GBC Society lays claim to handing out the proceeds from BBTI.
Which is the corrective organization to the BBTI?
Ans: None, legally. BBTI is an independent corporation, with its own directors who are not bound to follow the advise or instructions OR being held accountable to anyone. Srila Prabhupada had wanted that the BBT remain independent from ISKCON GBC but still it was legally accountable to the beneficiary ISKCON, Inc. so that if the Trustees were going off, they could be legally be held accountable by its legal beneficiary, ISKCON, Inc.
So one can say there does not seem to be much difference between the way Srila Prabhupada setup the organizations and how it is set up now. Finally the effect is the same.
No it is not.
The main differences are in the powers and functions of the GBC and their individual liabilities.
As ISKCON, Inc. was neglected to be the holder of the Constitution/Laws of ISKCON, the binder organization that all affiliate to, as the organization of which the GBC is of, and as the beneficiary of BBT, there arose the need to have another legally registered organization to exercise this control. Hence the GBC Society was registered in West Bengal in India in 1993.
Srila Prabhupada made GBC an unincorporated association and not a separately registered organization for a reason. Detailed differences between the two types of organizations are given here.
As one can see, Srila Prabhupada desired GBC was supposed to be primarily spiritual advisors, with very limited administration functions, but with individual liability in case there was a complaint from their actions. The GBC was not supposed to have a big budget, or maybe no budget at all, with no
Their admistration function viz. ISKCON, Inc. would be limited to:
1. Ensuring any future amendments to the Constitution of ISKCON follow the procedure given by the Constitution.
2. They authorize which new centers/temples can be affiliates of ISKCON, Inc. or disaffiliate centers/affiliates.