ISKCON North America Leader’s Meeting Opens in Dallas
By ISKCON News Staff Writers for ISKCON News
The 2012 North American Governing Body and Temple President meetings opened on January 13, in Dallas, Texas, with more than sixty leaders from across the US and Canada in attendance.
The meeting was inaugurated with a kirtan, devotional songs, led by fifteen primary school children from the Dallas day school, the TKG Academy, under the direction of its principal Jayanti dasi.
During the first morning session, twenty disciples of Srila Prabhupada shared the stage to relate some of their personal memories and experiences of Srila Prabhupada’s care, guidance and leadership. Some highlights included Badrinarayana das’ retelling a morning walk with Srila Prabhupada, wherein His Divine Grace stated, “Always remember that you are blessed to serve the devotees.”
Svavasa Das, BBT Trustee and president of the Los Angeles temple, spoke of his life long commitment to the publication and distribution of Prabhupada’s books, which he explained, was inspired by a few moments of direct instructions received from Prabhupada thirty-five years ago. Malati dasi, who organized the session, ended it with appreciation for the dedication of the Prabhupada disciples who were present, and the nearly one-thousand years of devotional service that they and had collectively offered to ISKCON, and Srila Prabhupada.
The next session was a report on the international strategic planning initiatives, including the appointment of the new GBC Executive Director (Alachua Florida based Tamohara dasa), the new GBC Community Relations Director (Anuradha dasi), North America’s Kuladri dasa’s appointment as the Divisional Director of Accounting and Regulatory Compliance, and other recent plans and progress by the GBC Organizational Development Committee.
Next the assembled presidents and GBC noted, in a somber tone, that the Youth Fund, i.e. the funds required to settle the child abuse lawsuit that was filed in 2000 against some NA ISKCON temples, has been successfully fulfilled. This marked an end to the threat that some of ISKCON’s major temples might be sold to satisfy the demands of the lawsuit.
ISKCON Minister of Communications, Anuttama dasa, opened the session by reminding the leaders about the sad history of abuse in and around ISKCON communities during the movement’s early years, during what he called a “dark and terrible chapter of our history”. He retold the movement’s positive response to the abuse, after it came to light in the 1990’s, and reiterated that ISKCON leaders must always be on guard to protect our most vulnerable members, especially children.
The assembled presidents were thanked for their sacrifices in helping the ISKCON youth through the fulfillment of the Youth Fund. Dozens of temples from North America and around the world, including many that were not even part of the lawsuit, raised millions of dollars to help the ISKCON youth and protect Srila Prabhupada’s temples from closure.
Manorama Dasa, (Manu dasa) who is ISKCON’s Youth Minister, a former gurukula student and a decades-long advocate for youth was asked to lead a special kirtan to end the session. The kirtan was dedicated to “honor our youth,” to “pray for all the children and families that suffered,” and to “pray to Krishna to empower ISKCON leaders to better protect our members now and in the future.”
Manorama led a contemplative kirtan, while a series of photographs of Krishna children from ISKCON schools in the 1970’s was displayed on a large wall. Many of the men and women present were crying by the time the kirtan drew to a close.
After a lengthy break, the afternoon sessions focused on preparing for ISKCON’s 50th Anniversary in 2016; developing successful college outreach programs; a report from the new NA ISKCON Communications Director, Keshava Sharma from Toronto, Canada; a short film on the new Bhaktivedanta Hospice, in Vrindavana, India, and a slideshow presentation on the ISKCON Youth Tour to Mexico last December.
The meetings will go through Sunday afternoon, and are slated to contain reports from the new North American Child Protection Officer, Lila Sukha dasi; presentations of book distribution from Vaisesika dasa and Svavasa dasa; a session led by the Grihasta Vision Team on strengthening families, as well as discussions on expanding local cultural festivals and the Festival of India.
An additional highlight will be a devotional drama, on Jagannatha lila, performed by Bhaktimarga Swami and local Dallas Temple actors on Saturday night. The meetings will end on Sunday afternoon.