The North American Temple Presidents Meetings
By Mukhya devi dasi
The North American Temple Presidents Meetings convened last week in our Dallas temple. This is the annual opportunity for tp’s in the US and Canada to connect with the NA GBC and with each other, to get informed of what the GBC are working on, hear about successful programs, share information and get informed about national programs.
The meetings opened with the gurukula children leading gurupuja on stage. They had all learned the prayers by heart and lead a full kirtan ending with obeisances to the Vaishnava devotees of the Lord.
Organizational Development presentation:
It is part of the GBC mission to overlook the whole movement and make it secure. Many committees made up of devotees from around the world are actively working on a wide range of strategies. The chairman of Executive Strategies is Tamohara das. His duties include bringing Srila Prabhupada’s instructions and GBC resolutions and strategic planning initiatives into play throughout worldwide ISKCON.
The NA Execuctive Committee takes care of issues that come up all year and oversees 8 other standing committees, including accounting-legal-regional compliance, devotee care, administration and systems plans, education, succession planning and outreach strategies. Each committee will have a director, community relationships (communication) for the GBC
Kuladri das will take up accounting, legal and regulatory compliance on the GBC level as he has been doing this in the NA Support Office for several years. This effort to make ISKCON a first class organization will help protect Srila Prabhupada’s institution.
Some of the current active Committees include:
Parallel Lines: temple management and service along with position of the guru. “Who directs the disciple first”
Srila Prabhupada’s Position: how do we keep Srila Prabhupada as the viable fiber, the founder acharya throughout generations. Rabindra Swarupa das has written a paper establishing Srila Prabhupada’s position in ISKCON, and it is a foundational document. It includes a history of GBC, what did Srila Prabhupada intend it to be, relationship of ISKCON and BBT and GBC. Includes practices, applications, website.
Education: We are the Brahma sampradya, famous for knowledge; so we must train and educate devotees in every field.
Constitution: this refers to the relationships between entities. Documenting meaning of different positions in our movement (brahmacari, TP, GBC, etc) by 2013 it should have cleared the GBC, then it will be distributed for devotees to use and implement.
VANDE: arts for a new devotional era. Developing ourVaishnava culture. (plays, dramas, dance, art, music, architecture) and using them in our preaching work.
Team Building: building bonds of trust, understanding, getting support for those who need it. The emotional psychological relationships amongst leaders.
Outreach: Book distribution development. College preaching, festivals
Succession: how to find and prepare leaders of the future.
Devotee care: networking, devotional resources, health care, retirement (now in the Mayapura master plan they have set aside three acres to build a retirement enclave and there is a plan to build one in Jagannath Puri). Exploring retirement, assisted living, nursing care.
Affiliates: what does it mean to be an ISKCON temple, a preaching center, being able to use ISKCON trademarks. Classify all service organizations. Establish their relationships with ISKCON.
Cultural elements: the role and meaning of divisions of our society, ethics ; what world do we want to live in.
We have the most important message in the world, how do we actually deliver this message.
The Youth Fund Settlement is now completed. An overview of the history was given and what it took to achieve completion and disbursement of funds to 400 hundred claimants. The conclusion was clearly felt that ISKCON did the right thing in a very unfortunate circumstance. Appreciations were made for those who stepped up and helped significantly, including Amarendra prabhu and Gopal Bhatta prabhu . Manorama das led a beautiful kirtan to bring closure to this emotional event and Anuttama das made a nice prayer to Lord Krsna to help our future leaders to be on guard, for all the families involved and for everyone who helped and sacrificed to bring this case to completion.
50th Anniversary of ISKCON coming in 2016 and it should be a wonderful rallying point for us and our congregation. Where did we come from, where are we going. Planning has already begun for big celebrations.
Making leaders for tomorrow. We learned about very successful college preaching houses in 26 locations around Delhi . Stanford U college outreach has a multicultural group of interested students on campus. It has been going on for3 years under guidance of Vaisesika prabhu. Srila Prabhupada actually visited this campus in the late 60’s. “Make a core team and take care of them. Then grow organically.” 1) cooking class: prasad, short talks and interactions 2) yoga class: exercises, kirtans, 3) BG study : have senior devotees come and give the class and teach mantra meditation. They also go on book distribution, special engagements and harinam sankirtans.
Campus Prasadam Distribution in NA , Sunanda prabhu came with an organized presentation how every temple can try to start this very advantageous program. Recruiting and Training Vaishnavas was presented by Kalakantha das, and the degree of detail that he has developed around his very successful program in Gainesville is impressive, and important. We can learn a lot about how to nurture and cultivate new young devotees from him. We don’t really make devotees, but by setting it up right Krsna sends devotees. How to do the setup is available now at our temple office for anyone interested in learning more.
BBT AND BOOK DISTRIBUTION the BBT is consciously trying to improve communications with temples, and encourages all temples to help them reach their goal of $1M in sales at 2012. This number, which they have been shy of for the past two years, will enable more printing of more titles and thereby more satisfied distributors. A few stats: 25% of BBT gross sales goes to an ISKCON construction fund. Right now it’s going to the new temple in Mayapura. The NA BBT gives more than any other BBT branch. 52 US temples ordered books in 2011.
We were enlivened with a wonderful presentation by Vaisesika das: a few highlights:
Book distribution is high sadhana. We get superior strength and knowledge from this service.
Goals are potent. Set your goals and they will happen.
The 4 Laws Of Book Distribution: 1)your sadhana must be strong 2) you must get books,3) the more you show the more you sell, 4)and you must be organized.
He has instigated many successful programs around NA now, including the Monthly Sankirtan Festival organize one weekend a year where everyone goes out including the kids. The festival combines harinama, book table, and cookie distribution. Smart Box are proliferating all over the world. Smart Tables. Full Sets (“transfer your home into a temple”; they do installations in the person’s home). Sastra Dana – donate money and subsidize books. Travelling Sankirtan Party. E-books now available in nice packaging. Motel Gita (110,000 now distributed -The goal is 1 M). As a result books distribution in NA is on an upward trend ($518K 2010 and $714K in 2011). The principal is a lot of people doing a little bit, and it works. There are so many ways to achieve the goals and we will be working on some of them this year at New Raman Reti.
We had a brief update on CUBA PREACHING by HH Bhakti Marg Swami who has recently made his third visit, and some information on PRISON PREACHING by Chandrashekara das who has been involved in the prison ministry for 25 year. Did you know Srila Prabhupada was preaching in prisons before coming to America, and that he said damaged books should be given to prisons. We learned about the BHAKTIVEDANTA HOSPICE IN VRNDAVAN, set up to help all of Srila Prabhupada’s family.
We had an informative presentation on SEXUAL MISCONDUCT BY RELIGIOUS LEADERS by Praharana devi dasi who has who has developed a useful brochure and training material for all temple management.
Lila Sukha devi dasi who is the head of the newly formed North American Child Protection Office gave an eye opening presentation . This national office will educate, advise, and communicate with all temples; help set up and work with CPT and educate temples on how to conduct screenings.
There was a very enlivening presentation given by Kesava prabhu, a 32 year old Toronto devotee who has just been appointed ISKCON COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR. He’s a super talent and I hope to bring him to Alachua to give a seminar on public relations and help us analyze how we promote ourselves and how that can be improved.
There was a thought provoking presentation by Maha Tattva das on Balanced Presentations of Krishna Consciousness -LIBERAL VS. CONSERVATIVE. Many interesting points were made:. Culture is the way of life of a group of people. Srila Prabhupada was establishing a culture by establishing principles and rules and regulations. Without these we lose the culture. If we dilute and “make it easier” we lose the culture. Bringing someone from one culture to another is difficult. How to make it easier: make your culture appear similar I some way to theirs. Out of fear of losing your culture you become afraid of altering it in any way . Absolutism: things must be done at all times in the same way all the time. Be careful of losing creativity, of Lacking compassion (put yourself in the shoes of the people you are trying to save). Don’t get run over by time. Be careful of growing more dogmatic. Mechanism: reduce the cultural requirement only temporarily to make it doable. Be sure they don’t become permanent changes Maintain identity persistently.
Other comments and concerns: Guard against sahajiya mood in kirtan; ; remain liberal as long as you are constantly moving them towards the actual culture. If too many things are allowed in other than 4 reglative principles and 16 rounds, eventually these two things will go. Stay strict with yourself, and encourage and be liberal with others: help them get to that tight platform. Bridge preaching is good if you cross the bridge.
The Grhasta Vision Team gave a nice presentation about their counselors and teachers that give programs to enliven and strengthen the grhasta ashram in ISKCON. They also do premarital counseling, they give workshops at theFestival of Inspiration, and youth really appreciate the course How Not to Fall For a Jerk. They offer a large variety of mini-courses.
They are making a book “Heart and Soul Connection” a devotional guide to Marriage. The book deals with all aspects of married life and is relevant for those wanting to be married, couples and for divorced people as well as temple managers who work with grhasta couples. You can learn more about this service group at www.vaisnavafamilyresources.org. They also have a bi-monthly newsletter available you can sign up for.
WESTERN/EASTERN AUDIENCES OUTREACH
unity in diversity; relatable to different audiences; being open to the larger population of peoples of the area; the mood was set by Srila Prabhupada that both the Indian and Western communities work together. Helpful useful ideas: Developing personal relationships with all persons who visit the temple; create some programs that will appeal or be available to all those who come, and some that reach out to a specific audience. Open up small branches where these groups of interested people actually live, set up strictly as ISKCON. Focus attention on what is lacking, including increasing harinam sankirtan to attract everyone.
BHAKTI HOUSE LOS ANGELES
18-30 yr olds, one on one invited, they use a feel-good contemporary feeling talk, not too deep, chanting, up to date topics, 15 minute discussion, their kirtan includes bass guitar and drums, then Prasad, they do 10 minutes of yoga.
The weekend of seminars closed with a spiritually uplifting rememberance of Her Grace Yamuna devi dasi led by Srimati Malati devi dasi. The more we learn about Yamuna prabhu and her life in Krishna consciousness the more we aspire to advance ourselves in the process.
I have more detailed information on all the seminars for anyone interested.
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