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Hinduization of Iskcon?

Friday, 16 June 2006 / Published in Discussion / 5,696 views

By Jaya Madhava das-(ACBSP)-Moscow

Dear GBC+Prabhus, Please accept my humble obeisances. All Glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Prabhus, I am concerned about the over past years over emphasis in some Iskcon temples towards pampering to the Indian community for support at the expense of book distribution and Hari Nams and Bhakta making. Many senior devotees are not happy about this. This is seen most evident in places hit by the loss of Gurus+devotees.

The result is a watered down Iskcon. This is commonly known as the hinduization of Iskcon. The USA and the UK have adopted this approach with success but at a cost…. Less preaching to locals, decreased book distribution and Hari Nams and weak bhakta programs. I saw this happen and it is discouraging to see. Also I wonder if the GBC will formally re-address the problem of the increasing rittvik movement. It seems very disturbing that its becoming stonger because of the compromises made by Iskcon.

Indian preaching is fine but Its gotton out of hand. In some temples they barely resemble Prabhupad’s original movement anymore! Hence.. devotees leave Iskcon for other Maths or worse go rittvik ! Can Iskcon reaccess its mistakes in these areas or ignore it ? I would like some feedback from someone.

I am a Prabhupada disciple now for over well over 35 years (from the USA- Philadelphia Pa.)

Im concerned about the future of Iskcon, all is not well.

Thank you for your time
Your servant,
Jaya Madhava das-(ACBSP)-Moscow

15 comments

  1. 0
    Dwijamani das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dwijamani das wrote:

    As second generation, by initiation or birth, we had no personal experience of Srila Prabhupada’s physical presence. Some of us sought that experience through the books, lectures, conversations and letters of Srila Prabhupada. Unfortunately, the more we read, the more we see the glaring difference between the ISKCON Srila Prabhupada refers to and present day ISKCON.

    For example, there are many occasions when Srila Prabhupada directly instructs that no temple should ever pay householders a salary. It’s very clear. He states that Temples are for those in the renounced order of life and that they are to be supported by householders earning an honest living. If married couples want to remain in the Temple, they may do so but husband and wife cannot live together or cook separately. They may receive a bare minimum allowance, particularly if they have children. The Temple President can decide how much that allowance should be but that he must also be an example of renunciation.

    Because this basic instruction has been neglected for the last thirty years and the number of salaried Temple workers constantly increases, the overall running cost of a Temple is unnecessarily high. To meet this artificial demand for money, ISKCON has gone from one quick fix moneymaking scheme to another. Records, candles, paintings, bumper stickers, hats, posing as Buddhist monks, feeding the homeless, fake schools, etc. Now we’ve moved on to providing medical procedures for the poor, subsidizing Indian hospitals and catering almost exclusively to fund raising from the Indian community. Most of our Indian donors have no idea that a large percentage of the money they give for the cows simply goes into someone’s pocket. Most of our Indian donors don’t know that almost all of our Temple devotees; this means management, pujaris, cooks and fundraisers, are simply working for the Temple. Here at New Vrindaban, most of the staff are either from another country waiting for their green card, or were already in America and when their work visa expired, they joined the Temple rather than go back to India. The result in either case is that when the green card is achieved the devotee leaves. How is this helping to build a strong community?

    I believe in the Guru parampara system. I believe in the concept of the GBC. But these only work as well as the individuals in them. How can anyone think that ISKCON is improving and expanding? Most of the original Temples are running on a skeleton crew if they are still open at all. France has dwindled to next to nothing; Germany has declared a state of emergency, North America is in chapter 11 bankruptcy to avoid loosing everything due to being sued by its own children, who were abused by ISKCON devotees. There is a prevailing misunderstanding that ISKCON is predicted to continue for the next 10,000 years. The sankirtan movement of Lord Caitanya will certainly carry on, but not necessarily through ISKCON. Srila Prabhupada says in various places that if ISKCON leaders neglect his instructions, the whole thing will be spoiled.

    Is there any hope? Personally, I think there is. Here is a great opportunity for all leaders to stand up for what’s right. They did it before and can do it again. We should also be prepared to back them up in this glorious endeavor. It’s not too late to create an atmosphere of honesty, forgiveness and restitution. Devotees will forgive at the drop of a hat as long as there is genuine acceptance of mistakes made, and a sincere desire to get back on course. I remember being in a room full of devotees while a very senior leader offered sincere apologies for his part in a major controversy. Was his position of spiritual master and GBC diminished? No, it was increased, by the fact that he was honest enough to admit a mistake. After all, don’t we all have to admit, sooner or later, that our desire to be a supreme controller was a colossal mistake?

    Thank you for listening

    Your sevant

    Dwijamani das

  2. 0
    Jaya Madhava ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Respected Devotees and Prabhus, Please accept my humble obesiances All glories to HDG Srila Prabhupada !

    I want to respond to those devotees who responded to my article – “Hinduization of Iskcon”. I will answer point by point to the comments made by my article

    1)Temple who pamper the Indians. By this I meant I have seen in some Iskcon temples the allowing of Demigod worship and unauthorised kirtans and guests allowed to speak mayavadi philoshphy in Hindi to Sunday feast guests (mostly Indians). On top of that Guests cooked the Sunday feast in karmi clothes and ate in the diety kitchen (they were Indians who supoort the temple) !!! Too many compromises were made, that is what I mean. The Indians are most welcome to come to Iskcon temples BUT Iskcon should raise their Standards Not that Iskcon Lowers its standards for them ! (for $$$) Also why should Iskcon celebrate Dwali at all ??? Prabhupada NEVER instituted this…its a Non Vaisnava Festival ! Where is the limit to compromise ? What about the demigod worship held in some Iskcon temples ? Is that pleasing to Srila Prabhupada ? I think not ! I never said Indian preaching should STOP, I appreciate all the help and support given by the Indian Community in the USA and the UK -That said I am concerned thst this should be RE-Accessed and More Emphasis should go to reviving Srila Prabhupada’s original preaching programs, book distribution, Hari Nam, Bhakta Making – to locals (non Indians). Futher more the Indian Cummunity should be trained to PREACH to the locals as we were.

    2) DEMOGRAPHICS HAVE CHANGED: Yes, in some ways, but its not a reason to whole sale neglect or change Iskcons focus to mostly Indian-preaching at the expense and or dimise of of the vital sankirtan book distribution/Hari Nam…This is a grave mistake and if not re-accessed will put Srila Prabhupada’s movement in a weak condition and the changes made will not be possible to reverse. Im sorry I don’t agree with comments that promote the changing of the primary directives in Iskcon. Book distribution is Srila Prabhupada’s life and soul and everthing else is to support that. Otherwise it is a compromise and I saw the results: no locals attending Sunday programs anymore ! Senior devotees go away! For your information I lived in India for over 5 years, I lived in the UK over 3 years and I have some experiences to compare.

    The demgraphics changed is a WEAK argument and I saw this untrue. I saw 2 temples in one city. One distributing books and Hari Nams, the other catering only to the Indians and of the 2 the first was DRY and more a social event for those attending then anything else. Of couse many Indain attending the first temple came to see the Dieties and chant HARE KRSNA and do devotional services (GREAT)! but their realizations are vastly different from temple initated devotees and I feel if the temples want to have programs with Indians should remain faithful to Iskcons ORIGINAL core programs: to help them advance in their KC Lives. Another comment, Moscow is supported by the Indain Community. Yes they have helped and it is deeply needed and appreciated BUT I spoke to the local GBC and cautioned him to not go overboard with this Indian preaching,where it may introduce COMPROMISES to Prabhupadas Iskcon in Russia. After all We are NOT HINDUS ! These are my realizations.

    Thank you for your time. All Glories to Srila Prabhupada !!! All Glories to Iskcon and its sincere devotees !!!

    Your seravnt, Jaya Madhava das -(ACBSP) Moscow

    [Edited]

  3. 0
    krishna kripa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Hare Krishna!

    Dear Jaya Madhava Prabhu,

    PAMHO All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

    Thanks for your comment. In some parts I strongly agree with you. Unfortunately too much preaching is going after the indian community, neglecting the preaching to the local people. Srila Prabhupada very storngly instructed the devotees to make the local people devotees and led them organize and manage the temple.

    Of course we have to preach to the indian community as well any other community. Many nice and sincere devotees came from the indian community in the USA and UK, also the Nederlands.

    Once a very senior sannyasi says that if Srila Prabhupada will come personally to the west and visit the temples it will be unhappy to see only indians and he will say THIS IS AN INDIAN CLUB not THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS.

    Only one clarification, Diwali is a vaisnava festival its celebrates the Return of Lord Rama after 14 years of exile. The non vaisnava part of the festival is the only worship of Lakshmi for material benefits. You can find some letters in Prabhupada Siksamrita where Srila Prabhupada mentions how to observe Diwali or Dipawali.

    Hope this meets you in good health

    Dasanudasa

    Krishna Kripa Dasa

  4. 0
    Suresh das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I was not aware of the extent that some temples have gone, in catering to the Indian Community, when I challenged a similar article, about the Hinduization of ISKCON, at the Chakra website – stating that this type of accusation seems racially motivated, or seeing others in the bodily concept of life, instead of as spirit soul.

    At the local temple the Indians who come seem very pious. They cook huge amounts of foodstuffs for the Deities in their own homes, they personally serve the guests and devotees at feasts and festivals with their own hands, they participate in the temple programs, and they personally serve the devotees with kindness and support. One Indian family, for example, just paid $25,000 to install a new marble floor for the Temple Room.

    It is true that often the average Indian who comes doesn’t know the intricate details or perhaps doesn’t even believe in our philosophy, so we shouldn’t assume they are automatically more pious then the next person, just because of their race.

    I believe also that we in ISKCON have created many offenses against the various demigods who are all devotees of the Lord in different capacities, by not properly offering them respect or appreciating their importance in raising us to the Mode of Goodness. Srila Prabhupada stated that we could never become pure devotees without raising ourselves to the platform of Brahmana.

    There is the potential to learn a lot about Vedic Culture and etiquette from the Indian Vaishnava Community, so for that reason we shouldn’t push away their support. We certainly aren’t going to get much support these days from our own Western Societies, non-devotional friends or family members.

    Suresh das

  5. 0
    jnanacaksus ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Haribol,

    I find it interesting that a person is commenting on a situation that they have no experience of. I am in a 29 year old male caucasian body. America is comprised of many persons who are ready and anxious to take up Krishna consciousness. It seems that a statement initiating that there are less fertile grounds now than that of the sixties is from a person who is not going out and preaching in America. I have been going out and preaching for the past several years via harinam, book distribution, seminars, etc. The fact of the matter is that the temples are not ready for the newcomers who are blossoming into the brahamcarya state.

    Addressing the point that i mention above and to help get a picture of the general American temple i will illustrate. Right now most temples are housing Indian immigrants who have association with Iskcon. It is time and time again that once that exchange of Green card for service is done the immigrant is on their way to better themselves materially in the United States. This is having a major flaw for screwing up the soil of the Iskcon temple for the new seeds.

    While in the temple the immigrant is very absent for relating with newcomers of non Indian descent. Even to the point of making themselves rude to the visitors. There are many who say this because the immigrants are trying to secure their position and if newcomers come with an attitude to surrender and serve it may comprimise the temples need for the immigrants service.

    I want to note the term immigrant is being used because i feel that the service=green card reward program will be examined. I have many friends who are in that or where in that scenario. I have travelled extensivly all over the United States and i am telling that there are over a dozen temples with this service-green card program going on.

    Now for those of you who are still reading i will tell you from my perspective what it is like to go to the Sunday feast. A program set up with Srila Prabhupada’s approval to expose outsiders to the practice of Krishna Consciousness. A person walks in and in barely greeted if at all. They go inside for a kirtan or class whatever comes first. The programs are usually attended by 3/4 persons of Indian descent and the other 1/4 a mix of black, white, persons of spanish descent, and maybe a few other persons from different familial origins. Okay if you are not Indian you immediatly feel as an outsider. The Indian congregation in general sticks to inself. This is not bad if there are other groups going around and reaching out to the visitors but this in generally not the case.

    Okay back to the Sunday Feast. During class or kirtan a unfamiliar person is just taking in what is going on, usually not even talked to by other persons in attendence. I have met people at various temples during a Sunday Program who say that they have been coming for several or more programs and nobody has ever spoken to them. And lastly the feast which because of the toned down vibe of the general preaching is, with regards to my spiritual master who told us to only say that prasadam is transcendental, is transcendental.

    I don’t need to spell it out for you. The subpar program is nothing compared with the other several days of the week. Minimum particaipation in any preaching from many temples in America. I am talking about practical preaching and Harinams and book distribution, the type of things that make a temple go blast and have and explosive effect on anyone involved.

    There are numerous persons who are alway being born and raised who have a brahminical tendency. It is the duty of the temple authorities to keep the bus running. Even when there are no passengers the bus driver still makes their rounds. The majority of the temples in America have stopped the bus. Now with many temples being serviced by the rotation of immigrants many waiting passengers are walking elsewhere.

    It is appropiate to point out that the persons of Indian descent are helping with their financial resourses. The temples need to utilize the money to make money. Fry the fish in it’s own oil. The cycle is damaging to the temple and the donor. Every week, every festival, every repair, etc. the donors are getting the notice please help us pay for this. After a while this wears the pocket thin. As a person who is trying to reach out i ask some of the Indian men and women about what they think about this constantly being asked for money. They want to the temples to be better managed and to pool resourses from all sides.

    The temples were given a business by Srila Prabhupada to distribute his books. Also prasadam distribution is a very lucrative business. There is no devotee power for these because the temples are not hastening to cater to the up and coming brahacaries and brahmacarinis. It is cyclical. The persons who in the mindset at a certain time in life to live at a temple and study Krishna consciousness should be given the advantage to. After sometime such persons will move out and pursue their careers with the Krishna conscious base. And as we are seeing now in the system of the first generation of Iskcon participants they are taking up a more interactive duty with their Vanaprastha stage.

    Of course you will have some persons who are not going to go through the above two stages and stay in the renounced order. We see having their company is alway enlivening and inspirational to our Krishna consciousness.

    Please see this as a plea to return to the system Srila Prabhupada set up in America. He knew the temples would have more contact with persons of Indian descent as the century ended and another started. He advised us to go and preach to these Westerners and the rest of the world will follow. If we are involved only with a particular group from a place where this knowledge originates aren’t we alienating the persons who Srila Prabhupada wanted us to preach Krishna Consciousness to.

    Your servant,
    Jnana caksus dasa
    oct. 29 2006 bensalem, PA, USA

  6. 0
    Suresh das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    There is a saying in the USA, regarding people of colored skin. In the Southern states we say “get as close to the Whites as you want, just don’t get too high”. In the North we say, “get as high as you want, just don’t get too close”.

    If we dig down deep, and really examine what we are upset about, in regards to the Indians coming to our temples, I believe it is at heart, racially-motivated. This is unfortunate, because we aren’t supposed to be our bodies, but instead spirit soul, but we are still seeing things on the bodily platform.

    There is nothing bad about ISKCON accepting more Indians than in the past. This is good, just a transformational change, and a new way of presenting our philosophy to new types of people, than in the past.

  7. 0
    ekendra das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    pranams to all the Vaisnavas.

    one super-excellent thing that can be done to cater to the Indian congregation as well as generate momentum in the preaching sphere (+ many other countless benefits all in line with Srila Prabhupada’s directives) is to do what they are doing in Melbourne, Australia. There they hold regular bhakti-sastri courses that are open to all. The extrememly large Indian congregation there has embraced these educational offerings whole-heartedly. Now they are ‘cashing in’ on all of the support they’ve given over the years and coming home from the temple with priceless authoritative knowledge.

    The repercussions of this are hard to quantify really. One immediate effect is that the participants seem to exude enthusiasm for preaching and many are now starting to have their own nama-hatta/bhakti-vriskha type of programs where they are in turn educating the guests in a dynamic way. Fact is, the same Indians who, in some cases, humbly tolerated the triple FFF preaching mindset (Find them, Fleece them, Forget them) for decades are now involved with ISKCON and serving Srila Prabhupada in substantial ways due to this educational focus.

    If anyone wants more details then just reply here. I’m happy to write all day about this subject as I’ve directly seen the results of placing education as the focus of the temple. (And yes newcomers, western and otherwise, get caught up in this too and come into KC in a most solid way free from so many misconceptions that are prevelant these days.)

    ys, ekendra das
    http://www.gopala.org

  8. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I agree with everyone’s statements. (How is that even possible?)

    We do not want a watered-down ISKCON. I am surprised to hear from Jaya Madhava and others that these things are going on and to this extent in ISKCON temples (but I saw a little of it at Berkeley in the early 1990s).

    We do not need to flatter the Indian community (or anyone else) for money. If we can keep very pure and enthusiastic and properly apply our intelligence for preaching (preaching is the essence, books are the basis, utility is the principle and purity is the force), there will be no lack of resources.

    Temples should not become visa mills. H. H. Bhakti Purushottama Swami once told me (some 15 years ago) that bringing Indian devotees over due to lack of manpower usually is neither good for the temple nor for the imported devotees, who can easily fall victim to the allure of making money and be distracted from spiritual life. Rather, if we can preach purely and enthusiastically we should attract sufficient new devotees from the local area. (We are fortunate in San Jose to have some pure and empowered preachers, headed by Vaisesika dasa).

    Racism is probably not as prevalent as Suresh says among ISKCON devotees, but as long as we are conditioned souls there may be friction and misunderstanding when people of other ethnic or cultural backgrounds mix. Obviously such “skin disease”, whether anti-Indian or anti-non-Indian, has no place in our transcendental society. If we factionalize along racial or ethnic lines, it will be spoiled.

    We need to appreciate the good qualities of devotees from all backgrounds. Their faith and devotion belongs to the spiritual platform and sustains us. Where would any of us be without such association of faithful devotees?

    Though we come from different cultural affiliations and backgrounds we are entering into a new transcendental Krishna culture. It may look Indian to outsiders, but it isn’t. The principle is we do everything nicely for the pleasure of Sri Hari, and we judge our success on how we are becoming attracted to Krishna consciousness and detached from material sense enjoyment.

    Nowadays there are tons of Indian immigrants living in American cities, which was not the case in the ’60s and ’70s. I guess this is so in other countries, and it effects our preaching efforts.

    Like anyone else, Indian Hindus come to ISKCON temples for all kinds of reasons. Some become serious core devotees who chant 16 rounds, study Prabhupada’s books, get initiated and do all kinds of service. Others come as part of the greater congregation and might just like to see the Deities being worshipped but have their own ideas about Krishna and are not interested in making any commitment to ISKCON. The temples need to recognize and treat these two groups differently.

    Those in the former group — regardless of race, sex or national origin — are our hope and future. They are the sign that our preaching is succeeding, and they are being sent by Srila Prabhupada to help carry on the mission.

    Those in the latter group are our guests and we must of course be polite to members of the public that we invite to the temple (although we may sometimes adjust how and when and whom we invite). But we should clarify exactly who we are and what we are doing. We are helping Lord Caitanya give out mercy very freely to everyone in the form of kirtan, prasadam, darshan with the Deities, association of devotees, but we are also looking for new core devotees and we have to keep our eye on the goals Srila Prabhupada has assigned to us (e.g., increasing book distribution). We are not providing facilities for mayavadis and mundane religionists.

    Part of successful preaching is the ability to locate members of the broader congregation who can be promoted to the group of serious, dedicated followers and preachers in ISKCON.

    Temple leaders need to use their intelligence and discrimination to manage the preaching activities nicely so that we can get the right people involved and then encourage and promote them, without any decrease in the standards or watering down of the philosophy.

    Ekendra’s comment is super. If a program such as the Bhakti-Sastri course is working well somewhere, we should try to adopt it and see if it can work well where we are. The Bhakti-Sastri program was (I think) an idea Srila Prabhupada himself suggested, with post graduate courses leading to Bhakti-Vaibhava and Bhakti-Sarvabhauma degrees (or something like that).

    I want to ask Ekendra: How do we start? What materials and resources are available? Are there already course outlines and guidance for teachers? Is this sponsored by VIHE, MIHE or some other program? Is there background information available?

  9. 0
    Suresh das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I don’t think ISKCON suffers from racial fears, like I said before. We are probably just stuck in a time-warp and are afraid of change. When I joined in 1970, once in a while, an Indian family came to the temple. For the most part our temples consisted of white-skinned former-hippies or college students, trying to learn and practice Vedic Culture. Gradually people came who were from other races or cultures, a few at a time. Later still, people started coming from all over the world. Today perhaps 50% or more of the congregation is Indian. This upsets some people for some unknown reason. It’s most likely fear of change and the unfamiliar.

  10. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Yes, Suresh. I agree there is probably some fear of change. Still, we will have to change if this Movement is going to keep expanding its influence and remain relevant in a changing world. We just have to make sure that, as we do change, we never stray from Srila Prabhupada’s instructions and desires.

    When we preach, we cannot expect to convince everyone. We offer books to everyone, but mostly we are looking for those who are ready. The ripe fruit will fall into our hands. When you sell diamonds you cannot expect many customers.

    It should not surprise us that we are finding many of our best customers these days from among those in the Indian diaspora of young professionals, many of whose families have worshipped Krishna for generations.

    Srila Prabhupada was very affectionate to many Indian disciples, and he often quoted, when preaching to Indian audiences, that “bharata bhumite hoila manusya janma yara . . .” Lord Caitanya said that those born as humans in India have a special responsibility to make their lives perfect and preach to others.

    It is encouraging that so many educated young men and women from India are becoming seriously involved with ISKCON. Now on Lord Caitanya’s order they have to really make their lives perfect (as do all of Srila Prabhupada’s followers) and keep preaching to all of the people wherever they are.

    As long as we are conditioned, the tendency will be to be more comfortable preaching to people of like backgrounds that we can relate to. We stand in awe of the disciples who, on Srila Prabhupada’s order, went to foreign countries and established the movement there. We have to keep up that mood of preaching to the local people everywhere, in all countries and in all social and economic strata.

    I am optimistic that the new generation of largely educated, intelligent, successful Indian-American professionals who are getting initiated in the U.S. these days (or coming here for jobs after being initiated in India) will become dynamic preachers who will convert many black and white and hispanic and oriental Americans into devotees of Gaura Nitai.

    On the other hand, if temples are dwindling, functioning on skeleton crews, and then in order to solve the emergency are becoming Hindu temples, as is being said here, allowing mayavadis to preach and allowing uninitiated to cook in the kitchen and eat off the Deities’ pots and have demigod worship in the temples and so on, this is a disaster.

    (Not that we disrespect or envy anyone, least of all the Devas, but in ISKCON temples our worship and sadhana is only what Srila Prabhupada gave us in disciplic succession. We do not mix in rituals and practices and bhajans and vratas we got from elsewhere. Some people find this exclusivity strange, even shocking, but it is very important and must be understood by anyone who aspires to be a serious devotee.)

    We should also keep our eye on the possible danger that, if the temples come to be seen as places where only Indians worship, the other local ethnic groups will stay away.

    Personally, I believe that as long as the kirtan is good, the prasadam is delicious, the lectures are insightful, the Deities are being nicely dressed and cared for, the personal interactions are warm and friendly, and the bliss is flowing, everyone who comes in contact will be attracted. How could they help but be attracted?

  11. 0
    ekendra das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Akruranatha Prabhu asked:

    “I want to ask Ekendra: How do we start? What materials and resources are available? Are there already course outlines and guidance for teachers? Is this sponsored by VIHE, MIHE or some other program? Is there background information available?”

    Jaya! Thank you for engaging me in productive dialogue. How can a temple start implementing an educational program such as bhakti-sastri? I suppose there are numerous ways to begin. In my local temple, where devotees are mostly unfamiliar with the bhakti-sastri training that Srila Prabhupada wanted in ISKCON, I’ve begun by simply facilitating Nectar of Devotion study sanga twice a week in the evenings before arati. For resources I use material from the VTE (Vaisnava Training & Education ala Rasamandala Prabhu (ACBSP): rasamandala.acbsp@pamho.net ) and the brilliant ‘Waves of Devotion’ by HH Dhanurdhara Maharaja. My hope is that by piloting this NOD study, devotees will get interested in this sort of educational format and want to further their studies either locally or by going to Mayapur or Vrindavana for a complete MIHET or VIHE course.

    If you want my opinion on the ‘ideal’ way to start this sort of program then I’d have to suggest attending the MIHE bhakti-sastri yourself and get a taste for what is going on there. They also offer teacher training courses and specific bhakti-sastri teacher training courses that are all accredited with the VTE.

    In Melbourne, Kesava Prabhu took these courses and then came back to his temple and started a simple program that rapidly grew in popularity. Now there are several courses running concurrently there and the huge mostly Indian congregation is enlivened and empowered to preach. Many had been attending temple programs for years with only a cursory appreciation for Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. Now this has changed and they are enthused to preach as they more clearly see the value of what Srila Prabhupada laboured so hard for in giving us these books.

    The teaching style we use is not so traditional and quite interactive. By traditional I mean in a format similar to morning Bhagavatam class where the speaker sits and the students listen without much interaction until the end where there is questions and answers. Srila Prabhupada did not want this format changed for morning Bhagavatam class but for our study group we utelize modern teaching methods (group work, activities, group discussion, skits, etc …) so that the participants can learn experientially. Using these techniques, the absorption level for most devotees is a lot better because they are more involved with the sastric topics and less subject to passive hearing.

    If you’d like more specific information, Prabhu, I’d prefer if you asked me here in this public forum so others can also be exposed to this information.

    There are some relevant websites you can visit here:

    http://www.mihet.org

    http://www.vihe.org

    your servant,
    Ekendra das

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    Suresh das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    It was nice to read the current issue of BTG this month. I had been getting worried about the intentions of the magazine the last few months. I noticed Indians are being featured on the cover more frequently now, and strategically placed, in many photos, throughout each issue. I noticed the increased photos of Indians was far more prevalent than in previous issues of the past, where devotees from all races and worldwide cultures were featured, without much emphasis on any particular racial group. I was trying to figure out what BTG was up to and why there was such a change, and leaning more towards featuring Indians now.

    It was especially upsetting in the Rathyatra issue a couple of months back. I don’t object so much to showing Indians on the cover of BTG, and it isn’t too disconcerting to see Indians computer-graphically superimposed to look like they were in front of the Rathyatra cart and leading the parade, but the kicker was seeing a photo of only Indian devotees chanting on Harinam, with Vyasaki’s face colorized to make him look like an Indian too – and that’s where I draw the line.

    Glad to see our magazine more back to normal again. We are, after all, supposed to be a universal movement.

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    Suresh das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    What I mean by disrespecting the demigods is the nonchalant and sometimes offensive manner which we speak of when referring to such great personalities as Indra the King of Heaven, Lord Shiva, Lord Brahma, the Sun God, and the many other devas. We have been shown an insight into the superiority of Lord Visnu and Lord Krishna, and the other Visnu Tattva deities through Srila Prabhupada’s books. Even though we know that Lord Krishna and Lord Visnu are the masters of everyone, we, at the same time, should consider ourselves very small and insignificant. There is a tendency (the frog mentality) to compare the size and greatness of these personalities to the limited size of our wells, because it is all that is within our experience.

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    aniruddha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Akruranatha Prabhu, you can contact me via our web site for information regarding the Bhakti Sastri and Bhakti Vaibhava programs in Melbourne. Google for ISKCON Melbourne and you should see us at the top of the list. Our Bhakti Sastri program is based on the VTE system and our teachers are VTE trained.

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Thanks Ekendra and Aniruddha. I will contact you as suggested. The ISKCON of Silicon Valley (San Jose) board of directors has been discussing for quite some time the idea of introducing academic classes and degree programs for our congregation, and I am encouraged to hear how successful it has been in Australia.

    Ekendra Prabhu, maybe (if it is convenient for you) you should write a separate article about the Bhakti Sastri program in Melbourne and we could create a whole separate thread on the subject. Not that I want to burden you with additional work, but it could be a very beneficial article and discussion.

    Suresh, I completely understand what you say about the demigods. In the name of “monotheism” we should not disrespect these great personailities. Lord Brahma is the founder of our sampradaya, initiated by Lord Krishna Himself. Lord Siva is known the world over as the greatest of all Vaisnavas. Laksmidevi is Lord Narayana’s own dear internal sakti.

    Lord Indra, King of the Devas, is especially favored by Vishnu, who even appears as his brother Vamanadeva and in many other avatars to protect him from his atheistic enemies. Still, all of that great power and opulence can go to his head and make him forgetful, and Srimad Bhagavatam reveals him making numerous mistakes: he even tried to kill all the Brijbasis and their cows with a devastating storm. Then, even after he came to his senses and offered prayers of apology, he later tried forcefully to prevent Krishna from taking the parijata plant to Dwaraka.

    If even Indradeva can become so bewildered (and even Lord Siva can become agitated by Parvati), how can we insignificant humans expect to cross over the Lord’s illusory energy? Simply we have to surrender to Krishna, which may be simple for the simple, but difficult for foolish cheaters like me.

    I have really relished the magnificent BBT edition of Sri Sanatan Goswami’s Brhad-Bhagatamrta, which expertly illuminates the good qualities and faults of the devotional service of various great personalities like Indra, Brahma, Siva, Prahlada, Hanuman, the Pandavas, etc. from a transcendental perpective. Many thanks to Gopiparanadhana Prabhu and the English editing team of Jayadvaita Swami and Kesava Bharati Goswami and all others who helped bring this wonderful three volume English edition, with English translation of Sanatana Goswami’s own Dig-Darshan commentary, into print.

    Gosh, was BTG really Indianizing the photos? I had not noticed. Thanks for pointing it out, Suresh, and the good news that, if it was going on before, at least it has now stopped. We are definitely an “International” Society for Krishna Consciousness. The universal appeal and cultural diversity of our membership is a great asset.

    I am always reminded of Srila Prabhupada’s majestic Foreward to Srimad Bhagavatam, where he talks about how technological advances in transportation and communication has made the world a smaller place (and this is much more so now that the 40 + years ago he wrote that), but that we are still quarreling and warring even over trifles. Great thinkers feel the need for a unifying ideology, and Srimad Bhagavatam will fill that need. Jaya Srila Prabhupada! Now you have left it to your sincere followers to help the world’s intellectual and political and commercial leaders to recognize the importance of this Srimad Bhagavatam, a cultural presentation for the respiritualization of society.

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