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Dandavats! All Glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga!

Preaching Mistakes I Have Made or Have Seen Other’s Make

Monday, 13 November 2017 / Published in Articles, Mahatma das / 11,754 views

By Mahatma Das

The following is a list of (what I consider to be) mistakes that either I have made or have seen other devotees make while preaching. By preaching I mean helping a person come closer to Krsna. So “mistakes” would be saying or doing anything that could or will get in the way of this. Granted, we can sometimes make a mistake and it will not have adverse effects, so these are not absolutes. And it is even possible that some of these “mistakes” may occassionally end up helping someone. However, in general I have found that these kinds of “mistakes” normally have negative effects.

If you would like further explanations on any of these or would like to discuss them with me, please write me at

Your servant,
Mahatma das

1. Preaching without trying to understand people’s needs and interests
2. Continuing to speak without determining if people are understanding or accepting what you are saying
3. Not paying attention when people talk
4. Interrupting people when they talk
5. Not letting people talk
6. Speaking in a dogmatic way rather than making a logical and scientific presentation
7. Introducing or speaking elaborately on a very elevated subject that people may not be able to understand
8. Introducing or getting stuck on controversial topics
9. Compromising the truth to speak palatably
10. Not compromising the truth, yet not speaking in a way to get people to accept
11. Not giving enough preliminary explanation on a subject
12. Not relating the subject to people’s practical lives
13. Not interacting with your audience
14. Not understanding your audience
15. Speaking about subjects you don’t properly understand
16. Wasting time speaking to people who are not interested or who are antagonistic
17. Intimidating people
18. Using vocabulary that doesn’t correspond to a person’s social and educational level (“Hey dude, check this out” is not universally accepted as a cool way to talk)
19. Speaking harshly or loosing your temper
20. Using unfamiliar terms pertaining to Vaisnava culture and philosophy without explaining their meaning (you say “we are serving prasadam” and you didn’t explain what prasadam is)
21. Unnecessarily criticizing other religions or publicly exposing so-called spiritualists (Prabhupada avoided this as far as possible)
22. Being overly aggressive (to the point of upsetting people)
23. Focusing more on defeating people than on making a positive presentation (our goal is not to defeat people)
25. Not knowing when to stop speaking (you can ask, “do you want to hear more?”)
26. Acting or appearing fanatical (of course, it is inevitable that some people will think we are weird no matter what we do)
27. Transgressing the standard etiquette of your country, provided such etiquette does not contradict vaisnava principles.
28. Being unkempt or unclean
29. Being cold and unfriendly (when giving a lecture, at least first introduce yourself, welcome people and explain what the program will consist of before you begin chanting or speaking)
30. Being inflexible (we can only do it this way)
31. Doing anything illegal
32. Being impolite (impolite in terms of what the people you are preaching to term as impolite)
33. Arousing public mistrust by your words or behavior
34. Misrepresenting yourself to get money
35. Neglecting to spend time with someone who is really interested in Krsna consciousness
36. Spending too much time with someone who is not that interested in Krsna consciousness
37. Having a condescending mood
38. Not first validating people’s feelings or beliefs before you attempt to show the shortcomings in them (“so you feel that ……..,” “so you believe that …………..”)
39. Having a need to win an argument at all costs (you defeat the person and they go away upset and want nothing to do with KC)
40. Loosing site of the fact that creating a good relationship often goes further in helping someone become KC than defeating them or exposing their misunderstandings
41. To not behave as a perfect lady or gentleman
42. To not relate Krsna consciousness to an individuals unique circumstances.
43. To speak about something outside of Krsna consciousness that you know little of as if you know a lot about it
44. To speak about current trends in society when you are not well informed (for example, we put down yoga as gymnastics, whereas nowadays many people practice yoga as a “spiritual” process and incorporate mantra and eastern philosophy into their practice)
45. To give people too much too fast (sometimes we give so much in one lecture that people feel they got it all and there is no need to return or they feel that was too much to swallow and don’t want to come back)
46. To not follow up on contacts made with interested people, especially if you told them you would contact them.
47. To not admit you are a Hare Krsna when people ask, “Are you a Hare Krsna?”
48. To be a boring lecturer (Just because Krsna consciousness is the absolute truth doesn’t mean you can be a boring presenter and people will be attracted)
49. To allow boring presenters to give lectures
50. To pick on someone in the audience
51. To get in an unsavory heated debate with someone in the audience
52. To get in an unsavory heated debate in public.
53. Thinking that we can only help people by addressing philosophy when sometimes it is emotional issues that may be preventing people from accepting God or devotional service (for example, you can ask an impersonalist if they have problems or issues with relationships).
54. Attempting to counsel people in areas that require professional expertise (perhaps a couple has a serious marital problem that you are not fully qualified to resolve)

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4 Responses to “Preaching Mistakes I Have Made or Have Seen Other’s Make”

  1. Pusta Krishna das says :

    Mahatma Prabhu…you only have 54 flaws in your preaching work! Oh, you are doing very well!
    The most wonderful thing about teaching Krishna consciousness is when you realize that you are merely an observer, that is, you are a listener also. Krishna is using you as His extension. It is a most wonderful experience. For myself, I am simply hoping that pride of speaking will be replaced by eagerness to hear.
    Pusta Krishna das

  2. Dhameshvara Mahaprabhu Dasa says :

    "Prabhupada: … So those qualities, twenty-six qualities, they are called saintly person. Devotee means to become fully qualified with all the noble qualities. Devotee does not mean a rascal, at the same time, a devotee. No. As soon as you become devotee, the test is that all those twenty-six qualities will develop. You have to test yourself, "Out of the twenty-six qualities, how much I have developed?" If I am lacking, then you must know that you are not developing. This is the test. What are the qualities? Paul, you have got the copy?
    Paul: Yes.
    Prabhupada: What are the qualities?
    Paul: "Kind to everyone."
    Prabhupada: Kind to everyone. Yes. Then, go on.
    Paul: "Does not quarrel with anyone. Fixed up in the Absolute Truth."
    Prabhupada: Yes.
    Paul: "Equal to everyone."
    Prabhupada: Yes.
    Paul: "Spotless, faultless, charitable, mild, clean, simple, benevolent, peaceful, completely attached to Krsna, no material hankerings, meek, steady, self-controlled, does not eat more than required…"
    Prabhupada: Does not eat more than required. Yes.
    Paul: "…sane, respectful, humble, grave, compassionate, friendly, poetic, expert…"
    Prabhupada: Poetic, expert and silent.

    Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 20.119-121 — New York, November 24, 1966

  3. Lorenzo says :

    Dear Mahatma Prabhu,

    I'm not qualified to discuss these topics, but I wanted to let you know that I read the list with much interest. I can hardly phantom your experience in preaching Krishna Consciousness!

    Thank you for sharing your learnt lessons with the devotees community.

    I kept thinking to the list of the 10 offences to the Holy Name, as found in the shastras.

    Also your list is so inspiring, so much so that I'd like to memorize it, in order to have more chances to meditate on it and to try my best to avoid those flaws in my small preacher experience.

    Thank you!

    Lorenzo (UK)

  4. Dhameshvara Mahaprabhu Dasa says :

    I disagree with # 21, which says that Shrila Prabhupada avioded criticizing other religions publicly or exposing so-called spiritualists. A whole list could be made of the guru, swamis, and so-called spiritualists who Shrila Prabhupada called a rascal on the authority of Bhagavad-Gita As It Is. Besides that, here are some quotes where his uncompromising bold preaching mood is expressed:

    Our business is to point out who is not a saint.
    -April 10, 1974, Bombay

    "I am very much encouraged to learn that you are bold enough to challenge any non-devotee as you did with that impersonalist yoga student. That should be the temperament with all our preachers. We should not be aggressive, but we should not tolerate any sort of nonsense." -Shrila Prabhupada

    "Challenge that "I shall kick on the face of this rascal, and if he is God, let him punish me. If he is God, let him punish me. I am prepared. So come on in the public. I kick on his face, and let him do whatever he likes." -Morning Walk — June 28, 1975, Denver

    "No other movement or cult has such vast background of authority, so we are not afraid to challenge anyone and everyone to defeat their philosophy on the basis of that authority. Krsna appreciates such strong preachers as His dear most servants, so let us work very enthusiastically to drive away rascal philosophy and establish the real religion of Bhagavad-Gita As It Is." (SPL to Upendra, 8th December, 1971)

    "These rascal so-called commentators, they want to avoid Krsna. Therefore this Krsna consciousness movement is a challenge to these rascals." – Bhagavad-gita 13.8-12 — Bombay, September 30, 1973