Thursday, February 15, 2007
(Reporting: Tattvavit Dasa)
Today’s agenda: Election of Executive Committee officers, voting, a presentation on Moscow, a report by the arbitration committee, and closing statements.
Bhanu Swami was elected the GBC Chairman, Ramai Swami the First Vice-Chairman, Bhaktivaibhava Swami the Second Vice-Chairman, Bhakti Purusottama Swami the GBC Secretary, and Kavicandra Swami the Special Duty Officer.
The GBC body resolved that any members not submitting a personal annual financial report will lose voting rights at the annual general meeting and that any sannyasi or guru not submitting such a report will be named by the secretary at the annual general meeting.
The GBC formed a Kirtan Standards Committee to formulate guidelines for ISKCON. Its findings will be presented at the 2008 GBC meeting in Mayapur.
The GBC body voted on the zonal assignments of its members.
Presentation on Moscow
Bhakti Vijnana Goswami showed a slideshow and narrated the following events. A few years ago, the city government gave ISKCON two and a half acres of land in the center of the city, and ISKCON submitted a plan for a grand temple. This disturbed ISKCON’s detractors, who voiced strong opposition. That offer of land was subsequently withdrawn.
The largest Web site on religion in Russia not long ago conducted a poll about the most important recent religious events in the country, and the controversy about the land given to ISKCON, and then withdrawn, came in second.
Last summer, ten thousand Russians attended the Sri Krishna Janmastami and Srila Prabhupada Vyasa-puja celebrations. Also, forty brahmacaris worked together to build their own house while continuing to distribute books. They distributed fifty thousand big books during the recent Srila Prabhupada marathon.
Bhakti Vijnana Maharaja met Manmohan Singh, India’s Prime Minister, and Sheila Dixit, the Chief Minister of Delhi, in Moscow. With her help an official agreement was reached between Moscow and Delhi that a temple be built in Moscow.
Recently, ISKCON accepted an offer of five acres of hilly land on the outskirts of Moscow, near the Moscow river. This area is being developed by the city and will include a park, a ski resort, a mall, and apartment buildings. The transportation systems into the city are good. The city center is about a half hour away from this area.
The biggest Moscow newspaper reported the land acquisition, which the vice-mayor announced. The Mayor appointed an official specifically to help ISKCON through the process of filing all the papers for permission to start construction and so on. The devotees hope to complete this process by the end of 2007, when the current Mayor steps down from office. ISKCON had to adjust its original temple design, as the shape of this plot of land is unusual. So there will be an elaborate separate building for the temple and simpler buildings for other purposes. The Orthodox Church is again voicing concerns.
It will be an intense year for the Moscow devotees because in a few months they have to vacate a makeshift building that served as the present temple. The problem is that they cannot yet move to the new land. Also, the second temple, in a suburb of Moscow, has been sold, so soon there will be no temple there, either.
This year at the Gaura Purnima festival in Mayapur, two thirds of the registered guests are from Russia.
Arbitration Committee report
Jagajivan Prabhu, Atmarama Prabhu, and Mantrini Prabhvi reported the conclusions of the arbitration committee, which followed the arbitration guideline that both Bhaktivedanta Institute parties submit their arguments and documentation and see the other party’s submissions. The case had to do with an attempt by one party to restructure the membership of the board of the BI. The committee gave its recommendations about how to reconstitute the board membership of the BI. The GBC thanked the committee for its efforts. The BI committee of the GBC will continue to deal with the issue and clarify the matter.
Bhaktivaibhava Swami, the GBC chairman, thanked the GBC body for giving him the opportunity to do this service. He said that the GBC tackled serious issues in the past year, with the indispensable help of Gopala Bhatta Prabhu, and will continue to make progress. He said that he is happy to hand over the chair to Bhanu Swami.
Jaya Pataka Swami offered pavitras to the out-going and in-coming chairmen.
Various GBC members then expressed thanks to the out-going chairman. Sivarma Swami said that Bhaktivaibhava Swami did an outstanding job by giving the GBC body the opportunity to work together to formulate a vision. Maharaja was impressed that Bhaktivaibhava Swami agreed to serve on the Executive Committee one more year, to solidify the GBC’s work on strategic planning. Altogether this will make four years that he has been on the EC, which is a record for any GBC member. Madhu Sevita Prabhu said that he was deeply impressed by Bhaktivaibhava Swami’s self-control.
Bhaktivaibhava Swami said that the development of a vision was already taking place, and he just happened to be the chairman at the time that it came to a head.
Then Jaya Pataka Swami distributed gifts to all the GBC members, ministers, deputies, guests and secretaries.
Praghosa Dasa Prabhu extended thanks on behalf of the GBC body to the staff who provided juices and snacks, and to the office staff, some of whose members worked tirelessly not only for the past eleven days but throughout the year. He said that reports about the meetings published on the Dandavats Web site were read by over one thousand visitors a day, whereas the site itself is receiving over 3000 visitors a day.
Bhanu Swami then made an acceptance speech in which he said that the GBC members will have a lot of work to do before their next meeting in New Vrindavan this summer. He hopes that they continue coming up with positive results until next year’s annual meeting.