By Ananda Tirtha Das
Bhakti Marg Swami began today’s meeting with a vigorous kirtan following which Bhakti Vaibhava Swami read from Srimad - Bhagavatam 4.11.27:
“My dear boy Dhruva, please surrender unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the ultimate goal of the progress of the world. Everyone, including the demigods headed by Lord Brahma, is working under His control, just as a bull, prompted by a rope in its nose, is controlled by its owner.”
Chairman Bhanu Swami welcomed everyone and announced that today being HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami’s Vyasa Puja, his disciples have sponsored feast prasadam for all devotees and GBC members at the Gada Kitchen. Bhanu Swami thanked Radhanath Swami for his moving tribute to Bhakti Tirtha Swami in class this morning, and announced that ISKCON Juhu was voted to host the next GBC meeting in October.
“Report of ISKCON Guru Seminar”
Anuttama Das, a member of the Guru Services Committee, reported that the committee had been studying how to help prepare devotees to serve Srila Prabhupada as initiating and instructing spiritual masters. The committee also considered how to offer support and peer association for devotees currently serving as gurus. To this end, in May 2007, about two dozen senior devotees met in Washington DC for four days of intensive planning. Attendees included ISKCON leaders, scholars and educators including Radhanath Swami, Bhakti Charu Swami, Ravindra Svarupa Das, Jayapataka Swami, Rukmini Dasi, Braja Bihari Das, and others representing a cross section of international devotees. Based on the work of that group and in coordination with Vaisnava Training and Education (VTE), the Guru Services Committee prepared a four-day seminar that was launched in Ujjain just prior to the current GBC meetings.
Anutttama’s report prompted a discussion of the need for ongoing learning and Vaisnava association for all members of ISKCON. In this regard, Anuttama shared the following illumination from Prabhupada Lila (7-7):
“Every morning Prabhupada would take a stroll to one of the nearby parks, sometimes with a few disciples and sometimes with only Sivananda. Sometimes while he walked along the waterfront, Prabhupada would ask about shipbuilding and related industries, and Krsnadasa would answer. When Prabhupada asked Krsnadasa what the population of Hamburg was, he knew. Prabhupada began to jokingly call Krsnadasa “Stats,” because he knew so many statistics.
“One morning, while Stats was answering Prabhupada’s questions about various cranes used in shipbuilding, Prabhupada turned to the others and said, “You see, although I am the guru and I am taking you back to Godhead, that doesn’t mean that I cannot learn from him.”
Attendees from the Ujjain seminar, including GBC members and gurus Prahladananda Swami and Madhu Sevita Das, expressed their strong endorsement of the seminar. They also offered their appreciation for the facilities provided at the new Ujjain temple, and commented how appropriate it was to hold the Guru Seminar in Ujjain, the place where Lord Krishna Himself attended the school of Sandipani Muni.
“This seminar will assist spiritual leaders to always remember that they are first and foremost servants of Srila Prabhupada,” said Madhu Sevita. “We can feel Prabhupada’s presence through spiritual association with our peers. I strongly suggest the GBC encourage all ISKCON gurus to attend this seminar.” Bhakti Charu Swami offered to host the seminar annually in Ujjain and expressed his own need and gratitude for such association.
Topics covered in the seminar were then discussed. They include twelve core principles of spiritual leadership in ISKCON such as fidelity to Srila Prabhupada, allegiance to ISKCON, brahminical leadership, cooperation, unity, empowering disciples, and peer association and support. Other topics included care for disciples, relationship of the guru with ISKCON, maintaining spiritual health, and improving association with devotees.
Some GBC members suggested that attendance should be made mandatory to avoid the problems that arise when senior devotees become isolated, or lack peer support.
Based on the Ujjain experience, the Committee is fine tuning the seminar program and is planning a second level, or Guru Retreat, for leaders. It was suggested to schedule the next seminar alongside the next GBC meeting. This will be decided before the GBC meetings end.
Next was a Bhaktivedanta Institute powerpoint presentation by Rasaraja Dasa on “Scientifically Proving God’s Existence,” specially prepared for the GBC. He presented examples of his current research to bridge the historical gap between science and religion. Science admits only entities of this world as causes, whereas religion is based on God beyond this world and thus scientifically not provable. Rasaraja presented the Vaisnava concept of the Deity, an apparently material object, yet accepted as God himself, as amenable to scientific proof. Traditionally, science and religion battle over God and soul. But Vaisnava religion, Rasaraja argued, can challenge science even in the realm of matter. The presentation generated a lively discussion amongst the GBC members. He is preparing a version of the same presentation for release to the general public.
The GBC Deputies, with Aniruddha Prabhu facilitating, next presented several proposals to the GBC body for straw voting. Topics included:
* Annual Holy Name Week: Temples worldwide to celebrate one day during the anniversary week of Srila Prabhupada’s arrival in the US.
* Anukalpa [Ekadasi] Prasadam, or fasting from grains, on Visnu Tattva Appearance Days: There was a discussion that the recommended standard for Prabhupada’s followers is for devotees to fast from grains on Gaura Purnima and Janmastami. Other days are optional and guests are not required to follow this.
* Jurisdiction of ISKCON Centres. Discussion about several ISKCON entities operating in the same geographical area.
* Eligibility to be Guru-special cases were discussed, covering Srila Prabhupada first initiates, disciples of gurus who have resigned or left ISKCON, etc.
In the afternoon and evening, additional meetings of the GBC-BBT Committee, Sannyasa Committee, and Latin American Regional Governing Body were held. Many GBC members also attended the graduation ceremony of the Mayapur Academy (of Deity Worship) this afternoon. During that ceremony the first graduates of the Academy, twenty one in total from fifteen different countries were honored for having completed ISKCON’s first three-month brahminical and pujari training program.