By Ananda Tirtha das
On March 1st, the seventh day of the meetings, the morning presentations focused on the Youth Fund and Mayapur Temple of Vedic Planetarium, while the afternoon session consisted of a presentation by Bhaktivedanta Institute (Kolkata) and straw voting on proposals.
Ramabhadra Prabhu presented a detailed update of the current status of the Youth Fund effort. So far, four installments, totaling $3,950,000, has been disbursed to about seven hundred youth around the world. Some unsolicited letters of appreciation were shared with the Body, the common theme being gratitude for the help and renewed faith in ISKCON.
A further $5,550,000 is due to be disbursed in several installments up to 2011, making the total amount payable $9,500,000. There was sustained applause for major contributors to the fund such as Bhakti Charu Swami ($1,000,000) and an anonymous contribution of $500,000 arranged by Radhanath Swami. Los Angeles temple, which contributed well above its quota, also drew special mention.
Overall, the development of the Youth Fund, from the original overwhelming $400,000,000 Turley lawsuit that threatened many temples, to the present status has been nothing short of a miracle, with ISKCON leaders, attorneys, the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, and temples worldwide uniting to reaching out to our hurt youth while simultaneously protect Srila Prabhupada’s name and mission. The presentation ended with a reminder to all of the necessity to raise the balance required to complete the disbursement sum.
Next, Ambarisa Prabhu led the presentation on the current status of the Temple of Vedic Planetarium project in Mayapur of which he is Chairman. The GBC were treated to a graphic animated video of the completed temple. Ambarisa Prabhu announced that the final legal permissions to begin construction are under process.
There are three main groups preparing for the planetarium aspect of the temple. These groups are researching the 5th Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam and other Vedic texts. They are also creating an interactive website (wiki) to share their research.
Ambarisa Prabhu introduced the members of the present team of devotees dedicated to working on the project and stated that he hopes the temple will be completed in five or six years.
The afternoon session commenced with a presentation by Mukunda Madhava Prabhu on Bhaktivedanta Institute preaching. Following in the footsteps of HH Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami, the devotees of BI Kolkata are continuing holding well-attended student conferences throughout India on the topic of science and religion. They continue to lecture in various colleges and the Indian Science Congress and continue to distribute BI and Srila Prabhupada’s books.
The evening concluded with further straw voting.
March 2, the eighth day of the meetings, was the Annual GBC Retreat Day, as already reported separately.
The final two days of the meetings March 3 and 4, mainly dealt with topics for final voting, elections of officers and dates for future meeting. Topics voted on included:
Jurisdiction of ISKCON Centres
Garden of Inspiration (Samadhis in Mayapur) and Commemoration Committee
Financial Reporting by Ministers
Relocation of Radha Govinda (New York)
ISKCON Fund Raising (central office)
Moscow Temple Development Committee
Guru Seminar and Retreat Proposal
Annual World Holy Name Week
Srila Prabhupada Puja and Murti Care Standards
Initiations where there are no Temples
Latin American Regional Governing Body
GBC Committee to Review Appointments to the GBC Body
It was also voted that the Board of Examinations will function under the Ministry of Educational Development.
On March 3, the GBC were paid a lively visit by the teachers and students (ranging from age 3-20) of the Sri Mayapur International School. Lalita Devi Dasi, Headmistress, spoke briefly about the school, and Anuttama Das, on behalf of GBC, in turn greeted the children stating that the GBC “Feels very inspired and grateful to see you all developing nicely in Krsna consciousness. Our time in leading this movement is limited and we know that some of you are going to come forward to take big responsibilities in Prabhupada’s movement. We look forward to spending our older years under your protection.”
The GBC then vacated their seats to be replaced by the younger children with Narayani Dasi, 12, becoming the Chairperson. Praghosa Das then presented the children with a proposal for voting. Unanimously the children voted on being served Ekadasi snacks by the GBC. After the children honoured prasadam, their enlivening visit ended with twelve-year-old Kanai leading kirtan with all the children and GBCs.
Prahladananda Swami presented the Sannyasa Ministry report to the GBC Body. There are currently eighteen candidates for sannyasa of whom three—Jagat Guru Das, Prabhodananda Sarasvati Das, and Purnacandra Das—are approved to accept sannyasa this year.
The second GBC meeting later this year will be at Juhu, Bombay, from October 19-23. Preceding this will be the second Guru seminar, from October 15-18. Next year’s Annual General Meeting in Mayapur will be from February 12-23.
This year’s election of the Executive Committee was done in record time: this year’s chairman will be Ramai Swami; First Vice-Chairman, Romapada Swami; Second Vice-Chairman, Madhu Sevita Das; Special Duty Officer, Kavicandra Swami; and Secretary, Bhakti Purusottama Swami.
Other appointments were of Hrdaya Caitanya Das as an Acting GBC member and Tamohara Das as Assistant GBC member. Candrasekhar Das and Kaunteya Das continue as Candidates for GBC.
The GBC also released a statement appreciating the services of the late Suhotra Prabhu, former GBC member.
The final session of this year’s meeting was a Self Evaluation exercise conducted by Anuttama Prabhu. Each GBC, Deputy and Minister received a “Personal Success Worksheet” and a five page “Self Assessment for Leaders” sheet which they had to fill out to assess their strengths and weaknesses. Anuttama then directed everyone to pick a particular area in which they would like to improve and consult two or three fellow attendees to share advice on this. Attendees found the exercise stimulating and thought-provoking.
The meetings ended with Chairman Bhanu Swami thanking all the attendees, staff, and helpers for their participation in making the meetings a success. He particularly thanked the Deputies for doing lot of background work which facilitated the meetings to end early. In turn, there was sustained applause from the Body for the hard work of all the members of the Executive Committee. Incoming Chairman Ramai Swami praised Bhanu Swami for being an excellent communicator and never getting flustered even under pressure.
On their way out, each meeting attendee was offered a gift bag containing useful items like gamchas, cups, maha oil and Ganga water. This is arranged by Jayapataka Swami every year. Despite his absence (attending his mother’s funeral) his disciples carried on the tradition.
The next evening, (March 5th), Ramai Swami and other GBC members gave a brief public summary of the highlights of this year’s meetings to Sri Sri Radha Madhava and a packed temple room of devotees. This was immediately followed by Radhanath Swami leading kirtan in the Panca Tattva temple on the eve of the first official day of this year’s Gaura Purnima Festival.