North American Temple Presidents, GBC Meetings
By Caru Das
Last weekend May 2 Caru Das journeyed to the NA GBC/Temple President Meetings in New Vrndavan, West Virginia. He landed at the Pittsburgh airport Friday midnight, rented a car, dozed at a rest stop en route and arrived Saturday morning in time for a shower and the start of the meetings.
Romapada Swami gave a keynote talk entitled “Spiritual Economics; Relevance to the Bhagavatam”. He and Devamrta Swami are apparently getting keen response to their preaching on Ecology. As one writer said, “Environmentalism is the new religion.” The relevant files can be downloaded from his web site at http://www.romapadaswami.com/SE.
Ramabhadra, President of the Brooklyn temple gave a sublime power point presentation on Deity worship. He included lots of slides, not only of the New York Deities, but famous well worshipped Deities in India, such as Radha Govinda in Jaipur.
Amarendra the attorney spoke of the bylaws issue. He said the GBC’s only concern in urging the temples to adopt the bylaws was to preserve the ecclesiastical integrity of the temples, as stated in Article 4. Temples which were and continue to be established on behalf of Prabhupada’s mission should not be be coopted later by board members who want to take them in a different direction. He gave the examples of Long Island and Fullerton. In answer to concerns the new bylaws might make some temples liable for the mistakes of others, he said there is almost no “alter ego’ liability there, and gave examples.
Rabindra Svarup gave a scholarly presentation called, “The Hierarchical Nature of ISKCON.”
There was a nice proposal to train new leadership in America. Tamohar, Kuladri and Anuttama explained the rough idea to hold three two week training sessions annually for two years, after which candidates should have all the skills to assume leadership roles. The content ot the training sessions was described as “one part spiritual, two parts managerial.” They hope to start in North America in the fall. Temples could assist by identifying future leaders, sending them to the sessions, subsidizing the students, and also hosting some of the training.
Sunday morning’s Bhagavatam class was given by Trivikram Swami. Every morning the reigning deities Radha Vrndavanchandra were bedecked with garlands of locally grown aromatic lilacs.
That day’s meetings began with a super internet preaching power point by Manu of Alachua. He presented all the details of Krishna.com: staggering number of visitors, always growing, from all over the world, live chat features, temple web cam opportunities, etc.
Incidentally, Manu informed Caru that the Youth Bus program will visit Utah on a Friday evening July 25. The youth do a Bharat Natyam program headed by Annapayini and a drama called Karna and Kunti. It will be a great evening. Caru assured him he will promote it as much as possible.
Ramabhadra showed samples of the new Kalashas for this year’s Janmastami fund raisers.
Kuladri spoke of the Youth Fund, particularly praising Svavasa and Los Angeles temple for their unselfish contributions.
Caru was scheduled to give a presentation of the innovative preaching in Utah. He had prepared a power point presentation which included 50 slides and some videos of the Holi festivals. He spoke about 30 minutes, until lunch time.
Caru missed the lunch at the temple to go with Balabhadra to the ISCOWP (International Society for Cow Protection) farm. He spent some time with the cows, which were totally free from fear of humans. Balabhadra has recently acquired two pairs of oxen. He will train them to plow and pull an ox cart, thus replacing the famous Braj and Gita, who traveled over America with Pada Yatra.
Sunday afternoon a private meeting of the Temple Presidents was chaired by Kalakantha Prabhu and Trivikrama Swami. Many issues were discussed of relevance to temple leaders: salary questions, temples sharing resources and helping each other out, fund raising by traveling preachers, gurus and sannyasis, the inauguration of a Temple President’s web site which would archive all “best practices” for the benefit of present and future TPs. Twenty four temples (out of 50 in America) were represented by 32 persons.
Kuladri showed Caru 13 vinyl banners 6 feet high and 4 feet wide, which tell the story of Prabhupada. Caru bought them for $ 400.00 deeming they will be perfect for the exhibit hall presently under construction in Utah. The existing exhibits on vegetarianism, reincarnation etc., are exactly the same size.
Sunday morning’s Bhagavatam class was given by Romapada Swami.
The meetings began with a discussion of a Pastoral Abuse policy.
Anuttama encouraged devotees to write for iskconnews.com, the great editorializing web site for the movement.
Badrinarayan followed with a presentation of ISKCON worldwide, some of her recent success stories.
A few of them….
1) There are 300 students in the Mayapur (West Bengal) gurukula, half of whom are Muslims. One of the young Muslim students memorized the entire Bhagavad Gita.
2) The Moscow temple will break ground in October.
3) The Vedic Planetarium in Mayapur, which will cost 30 million dollars, has 20 million already pledged.
4) Badrinarayan told of how hopeless it seemed in the old days to introduce Krishna Consciousness in China. Tamal Krishna Maharaj would have almost given up had not the first Chinese devotee been named U Chan Ting. Now Bhagavad Gitas have been printed in Chinese, legally by the government, and will be sold in government bookstores.
5) The Gita is now available in 55 different languages, including, Kazak, Tibetan, Rumanian, Arabic, Burmese, Mongolian and Zulu.
6) There was a recent Ratha Yatra in Middle East (arranged by private invitation in a skating rink) which was attended by 3,000 people,
7) India temples sold 1.5 million Bhagavad Gitas last year.
8) In Hungary, on their tax returns, people can check one of four churches, to whom the government will give one per cent of that individual’s tax moneys: Catholic, Lutheran, one other (forget) and Hare Krishnas. Last year the Krishna Consciousness Society received from the Hungarian government a check for one million dollars!
A standing ovation that weekend was received by the lady cooks who did a superlative job. They kept the leaders well nourished, not only at the regular meals, but at the snack table in the meeting hall. This was always copiously laden with herbal teas, brownies, cakes, and cookies. Malati and all the New Vrndavan devotees were gracious hosts, especially considering they were under pressure to mount the Festival of Inspiration for an influx of 700 devotees five days hence (May 9-11).