FRIENDS OF THE BBT NOVEMBER NEWSLETTER
By Madhava Smullen
The spiritual path can be a rewarding yet difficult one. There comes a time when all of us need a shoulder to lean on, a friendly push in the right direction, or a few strong words of encouragement.
Wouldn’t it be great if every time you stumbled in your faith, you could just open up your instant messenger and talk to someone who could help you right back up?
The management of Krishna. com thought so, and in 2002 they decided to use the Internet’s power of two-way communication to create their own 24/7 Live Help service.
The result is staffed entirely by volunteers around the world; and it’s a skilled team. For while enthusiasm is important, candidates must first pass a screen test to prove their social skills and philosophical knowledge. And if they’re approved, they must also provide references to ensure their credibility and the safety of Krishna. com’s audience.
Live helpers don’t have to commit to a certain schedule or amount of hours—Krishna. com knows its volunteers are busy with their own day-to-day lives—any amount of service is highly appreciated. This can be anything from one email or chat a week to anywhere between thirty and seventy a month. With seventy-five volunteers around the world, of which an average of twenty are active at any given time, that’s a lot of help. But Kanu Priya Dasa, from the New Govardhan farm in Australia, says people still seem to want more.
“The work is a case of feast or famine—sometimes an hour can go by with only one or two chats,” he says. “But often I’m swamped by four or more at once.”Kanu Priya is surprised by the level of sincerity in these callers.
“Anyone with preaching experience knows how difficult it is to bring a person to the point of chanting and following the four regulative principles, or taking up other regular Vaishnava practices,” he says. “But I’ve had many chats with people who are just waiting to be asked to follow the regulative principles, take up chanting, buy a book or visit a temple.”
So many people have started chanting Hare Krishna as a result of Live Help since the service was launched that Krishna. com staff have lost count. Each story is a triumph: Some started off arguing constantly with their Live Helpers, hurling doubt after doubt, but are now chanting one or four rounds daily.
Some were chanting only one round a day when they approached Live Help, and are now chanting sixteen. Some started with zero rounds, and are now aspiring for spiritual inititation. Many regularly drop in on Live Help to ask questions and report their advancement.
One caller, Prashant, an Indian student living in Scotland, was so inspired by Live Help that he became a full-time devotee and received the name Prashanatma Dasa from ISKCON guru Sivaram Swami. He’s now a celibate monk and travels around the country distributing spiritual literature.
Sometimes, Krishna. com’s Live Helpers have to answer questions that go beyond regular spiritual inquiries. The nature of the Internet, Kanu Priya explains, makes it easier for people to reveal their mind in confidence. “I remember one grieving non-devotee parent who wanted to know how to carry out the funeral for their Vaishnava daughter, who had died in an accident,” he says.
Many who have had their lives transformed by Live Help now volunteer to help others. When Preethi began chatting to Live Helpers, she was so shy that she could hardly talk to them, let alone consider being one herself. Today, the newly-named Radha-Priya Dasi is one of Krishna. com’s top volunteers, an enthusiastic college preacher, and a department manager at her local temple.
The rewards of working at Krishna. com Live Help are obvious. “The more you give, the more you receive!” says Vrindavana Chandra Dasa, another of Krishna. com’s steady volunteers. “I’ve received so much by doing this service: My own enthusiasm and commitment to Krishna consciousness has increased.
I study more, because I have to understand Krishna conscious philosophy deeply to be able to explain it to others. And my spiritual practices have improved because I’m now forced to practice what I preach.”
Kanu Priya also finds Live Help to be a remarkable opportunity. “While conventional preaching delivers many logistical problems such as traveling, geography, weather, etc., with Live Help you can bypass all that and simply get to the essence,” he says.
“Often, I’ll plan to only jump online for a moment to check a few emails, and end up staying for hours—simply because of the relentless stream of sincere people coming my way.”
Vedic texts prescribe the holy name of Krishna as the means of enlightenment for this age, and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu predicted that it would be chanted in every town and village. Krishna. com has tapped into the greatest modern resource, realizing that the Internet easily surmounts practical difficulties to spread this spiritual message far and wide.
“If Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati called the printing press the Brihat mrdanga (big drum),” says Kanu Priya, “Imagine what he would have called the Internet!”
If you are interested in joining the growing group of Live Helpers, email Live Help at email@example.com to let them know. They would love to hear from you.
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