GBC Report #7

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By Sraddhadevi dasi

February 15-17th

During the last three days of the Annual General Meeting of ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission, GBC members gave presentations on new publications and the status of various projects.

Anuttama Prabhu, representing the GBC’s Guru Services Committee, reported on the Guru Seminars and Guru Retreats program. These programs allow devotees who are serving as initiating or instructing gurus to associate with one another and share their experiences serving Srila Prabhupada in the role of guru. The Guru Seminars and Retreats also aim to enhance skills in counseling disciples and caring for one’s own physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

Members of the GBC, including Bhakti Marga Swami, Bhakti Chaitanya Swami, Prahladananda Swami, and Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu, who attended the Guru Retreat in Ujjain last October related their experiences. They all expressed enthusiasm and thanks for having such a wonderful retreat last year and strongly urged others to attend future Guru Seminars or Retreats. A Guru Seminar and Retreat will be held in Tirupati next October before the GBC meetings in Juhu, Bombay.

The Guru Services Committee also presented the progress made on developing a seminar for disciples. The idea of such a course is to educate devotees before they receive initiation on the theological, institutional, and practical issues pertaining to discipleship. Some topics include the special position Srila Prabhupada plays in ISKCON as the Founder-Acarya, a theological understanding of Guru-tattva, issues of etiquette between guru and disciple, understanding the initiation ceremony, and the qualifications of a disciple and a guru. Over the course of this year a committee will continue to develop curriculum for this course.

Following the Guru Services Committee, ISKCON’s Minister of Education, Sesa Prabhu, updated the GBC Body on the current educational institutions within ISKCON.  He reported that the Bhaktivedanta College in Budapest currently has 200 students and offers two Bachelor Degree programs. Bhaktivedanta College in Radhadesh is also growing with 30 full-time students and is looking toward offering degrees in management as well as theology.

Sesa Prabhu also presented to the GBC Body profiles of various religious educational institutions that maintain lifestyle values similar to those of ISKCON. He pointed out that Amrita University, founded by the Mata Amritanandamayi Math in 1994, now has over 13,000 students and 13 university departments. Likewise, Maharishi University of Management in Iowa started off slow, but now has 1,200 students. Maharishi University has seen a 125% student growth rate in the last five years. Moreover, Brigham Young University, a successful Mormon university in Utah has an enrollment of more than 30,000 students. Brigham Young University lists “purity” as a requirement for graduation and funds 70% of student tuition through church tithing.

After presenting these examples, Sesa Prabhu urged that ISKCON look toward the future and put additional energy into further developing our own educational programs. Everyone was in agreement. A directional straw vote was taken, and unanimously the GBC decided to place strong emphasis on the development of education within ISKCON.

Kaunteya Prabhu on behalf of ISKCON’s Congregational Development Ministry presented two new publications to the GBC. The first book, Holy Jail, is a compilation by Candramauli Swami on the activities and stories of ISKCON’s Prison Ministry. In the thirty years that the ISKCON Prison Ministry has been in operation, hundred of lives of inmates have changed due to the practice of Krishna consciousness and the support received by devotees. For more information on the ISKCON Prison Ministry, please visit www. ipm. bbnow. org.

The second title presented by Kaunteya Prabhu is an English translation of Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Sri Godruma Kalpatavi (The Desire-tree Grove of Godruma.) Sri Godruma Kalpatavi was originally a newsletter produced in Bengal 120 years ago by Bhaktivinoda Thakura to guide leaders and members in his preaching movement. The topics discussed are very practical issues often faced by those with families and careers who also want to fully engage in practicing and preaching Krishna consciousness. Jayapataka Swami felt the Godruma Kalpatavi to be so relevant to lives of devotee today that he translated the text and inspired the current publication. For more information on the Godruma Kalpatavi, please visit www. namahatta. org.

The GBC meetings concluded with words of praise and a standing ovation for this year’s GBC Chairman, Romapada Maharaja. Several GBC members expressed their gratitude toward Romapada Maharaja for putting so much time, effort, and care into chairing the GBC. Over the course of the year, he addressed many difficult issues and diligently offered support to ISKCON programs and leaders throughout the world. Many GBC members felt that Romapada Maharaja raised the bar and set a new standard for the position of GBC Chairman.

The GBC Body also welcomed the new GBC Chairman, Madhusevita Prabhu, as well as Hrdaya Caitanya Prabhu and Bhakti Caitanya Swami as members of the incoming GBC Executive Committee.

After twelve days of meetings, members of the GBC appeared satisfied with the amount of work accomplished during the 2010 Annual General Meeting. The GBC will meet again next October at the ISKCON Juhu temple in Bombay.

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1 Akruranatha

“Some topics include the special position Srila Prabhupada plays in ISKCON as the Founder-Acarya, a theological understanding of Guru-tattva, issues of etiquette between guru and disciple, understanding the initiation ceremony, and the qualifications of a disciple and a guru. Over the course of this year a committee will continue to develop curriculum for this course.”

These seminars sound interesting and I wonder if they could be made available (in some modified form?) for the general devotees, perhaps in the VIHE or MIHE programs or also in some of the other educational programs we have.

At ISV a couple weeks ago we had some mini-courses on Vaisnava etiquette, temple etiquette, Vaisnava dancing, cooking and better japa. These specialized classes are useful, separate and apart from the regular Bhagavatam and Gita classes. They remind me more of the “bhakta program” idea of providing devotees with basic skills and training in addition to the daily dose of Krishna-katha medicine injected in the ears during regular temple functions.

Particularly these issues about the theology of guru-tattva, etiquette between guru and disciple, the initiation ceremony, and qualifications of guru and disciple are important foundational topics for our training.

Having a more solid foundation in these aspects of our philosophy and practices might have helped us better to avoid some of the political frictions and fractions (or factions) that arose after Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance. We should get a firm understanding of these issues through a broader, deeper study of Srila Prabhupada’s books and the insights of advanced devotees on these subjects.

I think as a society we may have at times displayed an over-dependence on the qualifications and “personality” of the initiating gurus, rather than on the process by which the qualified disciples, obeying the pure instructions of the initiating and instructing gurus, progress through bhajana-kriya and anartha-nivrtti to become steady, serious, pure vaisnavas.

Sometimes Srila Prabhupada made strong statements against accepting a guru as a “fashion” without actually doing the work required to be transformed into a twice-born, spiritual person, and I think this is partly what he was talking about.

ISKCON is a society for spreading the bona-fide instructions through parampara by which people can be factually transformed into pure devotees.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on March 29th, 2010

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