BV Diary Issue 2010-05
By Vijay Venugopal dasa and Prema Padmini dd
Saturday 6th February 2010 – Bengaluru – Kolkatta – Mayapur
After just a few days in Bangalore, we left for Mayapur. Our visit this time would be different. This time, we had been invited as guests to participate in the meetings of the Devotee Care Committee of the GBC. This is a new and important committee which was set up by the GBC in 2008, to bring about a qualitative change in Iskcon worldwide. Now in 2010. it was decided to invite devotees who had good experience in providing care in devotee communities.
So new members were invited from Chowpatty, and both of us, from Mathuradesh.
After checking into our rooms in Vamsi Bhavan, at one corner of the Iskcon township, we went to the GBC office to get our schedules from the secretaries (Ranavali dd and others). There we met Sri Radhe dd (wife of Kaunteya dasa) and Rasakrida Parayana dasa of Shyama desh (who started his devotional life in Mathuradesh). He told us that he was on the Strategic Planning committee, and had committed twenty out of his thirty days annual leave every year to come to India for the meetings and other work. The committee works under Gopala Bhatta dasa (ACBSP), who is helping the GBC introduce major reforms in their work, especially implementation of their policies, and broadening participation of devotees in Iskcon management.
We met several other devotees there, from Mumbai, New Zealand, Florida etc.
Sunday 7th February 2010 – 9th February 2010 – Mayapur – Devotee Care Committee (DCC)
At 9 am, we joined the GBC members and other meeting attendees at breakfast. For the next four days of the meeetings, we would have our prasadam here. We were happy to see it was as healthy as we have at home – less oil and chillis, black salt, jaggery insted of sugar, very few sweets, a lot of fruits and juices, ginger and lemon for digestion.
At 10 am the DCC meetings started. To enable us to get real results without wasting time in circular discussions, Urmila dd
(ACBSP) had been appointed as facilitator. With her crisp, practical, and humorous New York style, she really got all of us focussed and our energy and results over the next four days were very good. Revati Raman dasa, TP of Tirupati, and our old friend from Bangalore, is the Chairman of the DCC. He and some other members had to go to the GBC’s plenary sessions, so the rest of us started our work.
With expert help from Urmila dd, we finalised the methodology of our meetings. We would first agree on ‘Where we are’ in terms of Devotee Care in Iskcon, ‘Where we want to go’ (goals), and ‘How to get there’ (Action plans). We would hear presentations on the subject from different members to help us in our mission. We would finalise five major principles of devotee care, and use these in making our action plans.
The Vision of the Devotee Care committee, which had been finalised in previous meetings :
‘Every devotee in ISKCON is provided with the spiritual, mental/emotional and physical care they deserve as parts and parcels of Krsna according to Srila Prabhupada’s instruction and example. This should be done on the personal and institutional level’.
Action taken so far includes – a Web-site under construction (wwwdevoteecareiskcon. com) which will contain a lot of information and links regarding Physical, Emotional/Mental, and Spiritual care; production of two beautiful and interesting annual booklets on Devotee Care containing useful and inspiring articles by Iskcon leaders. Now the Indian RGB has made it mandatory for all temples in India to have Heath Insurance for Residential devotees.
Tirupati Temple is planning to set up a project ‘Hare Krishna Care Home’, which will be for the elderly devotees of Iskcon, and will include a temple, hospital, and ashrama for the elderly. It will be located on fifty acres of land near the Iskcon temple.
With this background, the committee members began their work.
Several presentations were made:
Strategic Planning by Kaunteya dasa : Understanding devotee care efforts as part of the GBC strategies for the general improvement of ISKCON
Principles of care in the Bhakti-vrksa program by Vijaya Venugopal dasa & Prema Padmini dd : A system based on fostering loving relationships within the frame of small interactive groups focused on taking part in the preaching mission
Physical care – Systems and Principles by Prahladananda Swami,
The aim of care: assisting devotees in their spiritual strength and sadhana by Radha Gopinatha dasa : Developing devotee care as the means to facilitate devotees_f
Systems & principles of emotional care_\The culture of care starts from within by Vraja-lila dd : The necessity of taking into account devotees_f emotional needs, the principle of having genuine care as the basis of devotee care efforts and the importance of having trained care-givers
Principles of care in the Chowpatty counseling system by Sridhama dasa & Kisori dd : From womb to tomb_\From personal care through counseling evolves a caring and supportive community of devotees with multifaceted care projects Giving shelter and accepting shelter as the basis for devotee care by Devaki dd : The need for a personal brahminical advisor whose concern is one_fs spiritual welfare Defining women_fs asramas and the need for care for women by Laksmimoni dd : The importance of providing shelter, training, and engagement in devotional service for newcomers and the need for opportunities for senior women to offer their guidance International devotee care project in Mayapur by Vaikuntha Pati dasa, Vackresvari dd & Ratnavali dd : The seed of a project hosting a hospice, vanaprastha asrama and a single women_fs asrama
For three days there were intense discussions in morning and afternoon sesions, and we succeeded in developing five principles as follows – .
The culture of caring permeates all activities
Principles of body, mind, social and spiritual care are global and their application is local
Practical applications of Devotee Care uphold Srila Prabhupada_fs teachings and mood, and are favorable to the development of the spiritual life of the individual
Devotee Care is given in a mature way according to the needs, interests and concerns of the individual being helped
Devotee care-giving is enacted in the mood of being the servant of the servant.
The members developed an Action Plan for the year with individual committments by Revati Raman dasa, Prahladananda Swami, Bir Krishna Goswami, Asesha Sadhani dd, Devaki dd, Prasanta dd, Ekavira dasa, Vraja Lila dd, Acyuta Priya dasa, Sridama dasa and Kishori dd. Radha Gopinath Dasa, and Vijay Venugopal dasa and Prema Padmini dd.
Essentially, we propose to visit communities in different parts of the world to explain Devotee Care principles, to describe initiatives which have been taken, and to help in developing more facilities for devotee care. There are other plans also, which will be unfolded as the year progresses.
A new Vaishnavi Care subcommittee was also formed which included some of the above members as well as other Vaishnavis.
(One one of the days, Kishori dd, the doctor from Chowpatty temple, visited our room. She gave acupuncture treatment to Ppdd
(see reason below). She had been with HH Japayapata Swami Maharaja in Bhaktivedanta Hospital during his recent illness. She spoke of how they had no hope of his survival, since he had had a pontine haemhorrage. It was a miracle that he survived. What was amazing was his high spirits, since people who are affected by this kind of immobililty normally become deeply depressed.)
Wednesday 10th February 2010 – Mayapur – GBC Presentation
So this was the day our labours of the last three days would be presented to the GBC.
At 10:30. Revati Ramana dasa did a presentation about the Devotee Care Committee – its history, its aims, its achievements so far, and its new members. Prasanta dd did a presentation on what we had done in the last three days.. Gopala Bhatta dasa, who facilitated the GBC Meetings and the new strategic plans, spoke of the enormous energy which he had felt when visting the DCC. All the GBC members appreciated the DCC, and we were all introduced to them.
At 12 Lokanath Swami Maharaja made a presentation about a 12-verse ‘picture prayer’ by Rupa Goswami. It was amazing that so many hidden pictures are found in these prayers. Prasanta dd sang the verses beautifully. Later she gave us the CD of the presentation. If devotees desire, when we visit you next, we can show the DVD to you.
Thursday 11th February 2010 – Wednesday 17th February 2010 Mayapur
These were extremely busy days:
? We had several meetings with the DCC members to finalise the outline of our presentation and action plan when visiting various centres, to help implement devotee care in these centres ? We had a meeting with the Vaishnavi Care subcommittee where we discussed the specific needs of Vaishnavis in Iskcon ? We conducted presentations over four days, on ‘Happy Families – Happy communities’. Over fifty devotees attened each day, and we had to cut short the session each day due to lack of time. The four topics : Balancing Material and Spiritual, Applying KC in daily lives, Overcoming Obstacles, and Devotee care in expanding Vaishnava Communities. ? We also gave a presentation on ‘Devotee Care in BV’ in the Samadhi auditoriumas part pf the Devotee Care Seminars. About forty attended, and it was very interactive, and had to be cut short as another seminar was scheduled in the hall. ? We met devotees from Guyana, China Argentina etc about BV implementation ? We attended the presentation by Vraja Lila dd, mentioned above ? We had lunch prasadam at the Rajapur Jagannath temple, hosted by Nirmal Krishna dasa of Mathuradesh ? We underwent acupuncture treatment from a Chinese devotee. Ppdd has severe knee problems and finds it difficult to stand and walk for too long, due to strain, rich food during her travels etc. ? We worked with Angira Muni dasa and the Russian devotees to prepare a Bhakti Vriksha table (as the pandal was not ready in time). We put up large photos from Russia, Mathuradesh, UK, and Bangalore BV Groups, showed videos of BV programs, and distributed Russian BV boks, free herbal tea and sweets prasadam ? We had discussions with Seva Svarupa dasa about the Congregational Development Ministry ? We met Prana Govinda dasa (ex Mathuradesh, from Bangladesh) and the Cox’s Bazar TP, who showed us the ambitious plan for a new temple there ? We met Mathuradesh devotee Bangladeshi Sumadhur Gauranga dasa’s family (wife, two daughters, two sons, all going to Bhaktivedanta School, and neighbours). They brought us hot milk and savoury puffed rice for three days
And, we were able to visit the festival pandal once or twice!
Thursday 18th February 2010 – Mayapur – Kolkatta – Bangalore
Finally, we had breakfast, and left for Kolkatta and Bangalore, in a Tata Sumo, driven by Vraja Gopinath dasa (ex Mathuradesh), and accompanied by Prana Govinda dasa. And thus a long and hectic tour came to an end.