By Sraddhadevi dasi
ISKCON’s 2011 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Governing Body Commission (GBC) continued February 26th and 27th with GBC members separating into committees to discussion specific topics. Some of the committees were Guru Services, GBC-BBT Relations, Parallel Lines of Authority, and the Sannyasa Committee. Regional Governing Bodies, such as the Latin Governing Body and the North American GBCs also convened to discuss issues particular to their geographic area of service.
In most cases, GBC committees discuss and research a specific subject matter, then seek approval from the GBC body on suggestions regarding how to proceed. The primary role of most committees is to assist in educating others on the content of the topic and how it relates to ISKCON and ISKCON’s members. To do this, committees may develop seminars, courses, or written documents pertaining to their topic.
For example, the GBC Guru Services committee has introduced educational resources, retreats, and training sessions to assist devotees in their role as a disciple or guru. The committee continues to organize annual Guru Seminars and Retreats, which allow devotees who serve as instructing or initiating gurus to associate with one another and share their experiences. This year the Guru Services committee is also launching a multi-day course for prospective disciples, in attempt to better educate devotees in the qualifications, responsibilities, and roles of both disciples and gurus. The hope is that in the future this will be a standard course for devotees who desire to take initiation within ISKCON.
Committees may also suggest policy or request permission from the GBC body to create and oversee an official system of evaluation. For example, by approval of the GBC body, the Sannyasa committee established a comprehensive evaluation process to guide and approve sannyasa candidates. Such a process helps to clarify for sannyasa candidates the responsibilities and position of a sannyasi, and also creates a support system that aids in strengthening the overall health of the sannyasa ashram within ISKCON.
As for the other committees, the GBC-BBT Relations committee discusses issues specifically related to enhancing communications and cooperation between the GBC and the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT). Furthermore, the Parallel Lines of Authority committee explores the relationship between the authority and directions of various leaders such as gurus, GBCs, and local management, and how these lines of authority can and should cooperatively work together.
Committee work is ongoing throughout the year, and additional committee meetings will be interspersed between plenary sessions throughout the remaining days of the GBC’s Annual General Meeting.