Comments Sought On Vaishnava Ad Campaign
Posted December 3, 2011
You can click on this .GIF graphic to view it at larger size or right-click and Save-As to download it for easier reading.
In an attempt to attract the general public to Lord Caitanya's Sankirtan movement, I regularly place ads in the local newspapers inviting people to come to the Bhagavad Gita As It Is Fellowship which I sponsor on the first and third Tuesdays of each month.
Often the subject matter for the Gita gatherings is gleaned down from one of the "Prabhupada Speaks Out" commentaries that have been published in Back to Godhead magazine. This material is then further used as the core content of the newsletter I send out about a week prior to the meetings, held twice a month. The respective topic culminates as the focus study and discussion point at the actual bi-monthly Gita class gathering the public is being invited to.
Instead of placing the consistently boring type of repetitive classified invitation that is traditionally found in the calendar section of the local newspapers, I use the ads to poke at topics the casual reader is likely to have encountered somewhere and may be interested in further exploring. While this seems to be a very effective way to provoke curiosity and attract those individuals who are ready to go beyond the usual new-age sophistry, this approach may have counterproductive drawbacks. I am relatively confident that the content of what I am submitting for publication is consistent with Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy. I feel equally safe that Srila Prabhupada would understand and endorse the essence of what is being published, but what I am not so clear about is what the assembled sadhus feel about this type of public outreach. What I am looking for here is the insight and critique of the Vaishnava devotees of the Lord.
The conundrum I fear is that perhaps, in publishing these types of calendar entries, I am shooting right over the head of the audience I am attempting to attract. The danger of exposing the verisimilitude of prevalent new-age themes such as the "Oneness" movement and "The Power of Now," etc., is that it can immediately create an adversary mood among those who are thoroughly entrenched in this type of nonsense. The rebuttal to that objection is that these ads are not intended to persuade militant impersonalists. Instead, the target audience are those who have just recently begun to get indoctrinated by the powerful influences of Mayavadi thought. I have found that many individuals just beginning to get involved in deviant philosophies often sense that there is something wrong but can’t quite put their finger on what exactly that error is. Just knowing that there is an alternative viewpoint is often a breath of fresh air for the neophyte new-age slaughter lamb.
I am also considering the publication of display ads conceived with this same approach. I have done this in the past, and examples of that type of artwork are shown in the attached .GIF file.
I have been doing this sort of public outreach for more than 20 years with mixed results, depending on how the end results are evaluated. On one hand we can consider that if I attract an average of 15 to 20 traditional Western-raised individuals, (not of Indian descent or exposure) from a valley of about 40,000 citizens, then my efforts are statistically consistent with what Krishna says should be expected. (Bg. 7.3) On the other hand, one could say that if my approach were more conciliatory, then more people would feel comfortable attending.
I struggle to evaluate the balance between drawing a clear line between the definitive process of self-realization outlined in the Gita, which was so masterfully presented by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada, and all of the endless flavors of "Do-it-Yourself Religion" which are rapidly spreading everywhere. The Sedona-like mood of self-deluding "New-Age" banter has particularly saturated the small, geographically bound Ojai Valley, which makes this inquiry particularly important.
I am therefore requesting any erudite devotee who reads this appeal and who has the time to share their opinions with me to please weigh in on this subject. The 24 advertisements I have ready to put in place for the 2012 calendar year are in a downloadable .DOC file, which can be viewed in Microsoft Word or in the freely downloadable OpenOffice program.
Download this Word .DOC file to view the 24 proposed sample ads. ----> OjaiVaishnavaCritique.doc
What do you think? How do you think the average person looking for something to do in the calendar section of the local newspaper will respond to this type of advertising? Perhaps you find some ads more appropriate than others. The more details you are willing to give me regarding why you either like or dislike any particular content, the more helpful that will be. If you believe very strongly that this type of approach is really very counterproductive and not appropriate, then perhaps you might be willing to send me an example of what you think would be acceptable for publication in the local papers.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I beg to remain within the good blessings of the Vaishnava devotees of the Lord.
You can contact me by mail at American Vedic Association, 687 West Villanova Road, Ojai, California 93023; by telephone at (805) 640-0405 (Evenings & Weekends) or by e-mail at md –at- jagannatha.com
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