An action plan to humanize ISKCON
Posted July 18, 2005
I feel like I am not alone in my thoughts and realizations about many current issues in ISKCON after reading through Chakra articles for the first time.
The question is what action can we take practically to save Lord Caitanya's movement in the West from turning into a sectarian Hindu religion? (Refer to recent Hindufication of ISKCON articles.) How do we care for our current devotees who may not fit the current ISKCON temple mold, but who sincerely want to love and serve Krishna?
We can't just sit around helplessly waiting for someone else to do the work for us, nor can we give up at the risk of losing our own spiritual lives. After Srila Prabhupada's sacrifice to make bhakti yoga available to everyone in its true form, beyond the rituals, we have a duty to work together to rekindle his compassionate mood of devotion.
As other writers stated, many current practices and traditions in ISKCON are just not working in our modern times. Devotees are sometimes not encouraged to act according to their natural propensities, and even if new people are attracted to the philosophy, there is not much practical guidance for them. We know this, but what can we do about it?
Currently, I am learning how to preach from the Mormons. Their missionaries visit my home each week to make sure I am on the right track in my spiritual life (even though they know I am practicing Krishna consciousness!) They call me, send me free magazines, and take literally hours of their time to just listen to my miniscule daily problems in life. They show me God's love by representing His kindness and by being truly humble servants.We can learn to do the same thing for our devotees.
One option would be for householder devotees (single or married) to hold weekly gatherings in their homes or rent nearby rooms or halls to invite people interested in Krishna consciousness. These gatherings would not be based on Indian rituals, but rather discussion on Srila Prabhupada's books and their practical application in our lives. There could be classes given with themes attractive to people like "bringing spirituality into your family life" or "spiritualizing the work environment".
Discussion is a key word, beacuse people have a psychological need to be listened to rather than just lectured to.The hosts should be sensitive to the needs of the guests and not preach anything that is impractical for the modern time, place, and circumstance. We have to recognize that Krishna consciousness is a gradual process. We can preach at first bybeing friendly and kind, and people will naturally want to come back repeatedly and learn about Krishna. To learn how to treat guests, we could visit other churches to see how we feel as guests, and how we like to be treated.
The householders hosting these meetings can meet together on a weekly basis to share class discussion ideas, and encourage each other in their own spiritual lives. They will care for each other materially, and encourage each other to chant, read, follow the basics, and be happy in Krishna consciousness. Gradually, more activities can be added like festivals, prasadam distribution, opening up reading rooms, and do other spiritually charitable acts so that we are helping all society advance in spiritual consciousness.
Each home or center can be creative so that each devotee is doing the service with love and enthusiasm rather than something that just has to be done. This would help:
- the devotees who live "outside", by giving them a preaching mission that is practical, a way to use their money to spread Krishna consciousness with devotion, to take responsibility for a project of their own, and by giving them weekly association with other devotees to help their own spiritual practices.
- newcomers to Krishna consciousness, by providing them with a loving atmosphere of teaching and very personal care, and by teaching them how to apply Krishna consciousness in a way that is practical for them.
- Srila Prabhupada's mission, by bringing this knowledge to every town and village. Devotees who live far from the temple can contribute greatly by making this vision come true in their particular town. Those devotees who live near the temple can participate by letting visitors know about these discussion groups, which may be closer to the visitors' homes. The groups can be a bridge to the temple.
Gradually, as householders work together and become strong and strict in their own spiritual practices even while living away from the temple, and newcomers learn that Krishna consciousness is an inner awakening of spiritual happiness rather than an external performance of rituals, Krishna consciousness can really spread in its purity as it is intended to.
This is not just an idea on paper but something that could easily start
right away. I know such home programs already go on, but as far as I
know it is not in an organized way with everyone working together. How
can we start? Does anyone want to help? Thank you and Hare Krishna!
Please contact me at Caitanya16@aol.com