In the News:
Day 4 of the GBC meetings
Posted March 5, 2005
2 March 2005
Day 4 of the GBC meetings
Open Door Day
In line with the Vedic cultural tradition of the king opening his court to anyone, and in line with our modern tradition of openness and transparency, the GBC this year invited any devotees to express their concerns in person to the GBC body.
First, Priti Vardhana Dasa spoke about reviving in Mayapur the Nitai-Pada-Kamala boat party, which once preached to villagers along the Ganges, beginning in 1976. The Bhaktivedanta Academy now is renovating the dilapidated boat and hopes to take gurukula boys to Gaudiya-Vaisnava places and preach. Gauri Dasa expressed caution about small boys travelling around India.
Jayadvaita Swami distributed a handout about ISKCON philanthropy. He said that we are shifting from preaching pure devotional service to rendering humanitarian service for worldly reward (Food for Life, Tsunami Relief). But, he asked, are we pleasing Srila Prabhupada and Krishna? (See Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.15, chapter summary, for a view taken by Srila Prabhupada, which he quoted.) Sivarama Swami asked that Jayadvaita Swami make a proposal at next year's meeting.
Janmastami Dasa spoke about the need for senior leaders to teach the Bhakti Sastri and Bhakti-Vaibhava courses and thereby transform young devotees. Recently, MIHE graduated forty-seven Bhakti-sastri students, and it now runs two semesters of these courses. Education, he said, will help stop the attrition rate in ISKCON.
Ananda Tirtha Dasa spoke about the lack of an official ISKCON news outlet for devotees and thus a lack of dissemination of positive news. A news outlet could include lectures by leaders on the observations of regular Vaisnava calendar celebrations. Bir Krishna Goswami said that such a Web site is being developed by Devi Deva Dasa in the USA and it will be a portal for the worldwide ISKCON community. Anuttama said that ISKCON communications sees this as important but lacks a budget for it.
Gita-nagari Dasa spoke about being a disciple who did not take second initiation because he had seen too many second initiates fall down and he wanted to wait until he was older. Now his guru (SDG) is not giving further initiations, so he has had to look elsewhere in ISKCON, but he has not found someone to accept him. He asked the GBC body to be extra merciful to all devotees left behind when their gurus falter. Sivarama Swami then asked Lilasuka, the secretary, to note any needs being expressed that should be followed-up, and he asked the GBCs who are sympathetic to particular concerns to submit notes to the secretary.
Candra-sekhara Acarya read a letter from Gopaswami Prabhu, who made two requests: (1) to make the theme of the next Mayapur festival "A Gathering of Vanaprastas," at which a yajna could be held to mark their stepping into this asrama; and (2) that the New Mayapur yatra in France be given temporary support: two pujaris and a temple commander.
Nandkishore Dasa (from the Mira Road temple) spoke about developing an ISKCON human resources department. He cited his professional business experience, then talked about how ISKCON needs this department. Recruiting, training, and placing devotees would be the result. Devotees in positions could be moved around by the GBC and thus be enlivened, just as some companies move around their managers. "Who is going to staff the new facilities in the Bombay project?" he asked, as an example of the need.
Vidvan Gauranga Dasa spoke about unacceptable beliefs and values coming from the academic world and undermining ISKCON. He asked the GBC to moniter ISKCON educational initiatives that are now affiliated with universities, to ensure that all the conditions stipulated by Srila Prabhupada are met (see the conversation of June 1975 about ISKCON and the |Graduate Theological Union). He asked the GBC to moniter courses on psychology offered in ISKCON. He called for a refutation of certain articles in The Hare Krishna Movement. Praghosa then invited Vidvan to sit in on a subcommittee meeting that would dealing with this last issue. And Devamrta Swami mentioned that some of these issues are dealt with on the Vaisnava scholars conference (VAST) on PAMHO.
Grahila Dasa spoke about the need for security in Mayapur. His flat was broken into, and he was robbed during one mangal-arati. The local criminal investigation department, he said, has declared ISKCON Mayapur a soft target. Thieves go uncaught. The management seems unconcerned. Workers pass information to thieves. Flat owners pay security fees, but the project administration has not taken much action. Security guards are untrained, underpaid, and may be bribed. He asked the GBC to force the issue with the local management.
Bhakta Philip spoke about encouraging preaching in the USA. He has distributed books for eight years and is a top distributor. Only a couple of dozen devotees actively go out, despite the hunger that Americans have for spiritual life, he said. Instead devotees tend to their conditioned natures and temple maintenance, and this is often encouraged by the preaching of senior devotees.
Purnamasi Dasi spoke about the need for distributing books and chanting in public. She cited the overwhelming response to chanting parties and Ratha-yatras, and the value that this preaching has in the training of new devotees.
Bhakta Priya Dasi and Vrajisvari Dasi spoke about making the ISKCON laws more approachable by devotees. Lawbooks are not widely distributed. The laws on ISKCON membership, for example, are not all relevant. They recommended that the laws should be broadly proclaimed and published. The lawbooks should be sold in ISKCON bookshops. They should be taught in educational formats, both to leaders and devotees in general. Counseling about the laws should be available. All these approaches will make ISKCON laws applicable. Malati Prabhu said that an ISKCON Lawbook revision committee is at work.
Drutakarma Dasa gave a report on his preaching against Darwinism in Bulgaria. His books are now translated into Bulgarian, and he signed three hundred of them during a recent tour. His slide presentation included some funny photos of stuffed-toy monkeys holding bananas and reading the Bulgarian editions of his books. He met anthropologists in Sofia and other cities. He spoke to teachers, students, and people in general at schools, bookshops, on radio and TV, and through the newspapers. His report ended the Open Door Day session.
Next on the agenda was the issue of Candramukha Swami (HDG), from Brazil, becoming a diksa guru. Previously, there were three objections by GBC members, so the issue had to come to a plenary session. Jagajivan Prabhu read a report by Parama Gati Swami citing Candramukha Swami's credits as a devotee, as a leader, and as a preacher. He has published thirteen books and several CDs. His brother is a sannyasi. HDG wrote to the chairman that he himself gave the impetus for this idea, so it is in accord with the GBC's resolution on this matter. One of those who objected, Virabahu Prabhu, said that the GBC resolution about to making new diksa gurus in this way was passed for very exceptional circumstances. Guru Prasad Swami (absent from the meeting) was another GBC member who objected. One procedural objection, by Bir Krishna Goswami, has now been withdrawn, so the impediment raised by there members having objections was reduced and automatically withdrawn.
Braja Bihari Prabhu presented a Ministry of Education report. He focused first on Bhaktivedanta College, which is now in partnership with the University of Wales, Lampeter (see bhaktivedantacollege.com and the March/April issue of BTG for an article about the College). He next presented the news that today's devotee-children know less about Krishna consciousness than previous generations. We are neglecting education. Alachua has four schools, which is one reason so many devotees are there. If a devotee community does not have a school, it tends to suffer or disintegrate. You can have successful schools without abuse. MED supplies literature on how to start a school. He asked the GBC to help give direction to ISKCON schooling.
MED takes the position that there should be no schools on ISKCON property because ISKCON does not have the resources for them; rather, schools should be projects encouraged by local GBCs. Anuttama commented that the anti-cultists condemn groups who put more stress on making members than on educating their children. Gauri Prabhu asked a question about the VIHE course offerings, which are no longer all about sastra; Braja Bihari said that the multifarious offerings (psychology, leadership, and so on) attract devotees to the sastric courses, such as the Bhakti-sastri and Bhakti-vaibhava courses.
A proposal was considered to form the Sri Mayapur Project Society, consisting of the voting GBC members (36), to gain proper legal ownership of the project. Braja Bihari made the subcommittee's presentation about the options and legal considerations involved, and Praghosa answered questions. This Society will empower a board of directors to run the already existing Sri Mayapur Project Development Committee. A straw vote was taken.
A proposal was heard concerning the listing of membership in GBC standing committees and so on. The idea is to keep the records up to date by instituting a system in which the deputies will update the records. Bhakta Rupa answered questions.
A proposal was considered regarding the use of the name Bhaktivedanta College. Questions were answered by Braja Bihari. This is an internal matter, meant to clear up confusion over the use of the name within ISKCON.
Finally a recommendation was heard regarding how devotees deal with dying:
making one's wishes known regarding senility, medications, do-not-resucitate
orders, and so on.