ISKCON Leadership Meeting in Mayapur
The 2012 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Governing Body Commission (GBC) for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) began in Mayapur, West Bengal with the GBC body participating in ISKCON’s first International Leadership Sanga (ILS). The GBC recognizes that good, strong leadership is key both to ISKCON’s improvement and its ongoing success. In an effort to support and encourage such leadership, the GBC invited more than 500 ISKCON leaders from 42 countries around the world to assemble in Sridham Mayapur for the ILS from February 10-17 to participate in portions of the GBC’s AGM, to attend and discuss presentations on the last several years of GBC strategic planning efforts, and to spend time with one another in devotional sanga.
Each day the International Leadership Sanga consisted of plenary sessions introducing the work of various GBC strategic planning committees, such as Organizational Development, Parallel Lines of Authority, Temple Development, and Education. Additional presentations by ministries and projects were also given, for example the Ministry of Deity Worship and the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium. Following the plenary, participants chose from a variety of talks and workshops that went deeper into topics researched by individual committees. In addition to the many presentations and informational sessions were evening programs, and opportunities to visit local holy sites, such as a harinama around the ISKCON Mayapur campus, kirtan program at Yoga Pith, and a boat ride on the Ganga.
The following are a few highlights from the first four days of the ILS:
The first day began with presentations by the Succession Committee and the GBC Community Relations. The two primary functions of the Succession Committee were explained by Tamohara Dasa: to develop the culture, procedures, and tools for a leadership succession plan, and to develop training and education programs needed to bring up new leaders. ISKCON-sponsored leadership training courses have already taken place in the USA, India, and Russia and more training courses are planned. Tamohara Dasa made it clear that a proper succession plan cannot be carried out unless there is serious commitment from devotees in all levels of leadership to develop younger leaders.
Another highlight of the day included a witty, innovative skit by Anuttama Dasa and Anuradha Dasi to introduce the new official GBC website: www.gbc.iskcon.com. The GBC website is a resource for everything related to the GBC and ISKCON management. Included are the latest news and reports from GBC meetings, GBC resolutions and ISKCON laws, official GBC position papers, descriptions of GBC ministries and committees, biographies and zonal assignments of GBC members, frequently asked questions and additional related information. Everyone is encouraged to visit the website and view its regular updates.
Day two included an inspiring presentation by Ambarisa Dasa on behalf of the Temple of Vedic Planetarium (TOVP) team. Ambarisa Dasa was pleased to announce that the projected move-in date for the Mayapur deities into the TOVP is 2016. A thirty-minute video presentation was then shown on the history of TOVP development and the current status, including artistic renditions of the proposed interior of the TOVP. In addition to a massive kirtan hall, the TOVP will contain an altar 130 feet in diameter and will house Sri Panca-tattva in the middle, Sri Radha Madhava and the Asta-sakis on the right, and an altar dedicated to the parampara on the left. The TOVP video and all of the latest TOVP news can be viewed at www.TOVP.org.
Highlights from day three were two informative presentations by the Deity Worship Ministry and ISKCON Resolve. Nrsimha-kavaca Dasa, ISKCON’s Deity Worship Minister, spoke about the current status and future plans for services and education provided by the ministry. The main mission of the Deity Worship Ministry is to facilitate and encourage the maintenance and development of Deity worship according to Srila Prabhupada’s example and teachings, and to offer education, resources and guidance to inspire and nourish devotees’ desire to worship the Lord. In the area of education, Nrsimha-kavaca Dasa helped to develop the Mayapur Academy located in Mayapur, which engages students in practical deity worship training, teaching everything from bathing and dressing of the deities, to cooking, making deity clothes, performing aratis, and all aspects of Srila Prabhupada’s standards for deity care. In addition to the courses offered in Mayapur, there are plans to also provide courses online, including instructional videos and interactive classes. The Deity Worship Ministry also offers additional resources such as support on where to buy deity paraphernalia, informational resources such as their ongoing Arcana journal and the new Method of Worship manual, set to be published by Gaura Purnima in 2013. The Mayapur Academy is additionally making all natural, chemical-free incense to be sold to temples and individuals worldwide. For additional resources on Deity worship, visit the Deity Worship Ministries official website www.deityworship.com. More information on the Mayapur Academy can be viewed at www.mayapuracademy.org.
Following the Deity Ministry report, Braja Bihari Dasa spoke on the resources offered by ISKCON Resolve, a service that provides local training in ombuds, as well as mediation services and conflict resolution. ISKCON Resolve is strictly confidential and neutral, and functions independently of the hierarchy of ISKCON management. Braja Bihari Dasa opened with the humorous slogan “If you have issues, we have tissues!” Braja Bihari Dasa made it clear that ISKCON Resolve aims to assist all devotees to deal with conflict between devotees and within temples in healthy, productive ways. ISKCON Resolve does not launch formal investigations, rather they assist devotees in working out disagreements and disputes. For more information on ISKCON Resolve and it’s services, view their website at www.iskconresolve.com. An updated website will be launched by April 2012.
In addition to these encouraging and informative plenary presentations, the dozens of ILS talks that addressed specific topics researched by each committee or ministry were very appreciated by ILS participants. Presentations covered a wide variety of topics, including “On Camera: Media Training for Leaders”, “Fundraising”, “Elements of a Well-Developed ISKCON Temple at a Glance”, “Srila Prabhupada: Meaning of Founder-Acarya”, “Book Distributions Outside the Book Bag”, “Caring Vaishnava Leadership”, “Our Foundational Relationship With Srila Prabhupada”, “Social Media and Internet Preaching”, “Introduction to Organizational Culture in ISKCON”, “Responsible Publishing” and “Srila Prabhupada’s Mandates for Leadership and Management in ISKCON.”
The well attended evening programs involved a drama by Bhaktimarga Swami, Malati Dasi’s memories of Srila Prabhupada, and memories of Srila Prabhupada’s leadership, and a question and answer session with GBC members. The question and answer session was comprised of queries submitted by ILS participants including, “Did Srila Prabhupada want academic education within ISKCON?”, “Why is there an effort to draft a constitution for ISKCON? Are not Srila Prabhupada’s seven original purposes for ISKCON sufficient?”, and “How does the GBC deal with gurus having difficulties?” The Q&A session, attended by more than four hundred leaders, brought about a lively and informative discussion that helped shed light on certain misunderstandings or areas that lacked communication between the GBC and other ISKCON leaders. All devotees present, including the GBC members, appreciated the opportunity to engage in dialogue and to respond to the important questions posed by ILS participants.
Many leaders present described the ILS plenary sessions, presentations, and evening programs to be informative and enlivening. GBC members were also impressed and delighted to see so many qualified, dedicated, and enthusiastic ISKCON leaders join together in Sridham Mayapur for the purpose of supporting and improving Srila Prabhupada’s mission.