Dear disciples and friends,
Please accept my blessings. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Since I last wrote to you two weeks ago I have been to Tallinn, Estonia, then Riga, Latvia, St Petersburg in Russia, and now New Vrindavana in America. It’s been a busy period, and on the 9th I’ll go back to New York for the Rathayatra there, and then that night I’ll fly back to Frankfurt, and then from there back to St Petersburg.
If nothing else, it keeps me out of mischief. And idle mind is a devil’s workshop, but with a programme like this there’s no time for anything.
I’ll briefly describe the main things that have happened in the last two weeks…
In Tallinn our movement split a couple of years ago when one devotee visited the area, and started basically promoting himself as a guru, and subtly putting down ISKCON gurus and the local temple management. He polarized things so much that eventually the temple leaders felt forced to ask him to leave the temple, but when he did about half of the local devotees left with him.
He gave himself “sannyasa” this reinforced the split, and when the GBC Body intervened he refused to untake his so-called sannyasa. Anyway, we continue trying to work with the local devotees, and things are gradually developing, step by step.
Riga was nice. We celebrated the birthday of one devotee who is close to me, and went for a major sauna programme at a pleasant little resort by a lake.
I’m not really a sauna person, but seeing the devotees were enthusiastic I went along with them, and we sat it out there for some hours in a situation which is really some sort of preparation for the hellish planets. We would sit as long as we could in the heat, and then run out and dive into the lake, so I suppose it was good for the health, and it was fun to associate with the devotees in this way.
Then I flew to St Petersburg in Russia. We did some programmes there, and then I flew to New York, and from there to Pittsburgh.
At New Vrindavana there was the midyear GBC meeting, and all the GBC members from around the world gathered there, so it has been a wonderful chance for association.
Today we have had the special Spiritual Retreat Day, which is filled with different activities for association and some transcendental fun. We gathered at Srila Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold, in front of the his Deity, and I read out the GBC Statement of Intent – a type of vow that all GBC members take in the service of Srila Prabhupada and his ISKCON. I read a little at a time, and the other GBC members repeated what I read, responsively. This is the Statement:
“A member of the GBC is one who identifies himself first and foremost as a servant of Srila Prabhupada and the GBC Body, and puts Srila Prabhupada’s and the GBC’s interests before his own. He commits his life to the business of guiding and protecting ISKCON and its members, according to the will of Srila Prabhupada.”
After I had read the Statement, Jayapataka Maharaja recited some of the mangalacarana prayers, and we offered flower petals to Srila Prabhupada in his palace. This was followed by Govinda Maharaja singing the Gurvastakam, which was a deep moment of meditation and prayer for all the assembled devotees.
I am a member of the GBC Team Building team, and we on these Spiritual Retreat Days we organize transcendental recreational activities, intended to help the members come closer together, but in a more informal and relaxed way. The next thing we did was an exercise in which two devotees sit together and question each other about their backgrounds in Krishna consciousness. After they have made notes about each other, they then report to the larger group and explain to that group about each other. Everyone was a little uneasy about doing this, as they thought it might be a little corny, but it actually turned out very nicely.
Next was a game of Krishna conscious charades. Practically all the GBC members had to act out some particular part of a pastime of the Lord, and then the other devotees had to figure out which pastime it was. It was great fun. I had to act out “Nimai’s Little Puppy”, and when the organizer, Praghosa prabhu, showed me the card with that written on it I became quite shocked, and the devotees thought I was acting out “Krishna has a headache”!
But I tried to act out the pastime and somehow Badrinarayana prabhu understood what I was doing, and got it right. Then Prahladananda Maharaja had to act out Dhenukasura, so he was jumping and acting like a donkey, and I managed to get it right!
Following that was nice prasadam at the palace, and everything came to a happy conclusion.
The GBC Body is working a lot more closely together now than it ever has done, and it is very encouraging for Srila Prabhupada’s movement. In the past there has often been a tendency for powerful leaders to become practically independent of the Body and develop their zones as they like, but now there is much more co-operation, with co-GBCs working together in many areas. Everyone on the Body, practically without exception, is feeling confident that ISKCON has a very bright future.
In a couple of weeks or so I’ll write to you again, probably from West Siberia, where I’ll be going on Tuesday.
Hoping this meets you well.
Your ever well wisher,
Bhakti Caitanya Swami