Dear devotees and friends,
Please accept my blessings. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
We have just finished the GBC meetings in Mayapur for 2007, and tomorrow I will fly from Calcutta to Singapore, where I’ll do a programme on Saturday evening before flying back to Johannesburg, South Africa, to do the Sunday programme at the Pretoria temple.
The meetings were generally nice, without any great drama or world shattering developments. I’m a member of the “Team Building” sub-committee of the Body, and we had to make a presentation on the work we had done since the June meeting in New Vrindavana, plus put on the Team Building day for all the members during these meetings.
Our Team Building team consists or Praghosa prabhu from Ireland, Lokanatha Maharaja, Bhakti Bringa Govinda Maharaja, Nrsinga Kavaca prabhu the GBC Minster of Deity Worship, and Samba prabhu, a Prabhupada disciple from England who is an old friend of mine, and is now living in Mayapur.
There are a number of sub-committees in the GBC Body: the Preaching sub-committee, the Prabhupada position sub-committee, the Constitution sub-committee, the Parallel lines sub-committee plus our team. The Preaching team is trying to develop new preaching strategies, the Prabhupada position sub-committee is trying to find ways to keep Srila Prabhupada in the centre of ISKCON, the Constitution sub-committee is developing a proper constitution for our movement, and the Parallel Lines sub-committee is looking into the phenomenon of there being two lines of authority over
devotees in some parts of the world – the authority of the temple leaders, and the authority of the spiritual master. Sometimes we find that devotees will only take direction from their guru, and will not listen to the local temple authorities, and this creates difficulty in he organization of the movement.
When our team met I suggested that instead of making a standard type of verbal presentation to explain what we have been doing, we could put on an unannounced drama to illustrate how not to build a good team. To do this we enlisted the help of Braja Bihari prabhu, the leader of ISKCON Resolve, our mediation arm.
So without any other devotees knowing what was happening, when Praghosa was doing our Powerpoint presentation on different subjects of team building he used the word “deviant”. Braja Bihari immediately interjected strongly “How can you use such strong language, Praghosa? You’re creating an us and them mentality!”
Praghosa responded “will you just put a sock in it Braja? You’re just a bleeding heart liberal! You think you’re such a great mediator don’t you! Well I’ve got news for you! ISKCON Resolve heal thyself!”
By this time most of the GBC members were in a state of shock, thinking they were witnessing a genuine argument!
Braja Bihari responded “Mr Chairman, will you kindly stop this man! This is completely unreasonable!”
Praghosa said “Go ahead Mr Chairman! Take his side! Make a decision for once in your life!”
That was my cue. Already some of the members were shouting to Braja and Praghosa to stop and cool down and it seemed they might be too taken in by the whole thing, and they might step in and stop the exchange before we could finish the drama. I stepped forward and picked up a microphone “wait a minute GBC members! We have the floor here!”
I turned to Praghosa and acted as if I was disciplining him “Praghosa, you’re going too far ! Just calm down! You know when we put this presentation together we all decided that we wouldn’t use the word “deviant”! It’s far too strong! And don’t speak to Braja Bihari like this. He’s senior to you!”
Then Samba spoke out “wait a minute Maharaja, don’t take the side of Braja Bihari! He’s not even a member of our team! He’s an outsider!”
Some of the GBC members were now picking up on the fact that this was a drama, but many were still taken in.
Then Lokanatha Maharaja said “Hare Krishna! Maharaja! Prabhus! This is Srila Prabhupada’s movement! Here there are no outsiders!”
Then Praghosa told everyone that this is just an attempt to show how not to work together, and peace was restored.
On March 1st we held the Team Building day. All the GBC members and Deputies assembled in Srila Prabhupada’s Puspa Samadhi and had breakfast, and then came before the Deity of Prabhupada and read the GBC Statement of Intent.
Then we proceeded to the Jagannatha Temple, a few kilometers from the Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir.
The them for the team building day was “Unity in Diversity”. Lokanatha Maharaja began the programme by reading a segment from a letter of Srila Prabhupada’s: “Material nature means dissension and disagreement, especially in this Kali yuga. But, for this Krsna consciousness movement its success will depend on agreement, even though there are varieties of engagements. In the material world there are varieties, but there is no agreement. In the spiritual world there are varieties, but there is agreement. That is the difference. The materialist without being able to adjust the varieties and
the disagreements makes everything zero. They cannot come into agreement with varieties, but if we keep Krsna in the center, then there will be agreement in varieties. This is called unity in diversity. I am therefore suggesting that all our men meet in Mayapur every year during the birth anniversary of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. With all GBC and senior men present we should discuss how to make unity in diversity. But, if we fight on account of diversity, then it is simply the material platform. Please try to maintain the philosophy of unity in diversity. That will make our movement successful. One section of men have already gone out, therefore we must be very careful to maintain unity in diversity, and remember the story in Aesop’s Fables of the father of many children with the bundle of sticks. When the father asked his children to break the bundle of sticks wrapped in a bag, none of them could do it. But, when they removed the sticks from the
bag, and tried one by one, the sticks were easily broken. So this is the strength in unity. If we are bunched up, we can never be broken, but when divided, then we can become broken very easily.”
We began the programme by creating 2 teams of 4 people each to debate the subject “Is Unity in Diversity Possible”.
We then had groups of devotees mime pastimes of Srila Prabhupada’s, and asked the others to figure out which pastimes they were. Then the devotees divided into their sub-committees and discussed the application of the principle of unity in diversity in different contexts, such as being a guru in ISKCON, being a GBC, being a temple authority, and so on. Each
sub-committee then had to put on a drama to illustrate the message they came up with in their discussions.
It’s amazing how devotees can spontaneously take on projects like this and make amazing successes of them. They came up with hilarious plays, for example of a very heavy “authority” type devotee dealing in very stereotyped heavy ways with different categories of devotees, like children, women, and brahmacaries and blowing them all out.
One group did a drama in which Paramgati Maharaja and Bhakti Marga Maharaja were acting as a young couple (!!!) coming to the temple for the first time and getting “preached” to by different devotees in different, and often bizarre, ways. The first devotee to preach to them told them that “to become Krishna conscious you’ve got to really get serious! You have to get up at 2.45 every morning and take a cold shower!”
The young couple responded “2.45! That’s the time we normally go to bed!”
You can look in the Gallery section for some photos of the day.
For further information about the GBC meetings, and the resolutions coming
from them, please look on www.dandavats.com.
As I said, tomorrow I’ll fly to Singapore and then on to South Africa. I’ll
let you know shortly what happens there.
Hoping this meets you well.
Your ever well wisher,
Bhakti Caitanya Swami