North American Leader’s Meetings – New Vrindavan

ISKON NA leaders held their by-annual meeting of 2011 at New Vrindavan Dham. During first two days, North American Executive Committee and GBC meetings were held. The Temple presidents, GBCs, and other ISKCON leadership met on subsequent two and half days from Friday, May 13th through noon on Sunday, May 15th.

Reported by Nanda Suta Das

ISKON NA leaders held their by-annual meeting of 2011 at New Vrindavan Dham. During first two days, North American Executive Committee and GBC meetings were held. The Temple presidents, GBCs, and other ISKCON leadership met on subsequent two and half days from Friday, May 13th through noon on Sunday, May 15th.

Our leaders were coming from various parts of the US and Canada. Some took long distance flights from West Coast or Canada and some arrived via driving few hours to few days. Every attendee came with one thought in mind – How to keep pushing Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON in North America. Many of us took time off from regular duties or work. We arrived to learn and discuss various strategies to increase the book distribution, attracting new devotees, enhancing experience and mood of existing devotees by keeping Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and mission in mind. There was excitement in the air before meetings began.

We began our first day with the mercy and blessings of Their Lordship Sri Sri Radha Vrindavan Chandra with the morning program and Bhagavatam Class given by Tamohara prabhu. After honoring delicious breakfast prasadam, Bhaktimarg Swami led sweet melodious kirtan to start the proceedings.

The first session was organized by Malati prabhu and it was an exciting session. Kuladri prabhu, who is an expert artist, had decorated the stage with his own artwork of very beautiful portraits of Srila Prabhupada. These original paintings were made with pencil, charcoal, and oil colors. However, the main ingredient was Kuladri prabhu’s love towards Srila Prabhupada that was witnessed by all the attendees. The other walls of meeting room were decorated with large vertical banners depicting Srila Prabhupada’s pastimes on this planet. About twelve Srila Prabhupada disciples who attended these meetings were invited on the stage. They shared their personal pastimes with Srila Prabhupada. This session brought tremendous uproar and joy to everyone who was present. It brought in synergies together. It was a tremendous learning experience from these stalwart devotees and brought excitement and set the mood for the meetings.

The next few sessions focused on positive happenings in NA:

We were given an introduction of new community president Jaya Krishna prabhu who took over the responsibility of managing the important New Vrindavan dham. He presented vision, mission, and stated some of the immediate goals for his administration to bring in better experience of New Vrindavan dham. Everyone welcomed Jaya Krishna prabhu and we hope his positive energy helps everyone.

Next, Vedasara prabhu talked about how they have transformed an existing building into Self Discovery Center and using it for innovating preaching where visitors are taught organic farming, yoga, vegetarianism, and kirtans and introduction to Krishna Consciousness philosophy. The walls are adorned with various ISKCON artwork and spacious library with SP’s books welcomes the visitors. Here is one of the quotes from attendees of this center: “The Self Discovery Center has been a source of deep inspiration for me. It has been an important part of my spiritual growth and community experience since coming to Atlanta five years ago.” – Louise Northcutt. Thank you ISKCON Atlanta for coming up with great idea and executing it.

Akrura prabhu presented report on ISKCON Vancouver outreach efforts. He explained on how tirelessly devotees are working to spread the mission of SP during winter Olympics to various festivals of summer months. He spoke about Simon Fraser University veggie lunch program where 500 plates of prasadam are distributed weekly at the local University. This is just the beginning. We learned that their new advertisement to announce their Sunday school brought in 50 new kids to Sunday school. Haribol!!

Next Tamohara prabhu reported special efforts of devotees at Florida where they are conducting about nine Rathayatras a year. In 2011, they are conducting at Miami, St. Augustine, Tallahassee, Daytona Beach, Jaskconville Beach, Tampa, Clear Water Beach, Orlando and Gainesville. Most of these events are sponsored by local members and organizations. The local government and agencies love the colorful atmosphere created by Lord Jagannath’s presence and enthusiasm of the devotees. These events are creating tremendous goodwill and preaching opportunity for us.

Immediately followed was the youth fund reports by NA EC. This is our 6th year, the final year, final stretch of the long marathon. We are not quite there yet, the last stretch is the most difficult and a bit of struggle. Every temple was thanked for their herculean efforts and also, reminded that they still need continue supporting in this huge effort. We remain hopeful to make final payment and put this dark chapter behind us. This horrible crisis has brought the best out of us by working together as an organization determined to save Srila Prabhpada legacy to us. We have learned to remain vigilant about not letting this sort of things happen ever again.

Next topic was an interesting one to discuss and it was participated with lot of enthusiasm by everyone. Every year we have 2 national level meetings in North America. Before the meeting ended, it was discussed by entire group that going forward we shall meet one time in January 2012 for national level and second meeting shall be organized as regional or local in each zone.

Westerner and Indian outreach discussion brought everyone to the edge of their seats. This was our continual discussions from January 2011 Dallas meeting on how to preach to Western and Indian audience. The panel lead by Yajna Purusa prabhu discussed about what Westerners are looking for and Nanda Suta Das spoke about outreach efforts to reach more Indians and what is working and not for Indians. Bottom line is that youth worldwide is becoming similar and we need more innovative festivals and present our values and mission in a way that is more relevant today. The Park and Castle models were lively discussed where you are very inclusive and open at Park about bringing in anyone in but once in the Castle you become more strict and staunch followers of the rule and regulations.

Everyone was reminded that how SP was ahead of his time and went about creating unique preaching opportunity and leader’s needs to develop such a mood to keep expanding out movement. Every attendee had some strong reaction and discussions easily crossed over allocated time thus it was decided to continue this important dialogue further.

Romapada Swami and Badrinarayan prabhu shared from Mayapur AGM meetings information about Organizational developments committees work and progress:
Various committees were formed in previous years and they are as follows:

o Succession committee
o Strategic planning committee
o Preaching committee
o Devotee care committee
o Global fund development
o Organizational development committee
o Education committee
o Communication committee

The International GBC’s have invited about 75 devotees worldwide to participate in these committees and come up with global strategies and initiatives for dynamic growth. There is a detail report published by GBC about the work done by SPT teams. Please ask your local GBC to explain further this important work that is going to affect everyone in ISKCON. Our stated goal is to make more and happier devotees. All the attendees were asked to fill out an important survey regarding this work.

Next discussed topic is very difficult subject but the world we live in now is dangerous and ISKCON Child Protection Office manages an important portfolio to protect the innocent and the help victims. Tamahora prabhu explained that GBC legislation in 90’s had helped established this office. The legal issues such as Turley case was one of the impetuses, system for dealing with abuse cases and providing on-going training plus prevention is a charter for this vital work that keeps ISKCON and it’s devotees safer. He explained the current and on-going issues in NA. The good news is that International CPO office received about 31 cases and 49 victims and only 2 cases were registered in the North America. He strongly encouraged screening process for new devotees who might take up leadership roles in local communities. Creating a procedure, policy and adhering to national level standards ensures safety and wellbeing of everyone attending our temples and centers. He proposed a new national level office with director level support to investigate, train and compliances. Please ask your local temple and communities about their local CPO team members and local policies.

Next discussion brought tumultuous clapping and happiness to everyone’s face. For many months our ISKCON lawyers and NASO director Kuladri prabhu worked very hard to obtain trademarks and seal that we have been using for long time. Thanks to Romapada Swami who found a donor to pay for this expensive efforts. Kuladri prabhu was excited and visibly happy to show an original approval letter from the US patent and trademark office showing Bhaktivedanta Holding Corp as an owner of the following seal and marks. It is our responsibility to adhere and remain in compliance to use new seal and marks. This corporation is registered and managed by active NA GBCs. Please contact your local authorities, if this seal is used by someone who is not an authorized ISKCON entity. We feel blessed to receive ‘The Hare Krishna Movement’ and ‘International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Founder-acharya His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’ as marks and a seal approved:

North American Opportunities:

Later Romapada Swami explained that tremendous work has been done in last decade where we have stopped bleeding and our movement has started to grow again. In 2016 we shall complete 50 glorious years of ISKCON. Wow!!! “50 glorious years is a major milestone in any religious movement’s history” according to MC Anuttama prabhu. We are at this unique juncture where tremendous opportunity exists to preach and develop ISKCON as major force in society to reduce suffering and bring happiness to everyone. He presented a plan and budget explaining critical functions that need to happen at national level. His plan included having dedicated CPO office in NA, National Support Organization continues, and Communication office that provides crucial positive press and guidance. We need to continue with admin support such as trademark and legal expertise. We also need to adhere to the policies and procedures that keep the outreach machine humming and everyone gets the needed support to avoid costly issues and maneuverings. Let us hope ISKCON celebrates 50 glorious years with lot of positives.

The Prasadam distribution is main weapon we have to fight the onslaught of Mayadevi and general public loves nutritional and delicious prasadam. Sunanda prabhu of Gainesville, Fl is approved to head the service organization to create, help and grow prasadam distribution in effective way. His expertise to serve 100’s of plates of prasadam for years at University of Florida in Gainesville would be tremendous blessing to learn and replicate the successful work at other ISKCON temples. Some of the things that his office would provide are recipes for large quantity cooking, tricks to cook in large qty food in shortest amount of time, kitchen cleanliness standards, etc. His service organization plans to create a websites with tons of useful information that helps cooks and managers be better equipped and trained about prasadam distribution. Please stay tuned for more news on this. Prasadam distribution ki jai!

Someone said that when two people come together, they bring conflicts. Even if we do not want to be around conflicts, it happens. Our Intl GBC had started an ISKCON Resolve office that is headed by Braja Bihari prabhu who has vast experience in the field of conflict resolutions. He trained meeting attendees about what can leaders do to solve the conflicts, what are the viable options available, what resources are available to deal with tough situations etc. His short training was to the point and very useful for taking care of smaller issues, so they do not escalate and create major headaches later on. It was nice of him to drive from DC just for this presentation. The ISKCON is very fortunate that there are so many committed and talented devotees everywhere we go.

There was a meaningful discussion led by Praharana dasi about the ISKCON North American Pastoral Abuse Policy and how temple presidents have been informing their temple leaders and congregations about this important program. This will be an on-going topic at future meetings as we continue to educate all of our devotees about their rights and responsibilities.

On Sunday morning, Badrinarayan prabhu gave a very enlivening and encouraging report of exciting events and examples of best practices from around the ISKCON world. His presentation included many punch lines, anecdotes, and tales of devotees who are fighting to keep pushing SP’s ISKCON forward. It was exciting to learn how devotees in Italy are putting on amazing traveling festivals complete with a huge circus tent and a traveling cow shed. The Holi festival in Utah has grown to 40,000 attendants. Devotees in Australia are reaching out to tens of thousands and bringing financial stability with innovative prasadam distribution. The report on new temples openings in Mombasa and in India, and else where around the world were divine. Please ask your local Temple president or GBC who attended this session to present it at your local center for your pleasure. This was an outstanding and very motivational part of our meeting this year.

The meeting ended with an important topic on hearing loss due to very high volume of kirtan playing in our temples. Dr. Piyush Gupta – Prema Vilas prabhu gave us medical insight about how noise level escalates in our temples and education is recommended to avoid permanent hearing loss by experiencing the noise over 85 decibels at prolonged time.

Our meeting ended with elections of North American Executive Committee officers. All the present serving officers were elected unanimously by temple presidents.

Nityananda Das – Chair
Malati DD – Vice chair
Praharna DD – Vice chair
Nanda Suta Das – Vice chair
North American Temple president body’s chair is Akrura Das and vice chair is Nityananda Prana Das.

North American Support Office(NASO) is managed By Kuladri prabhu and he can be reached at kuladridas@aol.com. You are encouraged to communicate with him about any ISKCON admin related questions.

The dates for next year continental meeting for North American leaders are January 12th 2012 through January 15th 2012. The location will be announced shortly.

With firm conviction, belief in processes setup by Srila Prabhupada, and exhibiting true Vaishnava like leadership qualities, our North American ISKCON leaders shall attain desired results with blessings of the devotees. One temple president stated that “It is nice to go away from regular routine and think about future and plan out how we can improve our temples. And learning from each other is very vital and invaluable resource. Thanks for organizing this meeting.” – It was great to be in association to with everyone at the wonderful New Vrindavan facilities with daily spiritual discourses, and inviting atmosphere. Everyone left satisfied. The leaders had lot of fun in each other’s company and headed back to their respective centers with rejuvenation, recharged and reignited with lots of ideas for spreading Srila Prabhupada’s movement.

Posted in In the News.