Seminar by Radhanath Swami “Serving Vaishnavas” – 2 till 4 Dec 1997 Moscow

Radhanath Swami Pray“We should have the spirit that we want to give each person that is coming to our temple or our movement maximum attention, care and spiritual training on every level so that the devotee is always happy and never wants to leave the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada.” ~ Radhanath Swami’s quote from this seminar.

Listen or Download this seminar in English with Russian Translation   |   Download this seminar in doc format | Seminar text in Russian Language

Contents: 1 Foreword
2 Introduction
3 The concept of Varnashram
4 Caring for devotees 5 The approach of the temple of Sri Sri Radha Gopinath
6 Caring for Grihastha
7 Children’s Committee
8 The Women’s Committee
9 The Business enterprise committee
10 Committee on Employment
11 The Committee on the marriage
12 Housing committee
13 The Financial Assistance
14 Committee on Health
15 Farm Committee
16 Pension Committee
17 Cooperation
18 Lesson from Srila Ramanujacarya
19 How it all started in Bombay
19.1 The 10 principles of Brahmachari life
20 Questions and answers
20.1 QUESTION) The question of Brahmacharini ashram (Monastery for Vaishnava nuns).
20.2 QUESTION) When Brahmacharies are preaching in the colleges, do they need to have some diploma or some certificate so that they have certain kind of education to preach in colleges?
20.3 QUESTION) What happened to those Brahmacharies who lived in the temple before and didn’t fit into the new system?
20.4 QUESTION) Could you tell something more about the Brahmachari classes? How long they and what are is their format, what do they teach and study? Are the classes held every day?
20.5 QUESTION) Sometimes, Brahmacharies leave the ashram because they are over-burdened with service without taking into consideration what they can do or cannot do because these Brahmacharies are so humble, they never say ‘No’. How one can regulate the time for his service and amount of the service one can do?
20.6 QUESTION) You said that Brahmachari just learn during the week and all the expenses of the temple are met by Grihasthas. Don’t they get envious of Brahmacharies, because usually Grihasthas see that they don’t do anything except learn?
20.7 QUESTION) Do you have some system of award or punishment in your temple?
20.8 QUESTION) Success often depends on the broadness of the vision of a person who is in charge. Often in devotional service, nobody asked me my opinion nor asked me what I think of the entire particular subject. Do you take into consideration these things from devotees who live in the ashram or everyone who lives there? How it works? Do you think everyone in the ashram can voice their opinion?
20.9 QUESTION) Who is in charge of your temple? Do you have a President and managers of the departments?
20.10 QUESTION) Who is serving in the kitchen, Brahmachari or grihastha? If a Brahmachari is serving then is it possible for them to attend the Brahmachari classes?
20.11 QUESTION) All this takes a lot of time. It is not possible to attend all the classes. How do you think they do it?
20.12 QUESTION) Some devotees have some particular talent and they are talented in one thing but they don’t have the ability to do other things. For example, not everyone is able to lead kirtan or play instruments. Is it necessary to teach everyone these things or is it better to concentrate on the talents of this particular person?
20.13 QUESTION) Is it compulsory for a Brahmachari who has some business inclination or who is not able to fully follow this ideal Brahmachari life in a ashram to get married or they can live as Brahmachari in the congregation as a Brahmachari congregational member or do they have to get married?
20.14 QUESTION) What if a Brahmachari has a propensity of a businessman but he lives in a temple and he does some business for the temple and gives everything to the temple. Then is he considered a Brahmachari?
20.15 QUESTION) What is your perspective on the development of varnashram system? Will it develop through one main ashram or all ashrams will grow simultaneously?
20.16 QUESTION) Is it necessary to have children?
20.17 QUESTION) How to define in your circumstances, the Varna of a devotee?
20.18 QUESTION) Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was very soft in heart and he was very strict in following the principles but usually when one follows the principles very strictly and try to follow these principles then the heart becomes very hard towards your immediate surroundings, that is, towards your associates?
20.19 QUESTION) Can you adopt something new from the other temples and can you accept some devotees who would like to see how it is who would like to live in your ashram to get some experience?
20.20 QUESTION) In Russia, there are many different gurus and disciples of different gurus live together. How to live together as disciples of different gurus and not to have conflicts? How to arrange counsellor system in this situation? Is it better to have counsellors and counselees as God brothers and God sisters only or it is not a strict principle? How to implement these things?
20.21 QUESTION) Can you send a devotee from your temple that would be helpful to establish a similar system in our temple?
20.22 QUESTION) There is some misunderstanding about these committees. Are these committees registered? Do they have a legal person? And do they get money from the temple?
20.23 QUESTION) There are 2 questions concerning the relationship between the authorities and those who are working under these authorities. First, in the Vedic system, somebody who was working under the authority, usually the disciple would live in the ashram of his guru and naturally, by working under a pure devotee, he would get a very quick spiritual advancement. And now, our system is that we work under the authority of someone who may or may not be so spiritually advanced. What is the benefit of following his instructions and directions and does it give any benefit and do we have to follow all the instructions of such authorities even though they may bring not a very good reactions or consequences?
20.24 QUESTION) If somebody is working under an authority and he just waits that the authority will take care of him, what should be the proper attitude? Should the authority first start taking care of the devotee and due to this, the nature of desire to serve under him will develop or first we should start obeying his instructions and then maybe, at one point, the desire to take care of devotee will awaken in his heart?
20.25 QUESTION) There is one question regarding the relationship between your counsellor system and Naamhatta system. These systems are very similar but there are some differences and now, there is this Bhaktivriksha program that is being developed in Russia. What are the similarities? Also, how the system of counsellors can work within the framework of Bhaktivriksha?
20.26 QUESTION) What are the criteria according to which one can be considered to be a member of your community or the congregation? Is there something like the stages of bhakti like in Jayapataka Maharaj’s system, there are different stages of development? And how the position in the system defines the advantages which particular member of your congregation can use? In other words, they have different rights and what facilities they can use of the congregation according to their position in the system.
20.27 QUESTION) How do you define the membership? When can one be considered a member of your congregation and of your community? 20.28 QUESTION) Do you have any specific ways to teach and to train the counsellors? How to train the counsellors?
20.29 QUESTION) Is it possible that a presiding grihastha would startand develop a Brahmachari ashram and what should be his proper attitude? If the temple president is a grihastha, can he really be a leader of Brahmachari ashram and how he can develop and what should be his proper attitude?
20.30 QUESTION) Is there any sense to implement this system in a small temple where there are hardly any advanced devotees and it would be very difficult to choose a counsellor or to appoint the counsellor?
20.31 QUESTION) What kind of service do matajis do in your temple? 20.32 QUESTION) What should be the dealings between Brahmacharies and matajis? Do the Brahmacharies open the door for them, say hello to them or help them to carry heavy things?
20.33 QUESTION) In Russia, there are many devotees who join but not really sustain in the sense that they wouldn’t be able to survive in the world. They are not mature enough neither economically nor intellectually nor emotionally. What to do in a situation when such a devotee dominates and there is a vast majority with such devotees in the temple?
20.34 QUESTION) Can you specify what kinds of services are being paid for? 20.35 QUESTION) Do you have vehicles and drivers?
20.36 QUESTION) Is the manager and counsellor one and the same person? 20.37 QUESTION) Can Brahmachari play the role of a counsellor for the Grihasthas?
20.38 QUESTION) As far as I understood, the Brahmacharies also act as the Naamhatta leaders in your system. So, how does this go together with them being counsellors?
21 Conclusion

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1           Foreword

What makes the devotees of the Bombay temple under the direction of Radhanath Maharaj unique is that they have successfully accomplished something that does not always work in our temples. They have managed to create a real atmosphere of Love, Trust, and Loyalty, which reigns in this temple. It has one great rule – no one says, “No”. The only time you are allowed to say “No!”  is when a person is asked to break the regulative principles. In all other cases, if the devotee is asked about something, he would not refuse, whatever it would be. They have learned the rule so well that they have almost forgotten what it means to say “No”. ~ His Holiness Bhakti Vijnana Goswami Maharaj was Vaidyanath Prabhu at 1997

His Holiness Radhanath Swami Maharaj started…

I am very grateful for this opportunity to be with all of you this evening. Especially, I am very thankful for the opportunity to make some humble attempt to carry out Vaidyanath Prabhu’s order upon me to speak to you about social development. Actually, usually I say no to everything because I am not very surrendered devotee. (Laughter). But, Vaidyanath Prabhu is so sincere (Laughter) that even my stone-like heart melted due to his humble request. This is actually a great miracle. (Laughter). I never had a plan in my whole life to come to this country of Russia because I have so much service in other parts of the world and this is so far away and so many very great, great Vaishnava sadhus are coming here. But his H.H. Niranjan Maharaj literally forced me to come. He asked me so many times, I decided just to maintain my friendship with him, I will come once and then I will never come again. So, I came in September. But then, Vaidyanath Prabhu asked me to come again and in my heart, I already said “No.” But when I looked upon his gentle, saintly form (Laughter) and I thought about the years of austerity and sacrifice he performed to serve all of you, my heart which is normally like very hard, hard stone; it became crushed into powder by his kind disposition. And now, I am sitting here in Moscow like a little puppet and Vaidyanath Prabhu is trying to pull my old strings, but I am happy to be the servant of his servants. So with your blessings and permissions, we will try to offer some service to all of you by explaining some of the programs that we have been conducting in our temple in Sri Radha Gopinath, Bombay. What we are going to try to explain is a sincere attempt to serve the Vaishnava community. Many of you have received this report that was compiled and sent to you.

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2          Introduction

Vaishnavism has been manifested in its purest, most wonderful form through the life and teachings of Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and his associates. The most beautiful aspect of the pastimes of Lord Chaitanya is the loving interactions between him and his devotees and between the devotees themselves in his service. Lord Chaitanya played the role of a devotee although he was the Supreme Personality of Godhead, just to teach us how to conduct our lives as devotees. In Navadwip, sometimes Lord Chaitanya would see his devotees and bow down to them; take the dust from their lotus feet. Sometimes, he would wash their clothes with his own hands. Sometimes, on the bank of the Ganges, he would fold their clothes. Sometimes, he would bring them mud from the Ganga to use as tilaka. Sometimes, he would see them carrying some load and he would personally take that and carry that load all the way home for his devotees. In this way, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu taught by his own example that the highest of all religious principles is service to the Vaishnavas. Later on, due to the great atheistic effects of the age of Kali, Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu accepted the renounced order of life ‘Sannyasa’, just to gain the respect of the most materialistic people. After taking Sannyasa in Katwa from Sri Keshav Kashmiri Maharaj, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the great ecstasy of love of Krishna began running toward Vrindavan. It was his great cherished hope and desire in life to go to Vrindavan, his home. Meanwhile, the devotees in Navadwip did not know that Lord Chaitanya was going to leave to take Sannyasa. When they came in the morning to Lord Chaitanya’s home to greet him and to make offerings to him and to have Sankirtan with him, all they saw was Saci Mata standing at the doorway like a statue, unable to move. The only movement in her body was profuse tears flowing from her eyes. Saci Mata was overwhelmed with grief. The only reason she lived she lived was to serve her Lord Nimai and now he had left her forever.

She said, “My son, Nimai has gone. You are his devotees. Whatever property is here now all belongs to you. I have no reason to go on with my life.”

And the devotees were plunged in grief. In fact, Advaita Acharya said, “I will go to drown myself in the Ganga because I cannot live without Lord Chaitanya. If anyone tries to stop me; then I will go in the middle of the night and take my life in the Ganga.”

And the devotees replied to Advaita, “We will not try to stop you, we will go with you. We will all take our lives in the Ganga. After tasting the nectar of the association of Lord Chaitanya, there is no reason to go on living without it.”

So, they all went together to the Ganga and then a voice spoke from the sky. It said, “Please, be patient. After a few days, Lord Gauranga will be back with you dancing and chanting.”

That gave them the hope to continue living. So, although Lord Chaitanya was going to Vrindavan, Nityananda Prabhu knew the heart of Lord Chaitanya that more than going to his own eternal abode, his innermost desire was to satisfy his devotees. Therefore, when Nityananda Prabhu was travelling with Lord Chaitanya, he told one cowherd boy that if this Sannyasi asks you which way is the Yamuna; you should show him the direction of Ganga. Meanwhile, he told Chandrasekhar Acharya who was Lord Chaitanya’s maternal uncle to inform Advaita Acharya to come to the Ganga and invite all the residents of Navadwip, all the devotees to come to Shantipur to Advaita’s house. So, the cow-herd boy directed Lord Chaitanya to the Ganga. And when he saw the Ganga, he thought it was the Yamuna. “Alas! I have come to Vrindavan. Here is the holy river Yamuna.”

He was taking his bath in great ecstatic love and then Advaita Acharya came on a boat with some dry kaupina and clothes to wear. Lord Chaitanya said, “Advaita! How did you know I was in Vrindavan?” (Laughter). “How did you find me here in Yamuna?”

Advaita was surprised. He said, “This is Ganga. This is Shantipur.”

Lord Chaitanya was externally angry. He said, “Nityananda Prabhu has cheated me.”

Advaita said, “Actually, he has not cheated you because at a place called Prayag, the Ganga and Yamuna merge into one river. And after that, the eastern side is the Ganga and the western side is Yamuna and because you are bathing in the western side of the Ganga, actually you are bathing in Yamuna.” And then all the devotees who were so heart-broken that Lord Chaitanya had taken Sannyasa, they may never see him again, they all came to Shantipur to meet Lord Chaitanya. And they had wonderful, wonderful kirtan – chanting, dancing and feasting.

And Saci Mata came. She was Lord Chaitanya’s mother. Although the Lord is unborn, still just to give the opportunity for loving exchange, he appears as the son of his mother and father. Mahaprabhu was a 24 year old Sannyasi; he offered his prostrated obeisances at the feet of his mother. And she began to cry. She saw his beautiful, beautiful black hair was all cut off and all that was left was shaved head. And his beautiful garments and jewels and golden dresses were all taken away and all that was left was the dull saffron clothes of a sadhu. She took Lord Chaitanya on her lap and she began to bathe him with her tears and he began to bathe her with his tears. He said, “My dear mother, I had no right to take Sannyasa. I behaved like a mad man. Actually, my body belongs to you. Now, if you like, you tell me what to do. I will stay home with you.”

Saci Mata said, “Actually, I want you stay home with me. But, people will criticize a Sannyasi living with his mother. If you go to Vrindavan, I will never hear any of your pastimes. But the same Krishna of Vrindavan is living in Puri as Jagannath. And Puri and Navadwip are like 2 rooms in the same house. Please make your home in Puri and I will always hear of your wonderful pastimes.” So, Lord Chaitanya made his home in Puri. But, every year during Catur masya, all the devotees of Bengal would come to meet him. And it is described that when this procession of devotees would come each year to Jagannath Puri, Lord Chaitanya would personally meet them at the outskirts of the town of Puri at a place called Atharanala. Lord Chaitanya who is the Supreme Personality of Godhead would personally put a fragrant beautiful garland on each devotee. The master of all creation would personally take sandalwood pulp and decorate the limbs of each of his devotees. He would embrace each of the Vaishnavas and just fill their hearts with love and he would praise them. And when he saw a little distance away, the wives of all Vaishnavas bowing down, he would praise them also. He would say, “Whatever knowledge, whatever devotion, whatever saintliness these devotees have; their wives possess the same.” In this way, he would completely satisfy all the Vaishnavas by his personal embrace and by his glorification of their good qualities. And then he would personally see to it that each devotee had just the proper accommodation for their living. He made sure each devotee had a very nice room, very clean room with proper water and servants and everything like that. For someone like Thakur Haridas, he made very, very special personal arrangements. After seeing to the accommodations of each devotee, he personally made all arrangements for each devotee’s prasad every day. This is how Lord Chaitanya personally served on every level all the Vaishnavas. And this only increased the devotees’ desire to serve him and serve each other. If the Lord sees his devotees so exalted that he is their servant, how much we should see the devotees and want to serve them! So, this is really the essence of our culture- to learn how to be the servant of the servant of the Vaishnavas. And each devotee requires encouragement and basic facilities by which they can remain happy and enlivened to serve Krishna throughout their lives. This is the basic spirit behind the scientific process of daivi varnashram dharma.

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3          The concept of Varnashram

We can speak for days and weeks and months and years of lifetimes about daivi varnashram dharma but tonight we would like to just speak very briefly about what the spirit is behind it.

Originally, we are Krishna conscious entities [CC Madhya 20.108-109].

jivera ‘svarupa’ haya—krishnera ‘nitya-dasa’ “We are the eternal servants of Krishna.”

We are not these bodies and we have nothing to do with either the bodies or the artificial designations of these bodies. We are not men, women, Russian, American or Indian. We are not old, young, educated or uneducated. We are not Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists or Jews. These are all temporary designations. We are the eternal soul, part of Krishna, the eternal servants of God. And there is one Supreme God of all living beings who is the worshipable object of all religions. He is called by different names in different places but our real goal in life is to awaken our original natural love for God. And the only means for the souls’ re-awakening that forgotten love for Krishna is through the process of bhakti or devotional service which is the basis of every great religion; to love God and to serve God. So, the Vedic religion speaks in very, very scientific and systematic terms regarding philosophy of God-consciousness and the culture in which this God-consciousness can be awakened. The conditioned soul within this material existence is conditioned by various types of consciousness according to our previous karma. And therefore, in the human society, we have so many different natural propensities. Out of eight million four hundred thousand species of life, this human life is so rare. Therefore, whatever propensities we may have should be utilized in the service of the Lord so that we become purified [CC. Madhya 19.170].

sarvopadhi-vinirmuktam tat-paratvena nirmalam hrishikena hrishikesa- sevanam bhaktir ucyate

With the same conditioned mind and senses that we have now, if we just use it in the service of the Lord, we become cleansed, purified of all external artificial designations and achieve our original consciousness of love of Krishna. But, due to our different natures, we cannot all serve in the same way. We see in every social system; whether capitalistic, socialistic, communistic, atheistic, theistic or any social system we see; there are people who have a nature to be teachers and priests, who are naturally leaders and administrators, who are naturally very happy doing business or trading or selling or farming or banking. Prabhupada said, “What is the quality of a real vaishya?” He said, “A real vaishya is the one whom if you put him anywhere in the world with nothing and somehow or other, he will figure out how to sell things and make a livelihood.” It is their nature. And there are other people who, by nature, are very happy and content just doing hard manual work. So, these natural tendencies are in every society. Varnashram teaches how to live according to your nature with guidance and training in such a way that through this process, you develop love of God. And there are some people who are very naturally inclined toward renunciation like a Brahmachari. And some people by nature would be much happier in grihastha ashram. And there are the vanaprastha and sannyasa stages also. All different segments of society of devotees should respect one another and harmonize with one another, understanding that we all have many essential services and we all need to serve to help each other towards the common goal of purifying the hearts and becoming Krishna conscious. So, daivi varnashram dharma in essence is to educate people according to their nature and their propensities, to utilize their talents in the service of God to develop pure love of God. Everyone; whatever their propensities may be; be all engaged in harmonizing in the service of one another for the pleasure of the Lord. The conclusion of varnashram is Lord Chaitanya’s sloka. I am not a Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya or a Shudra. I am not a Brahmachari, grihastha, vanaprastha or Sannyasi. These are all temporary designations. My only true identity is to be the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant of the Lord of the gopis, Lord Krishna. So, this is the conclusion, this is the spirit. But still, when Lord Chaitanya was a Brahmachari serving Isvara Puri, he acted as a perfect Brahmachari. And when he married Laxmi Devi, he behaved perfectly according to the principles of a grihastha. And after he took sannyasa, sometimes even to the great pain of his devotees, he would very strictly follow all the regulative principles of a Sannyasi. So, he taught the importance of following the principles of varnashram but at the same time understanding that the purpose, the goal and the only real identity is to utilize these different positions to express our devotion to Krishna.

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4          Caring for devotees

Now, how to apply this to our society of devotees today is a great challenge. But, it is essential because without it, so many problems will plague our society. A society that is strong is a society where everyone knows their duties and everyone cares for each other. And caring means personal attention to serve each devotee. This is one of the greatest, most desperate needs of our society because we are preaching the most personalized theology in the whole world. Krishna is a person and we are people and every living being is a person eternally. We have eternal relationship with God and we have eternal relationship with every part and parcel of God which means everyone. Krishna says mad-bhakta-pujabhyadhika [SB 11.19.21]. You cannot show your love for me unless you show your love for my devotees and even to show love for those who have forgotten they are devotees. That is a preacher. But yet, sometimes in our society, we become so highly philosophical that we forget that we are people. A devotee is given his or her life for years to serve this mission and they become sick and distressed because they cannot do their service and when you cannot do your service, then Maya attacks from all sides from within and without. You will be in desperate need of help. Lying on the floor, I cannot do my service. And we say, “You are in Maya. You are not your body.” Thank you. (Laughter). Philosophically, it is true. I am in Maya and I am not this body but I need your help to get out of Maya, to transcend this body and I need the love and support and care of a Vaishnava to take me through that. Srila Prabhupada was so caring for his devotees. During the first Mayapur yatra on a Mayapur Gaurpurnima festival, the building which was at that time the only building after the straw hut, it was not even finished and the first night the devotees that were there, Srila Prabhupada got up in the middle of the night just looking in each room to see if each devotee was properly been taken care of. He wanted to make sure each devotee had a proper mosquito net so there would not be inconvenience by the Mayapur mosquitoes. He wanted to make sure they had proper Prasad. And when they would get sick, he was very concerned with their health. During Prabhupada’s last months on the planet in Vrindavan, Prabhupada was so sick. He couldn’t even walk. He lost so much weight! In that condition, most people would be thinking about themselves. When Prabhupada had to go to the bathroom, they would have to pick him up and carry him. And when he wanted to go upstairs on the veranda for Sun, two strong devotees- one was a British devotee- they would pick him up in his chair and carry him up the stairs and lay him down. One disciple had a boil on his foot. And he was carrying Prabhupada’s chair upstairs, he bumped the boil and he went (Maharaj makes sound) (Laughter). But he tried to hide it. But, Prabhupada understood. What was a little boy compared to Prabhupada’s position? He was not able for months. His body was nothing but bones. But this young, healthy and strong devotee had this little boil and he said,

“What is your problem?” “Prabhupada, no problem. No problem.” “No. No, please tell me.” “Prabhupada, there is a boil on this foot.”

Prabhupada told exactly what kind of medicine to put on it. ‘You put a certain leaf and you crush it and you put it in some mustard oil and you boil it’, he said. He said, ‘You apply it to your boil at least three times every day.’ So then, the next day, when he was bringing Prabhupada up the stairs; Prabhupada asked, “How is your foot? Let me see.” And for the next several days, until the boil was completely better, Prabhupada was enquiring very, very attentively and concerned. How much, do you think, this increased the love of his devotees for Srila Prabhupada? He’s so concerned with such an insignificant disciple like me. I am not doing any big preaching or anything like that. That is Bhakti. When a devotee has a difficulty; physically, mentally; it is an opportunity to express our love and concern for them and that means it is an opportunity to express our love for Krishna through serving a Vaishnava . It’s very, very rare in the history of the Hare Krishna movement that anyone has ever left the society because they have found a higher philosophy. There is no higher philosophy. What Srila Prabhupada has given us is the ultimate philosophy of all spirituality, most complete philosophy and the most perfect and pure and authorized process of following it. Why do people leave this movement? They leave the association of devotees mostly because they feel they are not being cared for by the Vaishnava society. They feel that they are treated impersonally. They feel that their material and emotional needs are not being fulfilled and therefore, they cannot continue their spiritual practice and thus, devotees become dissatisfied. Some of them leave the society to just go out into the world to make lots of money. And others go to some new age, so-called religious ideas where people say

“You are very nice. You are very nice.” “At least someone thinks I am nice.”

And others go to other branches of Vaishnavism because they feel ‘At least these people will care about me.’ But, if the devotees are properly cared for in the Hare Krishna movement, practically no one would ever want to leave. And that is why; Srila Prabhupada explained that the second half of this mission was to establish varnashram dharma, a society that would sustain devotees throughout their entire lives to be happy in Krishna consciousness, according to their propensities. If you look, Prabhupada established big, big book distribution. He established over a hundred temples and massive preaching around the world. But, then at one point, Srila Prabhupada said; “Now it is time to boil the milk. We must continue this preaching and expanding but we have to put our maximum energy in training the devotees properly in ‘How to be Vaishnavas? How to be Vaishnavas in their sadhana? How to properly understand the duties of a grihastha, a Brahmachari, a vanaprastha and a Sannyasi?’ And we must especially train devotees in Vaishnava etiquette.” Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, “Observance of Vaishnava etiquette is what makes a devotee beautiful in the eyes of God.” And what is Vaishnava etiquette? It is the training of how to properly respect, honor, serve and care for each other on every level. And it is an emergency. Our society has become quite big. And many people are leaving because they do not feel that they are cared for properly. People are getting divorced because they do not know how to be a grihastha. And Brahmacharies are doing all kinds of crazy things because they do not know what a Brahmachari is. And devotees who have given years of their lives, when they are in need; financial, medical or mental; they feel themselves all alone and nobody wants to help them. So therefore, thoughtful devotees understand that this is an emergency situation that our society must develop according to the principles of Krishna consciousness, social systems by which devotees can live together harmoniously and advance and be happy in Krishna consciousness. I would just like to ask before continuing, How many of you within our audience tonight sincerely feel that there is a necessity to actually train and develop a social organization within our society by which devotees are cared for in such a way that they can be happy in Krishna consciousness for the rest of their lives? So, we probably all have our own experiences in stories to tell also. (Laughter). The longer you are in the movement, the more stories you have to tell. And this is what Srila Prabhupada expected all of us to work together to do.

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5          The approach of the temple of Sri Sri Radha Gopinath

So, at our temple in Bombay, Sri Sri Radha Gopinath Mandir, we have tried to implement the spirit of Varnashram in our social development programs. It may not be a perfect presentation. It may not be literally full or comprehensive as far as what the scriptures describe as a varnashram society. But, it is something that is very practical and could be applied practically immediately in any place. And the result is, the devotees are very happy, well-trained and they feel very cared for. And when devotees feel that the society of Vaishnavas is personally caring for them then the result is they will do anything to serve the society. If devotees do not feel cared for, then it’s a great austerity to serve the society. But, if we are serving the devotees nicely, the devotees spontaneously want to serve. There is no greater preacher than a happy devotee. The best book distributors of history are the people who look the most blissful. I remember watching years ago, one of my God brothers Vaisheshika Prabhu. He was a huge person and he had a huge smile on his face. His eyes were just filled with happiness. And he would just run up to someone and shake their hands with such blissful smile and say “Nice to meet you again.” And they were thinking, ‘I never met somebody so happy in my whole life.’ And he would say, “This is a book about loving God. Please, take it.” And they would say, “YES. I will take it.” (Laughter). He is still doing it because he was so blissful. Rohinisuta Prabhu, he comes here sometimes. I would sometimes hear about his book distribution. He looks so blissful. And Sacinandan Maharaj, when he would approach people, he was just such a happy person. People just said, “Give me these books. I want to learn to be happy.” Then they would read the books, they come to the temple. (Laughter). Sometimes, devotees say, “I have to do this.” Fighting and they are gossiping, people say, “Oh, his books are very nice but I don’t believe that it is practical.” But, when they come to the temple and they see that the devotees are united and they are working together and they are happy chanting and happy eating Prasad and happy serving and happy with each other then people say, “Oh! These books! I want to read them. I want to understand them. I want to be a part of this movement.” If we want to convince the world to accept Krishna consciousness, the most important investment is the devotees we have now and make them happy. If they are happy, even the greatest difficulties and tragedies come into their life; they will be having strength to continue their Krishna consciousness. If a devotee is happy, he wants to give that happiness to everyone he meets. There is nothing he cannot do; there is nothing he won’t do. If a devotee is happy, just their happiness will enlighten people’s hearts and draw them to want to take shelter of Lord Krishna’s holy name. One time, a priest told Srila Prabhupada:

“Your disciples are so bright-faced. Most of the young people today are hippies and they look very dry and dark and intoxicated.” (Laughter). “But your disciples! They look so happy. They faces are so bright.” And Prabhupada would quote that priest in so many places. He said, “Yes. Our devotees are happy. We have made hippies into happies. Chant Hare Krishna and be happy.” He didn’t say, “Chant Hare Krishna and gossip” or “Chant Hare Krishna and be miserable.” He said, “Chant Hare Krishna and be HAPPY.” So, it is the duty of the leaders of our society to teach people how to be happy chanting Hare Krishna; not just for one day, not just for 1 year; we have to have programs by which devotees can be happy for the rest of their lives within the society of devotees. Therefore, in our temple, we have developed a approach to engage devotees in devotional service. Our leaders think that this particular devotee from the first day, we should start thinking of what it’s going to take to keep this devotee happy in Krishna consciousness for the next 30 years. One requirement is ‘What has to be done today?’ We make money today, go out and get money. We need a cook today, go cook. We need to clean the pujari room, go clean. (Laughter). So, what has to be done today has to be done today, no doubt. But, the problem is, after ten years of a person just doing what has to be done today, then that devotee realizes “I have no future.” Sometimes, we keep a devotee in his or her service for so long and naturally by the time they are 35 years old and their legs don’t walk properly and their organs don’t function properly, they can’t do their service anymore. And they want to get married because to be renounced, you have to be really fired up. But, now that they are so old and burned out, nobody wants to marry them and nobody wants to take care of them because they cannot do much service anymore. They are old cows (laughter) but, unfortunately we don’t have any pastures for them. (Laughter). So, then people feel discouraged. I have given my life to this movement and what do I have. This is not what Srila Prabhupada wanted. We should be thinking of the future of each devotee’s life. We should be engaged in every devotee with 2 thoughts in mind: What has to be done today? But more important is, what is the master plan to keep this devotee engaged happily in devotional service to the day that devotee loses body and goes back to Godhead?

So, we have tried to imbibe within the leaders of our temple in our congregation to engage people in devotional service in such a way thinking of serving them throughout their entire lives. And therefore, we have setup different programs which, by Srila Prabhupada and Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s mercy, have been working very wonderfully. We started this project about 6 years ago as a very small idea. But, we put a tremendous amount of emphasis on the necessity of developing it. And in the beginning, nobody took it seriously because everyone was more concerned with ‘What has to be done today?’ But ‘today’ doesn’t last forever. That is the problem. We have to think in terms of the future of our movement. Prabhupada has given us this responsibility. So, this nice little report compiled by the devotees of Radha Gopinath temple describes in brief some of the history and the various programs that were created within that history to serve the Vaishnavas. If you like, I can briefly explain unless some of you have questions now. Would you like me to explain? Or are you becoming tired? Yes, you are tired? (Crowd: NO!!) Haribol!

In the beginning, we were just watching over so many long years within the Hare Krishna movement on some of the problems that we already discussed that were causing devotees to leave the association of devotees. And we were thinking that to establish training on the level of the varnas – Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, Shudras- is very necessary and Srila Prabhupada emphasizes it but it is quite complicated because in a city environment it is not that easy to really decide what Varna a person is. On one level, a person is preaching and having excellent sadhana and is a grihastha and living outside in the congregation and he is cultivating so many people and bringing into Krishna consciousness and doing pujari work. So, he is like a Brahmin. But, in his occupation, he may be a businessman which is Vaishya. Or he may work in a factory which is Shudra. What is he? He is a Vaishnava. (Laughter). It cannot be figured out but it becomes little complicated sometimes. And, also due to India’s terrible perversion of the varnashram system, which is now caste by birth, the whole caste system is hated by India and the whole world. And unless we have a real, real very, very scientifically, practically successful program of Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra; if we are spaced out in the way we are doing it; people will think that you are just inaugurating this terrible, deadly caste system. Another thing is amongst devotees. Everyone thinks that they are Brahmins. (Laughter). You tell a person that you are a Shudra; he takes it as an aparadha. (Laughter). So, some very high thinkers will have to really come together and create a nice way of implementing this. But, what can we do NOW to make devotees happy. So, it was our opinion and it is not the only opinion; there may be many ways of approaching this. But, it was our opinion and Vaidyanath Prabhu has invited me to tell you my opinion. There is not much controversy or confusion about what one’s ashram is. There is a tremendous amount of confusion about what you are supposed to do in your ashram. (Laughter). Not much confusion about what your ashram is. Brahmacharies know that they are Brahmacharies. Grihasthas know that they are Grihasthas. Vanaprasthas know that they are Vanaprasthas. Sannyasis know that they are sannyasis. So, how to somehow or other train the Brahmacharies to be first class Vaishnava Brahmacharies; living strictly by the principles of Brahmacharies? How to train Grihasthas to be first class and strict Vaishnava Grihasthas where devotees have their home, they have their family, they have their occupation and at the same time, they are very responsible and exemplary  in the society in these and at the same time, maintaining very, very pure sadhana and having a tremendous service attitude to serve the mission of Srila Prabhupada and the Vaishnavas?

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6          Caring for Grihastha

Grihasthas need to be trained. There is a large divorce rate in society. And because of that influence, there is also a divorce rate within the Krishna conscious society. And I believe that most of these great disasters could be prevented if there was proper training of how a husband and wife are supposed to live together and respect each other in Krishna consciousness. Senior Grihasthas, who know the philosophy, who have been through so many experiences, help them through the problems in marriage with Krishna in the centre. Their occupation, where they have to sometimes deal with materialistic people and make money and at the same time keep their sadhana strong and keep their association of devotees strong. How to properly raise and deal with their children to make them devotees? As a Sannyasi, we have a certain insight that Grihasthas don’t have. And I will tell you this insight. So many Grihasthas come and tell me their problem.- family problems, economic problems, problems with their husband, problems with their wife, problem with their children, problem with their mother, father and everybody else; problem with their sadhana, problem with their minds and everyone thinks it’s such a unique problem. But, my insight is, everyone has the same problem just slightly different versions. But a senior grihastha who is properly trained in Krishna consciousness can actually help you throughout these problems. That was the first idea of the counsellor system. So many people are coming to me that actually the Grihastha should help the Grihasthas. They have more realizations than the sannyasis on how to do this. They have practical experience. And not only that, in helping others, they make so much spiritual advancement. Why should we want to keep all the spiritual advancement for ourselves? Let other devotees take the problems and make spiritual advancement. And the more they preach and the more they extend themselves to help others, the more they feel completely ecstatic to be devotees. And although they may be living outside, they are preaching, they are cultivating, they are training, and they have to be very, very attentive. They have to be very good examples. They are preachers. And they are training other Grihasthas to do the same thing. And in this way, our congregation becomes a tremendous spiritual asset to this movement. At the beginning, we started with about, I think, 3 senior Grihasthas and asked them to take responsibility to give guidance and training to those who would like to learn from them. And we personally tried to give them some training. And we made this available to our congregation. Not so many, but some people signed up. And they started by having meetings every 2 weeks and trying to personally care for devotees throughout the week as well on a personal level. And then, I had to go to America. When I came back to Bombay, I asked “How is the counsellor system working?”

And the counsellors told me, “We forgot about it.” (Laughter). “There wasn’t much interest.”

I said, “Interest or no interest, there is a need of our society to develop these types of programs. Please, try it.” “Yes, yes. We’ll try it.” And they started having some meetings like that. Then I went to America again. I came back a few months later. “How is the counsellor system?”

“Hare Krishna!” (Laughter) “We forgot about it.”

“I have come to remind you. It’s important. It’s necessity.”

“Yes, yes, yes, yes.”

So, the first need is the leaders have to understand the necessity and imbibe within the devotees, the feeling of the necessity.

So, then they started taking it very, very seriously. And it became so wonderful. The way we arranged it is each counsellor was to take responsibility for entire families. And it is not based on management. It is only based on personal care. So, each 2 weeks, all the families within their group meet together at a different person’s house within their group every time.

The first thing they discuss is the philosophy.

They have reading materials that each person in their group studies and they actually very, very systematically teach them the philosophy of Krishna consciousness. And every week, each of the counselees takes an exam of the material they studied the previous week.

And everyone also learns how to sing kirtan and lead kirtan.

And they also teach them practically how to put altar in their home and how to take care of the altar.

And they teach them how to cook nice Prasad.

And they teach them the great importance of strict sadhana and always preaching the very great importance of strict sadhana while living in the congregation as a grihastha.

And every meeting, they put a lot of attention to teaching them the proper Vaishnava etiquette- how to respect Vaishnavas and deal with Vaishnavas, how the women should deal with Brahmacharies, how the women should with other people’s husbands, how the women should deal with each other, how to properly respect and serve, how the husband should deal with Brahmacharies, other men, other women, with their wives.

Then there is a time when they discuss not only the philosophy of Srila Prabhupada books and Vaishnavas etiquettes and proper sadhana standards, but also they discussed the problems they may be having and they help each other. And then, beyond the meeting, on a daily basis, the counsellor was in contact individually with his counselees. When they took it seriously, it became such a wonderful project that soon, hundreds of people were joining the system. And the people who were being trained would become such 1st class examples of grihastha; they were fit to train others. What began with 3 counsellors and about 15 families now is 40 counsellors and about 700 families. Hare Krishna. (Applause). And amongst the 700 families, within the congregation- not temple devotees- but within the congregation, there is at this time almost 400 initiated devotees who are strictly following the 4 regulative principles, who are completely dedicated to serving Srila Prabhupada’s mission. And it is growing like anything but, more important than the growing is the quality of the care of each devotee. This is a great emphasis. If we grow so fast that we can no longer properly take care of even the most insignificant individual then our growing is a liability rather than an asset. The ultimate aim is the thorough care for each devotee. I would like to read from this report the purpose of the counsellor system.

1. ‘To educate and train married devotees to live according to the Krishna conscious principles of the grihastha ashram.’

2. ‘To provide systematic training to devotees in matters of philosophy, sadhana, Vaishnava behaviour, lifestyle and attitudes.’

3. ‘To provide a form of frame-work within which personal care and attention can be extended to all devotees so as to make them feel loved, wanted and part of a wonderful spiritual family.’

4. ‘To foster warm, personal relationships in the spirit of love and trust amongst devotees based on Krishna conscious principles as a form through which allocation of service, organization of major events, communication of important decisions can be facilitated.’

Within this report, there is how the counsellor system works, how a counsellor is trained and then nominated, and the responsibilities that must be served by each counsellor and then how they train the counselees.

You can just read this part- Training a counselee.

In order to facilitate the counsellors’ even the most complete possible service to each of the families, we developed various committees. These committees consist of the counsellors as well as other devotees within the congregation who are interested in helping and capable of helping. The spirit behind these committees is we just try to use our God given intelligence to think of every possible type of problem that Grihasthas have on every possible level and have a group of devotees who are there to help them and solve those problems. And the purpose is it creates such a feeling of love and trust and care amongst each other that people are inspired to chant Hare Krishna and serve this great mission of Srila Prabhupada. Would like to read about the committees?

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7          Children’s Committee

The first committee is children’s committee.

Grihasthas in the congregation have a great problem trying to make their children enthused to be Krishna conscious. And if the children are enthusiastic to be Krishna conscious, this makes their parents so happy to be Krishna conscious. If the children are Krishna conscious, the parents are very afraid to fall into Maya because the children are always watching them and saying “Let us go to the temple. Why are you over-sleeping? Why are you not chanting your rounds?” Now, one of the most important facts is in making a child feel a real serious desire to be Krishna conscious is for the children that they have an important responsibility within our mission. So, what we did is, we selected 4 young children. They actually teenage girls who are very sincere and we asked them to take charge of this department and no adults are allowed to interfere. They were very happy. (Laughter). And their purpose was to arrange and organize a children’s program once a month where the children do everything and the parents are only allowed to watch and do what the children tell them to do. They were very happy. The way the program is carried out is one Saturday night a month, in the temple we invite everyone to come. It’s one of the most popular programs of our whole temple. We usually get 700-800 people attending, serious people. And, first the children lead bhajans. They play all the karatals, mridangs, harmoniums and sing. And then there is Aarti and the children lead the Aarti and play all the instruments. And then there is class. Hare Krishna. And little children- 5, 6, 7,8,9,10,11 years old- they give class. They sit on the seat; they have microphone and they usually tell pastimes about Krishna or Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. And we have 6 children each week giving class. Each one speaks about ten minutes and all their classes are perfectly shastric and in parampara. 5 year old girl giving pravacan and 800 people are in rapt attention, listening. And after they finish, all the adults go ‘Haribol! Haribol!’ And then we have drama. The script is written by the children. The producers and directors are the children. All the costumes are made by the children. All the actors are the children. And they perform 2 dramas each month. Usually, the drama is about 20 minutes long. And then we have all the children together chanting shlokas from Bhagavad Gita together. And we also have a puppet show. The puppets are made by the children. The scripts are made by the children. The puppeteers are the children and the adults just watch. Then, at the end, there’s a big kirtan and the children are also the MC. Children make all the announcements and introduce the next child who is coming. The result of this program is all month long, the children are practicing. And the children meet together like so many times a week. They practice together their dramas, their kirtans and their stories. And the parents, they have never seen their children so Krishna conscious. For the whole month, all day long, when they are not doing their studies and everything, they are just practicing the bhajans or they are practicing the mridanga or they are practicing the lines for their drama. 3-4 times a day, the children are practicing the class they are supposed to give on their parents. And the children feel that they are leaders of our movement. The children that they have responsibility for preaching to the masses and they are so excited. They love this program. They feel, this is the time when the parents listen to us. We can preach to them. (Laughter). (Applause.) And in this way, the children really feel that they have a place in Prabhupada’s preaching movement. Not just sitting and watching and listening but actually taking the lead. And the parents are more ecstatic than their children to see their children taking so much serious responsibility and so enthusiastic. These are mostly all people living outside in the congregation. And relatives who would never come to the temple, but when their niece or nephew or grand-daughter or grandson is going to be giving a lecture or participating in a drama, then relatives come to see them. They won’t come to see us but they will come to see the children. People who would never come to the temple, they come to the temple. And they all make the same mistake. They bring their children. (Laughter). (Applause). And when their children see all these other children leading kirtans and telling stories and giving philosophy and doing dramas they say, “Mommy, I want to be next month in this.” (Laughter). And then they have their children to the temple for rehearsals and then they have to associate with the other mothers and then they become devotees. Hare Krishna. (Applause). So, this is a wonderful program and it’s very enriched. We are helping the Grihasthas to serve their children and make them Krishna conscious. And I said, there is usually about 700-800 adult people who attend children’s programs. And people are crying and weeping through the whole program sometimes just because they are so proud to see these little children as wonderful Vaishnavas. There is also a Sunday school. Every Sunday, some of our senior ladies, they teach the children so much nice stories and shlokas and basic Vaishnava etiquette and like that. We’ve had such an overwhelming response for these children’s programs and I believe any temple could do it. And the young girls who are responsible for seeing over the programs, all their parents tell me that through this program, they have become better parents than us. Srila Prabhupada explained that the young generations are the future leaders of our society, we have to enthuse them.

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8          The Women’s Committee

The second committee is women’s committee.

We have very, very senior ladies who conduct these meetings and each 2 weeks they have a meeting at different lady’s house, each time. Completely voluntarily, any women from the congregation who wants to attend it may attend it. Usually, about 50-60 ladies come and it is growing. And the first thing the senior ladies do is that they give a lecture on one of the great, great lady Vaishnavis in our history like Jaanavadevi or Sita devi or Kunti devi or Gandhari or Vishnupriya and they discuss the qualities and the surrender of these great ladies. And then they discuss various issues of how to be a better mother, how to be a better daughter and how to deal with problems in the house and in their lives like that. And in this way, it is a format by which women can really, really sincerely try to help and serve each other. One of the greatest results of this program is women come to me all the time and tell me , “I have never felt such close friendship and love with the other women of our movement as I have since coming to these meetings with them. Due to the nature of my life, my family, my service; I never knew most of these ladies but now I am actually learning to know them and we care for each other and we’ve become such dear friends and we are helping each other to become better women in Krishna consciousness.”

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9          The Business enterprise committee

Next is the Business enterprise committee.

And this is where Grihasthas in the congregation are setting up various businesses, specifically to fund the temple. At this particular time, the entire temple of Radha Gopinath is funded by the donations of the Grihasthas in the congregation. We have no life membership program, we have no Brahmacharies collecting. The Brahmacharies distribute books, whatever they collect goes to the BBT. And the Grihasthas who work outside they support all the projects of the temple. But, this business is to increase and improve the quality of how the Grihasthas can contribute.

I would give one example of a business that a few of the Grihasthas are setting up. Within the congregation, there may be about 700 families in the counsellor system but there is well over a 1000 that are very closely connected to the temple. So, everyone has to go shopping for grains and vegetables and fruits and soap and oil and everything else for the household and all these materialistic people are making the profits. So, 2 of our grihastha devotees have decided that they are going to buy all the produce wholesale; all soap, detergent, grains, vegetables, everything they will buy in wholesale and every family in the congregation is invited to buy from them instead of all the shops around their house. And they are going to have delivery service who would bring everything they need right to their house. And it’s the same price as in the market. But, all the profits go to the Hare Krishna temple. So, it is sure to be a success. Hare Krishna. (Applause).

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10     Committee on Employment

The 4th committee is the employment committee to give employment to Grihasthas.

Especially, sometimes, for instance, a Brahmachari after 10 years of serving gets married. So, what is he supposed to do? Now, he has a wife. Now, he has expenses. And so many people, after this, they leave the association of devotees because they have no means of support in their family. So, the employment committee arranges jobs in the association of devotees for devotee who so desires. One of the projects we established in order to do this is the Bhaktivedanta Hospital. Srila Prabhupada has said, “Mayavadis fall from the Brahmajyoti and then open hospitals.” (Laughter). And he condemned that they equate philanthropy of serving the body of men to be the same as service to God. But that is not our goal. It’s something completely different. By Krishna’s arrangement, we have about 25 initiated devotees. We have initiated completely serious devotees chanting 16 rounds attentively and following the 4 regulative principles and really in a preaching spirit and completely dedicated to Srila Prabhupada’s movement who are cancer surgeons, general surgeons, orthopaedic surgeons, gynaecologists, paediatricians, anaesthesiologists, radiologists, general practitioners, Ayurvedic doctors. We have about 6 dentists and dental surgeons and so many others. We have ear, nose, throat specialists and more too. We have pathologists, skin specialists, and venereal disease specialists. They are all devotees and most of these people are counsellors too. Everyone one of their patients are becoming devotees. I will give an example. Madhav ananda was a paediatrician, which means, he specializes in children. So this and father have a 5 year old daughter and the daughter becomes sick and their family doctor is out of town on vacation. So, they take the child to Madhav ananda and he gives some medicine to the child, then he gives Prasad to the parents. He starts telling them a little about Krishna to see if they are interested. If they are not interested, he stops. If they are interested, he continues. So, they were interested. So, then he brought them to a program. And then, he brought them to the Sunday feast. And now, the mother, the father, the sister of the mother, the husband of the sister of the mother, the brother, the brother’s wife and the 5 year old daughter; they are all chanting 16 rounds following the regulative principles and completely committed to Krishna consciousness. (Applause).

And, this is one of our dozens and dozens of examples of how the doctor’s patients are becoming Krishna conscious. So, they decided, instead of all having our private practices, why don’t we start a hospital together because we have enough doctors to run a whole hospital. So, the congregation came together to build a hospital. One of the great purposes of this hospital is to employ devotees in the association of other devotees. To run a hospital; you need electricians, carpenters, plumbers, managers, business managers, finance managers, personal managers, accountants, janitors for cleaning, cooks, drivers, nurses, publicity people, lawyers. You can employ practically any occupation within a hospital. So, devotees who have all these different occupations who were working for karmis or working privately, they have all given their jobs in order to work together with the devotees in Bhaktivedanta hospital where they can finance their entire families and never leave the association of devotees. Also, there is a Radha Krishna temple right across the street from the Hospital and everything served to the patients and the staff will be maha-Prasad. There are 2 channels; one with Srila Prabhupada’s giving lectures and one with Prabhupada singing kirtan. (Laughter). And you cannot turn the speaker off; you can either turn it soft or loud. (Laughter). And there is Prabhupada’s Bhagavad Gita next to every bed. So, I think, many people will become devotees. (Laughter). And, another purpose of this hospital is that the Vaishnavas really want to serve the devotees worldwide. I don’t know what it’s like here in Russia, but in America, if you have to have an operation and stay in a hospital, it’s usually 20,000-30,000 US dollars just to be in a hospital for a week to get an operation and it’s completely depressing and materialistic atmosphere.

The hospital is a 5 storey high building and it has 130 beds and 30 beds have been reserved for charity. So, we feel that probably those 30 beds will be filled up with Hare Krishna devotees mostly, in the sense that devotees who have given their lives for many years to this movement need some major work than they can be free or almost free treated in the association of devotees. So, it’s a service to our movement. Also, there are 2 wings of the hospital dedicated to alternative medicine like Ayurvedic, pancakarma, homeopathy, acupressure, acupuncture and various others. So, if any of you are sick, please come. The opening of the hospital is January 10th of this coming year. (Applause). This hospital will employ about 175 devotees.

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11     The Committee on the marriage

The next board is the marriage board.

This is the best board actually because it’s a big problem in our society. Marriage is a big, big problem. How many of you agree to this?

Those who are Brahmacharies will agree and those who are Grihasthas will agree. And especially, to give facility for young people to become married without polluting the atmosphere. What happens when a lady who is living in the temple or coming to the temple decides ‘I need to be married’? Or a man who is either living in the temple or coming to the temple decides ‘I really should be married’? Or a Brahmachari who has been serving for some years decides, ‘Really, I should be married’? If there are no senior devotees to help then it’s like hunting grounds. The temple becomes like a forest and you are looking for… People are casting glances on each other. (Laughter). It becomes very disturbing. Young girls looking at the Brahmacharies like (Maharaj makes sound). And the Brahmachari either goes “Aah!! Save me Krishna.” or the Brahmachari goes (Maharaj makes sound). (Laughter). So, this is the problem and then young girls who come, who are respectable, they feel uncomfortable in the temple because men come up and say, “Mataji, will you marry me.”(Laughter). This poor young lady is trying give up material life and come and learn about Krishna but some man is coming up to them and saying, “Mataji. Please, I love you. Marry me.” It’s very disturbing. I will not ask if these things, sometimes, happen here because they happen everywhere. Wherever, there are 2 different sexes, this thing happens. So, the idea of the marriage board is that there are very, very senior, experienced and responsible Krishna conscious grihastha who help to bring people together for marriage. And therefore, no one is allowed to go like (Maharaj makes sound). And all men and women are not allowed to be mixing freely. Any men and women should respect and honour each other but they should not be disturbing each other. So, if any man or woman wants to get married or their parents want them to get married; they submit their names to the marriage board. And their position is not to arrange marriages but to help the young people to decide for themselves in a respectful way. They match horoscopes but that’s just a consideration because in our experience, no 2 astrologers will give you the same advice. But, it gives some indication and then they really seriously ponder the person’s position in society. The level of seriousness the person has to be a devotee, the way the person wants to surrender into the future; the nature, the personality, the family background. All these things are very thoroughly considered by the marriage counsellors. And when they really feel that this could be a good combination, then they suggest to the boy and suggest to the girl. And if they are favorable, they arrange for them to meet. They meet at the home of one of the marriage counsellors. They are not alone and they are not in an unrespectable environment. And the marriage counsellors actually talk to each of them and tell them what they should discuss amongst each other. Otherwise, the man and woman just look at each other like… (Laughter). So, they actually tell that these are the important things to discuss. And once the discussion starts then spontaneously they start expressing what they expect of the person they marry. What is their past? What is their inclination? Afterwards, if both are not interested, then they try to find someone else. If they are interested, they will arrange meetings again and again and again until they decide positive or negative. If they actually decide that they want to get married then the marriage counsellors go through a big austerity. They try to convince the parents of both sides to give their blessings. Of course, that’s in India. In Russia, that part you may not be so… I don’t know. However, we have had this marriage board for 2 years and they have helped to arrange 19 very, very successful marriages in the last 2 years. And if a Brahmachari wants to get married; he goes through the same process and the whole congregation helps that Brahmachari. For instance, one of our Brahmacharies- I am giving one of about 5 examples that have happened in the 2 years. Most of our Brahmacharies, but, sometimes Brahmacharies have that inclination and they are encouraged. They are not discouraged. This one Brahmachari, Rohinikumar Prabhu, he was living in the ashram for 5 years doing very excellent service. In fact, he was leading the translation team of the BBT for the language of Marathi, which is the local language of the state of Bombay. And he was doing excellent as a Brahmachari but, people saw that his nature was that, in the future, he may not be very happy as a Brahmachari. So, he was asked to consider marriage. So, he considered it and he decided ‘Yes’. So, the marriage board arranged his meeting with a very nice young lady and they talked with the parents and got all blessings. And the marriage board arranged all the facilities for the marriage ceremony in the temple.

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12     Housing committee

And then, they approached the next committee which is the housing committee.

The housing committee is a group of devotees who try to get the whole congregation to help people with housing if they need it. So, Rohinikumar and his wife Radha sakhi, after they were married, the congregation raised enough money to buy an apartment for them which was about 15000 US dollars. The congregation bought the house for them and put it completely in their name and then arranged that he get particular salary and employment for his work. The idea is if a person has done so many years in the renounced order; if he wants to get married, he shouldn’t be all of a sudden thinking, “Now, what do I do?” He should be given whatever he requires by the congregation. And the whole congregation is in ecstasy because they really feel that they are helping each other. And any Brahmachari in the ashram knows, ‘If I spend 10-20 years as a Brahmachari, if in the future, somehow or other, I require marriage; I know I won’t be completely left in the dark and that this congregation of devotees are so loving and caring, they will provide for me if I just remain Krishna conscious.’

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13     The Financial Assistance

Then, there is the financial assistance committee.

This committee is a group of devotees who also work with the rest of the congregation. If a devotee is in an emergency, the congregation raises the funds to help them. For instance, one devotee, an old man who’s retired needed a heart surgery. So, within 1-2 days; the committee made the appeal and the congregation raised the funds for the entire heart operation for this person. Otherwise, he would have died because he had no money for the operation. It not only gave great faith to this devotee, but the whole congregation was thinking, “If anything ever happens to me, I know that if I am just a part of this Hare Krishna movement and am serving the society sincerely then these people will love me and they will help me.”

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14     Committee on Health

The next committee is the health committee which is comprised of our doctors.

And basically, anyone who is sincerely following the principles and is a member of our congregation and sincerely endeavours to serve Prabhupada’s mission; they get free medical care, free medicine, free hospitalization for the rest of their lives; for them and their entire families.

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15     Farm Committee

And the next committee is the Farm committee which is also a retirement.

At the time, the devotees are just about to finalize purchasing about 50 acres of very fertile farmland of our 3-4 hours from Bombay and because we preach in villages and we have so many devotees who are farmers, so they already know farming. They will move to this community and it will be organic self-sufficient farm community and all the produce of the temple will be grown by the devotees very naturally there. They will also sell the produce to the whole congregation and they will do cow protection and till the land with oxen.

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16     Pension Committee

And there will also be a vanaprastha community.

There will be facilities for the devotees who get old and retire; where they will be cared for and be given nice service for the rest of their lives. So, these are some of the committees. There are a few more. But, the idea is to try to somehow or other have devotees serve each other on every level to generate that feeling of love and trust. And to help the counsellors to create an atmosphere in which all of the families within our congregation are very, very happy and enlivened to go on in Krishna consciousness. If Grihasthas feel secure in the love and help of other Vaishnavas around them, then they become what we have seen as extremely enthusiastic and ecstatic to serve Krishna and do wonderful, wonderful service to this mission.

So, in brief, these are some of the few ways we are trying to serve the grihastha community and most of all, create a social form in which the Grihasthas can serve each other and take more responsibility and give each other great happiness. So, we are out of time. Tomorrow, we can continue and briefly we will discuss the training of the Brahmachari ashram and some of the other ideas of social development we try to establish and starting tomorrow and also the next day, we will have much time for any questions and answers. Thank you very much. (1of1, 161:24)

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17     Cooperation

On the sincere request of Vaidyanath Prabhu, I will offer as a service to all of you a brief explanation of how we are attempting to serve the Vaishnavas at Sri Radha Gopinath Mandir in Bombay. Of course, when Vaidyanath Prabhu makes a sincere request, it is like an order coming from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. (Laughter). That is the nature of a devotee who has given his life to serve the mission of the Lord. One thing that is prominent whenever we meet Vaidyanath Prabhu is how much he very dearly loves all of you and how much he is willing to literally sacrifice his life and accept any difficulties if required to give you the opportunity to be Krishna conscious. And to what a wonderful degree Vaidyanath Prabhu is constantly thinking of ways to better serve all of you and help you to perfect your lives in Krishna consciousness. And it is due to these very rare and exalted Vaishnava qualities that he has somehow dragged to Moscow. See, how much he really cares about you! I am here just to try to somehow assist him. (Applause). Hare Krishna. So, today the Supreme Personality of Godhead through Vaidyanath Prabhu’s request is instructing me to speak about Brahmachari ashram. (Laughter). Yesterday, we discussed in some detail how we have been trying to serve the grihastha community through various committees and through a counsellor system in which the Grihasthas are very comprehensively trained to live by the principles of their ashram. Srila Prabhupada explains on the basis of Vedic knowledge how the varnashram system represents the body of society. The body is comprised of different parts and each limb is working together to serve the whole. If there is a conflict between one part of the body and another, that creates a diseased body. The head serves the body by performing the function of giving direction. The arms provide protection. The stomach of the body provides the service of nourishing every other limb of the body and legs serve the very essential purpose of carrying the rest of the body. In this way, all the limbs of the body are working in perfect harmony centered in the united purpose of serving the whole. Similarly, Krishna is the complete whole. Every segment of society is meant to harmonize with one another by performing their particular functions to serve Krishna. The Brahmins are the head; they give direction. Kshatriyas are the arms; they give protection. The stomach is the Vaisyas; they nourish and provide for the whole body. And the Shudras are the legs; they carry and support all other parts of the body. In the ashram system, the sannyasis are supposed to be the head in the sense that Sannyasi is supposed to be a guru for society. The Vanaprasthas are the arms and the Grihasthas are the stomach because they are supposed to supply all the necessities. And the Brahmacharies are the legs because they are simply meant to be the humble servants. The glory of the varnashram system is that it is setup so everyone according to their natural inclinations and previous karma and qualities they have adopted from that, everyone is serving Krishna together in harmony. Srila Prabhupada has said, “You can show your love for me by co-operating with one another to spread this mission.” This co-operation is the very basis of a Vaishnava . But, in order to properly co-operate, we have to understand what our role is and what are the roles of other devotees? And, how we are all focused in the service of Guru and Krishna? Sometimes, within our society there is competition and competition is generally based on false ego. Everyone wants to think that they are best. Actually, this pervades the whole materialistic society. Russians think, ‘We are best’. Americans think, ‘We are best’. Africans think, ‘We are best’. Indians think, ‘We are best’. And therefore, there are always impending wars and conflicts. Similarly the Jews think, ‘We are the best’. The Christians think, ‘We are the best’. The Hindus think, ‘We are the best’. The Muslims think, ‘We are the best’. The Buddhists think, ‘We are the best’. The Jains, Zoroastrians; everyone thinks, ‘Our religion is best’. So much conflict! And black people think, ‘We are best. We are original men.’ The White people think, ‘We are supreme.’ And the Asians think, ‘We have the most ancient philosophy.’ So much conflict! The men think, ‘We are best. Women are stupid.’ And women are starting to say, ‘We are best because you are all just messing up the whole world.’ And old people think, ‘We are best because we are wise.’ And young people think, ‘We are best because we have new ideas.’ So, on every level there is conflict because of ego. What is the origin of this ego? The origin of ego is, when the spirit soul enters into this material existence he wants to be God. He wants to be the enjoyer. He wants to be glorified. Therefore, whatever situation we are in, we have this ego where we want to be the best. We want to be God. And therefore, however many material adjustments we make in this society, there will always be a conflict. After the World War I, one nation wanted to be supreme and all the other nations fought against. They said, ‘This war must be the last of all wars.’ So, they developed the League of Nations where all nations come together to try to work out things without fighting. But then, there was a World War II, and they named it the war that ends all wars. The League of Nations didn’t work, so they formed the United Nations. Srila Prabhupada went to New York City and he saw the U.N. Building. Then, he said, ‘You see all these different flags. Each nation that’s participating in United Nations has a flag outside of the building.’ He said, “The more flags, the more disunity.” They come together to bark at each other like dogs. (Maharaj makes sound). (Laughter). Because each one is thinking, ‘This is my nation.’ (Maharaj makes sound). (Laughter). So, how will they be united? The only principle of Unity is Reality.

bhoktaram yajna-tapasam sarva-loka-mahesvaram suhridam sarva-bhutanam jnatva mam santim ricchati

‘Everything is a property of Krishna. Nothing is mine. We are all the servants of Krishna. So let us unite to serve Krishna who is the proprietor of the whole world, who is the master of everyone.’(BG 5.29) This is the only way there can be real peace because it is based on truth. When we speak of Krishna, we mean God and amongst religions; we are fighting over what name to call God. Just like sun which rises in the sky, the Englishman call it Sun and Spanish ‘Sol’, in India they call it ‘Surya’. What is it called in Russia? ‘Solnce’. So, we can declare war on each other for ‘Who is the sun?’ Similarly, religions are fighting over who is God because of different names and different actions, but He is the same. He is the same person. Everyone wants to be the enjoyer. ‘I have the best. I am the greatest.’ But, Krishna consciousness means we are all the servants of the Lord and our duty in life is to please the Lord. And what pleases the Lord most is when we work together in a spirit of humility. And therefore, Srila Prabhupada’s only purpose was to instruct us in such a way that we could please Krishna and make our life perfect. Therefore, he told us, ‘You can show your love for me by co-operating with each other because Krishna is most pleased by that spirit.’ And daivi varnashram is the system by which we can learn as Vaishnavas to co-operate with one another and respect one another even with the vareigatedness that may be amongst us. Sometimes, in our society Brahmacharies are very arrogant. They think, ‘We are strict and we are advanced and Grihasthas are in Maya. Grihasthas are fallen. Grihasthas have wives and children and houses. They are in Maya. All I have is my loincloth.’ Hare Krishna. And then we have Grihasthas who look at the Brahmacharies and say, ‘Look at those useless fools. They are lazy, they are useless. They don’t do anything. They want to do something practical in this world; they should get married and get a job. They are just eating and sleeping.’ (Laughter). Hare Krishna. And then we have sannyasis who say, ‘They are both in Maya because they are not carrying the stick of renunciation.’

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18     Lesson from Srila Ramanujacarya

There was one time a festival where there is a procession of the deities through the streets of Srirangam and Ramanuja Acharya saw that there was one man who was really looking foolish. He was a big and strong wrestler. The deities were going by and the Sankirtan was going by and he was holding an umbrella over a beautiful woman. And his eyes were fixed on the beauty of this woman. And he didn’t even notice that there was a kirtan or there were deities or anything. He only noticed this woman. So, Ramanuja Acharya told one of his followers, ‘Please, tell that person to come here.’ So, they went to him and said, ‘Sir, Sir.’ But he didn’t even notice anyone was talking to him. He was fixed and looking at this woman and making sure with his umbrella that no sunlight touches her beautiful body.

“Sir, Sir.”

“Huh! What? What?’’

“Ramanuja Acharya wants to talk to you’’

“Ramanuja Acharya! The great acarya of the whole Srirangam wants to talk to me?’’

So, he went to Ramanuja Acharya and Ramanuja Acharya said, ‘Don’t you know what kind of fool you look like. The procession is going, the deities are here and you are just looking at this lady?’

He said, “I cannot help it. She is so beautiful. Her eyes are so beautiful like lotus flowers. I have never seen anything so beautiful in the whole creation as this lady’s eyes. I cannot stop looking at her eyes.”

Ramanuja Acharya said, “If I show you something more beautiful than her eyes, will you look at them?”

He said, “Of course. If you show me something more beautiful than her eyes; I will detach myself from her eyes but there is no such thing.”

Ramanuja Acharya said, “Then you come to my ashram tonight.”

So, he came to his ashram. Then, Ramanuja Acharya took him to the temple of Sri Ranganath during the time of evening aarti. The pujari waved the camphor lamps in front of the beautiful lotus eyes of Lord Vishnu. And he started crying.

He said, “I have now seen the most beautiful thing in all of creation- the eyes of Supreme Personality of Godhead. Now, I will detach myself from this lady and surrender to Lord Vishnu and I will surrender to you because you brought me to Vishnu.” Ramanuja Acharya told him to preach to this lady and bring her also. She also became a great devotee. And Ramanuja Acharya told him to get married to her. So, they were married. His name was Dhanur Das and he became a very dear associate of Ramanuja Acharya. Ramanuja Acharya would spend so much time with him and let him do so much service. The Brahmacharies were very disturbed to see this. They were thinking, ‘We are so detached and we are so austere. We have such good sadhana. We are so renounced but Dhanur Das is attached to this woman. He is a fallen grihastha. Why Ramanuja Acharya, our guru Maharaj, is spending so much time with him, which he should spend with us? We have surrendered our lives. What has he done?’ So, they were criticizing their guru. Ramanuja Acharya knew this.

Ramanuja Acharya’s disciples really didn’t have much except their kaupina, their little loincloth. So, one night, when all the Brahmacharies were sleeping, Ramanuja Acharya had some of the kaupinas torn in pieces. When they woke up and took their bath and then they saw their kaupinas were not right. They started accusing each other.

“Why you tore my kaupina?”

Another said, “You stole my kaupina.”

Another said, “You have my kaupina.”

“I don’t have your kaupina. Why are you saying that? You have my kaupina.”

And there was a big fight in the Brahmachari ashram. Everyone was fighting over kaupinas. Hare Krishna. (Laughter). Usually, fights these days are always over such stupid little things that make no difference at all but we want to fight.

That evening, Ramanuja Acarya called some of the Brahmacharies. He said, “This Dhanur Das is too much attached to his material opulences and the beauty of his wife. I want to prove how attached he is.” So, the Brahmacharies were very happy. They were thinking, “Ah! Now, Guru Maharaj is attaining to higher knowledge.” (Laughter).

Ramanuja Acharya said, “You should go to Dhanur Das and tell him I want to see him in the middle of the night. And when his wife is sleeping, I want you to steal all the beautiful golden jewellery that is on her body. And then when Dhanur Das goes home, we will see how upset he is because he has lost the jewellery of his wife.”

The Brahmacharies said, “Yes, we will do it.”

They wanted to take this order as their life and soul. So, Dhanur Das was called to Ramanuja Acarya’s house. Meanwhile, the Brahmacharies came when she was sleeping and they started very, very gently taking off her jewellery. And they took everything from one side of her body and then she started to move to the other side. They became afraid and ran away. They brought the jewels. And then Ramanuja Acharya said to Dhanur Das, “Thank you for coming. Now, you can go home.” So, he went home and the Brahmacharies were looking from a secret place to see what would be his reaction. They were very eager to see.

And Dhanur Das said to his wife, “Your jewellery is gone.”

She said, “The Brahmachari from the ashram of our guru Maharaj, they came in the middle of the night and started taking it off me. I think, maybe, they must be in so much trouble in the ashram that they need more money. So, I pretended to sleep just so that they could take everything.”

Dhanur Das said, “Why do you still have half on? Why didn’t you give it all?”

She said, “Well, they took all from this half but I was sleeping on the other side. So, I actually tried to turn over while pretending to sleep so that they could take everything from the other side but they became so scared that they left.”

Dhanur Das started chastising his wife. He said, “You have made a big mistake. You didn’t turn correctly. You should have made sure that they take everything. Now, we have cheated. We have only given half. You should have given everything that we have to those Brahmacharies.”

The Brahmacharies were very much surprised. They were very ashamed. They went back to Ramanuja Acharya and he said, “So, tell me. What happened?”

They said, “He is so detached. He was upset that we didn’t steal everything. He said to his wife that everything belongs to her guru. She belongs to her guru.”

And Ramanuja Acharya said, “Aha! And you remember this morning when little pieces of your kaupina were gone, you were ready to fight and beat each other? You are Brahmacharies and he is a grihastha. You took all of his jewels and he was hoping you would take more. Who is more renounced? You or him?”

The Brahmacharies were very ashamed. They said, “He is a better Brahmachari. He is more renounced than us.”

So, Ramanuja Acharya wanted to establish respect amongst the ashrams. Grihasthas, according to their occupational duties and their scriptures, they have their style of being renounced and Brahmacharies have their style of being renounced. We must learn to honour and respect each other as Vaishnavas.

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19     How it all started in Bombay

When we first came to Bombay, there was not even a temple, just a small room about 1/10th the size of this room. It was an old room in an old building and there were big rats everywhere but worse than the rats were the Brahmacharies. (Laughter). Because the rats just came out at nights and crawled around. But, the Brahmacharies were always fighting. They would become so angry that they would start beating each other with their hands and their legs. They didn’t accept any authority. They were so proud that they were Brahmacharies. They would just condemn any grihastha. They would tell each other to never look at a grihastha or touch the Grihasthas as they are fallen. And some of them were not even following the regulative principles. I would not get into any details. They were criticizing the Grihasthas so badly and Grihasthas were criticizing them as being so lazy and fallen. Brahmacharies were criticizing the Grihasthas as being so attached and fallen. They were actually about to have lawsuits in a court against each other.

I was asked to see over the temple. (Laughter).

The first thing we decided is all these Brahmacharies have to go away because they are not Brahmacharies. They had no ashram. A Brahmachari doesn’t mean wearing a colour. It means acting in a certain way. They were ‘kaamacharis’. (Laughter). Brahmachari means a student of Brahman. Kaamachari means a student of lust. So, we were thinking, ‘What is the Vedic tradition?’ The Vedic tradition is that the temple is supposed to be a place where the whole society wants to come to be inspired by the purity of the residence of the temple and be educated by them. In India today, most of the temple you go to, people just go to see the deity, they bow down, they give some donation, they have some Puja and then they leave. They get some caranamrita and they get some Prasad. And they think, ‘Now, I am pious.’ But, this is not the purpose that temples were established by the great acaryas to achieve. Because unless you are trained in the science of devotion; you cannot even understand what the deity is. Srila Prabhupada explains in his books, ‘Purpose of opening a temples in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness is to give the people of the world the opportunity to associate with devotees, to see how devotees live, how they interact with each other and to learn the science of Krishna consciousness from them; from their words and example.’ Therefore, the temple should be the place where the richest, most purified sadhus are living, people who are really willing to live by the highest standards of devotion and the ordinary people should live outside and come to be inspired by the sadhus in the temple. So, we decided that if we really want to make the congregation Krishna conscious, they have to be able to honour and respect the sadhus in the temple. Then only will they respect and honour Prabhupada and his teachings. The most important quality of a sadhu is humility, when they desire to serve. So, gradually, somehow or other, we got rid of all these Brahmacharies except for 1-2 who actually were sincere enough that they were willing to be taught. And gradually, we started teaching what the real principles of brahmacharya are. According to the scriptures, a Brahmachari has no possessions. He just has whatever he needs for his service and nothing more. And he doesn’t claim proprietorship over that. He considers it as guru’s property and uses it. A Brahmachari is satisfied with whatever food he is given, whatever little floor space he is given to sleep on. A Brahmachari can never say ‘No’ to anything except Maya. Anything he is asked to do, he should just do it if it is for the service of Krishna. A Brahmachari should very humbly serve. And they should be sadhus. That means they should be taught to be preachers. In our movement, there are 2 very important ways of preaching. One is to distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books and the other which must be connected to the first is we must learn Srila Prabhupada’s books very carefully, scientifically and systematically and we should be able to present the contents of these books through our words and through our life’s example.

So, gradually, we made certain standards in which a person would have to start coming to the temple and be chanting 16 rounds and following the 4 regulative principles for one to one and a half year before we would consider them living in the Brahmachari ashram. They were told beforehand, “If you live in this ashram if ever you say ‘No’ to anything that has to be done, that is the day you must leave the ashram. Until you come to the standard, you better stay in the congregation and just be a nice devotee.” And we have one little box for each Brahmachari. And they are only allowed to have enough possessions that fit in that box. And everyone sleeps on the temple floor. There are no separate rooms. There are no beds. We have an orphanage. Anyways, everyone just sleeps on the floor. And they are told before they join the ashram, if ever you criticize, fault-find or do politics; you have to leave that day. So, when you have standards like that, very serious people only will want to come. If you have low standards in the ashram, you will attract people who are not very sincere; who want something with low standards. If you have high standards, you will attract people who are very sincere, who want something very high. And whoever came, we made various principles that they had to wake up every day for Mangala Aarti, they had to stay in the temple for japa and not leave the temple until the entire morning program was finished. And at 11’o clock in the morning we have a special class which all Brahmacharies must come to in which they are taught, ‘How to preach?’ We have very deep study of Srila Prabhupada’s books. And the results of these standards are, at this time, we have 40 Brahmacharies and they are all very, very highly educated and very, very sincere. Some of them are coming from extremely wealthy backgrounds. One was a lawyer, one was a manager of a big bank and executive and they just sleep on the floor and they just eat rice and they preach and distribute books. They are taught so much to respect the Grihasthas and to serve the Grihasthas. They are taught to honour and respect every woman; to not associate with them personally except when some absolute service is needed but to give the greatest respect to each one as great Vaishnavis. And what happened is, now the Grihasthas honour and worship and respect the Brahmacharies as sadhus. And hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of these Grihasthas living outside, the main reason why they are so attracted to surrender to our temple is because when they come to the temple; they get such wonderful enlightenment and extra-ordinary association from the Brahmacharies. And the unmarried as well as the married women, although they keep a respectful distance from the Brahmacharies, they have so much respect and adoration for the sacrifice and the great service the Brahmacharies are rendering. And people come now, not just to see the deities but also for spiritual enlightenment by associating with the devotees living there. I will read for you the former principles of the Brahmachari ashram.

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19.1  The 10 principles of Brahmachari life

What I am about to read is basically guide in which the Brahmacharies are trained in Krishna consciousness.

  1. A Brahmachari should be trained to deeply value the importance of strict sadhana.
  2. We should train them to be humble menial servants at heart expecting nothing but ready to offer their lives in the service of the Vaishnavas.
  3. They should learn the essential virtue of chastity and loyalty to our guru-parampara never searching elsewhere.
  4. A Brahmachari should scrutinizing learn and comprehend Srila Prabhupada’s books and be enthusiastic to distribute them.
  5. They should be trained to fearlessly preach Krishna conscious philosophy to the people in general and defend the principles of pure bhakti.
  6. A Brahmachari must learn the brahminical standards of cleanliness and keep the ashram always clean.
  7. They should be trained to offer Puja to the holy deities and to cook nice bhoga for them with punctuality, cleanliness and care according to the authorized process.
  8. Kirtan should be with great feeling, enthusiasm and graceful for the pleasure of Sri Sri Radha Gopinath.

All should learn to nicely play instruments.

  1. A Brahmachari should be eager to humbly serve the grihastha community and have great respect for the services they render.

They should respect all women as honoured mothers. However, may associate with them only for essential service and not for sense gratification.

  1. Most important is that Brahmacharies develop great love, trust and personal friendships with one another to be the servant of the servant of the servant.

The principles we have just read are the basis for all management in our ashram.

Just as we have a counsellor system for Grihasthas, we also have counsellor system for the Brahmacharies where senior Brahmacharies have 5 devotees under them. And the purpose of this counsellor system is to make each of the Brahmachari is completely cared for and looked after in every way on a personal level.

Every Brahmachari has a counsellor. However many years they may have been because every needs care and attention. The counsellors who counsel other Brahmacharies are counselees of other Brahmacharies. Does that make sense?

And every few days, the counsellor meets all his counselees; 5 of them. And every day, the counsellor must speak for some time with their counselee to make sure everything is alright in their lives. One of the greatest emphases amongst the Brahmacharies is to teach them to preach in colleges. We have a training program on, ‘How to teach Brahmacharies?’, ‘How to give lectures?’, ‘How to do kirtan?’ and ‘How to present Krishna consciousness?’

At this time, I believe, there are 15 Brahmacharies whose full time service is to give lectures in colleges. Because of this emphasis, there are 45 universities that have weekly programs conducted by the Brahmacharies. There are over 500 students who are being seriously cultivated in Krishna consciousness. Over a 150 of these students are chanting 16 rounds and following the 4 regulative principles. The other 350 are completely convinced that they must chant 16 rounds and they are aspiring to do so. Within the ashram, out of 40 devotees, 25 of them have come through these college preaching programs. It is our policy in India to keep them in the college preaching until they graduate. And while they are there, they are just like secret agents making some other students Krishna conscious. And there are 12 full time book distributors in our Brahmachari ashram. And because there is such a wonderful loving relationship between the congregation, the Grihasthas and Brahmacharies, they work together on almost every project. The congregation loves the Brahmacharies and respects them so much like sadhus that they do complete funding for all the programs. Besides the 45 colleges that have weekly programs, there are 20 different neighbourhoods that have weekly programs in the Bombay area. The Grihasthas in that neighbourhood arrange the place for the weekly program, they arrange all the Prasad, they fund it, they advertise for it and usually they invite Brahmacharies to come and give kirtans and give lectures. Sometimes, the Grihasthas themselves do that. They work together in such a way that hundreds of people are becoming Krishna conscious through these. The nice results of the Brahmacharies, the congregation and the Grihasthas working together is; last year in the December marathon, they all worked together and in one month they distributed 62,000 hard back Bhagavad Gitas. (Applause). And there are many other things that I can talk. Should I talk about the orphanage? We have an orphanage where we have 35 little boys from completely destitute and poverty-stricken conditions. 2 of our Brahmacharies take care of the orphanage. And the whole congregation also considers the orphan children like their own children. These little boys are being trained to be devotees. They all rise for the Mangala Aarti and dance very happily. They are so grateful because somebody cares about them. Because they are grateful, they are so happy to accept Krishna consciousness. I find that these children are often times much nicer devotees than our own children. Sometimes, they just think that Krishna consciousness is something I have to do. But, these children, many who are living in the streets and many were very much suffering due to poverty and here, people are taking care of them and giving them love and giving them the holy name and giving them Prasad and giving them Darshan of the deities. They are so grateful. They just want to be devotees. And as the boys grow up to be older and older, many of them become more and more sincere. Some of them go into the congregation and get married and get jobs but they remain fixed as devotees. Some stay in the ashram. In fact, the head pujari for Radha Gopinath temple was a graduate from the orphanage. And the head pujari of ISKCON, Pune; a city in India, is also a graduate of our orphanage. It’s a very, very special way of preaching. Also, people in general, like when devotees are taking care of orphan children.

We have quite high standards for deity worship. It’s basically run by the Brahmacharies but the Grihasthas perform so much Puja also. And on a regular basis, we have special seminars for all Brahmacharies and Grihasthas where we go very deeply into training in deity worship and Vaishnava etiquette. Before anyone is allowed to go on the altar to touch the deities or do any service on the altar, they have to go through an extensive training program. They may have to pass a written examination and then they have to pass a practical examination.

The idea is that the devotees take deity worship very, very seriously.

We also have in the temple, a special department just for greeting guests where there is a team of devotees at all times who just wait for guests to come. If it is a time where not so many guests come, then only one person is there. If it’s a time of the day where many guests will come, then more than one person will be there. Whoever comes through the door, whoever he may be, they are greeted with folded palms and welcomed to the temple. Srila Prabhupada said, “Anyone who comes to our temple is personally sent by Krishna.” So, with that understanding, they so warmly and casually say, “Thank you for coming to Radha Gopinath temple. Welcome.” And they give them a little brochure which explains the basic principles of our philosophy and who is Srila Prabhupada and an explanation of all the deities. They also have a schedule of all the events that take place at the temple and then they are given caranamrita and Prasad. They become friends of the person. They say, “If you have any questions, please ask me.” And almost everyone who comes, they just become like best friends of the guest receptionists. Gradually, as they become more interested, they sell the books and everything else. And people come back after coming once, not just to see the deities but because they know, “I have a friend at the temple. I want to see him.” And they tell their relatives and their friends, “There is such a nice sadhu at this temple who is my friend. Let us go meet him.”

So, all the Brahmacharies are trained in this art of hospitality to guests. And the Grihasthas also help a lot. So, these are some of the ways that we try to train the Brahmacharies to live according to the principles of their ashram. And according to kala- desa- patra the time, place and the people, it may be practical or not practical in certain places to about all of these different ideas. For the last 2 days, we have explained some of our endeavors to train Brahmacharies and Grihasthas and what is practical in a particular temple may not be the same as other temples because different temples have different circumstances and a different environment. To literally accept what has been spoken may or may not be practical to you. But, most important is the spirit. The spirit that we teach, we educate our devotees to be proper Vaishnavas according to their Varna and ashram. We give them personal guidance and we really oversee their spiritual lives with great care and attention. We think of every possible way a devotee may need help and we create services in which we can help each other. But, any devotee who has ever come with a sincere heart to participate in Krishna consciousness should never feel neglected. They should feel that other devotees love them and care about them and want to help them. They should feel that the temple is such a wonderful place to take a shelter of. And we should try with all of our energy to make sure that each devotee really is experiencing happiness in the association of the Krishna consciousness movement. Srila Prabhupada personally puts so much of his own efforts to try to make devotees happy within his society. It is our duty to do the same. People cannot be happy in our society unless they are Krishna conscious, unless they are learning how to serve and learning how to chant and learning how to hear and learning how to interact with each other and learning how to engage his/her propensities in Krishna’s service. If we have the spirit, then we will definitely be able to make a tremendous improvement in all of our service to the Vaishnavas. This very humble attempt to make a report and present to you under Vaidyanath Prabhu’s order is, ‘How we doing it?’

It may not be perfect, nor all of it may be practical for other places but whatever we discussed is being done. The result is, the devotees feel very, very happy and cared for and they are united. We really trying to imbibe the mood of

trinad api sunichena taror api sahishnuna amanina manadena kirtaniyah sada harih

In my humble opinion, if the leaders of any temple or project decide that this is important, training and caring for devotees and put emphasis on this, then projects will definitely be a great success. It may be done this way; it may be done in a different way. But, Krishna will certainly empower us to serve the Vaishnavas if we want to and if it we make a priority. This is the secret ingredient to success. When devotees knew that it is important to distribute books, they just were thinking of every possible way by which we can distribute books and Krishna empowered them with so many ideas that millions and millions of books are being distributed. When devotees understand that it’s important, it’s a priority to build a temple; even people with no money and no skills will build wonderful temples because Krishna empowers their intelligence. Anything the leaders of our temple put great emphasis on, Krishna empowers it to be done. All of our projects; our book distribution, our temple building, our food for life programs; everything we have is completely dependent on the enthusiasm of our devotees. I do not believe that there is any greater priority of any project than caring for and training our Vaishnavas. Everything else will flourish if the devotees are strong. If the leaders decide that we must do it; it cannot be done without social programs of organizations by which devotees are trained and cared for. It is not one man’s job to care for everyone. The leaders have to train the devotees to respect, honor and care for each other in a Krishna conscious way. We have to give every devotee the opportunity to be a first class Vaishnava . Many devotees want it but they are not given the opportunity. And if we have this emphasis in our preaching and in our management, we will definitely be a great success. On Vaidyanath Prabhu’s request, we have presented a particular form of a working model and it may hopefully be of some help to you. It is a place to start. But, my real purpose of addressing it is to try to give you the conviction of the importance of taking care, training and educating the Vaishnavas which the first priority of our mission.

Hare Krishna. Thank you very much.

Now, Vaidyanath Prabhu, would you like to speak about your visit to Bombay?

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20      Questions and answers

20.1   QUESTION) The question of Brahmacharini ashram (Monastery for Vaishnava nuns).

ANSWER) This is a matter of time place and circumstance. Srila Prabhupada didn’t want Brahmacharini ashrams in India. But, he liked Brahmacharini ashrams in other countries. So, we do not have Brahmacharini ashrams. So you know better than me on how to adjust? The basic principle and spirit is to train the ladies to be first class lady devotees and to really give them a lot of care and attention. They should always feel very well protected.

Any other questions?

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20.2   QUESTION) When Brahmacharies are preaching in the colleges, do they need to have some diploma or some certificate so that they have certain kind of education to preach in colleges?

ANSWER) There are so many different ways to preach in colleges. All of our college preachers do have degrees, however, it isn’t necessary. If they know the subject, they are welcome. They preach in many classrooms but their weekly programs are not in classrooms. Their weekly programs are in hostels and dormitories of the students where they systematically cultivate and train the students in Krishna consciousness. You don’t need a degree to do that. You just need a compassionate heart and an understanding of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. If you don’t have a compassionate heart then you should have a desire to serve someone who does have a compassionate heart.

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20.3   QUESTION) What happened to those Brahmacharies who lived in the temple before and didn’t fit into the new system?

ANSWER) They were not Brahmacharies. What happened to them? Haribol. (Laughter). For various reasons, we made the standards so strict that they didn’t want to live there anymore. We didn’t kick anyone out. We just told them that these are the standards now and they said, “Oh! We cannot live by these standards.” Then we said, “Then live somewhere else.” So, they went somewhere else. Of course, in a situation where people are more sincere, then we just lived in the congregation. It’s not that it’s a lesser thing. Congregation doesn’t mean that you are less than Brahmacharies; it’s just a different way of serving according to one’s propensities. It shouldn’t be seen as a fall-down. In fact, we never preach against grihastha life to the Brahmachari. We tell them that there are certain advantages for a Brahmachari which is 24-hour dedication. However, if you have a strong inclination for marriage then we help them in many ways to get married. If someone does not want to live by the standards, then we should encourage them to live in a congregation. It’s a more natural place for you. In this way, we do not discourage, we try to encourage. If a person lives for sometime in the ashram and then they feel that this is too strict for me, we just tell them, “Whatever training you got is very, very nice. It will be very useful. Now, you live in the congregation and go on practicing Krishna consciousness.”

In the last 5 years, we have not had to ask any Brahmachari to leave because they all are so strictly following the standards. They are quite blissful doing it because they have such nice association. If a devotee does have some inclination towards marriage life, we encourage them to marry. We don’t try to artificially keep them as Brahmacharies. Does that answer your question, Prabhu? To what extent does it match? Hare Krishna!!

My humble suggestion would be to make basic standards and invite everyone to follow these standards and those who don’t, encourage them to be congregational devotees. Srila Prabhupada didn’t want the Hare Krishna movement as the one where everyone has to live in temples.

The vast majority of our movement should be and will be people living in the congregation. Congregation could have just as good devotees as devotees in the temple.

However, people living in the temple according to our proposal are people who are very, very willing to completely surrender. This is a basic principle, further details can be discussed at some other time if you so desire.

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20.4   QUESTION) Could you tell something more about the Brahmachari classes? How long they and what are is their format, what do they teach and study? Are the classes held every day?

ANSWER) It is 5 days a week, Monday to Friday. Saturday we have maha-cleaning where everyone completely cleans everything in the temple. 3 days a month, we have a book marathon where the congregational devotees take care of all the deity worship and run the entire temple and all the Brahmacharies just go out and distribute books, from morning till night. Those 3 days, we don’t have the class. During the month of December, the marathon, we don’t have the class. Congregational devotees move in the temple and run the whole temple for one month. And all the Brahmacharies and temple devotees just go out and distribute books for one month. So, other than those 3 days a month and in December, we have classes 5 days a week. It begins at 11.15 in the morning when they have kirtan. At 11.30, they chant Mangala-caran prayers together, all the prayers to the previous acaryas.

Then they have memorization of shlokas. They memorize 5 shlokas every 2 weeks. And they study those shlokas and recite them together. At 11.45, a senior Brahmachari gives a class by very, very systematically studying Srila Prabhupada’s books. They read through Srila Prabhupada’s books from beginning to end and go greatly into understanding and explaining what Prabhupada is saying. In the past few years, they have gone through the entire Sri Isopanisad, Nectar of Instruction, Nectar of Devotion, teachings of Lord Chaitanya and Bhagavad-Gita. And then, from about 12.05, there is an open discussion with questions and answers about the subjects that were discussed on that day. And then, at 12.25, there is an exam given to all the devotees about that day’s subject matter, a written examination. So, during the discussion, everyone is very serious and taking notes because they want to get good grades on the examination. And then, there is a program for training new devotees as preachers. And the newer Brahmacharies are given a particular subject matter to give a presentation and they have one week to prepare, like defeating Mayavadi philosophy or the nature of the jivas or the laws of karma. They just give a subject and the newer Brahmacharies give a presentation. And after that presentation, the senior Brahmacharies begin to ask them intense questions to make sure they really know the subject. So, during these weeks, these new Brahmacharies really, really study hard because they know that they have to know the subject or they will be defeated. Actually, all the Brahmacharies except the senior ones, who give the first class, rotate to give the second class. At 1’o clock, the class ends and they take Prasad together. Whenever there is a special holy day, like Rupa Goswami’s or Srinivas Acarya’s appearance, the first part of the class is dedicated to discussing the glories of that particular acarya at great length. That day, the Brahmacharies have a special festival where they all go down and cook a big feast in the kitchen and they offer it to the deities and have a big kirtan in the temple for the Raj-bhoga Aarti and discuss the particular topic of that day’s festival. Usually, about once a month, we have debates during the Brahmachari class. Usually, they have about a month to prepare where half the Brahmacharies take one side of the debate and other half take the other, debates such as one half have to understand what the Mayavadi philosophy is and present Mayavadi and the other half have to defeat them. Sometimes, there are scientific arguments and how to refute atheistic scientists. Sometimes, they have to study the sahajiya philosophy and they have to defeat that. These debates are very, very dynamic and exciting. So far, Krishna consciousness has won every debate on the basis of Srila Prabhupada’s books.

Whenever there are visiting sannyasis coming to our temple, we often ask them to share their realizations and give their association during the Brahmachari class. Once every 2 weeks, during the second half of the class, when there is usually the rotation of people giving presentations, there is an Istagosthi where we discuss just the various affairs of the ashram. The results that we found from these classes are:

  1. Even our newest Brahmacharies are able to deliver authorized lectures on Srila Prabhupada’s books with conviction.
  2. They learn the great value of sincerely studying the sacred teachings of Srila Prabhupada.
  3. They learn to defend the pure principles of bhakti from various deviations.
  4. The class extremely stimulates the atmosphere of Brahmachari ashram. It creates a wonderful and loving relationships amongst all the devotees because they are coming together just to discuss Krishna katha. It really nourishes the love and trust of all the Brahmacharies.

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20.5  QUESTION) Sometimes, Brahmacharies leave the ashram because they are over-burdened with service without taking into consideration what they can do or cannot do because these Brahmacharies are so humble, they never say ‘No’. How one can regulate the time for his service and amount of the service one can do?

ANSWER) That is the great responsibility of the leaders. Our goal should be, especially for the one who is trying to surrender, that they can be sustained for the rest of their lives. It should not be just to extract as much service as we can until they are burnt to their crisp then we sweep the ashes outside of the temple. (Laughter). We should be thinking, ‘How to encourage this devotee throughout his life?’ One has to have great sensitivity. A person needs enough time to read, enough time to rest, enough time to do his sadhana properly. These are priorities if you want someone to stay. If a person is sick, he needs time to get well. This is the importance of counsellor system within the Brahmachari ashram. The senior Brahmacharies have a few Brahmacharies that they are personally are responsible to help and they talk to them every day and they can see whether they are in anxiety, they can see if they are over-worked and they make adjustments. On a daily basis, we are having dialogue with each Brahmachari in an intimate way. We see if they are having doubts or they are in confusion or they are overworked. And then the whole ashram works together with the counsellors to make the best possible arrangement for each Brahmachari.

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20.6  QUESTION) You said that Brahmachari just learn during the week and all the expenses of the temple are met by Grihasthas. Don’t they get envious of Brahmacharies, because usually Grihasthas see that they don’t do anything except learn?

ANSWER) Actually, the Brahmacharies are not just learning; they are also working very hard. Half the day, they are learning and the other half of the day, they are out either distributing books or preaching. If the Brahmacharies are lazy, the Grihasthas will become envious. But, if they see the Brahmacharies are sincerely making great efforts and they are really humbly trying to serve then they want to give everything to help them. And no Grihasthas have to give anything. If someone is not satisfied, they don’t have to give anything. They can contribute to the temple because there is no rule that any grihastha has to give anything. Those who are inspired, they want to help. At the beginning, this may not be possible. You may not have Grihasthas in congregation who are so inspired to help. However, if the Grihasthas really do have great respect for the Brahmacharies due to their qualities and the Grihasthas are trained properly, then naturally they would want to give and the temple will be supported. This is not how it is beginning but the Grihasthas supporting everything from the congregation is one of the wonderful results if the Grihasthas are trained nicely and the Brahmacharies are trained nicely and everyone is taken care of nicely. People are enlivened to serve in every way they can. If people are going out if the way to help you and serve you, if you are a good person and a devotee then naturally you want to reciprocate by doing as much service as you can. How we do it? We have nice sound system with speaker and microphone and we go out into the streets and we do Hari nama. It’s very important actually. That’s something I didn’t discuss. We do this at least once a week. Who takes part in this? Congregation and Brahmacharies take part. On festival, sometimes we have 600-700 people going out. Of course, in all the congregational preaching and all the college programs, there is kirtan. So, between Pune-Bombay, which our devotees do, between the congregational programs and the college programs, we have about 80 kirtans a week in different neighbourhoods of Bombay. So, there is a lot of kirtan in a lot of places and about once a week, we go out into the streets.

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20.7   QUESTION) Do you have some system of award or punishment in your temple?

ANSWER) No. (Laughter). During marathon, we give anybody who has participated to try to help, we give a certificate as an award. Other than that, we try to not really encourage people by awards. We try to teach everyone to appreciate everyone for whatever service they are doing and they are satisfied if they are appreciated. We preach very strongly that we should all appreciate each other’s service every day. And it reaches the heart more than just getting a trophy once a year or something like that. For the orphan children, we give awards and punishments. We never beat them. The punishment is: they have to write down the Hare Krishna maha-mantra a 1000 times during the time when they are supposed to play. (Maharaj Laughs). And the greatest punishment is we just tell them, “You shouldn’t live here if you don’t want to co-operate” when the orphans misbehave very much. But, we don’t beat them. In the Brahmachari ashram, there is really no need for punishment. If a person doesn’t co-operate, you tell him “You should better live in the congregation. This is for surrendered souls.” Because the standards are explained so nicely before they join the ashram in the last 5 years, we have not asked anyone to leave. We don’t really have punishments. And awards are given on certain events like marathons; otherwise we try to give great appreciation for every little service that everyone is doing. And we try to preach the importance of showing appreciation for every devotee’s service. This is very important. Devotees should feel that they are being appreciated, especially the people in the congregation also. Rather than chastising for what they don’t do, if you appreciate them for what they do, then they will be encouraged to do more.

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20.8   QUESTION) Success often depends on the broadness of the vision of a person who is in charge. Often in devotional service, nobody asked me my opinion nor asked me what I think of the entire particular subject. Do you take into consideration these things from devotees who live in the ashram or everyone who lives there? How it works? Do you think everyone in the ashram can voice their opinion?

ANSWER) This is very important. We should try to make each devotee feel the importance of their participation and the counsellor system amongst the congregation as well as Brahmacharies gives that opportunity where everyone can openly, in a humble spirit and not in a demanding spirit, give their opinions and reveal their minds. And a good spiritual counsellor is one who really listens very attentively and tries to appreciate the devotional efforts of each devotee and consider their opinion. And if it practical and beneficial, it should be utilized. And if it is not, it should be explained nicely how it is not practical. Within the counsellor system, this provides a wonderful open format for devotees to reveal their minds. It should always be done in a Krishna conscious way with a spirit of service.

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20.9  QUESTION) Who is in charge of your temple? Do you have a President and managers of the departments?

ANSWER) Our temple in this regard is unique and we don’t recommend for other temples necessarily. But, if you want, we will explain. Do you want? Okay. Because there is so much love and trust amongst the devotees, we have 5 presidents for one little temple. It is unique and it works wonderfully in temple but we don’t necessarily recommend it for others. The reason is, basically, our temple is Brahmacharies and almost all the wonderful Grihasthas are very, very strict and surrendered. They live in the congregation. So, we say, we had a really nice president but he was so bogged down in management that he was not so enlivened. So, we wanted to keep the Brahmacharies preaching as much as possible. So, we established 5 senior Brahmacharies who formed a presidential board and they rotate every 3 months. One becomes a president for 3 months and then the next one does for 3 months. Of the 5, one is just an advisor. And each president has authority to make decisions within the realm of those 3 months. But, if it’s a decision that is going to go beyond those 3 months, the 5 together make the decision. Once a month, all the 40 counsellors of the Grihasthas counsellors meet in the temple with the 5 presidents. So, the counsellors who are all the leaders of the Grihasthas give their opinions also at a certain time to the presidents in case their input is required to make decisions. The advantage we found in this is, the presidents are always very fresh because they have 9 months of preaching before they have to do their 3 month terms. (Maharaj Laughs). So, they don’t get burned out so much. And also, no president thinks “I am The President.” And no president can misuse the others because he knows that if he misuses someone then he is no longer president. They will get back at him. (Maharaj Laughs). This works in our congregation simply because there is so much love and trust. Every day, the 5 presidents meet and just discuss as they are very dear and intimate friends. It just works wonderfully. But, this was just introduced 2 years ago. Before that, we had one president only. We were able to introduce this only because of the intimacy of how devotees were harmoniously working together and we didn’t want any one person to be over-burdened. So, it is a very nice system actually. But, I don’t know any other place that does like this. (Maharaj Laughs). It is something that spontaneously came out. Another thing; we do have each of the 5 presidents is a whole management system. For every particular department and aspect of the ashram, there are several department heads. The presidents are called the service authorities and under them are department heads and under the department heads are the people who are working under them. Department heads means pujaris and deity worship, the kitchen, the college preaching, the book distribution, the ashram cleanliness, the health of the devotees; so many things. There are few department heads under each president; so the person who is acting as president doesn’t really have to do it all because it is all being automatically done by others. He just oversees. We try to organize the management in such a way that there is little possible strain and burden on any one person. So, the leaders have as much time as possible to encourage, enthuse the devotees, and preach to them.

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20.10  QUESTION) Who is serving in the kitchen, Brahmachari or grihastha? If a Brahmachari is serving then is it possible for them to attend the Brahmachari classes?

There is also a similar question

20.11   QUESTION) All this takes a lot of time. It is not possible to attend all the classes. How do you think they do it?

ANSWER) We usually get 800-1000 people for the Sunday Feast taking Prasad. The congregation cooks the Sunday feast every week. The different counsellor groups have different teams. 3 different counsellor groups are a team and they rotate and like every 6 weeks, a team of 40 counsellor groups cook the Sunday Feast together. That means about 50-60 people or about 100 people. They are all cutting vegetables and washing pots. The Brahmacharies don’t have to do anything except preach on Sunday. And as far as the cooking for the daily lunch Prasad is concerned what we do is, in the back of the temple very quietly we teach them how to quietly clean all the vegetables so they are right there during the class. There is a rotation of about 6 Brahmacharies. And by the time the Brahmachari class begins, 90 percent of the cooking is done. The deities’ offering is cooked by the congregation every day. The ladies of the congregation who are initiated Brahmins, they have a complete schedule of 7 days a week, the Raj-Bhoga offering or lunch offering is cooked by congregational Matajis. In fact, the congregational matajis cook all the offerings for the deities. Those who do all this are initiated Brahmins they make their own schedule and it’s a whole management amongst the matajis. The Brahmacharies cook the Prasad for the devotees in big quantities and of course that is included with the deity offering. But, by the time the Brahmachari class starts, there is only need for one or 2 Brahmacharies to be down there just finishing up the offering and there is a speaker where they can listen and they rotate doing that. Because it is part of Brahmachari training that every Brahmachari must learn mridanga, harmonium, karatals, how to give classes and how to cook for the deities as well as the devotees. So, there is not a burden on just one person who knows how to cook because everyone knows how to cook. We have a separate little kitchen just for deity offerings and a big kitchen for the devotees. So, there are 3 ladies who are in charge and they organize all the ladies that are cooking in the smaller kitchen and Brahmacharies cook in the big kitchen.

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20.12  QUESTION) Some devotees have some particular talent and they are talented in one thing but they don’t have the ability to do other things. For example, not everyone is able to lead kirtan or play instruments. Is it necessary to teach everyone these things or is it better to concentrate on the talents of this particular person?

ANSWER) Everyone should be given an opportunity to learn the basic ways of preaching Krishna consciousness. If a person really doesn’t have the propensity, there is no force. But, the opportunity is provided. And usually we find that people who don’t have much propensity, they can learn how to do it basically nicely. And people who do have a propensity end up doing it excellently like masters. But, if a person really doesn’t have musical abilities, then he doesn’t have to learn harmonium. Still, he is given a chance. And everyone should lead kirtans. Maybe not in the temple with hundreds of devotees but, you don’t have to have a good voice to lead a kirtan. You just want to sing Krishna’s names. Some devotees who have very, very materially not so good voices, they may not sing in front of the deities for the whole congregation but may go to little preaching programs and they have some people there and they lead kirtan, everyone is thinking, “Oh! He is such a saintly Gandharva!” (Maharaj Laughs). Essentially, we just try to encourage everyone to accept the opportunity to learn all of these wonderful basic Vaishnava skills and someone who doesn’t want to do it, there is no pressure.

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20.13  QUESTION) Is it compulsory for a Brahmachari who has some business inclination or who is not able to fully follow this ideal Brahmachari life in a ashram to get married or they can live as Brahmachari in the congregation as a Brahmachari congregational member or do they have to get married?

ANSWER) (Laughter). (Maharaj Laughs). Actually, we have to understand what it means to be a Brahmachari. We can have our Kali-yuga adjustments. But, if you are doing business; you are not a Brahmachari. Brahmachari is the one who lives in the ashram and he doesn’t have anything except service. That’s the definition of a Brahmachari in our scriptures. But actually, you cannot be a grihastha without a wife. (Laughter). So, you created your own ashram. (Laughter). So, really that is not the definition of a Brahmachari. It is a concoction. However, we have so many concoctions in our movement. We have to encourage everyone. It is not a bad thing. It is a good thing if you want to remain unmarried and you want to do business and you want to do your sadhana. It is a good thing that you want to be Krishna conscious but it is not natural. And it would be better to actually choose a particular ashram and live by it. That would help us to sustain our spiritual lives throughout our lives. Does that answer your question? There are always exceptions within our preaching movement. For someone who is living outside and doesn’t want to marry, I don’t think we should pressurize them, you must get married. I think we should appreciate their service and encourage them to go on. However, we should also explain the advantages of actually living within the proper ashram and following the principles of varnashram. It is beneficial. If someone is doing very well but not in a particular ashram then we should very much be appreciative and encourage them to go on. However, if we create a society where the varnas and the ashrams are living very nicely then people will naturally understand. Right now, because our ashrams are not working properly because we are not training people, it is sometimes better to not be in an ashram. (Maharaj Laughs). But, that is not Krishna’s process and it cannot be sustained. We start really emphasizing proper education for Grihasthas and Brahmacharies and vanaprasthas and Sannyasis and people who are allowed this naturally they say, “Yes, I can do better if I am living according to a proper ashram.” We should not criticize people who don’t follow it. We should create such an attractive and nicely working society that people want to fit in. Does that answer your question?

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20.14  QUESTION) What if a Brahmachari has a propensity of a businessman but he lives in a temple and he does some business for the temple and gives everything to the temple. Then is he considered a Brahmachari?

ANSWER) If he is actually giving everything to the temple and not keeping it then that is a Brahmachari. If he is living in the ashram and he has good sadhana and he doesn’t have unnatural relationships with ladies then that could be acceptable. Most important thing is association with good Brahmacharies and in that association they have very good sadhana and to have a good understanding of Prabhupada’s books and the most stimulating service for a Brahmachari that I have seen is preaching. There is such a higher taste in preaching. I will be telling how we train and not saying this is the way it should be done. Our Brahmacharies are trained in book distribution but they are also trained in preaching. Because how many years can a person do 4 times book distribution? Maybe some people can but, we haven’t seen. Most devotees, when they get to certain age and when they start getting a little old and they don’t have the stamina to be out in the streets, they can’t really full time do book distribution. And if they cannot do it full time, then, as a Brahmachari they need a fulfilling service that they can always do. Because as you start getting in your thirties and fifties and sixties, you need challenging service to remain in life in order to resist the temptations and family life, you have to be very dynamically engaged. There is one service that you can do and be completely fulfilled for the rest of your life if you have the propensity and that is preaching. As you are preaching, you are developing congregation, cultivating people, caring for people and overseeing people’s lives. Every Brahmachari in our ashram who is senior now have hundreds of people under them to whom they are preaching like a shiksha guru to them. They feel like they have personal responsibilities for their lives and you have such an incredible taste when you are helping people like this. This type of preaching and cultivating is something we can do till the day we die and it is always a challenge. There’s always incredible reciprocation with others. So we train Brahmacharies at the beginning of the book distribution to simultaneously be preachers so that if they do want to remain Brahmacharies throughout their lives, when the time comes where they don’t have energy to be full time book distributors, they can preach and they can have very, very satisfying and challenging service where they are happy to be in the renounced order for the rest of their lives. In my perspective, I am not saying this to be the absolute truth but, within our movement, the Brahmacharies who are big, big book distributors in their seventies and in the eighties, the ones who are still unmarried are the ones who are preaching, someone like Rohinisuta Prabhu. He is preaching book distribution, but he is preaching. Most of the Brahmachari book distributors 20 years ago in their seventies who didn’t become preachers; either preachers of what is in the book or preachers of how to distribute the books, most of them are Grihasthas now. Do you find that true also if you look at the history of our movement all over the world? So, this is our opinion on how we are training our Brahmacharies. If a person has an inclination for marriage, we encourage them to marry. If a person really wants to be a Brahmachari, we train them to be preachers along with whatever else we are training them because we feel that it is the way they can remain Brahmacharies their whole life. And I believe, with this process, book distribution will also grow like anything because devotees will be satisfied and they will also be satisfied about their future. Brahmacharies shouldn’t have a vague darkness about “What will my future be?” It should be, “I have a service now and I will always have a wonderful service.” And they should know that at every stage of their life, they will either be distributing books or preaching what is in the books but no matter what happens to their body, they will be serving and they will preaching. I will be very honest with you. In some places in the world, old Brahmacharies who are book distributors, they come to the temples where there are new Brahmacharies distributing books, they say, “Ah! Wait till you become my age. When you are 35 years old, you won’t be able to give books like this. Then nobody will want you around anymore. And soon, when you are 40 years old and you don’t know what to do and then you will want to get married but who is there to marry you when you are 40 years old? All that are left are some old divorced women with children and everything else.” (Maharaj Laughs). “So you better not distribute all these books as a Brahmachari.” And the Brahmacharies are like “Oh!! This is a reality since so many people are telling like this.” So, therefore, we should actually have a system by which devotees can go out and distribute books to their full content and all their might and they could know that in the future, they will always be taken care of. They will know that they will always have a service that can keep them completely satisfied and ecstatic in Prabhupada’s mission. And I believe, it is the leaders of our society to provide that faith in the future to all of our devotees, whether they are Brahmacharies, Grihasthas, vanaprasthas or Sannyasis. Forgive me if I am speaking too honestly but what is in my heart is coming out.

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20.15  QUESTION) What is your perspective on the development of varnashram system? Will it develop through one main ashram or all ashrams will grow simultaneously?

ANSWER) All ashrams should grow simultaneously. However, I believe that the majority of our devotees are Grihasthas and Brahmacharies and I believe the greatest emphasis should be on really developing social systems for the training and care of the Brahmacharies and the Grihasthas. If you are trained properly as a Brahmachari and then a grihastha, then vanaprastha is quite natural. But still, there should be training there. And as far as training our Sannyasis is concerned, that is not really something that we have to discuss here because who is going to train the Sannyasis? (Maharaj Laughs). Sannyasis definitely need training but the people to train Sannyasis are other Sannyasis. And since, I am the only Sannyasi here, it’s not so much of me to get into that. But, I think there is definitely a need to have a very, very wonderful and comprehensive program for Sannyasis. But, that has to be conducted on a practical level by the very high ranks of our movement. Should we continue tomorrow? Okay. So, tomorrow at 12’our clock, again we can meet and we will just have questions and answers tomorrow. So, if any of you would like to come, you can think about and write down any questions you may have and somehow or other, if we run out questions, we will just have kirtan.

I am very grateful to all of you for your kind attention. Please forgive me if I have made any aparadha. Srila Prabhupada ki…Jai. (3of3, 169:41)

In our congregation in Bombay, the need for this is just beginning to develop and right now, it is all in preliminary planning stages. The ideas that so far we have discussed with you are activities that are currently practically taking place. The idea that we have is we are currently in the process of trying to buy some land which will be a self sufficient community. And there will be a vanaprastha ashram there and our current ideas are certainly not very inclusive but we can share them with you. And that is that the people who are retiring from household life, they have the opportunity to stay there. Some will stay as families, husband-wife together and live as vanaprastha in some individual room. Devotees who are very knowledgeable in the philosophy and very exemplary in their behavior will be spiritual counsellors for the vanaprasthas as we have for the Brahmacharies and the Grihasthas. Some of these people will of course become old, so there will be all health care facilities for them. They will be given residential facilities for those who once they retire, they may not have much funds, so could be provided by the community itself. And there will be various types of services for them. According to inclination, some will help in deity worship- all of the different aspects of deity worship like cooking and so forth. We would be starting various cottage industries in this community for different natural trades like pottery and weaving and making cloth and spinning of cloth and of course, farming and different preparations of canning farmed food. And also in the whole area and regions around, we are helping those who are having inclination for preaching and book distribution, they will actually be spreading and having regular programs, cultivating and doing very extensive preaching in the area of the community. So, that is our current ideas as far as how to implement vanaprastha ashram in Russia. That is something I would have to really think, pray and consult with the Russian devotees. The principle of a vanaprastha in a natural varnashram dharma is when the children of a husband and wife are grown and when they are no longer responsible for their businesses or their families, they retire from their occupational work and they retire from their family responsibilities and they dedicate their lives to associate with the devotees, cultivating Krishna consciousness and preaching. The recommended age for a vanaprastha is usually 50 years old. However, in our movement, in India at least, most people somehow or other at this time and of course once we establish a proper ashram, these may become more normal but at this time, most people don’t retire from their family affairs till they are about 60 or 65. However, as I say, I believe once there actually is a structure in which people can be trained and facilitated to live as vanaprasthas, people will liberate themselves from their family responsibilities at earlier ages. Because, there isn’t so much facility, people do not know what to do after they retire. Not everyone is like a Sannyasi, just ready to go out and make the whole world Krishna conscious like Srila Prabhupada. So, our movement requires giving full time engagement facility and caring for people who want to retire. And actually, as the years go on, this will be more and more essential for the stability of our society. So, it really is a very important question.

We are also trying to start a widow’s ashram. To protect matajis who have no protection and who are sincere devotees. Of course, in ISKCON in the western world, sometimes vanaprasthas are quite young who just somehow or other divorced or something like that which is a very unnatural situation. And of course, within our practical application of our social development, we have to take into consideration the unnatural circumstances that are really spoken about in the scriptures so much but are very much present in the modern western world of kali-yuga. So, what I would say is, for now, what is most important is people who are entering into vanaprasthas, we should have directives and instructions of what are the duties and roles of a vanaprastha and we should have fulltime service for them. The worst thing is to be idle. People are used to working so hard in their occupation when they are raising their family and if they want to retire from it, they need service, a lot of service. I explained how we are planning to engage such people in service in Bombay. There will be a lot of service through these different projects and in Russia; we have to really engage people very nicely. And we should also have a place for vanaprasthas because real vanaprastha means they are no longer making money so they may not have a home anymore if they retire. We need to keep them together enough to sustain them unless they are sustained by their grown children, which is not common in the western world. In the Shastra, vanaprasthas just go away from home and husband and wife just live in the forest and eat roots and berries for the rest of their life and meditate on God. But, I do not know how many Hare Krishna devotees will be able to do like that. (Maharaj Laughs). So, the next best thing is they go to a holy place and they live in an ashram setting where they can just completely utilize all their time and energy in devotional service and serving Srila Prabhupada’s mission. And really, that is what a vanaprastha should be, that they retire from all their duties of family and occupation and do very high sadhana living in the association of sincere devotees. Would you like to say anything? You are a vanaprastha. (Maharaj Laughs). (Laughter).

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20.16  QUESTION) Is it necessary to have children?

ANSWER) Hare Krishna. (Laughter). (Maharaj Laughs). In grihastha life, it is natural to have children. The idea is to raise the children in a Krishna conscious atmosphere, to raise the children in such a way that they will naturally be attracted to live as devotees throughout their lives and this is a very, very great responsibility. The shastra say that you have no right to be a mother or father unless you can deliver your child from the cycle of birth and death. And the parent should understand that this child is not mine, this child is the property of Krishna and Krishna has entrusted us with the care of this child. If we behave in such a way that diverts the child’s attention from Krishna consciousness, we are actually offending Krishna. It is Krishna’s child and Krishna has put this child in our hands to teach it how to go back to Godhead. So, therefore, we must respect our children as the property of God. And children see more than they hear in their early ages. The way to impress a child in Krishna consciousness is they have to actually see how their parents are always engaged in devotional service, how they are living together co-operatively in the service of Krishna, how they are inviting sadhus to their homes and serving them nicely. Srila Prabhupada explained what a great impression he had when he was a young child, his father would invite many sadhus every single day for Prasad and he would have all the family members helping to serve the sadhus. And at the end, Gaur Mohan De would pray to the sadhus, “Please, bless my son that he will be a great devotee of Srimati Radharani.” And then the family would eat after the sadhus. Srila Prabhupada also would see from his earliest days his father making wonderful offerings to deities of Sri Radha Govinda. Every day, his father would take him to the arti of Radha Govinda. The child saw that their mother and father were always engaged in the principles of bhakti. The children should see their parents chanting, serving and as really exemplary devotees. Then, the child will naturally like to be like the parents. But, if the mother and father are always fighting, then the children will grow up thinking, “What is the use of this Krishna consciousness?” So, for the sake of the child, the parents have to behave very, very Krishna consciously responsible. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati said, “If I could be a parent and make children Krishna conscious, I will have so many children. But because I don’t think I can, I have taken sannyasa.” Something like that he said. In other words, he was trying to display how much of a great responsibility it is to have a child in Krishna consciousness. And I think one of the great virtues that is not properly respected within our movement is the virtue of being a good mother. Sometimes, we have a baby and we want to do cooking in the kitchen or we want to distribute books or we want to do other service. We think, “This baby is such a disturbance. It is keeping me from so much service.” That is not the proper understanding. If you have a child, it is your first and most important service to raise that child in such a way that it is happy in Krishna consciousness. Being a mother is the most difficult of all services. The service is 24 hours. And a mother who is properly raising her child and singing kirtan to a child and giving exemplary behaviour to the child and caring for the child in such a way that the child feels supported and feels loved in Krishna consciousness, that’s one of the most important services in our Krishna consciousness movement. And if we neglect that service as a mother to do all sorts of other service, we are not actually taking the responsibility properly. I think; our movement has to learn how to recognize, respect, honour and worship the service of mothers who are raising their children in a very secure and caring way in Krishna consciousness. However, if people are married and they really do not want children, they just want to do so much service and they are actually are doing so much service then I believe that is the right of the people to choose whether they want to have children. If they are going to have children; they should do it properly in perfect Krishna consciousness and take the responsibility. Otherwise, they should just go on doing their service very, very enthusiastically as a team and when they are ready to take that heavy responsibility only then they should have children. Does that answer the question?

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20.17  QUESTION) How to define in your circumstances, the Varna of a devotee?

ANSWER) I think we discussed the day before yesterday. It is not always so easy to define the Varna of a devotee. It is actually a challenge to our society to come up with a formula in which we can make these divisions. Not essentially that those who are engaged in scholastic activities like priests, preachers, teachers are Brahmins; those who are administrators and soldiers are Kshatriyas and those who are farmers and business people and traders and bankers are Vaisyas and those who are labourers are Shudras. Especially, as far as Grihasthas are concerned, they have their occupations and their occupations can be generally divided in these 4 categories. Within our system in Bombay, we do train people in their occupational responsibilities. However, we don’t divide them in that way. We do it from the division of the ashrams simply because something has to be done now and this is a simple system that works very nicely. But, the main thing is that according to our natural occupational duties, we live by the principles that Bhagavad Gita teaches and we offer the results in the service of Lord Krishna under the instruction of spiritual master. Hare Krishna.

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20.18  QUESTION) Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was very soft in heart and he was very strict in following the principles but usually when one follows the principles very strictly and try to follow these principles then the heart becomes very hard towards your immediate surroundings, that is, towards your associates?

ANSWER) That can only be if you are not following the principles correctly because we have to understand the spirit in which we are following the regulative principles. The underlined principle of all regulative principles in Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is

trinad api sunichena taror api sahishnuna amanina manadena kirtaniyah sada harih

And if we are just following the external strictness of a particular way of life without understanding the spirit of why we are doing it or how we should do it, then we can become hard-hearted. If we are just doing intense fasting or if we are just freezing our body or we are giving up sleep or we are just being so fanatically celibate, (Maharaj Laughs), but we are not doing it in order to increase our devotional service, we are just doing it for the sake of doing it…

Prabhupada wasn’t concerned that we fast so much. Prabhupada said, “You don’t eat too much and you don’t eat too little and you do your service.” And what is service? It is to be instruments of our Guru Maharaj’s compassion to each other and to the world. Any service we have, that is the purpose. Whether we are pujaris, book distributors, cleaners, managers, accountants, whatever our service is in this movement, the purpose of our service is to be instruments of Srila Prabhupada’s compassion to the devotees and to the people in general. And our strictness should be to intensify our attention on that principle, so that our minds do not divert to other sensual things that divert us from the principle of being the instruments of our Guru Maharaj’s compassion. If you have the spirit, the stricter you are in following the principles of your ashram and Varna, the more soft-hearted you will become because the more purified you will become, the more intensely you are trying to be servant of the servant of the servant. We become hard-hearted when we selfishly perform different tapasyas for our own personal liberation. We don’t do anything for our own personal liberation. Even when we are chanting the holy names on japa, we are trying to purify our hearts so that we can be better instruments of our Guru’s compassion on this world, so that we can be a pure vessel to serve Krishna and the Vaishnavas. Srila Prabhupada ki…Jai. Hari Bol.

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20.19  QUESTION) Can you adopt something new from the other temples and can you accept some devotees who would like to see how it is who would like to live in your ashram to get some experience?

ANSWER) If you have Vaidyanath Prabhu’s blessings and permission, we would be happy to welcome you. (Laughter). (Maharaj Laughs). (Applause). Then we can be the servant of his servants and that would be the perfection of our lives. (Laughter). Hare Krishna.

Essentially, devotion means to perform our activity with the motivation to please Krishna. This is the meaning of devotional service.

yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasado yasyaprasadad na gatiù kuto

We please Krishna by pleasing Guru. And in disciplic succession, we please guru by pleasing the servants of guru. So, we should be doing our devotional service not simply mechanically for the sake of doing it as attentively and as expertly as we possibly can because we want to do it in such a way and our efforts will please the Vaishnavas, guru and Krishna. This should be the consciousness of everything we do. Because Krishna consciousness is a personal and everything we do should be done in a personal way for the pleasure of a person. And if we are actually doing it for the pleasure of a person then we will do it as attentively and as nicely as we possibly can. When we are chanting our japa, when we are dancing in kirtan, when we are listening to class, when we are taking our bath, when we are eating Prasad, when we are distributing books, when we are doing the deity worship, when we are talking with one another, when we are doing our management; anything we do in our devotional service should be in the spirit of being the servant and the servant wants to please the person being served. If we are not trying to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead and his representatives through what we are doing, then it becomes mechanical. It becomes ritualistic. Does that answer your question? Hare Krishna.

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20.20  QUESTION) In Russia, there are many different gurus and disciples of different gurus live together. How to live together as disciples of different gurus and not to have conflicts? How to arrange counsellor system in this situation? Is it better to have counsellors and counselees as God brothers and God sisters only or it is not a strict principle? How to implement these things?

ANSWER) We should understand that we are one family. There should not be a spirit of separatism amongst us. We are all Srila Prabhupada’s grand children and children of the spiritual masters. We are performing the service on behalf of Srila Prabhupada. It will be very displeasing to them if in the name of loyalty to them, we are offending the children of their God brothers. Srila Prabhupada explained, “You can show your love for me by how you co-operate together.” For all of the disciples of Srila Prabhupada, this is the life and soul to create this atmosphere of co-operation because their love for Prabhupada and that is the way we can help them to show their love for Prabhupada. Therefore, there should be every reason in which, such a counsellor system can be perfectly successful, by treating every devotee as honored members of Srila Prabhupada’s family. On the former levels of diksha, we may be God brothers and God sister or we may be God cousins, there should be no discrimination. We should love all our family members in ISKCON. In my own humble attempt to serve this mission, I am always telling those people under my care that whenever you are with a disciple of another guru, you should be always be very, very eager and anxious to glorify that person’s guru and try to create a loving atmosphere. In our counsellor system, there are disciples of other gurus who are counselees and disciples of different gurus. We have found no conflict or difficulty. If all the disciples understand that their different gurus only have one purpose, to create an atmosphere of co-operation so Srila Prabhupada’s mission will grow. So, I believe, there are so many exalted disciples of so many exalted spiritual masters here in Russia. This only increases the glory of what you can do. And in our relationships with disciples of other gurus, we should not be thinking ‘What makes us different?’ We should think ‘What makes us one?’ What makes us one is desire of our guru and Srila Prabhupada, it is their desire. We will be one in love and trust with one another. This is a glorious opportunity, I see no impediment. I do not see any impediment in this regard. Srila Prabhupada ki…Jai.

You have any comments on that question Vaidyanath Prabhu?

Vaidyanath Prabhu- You told everything. What can I comment?

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20.21  QUESTION) Can you send a devotee from your temple that would be helpful to establish a similar system in our temple?

ANSWER) I have already presented this offer to Vaidyanath Prabhu, which he is considering. If he gives the order then we will try to obey. (Applause).

Adrisya Prabhu is going to stay in our temple for about 6 weeks and Vaidyanath Prabhu will be there for about 5 days. He can give you his report. If devotees are sincere about trying to make such a social program work here, then we will be very happy to try to send devotees if you would like us to send.

Thank you. Hare Krishna.

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20.22  QUESTION) There is some misunderstanding about these committees. Are these committees registered? Do they have a legal person? And do they get money from the temple?

ANSWER) In Bombay, the committees are not legal. But, they are also not illegal. They are all law-abiding citizens. However, there is no registration. It is internal, very personalized organization to serve the devotees within our congregation. And the funding is done by the congregation itself completely, not by the temple. Here in Russia, at least to begin with, you may see it necessary to fund it through the temple. Eventually, because these committees are all congregational Grihasthas working together, they will fund it themselves. If in Russia, you find that there are many Grihasthas living in the temple then it may be a natural thing that the committees be funded by the temple. That is a detail that can easily be worked out according to time, place and circumstance.

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20.23  QUESTION) There are 2 questions concerning the relationship between the authorities and those who are working under these authorities. First, in the Vedic system, somebody who was working under the authority, usually the disciple would live in the ashram of his guru and naturally, by working under a pure devotee, he would get a very quick spiritual advancement. And now, our system is that we work under the authority of someone who may or may not be so spiritually advanced. What is the benefit of following his instructions and directions and does it give any benefit and do we have to follow all the instructions of such authorities even though they may bring not a very good reactions or consequences?

Another question is similar…

20.24  QUESTION) If somebody is working under an authority and he just waits that the authority will take care of him, what should be the proper attitude? Should the authority first start taking care of the devotee and due to this, the nature of desire to serve under him will develop or first we should start obeying his instructions and then maybe, at one point, the desire to take care of devotee will awaken in his heart?

ANSWER) Hare Krishna. We are a parampara. Whatever service we are offering is going to our guru, to Prabhupada, to Gaura Nitai and Krishna. The temple commander may not be a pure devotee who is on the paramhamsa stage. However, if he is sincerely engaging us in the service of the mission of Srila Prabhupada then actually it is Srila Prabhupada, our guru Maharaj the authority we are surrendering to. That is what it means to be the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant. Some of the servants may not be pure devotees but the person that their servant is a pure devotee. It is through the temple president, through the temple commander, through the head pujari, through the Sankirtan leader, that we are serving our guru and Prabhupada and Krishna. And this should be our consciousness. When Srila Prabhupada was manifested in this world in his physical presence, only a few people were directly with him. Practically, everyone in the movement was the servant of the servant of the servants; even during his physical presence.

At one time, I was milking cows. And I was serving under the person in-charge of the cows and he was under the temple commander and he was under the temple president and he was under the GBC and he was under the GBC body and they were under Prabhupada. Every time I milked a cow, I was meditating that I am doing this for Prabhupada. But, I have to do it in such a way that it pleases the person in-charge of the cows because that is what is going to please Prabhupada. Even though person in-charge of the barn, I will be very honest with you without mentioning names, he was very unusual person. (Laughter). We would have to really interview him very, very carefully just to have faith that he was a devotee. (Maharaj Laughs). I was trying to be a very strict Brahmachari. And he wasn’t trying to be strict in anything at all. But, still somehow, he knew something about cows. And by following his instruction, I knew I was pleasing Prabhupada. My goal was to please Srila Prabhupada. And to be very honest with you, when I first came, I didn’t even like the person and he didn’t like me. Haribol! But still, I did anything he asked me to do very blissfully because I knew, this would please Prabhupada. And I received Prabhupada’s great blessings by doing like this. So, we have to understand that our authorities are Prabhupada and guru and Krishna and we are the servant of their servants. Their servants may or may not be perfect or we may or may not like them; that don’t matter. What matters is it is pleasing to our guru and Krishna to do it.

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20.25  QUESTION) There is one question regarding the relationship between your counsellor system and Naamhatta system. These systems are very similar but there are some differences and now, there is this Bhaktivriksha program that is being developed in Russia. What are the similarities? Also, how the system of counsellors can work within the framework of Bhaktivriksha?

ANSWER) The systems are almost the same. We established this counsellor system some years ago before H.H. Jayapataka Maharaj started to preach about this particular Bhaktivriksha system of congregational preaching. And it has already given great happiness and security to the devotees so they didn’t want to change all the names and they just wanted to keep it as it was. So, there is difference in names and titles but mostly it is the same. And I think that they perfectly harmonize one another. In the Naamhatta system of preaching, perhaps there is more emphasis on expansion and increasing numbers. We have put more concentration and energy into every possible way of internally giving the best possible service to the devotees who we already have. We know that if we do this, expansion will come naturally. So, Naamhatta system and this counsellor system are very, very complementary and harmonious to each other. And our system can certainly benefit by taking certain aspects of Naamhatta program and perhaps the Naamhatta program can also benefit by taking some of the experiences and ideas that we have. Hare Krishna.

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20.26  QUESTION) What are the criteria according to which one can be considered to be a member of your community or the congregation? Is there something like the stages of bhakti like in Jayapataka Maharaj’s system, there are different stages of development? And how the position in the system defines the advantages which particular member of your congregation can use? In other words, they have different rights and what facilities they can use of the congregation according to their position in the system.

This is first question. And another question is…

Maharaj- Wait. That first question is several parts. I don’t know if I remember. (Maharaj Laughs).

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20.27  QUESTION) How do you define the membership? When can one be considered a member of your congregation and of your community?

ANSWER) Our program is very simple. Anyone who comes to the temple and takes some interest in Krishna consciousness movement, we consider him as a part of our congregation and those people are cultivated by our preachers. When a person becomes more serious and has to enter into the counsellor system, then that’s the next stage. Then it is not just the preachers who are going to cultivate him but there are actually devotees who are taking personal responsibilities for their spiritual lives. After some time, if they are very, very serious and well-trained in the counsellor system then become assistant counsellors. Then, they are actually responsible for helping your counsellor in training others. If they do nicely, after some time, then they become counsellors themselves. They take very great responsibilities for those under them as well as under their assistants. So, these are the different phases that one can go through in our counsellor system. We consider a person as a member of our congregation if they just start coming and taking interest, not only in the temple but any of our Naamhatta groups which considering the coverage in the congregations, we have about , between Bombay and Pune, almost 80 Naamhatta groups that we make weekly. Hare Krishna. Next part of question please…

Vaidyanath Prabhu- Here is a much related question.

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20.28  QUESTION) Do you have any specific ways to teach and to train the counsellors? How to train the counsellors?

ANSWER) Srila Prabhupada said, “The best way to become a guru is to be a good disciple.” So, the best way to train a counsellor is to train a person to be a good counselee. I do not have the report today because Purnacandra Prabhu has taken it from me (Maharaj Laughs) out of his mercy. (Maharaj Laughs). Yes. There is a training system. And the training system at this time, now that we have counsellors is to train the counselees in the counsellor system to become counsellors. Initially, to train counsellors, we have a whole list of things that are required for the training and qualifications which are in that report. Some of the things that I can remember are:

  1. The counsellor must be very well learned in Srila Prabhupada’s philosophy as explained in his books.
  2. They must be able to present it in a way that people can easily learn.
  3. The counsellors themselves have outlines for lectures where all the counsellors every week give the same lectures to their counselees. So, they have outline to help them present it and the philosophy for that week.

Another important qualification is:

  1. The counsellor must be very exemplary in his/her Krishna conscious behaviour.
  2. They must have very good sadhana.
  3. They must be willing to sincerely extend themselves to others.
  4. They must not have any inclination to be controversial and discuss controversial things just to agitate people.
  5. They should be much matured in their characteristics. They should be able to be fatherly and motherly to the people who are under them.

Hare Krishna. These were some of the things I remember. Do you remember anything else?

Vaidyanath Prabhu- I can say a few words about this because I attended this course.

Maharaj- Of course. Please speak.Vaidyanath Prabhu- Another part of discussion is that this system gives some facilities to the member of the congregation and when one becomes eligible or entitled for this facility then it is advantageous. How to avoid dishonest people who just want to take advantage and not to give anything in exchange?

Maharaj- In regard to the committees?

Vaidyanath Prabhu- Yes Maharaj, in regard to the committees and the facilities.

Maharaj- The counsellor system is available to anyone who sincerely wants to develop in their Krishna consciousness. However, the facilities of the service of the committees are only for those people who are very, very dedicated and committed to our Krishna consciousness movement and to our humble spirit of service. Before the committees specifically help a particular devotee by arranging facilities, all the counsellors meet together to see whether the person really is genuinely in the spirit of devotion and genuinely participating in Srila Prabhupada’s movement. It’s not that anyone who comes to the temple, we buy those houses or give them free medical care. It is only for people who have been very, very committed and proved themselves very, very specially sincere to serve Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. In one sense, we can say that the counsellor system is for people who are just to begin all the way to the point of going back to Godhead within the counsellor system. But the committees are for those who are already very, very dedicated to Krishna consciousness. Anytime, you want to make a comment, please do.

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20.29  QUESTION) Is it possible that a presiding grihastha would startand develop a Brahmachari ashram and what should be his proper attitude? If the temple president is a grihastha, can he really be a leader of Brahmachari ashram and how he can develop and what should be his proper attitude?

ANSWER) Certainly, a temple president can be a grihastha. Genuinely, the ideal situation is if the temple president is a grihastha but he has a senior Brahmachari working under him to train the Brahmacharies. Hare Krishna.

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20.30  QUESTION) Is there any sense to implement this system in a small temple where there are hardly any advanced devotees and it would be very difficult to choose a counsellor or to appoint the counsellor?

ANSWER) In the past question, if there isn’t a senior Brahmachari then the president should understand how to properly train Brahmacharies and he can also do. There is not a problem. In regard to a small temple, the spirit is what is important. The forms may vary according to time and circumstance. In a small temple, the president or someone who was trusted under the president should be like a counsellor for the people within the temple so that they are very well cared for. And same basic forms can be utilized under that circumstance. And if in that small temple, if there is anyone becoming serious in the congregation, we can train that person to actually help to guide and train and counsel other people within the congregation and take responsibilities for other families. We have done very simply and very effectively in a small temple where we can concentrate on just a few devotees at a time. And I think in a big temple, it is probably best to start small with just a few who are really interested and then let it naturally grow. Again, we should have the spirit that we want to give each person that is coming to our temple or our movement maximum attention, care and spiritual training on every level so that devotee is always happy and never wants to leave the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada. It very well may be much easier to do this in a small centre. But, whether the centre is big or small or medium; every devotee who comes to the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada, it is our responsibility they must be cared for, they must be trained, they must be given the opportunities to be pure devotees who are happy in Krishna consciousness for the rest of their lives. And I believe it is our most important priority and responsibility to organize them in such a way that they have that care and they have that education. And if we understand the importance of this, whether we are big, medium or small temples, we will make arrangements.

Vaidyanath Prabhu- There are few questions from matajis side.

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20.31  QUESTION) What kind of service do matajis do in your temple?

And then, there are some few questions of all the relations between matajis and Brahmacharies.

Maharaj- Please ask one at a time.

ANSWER) In our temple, matajis do so many types of service. Every day, they make all the garlands for the deities. We have groups of matajis who sew all the dresses for the deities. We have groups of matajis who make all the jewellery for the deities. All of the offerings for the deities are cooked by the matajis. Amongst themselves, they organize and manage and rotate doing these seva of cooking all the offerings. Half of all the counsellors are matajis because matajis means a husband and wife team. They are equally counsellors. We have several very dynamic and empowered matajis who do college preachings, especially at women’s colleges. They are making so many devotees. We have matajis who do congregational preaching programs. 3 days a month when the Brahmacharies do their book marathons, practically all the matajis of the congregation, they do all the deity worship. They take over the whole temple. During the month of December, which is now, if you go to our Radha Gopinath temple now, the Brahmacharies leave after chanting japa and a short Srimad-Bhagavatam class and distribute books and matajis do all the offerings, all the artis, dress all the deities and manage the whole pujari room, kitchen and the whole temple. So, these are some of the things matajis do at our temple. We are very much encouraged to develop and use nicely their talents for pushing forward Krishna consciousness movement and they are very encouraged to take responsibilities for Srila Prabhupada’s service.

Next part of the question?

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20.32  QUESTION) What should be the dealings between Brahmacharies and matajis? Do the Brahmacharies open the door for them, say hello to them or help them to carry heavy things?

ANSWER) The Brahmacharies and the matajis are taught to treat each other with very, very great respect and adoration as worshipable Vaishnavas. The Brahmacharies are taught when they first come to the ashram that if at any time you are found disrespecting any lady, you cannot live here any longer because such Vaishnavi aparadha cannot be tolerated. But however, the older women who are married, they with their husbands can communicate with the Brahmacharies. The younger women who are unmarried generally go through the older women if they want to discuss things with Brahmacharies. They generally do not approach each other directly unless there is some emergency situation and as far as carrying heavy loads, with older matajis of course, the Brahmacharies should try to help. If it is a young Mataji, I don’t know what they will do. (Laughter). (Maharaj Laughs). Usually, young matajis can carry heavy loads without much problem. (Laughter). (Maharaj Laughs). However, if it is really a difficulty, it is a matter of time and circumstance. Certainly, he can offer to help but she should go away so he can help.

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20.33  QUESTION) In Russia, there are many devotees who join but not really sustain in the sense that they wouldn’t be able to survive in the world. They are not mature enough neither economically nor intellectually nor emotionally. What to do in a situation when such a devotee dominates and there is a vast majority with such devotees in the temple?

ANSWER) You can send them to New Vrindavan. (Laughter). (Maharaj Laughs). But actually, I think we should have standards at our temples are for very serious and strict people. Our temples are not just like shelters to care of people who cannot make it on their own economically in this world. Our temples are to train people how to be first class devotees. People who are not up to that standard, they should live in the society and come to the temple for spiritual inspiration and education. The most important thing is not that a person is very materially qualified but the qualification for living in the temple is that the person should be very, very sincere to really be willing to put his heart into service. But, if a person, whether he has material qualifications or no material qualifications, whether he has economic opportunities or no economic opportunities, if that person is genuinely sincere and really trying to be a surrendered soul and really trying to cooperate and do nice sadhana, then that person should be given all opportunities to remain in the temple.

Does that answer your question?

Vaidyanath Prabhu- I guess so.

Maharaj- No. From your point of view.

Vaidyanath Prabhu- Umm.. You may say something about differences between Brahmacharies and bachelors in the sense that Brahmachari are those who are willing to take responsibilities for preaching and those who are trying to escape the responsibility.

Maharaj- I think that’s kind of included in the meaning of ‘surrendered’. There are a lot of time and circumstance considerations in such a thing – whether we have Grihasthas living in the temple, whether it is only Brahmacharies living in the temple.

VP- Usually, Grihasthas are also living in the temple.

Maharaj- It is important that they should be surrendered souls, especially for those living in the Brahmachari ashram. We should not have bachelors in our Brahmachari ashram, who are Brahmacharies simply because their qualification is that they are not married. Brahmachari means a surrendered soul willing to be trained properly, if he has the capacity then to preach nicely and to do whatever is required to serve the mission. And if you have anyone less than that standard in the Brahmachari, the Brahmachari ashram will go down and down and down. When new people who really seriously want to be Brahmacharies see people in the ashram in the low standard, it will drag them down. Brahmachari ashram should be a very high standard ashram with real sadhus and people who want to become sadhus, with people who really want to surrender, really want to live strictly, really want to live purely, really want to learn the philosophy and preach and be humble servants. And if these types of people are allowed in Brahmachari ashram and no one else, then we will attract the most serious people. And in their association, everyone will make tremendous spiritual advancement and all the other ashrams will get so much inspired and they will get so much spiritual strength by seeing such Brahmacharies. That is ideal. Generally, most of the services are done in the spirit of devotion without salary. However, I will give an example. We have a devotee who is an accountant. He was working outside. And we require a full time accountant always at the temple who would keep track of all expenditures and donations. So, this person could not maintain his family if he just comes to do service only. So, the temple offered to pay him what was required for the maintenance of his family in order to do this very important service. So, there are a few services in the temple which require full time attention by professional qualified men where we give a certain pay to the devotee because he can’t do it without that. But, every other service is done fully in the spirit of selfless devotion. Hare Krishna.

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20.34  QUESTION) Can you specify what kinds of services are being paid for?

ANSWER) There are only 2 that I can think of. They are the accountant and the other one is very complex to explain because we live in an area where… very difficult to explain. We don’t have that situation here. We actually have a certain responsibility. The building we are living in for all about 200 tenants around our temple and none of them are devotees. So, there has to be always somebody in communication with them with certain issues as far as their place and rents and everything like that is concerned. So we have someone to do that. Hare Krishna. (Maharaj Laughs). Not too many other services that are paid.

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20.35  QUESTION) Do you have vehicles and drivers?

ANSWER) Yes. Actually, we have a store and there is a person who… it is not going to be there anymore, so… but we do have a bus which is a travelling Sankirtan bus with the Brahmacharies travelling throughout the state of Maharashtra to preach, do book distribution and pandal programs every night and usually 9 Brahmacharies are out with that bus. So, the driver of that bus is paid. He is also a devotee. Hari Bol! And the other vehicles in our temple, the devotees themselves drive. Does that answer your question? Hari Bol!

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20.36  QUESTION) Is the manager and counsellor one and the same person?

Maharaj- in the congregation?

ANSWER) For the Brahmacharies, the 5 temple presidents are the 5 counsellors and there are 2 other very senior Brahmacharies who are the counsellors for the very new devotees. But, their counselling is completely separate from management. The counsellor should be on a purely spiritual and personal level. A manager can be a counsellor but he should not mix his management with the counselling because if he starts doing this then the counselee will start having doubts, “Is he telling me because he wants to get me to do something?” So, the counselling should be very, very personal and purely to help the person’s spiritual life.

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20.37  QUESTION) Can Brahmachari play the role of a counsellor for the Grihasthas?

ANSWER) In our system, we don’t have that. If a temple where there are no mature and advanced and qualified enough Grihasthas to counsel Grihasthas, then a Brahmachari may do it. But it is not ideal. Only Grihasthas can counsel Grihasthas because they could actually do a better job. The women can counsel the women and men can counsel the men and together, they can counsel each other in the sense that Brahmacharies have very limited understanding of what it is like to live with a woman. They have very little understanding of what the needs of a woman are. They have very little understanding of what it is like to raise children. Therefore, for the Grihasthas, the counsellor is a team of husband and wife who are experienced, mature and philosophically learned. Then the wife as a part of counsellor team is giving very, very good counselling to the lady of the family of how she could be a good mother and a good wife. She is teaching the person how to be a good mother also. And the husband the man how to properly organize his economic problems with his sadhana and how to properly be a good husband and be a good father and be a good devotee. So, it is better like that.

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20.38  QUESTION) As far as I understood, the Brahmacharies also act as the Naamhatta leaders in your system. So, how does this go together with them being counsellors?

ANSWER) The Brahmacharies are travelling and preaching and attracting people to Krishna consciousness and they are cultivating people to become devotees. And unmarried people, they continue to counsel, they are like the counsellors of the unmarried men. But, when they cultivate Grihasthas to the point where they become very serious about Krishna consciousness, then they put them under the care of a grihastha counsellor. They will continue preaching to them the same way they will continue to preach in the homes the same way. But, somebody else is taking that very, very intimate special responsibility of the spiritual life of that family. In this way, the Brahmacharies and the Grihasthas really are working together as a team to help make people Krishna conscious. And the unmarried ladies generally become the counselees of the women counsellors who are the wives of counsellors within the counsellor team. We have several women, Vishakhapriya and Kishori. They are in their mid-twenties and they are preaching in colleges, they are doing Nama hatta preaching and they have dozens and dozens and dozens of young college girls who are being trained under them.

Crowd- HARIBOL! HARIBOL! HARIBOL!

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21     Conclusion

I sincerely hope that these days of discussing social development as we are doing things in Bombay, I hope it has been some help to all of you. Vaidyanath Prabhu has pulled me here from a distant place to explain how we are trying to serve the devotees in Bombay, how applicable these ideals and formulas are for here, is really something that all of you must decide. I do not have any right to tell you what to do. I am just a visiting servant but I am very grateful for the opportunity to share some of our ideas with you. And I hope I did not waste too much of your time. I pray that something that we discussed may be of some service to you. It is my very sincere prayer that all of you, with great determination try to improve your service to each other. Please know that every devotee is a precious child of Lord Krishna. Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, “All the wealth of all the planets in the entire universe is not equal to him as one devotee.” Any sincere devotee that comes to this movement is more valuable and precious to him than all the wealth in the entire universe. We have to learn to see each devotee with the vision that the Lord has given us through this statement. Any devotee that sincerely comes to this mission of Srila Prabhupada is such a precious and dear soul to the heart of Krishna. And we should do everything within our power to encourage, inspire and protect that devotee throughout his life in Krishna consciousness. We must learn, even if a devotee may have so many difficulties and so many shortcomings and so many faults, if they are sincerely trying to be Krishna conscious then we should see them as worshipable property of Krishna. We should try to do anything we possibly can to honour them, respect them and help them in their Krishna consciousness. No one should be mistreated and no one has the right to deprive them of the opportunity of being educated in the best possible way so that they can give their hearts in service to Krishna. My prayers are that all of you take this serious responsibility for one another and we deal with each other personally with this spirit as the servant of the servant. And together, we try to create social systems in which we can have wonderful forms by which we ensure the protection and inspiration of every devotee with the highest care. This is the greatest need in our society. Here, in Russia, you have very such a fast growing society. So many sincere devotees are coming. If we do not give them the best possible opportunity in spiritual life and best possible care then our society will become very weak from the inside. And if devotees are not happy by getting these requirements, then they will look elsewhere. They will be cheated out of Srila Prabhupada’s causeless mercy. Service to the Vaishnavas has to be done individually, personally and also has to be done collectively.

This seminar written material is kindly prepared by Sri Sri Radha Gopinath temple Devotes.

Material from www.OurMonastery.wordpress.com

Last update 23 Jun 2013.

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About BVG Janaka Das

BVG Janaka das is the Vaishnava monk and he has international exposure across geographies, cultures, sciences, and Spiritual Practices, that he is bringing out the best in the participants and empowering them “Live Powerful Life what They Love to Live. He has experience as a leader of Transformative and Experiential Education, Balanced and Healthy lifestyle Education, of Personality Development, group dynamics and team building group seminars-workshops. He has experience and knowledge in coaching, consulting, leading, creating and managing innovative educational programs and management projects on site and online.
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2 Responses to Seminar by Radhanath Swami “Serving Vaishnavas” – 2 till 4 Dec 1997 Moscow

  1. finley says:

    It’s hard to find knowledgeable people on this topic, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

  2. Pingback: Rādhānātha Svāmī seminārs “Kalpošana Vaišnaviem” – Maskava 2-4 dec 1997 | Vaišnavu Klostera projekts Eiropā

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