The third day of the ISKCON GBC’s Annual General Meetings opened with a presentation by Madhavananda Dasa, a member of the ISKCON Chowpatty in Mumbai. He informed the GBC body of a mega kirtan festival, Chant for a Change, being planned in Jagannath Puri to coincide with the Navakalevara festival wherein the deities of Lord Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra are changed once in 16 years.
The most unique element of this kirtan festival would be the spiritual leaders and members of the four Vaishnava sampradaya coming together to glorify the names of Lord Krishna. The Chant for a Change festival which is being held in collaboration with the Odisha Tourism is expected to attract nearly 200,000 guests. Anuttama Dasa, GBC Chairman and a member of the Chant for a Change organizing committee, requested the GBC members to bless the initiative.
The Temple of Vedic Planetarium (TOVP) has been making steady progress since the construction began few years ago. Sadbhuja Dasa, Managing Director of the project, updated the members on the progress made in the last one year and additional developments that are taking place in other departments of TOVP including lighting, altar designs, and acoustics. After introducing the devotees who have been serving the project, Sadbhuja Dasa went on to display several unique technologies that are being incorporated in this flagship project of ISKCON.
The GBC members where then taken on a tour of the TOVP and requested to offer their feedback on the mock altar that has been prepared in what would be the future temple hall.
On the invitation of the students and teachers, the GBC members then visited Sri Mayapur International School (SMIS) to participate in their annual Open Day celebrations. After welcoming the guests, the students melodiously sung Srila Prabhupada’s famous prayer, Markine Bhagavata Dharma enchanting the audience.
The evening session began with an enlivening presentation by Manorama Dasa who serves as ISKCON’s Youth Minister. His Ministry works to inspire, train, engage and empower youth in Krishna consciousness, especially the children of ISKCON devotees. Programs by the Youth Ministry such as Bhagavad Gita study groups, Harinamas, Weekend Trips and Retreats have been successful over the years in providing meaningful engagement to the youth members of ISKCON. The Youth Bus Tours (YBT), perhaps its most famous program offers a month long Krishna Conscious travel adventure with Harinamas, organizing festivals and association with senior devotees. YBT has so far covered North America, Mexico, Europe, South America and Australia.
Manorama Dasa emphasized the need to further develop avenues for active engagements of children who grow up in ISKCON communities, without which they seek out jobs in non-devotional environment. After a round of discussion, one of the solutions that came up was to have to an apprenticeship program with the temple/project leaders, department heads and sannyasis which would provide the children growing up in ISKCON communities with valuable training to take up further responsibilities in ISKCON.
The effectiveness of this process can be seen in successful events such as Toronto Rath Yatra, Radhadesh Mellows, Kirtan London which are organized primarily by the younger generation.
Concluding the day three of the AGM was a presentation by Nrisimha Kavaca Dasa, Minister for Deity Worship. The Ministry facilitates and encourages the maintenance and development of deity worship according to Srila Prabhupada’s example and teachings by offering education, resources and guidance to inspire and nourish devotees’ desire to worship the deity form of the Lord.
Regional Ministers who work along with the National Bodies/RGB in improving the deity worship standards in their regions have gone up to 10 with the addition of 3 new representatives.
The Ministry’s training academy in Mayapur is into its eighth year and with a staff of 18 devotees has helped train more than 600 devotees in the science of worshiping the deities. Along with these training programs, it has also been helping temple develop the necessary requirements and facilities before installing deities.
Future projects include coming out a detailed two volume book on the method of worship which would help standardize deity worship across ISKCON as per Srila Prabhupada’s instructions. This book would also be available in a e-book format