The GBC College for Leadership Development started its first day of its first year of operations today, 8 March 2015, at the Govardhana Ecovillag on the outskirts of Mumbai.
The College has been formally established by GBC resolution last month, February 2015, with the following words:
Whereas Srila Prabhupada repeatedly indicated the need for training qualified leaders:
“There is need for intelligent young men to train them up as future leaders and preachers to go all over the world for spreading the message of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.” (Letter, 9 January 1973)
“If we simply go on expanding and there are no qualified men to lead, then everything will be spoiled eventually.” (Letter, 5 January 1973)
Whereas the GBC wishes to promote high standards of spiritual leadership and management throughout the Society
The GBC College for Leadership Development is hereby established.
The College’s primary focus shall be on contributing to prepare devotees to serve in crucial leadership roles within ISKCON.
The hand-picked selection of about 25 devotees traveled from different parts of the world to attend the course that started today. They came from as far as the United States, South American countries such as Chile and Bolivia, Europe, Africa, Russia, China, South East Asia and India.
Taking advantage of the auspicious muhurta, the GBC College was formally inaugurated right after the greeting of the presiding Deities of the Govardhan Ecovillage, Sri Sri Radha-Vrindavana-Vihari, the youthful, sweet and charming Divine Couple of Vraja. His Holiness Radhanath Swami Maharaja, local GBC and a member of the College Board of Trustees, lit the first lamp. The second lamp was lit by His Holiness Prahladananda Maharaja, Chairman of the GBC Appointment Committee, Minister for Health & Welfare and Minister for the Sannyasa Minister. Members of the GBC College’s Board of Advisors were next: Sri Nathji Prabhu, Kesava Prabhu and Vrishabhanu Prabhu.
Radhanath Maharaja gave the Srimad-Bhagavatam lecture (SB 4.16.3), opening the series of lectures from the chapter “Praise of King Prithu by the Professional Reciters,” a special selection of verses elaborating on the qualities of true leadership.
Maharaja stressed that leadership in Krishna consciousness means responsibility and sacrifice, a focus on serving others and thus a great opportunity for making spiritual advancement.
After breakfast the action moved to the seminar hall where Kaunteya das presented the orientation session, which included a history of the GBC work on zonal configuration, the birth, last year, of the position and role of Zonal Supervisor, and the creation of the GBC College for Leadership Development with its present, urgent focus on creating devotees who will assist the GBC Zonal Secretaries as Zonal Supervisors.
In the last part of the morning Radhanath Maharaja spoke on “Sadhana for Leaders” stressing the indispensable nature of focusing on hearing and chanting, and backing up his points with relevant quotations from Srila Prabhupada letters and speeches.
The spirit of the course is to offer to opportunity to existing leaders not only to refine their present administrative skills, but to also build a sense of camaraderie, a mood of mutual support and common vision. Therefore the moments outside the classroom often serve as precious time for interaction and building of personal connections. The GBC College also wishes to offer these hard-working leaders a pleasant break from their usual duties and the chance to live together, in a natural setting, taking advantage of senior and peer association to go back to their services re-energized and equipped to improve.
The afternoon section saw Radhanath Maharaja, who could be present only for the first day, answering questions from the participants. “What principles guide the leadership of your zone, arguably the most successful in the world?” “How to find clear direction when different authorities pull and push the same project in different directions?” “How to balance the need to care for devotees and constantly encourage them with the need some time to correct them?” The subject in entitled “Being a Srila Prabhupadanuga” as it focuses on imbibing the mood and instructions of the Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness on how devotees should guide other devotees and their zones.
As the session progressed apparently the leaders became more and more comfortable sharing about real situations and challenges they face, possibly due to Maharaja’s expertise in answering and also because of building trust in the process of opening one’s mind in confidence and inquiring confidentially.
Their Holinesses Bhakti Charu Maharaja, also a Trustee of the GBC College, and Giriraj Maharaja, a special guest teacher and GBC Emeritus, arrived during the question and answer session and took part in the formal group photo.
For the last part of the afternoon the whole group moved up to a veranda over the large yoga studio to continue the questions and answer process, this time with a panel of four speakers: Radhanath Maharaja, Bhakti Charu Maharaja, Giriraj Maharaja and Prahladananda Maharaja. In view of the rugged, scenic mountains of this part of Maharasthra, enjoying the breeze of the early evening and going from sunset to dark, the group kept exploring the truths of devotional leadership under the expert guidance of the four sannyasis.
The section concluded with a short bhajan sang at the harmonium by Bhakti Charu Maharaja, accompanied by Giriraj Maharaja at the karatalas and Radhanath Maharaja at the mridanga.
At the end Radhanath Maharaja led everyone into the goshala where devotees spent time brushing and feeding the shining cows of Govardhan Ecovillage.
This was the first day of a 13-day residential session, which will be followed by online learning and practical application of the teachings through specific projects. In September-October there will be another residential session and the course will conclude in February 2016 with the graduation of those who successfully compete the training. In March 2016 the second batch of participants will go for their first residential and the cycle will resume. And so the GBC College started today in its mission to provide support to the precious devotees who are sacrificing their life to push forward the sankirtan movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.