Comments from participants at the conclusion of the Strategic Planning meetings in Mumbai, 2011

I am enthused to be part of the Devotee Care committee. I thought, “I am a workaholic person,” but witnessing the SPT members working long hours it appears that they don’t sleep at all. Seeing their sincerity I want to help them to the best of my capacity to carry on the great legacy of Srila Prabhupada’s movement. Devotee Care is dear to my heart, as it is to most devotees, and I am sure this work will take our movement into the years of the Golden Age that Srila Prabhupada had envisioned.

-Revati Raman Dasa, Devotee Care Committee, India

We started our meetings with 45-60 devotees attending; due to the boring and critical nature of these meetings only 25% remained by the third day. From 1997-1998 fifteen to twenty devotees were selected to be deputies; they were asked to prepare work for the GBC resolutions so that productive management could begin. In 2006 when Gopal Bhatta Prabhu came into the picture, six or seven committees were formed to be worked on by GBC members. From the work of those committees the Strategic Planning Team came into being. All of you came to help and the committees produced plans that would help the GBC body to lead ISKCON into the future. What you have put forth will now become churned and improved. This is a wonderful development and process. On behalf of the GBC body I wish to thank all the leaders in ISKCON who went out of their way to assist in this effort.

-Hrdaya Caitanya Dasa, GBC Member, Europe

When I was asked to reflect on the Strategic Planning work, some thoughts quickly came to mind. From my limited perception the GBC, the strategic planning effort is one of the best things that has happened since Srila Prabhupada left the planet. To see devotees participating in strategic planning and helping the GBC and ISKCON has greatly inspired me. I want to thank Gopal Bhatta Prabhu for his expert leadership of the Strategic Planning Team, to the GBC for facilitating his service in this regard, and for the SPT members for allowing me to be a part of these efforts.

-Mahaprabhu Dasa, Iskcon Communications, Europe

These meetings gave me great hope for ISKCON’s future. I can clearly see under the expert guidance of the surrendered Strategic Planning Team that they are pushing ISKCON forward into a new era. Krishna is a cowherd boy but I dare say the pioneering days of doing things in cowboy style need to be left behind. We have the greatest gift to offer humanity at large have been impeded for too long by poor organization and management. Compared to organizations and companies in secular world, who on the absolute platform have nothing of permanent value to offer, we sometimes appear backward. This has disturbed me for many years. When I was given the opportunity to participate in these meetings, it felt as though Krishna had sent the right combination of personalities who might be able to institute these needed changes into our organization. I feel that Krishna is directing these people and I am very enlivened to witness this march forward. We thank the members of the SPT for their expert guidance and surrendered work.

-Devaki Devi Dasi, Devotee Care Committee, Bangladesh

It’s great to be part of this fabulous family. What we have experienced here in these past few days with just a segment of this family, Vande Group: we worked well together and got to know each other. We all got together whenever possible, the committee members did not get sick of each other­­— it’s nice to have made new friends. Thanks for the opportunity to allow me to lead kirtans in the beginning, thanks for the powerful readings of Srila Prabhupada’s letters. Two of my favorite aspects of this project were the Ultimate Managing Authority paper that clarified the responsibilities of GBC members; and the Global Hierarchy Survey, which was sent to us. Having to analyse those things really forced you to sort things out in your mind, to think about how these changes will be implemented in the future when we are no longer around. I also appreciated the terrific hospitality here: every day I got up and got to the beach at 2:30am, afterwards twelve people were on hand to massage!

The questions remaining on my mind are the care and maintenance of aging devotees, the presentation of the hospice program, acknowledgement of devotees who are going through surgery and other physical difficulties— these are things we still have to consider. Thank you to the SPT for your devotional drive.

-Bhaktimarga Swami, GBC Member, Canada

I’ve been on a rocky road the last few days and I’m the only member left on my team. I was all alone for the big meeting, feeling a growing trepidation and lack of clarity regarding moving forward and what my role was to be in making this happen. It seemed the other teams were more efficient, dynamic, progressive, and doing their work. I felt like a boat without a rudder. When I shared these feelings with a member of the SPT, I began to get clarity and focus. I returned to this devotee when these feelings resurfaced and was put back on track. After repeated questions my thoughts crystallized and what I was supposed to be doing became well defined. I can go forward now to accomplish this and find people to help me do things to support this mission. I feel privileged to have been a part of the Strategic Planning Team and wish to thank you for allowing insignificant people such as myself to have a part in it.

-Taraka Devi Dasi, Culture Committee, Australia

There is a joke devotees tell sometimes: “Why did you join ISKCON?” The answer: “I don’t like organized religion.”

I became a member of the GBC in 1987. There was a deep sense of frustration felt by GBC members and the devotees in general when we would have the annual meetings in Mayapur. In order to try to deal with everything the meeting days became longer and longer—one year we met for 21 days. We were solving this problem and that problem, dealing with this crisis and that crisis but there was a sense of little progress. Who had much time for talking about the future? We have such a profound philosophy and so many intelligent dedicated hard working sincere devotees, yet we seemed to be spinning our wheels and not really going anywhere.

In his final days Srila Prabhupada called for Giriraj Maharaja. With great effort, Srila Prabhupada asked Giriraj Maharaja “Do you think that this movement will go on after I am gone?” Giriraj Maharaja replied, “As long as we are sincere,” Srila Prabhupada thought for a moment and then again with great effort and concentration replied “Organization and intelligence.”

If you have a spinal injury, in spite of the brain functioning, the rest of the body can’t get anything done. We may have the best plans but if there is not an effective system to execute those plans, the results will not come. This is the basic principle behind the GBC’s development of executive strategies: Putting in place the organizational systems needed to carry out the decisions and goals set in Mayapur. As there is an essential sutra covering all other instructions “Always remember Krishna, never forget Krishna,” the essence of the GBC’s strategic planning decisions and goals is “More devotees and happier devotees.”

There will always be naysayers and criticism of any change. I have heard the complaints that “this strategic planning and organizational development are mundane bureaucracy.” But again, we may have the best ideas in the world but if we don’t have a practical and efficient system to bring them into the world of action and fulfillment, what is the use? Srila Prabhupada gave the example of the British Empire. He said that in spite of being only a tiny island with minimal resources, just by good administration they conquered much of the world.

Devotees work hard to offer the best flowers and incense to the Deities. We pore over blueprints to build beautiful temples for the Deities. The BBT artists and editors labor long and hard to create attractive books. No one thinks it is mundane to offer the best to Krishna and Srila Prabhupada. Why is it suddenly material to endeavor to offer the best running organization to Krishna and Srila Prabhupada? The goal of strategic planning and systems development is to finally put into place a powerful means to deliver the message of Lord Chaitanya to every town and village.

This is not just “flowers in the sky” or wishful thinking. When I see the quality of the devotees gathered here in Juhu, when I hear of the plans they are beginning to carry out, it seems to me the best thing to happen since I joined the GBC in 1987. Again, it is not just a dream or “intangible happy talk.” We are seeing the means to get them put into action, the ABC steps. It’s ecstatic, not material. It is the fulfillment of the desire of Lord Chaitanya and Srila Prabhupada.

The International Leadership Sanga being held this year in Mayapur is one example of the innovative and enlivening ideas flowing from strategic planning. This is what Srila Prabhupada wanted the GBC meetings and festival in Mayapur to be. This year’s festival will be like something out of Chaitanya-lila. Devotees from around the world will be coming together to chant, dance, and share profound and creative preaching plans. It will not be just a few devotees but a vast array of devotees from around the world. (Like a beautiful flower arrangement, what makes it attractive is the many colors and shapes combined together.) In Detroit, Srila Prabhupada entered the temple room, sat on the vyasasana, and looked out at the audience consisting of students, Indian families, hippies, inner city street kids­­­–a whole montage of humankind. He chuckled to himself and then said to his servant: “Krishna’s lotus feet – they are big enough for everyone.”

Don’t worry. There will still be attention paid to the inevitable problems and crises that arise. But with the support of an efficient administration system, these will be like the disturbances on the surface of the ocean, nothing of lasting significance. Underneath these superficial waves, the tide of the rising moon of Lord Chaitanya’s mission will remain free to flood the world. This is our sacred duty to Srila Prabhupada and the devotees. We must work together to create a bright future and leave the next generation the legacy of ISKCON as a world class organization, custom-designed to deliver the mercy of Krishna.

-Badrinarayan Dasa, GBC Member, USA