Annual GBC Report to Sri Radha-Madhava and Sri Pancha-tattva, Sridham Mayapur, February-March 2012
(Including 2012 resolutions)
This year the GBC and Strategic Planning Team inaugurated the first ISKCON Leadership Sanga(ILS)—an opportunity for ISKCON leaders from around the world to gather in Sridham Mayapur to attend presentations on the last several years of GBC strategic planning efforts, to participate is portions of the GBC’s Annual General Meeting, and to spend time with one another in devotional sanga. Over three-hundred devotees representing more than twenty countries and nearly every continent participated in this wonderful event that displayed just how far Lord Caitanya’s movement has spread and how much potential ISKCON has to further expand the chanting of the Holy Name throughout the world.
During the ISKCON Leadership Sanga, more than fifty talks and workshops were presented on a wide range of topics from the meaning of Srila Prabhupada as ISKCON’s Founder-Acarya, to elements of a well-developed ISKCON temple, to Srila Prabhupada’s instructions on Deity Worship, to developing monthly sankirtana festivals.
Plenary Sessions were also held every morning, during which time GBC committees, ministries, strategic planning groups, and individual projects presented their annual report to all of the International Leadership Sanga participants. The following are a few highlights:
On behalf of the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium team, Ambarisa dasa was pleased to announce that in 2016, Sri Panca-tattva and Sri Radha-Madhava and the Asta-Sakhis will be able to move into their new home in the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium. In addition to a massive kirtan hall, the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium will contain an altar 130 feet in diameter where Sri Panca-tattva will reside in the middle, Sri Radha Madhava and the Asta-sakhis on the right, and our entire parampara on the left. Hanging above the Deity house will be a chandelier displaying, as Srila Prabhupada desired, Vedic cosmology according to Srimad Bhagavatam, and the entire left-side wing of the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium will be dedicated to exhibits and a planetarium theatre to explain the science and cosmology of the Srimad Bhagavatam. Ambarisa dasa emphasized that this temple belongs to the entire global ISKCON community and everyone was encouraged to participate in realizing Srila Prabhupada’s instructions to construct such a temple in ISKCON’s world headquarters, Sridham Mayapur.
ISKCON’s Deity Worship Minister, Nrsimha Kavaca dasa also spoke to the assembled leaders about the current status and future plans for services and education provided by the Ministry of Deity Worship. In the area of education, the Deity Worship Ministry offers the Mayapur Academy—a school located here in Sridham Mayapur—to practically train students in all aspects of Deity worship according to the standards established by Srila Prabhupada—from bathing and dressing the Deities, to cooking, to making deity outfits, to performing aratis. In addition to the courses offered in Mayapur, the ministry plans to provide online classes, including instructional videos and interactive courses. Furthermore, Nrsimha Kavaca dasa announced that the new Deity worship manual entitled, Method of Worship, is scheduled to be published by the 2013 Gaura Purnima festival. It is the hope that such educational programs will raise the standards of Deity worship in centers that are struggling and will further enhance Deity worship in temples throughout ISKCON.
Another highlight of this year’s meetings was the launch of the first official GBC website. The website is a resource for the latest GBC news and will offer an archive of GBC meeting reports, resolutions, official position papers, descriptions of GBC ministries and committees, biographies and zonal assignments of GBC members, and further related information. The website will be updated often and will be the official source of GBC announcements and publications. The hope is that the GBC website will help the GBC better communicate with all ISKCON members and will assist ISKCON members to be better connected with the GBC.
On behalf of the Constitution Committee, Sesa dasa gave a powerful presentation to the International Leadership Sanga emphasizing Srila Prabhupada’s desire to form a constitution for ISKCON. An ISKCON constitution will preserve Srila Prabhupada’s direction for ISKCON and will delineate ISKCON’s structure of governance. Attempts to draft such a constitution have been made since the 1970s, however an official constitution has never been completed or instated. Sesa dasa was pleased to announce that this current Constitution Committee is the closest that any committee has been to finalizing a constitution for ISKCON. This constitution will firmly and clearly establish the foundational principles that govern, guide and inspire the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
The topic of succession and the work of the Succession Committee was also a major point of discussion during this year’s GBC Annual General Meeting and the ISKCON Leadership Sanga. The two primary functions of the Succession Committee were presented by Tamohara dasa: to develop the culture, procedures, and tools for a leadership succession plan, and to develop training and education programs needed to bring up new leaders. Due to the work of the Succession Committee, ISKCON-sponsored leadership training courses have already met with success in the USA, India, and Russia and more training courses are planned. Tamohara dasa made it clear, however, that the culture of succession in ISKCON needs to be developed. Proper succession plans cannot be carried out unless there is serious commitment from devotees in all levels of leadership to develop and encourage younger leaders.
Additional presentations were given during the International Leadership Sanga, including a dynamic presentation by the Vaisnava Arts for a New Devotional Era Committee, better known as VANDE. The mission of VANDE is to inspire, nurture, and network artistic talent to create a fraternal community spirit for devotional artists. On behalf of the committee, Bhaktimarga Swami reminded everyone how deeply supportive Srila Prabhupada was of the arts, and how much art infiltrates our devotional lives—through drama, paintings, books, kirtan, and Deity worship. VANDE encourages all ISKCON artists to connect with the committee and thereby build a stronger community of art in the service of Krishna.
Some of the most important presentations during the ISKCON Leadership Sanga were those that discussed the meaning of Srila Prabhupada as the Founder-Acarya of ISKCON and our personal relationship with Srila Prabhupada as disciples and grand-disciples. Although all of us come from a wide variety of cultures, countries, and backgrounds, the one thing that we have in common is our love for Srila Prabhupada and our desire to follow his instructions. In this regard, the Srila Prabhupada’s Position Committee aims to elevate everyone’s understanding of the significance of Srila Prabhupada’s role as the Founder-Acarya of ISKCON and as the primary siksa guru for all ISKCON devotees for all time to come.
Aside from the highly informational and inspiring presentations, the International Leadership Sanga participants greatly valued the association with one another and with the members of the GBC. Many remarked that they’ve gained not only resources and skills from the Sanga, but even more importantly, they now feel connected with ISKCON’s leadership and with ISKCON as a collective, international movement to spread the mission of Lord Caitanya. From such positive feedback, the GBC Body unanimously voted to organize a second International Leadership Sanga in 2014.
Following the ISKCON Leadership Sanga, the GBC’s Annual General Meeting continued for an additional four days with further presentations, review of proposals, and voting. Included in the presentations was the annual report from the Child Protection Office. Although sincere effort is being made to ensure the safety of children in our centers and society, it is clear that even more energy, resources, and commitment needs to be put forth in order to properly protect children under our care. We must make a stronger endeavor to put into place a Child Protection Team in every ISKCON center and community, to increase education in child abuse prevention, to ensure that proper reporting of child abuse is taking place, and to establish and financially support ISKCON child protection offices.
This year we were again reminded of the hardship that arises on multiple levels when a leader has to leave his or her position due to particular transgressions. This deeply affects individuals under the care of the leader and also affects the entire society. As we move forward in dealing with these circumstances, we pray for guidance in how to generate faith, understanding, healing, and spiritual growth for everyone involved.
Additionally, significant time was spent reviewing proposals submitted to the GBC. During the 2012 GBC Annual General Meeting, it was resolved that:
His Holiness Bhakti Caitanya Swami is elected GBC Chairman
His Grace Tamohara dasa is elected First Vice-Chairman.
His Grace Anuttama dasa is elected Second Vice-Chairman.
His Holiness Bhakti Purusottama Swami is elected GBC Secretary
In response to the continued need to educate new devotees in ISKCON about the pre-eminent position of Srila Prabhupada as our Founder-Acarya and the primary siksa guru for all ISKCON members,
It is resolved that: The Governing Body Commission recommends that all prospective disciples and aspiring initiates attend the ISKCON Disciple Course prior to their initiation, preferably before choosing an initiating spiritual master. Other members of ISKCON are also encouraged to take the course. Also, ISKCON leaders are requested to facilitate the course in their respective areas by encouraging senior devotees to become authorized to teach the course, and by sponsoring the course in their respective areas as it becomes available in the appropriate languages.
In response to the situation that some Deities in ISKCON centers are being neglected or not worshipped properly according to Srila Prabhupada’s instructions and standards, and that Deities are being installed without sufficient consideration of their ongoing worship
It is resolved that any ISKCON center wishing to install Deities for public temple worship or commence the worship of any deity in an ISKCON center must first receive a “Certificate of Readiness For Worship” for said deities.
Centers may not make any commitments or agreements regarding procuring and/or worshiping deities until the “Certificate of Readiness For Worship” is granted, and the readiness for worship will be assessed by a panel consisting of one local representative, a GBC appointed by the EC, and an ISKCON Deity Worship Ministry representative.
This law shall fully go into effect no later than Gaura Purnima 2012.
In response to inquiries received by the GBC concerning the validity of the current ISKCON process of approving diksa gurus,
It is resolved that the GBC hereby commissions the production of a paper presenting the reasons and supporting evidence for the validity of the current process. The Guru Services Committee will take responsibility for this paper.
In response to the current situation of Srila Prabhupada’s Samadhi in Vrindavan where the first floor of the Museum is dedicated to commercial activities and not to the original purpose of glorifying Srila Prabhupada’s contribution to the world.
It is resolved that the GBC hereby creates the “Srila Prabhupada’s Samadhi Standing Committee” to reestablish and maintain the sacred space contained with the Samadhi and Museum as per the original intention of the design.
Lastly, in response to the fact that “official” and unofficial websites of ISKCON gurus currently do not, in large part, prominently feature the personality and teachings of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada as the Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
It is resolved that ISKCON gurus shall be responsible for ensuring that their own official web sites prominently feature a picture of Srila Prabhupada on the introductory page, credit Srila Prabhupada as the “Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness”, and contain a brief summary of Srila Prabhupada’s accomplishments and provide authorized website links to his teachings.
In conclusion, the 2012 GBC Annual General Meeting has been dynamic in both its challenges and its successes. We have seen this year, more than any other year, the magnificent scope of qualified, dedicated, and enthusiastic ISKCON leaders worldwide. Such diversity is an immense asset to ISKCON, however we all must make a sincere effort toward cooperation. Srila Prabhupada declared, “Your love for me will be proven by how you cooperate after my departure.” He also instructed us that cooperation is the secret to success in spreading the “transcendental message of the Srimad-Bhagavatam throughout the polluted atmosphere of the world.” Despite our differences in language, culture, and even opinion, we must remain focused on our shared vision—to please Srila Prabhupada and to assist Lord Caitanya in the worldwide sankirtana movement.
We pray to you, Sri Sri Radha-Madhava and Sri Sri Panchatattva, to continue to inspire us and guide us to firmly follow in the footsteps of your most dear devotee, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.