Hrdaya Caitanya Das, who served as president of ISKCON’s Radhadesh community in the Belgian Ardennes for twenty-seven years, is grateful to be taking on the service of co-director at ISKCON’s headquarters in Mayapur, West Bengal.
He and fellow newcomer Gauranga-Simha Das from South Africa will bring the board of co-directors to six, serving alongside Bhakti Purusottama Swami, Praghosa Das, Dayarama Das and seniormost member Jayapataka Swami.
Hrdaya Caitanya, 64, was snapped up for the service after he retired from his position as temple president of Radhadesh. Originally hailing from Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, he joined ISKCON in 1980, became president of Radhadesh just six years later, and oversaw its growth into one of the most successful ISKCON temples in the Western world.
His experience in managing such a project, as well as his stability, and his experience as teacher in a technical school before joining ISKCON, all contributed to the Mayapur co-directors’ decision to bring him onboard.
Hrdaya Caitanya’s first contribution was his suggestion of ISKCON guru Kadamba Kanana Swami as an ideal person to evaluate the Mayapur project and submit a report to the GBC body.
Taking four months of his time, Kadamba Kanana Swami submitted an excellent report, along with a suggestion that a Strategic Planning Team be put together for Mayapur.
“I was asked to facilitate the team, and we had ten to twelve meetings last month,” says Hrdaya Caitanya. “It was a good start. We made a priority list, and there are now six sub-committees working on different projects – Leadership and Management, Master Plan, Community and Social Development, Education, Environment, and Economic Development and Finances.”
He adds, “It’s a new aspect of Mayapur. But I think it can be very instrumental in truly making Mayapur ISKCON’s headquarters.”
The Strategic Planning Team will be a major focus for Hrdaya Caitanya. Within it, he will also specifically offer his input in the areas of Leadership and Management, the Land Department, and the Master Plan.
As far as Leadership and Management, Mayapur, Hrdaya Caitanya explains, has a complex managerial structure. There are eight GBC members overseeing the community. Under them there are six co-directors, five deputy directors, twenty divisional directors, and forty departments (in contrast, Radhadesh has about fifteen departments.)
“As co-directors, we try to make the managerial structure more smooth and functional,” Hrdaya Caitanya says. “We also have to make sure that there are proper channels of communication, that relationships are personal, and that finances are transparent and all used in the service of Krishna.”
“We also make sure that devotees doing service for Mayapur and their families are fully maintained and have everything they need so they can use their qualifications fully in the service of Krishna,” he adds. “It’s the task of the co-directors to make sure that these families have proper accommodation and laksmi [money] to give their children a proper education, etc.”
Making sure devotees have everything they need also lowers the chance of commercial interests conflicting with the spiritual atmosphere of Mayapur.
This has happened to some degree in the past, with residents building and selling multi-storey apartments on their land, thus creating a somewhat congested urban atmosphere in some areas.
To help maintain the spacious, green and pleasant spiritual city that Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur and Srila Prabhupada envisioned, the Strategic Planning Team’s Land Department has already introduced several policies, including a freeze on selling of land.
Still, more attention is needed in this area, and with his technical experience, Hrdaya Caitanya has also been asked to contribute his input.
He’s also eager to help with Mayapur’s Master Plan, which is expected to be finalized within one year. The Master Plan is already in an advanced stage, with the main roads and areas for the Bhaktivedanta Academy, preaching facilities, museums, parks and green spaces already defined.
The Master Plan may also include devotee embassies representing different countries and continents, and bringing Krishna-ized yet unique elements of world culture to Mayapur.
Finally, the Master Plan committee will have to think out of the box to find space in the already busy Mayapur community – or possibly next to it -- for a sizeable farm which will support cow protection and produce Ahimsa milk.
Hrdaya Caitanya is grateful to help develop Mayapur, and to reside there for six months out of the year, from October to Gaura Purnima in March. He’ll spend the remaining six months in Europe, carrying out his service as Co-GBC or GBC for Spain, Portugal, Holland, Belgium and France.
“I’ve visited Mayapur every year since 1986,” he says fondly. “I also attended nine out of the first ten annual parikramas [pilgrimages] there, and was very attracted. So I definitely feel honored and blessed that I’ve been asked to do this service.”
Hrdaya Caitanya’s goal is to “Really try to understand what Srila Prabhupada and the previous acharyas wanted in Mayapur,” and to “build a beautiful Vaishnava city for the pleasure of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur.”
“I hope that I will not make too many mistakes, and that my service will be somehow or other pleasing to Srila Prabhupada and to the devotees,” he says.[ lord-caitanya ] [ mayapura ] [ radhadesh ]