Anuttama Das, a member of the Guru Services Committee, reported that the committee had been studying how to help prepare devotees to serve Srila Prabhupada as initiating and instructing spiritual masters. The committee also considered how to offer support and peer association for devotees currently serving as gurus. To this end, in May 2007, about two dozen senior devotees met in Washington DC for four days of intensive planning. Attendees included ISKCON leaders, scholars and educators including Radhanath Swami, Bhakti Charu Swami, Ravindra Svarupa Das, Jayapataka Swami, Rukmini Dasi, Braja Bihari Das, and others representing a cross section of international devotees. Based on the work of that group and in coordination with Vaisnava Training and Education (VTE), the Guru Services Committee prepared a four-day seminar that was launched in Ujjain just prior to the current GBC meetings.
Anutttama’s report prompted a discussion of the need for ongoing learning and Vaisnava association for all members of ISKCON. In this regard, Anuttama shared the following illumination from Prabhupada Lilamrita (7-7):
“Every morning Prabhupada would take a stroll to one of the nearby parks, sometimes with a few disciples and sometimes with only Sivananda. Sometimes while he walked along the waterfront, Prabhupada would ask about shipbuilding and related industries, and Krsnadasa would answer. When Prabhupada asked Krsnadasa what the population of Hamburg was, he knew. Prabhupada began to jokingly call Krsnadasa “Stats,” because he knew so many statistics.
“One morning, while Stats was answering Prabhupada’s questions about various cranes used in shipbuilding, Prabhupada turned to the others and said, “You see, although I am the guru and I am taking you back to Godhead, that doesn’t mean that I cannot learn from him.”
Attendees from the Ujjain seminar, including GBC members and gurus Prahladananda Swami and Madhu Sevita Das, expressed their strong endorsement of the seminar. They also offered their appreciation for the facilities provided at the new Ujjain temple, and commented how appropriate it was to hold the Guru Seminar in Ujjain, the place where Lord Krishna Himself attended the school of Sandipani Muni.
“This seminar will assist spiritual leaders to always remember that they are first and foremost servants of Srila Prabhupada,” said Madhu Sevita. “We can feel Prabhupada’s presence through spiritual association with our peers. I strongly suggest the GBC encourage all ISKCON gurus to attend this seminar.” Bhakti Charu Swami offered to host the seminar annually in Ujjain and expressed his own need and gratitude for such association.
Topics covered in the seminar were then discussed. They include twelve core principles of spiritual leadership in ISKCON such as fidelity to Srila Prabhupada, allegiance to ISKCON, brahminical leadership, cooperation, unity, empowering disciples, and peer association and support. Other topics included care for disciples, relationship of the guru with ISKCON, maintaining spiritual health, and improving association with devotees.
Some GBC members suggested that attendance should be made mandatory to avoid the problems that arise when senior devotees become isolated, or lack peer support.
Based on the Ujjain experience, the Committee is fine tuning the seminar program and is planning a second level, or Guru Retreat, for leaders. It was suggested to schedule the next seminar alongside the next GBC meeting. This will be decided before the GBC meetings end.
Next was a Bhaktivedanta Institute powerpoint presentation by Rasaraja Dasa on “Scientifically Proving God’s Existence,” specially prepared for the GBC. He presented examples of his current research to bridge the historical gap between science and religion. Science admits only entities of this world as causes, whereas religion is based on God beyond this world and thus scientifically not provable. Rasaraja presented the Vaisnava concept of the Deity, an apparently material object, yet accepted as God himself, as amenable to scientific proof. Traditionally, science and religion battle over God and soul. But Vaisnava religion, Rasaraja argued, can challenge science even in the realm of matter. The presentation generated a lively discussion amongst the GBC members. He is preparing a version of the same presentation for release to the general public.
The GBC Deputies, with Aniruddha Prabhu facilitating, next presented several proposals to the GBC body for straw voting. Topics included:
In the afternoon and evening, additional meetings of the GBC-BBT Committee, Sannyasa Committee, and Latin American Regional Governing Body were held. Many GBC members also attended the graduation ceremony of the Mayapur Academy (of Deity Worship) this afternoon. During that ceremony the first graduates of the Academy, twenty one in total from fifteen different countries were honored for having completed ISKCON’s first three-month brahminical and pujari training program.
ISKCON Juhu was voted to host the next GBC meeting in October.
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