In June, ISKCON’s GBC SPT Strategic Planning Support Unit released a Temple Re-opening Guide along with a decision-making toolkit to help leaders assess the right time to re-open their temple during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In August, the Strategic Planning Support Unit (SPS) has followed up with a set of Safe Re-opening Guidelines containing safe practices for ISKCON leaders and devotees to use while visiting or doing devotional service at the temple, as well as while doing day-to-day activities such as going to work or the grocery store: https://gbcstrategicplanningteam.com/2020/08/guidelines-for-a-safe-re-opening-of-temples/
The set includes a comprehensive Safe Re-opening Handbook for all, to be distributed to your social media, WhatsApp and email contact list; a one-page Leaders’ Quick Guide on how leaders should prepare their temple for re-opening; and a Visitors’ Poster providing safe practices for visitors to follow when they come to the temple. The SPS recommends that this poster be printed and displayed at the temple entrance and at other strategic areas in and around the temple.
“The current pandemic has infected more than 24 million people globally and claimed the lives of close to 900,000 people,” says Subhananda Das, convener of the SPS. “No one knows for sure when a vaccine will be available and implemented globally, although many are in development. We are here to assist ISKCON leaders to make proactive strategic decisions in uncertain times.”
He adds: “The set of Safe Re-opening Guidelines will help leaders re-open responsibly to protect the lives of devotees. It also provides the devotee communities with a resource to be safe as possible amidst the pandemic.”
Currently, more temples have re-opened in North America and in Europe, while temples in India, Africa and elsewhere remain closed in keeping with the laws of their countries. But the Safe Re-Opening guidelines will be an excellent resource going forward as local laws allow. Put together by a team of SPS members, doctors, and ISKCON leaders, they are comprehensive, attractively-designed, and easy to follow.
Devotees who contributed to the successful publication of the guidelines include Hari Das, Dr Sumanta Rudra, Hiranmayi Dasi, Smara-hari Das, Adi-Kurma Das, Specialist Senior Physician Vaishnav Pran Das, Saksi Gopal Das, Trivikrama, Indulekha Sakhi Dasi, Shyam Sakha Das, Aradhya Bhagavan Das, Hari Priya Dasi and Nimai. The documents were also peer-reviewed by GBC member Govardhan Das, Vraja Vihari Das, Vira Gopal Das, Gaura Kishore Das, Nityananda Das (Dallas) and Devakinandan Das (Singapore).
“The guidelines were developed based on best practices and include what leading health authorities such as the World Health Organization have recommended to reduce and contain the risk of the further spread of COVID-19,” Subhananda says.
Because local situations may differ in various countries, he cautions that the guidelines, while highly recommended, should be utilized in addition to local government rules and regulations, and should not supersede them.
The Visitors’ Poster includes guidelines such as always wearing a mask on the temple premises, even while leading kirtan; sanitizing hands before entering; observing social distancing of six feet (2 meters); offering obeisances while standing instead of on the floor; and refraining from entering temple resident quarters.
Visitors are also asked not to come to the temple if they have any COVID-19 symptoms such as flu, cold, cough, fever or shortness of breath; and to notify temple authorities if they suspect they are sick with or have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 14 days. Those with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk are encouraged to shelter at home, and anyone returning from international travel or a high-risk area is asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Along with ensuring these guidelines are followed, the Leaders’ Quick Guide asks leaders to screen all visitors for COVID-19 before entry; to provide hand sanitizer at the entrance to the temple; to control the use and sanitizing of microphones and instruments; and to wear masks and gloves while preparing and distributing prasadam, among other precautions.
The 30-page Safe Re-opening Handbook, meanwhile, gives full detailed guidelines on deep cleaning and sanitization of the temple premises; rostering of devotee services and staff; social distancing norms; personal protection; maintaining a quarantine zone; safely performing temple services and running restaurants and gift shops; COVID-19 symptoms, and more.
Subhananda Das encourages temple leaders and devotees to avail themselves of and follow these resources.
“This pandemic is so stealthy,” he says. “We dearly miss His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami, one of Srila Prabhupada’s generals, who we lost due to COVID-19. This material world is described as padaṁ padaṁ yad vipadām. At every step, at every moment, there is danger. Srila Prabhupada, quoting Chanakya Pandit, said one of the three things a devotee must not neglect is disease. As we know from Bhagavad-gita, devotees are very rare. We need to take extra care and precautionary measures during this unparalleled time to protect ourselves and our family. There is so much more service to be done for the pleasure of Srila Prabhupada and the previous Acharyas, and devotees must be treasured. Please be safe.”
Please download the Safe Re-opening Guidelines here:
SPS is a unit of the GBC Strategic Planning Team.[ covid-19 ] [ gbc ] [ spt ] [ strategic-planning ]