ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission (GBC) began its annual mid-year meetings in the holy South Indian town of Tirupati on October 10th.
The scenic town of Tirupati with large patches of gardens, forests and mountain chains, is an important center for the vaishnava faith. It attracts millions of pilgrims and visitors annually who come to see the deities of Lord Balaji (an incarnation of Lord Krishna), situated on top of the surrounding hills.
Srila Prabhupada, founder-acharya of ISKCON, had visited Tirupati in the 70’s and was impressed by its cleanliness and management. He remarked that ISKCON’s New Vrindavan project in West Virginia (USA) be modeled similar to this town.
The local ISKCON temple, Sri Sri Radha Govinda Mandir, a picturesque project shaped in the form a temple on top of a lotus is the host for this year’s meetings.
More than seventy ISKCON devotees from different parts of the world were greeted upon arrival with flower garlands and rapturous kirtan by the resident devotees.
As in all ISKCON temples, the day here begins early in the morning at 4:15 am with devotees congregating in the temple hall for the first arati of Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha Govinda, followed by japa meditation session. Later in the morning a guru puja (worship ceremony) of Srila Prabhupada is performed and after which devotees sit down for a discourse on sacred Vaishnava text Srimad Bhagavatam.
Since the year 2006, a portion of the annual GBC meetings are dedicated to the ‘Strategic Planning’ sessions to discuss the movement’s systematic growth and practical steps to achieve it. These sessions led by GBC’s Strategic Planning Team began with a small group of devotees and has today grown into a huge network with more than 120 devotees from around the world sharing their expertise to develop ISKCON.
The first four days of the eleven day meetings focused on ‘Organizational Development’ to deal with topics concerning ISKCON leaders duties, responsibilities, performance, finances, accountability and how they interface with the rest of ISKCON.
The Organizational Development Committee is tasked with thoroughly reviewing the leadership model and, while remaining loyal to Srila Prabhupada’s directions and implement any necessary structural developments and enhancements in order to meet the needs of an expanding movement.
On October 13th the Organization Development committee presented reports of their progress to the GBC for their feedback. These included reports on Zonal Configuration – to make management of zones simple and realistic, Devotee Care – an initiative for the care and development of ISKCON members, Succession – An effort to identify potential future leaders and help them develop spiritual stature and competence for the management of ISKCON.
A report was also presented on the upcoming Sanga for GBC, Gurus and Sannyasis (SGGS) in 2015 at Mayapur. The first sanga in 2013 saw more than more than 80 sannyasis, gurus and GBC members coming together to hear, discuss and provide feedback on the various efforts of the GBC Strategic Planning Team.
From October 14th the GBC Strategic Planning Network (SPN) meetings began and would continue upto October 18th.
SPN, along with the GBC members, is a group of more than 120 devotees drawn from various countries with different areas of expertise including Communications, Devotee Care, Temple Management, Rural Development, Outreach and Fund Raising, etc, to assist the GBC in its service to Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON. These devotees work in a smaller and more focused group to strategize and create practical steps to achieve them.
The work and results of these SPN Committees are presented every alternate year at the ISKCON Leadership Sanga (ILS) in Mayapur. The latest edition in February this year saw more than 1200 devotees attending the 8 day event which featured more than 70 seminars and presentations.
“I never knew that there was so much resources and knowledge available to help us in our services. This sanga is really special, I’ve personally attended more than 16 seminars and I wish to take back as much resources and skills I can to share with the devotees in my community” said Advaita Krishna Dasa from Delhi after the ILS.
Back in Tiruapti, to conclude a day of rigorous work and meetings, the participants come together for an hour in the temple hall to offer lamps with to Their Lordships accompanied by Sankirtan (congregational chanting of God’s names).
“It is inspiring to see how devotees in spite of challenging circumstances and difficulties are working very hard to fulfill Srila Prabhupada’s desires and vision for ISKCON. And there can’t be a better way to conclude the day than Sankirtan, cutting across all race, age, nationalities, with devotees coming together to thank Sri Radha Govinda for engaging us in their service” says Bhakta Dasa, a participant at the SPN meetings.
Aug 06, 2022
Brahmatirtha das Director, Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies