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Nityananda Pran Das: On a Mission to Improve Marriages and Parenting in ISKCON

By: on Nov. 6, 2021
Opinion

It is said that acceptance of uncertainties in life leads to adventure. On top of being a devotee leader par excellence, Nityananda Pran Das (Nachi Lolla) is certainly an adventurous man. At the peak of his professional career as a marketing executive at a fortune 500 company making a 6-figure salary, he quit and became the full-time temple president of Chicago ISKCON. That too with wife and a young child in-tow. Do not try this at home, folks! This unique path which included being the Temple President and leader for 13+ years and building one of the top ISKCON communities in the USA without any personal income to maintain his family is only for the very adventurous and courageous!

Yet again in 2020, having lived the life of a full-time devotee, Nityananda Pran found himself at a crossroad. At 50 years of age, he wondered how he can maximally contribute to Srila Prabhupada’s movement. Instead of considering a 9-to-5 job which would be a stable financial option, he again chose adventure! Having mentored and coached over 2000 couples and young individuals over 20 years, he leveraged all that understanding and experience he gained to start a company to coach parents and couples to lead better lives, more Krishna-conscious lives.

“Nityananda Pran is an excellent example of a devotee who has taken Srila Prabhupada’s teachings to heart. I have personally seen how he has transformed lives with his guidance of couples and parents over the year and am gladdened to see him take this up as his full-time service” said Romapada Swami Maharaja, the local spiritual leader and Nityananda Pran’s diksha guru.

 

Better marriages, happier devotees

“Our ISKCON teachings and culture, as given to us by Srila Prabhupada, are of a higher order. As a society, we ought to be significantly better in terms of divorce rate and other such metrics than the rest of the world. This is, however, not at all the case currently,” said Nityananda Pran. “I would like to dovetail all that I have learned over the years to help improve this important aspect of ISKCON,” he added.

Nityananda Pran’s method of coaching couples is refined by years of experience working with devotees. He facilitates communication between the couple. For instance, Nityananda Pran helps the couple recognize each other’s expression of love. There are various ways a person expresses their love[1] – some express it by words, some by gifting, some by acts of service, some by touch and so on. Often there is tension when expression of love is not recognized or understood by the other party.

“There are simple steps that couples can take that go a long way in making a marriage joyful. For example, one of the ways I help couples is by helping them distribute responsibility amongst the two of them for performing day-to-day activities. Gender roles are defined very differently these days and it is imperative both the partners do their part. Often this, apparently, trivial matter is a source of conflict that leads to more serious issues,” adds our protagonist.

Nityananda Pran is also a certified trainer in empathic communication (under the guidance of HH Bir Krsna das Goswami who was inspired by Dr. Marshal Rosenberg[2]) between devotee couples and often uses it in his sessions with them. Empathic communication is particularly effective with regards to seeking harmony in relationships and at workplaces.

 

Parenting - no child’s play

As a natural extension of the marriage coaching service, Nityananda Pran has positively impacted many lives by coaching parents. He said, “When we become devotees our children pay the biggest price. I am not talking necessarily about any explicit and blatant instances of abuse that they might undergo but rather at the micro-level and on a day-to-day basis, small things that add up. Micro-trauma accumulates and is the opposite of empowerment.” Nityananda Pran who works with both devotees and outsiders observes that there is an added layer of pressure on ISKCON children as parents seem to have both academic/career and spiritual aspirations for them.

“I work with parents to implement simple and fundamental measures that help children connect with them. My method deliberately avoids the ‘fixing-the-child’ approach. I do not want to be viewed by a kid as someone their parent asked them to talk to. That will likely lead them to immediately reject any work I try to do with them. For this reason, I engage directly with the parents only in most cases,” said Nityananda Pran.

Our protagonist gave the example of a 17-year-old son of a devotee couple who was acting out and rebelling against his parents. This boy even cast aside his bead bag for good in spite of being in the movement from a very young age. Nityananda Pran helped the parents by using his unique free-your-teenager approach. He recommended to the parents to try and stop asking and demanding their son to do things. Things like “do your homework!”, “make your bed now!”, “Stop texting on the phone and come eat dinner with us!”. The son noticed this palpable change in their parent’s behavior with a few days’ time, and he began to change his attitude towards his parents. Within a few months, their relationship improved drastically. “In addition, I also worked with the father who had significant time management issues and was not dedicating enough time to his son and wife. That also seems to have helped tremendously with the parent's relationship with their son in this case.” 

Your correspondent and his wife attended recently a fascinating and insightful seminar by Nityananda Pran on the topic ‘The disempowering NO: How it hurts Kids?’ He began the session by asking us “How many times a day do you say NO to your kids?” He taught the attendees the alternatives to saying “no” all the time which apparently has a tangible effect on our relationship with our child. For instance, giving information or facts to the child is a good replacement to saying no. Also, accepting their feelings by saying “I can see where you are coming from…” helps too. “The word NO has its place but don’t use it so much that it loses its value,” Nityananda Pran told all of us. Your correspondent found that implementing the learning from this seminar has had a very positive difference in his spousal relationship in a short period of time. 

 

Personal experiences motivate his mission to help parents.

Nityananda Pran shares that his personal experiences with his own son who was only four years old when our protagonist became temple president have molded his approach to coaching parents. “Our son sacrificed a lot for us at a young age as we took up the temple leadership service. We had to pull him from school at one point and from a worldly perspective he has lost out on a lot. Unbeknownst to him, I have put in 4-5 years of work on our relationship to bring things to a balance. I wish there were a senior grihastha in my life at that point advising me through this. I take this as inspiration to help others with their children.”

Nityananda Pran’s son will soon be 18 and will then leave the house of his parents to live on his own. “Detachment is often misunderstood. It is not abandonment or dereliction of duty. We should never be detached from the person but rather only from the outcome. One would make a terrible parent if they do not have any attachment. This attachment that a father has for his son is but natural. Guru Maharaja taught me, detached love. When you love someone, you respect their autonomy,” said Nityananda Pran.

 

Advantage of working with a devotee for marriage and parenting coaching

Your correspondent questioned Nityananda Pran if it is advantageous to take marriage and parenting coaching from a devotee (as there are many secular experts in this area) and he replied, “Like salt in food, my understanding of the tenets of Srila Prabhupada teachings which I have studied for over 20 years are ingrained in my services. So, even though my methods might seem modern it is informed entirely by Vedic literature like the Ramayana and the Srimad Bhagavatam.”

Nityananda Pran can be contacted via his email (nachi.lolla@gmail.com) for marriage and parenting coaching. He will soon be launching his new website www.pranacoachingservices.com as a resource for couples and parents.


[1] This concept is presented in the popular book by Gary Chapman titled “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.”

[2] Refer book titled “Nonviolent Communication Non-Conflict Communication a Language of Life” Marshall Rosenberg

 

 

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