January 12---The NA GBC/TP meeting in Houston began its second day of meetings with a presentation on the Strategic Planning Initiative of the international Governing Body Commission (GBC).
Romapada Swami led the session and explained that the Strategic Planning (SPT) effort began in 2006 when Bhakti Vaibhava Swami, then Chair of the GBC, called for a special session of the GBC in Italy. That four day meeting focused on the question whether ISKCON, while growing in many ways, was attaining its most important goals, as given by our Founder-Acarya Srila Prabhupada. Out of that meeting grew a detailed and well-structured international strategic planning effort.
Romapada Swami gave an overview of the key areas of SPT efforts. They include Succession Planning, Organizational Development, Expanding Outreach, Zonal Configuration, Communications, Education, and Devotee Care. [For more information visit the official GBC website at gbc.iskcon.org and click on the “Strategic Planning” tab.]
Other highlights of the day include a one-hour presentation by Kalakantha dasa and five second generation devotees about Krishna House, a Gainesville Florida student outreach program that has cultivated the spiritual lives of thousands of young people in Gainesville. Krishna House provides educational seminars, a live-in student ashrama, and the Krishna Lunch program. Krishna Lunch feeds vegetarian meals (prasada) to over a thousand students every day on the University of Florida campus and is now in its fourth decade of service.
GBC member Badrinarayana das offered a one-hour overview of ISKCON’s worldwide progress in 2012. He started with slides of Bangladesh, where ISKCON has multiple centers. In Dakka, Bangladesh’s national capital, ISKCON has several temples and sponsors a Rathayatra Festival that attracts more than 80,000 participants and travels down one of the capital’s main streets. He touched upon highlights of ISKCON’s outreach and development in Africa, Europe, India, and South America.
After lunch, Ambarish das updated the assembly on the progress of the construction of the new Temple of the Vedic Planetarium at ISKCON’s international headquarters in Mayapura, West Bengal. Mayapura is also the birthplace of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, 16th Century saint, social reformer, and avatara who spread the bhakti movement all over India, and ordered that his followers should distribute the Vaishnava culture and chanting of the holy names of Lord Krishna all over the world.
The Temple, a large three domed style structure, will feature the largest kirtan (chanting) hall and Vedic dome in the world. In addition to its 200 ft center dome, the main hall will be 1.5 acres in size and will accommodate 10,000 worshippers. The dome’s interior will be reinforced with special acoustic materials to insure excellent sound quality in the large hall below. The total size of the Temple building will be 520,000 sq feet.
The Temple earned its name because the one of the domes will house a “chandelier” replica of the universe, per Vaishnava traditional understanding. Additionally, a second dome will house scientific exhibits along with a planetarium theatre to explain life and the universe from the theistic perspective of Srimad Bhagavatam.
While it will be several years before the entire building is complete, Ambarish said that the goal is to open the main Temple room (under the large center dome) with the Deities installed for worship by 2016, the 50th Anniversary of ISKCON. [More information can be found at tovp.org]
Kalakantha das, president of the Krishna House in Florida, and the former Development Director of the ISKCON Foundation, continued the TOVP presentation and described the next phase of fund raising for the Temple.
Ambarish, the lead donor for the project has contributed 23 million dollars towards the Temple. Continued construction now depends upon ISKCON devotees and friends around the world to contribute to complete the project. This new development phase will allow devotees to donate $150 to pay for one square foot of the structure. Individuals can pledge for just one square foot, or thousands of square feet, as they are inspired.
“I have been blessed to contribute the bulk of the funding for Temple up to this date,” said Ambarish. “It is now the time to ask devotees across North America and the world to step up and collectively finish this Temple for the pleasure of Srila Prabhupada, on the 50th Anniversary of ISKCON in 2016.”
“This is clearly a labor of love for all of Prabhupada’s followers,” Ambarish concluded. “The Mayapura Temple was one of Prabhupada’s top priorities. This is our opportunity to show our gratitude to Prabhupada for all of his gifts to us, by fulfilling this special desire to build this Temple for the glorification of Lord Sri Krishna and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.”