Dallas, Texas---Sixty leaders of ISKCON Temples in North America met in Dallas Texas for four days, beginning on January 22, to plan the society’s priorities for 2015 and to prepare for the upcoming 50th Anniversary of ISKCON in 2016.
Romapada Swami, Governing Body Commissioner overseeing ISKCON communities in the northeast and midwest United States , opened the session with a keynote address about the special significance of the Sanskrit text Brahma Samhita.
Canadian leader Praharana Dasi, who is herself a registered social worker, led a session sharing how ISKCON’s Canadian centers are all working together to enhance devotee care. She also suggested that other North American communities may be inspired to mirror their efforts.
These include the assignment of a devotee care coordinator, Radha Bhakti Dasi, for the whole country, who is creating a resource base to connect devotees in need with relevant care experts. ISKCON Canada has also created a survey of all temples on what’s working and what’s lacking in the area; assigned a devotee care representative for each temple; and are keeping connected through conference calls every two months. Praharana also spoke about ISKCON Toronto’s mentor program and its care program for the sick and elderly.
Elsewhere, Nanda Suta Dasa of Seattle provided a one-hour update on the plans for ISKCON’s 50th Anniversary Celebration in 2016. Events will kick off with a North American Festival in Houston, Texas from September 11th to 13th. Several hundred devotees, including many ISKCON VIPs, are expected to share three days of kirtan and remembrances of Srila Prabhupada and his many achievements.
Nanda Suta also invited all ISKCON members and friends to attend the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Srila Prabhupada’s arrival to the USA in Boston, September 17-19. The Boston Temple community is planning a weekend event to mark the historic arrival of Srila Prabhupada in 1965. A special VIP event will be held at historic Fanniel Hall, as well as a tour boat ride for several hundred in the Boston Harbor to commemorate Prabhupada’s arrival to the new world.
Manorama Dasa, ISKCON’s Youth Minister showed hundreds of photographs taken from the six major youth tours organized by the Ministry for Krishna kids across the USA, Canada and Mexico. Tour highlights included visits to national monuments and parks, camp-outs on beaches and mountain tops, work projects at temples, drama performances with a travelling Krishna Festival, chanting parties at dozens of cities, and lots of bonfires and vegan marshmellows. (For more information see http://youthbustour.com/)
Vaisesika Dasa, leader of ISKCON’s Silicon Valley Community and coordinator for book distribution in North America led several sessions. He inaugurated a new program, Kirtanparty.com, to assist and inspire communities to increase their chanting programs (see kirtanparty.com). He also joined several leaders in presenting new ways of reaching out to young people through “Bhakti Lounges” and “Bhakti Houses.” These student centers and meeting places offer the younger generation a chance to get a positive experience of bhakti, or a spiritually centered lifestyle.
A final session on the Bhakti Houses ended with a panel discussion and Q & A with the audience regarding the interaction of Bhakti programs and traditional temples, engaging youth in fun activities to help them experience the positives of spiritual life, the need for flexible and quality spiritual experiences, etc.
Kuladri Dasa, North American Temple Support Office Coordinator updated the assembled leaders about legal and organizational matters. While this topic may seem dry to some, he inspired the audience with historical insights known only to few. For example, he displayed a recently discovered 16th Century document---the final Will of Jiva Goswami, the great teacher and follower of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. His Will revealed that Jiva, while best known for his scholarship, gave much time and attention to ensuring the safe legal future of the great medieval temples of Vrindavana. Kuladri also shared lesser-known instructions of Srila Prabhupada showing his concern for well managed communities.
North American Child Protection Officer Lilasuka Dasi, meanwhile, urged all the leaders present to make sure that they have a CPO rep at their temple, and talked about how to properly screen staff and thus protect our children.
Indresh Das from Toronto and Sandamini Dasi from Tucson shared start-up and maintenance secrets for Govinda’s Restaurants and spoke about the many benefits of having one attached to your temple.
Radha Jivan Das gave an inspiring presentation on ISKCON’s upcoming flagship temple in Mayapur, West Bengal: the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium.
Other presenters included: Gadadhar Pandit, who described his work as Chaplain at NYU and Columbia University; Tamohara Dasa, a Ph.D. in Education on how to deal effectively with difficult people and volunteers; and Vrindavan Dasa on Communicating with Media, Government, Academics, and other organizations.[ dallas ] [ kirtana ] [ mayapura ] [ north-america ] [ texas ] [ tovp ]