Over 80 ISKCON leaders gathered at the ISKCON temple and cultural center in Houston, Texas, for the annual North American Leadership Conference on October 13-15th to discuss key issues, network, share resources, and empower leaders to serve their respective communities.
Kumari, North America Co-Director of Communications and one of the event organizers said, “It’s so important to meet regularly and share best practices and sanga; this was very overdue.”
The multi-day event included plenary presentations, workshops, panel discussions, and open forums. Morning Srimad Bhagavatam classes by Malati Dasi, Hridayananda Das Goswami, and Radhika Raman Das set a fitting spiritual tone with key themes directed towards leaders. Radhika Raman’s class emphasized that what truly gives leaders strength to preach and spread Krishna Consciousness is their “character.” Raman noted, “Without good character, we cannot spread Lord Caitanya’s movement.”
An opening address by Madan-gopala Das, North American Co-Director of Communications, outlined the successes of ISKCON in North America, including newly inaugurated or soon-to-be temples in significant areas, including Naperville, Illinois, Washington DC, and Columbus, Ohio. He noted that impressive book distribution numbers, huge crowds at public festivals, new preaching initiatives, and centers opening in places like El Paso, San Antonio, and Minneapolis are all indicators of the health and growth of the North American yatra. You can watch the full presentation here. Panels included “Is ISKCON NA Leading or Falling Behind?,” “An Open Discussion with the NA Regional Governing Body,” and “Building a Welcoming Krishna Conscious Temple in NA.”
Hridayananda Das Goswami presented “Leadership Lessons from the Mahabharata” and co-led a workshop with Radhika Raman on editing issues surrounding Srila Prabhupada’s books. Other workshop titles included “Right Use of Power” by Janaki Devi Dasi, “Leadership lessons learned through the History of the Bhaktivedanta Institute” by Murli Gopal Das, “Spotting Cultic Tendencies in Leaders” with Anuttama Das & Kumari Kunti Dasi, “How to Create a Stressfree Temple” by Gopi Gita Dasi, and “CPO Office: Tools and Resources to Support You in Service to Your Community” by Lilasuka Dasi.
The growth of the Krishna House model in multiple centers also enlivened many attendees, “For me, the most encouraging part of the conference was hearing about the proliferation of the various Krishna Houses and seeing some of the graduates who have stepped up to fill management positions,” said Caru Das, “The training process pioneered by Kalakanta and championed by Sruti Sagara gives a lot of hope for the future of ISKCON in the USA.” Caru Das and his wife Vaibhavi Devi Dasi represented the temples in Salt Lake City and Spanish Fork, Utah, respectively.
Rama Kishora Dasa, a leader in the newly opened ISKCON center in Minneapolis, said, “The whole weekend was packed with ecstatic inspiration for me, meeting devotees in person for the first time after years of association on Zoom and social media. My heart is bursting from the love I experienced,” said Rama Kishora, “I came away with three key takeaways, 1) Anything is possible with Srila Prabhupada in the center 2) Be welcoming, greet everyone who comes to your center, and 3) Meet people where they are at with your preaching.”
Noting one of the new dynamics for NA Leaders, Anuttama Dasa said, “We had several hours of presentations and discussions about the expanded North American regional governing board/RGB, and how they will function in a way to provide a better interface between temples, strategic planning, and to coordinate and oversee the various ministries in an improved way, such as communications, child, protection, daily ministry, administrative office, legal, etc.”
He continued, “The local Houston temple devoted were wonderful hosts and the daily prasadam was exceptional, as well as their hospitality.” and Pyari Mohan, a regional secretary, noted, “it was the best in North American meeting I have ever attended.”
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