ISKCON leaders in North America, including several Governing Body Commissioners, Temple Presidents, and other regional leaders, gathered together from January 14th to January 17th for annual meetings, fellowship, and the sharing of best practices.
National Book Distribution Minister and inspirational speaker Vaisesika Dasa delivered a spirited keynote address, in which he emphasized that Krishna conscious outreach must be motivated by a genuine and sincere desire to be a “friend to all.” Vaisesika – whose center in Silicon Valley is often praised as one of the most dynamic ISKCON projects in North America – also shared principles of success drawn from his years of service and experience with innovative projects.
Other presentations included a sobering talk on pastoral abuse in ISKCON given by Praharana Dasi and a workshop on devotee care facilitated by Tamohara Dasa.
Of particular interest this year, GBC member Romapada Swami led a discussion on the GBC’s consideration reconfiguring zonal assignments. If plans move forward, the reconfiguring could lead to the largest overhaul of GBC structure in almost thirty years. Romapada Swami explained how “anomalies of size and distance, along with a lack of geographic contiguity” have resulted in GBC assignments that are “illogical and impractical,” and created instances where GBC members are often absent from their assigned zones or unable to spend quality time there.
Romapada Swami explained that the GBC convened an ad hoc Organizational Development Committee to look at structures and systems and to help determine a methodology to reconfigure zones. The committee weighed and balanced factors ranging from current GBC presence and activities to a 1975 resolution advising that a GBC member should oversee no more than 6 temples to analogies with the diocese system of the Roman Catholic Church. The committee then brainstormed a possible scenario of several North America regions – areas that can be effectively supervised and realistically and regularly visited – based on geographical, cultural, linguistic, and geo-political considerations. These regions would correspond to the North East, South East, Midwest, Southwest, Pacific Northwest, Canada, and a region for the New Vrindaban farm community and centers in its surrounding areas.
As might be expected, the topic raised interesting questions, concerns, and much discussion.
In a similar vein, the annual meeting included a roundtable discussion in which leaders were invited to raise points related to strategic planning. The roundtable, facilitated by Akrura Dasa, included discussions on the future of the brahmachari ashrama in ISKCON, keeping the culture of ISKCON intact, facilitating more women into management positions, taking care of older Vaishnavas, and outreaching to non-Hindu audiences.
And in what is quickly becoming an annual tradition in its own right, the jam-packed and sometimes intense three-day summit was framed by a collection of opulent meals cooked and served with the love, and devotion, and hospitality that the host ISKCON Dallas community is well-known for.