Week 53

 

Ensure that all the members who are leading different parts of the Vrinda are well prepared to do so before they arrive for the program. This will necessitate your discussing with them how they are going to proceed. Also ensure that all of them get a chance to do different parts of the program during the different weeks so that they get enough experience and expertise to conduct the entire program. Maintain a file with all their names written down. The next column can be the dates on which the Vrinda was conducted. The third column can mention the particular part of the Vrinda which was lead by them. Make sure that they get all the parts of the Vrinda to conduct.

The next column can contain ratings for their performance: Very good/good/fair/satisfactory/poor. The last column can have your additional comments on their performance.

Satsanga:  15 minutes

Engage one of the senior devotees of your group to lead the Satsanga.

Let them go through the following instructions before conducting it.

You can ask every one this question, “What has been the biggest challenge or difficulty for you in this group cycle of the Vrinda?” Please proceed from one devotee to the next giving each one a minute to answer this question. If someone continues longer, you can request them to share their experiences during Prasadam time, as others also would have to speak.

 

Kirtana: 15 minutes

Assign another senior devotee of the group to lead the Kirtana. Let them practice to sing different tunes of the Hare Krsna maha mantra, to play the karatalas properly and also the mridanga if possible. Check in advance with the devotee who is going to lead, what tunes he is planning to sing. You can teach him some tunes if necessary. Since the aspect of bhakti was stressed earlier in singing the Hare Krsna maha mantra, it is to be hoped that by now people have the proper mood towards the holy names. It would be appropriate to also train them to sing attractively

Japa…. 15 minutes

You can ask another devotee to read out the following passage. Let him conduct the japa session by leading the japa. After japa, He should ask two or three devotees from the group to share their progress in their daily chanting.  .

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Sri Namamrta  - The Nectar of the Holy Name

                                                            Page 338

By chanting the Holy Name, One Achieves Direct Service to the Lord

By chanting the holy name, one achieves liberation from material existence and direct engagement in the service of the Lord:

(Isvara Puri to Lord Caitanya) “Simply by chanting the holy name of krsna one can obtain freedom from material existence. Indeed, simply by chanting the Hare Krsna mantra one will be able to see the lotus feet of the Lord.”

In the Anubhasya, Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswavti Goswami says that actual effect that will be visible as soon as one achieves transcendental knowledge is that he will immediately become free from the clutches of maya, and fully engage in the service of the Lord. Unless one serves the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Mukunda, one cannot become free from fruitive activities under the external energy. However, when one chants the holy name of the Lord offenselessly, he can realize a transcendental position which is completely aloof from the material conception of life. Rendering service to the Lord, a devotee relates to the Supreme personality of Godhead in one of five relationships- namely, santa, dasya, sakhya, vatsalya and madhurya-and thus the relishes transcendental bliss in that relationship. Such a relationship certainly transcends the body and mind. When one realizes that the holy name of the Lord is identical with the Supreme Person, he becomes completely eligible to chant the holy name of the Lord. Such an ecstatic chanter and dancer must be considered to have a direct relationship with the Lord.

            According to the Vedic principles, there are three stages of spiritual advancement, namely, sambandha-jnana, abhidheya and prayojana. Sambandha-jnana refers to establishing one’s original relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, abhidheya refers to acting according to the constitutional relationship and prayojana is the ultimate goal of life, which is to develop love of Godhead (prema, pum-artho mahan). If one adheres to the regulative principles under the order of the spiritual master, he very easily achieves the ultimate goal of his life. A person who is addicted to the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra very easily gets the opportunity to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead directly. There is no need for such a person to understand the grammatical jugglery in which Mayavadi sannyasis generally indualge. Sri Sankaracarya also stressed this point, No hi na hi raksati dukrn-karane: “Simply by juggling grammatical suffixes and prefixes one cannot save himself from the clutches of death.” The grammatical word jugglers cannot bewilder a devotee who engages in chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. Simply addressing the energy of the Supreme Lord as Hare and the Lord Himself as Krsna very soon situates the lord within the heart of the devotee. By the addressing Radha and Krsna one directly engages in His Lordship’s service. The essence of all revealed scriptures and all knowledge is present when one address the Lord and his energy by the Hare Krsna mantra, for this transcendental vibration can completely liberate a conditioned soul and directly engage him int the service of the Lord.

                                                            Sri Caitanya-caritamarta Adi-lila 773

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Spiritual Edification- 45 minutes

Please ask the trainee leader to go through the following instructions and the passage well in advance and discuss with you about extra points on the topic before the session.

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If there are new comers to the group, then you should give them a brief introduction on Krsna consciousness and a summary of what you have been doing so far. It is better to give them the first week’s edification to go through.  You can have a discussion for them separately. If there is only one new member, you can have a discussion with him. This should not be difficult as the other members are also going to be discussing in smaller groups as you will find out below:

You should divide the group into 2 or 3 groups and make them sit in circles. Make sure that the group is evenly distributed with regard to the number of senior, junior and new members in them.

Distribute the sheets containing the spiritual edification to the members.  You could ask a senior member in each group to be the group spokesman/woman.

The leader of each group has to facilitate the participation of all the members, encouraging each one to answer the question addressed to them. Let the leader take down their points. This procedure is only for the Discovery and understanding sessions.

After this the whole group can sit in a circle. You can ask the leaders to read out the consolidated answers of their respective groups for each of the questions.

After this, you can ask each one of them to answer the application question one by one.

You can then sum up the spiritual edification lesson once again and add more points relevant to the topic. You can also include interesting pastimes of the Lord and his devotees, current  issues etc, to substantiate the topic.

SPIRITUAL EDIFICATION 

Preaching and Behavior

Page 1, Vaishnava Behavior, the 26 qualities of a devotee

By HH Satsvarupa Das Gosvami

Between preaching and behavior there exista a dynamic tension. This is expressed in Sanatana Gosvami’s praise of Haridas Thakura. “Some behave well but do not preach the cult of Krsna consciousness, whereas others preach but do not behave properly. You simultaneously perform both duties in relation to the holy name by your personal behavior and your preaching. Therefore you are the spiritual master of the entire world, for you are the most advanced devotee in the world”.

Srila Prabhupada confirms that his own followers also must preach and behave in an exemplary way. “The qualifications expressed in this connection are that one must act according to the scriptural injunctions and at the same time preach… the members of the Hare Krsna movement chant a minimum 16 rounds a day, which can be done without difficulty, and at the same time they must preach the cult of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu according to the gospel of Bhagavad Gita as it is. One who does so is quite fit to become the spiritual master for the entire world. Cc. Antya 4.102-103

A devotee should not retire to the forest in search of the ideal place for executing Vaisnava behavior. Rather, he should stay in the cities and offer people the chance to go back home back to Godhead. The Srimad Bhagavtam syates that that if a brahmana neglects those who are in want of Krsna consciousness, that brahmana’s spiritual knowledge will diminish, just as water kept in a cracked pot, leaks out.”

If a devotee tries to avoid preaching, he cannot become spiritually advanced. Indeed, Srila Bhaktivinod Thakura has said that a position of a Vaisnava can be tested by seeing how good a touchstone he is- that is by seeing how many Vaishnavas he has made during his life.

“The first preaching work”, Srila Prabhupada wrote in a letter, “is that you yourself should become an ideal devotee”. (April 23rd to Niranjan das)

Only an immature preacher thinks that he can maintain enthusiasm for his outgoing service while at the same time not pay strict attention to the rules and regulations. By keeping all activities Krsna conscious, a preacher will not allow Maya to enter.  To think that a Vaisnava can preach and yet remain ignorant of the Vaisnava philosophy or disregard the standard principles of Vaisnava behavior is ludicrous.

Behavior in preaching:

When a television interviewer asked Srila Prabhupada by what behavior one could recognize a true follower of Krsna consciousness,, Srila Prabhupada replied, “He’d be a perfect gentleman, that’s all.” Srila Prabhupada, “one should himself become a perfect gentleman and learn to give proper respect to others.” Bg 13.8-12

 Although in ordinary usage, the word gentleman may refer to a man of wealth and aristocracy, we use it here to describe a devotee’s high standard of honorable and considerate behavior. The polite and humble behavior can be appreciated even by a non- devotee. A devotee is not arrogant, boorish or inconsiderate of others.

When Lord Chaitanya came into the company of Mayavadi sannyasis at Benares, He sat down humbly at the doorway until the chief Sannyasi, Prakasananda Saraswati, personally came to invite Him inside.

As a youth Lord Chaitanya soundly defeated a Kashmiri Pandita in debate. But when Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s students began to laugh at the Pandita, Lord Chaitanya silenced them and treated His opponent with honor.

When Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu started a civil disobedience kirtana against the kazi’s order in Navadvipa, He certainly defied the law, but non-violently. Although Lord Chaitanya led 100,000 men in kirtan to the Kazi’s residence, on arriving there, He discussed peacefully with the Kazi, treating him like an honorable leader.

The scriptures advise satyam bruyat priyam bruyat. In the material world only palatable truths should be spoken and unpalatable truths should be carefully avoided. But Prabhupada wrote in a letter, “Devotees always humbly offer respect to everyone, but when there is discussion on a point of sastra, they do not observe the usual etiquette, satyam bruyat priyam bruyat. They speak only the satyam, although it may not necessarily be priyam”. August 9, 1976 to Sumati Morarjee

All things considered, a devotee should try his best to act as a Vaisnava lady or gentleman and behave politely, as did Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. If in the course of sincerely delivering the absolute truth, the non-devotees regard us as unimpressive, then that will not disturb us. A devotee has to please his spiritual master and Krsna, and then everything is complete, even if the world finds him lacking.

Discovery:

1) Why was Haridas Thakura considered to be the most advanced Vaisnava?

2) Who is fit to become a spiritual master?

3) What is our first preaching work according to Srila Prabhupada?

Understanding:

1)      Why is it essential for devotees to preach?

2)      How can devotees qualify themselves to preach?

3)      What does Srila Prabhupada mean when he said that devotees are perfect gentle men?

4)      Explain how Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu demonstrated the exemplary behavior of a Vaisnava?

5)      How should we speak the truth to others?

Application:

1)      Share your experiences in preaching to others. How have your dealings been?

2)      What responses from the people have you encountered?

3)      In what ways do you want to improve your preaching and Vaisnava behavior?

Preaching Session: 15 minutes

Read out the following passage:

Preaching is the essence

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhakti Vedanta Swami Prabhupada

Page 51

Preachers are very, very dear to Lord Krsna; their salvation is assured:

In the Bhagavad-gita, Eighteenth Chapter, the Lord also states that one who is engaged in preaching Krsna consciousness is very dear to Him. A preacher has to face many difficulties in his struggle to preach pure Krsna consciousness. Sometimes he has to suffer bodily injuries, and sometimes he has to meet death also. All this is taken as a great austerity on behalf of Krsna. Krsna therefore has said that such a preacher is very, very dear to him. If Krsna’s enemies can expect salvation simply by concentrating their minds on Him, then what to speak of persons who are so dear to Krsna? The conclusion should be that the salvation of those who are engaged in preaching Krsna consciousness in the world is guaranteed in all circumstances. But such preachers never care of salvation, because factually one who is engaged in Krsna consciousness, devotional service, has already achieved salvation.                                               

                                                                          Krsna, Ch.29 (vol. 1, p. 195)

You can encourage some of the devotees in the group who are most enthusiastic and qualified, to start outreach programs in their homes or elsewhere. You can start it off for them and then they would easily able to take it up independently after one or two such classes.

The format can be simple: a) Kirtan, reading out some short passage from one of the edifications without having a discussion (Can give a short explanation for it); teach them a sloka from the Bhagavad Gita with a short explanation of the meaning of the verse, and prasadam. They should interact with the people during prasadam time. Japa can be gradually introduced after 2 or 3 weeks if the members look receptive.

Gradually after 4 or 5 weeks, the classes can be made interactive by asking them a few questions. After about 8 weeks, you could think of making the group a regular Bhakti Vrksha group.

Alternatively, you can have a permanent out reach program with kirtan, lecture, prasadam and interaction with the members. All the members who show some seriousness could be requested to attend the new Bhakti Vrikshas which will be started shortly by the trainee leaders.

Ask the devotees who conducted the various parts of the Bhakti Vrksha now, to share their realizations on their new experiences. You can also ask for the group’s evaluation of the various trainees’ performances. Since all of them are their peers, no one will mind this kind of evaluation. On the other hand it can be very helpful in boosting their confidence as well as in giving the necessary feed back on how effective they were and where they need to improve.  Your judgment of their performance is very important for them to understand the correct standards of evaluation. For example, it is not necessary that a good speaker is the best leader, but that one who facilitates well is the one who is good

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Ask for the report of the home visits of the senior devotees along with juniors to some new contacts’ homes.

Continue taking a senior devotee along with you to visit more junior devotees’ homes.

Fix up which devotee is going to accompany you for the week.

You can enquire from the group their progress in their book distribution, prasadam distribution, street Sankirtan, etc. These experiences will give them exposure to dealing with new people and gaining contacts for inviting them to different programs, especially the outreach programs and the new vrindas to be started by the trainee leaders shortly.

Prasadam: 20 minutes

Assign a single trainee leader to organize the prasadam for the succeeding week. They could take the help of the other devotees, but would have to be responsible for the organization and distribution of prasadam as well as the cleaning up at the end of the program.

            Please enter the details about your members attending this week:

No:

Members

Attendance

   Current Siksa status

Remarks