Week 54

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, “Share something you learnt from a member of the group during this cycle?” 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.

Sri Namamrta  - The Nectar of the Holy Name

                                                            Page 340

By offenseless chanting, One attains God realization, develops mystic powers, and ultimately, becomes a confidential devotee of the Lord.

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 

Vaisnava behavior in Different relationships

Page 12, Vaisnava Behavior, the 26 qualities of a devotee

By HH Satsvarupa Das Gosvami

Serving the Spiritual Master

Love of God begins by hearing about Him from His authorized representative, the Vaisnava spiritual master. This is called sravana. A devotee’s relationship with God therefore begins with God’s representative, the spiritual master. The disciple understands his spiritual master to be sent by Krsna to save him.

All the Vaisnava scriptures emphasize that one’s relationship with Krsna is realized through one’s relationship with the Guru.

In the beginning, the disciple may have an inkling of the identity of his eternal spiritual master. But when that inkling becomes his heart’s conviction, he understands that his spiritual master has come from Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and that his spiritual master can save him from the ocean of repeated birth and death.

It is the Guru himself who has to teach this to us. Lord Chaitanya explained to Rupa Gosvami that the eternal souls are wandering through out the universe, birth after birth. Only by the mercy of the spiritual master, sent by Krsna, do we get the chance of eternal life in devotional service. The spiritual master offers his great blessings to us, and we have to bear it with faith. Only as we understand our relationship with our spiritual master will we understand our real self and our relationship with God. All the knowledge available carried by the entire disciplic succession is available to us through our spiritual master.  Therefore, Srila Vishwanatha Chakravarti Thakura says in his Gurvashtakam that we should offer our respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of our spiritual master.

Srila Prabhupada writes in a letter,”… For offering prasadam, present everything before the spiritual master Whose picture is also in the altar, means that the spiritual master will take care of offering the food stuff to the Lord. Therefore simply by chanting the prayer to the Spiritual Master, everything will be complete.

Before meeting the spiritual Master, we are so covered by illusion that we don’t even know we’re suffering the pangs of birth and death. But he opens our eyes. Once we understand from him that we are in the ocean of samsara, of repeated birth and death, we desire to get out, so we turn sincerely to him. He is the representative of Krsna; if he accepts our service, then we are safe.

By Krsna’s grace the spiritual master is an ecstatic devotee; he is always engladdened by the Sankirtana movement. Naturally he engages his disciple in chanting the holy name, dancing, singing, and playing musical instruments. The spiritual master is like a touchstone. He gives us the holy name, and if we chant the name with devotion, we realize our relationship with Krsna.

      Sometimes the spiritual master is with us in his personal form (vapuh), but more often   not. Yet, in either case, as we chant and dance in kirtana under his instructions, our relationship will grow and improve….we can experience his presence and approval. As we chant the holy name under the order of the spiritual master, we are always united with our Lord and His pure devotee.

The spiritual master introduces us to our relationship with the Deity. He invites Radha and Krsna to descend and he bathes and dresses Their forms before the eyes of his disciples. He demonstrates the principle of utsaha, enthusiasm, because without enthusiasm, the worship becomes like idol worship. “…The spiritual master teaches the neophyte devotees all these kindly and personally to help him gradually in the realization of the transcendental name, quality, form, etc., of the Lord

Worship of the Deity in the temple or any service to the spiritual master must be done with an abiding sense of obedience. In the early stages of devotion, obedience is important in our loving relationship with God, and it is formed in our relationship to the guru. By his order, we bathe, we sit down to chant the maha mantra, and then enter the temple room to awaken the Deity and perform Mangala Arati.  A sense of obedience is the primary motivating force when we are serving in the sadhana stage.

Srila Prabhupada, “The disciple should accept the words of his spiritual master without hesitation. Whatever the father or the spiritual master or orders should be taken without argument. “Yes.” There should be no instance in which the disciple or son says, “This is not correct. I cannot carry it out.” When he says that, he is fallen.”

But if a disciple treats his relationship with the spiritual master as a mere formality, then he cannot advance or realize Krsna consciousness. The guru is not like a family priest for performing ritual ceremonies, nor is he figurehead appointed by the institution, without real presence in the heart and mind of the disciple. Rather the spiritual master is the center of the disciple’s very being. “He is my lord, birth after birth.”

The spiritual master becomes pleased when his disciples take Bhagavat prasadam. Be cause he has great faith that prasadam is not material, the spiritual master is confident that when his disciples offer prasadam, their going back to Godhead is assured. Thus both he and his disciples become happy simply by sharing the palatable maha–prasadam. The guru introduces us to this merciful form of Krsna as prasadam. And he teaches us that while taking prasadam, we should call upon Lord Caitanya and Nityananda to please help us in devotional service.

….To be continued in the next edification

Discovery:

1)      How can we cultivate our relationship with Krsna?

Understanding:

1)      Describe all the ways in which the spiritual master helps us to realize Krsna.

2)      What are the attitudes that the disciple should develop towards his guru in order to advance in Krsna consciousness?

3)      How can we always stay united with our guru?

Application

      1) Share your realizations on the need for accepting a guru. Do you think you need to take a shelter of a guru now? Why or why not?

Preaching Session: 15 minutes

Read out the following passage:

Preaching is the essence

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhakti Vedanta Swami Prabhupada

Page 52

We are protected when we execute our duty to preach:

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 Vrkshas 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 the confidence as well as giving the necessary feed back on how effective they were and where they need to improve. Of course your judgment of their performance has to be also said so that they understand the correct standards for 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.

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.

You can enquire from  the group their progress in their book distribution, prasadam distribution, street Sankirtana etc, These will give them exposure to dealing with new people and gaining contacts for inviting for festivals, etc, and also for the new prospective Bhakti Vrkshas by the trainee leaders shortly.

Prasadam: 20 minutes

Assign another 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