Week 56

Ensure that all the members who are leading different parts of the Vrnda they 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 Vrnda was conducted. The third column can mention the particular part of the Vrnda which was lead by them. Make sure that they get all the parts of the Vrnda 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 most difficult thing to learn or to do during this cycle of the group?” 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 361

By associating with pure devotees engaged in chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, one’s heart is purified and one develops pure love for Krsna.

Spiritual Edification- 45 minutes

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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 34, Vaishnava Behavior, the 26 qualities of a devotee

By HH Satsvarupa Das Gosvami

Vaisnava scholars have analyzed that there are different categories of devotees and different attitudes of general behavior to be followed in devotional interactions.

 “One should mentally honor any devotee who chants the holy names of Lord ,” states Rupa Goswami (Upadeshamrta #5) Thus Rupa Gosvami describes in brief the kanishta adhikari, or beginning devotee. The kanishta adhikari has the disqualifications of not properly respecting advanced devotees and not perceiving Lord Krsna within the hearts of all living beings. Mostly he recognizes Krsna’s presence only in the Deity within the Temple. Yet the kanishta adhikari is far greater than all the non- devotees who are classified as either karmis (gross materialists,) or as yogis and jnanis(impersonal transcendentalists). Because he is a devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the  kanishta adhikari is also sometimes called a materialistic devotee, because he has a tendency to be interested in material benefits. Therefore a devotee must strive to make progress to come to the second class position, the madhyama adhikari.

“The madhyama adhikari, writes Srila Prabhupada, “has received spiritual initiation from the spiritual master and has been fully engaged by him in the transcendental service of the Lord.”

Srila Prabhupada also describes the highest stage or Uttama adhikari, “Out of many such Vaisnavas, one may be found to be very seriously engaged in the service of the Lord and strictly following all the regulative principles, chanting the prescribed number of rounds on japa beads, and always thinking of how to expand the Krsna conscious movement. Such a Vaisnava should be accepted as an uttama adhikari, a highly advanced devotee, and his association should always be sought.”

Rupa Gosvami explains that one should mentally honor the beginner, or materialistic devotee, one should offer humble obeisances to the madhyama devotee, and associate with and faithfully serve the pure devotee, “who is advanced in undeviated devotional service and whose heart is completely devoid of the propensity to criticize others.”(Upadeshamrta #5)

Although all devotees should receive our honor, there are clear guidelines for dealing with different classes of devotees.  Every devotee will find himself in a situation where some devotees are more advanced than he, some are his peers, and some are newcomers or less advanced.  According to Vaisnava behavior, one should inquire from and render service to the more advanced devotees, one should make loving friendships with equal devotees, and one should give merciful guidance to those who are more neophyte than oneself.

Whenever a devotee gets an opportunity to hear from or serve an advanced Vaisnava, he should remember the shastric injunction and go forward with great eagerness to honor the devotee. If there is an imbalance between two disciples, a devotee should not be envious. Srila Prabhupada writes, “If a God brother is more enlightened and advanced in Krsna consciousness, one should accept him as almost equal to the spiritual master, and one should be happy to see such Godbrothers advance in Krsna consciousness.(Bhag- 3.32.42)

But how one may well ask, do we know who is an advanced devotee? Is every Godbrother of the spiritual master really deserving to be accepted as almost equal to one’s guru? Is every sannyasi or senior devotee to be considered advanced?

If a senior devotee’s or sannyasi’s behavior does not correspond with the symptoms for proper Vaisnava behavior, then one has to judge for oneself; but even if one does not see symptoms of advancement, he should continue to observe the etiquette befitting senior devotees and sannyasis. This manner of behavior was demonstrated by Lord Chaitanya who continued to honor a senior sannyasi, Ramachandra Puri, even though Ramachandra Puri behaved offensively in many ways. When individual cases become extremely subtle, one should consult respectable devotees for guidance on how to behave.

With whom are we equal in devotional service? A humble devotee tends to think that he is less than others, and he will hesitate to consider with whom he is spiritually equal. Immature devotees however may make too many social distinctions, as if a grhastha could never be spiritually equal to a sannyasi, or as if a devotee of twelve years standing could not be equal to a devotee of sixteen years’ standing. Yet “equals” really means equal-minded friends. Therefore equals in devotional services on behalf of the spiritual master for friendships. Of course no two individuals can be exactly equal in everything. Friendships are therefore give and take. A basis for the loving spiritual exchange between devotees is given by Rupa Gosvami in Upadeshamrta. Offering gifts in charity, accepting charitable gifts, revealing one’s mind in confidence, inquiring confidentially, accepting prasadam, and offering prasadam are the six symptoms of love shared by one devotee and another.

Spiritual friendship is distinct from material friendship in that material friendship is based on sense gratification, whereas spiritual friendship is based on Krsna consciousness.

A person endeavoring for Krsna consciousness should not seek out a friend for any material reason; a devotee has nothing to gain from a rich man or a political ally. Since we are no longer on the path of material progress, we should not be interested in bodily beauty, aristocratic birth, material wealth, or material education. All our friendships should intensify devotional service.

Giving mercy to less advanced devotees:

The most obvious kind of less advanced devotee is the newcomer. He does not know the Vaisnava philosophy well and is yet uncertain in his commitment Older devotees should help such a neophyte in any way possible.

Persons who have spent years in the Krsna consciousness movement but who have remained materially attached may also be less advanced devotees. A Vaisnava shows mercy by taking time to counsel and give relevant instructions and by making plans whereby the lesser devotees may engage in devotional service, thereby tasting the nectar of Krsna consciousness. Showing mercy to others is sometimes not an easy thing. If we give a thief the mercy of good moral instructions, he may become angry with us. And one must be competent to “tactfully and intelligently” extend mercy to lesser devotees. Giving mercy cannot be someone’s concoction and cannot be done with a motivation to become praised and worshipped by lesser devotees. A devotee should remain humble and fixed in Krsna conscious principles, and then he will be competent to give the mercy of his good example to others. If one behaves ideally, he will give mercy to everyone, without any extraneous effort.

Relationship to the innocent non devotees:

A pure devotee has a naturally friendly disposition. He is not prone to cause anyone anxiety by words or even by ill thoughts. He forgives the wrongs of others.  When this mood is combined with the understanding that the non devotees are suffering and preparing themselves for more suffering, the devotee’s compassion is activated, and he wants to render service to the fallen souls.  Out of compassion, the preacher approaches and tries to deliver all sinful persons. The devotee is not satisfied with his own salvation.; he is anxious for the welfare of others. This attitude is inspired by Krsna Himself, who, as the well-wishing Father of all living entities, wants everyone to give up their suffering and return to Him.

Avoiding the association of the atheists: When Lord Chaitanya was asked by a house holder devotee what the behavior of a devotee should be, he immediately replied: asat sanga tyaga, -ei vaisnav acara.stri sangi eka asadhu, krsna bhakta ara

A Vaisnava should always avoid the association of ordinary people. Common people are very much materially attached, especially to women. Vaishnavas should also avoid the company of those who are not devotees of the Lord. – Cc . Madhya 22.87

Association is all important. As the company of the mahatmas can open the door to liberation, so the company of degraded materialists can drag an aspiring devotee into ignorance. Persons fond of enjoying illicit sex and persons opposed to God consciousness destroy by their association the purity of Vaisnava behavior. It is no wonder therefore, that a devotee does not enjoy such association.

Discovery:

1)      Name the 3 levels of devotees. Describe the characteristics of each stage.

Understanding:

       1) Describe how we should relate with each of these types of devotees?

 2) Who are the less advanced devotees? How should we deal with them?

 3) How should we relate with the innocent non- devotees?

 4) Whom should we avoid close association with? Why?

Application:

 1)  Share your experiences of relating with the different types of devotees. Did you observe the proper Vaisnava etiquette? Were you seeking a spiritual relationship with them? What went right or wrong with your approach?

Preaching Session: 15 minutes

Read out the following passage:

Preaching is the essence

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhakti Vedanta Swami Prabhupada

Page 56

Krsna can empower a preacher who is true to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and to the disciplic succession to excel Himself:

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 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 vrndas to be started by the trainee leaders shortly

Prasadam: 20 minutes

Assign a single devotee 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