Week 57

Ensure that all the members who are leading different parts of the Vrinda 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, “Is there anything that the Lord has done for you through a member of this group? What and through whom?” 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 what tunes he is going to sing,so that you can guide him/her  suitably. You can teach them some tunes too if necessary. Since the aspect of bhakti was stressed in singing the Hare Krsna maha mantra, it is to be hoped that by now people have the proper mood towards the holy names. Now it would be appropriate to also train them to sing it attractively.

Japa…. 15 minutes

You can ask another of the devotee to read out the following passage below and then conduct the japa session by leading the japa and later making the enquiries of some of the devotees’ japa and their realizations on their progress

Sri Namamrta  - The Nectar of the Holy Name

                                                            Page 365

The Holy Name Evokes Ecstasy                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

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 77, Vaishnava Behavior, the 26 qualities of a devotee

By HH Satsvarupa Das Gosvami

While teaching Sanatana Gosvami, Lord Caitanya described twenty-six qualities of the Vaishnava: devotees are always merciful, truthful;, equal to all, faultless, magnanimous, mild and clean. They are without material possessions, and they perform devotional work for everyone. They are peaceful, surrendered to Krsna and desire-less. They are indifferent to material acquisitions: lust, anger, greed and so forth. They are respectful, grave, compassionate and without false prestige. They are friendly, poetic, expert and silent.

It is not, however, that a devotee must work separately to achieve each of these qualities. As Sukadeva Gosvami explains in Srimad Bhagavatam (6.1.15): Only a rare person who has adopted complete, unalloyed devotional service to Krsna can uproot the weeds of sinful actions with no possibility that they will revive. He can do this by simply discharging devotional service, just as the sun can immediately dissipate fog by its rays.

Although the twenty- six qualities are not independent of devotional service, we may nevertheless strive to behave in devotional service so as to fulfill them all. To be a devotee means many things. For example, although it is important to preach, if one’s behavior is not exemplary his preaching will be ineffective. One may be very careful about cleanliness but not chant Hare Krsna. There are many things a devotee must be accomplished in. All his qualities are sublime; no one can find any fault in him.

1)      A devotee is merciful, krpalu:

 We may think, “Yes, Lord Chaitanya and Srila Prabhupada can be merciful, but how can I be merciful?” The answer is that by serving a merciful great soul and by serving his cause, we can act mercifully on his order. We can distribute Krsna consciousness under the authorization of the merciful and compassionate great soul, and thus we also become merciful workers.

The principles of Bhagavat dharma are merciful, and anyone who follows them automatically gives up all kinds of unkindness and its resultant karma. If we follow the Vedic codes of religion, then by obedience alone we will act on the platform of mercifulness to all living entities. We will not kill the innocent animals, and we will give the human beings Krsna consciousness.

2) A devotee is not defiant, akrta-droha :   In his Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srila Prabhupada writes: “Humility means that one should not be anxious to have the satisfaction of being honored by others.” And Lord Caitanya in Siksastaka gives the ultimate expressions of humility:  “One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige, and ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.”

Humility is glorious and is one of the prime qualities of a transcendentally situated person. Srila Prabhupada says, “The qualities of humbleness and meekness lead very quickly to spiritual realization.”

No one is fit to approach Krsna’s lotus feet unless he is humble. Humility before Krsna is natural, of course, because He is the supreme. Similarly, humility before the Vaisnava is also natural, because he is the servant of the greatest.             

When Krsna dasa Kaviraja said, “I am so sinful that if you simply remember my name you will lose all the credit for your pious activities”, he actually meant it. Such humility is not so cheap that one can obtain it simply by writing “Humbly yours” before signing his name. It cannot be imitated; it must develop gradually. If one sincerely desires to be a devotee and faces facts honestly, then he must drop all arrogance and pride. Following in the path of the previous acharyas, he will note how Lord Chaitanya showed humility by accepting himself as a fool before his spiritual master, Isvara Puri. An honest devotee will conclude, “What am I compared to Lord Chaitanya? My place is humble. I have very stupidly entered the cycle of birth and death.  So what do I have to be proud of?”     

3)A devotee is truthful. Sathya sara : Of the four principles of religion- austerity, cleanliness, mercifulness and truthfulness- only truthfulness remains in Kali- yuga.

When Maharaja Parikshit found the bull of religion after it had been attacked by the personified Kali, only one of the bull’s legs, that representing truthfulness, remained. This means that although people are living sinful, hedonistic lives, still in this age a willingness to hear about Krsna remains. When Srila Prabhupada went to America, he found everyone more or less everyone engaged in sinful activities; but when he exposed these activities as sinful, and when he revealed the truth of Krsna, the hedonists reformed.

Those devotees following Prabhupada should be very truthful, like real brahmanas. This certainly means in their own behavior they should not cheat.  The first truthfulness of a disciple is to keep his promise to avoid sinful acts and always chant sixteen rounds of japa on his beads. Nor should a devotee engage in illegal activities. Although Krsna consciousness is transcendental to mundane law, that mundane law is to be rarely violated. And even an ordinary person can appreciate such truthfulness.  Society must recognize the members of the Krsna consciousness movement as religious persons. But we must be truthful in the ultimate sense, acting not for our own interests but for Krsna’s interests.  However, we must first understand who is Krsna . He is the supreme Truth, and satyam param dhimahi- we have to meditate on the supreme Truth by chanting Hare Krsna. Then we can render pure devotional service and be effective in our distribution of the Absolute Truth, which can alone serve mankind in this disastrous age.

4) A devotee is equal to everyone, sama :

The devotee sees all creatures from the perspective of knowledge. Wherever he sees a living creature displaying the six symptoms of life, namely birth, growth, duration, producing by- products and dwindling, and death, he knows a spirit soul inhabits that form, whether a human being , an animal, an insect, a bird or plant. In addition to perceiving the presence of the individual soul, the learned devotee knows the Supreme Soul is also there within the heart of every living entity.  Seeing with equal vision , however , does not mean that we  treat each person exactly the same. But our intention to be the same: to share Krsna consciousness with one and all.

The quality of being equal to everyone is realized among the servants of the Lord. Srila Prabhupada wrote in one letter:

Everyone should be friendly for the service of the Lord.  Everyone should praise another’s service to the Lord and not be proud of his own service. This is the way of Vaisnava thinking. Vaikuntha thinking.  There may be rivalries and apparent competitions between servants in performing service, but in the Vaikuntha planets the service of another servant is appreciated, not condemned. This is Vaikuntha competition. There is no question of enmity between servants. Everyone should be allowed to render service to the Lord to the best of his ability, and everyone should appreciate the services of others. Such are the activities of Vaikuntha. Since everyone is a servant, everyone is on the same platform and is allowed to serve the Lord according to his ability.

Discovery:

1)      Mention the 26 qualities of devotees. How does one acquire these qualities? How can one exercise these qualities ?

Understanding:

1) How can we be merciful?

2)      What does being humble mean? Why is it important to be humble? How can we acquire humility?

3)      What is special about the quality of truthfulness in Kali yuga? Give an example to show how there is truthfulness still in the present day world.

4)      What is the first truth that a disciple keeps? How does he deal with regard to following the principle of truth in the material world?

5)      How does the devotee behave towards all living entities in the material world. How does he deal equally with the other devotees?

Application:

1) Describe any of these qualities that you may have seen in devotees.

2) Also share with everyone how you are planning in practical terms to live according to these qualities. For example a person who wants to be more merciful may decide that I will give more time to preach Krsna consciousness to everyone.

Preaching Session: 15 minutes

Read out the following passage:

Preaching is the essence

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhakti Vedanta Swami Prabhupada

Page 57

To become an empowered preacher, one must be favored by Lord Chaitanya or the spiritual master:

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 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.

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            Please enter the details about your members attending this week:

No:

Members

Attendance

   Current Siksa status

Remarks