Week 61

Ensure that all the members who are leading different parts of the Vrnda 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, “Tell us some positive changes that you witnessed in any of the group members during this last cycle of the group, some good quality or behavior he or she developed?” 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 mrdanga 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 413

By remembering Visnu (by chanting Hare Krsna Mahamantra) one can be protected from many dangers and bad elements:

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 

Pages 150- 171, Vaisnava Behavior, the 26 qualities of a devotee

By HH Satsvarupa Das Gosvami

Continued from last week’s spiritual edification:

17) A devotee eats only as much as required, mita bhuk

Bhagavad–gita sets the standard of eating for the bhakti-yogi: “One should not eat too little or too much.” According to the yoga of sense control, the tongue, belly, and genitals form a straight line, and all three can be controlled if the tongue is controlled. If the tongue is uncontrolled, then a person will eat too much. His stomach will be overloaded and will then put pressure upon his genitals, and the result will be great demand for sex.

A devotee always eats Krsna prasadam, the remnants of the offerings to Krsna. But still the rule of mita bhuk applies, as Srila Prabhupada notes in the Nectar of Instruction: “However if one accepts prasadam only because of its palatable taste and thus eats too much, he also falls prey to trying to satisfy the demands of the tongue. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu taught us to avoid very palatable dishes even while eating prasadam.”

Sometimes Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would serve large quantities of prasadam to the devotees with His own hand. On the occasion of a Vaisnava’s festival Krsna’s desire maybe that the devotees’ “eat up to the neck” to satisfy the wishes of the Vaisnava and the spiritual master. Such eating sometimes becomes a joyful, joking exchange and is transcendental to the rules and regulations. But in the normal daily course of life, the devotee should not be interested in eating big amounts.

“Eat sumptuously,” Srila Prabhupada used to say, “but not too much.”

18) A devotee is without inebriation, apramata

Apramattah is the opposite of pramattah, which means crazy. The materialist is crazy because he acts on the demands of the senses, forcing himself  unnecessarily to continue his cycle of birth and death. But the devotee is papramattah, sane.

By the standard of the absolute truth, the devotee has attained the right balance between material duties and spiritual duties. Bhaktivinod Thakura has explained that both material duties and spiritual duties should run along parallel lines. But if the pursuance of the material duties seriously hampers the path of spiritual realization, then the material duties should be reduced.

A devotee is not inebriated. He is not lopsided. He is not intoxicated by material pleasure. He reduces his material needs to a simple level and patiently dedicates his life to the service of Krsna. His life is therefore the real example of moderation, balance, and sanity.

19) A devotee is respectful, manada

The Sikshastaka describes how the devotee offers respects to others without expecting any respect for himself. He is respectful even to the ant. Why? Because he sees all living beings as parts and parcels of Krsna. A materialist is not deeply respectful to others because his concern is to get respect for himself. But the devotee wants to be the servant, not the master, and taking that humble position, he respects the lives of others. He respects their right to live and doesn’t want to hurt or disturb anyone. He respects that all living beings have been given their life by Krsna, and he knows that he has no right to take it away. He sees all living beings equally and respects them equally.

The respect the devotee pays to others is in accord with his Krsna conscious understanding. His respect is universal, yet he makes distinctions, understanding Krsna has given greater responsibility to the demigod and an insignificant life to the ant.

Although the devotee resects all, he doesn’t worship anyone except Krsna or the pure devotee of Krsna.

In the Bhagavad–gita, Krsna teaches us to distinguish between the devotee and the non devotee and also to see all living entities as His parts and parcels.

Respecting the latent spiritual identity within the heart of the materialist, the devotee encourages everyone to return to their position as loving servants of the Lord.

In preaching Krsna consciousness, a devotee makes distinctions among the different jives.  The scriptures prescribe that a devotee should avoid the demon.

A devotee also has relationships with various classes of devotees, and he must also show respect accordingly.

The Nectar of Instruction states that one should offer mental respect to anyone who is chanting the names of Krsna, even if the chanter is not following regulative principles. If a devotee finds another devotee who regularly chants the Hare Krsna maha mantra and follows the regulative principles, the devotee considers him his friend. Regular exchanges of love between equal devotees are sharing prasadam, offering and receiving gifts, and revealing one’s mind.  When a devotee meets a very advanced devotee, he should offer him full respect and treat him as a spiritual master.

Discussing these matters in the Nectar of Instruction, Srila Prabhupada advises us to know our own position and not imitate advanced devotees.

The disciple offers the spiritual master the same respect as to God, and whatever the spiritual master says, the disciple should try to execute right away. He should give everything he owns to the guru and serve him as a menial servant. If the spiritual master corrects he disciple, he should take the chastisement humbly. The spiritual master will train a sincere disciple to become a compassionate Krsna conscious person, so that he too can show respect to all living beings by the welfare work of Krsna consciousness.

20) A devotee is without false prestige, amani

False prestige can be considered in two ways: 1) the objects of prestige are falsely prestigious, and 2) our claim to any prestigious object or position is false.

 A devotee is free of both kinds of false prestige. He is not attracted to the glitter of desirable material possessions, and whatever is attractive he acknowledges as but a reflection of Krsna, the all attractive cause of all causes.

You may obtain prestige for a time, but very soon you may also lose it. And you will be very bitter about your loss of prestige. The baseball hero of yesterday makes an error and he is booed. Last election’s winning candidate suffers ignominy. Krsna therefore says in the Bhagavad-gita that His dear devotee “is equipoised in honor and dishonor, fame and infamy.” According to Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, fame and material happiness are as valuable as the dung of a boar.

Another kind of false prestige is to take credit for one’s achievements. Krsna says in the Bhagavad –gita that He is ability in man and that intelligence and memory come from Him. Yet even one pursuing transcendental life may falsely claim to be the doer or owner. In the beginning stages, when the false ego is still strong, even the transcendentalist may suffer from this impurity. He may become proud that he is an ascetic, a yogi with powers, a learned devotee scholar, a worshipful guru, or an ecstatic chanter and dancer.

When a devotee loses all false prestige and becomes completely absorbed in humble service at the lotus feet of Krsna, he becomes eligible to go to Krsna and associate with Him in eternity, bliss, and knowledge. The aspiring devotee fights hard to kick off all vestiges of false prestige, and he prays to Krsna:  “O savior of the fallen, please don’t kick me away, but allow me to serve Your servants. I am a rascal possessed by material desires and am falsely taking credit for things which are Yours, not mine. Please deliver me.”

21) A devotee is grave, gambhira

 The Nectar of Devotion states: A person who does not express his mind to everyone, or whose mental activity and plan of actions are very difficult to understand, is called grave.

A devotee’s emotions and concentration are not swept away because the next person is giddy or morose. He doesn’t feel obliged to immediately turn from his meditation on Krsna to talking nonsense. Although he is not anti social, first and foremost he must always remember Krsna. That is the prime rule: always remember Krsna and never forget Krsna. A devotee thinks that if he is at all to help another person, then he can only do so when he himself is centered on Krsna.

If one hers the profound speeches of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one becomes grave. Similarly, if one associates with serious devotees, he too becomes serious and grave. There are many light moments in Krsna consciousness, but for the conditioned soul to give up his material life and to go back to Godhead is no joke. It is a very deep purpose. And when, by chanting and hearing, a devotee realizes something of the holy name and Srimad Bhagavatam, then his philosophic outlook deepens more and more.

Discovery:

1)      What are the instructions on eating for devotees?

2)      How is it that the devotees are sane and not the others?

Understanding:

1)      How does the devotee respect all living entities, devotees, nondevotees, demons, and the spiritual master?

2)      What are the two types of false prestige we have? Why are they useless things to pursue?

3)      How do devotees also manifest their false ego? Why does an aspiring try to remove his false ego?  How does he do it?

4)      Why are devotees grave? How does their behavior exhibit their gravity?

Application: Let each member mention one quality of a pure devotee that they have learnt so far and explain that quality.

Preaching Session: 15 minutes

Read out the following passage:

Preaching is the essence

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhakti Vedanta Swami Prabhupada

Page 63

To spread Krsna consciousness, one must be empowered by Krsna; the Krsna conscious acharya should be considered nondifferent from Krsna:

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.

            Please enter the details about your members attending this week:

No:

Members

Attendance

   Current Siksa status

Remarks