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.
Engage one of the senior devotees of your group to lead the Satsanga.
You can ask every one this question, “Share your plans of what you are going to do in the new 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.
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
Spiritual Edification- 45 minutes
Ask one of the most serious devotees in the group to conduct this session. All the senior devotees will get their turns, but a serious devotee will set the right precedent for the other trainees to follow. Also the group will enjoy the experience. They will as it is be a little apprehensive to be led by someone other than whom they are used to. Make sure that you are also present during the discussion and take part in it as a regular member. You can also correct the trainee leader wherever he goes wrong very discreetly, so that he does not feel too embarrassed. Since the trainee leader is with his fellow students, he will not mind being openly corrected. Once they become leaders of new groups your correction will have to be in private.
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.
Please read out the passage and start asking the questions. (Do not explain it to them) Let the people assembled find out the answers from the passage themselves. Please engage everyone in answering. You can ask two, three people to add to the same answer. Move from one person to the next and give them sufficient time to think.
The application question has to be answered by everyone.
The Bhakti Vrksa leader should at last sum up all the points and give more points that he has.
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. If there is more than one member, you can facilitate a discussion between them separately. 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 topics etc, to substantiate the topic.
Vaisnava Behavior, the 26 qualities of a devotee
Excerpts from pages 185 - 201
By HH Satsvarupa Das Gosvami
Continued from last week’s spiritual edification:
22) A devotee is compassionate, karuna
The Nectar of Devotion describes compassion:
A person who is unable to bear another’s distress is called compassionate. For practically doing the compassionate work of Krsna consciousness movement, Srila Prabhupada gave us 4 aphorisms: 1) Preaching is the essence, 2) purity is the force 3) Books are the basis. 4) Utility is the principle.
The essence of compassion is preaching. But the force that drives preaching is purity. Preaching rests on the sincere, pure hearts and minds of the devotees. When a devotee surrenders to Krsna, Krsna blesses his efforts. At that time we say a devotee is empowered to preach. Preaching is not just a matter of getting a devotee to appear on television with a big personality or pushing a devotee beside a world famous person so the press will take his photo and put it in the paper. The devotee going to preach must be actually pure.
When we say “books are the basis”, we mean Srila Prabhupada’s books. Srila Prabhupada’s books are not just translations, they are transcendental literature to guide the a whole world for the next ten thousand years. The best compassionate work is to take part in printing and distributing these Krsna conscious literatures in different languages all over the world.
The aphorism “utility is the principle” refers to using material things in the service of Krsna. When a devotee realizes that he can spread Krsna consciousness in every country, adjusting things according to time, place and circumstance, but without changing the parampara- then he becomes enlivened and enlightened further in how to spread Krsna consciousness. According to his devotion, Krsna gives him intelligence to preach in a practical way. The jurisdiction of Krsna consciousness has no boundaries and the Krsna conscious preacher who realizes this is the greatest renunciant.
Following the spirit of Srila Prabhupada’s four aphorisms, the workers of the Krsna consciousness movement can become compassionate to everyone. The quality of compassion is not reserved only for a few rare saints. Rather, sainthood is now, by Lord Caitanya’s mercy, open to all who submissively hear and take up the Sankirtana movement.
23)A devotee is a friend, maitra
A devotee is a friend because he directs you to Krsna. Krsna is the best friend of all living entities.
Although the devotee, by virtue of his pointing us to Krsna, is a friend, his friendly act is not merely formal, like a traffic policeman giving you directions. The devotee-friend has all the virtues of a friend in the truest sense of friendship. Devotees live together, chant, share, and solace each other in spiritual intimacy. Because there is no sense gratification, in Krsna consciousness, devotees don’t spoil their friendship with ulterior motives.
Friends in Krsna consciousness help each other like pilots on the ground before take-off. They share their experiences and strategies because when they are aloft in their planes one pilot cannot help another. Taking off alone in a plane isa metaphor to describe the spirit soul’s solitary passage after death. At that time, each person has to face the result of his own individual karma. But if he has spent well in Krsna conscious association, he will have grasped the essence of remembering Krsna and be able to go home back to Godhead, at the time of death. Friendship in Krsna consciousness is, therefore eternal because all pure devotees finally meet at the destination in the spiritual world.
24) A devotee is a poet, kavi
Krsna’s qualities demand to be described in the choicest poetic words, and the pure devotee is equal to the task, because Krsna empowers him. The compilers of the sastras are not ordinary human beings, and the sastras are no their own writings but were dictated by Krsna Himself. Not all the Vaisnava poets in disciplic succession wrote in highly literate Sanskrit mantras. Narottama das Thakura composed his songs in simple Bengali language, but the erudite Vishwanatha Chakravarti Thakura later approved the songs of Narottama das to be as good as Vedic mantras. The essence of Vaisnava poetry, therefore is devotion to Krsna.
Aside from making poetic compositions, a devotee is a poet by his poetic perception. He is not dull. He tastes Krsna in pure water and sees the sun as Krsna’s eye. He uses language to describe God. He has in his mind’s eye a vision of intense beauty, the transcendental form of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Always hearing transcendental sounds passed down from great poets of the past, always chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, dancing and singing in ecstasy, and aspiring to please Krsna, the devotee lives minute to minute in ever-fresh Krsna consciousness. He is a poet.
25) A devotee is expert, daksa
Devotees utilize many skills in Krsna consciousness. For Krsna’s service a devotee may occasionally take courses or study a skill: how to use a computer or printing press. But more often devotees learn “on the job” how to become expert for Krsna. A skill can be learned by practice, and more importantly, Krsna, being in the heart of the devotee, can teach him whatever is required. Krsna actually teaches everyone, because it is He who supplies memory and intelligence, “I give the intelligence by which they can come to Me.” We therefore see devotees applying their skills in constructing temples, learning arts and crafts, dealing in business, cooking, painting, and so on.
But devotees are not the only persons who are expert in these matters. In fact many non devotees are more expert in these skills. A devotee’s being expert therefore cannot refer merely to his executing certain manual and intellectual skills in the service of Krsna.
The real expertise of the pure devotee is that he is able to extricate himself and others from the difficult web of maya. For us the required expertise is simple: we have to grasp the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya’s Krsna conscious practices. Finding the ways and means to preach Krsna consciousness and thus extricate others from maya’s entanglement is another expertise of the devotee.
The best expertise of the devotee is sincere surrender. If Lord Krsna takes charge of our affairs, then certainly we are in expert hands. We should diligently learn the art of surrender to Krsna and apply it purely.
Srila Prabhupada said, “A devotee is expert. This means that he is willing to do anything. He does not say because he is a brahmana he cannot do a menial task.” Again this meaning of expert implies surrender. By this definition, Srila Prabhupada was encouraging us to engage in whatever task had to be done in Krsna consciousness. The ability to surrender and do the needful is the sign of an expert devotee.
Surely Srila Prabhupada was one of the most expert Vaishnavas in every sense. And he urged us, “Become expert.” We also must learn how to deliver Krsna to the “expert” avoiders of his mercy. We also must figure out the ways and means. There is no alternative. Krsna will not be pleased if we remain inept. We must also learn to be expert.
26. A devotee is silent, mauni
A devotee never speaks any nonsense, this is his silence. Mauni, does not refer to vows of not speaking or becoming incommunicado, as is practiced by some yogis. Of course if a person does not know Krsna, then better he is silent. Sometimes, therefore, a guru will ask a frivolous disciple whose speech is uncontrolled to practice complete mauna.
The devotee can speak the glories of Krsna and present the philosophy of Krsna consciousness all day long. A devotee wants to always chant
HARE KRSNA HARE KRSNA KRSNA KRSNA HARE HARE
HARE RAMA HARE RAMA RAMA RAMA HARE HARE
Why should he be silent?
Certainly he is always inclined to talk about Krsna, but if for example, some foolish person wants him to reveal the confidential pastimes of Krsna or to take advantage of him in some way, he is not obliged. That might be an occasion calling for the devotee’s silence.
At other times, the devotee may be in an ecstatic mood where he is unable to speak.
Lord Chaitanya silently listened to Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya speak Vedanta philosophy for seven days. In this way Lord Chaitanya showed respect to the great scholar, and dramatically showed his disapproval as well. Lord Caitanya’s silence was also a demonstration of his tolerance.
1) How does a devotee express his deep compassion towards people? What are the 4 principles on which he expresses this compassion?
2) List all the ways mentioned which describe how the devotee is a true or best friend.
1) In what ways does a devotee express his poetic nature?
2) What are the different ways in which the devotee is expert? What is his best expertise?
3) What exactly is a devotee’s silence? Why is it good that a devotee keeps talking all the time?
4) Mention different circumstances when devotees prefer to remain silent.
Application: Try to discuss these exalted qualities from what you have read, heard or seen about great Vaishnavas. Each one can choose one or more of the qualities.
Or alternatively, you can share your feelings on how you feel after going through these 26 qualities of a devotee… your inspirations, determination and plans to develop them, etc.
Preaching Session: 15 minutes
Read out the following passage:
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 a single devotee to organize the prasadam for the succeeding week. They could take the help of others, but would have to take up the responsibility and organization of the prasadam themselves.
Please enter the details about your members attending this week:
Current Siksa status