What is a Temple?
Since this book is about temple management, the first thing that we should understand is, what is a temple? There are various forms of preaching units in ISKCON. There are large temples, small temples, preaching centers, nam hatta centers, and even householder flats.
Although each of these units is somewhat different in its structure, we will not make much distinction between these centers while writing this book. We will simply speak about temple management understanding that basically the same principles will apply in all cases. It is up to the temple authority to adjust the principles for his own particular instance. Later, we shall discuss these different preaching units in greater detail to distinguish one from the other where the differences require specific explanation.
A temple is an ISKCON center of preaching activities wherein devotees gather together to worship the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna under the direction of the Founder acarya of ISKCON, His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. The devotees all follow the four regulative principles, chant 16 rounds of the Hare Krsna mantra on beads each day, and follow all the regulated temple programs. A temple will usually have Deities of the Lord in a temple room wherein kirtan and classes are held. A temple will have temple officers, at least a president, and treasurer, and sometimes also a secretary, temple commander, and department heads such as a sankirtan leader, head pujari, head cook and so on.
Sunday feasts, school programs, devotee making and training, and a regulated temple program of kirtans, classes and prasadam are some basic elements of temple life. Asramas for sannyasis, brahmacaries and brahmacarinis as well as certain qualified householders, are available for the devotees. Books are directly purchased from the BBT and sold on sankirtan and through the temple bookstores.
In short, a temple is a place where Krsna is worshiped and devotees live and are trained, with the goal of preaching Krsna consciousness throughout the area.
A Preaching Center
A preaching center is like a temple, but it is of a smaller size and stature. A preaching center may be manned by one or two initiated devotees who are trying to preach Krsna consciousness in the area. The center will perform basically the same functions as the temple, but without elaborate Deity worship and other larger programs. It is a small unit meant for preaching whose goal is to gradually grow into a full scale temple with all forms of worship and training of new devotees.
A Nam Hatta Center
A Nam Hatta center is different from a preaching center or a temple in that there are initially no initiated devotees, regulated temple programs or expanded preaching. This kind of a center is a place where interested people, most of whom do not chant 16 rounds a day or even follow all the regulated principles, may gather together and occasionally chant kirtan or hold programs when travelling preachers come by. Later on, some members of the Nam Hatta may come to the standard of being full time devotees and get initiated wherein the status of the center may change to that of a preaching center.
An ISKCON Center
All temples, preaching centers, Nam Hatta centers, restaurants, shops and so on, must be recognized by ISKCON before they may use the trade marked names of ISKCON such as 'ISKCON', 'The Hare Krsna Movement', 'Govindas', and so on.
A unit may be a part of ISKCON if it:
Recognizes that His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is the Founder acarya of ISKCON and that the instructions found in his books and other works form the basis of all direction in ISKCON and that they follow these instructions.
Recognizes that the Governing Body Commission is the ultimate managing authority for ISKCON, and that the constitution of ISKCON is the guiding authority for the structure of the movement.
Works under the authority of the designated GBC representatives in the region.
There are a few other important items which every ISKCON center must follow. Every temple that owns property must have three property trustees recognized by the GBC Executors Committee to insure that the property cannot be sold or mortgaged without the approval of these trustees.
Further, each temple president must sign an Oath of Allegiance to ISKCON and this must be on file with the local GBC secretary. In addition, each temple must pay yearly fees to the GBC Communications Office for services provided by the GBC and must also pay a fee for the ISKCON Board of Education. Later, each temple will be licensed to use the name ISKCON and be a recognized part of the society. In this way, by following all the above items, one gets official recognition as a part of ISKCON.
Basic ISKCON Management Structure
ISKCON has a basic structure which must be understood and maintained in all respects. If a temple or other unit disregards this basic structure, they cannot expect to remain a part of ISKCON for long. Therefore a clear idea of what is ISKCON and what is its structure is essential for proper temple management.
First of all, the instructions of Srila Prabhupada form the basis for all aspects of temple life. His words and directions hold the society together and keep it in the same basic direction. In the early 1970's, Srila Prabhupada created a basic direction of management wherein he created the Governing Body Commission of ISKCON. This Commission, known as the GBC, was meant to take over the burden of management from Srila Prabhupada during his lifetime, and, after his departure, to manage all the affairs of ISKCON. In Prabhupada's final will, he stated that 'The Governing Body Commission shall be the ultimate managing authority for all affairs of the International Society for Krsna Consciousness'. Thus the GBC today functions as the ultimate managing authority for all activities in ISKCON.
The GBC body meets at least once a year in Mayapur at its annual meeting.
During this meeting resolutions are passed giving direction to the society. Part of these resolutions deal with designating GBC representatives for the different areas of the ISKCON world. These officially designated GBC secretaries then act as the representatives of the entire GBC body in their specific zones. For the devotees in their zone, they act as the highest authority in terms of the spiritual management. They are responsible to the GBC body for the spiritual standards of the temples and devotees in their zone.
To efficiently deal with the management requirements within a smaller geographical area, some GBC men have created Regional Councils wherein the temple presidents and senior preachers within a specified region meet together regularly to cooperatively make sure that the temples are maintaining their standards and that preaching is going on in a coordinated manner. They can also expand their duties as they desire to manage things more properly. Other GBC members have instituted the system of regional secretaries who assist the GBC in the performance of his regional duties.
The next stage of ISKCON management is the temples. The temple is the basic unit of ISKCON's structure. These temples are meant to be self sufficient preaching units where devotees may live and prosper. Within each temple there is a temple president, and usually a treasurer. There may also be a secretary and other temple authorities. The authority structure in the temple descends from the temple president to the temple commander and then through the department heads such as the head pujari, head cook, sankirtan leader and so on. Sometimes the temple commander is considered as a department head. These department heads are responsible for all the activities within their department.
Since the temple is the basic unit of management in ISKCON, it is important to know the specific duties of the temple officers and department heads.
The Temple President
The Temple President is directly responsible for all the affairs of the temple. He may be of two types. The first type is a brahminical leader who works through a temple commander of the ksatriya nature, or he may be a ksatriya leader who allows the brahmanas of the temple to lead the temple spiritually. Either role model can work if the relationships are seen in terms of the varnasrama dharma system.
The brahminical type of temple president is one who manages mainly through preaching and giving a good spiritual example to the other devotees. He gives good classes and inspires the devotees to serve Krsna and thus easily gets the devotees in the temple working for Krsna out of their own voluntary desire. He doesn't have to force anyone to do anything since they do everything out of their own spiritual desire being convinced by his preaching.
This type of president manages the temple through the temple commander and the department heads. He instructs the temple commander and department heads to accomplish certain goals and they execute these goals by making plans and carrying them out. In this way all management is done by others and the brahminical temple president sees that their goals are Krsna conscious and met.
The second type of temple president is himself a great manager and leader of men. He will work intimately with all the members of the community and directly manage their activities. He may also have a temple commander and department heads, but he is managing their affairs in a very 'hands on' manner through active participation and direct intervention.
This ksatriya type of temple president will depend on his brahmanas or sannyasis in the community to do the bulk of the preaching and spiritual leadership. He will give them all facilities to preach and present Krsna consciousness in the temple. The temple runs through their spiritual example and power. He depends on these brahmanas, and may even have a brahminical council to give him occasional direction, when it is required, for problems which are too difficult for him to solve personally.
Both types of temple presidents should understand that their basic mood is to serve their spiritual master, the Deity, and the devotees. This service attitude is very important. The more the president thinks of himself as the servant of the devotees the better the management will be.
When a president thinks himself the servant of the devotees then it is easy for him to engage the devotees in service, for this is his service to them. He knows that a devotee cannot be happy unless he is nicely engaged in devotional service. He will also want to please the devotees by supplying their basic needs for their maintenance and preaching. Such a president is loved by the devotees and will always succeed, whereas one who thinks himself the master of the devotees will always run into difficulties and conflict with others who are not fully surrendered souls.
The department heads are responsible for their particular department's activities. For example, the sankirtan leader is responsible to see that all the devotees engaged in sankirtan are going out each day; are getting good spots; are paying for their books; are following the temple programs for spiritual strength; are getting proper clothes appropriate for the weather; are getting good prasadam for bodily health; are getting medicine when sick, and so on. In other words, he is responsible for their daily needs and requirements. He must carefully manage the department to make sure that every one of the devotees dependent on him is happily engaged in their service. At the same time he must act as a liaison with the temple president to inform him of the activities and results of the department and get further input, funding and manpower to accomplish his goals.
In the example of sankirtan, there are also group leaders. This principle exists in other departments as well when the department is large and spread out over a wide area. A group leader represents the authority of the department head and will basically take care of the same things as the department head but on a smaller scale.
General Guidelines for a Good Manager
In this chapter we will speak in a general way about certain principles which will help any temple manager regardless of his particular position.
These principles are essential for success in managing an ISKCON temple.
Srila Prabhupada's Unique position in ISKCON
The first and foremost principle is the recognition of Srila Prabhupada's position as the Founder acarya of ISKCON. Being the Founder acarya is no ordinary position. Others may act as spiritual masters within ISKCON, but only one person and no other, may hold the position of Founder acarya.
Founder acarya means that this individual has created a society which is a significant branch of the Caitanya tree. Srila Prabhupada has created a society which was so significant that it spread all over the world within a very short period of time. No one else ever performed such a preaching work and therefore he is glorified as the Founder acarya of ISKCON, and indeed, the whole world.
Because Prabhupada has such a unique position, his teachings and writings form a unique body of knowledge which will guide and direct the activities of all the devotees of ISKCON for at least the next 10,000 years when Krsna consciousness is flourishing on this planet. Therefore all temple managers must read and study the books of Srila Prabhupada in order to clearly understand the basic standards of ISKCON. Every temple leader must read regularly the books of Srila Prabhupada in order to know the philosophy. Without knowing the philosophy of Krsna consciousness no one can preach. And, as the next point will show, without preaching, there is no real management in this spiritual movement.
The Best Manager is the Best Preacher
Srila Prabhupada once told me, 'The best manager is the best preacher.' What he meant by that is simple. If one preaches to the devotees in the temple in a nice way, they will develop a service attitude and want to render service to the Lord and the spiritual master. They will be properly motivated without the requirement of some extra special endeavor. Therefore it is incumbent on every temple president to carefully and enthusiastically preach to the devotees at every opportunity. The better he preaches, the more the devotees will respect him and then naturally want to serve under his instruction.
Srila Prabhupada wanted his temple leaders to always think of newer ways to inspire the devotees. Therefore the temple presidents, in conjunction with the GBC, should think up newer and newer projects which will inspire the devotees. Of course, the sankirtan mission requires that the temple remain fixed in book distribution, but the president can set goals such as increasing the number of devotees and then training them to go out on sankirtan. This will certainly inspire the devotees. Further, he can create a number of marathons during the year which will inspire the devotees before special festival days. There are other programs which will enthuse the devotees, such as the observance of large festivals in the cities. In this way he should think of ways and means to inspire the devotees.
The nice thing about the preaching manager is that he never orders others on his own account. He never says, 'I am saying this and therefore you should follow me!'; rather, he simply represents the will and desire of the previous acaryas who have already given us the orders of what to do to spread the mission of Krsna consciousness. Because he is a representative of the previous acaryas, he will be loved by the devotees and the devotees will also love to follow his instructions because they can see that these instructions are not motivated by personal desires for name and fame, but are motivated by the pure desire to simply serve the previous acaryas. There is a wealth of difference between a devotee who orders others to satisfy his personal whim as compared to one who wishes to satisfy the spiritual master. This brings us to the next point.
Satisfaction of the Spiritual Master
The most essential principle that operates in spiritual life is total dedication of one's life, wealth, words, and intelligence in the mission of one's spiritual master. Dedication to the mission of the spiritual master is the perfection that fulfills all desires. If one wants to have success in spiritual life, the secret is to fully dedicate himself to following the instructions and fulfilling the mission of the spiritual master. No other principle in spiritual life works as effectively in developing all spiritual success.
We should all understand that the mission received in ISKCON descends from the original mission presented by Srila Prabhupada and therefore the mission of all future spiritual masters must be in accordance with the mission of Srila Prabhupada. If one acting as a spiritual master deviates from the mission of Srila Prabhupada then he becomes asara, or useless.
Prabhupada had many goals for this ISKCON movement, but all of these goals were to be accomplished through preaching. Simply by increasing the preaching, of which book distribution is the most important part, one can automatically fulfill all the other goals within the society. Therefore we stress so much on book distribution and preaching since it is the life of ISKCON and the source of all success in spiritual life. When the book distribution and preaching is going on nicely, then all the other aspects of spiritual life will also go on nicely with the minimum of management.
This is not only a theory of good management but it has been practically seen in temples where this principle is sincerely followed.
Every temple authority, and indeed, every devotee within ISKCON, should strictly maintain their standards of sadhana bhakti. Sadhana means the regulative principles of devotional service. Every temple authority must always rise early in the morning, take his bath, put on clean cloth and then come to the temple for the full morning program. If he does that, he will personally be Krsna conscious throughout the day, and he will be able to properly lead the devotees in their own spiritual sadhana bhakti.
One who does not properly follow sadhana will have a hard time convincing others to do so. This sadhana forms the basis of spiritual life upon which all spiritual perfection will grow.
Sometimes a temple president will not follow the temple program using his heavy work load as an excuse. But working all day without following the temple program is activity in the mode of passion and will not increase the management efficiency in the long run. Actually, it will decrease the effectiveness of the management for without spiritual strength no one can go on taking up heavy managerial responsibility for long. Therefore the temple presidents must be sure to follow the temple programs strictly.
They should properly chant their 16 rounds of the Hare Krsna maha mantra each day and carefully hear the mantra. This will give them the spiritual strength to go on with their managerial duties.
Although the temple president must be strict in his following of the sadhana process, he will still be faced with various emergency services throughout the day. Sometimes these emergencies will arise during the morning program and he will have to deal with them. If someone approaches him with a problem during the japa time, for example, he should politely direct that person to another temple authority who can deal with the situation, or he should propose a means by which the problem may be solved without his having to become personally entangled in it. He should not become angry at the person approaching him and deal with the situation as far as required. Sometimes the situation is so serious that it demands his immediate attention. He should then surrender to Krsna and take care of the situation as quickly as possible. However, if he is approached with a routine matter during his japa or the morning program, he should declare that the matter can be taken care of later on during the normal working hours and that now is the time for chanting and hearing. He should strive to keep his sadhana intact despite occasional disruptions.
Devotees don't like to be surprised with unexpected services. This is natural. They like to know what they have to do before they have to actually do it so they can arrange their lives in such a way as to best accomplish the tasks before them. Knowing this, a wise temple president will assist the devotees by notifying them well in advance what their devotional service will be in the future.
For example, if there is going to be a special kirtan party on the streets on Saturday, the temple president should notify the devotees on Monday of the planned kirtan. He should also repeat it on Wednesday and again on Friday. In this way all the devotees will know that on Saturday they will be expected to come to the kirtan and they will plan accordingly. The temple president who gives advance notification will minimize the possibility that he will hear from the devotees, 'I can't go, I have other things to do.' If the temple president is planning a sankirtan marathon, let us say in the month of December (the traditional time for an ISKCON marathon), he should start informing everyone of the marathon in October. He should mention it a few times until everyone is informed that in December there is going to be a marathon and everyone should take part in it. His preaching about the marathon should increase in November to expand the sankirtan fever so that by the end of November the marathon is in the front of everyone's consciousness. There should be no surprises or the sudden introduction of a new activity on the devotees for this will be counterproductive.
This is also true for smaller things such as a cleaning marathon in the temple. If there is to be a cleaning marathon on Friday, for example, then it should be announced on Monday so everyone can prepare their schedules to accommodate it. This is important for the smooth management of the temple.
A temple president must be honest with the devotees. If he makes a statement to the devotees, he should back it up with action. For example, if he states, 'If you work nicely in your department all year long, then I will send you to Mayapur for the festival.' then he should actually carry out that promise. If he does not, he will risk losing all the faith of that devotee and others as well. Certainly the devotee who has been promised will speak with others and this will cause a general diminishing of the faith of the devotees in the temple president. So when the temple president makes a promise to the devotees, he should fulfill it, even if it is hard to do so. His credibility as a leader to be trusted and believed depends on it.
Besides, the golden rule in the material world is, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' If someone made a promise to us and then broke it, we would not like it at all. Commonly a president might think, 'We are all devotees, so the others should just understand that I cannot fulfill my promise and accept it as Krsna's mercy.' But this is a lot to expect from neophyte devotees. In fact, one should not even expect it from advanced devotees. To mislead a devotee to whom a promise was made is a very bad thing and is against the etiquette of Vaisnavas. If one keeps his word he will become known as a person who can be trusted. This is an essential quality for a successful temple president.
There are occasions when a promise simply cannot be fulfilled, and such circumstances teach us what to say when we promise something. For example, if a devotee was promised that he could go to Mayapur for the festival, yet the temple is completely broke at the time of departure, or the price of the air fare has increased enormously, then it might be that the promise cannot be fulfilled. Of course, the new situation can be explained to the expectant devotee and perhaps he will accept that, but it is a risk. Therefore it is better not to make promises that might not be fulfilled later on. One might say something like, 'I can't guarantee anything, but we can try and arrange it if all goes well.' Such statements do not constitute a promise yet give hope to the devotee who has a desire to fulfil. Sometimes one can confidently state something more specific if he is sure that it can be fulfilled.
A good temple president always thinks about the welfare of the devotees.
He will make sure that they are well taken care of at all times. He is concerned that they have a proper place to rest, that it is peaceful and well heated, as well as comfortable. He should make sure that the residence of the devotees is as nice as his own.
The ideal president is a perfect host for visiting devotees. He should always make sure that a new guest in the temple has been given prasadam, a nice place to stay, as well as whatever things he needs to be comfortable. Of course, this means within reason, but if one just greets a new guest with sweet words and the basic facilities needed for devotional life, he will satisfy that guest and get his blessings. A president who cares for his guests will find that more and more guests will come to the temple. This is very important when one wants to attract senior devotees to come to the temple and preach. They remember more than anything else the reception they are given, and the word will spread, either good or bad. Nothing ruins a temple more than the reputation that one will not be treated properly there. If such a reputation gets out, then it will be very hard to attract travelling preachers to come and stay for some time. Therefore one should always endeavor to be a perfect host to attract more and more travelling preachers to the temple.
One may ask what is the use of having travelling preachers come to the temple? But it is seen in those places where senior devotees come and preach that the devotees are always enlivened and happy. Whenever a new person comes and preaches it is a kind of mini festival and the devotees feel satisfied that someone new is there to give the classes and lead some kirtans. After all, variety is the spice of life. The realizations of the new preachers keep the atmosphere from getting stale and keep everyone enlivened.
One of the most important features in caring for devotees is to make sure that the prasadam is always good, on time, clean, and hot. If prasadam is nice, and well served (see the section on serving prasadam) then the devotees will always feel satisfied and they will be enthusiastic to perform their services. Srila Prabhupada once spontaneously wrote me a letter thanking me for the nice prasadam that I was serving the devotees in the temple. He considered this as most important for the spiritual lives of the devotees.
If a guest comes to the temple, he should be always greeted with some nice prasadam. This will satisfy anyone who has come from a long distance. Srila Prabhupada also said that anyone who comes to the temple, at any time of the day, should be offered some prasadam. Some subji can be always available, and some puris can be quickly prepared from puri dough ready in the refrigerator and ghee in the pan quickly heated up. A sweet should be available and this will satisfy any gentleman.
An important part of caring for the devotees is giving them proper medical care. If they are sick, it is essential that someone take care of them. Giving them water, or fruit juice, if that will help them in their particular sickness, as well as bringing a doctor if required and supplying them medicine, will go a long way to both helping the devotees in their time of crisis, and also endearing them to the management. If the managers care for the devotees when they are sick or injured, the devotees tend to become very grateful, as any person would be, and then they will increase their service when they get better.
It is only common sense to take care of the devotees when they are sick.
It is a kind of reciprocation. When they are well, they are working hard for the temple, and when they are sick, the temple takes care of them. Often we hear of devotees who were just left neglected somewhere during some illness. They often become bitter and want to leave that place as soon as they can. This is certainly a good way to lose devotees. By simply taking care of them, they can expand their service to Krsna and their spiritual master more and more. This is also true of a devotee who is not a devotee of your temple. If a guest is sick, one should treat him with all the facilities of a temple devotee for the guest is helpless and dependent on the temple at that stage. Someday you will be in another temple, and you may also fall sick.
Sometimes temple managers are extremely austere. When they fall sick they do not feel that any special attention is required and they just go on serving despite their illness. This is not good from two points of view.
The first point is that when one is sick and does not take care of himself he tends to get sicker or the disease becomes chronic and cannot be easily cured later on. This causes a disturbance in his service. Do not neglect the body thinking it to be merely maya. One should rather see the body as a temple of God and carefully take care of this valuable tool for self realization. It is our responsibility to take care of the body and keep it healthy. The second point is that when one neglects his own bodily illness he tends to become callous to the illness of others. He thinks, 'I would not care if this were happening to me, so why should we waste time trying to cure others?' This attitude is impersonal and will create many troubles for the devotees in the temple. One should take care of himself and others as well.
It must be noted here that sometimes devotees become overly concerned with their bodies. Although we must take care of the body, we also know that the bodily problems we face are a product of our past sinful actions and there is sometimes not much we can do about it. If, after repeated attempts to cure ourselves, we find that it is impossible or extremely difficult, we should give up the endeavor and simply depend on the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead who can reduce the heavy burden of our karma if He so desires. Knowing how far to endeavor to take care of the body is a difficult subject requiring a lot of maturity. If the temple president possesses that maturity he can nicely take care of the devotees in the temple according to their actual needs. Such maturity can only be gained over time, but it should be the goal of all temple managers.
Dealing with the GBC
The GBC of the local area is the appointed representative of the entire Governing Body Commission of ISKCON and is thus the representative of Srila Prabhupada's will. Therefore he should be well taken care of. He should have a proper room, proper prasadam, and also someone to take care of his needs such as washing of clothes and bedding.
Besides the normal bodily maintenance of the GBC member, there is also the relationship of managerial cooperation that must be maintained. The GBC member is there to help the president do his job better. He is meant to train the president if there is some lacking on his part, and to help him make the decisions which are essential to success in management.
Therefore one should be open and friendly with him. It is not the time to be closed up and unfriendly when the GBC member is coming. If one deals with his GBC member with hostility, this is counterproductive to the Krsna conscious ideal of vaisnava humility and etiquette. Usually the GBC member is very senior and therefore he should be respected by the temple authorities.
If there are problems, for example if the GBC member asks the temple president to do something he doesn't want to do, then they should discuss the situation together and come to some mutually acceptable conclusion. If there are very serious problems, then perhaps another GBC member can be called in to help mediate the situation and come to some conclusion.
But one should never openly fight with the GBC member or criticize him to the general devotees. This would be the worst thing to do since it will cause irreparable damage to the faith of the devotees. Srila Prabhupada wanted that the GBC and temple presidents work together in close harmony for the overall benefit of ISKCON and it is up to the temple president to fulfill his part of the bargain by fully cooperating with the GBC member as far as possible.
The GBC member will correct any mistakes or deviations created by the temple managers. This is part of their job. If the GBC secretaries, who are capable of seeing what is right and wrong, see something improper in the temple, they will usually correct it as soon as possible. Of course there may be many things wrong in the temple, especially in these beginning stages of management, and the GBC representative may not choose to correct all these things at once. He will bring the temple up to the proper standard over time. The temple managers should appreciate that they have a guide to follow who will understand their needs and problems and give good instruction where it is needed.
Later on, when the management is running more smoothly and up to the proper standard of spiritual life, the GBC representative may take a more advisory role and give instruction in a more brahminical fashion. The GBC secretaries are actually meant to guide the presidents by giving them good advice and direction where it is needed. They can also help the presidents make good decisions. Naturally the GBC will want to assist the temple presidents to expand the movement more and more. Therefore the presidents should cooperate with the GBC secretaries in all ways.
There are two basic ways in which something can be managed. One may take all the responsibility on his own shoulders and singularly manage something, or he may create a group to discuss and plan out the course of action to be executed. Sometimes it is seemingly more efficient to do things alone, for having to deal with many others on managerial affairs is a difficult thing to do. But in the long run it is not really recommended. If we make decisions which are wrong, or at least not appreciated by the others in the temple, then the responsibility for those improper decisions rests solely and wholely on our own shoulders.
This can become quite unpleasant and can cause one to become very discouraged. Therefore, making larger decisions which give overall direction to the temple are better made in small groups specifically designed to make such decisions. The decision made by the group is usually a better one, as the subject being decided would be considered from many different perspectives. And it is a fact that those who participate in making the decision are naturally more inspired to work to implement it. When all the managers in the temple are moving in the same direction the management becomes quite easy and powerful. But if individual managers have different ideas then there is conflict and everyone's energy is wasted. Therefore group decisions are more conducive to successful management.
Considerations of the Asram of a Manager
A temple president usually has to deal with women. Formerly in ISKCON this was resolved by having all the temple presidents marry. Although this helps solve the problem to some degree, it is not a final solution.
Dealing with women is a difficult thing for a man and this sometimes will preclude brahmacaries and sannyasis from managing temples. Still, one will see brahmacaries and sannyasis running a temple now and then. It is difficult, but it can be done if one is very expert and detached.
There is nothing wrong with a householder managing a temple so long as he does not utilize the facilities of the temple for his own personal sense gratification. Certainly the president may get his basic requirements for living and eating fulfilled through the temple, and he may also have his own place to live outside. However, he should not exploit the temple for his own sense gratification, for that would be taking more than his quota. The Isopanisad warns us that everything is owned and controlled by the Lord and therefore one should not take more than that which is allotted to him by the will of the Lord. A temple president must be careful not to take more than what would be allotted to any other householder who is working full time for the temple. For example, he should not have specially prepared opulent meals when the temple devotees are eating austerely. In fact he should eat with the devotees. Neither should he use temple funds to buy himself a nice vehicle while the other devotees are walking or taking the bus. He should take what is needed to expand his service, but not for expanding his sense gratification. This subject will be discussed in more detail later on in the book.
Whether one is married or not, one must deal with married and unmarried women. It is dangerous to deal with women since there is always the chance that one may become attached and thus entangled with some other lady. We have seen in the past temple presidents fall down because of having to deal with women. Brahmacary managers have gotten themselves married due to attachment to one of the girls in the temple and householder managers have fallen down with another man's wife and run away from their position. Sometimes illicit sex can take place when no one is looking and this causes the destruction of that devotee's spiritual life. If the president gets entangled in this manner the temple can become destroyed, so one must avoid such entanglements by all means.
Some hints are as follows. If he is dealing with unmarried ladies, then the oldest, and hopefully the most capable, among them should try to take care of the girls. If the ladies are married, then the temple president should engage the ladies either through the husband of the lady, or he should have his wife engage the lady directly. This will avoid the unsavory situation of the temple president having to intimately deal with someone else's wife. Being the wife of a temple president has its responsibilities for the wife of the temple president must act as his representative in dealing with the other ladies in the temple.
Sometimes the wife of the temple president does not want to, or cannot, deal with the management of the other ladies in the temple. If this happens then the temple president has no choice but to do it himself.
This is not so bad if he is just giving simple instructions to the ladies for their service, but if they have more mental problems, as ladies often do, then it will become more difficult. The wife of the temple president may then act as a messenger between the ladies with the problems and her husband, carrying good instructions to them with the hopes that this will satisfy them. If they still require more attention, then the wife of the temple president may sit with her husband while he speaks with the lady with a problem.
If the problem that is discussed is one of a marital nature; that is, a problem between husband and wife, the temple president should recommend that the couple work out their problems amongst themselves. He might also recommend that the problem be brought up to their spiritual master for his opinion. It is important that married couples work out their interpersonal problems as best they can amongst themselves, for it is extremely difficult for anyone else to do it for them.
If the temple president is dealing with someone else's wife through her husband, and the husband is in maya to some serious degree, then the temple president will have no choice but to deal with the wife directly.
But this must be done in a most discreet manner. Sometimes it has been seen that a temple manager is lusty to enjoy the wife of another devotee.
To do this he might proclaim her husband to be in maya in order to bring the woman under his control. This is a most disgraceful affair and it can have nasty repercussions. Therefore, before the temple president decides if the husband is in maya and he must manage the wife directly, he should get the authorization of the GBC or the temple council. In any case, even if the manager must deal directly with the wife of another they should never speak or meet in a closed place and always there should be others around to make sure that no illicit activities take place or no unwanted attachments develop. For example, if they are meeting in the office of the temple president, the door should be open and another man, or the temple president's wife, should be there. Again, if the wife of the temple president is available for management services then she should deal with that lady directly.
It is important to note here that although the temple president might utilize his wife to deal with the other women in the temple, the wife should not take this as an opportunity to start to control the temple. It is essential that the wife not try to manage the brahmacaries or other men as this would create a great disturbance to the temple atmosphere.
The wife of the temple president should only pass instructions from her husband to the other ladies in the temple and should not try to manage the temple on her own.
Pitfalls in Daily Management
There are many activities which, if performed, can throw a temple off the course of expanding the Krsna consciousness movement. We are meant to preach and deliver the message of Krsna consciousness throughout the world, but sometimes we become sidetracked and diverted from our real duties. Therefore we have to be careful to avoid the following basic mistakes. These mistakes have been recognized over long periods of time in ISKCON. They are not at all obvious. Formerly large segments of the movement were engaged in such activities with seemingly great success, but the ultimate failure of the temples and their leaders showed without a shadow of a doubt that good management means following strictly the formulas given to us by Srila Prabhupada.
Of all the formulas coming from Srila Prabhupada, the one relating to book distribution and temple economy seems to be the most practical and important. Prabhupada often said that the economic basis of the movement is the sale of our books. He created the formula that the temple would give half of its income to the BBT and the other half would be used for temple maintenance. This becomes clear when we understand that the temple's will sell the books for at least twice the BBT price, thus automatically half of their income goes to the BBT to pay for the books and the other half goes to the temple treasury. Prabhupada wanted this formula to be followed by all his temples for it was the means of all spiritual and material success. Keeping this in mind, we can discuss some of the pitfalls in temple management.
Expansion Beyond One's Means
Expanding the Krsna consciousness movement is one of our aims. We want to expand the preaching and temples all over the world. However, when an individual temple president decides to expand the temple, or even a temple council, often they will expand it far beyond the capacity of the temple finances. We have practically seen this occurring in some parts of the world.
This is one of the most serious traps the temple managers can fall into. If the temple managers are not mature in their spiritual realization, they may equate the material opulence of the temple with success. They may see that the more opulent the temple is, the more successful they are as temple managers. Sometimes a temple president will also compete on the subtle platform with other temple presidents. If another temple president has got an opulent temple, then the first temple president will think that he has got to have one as well. This will cause him to want to expand the temple's opulence more and more to keep pace with the other temple. Such competition is not on the transcendental platform. Real success means increased preaching, devotees joining, and books distributed, and not necessarily the increase of material opulence. Misconceptions can cause a temple manager to start to expand the temple even if he does not have the means to do so. He may buy a big building at great expense thus greatly increasing his monthly operating expenses. He may take out big loans from the bank with large monthly payments. And in order to pay for this, he will have to push the devotees more and more to collect large sums of money. This is not the way to expand the Krsna consciousness movement.
One should not get a big facility unless he really requires it. When there are so many devotees in the temple that there is hardly any room to sleep, then one really requires a bigger facility. But if that is the case, then one should have enough devotees to collect sufficiently to pay for the larger facility. If one buys a big place unnecessarily, then he runs the risk of having to maintain a large, opulent, and empty temple.
Therefore do not expand unless there is a real need to do so. Every dollar spent on a mortgage payment may mean many times that in fewer books to distribute.
One should have a temple room large enough to accommodate a reasonable number of guests. It may not be possible to hold all the guests who come, but an attempt should be made to allow as many as possible to join in the temple programs.
Not every person who is becoming Krsna conscious need live in the temple.
For example, householders might be better off living outside the temple in a nearby flat. They can come to the temple every day for the temple programs and engage in service as they can. If they are not engaged in essential service in the temple, where they will then be maintained by the temple, they will have to work outside in order to support their family. If they are living outside and working they can perform a valuable service by donating to the temple some of their monthly salary for its support. This is the actual varnasrama principle: the householders live outside the temple and give as much as they can for the support of the temple's preaching activities and devotees.
In the Upadesamrta (The Nectar of Instruction) of Srila Rupa Goswami, there is a verse which states 'atyahara prayasas ca...' Prayasah means to over endeavor for mundane achievements. This is something which can destroy spiritual life. Therefore, striving to expand the temple when there are no resources to do so, is one of the impediments to successful spiritual life and must be avoided by any responsible temple leader.
The Paraphernalia Trap
When the temple managers have fallen into the trap of overexpansion of the temple's facilities, they will require some means to keep the project functioning. Because they have expanded far beyond the capacity of the present devotees to maintain using the traditional methods of book distribution, they have to create some other form of income which will have a high return for a small effort. This requirement gave birth to paraphernalia distribution in ISKCON.
Paraphernalia means any product which is not books. In the past ISKCON leaders have induced the devotees to sell paintings, rugs, tee shirts, bumper stickers, and so on, to raise the necessary funds to pay the large overheads of their temples. Such collection programs become critical when brahmacaries are performing such activities as a temple organized affair.
Some temple presidents justifiably argue that they only recently became the president of the temple and that they inherited the temple with its large expenses from the previous administration. This may be true, but it does not change the point. Although one may be sincere in his utilization of paraphernalia, still it means that the temple is supported in an artificial manner similar to the methodology of the materialistic society. Prabhupada wanted his temples maintained by book distribution, for this would be the best way to expand the preaching of the Krsna consciousness movement and at the same time it was the safest means of creating economic stability. Paraphernalia has gone a long way to ruining book distribution in some parts of the world.
Paraphernalia is seemingly an easy way to make money. Devotees, instead of having to preach and present themselves as devotees, could now wander the streets, offices, and homes, and sell items which were in demand by the materialists. Books about God consciousness are hard to sell since the people basically do not want such literatures (at least in the opulent West) but material goods such as paintings or rugs are in high demand and easy to sell. Besides, one can purchase these items wholesale in Asia and sell them for many times their original price making a fantastic profit without much effort.
Because of the great success of paraphernalia, temples were becoming more and more opulent on the basis of material goods. Temple presidents saw this as a means to expand their temples more and more, and even purchase large buildings which were formerly far beyond their means. It seemed that now things would become easy to manage.
However, what happened was that once starting on this paraphernalia, one was attached to it, just as one gets addicted to drugs. Since the temple was expanded beyond the normal expected facilities for the number of devotees, one must continue with the paraphernalia to pay for the temple expenses. This meant that the devotees would have to continue with the paraphernalia at all costs.
The real problem with paraphernalia is that it really does not produce more income to expand the preaching. As the income from paraphernalia increases, so do the expenses, and these inflated overheads cause the net profit to remain the same. Although one tries to maintain the program over longer periods of time, he runs into problems as the devotees doing paraphernalia need 'vacations' and breaks from the hard grind of collecting, which causes breaks in the flow of income. Sometimes devotees become exhausted and require extensive breaks. All in all, the overall increase in income is negated by the increase in expenses and decrease in efficiency of the individual collector.
After some time, the devotees become spiritually weak. Staying out late at night to visit people's homes, far away from the temple association, wearing karmi clothes and never speaking about Krsna, the devotees lose their taste for spiritual life and become contaminated with material desires. They gradually give up the essence of spiritual life, the preaching mission, and consider that maintenance of their bodily existence in their grhastha ashram (since they all inevitably get married) is the goal of spiritual life. Some go away from Krsna consciousness completely, never to be seen again. Some take up the same paraphernalia business they did in ISKCON but now completely in the material world. Others just become useless and retire to an inactive life in the temple.
The net result is that book distribution becomes weakened and even non¬existent. The devotees lose all strength to actually present themselves as devotees to the public and sell books. Thus instead of being a panacea for all economic problems, it turns to be a great disaster. After a while one is either forced to change the basic principles of Krsna consciousness from preaching to collecting money to maintain the temple, or a temple just withers away completely due to the basic lack of enthusiasm of the devotees.
Krsna does not want to send new devotees who are sincere in spiritual life to places where material economic means dominate the daily activities of the temple. Some may still join, but they may be attracted to maintaining bodily comforts and material opulence. When this happens people come to ISKCON to solve their economic problems. This is not at all satisfactory to the proper prosecution of spiritual life. We want devotees to join who are eager to develop their love of God and serve Him through the sankirtan mission of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Thus this paraphernalia trap has to be avoided by all temple presidents who are sincerely interested in prosecuting and preaching spiritual life.
It is important to mention here that the paraphernalia trap mentioned above does not apply to householders working to maintain their families.
Srila Prabhupada even authorized the starting of an incense business, called 'Spiritual Sky Incense', for the sake of the householder's maintenance. They were to work in this business, selling the incense wherever they could, and take a share in the profits in the form of a salary. Other householders could also make their own businesses, maintain themselves nicely, and donate regularly to the temple. This is the dharma for a householder. It is not forbidden for a householder to produce and sell paraphernalia. As will be explained later, the best means of support for a householder is through the distribution of Prabhupada's books. He may take a commission and support himself nicely. But if he cannot do that for some reason, then it is not forbidden for him to engage in paraphernalia businesses.
Lust, Anger and Greed
Every individual within this material world is subject to the effects of lusty desires. A temple president is no exception. If he is desirous of being known as a great devotee or a great temple president then he is falling into the trap of lusty desires. We should always think of ourselves as the humble servants of the Supreme Lord and our spiritual masters and never the master. When one is eager to be recognized as a great devotee or a great manager, then he is thinking himself to be something else than the humble servant of the Lord.
A real devotee always knows that whatever credit is there in his activities is due to the blessings and grace of the spiritual master and Krsna. He knows that it is not due to his own efforts but it comes from the Lord. Therefore he will never expect personal recognition for his work.
Sometimes a temple president will be very much attached to recognition for his works. Often this will be the cause of falldown from spiritual life. Obviously this is true for all devotees, regardless of their position in ISKCON's management structure. But a temple president will especially have to be on guard for he is responsible not only for himself but for the devotees in the temple as well. If he falls down then many devotees will suffer. Therefore he has to be extra careful to guard against becoming victimized by lusty desires for fame, profit and distinction.
Krsna consciousness should be an exciting and active process. But sometimes, due to maya, a temple president finds himself bored. When he is personally bored it means that he is not actively engaging himself in figuring out ways to engage the devotees more and more in inspirational devotional service. Prabhupada once wrote to one leader that the job of the authorities in ISKCON is to always make sure that the other devotees are enthused in their services. To remain enthused the leaders must always think up newer goals to be accomplished by the devotees. Therefore it is essential that the temple presidents themselves are enthused and enlivened by newer works and ideas to spread the Krsna consciousness movement. Again, it is best that the temple president consult with his local GBC before he creates some new programs.
A temple president can keep himself enlivened by sometimes travelling to other temples and associating with other temple presidents, by attending Continental or Global temple president meetings, by attending regional council meetings, and by generally associating with senior devotees and travelling preachers. All these means can help him to keep ideas of how to spread Krsna consciousness flowing positively.
A Brief Description of the Relevance of Varnasrama in ISKCON
It is very difficult to analyze the varnasrama system in terms of its relevance in ISKCON because there are many different opinions amongst the devotees as to how this could work. Vaisnavas who are beyond the cause and effect of the material world are beyond the varnasrama system. However we see that great devotees such as Arjuna, although factually beyond the confines of varnasrama, successfully work within the varnasrama structure. Krsna also encouraged Arjuna to perform his duties within the varnasrama structure and attain perfection. Work done for the satisfaction of Visnu may be performed within any structure for the ultimate goal is the satisfaction of the Lord. Since the Lord Himself has created the varnasrama institution, there are obviously principles within it which are helpful to keep in mind while managing in ISKCON. We shall delineate some of them here.
Engaging Devotees According to their Propensities
Leaders in the varnasrama system require to see the qualities of a person and then engage him in work according to those qualities. This is one of the most important features of the varnasrama system. Krsna says in Bhagavad gita, catur varnyam maya srstham guna karma vibhagasah: I have created the four orders of life according to their qualities and work. If someone has the quality of a particular order, and he works in that way, then he can be known as a member of that particular varna.
Those who have the qualities and are acting as priests, teachers, or advisors, are known as brahmanas. Those who are warriors, managers, and administrators are known as ksatriyas. Those who are taking care of the cows and agriculture, as well as commerce and banking are known as vaisyas. And those who are engaging in service to the other higher orders are known as sudras.
Each devotee in the temple will have a particular propensity. He will want to act in a particular manner. Of course, when one first comes to the temple he will act in a humble manner, mainly washing pots and cleaning the temple, as well as chanting on the street and other simpler services. But after a while he will purify himself due to the strength of the chanting of the Holy Name and gradually his natural qualities will manifest. At that time it is important that he be engaged according to his varna in order that there be no obstacles arising in his speedy development of Krsna consciousness.
Therefore the temple leaders should see that the devotees are engaged, as far as possible, according to their natural qualities. Now it is true that a temple president must be practical as well. Sometimes there are emergency services that must be taken up in order that the preaching mission go on properly. In this case it may not be possible to engage every devotee according to his propensities. However, when the temple has sufficient devotees, it will be easier to engage every devotee according to his propensity. A temple president should endeavor to engage everyone according to their propensities as far as possible.
It is not that easy to see what the propensities of a devotee are. If the devotee is new to the temple, it is a little difficult to understand what his propensities actually are. In fact, new devotees are often confused about their own position within the material nature and can offer little guidance to their managers as to what they would be best doing. Therefore it is a tradition in ISKCON that the newer devotees engage in general activities such as cleaning the temple, going on hari nam, and so on, until they are purified of their basic material contaminations.
Devotees who have been in the temple for a while are easier to understand because there has been a close contact with them over a period of time.
Because of seeing them often, the president can understand what they do best and most enthusiastically and engage them accordingly. One can also ask a devotee what he would most like to do. One can also inquire as to what he was doing before he joined ISKCON, or what abilities and qualities he brought to Krsna consciousness from the material world.
Jiva Goswami, one of the greatest acaryas in our line of disciplic succession, recommended that one examine the motivation that causes one to join the Krsna consciousness movement. In his society of vaisnavas, he had his leaders interview the new entrants into Krsna consciousness and ask them why they wanted to surrender to Krsna. If they replied that they were distressed, it indicated that they were of the sudra category. If they were in need of money, it indicated that they were of the vaisya category. If they were curious to see what was going on, then it indicated that they were of the ksatriya category and if they were seeking wisdom it indicated that they were of the brahmana category. The four orders of social division in the varnasrama correspond to the four classes of pious men who surrender to Krsna. A temple president might use this system to get an indication of the person's basic nature at the time he entered the temple.
The Role of Brahmanas in the Temple
Every temple should have a group of devotees who are qualified brahmanas.
Such brahmanas will be engaged in preaching services, Deity worship, and education. Certainly they are valuable to the temple through the performance of these services, but they can also assist the temple in another important way. These brahmanas can act as spiritual leaders in the temple. They provide an important spiritual basis by preaching to the devotees, both in classes and privately. They also help the temple management through their valuable input in the temple council.
The temple council is usually made up of the managers of the temple, the president and the department heads. But having these temple brahmanas on the council helps to even it out and give weight to the more brahminical and spiritual side of the management.
These brahmanas are leaders in their own right. They can offer leadership in the way that Krsna envisioned through their intellectual prowess.
Therefore, a temple should always encourage the brahmanas to flourish by respecting them and taking their input very seriously.
One of the important points in the varnasrama system, is the training one receives to respect all the different orders of life. Respecting devotees is an essential element in spiritual life. Special respect should be offered to devotees according to their spiritual position. The more advanced a devotee is the more respect should be offered him.
One should learn to respect all devotees and the services performed by them. Sometimes devotees in one service disrespect devotees in another service due to ignorance. We have seen that sometimes the sankirtan devotees become proud of their position as the front line soldiers of the sankirtan mission and they disrespect the other devotees in the temple.
But such misguided devotees should consider, without the cooks and the kitchen cleaners, then what would the sankirtan devotees eat? Without the devotees caring for and storing the books, what would the sankirtan devotees distribute? And without the management department to organize the sankirtan movement, what would the sankirtan devotees do? Further they should realize that if these services in the temple were not done by the temple devotees then the sankirtan devotees would have to take time off their sankirtan and do the services themselves since the services must be done by someone. Krsna has to eat and be worshiped, and someone in the temple has to serve the Deity. The sankirtan devotees should be glad that someone in the temple has made it his life's mission to take care of these important services.
All in all, it is important to respect all devotees and their services otherwise one will be disrespecting the Vaisnavas which is very bad for spiritual life.
The Temple Spiritual Program and Spiritual Standards
Every temple must have a strict sadhana, regulated life, for the devotees to follow. This is essential for the proper functioning of the temple.
Without a strict temple regulation, no temple can be successful in its preaching mission.
Of all principles, following the four regulative principles (no eating of meat, fish or eggs; no gambling; no intoxication; and no illicit sex) and chanting 16 rounds of the Hare Krsna maha mantra daily are the most important. These two principles are the basis for initiation by the spiritual master and the foundation for growth in spiritual life. All other principles are based on these elements. When these principles are followed, then the other regulative principles of temple life will be successful.
Each temple must have a morning and evening program. Before the morning program every devotee must clean himself fully and take bath. Then the morning program begins at 4:15am or 4:30am for Mangal Aratika. (In preaching centers, Nam Hatta centers and the homes of householders living too far from the temple to attend the temple functions, mangal aratika may be later according to convenience.) After the mangal aratika is the tulsi puja. Then there is usually a two hour period for chanting japa.
Then at 7 or 7:15am the Deity greeting (Govinda prayers) and then immediately after that Srila Prabhupada's guru puja. After the guru puja there is singing of Jaya Radha Madhava and Srimad Bhagavatam class. After the class there may be a period of questions and answers, and then, if the temple is organized in that way, a period of cleaning before morning prasadam [this will be explained later on].
The evening schedule starts at 6:45pm after the evening bath. There is usually a tulsi aratika and then at 7pm the full aratika for the Deities.
After the aratika, which is usually 20-30 minutes (the kirtan may go longer if the devotees are so inspired) the Bhagavad gita class will take place. After that there is some milk prasadam and then everyone rests for the night.
Every temple devotee should follow this morning and evening program strictly. There may be some exceptions if a devotee has to render service in other places in the temple during some parts of the temple program.
But this must be carefully regulated by the temple president.
Classes should be given by devotees who have some realization in spiritual life. Although any initiated devotee can give a class, unless the devotee has some realization, the listening audience will not be inspired. One should have a sound grasp of the philosophy and be able to present it to others. If there is no one to give a proper class, then one may play a tape of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavatam class, for he is the best speaker of our philosophy, or one may simply read from Srila Prabhupada's books and everyone should listen carefully. It is better, though, that someone gives the class, for that is good for the speaker as well as the hearers.
Generally the temple class schedule should be made in a rotating manner, that is, each devotee will give class once a week if there are 7 good speakers, or twice a week if less. In some cases a devotee may have to give many classes a week, or if all the devotees are more or less qualified, then perhaps less than once a week. The point is that all qualified devotees should be given a chance to speak on the philosophy for that will help them realize the philosophy more and more.
One practical consideration here arises when there are many children in a temple during the class times. Usually children cannot sit still during class and they generally make a disturbance. Therefore children are usually sent out of the temple room during class. It is improper that children make noises and run about during the class time, therefore they are brought out of the temple room.
Some temples have ingeniously created systems by which the mothers and children can be in class and not in the temple room simultaneously. The simplest method is to have a speaker from the temple room in another room where the children can make noise, but the class is still heard by a sincere mother who wishes to hear it. A more elaborate system is to have a soundproof room within the temple room, usually at the back, where the mothers can see and hear the class, but the children can do what they want. Alternatively, one could set up a video camera near the speaker of the class and have a remote television set somewhere where the children are safely away from the temple.
However, taking care of children during a class usually means that no class is heard for the children make too much noise. Therefore the most practical thing to do is to have a rotating system of a nursery where the mothers take turns taking care of all the temple children during the class time. This allows the mothers to come to class most of the time, and it keeps the children out of the temple room. In case there is objection from some mothers that they want to take care of their own children, it may be explained that Srila Prabhupada told Bhurijan prabhu that if their only service is to take care of their own children, then they should not live in the temple, but should live outside. Every mother should be prepared to take care of other's children, especially in the nursery environment. It is essential that children are supervised at all times otherwise they can wreck havoc in the temple.
Another part of the temple regulation is that every devotee in the temple should eat only Krsna prasadam which has been offered to the Supreme Lord in the temple. Food cooked by devotees and offered to the Lord with love and devotion is pure and will help one advance in spiritual life and develop love for the Lord.
Sometimes devotees think that it is alright to buy karmi made bread or other goods in the store and eat that. But actually they are eating the karma of the people who prepared the bread or other items. The karma of the cooks enters the food that is prepared by the karmis. Therefore outside food should be avoided at all costs. Srila Prabhupada once told me that eating outside the temple in India is the source of all diseases.
Therefore one should only eat Krsna prasadam cooked by sincere devotees.
Other devotees, who live near the temple, think that it is better to eat in their own homes and avoid the temple prasadam. Srila Prabhupada was very much against this and said that the temple prasadam should be so nice that everyone will want to eat it and not eat in their own places.
He was very much against the householders in Los Angeles eating food prepared in their own kitchens. The temple cooks should realize that preparing prasadam that is tasty and fresh is a first class means of pleasing the devotees. Every devotee in the temple should be satisfied by the nice prasadam. Sometimes it is required that children have their own special arrangements for prasadam since they cannot tolerate the hot or spicy cooking in the temple. In such cases it is acceptable that their mothers cook for them if required. However, expert temple cooks know the art of setting aside some prasadam before it is spiced. This allows the children to take it thus avoiding the necessity for separate cooking arrangements.
Every devotee who lives in the temple should perform regulated service in the temple. Regulated service means service which is performed at the same time every day or under the direction of the temple authorities.
This service forms the basis of our daily Krsna conscious activities. If a devotee leads a regulated life and daily performs a particular service then he will quickly transcend the bondage of maya. For example, it is essential that all the devotees in the temple clean the temple every day, for cleaning the temple is like cleaning the heart. When this is done together, even for 20 minutes a day, then the temple will be clean and nice for the rest of the day. Other devotees can then keep clean the areas that get especially dirty, like the prasadam rooms or entrance hallways. The pujari department is another example of perfectly regulated temple activity since they have to perform their Deity worship at precisely the same time every day. The book distributors are also going out on their preaching work every day and cleansing the mirror of their hearts by doing so.
Although devotional service is generally seen as a very active thing, sometimes it is also done in a tranquil mood. Reading the books of Srila Prabhupada is one of the most important activities that a devotee can perform for these books contain the essence of spiritual life. Srila Prabhupada once told me in South Africa, 'They think that I have given these books just for selling to others, but actually I have written them for the devotees to read. You are authorized to read these books 24 hours a day!' He stressed the reading of his books because he knew that unless the devotees developed transcendental knowledge they would never be able to overcome the modes of material nature. Transcendental knowledge is the key to advancing in spiritual life. Therefore let us all read Srila Prabhupada's books with great enthusiasm! Sometimes devotees ask whether they can read other books that are written by other ISKCON devotees and approved by the GBC. Actually, any Krsna conscious book is nice, but Srila Prabhupada wanted that the devotees read all his books many times before they would attempt to read other books. He specifically said this on many occasions. However he also encouraged his disciples to write books and articles so obviously it is alright to read their writings as well. The point is that Prabhupada's books are the source of all knowledge in ISKCON and they must be studied carefully.
Training Programs for Devotees
A temple is a place of learning. Anyone who enters the temple doors should be educated in devotional practice and knowledge. Practically they are trained to do the various services in the temple, such as preaching, cooking, puja, and so on, and at the same time they are educated in the sastra.
Every temple will educate its members through the morning Bhagavatam class and the evening Gita class as well as encouraging the devotees to read during the day for at least one hour. Although this may be difficult and there may be many services to perform, in the long run sastrically trained devotees will remain devotees and will render more service than devotees remaining in ignorance. To this end sometimes programs are created to train devotees in the sastra, such as the newly developed Bhakti Sastri courses which concentrate on training the devotees in the Bhagavad gita. The Bhagavad gita is such a nice book that if one simply knows it then he will be able to preach to just about anyone as well as give nice classes in the temple. Besides the wonderful verses spoken by Lord Krsna there are many other verses quoted from a variety of sastras in the purports. One may become a completely learned personality simply by knowing the Bhagavad gita perfectly well. And one may study the Gita for a lifetime before knowing it perfectly.
One who is educated in the philosophy of the Bhagavad gita will develop his love for Krsna, for to know Krsna is to love Him. An auxiliary benefit is that the fruitive mentality will decrease. The more one understands the futility of fruitive activity the more his desire to work fruitively will decrease and he will work just for the satisfaction of the Lord and the spiritual master.
Engagement of Others in Devotional Service
It should be mentioned that sometimes we have to work with people who have fruitive desires. For example, we may hire people to work in our restaurants to serve or to clean, and they will take a salary. They may be nice people who even appreciate Krsna consciousness (such as a Krsna's Friend, a person who likes Krsna consciousness and the devotees but is not advanced enough to be a full time devotee) but they still work to maintain their separate material existence. Sometimes an initiated householder may require money to support his family, and he may take a salary. Another example is that sometimes we hire professionals to translate the books of Srila Prabhupada when there are no learned devotees in a particular language (of course a devotee must edit the work to make sure that the philosophy is unchanged). This kind of paid helper is not forbidden for temples, but it should be avoided as far as possible. It is always best to engage devotees in our work for they are working for Krsna and that is devotional and perfect. But if there is no other choice, people may be hired when the need arises. Such persons should be encouraged to do something devotional for Krsna, such as making an offering with their salaries or even to offer some physical services with their bodies. Such offerings are very beneficial to the performers and therefore devotees should encourage them to offer the results of their work in karma yoga.
Of all the standards in the temple, the most stringent and demanding are within the puja department. There are many rules and regulations regarding Deity worship and it is far beyond the scope of this basic manual to describe them all in detail. The full set of standards has been prepared by the GBC Deity Worship Committee and one may procure a copy of that book to understand the final standard in Deity worship. These standards are quite high and preaching centers may not follow even most of these principles. But larger, more established, temples should endeavor to follow these principles for they are meant for the advancement of the pujaris and the temple devotees.
One may best learn this basic standard from travelling pujaris. After discussion with and approval from the local GBC, one can invite some learned pujari to come and train the devotees in the temple who can be designated as pujaris, in the basic form of Deity worship suitable for the circumstances. To be qualified as a pujari one must be brahmana initiated, very clean, and punctual.
Actually, one may come to a very high standard of Deity worship if he is simply following the principles of strict cleanliness and punctuality. One must keep the altar and all its paraphernalia very clean. The altar must be cleaned everyday and the paraphernalia must be kept polished. In addition the pujari must keep himself or herself clean and must not enter the Deity room or kitchen in a contaminated state. (Ladies cannot enter the kitchen or Deity room during the first three days of their menstrual period.) And all services to the Deities should be punctual. If the Deity is to take breakfast at 7:30am, then exactly at 7:30 the breakfast must be set down before the Deity. If one follows strictly this standard, then he is well on his way to satisfying the Lord.
Of course, the most important item in Deity worship is devotion. If one does whatever he does for the Lord with devotion, then even if there are defects in the worship, they will be overlooked due to the loving mood of the devotee. This does not mean that we can be careless and expect the Lord to overlook that for one who actually has devotion the Lord will never be careless in the Lord's service for he will always be careful to please the Lord at all times.
Deities shall never be established on the altar without the express approval of the local GBC men. To whimsically start Deity worship is not authorized. It is also an established GBC rule that no Deities (except Gaura- Nitai) may be established for worship unless the temple property is legally owned by ISKCON.
At the time of establishing Deities in a temple, standards for the worship of the Deities are set and should be kept in writing. Once one establishes a certain standard of Deity worship, he should never decrease that standard. If one has established a certain type of offering made at a particular time, then that should always be kept up and never diminished at any time. One can always increase, but whatever was increased must be maintained for all time after that. Therefore only increase when it is absolutely certain that it will never be decreased.
One must strictly keep up the Deities schedule and all standards that are set in the temple.
Exactly what is the Deity schedule will vary from temple to temple according to the level of Deity worship being performed. In temples where the full puja is done obviously there will be more included in the schedule than in temples where a minimum worship is performed.
The following rules are for the worship of Radha-Krsna and Jagannatha Deities which have been formally installed in the temple: Everyone can be engaged in Deity worship in some way or other, but not everyone can enter the Deity room and perform the puja. This is reserved for the brahmana initiates. Bhaktas may clean the temple in front of the Deities, or they may enter the kitchen and wash the Deities pots and clean the kitchen.
They may also cut the vegetables that are later washed and brought into the kitchen. First initiated devotees may perform some more services in the kitchen, even rolling chapatis or preparing foods to be cooked, but cooking with fire is allowed only by the second initiated devotees. Only a brahmana initiate can work over the flame or perform worship on the altar. This is the strict standard of Deity worship for Deities other than simply worshiped Gaur Nitai.
When performing elaborate temple worship of Deities other than Gaur Nitai, one must have a sufficient stock of brahmana pujaris, otherwise he should not start elaborate temple worship. For example, Prabhupada wanted at least 6 pujaris to take care of the Jagannath Deities, and there must be other brahmanas to cook as well. One of the greatest mistakes that a temple president can make is to start elaborate Deity worship without a sufficient number of initiated brahmanas who are qualified, willing and able to do Deity worship. This mistake will cause havoc in the temple.
Unless there is a proper number of dedicated pujaris, there is no use in starting elaborate worship. A pujari should understand that his service is for the rest of his life, or at least until a replacement can be found for his service.
Standards for Worship of Gaur-Nitai
Gaur Nitai are very merciful. They allow Themselves to be worshiped by anyone even in a most simple standard, and Their installation may be performed in a simple, informal way % even just by chanting the holy name. Sometimes we make a distinction between 'installed' and 'uninstalled' Deities and establish standards of worship accordingly.
However, there is no real difference between the two. One may 'install' Gaur Nitai Deities simply by performing kirtan and worshiping Them with devotion. Srila Prabhupada comments in the Srimad Bhagavatam that he considered the hari nam sankirtan to be the real installation of the Deities in Vrindavan and not the elaborate puja being performed by paid brahmanas. Therefore when one performs kirtan he installs the Deities. Accordingly one should worship Them as best he possibly can, following a standard which can be constantly maintained.
It is best that a second initiated devotee cook for the devotees, but if that is not possible in some places, then first initiated devotees may do so. If there are no initiated devotees (in a Nam Hatta center for example) then uninitiated bhaktas who show sincerity and are following the four regulative principles and chanting 16 rounds a day may cook for the devotees and make simple offerings to Sri Sri Gaur Nitai. If these services are done cleanly and with devotion, They will accept the offerings. However, as soon as there are sufficient initiated devotees to perform the worship and cook the offerings, they should do so. Although the standard may be relaxed in the beginning due to the lack of qualified devotees, as soon as there are sufficient devotees available, the full standard should be introduced and never diminished.
Any kind of a center may have Gaur Nitai Deities and worship Them according to the devotees' means. They may be offered food according to the eating schedule of the inhabitants of the temple. One can change Their dress every week and worship Them as it is convenient. Again, when it is possible to increase the standard of worship, then one should add a daily bathing ceremony for the Deities pleasure and all the other aspects of Deity worship one after another.
The following are the standards for worshiping the Deities. The Deities' day begins before mangal aratika with the awakening of the Deities. This is usually done 15 or 30 minutes before the mangal aratika. After waking the Deities, milk sweets are offered. No preparations cooked in ghee are allowed at this time, neither is fruit appropriate, so just milk sweets are offered, like sandesh, rasgulla, rabri, and so on. Then the mangal aratika is performed. This is a full aratika. A full aratika means that one first blows the conch shell three times, (after blowing the conch shell one must pour some water over the shell into a pot placed by the side of the altar specifically to catch the water from the washed conch shell), then he offers the incense (an odd number of sticks), during the Raj bhoga aratika at noon a camphor lamp is offered (if one can get camphor otherwise this may be skipped), then a lamp with 5 flames (one makes the wicks by dipping rolled cotton in liquid ghee), then a small conch shell filled with water, then a handkerchief, then flowers with an aroma, then a camara whisk (obtainable only in India), and a peacock feather fan during the warm weather months. At the end of the aratika one blows the conch shell three times and again washes it.
There are a few points that should be understood before offering aratika.
One should only do aratika if he is fully bathed and dressed in fresh, clean cloth. Before he begins, he must perform acamana, a purificatory procedure of sipping water and chanting mantras. This is done by taking a small spoon of water from a bowl or cup of water and placing the spoon in the right hand and pouring three drops into the left hand and then throwing it away. Then one takes the spoon in the left hand and saying the mantra, 'om kesavaya namah', one takes three drops in his right hand, sips that, and throws the rest away. He repeats that procedure but saying now, 'om narayanaya namah', and then again saying,'om madhavaya namah'. Then he will take three drops of water (with the spoon in the right hand) and place it on the conch shell and then blow it to start the aratika.
Before offering each item, he must purify his hands by pouring three drops of water in them, and then pouring three drops of water on the item to be offered.
The items are offered in a circular motion, clockwise, while the pujari is standing up (do not kneel and offer the items). One must first request permission of his guru to offer the item by presenting it before the picture of his guru, then his guru's guru, and so on till one reaches Caitanya Mahaprabhu. One may present the items to the guru-parampara in a simple way, with a gesture of holding the item toward them while meditating that they are accepting the item, or he may do it in an elaborate manner by offering the items in a circle three times or seven times. Then one offers the item with the full number of circles to Lord Caitanya, then Lord Nityananda (and if one is worshiping the picture of Panca Tattva, to Advaita, then Gadhadhara, then Srivas) and then to the eldest guru, and then down to the youngest guru. Each one should be offered the item for some time in a circular motion. The full aratika should last 20 to 23 minutes; the dhupa-aratika should last 5 to 8 minutes.
Immediately after the mangal aratika, after the Nrsingha prayers are chanted, the curtains are closed and the pujaris start the process of bathing the Deities and dressing them in nice clothes for the new day.
Most Soviet temples will start off worshiping brass Gaur Nitai Deities so they may be easily polished with lemon and ground tilak and bathed in warm water. Do not rub the painted portions of the Deities' body. Make sure that the Deities are nicely rinsed and dried with towels specially designated for the Deities' usage. While bathing the Deities one should chant the Cintamani prayers from the Brahma samhita.
The Deities should be nicely dressed with tilak, wigs, turbans, crowns, imitation jewels and opulent clothing. Then when the altar is nicely decorated with flowers and fresh leaves, the Deities are opened for greeting at 7 or 7:15am. While the Deities are being viewed by the devotees, play the Govindam prayers tape and simultaneously offer the Deities incense, then some flowers, then the camara whisk. This is called a dhupa aratika, or a small aratika where incense is offered. At a specified time (usually between 7:45 and 8:15), the Deities are offered breakfast. This should include whatever preparations the devotees will be taking for breakfast, and perhaps some nice fruit and milk preparations as well.
At a specified time, usually between 11:30am and 12:30pm the Deities are offered lunch which should consist of whatever preparations the devotees will be taking for lunch plus some nice subjis, rice, puris, a chutney and sweets.
After the lunch is offered there is again a full aratika (including a camphor lamp, if camphor is available). Then the Deities are put to rest for the afternoon. For Radha Krsna Deities a small bed should be made and placed near the altar. The Deities will rest in this bed. Sri Sri Gaur Nitai will be given two beds. If the beds are big enough, and the Deities Themselves are not very big, They may physically be laid down to rest there, otherwise Their shoes, which are usually placed in front of the Deities on the altar, are moved to the bed and one requests the Deities to take rest. This procedure is best done after learning the appropriate mantras from an expert pujari. The Deities usually rise around 4 or 4:30pm. Normally They would be offered some fruit salads and milk preparations at this time, but in a small temple that may not be required.
The next Deity offering takes place at 6:30pm when the Deities are offered some subjis, puris, and chutney. If the devotees are taking milk or something else in the evening, then that should be offered at this time. Then at 7pm a full aratika takes place (without camphor lamp) with all the devotees of the temple assembled and chanting kirtan by chanting the Gaur aratika song, Sri Krsna Caitanya and Hare Krsna. In a small temple with minimal worship, this will be the last aratika of the day. If there is more elaborate worship going on, then another aratika, at 8:30pm, will be offered along with some light foodstuffs, some savories like samosas and pakoras and milk. The Deities are usually laid down to rest at some regulated time between 8 and 9pm. The pujaris must begin putting the Deities to rest at the same time each night so that they are finished at the same time each night. They must be finished before 9pm.
The Deities should be dressed in Their night clothes after the curtain closes at the last aratika. Make sure that the temple doors are nicely locked so that no one can enter to cause mischief to the Deities at night. For security reasons some devotees may sleep in the temple room as well, but they must wash the temple floor immediately after rising in the morning.
Security for the Deities is a very important consideration. It has been seen in some temples that mentally unbalanced persons have entered the temple and caused physical harm to the Deities. This must be avoided at all costs. Therefore whenever the Deities are alone the temple doors must be locked so no one can come in. This is especially relevant during the afternoon when the Deities are taking rest.
Security for the Deities paraphernalia is also important. Although the Deities do not use precious gems or stones in Their jewelry, Their paraphernalia is still valuable and must be kept locked up in a locked cupboard in the pujari room. The room itself must be locked when the pujaris are not using it and at night.
A standard Guru-Gauranga altar will be laid out in the following manner. The Deities of Gaur Nitai, if present, will stand in the center of the altar in the highest position. If there are no Deities, then a picture of the Panca tattva will be worshiped in the central position. To the left side, as one faces the Deities, will be a picture of Srila Prabhupada, and to the right side, a picture of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur. Alternatively, one may have pictures of the whole disciplic succession from Jagannath das Babaji down to Srila Prabhupada, with Prabhupada's picture on the left side and the others on the right side in order as they appear in the disciplic succession. One may also have a picture of Lord Nrsinghadeva on the altar on the right side. One should also place the picture of one's own guru on the altar at the far left side while doing puja to the Deities, while offering bhoga, and when performing aratika, since it is the guru who performs the puja; the pujari is simply his assistant. The picture of one's guru should not be placed on a level higher than that of the pictures of the parampara and it should be taken off the altar when the puja or the aratika has been completed. The picture can be kept nicely in the pujari room during all other times. The altar will be decorated with flowers in vases, and all personalities will usually have flower garlands in season. If flowers are not available, then they cannot be offered.
Kirtan in the temple should be of a specific standard. Srila Prabhupada once told me the proper standard for kirtans in the temple. Basically what he said was that he only wanted the standard songs sung in the temple along with the Panca tattva maha mantra and the Hare Krsna maha mantra. For example, in mangal aratika, he wanted the samsara prayers sung (Gurvastakam), then the Pancatattva mantra then the Hare Krsna mantra, all in the morning melody. We usually also sing Prabhupada's two pranam mantras after the Gurvastakam prayers. Then for guru puja Prabhupada wanted the sri guru carana padma song (Guru Vandana), then the Panca tattva mantra and the Hare Krsna mantra. We usually sing Prabhupada's two pranam mantras after the Guru vandana song as well.
Similarly for the evening aratika, the Gaura aratika song, the Panca tattva mantra and the Hare Krsna mantra. In other words he wanted that the basic kirtan in ISKCON be the Panca tattva mantra and the Hare Krsna mantra along with the basic songs that are sung at different aratikas.
This will create a nice kirtan atmosphere. Although Prabhupada did not mention it, he did not object when we chanted 'Jaya Prabhupada' and also the names of the Deities at the end of the various sections of the kirtan. So this may be done as well.
As mentioned before, there is a Tulasi puja after the Mangal aratika and before the evening aratika. One usually brings in Tulasi-- devi just before the puja is to begin and places her on a special table in the middle of the room. When Tulasi-devi enters the room, everyone bows down and chants the mantra,'vrindayai tulasi devyai, etc.' three times. Then an aratika is performed where incense, lamp, and flower is offered. While the aratika is going on, sing the tulasi song [namo namo tulasi krsna preyasin etc]. After the song is finished, circumambulate Tulasi-devi at least three times while chanting the mantra 'yanikani ca papani etc.' and then chant Hare Krsna. While circumambulating Tulasi-devi everyone may offer some drops of water to Tulasi-devi, and then offer obeisances. At the end, after everyone has finished offering water, again offer obeisances to Tulasi-devi and again chant the mantra 'vrindayai tulasi devyai etc.' three times. Then the aratika is over.
Caring for Tulasi-devi is somewhat simple if one has some ability to take care of plants. She requires sufficient air and light and she should have a nice temperature maintained as well as sufficient humidity. If the temple is in an area where it never freezes at night then one can even plant Tulasi-devi outside. She will grow well in the warmer parts of the country. Sometimes she cannot get sufficient sunlight due to the cold climate, so one can use 'vita lights' that give off light that plants like. If there are bugs appearing on her, then take them off by hand, or if that is not possible, one may immerse Tulasi-devi in a tub of warm water which will force the bugs off of her. Govinda dasi's Tulasi handbook should be referred to for this explains how to take care of tulasi in great detail.
It is the standard for care of Tulasi devi.
Every temple should have a vyasasana of Srila Prabhupada located in the back of the temple room directly in front of the Deities, or to one side if that is not practical. On that vyasasana should be either a Deity of Srila Prabhupada or a picture of him. One should offer guru puja to Srila Prabhupada by first offering him a flower garland, then while aratika is going on all the devotees will offer some flowers and then offer obeisances in front of the vyasasana. During guru puja the men will offer full dandavats and the women normal obeisances as ladies do not offer full dandavats. Aratika should be a full aratika without the camphor lamp. However it will be done quicker than a full aratika to the Deities.
While that aratika is going on the kirtan leader should sing the song, 'Sri guru carana padma etc.' (Guru Vandana) followed by the kirtan sequence mentioned in the previous section on kirtan. At the end of the kirtan, as for every aratika kirtan, the premadhvani should be spoken by the most senior devotee in the room (jaya om visnupada paramahamsa etc.).
When gurupuja for the other initiating gurus is performed it must be done in a room outside of the temple room according to the resolution of the GBC of ISKCON. The form of the gurupuja is the same as that for Srila Prabhupada, or, alternatively, it will be determined by the individual gurus. One may have a table in some room where all the pictures of the various gurus will be located and aratika is offered to all of them at once. The disciples of each of them will come up and offer a flower to their guru and offer obeisances. This guru puja should be attended by any disciple who is fixed on a particular guru. Bhaktas and bhaktins who have worshiped Srila Prabhupada for the first six months and then chosen a guru may also attend. Bhaktas who are still undecided as to who their guru is should not attend until they have made up their minds who to worship as guru.
There are many festival days in Krsna consciousness throughout the year.
One may find out those days by consulting the ISKCON calendar for the local area. What one does on those days is stated as follows: Appearance and disappearance days of previous acaryas: one will fast till noon and then hold a feast. Usually one speaks something about them on that day in the Bhagavatam class, or he holds a special kirtan and discussion about the personality before the noon aratika. As there are many appearance and disappearance days one should follow the ISKCON calendar where it is specifically stated which of these days are fast days.
Ram navami: This is a fast till sunset. One will then make a nice feast for Lord Ramacandra. One may chant special mantras for Lord Rama, like 'Sita Ram' or 'Raghupati Raghava raja Ram etc.' He will also read something from the Ramayana, or the Srimad Bhagavatam 9th canto about Lord Rama. One may offer worship to a picture of Lord Ramacandra by placing it on the altar and decorating it with flowers.
Janmastami: One will fast till midnight. (Water does not break the fast) Since this is one of the major festivals of the year, it should be done very nicely. Usually one decorates the temple very nicely and offers to the Deities, if possible, at least 108 preparations. If there is no Deity of Krsna in the temple, then offer worship to a picture of the Lord which is usually placed on the altar and decorated with flowers. Usually when there is a Deity, the Deity is offered a special abhiseka, bathing ceremony, late at night. One should spend the day hearing about Krsna's appearance and pastimes, and chanting His holy name.
Srila Prabhupada's vyasa puja: One fasts till noon and then feasts. On this day one offers prayers to Srila Prabhupada that are published in the ISKCON Vyasa puja book. Around 11:30am make a maha offering to Srila Prabhupada with as many nice preparations as could be prepared in the kitchen. Again, 108 is nice. This offering is brought in before the vyasasana and hidden from the view of the general devotees by devotees holding up cloths in front of the prasadam. When this offering is finished, 15 or 20 minutes later, one removes all the preparations and brings them back to the prasadam room. If there are Prabhupada disciples present, they are offered a nice plate with all the preparations after the aratika.
There is usually a large, full aratika at noon. But just before this aratika there is a puspanjali ceremony where everyone takes flowers (enough to offer three times) while a leader chants Srila Prabhupada's pranama mantras (nama om visnu padaya etc.) word by word and everyone repeats after him. At the end of the mantras, the leader says 'puspanjali' and everyone throws the flowers on or before the vyasasana and then offers obeisances. This is repeated three times. Then the aratika starts. After aratika is finished everyone takes a big feast.
Nrsingha Caturdasi: This is a fasting day till twilight when Lord Nrsinghadeva appeared. If the temple is in an area where the sun does not set till very late, one can break fast around 7:30 or 8:00pm. Usually one reads about the Lord's appearance from Srimad Bhagavatam and chants prayers to Lord Nrsinghadeva. One might perform a drama about the pastimes of the Lord on this day. A feast is served at the end of the fast.
Gour Purnima: Fasting till moon rise. One will hear and chant the maha mantra throughout the day, and read about the appearance of the Lord from Caitanya caritamrta. There is usually a maha abhiseka for Lord Caitanya at around 5pm. The feast is usually an ekadasi type feast. A full feast for Lord Caitanya with grains is offered the next day at noon.
Vyasa pujas for present spiritual masters: The disciples of that spiritual master must fast till noon. The disciples of that spiritual master usually read offerings to the spiritual master in the morning and speaks about his good qualities interspersed with kirtans. Disciples of other spiritual masters may or may not attend the ceremonies as they like. There is always an aratika at midday and a feast after that. One may hold this festival in the temple room and a vyasasana with the guru's picture may be brought into the temple room and decorated for the occasion. Of course, if desired, one may hold this ceremony in another place than the temple room.
Temple Preaching Programs
During the above mentioned festival days, every temple invites all its friends and the general public. Thus all people have a chance to imbibe the spiritual atmosphere of the temple on these special days. People are pleased to see the kirtans, take the prasadam feasts, and to see the dramas depicting the pastimes of the Lord that are sometimes performed in the temple as well.
It is also nice to just arrange a preaching program in the temple when there is no special day. Sometimes one may have a program and put up signs around the area inviting people to come. Such programs may include kirtan, bhajans (done as nicely as possible) an introductory lecture, and perhaps a slide show (or a full multivision presentation if the temple has one). Always there is a feast to attract the tongue to Krsna prasad.
One may also invite outside professional Indian artists who are following the Vedic traditions to come and perform in the temple. Although this is not exactly pure devotion, it is a cultural performance and it attracts the people to the Vedic culture. One may have a Vedic dancer (Bharat Natyam, Katha kali or the like) or musicians, come and perform in the temple in the context of a normal temple program. It gives the program an air of authenticity that attracts people more to our message.
One may also go out into the public and make programs. One can visit schools and colleges and deliver a lecture and a small kirtan. Attracting the intelligent class of men is one of the most important preaching goals in ISKCON. One can also set up hari nam kirtans in a park or just chant along the streets of a city. Srila Prabhupada began ISKCON by chanting in the parks and on the streets of New York and San Francisco and his disciples continued the chanting in all the big cities of the United States.
One of the more important aspects of temple preaching is the periodic book distribution marathons. Every temple can have at least a one day a week marathon where everyone in the temple goes out and distributes books throughout the city and the surrounding area. This very much increases the sankirtan mood in the temple and enlivens the temple devotees very much. Some temple devotees are maintaining their spiritual lives simply on the basis of this one day a week distribution. In some temples they have a one week a month distribution scheme for the whole temple.
Besides these one day or week marathons, there are also the important marathons during the year wherein everyone from the temple goes out. In the month of December the year end Prabhupada marathon goes on and every able bodied man and woman, as well as the children in their own way, go out and distribute the books of Srila Prabhupada. This creates a very fired up atmosphere which purifies the hearts of all who participate. If everyone in the temple goes out during this month long marathon it is often possible to double the year long sankirtan results by this effort.
Therefore it is recommended that the temple president push this marathon with all his strength.
Another important field of temple preaching is taking care of the Indians in the area. In some cities there are a lot of Indians. Often Indian gentleman and ladies appreciate our Movement and they are inclined to donate to help us since they are trained in giving to saintly persons and the Lord by their culture. Since they are basically Krsna conscious just below the surface of their conditioning, they are easily pleased with nice words and standard preaching by the devotees and some good prasadam. Indians especially appreciate it when they are given some nicely prepared prasadam of the Lord. One has to be a nice devotee in dealing with them and speak properly. If the preacher backs up what he says with quotes from the sastra, they will accept what is said nicely. Mainly they are contaminated with mayavada philosophy so one will have to preach in such a way that they can understand the superiority of service to the personal form of the Lord. When they are convinced of what is preached they can be good friends of the temple and ISKCON.
When an Indian life member comes to the temple, try to provide him some living facility for at least three days. All life members are guaranteed by Srila Prabhupada that they may reside in any of our temples for three days per year, free of charge. They may stay in many different temples, each one for a period of three days per year. If they want to stay for longer than three days, then the temple president should ask them to give a donation for each additional day they spend. Of course, the life members must follow the four regulative principles while they are staying in the temple and if they are staying longer than three days, the temple program as well. Although the temple may not have facilities for its own devotees, if there is a place to offer life members they will be grateful, even if it is in the home of one of the devotees. Regardless of how meager the facilities are, one should try to offer some sort of accommodation to a life member who visits. Especially if they are not with their families, they may even accept a clean place on the floor with a clean blanket and sheet.