Creation and annihilation are natural consequences of the modes of passion and ignorance. It is easy to create a temple, and it is also easy to destroy one. It is very hard to maintain the temple for that is a symptom of the mode of goodness. Goodness is a quality that is hard to develop and maintain, for the natural inclination in the age of Kali is to fall down into passion and ignorance, especially in the cities. But, if we wish to properly maintain our temples for the satisfaction of the Lord, we must develop the mode of goodness.
A temple is represented to the outside world by the way it looks. If there are broken doors and windows, paper laying about here and there, clothes hanging in all strange manners from the railings and in the windows, cars parked in a haphazard way, and a generally chaotic impression is given, people will think that we are low class people who do not know the proper standard of living. A temple president must be always on the alert that the temple looks in order and it is up to the proper standard of cleanliness and neatness.
The best way for him to do this is to always look at the temple with the eye of goodness. When he is outside the front of the temple, he should look at it as a neighbor would look at it. Is everything in order? Are there gumchas laying about here and there? Are there papers and rubbish strewn about? Are the garbage cans closed and proper? Are the temple cars parked in the spots of the neighbors? Is there unwanted noise on the street at early morning or late night hours? If any of these problems are there, the temple president should immediately correct them before there are problems with the neighbors. We should always be aware that good neighbor relations are essential for keeping up our image and also our presence in the neighborhood. If the neighbors are upset with us they could also band together to limit our activities in some way, or even make us move to another place. All of this kind of trouble is undesirable, therefore a good image with the neighbors is important.
One can keep the inside of the temple clean by having a regular cleaning crew who will clean the areas which are most used like the prasadam rooms and the temple hallways. If everyone in the temple cleans the temple during the period of time right after the morning class and right before the breakfast, this will go a long way towards keeping the temple clean.
The temple president should organize the cleaning by assigning every devotee to clean one specific area of the temple. One devotee can clean a room, another can clean the stairs, and so on. The temple commander should just go around during the cleaning times and make sure that everyone is doing their prescribed duty. The president should also clean his own office during this time to make a good example for others to follow. It also cleanses one's heart when one cleanses the temple of the Lord. It is Krsna's temple and when we clean it He is pleased with us.
One should put off serving breakfast till all areas of the temple are clean. When the temple commander is satisfied that the temple is clean, then breakfast is served. Usually the cleaning can be done in 20 minutes if all the devotees are engaged and there are enough devotees in the temple. If one cleans for the entire 20 minute period of time he can get dirt out of the smallest corners and cracks making the room very clean.
Each devotee can have his own personal cleaning equipment to make things more efficient.
But proper maintenance means more than just cleaning for there are many other areas of the temple that require to be organized. For example, one must keep a proper inventory of the BBT books so that he can properly pay the BBT for books distributed. Every temple is responsible to pay the BBT for the books that are distributed immediately after they are sold. [In some BBT areas the temples are responsible to pay for the books within 30 or 60 days after receiving them] If one does not pay his bill on time he accumulates what is known as a 'bad debt' or a debt that is not covered by a stock of books. So it is important to always know how many books there are in the storehouse. When books are taken out of the storehouse they should be noted in a log book and then it should be ascertained that the books are paid for by the distributors who took them.
One has to keep the SKP results and papers properly for these are the most important records of the temple treasury. All the income is coming through the sankirtan and therefore the temple president should always know what is happening in the sankirtan department. A proper account of the sankirtan results should be done each week and the BBT must be paid on the basis of that accounting each week or at least twice a month. For example, if a devotee has distributed 100 Bhagavad gitas and 200 Srimad Bhagavatams, canto one, volume one, then the accountant should write that result down and then immediately calculate the price of the book times the number of books sold. He does this for all the devotees in the temple, and then he comes to the amount that has to be paid to the BBT that week.
Now sometimes books get lost, damaged, or the sankirtan devotees give an improper account of the amount of books they sold. Therefore the inventory of the temple book stock is important. One knows how many books were received from the BBT and also how many books were sold on sankirtan. If he counts the books in the warehouse they should theoretically be the same number as the amount of books received minus the books distributed. In fact, that is rarely the situation. Sometimes books are lost or devotees do not properly report, so the temple has to periodically make up for that by paying the BBT for the missing books as well. This is best done once a month, otherwise one falls too far behind in his payments. No temple president can be considered as sufficiently taking care of his job unless he properly takes care of his account with the BBT by paying his bills regularly and on time. Not paying the BBT regularly is, according to Srila Prabhupada, sufficient grounds for removal of a temple president! Not only must one take care of his account with the BBT but he must account for all his transactions with the outside world. We will deal with that more completely in the section on office management.
A temple should look nice and therefore it should be kept properly painted. Paint should not be cracked and pealing off the walls. Every room, not just the Deity room and the temple room, should be nicely painted or wallpapered for the pleasure of the Deity. Similarly it should be always kept in a state of repair. If something is broken, like a light bulb for instance, it should be immediately replaced or repaired. If one waits on these repair jobs, the temple will become run-down and unattractive. There is a saying, 'a stitch in time saves nine!which means, that repair work done timely saves major repair work later on.
Always take care of the temple repair as soon as it is required for this will in the long run, save a lot of money.
In addition to these important minor repairs which keep the temple attractive, there are usually also major items which can not be neglected. These include furnaces, water heaters, pumps, roofs, elevators, foundations, refrigeration units, kitchen equipment and other major plumbing and electrical items. If you are renting a facility, the landlord is usually responsible for the majority of these items, but if you own your own building, the responsibility lies firmly on the temple administration. Maintaining these items is generally beyond the abilities of the devotees in the temple and must be done by professionals. Of course, if you have expert devotees in the temple, they may take care of the repairs. But sometimes even knowing how or when to hire a repairman may be beyond an untrained temple administrator, and the costs involved in repairs or needed replacement parts may be beyond the temple budget.
Yet, if these valuable and necessary temple assets are neglected the eventual result may be disastrous and disrupt the entire temple.
It is important to have a well thought out plan for dealing with these aspects of temple maintenance, and one qualified person must be given the responsibility to oversee them. If this cannot be the temple president or temple commander, or another qualified devotee, then try to find a qualified member of the congregation who can help, or you may even need to hire a trusted person.
The plan should include what periodic maintenance is needed for each item, and when required replacements should be anticipated. Government permits, inspections, and renewal frequencies, should be carefully documented and all this should be in writing and easily accessible to the temple leadership and their successors.
Sometimes the required repair or maintenance is beyond the temple budget.
This will often lead to the maintenance work being put off to a later date. But if ignored, these expenses only increase later on. Many non¬profit organizations have had to lose their buildings because they could not afford to maintain them. If the needed repair work is actually beyond your budget, then do a special fund raising drive among the congregation, if you have one, or some other special fund raising program. If you face the crisis head-on, Krsna will help you. But if you ignore it, it can cause you the greatest trouble later on. Therefore every wise temple president always knows what he must do to maintain his temple in the future and he will save up for the essential repairs and maintenance work during the year before the repair work is required. Of course, sometimes there are surprises due to ignorance, but these expenses must be met as well. In all cases one must do the needful and find the funds to keep the temple operating.
If at all possible, make a garden for the Deities. If the Deities are offered flowers which are grown in Their own garden it is very pleasing to Them as well as very cheap for the temple. A temple can save a lot of money during the warm season by growing its own flowers for the altar.
Preaching - Book Production and Distribution
Preaching is the essence. This statement was made by Srila Prabhupada in the early 1970's, but it is still as relevant now as it was then. Without preaching there can be no ecstasy in spiritual life. Therefore every temple must be organized in such a manner that the main emphasis is on preaching. This is the secret to success in management. Preaching is a multi-faceted thing and we shall go over the most important elements of temple preaching in this section.
Our preaching effort begins with book production. First we make the books and then we distribute them. This is especially relevant in those countries where there are not many books available in the local languages. It is in the best interest of all temples to make sure that the book production department is fully staffed to make as many books in the different languages as possible as quickly as possible. If one, as a temple president, has someone in the temple, or associated with the temple, who can assist in the book production mission, then he should arrange that that person can work with the BBT devotees organizing the production so that we can speed up the production more and more. When all the books of Srila Prabhupada are produced in all the local languages then the devotees can become learned in the philosophy of Krsna consciousness and remain fixed in their devotional service. We can also increase the distribution of Prabhupada's books when there is a wide variety of them available for the people to read.
After the book production is going on, the next thing is to distribute these books by the millions. Every temple president should be like a sankirtan leader organizing the distribution of these books far and wide.
Although a temple president may also have another devotee who will act as a sankirtan leader, the president himself should also function as the super sankirtan leader and inspire all the devotees to distribute more and more.
The BBT is there to help the temple president increase the temple's distribution. They will supply the books of Srila Prabhupada that he wants to distribute and they will also occasionally supply other materials to help inspire the special distribution marathons, such as tee shirts, tapes, posters and so on. The BBT managers are also available to give advice on how book distribution can be increased in the different local distribution areas of the temples.
Managing sankirtan is not a complicated affair and any temple president with some devotional intelligence can do it nicely if he really wants to.
Desire is the main factor in increasing book distribution. The more one wants to do it, the more he prays to Krsna for assistance to accomplish this task. Krsna reciprocates by sending qualified devotees to help in the book distribution mission. If we properly train these new devotee candidates in the process of book distribution, and engage them nicely in actually performing this service, then Krsna will see that we are serious to increase the preaching and He will send more and more sankirtan men and women to us to expand the sankirtan more and more. Krsna is ready to send us unlimited help, if we are ready to use it in the proper way.
Krsna is the perfect reciprocator and when He sees that we are using His gifts in the proper way, He will shower more and more facilities upon us.
Prabhupada established some simple, yet very sublime, principles of temple management. One of the most important and basic principle is the one governing the economic basis of the temple. Prabhupada said that half the temple income should pay for books, and the other half for temple maintenance and expansion. If one follows this basic principle, all his economic management problems will disappear.
To properly follow this principle is easy. The first point is that one should make book distribution the sole economic scheme in the temple.
Grhasthas who live outside the temple may make other economic schemes to support themselves and the temple, but those living within the temple complex should be fixed in book distribution as their sole means of income. If one does make book distribution the sole means of income, and if he sells the books for the right price, then he will follow the 50/50 principle (half the income for books and half for the temple). To do this one must sell the books for twice the BBT price. This means that the BBT will charge the temple x dollars (for example) for a book. The temple should sell the book for at least 2x dollars. The temple then immediately pays x dollars to the BBT for the book and keeps x dollars for its own needs. If one sells the books for less than the BBT price, then he will have troubles in the temple economy, therefore, if one is following Srila Prabhupada's principle of 50% to the temple and 50% to the BBT, he should sell the books for at least twice the BBT price.
Now this principle might be adjusted sometimes due to time, place and circumstances by the local GBC men. For example, if there is an emergency situation in the country and it is seen that the books must go out as fast as possible and the people have not got enough money to pay for them, it might be decided to sell the books for less for the sake of preaching to the impoverished people. Of course, the temple will also have economic troubles at this point and will have to adjust to the new situation. In times of crisis, depend on the local GBC and BBT Trustee to guide one through.
Following this 50/50 principle is easy and it solves all financial problems as well. Whenever Prabhupada was asked how we maintain this movement, he would say that it was simply on the basis of the distribution of his books. That principle is as valid today as when he said it. If one makes the temple economy dependent on the sale of books, then book distribution will always be seen as the financial basis of the temple economy and it will always be relevant. If the temple president sees the sankirtan mission as economically relevant, then he will always be eager to inspire the devotees to go out on sankirtan and increase their distribution more and more. Sometimes temple presidents are overwhelmed with financial worries and think about money day and night.
But if those worries are resolved by increasing the book distribution, then, although he is not actually motivated with the purest of desires, he will still be eager to increase the book distribution. This is the goal of our movement.
One may perform book distribution in various ways. Besides distributing books in public places, door to door, and office to office, one can also distribute through temple shops, temple mail order departments, and through the various ISKCON membership programs. Since some of these programs also include benefits such as sets of Prabhupada's books, these programs are good sources of book distribution as well as income. It has been seen that our Life Membership program is popular amongst the Indians throughout the world and it is a good means to present the books of Srila Prabhupada into their homes. Furthermore, as ISKCON expands its congregational preaching programs, memberships will be a good way to bring sets of books into the homes of the congregational members.
To keep the sankirtan movement increasing, one must always be on the alert to make new devotees. When there are new devotees in the sankirtan parties, there will always be new enthusiasm inspiring all the devotees. When the older devotees see newer devotees becoming inspired to increase the sankirtan mission, they become inspired themselves. This does not mean however that new bhaktas and bhaktins should go out on sankirtan immediately after joining the temple. Those who join the temple must undergo a period of purification and training in devotional life. When they are qualified as devotees and trained in the spiritual principles then the temple president will consider sending them out on the sankirtan party.
The temple president should arrange the temple in such a way that the new devotees are regularly receiving training in all aspects of devotional life. This is called a bhakta program. Part of the bhakta program is to train the devotees in following the temple programs, learning all the temple songs, learning how to chant and hear, learning the basic philosophy, learning the art of keeping the temple clean and tidy, and above all, learning that the main goal and mission of ISKCON is to preach Krsna consciousness through the printing and distribution of the books of Srila Prabhupada. If the bhaktas are continually pointed in this correct direction, then automatically they will learn the goals of the movement and the mission of Srila Prabhupada. This should be done through preaching in class as well as in special bhakta classes and individual instruction. If the travelling preachers who come through occasionally also preach about the importance of preaching through book distribution, then gradually all the devotees in the temple will also learn this essential point and take up the mission themselves.
All devotees are dear to the Supreme Lord because they are engaged in His devotional service, but sankirtan devotees are especially dear because they are instructing Krsna's messages to the people of the world. Because these devotees are so important, the temple president should make sure that they have the best paraphernalia to perform their mission and that they get nice treatment in the temple. Of course, all devotees should be treated nicely since they are important for the functioning of the temple. But sankirtan devotees should be especially cared for since they are supporting the entire temple economically and spiritually. This means that they should have proper vehicles that are relatively new, comfortable and safe to drive. If the vehicles are dangerous, and there is an accident, then so much valuable time and energy will be wasted repairing the car and even worse, the bodies of the sankirtan devotees.
The temple president should also make sure that their shoes and clothes are sufficient for the weather conditions that they are meeting on the streets and that they fit properly. A sankirtan devotee should look nice, otherwise the people may mistake him for some kind of tramp and they may not want to speak with him or take him seriously.
The sankirtan devotees should also be given first class prasadam. The cooks should be extra careful to make the prasadam nicely so that the sankirtan devotees will be inspired to go out and increase their distribution. Of course, everyone will benefit by the nice prasadam since all devotees are eating it together. But if the cooks are thinking that the prasadam they prepare is helping the sankirtan devotees to increase their distribution, then this elevated consciousness will cause their cooking to be very nice. The cooks will also feel more a part of the sankirtan mission as well. The prasadam should be served warm and on time to facilitate the devotees sankirtan schedule.
Sometimes the sankirtan devotees are travelling far from the temple. One should consider if it is possible to bake bread in the temple and then mail it to the devotees so that they never have to eat karmi made bread.
Bread made by karmis is full of karma and it will destroy the enthusiasm of the sankirtan. Food prepared by karmis makes one's mind wicked.
Therefore when the sankirtan devotees come back to the temple on the weekends, they should fill up their hearts with kirtan and devotional association, and they should fill up their vans with enough food supplies to last them the week.
The sankirtan leaders, as already mentioned, should carefully ascertain whether the devotees are properly taking care of their vehicles. They should see that every car has its proper oil change and that it is serviced regularly. They should check the tires to make sure that they still have sufficient rubber tread. They should see that the vans are cleansed inside and out and that all the lights are working. They should also see that the devotees are properly dressed and that their physical requirements are being met.
When the sankirtan leaders have made sure that all the devotees are properly prepared to perform their service, then they should designate certain areas of the city or country to them for the performance of their service. When the devotees are properly organized they will avoid wasting time by finding that two sankirtan groups are in the same place at the same time. Also, one should avoid sending devotees to the same place too often for this could 'burn' out the place. One should let some period of time go by before allowing devotees to go to the same place again. This instruction is especially relevant on travelling sankirtan and may not be so important in city sankirtan.
Both city sankirtan and travelling sankirtan are good, and both are useful for expanding the preaching. City sankirtan is usually done when the temple is in the city and there are many sankirtan spots accessible by public transportation. This makes getting to the place of sankirtan easy. But sometimes the temple is not in the city and one has to travel to get to places of sankirtan. Also one would like to spread the mercy of Srila Prabhupada's books not only in the crowded cities but also throughout the countryside. Therefore one gets in vans and travels from town to town, village to village, distributing Prabhupada's books. By such travelling one can not only distribute the mercy widely, but he can increase the distribution results more than if one remained in the same place. The only problem with travelling sankirtan is that one must maintain vans and also put up the devotees in hotels at night. This can be a costly affair if not managed properly. Even then, one will have a big investment in vehicles and maintenance. Therefore it may not always be possible to have travelling parties. But if it can be arranged, it is a wonderful way to spread the mercy far and wide.
Another reason why travelling sankirtan might be preferable to sankirtan from the temple, is that it is very easy for the sankirtan devotee to become entangled in overly long temple programs and other aspects of temple life and thus not get on the street very early. When one is travelling he can make his morning program in such a way that he can get on the street early in the day when the people are also getting out onto the streets. But when one is in the temple, the temple programs tend to run on till 9am or so and the sankirtan devotees will have a hard time getting out the door before 10am. Therefore in general travelling sankirtan is preferred by the sankirtan devotees since they can do more distribution in this way.
Although travelling sankirtan is good, the temple president should make sure that the sankirtan devotees do not become estranged from the temple.
Sometimes it may happen that a travelling party may develop a separatist attitude towards the temple and want to remain a separate entity. They might then go travelling throughout the country independent of any temple or temple authority. It has happened in the past in other places and the temple president should be on guard that it does not happen to one of the parties under his care.
If the temple president is intelligent, he can arrange the temple program in such a way that the sankirtan devotees are ready to go from the temple at 8:30 or 9am. The best way to do this is to make sure that the devotees get to rest early in the night so that they can chant all their rounds in the morning. One may just have to accept that the sankirtan devotees will leave the temple later and perhaps return later at night, skipping the evening temple programs, doing some personal reading, and taking rest.
It seems that it is best that the Bhagavatam class be restricted to one hour from the start of the chanting of Jaya Radha Madhava to allow the sankirtan devotees, and all the temple devotees, the best start on their activities in the morning. Similarly the Gita class should end by 9pm to allow all those attending to take rest or get to their homes before it becomes too late at night. The temple president should humbly request the speakers to follow this principle even if they are visiting sannyasis or spiritual masters. Otherwise the sankirtan mission will be disturbed.
One of the more important functions of the temple president is to arrange for the legalization of the sankirtan spots for the distributors. He may do this personally or through some other devotee in the temple. It is sometimes possible to get more spots legalized by making some endeavor through the legal system by presenting the case that ISKCON is doing spiritual welfare work that benefits all the people of the country. Good legal advice should be gotten to see whether one can succeed in expanding the sankirtan spots or whether one is forced to accept whatever spots the local authorities decide to give. If one is forced to accept what is given, and if it is not enough, then one can choose to go out on travelling sankirtan, where one goes from town to town and village to village so quickly that usually they do not disturb anyone and thus they can continue distributing without problem.
The temple president or sankirtan leader should not send the sankirtan men under his care into another temple's sankirtan area, without first getting the permission of the temple authorities for that other area. This is common courtesy and also essential if there is to be peace amongst the temples.
Staying with friends of devotees while on travelling sankirtan can be prearranged, as long as it doesn't cause a disturbance to the family with whom the travelling sankirtan party is staying.
One should perform sankirtan freely, without fruitive desires. Sometimes some temple authorities think that by giving the devotees quotas, it will somehow increase or maintain their level of distribution. But those who have experience of distributing without quotas know that all results are up to Krsna, and despite having a big quota, if Krsna does not sanction one to do well, it will simply be impossible. Therefore quotas often act in a counterproductive manner by making the devotees fruitive in their mentality, thinking that they will have to perform in such and such a manner otherwise their devotional service is not being accepted. I have also heard such statements as 'Don't come back to the temple if you do not do 500 books this week' from some temple presidents. This is not Krsna conscious.
One should distribute as much as he can, depending completely on Krsna for the results. One should not think, 'I must do so many books this week otherwise I am a failure.' One should simply think, 'I am Krsna's eternal servant. In this lifetime my service is to distribute as many of these wonderful books as I can. Let me fully depend on the mercy of the Lord, and pray to the lotus feet of my spiritual master, so that I can become completely attached to the mission of the spiritual master in order to fulfil his desires to distribute these books.' If one thinks in this way, avoiding a fruitive mentality, he will naturally and gradually increase his distribution more and more, and he will also automatically become happy doing it. A happy distributor is worth his weight in gold, for he will go on distributing for the rest of his life. When one properly performs the sankirtan mission, he will naturally become happy and will naturally increase his results to the highest possible level and maintain that level with enthusiasm.
Harinam Chanting Parties and Prasadam Distribution
Every temple should organize chanting parties in public places and this program should be maintained. These chanting parties are the best way to show people the eternal dharma of Harinam kirtan. Although book distribution is the best way to preach Krsna consciousness, these other forms of preaching are also important and should go on simultaneously.
Prabhupada said that one should do all these programs as they are all important for the spreading of Krsna consciousness.
Chanting in public is good for the chanters. It gives them a taste of the spiritual bliss derived from chanting the holy name. One can really taste the nectar of the holy name by chanting in the middle of a crowded street in a noisy city. One immediately feels transcendental to the havoc of the city. One can directly experience how this chanting is beyond the modes of material nature. He is secure and protected in the chanting of the Holy name. Therefore everyone should experience the chanting firsthand. This chanting is especially important for the new devotees. It should be part and parcel of the bhakta program that the new devotees are taken out in the street and taught to chant the holy name in public. Besides new devotees, old devotees should go out regularly to avoid becoming stale in the temple. This chanting brings life to the temple when regularly performed. It is also a wonderful way to unite the devotees living in various parts of the city with the devotees living in the temple.
Every chanting party should be nicely organized. First off, all devotees should be properly dressed. Formerly, due to various reasons connected with the distribution of the devotees clothes in the temple, no devotee would have on two socks of the same color. This would look absurd to the people on the street. This has since been changed, but we should make sure that the devotees look neat, clean, shaved properly, and that their clothes present the Krsna consciousness movement.
When the devotees are chanting in public, they should dance in some uniform manner, for that will attract the people more than if everyone is dancing in an individualistic way. Prabhupada wanted the devotees to dance in an uniform way and he would teach them to do the 'swami step' together in public with their hands raised in the air. Also the melodies that are being chanted should be bona-fide and should be sweet and melodious and the karatalas and mrdngas should be played in time with each other.
If the party is chanting on the street, they should avoid stopping for too long a time in the same place if they are in front of a place of business. One may stop in front of monuments or plazas for as long as one likes, but when one stops in front of a place of business the store keepers become upset. So one should keep moving and thus not create any enemies.
If at all possible, procure a permit to chant from the police long before going. When one has the proper permit, often called a parade or demonstration permit, then no one can stop the chanting. This is especially important for large scale sankirtan where hundreds of devotees are taking part.
It is always nice to have a maha harinam kirtan on the best day of the week in your city, such as Saturday or Sunday, when the most people are on the streets and when the sankirtan devotees are available to participate. When all the devotees get together and chant it becomes very powerful. The sankirtan devotees, having performed this most important yajna all week long, bring a special power into the kirtan which might be lacking during the week.
One can have all kinds of signs and pictures on the sankirtan. One may have a sign with the maha mantra on it, as well as a picture of Srila Prabhupada, Lord Caitanya and the other members of the Panca Tattva, and Lord Krsna.
It is always nice to give out free pieces of prasadam on the street while chanting. This always wins over the crowd. One can prepare some small sweets or cookies and pass them out while the chanting is going on. One can also distribute books and magazines quite nicely to the people who are listening to the chanting.
One good way to preach to people while in public is to stop the kirtan periodically, say every 20 minutes, and then give a short 'street' lecture. A street lecture is about 5-7 minutes long and it usually covers one point of the philosophy nicely. It should be a lively lecture that holds the attention of the people for this short period of time. People appreciate such lectures when they are given by one who is expert at the art of street lecturing.
Do not underestimate the power of prasadam distribution. I have personally seen New York City surrender to Krsna consciousness through the distribution of prasadam on the subways. People became so favorable simply because they got something nice to eat from us. We would cook large quantities of sweets and pack them nicely in a plastic bags. Then, while distributing some small book, Krsna the Reservoir of Pleasure, we would give them a piece of prasadam. Even the police were addicted to our sweets. In this way there were never any problems for our sankirtan and the people became quite favorable.
Large festivals attract the people of the city and introduce them to the culture of Krsna consciousness in a wide spread way. When the people see an organized festival in the public places of the city, they think that the Krsna consciousness movement must be bona-fide. Therefore these festivals should be continued and increased as much as possible as they also serve as a very good opportunity to distribute Srila Prabhupada's books.
Sometimes one can make a mini 'Hare Krsna Festival' by printing up a stack of nice looking posters, renting a hall, and inviting everyone to come for an evening of Krsna consciousness. These programs are usually quite well attended and successful. One can charge an admission fee and make back the costs of the festival and sometimes even a profit. The program should be nicely performed and consist of bhajans, kirtans, perhaps an Indian dance or cultural presentation, some lecture, a feast, and if possible a slide show or multi media presentation. Even if it is simply done, people will appreciate it since Krsna consciousness has so much to appreciate.
There are many different kinds of institutions within every country and city. There are educational institutions, scientific institutions, cultural institutions and so on. We should enter into these institutions and present our culture and philosophy in a nice way to attract this more intelligent class of men. Prabhupada was especially emphasizing preaching in the colleges and universities. He said that making one devotee from the educated class of men was worth many devotees who were not educated.
One educated man can attract many more people to this movement than those who are not educated. Therefore we should try to preach in these public and private institutions as far as we can. Only the most qualified devotees should enter into such institutions to preach, for intelligent people require an intelligent presentation in order to be impressed.
One can present a simple program, such as a short kirtan, a nicely presented introductory lecture, and some sweets at the end. A question and answer period is usually appreciated as well. Always bring books for selling at the end of the program for the best preaching is always done by the books of Srila Prabhupada. Try and make a good connection to the teacher or leader of the group that is being lectured to, in order to come again and make another program in the future.
Other important preaching programs are those done on the radio and TV. If one can preach in the mass media then his preaching can become very effective very quickly. People tend to accept whatever they hear or see on the mass media and if they see a nicely presented program of Krsna consciousness they will accept it readily. Therefore one should try to get on the radio and television as much as possible.
To get such preaching opportunities, one should simply approach the programming director and request him to make an interview. Usually they will do this without difficulty, especially if it is new to them. If the devotees have been there before then it may be more difficult to get them to take them on the air unless one is able to present new topics which are interesting to the people (and thus the program director).
Programs Arranged by Other Organizations
Sometimes one will be asked to come to a program which is arranged by another so-called spiritual organization or perhaps some official agency.
Although this may seem like a good opportunity, often it is just an occasion for argument and disturbances. Prabhupada did not like to go to programs where Krsna consciousness was not the main theme. We have plenty of opportunities to spread our preaching through our own programs and we do not need to take shelter of other organizations programs.
If one is obliged to attend some program due to a social or political consideration, then surrender to Krsna and simply present Krsna consciousness in a pure way without creating conflict with other person's beliefs or understandings. When one presents Krsna consciousness in a pure way, then everyone can understand the superiority of our philosophy on their own, even though it may have never been said that we have the superior system. And always make sure that there is an opportunity to perform kirtan and distribute prasadam, otherwise there is no use in going.
A temple congregation is a group of interested people who are close enough to Krsna consciousness to want to be associated with ISKCON, but who live at home and maintain their own material existence. Some of these people are closer to devotees and some are further away, but all are associated with ISKCON in some form or another. This group is called the temple congregation and preaching to them is called 'congregational preaching'. This form of preaching is very important for the long term growth of the temple.
Sometimes persons associated with the movement as the congregation join the movement and become full time devotees. Sometimes they open up a center in their own town, called a Nam Hatta Center (or Center of the Marketplace of the Holy Name). Sometimes they just remain at home and read our books or sometimes they just attend a festival in the temple now and then. All such persons are potential sources of income from donations, and they can all be engaged in some form of service now and then. For example, in Germany we usually have our congregational members distribute books, perhaps 100-200 or more, to their friends and relatives, as well as others in their town, during the Prabhupada Marathon. This increases the overall distribution dramatically.
Congregational members can support the temple through monthly donations.
One can make a program for each member to give some fixed amount to the temple each month and ultimately the whole temple can be supported in this way. They can also serve as small centers of Krsna consciousness in their towns, inviting people to their homes for occasional programs when travelling preachers come by and visit them.
Congregational members are best cultivated by groups of travelling preachers. Each preaching group can demarcate a particular zone wherein they must cultivate all the members in that area. Then, by regularly travelling and visiting these people, they can gradually make them more and more Krsna conscious. Also, by holding public programs in their homes, and inviting the people of the town to participate, one can find others who are interested in Krsna consciousness and even some ready to join the movement.
The travelling preachers should be expert at making kirtan and cooking feasts for the people at these programs. The more expert the preachers are, the more attractive they are to the people they meet. One can conquer a person through his tongue, and if his tongue has been attracted by nice prasadam, he will be more able to hear the message of Krsna consciousness.
When the travelling preachers are not there, the members should still be cultivated through the mail. If the temples maintain extensive mailing lists of all the members, demarcated by area, then they can regularly keep in contact with them by sending out monthly newsletters or other publications of ISKCON, such as a Back to Godhead Magazine, an ISKCON World Review or the local equivalent. Such mailing lists are best kept on a computer, but if one cannot do this then it can be done on index cards in a filing system. When one has a computer it is easy to print out the mailing labels, but even if one has to do it by hand, it is well worth the effort and the return. Nicely cultivated congregational members can help the movement enormously, especially in times of need. If there is a special project, and we need some help, it is the congregational members who generally help the most.
Although we have touched on this subject in other parts of this book, the bhakta program is so important that we should have another look at it.
Making, training, and maintaining new devotees is a key to success in ISKCON. If one can make a new bhakta, train him into a nice devotee, and get him to surrender his life to this sankirtan movement, then we have done the best service to the Supreme Lord. New devotees give life to the movement. A temple without new devotees is dead, because without new devotees the same life is just not there. New devotees give life to the kirtans, and bring spirit into the temple atmosphere. They also help the older devotees to feel their relevance as teachers when the older devotees can instruct the younger in the principles of Krsna consciousness.
To make the bhakta program a success, the temple president should designate the best male devotee to take care of the bhaktas and the best female devotee to take care of the bhaktins. These leaders should act like the fathers or mothers of the new devotees. They should hold regular bhakta classes each day and discuss topics relevant to new devotees and go over basic philosophical points until they are learned. They should also make sure that the bhaktas are given special prasadam if needed and that they get the proper clothes to wear. They should also bring them out regularly on harinam kirtans so that they can get a safe taste of preaching in public.
These bhakta leaders can also keep track of interested persons who come to the temple and keep in touch with them regularly through the mail so that the person comes closer to the temple and wants to become a devotee.
These leaders will function in the temple as the preaching leaders and they will take care of the new people who come.
Every temple that expects to receive visiting guest preachers should have at least one guest room. This room should have access to a bathroom which is clean and working. The guests should be offered a bed with clean sheets, and at least three towels should be offered as well. These towels should be washed for the guest after each usage, and the bed sheets changed for clean ones every day. Their clothes should be washed and ironed each day. One should offer the guest the best prasadam that can be cooked, after it has been offered to the Deities, and one should see that his bodily needs are taken care of. It is very important that the food be offered to the Deities for many of the older Vaisnavas, including sannyasis and gurus, do not like to eat prasadam that has simply been offered to a picture of one of their Godbrothers. They want to take prasadam that has been offered to the Deities. So they should be given that facility.
It is important for the spirit of the devotees that they can meet and hear guest preachers regularly. Therefore we should treat them very nicely so that they will want to come back to the temple again. If they are treated in a harsh or improper way, then they will not want to come back to the temple, and that will be a great disaster.
Other persons who visit the temple from outside are also guests who should be seen as sent by Krsna. Prabhupada has said that every person that visits the temple should be seen as special and we should give him a good reception. Prabhupada once ordered that each of his temples offer every guest who comes at least some subji, puris and sweets. He said that the subji can be cooked each morning and kept throughout the day. It should be ready to eat after being heated up. The puri dough can be made every other day and can be kept in the refrigerator. As soon as someone comes, the ghee can be heated up on the stove and the puris rolled out and cooked. Sweets made in ghee can be stored for at least a week without noticeable decay, and milk sweets, if stored in the refrigerator, can be saved for a few days. If every guest is fed nicely then they will remember their visit to the temple and they will always want to come again. At night, if there is leftover subji, it can be served out to the devotees.
ISKCON has many life members, and if one of them comes to the temple, he is allowed to stay for three days a year without charge. Try and have a room available for life members. These members are usually pious Indians and if they are pleased they often leave a donation for the temple. Give them nice prasadam and treat them properly with sweet words of greeting.
Every temple must have vehicles in order to do its preaching work and temple maintenance. But ISKCON has a very bad reputation when it comes to taking care of these vehicles. Devotees tend to think that the car doesn't belong to them % it belongs to Krsna % and therefore they do not care to maintain the car since it is seen as someone else's problem. This mentality causes the destruction of ISKCON cars and it has to be changed.
The temple president should preach to the devotees that the cars belong to Krsna and are meant for the usage of all devotees and that they should be properly maintained by each and every one of us.
However, practically speaking, it is best to have one devotee who is making it his service to properly care for and service the vehicles for the whole temple. This will insure that certain aspects of auto maintenance will be taken care of regularly. The temple president should make sure that this maintenance is being carried out in a proper way otherwise the cars will be destroyed and it will be an enormous waste of Krsna's valuable laksmi.
The temple president should first of all see that all the cars are properly registered and that they have passed all the tests that are to be passed. He should make sure that when the devotees take the cars out, they have the proper papers with them in case there is a check from the police. Next, the temple president should make sure that all the cars are properly insured. There is nothing surer than the devotees smashing the cars at one point or another, so therefore there should be proper accident and full collision insurance on each and every vehicle. Do not leave the cars uninsured for even a day since one can be certain that on that day when they are uninsured, someone will smash them. It will not matter if the insurance costs a lot, it is well worth it in the long run.
Some insurance companies in the West do not like insuring our cars since they know that they will lose money on us. This means that we must insure our cars for we are always smashing them.
Every car should be regularly maintained. The oil should be changed every 5000 km. If the oil is regularly changed there is a good chance that the engine will last a long time. The water in the radiator should be checked periodically and new water filled in. Always make sure that there is the proper anti freeze to protect the engine from the lowest possible temperature that can be expected in your area. Check the battery water regularly and make sure that it is up to the marks indicated.
The vehicles should be regularly cleaned both inside and out. Dirty cars means that the heart is also dirty.
These vehicles belong to Krsna and they should be kept clean as they are part of the temple paraphernalia.
Tires should be checked. When the rubber is worn out, new tires should be bought. Do not try and save money by using the tires well after they are worn out, for this is risking the lives of the devotees who are driving and riding in the cars. Experts recommend that every 10,000 kms the tires be rotated on the car to even out the wear and tear on them. If the tires are non-radial, they are rotated according to the following standard system, taking the front left tire and switching it with the rear right tire and switching the front right tire with the rear left tire. Then next time switch the rear tires with each other and the front tires with each other. Then next time again the front left with the rear right and so on. Radial tires follow another system. Radial tires must always remain on the same side of the car that they were installed on initially.
That means the tires on the right side remain on the right side and the tires on the left side remain on the left side. They can simply be rotated from front to back. If these systems are maintained then the tires last somewhat longer.
One must drive carefully otherwise he will risk smashing the car. If there are devotees in the car, and the car is smashed, then the driver is guilty of harming the vaisnavas and that is a greatly sinful act. Most accidents are caused by the inattention or poor judgement of the drivers which could have been averted by simply paying attention and using good common sense. One should never drive late at night. After midnight, no one can be expected to drive properly. Srila Prabhupada banned all night driving in ISKCON because many devotees were killed while driving late at night. Devotees do not sleep enough to drive through the night. If one knows that he has to drive for a long distance, then he should take extra rest so that he can stay awake when he has to drive. If one is feeling even slightly drowsy while driving, then pull over to the side of the road and take a rest, even if it means being late for whatever is to be done. It is more important that one gets to his destination at all than arriving on time, for if one smashes the car and himself he will neither get there on time nor, in his damaged condition, will he be able to serve Krsna nicely.
Every temple president should realize that the vehicles will only last for a relatively short period of time and then they will have to be replaced. Therefore he should save up during the year for purchasing new vehicles when the old ones are finished. If he fails to do this he will have a big bill for the new vehicles and he will not know how to pay it.
Save ahead and be happy.
Devotees Health and Welfare
Every devotee is a valuable part of this ISKCON mission. Even if a devotee is not doing anything particularly special, still he is a part of the mission and he may in the future do something valuable. Therefore every devotee should be taken care of as nicely as possible.
Devotees should be given proper medical care when they are sick. If a devotee has something wrong with the body, then it is essential that steps are taken to correct it. A story in this connection will be useful.
There was once a French devotee who had a cut on his thumb. He thought it was not important to take care of and it was more important to go on serving Krsna, so he neglected to properly take care of it. Later on the thumb became infected, but he thought that just by chanting Hare Krsna, everything would be alright. Later on he could no longer use his thumb, so someone in the temple forced him to go to the hospital. The hospital people realized that the thumb was beyond medical help and that it had to be amputated. After they had cut it off, they admonished the devotee that had he come to them sooner they could have easily saved the thumb. This is a good lesson for all devotees. Do not think that Krsna's business is to cure one's bodily diseases, He has better things to do. Go to the doctor when there is something wrong before it becomes something really wrong.
Of course this does not refer to small things that are always happening to the body. And in fact there are many home remedies that are better than the remedies the doctors can give. Therefore the temple president should be wise enough to know when the devotee can be cured using home remedies and when he should get professional help. If it is something serious, then go to the professionals, but if it is something light, one can try and cure it himself with proven medical methods. Determining the severity of a disease is only possible when one is an experienced medical practitioner, so devotees should depend on professional advice whenever there is some doubt. Obviously a cold, a headache or stomach ache can be dealt with using simple remedies, but long term fevers, chronic pains and coughs, and so on, as well as broken bones, and the like, should be taken as serious and the devotees brought to medical attention. An example of what not to do is found in the case of one devotee who was a diabetic.
Some other devotee told him to stop taking his insulin and as a result he died. One should not give medical advice unless he is a qualified person. Speculation has no position within Krsna consciousness and medical speculation can have disastrous results.
A temple president should never throw someone out of the temple just because he is sick. He should be taken care of as long as possible. If someone is chronically sick and cannot be cured, then perhaps it is best for him to be sent back to his home where he can be better looked after, but that is only in rare circumstances for devotees want to be near other devotees, especially when sick. But if a devotee is sick, and also in maya, and doesn't want to get out of that maya in the temple, then he may be sent home. Prabhupada said that ISKCON temples should not become free hotels where lazy men can lay around all day. Every one in the temple should have some engagement in devotional service. This is the most important duty of the temple president, that everyone within the temple should be always engaged in some meaningful manner.
Not only should we be concerned with the bodily health of the devotees, but we should be concerned about their appearance as well. If the devotees look like a dirty and poorly clothed bunch, people will think that we are just low class people and they will not take us seriously.
Every devotee should have at least three sets of devotional clothing which are not ripped. These clothes should be washed each day. Although a devotee rises in the morning and showers, if he puts on clothes that are not freshly washed then he is still unclean and should not enter the temple. Every devotee must have freshly washed clothes to put on each morning. Therefore three sets of cloth for each devotee is important.
If the devotees have to wear karmi clothes for some reason or another, then they should also have enough sets of the karmi clothes so that they can wash them regularly and keep them clean as well.
One should not wear leather shoes if at all possible and one must not wear leather clothes. Leather clothes are the product of cow slaughter and we should not support the slaughtering industry by buying or wearing leather goods. Prabhupada once said in the USA that there are many artificial alternatives to leather shoes and one should wear these shoes.
He did not like us using leather apparel.
It is up to the temple president to make sure that each devotee has a proper place to live. This is the right of the devotees, especially since they are out all day working hard to maintain the temple. They at least deserve a proper place to live in.
Each temple should be kept clean, and we have already discussed this point in detail. Similarly the temple should be kept heated when it is cold. If the devotees are forced to live in a temple without heat, they will fall sick and they will not be able to work for the temple or Krsna.
They will also go away to some other temple that has heat and hot water in the winter time. Each temple should also have proper ventilation. Good air is essential for good health.
And last but not least, every devotee should get good prasadam.
One of the least understood means of securing the welfare of devotees is through situating them in the proper asrama. Most devotees will get married. In any society that is the normal situation for most people.
Although this is true, a small portion of them will remain brahmacary and ultimately take sannyas. It is the business of the temple president to make sure that the devotees are properly situated in their correct asrama. Even though one should probably get married, the question is sometimes, 'when to get this person married?' The temple president may think, 'should I try and get this person married or should I let him remain as a brahmacary as long as possible?' That question is not easily answered and it has to be seen in each and every case what is the best thing to do. The GBC men have to decide what is the policy of ISKCON in regards to the marriages that are to take place.
Sometimes although a devotee wants to get married, there is no proper candidate for marriage. This may go on for years. Therefore the devotees should understand that this is all under the arrangement of the Lord and that when He sanctions it, a proper wife or husband will be found.
Therefore the devotees have to be patient and await the day when the proper arrangement can be made. One must be initiated before he can get married. We do not allow uninitiated devotees to marry in the temple. Every devotee should remember the spiritual calculation that the householders have a 50% chance of going back to Godhead whereas the brahmacaries have a 100% chance of going back. Householders have the extra burden and responsibility to carry in the form of their families who have their needs and desires to be fulfilled. This makes it more difficult for them to prosecute spiritual life. The more one is entangled in household life, the more one may become attached to his household situation. If one is so attached, his attachment for Krsna reduces. Therefore one should not be very eager to embrace household life, and if he is a householder he should look forward to the day when he will be able to take sannyas and leave it all for the pure preaching of Krsna consciousness.
There are some distinctions between householders who live inside the temple and householders who live outside the temple. Those householders who live inside the temple are usually performing valuable temple services, such as pujari or cook, or even temple president or treasurer, and so on. They are practically living like brahmacaries for inside the temple building there is no facility for householders to live together as inside the temple building householder men and women are not permitted to live together as per the instructions of Srila Prabhupada. They will live in the different asramas for men and women and they will meet sometimes in the temple where they can talk. Householders who want to have a family and maintain themselves independently will usually live outside the temple in their own places with their own economic arrangement.
If a householder wants to live outside the temple, the temple president has to be sensitive to that desire and should give him some facility to make money so that he can initially pay for his outside living arrangement. This does not mean that one will live outside and the temple has to arrange for his economic needs to be met, rather, the temple president can assist him to meet his initial needs so that when he does move outside he has a place to go. From that point on he will have to meet his own economic needs. If the temple president does not give him this facility, he will feel bitter and may go away from Krsna consciousness.
Sometimes a president will see that a devotee is valuable and needed in the temple service but that he should live outside. A valuable pujari who has a few children would be an example of this. The temple president can arrange that he lives outside near the temple and the temple will either pay or share his expenses, but only when the devotee is essential for temple life and he cannot live in the temple.
Cleanliness starts with taking a regular bath. Devotees in ISKCON usually bathe at least two times a day, immediately upon rising, and before the evening program. When rising in the morning one should evacuate and then wash his hands three times with soap, brush his teeth completely with a twig or a brush and toothpaste, and shave if required. One should know that he is in a contaminated state if he brushes his teeth or shaves. One must take a full bath with water after these activities. One should dry oneself with a towel that is clean. The towel should be washed or at least rinsed after each usage and hung up to dry. Similarly the underwear should be washed in the morning and hung up to dry and clean underwear put on each day. Sometimes a devotee may have excessive body odor coming from the arm pits. In such a case he should shave the underarm hairs and also wash the arm pits regularly with soap.
Devotees should also make sure to keep their nails cut short and, where appropriate, they should shave their heads regularly. It is also a regulative principle to go to the dentist at least once a year and have a regular check up. One should also go to the dentist if there are rotten or broken teeth and repair them. If there is chronic bad breath a devotee should get dental help to solve it, if the source of the problem is the teeth. Most times bad breath comes from the stomach and improper digestion which also requires medical treatment.
Every devotee should have his own clothes and underwear which he must wash every day. No one should enter the temple unless they have on clean clothes. It is said that Laksmi will not associate with Narayana unless He has put on clean clothes that day. Of course, Narayana always has clean clothes, but it is said like that to underline the importance of wearing clean clothes each day. If one cannot follow these basic principles of cleanliness, then there is no consideration of becoming a brahmana. A brahmana is clean both inside and outside, but if he cannot keep himself clean then what use is there to call him a brahmana? Places must be provided in the temple for hanging wet clothes. It is not good to hang wet clothes over the heaters in the temple since that kind of wet air is bad for health. Therefore the temple authorities should provide a place where the devotees can hang their wet clothes to dry them.
Another important point is learning how to drink water from a cup without touching it to the mouth. This is important for those who want to become brahmanas. Sometimes when giving class, one needs to drink some water. If one drank water and touched his lips to the cup, his hand and the cup become contaminated and must be washed. If one does not wash it, and then touches the Bhagavatam or Gita, then he is committing an offense against the sastra. Therefore one must always drink water by pouring it from the cup directly into the mouth without touching the cup to the lips. Then one is not contaminated.
One must wash the area where he has been sleeping immediately upon rising in the morning. Usually all the brahmacaries will rise before 4am and then a previously designated devotee will wash the floor of the brahmacary asrama. If one is not sleeping in the asrama, then he should have a bucket of water and a floor cloth available so that upon rolling up his sleeping bag or blankets he can wash the floor. One should also regularly wash his sleeping paraphernalia for that which is used for sleeping more than two hours becomes contaminated. Sleeping bags should be washed at least once a week. Wool blankets may be washed once a month.
All of one's paraphernalia should be put away in a locker or closet.
Lockers and closets are a very handy way of storing one's personal paraphernalia and should be a part of every temple. They might be bought used from some school or the army. Then they can be painted and put in the asramas. Each devotee will have his own locker or closet and keep his things inside there.
One small point is that it is better to distribute to all the devotees some small pieces of tilak in chunks rather than melting down a chunk of tilak into a merge tilak where everyone sticks his fingers in it.
Alternatively, if it is not possible to have personal tilak for everyone, then one can supply a somewhat larger chunk of tilak for the asrama. Each devotee will take the chunk of tilak and place water in his left hand and then rub the chunk in the water and make a paste which is then applied to the body.
After eating one should wash his hands and mouth completely. Similarly one should wash completely with sufficient water the area where one has eaten. The place where one has eaten becomes contaminated and this area must be washed before anything else can go on there. If another person is to eat in the same place, that place must be washed first. Brahmanas usually wash their feet after eating as well.
One should wash all the plates and cups used for eating in a place that is separate from the kitchen. It is not clean to bring the eating utensils back into the kitchen for washing. It is also not clean to bring them into the bathroom for washing as well. Therefore a proper temple will arrange for sinks to be installed near the prasadam room so that all the plates can be washed therein. Hot water and dish washing soap should be used to clean the plates, cups and bowls.
The Sunday Feast
Organizing the Sunday feast is a big job in temples where there are many hundreds of guests. If the temple is small, and the guests few, then one does not require to make large scale arrangements for the feast, but if there are many guests then one has to prepare for the feast well in advance in order to have everything nicely done on time.
The first thing that has to be done to organize the feast is to prepare the menu. Unless one knows what has to be cooked, he will not be able to organize its preparation.
The menu should be made almost a week in advance, usually on Monday. It should include some basic preparations such as two subjis, puris, a chutney, sweet rice, and halavah, and perhaps some sweet balls. If the devotees do not know how to cook these minimal preparations, the temple president should arrange for cooking lessons to be given to the devotees if at all possible. Also one will have to learn where to get spices which are required for cooking. One could import them from India regularly by making some arrangement with an Indian merchant, or one can simply buy them from the local Indian foods shop if there is one in your town. In any case, spices are an important part of our cooking tradition. They are also essential for good digestion which is essential for health. Throughout the week materials are collected for the Sunday feast. They should be properly stored in rooms meant for this purpose, and perhaps also in barrels sealed off from bugs and rodents. Vegetables and fruits should be stored in a cool room so that they do not rot.
Foods should be prepared in a clean way. For example, once the vegetables are cut and washed it is essential that they are protected from contamination. This means that no unclean person should be allowed to touch them and no lower animals may see the bhoga.
The feast should be completely finished cooking in time to be offered to the Deities at their noon offering. If that is not possible, then an alternative would be to offer it at a special offering after the Deities wake up in the afternoon. This means that after waking the Deities in the afternoon one can make a special bhoga offering on the altar before the aratika and offer the food for the feast at that time.
When the guests first come to the temple, they should be led into a kirtan in the temple room. Then a short lecture explaining the basic principles of Krsna consciousness should be given by one expert in the science, and then they are led to the area where the feast is served.
They can either be served plates which are already filled with prasadam, or they may take an empty plate and spoon and come up to the servers who will fill their plates as they walk past. The Indian system is to have everyone sit down in rows and the prasadam is carried by in buckets which are on wheeled carriers. The prasadam is then served out of the buckets onto the plates of the people as they pass by.
Sometimes enthusiastic devotees want to preach to the guests as they are sitting and eating. But this is a sure fire way to give the guests indigestion. When they are eating, they should be given the opportunity to just eat and taste fully the Lord's mercy in the form of prasadam. The best thing is to have a light bhajan or soft kirtan during their eating, for this will allow them to hear transcendental sound vibration as they are eating transcendental foodstuff. If the guests have to listen to some devotee preaching to them at the same time they are eating then they will not be able to either listen properly or eat properly and the effect of both will be partially lost. Therefore at least wait till the guests are finished eating before preaching to them. When the people are finished eating, the plates and tables (if there were any), should be taken away and a large kirtan can be started and the guests engaged in chanting and dancing along with the devotees. After the kirtan one may speak with the guests and answer any questions they might have.
As the guests are leaving the temple, try to get them to take home as many books as possible for it is the books of Srila Prabhupada which will really make them Krsna conscious. This is also a good time to induce them to take home japa beads, cassettes, incense, and other devotional paraphernalia. It is also a good time to teach them how to chant japa and offer their food, if they are so advanced.
Standards of Cleanliness
The kitchen, according to the standards of Deity worship, is an extension of the altar. Therefore, whatever standards are there on the altar should also be there in the kitchen. Specifically this refers to punctuality and cleanliness as well as the strict regulations governing who can cook or perform other functions in the kitchen.
Actually, only second initiated brahmanas are allowed to cook over the fire. This is the rule for all temples with installed Deities. However, in smaller preaching centers, and certainly in Nam Hatta centers, this standard can be relaxed so that first initiated devotees, or even uninitiated devotees can cook. But if there are installed Deities, then there must be second initiated devotees to cook and do the worship.
Whoever enters the kitchen must be clean and his clothes must be similarly clean. One's clothes become unclean if he has passed stool and not taken a shower and put on his clothes again, or if he has eaten in his clothes, or slept in the same clothes. It also means if one has passed urine in the toilet room with his clothes on. One cannot enter the kitchen in unclean clothes. One cannot enter the kitchen unless he is properly showered and clean himself.
If women come into the kitchen (or men with long hair), their hair must be tied up and covered with a cloth so that their hairs cannot fall into the food while cooking. If hair comes into the food it becomes rejected and must be thrown out. The Deities will never accept food with hair in it. Men must also tie up their sikhas for the same reason. If the men have much body hair, then they should wear long sleeve shirts in the kitchen to avoid their hairs falling into the food. Women cannot enter the kitchen during their menstrual period.
One should never cut hair or nails in the kitchen, nor should one spit in the kitchen sink or wash his mouth out there. If ones hands are contaminated, they cannot be washed in the kitchen sink.
No pots from the kitchen are allowed outside the kitchen for serving. One should purchase buckets and transfer all the prasadam in the kitchen from the cooking pots into these buckets which are then used for serving.
Cooks should learn the art of cooking and cleaning. A good cook will leave the kitchen as clean when he finishes as when he started. Whenever he makes a mess he will clean it immediately, therefore the kitchen will always be clean no matter what state the cooking is at. This is a most important point for cooks to learn and it was taught by Srila Prabhupada himself. A cook will always have a cloth nearby to wipe off the table or the stove if something spills. He will dump all cuttings into the proper receptacle immediately when they are cut.
During larger feast days, the kitchen should have a permanent cleaner who will simply move throughout the kitchen cleaning up everything and also keeping the floor clean and dry. He will always be cleaning the kitchen throughout the cooking operation so that when the cooking is finished the kitchen will be completely clean. Perhaps it will just need another washing of the floor. Similarly, there should be a full time pot washer working throughout the whole time while the cooking is going on so that there can be a constant supply of clean pots as the food is cooked and then transferred into other containers that are not used for cooking. One cannot put the prasadam into the serving containers until after it is offered.
Purchasing Foods, Storage, and Garbage Disposal
Purchasing should be done in bulk as far as possible. Purchasing in bulk allows the temple to get the best prices and to have a long term storage of essential ingredients. It is not efficient to purchase items in small quantities when cooking for 50 or a 100 people each day. Therefore there should be a devotee designated in the temple to purchase foodstuffs for the kitchen all the time. He should just travel from one part of the city to the other looking for the best buys and the best quality foods.
After the foods are purchased, they must also be properly stored, for what is the use of purchasing without proper storage? A room next to the kitchen should be designated as the storage room, and there should be many barrels made of wood or plastic or metal, as they are available, with tightly fitting lids to keep out all rats and bugs. Inside these barrels can be the storage of grains, dahl, ghee, oils, spices, salt, and sugar. A large stock can be kept for emergency times when there is nothing available. This stock must be continually used in a rotating manner otherwise the old stored items will go bad or rot.
If foods are to be stored in the kitchen or another room, these rooms, and the kitchen, are to be sealed off to avoid bugs, cockroaches, and rodents from entering. One seals off the kitchen by plastering up all the holes in the kitchen where the bugs may enter. He also puts screens on the windows and doors and also screens over all open drains. One should never leave prasadam or unoffered foods open overnight for this will be a sure invitation for the roaches to come and eat a feast! Similarly garbage must be properly disposed of as soon as possible. It should never be left in the kitchen overnight. One must get it out of the kitchen as soon as possible.
One should learn how to cook from bona-fide recipes from persons who already know the art of cooking. There are many good cooks in ISKCON and in conjunction with the local GBC some of them can be invited to come to teach the devotees in the temples how to cook nicely for Krsna and His devotees. Also there are many good cook books available, and one can learn how to cook many nice things from these cook books. The best and most complete book is done by Jamuna devi dasi. If one simply follows the instructions in these books, he can imitate a good cook and please the Lord and the devotees in the temple.
Management of Cooking
The head of the kitchen department has to have a good sense of management, otherwise he will have a hard time running a kitchen for many devotees and guests on Sundays. There fore a few tips are given here to help him run the kitchen department.
The first thing that the kitchen head must do is to make a weekly menu of all offerings to the Deities and the mass cooking for the devotees as well as the Sunday feast. As already mentioned, he can make the menu for the Sunday feast on the previous Monday, but the weekly menu should be made one week in advance to allow for purchasing to be properly done.
One should make the menus in such a way as to allow for a sufficient variety during the week to keep the Deities and devotees satisfied. As it is stated, variety is the mother of enjoyment. Even if one is restricted to a simple diet, still he should prepare these simple foods in a variety of ways so that everyone is satisfied. The menu should take into account nutritional needs as well as taste. The devotees should get a sufficient amount of protein as well as calcium and other vitamins and minerals. One can learn how to balance that by following the traditional Indian methods of cooking and using his common sense.
One of the most important points in preparing any kind of food is to avoid overcooking it. If a food is overcooked, for example a vegetable, it will lose all its nutritional value. One should cook a vegetable until it is soft enough to stick a knife through it without exerting pressure.
One should stop the cooking process at that point otherwise it will become overcooked. The best way to cook vegetables is to steam them.
Steam cooking makes them soft and keeps all the goodness within them, and allows for simple chauntzing at the end for taste. For information: it is not good to fry foods in olive oil as it is very heavy for the digestion to tolerate.
A good diet for devotees would include for breakfast some milk, some fruits, some grains, and some chick peas for protein. A good lunch would include chapatis or bread (if devotees would rather have it), dhal, one or two subjis, rice, and perhaps a fresh salad. At night a light snack of milk and perhaps some cookies or maha prasadam from the day.
Making a menu means to vary the type of grains for breakfast from granola to oatmeal to halavah to upma and so on. For lunch, one should order different types of vegetables each day. If one cannot get different varieties in some seasons, then although the same vegetable will be used it should be prepared in a different way, sometimes fried, sometimes boiled or steamed, sometimes in soup, sometimes in salad and so on. If possible, one should vary the types of dhal that is used each day. One should cook some cheese subji or put cheese in some lunch preparations for protein and calcium. Avoid mixing dhal and fruits, or fruits and vegetables, as these combinations are very bad for health. Some say that mixing certain raw vegetables with cooked ones is not good for the digestion. But one can take lettuce, tomatoes, or cucumbers with the meal without problem. One should also never put salt in milk.
When the menu is made, one has to collate all that information into a master shopping list. This is done by putting an estimate of the amount of the raw material for each preparation, either in terms of kilos or crates, and then adding up the totals of each kind of dhal, grain, subji and so on. When this is done one will be able to tell exactly what his requirements are each week and then order that from the shopping department. This will also cause the wastage to be less.
Once the menu is done, one has to post the menu in the kitchen so that all the cooks can see it. This will be the master cooking list for the week. One should list the exact preparations, their amounts, and who will cook it at what time of the day for each specific offering. In this way all the offerings for the week become listed and each cook will know in advance what he has to cook that week. The menu becomes the basis of all preparation in the kitchen and the whole kitchen is organized around the menu. All bhoga is purchased on the basis of the menu and all cooks will cook on the basis of the menu. The head of the kitchen can adjust the menu accordingly if there is something special available in the market, especially if it is available at a special price.
One should not use ghee on ekadasi that has been used on other days since it will have some grains in it. One should only use new ghee on ekadasi.
On ekadasi days one should be very, very careful not to mix any grains or beans into the prasadam. This might happen because the Deities other than Gaur Nitai take grains on ekadasi as They are Visnu tattva and above all such rules and regulations. Gaur Nitai are also Visnu tattva, but because They are playing the parts of devotees in this material world, They also follow the rules of devotees and observe an ekadasi diet on ekadasi days.
Therefore one should be very careful not to mix in prasadam or ingredients offered to the Deities on ekadasi with that of the devotees.
Even maha prasadam is not eaten on the ekadasi days.
The head of the kitchen can organize the cutting of vegetables the night before. All vegetables required for cooking the next morning can be cut the night before and those vegetables required for cooking at noon time can be cut in the morning of the same day. Of course, this is not an absolute principle and vegetables may be cut whenever convenient. Anyone can cut vegetables, so long as it is done outside the kitchen in a clean area and the cut vegetables are washed when they are brought into the kitchen. If they are cut the night before they should be properly soaked in water and covered from bugs, rodents and air.
Deity offerings should be scheduled a week in advance, with the schedule for the next week on the kitchen bulletin board by Friday of the previous week. The list should include each and every offering, who should cook it, and exactly what has to be prepared.
Feasts can be scheduled in the same way as ordinary offerings, but the scale will be different. The head of the department should make a schedule of each preparation, when it has to be ready, who should cook it, who should assist, and on which stove it should be cooked. This becomes quite critical when one has to cook 15 preparations in large scale and he has only four stoves! Therefore a good organization of what to cook and where is required to avoid havoc and chaos in the kitchen.
This schedule should be hung up in the kitchen on Thursday so that all the cooks and cutters know exactly what to do when Sunday comes and they can work to the best of their efficiency.
Daily devotee's prasadam can be scheduled in much the same way as the Deity offerings, only the scale will be larger.
Sometimes there will be preaching programs which will require prasadam for the participants. If householder ladies who live outside the temple can be engaged in cooking for programs this is very helpful. This cooking must also be scheduled far in advance so the cooks are prepared and can get everything together in time. If other special cooks are used for this, still they must be scheduled in by the head of the department so that they do not interfere with the ordinary cooking. The preaching parties must organize their prasadam needs through the head of the kitchen who will have the last word in how to get everything prepared in a nice way on time.
A final note on the preparation of prasadam: the cooks should realize that they are trying to satisfy the Lord and His devotees. If the devotees are satisfied then they can understand that the Lord was satisfied. Therefore the cooks should be eager to please all the devotees with their offerings. The cooks should cook with a mood of love for the vaisnavas. They should feel that they are cooking to satisfy all the vaisnavas and when they are satisfied then the cooks themselves will feel satisfied. Actually, the secret of preparing nice prasadam for the Deities and devotees is love. When an advanced devotee cooks, the prasadam tastes like nectar for it is filled with spiritual potency. This is the secret to good cooking.
Prasadam serving is an art that should be learned in every temple.
Prasadam serving is something which should be done by the older devotees in the temple who want to serve the vaisnavas. It should be done with love and devotion. Food served with love and devotion becomes more tasty and the love and devotion of the servers helps the digestive process. In Caitanya Mahaprabhu's time, the prasadam was served by most advanced devotees and sometimes the Lord Himself would serve the devotees prasadam. Therefore the devotees in the temple should be eager to serve the other vaisnavas prasadam.
Some tips in serving prasadam: don't give too much or too little. If one gives too much, and the devotee cannot eat it all, then he will be guilty of leaving leftovers on his plate. If one gives too little then he will remain hungry. One should serve with a loving mood and not just throw it on the plate. Prasadam is worshipable and should be dealt with nicely.
One should realize that by the pleasure of the vaisnavas he himself will be happy. We usually give seconds to the devotees until they request us not to give anymore. It is not that they should have to ask for seconds but rather the servers should bring around the prasadam again and again until no one wants any more.
Usually devotees will line up sitting on the floor in two or more rows facing each other waiting for prasadam. When serving a large group, the servers should walk between the rows of eaters, serving three on one side, then three on the other side to prevent anyone on one side or the other becoming disturbed. Seconds should also be served by the servers in this way.
Devotees will say the prasadam prayer before eating. The servers should already have something on everyone's plate before the devotees enter the prasadam room so that the eaters can begin as soon as the prasadam prayer is finished. One should always serve water first, then bitter items if they are available, then subjis like spinach, then the other vegetables and fried things. Chapatis should be served throughout the meal as is rice. Sweets are served last. One person should constantly serve water throughout the meal. At the end, when everyone is almost finished, go to each one and ask if anything more is required and if it is, get it.
When there is a big crowd, then one person should be designated as the manager of the servers. He should oversee all the servers and make sure that they are taking care of the needs of all the eaters.
As mentioned before, one should serve with prasadam containers which are usually buckets or larger pans and not take the cooking pots out of the kitchen. Cooking pots taken out of the kitchen become contaminated. One should make an endeavor to purchase large serving containers by all means. If one can get large buckets that is also good and they may be used for serving..
When prasadam is served, one should not touch the plate with the serving spoon for that will immediately contaminate the serving spoon. Prasadam should be gently dropped from a respectable distance from the plate, say a few centimeters. Persons eating should not touch the prasadam serving containers or spoons and they should not serve themselves prasadam without first having washed their hands and mouth.
If these simple rules are followed, the temple atmosphere will turn into Vaikuntha.