India Festivals and Other Communication to the Outside World
One of the highlights of the year is the annual Mayapur Vrindavan Festival. This festival was created by Srila Prabhupada to allow the devotees from around the world the opportunity to come to the holy dhams in India and make spiritual advancement there by associating with all the advanced devotees of ISKCON.
Although everyone would like to go every year, actually it was once said by Srila Prabhupada that the devotees could go once every five years. If they took turns going it would not put too much of a financial strain on the temples. But then again, he sometimes would say that the devotees should come often. So it is up to the temple president and the local GBC to say when the devotees should go. Devotees should not assume that they have a right to go every year and they should consider it a great privilege to be able to visit the festival.
Going to the holy dhams is a sacred act and selling of items such as watches and cameras is not the recommended activity for pilgrims to these holy places. Besides being illegal, one will ruin his spiritual vision of the holy dhams if he sees himself as a salesman and the local dham vasis, the residents of the holy dham, as ordinary customers. In India, it is a great economic crime to illegally import goods and sell them publicly on the black market and they are prepared to put even devotees in jail for doing this. It is also against the law to illegally change money on the streets or any place other than banks. One must change all foreign currency in the official banks. Indian jails are terrible, so please avoid these activities.
One has to visit the holy dhams in a mood of reverence. One should see that these are the places of appearance and pastimes of the Supreme Lord and thus one should come to these dhams simply to make spiritual advancement and serve the devotees there. When one goes to these places with the idea of doing devotional service, then his spiritual life will become greatly uplifted on these pilgrimages, but if he goes with an idea of being the enjoyer of a vacation, then he will have a great deal of trouble and meet all kinds of disturbances and obstacles.
There are also other programs for devotees during the Kartika month and also in January each year called the Vaisnava Institute for Higher Education where devotees may learn some specific arts or philosophical studies under the able guidance of senior devotees of ISKCON. These programs are nicely organized and run so attending them will help everyone's spiritual life. If anyone desires to attend these programs, then they should request permission from their temple president.
Management and Administration
When one wants to manage something in an organized manner, he requires an office from which the management can operate. Management means to organize men and money according to what is required to accomplish the goals one wishes to achieve. If I wish to accomplish something, it will require manpower for executing the work and funds to pay for it. Someone must delegate the authority to men to work and authorize the expenditure of funds as they are required.
Now we do not have unlimited men and endless supplies of money; therefore, the way in which the men are organized and the money is allocated must be done in a comprehensive manner according to the facilities available. The management and administration department is meant to facilitate the project requirements according to the resources available.
In order to do this efficiently, a properly functioning office is required. It doesn't have to be an elaborate arrangement as in the big businesses of the modern society; it can be quite simple, but something must be there. If one has a small temple of under 20 devotees, he can probably do all his management and accounting in a small office room. But as the temple gets bigger, and the projects undertaken get more complex, one will require larger offices or multiple offices to separate the functions of temple president, treasurer, secretary, temple commander, and all the heads of the various departments.
The temple president will require a room large enough to hold meetings of all the temple managers. This size of room will also be sufficient for any meetings he may hold with some portion of the temple devotees. The other officers of the temple, and department heads, will require smaller offices since they do not have to meet with large groups of people at one time. Remember that we are speaking here about a larger temple which has many temple projects going on at once. Normally, when there is little going on in the temple itself, which can occur even in a very large temple where the main thrust of the temple activity is sankirtan and preaching, one will require only one main room for management where all the functions of the temple can take place. So the temple president will have to decide whether he requires to have separate offices for each of these departments or if it can all be done in one larger office.
Just to give weight to the 'less facility is sufficient' argument, Srila Prabhupada did tell me in 1974, when I was the president of the Vrindavan temple, that I did not need any office, that I was to roam about the temple and handle all the affairs in that way. So theoretically at least it is possible to handle a temple in a minimum of office facility. But practically it is seen that there should be at least one main office for the temple management, and if there is need, more offices can be made.
Besides the physical facility, there is a need to manage the different projects in the temple according to a set scheme. There is a standard management cycle which is accepted throughout the world, which when used, can systemize the management in such a way as to assure the greatest degree of success possible. This cycle, expressible in terms of a simple formula, is easy to implement.
Every project requires four things: research, planning, implementation, and evaluation of the results. Research means that one must appoint an individual or a team to go through the various options available to the decision maker and narrow down the possibilities to feasible choices which will accomplish the goals desired. Research also means to determine what will be the costs of each option and also the longer term ramifications on the temple. Legal considerations must also be researched. In other words, in the research stage one should find out all that is required to understand whether a course of action is favorable for the temple or not.
When the research is completed, and one should allow enough time to realistically and deeply research a topic completely before moving forward to the next stage, then one can start to make a plan. Planning means that one determines, through group discussion, exactly which researched option to choose. The research forms the basis of the plan that is conceived. It is best to make plans on the basis of a meeting with all the parties concerned. For example, if it is a plan of a big festival, then the legal, preaching, and kitchen department, as well as the treasurer, should all sit together and discuss the requirements to make the festival a great success. The more heads that come together at this initial plan making stage the better, for input received after the plan is made often tends to confuse things and cause further delays. A good temple president will always consult with his department heads before making any decisions. He will avoid acting unilaterally for this is not an efficient way to manage.
One of the more important parts of the plan making process is to determine the actual budgetary requirements of the project. When one knows exactly what it will cost, then he can determine whether there is enough money presently available to execute the plan or if further collection schemes are required to raise the funds. If more funds are needed than are available, the plan should include the fund raising and provide enough time to bring in the capital required. Without having the budget available there is no question of executing the plan successfully.
Many very nice plans have had to be scrapped due to a lack of funding.
One should be sensitive to the input of the temple treasurer when discussions of funding are taking place.
When the plan is completely worked out on paper, then it is time to implement the plan. Executing a properly made plan is often easier than one thinks it will be. If the research is proper, there will be no surprises and one can move forward with confidence at each step of the way. When the research is good, and the plan properly conceived, then the execution of the plan is usually easy. Therefore one should spend enough time researching and planning. This means that every project should be started far enough in advance to allow for proper ground work.
Execution means to organize the men and facilities to complete the works required. Here the management is basically going on at the departmental level. The upper level managers should simply oversee the department heads and make sure that they are doing what they are supposed to do at the proper time. The upper management should also make sure that everyone is following their budget at all stages of the execution. They should also make sure that all the men allotted to the various stages of work are actually performing their functions as required. If there are problems with the manpower which cannot be handled by the department heads, then the temple president has to intervene and directly deal with that person. Similarly, if there are budget overruns, then the temple president will have to make an emergency adjustment together with the treasurer.
The last stage of the management cycle is often overlooked, but it is actually quite important. That is the evaluation stage. When the project is completed, one should look over the different stages and see where there were defects in the process. For example, if the research was faulty, and things were more costly than thought, or there were cheaper alternatives discovered later, then one knows that the research department needs to be adjusted for the next project. In other words, while evaluating the performance of the different departments during all three earlier management stages, one can see where there were mistakes and how to correct these mistakes in the future. One can also come to understand the quality of his leaders through this evaluation process. If a leader is consistently failing in his part of the executive process, then it leads one to believe that he should be replaced before the next project takes place. Similarly, if a department was especially good in its performance, one can safely give them more responsibility in the future. So do not neglect to wrap up the project with a clear look at how the project was organized and the results obtained.
This cycle of management is not only good for projects, but it will work in the day to day management as well. For example, one goal of the temple is to make sure that the prasadam for the devotees is good, healthy, and cost efficient. By researching the food markets, making a good purchasing and cooking plan, executing that plan and evaluating the results by actually tasting the prasadam and analyzing its food content, one can understand best how to accomplish the goal. This method is valid for all types of temple works and should be used by an intelligent temple president.
While researching is going on, various papers and documents will be accumulated. There will also be documents that appear in other stages of the management cycle as well. All these papers have to be stored so that they can be referred to in the future. One should have on hand as much information as possible to make decision making in the future an easy affair. Often the research is valid for longer periods of time and therefore the papers should be saved. This will mean that there must be a proper filing system in one of the offices. Usually this is the work of the temple secretary, but in the absence of a secretary the treasurer can also handle the filing. If the temple president is doing all the jobs of the temple officers himself, as in very small temples, then he will have to organize the filing system himself.
The simplest type of filing system is to have filing cabinets with folders hanging within the shelves. Each folder will be labelled, in alphabetical order, according to the particular information to be found in the folder. A filing system can be devised according to one's needs which allows one to find what he is looking for quickly. One can file things according to department and subject matter. In this way one can find the required information quicker.
Every temple officer should learn how to use his time in the most efficient manner. He should studiously avoid wasting time in frivolous prajalpa, or idle talks, for this will ruin his capacity to accomplish a large amount of things in the least amount of time. There is a rule in management that 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people, so one should spend 80% of his time with the 20% who do the work and 20% of his time on everyone else. It is important that the managers not get entangled with speaking with those who are not very important for the management of the temple. Although every devotee should be considered important, sometimes they are not actually valuable for the overall functioning of the temple. Since the temple manager's time is limited, he must divide his time in the most practical manner. Therefore, he will spend most of his time with the devotees who are most important for the proper management of the temple.
Since the temple officers have more things to do than time available to do it, they must use their time very efficiently. It is important that they get to their offices in the temple at precisely the same time each day so that the other devotees can depend on them being there and can utilize their services regularly.
If there are too many things to do, and not enough time to do it, then one has to set priorities. He can only do what he can do, since he is only human, therefore some things will simply have to wait. Making some things wait while other works are going on is not a bad thing and it is something that we all will have to live with. Therefore one should determine the priorities of his works. He should say, this is the most important thing to do, and it must be done now for so and so much time.
Then comes this other thing, and then the next thing, one after another.
After this list is made, with a priority set for each item, then one can comfortably work through the items one after another until they are all done. If new items are coming onto the list while we are still working on the previous ones, they should be fitted in by being given a new priority number and making room for them on the list. Sometimes things on the bottom of the list are neglected for a longer period of time. That is also not good. It is better that the temple officer, seeing such neglect going on, delegates the authority for accomplishing that thing to another person who has the time to do it.
A good leader is one who knows what he has to accomplish and knows exactly how to go about doing it. Even if he does not personally know what to do, he will know how to organize a meeting of the other devotee leaders to work out what to do. And if the work is still above the heads of all of the leaders, then he should go to his local GBC representative.
Ultimately one has to depend on Krsna for all his results.
The manager must always know how to inspire others. He will figure out services for the devotees in such a way as to inspire them in their Krsna consciousness. He must always think up newer and newer ways to keep the devotees enthusiastic in their service.
A manager who wants to be successful for a long period of time must know the art of being humble. Humility is a quality rarely found in managers who are often overburdened with the mode of passion. Passionate people do not know what is the meaning of the word humility. Therefore the managers in the temple must be first of all devotees and develop the qualities of humility and gentleness. They should be ready to admit their mistakes and make corrections for them. They must take responsibility for their mistakes and make all rectification required. They should also be ready to give all credit to others for the good works done by them. They should never want to take credit for the work done by other persons. Actually, they should see that every good thing is happening due to the nice cooperation of the devotees, and every bad thing is due to their own failure to lead properly.
A good leader is also a good student. Even though he may have officially stopped being a student long before, he should never give up the attitude of learning wherever knowledge is to be gained. A good follower can become a good leader later on. A good leader knows how to apologize to others for his wrongdoing, how to beg forgiveness for his offenses, and how to avoid holding a grudge when someone does something against him.
A good leader knows how to communicate with others. He should be able to write his thoughts down on paper so that sometimes he can post some communique on the temple bulletin board, or write reports to the GBC, or write letters to others requesting help or simply to preach to people who inquire about Krsna through the mail. He should know the basic arts of writing to express his thoughts well on the written page.
Above all the leader must know the art of talking with others.
Communication is a most important ability for a temple leader. One may have wonderful ideas, but if he cannot communicate them to others, then these ideas are more or less useless. It is especially important that the leaders know how to talk with devotees. They have to convince devotees to follow their plans and cooperate with their projects. This means that they have to preach nicely to convince the devotees that serving Krsna is the most important goal of life. The devotees must also be convinced that their leader is a spiritual personality who is worthy of being followed. They will gain this conviction by hearing the leader give inspiring classes. If the leader knows how to communicate the basic principles of Krsna consciousness in an inspiring manner, then the devotees under him will want to follow what he says.
A temple president must also be able to speak nicely to the congregation and the public. He should know how to deliver a lecture to the public and how to convince the congregation that they should surrender more to Krsna. This means that he knows the basic philosophy well. The only way to do that is through the detailed reading of Srila Prabhupada's books and hearing his lectures as well as the lectures of his bona fide followers. When Krsna conscious knowledge is disseminated according to the parampara, then it has great potency and can convince a fallen soul to give up his attachment for the illusory energy of the Lord and surrender to Krsna.
A temple president will also be called upon to manage meetings both of the general devotees and the temple leaders. He should always be strong, yet gentle, and allow everyone to speak who has something to say. He should avoid making commentaries on everything that everyone has to say, and he should be eager to hear what others have to say thus respecting their intelligence. If the members of the group feel that the chairman of the meeting does not care for their intelligence then they become discouraged and they do not want to participate any longer. However, the temple president should understand that the purpose of the meeting is to accomplish some work and not just to sit around and talk. Therefore he will have to push the meeting in the direction of accomplishing the tasks which are set down for the meeting to accomplish. He will have to know in which direction to push the meeting when it is bogged down in argument or simply entangled in talk without purpose. This will require great intelligence. Managing meetings is a skill that is rarely seen in this world, so if it can be developed by the temple president this will help the temple greatly.
If there is a computer available in the temple, it is useful for writing and managing money. One can use a word processor and significantly speed up his writing. A spread sheet, a program that enables one to do accounting and calculations in a very easy manner, can greatly enhance his ability to understand the relationship of economic data. A data base, or record of all the information received about a particular subject, can help the temple by keeping on record all the persons met and preached to and the results of that preaching. It can also help keep up a mailing list so that these persons are regularly contacted. But if there is no computer, then one will have to do all these things by hand which makes it more difficult, but not impossible.
The temple president must also know how to secure the temple against thieves and rogues. He should make sure that all the doors are securely locked at night and that there is no way that thieves can enter the temple. Above all the temple room must be locked up tightly to prevent any intruders from entering at night. During the day the temple may be open to everyone, but no one should be allowed to enter into the asramas of the devotees. The public places are the temple room, preaching rooms, and perhaps some offices specifically kept open for such purposes. People should be restricted from going to other areas of the temple.
Specifically the treasury must be kept under locked doors and in locked cupboards or safes throughout the day.
It has been said that one knows that he is calling an ISKCON temple when he calls and calls and simply gets no answer, then he calls again and the phone is busy. This is because the devotees do not want to answer the telephone since they know that this means they will have to run all over the temple to find the person who is being called. Therefore even though there are ten people standing next to the ringing phone, no one will pick it up. The smart temple president knows that this will cause managerial havoc, therefore he stations one receptionist by the front door of the temple to take care of guests coming into the temple and to answer the telephone. Then he arranges some means, either a temple paging system through loudspeakers throughout the temple, or an elaborate intercom system, so that the required person can immediately be called from the desk without the receptionist having to get up. This is probably one of the most important points in the management of external affairs.
One of the least liked works of the temple president is the dealing with complaints. Often people bring complaints against devotees, or devotees complain about other devotees. This is unpalatable and ideally it should be avoided, but practically it cannot be. The temple president must be strong enough to deal with all these complaints as they arise. The best system for dealing with complaints is to bring all the concerned parties together in one room and let them discuss their problems before the temple president and then he will listen to the discussion and then make a comprehensive decision. This is usually the only means of solving a problem. Sometimes one can simply ignore a problem and hope that it goes away, but usually it ends up in the frustration of the complainer who thinks that no one cares, and he usually ends up going away. Therefore it is always a good policy to bring all the parties together and let them discuss everything quite frankly in front of the neutral temple president, and then a decision will have to be made or preaching will have to be done, and let the matter be finished.
All in all, it is seen that the managers of the temple are the servants of the Lord and His devotees. If the manager sees himself as the servant of the devotees, the vaisnavas, he will be successful in his managerial affairs. As soon as he thinks that the devotees are meant to serve him then he will have all kinds of troubles in his management.
Bookkeeping and Accounting
Most countries of the world require societies to keep accounts. Some countries may not check these accounts often, some not at all, and others frequently. It is best that each temple keep a clear record of their financial transactions according to the recognized accounting systems in their own country.
That bookkeeping system should be according to a system accepted by the government. The best way to do this is to keep track of all the money that comes into the temple treasury by keeping income records and then keeping track of all the funds that leave the treasury by having vouchers and receipts from the stores. Then all this income and expense information is handed over to an outside registered public accountant who will write up the books in a format that is acceptable to the government.
Of course, if a devotee can be trained up in a system that is acceptable to the government that may be better for it will save money as one must pay the professional accountants some significant amount for each entry (booking) that they make in the account books.
It is important that the temple president learn what is the best way to present the accounts considering the taxation laws in the country. Some countries accept that ISKCON is a tax-free religious organization, whereas others consider ISKCON as simply a business. If there are taxes to be paid, then one should arrange the temple books in the most advantageous manner to reduce the tax bill. It is natural that every organization will account in such a way as to legally minimize its tax bill. There are legal means to declare deductions and get a reduction on the amount of taxes a temple must pay. These means should be understood.
Besides the official needs of a bookkeeping system for tax purposes, there is a need for the president to know exactly how much money is in the temple treasury each day. If he does not know how much money he has, and how much more is expected to come in, how can he determine how to spend the money and make future projects? Therefore the accounting system should be such that he can understand what is available at any moment, on request.
This means that the temple treasurer must know how much money is in the bank and how much is held in cash. He should be able to report that to the temple president at any point in time. Further, he should know the bills or expenses that are presently being incurred, or which are due to be paid at the present time, and those which are due to be paid within the next week or month. With this knowledge he can present a report to the president on request. He knows the income and he knows the expenditures, so he can give a status report when it is required. Every temple president should get such a report at least weekly, and when he is preparing to make a major expenditure, he should get that report on the spot. Major reports are made monthly for the GBC or regional councils and yearly statements are made for the GBC, the regional councils and the government. These statements should include all income and expenses, as well as a comprehensive list of debts, if there are any.
When a temple president is thinking of making a major expenditure, he, or the temple treasurer, must know the art of making projections into the future. If the expenditure will be made within the near future, but the payments for it will extend over a longer period of time, say some years, then he has to make a projection of his income and expenditures over that period of time and then calculate whether he can make that expenditure or not. If there is enough projected income to cover the expense, then it is wise to do it, otherwise not. Of course, this process does not take into account the considerations as to whether one actually requires to spend the money or not, only common sense and some management skill can answer that question, but it can help to determine whether one can actually make the expenditure were one to want to do so. So if it is determined that the expenditure is wanted, then a cash flow projection and analysis is required to determine whether one can actually make it.
Actually, the temple treasurer should always have a cash flow analysis available at all times. If he is keeping a cash flow updated throughout the year, then it is easy to get information at any particular moment in time. But if the cash flow analysis has to be done on the spot, mistakes will enter into it due to the improper information which is usually available immediately. It takes a while to get the proper information for making the cash flow. When the proper information is entered into the cash flow analysis, then it becomes easy to manipulate the information according to the projected expenses and determine if it is possible to make them or not.
Making a cash flow analysis is not difficult if one sets his mind to making it. One has to simply determine what were his running expenses over the last few months or a year, and then increase that by some percentage considering the increase in devotees (or decrease it if devotees have been lost) and that will be the estimated expenditure for the next year. Remember to add in any new expenditures that one is planning to make. Then make a projection of the income in the same way.
Take the previous year's income and adjust that to the present reality and project that across the next year. Then see if there is enough money to cover both the expenses and the new expenditure. Most probably this short explanation is not sufficient to train one in making a cash flow chart. The best thing would be to learn the art personally from someone who knows how to do it.
This kind of analysis is something that computers are made for. They help one do this kind of thing in a very accurate and easy manner. There are computer spread sheets which help one to make these calculations in a short time. If one does not have a computer, then he can do this all on paper, although it will take a longer time. In any case one must calculate the future income and expenditure on the basis of the previous income and expenditure and then see whether there will be enough income to cover the expenses desired.
One of the most essential calculations that is to be done in the treasury department is the running balance of accounts with the BBT. Since the BBT is the main supplier of goods (books) to the temple, the temple must regularly pay the BBT for the books supplied. The treasurer must calculate how many books have left the storage that week and then pay the BBT for those books.
An important note is to be added here. If one doesn't have money, he cannot spend it! This is a simple yet extremely important and often overlooked point. In the modern world, at least in the West, it is very easy to get loans from the bank or other sources by making overdrafts and financing vehicles and other items. This kind of spending lends itself to carelessness. One can spend much more than he makes if he is not careful and soon he will find himself in bankruptcy. When one has more debts than income then he is in debt. Getting into debt is easy, just spend more money than one has. Credit card spending is another means of getting into debt.
Getting into debt with the BBT is also easy to do % simply do not pay the BBT for books distributed for a few weeks and the temple is in debt. This is a basic principle of economics. One must carefully determine whether he actually has the money for the expenditures that he makes, otherwise he will fall into debt. Canakya Pandit has said that there are three things that must be put out immediately otherwise they will destroy one - - fire, debt, and disease. So debt is considered as dangerous as fire. If there are debts to the BBT it can spiritually ruin the temple. We have seen many a temple go under spiritually, with the temple president going 'down with the ship', simply due to debts to the BBT. The BBT is Srila Prabhupada's heart and the laksmi is his blood. When one is in debt he is sucking the blood of Srila Prabhupada.
Being in debt causes a great burden on the temple devotees. They lose all spiritual enthusiasm if they are in debt. Devotees should always feel that the management of the temple is such that they will prevent the temple from going into debt. When they see debts increasing they lose faith in the management. Furthermore the management has to push them more to increase their collection of laksmi to pay for the debts and this will cause them to become uninspired if done for a longer period of time. The temple president should make it his first rule, NEVER spend money that he doesn't have, and NEVER go into debt for any reason. It will keep the temple financially strong and happy. One may not have many material things in the temple, but if he doesn't have debts at least he can be spiritually happy and satisfied.
Taking care of the legal affairs of the movement is absolutely required.
If one is careless about these basic points, he can be closed down by the government, his status can be restricted, or he can lose his preaching facility. Therefore the temple president must make sure that the temple's legal status is perfectly in order.
In most countries there are temples which were established before all others. These temples usually are forced to do all the preliminary legal 'groundwork' first in order to establish their own legal affairs and the other newer temples can utilize their legal arrangements and simply copy their efforts and save time.
For example, the legal status of ISKCON as a society has to be taken care of. This is generally taken care of by the first centers in a country.
New centers should simply duplicate their work and save time and money. Another legal problem that will be taken care of in the future is the tax status of ISKCON. The main organizations will have to figure out some means to establish the tax status in the proper manner and then the smaller centers can duplicate that work. But it is essential that the tax status be determined so that no legal repercussions undermine the preaching mission. Once this is done a standard will be set that all temples can follow.
Property ownership is also an important legal issue. There are specific rules for property ownership that have been established by Srila Prabhupada and as far as possible these rules should be followed. Srila Prabhupada wanted specific property trustees to be in charge of determining whether a property can ever be sold or mortgaged against. And he also wanted that every property be in the name of ISKCON. In some places this is hard to do, so one's GBC man should specifically arrange some exemption with the Executors committee of ISKCON.
Legally binding contracts are also important to be made from time to time. The temple should have someone who has legal acumen and who can understand a legal contract when it is presented. One must see that the terms and conditions of the contract are favorable to us and not sign something which is unfavorable to ISKCON. Often it helps to have a professional look over the contracts before they are signed to give some good advice on how to proceed with them.
It pays to get individual releases signed by all the devotees in the temple stating that they are in Krsna consciousness by their own free will and desire and that whatever they have given to the temple in the past or will give in the future is given as a free gift and that they expect nothing in return. This will protect the temple from a devotee who joined and then left and then said that he never gave anything to the temple but he let the temple use it temporarily and that he now wants his property back. This has happened in the past and without this release and statement it is almost impossible to legally prove that it was given in the first place.
A temple president should be very cautious to not accept minors into the temple. The famous Robin George case in the USA has come about due to the temple sheltering a minor girl and the mother making a court case against ISKCON for that. It is illegal to accept a minor into the temple without expressed written permission from the parents. If both the parents state in a letter that they have no objection to the minor living in the temple then that person may sometimes be accepted, but without that letter the temple president should simply tell the candidate to practice Krsna consciousness at home and visit the temple, with the parent's permission, as often as possible. Any written communications with the parents must be carefully kept on file. This may protect the temple from expensive legal cases, as are often filed in the United States. However, even such letters do not totally absolve the temple from legal responsibility for the minor should something go wrong. One should get good legal advice before accepting minors into the temple. If the minor becomes sick, for example, then the temple is fully responsible to take care of them. If there is some discrepancy in the care, the temple can be held responsible. Furthermore, the minor can always make a case against the temple later on declaring that they were improperly coerced into joining the movement at an early age or some similar derivative of this idea. The New York temple made a policy to not allow minors under the legal age of 18 to join the temple even if they had parental permission. All new candidates had to wait till they attained the legal age of adulthood.
This policy seems to make a lot of sense and may be adopted by other temples without any fear.
The temple should learn the art of doing things legally correct in the first place otherwise trying to rectify something done wrong after the fact is extremely difficult. Don't do illegal things for a reaction will manifest and one may not be able to get out of it. Especially one should register the society in a legal manner. Each temple should have a regular lawyer they consult to make sure they are doing things in the proper way.
This same lawyer can help legalize sankirtan spots as well.
A good lawyer can help give protection to the sankirtan devotees. The devotees are depending on getting good back up from the legal department in order to continue their distribution. Therefore it is well worth the investment to try and get as many sankirtan spots legalized as possible and establish our right to distribute books as far as possible. Of course the legal system in some countries is not made in such a way as to guarantee the rights of religious freedom to preach, but still a good lawyer will help the temple to get the maximum benefit in the situation as it presently exists.
The temple legal department should also learn the art of getting permissions for demonstrations. This can mean simply getting permission for a street harinam, or it can mean a major festival like Rathayatra.
Sometimes permissions are required for performing in big halls and this permission should be gotten well in advance.
Sometimes people make legal trouble for the devotees. Some people can think of unlimited ways to cause trouble for the devotees and the devotees have to be determined and clever enough to counter these attacks and go on with the preaching. The legal department should immediately spring into action whenever the devotees are attacked; otherwise, the situation tends to deteriorate and the devotees are ultimately harmed.
Public Relations (PR)
Public relations (PR) is the art of disseminating information to the public about ISKCON's activities to make them favorable towards the movement and appreciative of ISKCON's work. Every large organization has a PR department which works to preserve and enhance the image of the organization in the public's eye.
There are two kinds of public relations work. The first is called reactive. This means that when something bad happens and the media are reporting about it, one has to respond with his side of the story and correct the possible misrepresentations. The second kind of PR work is called proactive. This means that one first brings favorable information in the public's eye before they hear anything bad and establish his organization's image in a favorable way. This kind of PR work is vastly superior since it brings information to the public before they have heard something bad about the organization.
ISKCON can use the techniques of good PR practices to enhance its image in the public and government's eye. One can preach amongst the government people by showing them the good work of ISKCON throughout the world and gaining their favorable impressions of us before they might be influenced by others to do something bad against us. Similarly one can gain the favor of the newspapers and media by going to them and presenting our philosophy and work in such a way that they will understand that we are a valuable organization to the society.
At one point envious people will certainly start up again against the devotees to stop their preaching work. They have done this in almost every other country of the world and your country will probably not be the exception. We have to be prepared to counteract these elements before they cause another repression of the devotees. This means that whenever they bring some misinformation to the public, we must counter this with real information. Of course if their efforts are government backed, there is little that we can do. But if they do not have government backing then it is possible to have our side of the story published in the media. This is the main work of the PR department in your country.
If the media publishes a bad article or story against us, it is our responsibility to meet them and tell them our side of the story as soon as possible. We should go with various evidences, including statements from the intelligentsia of the country, to defend our point of view. One should not wait to answer bad articles or reports. Waiting means that what they say is being accepted, which is an admission of guilt.
Responding means that what they say is not being accepted and if the response is timely it may make it into the press.
PR doesn't always mean only dealing with the media, but it can also mean dealing with the general public. For instance, informing the public of our food programs (Food for Life) will help them understand that we are working for the benefit of all the people. This is the kind of work they want to hear about.
One can also deal with the neighbors in a nice way for this is also public relations. Make sure that the temple kirtans do not disturb the neighbors at odd hours of the day and night, keep the temple noise level to a reasonable minimum, make sure that the garbage is properly bagged and disposed of, and make sure that the devotee clothes are not flying all over the yard.
Good parental relationships are essential. If the parents of the devotees are favorable, they can be a great asset for the movement when there is need of them to appear in public and speak favorably about their children and the movement's influence on them. Therefore Srila Prabhupada once said that each devotee should write home to their parents at least once a month. This will keep the parents connected with their children and they will not think that ISKCON is trying to separate the parents from the children. The devotees should also periodically visit their parents at home to maintain good relations.
One very nice means to stop unfavorable elements when they attack is to have a parent's organization connected to ISKCON. If the parents are organized into an action group, they can defend the movement against unfavorable parents who are simply against Krsna. One devotee can make it his or her business to keep in touch with all the parents with a temple newsletter sent out monthly or bimonthly, and a meeting of all the parents biyearly or quarterly. The parents should speak about their problems and realizations about their children in Krsna consciousness and also they may be served a nice prasadam feast. They can also make strategies to overcome the obstacles placed by envious elements who always try to find fault in the Krsna consciousness movement. Even if at present there are no parents who are unfavorable and trying to stop the movement, one can be sure that they will appear in due course of time.
Therefore if this parents organization is made now, it will be very strong when an attack comes and they will be able to prevail.
Another good work for the PR department is seeing the local politicians.
If the devotees go and meet all the politicians of their local government, and some also meet the politicians of the central government, this can have a very good effect on the politician's mood about Krsna consciousness. If they become favorable to ISKCON, then there are so many things that they can do to assist our preaching. At least they can avoid making laws which will restrict our preaching. When we need certain permissions to do things or a paper of certification for something, if we have cultivated the politicians and ministers in advance, then it will be easy to get what we need. But one should cultivate them not just to get things from them, but should cultivate them because they are spirit souls who are lost in the material world and who need the mercy of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. If we preach to them in this mood then there is a greater chance that we will find some to be actually friendly and sympathetic to our cause.
Similarly, we should cultivate the media, specifically the newspapers, radio, and TV. We should go out to meet them in their places of work and explain to them about the important work that ISKCON is doing all over the world. It helps to also bring them some prasadam. Prasadam is an important ingredient in all our preaching efforts. Whether we are seeing a politician, a newspaper editor, reporter, or whoever, we should always bring them some nicely prepared prasadam, for this will remove all tensions they may feel towards devotees and make them favorable. Everyone likes something nice to eat.
A preaching folder should be developed which includes photos of all the activities of ISKCON throughout the world. While speaking to these people, one can leaf through the folder and show them exactly what we are doing.
If there are some urgent problems to be addressed in the media, then it is often good to make a press release from ISKCON. It should be no longer than two pages, double spaced, and it should explain our position on the particular issue in a clear and concise manner which is easily understandable to a teenager. When reporters read a press release, they read it quickly for they have little time. Therefore it should be written simply, as if one were addressing a 14 year old. It should contain some catch words and phrases which will look good in print when quoted by the newspaper people.
The ISKCON Office of Communications, led by HH Mukunda Goswami, is an ISKCON organization dedicated to teaching the devotees how to deal with all types of media problems and how to present our movement in a favorable manner to the public. They are presenting information that is very helpful to the temples. This information can help the temples far more than the brief information that is given in this chapter.
The PR office has an important function to educate the public, through the media, about what is ISKCON and what is not ISKCON. People tend to identify anyone who is looking like a devotee, or who says he is a devotee, with ISKCON, but there are many groups, some of them downright deviant, who may try to be identified as ISKCON yet are doing things which are either illegal or not at all favorable in the public's eye. It then becomes most essential to inform the media and the public that there is a difference between these deviants and ISKCON. When this is done then the bad effects of their actions will not stain the reputation of the ISKCON movement. This is one of the most important functions of a PR office.
Sometimes unfavorable people try to make our movement look bad by saying that we do nothing for the society as a whole and we are just parasites in the society who take its youth and make them crazy through the chanting of mantras and so on. This kind of propaganda is easily counteracted when we have a functioning 'Food for Life' program whereby we are giving out prasadam to needy people or victims of earthquakes, floods, droughts, famines and other natural or political catastrophes. Then people can see that we are really doing something worthwhile and that we are not parasites on the public. So the PR department has much work to do in order to help people understand the importance of the Krsna consciousness movement.
Of course, there is no better way to change people's opinions than through the proper distribution of Srila Prabhupada's books. If we sell Prabhupada's books in a nice way, and people remember the person that sold them the book to be a sincere, warm and knowledgeable person, then they will automatically have a nice opinion of ISKCON.
Life in the asrama can be at once wonderful and frustrating, depending on the particular situations. Sometimes the association and freedom from material possessiveness can uplift one to the higher levels of Krsna consciousness, and at other times the same association and lack of personal facilities can cause a momentary fall into the lower modes of material nature. One has to learn how to see the good side of asrama life and avoid falling into attachment to material things.
In order to do this, there are a few simple rules that, if followed, will help all members of the asrama live in peace and tranquility.
Do not slam the doors of the asrama, either in the day and especially at night. The asrama should be a proper place to rest, and one should respect the other devotees right to sleep. Sometimes during the day, the pujaris or other devotees whose services run into the night or early morning, require to take rest in the asrama. So do not slam the doors or speak loudly in the asrama. Maintain a peaceful mood in the asrama. It might be best to reserve a separate room for the pujaris to avoid this problem.
Don't step on sleeping devotees and do not step over them. Just as we do not step over a devotee in the temple room when he is paying obeisances, so similarly we do not step over a devotee sleeping in the asrama. And certainly we do not step on devotees at any time for it is a great offence to touch some devotee with one's feet. If one accidentally does so, immediately offer obeisances to that devotee and beg his forgiveness.
Similarly be sure to not step on any devotee's glasses that may be placed next to their heads. This is a typical way in which glasses are broken in the asrama.
Do not steal from devotees. This is a great offence. If there is stealing in the asrama, then the thief should be identified and removed from the asrama. We are all serving Krsna and we are using all material things in His service. If we require something it will be supplied by the temple authorities; there is no need to steal.
Keep the asrama clean. Do not throw clothes here and there on the floor, and always make sure that the sleeping areas are cleaned immediately after getting up in the morning or after taking a nap during the day.
Keep clothes and things neatly packed away in a locker or closet. One technique that temple commanders used to use to keep the asrama clean was to confiscate whatever things were left lying on the floor. After a while devotees understand not to leave their things lying around.
Don't use the asrama as a place of politics and fighting. If one doesn't have something nice to say about someone, then don't say it at all. Do not commit vaisnava aparadhas in the asrama or anywhere in the temple for this pollutes the temple atmosphere. Of course, one should avoid offending devotees at all times since this is the first offense against the holy name of the Lord. If someone is not liked then it is better to avoid that person or tolerate him. If someone is doing something that is not proper, then bring it up to that person directly without making 'politics' against him with others. If he still does not want to change, then bring it up to the higher temple authorities and request them to do something about the situation. Ultimately depend on Krsna, for He usually rectifies all situations in due course of time.
Do help others when they require it. You would want someone to help you when you have trouble, so give your help to others when they need it. If a devotee sees a prabhu who is sick, he should serve him as much as he can. Give him proper prasadam and help him get medicine if needed. One who loves the devotees will gain the favor of Krsna.
Avoid associating with the opposite sex. The men and the women must remain strictly separated in the temple. The celibate students, both men and women, must be strictly apart in their living facilities. Brahmacaries should generally not speak to women. If they have to speak to them for devotional service then that should be only for the bare minimum of time required to understand what is to be done and then the communication should be finished. Speaking with women quickly makes one a candidate for the grhastha asrama and the entanglements of family life.
Grhastha life is also an asrama, or a stage of spiritual development.
Grhasthas may live in the temple or out of the temple according to their temperament and the circumstances. Sometimes there is no place in the temple and one must live outside. Sometimes a grhastha wants to maintain his family life in a more private manner. Every grhastha has to decide which living condition is best for his spiritual life. He may make that decision together with the temple president or local GBC. Grhasthas who live in the temple, excepting the case mentioned below, must live separately in the men's and women's asramas and they are known as Grhastha brahmacaries for they are living in the temple as celibates, although they are married. Such grhasthas do not have any children and they are fully dedicated to devotional service of the Lord. They are maintained by the temple just like all the other devotees.
Grhasthas may also live together within the temple facility if they are staying outside of the temple building. No men and women should live together in the same building as the temple. The only exception is when the temple is on one floor of a multi storied building % then grhasthas might be facilitated on another floor of the complex. This was formerly determined by Srila Prabhupada in the New York temple on 55th street in Manhattan. This building was more than 10 stories high so he allowed grhasthas to live on one of the floors above the temple room. Usually though, they reside in other buildings than the temple building. The temple president will see whether the householders are performing service valuable enough to warrant the temple paying for them to live outside. It depends on whether they are performing valuable service for the temple. Most householders will want to live outside of the temple for that is more their mood. Those with children will want to live outside to have their own independent facilities. It is not proper to grow one's family at the expense of the temple. By the way, Srila Prabhupada once told me, 'Tell them all, no more than two children!' He did not want his householders burdened by the many demands that raising children bring. He made this statement after seeing one of his disciples who was surrounded by his wife and children and looking completely dejected. He felt compassion for him and wanted that others avoid the same entanglement. It is not the business of the brahmacaries and brahmacarinis to support the householder's family life. It is the responsibility of the householders to maintain their own family economy and therefore they should perform some work and receive some income. If they are valuable members of the temple, then they may be supported by the temple. Although the temple president will support householders doing valuable service, he might also be on the alert to see if a more renounced member of the asrama might not also fulfil the duties of the householder without being expensive to maintain. Usually he will think like this if there are economic problems in the temple, for it is also his responsibility to engage the householders in devotional service, if he can. Otherwise, if they are not maintained by the temple, the householders can support themselves by starting a temple business, for instance by making a restaurant, which was recommended by Srila Prabhupada. But the best way for householders to support themselves is through the distribution of Srila Prabhupada's books. Srila Prabhupada himself has said that such a means of supporting one's family is first class. One may distribute books and get a percentage of that for one's own usage and this will be a first class means of preaching and maintaining one's family simultaneously. Householders who live outside the temple should give a certain percentage of their income to the temple, ideally 50%. This is the principle stated by Srila Prabhupada in various letters. This may be very difficult to do and therefore one might have to make some adjustment on the percentage if he is not making very much income. If one is selling books to support himself, he will usually have some arrangement with the temple where a certain percentage is taken out from his collection. But if one is doing something else, then he should understand that it is his responsibility to support the preaching mission. So he should be prepared to give some of his income to support the preaching mission.
Householders living outside the temple should also engage in preaching but never separately from ISKCON. They should always remain under the spiritual authority of the temple president and the GBC and they should preach in accordance with the principles of ISKCON and ISKCON's aims and objectives. Separate preaching is only allowed when the householder will go to another city and open a preaching center where formerly there was none. Then they become a center in their own right. But besides this, all householders should work under the direction of the local temple president.
If householders, or anyone else, live in a place where there is no temple, they should make their own house into a temple. They should make an altar in their home and have a morning program with as many of the local people as want to attend. They should also offer all their food. In other words, their home should function as a temple as fully as it can.
Gradually they should expand their preaching and bring more and more people into the Krsna consciousness circle of influence. Later on, their temple may grow in size and become a normal recognized part of ISKCON.
There are many problems that every temple president will meet at one point in his tenure. We can discuss some of these problems here, although it is impossible to completely list all the problems that will be faced at one point in the existence of a temple.
The first, and by far most commonly met problem is when the husband or wife is opposed to the spouse's involvement in ISKCON. I get dozens of letters each year from the Eastern countries asking me for advice on what to do in this case. The situation is always the same. The husband wants to be a vegetarian and eat offered prasadam, but the wife wants to eat meat and forces the children eat meat as well. Or alternatively, the wife wants to follow the regulative principles, but the husband beats her to have sex. The list is endless. One can simply state, one partner wants Krsna and the other doesn't want to give up sense gratification.
And the answer to this problem is not easy. In fact, there is no answer.
The Krsna conscious devotee should simply try to gently present our philosophy to the opposing partner. They should present prasadam and kirtan as softly as possible. They should bring the partner to the temple. Above all they should pray to Krsna to somehow correct this situation. I always recommend that they take some time to make their other family members Krsna conscious. Even if it takes a few years, it is well worth it. However, sometimes this does not work, and separation is inevitable. What can be done? Another equally common problem is when a child wants to become Krsna conscious but the parents are opposed to the movement. Often the parents rip up or throw away the child's books about Krsna consciousness, force him to eat meat, forbid him from going to the temple, or in rare cases, when the parents are really opposed, threaten to put him in a mental hospital. Here again, there is little that we can do but to encourage the child but tell him that he cannot come to the temple without parental consent until he is legally of age. When he is legally able to act on his own, then the temple can support his right to come and live with the devotees, but so long as the child is still a minor, the temple cannot shelter him.
The temple preachers should try and meet the parents and convince them that we are good people and bring them some nice prasadam. Sometimes that works as the parents usually only know the child's representation of Krsna consciousness, which is often fanatical and without maturity. Therefore the preachers should first try to convince the parents that we are there to help them in this crisis and that we are good people. Also we should explain to the minor that he should not be so fanatical around his parents for they will simply become more strict and hard with him. We should give him the example of Raghunath das Goswami, who for years had to live as a perfect businessman although he was totally attached to Lord Caitanya. When he found the opportunity, then he left home. When the minor becomes legally of age, then he can join the temple.
Sometimes there is opposition from government authorities and the police.
It has to be ascertained exactly why they are giving trouble. There are different reasons for their actions and one must respond according to each of these reasons in different ways.
If there is one envious person on top of the department or within the department that is causing the trouble, then one has to isolate him from his colleagues. The preachers have to go to that department and meet the others who are not envious and convince them that we are good people and we do not deserve to be treated badly by the government. Always bring nice prasadam. Usually when the envious person is isolated, the other department members will pacify him to some degree and the problem will be solved. If there are many opposing elements in the department, then isolating them is almost impossible. Then one has to go to higher authorities and convince them that we are alright and that these lower government servants are improperly causing trouble. But if there are envious persons there as well, then one must simply tolerate the disturbances and pray to Krsna and Lord Nrsinghadeva.
If the government people are causing us trouble simply out of ignorance, then meeting them will often solve the problem. Sometimes it is good to use already existing contacts, such as professors or other government officials, to meet these offensive government representatives to use their influence to stop the disturbances. This will often work favorably as they know better than we the art of pacifying others.
Sometimes mentally unstable people want to join the temple. Prabhupada did not want our temples filled with crazy men for this would drive away the nice people. Therefore such persons should be told to chant Hare Krsna at home, follow the principles, offer their food, and read the books. If they become more sane by this process, then they might be accepted into the temple later on. No crazy persons should be allowed to live in the temple. If they have already joined the temple, and then it is discovered that they are not completely sane, then they can be asked to move outside and support themselves with some work and prosecute Krsna consciousness on their own.
BBT materials, such as pictures, paintings, and large portions of text, cannot be used by anyone, be he a member of ISKCON, a temple president, or otherwise, unless he gets specific permission to use these materials from the International Office of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust in Los Angeles, USA. So before you use BBT materials, get permission.
Anyone may write a book about Krsna consciousness. Of course, for that book to actually affect the hearts of the readers, it must be authorized by the spiritual master and Krsna. But besides the spiritual requirements of purity to write something about Krsna, one must follow some basic principles. The book should not use BBT materials without permission, and if it is a magazine, it should not resemble Back To Godhead. Magazines that resemble the BTG are only allowed to be printed by the BBT. But so long as the material, be it a book, pamphlet, or magazine, is not using BBT materials, and does not resemble BTG it may be printed by some agency or individual outside of the BBT. However, it is the policy of the BBT and ISKCON that books sold on sankirtan should be purchased through the BBT. Prabhupada did not want any books sold on the street that were published locally by some temple or person. Other books have to be sold through temple book shops or mail order. Alternatively, they can be placed in bookstores. Any book written by a devotee in ISKCON that wishes to be sold in the temples or read by devotees has to be approved by the GBC review board. This means that one GBC member, or sannyasi, should favorably review the book and two others not object to it, and then it is accepted as an ISKCON publication.
If there are illicit sex scandals in the temple, or any breakage of the regulative principles, the temple president should take strong action. He should preach very strongly to the wrongdoers that they are slapping their spiritual master in the face and that they are rascals number one.
He should restrict their activities so that they cannot break the principles again, or in some cases he may recommend that the parties involved in illicit sex scandals get married immediately if they are not already married to each other or someone else. He will have to see what is the best course of action at the time. Generally we should handle such breakage of the principles as a very serious offense and we should preach very strongly to the parties concerned so that they realize the seriousness of their offense and never want to do it again. The regulative principles are simply the platform of human life and breakage of the principles means animal life. Everyone should be taught to follow the regulative principles by all means.
If devotees are engaged in illegal activities, then the temple president should preach to them to give up these illegal activities immediately! Of course, we used to print books underground when this was illegal, but this is not the kind of illegal activity we are speaking about. What is meant here is criminal activities that are not for the furthering of the preaching mission. ISKCON does not condone criminal activities and they must be avoided by all the temple members. If someone is insisting on performing such activities, then, after he is removed from the temple, it is possible that the local GBC members may recommend that he be excluded from the society. We have cases like this in ISKCON and the GBC body has voted to exclude them from the society of devotees. We should be very careful to distance ourselves from those who perform illegal activities before they cause ISKCON's good name to be ruined.
Sometimes devotees, although externally seemingly good devotees, have irreconcilable differences of opinion with the local management. If this difference of opinion becomes intolerable, and it cannot be worked out by the normal means of discussion, even with the higher authorities like the GBC, then the non-management devotees affected should leave that temple and move to another temple and start again. But even though such devotees move to another temple, sometimes they are so bitter that they cannot relate to any ISKCON managers again and they may be envious and criticize the management as a whole.
Such devotees are often guilty of Vaisnava aparadha, or unnecessary criticism of the devotees, and this often causes their spiritual life to suffer greatly. If they fall victim to such offenses, they usually move away from the temple and remain outside the association of devotees. This is an unfortunate situation, because ultimately management disputes are material. It is a spiritual principle that one should follow the authority of the temple because that is the system that was set up by Srila Prabhupada. A humble devotee, although he may have a difference of opinion with an authority, will simply tolerate that difference for the sake of following the higher principle which is to cooperate with the temple authorities. But if one is not humble, and is caught in a cycle of fault finding, then he should live outside the temple for a while and learn to deal with the material world as a materialist would. Later, after having tasted the material world for a while, he may become humbled enough to realize that he should accept the temple authorities since they represent the management authority of ISKCON. In the meantime, while such devotees are unable to accept the authority of ISKCON, they should be avoided by all devotees in good standing otherwise one could become infected by their fault finding attitude and lose spiritual strength.
Fault finders and criticizers who are following the devotional principles should be mentally honored as devotees, but they should be avoided as their association is unwanted by serious devotees. We must also be careful that it was not our own narrow-mindedness or fanaticism that was the source of the conflict with these other devotees. If this was the case, then some kind of reconciliation should be attempted.
Sometimes we are placed in the situation where we have to deal with other religious or nationalistic organizations. In general we should be polite with them and not antagonize them more for they are usually already agitated. But we should not commit devotees to having to deal with them on an intimate level for they are usually materialistic and fruitive. Our movement is meant to develop love of Godhead and not to become entangled in material activities. Sometimes a nationalistic group will want to engage us in fighting for their cause, but we shall not fight for such material causes.
Occasionally devotees will leave the Krsna consciousness movement, lured away by the tricks of maya who promises them a life full of material pleasures. Although such persons are classified as fallen devotees, still it is our duty to bring them back to the Krsna consciousness movement if it is at all possible. Therefore the preachers of the society, or former friends of the devotees who have left, should visit them in their homes, bring them a lot of nice prasadam, and associate with them in a nice way so that they will remember the nice taste of associating with devotees and working for Krsna together with other devotees. They should visit them regularly, as long as they are welcome, and try to bring them back to Krsna consciousness. If it seems hopeless, or they are no longer welcomed by the fallen devotee, then they may stop trying to bring him back.
It is inevitable that as ISKCON grows, so shall other organizations which are derivatives of ISKCON. There will be people claiming to have the same aims as ISKCON, but with a 'freer' understanding, or only three regulative principles, or who demand less rounds, or who allow beards or let their hair grow, or any one of a vast number of deviations to the strict standards of spiritual life. All of these groups are to be avoided and the loyal followers of ISKCON, from the congregational members to the strict devotees, educated as to what is the strict standard of the parampara and the desires of Srila Prabhupada. Prabhupada has given us the highest practical standards of spiritual life and we should follow those standards by all means. Many others will proclaim that they are actually following Srila Prabhupada, although they do not follow his instruction to work cooperatively under the banner of the Governing Body Commission of ISKCON. Most, if not all, of these groups are useless and will wither away in due course of time as they are disconnected from the main tree of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mercy. One is living in illusion if he thinks that he can become Krsna conscious outside of ISKCON.
ISKCON Farm Communities
Part of the stated mission of Srila Prabhupada was to create many ISKCON farm communities throughout the world. Actually a whole book could be written on the creation and management of a farm community for these communities are to be run on the basis of varnasrama dharma. Here we will present only the most salient points for this is a book on temple management and not a treatise on varnasrama dharma and agrarian based civilization.
A farm is somewhat different from a temple. A farm will have a temple on it, and it will follow all of the regulative principles and temple schedule that a normal temple will follow, but its mode of life and its means of support will be basically different from a city center. A city center will preach and expand Krsna consciousness by directly approaching people and convincing them of the philosophy. A farm community will preach through its demonstration of peaceful village life depending on the land and the cows. It will preach through its demonstration of the perfect social system, varnasrama dharma.
If the farm also has dedicated men and women who want to go out and distribute books, then it can make its own sankirtan parties who will also go out and preach. This is also good. But the main work on the farm is to make the farming a success and support the project through the labor of its devotees on the fields. A farm should be self supporting and above all it should supply the devotees with all the food they need. A farm should have opulent and fresh foods available for offering to the Deities and the devotees. There should be grains and ghee available to sustain life in all circumstances. If there are grains and ghee, then the devotees can live through any form of social chaos or disturbance in the world, for eating is the primary function of life.
On the farm the functions of eating and sleeping are easily taken care of. There should be reasonably good facilities for the devotees to live in, and the householders can build small houses here and there throughout the farm area. Contracts can be worked out between ISKCON, the holder of the land, and the householders, so that the householders can build a house on ISKCON land, and that they are allowed to use that house for their lifetime and their children may use it as well, so long as they agree to follow the four regulative principles. Of course we want them to chant their rounds and come to the temple program as well, but we minimally demand the four regulative principles. The exact nature of these contracts may change from place to place and the details should be worked out with the local GBC and the appropriate legal experts. Samples of such contracts under Indian law may be gotten from the Mayapur project where such housing projects are being pioneered.
The main work on the farm should be farming % farming and all the other industries that are subsidiary to food processing. Also the devotees may collect wool from sheep and knit it into warm clothing for the winter. If cotton or flax can be grown then other clothes can be made as well. If there is good clay, then bricks can be made for building houses. There are nice techniques available for making houses from compressed earth as well.
All in all the farm is meant to provide living facilities and eating facilities as well as worshiping facilities to all the devotees who live there. And if they live in the proper way, taking care of the brahmanas and the cows, then their lives will be so attractive that people from all over will want to come there and live. This will become especially prominent and important when there are disturbances in the lives of people in the modern cities. The cities are made of passion whereas the farms are in the mode of goodness. The air and the water is clean, and the life is free from the anxieties of the hustle and bustle of city life.
Managing a farm means to manage the temple in much the same way as outlined in this book, but to also manage the land and the cows. This must be done by those who have some idea of these things from their life prior to joining ISKCON, such as one who was a farmer, or having learned it from others who know through either books or personal instructions. It is a great challenge to change one's life from the city to the country, but if it can be done it will be very satisfying for all concerned.