I write to you in my personal capacity as a sevak with limited vision but who treasures bhakti yoga and loves our sanga.
Srila Gurudeva has repeatedly asked that there be a Society and that we stay united.
It has been difficult to define the Society that will best serve the devotees.
As western devotees, we are afflicted by two opposite issues.
On the one hand, we don’t want to be oppressed. We don’t like other people telling us what to do. The ISKCON experience has exacerbated this tendency to the maximum. But also, general society in general, is more dissenting, more anarchic and more sceptical of authority than ever.
On the other hand, so often, we also want to be told what to do. It is easy to see problems, criticise what is imperfect and then use this negative perception as a mask to justify our own lack of commitment and action. Sometimes we may be very active but we use this negativity to justify our lack of willingness to play as a member of a team. We operate alone.
Isn’t it true that we attract what we fear?. Srila Gurudeva tells us not to focus on our faults. If we are all fearful about being controlled then we will more likely encourage that tendency. Srila Gurudeva wants us to develop loving relationships with eachother. How can we serve Radha-Krsna if we cannot exhange love with other devotees? This is our chance to build a Society from loving relationships rather than let a Society shape bad relationships through too much structure and control.
The suggested draft structure for the Society seeks to address some of these issues as much by what it seeks NOT to do as it does by what it seeks to do.
When spending time with Raghava Pandit Prabhu in Holland recently, he showed me an excellent piece of research that shows that humans need three things to be in place to be highly motivated – (a) autonomy (b) mastery and (c) purpose.
Autonomy gives the individual the power of choice over his or her daily decisions.
Mastery is the evolution of a person’s skills over time which is a satisfying experience for the practitioner.
Purpose is being clear about your goals and working towards them.
When all three are at work, the individual is happy and effective.
Innovative, modern organisations recognise that too much structure, too many rules and too much management smothers the spark of inspiration of the individual.
In many ways the word “organisation” for our Society is an old fashioned word which restricts our thinking to outmoded ideas.
The most dynamic success stories in today’s world are often made up of networks of networks where people of diverse backgrounds co-operate in loose and fluid structures inspired by commonly held principles. Think Linux, Obama’s 2008 election campaign and the Anonymous programmes such as AA.
The way I see the IPBYS proposal is one that is trying to create a Society not an organisation. Therefore, the Society is more a fountainhead of inspiration and a place of shelter and not a management structure.
As a sevak I want to know that whatever I am doing in my little stream of service is connected to the main torrent of bhakti flowing from the most elevated practioners.
This is what the Society is all about. There is nothing in the IPSYS that stops you or me from rendering service that brings 1, 100 or 1,000 souls to bhakti yoga. What is ensured is that whatever service I render it will be inspired by pure bhakti and I will be able to find shelter in proper sadhu sanga, the foundation for any progress in bhakti-yoga.
There are some who say that the “structure” is too sannyasi based. What about householders? What about all those not in the renounced order?
But this is to misunderstand the nature of the proposed Society in its first phase. This is not the fault of the reader. This is our service to articulate the vision for the society.
The society as proposed is not a management structure. Someone in Birmingham does not need authority from a national chairperson or from any chamber to open a temple, set up and educational programme or render some other service. It is the job of these chambers to inspire and keep the flow of bhakti strong so that the seva teams and emboldened and accomplish more. This is why preachers travel around the world. The top chambers do not “preside over” or “manage” or “control”. Rather, these chambers, the very heart of the Society, serve the seva teams. This is in the same way that the heart pumps blood throughout the body.
The really dynamic part of the society resides in these self-manifesting and self-managing seva teams. This is where most of the activity will ultimately be taking place.
This is our opportunity to develop the IPBYS as we feel inspired. How wonderful. Someone, let us say in Russia, does not need the authority to set up a seva team. An inspired sevak just needs to set one up. That’s it. And if he or she needs others to help then if there is inspiration automatically others will come. This does not need an organisation. It does not need too much structure. But it does need inspiration and shelter. And what Srila Gurudeva wants more than anything is that all the preachers that he has so assiduously trained over years stay together. Because he knows that if preachers go off in many directions then all inspiration will dissipate and devotees world-wide will be discouraged.
When we want to render service we need to manage the material energy in service to Srila Gurudeva. We don’t need an organisation or a structure to do this. We need inspiration, service and willing sevaks. This is the essence of our movement.
Please know that this is a consultative process. We want to know what you want. This is your Society.
If there is someone who you think strongly should be in the first chamber then say so. No problem. Srila Gurudeva can decide.
Some question why there are only five persons in the first chamber and why are they all Indians. The five devotees proposed in the first chamber have all been rendering service to Srila Gurudeva for decades. Their selfless record of seva speaks for itself. After all Srila Gurudeva has been practicing and preaching for decades and has only ventured out of India since 1996. It is self-evident that his closest sevaks happen to be from India. Also, it should be noted that the first chamber and the second chamber both provide inspiration and shelter. Bhakti Yoga does not flow through institutions and positions. The example of our Gurudeva shows that every time an institution shuns him, he continues to distribute bhakti irrespective of institutional constraints. He is fearless and so can we be. There is nothing stopping someone in the second chamber setting the world on fire with the flow of bhakti if that is what manifests in his heart.
Notwithstanding this perception, if you feel strongly that someone has been omitted from the first chamber then Srila Gurudeva can consider this request.
We have a wonderful sanga, wonderful people and we are overseen by Srila Gurudeva who somehow manages to reach all our hearts one by one and capture them. Whether he is on the planet or not our relationship with him is eternal and it is our duty and our deepest desire to please him and carry out his orders.
A diversity of opinion is good. At the same time we need to summon up the courage to place our egos to one side, look for the best in eachother, be accepting of our own and others’ shortcomings and co-operate together as much as possible. Only through soft-heartedness and integrity can we successfully represent Srila Gurudeva’s mission.
Sometimes working with another devotee can be very challenging. Sometimes it can be quite disturbing. But trying to find common ground is akin to the struggles we go through on parikrams.
For those who know me you will know that, unlike my wife, I am one of the more useless on parikramas! I may complain about the noise, the food, the this and the that. But when the parikrama is over I feel touched by the mercy of Lord Nityanananda. I somehow, causelessly, benefited. I mention my parikrama experiences because there are some moments when I really want to run away. But I didn’t check out, I didn’t give in and mercy was showered on me. I felt it. It is easy to say “devotees let me down” or “I don’t trust a Society” and “I will wish them luck, say Hare Bol and do my own thing”. But this is our chance for all of us “to stay on the parikrama”. I understand your frustrations, your doubts, your weariness. But let’s do this for Srila Gurudeva. Let’s not give in to all our clever analytical assessments on how the Society may be this or that. The Society is just a seed. You can provide the soil, the water, the love to enable it to grow into a great tree which can render shelter to the world.
In the case of the Society, please do participate. Provide ideas. Be creative. Be committed to putting bhakti into action, on a small or large scale. Overlook the imperfections. It may be a bit abstract right now but this is so much better than an over rigid structure which suffocates us. So many devotees have experienced this in the past.
Reflect and observe and try to bring solutions as well as problems. It is easy to see deficiencies but less easy to take responsibility to improve things.
Our Gurudeva wants us to be responsible. He wants us to be strong, like lions and lionesses. He doesn’t want us to wait for orders. His order is that we are ideal sevaks. He wants us to render the highest service to a Guru which is to be proactive and anticipate the desires of Sri Guru.
Let’s make this happen.
Your servant, Hare Krsna, Yasodananda das