“This concise book is a wonderfully brilliant mix of bhakti ethos and praxis-a milestone in ISKON transcendental sociology. I am happy to say that nectar lovers will indeed splash and swim, in the ocean of astute compassion and selflessness that is your heart. For the pleasure of Srila Prabhupada and the Vaishnavas, you have given us fascinating insight into how a mature ISKON leader can superbly balance sensitivity to the personal feelings of the individual with attentiveness to the necessary structures of the organization.
“By the way, I did relish your special spiritual knack for an accomplishment that eludes many who have tried: drawing upon the treasured wisdom of Srila Bhaktivinode. Thakura for appropriate application in the contemporary in the contemporary twenty –first century context.”
“ I have already gone through a good portion of the book and I can simply say that it is a spiritual masterpiece, I am gaining so much deeper insight into the aspect of ‘ Taking care of Krishna’s devotees ‘ and the aspect of ‘ taking shelter of devotees. ‘I ‘am sure it will act as such a fantastic guide to all the devotees in the aspect of the ‘counselors system.’ My hope and prayer is that I and all the Vaishnavas who will be beneficiaries of this book may take full advantage of it and improve our service to the Vaisnava community in the way that you want us to.
“Thank you very much for your dedication to this topic and for this book in particular. It gives a solid basis for the people to participate and remain within the movement.
“I have already used some material from this book for my preaching, and devotees are awaiting this book in anticipation
Over the past several years I have tried to implement, both among my disciples and within the temples I am overseeing a system which has come to be known as the “Counselor system.” The Ideas behind the counselor system are not my own. They were conceived and put into action, long before I ever began speaking on the subject, by all the temples that have since tried to put this system into effect, Sri Sri Radhs Gopinath Mandir in Chowpatty.
When I first visited Sri Sri Radha Gopinath mandir in Januray of 1994, I immediately felt as if I had stumbled into an experience, which was very similar to that which I felt when I made my first visit to an ISKON temple in late 1972. I sensed an overwhelming feeling of harmony, happiness, and camaraderie amongst the devotees –as if they were all in one family. Although the temple facilities were very modest, as were those in the Boston temple in late 1972, the spirit amongst the devotees fully compensated for any lack of facilities. I sensed that the devotees were inspired because they were sheltered and felt themselves a part of a mission.
Later that evening, and for the following three evenings, I took part in programs organized both by and for devotees living outside the temple. What I experienced during these programs and after-while honoring Prasadam in the association of some of those who has attended-was the same feeling I had in the temple. The devotees attending these programs were primarily householders –husbands, wives mothers, fathers, and children –but I sensed among them the same harmony, happiness and camaraderie as that which I had sensed from the brahmacaris who were living in the temple . unlike my experiences of late 1972, however, I was now witnessing a rather large group of householders, living outside the temple, and even some distance away from the temple, but who also appeared very sheltered and extraordinarily happy to be a part of a mission – one which appeared, at least to me, to be almost the same as that which the brahmacaris were engaged in.
Based upon my experiences from the previous two decades, that which most often created such a strong sense of camaraderie was when the devotees were all focused together on Srila Phabhupada’s Mission to distribute his books. Althogh that is still our mission , as bestowed upon all of us by Srila Prabhupada , our founder-Acarya, still , in my opinion, gradually over the previous two decades in most temples throughout the world , most of those living outside, working and often struggling to maintain family, were feeling left out of that mission.
Srila Prabhupada gave us more than just a mission to distribute his books. He also gave us the means to blissfully chant, dance and honor Krishna prasadam in the association of devotees. And our mission was to expand this experience in a way that it could become readily accessible for everyone, whether brahmachari, grhastha, vanaprastha or sannyasa. These householders were joyfully chanting, dancing and honoring Krishna prasadam , and it seemed to me that they were living for testing as much as they could get of this nectar.
During that visit, I asked myself, “What is it that is binding these devotees together as if they are one family? What is it that these devotees have, which gives them such a strong sense of mission?” the most obvious and immediate answer was that they have Radhanath Maharaja. But in time, I was to learn that it was not only that they have a selfless and compassionate leader in Radhanath Maharaja, but it was also due to Maharaja’s introduction of this “counselor system”- a system he conceived, established and continued to look after for the devotees for Sri Sri Radha Gopinath mandir- which gave these devotees such a strong sense of mission.
A few years later, in the fall of 1997, upon my invitation , Radahnath Maharaja made his first visit to the former Soviet Union. It was during that visit, in Kiev, when I begged Maharaja to speak about the counselor system for all the devotees who gathered his lectures. Out of his humility Maharaja was not so inclined. But due to my persistent appeals, Maharaja relented, and on some of the evenings during that visit, Maharaja gave an introduction of his vision for the “simple temple”, speaking a lot on the counselor system that he had established for the devotees of Sri Sri Radha Gopinath Mandir.
It was there in Kiev, where H.H.Radhanath Maharaja planted the “seed” of the counselor system in the former Soviet Union. His talks were recorded on video and copies of those videos were sent out to all the temples in my zone, along with a request from me to the leaders, temple devotees, and congregational members, to watch these videos together and to glean from them ideas of how to apply these principles in their temples.
Although Radhahnath Maharaja planted a seed in those talks, I soon realized that if that seed was to properly grow and bear fruit, then it was up to me and those who were both present at his talks and who were able to realize the importance of his message, to continue to water the seed. Moreover, what soon became apparent to me, was that the application of these principles was going to be a major challenge within my area of responsibility.
By the year 1997, our movement in the former Soviet Union had developed under a very diverse leadership, not only on a zonal level, but on the secondary level of leadership as well. Moreover, around that time I was traveling to more than 60cities in the former Soviet Union. Throughout my travels, I found that most leaders were already overwhelmed with their own set of priority. Most were not ready to make the counselor system a priority and neither was I so inclined to force them, especially in those areas where I was not the Zonal GBC. When I realized that most temples were not ready to follow this system, I chose to try to gradually introduce the system primarily to my disciples hoping that from among them at least some would learn to apply these principles in relation to their junior god brothers and god sisters.
Meanwhile some temple leaders in western Russia and Ukraine also began to introduce the “Counselor system” to the devotees in their temples, along with the help of experienced counselors who, by that time, had started to come from Chowpatty to assist them. For some time, both of these efforts went on simultaneously. I continued to speak about the counselor system to disciples, while some temple and zonal leaders also made efforts to implement the principles about which they were learning from several sources.(i.e., Radhanath Maharaja , their local GBC’s and the Regional Secretary , the Chowpatty devotees who were visiting Russia and Ukraine, and myself).
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