In Krishna Consciousness we hear many viewpoints about spreading the movement of Lord Caitanya. In reality there is not one fixed way to attract a conditioned living entity. A conditioned living entity who has achieved a rare benediction of having a human body has a unique existence and is driven by a unique desire and a unique fear. Preaching strategies differ from person to person and community to community. We need to understand the culture of a place and a counter-culture. The identification of culture and counter-culture help us to identify a right preaching approach. The standard Krishna Consciousness preaching programs are Harinam, Book Distribution, Bhagvad Gita study groups and Home Programs. There is unlimited attraction in Krishna Consciousness. These programs can be made relevant to any kind of culture and counter-culture in a society. A newcomer to Krishna Consciousness can be attracted to Harinam, Prasadam, a devotee, Caitanya Lila, Krishna Lila, Holy Name, association of Devotees etc. etc.
When I started my Krishna Consciousness, i was told so many things not to do by so many devotees that I started beginning to doubt Krishna Consciousness. But then I heard one amazing quote from a Senior Devotee,” Krishna Consciousness means that we can do anything as long as we follow Guru, Sadhu and Sastra.” By everything that we do in Krishna Consciousness, our only aim is to Glorify Krishna and enable everyone to Glorify Krishna. We don’t have to become scholars of Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam and Caitanya Caritamrita to glorify Krishna. Anyone can glorify Krishna. Just like Saraswati the daughter of HG Shyamsundara Prabhu said to a new comer,” Krishna is the Supreme personality of Godhead”. Sometimes, our scholarship can also become hindrance in our Krishna Consiousness as it may divert our attention from the essence of Krishna Consiousness. The essence of Krishna consiousness is to develop love for Krishna. This can be done only with a simple and pure heart. Our whole process of Krishna Consiousness which is comprised of chanting, hearing Srimad Bhagavatam, honoring prasad, association of devotees, preaching the glories of Krishna enables us to develop a simple, pure and loving heart.
From Srimad Bhagavatam we understand the details and intricacies of our involvement with this material nature. Srimad Bhagavatam helps us understand clearly with adequate examples our real problem and the real solutions to those problems. From Srimad Bhagavatam we understand the real culture which is based around giving. Everything in Krishna Consciousness is based around sharing our good fortune with everyone around us. The success of our Devotee Care programs is when devotees have healthy relationships amongst each other and they want to share this with others. There is no feeling of us and them. When we cultivate with this feeling of Sankirtana then everyone in the temple is enthused to go out and share his spiritual wealth with so many conditioned souls on the streets. Srimad Bhagavatam has the power to completely cleanse a person’s heart of all the misgivings. When a person starts hearing Srimad Bhagavatam then he surely become a completely dedicated soul for the mission of Guru and Gauranga.
Our loving Vaishnava communities are developed to reach out to millions of conditioned souls by showing them our good example. The devotees’ mood is to share. When we share our good experiences, it is a far greater preaching because it appeals to the hearts. When our whole intent is to share our good experience with others then the feeling of ‘us and them’ disappears, and the whole community becomes perfectly united to share our Krishna Consiousness experience. All of us are serving under the shelter of our Founder Acarya Srila A C BHaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. We may have different approaches but our purpose is to expand the preaching mission of Lord Caitanya. We want to reach as many people as possible. Some of the best ways to do that is to cultivate and care for devotess in such a way that everyone is enthused to go out and share their good Krishna Conscious experience with others. For most of people within our movement, our Krishna Consciousness began with Srila Prabhupada’s books. Therefore by enthusing the people that we are cultivating to regularly go out and distributing these books is a sign of our gratitude to our divine parampara. Some of the best ways of doing this is to organize Monthly Sankirtana Festivals, Institutionalizing the Weekend Warrior programs and regularly organizing spiritual seminars in the temple.
When the whole mood of a community is to give Krishna consciousness to others, and to come together regularly in the temple to hear and share our Krishna Conscious realizations then a deep bonding develops between members of the community. This bonding easily takes us beyond any sort of conflicts that may arise due to the 3 modes of nature. Everyone benefits through such heartfelt exchanges. But when devotees don’t have any opportunity to hear and chant together then there arises suspicion which harms the mission of Guru and Gauranga. Then it becomes the classy story of two disciples trying to serve the Guru. Discple ‘A’ is massaging the left leg and another disciple ‘B’ is massaging the right leg. In order to prove to the guru that he is serving better than the other, Disciple ‘A’ pinches the right leg of the Guru and Disciple ‘B’ pinches the left leg of the Guru. Each one of them is pinching as hard as he can to prove to the Guru that the other one is not serving well. Ultimately Guru is in deep pain. Everyone is the loser in the end. Therefore to create this culture of Sankirtana we have to create a culture of hearing and chanting. When we chant and hear together bonding develops between individuals. Most of the conflicts start on very very small issues but when one of the parties stop coming together to hear and chant then the small issues start appearing insurmountable. Therefore the authorities have a responsibility to ensure that there is an adequate arrangement for everyone in the community to hear and chant together. His Holiness Romapada Swami Maharaja recently said in a lecture, “we don’t have to wear devotion as an ornament but it should become part of our lives”. There are six standard exchanges that Srila Rupa Goswami has enunciated. In order to have these exchanges our leadership needs to create avenues where devotees can come together.
Some of the temples such as ISKCON Silicon Valley have regular interactive Bhagavad Gita class on Wednesday where devotees regularly come and discuss the Bhagvad Gita. When devotees come together just to hear and chant it creates amazing unity and interpersonal bonding. This unity is an example that we can share and influence intelligent people. Intelligent people won’t come to our movement just because they like our philosophy. They would also want to see a practical application. When we present them an example of a devotional culture then they start revealing their hearts.