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Manual Of Daily Temple Guest Reception
The process of Krishna consciousness involves realizing the presence of the Supreme Lord Krishna in His material manifestation, in His Deity form, in His devotees and in the hearts of all living entities.
His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada the Founder Acharya of International Society for Krishna consciousness (ISKCON) who toiled hard to make mercy of the Supreme Lord available so easily by establishing Radha-Krishna temples all over the world. He gave us wonderful preaching programs such as book distribution, food for life, Deity worship, Harinam Sankirtan by which many conditioned souls get an opportunity to receive the mercy of the Lord. The purpose of all outdoor programs is to invite people to come to their real eternal home. When new visitors and devotees come to the temple, they should feel Srila Prabhupada’s love for them. They should feel that they have come to their real home.
In Sri Sri Radha Gopinath Mandir, ISKCON, Chowpatty. There is a department consisting of devotees whose service is receiving guests at the temple.
Every guest coming to the temple is warmly welcomed with folded palms and cordially received.
Since our movement is a preaching mission, in the International Society for Krishna consciousness (ISKCON), the proper reception of guests is very important. As followers of Srila Prabhupada, the founder Acharya of ISKCON, we should consider any guest in the temple to be his guest. Proper reception of a guest can make a difference between a person coming once to the temple and never returning, or becoming a regular visitor & ultimately becoming a devotee of Krishna. Therefore each and every guest should be dealt with great care and hospitality. Their names and addresses should be collected. They should be sent some gift and relevant information about the temple.
The compilation of this manual is a small attempt to guide the devotees, who are taking care of the newcomers.
One may not be able to develop a large congregation through this service, however those who become serious can become part of the counselor system and can be engaged in varieties of devotional services.
The contents of this manual have been taken from different sources like Bhakti Vriksha Manual, Pancharatrika – Pradipa books, Srimad Bhagavatam & Chaitanya Charitamrita.
Also through the lectures, letters & personal instructions of His Holiness Radhanath Maharaj.
This service was started under the able guidance and vision of His Holiness Radhanath Maharaj.
Dealing With Different Categories Of Visitors
One should anticipate different types of people visiting the temple, therefore one should be expert in dealing with them.
While speaking/discussing with individuals:
One should know what to speak (which topic to be discussed with them.
How much time to speak.
To let them express their views.
How to conclude the topic.
Depending upon one’s relations with them one should deal with them. The discussions need not to be philosophical always.
One should have balanced approach towards all different types of people, whether individually or collectively (while addressing to a small group.)
While speaking to a group, whether it may be:
One should try to give attention to everyone equally.
One should know who is the center of attraction in the group and try to please that person (e.g. in a family if you please small child you can please everyone), however others should not be neglected.
One should remember that in a group the relationships are interwoven, therefore one should become expert in his/her words, behavior, & dealings.
To Newcomers :
To give them temple pamphlet and prasadam.
To inform about upcoming festivals, BG-course, etc.
To direct them to satsang programs nearby to their staying place.
To note down their name, address, phone numbers for further follow – up.
To show them books of Srila Prabhupada.
To explain Deities in our temple.
To explain them about upcoming BG-course, yoga retreat, PRERANA- youth festival programs, camps, etc.
To guide them to college preachers.
To small children / Gurukul children :
To make them happy by giving them Maha prasadam.If they insist on taking more prasadam do not argue with them.In fact you can please their parents by pleasing their children.(Srila Prabhupada gave the example: “If you love me, love my dog.”)
To give them small picture of Sri Sri Radha Gopinath.
Not to become frivolous with them.
Never beat children, it is very bad P.R.
Always remember that they are young Vaishnavas and in the future they can become good leaders of ISKCON.
Generally gents should be received by a male devotee and ladies to be received by a female devotee. (If temple management can make that kind of arrangement, it is good for the service.)
One should very respectfully guide them to meet with the same gender without offending them. However in case of dealings one should observe Vaishnava etiquette very carefully.
To senior citizens:
Just treat them nicely.
Do not preach them heavily.
To ISKCON devotees:
Observe Vaishnava Etiquette while dealing with them.
Make them feel at home.
To Life Members:
No need of preaching to them, just be courteous.
Give them Prasadam and Charanamrita.
Since they are in a mood of knowing everything, be very careful. Just inquire about their well being.
8) Press reporters/Journalists:
Generally these people come unassumingly, so be very careful in giving information.
If you do not know, do not exaggerate.
It is better to direct to them the president or senior devotee, who can give them relevant information.
Although all types of people are treated properly, sometimes members of upper class societies, socially, politically influential people may come to visit the temple they should be treated very respectfully.
Someone should personally guide them, show them the temple campus, and explain about the deities.
They can be offered Prasadam, place for resting etc, as much as possible.
10) Suspicious people:
Sometimes suspicious/doubtful people may visit the temple. So do not become angry upon them. Just give them only Prasadam.
(For more details for dealing with different categories of devotees, please refer ‘Vaishnava etiquette manual’.)
Instructions to G.R. devotees:
Things to strictly avoid:
People demanding money, books – politely refuse.
Dealing with children-
Do not pinch their nose, cheeks.
Do not beat them, even the grownup ones.
Do not demand money from people.
Do not force them to read the books.
Do not force them to chant.
If they can not come for Sunday programmes, or any temple programme, do not insist them to attend.
Do not give wrong bodily signals (body language is important.)
Many visitors at a time:
It may happen that there are many visitors at a time especially at peak hours. At such time, it is better if two devotees are there for receiving guest. One who is expert in preaching and dealing to many people at one time should take lead role of preaching and explaining the activities of temple. Other devotee should give them Prasadam and small cards of Sri Sri Radha Gopinath.
How to take care of more number of visitors?
Here in Sri Sri Radha Gopinath Mandir, the numbers of visitors on weekdays are manageable by 2 or 3 devotees. On Sundays, some congregational devotees assist in the service. In this way no. of visitors get personal attention.
However, where there is more number of visitors some other method of giving them proper attention should be followed.
E.g. 1) Groups of 50-60 visitors can be made and shown slide show about ISKCON activities, Srila Prabhupada (The duration should not be more than 20-25 minutes). Even in a small group of 10 – 15 visitors slide – show may be effective.
At the end they can be requested to fill the response form, whereby their contacts are collected for further follow-up.
2) Somebody can give them tour of the Temple complex. Diorama, exhibition, paintings on walls, different departments can be explained. In this case more number of devotees are required.
At the end they should be given some prasadam and/or small picture of the Deities. They should never go empty handed.