Today many devotees are lamenting that not many local people are becoming devotees in Western countries such as England and America.
While the movement has continued to grow in India and though expanding Indian congregations in the west, Srila Prabhupada primary mission of giving Krishna consciousness to the people of the Western countries “pascatya desa tarine” has sadly slowed significantly from its heyday in the 1970s.
Book distribution / Economic strategy
The focus in the earlier days was book distribution and outreach (ie preaching to the local people.)
Srila Prabhupada even stated that he hatched a transcendental plot to fund the society through book distribution. Even the life membership program was a Srimad Bhagavatam distribution program by another name.
Srila Prabhupada created a perfectly aligned arrangement where financial needs would be met by preaching to the masses.
"So Krishna has solved all your problems. Print books and sell and get rich that's all. We have got asset, our books, so where is the question of poverty?"
Unfortunately, as time has gone there has been a shift in focus from book distribution to getting donations from members of the Indian community. As a result the Indian congregation has grown but the number of new local Western devotees has reduced signficantly.
Focus on young people
Some say that in the 1970s the movement was "basically a large brahmacari ashram".
At that time the movement was attracting many young westerners. I suggest that a key to attracting more Western devotees is to focus again on building up that brahmacari ashrama.
As a friend of mine said… “Make the brahmacari ashram great again” ;-)
The key is to preach to young people. Find places where there are young thoughtful people (such as universities) and preach there.
At different times there are also different opportunities to reach young people looking for an alternative life
e.g. in the 70s - the hippies,
in the 90s - Krishnacore (US),
The thing is… most Western devotees don’t join as householders. They join when they are single and become householders later.
Naturally, young people can become devotees more easily because they are not set in their ways and not encumbered by family responsibilities.
Such young people are good candidates for becoming brahmacari(ini)s.
In course of time most become householders.
Advantages to focusing on making more brahmacari(ni)s.
- Effectiveness: It is easier to preach to young people. Once they are married etc it is much harder to break out of social circles and other obligations.
- Standards: Devotees are easier to train and learn the right understanding and habits in a temple environment. When devotees are properly trained in the temple ashram lifestyle they are in a better position to enter household life with the proper understanding. They can also preserve standards that are becoming lost. These standards that are practically unknown to devotees who join as householders (whether Indian or Western).
- Cultural differences: More Westerners will join this way. Indians have much stronger family ties and find it much more difficult to become brahmacaris. As the number of Western devotees increases other Westerners will feel more at home... leading to a virtuous cycle.
- More preachers: Brahmacari(ini)s can dedicate significant time towards book distribution and preaching to new devotees... further increasing the number of devotees and preachers… another virtuous cycle.
- Inspire devotees: The more young Western devotees that join the more all devotees (Indian and Western) will be inspired.
The key is to focus on preaching to young people and giving them good foundational training in Krishna consciousness.
In summary, focus on book distribution and outreach targeting young people…and more non-Indian devotees will join.
Distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books.
If you are unsure how to do this… see if there is anyone in your temple who is distributing books and ask if they can train you.
Whether there is anyone local or not, you can get excellent training in book distribution from Vaisesika Prabhu at http://www.distributebooks.com/
Encourage others to preach
If you are involved in a temple, nama hatta program or other Krishna consciousness program encourage the other members to distribute books. Help them get books and other resources, train them and connect them with Vaisesika Prabhu’s website for guidance and inspiration.
If you are the leader encourage everyone in your group. If you are not the leader (at least on paper :-)) encourage devotees individually and see if you can get your leader onboard too.
If you are Indian, or the devotees you associate with are Indian, that is no disqualification… After all Srila Prabhupada was Indian!
Distribute books. Preach. Make more western devotees.
Go where the young people are
Preach in places where there are thoughtful young people e.g. Universities, music concerts, backpackers, etc.
The next key element is supporting the devotees as they transition into householder life after being brahmacari(ini)s.
But that is a topic for another day…
To keep up-to-date on topics such as this visit our blog and podcast at https://successfulvaisnavas.com and sign up for notifications.