Understanding – First of all it is very important to understand a person properly, before one starts actually preaching about Krishna Consciousness philosophy to newcomer.
Opening the talk – One must open the talk on the right footing. This requires little practice & sensitivity. One can begin with some basic questions like
where do they stay?
Whether they are having their own business/service?
In case of students: What are they studying?
How did they come to know about the temple?
Developing the Talk – Having known these basic points & their interests one can begin co-relating basic Krishna Conscious philosophy with their particular field. One can preach according to the level & interest of the person.
In this way one can develop the talk.
Time – If person seems in hurry, don’t take their valuable time in going into details, but just explain the basic things like timings of the temple, schedule of different spiritual talks in our temple or the programs nearby their place of staying.
Such talks should be brief & meaningful.
Closing the talk – what to speak while departing is also important aspect of dealings.
Don’t close the talk with pushy words.
e.g. if a person is not showing any interest in chanting
don’t close the talk by saying “Chant and be happy.”
Just thank them for coming to the temple.
Appreciation – Many times visitors brings different types of offerings (like flowers, fruits, sweets, tulasi leaves, etc.) All these items should be used in Lord’s Service. These offerings should not be kept here and there.
This service done by visitors should be appreciated. It is the duty of devotees who receive these offerings to be used in the service of the Lord.
Srila Prabhupada writes letter in this regard:
“ The system is that anyone (who) comes to the temple, he brings something … to offer to the deity …That is he beginning of love (to) give something… If I love you, I must give you something, and whatever you’ll give me, I shall accept it. So give something to Krishna and take His instruction. If people take advantage, automatically he becomes devotee, lover of Krishna. That is the success of life.
(Srila Prabhupada’s letter, March 18,1976.)
Be warm – If you are friendly people come close to you. Others also come and reveal their hearts to you. Preconceived notions about a person will obstruct our warmth. E.g. Srila Prabhupada and Giriraja Maharaj’s mother.
Pleasant – as far as possible. Don’t become repulsive. Welcome with a smile.
Courteous – Basic manners and rules.
E.g. Srila Prabhupada saw lady walking near airport with child in arms and allowed the lady to enter first, opened the door and allowed her to go first.
Helpful – This makes a person really feel that you are really serious about preaching. E.g. people at reception desk at a hotel “How can I help you?” If you don’t know solution to a particular problem, but if you know and can direct to someone who can solve that problem – that’s part of help.
Concerned – Mayapur festival 1975 Srila Prabhupada’s guru puja. Thousands of disciples assembled. Srila Prabhupada spotted injury of one amongst those thousands disciples and immediately arranged for his medication.
Hospitable – Making arrangements for comfortable stay, prasadam, etc. Esp. for Srila Prabhupada’s disciples, devotees who have brought recommendation letter from their temple presidents.
Demanding money – Somebody unknown person demanding money, then politely refuse – A person may demand money after showing some interest by coming regularly over sometime. Still you should not give.
Learning From them – Somebody more experienced in their particular field may give some suggestions regarding improving the particular service. In such cases one should be open-minded.
One should accept such guidance.
One should not totally neglect it.
Be a good Listener:
Unless you listen carefully, you cannot expect other person to
hear from you.
E.g. Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s hearing from Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya.
Best way of respect is to keep quiet and hear.
iii) Always give Prasadam:
Nature of prasadam- One remembers the prasadam, though one may not remember what you preach.
Srila Prabhupada’s pastime of giving prasadam to a guest, directly from the altar.
iv) Be prepared to deal with one’s material problem:
Give sympathetic hearing to problems of the person, when you are preaching.
A: at one’s outset,
B: after one starts chanting.
e.g. overflowing jar of milk. If one is fully occupied with his problems, he may not be able to take up your instructions.
e.g. – plants will not thrive even you may have best seed, best soil, but unsuitable environment. For the person to progress in bhakti, he needs a favorable environment for practice of devotional service. Problems are not material, because it is related to spiritual life. Preaching is to win the faith of the person.
Don’t be overly aggressive:
Be careful with the devotee dealing, if not, may end up with no more devotees.
Florida University student later becoming bank manager immediately sanctioned loan for devotees – we never know when we are preaching.
While giving prasadam be courteous, don’t be aggressive. Some families have stopped coming to temple because they are not treated properly.
Develop nice personal relations:
Keep personal relations with all.
Srila Prabhupada was loving and caring for all devotees.
George Harrison became devotee just by Srila Prabhupada’s reciprocation.
Devotees for fund collection harassed him, but Srila Prabhupada’s gesture of giving him his ring before his departure made him appreciate.
Encourage them to read books:
Keep track of their reading.
For that, you have to read and Srila Prabhupada’s books properly.
Chanakya says: You may be surrounded with books but knowledge hasn’t entered you.
Having books but not reading them is like having money, but not in your own hands. Vidya should not be stored personally.
Chinese saying: You give a man fish, he immediately eats it, if you teach fishing, he will get to eat throughout his life.
Greatest problem in ISKCON is people are not reading my books. People keep coming with problems. You spoon feed solutions, but if you encourage them to read books, they will find the solution automatically.
viii) Preach according to one’s level
After having understood the person properly, one should try to guide him/her to a devotee or a counselor group who have similar interests. One should not try to solve all of their problems at the beginning, one should guide them to the proper devotees.
E.g. person of medical field to be guided to devotees doctors, college students to be guided to college preachers.
Also, one should preach according to one’s level of understanding.
E.g. Srila Prabhupada `s preaching to motor car racer. He was champion Srila Prabhupada started talking about car races; talk went about 1 hour… accidents leading to death. Next two hours Srila Prabhupada was speaking about overcoming death.
ix) Don’t get into heated arguments:
This is the biggest loophole. Some understand easily, but some take a lot of time.
We want our speech to be fully accepted.
Srila Prabhupada: If opponent is in a challenging mood, then best to give him prasadam.
In such heated arguments, actually we may want to show
how many books we have read.
Don’t give anything cheaply, invite inquisitive persons to the temple.
2) Preaching by Personal Example:
Practice what you preach. (actions speak louder than words).
Simplicity of Character (Non-duplicity, straight forwardness).
A devotee has no hidden agenda, so that people may not doubt “What is his reaction for his coming to this movement?”
Simplicity means not to show ourselves as something greater than what we are. You are aware of your shortcomings, and humbly trying to repeat message of parampara.
If you are not simple, you become contaminated. E.g. Duplicitous behavior.
Making life members just for money.
Preaching to opposite sex with desires to enjoy.
Do whatever you are told.
Sincerity, commitment and dedication:
Sincere – You are trying best from your side.
E.g. You are not doing much Book Distribution, but you are
doing it everyday.
Commitment – in spite of obstacles, you continue, you do not stop.
E.g. preaching program very few people come, continue the
You are sold out – advanced stage of commitment. E.g. Srila Prabhupada told his managers (when they told management is too much “you may retire. But I cannot retire from managing ISKCON” – to keep well being of the society.)
Dedication: fraternal relation – Take care as baby.
From dedication you will get inspiration.
Unless properly nourished by hearing and chanting, weeds of anarthas grow and loose inspiration to preach. Preaching is in-built safety system. If you preach you have to practice
Srila Prabhupada at Juhu temple: I don’t hear any kirtan.
Haridas: All devotees have gone for collecting funds.
Srila Prabhupada: I have given morning and evening program to do kirtan, Unless you perform kirtan, you cannot preach. If you are not having proper Sadhana;
(By grains of Krishna katha and kirtan) then weeds of anarthas will grow and you will not feel inspired to preach.
To be instruments in hands of previous Acharyas. Just to be postal peon in hands of, previous Acharyas. To Srila Prabhupada some devotee said ” This picture Srila Bhakti Sidhanta Saraswati Thakur looks like you”. Srila Prabhupada said,” My guru is gold; I am like iron. Though we both are metals.” Respect will come when you reach. You have to be very careful. To the extent you take credit for yourself without passing to the parampara, to that extent you hold the bad karma of people, and then you’ll no longer remain in devotional service. Profit, adoration &distinction are stumbling blocks to spiritual advancement.
So there are two options: either you be like Jadabharat (by which you will go Back to Godhead but others will go to hell) and the better option is to Preach and remain humble:
vi) Spirit of sacrifice:
Like Christian missionaries live in village for 50 years and spread Christianity. Srila Prabhupada wrote diary in 1965: I am missing all my God brothers celebrating Gaura poornima at Yogapeeth.
3) Other Aspects of Preaching:
Dress and Appearance:
One should dress in a proper traditional Vaishnava way with proper Vaishnava tilaka and kanthimala.
One should be polite in all the dealings. For Example:
If somebody wants to meet any temple resident or any contact person of some devotee, kindly guide them to (Telephone operator/Receptionist).
Sometimes they want to conduct their program (esp. singing), kindly guide them to current Temple President (Telephone operator/ Receptionist). (In the situations where you are not in a position to take decision, then it is better to consult higher authorities.)
If you commit something to them, you should fulfill that commitment at given time.
(E.g. If you commit to send some information by e-mail or by post, you should fulfill it at proper time.)
Before starting the service, one should pray to Srila Prabhupada and to the Deities to shower their causeless mercy upon anyone who visits our temple. We should feel ourselves to be servants and them to be special guests of Sri Sri Radha Gopinath and Srila Prabhupada.
Sometimes visitors come and they sit in the temple or they are expecting someone to explain about temple timings. Sometimes they may be leaving without taking prasadam or charanamrita.
In all such cases one should take initiative and explain to them about temple timings, give prasadam etc.
Overcoming internal barrier:
Many a times we have internal struggle whether the new comer is interested or not. What could be his/ her reaction.
In such case we should pray to the previous Acharyas and to the Deities to give strength to preach.
Many a times people become favorable to Krishna consciousness in such situations.
e.g. when I was doing this service, one gentleman walked out of the Temple Hall door. I ran out to give him prasadam. He was very much appreciative. Gradually the relations developed. Now he is helping in rendering valuable service and gradually becoming favorable.
We do not know what will change people’s hearts. It is not what we give but how we give matters.
Sometimes some visitors may leave without taking prasadam or meeting a devotee. Or even after talking with them they may not be interested in knowing more things, in such cases one should not feel discouraged. One should remain composed & cultivate patience in preaching. One should not be attached to the results of preaching. (It takes gallons of blood to make someone devotee.) At the same time one should maintain the enthusiasm in the service.