North American ISKCON Leaders Annual Meeting – Day 1
Posted January 22, 2013
The NA GBC and Temple President Annual Meetings began at the Houston Hare Krishna Temple with two inspiring topics: A Key Note address on "Srila Prabhupada's Position" by Ravindra Svarupa Das, ISKCON scholar and GBC member, and a Book Distribution Report by Vaisesika dasa, North American Book Distribution Minister.
Ravindra Svarupa explained the significance of the term, "Founder-Acarya", in reference to Srila Prabhupada, and its roots of usage within the Gaudiya Matha. He also presented an overview of the significance of ISKCON's international headquarters in Mayapura, and its special role in Prabhupada's plan.
Bhakti [devotion] means cooperation with the Lord," said Srila Prabhupada in a Seattle lecture in the 1970s. "This emphasis on cooperating together to serve the Lord and spread His message," explained Ravindra Svarupa, "is a theological and philosophical statement for Srila Prabhupada."
"The more I research this history, the more it amazes me how Srila Prabhupada imbibed the mood, style, intention and intense desire of his guru, Srila Bhaktisidhanta Thakura, to spread Lord Caitanya's movement," said Ravindra. "Prabhupada modeled so many details of his society on the foundation and vision given by his guru."
The next presentation was by Vaisesika dasa, NA Minister of Book Distribution. NA leaders, at their 2012 meeting in Dallas had pledged to increase the annual sales and distribution of Srila Prabhupada's books by 20%.
"The goal was set despite the stagnant local economies, a continuing air of social uncertainty in those countries, and some internal skepticism whether the NA temples were able to achieve this resurgence of book distribution.
Congregational book distribution in Toronto, Canada
Vaisesika announced to the assembled leaders that the 2012 goal, while challenging, was not just met but surpassed. The total sales of Bhaktivedanta Book Trust books actually increased by 28.6% over 2012. The announcement brought rousing applause from the assembled leaders. The total sales for North America were greater than any year since 1996.
Several devotees offered testimonies of their local success. Syamala Kishori dasi of ISKCON North Carolina and Maha Sundari Madhavi dasi of Austin, Texas reported that by setting goals as a temple community, and organizing carefully, they had results 3-5 times greater than projected.
"In 2011, we increased our books by almost 1,000% from a small amount of books to something substantial," said Tukarama dasa, President of the Laguna Beach Temple in California. "In 2012, we weren't sure how much more we could increase but we tried our best and distribution was up by 33%.
"Distributing Prabhupada's books is spirtual ecstacy," said Tukarama. "Vaisesika is a pied piper of book distribution who inspired our congregations to take up Prabhupada's order to help humanity by giving them knowledge about the soul and God."
"Our motto last year was 'Goals are Potent,'" Vaisesika told the NA leaders. "This year, 2013, our motto is 'Tax your Brain.'" This same instruction was given by Srila Prabhupada in a 1971 letter instructing his followers to "tax their brains" in order to increase book distribution.
The North American Governing Body Commission and Temple Presidents' Meeting enthusiastically endorses a pledge to increase book distribution in 2013 by 20%
Svavasa das, Bhaktivedanta Book Trust Trustee and Los Angeles Temple President (a top book distribution center) told the leaders that the key to increased distribution of Prabhupada's books is to inspire our congregations by educating them about the importance of book distribution and the BBT.
"LA's success in book distribution was historically based on our temple devotees and monastics," said Svavasa. "This year we found the secret to expanded distribution is to inspire our congregational members to take up Prabhupada's order. In December alone, we distributed 23,000 Bhagavad-gitas."
"Many of the challenges we faced in the last few years taught us of the need to work together," Svavasa said. "This year ISKCON communities worked cooperatively across North America and great things were achieved."
Vaisesika asked the devotee leaders what goal they will set for 2013. "I propose another 20% increase," he said. Without hesitation the leaders unanimously and enthusiastically accepted the goal.
Vaisesika then reviewed new methods of distributing Prabhupada's books, including using smart phone technologies for accepting donations, focusing on non-English language distribution, and the "Motel Gita" project, which he explained by means of a video clip from a CBS News Story about an ISKCON project called Motelgita (Motelgita.com), which has ISKCON devotees putting Bhagavad-gitas in motel rooms across America and Canada.
In the US and Canada, 65% of non-luxury hotels are owned by Indian Americans, so the opportunities are vast. To date, 135,000 Bhagavad-gitas have been placed in hotel rooms such as Resident Inns, Hampton Inns, and Ramada Inns. The target has been set at 1 million Gitas in North American motels.
The leaders were also reminded that the BBT spends 25% of NA revenues to support international temple projects. Badrinarayana das, GBC Representative for much of the western United States, clarified that "North American temples, through the BBT contributions, are the largest donors in the world among ISKCON communities in the building of the Mayapura Temple, ISKCON's international headquarters."
"Every time we go out to meet people it's a new challenge and a new opportunity to please the Lord by distributing these transcendental books," concluded Vaisesika, "Keeping our focus on the distribution of Prabhupada's books all over North America is good for everyone."
The GBC/TP meetings will continue for three days, and end on Sunday January 13.
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