The Temple President and aspirants from within the Temple for Marriage

It is a fact that many of our Brahmacaris and Matajis will end up getting married. The spiritual master and also the Temple President are practically like fathers to protect those souls in every respect, including marriage. Of course, it is unhappy to see someone leaving intensive devotional service to follow his desire for companionship. But it is a reality and a good Grihasta will be better then a frustrated Sannyasi in danger of falling down. Most new devotees have not yet worked out their own family situation. That is one of the reasons why our temples are frequently disturbed. The temple and Guru have to come in where the parents and western culture have failed. Thus it is actually very surprising that in a temple such a diversified group can live together rather peacefully, when we see that in the material world not even the family can stay together happily.

For engagements and marriages there must be strict rules so that those in the temples do not get disturbed by romantic stories. Last but not least devotees have come here to be 'fixed up' in renunciation and devotional service. Renunciates will undergo tests in order to stand against all difficulties. Mercy with those who cannot maintain a full life of renunciation is one of those tests to be passed.
1. Those who aspire to get married to a Devotee should first approach the spiritual master or his representative to request the hand of the respective person. They will interview the requested person to see whether he is also interested and they will give general advice and guidelines to both. Only if some positive arrangement can be achieved will the Temple President announce the new compromise to the devotees. In accordance with the age of the respective persons, there will be a term prefixed on how long the engagement will last and when the actual marriage will be celebrated. This can vary from six month to five years.
2. It is understood that both parties have a right to withdraw from this engagement at any time.
3. Engagement does not mean loose association. It means respectful supervised "getting to know each other". This will take place by eating together and thus talking privately but within the eyesight of others. There is no reason to increase that because there is a lot of time we spend in eating and so many other services have to be done.
4. In some cases the Temple President may provide special collection arrangements for the future Householder in order for him to prepare financially for his upcoming responsibility.
5. Marriage with a mataji older then the devotee is not recommended. Perfect distance is 5 to 10 years. Women generally mature earlier then men, and it is a fact that they will have a hard time respecting a younger man. Since marriage success is based on the complementary interaction of man and wife, it is very important that there be no competition.
6. Marriage should be conducted at big festivals and in holy celebration. Usually even non devotee parents come and enjoy a Vedic sacrifice. Almost all fathers of daughters are very happy to see their girl getting a good husband.
7. Unfortunate connections in marriage are a real disgrace. We should carefully guard ourselves against that. Divorce is not accepted in the Vaisnava family. If someone proceeds in such an unhappy and unlawful way anyway, he should not receive any support from the community. Lastly, as a matter of mercy, he may still be accepted as a member, but with the reservation over the situation.
8. To council marriages is quite common for a preacher, since many people have faith in him and trust him with their problems. Generally it is only useful to advise couples if they come ready to accept the advice jointly, which the preacher may give. Otherwise there is a chance of getting entangled in their petty disagreements.
9. If the engagement becomes a disturbance to the temple, due to disobedience of the couple, the Temple President will propose a solution. The temple can never become a place of sense gratification. Only in very exceptional cases may Grihastas live in the temple after getting married. Generally, marriage means to live on ones own expense, separate from the Ashram. In case he does live on the premises of a Vaisnava farm or similar, it is the duty of the Grihasta to provide substancial help to the community and not be a burden.

The Temple President and competition

There is a wonderful element in the spiritual world: The competition Vaisnavas undertake as to who is going to do the nicest service for Krishna. Such Vaikuntha competition does not make anyone unhappy. The Winner is very humble and the others feel inspired by his example.

Such competition in a temple regarding book distribution or making the nicest dress for he deities is not bad. But we have to be careful not to be carried away. What to speak of becoming proud. We should always stress that any success will be credited exclusively to our Gurudeva. It is not ourselves who are doing anything. By his mercy he lets us participate in the wonderful service of his Gurudeva. If competition makes someone unhappy we should stop it. We have no interest in Hypocrisy. Once Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu threw some writing in the Ganges because another writer had become unhappy after realizing that Mahaprabhus writing was much better then his. We do not want to be better than others, except that we want to be better servants of others. To make them happier, then they make us happy. Do you get the point? It should not possible for Vaisnavas to entertain any activities which will make their Vaisnava friends depressed. Book distribution, nevertheless, is a tool which should be carefully guarded to increase the good public image of the devotees. We should try to distribute as many books as possible, but without forgetting what has just been explained.

The Temple President as Siksa Guru and dasa anudasa

Srila Guru Maharaj wrote, "Every Vaisnava is in one way or another some Siksa Guru." What to speak of the Temple President who is instructing devotees every day on how to leave maya and how not to become maya's victim again. He is a servant of his Guru and shall be very careful not to contradict his Guru. He will avoid confusing others and avoid any offense. But he has also a direct connection with the local diksa Guru{s}. Thus any difficulty can be discused, and a joint decision taken.

Being a Siksa Guru is such a high responsibility. The full impact of which is sometimes ignored by the very Temple President and sometimes by the other devotees in the community. But actually it shall be a true holy, auspicious reality. The Temple President has to give an excellent example to be able to serve properly.

Devotees shall be attached to the Temple President and ready to work with him for their spiritual masters. But if the spiritual master needs help in another place, the Temple President shall not hesitate to make any sacrifice to fulfill the wish of his Guru. That is the way to be blessed always. By serving the devotees the Temple President makes Krishna and his Guru so happy, because he is doing, what they would like to do. Guru tattva is the underlying principle of all Vaisnava relationships.

The Temple President without support from the members of his temple

On the contrary, if the Temple President has no support from the devotees in his temple, it should be taken by him and others as a big warning signal. What great mistake or offense is he commiting? Is he unkind, selfish or a bad example? Is he not pleasing to our Gurudeva? Is he still correctable or has he disqualified for this service. These are very serious questions, and actually only the spiritual master can deal with them properly. But in the meetings of the Vaisnava council every member can tell the Temple President humbly what he thinks about his activities.

This may be painful sometimes, but at the same time it is a merciful pre-warning to the Temple President is he is not pleasing to the devotees. To remove a Temple President is a very unhappy thing. But if all the other Vaisnavas, or at least the majority is unhappy with him, it is about time for him to find some service where he will be more successful and happy. We have to respect the feelings of everyone. That is the real art of leadership. He lets all the members feel that their contribution on every level is welcome.

It is out of the question, than, for the community to want to remove the Temple President. Sometimes, of course, there are ambitions and politics, rumors and even lies. We have to guard against such evil influences. For that reason that which has not be brought to light in the Vaisnava council should not been given attention to, and those who like to talk behind anothers back should be mercifully corrected. This is real Sadhu Sanga. Discussing problems and solving them to Krishna's satisfaction.

The Temple President and the health and sickness of the devotees

This topic is quite complicated. It requires a lot of common sense to know the right path. Here are some guidelines which undoubtedly have to be adjusted according to the time, place and circumstance.

Begging monks have no health insurance. They depend on Krishna's mercy. But they are not exploiters of others since they do the greatest welfare activities of all. It is good if governmen or health officials do service to the Brahmins and Vaisnava community. Thus it is not a real problem to depend on the mercy of others, since really we all depend on Krishna's mercy. Health insurance may be recommended to Grihastas who have children and spend the larger part of their time doing business, and even more so if they own property and thus are at risk of it being taken away if some medical bill is too high too be paid by his savings.

In general medical services have a very bad record. If the treatment is free or through the connection of a medical friend, at least we can trust that no unnecessary treatment will be applied to us for the reason of greed. Natural healing methods anyway are the best in most cases. Living and eating healthfully and knowing the secrets of basic natural cures should be a natural part of a devotees life. Fasting is one of the best cures for most diseases. Unfortunately sometimes devotees do not take care of their diet. Every temple should try to buy only sea salt and sugar in the least refined way possible. The produce should be as natural as possible as should the other integral foods. Do not serve fried things everyday. That is very unhealthy. Avoid buying processed foods alltogether. Offer to Krishna what is natural and prepared with love by his devotees. Simple discipline brings very good results.

Devotees should cultivate medical people in their congregation. Unless a doctor is a well known friend, he is simply dangerous. Hospitals are the most dangerous places from every point of view.

When a devotee becomes sick we should try to give him relief and love, since at the time of need, everyone is more sensitive. Please do the needful without being emotionally carried away. We do not want to spend Krishna's Laksmi on our treatments. Separate solutions should be searched out if a devotee should need hospitalization. Make sure you know the local charity hospitals. Devotees should unit and also take into consideration the degree of service that particular member has rendered. This means that a new devotees parents can also help in the case of some emergency. In the event of some emergency some temple funds are used to help out, by the decision of the Temple President or the Vaisnava council, that should be repaid at once.

Always keep some medical first aid articles in the temple. This should include herbal tees for minor dysfunctions and a Aloe plant for treatments.Find a dentist who gives treatment charging only for his materials. In Berlin, when I was the administrator of the temple, I used to call the doctors with the most titles I could find in the yellow pages and ask them over the Phone: "I am from a Yoga ashram. We have a visiting monk who is not insured with us, who has a terrible tooth pain. Could you be so kind as to have a look at him?" In 90% of the calls I got positive results, and some of them went as far as making complicated teeth treatments totally free for some devotees. Of course the devotees gave them some books, and Krishna gave them lots of blessing.

The Temple President and cultivating the Indian community

If there is an Indian community in your city, you have another sacred duty to fulfill. The Indians are so happy if they meet devotees outside of India. Srila Prabhupada taught us how to deal with the Indian community. I myself had experience with the Hindu Community in Panama for many years.
Here are some guidelines which you can try in your city:
1. Try to get address lists of all the families. Note down their place of origin and possible family ties amongst them. What are their professions? Number , age and names of their children. The more you know about them, and the more personal you are with them, the more they will be inclined toward devotional service.
2. Send invitations to them for at least major festivals like Janmastami.
3. Visit them in their homes if possible,
4. Offer educational programs for their children on Vedic culture.
5. Do not ask them for money unless there is a very nice relationship already. They are generally well organized people and they will want to see stable leadership and well-planned projects. Then there is almost nothing they would not help with.
6. Try to offer services to their community. They rarely take initiation, but are almost instant friends. It is advisable to have one or more devotees take exclusive charge of the Indian community. If you have a membership program please do not make false promises in order to collect funds. That will later create the opposite effect. Just by preaching to and serving them ,they will help immensely.
7. Try to get them engaged in theatre performances, drama, music or similar presentations in the Temple.
8. Try to organize Holiday camps for their children.
In short there is much to be done and all this is great mercy for us. Humility is really the greatest test for us. With humility there is no service which can not be done.

The Temple President and the Harinam program

Lord Chaitanya started the Samkirtan movement. Srila Prabhupada started his preaching in America by chanting in the streets and in the parks. Let us try to take every good opportunity to take the holy Name to the people.
1. When you go on Samkirtan with the devotees try to take the following items:
Mridrungas and Kartals. For every Mridrunga there should be 5 to 6 pairs of Kartals.
A Banner with the Mahamantra and a banner with the address of the temple.
A table with books and devotional paraphernalia which is situated at least 20 meters away from the Harinam to give information and literature to the people.
One devotee should go in civil cloth to be able to control any complicated situation with the police or with drunks. The others should not even pay attention to any problem. He poses as an onlooker and can also ask questions to inspire the exchange between preacher and people.
There can be flags and other instruments as well. Try to get a little "Mouse" amplifier. They cost 250 US$ and are extremely useful, due to their power and due to their rechargeable capacity to deliver wireless service for up to four hours.
Try to go where many people are. Public functions may serve as a great forum.
Try not to disturb anyone with the Harinam. If there is intolerance, leave after a short Kirtan and lecture invitation and move on to the next place.
Lord Chaitanya and Lord Nityananda bless every Harinam party.
Once a week try to have one big Harinam with all the friends of the movement. Otherwise small Harinama groups are also very nice. I started my preaching with one person singing and one person distributing pamphlets. Every half hour we would change.
We are getting wonderfully purified by singing the holy name for all.

Big Festivals in Halls or Hotels

A very good preaching tool is to organize Programs in major civic centers or famous Hotels.
It requires a very professional approach in order to be successful. Here are some suggestions for such an attempt.
1. Calculate your full expense including rent, prasadam and advertisement. Find out how you are going to finance that in case you will not get the desired result and not enough tickets are sold.
2. Make contact with the newspaper at least 2 weeks before the program and have them include the announcement in their culture section. Obtain full information about the advertisement cost in the different papers.
3. Different programs can be presented in a variety of ways. My own opinion is that the most attractive presentation is to focus on the presence of the Spiritual master or the Sannyasi or older devotee who is going to give the main lecture. You have to focus on that person. All other programs like music, theater and prasadam are quite secondary. People want to meet a unique person. That is the most important thing. Music and entertainment can be gotten in all kinds of variety on TV. But only here can they have personal contact with a spiritual personality. The organization of it all should be very nice.
4. Make sure you put out the posters at least two weeks before. Search out many favorable shops where the owner or manager will keep the poster up until the program. Posters are not so effective in the streets . Leaflets on Hari Nam are only effective in the close vicinity of the hall on the day of the program.
5. The devotees have to be in the place of the program at least two hours before the program begins. In the past devotees have organized that badly. Every time they arrive for such a program in the last minute, they discover something is still missing. That is a great disturbance. If you do anything, do it perfectly. Don't become unfocused and create a bad impression. Have the program announced by a well dressed and articulate person. Plan the first hour with light music, melodious Bhajans or with a movie. Most people in this age arrive an hour late. Thus the main class should not be the beginning.
6. Prasadam should be well packed to give a package to every visitor.
7. The book table should be very big and nice. From the beginning to the end the book table and the receptionist must be on the spot. In addition one devotee should take guests to specially reserved seats. You should organize as if the President of the country with his ministers were to attend, then it will come out all right.
8. Clean up the place after so as not to leave a bad impression. Discipline is the most importance when working together with Non devotees in anything like Sound or rent managers of the Hall.
Try to get such programs sponsored by the congregation. In this case you do not risk any loss for your temple. But anyway, preaching always has some price and as long as the funds are available there is no problem.
9.It is also nice to have a three day sequence of lectures and try to recruit new friends to connect with the movement by selling Yoga courses or offering pre-initiation to the new friends. Consult the Manual for pre-initiation for more details.

The Temple President and delegating authority

To do everything yourself may be a great sacrifice, but it also shows your incapacity to delegate services to others. You will not be very popular with intelligent devotees. It is necessary to monitor simultaneously all the services which the community is trying to perform. If you watch that carefully you will hardly have time to do many services yourself. More and more, you will depend on others.

Every temple must have a big Board in the office. On this you have the name of all the devotees internal as well as the external members. In addition to this you have for every service of the temple as many stickers as the number of devotees required to do that service. In the temple meeting you will choose for every service the devotee who likes to accept that responsibility. This will show you, as soon as one devotee leaves your community, for which services you have to choose a new servant. This Board is of vital importance. It will also protect you from forgetting the devotees who live outside and do not come all the time. They also need to be engaged and that is your responsibility.

All devotees can go to see the Board and be informed about the services of everyone. Those who have no responsibility will feel embarrassed and possibly request to be given more service. Also this will help you not to forget what things have been organized and decided on. We can thus be more complete and systematic in our preaching. Delegating services means more service for you. Srila Prabhupada used to call that lazy intelligence.
There are two stories I like to tell in this regard.
One demoniac politician had once said that there are 4 types of people.
The active fool, the passive fool, the active intelligent and the lazy intelligent. When Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati heard that he commented:
Yes the Karmi is the active fool. He works hard but all goes in vain finally. The Jnani is the passive fool. He doesn't want to work, considering the futility of material engagement, but he misses the opportunity to engage in loving devotional service. The devotee is the active intelligent, he works hard for Krishna, but aspires only for the eternal blessings. Krishna himself is the lazy intelligent. He plays his flute in Goloka and has the whole world moving under the rules set by Him.

Serving Krishna is so wonderful. We can try to engage as many persons as possible in his service, and it is an always increasing bliss, even if we cannot do much ourselves. We can even rejoice in the services done by other devotees.

Another story was told to me by Srila Sridhar Maharaj. Once a German submarine was cornered by French destroyers and escaped to the USA shore before the USA had entered the world war. The US government told the captain he had 24 hours to get out of the harbor. The captain sent a message to his chief in Germany asking what to do. The answer was: You are the chief of the situation there. You have to decide what is the best thing to do. So he sent his crew to seek political asylum, and once alone with the Submarine, blew it up in the ocean to avoid being captured by the French. In a similar way, many times, we have to make on the spot decisions, without a chance to consult with anyone. That is no problem. Krishna will inspire his trusted man to do the needful.

The Temple President and The SEVA

The Seva, Vrinda, BBT and other transcendental book divisions who have been created to spread the transcendental Vedic knowledge all over the world are like lifelines for the temples and preaching centers. Without them we would never have had so many different publications for preaching. They must be managed perfectly transparently in order to inspire the Temple President to distribute as much as they can.

Srila Prabhupada worked so hard to have all his books available for the world. Now we also have all the books of Srila Sridhar Maharaj in Spanish and English and more nectar is coming all the time from Srila B.P. Puri Maharaj and other Vaisnava Acaryas. This is a new moment in history. We should be very thankful for that. In the past there were no books of any acarya. Let us spread this to every town and village. We have created the Seva in every country to serve the local preaching needs and to guard the original idea of Srila Prabhupada to benefit the local distributing temple as well as to increase the new publications. I was responsible for Srila Prabhupadas BBT from 1974 until 1979 managing the Scandinavian division and the Portuguese division. This was a very nice service. If we do not follow that idea strictly we will have problems. It was Srila Prabhupadas idea that 50% of the temple energy should circle around the items purchased from the BBT. That was not always possible, but it means that preaching should be our main activity.

Sometimes the SEVA gives credit to a temple to help them start their activities. This is a great responsibility, and it is extremely bad not to pay back the cost of those items. Even worse is to invest such funds in other non-preaching related items or to simply squander the Laksmi by eating it. We are supposed to achieve our success with the sweat of our brow, not with the energy previously contributed by others. Financial responsibility is substantial for managing preachers. It is better to be small, but not have bad debts. For that we need to keep our bookkeeping perfectly. If we learn that lesson today, we will save ourselves much trouble in the future.

Also we should always keep all the books the SEVA offers on permanent exhibition for the public, nicely presented with the prices and also keep stock of them in our warehouse. Whatever is there in the Seva or ISEV or BBT catalogue should be available in every temple including tapes and posters. This alone will increase the distribution, but it requires good control, because there are so many items. It is preaching. It is work to help others, not to make money.

No devotee should ever go out without taking some books and cassettes with lectures of his spiritual master. Otherwise, how people will know about your nectar. Again, that takes discipline and not laziness. How great do you feel after some conditioned soul received a Bhagavat Gita from you. That is the spirit we have to create amongst our members, both those who go on Samkirtan every day, as well as all the others. Only preaching will make us happy and others as well.

The Temple President should keep regular contact with the administrator of the SEVA and try to enthuse him in his service. Not that you don't talk to him for months because you owe Laksmi to him, and thus your temple becomes disconnected from distributing mercy.