The small temples are more personal. It is sweeter
when everyone knows and cares for each other. Of course
it is not bad to see big temples, especially if they
have grown big due to the purity of some particular
leader. As long as love and trust are the forefront
of a community everything is wonderful. Still the tendency
of big temples is to become complicated. People in
this age have a strong tendency to be very sinful.
The small loving environment of a temple is a great
protection against that tendency. We have seen big
Vaisnava communities often becoming so impersonal that
the sinful seeds within some members could easily flourish
It is better that after a temple has 10 to 20 internal members, that more temples should be opened. It will be an opportunity for new good Vaisnavas to increase their service.
According to Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur there are three types of preaching centers:
1. Nama Hatta Sangas: That is a center where at least once a month a spiritual program is held.
2. Nama Hatta Khendra: Here every day devotees meet to preach.
3. Nama Hatta Mandir: Here we have the chance to take shelter in every way. Residence facilities and two spiritual programs are essential opulences of a Mandir.
It is wonderful to have another center in the countryside outside the city. That is so important for the children and the matajis. Many people can become attracted to Ashram life in the countryside. Such a center really needs a city support center. Therefore it is nice if the two Temple Presidents work together very closely. There are no hard and fast rules on the temple sizes but we should try to open as many nice possiblities as we can.
The Temple President and his relationship with the opposite Sex
It is essential that the Temple President will not associate with a member of the opposite sex alone, except with his wife. The same rule stands for everyone, but a Temple President has to preach to so many women also, and therefore should take care that he is always in the company of some other person. His integrity is the life of the community and also we know that the Srimad Bhagavatam has prohibited for any male to be alone with the member of the opposite sex. Better safe then sorry.
Those who claim the need to see him for something very personal shall bring another person in their confidence. Otherwise as a last recourse, they may converse outside the room in the public eye, but out of reach of others ears. It is not a lack of trust or an antiquated vision which makes me push this point so much. It is for the well-being of all, because Maya is very powerful, and we should not give her any unnecessary chance. Also he is setting the example for the whole community. By not following this rule many have suffered in the past. No need to collect more proof in order to validate the Shastras.
Mataji Temple Presidents
How wonderful is it to see that some Matajis are becoming
responsible preachers and Temple Presidents. It is
all Srila Prabhupadas mercy. Already they have proven
that they can do very well, and because of that new
leading preachers are giving chances to more souls
to take shelter of Krishna. Previously, when I joined
Srila Prabhupadas movement, the matajis were living
in the same building with the men, and generally the
facilities were very inadequate. Naturally very few
Matajis joined since there was simply no more space.
This was changed when we opened the first temples led
by Matajis. Soon after they conducted all the normal
activities of a temple and gave nice support to the
mission of their spiritual masters. Hopefully in the
future every city will have a temple run by Matajis
to increase the preaching. When male aspirants come,
they can be sent to the male temple to be trained.
This system is better and less agitated.
If the temple has his own Mataji ashram as is the case on some farms, there is the need of a Mataji leader for that Ashram who will respond to the Temple President.
Aspects of administrative Considerations
The Temple President and his bookkeeping
A nonprofit institution or foundation is a delicate instrument created by laws intended to help those who help others in some way. Many hidden motives exist behind mundane non profit organizations. Vaisnavas are non profit at heart, because all their profit goes to Krishna, and Krishna does not take anything with him. Every penny Krishna has is invested in this world to benefit others. Still, since there is no understanding of true Brahminical culture in this world right now, Vaisnavas have to prove their integrity by following the guidelines of the Non profit cultural, educational and charitable outline set by their local government. In all cases, there has to be excellent bookkeeping of all income and expenses. It is generally a fact that many donations coming to the temples are generated by individual donors who do not always want to appear as donors, due to their own tax situation. Therefore it is necessary to keep a very strict internal daily report form to keep on top of the actual financial situation of the community.
This form should also be presented to the Vaisnava Board at the time of their meetings. A qualified accountant has to keep the official books for the government. Devotees must cooperate with him by supplying the requested documentation in order for him to be able to present everything correctly. We do not wish the most minimal disturbance from the government. There will be no complication if our books are kept well balanced. Otherwise we live in anxiety.
Since our properties are registered under non profit organizations it is actually dangerous not to keep everything "up to date". We should always keep our society accounting as if we were up for an inspection by the government. Actually, as a minority preaching institution, there is always a chance to be investigated.
In Colombia, our accountant has prepared a 30 page guideline on how to protect and run our temples and little temple owned businesses. Since the Temple President guide is of an over all character we are not including it here. Every country has slight variations in this connection.
No bookkeeping means that you have no idea what is going
on. Unless you keep true accounting, you cannot tell
the difference between your costs and your profits.
Most likely, you are going to ruin the temple by running
up a big, bad debt. That is a great offense. Material
management of a transcendental service is spiritual
management. Do not hesitate to become a first class
manager of the temple. That is Yukta Vairagya= real
renunciation. Hardley anyone likes to write down numbers
every day, but it is a service that cannot be neglected.
Also, please do not forget:
1. Those who touch the Laksmi do not not keep the books; in otherwords,
whomever keeps the books should not handle the Laksmi.
There is no way to control a person who does the two services at the same time. There is no greater pain in a community than when their administrator's honesty is in question. Krishna's property has to be protected without fail against any struggle over devotional service. Checks and balances between the treasurer and the one who keeps all the paperwork is essential. Neither of the two should be the president unless there are no other devotees to do that job. Presidents have no time for such simple engagement. They preach and make decisions. In the material world, directors of culture or business affairs will not sit in the treasury or in the bookkeeping department. Sometimes a Temple President wants to do it all, has no time to do it well, and soon runs into the most uncomfortable situation of being mistrusted due to not presenting things transparently, which is impossible if you do not follow these instructions.
The Temple President and his financial planning
The following description is very basic. To start a
temple we shall try to properly understand the financial
responsibility coming towards us. Every time a temple
has financial trouble, the solution can be found by
following this simple system.
1. Make a list of all the unavoidable monthly expenses, such us rent or mortgage payment, electric bill, water bill, telephone bill, bhoga expense, transportation costs, car maintenance, general expenses, emergency saving etc.,
2. Now you divide the total of those expenses into the 26 production days of the month, leaving the Sundays free for the Sunday feast and some free time for the devotees.
3. Now you make a meeting with all the contributing Vaisnavas of the temple and make them conscious of how much profit income has to be produced to keep the temple above waters and what is needed to expaned the service facility.
4. Try to get commitments from each and every member to produce his minimum share to cover the basic expenses. Do not ignore the fact that people often promise easily but forget or ignore the necessary hard work. Therefore you have to inspire commitments higher than the actually needed amounts. Thus, if some devotees fail to collect enough, at least the basic expenses will be covered by the excess produced by the others.
5. Let the same members be aware of the advancement of the program. Every project has to be growing, progressively. Whatever has been accomplished last month, let us try to increase it by 100%. In this way you will go up, but never down. Without meeting and making all devotees aware of the quotas required to be collected by all to cover the basic expenses it can easily happen that you start falling behind. That should NEVER happen.
6. Other goals, like the amount of literature distributed or donations collected, shall also be planned in the same way, to get every devotee involved and aware of the transcendental projection.
The Temple President and his devotee register
It is necessary to keep full information in every temple on every member both internal as well as external. Most important of course are the records of those who live in the Ashram. We shall have a form which gives us much information about that person. The same form informs him about the basic rules of the Ashram and is signed by him. We will keep record of past members as well. We can always try to bring them back if we have the addresses of his family, for example. It is important to know a persons talents, education and other connections they may help in the preaching. You also want to know if they have any medical history.
You should always try to get their parents address in case any emergency arises and in order to check back on the information given by some doubtful person. We should not simply believe everything people tell us about themselves. Verify if you have any doubt. Person with a police record, for example, have to be studied in order to avoid any trouble for the temple from eccepting them.
In the case of minors, we can only accept them only if both parents have consented in a notarized, written declaration that they carry full responsibility for and agree with the stay of their child(ren) in the temple. Those who are minors but have no connection with their parents; ie, orphans, street children, etc., still have to have some legal permission. Otherwise we shall have problems in the future and there is no reason why the resident devotees should suffer. This can not be over emphasized. Devotees sometimes out of sentimentality accept anyone who shows up without thinking of the dangers which could occur. Every form shall be accompanied by a Photo of the person, since it is easy to forget those who only stay a short while.
Please do not forget that the Ashram is a place for spiritual upliftment and that only a minority will stay for the life long Ashram life. Thus all the people who pass through our community or take connection with our spiritual master have permanent importance and shall not be forgotten. This is how Srila Prabhupada spread Krishna consciousness.
Every person is a jewel, even if a little rough in the beginning. Keep all their information carefully on file. Even if devotees come from another temple to stay with you a while, make sure you make a page for him. Out of sight, out of mind. All the devotees actually active and connected to your temple should in addition be posted on the organization chart with their respective responsibilities. This will increase the efficiency of all your departments of service.
The Temple President and the emergency fund
Every temple needs some emergency fund, such as a minimum of two times the rent they pay. Basically temple economy has many little secrets like Samkirtan meetings, good treasurers, good bookkeepers and asking donations from the congregation. For example I always advise the devotees that they should not pay more in rent or mortgage for their temple than what they can produce in one week of normal work. Otherwise it becomes a burden to maintain a temple. It is better to have a small place without financial chaos then a huge temple with everyone lamenting under the financial pressure. But extra Laksmi means the temple must be well managed. Debts and lack of books or Samkirtan articles means a very badly managed temple. We have to maintain always ahead of reality, not behind. First work, then Samadhi was Srila Prabhupadas recommendation.
The Temple President and his fund raising
Getting Laksmi for Narayana. Laksmi is in the hands of many little Ravanas to spend only for Sense gratification. The riches of this world are only used to separate us further from God, away from simple living and high thinking. We have the opportunity to help others to serve the transcendental plans of our spiritual master and Lord Chaitanya. Fundraising for Krishna is not a material occupation. Every penny given by a person will increase his sukriti. Devotional service will save people from the worst danger which is to be separated from the path of self realization. Just like every family has to be maintained, every Ashram needs to be financially sound. So many different services to the deities and to the public have to be financed. This is the duty of the Vaisnava community. Brahmins and Vaisnavas should actually be maintained from the donations given by Vaisyas and Ksatriyas so that they can spend their energy on preaching.
To organize Prasadam festivals, devotee maintenance,
book distribution, Hari nama parties, temple construction,
Nama Hatta Programs, traveling preaching, temple vehicles,
deity worship, etc. is quite a responsibility and takes
a lot of Laksmi. Therefore the Temple President has
to inspire the devotees in the community to participate
in the sacrifice to get this Laksmi. Different ideas
have been produced since Srila Prabhupada started his
Transcendental book distribution on Buses, in trains, on the streets, in parking lots, door to door, etc.
Transcendental musical records or Tapes ( CDs) in the same places.
Selling of different business paraphernalia by devotees to give help to the program.
Life membership programs.
Yoga Correspondence courses
Preaching tables with different transcendental articles of the SEVA etc.
Vegetarian Prasadam restaurants.
Health food stores.
Simple donation requests to the public.
Farming of Food without poisons and selling to the public.
Producing and , or selling of Packed Food products in public places and transports.
Incense sales and fabrication.
Donations of the congregation.
All these programs require good organization and training.
Srila Prabhupada liked that his temples depend on the distribution of transcendental literature and related items. It has shown through the years that other programs have been helpful and necessary to increase and maintain the missions. It is a fact that book distribution in a small town for example will meet its limits. Also, since the devotees are here to stay, it is very good to develop restaurants and other business which will be respected by the public. Very often we are asked, "How do you maintain your mission? " Srila Prabhupada himself started several Govinda Restaurants and a factory to produce and distribute incense and essential oils. It is important for a growing mission to develop sources of income for the external members as well, since many have to abandon their professions due to the incompatibility with the philosophy of the devotees. Devotees, specially Brahmins, are not recommended to work under the authority of a non devotee boss. Sometimes that cannot be avoided due to practical considerations, but it is desirable to create our own working environments such as franchises of specific articles etc. We should always remember that only if we really make Krishna the enjoyer of our work can we justify calling it devotional service. Otherwise it will just be fruitive work. That is the problem in many circumstances. Devotees invent systems of work for Krishna but those with a fruitive mentality copy their system and use it only for their own private purposes. What can be done? This is a so called free market economy and to this type of sufferings we are also subjected.
But to get everything organized in the best way, we need good enthusiasm and strong preaching on a daily basis. Do not forget, for example, that in the non devotional world sale groups often times hold daily, short sales seminars for inspiration and to share experience. If you neglect the intensive attendance to the different systems, you will face slow down immediately, up to the total stop of any attempt. People need to be reminded of their goals and motivations. Therfore some little service competition is rather helpful, as long as it does develope into a big ego trip.
Also never forget that real enthusiasm is reflected in the time we invest in our work. As aspiring Vaisnavas we spend so much time on chanting, lectures and Bhajans, time we can win by sleeping less. Every independent businessman, especially when he starts his own company from nothing, will be found working between 12 and 16 hours daily. Otherwise he will not succeed. I think devotees should work for Krishna as least as hard as others work for Maya. Then they never will meet defeat. In our Samkirtan years we spent, motivated by our own enthusiasm alone, a minimum ten to twelve hours daily. At times on marathon weekends going easily from seven in the morning until eleven at night. Sometimes we see temples having financial troubles at the same time we see that the devotees wasting lots of time. Either only a few work to bring in some income, or they are very slow and work very little. Good management means to keep all devotees identified with the plans of service and not to increase the expenses beyond the tangible income.
If devotees ever fight about financial issues, it is really sad. Money can be the cause for so much suffering. We have come to this movement to get away from this suffering. Therefore devotees must be extremely careful and exemplary in their financial dealings so that there can never be a difficulty in this connection.
The Temple President and the organization of necessary Meetings
Meeting with others and discussing the development of
the different projects is the life and soul of a community.
It may sometimes seem bothersome to get others to meet
and maybe more practical to just make the decision
yourself, but in general, the most healthy and wonderful
thing to meet with your beloved Vaisnavas to discuss
this one topic of our life.: HOW TO SERVE KRISHNA AND
THE VAISNAVAS BETTER IN OUR LIFE AND COMMUNITY.
I have had the sweetest moments of my life in the company of brothers and sisters studying how to improve the temples. And be sure that you will not always have the best idea. Four eyes see more then two.
It is true, such meetings will decrease your false ego ( Do you mind?).
It is an art to listen to others, and it is more difficult to convince others than to simply impose your concepts on them. But if you want to train new leaders and win their Vaisnavas hearts, you should't mind including all those helpful and dedicated servants in the respective meetings. I have often included members in discussions who had not yet an outstanding service record but some capacity in a special field. People love to be trusted. There is nothing worse then to give someone the feeling that you do not care about what he thinks.
No body shall feel excluded. Of course, we do keep some subjects private from newcomers, which go beyond their understanding of the philosophy, but in general I have had the experience that people respond very nicely to trust and subsequently increase their active participation. Those who live outside the temples often feel excluded, and sometimes, despite their capacity, due to their being entangled in family affairs, do not give much time and energy to the temple. But if you push your false ego aside, call them and humbly request them to come to your meetings, you can re inject new life and happiness into their daily boredom. Meetings are the best medicine against our potential Megalomania. Outside of the meetings, which are conducted in a rather democratical fashion, the respective department in charge has the full authority, but in the meetings it is necessary to listen to all and to request further commitment from all sides. A leader without support from the devotees he tries to serve is like a pujari without a deity.
Here are some of the meetings which every average temple shall hold regularly.
Vaisnava Board of general temple affairs (weekly).
Vaisnava city meetings if several projects exist in the same city (monthly).
Vaisnava Board meeting of national character. (Twice or thrice a year).
Vaisnava Parents meeting. (Monthly).
Vaisnava Children education (Weekly).
Vaisnava Mataji meetings. (Weekly or fortnightly).
Vaisnava pujari meeting to plan dresses, crowns, festivals etc. (Four times a year).
Vaisnava business reunion.( As desired).
Vaisnava Maha Samkirtan and Hari nam meeting (Weekly).
The need for other meetings can arise but for whatever reason we meet there are some golden rules we shall not forget:
1. We shall never fight in such meetings or disrespect each other, even if we are angry with another. We shall preserve polite and humble Vaisnava etiquette.
2. Never expect anything from anyone which they cannot or do not want to do.
3. Refer to Vaisnava etiquette if there is any question on conduct.
4. Refer to the Testament of Swami B. A.Paramadvaiti if the meeting deals with subjects of the vital continuation of our spiritual school.
5. Refer to the Search for Purity by Swami B. A. Paramadvaiti whenever the topic of unity in diversity or inter-missionary conflicts arises.
6. Be happy that there is any Vaisnava in the world who is ready to meet with YOU to discuss devotional service.
7. We always follow the six principles of surrender in our transcendental plans.
8. We should never forget that all difficulties are blessings in disguise who come to make sure that we will advance spiritually. By passing this difficulty we will grow spiritually and so will the mission of Lord Chaitanya.
9. There are always many ways to serve Krishna. You should not think that your way must be the best way. Always respect others and their ideas. Those who are leaders by nature are often over-convinced of their way. But Krishna may like all the ways his devotees want to serve him.
If the meetings are not well attended, which would be
quite natural for the age of KALI, you should still
go on making your meetings. Gradually you will see
that the service will be recognized. If people never
come, ask them if it is your fault that they do not
like to meet with you to discuss transcendental service
improvement with you, or if they do not understand
the importance of such meetings.
By attending such meetings the devotees will grow in maturity. You will help them to become leaders and thus our mission will have many new qualified preachers.
Make sure a book of decisions is kept at every meeting and that those interested can read the resolutions.
The Temple President and Love and trust in administration
We always searching for those who will not cheat us.
Every potential new devotee is screened from that point
of view, and he will naturally also screen the potential
authority in order to decide whether he wants to give
his life to work for Krishna in this connection. We
need to trust others in order to win their heart. No
risk-no gain. But we should be conscious to let new
devotees prove themselves. For example if a person
gets a little credit and works successfully creating
some income for the ashram, then next time, we can
increase his credit a little more. But under no circumstance
should we give somebody so much credit that he can
hurt the ashram in a larger way than he has already
contributed. In other words, take little risks with
new devotees and bigger risks with those who have already
contributed a lot. Be aware though, some crooks win
you trust on a small level and then they exploit you
completely when you've trust too much. We are responsible
to protect Krishna's property, but at the same time
we shall try to make others feel like they are members
of a family.
It is also necessary to keep all the valuables of the temple under lock. It is unhappy to have many locks in a temple, but it is necessary because many devotees do not understand the reality of managing an ashram. For example many programs have failed to develop because devotees have eaten up all the special prasadam products of some restaurant or a temple store. They do not realize that the lack of sales cannot cover the cost of costly items. They even become angry if the Temple President restricts their abuse. The temple storage room and all merchandises must be under lock and with a controlled cardex, otherwise there is no way to know whether the controllers are honest or thieves. A Bengali proverb goes: To much devotion is a sign of a thief. It is for our love of the devotees in our Ashram to administrate in such a way that no mistrust arises in the community. Never forget that opportunity makes the thief. We need to protect new devotees from such opportunity. It distracts a new devotee from the essence if he sees that the temple is not well managed, what to speak of it being easy to steal something from Krishna temple. So many devotees come from poor conditions and often once they see an economic alternative they forget the spiritual ideals they started to follow. The Temple President is the person who should be trusted as well as the other responsible devotees. The new devotees should learn to accept their rules as a great benefit, even if some discipline is introduced or some austerity. Devotees should trust their seniors, and in reverse the new devotees should be trained quickly to share the responsibility of protecting the purity and the preaching of the mission of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
The Temple President and his contacts
Every Temple President cultivates many contacts during
his preaching and managing time. They usually get lost
during any change in the administration. The next Temple
President starts at point zero. This must be avoided.
The valuable time of the preachers will be lost if every time you need something in the Temple new contacts have to be established.
The Business contacts book
This book should contain all the addresses and data
regarding purchases and other practical affairs. Don't
be hasty. We need all the details including special
information on discounts, special friends who led us
to know that person etc.
The information should contain:
Name of Person.
Who established this contact and when.
Services offered and price policy.
What is his interest in the temple and spiritual life are.
Prices which are favorable at that place.
The Preaching connections book
What is the service they like to do.
Who connected them to the Temple.
Are they interested in purchasing, books, tapes, or attending yoga course, etc.
Are they interested in spiritual programs for their children, spiritual retreats, etc.
Do they like to receive devotees in their home.
Do they like to make Nama Hatta programs.
What is their initiation status.
The donation book
Every donation which helps to build up the community
shall be reported in the temples donation book. This
will encourage more donations. Also you can write into
this book items necessary for the temple so that potential
donors can look at requirements for the community.
This book will also help us keep aware of the selfless helpers of the present and past. If some previous friends lost interest or had any unhappy experience, it will come to our attention, and we can try to go and help them again. We can also note down in this book the total collections of the internal members with the weekly total of all of them. Since those who live in the temple are helping as a matter of duty it will not look good to report their collections individually as donations. But collectively it is nice to see how every week the temple grows by the sacrifice of the devotees. We should show this book to any friend who likes to see it. It will tell the story of sacrifice and shall also contain special physical efforts done by devotees for the mission.
The visitors book
Every temple should keep a visitors book similar to
what you find in many museums and other respectable
places. This will help us to keep the records and the
addresses of our friends. It will also invite commentary.
The receptionist should try to get visitors to give
all the requested information like telephone, etc.
Such books should be nicely bound and kept on file after they are full.
VRINDAVAN INSTITUTE FOR VAISNAVA CULTURE AND STUDIES