BY RASIKA MURARI DASA
The Congregation Development Malaysia Chapter (CDMC) of ISKCON Malaysia organized its first Leadership Convention at the NUBE, Port Dickson from 30th September until the 2nd October. We were fortunate that the occasion was graced by HH Bhakti Vinod Swami Maharaj, Temple President of ISKCON Coimbatore. The program commenced on Friday evening with Gaura Arati, after which devotees took Prasadam and retired early to rise for Mangala Arati the next day.
1st October 2011
After Mangala Arati, Tulasi Kirtan, Japa, Darsan Arati, and Guru Puja, Krpa Sindhu prabhu led an ecstatic Kirtan which had all devotees present dancing in ecstasy! Following this, Jagat Sakshi prabhu, Temple President of ISKCON Trivendram, Kerala gave a wonderful Srimad Bhagavatam discourse highlighting the qualities of a pure devotee. One point which was very striking in this class was that “A devotee is one who is extremely strict with himself and extremely lenient with everyone else.” This is a point which will stay in many our minds for a very long time.
After a sumptuous breakfast prasadam, the Regional Secretary of ISKCON Malaysia Simheswara prabhu gave an opening address in which prabhu stressed the importance of leadership. Then, HH Bhakti Vinod Maharaj began his first session by defining the term “leader” and stating the qualities a leader should have per GBC iterations. Maharaj 's amazing public speaking skills shone as he delivered several relevant anecdotes and quotations by Srila Prabhupada. The session was very interesting and enlivening for all devotees present. By the end of it, many of us did not realize that almost 4 hours had gone by and it was time for lunch prasadam! Maharaj ended by dividing all present into five groups, and assigned us to make a presentation each at the end of the convention the next day. The evening session continued with Maharaj playing an episode of the Twilight Zone series. In this show, a group of people from Earth are trapped in a dangerous, foreign planet with bad weather and which lacks basic amenities required to sustain life comfortably. They had been trapped there for 30 years, and were being led by one Captain Bentene who constantly motivated them and assured them that “a Ship” from Earth would soon come to rescue them all. Throughout the first part of the show, Captain Bentene demonstrates near perfect characteristics of a leader. The long-awaited “Ship” then arrives from Earth to rescue Bentene and his party.
The entire group is overjoyed and start making plans to leave and resume their lives back on Earth with their respective families. However, Captain Bentene starts feeling threatened that the tenure of his powerful position as their leader will soon end. The story takes an interesting turn at this point as Bentene tries different means to convince the party that he will continue to be their leader wherever they go, but meets with great resistance.
An exciting sequence of events follow, ending with Bentene being left on the desolate planet alone due to his stubbornness and unwillingness to follow the party back - unless made leader. At this point, many realizations came upon the devotees present. We all had prasadam and retired for the night.
2nd October 2011
Today, Maharaj himself led the most ecstatic kirtan after guru puja. The captivating sounds of Maharaj's kirtan left all of us wanting more; however, true to time, Maharaj stopped the Kirtan promptly to deliver an amazing morning class on Bhagavad Gita verse 3.21. Maharaj explained the value of an Acharya or leader and related some very wonderful pastimes of Srila Ramanujacharya.
After class and breakfast prasadam, we resumed with the leadership sessions. Maharaj begin by asking the devotees what they had learned from the Twilight Zone episode. He then explained the flaw exhibited by Captain Bentene - He had led them and given them much hope that the final destination/goal would be amazing. But when the actual goal (the ship) arrived, due to selfishness and the fear of losing his power, he tried to destroy it instead of allowing them to attain it. Maharaj went on to explain that in the same way, a seemingly Krishna conscious leader may point the devotees towards Krishna as the ultimate goal, but when Krishna finally arrives, the leader may reject Him, threatened that he would lose his own position. Hence, all leaders should be very cautious to not fall into this trap.
The session continued with the five groups of devotees presenting what they had prepared- four groups presented very interesting and humorous skits pertaining to leadership examples, and one group presented a full fledged multimedia show advocating caring spirits and forgiveness among devotees. All presentations were nicely done. Following this, Maharaj concluded the convention, and many leaders were invited to give testimonies on the two-day convention. The chairman of CDMC, Radha Madhavam prabhu, delivered the closing speech, and the program culminated with a great climax as Maharaj led a wonderful kirtan which once again had all the devotees dancing.
The convention was one that was an eye-opener and brought many realizations and new inspirations to all our leaders. It was an all-in-all joyous occasion- we had the presence of Bhakti Vinod Maharaj all throughout, wonderful Kirtans and discourses, blissful association of devotees from all over the country, and last but not least – the most amazing prasadam.
The prasadam was cooked by Mukunda's Kitchen, Seremban owned by Punya Sloka prabhu, and the devotees of the Port Dickson center, was headed by Cittahari Madhava prabhu. The range included many local delights such as fried rice and noodles, idlis with samabar and chutney, professionally made roti canai, meehoon, puttu with banana, curry puffs, as well as rice with dhal and sumptuous, tasty subjis! It was truly an enthralling experience.
For the benefit of those who were not present, we have appended below some of the main points from Maharaj's leadership sessions: A leader is one who knows where he is going and gets other people to follow
Qualities of a leader as established by the GBC:
Why give up your devotional service to Srila Prabhupada and Krishna simply because someone said something offensive to you? It is your eternal right! It has come to you after millions of janmas! And you want to just lose it? Do not care what others think, but always care about what Krishna thinks. Even if the worst thing happens, do not leave your service and Krishna consciousness.
A preacher need not be a scholar, good speaker, or entertainer. He/she just needs to speak Krishna conscious philosophy that will transform others. Language is NOT a barrier in preaching; as such we, as devotees, should not give excuses that we cannot preach because we are not well-versed in a certain language. Instead, we should speak with whatever little we know and feel a great urgency to teach Krishna consciousness and save others. We need transformational leaders, NOT transactional leaders.
Srila Prabhupada was a transformational leader.Transactional leader: One who is able to give fortune, good economy, etc. but no “feel good” empowerment Transformational leader: Able to positively transform a characters for the better and empower people to feel good and foster positive characteristics.
“Management is a SPIRITUAL activity. We have to manage our spiritual activities.” - Srila Prabhupada.
Krishna consciousness is for everyone. It is for the MASS, not just those with CLASS! Leaders MUST remember this and reach out accordingly. The whole Parampara – Srila Prabhupada, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur, Srila Rupa Goswami, are looking upon us, the Malaysian leaders to spread this mission. We are responsible for all people in Malaysia to join ISKCON. Devotees should have good self-esteem. Be proud to be a devotee of Krishna! And, finally, our personal favorite, adapted from a famous caption:
ISKCON, with all thy faults, I still love thee!
Let us all pray unto the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada so that we will be able to properly serve this movement which he indicated to be like his very own body.
“I restrained from leadership service in ISKCON some years ago due to some problems. Now, after attending this convention, I pledge that I will return to leadership in ISCKON Malaysia.”Surabala dasa, Kulim, Kedah “It was a real spiritual motivation & eye-opener for me. HH Bhaktivinod Swami Maharaj's classes were superb and he also freely mingled with the participants…my sincere thanks and appreciation to Radha Madhavam prabhu, Rasika Murari prabhu, and their team for the efforts rendered.”
Sundara Sridhara dasa, Bedong, Kedah
"The topics presented by HH Bhakti Vinoda Swami Maharaj were excellent. The sessions gave us a lot of realizations on having the correct attitude and mood in serving Srila Prabhupada’s movement. Having more similar sessions in the future will definitely help enhance our leadership qualities. The Srimad Bhagavatam class by Jagat Saksi prabhu was full of nectar. Not forgetting the mouthwatering Prasadam. For those who did not attend, you really missed it…!
Krishna Dayadasa, Sungai Siput, Perak
Thank you to CDMC for the wonderful seminar. Keep it up. The seminars by HH Maharaj were excellent and strengthened our desire to serve Srila Prabhupad's movement even more. Hope we would have more of HH Maharaj's association in the future.Three Haribols to Punya Sloka prabhu's prasadam! Just out of the world. Thank you again to CDMC for giving us this wonderful opportunity. For those who missed...it's really a lost opportunity."
Yaduraj dasa, Taiping, Perak
"HARI BOL! to CDMC. Million thanks to the organizing committee. This CDMC seminar is commendable. Especially the presentation by HH Bhakti Vinoda Maharaj. His interaction with the devotees is superb. Every moment of his speech was really captivating. The knowledge he was sharing and imparting could not be resisted. In future I wish more leaders takes part. I further wish that the CDMC would organize similar programmer for devotees at large…Cittahari Madhava prabhu, Lukut Bhakti Kutir, Negri Sembilan I want to record my thanks and appreciations to the CDMC and the members who had painstakingly, arranged the very successful seminar mentioned above. A very big HARI BOL to all of you. The seminars were simply inspiring, motivating and so relevant to not only the leaders,but to every member of genuine concern for ISKCON. HH Bhakti Vinoda Swami Maharaj, by his charismatic presentation of the subject matter, made a waking-call, not just to my arrogant mind, but also my consciousness. Wish more leaders were present. Not only leaders, but every congregational member of ISKCON should have access to this kind of subject matter, the understanding that " Srila Prabhupada underwent much more inconveniences, and difficulties than any one of us. That Srila Prabhupada faced adversities beyond our imagination- but he tolerated. ........... And so could we!"
Muni Stuta dasa, Teluk Intan, Perak
"108 Haribols to the CDMC for a memorable and a wonderful convention. All of us participants returned home with sweet memories , rejuvenated with blistering kirtan, enlightening classes, unforgettable Prabhupada lila and most of all floating in the magic touch of Srila Gurudev’s Sannyasi disciple HH Bhaktivinod Maharaja and the Charming Jagat Saksi prabhu whose opening class had everyone spellbound and hankering for more Krishna katha and Prabhupad lila. We need more of such blissful days forever !!!! Long live CDMC"
Paramananda Krishna dasa, Bahau, Negri Sembilan
"Like all those who were fortunate to experience the nectar of the association of especially HH Bhakti Vinod Maharaj also Jagat Saksi prabhu and the local devotees it was a unique experience where interaction was transparent and the learning experience was in a happy, transcendental mood without anxiety. Haribol, very good sessions and an eye opener. Unfortunate many of the leaders who would have benefited were not able to attend this time , Please consider a second session with Maharaj for those who missed out,"
Dvija Gauranga dasa, Bukit Mertajam, Penang
"The topics presented by HH Bhakti Vinoda Swami was excellent. It gave us a lot of realization on having the correct attitude and mood in serving Srila Prabhpada’s movement. Having more similar sessions in future will definitely help to enhance our leadership qualities. Srimad Bhagavatam class by HG Jagat Saksi Prabhu was full of nectar. Not forgetting mouthwatering prasadam. For those who never attend, you really miss it…!"
Krishna Daya dasa, Sg. Siput, Perak