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“There seems to be a major theme before us this year. That is to take the GBC further along a process of restoration and renewal.”

GBC Chairperson Ravindra Svarupa


GBC Meeting 2001 Begins
By Vipramukhya Swami

CHAKRA (Mayapur, India) - February 7, 2001: The GBC plenary session started at noon with an auspicious Vedic inauguration ceremony led by three brahmanas from the Mayapur community. A reading followed guru-puja to Srila Prabhupada and chanting of auspicious mantras from the Srimad-Bhagavatam, 5th Canto, Chapter 18, Text 9. GBC Chairman, Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu, conducted the reading.

CHAIRMAN'S KEYNOTE ADDRESS

Chairperson Ravindra Svarupa opened the meetings with a blunt challenge to GBC members that they need an honest assessment of the issues that confront ISKCON.

"There seems to be a major theme before us this year," GBC Chairperson Ravindra Svarupa told the GBC members and guests this morning. "That is to take the GBC further along a process of restoration and renewal."

He hoped that all decisions would be made with a clear head and detached mood. "We should think about the welfare of the entire society in a detached way to do what is best," he said.

"This has been a difficult year for our movement," Ravindra said. He pointed to several primary issues, including the Ritvik breakaway group, especially in India, and the antagonism directed against ISKCON by Narayana Maharaja and his followers. Another issue facing the movement is the lawsuit filed against various ISKCON entities by Windle Turley on behalf of his clients who are former Gurukula students.

"These problems are not strictly speaking coming from the outside, but are spurred on by our own disaffected or former members," said Ravindra. "There is a commonality among these issues. The breeding ground for them seems to be a lack of faith in the spiritual leadership in ISKCON. There is a crisis of confidence for many."

He went on to say that too many people have had experiences that shook their faith in ISKCON. "Devotees are worried about their salvation," he said. "They worry about our leaders being able to give appropriate guidance."

He also pointed out that the sannyasa body has yet to look at itself and undergo self-reform. There is too much alienation and dissatisfaction of our own second generation, he added. "Whatever happens with the lawsuit," Ravindra said, "the sense of dissatisfaction needs to be addressed."

He concluded that restructuring and reorganization of our leadership is one of the major issues that need to be addressed. "We must work to regain the faith of our disaffected devotees," Ravindra said. Significant reform work was undergone in 1987. More was begun in 1998, but it was aborted with the departure of Harikesa Prabhu.

One critical goal of restructuring should be to answer the deep desire in the movement for spiritual leaders who are exemplary sadhus, he said. Another is to plan strategically for the future. A third is to be able to more effectively and efficiently deal with problems as they arise, from top to bottom, through regular and reliable administration.

"These require structural changes and a new vision how we conduct the society's affairs," Ravindra said. "This should be the ultimate aim of this year's meetings."

REPORTS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Devotees then gave reports of progress from projects around the world. Some of the highlights included the ISKCON presentation at Kumbha Mela, which was a grand success. Devotees distributed 5 to 10 thousand plates of prasadam a day, hosted huge crowds for pandal programs, and one hundred Manipuri drummers performed harinama sankirtan enlivening the Mela crowd.

The Mauritius Temple opened in the presence of the Prime Minister. Over 50,000 people attended the Janmastami celebration that followed. The World Hindu Federation was hosted at Mayapur in December 2000, and world leaders attended from several dozen countries. It takes place every five years. The president said he liked Mayapur so much that he wanted to come back for his personal spiritual benefit.

Vaidyanath Prabhu reported that Moscow doubled its book distribution last year. 35000 books were distributed during Christmas.

Coimbatore, Tamal Nadu, in South India's thriving industrial area, opened their new temple on 8 acres in the city near the universities. 10,000 attended the opening. We have two acres of prime property in the city center of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The first phase of the temple has been completed and further work will commence soon. There were also reports of many large festivals around the world.

MEETING PROCEEDURES

After the reports, Ravindra Svarupa outlined basic "rules" of the meeting to make the meetings work efficiently. The role of the subcommittees was elaborated.

As with previous years, the GBC, Deputies and invited guests will split into subcommittees. The subcommittees will give analysis of the proposals that have been submitted, outlining the good, bad and interesting points for each proposal. They will then present those findings to the GBC for a straw vote, leading to further discussion, and eventually a final vote.

In plenary sessions, discussions will be limited to GBC members. Deputies and guests will be present as observers only at that stage. Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu said that it is much too large a body to manage a discussion for everyone. Guests and Deputies may speak in the subcommittees or through a GBC member.

2001 GBC MEMBERSHIP

After the lunch break, the plenary session reconvened.

Accepting resignations and new voting members was the first order of business.

Manjari devi dasi, who has served as a non-voting GBC member and secretary, has asked to resign so she can dedicate herself to other services such as writing. The resignation was accepted. She will receive a thank you letter by unanimous vote.

Radha Krishna Prabhu, from Bombay, was accepted as a replacement for Manjari as GBC secretary by unanimous vote.

The proposals to make Malati and Anuttama Prabhus voting GBC members was tabled until a later discussion about the appropriate number of GBCs in North America is reviewed as part of the GBC restructuring proposals.

Tomorrow the GBC will split into the subcommittee meetings to discuss various proposals.

© CHAKRA 08 February 2001

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