Almost a thousand leaders from around the world came together at ISCKON’s Head Quarter here in Sri Mayapur Dhama, India to share best practices and to give inspiration to each other. Helping Guide ISKCON into the Future - that's the theme of this year's ISKCON Leadership Sanga (ILS). A great variety of courses were offered over a period of seven days: from `The Power of Leadership with a Vision` and `The Art of Decision Making` to `Building a Diverse & Unified Community` and `Engaging Devotees according to their Nature` - a total of seventy-five seminars!
I had attended previous ILS, in 2012 and 2014, but this was the first time that I was invited to present a seminar. „Our First Duty - Reading Srila Prabhupada's Books“ was the topic that I spoke about. Here a few thoughts that are taken from my presentation:
Srila Prabhupada often emphasized the importance of studying his books: „Yes, as a Sannyasi and GBC your first duty is to read my books. Otherwise, how will you preach? (..) Whenever you find time please read my books.“ (1) „GBC member means they will see that in every temple these books are very thoroughly being read and discussed and understood and applied in practical life“ (2)
Srila Prabhupada dedicated his life to translating, to write his books for us, naturally, he expects from us that we carefully read and understand them. Especially leaders should be absorbed in reading in order to become free from all doubts so that they can inspire others. Reality is that many devotees do not read Srila Prabhupada's books regularly, including leaders.
I began the seminar with some questions to reflect on: How often do I read? Daily? How long? 1h? Less? What’s the quality of my reading? What would I need to do to improve my reading practice? Inspiration? More time? Then I emphasized the importance of reading followed by practical advice on how to improve one's reading practice.
What gives me the inspiration to read? I feel strongly how reading Srila Prabhupada's books gives me a lot of spiritual nourishment. If I stop reading for a couple of days, I can immediately see how my intelligence becomes weaker and my mind stronger. It is just like eating. If you don't eat for some days, you easily can feel that something is missing. And beside of that, there is so much nectar to be found on every page. I find it very satisfying to study, to extract the relevant points from the books and share it with others. But most convincing for me is the fact that we can associate with Srila Prabhupada by reading his books. Once Srila Prabhupada was faced with the question, "What will happen to the movement when you die?" His answer came back immediately: "I will never die." All the guests and devotees cheered and Prabhupada continued, "I live in my books.“
By reading Srila Prabhupada's books we associate with him and understand his mood and mission. This is very crucial for all of us in order to carry on the legacy that has been given to us. In relation to the Yamaduttas, the messengers of Yamaraja, Srila Prabhupada comments in a purport that: „One who represents someone else must fully know that person's mission.“ If we want to represent Srila Prabhupada we need to know his mood, his heart. This is possible by studying his teachings.
How would ISKCON be different in the future if everyone would read Srila Prabhupada's books on a daily basis? Most probably we would have fewer problems, fewer conflicts, more unity, and more spiritual strength. Srila Prabhupada himself said the following about the benefit of having a good sadhana and reading his books:
„You will get a supply of material to answer all the questions, we can meet anyone else without any fear, very easily you will make your advancement in Krishna Consciousness, no power in all three worlds will make you fall down, your path Back to Godhead will be assured, all your spiritual desires will be fulfilled, and you are becoming immortal!“ (4)
1 - Letter to Satsvarupa dasa, January 5, 1976, Nellore
2 - Letter to Haṁsadūta, June 22, 1972
3 - Srila Prabhupada, Back to Godhead Magazine #10-10, 1975
4 - Collected Statements from various sources from a Dandavats Article http://www.dandavats.com/?p=52600