GBC College – First Residential Session Completed
By Sri Radha Govinda Dasi
“It’s been a life-changing experience to attend these GBC College sessions,” said Gauranga Simha Prabhu, Co-director for ISKCON Mayapur. “This training has motivated me in such a way that I want to rededicate myself to serving the movement of Srila Prabhupada with more seriousness and vigor.”
After the initial three days of association with the HH Radhanath Maharaja, HH Giriraj Maharaja and HH Bhakti Charu Maharaja, the participants (figuratively) rolled up their sleeves and explored the nuts and bolts of effective communication in the “Conscious Leadership” course by Brajmohan Prabhu.
Besides his twelve years as a brahmacari distributing books and organizing festivals in England and elsewhere, under his belt, he has ten years’ experience as one of the most sought-after corporate trainers in India. Besides his various international coaching and training certifications, he is also the CEO & founder of the Academy for Coaches and Co-founder of Versant Management Services. He covered topics such as:
* How to assess the level of readiness of devotees for certain tasks
* How to positively influence the performance of others
* How to adapt our leadership style to changing situations
* How to assess the performance of ourselves and others as leaders
* How to delegate
Participants appeared thrilled by the highly interactive sessions. “The leaders are very excited and there is a high level of participation with relevant queries.” Brajmohan Prabhu said, “They are very open to learn new things because they all desire to serve the mission more effectively.”
The twenty-five leaders who attended had so many good things to say about these thirteen days together that it would take many pages to report them all. Here we share just a few of their words to give an idea.
“I am feeling nourished at every minute,” said Gaudiya Prabhu, President of CISKCON (the Chinese Society for Krishna Consciousness), “I came here with a big empty bag, so that I can fill it up with all that I can learn. I am already starting to feel more confident and I am filling up my bag with a lot of knowledge and skills. I now understand better the bigger picture of Srila Prabhupada’s movement.”
Two senior ISKCON leaders happened to be in Govardhana Ecovillage and kindly agreed to address the participants. The first was Vijaya Prabhu, Minister for Book Distribution, who facilitated a one-hour discussion in which the participants frankly shared on what could be done to remove the obstacles to increase book distribution. The session served as an eye-opener, one that generated the willingness to work together in overcoming such hurdles.
The second guest speaker was Rasaraja Prabhu, who is leading the Bhaktivedanta Institute in Berkeley and Mumbai. He is personally at the forefront of epochal developments in physics that could open the door to a much wider, worldwide acceptance of the Bhagavatam paradigm. He shared essential quotations from Srila Prabhupada on scientific preaching and told various intriguing stories of how even atheistic scientists directly or indirectly acknowledge God’s influence in their work.
HH Bhakti Vijnana Maharaja, GBC for Russia and a trustee of the GBC College, taught for two days on the “Culture of Empowerment” and the essential roles of an ISKCON leader. Maharaja elaborated on the four types of power available to a leader, as delineated by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura: The power of fear (characteristic of the mode of ignorance); the power of reward (typical of the mode of passion); the power of duty and respect (distinctive of the mode of goodness); and the power of love (emblematic of suddha-sattva or pure bhakti).
Also in his Srimad-Bhagavatam class Bhakti Vijnana Maharaja stressed how being a leader in ISKCON is a great opportunity for advancement, but at the same time is a great challenge not to become proud or to start feeling better than others.
The Maharaja is here not only as a teacher, but also to familiarize himself with all aspects of the GBC College to be able to open a branch in Russia.
Kaunteya prabhu presented the course “Leaders as Cultural Engineers”, explaining three “culture sutras” and their application:
1. [As leaders] Whatever you do and whatever you don’t do creates culture; in other words, whatever a leader does or does not is taken as an example, which influences people’s convictions, beliefs and actions.
2. Either you manage culture or culture manages you; either a leader purposefully works to improve the behavior and values of a temple or a zone, or the existing attitudes, even the less positive ones, simply perpetuate themselves.
3. Your assumptions shape your behavior; your behavior shapes your assumptions; our convictions create our actions; but, simultaneously, the way we choose to act produces the way we see the world.
Rupanuga Prabhu, President of the GBC College for Leadership Development, Co-president of ISKCON Laguna Beach and Professor of Operations Management at Chapman University, in California, for two days shared his knowledge and insights on “Project Management,” and trained the participants in a number of crucial leadership skills such as time management and on how to produce win-win decisions.
Although it wasn’t his school’s vacation time, Rupanuga Prabhu somehow managed – as an expert manager – to somehow reschedule and delegate all his duties at the university and was able to attend the full residential session. Participants could sense his deep expertise of the subject and appreciated the gifts he shared.
Besides the time in the classroom, participants built connections and camaraderie among themselves during meals, in the morning temple programs and even at boisterous ball games in the swimming pool. Some devotees spontaneously started planning for projects that could be beneficial for the whole of ISKCON.
“It’s not just meetings for one or two days of problem-solving,” said Patri Prabhu, serving in Nepal, “I am here for transformation. I am going through transformation and not just getting information. It’s like a big family to be with leaders with similar responsibilities and discuss and learn with those who face the same kind of pressures.”
Mathuresh Prabhu, Regional Secretary for Bolivia and Peru, who travelled all the way from South America to be here, said: “It’s such a privilege to be in this paradise-like place with brilliant leaders from all over the world. I feel like in Vaikuntha.”
During the day of break, after six intense days of learning, some devotees trekked up the mountain overlooking the farm; some devotees went to Nasik, the holy place visited by both Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Srila Prabhupada (this is where Laksmana cut the nose of Surpanaka); while some took a guided tour of the Govardhana Ecovillage, learning about the outstanding standards of cow protection, organic agriculture, etc.
On the last day we had a little fun with geography and history (a quiz to locate on a map the countries visited by Srila Prabhupada), and HH Dayananda Maharaja beat everyone else. After that Gopinath Prasada Prabhu, webmaster of the GBC College site and key developer of the online training, introduced the participants to the online platform and the courses they will take at home. The first two courses will be “Vaisnava Etiquette” by Bhakti Charu Maharaja, and “Basic Finance & Budgeting” by Krsnanaam Prabhu.
As a final feedback, Revati Raman Prabhu, Temple President of ISKCON Tirupati, Zonal Secretary and Assistant GBC, wrote: “I want to thank all the organizers for all the support and concern shown during our residential course. Thank you so much for sharing the knowledge and experience with all of us. It has really helped me to elevate my consciousness.”