By His Holiness Ramai Swami
I think that congregational preaching is one of the most important forms of preaching in our society. We can trace it back in our Vaisnava tradition from the time of Lord Caitanya when he would go to Srivas Thakura’s house and have kirtana and sit with the other devotees. Lord Caitanya Himself would go to other peoples’ houses and Lord Nityananda also would go with Him. We are already seeing it is growing more and more, and in the future its importance will become more recognized in our society.
In Indonesia, a predominately Muslim country, our preaching didn’t start with establishing centers. Our preaching started with congregational preaching in people’s homes and building up a following in Krsna consciousness. Whole families are becoming Krsna conscious. In the early years of cultivation in Indonesia, we had got many devotees even before we had any temples. Practically all the preaching for many years was going on in people’s homes.
Generally in the history of ISKCON (especially in the West), it has been the other way around. First there were the centers and then the congregation grew more and more. But in Indonesia, we found it to be the opposite. First there was a congregation and from the different areas of the congregation, all the devotees wanted to expand more and have a place for regular meetings.
They would make a center and sometimes, perhaps, that would turn into a temple. Now we have many hundreds and thousands of devotees in Indonesia and basically, it all came from congregational preaching. It still going on very strong. The congregation and the centers are in a very cooperative mood. The centers increase the congregational mood, and the congregational preaching enhances the center’s mood.
In the congregation, the devotees are always encouraged to come to the temple. There are also different types of facilities offered, like educational programs and so forth. In the temple there is not that mood that the outside congregational devotees are not cooperating. In fact, they are also directing anyone who comes to the temple to participate in the congregational programs.
(Excerpt from the book ‘The Nectar of Congregational Preaching’ by ISKCON Congregational Development Ministry)
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