By His Grace Aniruddha Dasa (Temple President Melbourne Australia)
I think it is important that the leaders of our society put effort into training and educating the congregation because we have discovered how effective it is, especially if the leaders themselves are the teachers. There is this concern that if we train up all these people and they have home programs they won’t come to the temple. But what we have actually found is that if you put the time in to training, educating and making friends with these people, then naturally they will respect you and they will be happy to support the temple.
There is nothing like the prasada you get in the temple. So if we put our effort into having a strong temple program and plentiful and opulent prasada distribution, then people will keep coming back. As they come back you can train them and cultivate them nicely. The congregation, as I see it, is like a sleeping giant. If you wake him up, you have unlimited potential to do a huge amount of preaching.
Congregational preaching should not be underestimated or ignored. If you ignore the congregation, and don’t bring them to their full potential, you will have real trouble. They are just like everybody. “Hey Prabhu, I want to do devotional service. Please engage me in devotional service.” When they have ideas to go and preach, let them go and preach! They might make some mistakes, but that is how we learn. Then they become mature and grow and become an army of devotees. On Janmastami we have 6,000-7,000 people coming in one day, which is quite a lot of people for a temple outside of India. We have about 300 volunteers who are all coordinated by the congregational devotees. I don’t have to worry anymore about what is going to happen on Janmastami. Krsna is providing all the resources. We just have to recognize and make good use of them.
Preaching to the congregation requires a shift in mentality. His Holiness Devamrita Swami Maharaja mentioned that we must preach as if the person we are talking to is a better devotee than me. In other words, preach to the person in terms of the devotee that they can be. So many people have so many talents and if they can use all those talents in Krsna’s service, then they will get purified. Many of the people coming to our temple have a Masters degree or a 146 The Nectar of Congregational Preaching Bachelors degree. They’re not stupid people, so we should preach to them in an appropriate way.
Developing the congregation may take time. You have to plant the seed, water it, protect it and as you cultivate and nurture it, it will grow into a healthy plant and produce fruits. Even the fruits take some time to mature. You have to see people in light of their potential and not what they are at the moment. This is actually how Srila Prabhupada preached to people.
(Excerpt from the book ‘The Nectar of Congregational Preaching’ by ISKCON Congregational Development Ministry)
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