Why is it important to be Culturally Sensitive?

By Tirtharaja Dasa

Basically, people are conditioned by the culture of their upbringing. When we meet people we need to understand that, for example, in Poland people identify themselves as Catholic. So the two just go together. If you’re Polish, you must be Catholic. You can not be Polish and not be Catholic. In South America, they have a certain way of looking at things that may be different to the Chinese people. First of all, the devotees need to be aware of that cultural upbringing. I think it is very important so that we don’t disturb people.

I think that in the beginning of Krsna consciousness, we probably disturbed a lot of people. For example, many of the Indian congregation may have been disturbed by our strong preaching against demigod worship. We need to be culturally sensitive in our preaching. Then we need to understand what we can add to their lives. One important thing we have been doing is interviewing everyone who comes into contact with Krsna consciousness and asking them “What have you been doing in the past 10 or 20 years since being a devotee? What experiences would you like to share with us?” We can do the same thing with those people who come to the temple. That is called a skills matrix.

When we have a skills matrix of our congregation and of our devotees, then we can do more things that we wouldn’t have been able to do. We need to recognize that we have a wealth of experience and many resources that we can tap into. Also, I find it encourages the devotees a lot, because when somebody takes an interest in the things they are doing, they become more interested to render that service. Sometimes people who haven’t done something for a long time, when they start speaking about things they have done in the past they become enthusiastic to do them again It brings back good memories.

(Excerpt from the book The Nectar of Congregational Preaching by ISKCON Congregational Development Ministry)

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