BY ANANDA TIRTHA DAS
[Note from ATD: I apologize and take responsibility for the prolonged delay in sending out this final report.]
February 22-23, the last two days of the 2009 GBC meetings, predominantly consisted of final voting and zonal assignments.
Every year, each GBC member’s zonal areas of responsibility are reviewed and ratified for the coming year. It is interesting to note a gradual shift over the years with an increasing number of GBC members preferring to share their zonal duties with one or more “co-GBCs”. This holds true not just for major projects like Mayapur, which has a six-man GBC committee, but even for smaller yatras like Latvia, Bangladesh, and Honduras. Another recent development is a number of non-GBC members holding zonal responsibilities.
The major change this year, however, was the induction of the first non-English speaking GBC member, Chaitanya Charan Chandra Das from Russia, and just the second female GBC member, Dina Sharana Dasi from Germany.
Chaitanya Charan Chandra, who is already an authorized diksa-guru in ISKCON, thus became the first GBC member to require translation of the proceedings, with Bhakti Vijnana Goswami doing the honours. And in recognition of Dina Sharana’s sterling services as a European RGB member, she was unanimously voted on as an Assistant GBC member, by-passing the standard first stage of Candidate.
There are various levels of GBC members, beginning from Candidate GBC to Assistant GBC to Acting GBC to a full GBC member with voting rights. GBC Ministers (such as the Deity Worship Minister), Deputies (who assist the GBC) and Emeritii (or “retired” GBCs) make up the entire gamut of GBC membership.
For example, this year Hrdaya Caitanya Das was accepted as a full GBC member from Acting GBC and is now on the Executive Committee as Second Vice-Chairman. His Holiness Romapada Swami, last year’s Vice-Chairman, was voted as this year’s GBC Chairman, with Madhu Sevita Das as Vice-Chairman
(and thus probable Chairman next year). Kavicandra Swami continues as Special Duty Officer. These four devotees make up the Executive Committee
(EC) for this year.
The EC are elected representatives of the GBC delegated to carry out executive functions throughout the year such as implementation of the annual GBC resolutions, fielding concerns from the Regional Governing Bodies and others, and responding to matters of international scope.
A prominent theme of discussion of the final two days was farm development in ISKCON, with two farming-related resolutions being passed. Radha Krsna Das of New Vraja Dham in Hungary screened an informative powerpoint presentation highlighting the development, under Sivarama Swami’s guidance, of their self-sufficient farm project. New Vraja Dham’s success has attracted considerable attention from the Hungarian government and universities, who are now working in collaboration with the project. For more detials, please see the attached PDF or visit the www. ecovalley. hu website.
Syamasundara Das, European Minister for Cow Protection and Agriculture, also made a powerpoint presentation giving an overview of the current status of ISKCON farms around the globe based on a survey of 31 farms. Along with showcasing the need for more support and emphasis on farming and cow protection, the report included encouraging news, such as:
* The Irish farm is growing vegetables on four acres to supply three restaurants in Dublin.
* The Sussex cow sanctuary and several Indian goshallas are running businesses selling cow dung products.
* Bhaktivedanta Manor’s new goshalla complex will be completed this summer.
* The Czech farm received funding 45,000 euros from the European Union for Vedic and traditional farming, has developed a good working arrangement with Prague temple, and is now looking for more land.
* The Vrndavana Goshalla has started ox-cart parikramas.
* The Mayapur Goshalla is using oxen for tourism and rubbish movement.
* The Tirupati goshalla contracts out ox teams to local people.
A final item of this year’s meetings was the annual budget. Keeping in mind the current global financial crisis and not wanting to tax the temples further, Gokula Prabhu, new GBC Treasurer, together with the EC, prepared a budget for this year similar to last year’s. The GBC Budget mainly funds the various GBC Ministries, the GBC Secretariat, and AGM-related expenses.
As always, the meetings concluded with thanks to the Chairman and the entire EC for their hard work during the year and the AGM, as well thanks to all the staff and Secretariat members who helped facilitate the meetings. As is a yearly tradition, Jayapataka Swami had gift packets for all the attendees.