Devotee Care

Source: Prabhupada.org

HH Radhanatha Swami: “Although the foundation of a building cannot be seen, it holds up the entire building. Without a strong foundation, in time, even the most glorious palace will crumble. The foundation of our communities is in our spiritual practices, our moral values and in our personal relationships.

It is a tendency to prioritize those endeavors that bring quick tangible results. However, those results are soon to crumble unless we balance our priorities with the foundational personal needs of our devotees.

Effective spiritual leaders are responsible to provide mature vision to assure the welfare of our devotees in the present and for the future. People need to feel loved, cared for and appreciated. Creating this environment is foundational to a Krishna Conscious community. Without such relationships few people will continue to chant the holy names with sincere feeling.

Modern corporate farming aims at immediate results with little concern for how it affects the environment in the future. Srila Prabhupada condemned it. He stressed sustainable farming wherein we are very sensitive toward living in harmony with Krishna’s natural plan.

Lord Chaitanya compared Krishna Consciousness to cultivating the seed of bhakti in the field of the heart. It is important that we cultivate devotee’s hearts in a sustainable way wherein they will remain faithful and enthused throughout their lives. Too many times we push devotees to get the fruit of some result but as time passes the tree of his or her enthusiasm dies. Srila Prabhupada would call that ‘penny wise and pounds foolish.’

Srila Prabhupada was a perfect leader. He could push his devotees to get big results but at the same time his love, compassion and care would nourish, sustain and bring the highest joy to our hearts. He profoundly cared for each devotee who came to his society and expected his leaders to do so on his behalf. He expressed his concern again and again for our sadhana, and service attitude but also our health, the quality of our Prasad, our children and he was especially concerned that we felt happy, protected and inspired in our devotional service. We felt nourished and empowered by his love and care even from thousands of miles away and even if we only personally saw him every couple of years. Once when stressing the importance of caring for the devotees, he exclaimed, “I have shed buckets of blood for each and every devotee.”

Radhanatha Swami: “When I was serving in a previous ISKCON community, the priority was given to projects with little vision toward sustaining a quality spiritual life for the people giving their lives to build the project. There was little priority given to educating or encouraging healthy family relationships. Everything was focused on work and sadhana. Any other consideration was labeled as maya. I began to realize that our so-called hard work and strong sadhana is superficial if we are neglecting or causing pain to Krishna’s beloved devotees. It appeared that the devotees were seen as disposable tools to build the project. Grand accomplishments were achieved in that place but without a healthy, caring community it was a building without a solid foundation.

In the course of fulfilling those incredible projects, many devotees’ hearts were broken. They felt uncared for and gradually the morale of the once thriving community disintegrated.

Over the years I witnessed too many people who had come to Srila Prabhupada’s society with innocent faith and enthusiasm only to later suffer emotional anxiety do to neglect, feeling they had been cheated or rejecting ISKCON in bitterness. What I saw broke my heart. I believed that our leaders needed to take serious responsibility, on Srila Prabhupada’s behalf, to be caretakers of his beloved children.

When I came to India, I thought, let me try to do the opposite of what I had seen, projects before people. If I fail, let me fail in this way. Therefore our mission became – If the devotees are cared for spiritually, emotionally and physically, Srila Prabhupad and Krishna will be pleased and the projects will naturally flourish. ”