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Sri Giriraj

Sri Sri Gaura Nitai

Sri Sri Jagannath, Baladev & Subhadra

Sri Londonisvara

Sri Londonisvara's Lotus Feet

Sri Radha

Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara

Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara

Welcome to ISKCON-London

Welcome to the world of Vaishnava culture and Vedic learning, the home of Radha and Krishna. Welcome to the world of tranquillity, beauty and spiritual bliss. Welcome home.

Daily Darshan


Training Of Counsellees

Counsellors take care to train the devotees in the following areas:

•    How to be ideal brahmacaris and grhasthas by keeping Krsna in the centre.

•    How to maintain proper devotional standards at the temple or at home (regarding kitchen, altar, behaviour, sadhana, etc.).

•    How to be proper brahmacari or wife/husband/parent/child, etc., according to scriptures.

•    How to balance economic and social responsibilities with spiritual vows.

•    How women should deal with men, particularly brahmacharis and sannyasis.

•    How men should deal with women.

•    How to have proper attitude towards other asramas.

•    The counsellors also resolve conflicts and disagreements within a family, between a devotee and his relatives or between two devotees and thus train them to deal with others in a Krsna conscious way.

•    A manual of Vaisnava Etiquette and Lifestyle has been prepared for the guidance of devotees and portions of this manual are discussed in every meeting.
 

Format Of meetings

Format Of meetings Of Counsellor and Counsellees

•    Vaisnava bhajans
•    A few pages of one of Srila Prabhupada’s books are discussed.  One of the Counsellees makes a presentation of the same and a discussion follows.
•    Sharing of realizations.
•    Discussion on service, sadhana and Vaisnava etiquette.
•    Devotees are asked if they want to discuss any problems which are not personal (personal problems are discussed in private with the counsellor).
•    Kirtana.
•    Prasadam.

Format Of Meetings Of Board Of Counsellors

•    In our meetings we discuss the holy name and one of the following subjects:
•    Sadhana (japa, waking up early, etc.)
•    Reading (philosophy, importance of reading Prabhupada’s books etc.)
•    Vaisnava Etiquette (e.g., how to serve/honour prasadam, personal habits, etc.)
•    Exemplary Behaviour (Discussion on 26 qualities of a Vaisnava, etc.  Different Counsellors make presentations each time).
•    Caring for Devotees (Reports from various teams formed to care for devotees.)
•    Sometimes when the discussion flows spontaneously, more time is required.
•    Finally, various management/policy matters are discussed.
•    Prasadam (if possible).
 

Procedure for Initiation

Stage One - Friends, Group and Guide

If you have gradually made progress in chanting a fixed number of rounds each day, studied Srila Prabhupada’s books and given up your unwanted habits, there’s a good chance that you managed to do it with help from other devotees. Perhaps you have some good friends who have always encouraged you; maybe you belong to a group that meets regularly for kirtana and discussion, or perhaps you have the help of a senior devotee who guides you. Whoever helped you this far in your spiritual life is going to be even more important to you after you become initiated. At the time of initiation you will be making lifetime vows that you will be expected to keep. You’ll also be promising to continue to make spiritual advancement just as seriously as you’ve been doing up until now. In order to be successful, you will need various types of help. Firstly, you will need solid, supportive friendships with other devotees who can offer you moral and sometimes practical help. They should be sympathetic to your efforts in spiritual life, and ready to discuss the philosophy and how it applies to their own life. Preferably they should be open and honest and ready to offer you constructive criticism if they feel you need to hear it.

Group

A very good practise is to meet together with your friends separate from any temple functions you attend. You can chant and sing together, read and discuss scriptures, talk about how your spiritual life is going on, and take prasadam. By meeting together as a group of friends you will gain strength and inspiration; by discussing common challenges or question you will maintain a sense of realistic perspective in your life as you balance your spiritual practice with your study, work and family commitments. It is for this reason that small, local groups, or sangas, are created. These are not primarily for newcomers only, but are meant to provide the foundation for sustainable spiritual practise. The dynamics of such a group – the sum total of the relationships that comprise it – work best when everyone is a close friend.
Guide

It is also essential to have at least one friend who is senior to you who can act as a spiritual guide, your mentor or counsellor.  He or she will be able to provide you with regular instruction and guidance. Your guide should be acquainted with the scriptures, should be balanced in his or her own spiritual life, should have consideration for your own particular needs and goals, and have sufficient time and concern to help you. Your counsellor must demonstrate a good example of a positive, confident approach to devotional life and must, of course, be practising Vaishnava sadhana at a serious level.

Prior to initiation, it is advised that you regard Srila Prabhupada as your guru, carefully studying his books, and discussing questions that may arise with your guide. By understanding the standard characteristics of an initiating spiritual master from the scriptures and our founder-acarya’s commentaries, you will know what qualities to look for in your own prospective guru. Although you will hear from many senior and advanced devotees, it is not recommended for you to regard anyone in particular as your future guru for one year. Only upon maintaining the standard of sixteen rounds and four regulative principles for a minimum of one year may you then seriously begin to develop a relationship with senior Vaishnavas with a view to taking initiation.

Stage Two – Essential Information

In order to ensure that you and others get comprehensive information on the many different aspects of initiation you will be requested to attend a one-day course of classes on the subject. This includes subjects which you may have not heard about before and will help to prepare you to take the next step. You will learn more about the qualifications of a guru, the significance of initiation, how to associate with your guru, and the characteristics of a good disciple. The course also touches on the particulars of what acceptance of a guru practically means in a modern context within an international society such as ISKCON. The course also touches on what may go wrong in the guru-disciple relationship and therefore what pitfalls to avoid. After the course, as a test of what you’ve understood so far about Vaishnava philosophy, the guru and the disciple relationship, and becoming an initiated member of ISKCON, you will be asked to complete a short written examination prepared by the Governing Body of the Society. The simple exam will be done in your own time and you may use books in answering the questions.

Stage Three – The Testing Period

Upon satisfactory completion of the exam, and in consultation with your mentor, you can begin the next period as an aspirant for initiation. At this time you will probably have one or two advanced disciples of Srila Prabhupada in whose company you feel particularly inspired and encouraged. You should now write to him / them asking if you can begin ongoing correspondence with a view to developing a relationship of teacher-student and possibly guru-disciple. When permission is given a ‘testing period’ begins.

Scrutiny

Your duty as a prospective initiate is to carefully scrutinise the instructions and personal behaviour of the senior Vaishnava in order to ascertain how faithfully he represents Srila Prabhupada in word and deed. You are looking for the many devotional qualities you’ve learned about up to this point as well as commitment to Srila Prabhupada’s mission and care for others. In addition to your own observation and discussions with the Vaishnava’s senior disciples, you will also need to talk to other senior devotees. All scriptures recommend this period of examination; it should not be dispensed with due to any reason. Only when you have adequately tested your prospective guru, and he has tested you, or asked others to test you, will the relationship become strong.

Testing questions to put to your own prospective guru should also include enquiries on how often he regularly corresponds with his disciples, and offers them relevant and helpful instruction. You need to ascertain how often he visits the country, and how he tends to deal with principal life questions such as marriages, studies, employment, family life, child-rearing and so on. You should satisfy yourself that your prospective guru has factually been successful in helping his other disciples move forward in spiritual life and that he will have adequate time and inclination to teach and assist you if you become his disciple. If he already has many disciples whom he does not instruct personally, then you must look for his concern to either establish or endorse a system to care for his disciples. Somehow he must make some kind of regular assessment of his disciples’ progress within an existing system such as the counsellor and sanga structure.

You should also look to see whether he has formed healthy relationships with his own peers, and that he is responsive to the GBC. You should also check to see whether he has tried hard to push forward the sankirtan movement.

During this period he will also test you in order to understand your suitability for discipleship. This may be done through correspondence, personal interview or referring to others. Although this stage can last as long as required, the suggested minimum is at least six months. After an indefinite period of time, your faith may have developed to the point where you decide that you would like to formalise your relationship and take initiation as a disciple of the person you now view as your guru.

Stage Four – Acting In the Relationship

There now begins a period of acting in the relationship of disciple and guru. In consultation with your counsellor you may begin chanting your prospective guru’s pranama mantra in addition to Srila Prabhupada’s pranama mantra, offering flowers or incense to his picture at your home (somewhere separate from the main altar on which you offer your food), and assisting him with various services as needed or when possible. This period should also last a minimum of six months. Please note that the offering of food to the guru’s picture should properly begin only after formal initiation has taken place. At any stage prior to the day of initiation you may change your mind about accepting a guru. You may also change your choice of guru.

Stage Five – Recommendation

Your counsellor will naturally check to see if you’ve taken all relevant issues into consideration and whether you seem ready for the initiation. Your counsellor, when satisfied, will recommend you to the Board of Counsellors, who will recommend you to the Temple Leaders Council, who will arrange to write a letter of recommendation to your prospective guru (usually it’s done by the Counsellor System Coordinator). No initiation may take place without such a letter from your local authorities. Once the recommendation has been sent, the decision to offer initiation, as well as the time and place, is in the hands of your prospective guru.

Your local authority needs to be satisfied that you have met all the requirements pertaining to all of the above stages before giving you a recommendation. In addition to this, they will have concerns about: (a) Your maturity and ability to seriously fulfil responsibility which ensue from initiation (b) The quality of your relationship with other devotees generally (c) Steadiness in the main activities of bhakti yoga (d) Attendance whenever possible of group meetings, temple festivals, kirtanas and classes (e) Involvement in preaching activities.

Support

You should consider that whatever standards you meet before initiation will need to be maintained afterwards too. You will need help to do that. In the distant history of ISKCON all devotees, both before and after initiation, would be living in a temple-ashram community and their spiritual standards would be carefully supervised and supported. In the past, every devotee had a direct senior who kept track of their attendance of the temple morning programme, their reading and practical service. That is not the case today. Now the greater proportion of devotees have never lived in that situation.

It has been noticed that there are varying standards of practise amongst the initiated congregation. In fact it is often observed that initiated devotees have strayed from their previously good practise and slipped into bad habits with no-one even asking them how they were faring. We want to reverse this increasing trend. There is also growing expectations by gurus of temple and congregational leaders to ensure their disciples are maintaining standards and serving appropriately. So ISKCON London authorities have felt the need to clarify and reiterate the essentials of maintaining a healthy spiritual balance in the service of Srila Prabhupada’s mission.

Although upon taking initiation you will be required to promise publicly to chant sixteen rounds and follow the four regulative principles, you will not be asked to promise to rise early in the morning or to go for preaching service, or to raise funds for the mission. However, items like these are all corollary functions that serve your main promises. They are essential for strong spiritual life. There was no question of not doing these things in Srila Prabhupada’s time. It was unheard of for an initiated devotee to rise after six in the morning, or to not attempt preaching, or, if they were working householders, to fail to make a financial contribution.

In order to put those essential things back in place, to protect the spiritual life of all initiates, and to ensure our strong and continued growth as a movement, the following checklist now forms the minimum standards for recommendation.


1) Sadhana
a)    Sixteen rounds and four regulative principles
b)    Rising early (4 – 6.30am)
c)    Morning Programme:
i)    Performing simple arati at home altar
ii)    Chanting four rounds minimum before leaving for work (Srila Prabhupada asked his disciples to chant eight before ten o’ clock, but not to chant while driving)
d)    Study Srila Prabhupada’s books daily – at least thirty minutes
e)    Maintain devotional dress and tilaka during worship at home and visiting the temple

2) Service
Regular service to the temple (minimum two hours once a week)
Menial service once a month (for instance cleaning, kitchen, shop, gardens)

3) Sanga Group
You are required to be a member of a local Sanga group. Each person must have a counsellor and be in regular communication with that person.

4) Sankirtan
Required to perform two hours local door-to-door preaching or home visits or outreach programme at least once every two weeks.

5) Contribution
If working, one is required to make a regular monetary contribution to their local temple.  
   
6) Morning Programme
Minimum is to take part in a full morning programme at the temple once a month

7) 13 Questions
Give satisfactory answers to ISKCON GBC 13 questions. Checked by the counsellor.

8) Sadhana Chart
Weekly submit Sadhana Chart to their counsellor via email or printed copy.

9) Spiritual Master and Disciple Course
Complete full course.
 

Stage Six – Initiation

On the day of initiation you will be promising to follow the regulative principles and to chant sixteen rounds every day. You may also be promising to read Srila Prabhupada’s books and to remain faithful to his society. Your guru will give a talk either on the significance of initiation or on the ten offences to the Holy Name. Three strands of tulasi beads will be placed on your neck and you will be asked to perform the acaman purification of sipping water. You will then be called forward to make your obeisances to Srila Prabhupada and to your guru. Then you will be asked to recite the vows, handed your chanting beads, and be given a name ending in dasa or dasi, indicating that you are now initiated. A fire sacrifice follows during which you’ll join in the chanting of prayers to the members of the Vaishnava parampara and the Deities. During the fire sacrifice you will be offering grains into the flames. It is traditional for the new disciple to beg for some alms to give to the spiritual master immediately after the fire sacrifice.

 
 

Complaints

 

If you have a complaint about a counsellor please contact the Counsellor System Co-ordinator - Bhava Bhakti devi dasi - on bhava.bhakti.rns.pamho.net

If you have a complaint against Bhava Bhakti devi dasi please contact Jai Nitai dasa - Temple President.

 

 

Mentorship System

"The Lord gives good counsel and advises the living entity to abandon trying to become happy through material adjustment and instead turn his face toward the Supreme Personality of Godhead and surrender unto Him. When one becomes serious to follow the mission of the spiritual master, his resolution is tantamount to seeing the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
(Srimad Bhagavatam 4.28.51, Purport)

Mentorship System was introduced to help congregation devotees to progress in their devotional practice; a mentor is a friend, philosopher and guide in Krishna consciousness. Mentors are to inspire and encourage their mentees in Krishna Consciousness and monitor their progress.

The primary purpose for the system is to foster trust among devotees. Spiritual authority is not established simply by designating someone as an authority. Lord Caitanya's movement is a voluntary movement. "Voluntary" means that we have to voluntarily give ourselves to an authority, on the basis of faith. When we voluntarily give ourselves to an authority, then we take greater responsibility ourselves for following their instructions, because we have faith in their instructions.

We should look for the association of more advanced devotees, and we should look for someone whom we can trust. This is the purpose for the system. When you associate with somebody more advanced, you can get the opportunity to have exchanges with Vaishnavas according to the teachings of Rupa Gosvami - dadati pratigrhnati guhyam akhyati prcchati. Exchanges of love between one devotee and another is to reveal one's mind in confidence and to inquire confidentially.

A short documentary about the care and support system we have at ISKCON London through the Mentorship System

The system is meant to:

  • Educate and train devotees to live according to the Krishna conscious principles of their asrama.
  • Provide systematic training to devotees in matters of philosophy, sadhana, Vaisnava behaviour, etiquette, lifestyle and attitudes.
  • Provide a formal framework within which personal care and attention can be extended to all devotees so as to make them feel loved and wanted and part of a wonderful spiritual family.
  • Foster warm personal relationships and a spirit of love and trust amongst devotees based on Krishna conscious principles.
  • Provide a forum through which allocation of service, organization of major events, communication of important decisions, etc., can be facilitated.

For more information contact, Mentorship Coordinator - Bhava Bhakti devi dasi on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Mentorship System information pack:

 

How can I join?

  • Attend ‘The Essence of Bhagavad-Gita’ course.
  • Obtain a character reference from your Temple department head or a Temple authority.
  • Chant 16 rounds every day.
  • Follow the four regulative principles.



 

Founder & Spiritual Master

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