By His Holiness Candramauli Swami

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada instructed his followers and disciples to use our intelligence to reach out to people from different aspects of life and create ways for them to become involved with devotional service. Our society has evolved over the years, in that we have become less of a temple based society and more of a congregation based society. The majority of persons who take part in Krishna consciousness are more or less grihasthas. And many of them are living outside. The field for preaching to people living outside is very broad. People in general are looking for spiritual life in a way that allows them to maintain their family and occupation, and still be very much a part of a spiritual organization.

His Holiness Jayapataka Swami Maharaja has very ingeniously developed this program known as Bhakti-vriksha, which is a systematic, practical method to educate and inspire people living outside the temple. The system is well defined, and the models can be adopted to suit any type of congregation. When it is applied seriously, great results come. People feel comfortable in their homes when devotees connected to the temple come and organize such programs. Not just a program where you can just chant, have some prasada and discuss some philosophy, and then go home and nothing changes. The idea is that education means transformation. If education doesn’t really bring about transformation, then what is its value? To bring about transformation, education has to be applied in a very systematic way. This is why congregational preaching is very powerful and very effective.

People who are inclined to Krishna consciousness are learning what our way of practice is; they are learning about Srila Prabhupada’s means, methods, and his teachings and how to apply them in their life. Over the years, many people have become very serious, very committed devotees simply by these programs. And the field is wide open. We can go anywhere and establish these congregational programs. We are seeing the results. Every year there are more and more programs, more and more devotees and more and more ideas of how to apply these things to suit people in general. Krishna is blessing this kind of preaching because it really fits the mode of the time. People can maintain their grihastha life and live with their families and their occupations, but they can become pure devotees in their own homes. Anyone who takes up this type of preaching will definitely have good results.

I am involved in Chicago with congregational preaching, not only with families but also with students. We’re applying these Bhakti-vriksha programs in student communities also. We have a few groups being developed in the Chicago area. The students gradually understand the importance of combining their material education by learning practical devotional life. Many of them are taking time away from their studies to take part in the programs. They become enlivened, enthused and are telling their friends about it.

Even in India, I was recently preaching in Pune under one devotee, Narahari Shyam Dasa. He developed educational programs for students. They all live together in a particular housing complex. They all have their rooms together in the same place and they come together every once a week or twice a week for a program. And they’re all happy, chanting Hare Krishna, attending mangala aroti. The students understand that this is real education. They’re happy that they are getting the essence of their culture, the spiritual aspect in the form of Srila Prabhupada’s powerful movement.

We get inspiration when we learn about other programs going on. Connecting the communications amongst the different preaching programs is more and more important. It’s one of our important outreach programs.

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