Where to most effectively preach?

Jason - September 30, 2004 7:43 pm

Hare Krsna!


Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga Jayatah!


I finished reading over the new profiles that all the devotees updated, and I was really inspired. It's so cool to see how each of us is coming from a different place, yet somehow, we've all ended up here. It truly is a family in the sense that there are older devotees who are Srila Prabhupada disciples and devotees in their 20's who've recently arrived!


I was noticing that a few of the younger devotees (MadanGopal prabhu and perhaps Caitanya daya in particular) are coming from the punk/hardcore/straightedge music scene. It's interesting to know that a movement that was started as a means to expose kids to a positive lifestyle and pull them away from things like drugs, meat-eating and promiscuous sex, has ultimately led us to the Hare Krsna movement.


I remember when I had to move to Ohio just before my senior year of high school. I was a straightedge kid at the time. I left all my friends behind in Richmond, VA and the few Hare Krsna devotees that I had just met. I was devastated. When I got to Ohio, I met a Hare Krsna devotee named Matt at a hardcore show. He was wearing a dhoti and tilak and he was totally dancing to this band. We became friends and talked afterwards and he shared his feelings on the straightedge philosophy with me.


As it turns out, for some people anyway, the drug free hardcore music scene and all it's ideals were really just how people should be acting anyway. I don't want to imply that I don't have a place in my heart for my "roots" (so to speak), but it really was a stepping stone and I feel that Krsna arranged my life so that I would come in contact with the devotee in this particular way.


So, how does this pertain to preaching? I was just thinking about how the people that I meet in the store and at shows (on ocassion), that are most receptive to the fact that I am a devotee....seem to be persons with some affiliation to the straightedge scene. Often times I try to use that as a means to preach to others. They can relate when they know that I've been a punk kid, I've been in bands etc. I think that it's important for people to preach where they can do so most effectively. Often times, preaching can come off as contrived and "fake". Someone will have more influence on me if I can find the common ground and relate to them; that's going to be there "in" when it comes to gaining my attention and more importantly, my respect.


I was wondering how each of you have presented Krsna consciousness when talking with others? Perhaps you're yoga practitioners, musicians into world music that corelates to traditional bhajans, artists, the devotional tattoos (Caitanya daya dd) etc. How have you been able to preach most effectively?


Your aspiring servant and friend,


Bhakta Jason

Madangopal - September 30, 2004 9:03 pm

Dear Jason,

What a good question. I've been through some conflict in my head about preaching over the years. When I first joined the temple from the straight edge scene I was trained in book distribution. I was enthusiastic, and decently effective at selling books. Quite quickly though I was confronted with the issue of results (quantity of books sold) vs. effective preaching. My authorities pushed me to increase the quantity and discouraged my natural inclinations for delivering the message to young people in a way that I felt would be most effective. To spend too much time with someone, or to be too straightforward about the message was not looked well upon. A couple years of this conflict really deflated my enthusiasm by making me doubt my own ability to mold K.C. how I thought my audience would best receive it. Canned phrases and lines tasted so dry in my mouth, I just couldn't do it - at least under such authority.


When I hear you say this - "Often times, preaching can come off as contrived and "fake". Someone will have more influence on me if I can find the common ground and relate to them;"


You've figured it all out! Don't let it be fake and people will certainly be attracted. We are all situated naturally in our best preaching field. Don't be fake, don't be something you are not. Be a normal guy in your crowd and when people get to know you they will understand you have been transformed by something and will want to know more about it. Sharing yourself is natural, let it be natural. I am a full time college kid and I don't at all go out of my way to preach. I don't preach. I don't even like the word preach really. When I break down some of these barriers between the kids I go to school with and myself and just learn to relate to them they naturally start to ask questions. I'm naturally not attracted to their college party lifestyle, but I can relate as a human being to their situation in the world. If I am not a total alien to their situation they feel affinity and when they inquire I give them little bits of stuff to think about. Most of all I trust myself (while praying to Krsna for help). If you have faith in K.C. then you should trust yourself to be able to present it to your crowd. If you don't have strong enough faith, don't preach.


p.s. oh yeah, and by association with great preachers like Swami preaching enthusiasm and intelligence will rub off on you.

Jason - September 30, 2004 9:39 pm

Madan Gopal prabhu:


Hare Krsna!


Thanks for the encouragement. Your advice is exactly what seems to happen. People come into the store, they hear me listening to something they like and we start to talk. They usually comment on the sikha and then they really start to respect the fact that I can be a practicing devotee and still be into music. I usually get the chance to hook them up with a BTG (I carry them around just in case) and tell them that we can chat if they have questions.


The other day, this girl who cuts hair at the salon down the street called, (get this) it's called MADHUSALON. She came in and was interested in some Indian music. I asked her if she was into bhajans and she said, "yeah...that's it". I have a few CDs in the store so I hooked her up with something that was still accessible to your average music fan. It was a Krishna Das CD and a CD by a local DJ called DJ Cheb I Sabbah. I told her I was a Hare Krsna and she was really intrigued. I said that we practiced bhakti yoga and she said, "doesn't bhakti mean heart?" I explained a little bit about the philosophy (all the while my womanizer boss wondering how he could somehow ask her out).


I mentioned that another name for Krsna was "madhusudana" and how close that was to the name of her salon called "madhusalon". she was amazed at the significance of the word.


After she left, my boss could only talk about how "hot" she was and how since I met her I should give her his phone number???? Instead, I went home, grabbed a few extra small books and some neck beads and dropped them off for her at her work.


The next day I had a note waiting from her. She was really happy, she said I made her day and that she would stop in to chat some more.


To me....in my situation right now, this is preaching. I made a friend, she is interested in devotional music, she now has some idea that not all devotees live in temples with traditional dress, and I'm just down the street to talk if she wants. This is the type of day to day encounters that I get to have. This is the medium that I have to talk about Krsna.


After the Radhastami celebrations at the Berkeley temple, I took some maha prasadam and went to the club called NICKIES where DJ Cheb I Sabbah plays on tuesdays. I introduced myself as a fan of his music and offered him some prasadam. He was very grateful and mentioned that he was leaving the next day for some recordings in Delhi and then to Vrindavan to mix a CD. He isn't following all the regulative principles, but he has been to many temples and he uses the mahamantra in his music and has a HUGE fan base. The prasadam was more as a type of encouragement. We can all benefit from prasadam. He said that he would like to hook up with some devotees here and possibly do some traditional bhajans backed with his electronic music. Krsna is making the in-roads. This too was my idea of preaching...


thanks for the advice prabhu. I'd love to hear more preaching/teaching stories.


Your servant,


Bhakta Jason

Kalpavrksa Das - October 1, 2004 3:45 am

I think that the question 'where to effectively preach" is a good question and I enjoyed reading your posts. Another question that might run parallel with this is "what does preaching mean". Perhaps it is the same question?


I came to Guru Maharaja through Iskcon and Iskcon places a very heavy emphasis on preaching. In my earliest days as a new bhakta I was strongly encouraged to preach. Before I even slightly had any genuine idea of what I was involved in or where I was at in terms of my spiritual development I was encouraged to go on a campaign for Krsna and bring others to him.


I once heard a Senior Prabhupada disciple say during class at an Iskcon temple that the society had become "the international society for introducing people to Krsna consciousness" and many of its members are so consumed in delivering the message that they end up doing little themselves to actually become Krsna conscious or to inspire those who no longer need an introduction to the philosophy but need help to perfect its application. I was deeply moved by his class and began to really question this emphasis on preaching and my relationship with it in particular.


After a few years of being told to preach, and keeping myself very busy trying to preach, I felt that something was lacking inside. That something was sufficient realization of what it was I was trying to give to others. I began to express this concern with my leaders. I thought that instead of being so busy externally trying to preach that I should spend more time experiencing that which I was supposed to preach about. They discouraged me and I became increasingly discouraged and doubtful of the approach.


In the midst of this doubting I ordered my first Cd from Audarya Audio and was blown away when I heard Guru Maharaja say (paraphrased), "Everyone wants to know how to spread Krsna consciousness. I have a good idea...why don't you try to become Krsna conscious yourself, now! Harder then you ever have tried before. that would be a good place to start. Real preaching is an overflow of realization, nothing less."


Experiencing the overflow of his realization and sitting and thinking and feeling and responding to that, my idea of what it means to preach was changed forever. It is the flow of our involvement in our own spiritual lives and the intensity by which we strive to serve our Guru that gives birth to the spiritual realization in our hearts that will make our preaching attractive to others. When our hearts melt in the fire of our willingness to submit to Guru and Gauranga our every word and movement will become attractive to others and will naturally compel them to take up spiritual life.


Now we may preach but one day we will live, fully, and that will be the most powerful form of preaching the world has ever seen.


Until that flow reaches its boiling point I know I must move forward step by step, trying to find a life within my Guru's heart and trying to place my own heart within his hands. Trying to honestly move forward in that direction is all the preaching I am capable of at this point but it seems like a good starting point for me.

Babhru Das - October 1, 2004 5:21 am

I like these insights. Charity, as they say, begins at home.


I have for a very long time considered real preaching--the most effective preaching--to be a natural overflow of love for Krishna. Anyone who gets close enough has some splashed on them. (This is stated a little inelegantly;I've been teaching and grading papers most of the day, and my brain is a little slow.) That's how I perceived Srila Prabhupada's effect. And from what I've seen, that's the same thing that happens with those who come in contact with Tripurari Maharaja.


I have also sometimes compared it to carrying a disease. We must actually be infected ourselves to truly communicate it to others. When we were kids, we may have fantasized about getting out of school for a few days by faking chicken pox. We could use some makeup to decorate our faces with spots, and we could even figure out some way to make it seem we had a temperature. So we may have been able to fool one or tow people. But there was no way we could pass chicken pox on to other kids. We simply were not infectious.


But if we are infected, others will be attracted by our character, and we will be able to share our realizations--and the good association we're lucky enough to have--with others.


One of the things I've seen in a couple of these profiles is evidence of the effectiveness with which Archana-siddhi and Karanamrita have been sharing the good fortune of Tripurari Maharaja's association with others. When, oh when will that day be mine?

Madangopal - October 1, 2004 11:36 am

I am just so excited and enthused reading threads like this. Kalpavrksaji, great realizations. Jason, sounds like you already knew the answer and daily experience satisfying preaching. Babhru, I wish I could take some classes from you at my school! This community is a breath of fresh air. Thank you, I become enlivened around intelligent, thoughtful people like yourselves and Tripurari Swami. I don't want to sound sappy, but I am truly refreshed.

Jason - October 1, 2004 2:24 pm

Hare Krsna!


I agree with Kalpavrksa and Babhru prabhus; preaching in essence can mean leading by example. I agree. I've been privy to some of ISKCON's "preaching tactics" and sometimes they are questionable. Often times, I would imagine, they could turn off as many people as they might give a book to. Still, I feel that when one is given something that completely changes their life; something that gives them a reason to get up in the morning, then that should be shared. Showing by example is definately a most important medium in that it keeps us from being hypocritical. But I do think that there should be a little more to it than that.


When I was a little kid in Sunday school, I remember being taught a song: "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine..." (sorry for that reference, luckily you didn't hear me sing it).


So, what I'm saying is this: If you preach, or share Krsna consciousness with others, in a mood fitting of your personality (?), instead of doing so with the idea of profits (or even results, as Krsna instructs us against in the Bhagavad-Gita), then our REAL motive/good nature/preaching inclination and ability will "rise to the ocassion".


I'm not worried about collecting donations or making a temple devotee out of people, I don't have that sort of mentality (or time to cultivate a person). I just want them to think about what we talk about....even if for the day. I want to build a friendship; a relationship with a person. Why? Because I've got something that they may benefit from. I'm out there to show people that if they take the principles of our philosophy and apply what they can to their lives, then the rest will come naturally. "Try to understand that we are not just the body", "Try to see people accordingly", "Try to be vegetarian for a couple days a week"....see how you feel.


After all, isn't this philosophy about caring for others and cultivating lasting relationships on the spiritual platform. People don't need another politician, they need people who are willing to help them.


Your servant and highly unqualified "preacher",


Bhakta Jason

Babhru Das - October 1, 2004 6:17 pm
When I was a little kid in Sunday school, I remember being taught a song:  "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine..." (sorry for that reference, luckily you didn't hear me sing it).


So, what I'm saying is this:  If you preach, or share Krsna consciousness with others, in a mood fitting of your personality (?), instead of doing so with the idea of profits (or even results, as Krsna instructs us against in the Bhagavad-Gita), then our REAL motive/good nature/preaching inclination and ability will "rise to the ocassion".

Your characterization of sharing Krishna consciousness in a manner appropriate to our character resonates strongly with my experience. I have often preferred that word to preaching. Wherever you go, whomever you meet, share with them what you understand about Krishna. I would develop that further by adding that it should also be in a manner appropriate to the nature of our relationship(s) with those we share it with.


And I really like that Sunday school song. We sang it, too (yeah, they had churches when I was a boy). Each of us should really let our light shine and not hide it under a bushel. I have often been upbraided for holding back. That shouldn't be. We should reflect as brilliantly as we can the light we receive from our gurus.