(Interview with HH Radhanath Swami Maharaj on "Devotee Care Principles for Developing a Community")

On the experiences with SP related to devotee care

Bhakti is reciprocation of love on all levels (physical, emotional, and spiritual) which involves care. Srila Prabhupada was most caring person as he considered devotees are Krishna’s children. He taught that the duty of leaders is to care for devotees. Each devotee in our movement is very important – they should be cared for and encouraged. This increases their faith in the process and devotees feel and experience that the philosophy makes us caring and loving people. During 1976 in New Vrindavan Srila Prabhupada witnessed that a disciple, HG Kripalasya Priya Devi who was not a famous leader, was performing simple services in cold weather and looked cold. He gravely told the temple president HG Kuladri Prabhu that she needs warm clothes – even if she doesn’t ask for them, it is the leader’s duty to care for the devotees.

HH Giriraj Maharaj mentioned when he was ill in Mumbai, Srila Prabhupada was so much concerned and cared for Maharaj by providing prasad and all other needs in the hospital.

Srila Prabhupada did almost everything with compassion, and compassion is about caring. He established the Krishna Balaram guest house in Vrindavan to especially care for the comfort of his western disciples, who weren’t accustomed to the austerities in India, so that they can focus in Krishna consciousness. He was concerned that devotees have proper mosquito nets & nutritious prasad in Mayapur.

On the foundational principles in establishing a caring community

Sometimes devotees ask where this Devotee Care is coming from. Devotee Care is just a translation of Vaishnava Seva, which is integral to the history of ISKCON. It is at the heart of our teachings. Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu taught gopi-bhartuhpada-kamalayordasa-dasanudasa and Srila Prabhupada emphasizes this in many translations and purports about being the servant of the servant of the servant. He quotes Krishna’sstatement in Srimad Bhagavatam: mad-bhakta-pujabhyadhika, meaning service to my devotees is dearer than serving me directly.

Lord Chaitanya appeared as a devotee and demonstrated by His own example how He cared for His devotees.He cured leprosy of Vasudev at Kurmakshetra. He gave accommodation to Srila Haridas Thakur close to Jagannath Temple according to his comfort. Lord Chaitanya would everyday bring Jagannatha mahaprasada and speak about Krishna to show spiritual, emotional and physical care. During Mahaprakash lila, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu revealed that He took beatings of Srila Haridas Thakur on His back.

Krishna comes to this world just to save all living entities, sometimes He saves our physical body like He saved to Prahalad Maharaj. Krishna protected all residents of Vrindavan from torrents of rain by lifting Govardhan Hill. Krishna’s care for His devotees is emphasized in all our scriptures like Srimad Bhagavatam, Bhagavad Gita, and Krishna book.

By caring for devotees on every level, we nourish the devotee’s faith. Faith in Krishna Conscious is increased just by witnessing how much devotees care for each other. When devotees see how a departing devotee is cared fortheir hearts are transformed.

Srila Prabhupada gave personal time by phone calls and letters by caring for each and every disciple. He created the Governing Body Commission (GBC) just to serve all devotees systematically. We created counselor system at Sri Sri Radha Gopinath temple so that devotees are taken care and their faith in Krishna consciousness increases.

On two things that are very important for a leader

  • To care for each & every devotee whether it be a brahmachari, grihastha or any other devotee in the community if you are truly representing Srila Prabhuopada.
  • To organize things because it’s the sign of care. When the community is growing the leader has to organize such that each devotee is welltaken care.

On creatinga culture of care as shown in Krishna’s & Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s pastimes and exhibited in Srila Prabhipada’s life

Care for devotees through the counselor system: When devotees are going through terminal diseases or about to leave their body, many devotees came forward to help with all needs. There are also many examples of outsiders who came to the Bhaktivedanta Hospital and got discharged by becoming devotees because of the Spiritual Care department.

When HH Sridhar Mahraja was in his last days, he was offering gratitude in tears for the devotees who were taking care of him & these devotees are so fortunate to receive the blessings.

Caring for devotees in difficult situations: Within a family, parents care for their children even if they may be struggling financially. Similarly, in Srila Prabhupada’s family the top priority should be to take care of devotees with whom we are staying. And devotees need to help each other to come out of challenging difficult poverty-stricken conditions.

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