What should a devotee-manager consider?

Unfortunately instruction manuals on this issue written in the past are presently not available to me, but they surely contained a lot of good advice regarding the daily realities a devotee who accepts managerial responsibility has to face.

Sometimes devotees tend to reach out into the material world for help on how to successfully manage large groups of people. Such books are of little use for a manager in Krsna consciousness as Srila Prabhupada’s movement is conducted under very different conditions compared to movements in the “ordinary” karmi world.

Srila Prabhupada would warn his disciples in managerial positions in letters to them that his movement is a movement based on preaching and on VOLUNTARY contribution of those who responded to the call of the sastras and surrendered their lives to the Supreme Lord. No karmi has to face such a responsibility as in the material world a material reward for ones contributions is always expected, either in form of money or in form of name fame and glory.

Even the greatest altruist is finally caught by maya, believing that he is the greatest friend and well wisher of human kind…just another “god”.

And so the first lesson for any manager in Krsna consciousness is that he is the SERVANT, not the master of those entrusted into his care. He must be educated enough to understand that he can protect and guide only to the degree that he is himself protected and guided, in other words to the degree that he is connected to the guru parampara.

 What follows are only a few of the qualities required for such a responsible devotee who takes upon himself the ungrateful task to help those who may not even appreciate his help. Most people have a hard time distinguishing between friends and enemies and so in their confusion they tend to imitate paramahamsas and “see everything equally”, avoiding a “managerial friend” and embrace the association of a smiling cheater.

Such is the destiny of any preacher who finally has to become a manager. As Srila Prabhupada said, management follows the preaching as we are daily followed by our shadows. Even Srila Prabhupada fought hard to delegate management so He could stay purely in a preaching position. But it was not possible. Those who try to separate preaching from management simply turn out to be speakers with no audience and those who tend to manage without preaching simply turn out to be desperate lonely manipulators of those who don’t follow.

SIMPLE AND HONEST

In the view of the above mentioned points, a manager must be simple and honest in his dealings with other devotees. Duplicity and political trickery always backfires, even it seems for a while to be the right way of action. Finally any sincere devotee will grow up in Krsna consciousness to such a degree that he realizes how far he was sincerely advised and how far he was simply manipulated into a certain course of action. Political “pragmatism” always corrupts the leader and possibly his follower as well.

Too often it was seen how devotees broke with corrupt management only to copy it elsewhere on their own. After all, they were raised in the same “school of pragmatic manipulators”. Rather a manager should learn  from the rejection and criticism of those who don’t appreciated due the manager’s corrupt ways of thinking, and stick to the truth instead of simply trying to secure his position and his livelihood by corrupt means.

To pretend to be “liberal” is another trap one may step in, as there is no such thing. As a result such a manoeuvring manager will end up being despised by all, as pleasing all means pleasing nobody.

RESOURCEFULL

Often, out of emergency, an unqualified person is put into management, causing usually more damage than his predecessors. A manager has to be a ksatriya by quality or a brahmana assisted by a ksatriya. Even if untrained, such a potential manager at least has to be open to learn and improve his quality. Sudra management ends up in sentimental corruption and bankruptcy, vaisya management ends up in financially motivated corruption and ksatriya management ,lasting longer, may also find its end if not controlled by brahminical superior power.

The real quality of a manager can be recognized in times of trouble where everybody else is plunged into despair. A real manager gets enlivened by the arriving challenge and draws from his resources. He must have the basic knowledge of varnasrama dharma as hardly anybody joins this movement on basis of pure love of Godhead, but has to be first engaged on basis of his prevailing qualities. The first devotee Srila Prabhupada met was engaged in writing and editing…and so his service turned out to be the same. Sometimes Srila Prabhupada by His amazing spiritual power empowered a devotee to do the impossible, far beyond the limits set by his varna. But finally everybody returned to the positions where he functioned best, either in perverted form in material society or in more progressive form in spiritual society. Even Arjuna wanted to be somebody he was not and was corrected by the time Bhagavad-Gita was spoken to him.

And so a manager can be seen by how many individuals he can engage in Srila Prabhupadas mission in different ways. Putting his preferences aside, (only sudras and corrupted ksatriyas collect followers in the form of “fan-clubs”), he seeks to solve the task at hand and not his personal wellbeing. His satisfaction is derived from serving the mission assigned to him, not from the ways he is perceived or treated. He sees the potential in others of becoming part of a higher cause defined by Srila Prabhupada and he is supportive and protective to those he recognizes as being “useful”, he encourages those willing to contribute in any way possible by preaching to them. This means he must be a knower of people, at least to the degree of a madhyama adhikari.

A kanistha adhikari manager is a walking disaster as he will not even recognize a madman from a potentially more sane person. In the name of “mercy” he will fill Srila Prabhupadas movement with entirely incompetent or even worse, dangerous individuals who will do nothing but discredit Srila Prabhupadas image in the eyes of the public. As one burning tree can burn down a whole forest, such a fool will facilitate a madman, not understanding the misfortune he brings upon others by his stupidity and arrogance.

KNOWS HOW TO DISCRIMINATE

It is an unfortunate task of a manager to be forced to discriminate between those who have the quality of being able to progress individually and be finally engaged in Srila Prabhupadas mission and those who simply want to use the facilities this mission offers. It is only natural that such a manager will be criticized and often has to face opposition. A lucky manager is guided, protected and corrected by a higher manager; an unlucky manager has to struggle on his own, often resigning his post due to the negligence of superior authorities. Srila Prabhupada was able to protect and correct His “big guns” as He called them, connecting and managing a seemingly impossible collection of probably the most eccentric individuals seen on this planet Earth.

HE IS A PUBLIC PERSON

Understanding that he is simply servant of others, a manager’s life must be transparent. The idea to belong to an exclusive class of devotees is deadly. Of course managers are often lonely devotees, at best accompanied by their loyal wives, or at worst divorced from their previously loyal wives :-)

But a manager must be a grhasta.(?!) Yes, Srila Prabhupada even entrusted sannyasis and brahmacaries with managerial responsibilities at times as there was nobody else, but it is only logical that such a sannyasi or brahmacari will seek the assistance of a grhastha, as management very often involves women and money. These two “assets” can be very invigorating, for a manager in the presence of a brahminical guide (in the form of a sannyasi or an older brahmacari), in the absence of such a guardian and friend they often turn out to be destructive. Similarly involvement with these two;  money and women, often turned out to be deadly for brahmacaris and sannyasis as proven in ISKCON’s history. Therefore a grhasta and a sannyasi or brahmacari, can mutually protect each other. Sannyasis and brahmacaris can receive donations of any kind, but the direct dealings with funds can be entrusted to a grhasta only, who in return is entirely accountable to the very same public which supports the preaching. Double economy and double moral standards lead to a total loss of faith on the side of the public and it also leads to long term aversion to any kind of authority. Therefore a devotee manager doesn’t have a private life. He is a public person.

MUST BE REACHABLE AND MUST BE COMMUNICATIVE

Management is no place for introverts. As mentioned above, a manager must be reachable by those who are in need. Either in form of regulated office hours, or if inspired, day and night, a manager must be ready to answer the calls of those who seek his shelter. If not able to help instantly, he should be possibly able to guide those seeking help to those who can give it. Sometimes, by means of preaching, he must also be able to explain that there is no perfection in this world and so one must accept the given situation as Krsnas mercy. An unreachable manager is simply a farce, a relic who occupies a post which should be occupied by somebody else. No amount of titles he carries around will change that.

In this connection it could also be said that any plan or preaching idea involving others must be announced by a manager to the devotees either in the temple or in the congregation in good time BEFORE its realization. Last minute announcement and last minute scenarios lead only to frustration and chaos which consumes a lot of energy. Devotees are not mind-readers and have to be informed in good time if we expect them to follow.

MUST BE ABLE TO LISTEN SO HE CAN HELP…NOT JUST LISTEN

The term; empathetic listening, often used in connection with counsellors and managers today, is…a myth. Another term; “pathetic listening” would be more appropriate, as such a supposedly understanding fool is merely a pretender if his listening doesn’t lead to practical sastric advice on how a particular person can improve his or her life and become a useful part of the mission of the Lord. A manager who is really a good listener will find out a way to show the particular person that his needs can be automatically satisfied when the needs of the Lord are met. Today’s popular perversion of defining ones happiness first with a vague promise of future engagement in devotional service is a typical way of how spirituality turns into piety and piety into materialism. Even at the cost of being rejected, a real manager will not compromise the sastric conclusion and make a fool out of himself by catering to the needs of conditioned souls in a material way.

MUST BE ABSOLUTELY PREACHING ORIENTED

Understanding that it is not possible to please oneself without pleasing the Supreme Lord, a manager seeks all kinds of ways to connect those entrusted to his care, with the mission of His spiritual master. In Srila Prabhupadas movement services in the realm of distributing his books, prasadam distribution, Holy Name distribution and finally the establishment of varnasrama based life in farming communities, offer endless possibilities of becoming part of the mission of the Supreme Lord. Management means to seek ways of creating facilities for a maximum amount of conditioned souls to be engaged in devotional service.

Srila Prabhupada DIDN’T build a house where everybody can live, as somebody once upon a time said. Rather, He gave us a structure where those who don’t fall into the category of lazies and crazies can base their lives upon. Management means to enable others to visualize this structure, facilitate the more sober who are ready to use this facility, as “fools rush in where angels fear to tread”.

A manager who takes part in preaching activities himself will easily be inspiring to others to follow. As small men follow the bigger ones, a manager can be recognized by the quality of his followers. Focusing more on quality and not quantity, a manager should be able to readily delegate the growing responsibilities and never allow himself to be disconnected from the preaching field. Even karmis say that “the quality of a manager can be recognized more in his absence than in his presence”. This means that such a qualified manager manages from a preaching platform, delegating the various responsibilities to his trained department heads. However, ISKCON has long way to go before coming to this stage. Only locally occasionally such an atmosphere might have been achieved, but due to the continuous invasion of highly unqualified individuals who are prematurely identified as vaisnavas, due to premature and indiscriminate initiation frenzy and due to the non-communicative nature of some of its managers, those who would like to reach these standards are left often with no other option as to retreat in some sort of asylum, going underground while seeking sanity.

AN ABSOLUT PERSONALIST

Life comes from life…and not from money. A managing devotee should be broad hearted and not mediocre when it comes to investing in positively inclined people. That means not facilitating lazies and crazies, but rather  facilitation of those who although  not on the highest level of Krsna consciousness, are inclined to support those who are more advanced spiritually and inclined to make progress themselves. To invest in people is far more rewarding than to daily count loss and profit. One of Srila Prabhupada’s unique achievements was that He gave dignity and responsibility to those who lost faith so that they could regain it. He didn’t do this on humanistic or altruistic terms, but strictly within the mission of His spiritual master. Reading his letters one can get an idea how intense His concern was for “our men”. A devotee-manager, who simply sees the world around him in terms of financial priorities, will soon go bankrupt.

But a manager who even at the cost of losing a momentary arising financial opportunity takes time to speak to others and takes interest in their lives, will be rewarded by their gratefulness, at least on some occasions. People are not miserly at heart; they are just disappointed and often tormented by their own karma. It is not important what they CAN contribute, it is important what they WANT to contribute. A little can be a lot for an impoverished man and a lot can be too little for a well to do man. The attitude is important and not the instant result.

A temple or project dominated by devotees in the right consciousness is, regardless of its size far more progressive than a “pragmatically” collected group of individuals with a deranged type of minds. As birds of the same feather flock together, a lunatic instantly attracts other lunatics as much as a saner person attracts similarly humble ones. It is up to the manager with whom he wants “to flocks together”  with and turn the project entrusted to him either into modestly advancing operation or a “lunatic asylum” as Srila Prabhupada used to call it.

MUST BE WELL AWARE OF HIS NATURE

A manager must be well situated in his varna and asrama situation. The reality of his varna and asrama will anyway be soon revealed once he is under managerial pressure. And so only one who already has certain inherent qualities can be trained and not, as is today popular, training people indiscriminately. The curved tail of a dog can be bent in all kinds of ways, but it will eventually assume its original form at soonest opportunity possible. Management is not based on titles and numbers of seminars attended, but on ones inherent ability to learn what has to be learned and to teach what has to be taught. In other words, a manager has to be a “spiritual pragmatic”, always keeping the priority given to him by Srila Prabhupada in his view. He cannot be a dreaming title-carrier.

                         -to be continued-

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