A group of forty devotees have completed the first one-year GBC College Course in Latin America, which included online classes and two residential courses, preparing them to become ISKCON’s future leaders.
The program began in April last year, and the second residential course, lasting fourteen days, just concluded on April 27th.
The men and women participating ranged in age from twenty-five years old up to their mid-fifties, and hailed from Paraguay, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Argentina, and Ecuador.
The GBC College is not a physical location, but the name of a course devised by Gopal Bhatta Das and Kaunteya Das of the GBC Strategic Planning Team to plan succession for ISKCON.
First offered in Mayapur, India in 2015, it expanded to Russia in 2017, and Latin America in 2018 to ensure that devotees who come from different regions and speak different languages could also have the opportunity.
This April’s Latin American residential course was offered at the Jaladuta Institute in Campina Grande, Brazil. Headed up by Dhanvantari Swami, it’s a well-established spiritual education center with full facilities and accommodation, set amidst beautiful forests and wildlife.
Dhanvantari Swami walks with Bhakti Charu Swami, and behind Devakinandana Das and Ekanath Gaura Das
Teachers of the GBC College course included Devakinandana Das, his wife Mitravinda Dasi, and Dhanvantari Swami, all longtime educators and teachers at the Institute. Joining them was Bhakti Charu Swami; Bal Govinda Das of ISKCON Pune; GBC Kaunteya Das; Baladeva Das of the ISKCON Ministry of Education; Yugala Lila Dasi, a digital marketing expert from Japan; and Ekanath Gaura Das.
“We trained devotees in personal skills like sadhana, japa, and how to manage their own time properly,” says Ekanath Gaura, who is the GBC College’s Latin American Director, and an alumnus of the course himself.
“We also gave them a toolkit for ISKCON leaders, including communications, coaching, mentoring, conflict resolution, project management, risk management, and marketing.”
Finally teachers taught the course participants how Srila Prabhupada used to manage, with Bhakti Charu Swami sharing his personal experiences with Srila Prabhupada. Another key topic was education versus indoctrination – how to properly create independent thinkers.
Bhakti Charu Swami gives Srimad Bhagavatam class
“We want to make sure that our leaders have good sadhana, and are properly educated and trained, so that they can serve the devotees better,” says Ekanath Gaura. “Our main goal is to create a culture amongst leaders of caring for devotees’ needs.”
Throughout the course, students also get a chance to practically apply what they’re learning, by working with their local GBC on a project, and then introducing it at the end of the course.
After graduating the GBC college, some students are likely to be chosen by GBC members to assist them as zonal supervisors or global duty officers throughout Latin America.
Other students will become temple presidents or project managers. Some may simply use their new skills to improve their current services.
A group exercise with Latin American leaders
The GBC College has already created several new young devotee leaders in Latin America, such as Mathuresh Das, the zonal supervisor for Bolivia and Peru; Divya Priya Dasi, zonal supervisor for Ecuador; and husband-and-wife Prema Rupa Madhava Das and Prema Rupini Madhavi Dasi, who serve on the temple board in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Ekanath Gaura encourages all devotees to keep up to date in new techniques and skills, and to keep learning. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s with us or somewhere else,” he says. “But we always need to evaluate and assess ourselves, and keep improving. Because at the end of the day, we’re trying to serve the devotees better – and we should take advantage of whatever we can to help us do that.”[ brazil ] [ education ] [ gbc ] [ gbc-college ]