283. Reach and Engagement

I was just thinking about Mahaprabhu’s prediction on how His holy name would be sung in every town and village one day. What a goal ! Besides our current activities of festivals, prasadam distribution (restaurants and thru events), books, street harinaams etc, how else can the mission spread?

1. Strong digital presence
Online ads (featuring festivals, restaurants, retreats), Official ISKCON social media pages & social ads targeting & engaging with the non-devotee public, Official webpage (a single one) explaining our lifestyle, tradition and goals in a language easily understandable by the public, frequent podcasts & popularizing devotee blogs are some of the methods we can start with.We must also have an active online TV & Radio programs featuring interviews, music and short lectures.

We all know the extent of reach that internet has in everyone’s life. Every village to major urban centres are now inter-connected. They have them at homes, offices, schools, universities – everywhere ! The first place people will search for God will be Google. Are we on top of the organic and paid search listings? Nope.

2. Varna reach
Having special teams who would approach senior & junior executives in the political & legal circles, farmers and business families, university staff and scientists groups would be a very important step in implementing Prabhupad’s Varnashram system. Educating people at this level – directly & one-to-one would be a great way to forge deeper relationships with people who in many ways are disconnected from us.

Starting our own farms is a very big task (land, people, money and ensuring long-term sustenance) but an easier and a quicker way would be to convert existing farmers (of the karmi world) to our style of farming. This is speaking their language. Asking a farmer to distribute books or host festivals may not be as appealing to them as making them aware how responsible farming through Krishna Consciousness can help them in their own consciousness, their productivity and general well-being of their customers. For one to enter farming life requires a long family tradition as well or if you are starting one now, you need a good knowledge of farming which can be carried out for successive generations. There are many farming families around and we need to reach them now (starting with vegetable/fruit produce based) because they are one of the most important people in society who can make a change at the moment- not even the politicians.

The best type of devotees to reach out to politicians, legal bodies and academic staff would be the Sanyasis & older renunciates. The best group to reach out to farmers would be the married/grihasta household. The best one’s to reach out to students & junior employees would be the bramacharis & brahmacharinis.

3. Events
I am surprised at the number of conferences and seminars conducted by numerous other traditions around the world. We are not there actively hosting our own information seminars and national conferences. We have so many things to talk about related to science, spirituality, health, astrology, animal protection, volunteerism etc. Every year we must hold at least 2 mega conferences in a country on 2 important topics that would attract people from all walks of life. It’s important that people know our insights and solutions to world problems.

We must also actively participate in events/conferences/seminars of other groups. For example, many cities conduct wedding expos every year showcasing jewellery, wedding planners, venues, hotels, caterers etc. Why not take up a stall featuring the Hare Krishna wedding offerings? We can have brochures, visiting cards and video displayed at our stall for people to understand how they can have a spiritual wedding in their city. Why not conduct a mock Hare Krishna wedding on a stage at the venue? At our own temple, we have had so many weddings from non-devotee couples for the thrill of doing something different. And by doing so they have accumulated so much spiritual credits – stepping into our temples, seeing the Deities, honoring prasadam and inviting huge groups of their friends and families to do the same!

4. Schools, Hospitals, Restaurants, Yoga centres
It’s time we seriously planned the setting up of atleast 1 school and a hospital in every country we operate in. This would not only help our growing devotee groups but the general public also. Through such centres, we will continue to exhibit our friendly nature, our caring attitude, our goals and lifestyle.

As yoga is gaining immense popularity, we must probably look at opening yoga studios across major cities with a “Hard Rock Cafe” styled branding, meaning that all centres would have the same name. This helps in building familiarity and prestige quickly.  Should we be looking into having yoga teachers training (including ayurveda) within our centres? Do we need to match up to the world’s needs for a more holistic and organic living through our own expert teachers in these fields?

What do you think?

Of course, there are countless other means to propagate the Holy Name but these were the ones constantly playing in my head. They look like humongous tasks but we are talking about changing the world right? There are no unrealistic goals but only unrealistic time frames. With 300 odd centres and couple of hundred thousand members, I am sure if we work cooperatively and with a mind for innovation, we might just be able to do it a got part in our lifetime! Besides even if we achieve only 1 % of the result, imagine the excitement & maturity that would be generated amongst all levels of our congregation with such high goals. WoW!