Recent surveys show a growing interest in Eastern thought and spiritual practice amongst Westerners. One quarter of Americans both believe in reincarnation, and view yoga and meditation as a viable spiritual practice. More and more people want spiritual life but they do not want to be part of a religion.
These trends are also indicative of ways modern Indians are viewing religion. As society becomes more Westernized, Indians around the world look for ways in which spiritual practices can help them deal with the ever increasing problems they face.
This means that millions of people around the world are ready for Krishna consciousness. We just need to reach them, and we need to reach them with innovative, relevant and well thought out presentations.
We wish to:
- Fully utilize modern technology, with a strong focus on developing a variety of niche market introductory websites equipped with free educational resources.
- Create relevant introductory material that relates our teachings to life’s daily challenges, making Krishna consciousness available to wider audiences, and provide follow up materials for a person’s complete journey back to Godhead.
- Develop effective follow up systems to cultivate people we meet in public, at the temple, and online.
- Present ourselves (in certain markets) in neutral environments and without external religious trappings.
- Create materials, courses and support systems to aid devotees in the many challenges they face.
- Employ professional marketing to draw people to our sites, and to gain a competitive advantage over the many organizations competing for these same markets.
- Utilize the above to support and facilitate temples in expanding their preaching, with a focus on not only bringing people to Krsna consciousness, but also training them to be healthy and productive members of Iskcon.
- Produce a variety of resources to support these programs, including interactive websites, workshops, online courses, books, DVD’s, CD’s, downloadable video, audio files and text files, e-mini courses, webinars, and teleseminars – and advertising materials.)
The Six Sad Truths About ISKCON’s Presence on the Internet
Sad Truth Number 1: We are not taking full advantage of internet technology to attract our niche markets, thus many potential “customers” end up on other websites, and subsequently become involved with other organizations.
Sad Truth Number 2: Iskcon has very little introductory material online that is easy to understand and apply, and offers virtually no further guidance through strategic mentorship and educational programs that are suited to the needs of people exploring spiritual life.
Sad Truth Number 3: There are other spiritual and religious organizations, both Eastern and Western, that are far ahead of us in strategically educating the public in their teachings and lifestyle, both through the internet and through intelligently designed in person introductory workshops.
The following Christian websites give an idea of the kind of work being done by other religious organizations, including Eastern religions.
Sad Truth Number 4
We lack professionally produced media on the internet, and media that addresses common spiritual questions people are seeking answers for online.
When you search Google or YouTube with questions our niche markets ask, (What is karma? How to meditate? Who is God? What is a guru? What is Hinduism? What is bhakti? What is Hare Krishna?) you quickly that we are not well represented.
In some cases, we don’t even appear in the top searches for these important questions. Perhaps even worse, where we do appear most of our presentations are not as good as they should and could me, may not relate or resonate well with your average person, and offer no clear way to proceed in Krishna consciousness.
Sad Truth Number 5: The first thing that comes up under “What is Hare Krishna?” on Google is a Christian site explaining who we are! The first thing that comes up under “What is Hare Krishna?” on YouTube is absolutely the wrong person and presentation we want to represent us. It will be educational for you to check this out.
Sad Truth Number 6: Iskcon is not moving fast enough to change this.
We require a team to make this happen. The people are there. The knowhow is there. But we need funding to pay salaries for a few qualified devotees. All salaries will be India wages, approximately 25% of what we would need to pay in the West.
I conceived of what I call Bhakti LIfe University I and my godbrother Pancaratna Prabhu came together to fulfill the above mentioned needs. We subsequently formed a non-profit in the US (under “Friends of the BBT).
Before we joined forces, I had been involved in education, delivering workshops, writing articles, doing weekly online broadcasts, and counseling. At the same time Pancaratna Prabhu had been carefully researching and evaluating ways Iskcon could use the internet to reach and better educate more people.
Both of us studied how some of the most successful Christian missions, churches and secular self-help groups organize their outreach. We developed clear ideas how to execute an outreach strategy that had the potential to not only reach far more people than ever before, but that would bring a large percentage of these people to Krishna consciousness.
We came together to establish an infrastructure that could address these and other outreach and educational needs in a professional and systematic way.
Bhakti Life Projects and Funding – Phase One
Below please find our funding requirements broken down by project. You can support one or more projects, aspects of a project, or offer a donation of any amount . Please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need to discuss this further or wish to receive more financial details.
Costs per projects will vary depending the amount of specialized work we need to outsource (this is contingent on the skills of our staff and volunteer workers). Also, projects are multifaceted, and according to funding we can choose to develop specific aspects of the project rather than the whole project at once.
Below is a description of the projects we propose along with their costs. This describes Phase One of Bhakti Life University (the university without walls). We anticipate it will take six years to complete Phase One at a cost of $898,200.
Administrative Office in Mayapur
We wish to set up our administrative office in Mayapur as rent and salaries will be significantly less than in the West.
The office will be staffed by devotees who will do the day to day management and administration of Bhakti Life University and the of websites geared to people new to Krsna consciousenss. This includes overseeing the proper functioning of all projects, budgeting and accounting, outsourcing jobs, regular development of new and fresh content for our websites and Facebook pages, customer service (by phone and email), course follow up and cultivation of students, and general secretarial work.
In addition, we will maintain two other departments: a fundraising department and a video studio.
Overall vision, strategic planning and development of the projects, including most course development, will be done by Mahatma and Pancaratna Prabhus. Pancaratna Prabhu will oversee all work related to internet development.
Salaries for office staff is US $35,000
Office space and utilities is $3500 per year
Fund raising campaigns will cost $10,000
Office equipment and furniture is $2200
One-time cost of setting up the video studio will be $3500
Office yearly costs are $38,500 plus a one-time set up cost of $5700.
Creating a Powerful Web Presence
We require a powerful web marketing strategy that not only gets people who are interested in spirituality, Eastern religion, yoga, etc. to our sites, but that inspires them to take further steps to Krsna through a variety of free and paid programs on out sites. The following website is a good example of an interactive educational self development website.
We require a variety introductory sites that appeal to the interests of our different markets (people interested in spirituality, yoga, kirtan, Bhagavad-gita, ecology, and Hinduism). We also require several sites that administer our online education.
I have already begun a Soul Tools site as a means of attracting the spiritual but not religious section of people. But we also require sites for people who are ready for straight Krsna consciousness.
There is also a need for existing websites in Iskcon to better address their markets, and we could assist them as well as make all our content available should temples or preaching centers wish to have content that is geared primarily to people new to Krsna.
We propose to develop six introductory sites, and an additional two sites for online course administration, and also upgrade several popular Iskcon sites with content for new people (we have already developed two free e-mini courses).
All costs in our projected budget for Phase One do not take into consideration the possibility of qualified volunteer assistance.
Please contact me if you wish to see a detailed breakdown for this or any of the course cost estimates.
We also require a dynamic presence on YouTube. As on our websites, we need interesting, relevant and engaging audio and video content on YouTube. Ideally, we should be producing short topical videos.
Below, see a couple of creative ways we could get our message across, (depending on budget limitations):
For every course we intend to offer, we would like to develop the following:
- An introduction to the course (intended to market the course) offered in the following formats: e-mini course, online video and audio, DVD, CD, teleseminar, and booklet;
- A 15 to 25 hour course/workshop that can be delivered in person and online (or a combination of both);
- The course on DVD and CD accompanied by a course work book;
- A book on the topic of the course (available to the general public, not only students);
- Hard copy advertising material (poster, pamphlets, cards, etc.);
- Internet promotion to market the course;
- An online training course and DVD for those who wish to facilitate the course.
Course will be for both devotees and non-devotees.
Many courses have already been developed for in person presentation.
Existing Courses We Wish to Put Online
One of the most powerful aspects of our work, and something that would increase the outreach of Krishna consciousness in ways never seen before, is the development of highly effective introductory courses that can be delivered in a variety of venues and situations, even by new converts. Such courses would follow similar models as the Alpha course or the Art of Living course (by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s foundation – artofliving.org ). The function of the courses is to convince people, through both experience and knowledge, of the benefit of Krishna consciousness, and for them to begin some basic sadhana.
As more people take these courses, the number of potential facilitators increases. As more facilitators are trained to present these courses in people’s homes, at work, in clubs and hotels, etc. the number of new people getting Krishna consciousness increases. As the process continues, it expands exponentially.
Courses would be developed for niche markets, starting with three courses: one for general spiritual seekers, one for people into yoga, and one for people wanting to learn the basics of “Hinduism.”
The advantage of producing an introductory course on “Hinduism” is that this course would present Krishna consciousness through the eyes of Hinduism, and thus would be attractive to people wanting to learn about Hinduism. It would also be attractive to Hindu organizations and Hindu temples wanting to offer their members a basic course on Hinduism. And it may also be of use to teachers and students who are required study Hinduism.
We wish to develop two levels of introductory courses (Level One and Level Two) for our three target audiences (a total of six courses).
The Japa Workshop – Developmental Needs
We need three levels of japa courses. Level One is for brand new people (six hours), and Level Two is for those who have been regularly chanting for some time (15 hours). And Level Three is a japa retreat. As Buddhists have meditations retreats for the public, we can teach people new to bhakti how to use japa and kirtan as a daily spiritual practice.
Transformation Through Forgiveness
This course is one of the most popular courses I offer, both for devotees and non-devotees. I focus on taking responsibility for one’s own emotions, overcoming faultfinding tendencies, and acknowledging suffering or abuse as lessons for our spiritual growth. Includes fundamentals for improving relationships individually and in an organization.
The Power of Humility and Self Honesty
This course serves the need for a Krishna Conscious version of a self-development course that centers on taming the needs of the false ego to dominant, attract attention, judge, assert itself and show off. It naturally focuses on methods for improving relationships individually and in an organization.
The Re-Creation Workshop
This is a course in Vedic psychology. We spend 23 hours understanding how we are conditioned, how to take more control of our senses, mind and life, how to gain more balance between our life and our sadhana, and how to connect with our unique gifts in the service of Srila Prabhupada.
A two day course that offers support and guidance for dealing with sexual challenges and maintaining sexual purity throughout life. Followed by regular support through monthly online meetings and internet resources on our own (to be developed) sexual purity site.
This is one of the most vital services needed in Iskcon because of the many who take initiation that fail to remain sexually pure yet have no support system to help them. This program utilizes the skills of professional devotee therapists.
Separate courses for men and men will be developed.
The Sadhana Course
A weekend workshop (or retreat) to give those not living in a temple an experience of a morning and evening program, two days of classes, a better understanding of the importance of sadhana bhakti, and exercises to help reflect on ways to improve spiritual practices. Suitable for people new to Krishna consciousness as well as all devotees.
The Life of Prayer
This course is about more deeply entering the world of prayer by applying prayer to our goals and to overcoming obstacles; focusing on the relation between japa with prayer; and acknowledging the motives and fears behind our prayers.
The total production costs are approximately $28,000
Strengthening Your Vows
Learning how to be committed in a non-committal world. Serves as a support system for all those who have or intend to take vows.
Once a person has taken an online course, they have permanent access to all the online course materials, videos, classes etc., so courses function as an ongoing support system.
The Odyssey of Spiritual Marriage
Invaluable professional training for pre-marital, newly wed, and older couples. We intend to outsource this project to members of the The Grihastha Vision Team in the US.
The Parenting Course
Professionally prepared course on parenting. We intend to outsource the project to Bhagavan Das, director the company Conscious Parenting.
Train the Trainer
Professional training for facilitating workshops. I was professionally trained to facilitate workshops and will teach the same course.
Individual Course Facilitator
Once devotees take Train the Trainer, they can be trained to facilitate individual courses. We have twelve courses, and it will costs approximately $7000 to develop the complete teacher training materials, including producing online presentation and training DVD for each course.
Gita Sutras – Living the Gita
Partnering with devotees at the Bhakti Center in New York who have developed the most effective presentation on the Gita in the West, we wish offer their twelve week experiential and interactive course on Gita, a thematic presentation that gently yet powerfully brings students into Krishna Consciousness.
Divine Ecology – The science of self sustainability
Partnering with devotees in Canada (at the farm Saranagati) who are already showcasing and teaching self sustainability, we wish to offer a course that shows the connection between ecology and Divine principles of living. This is huge and expanding market.
This project will be outsourced to the devotees in Saranagati.
Depending on how the course is delivered online (live or self-paced) the professionalism with which the course is developed, and how well the live course adapts into an online courses, I estimate that turning a live course into an online course could cost from $3000 to $10,000 in salaries.
About Online Learning
Being able to offer courses and other resources online is foundational to Bhakti Life University. According to recent studies, online learning in the academic world is growing at a rate of over 20% per year. Add to this the exponential growth of online social networks and we can begin to see the vast potential of education through the Internet.
By using Internet-based systems, Bhakti Life University can mobilize both volunteers and staff from any part of the world to assist in the educational development and delivery, including mentoring and support. We are in touch with many devotee facilitators, experts in their fields, who would love to work for us if funding is available.
As already mentioned, we also conceived ourselves as a central support organization to provide well developed programs educational programs, advertising materials, and follow up support as a service to temples who cannot develop such programs on their own (the majority of temples in Iskcon).
The ISKCON Difference
Pancaratna Prabhu and I developed these projects and ideas as volunteers, householders working in our spare time. Because of this, realizing the our vision has been slow.
Christians organizations, on the other hand, are so well funded by their constituents that they have been able to develop highly effective outreach programs (the major cost of which are salaries). I believe the reason we are lagging behind these organizations in our internet efforts is because we do not have the funding that other organizations have. They recognize that internet outreach is as important as building a new Church or Temple.
As an example of what is being accomplished online, Global Media Outreach reports on their site today (this was only by 7pm) that 277,284 people have visited their site, 1,255 called or emailed them, 25,751 committed to being Christians and 6,659 were discipled.
Ministers, pastors and church leaders and their staffs are salaried, enabling them to work full time on their projects. In Iskcon we are reluctant to do the same for our similarly qualified and experienced grhasthas Thus, some of our most experienced men and women, the ones who could develop the programs that are desperately needed for the healthy survival and growth of Iskcon, end up with little time to contribute significantly to Iskcon.
If this funding paradigm continues, the sad truths mentioned above will likely continue on some level, and this fact is the worst of the sad truths. Yet the other religious organizations, both Eastern and Western, who operate on a different paradigm, will continue to expand their online presence.
Can Iskcon not do better than this? In 2008 a GBC outreach strategic planning committee formed and outlined dynamic outreach programs. What has happened to date? Since there is no money to hire qualified manpower to execute these plans, nothing was able to be done.
Two grhastha men with a clear vision of how to take outreach to a level not yet experienced in Iskcon, but with limited time and resources, cannot adequately realize their vision. Two grhastha men properly funding and staffed can.
Help us make this a reality. Generously support Bhakti Life.
Developing materials, online courses, producing books, etc. requires the help of more people than the regular office staff needed that I mentioned above. With a budget as low as $5000 a month, Bhakti Life University, along with the development of websites and follow up programs for new people, could be well underway with a year.
Thanks for your consideration.