BY: SUN STAFF
Aug 6, USA (SUN) Over the last several years, Bhakti-vrksa has become an increasingly popular format for congregational preaching. Various courses and workshops have been developed to teach devotees how to prepare materials, facilitate groups, and organize the exponential growth of these community-based programs. The "Bhakti Vrksha Manual" was published by the ISKCON Congregational Development Ministry, and related course work has been presented by the Mayapur Institute for Higher Education (MIHE) and the Bhaktivedanta College in Belgium.
"Bhaki-vrksa" is, essentially, the tree of bhakti of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. In Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Lord Caitanya and His transcendental movement are compared to the tree of devotion, or "bhakti-vrksa". In Adi-lila, chapter nine, Srila Prabhupada writes: "It is figuratively described that both the tree itself and the trunk of the tree are Caitanya Mahaprabhu… The tree surrounds the entire world, and the flowers of the tree are to be distributed to everyone. In this way the tree of Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu intoxicates the entire world."
The development of Bhakti-vrksa cells is akin to establishment of nama hatta programs, which sometimes manifest in the extended community, and sometimes under the direct facilitation of the local temple. As small groups come together and the science of Krsna Consciousness is shared, it is hoped that new members will be streamed into the temple congregation, thus helping the core community to branch out and the tree to grow wider and deeper. As predicted by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, when bhakti is liberally distributed, the tree of Lord Caitanya's mercy will grow into a massive affair. This is successfully done by taking shelter of Srila Prabhupada, our most recent Sampradaya Acarya and direct representative of Lord Caitanya's desire tree.
The ISKCON New Talavan community has developed an excellent collection of materials for organization, facilitation and teaching of bhaki-vrksa programs. On their introductory webpage, we read:
"You can start a local group of devotees for chanting, studying Srila Prabhupada's books and practicing Krsna consciousness in good association. The Bhakti-vrksha Program is a modern version of Srila Bhaktivinod Thakura's pioneering Nama-Hatta program for spreading Krsna consciousness. It is so easy, anyone can start a Bhakti-vrksha group in their own town or city. We supply all the information and guidance you need, and even a detailed 64-week lesson plan. All you need is faith, sincerity, desire, enthusiasm and perseverance!"
New Talavan has a zip file available which contains the Bhakti Vrksha Manual, a host of organizational materials, and their series of 64 weekly lesson plans.
The newly re-designed NamaHatta.org website offers various types of support for those engaged in nama hatta or bhakti-vrksa style preaching programs. Newcomers need to pass through a registration and membership approval process. Once through, a variety of teaching and training materials are available for congregational preachers.