I was nicely accomodated in the big house of one mataji and her daughter in a well-to-do area of Kishiniev, and several ladies stayed with me to take care of all my needs. During the day many devotees came for private discussions, and every evening I visited the temple to hold the seminar.
It was very well attended, with around 60 to 70 devotees assembling every evening for two and half hours. Many new young people had shown interest in Krsna consciousness over the last year and were now attending our seminar. Also many senior devotees were there, eager to receive deeper insights into this most important topic. They have been serving as mentors and councelors and were now eager to hear how they could qualify themselves more in this most important way of serving the devotees.
* should have a nice understanding of the philosophy and practice of Krsna consciousness. No need to be a great learned preacher. However, we should have a clear understanding of the philosophy and it's application in our daily life.
* should have been active within ISKCON for a reasonable length of time. It will not be possible to indicate an exact length of time, since the time factor is a rather external criteria in order to measure our advancement and maturity within spiritual practice.
* should be able to give balanced advice according to time, place and circumstance. And in order to be able to give balanced advice we ourselves have to be balanced in our spiritual practice and daily life. Again, we cannot give anything to others which we don't have ourselves.
* should not have the tendency for taking extreme and controversial positions on issues. Such tendency would indicate that we are not well balanced. Usually it is connected with the influence of our false ego: any great idea can be taken to extremes if the false ego pushes us to promote it as the only way to be. Then we become fanatic, or a fundamentalist with a kanistha mentality, which will not help us to give shelter to others.
* should be mature and sober. As a mentor we cannot be whimsical, but have to be serious and committed within our service and spiritual practice.
Especially our example in regards to behavior and etiquette with the other gender is of great importance. Mentors have to show a strict example in this regard in order to inspire young devotees to follow it, especially in these modern days where free mixing has become very common. Good behavior and Vaisnava etiquette is the foundation to a peaceful and harmonious atmosphere within the community of devotees. So many social disturbances such as divorce are sprouting up due to not following Vaisnava etiquette. As we all know, when fire and butter come too close, then the butter melts...
unnecessarily entangled in emotional affairs, which will not lead to any spiritual upliftment.
At the same time we have to know our own limits and not over-estimate our spiritual strength, so that we don't take on more than we can handle.
* should be stably situated within our own ashram. This is indeed an important point, which is not so commonly recognised. It once again shows how the ashrams are Krsna's Divine system to give us the necessary stability in order to be selfless in our service.
Being a selfless care giver means, that we don't even expect the most subtle gratification in return for our service. It implies that we should have healthy and appropriate ways of fulfilling our financial, emotional and managerial needs and thus never use our dependants for those needs. Unless we are stably situated in one of the ashrams, this condition will not be fulfilled. There will be some unfulfilled needs, which very easily enter the relationship in which we are meant to give shelter. But then our dependants become the source of our own subtle or gross fulfillments, which will not make us selfless any longer and easily bring about a clash of interest: our material needs clash with the spiritual needs of our dependants. And thus our attempt to give shelter will be spoiled.
In our attempts to cultivate sheltering relationships we are bound to encounter some difficulties - no doubt. This is so, because our most subtle anarthas will be exposed and come to the surface. It is a most effective churning process - for the purification of everyone involved.
At the final closing of this course the attending devotees shared heart-moving realizations, recognizing their external and superficial understanding of taking shelter. And it greatly inspired them to endeavor to increase their qualification in order to give shelter to younger devotees. It gave everyone clear goals and targets to work towards. Otherwise, what is the use of all our efforts to bring new people to Krsna consciousness, if we are not able to give them true shelter?! Our spiritual development very much depends on our ability to cultivate sheltering relationships. Attracting a senior devotee's interest in our spiritual development is the true meaning of getting the mercy of a Vaisnava....!
On the 10th of July I flew on to Stockholm....
Your servant, Devaki dd