In 2004 The (North American) Grihastha Vision Team was formed from a seed planted by Srila Prabhupada in 1979.
Krsnanandini, head of the GVT, describes a mystical dream, “Srila Prabhupada had returned to earth and was giving darshan to hundreds of devotees from everywhere around the world; China, Africa, Spain, South America, Europe, United States, Canada, everywhere. I was sitting not too far from Srila Prabhupada and was grateful for that. Then, one by one, devotees started revealing their hearts and sharing with him the pain and problems they were having in their marriages and families. Their painful story was told and Srila Prabhupada listened with loving kindness and concern. Then he turned to me, pointing his right index finger and instructed, “You show them how to have a real Krsna conscious marriage.” I was stunned. Divorced at the time, I already had seven children. Even though I would never have said “but” to Srila Prabhupada, I said, “but Prabhupada, I don’t even have a husband.” He just looked at me as though letting me know that he had given the instruction and that was that- I should just endeavor to carry it out.”
In time, the fruits of that seed began to manifest.
Devotees in different parts of North America were concerned about the state of marriage in their communities. Krsna was working in the background to assemble a team to facilitate a change.
In 2002 at the Canadian Regional Body meeting, Mother Praharana Prabhu requested my wife, Uttama devi dasi and I to head up an initiative to implement premarital education in Canada. On the weight of her sincere, earnest, heartfelt request we took training and started administering marriage mentorship in Canada. In order to support us, the regional body passed a directive that if any of our devotees wanted to marry in a Canadian temple, they should first take premarital education as a support for their upcoming change of ashram.
Back in the late 90s, Bhakti Tirtha Swami told Archana Siddhi devi dasi and Karnamrita das they should work with Krsnanandini and help devotees with their relationships. Arcana explains, “He told us to come to the Institute House at Gita Nagari for a program to meet her. We went to the program and tried to meet Krsnanandini that evening, but so many devotees were trying to speak with her that we didn’t really have the chance that night. A couple of years later at the Festival of Inspiration, Krsnanandini came up and introduced herself. She told me about a vision to create a team of marriage counselors and educators and asked if I would be interested in joining. My husband and I both were interested in getting involved.”
Shortly after this Anuttama Prabhu, the ISKCON communications director, heard about what we were doing and suggested we also link up with Krsnanandini. He and others suggested more possible candidates for the team.
And so Krishnanandini and Traiq, Archana Siddhi and Karnamrita das, Jagannatha Pandit das and Cintamani, Mantrini dasi and Tamohara, Praharana, Partha and Uttama and Anuttama Prabhu all came together to spearhead a team dedicated to marriage and family.
Archana Siddhi recalls the beginnings. “It was really blissful working with such a bright, mature group of devotees. There was an amazing synergy among the members of the group. Our meetings were a lot of fun and very productive. “
At home, our Saranagati board meetings and AGM’s are a bit of a grind. Our son-in-law once questioned why we would spend over a $1,000 to fly across the continent to go to a GVT meeting. My reply was, “If someone asked me what it was like in the spiritual world, I would reply that’s it’s like working with the GVT.” Over the years, our Annual General Meetings have been a remarkable experience. Very grave topics are dealt with in a compassionate, creative, sombre, yet simultaneously joyful mood. As everyone is already experienced in the field, developing courses and resources was relatively straight forward.
When the group came together in 2004 in one place for the first time, we began exploring all the challenges faced by grihasthas and listing them on flip chart papers. Pages and pages were placed on the walls. The challenges were assembled into categories. Then the group looked at what negative paradigms could have contributed to these problems and what values of Krishna consciousness, if properly understood and applied would rectify the difficulties or prevent them from occurring in the first place. 12 key principles and values were identified.
From that starting point a course was developed to creatively help devotees examine healthy and unhealthy paradigms governing their lives and the subsequent affects, and to empower them with the realization that everyone has control to choose paradigms based on sound values to govern their lives.
- A pamphlet was produced summarizing the 12 Principles for Successful Krishna Conscious Family Life. In 2005 Bhakti Brihat Bhagavat Maharja stayed with us at Saranagati. He read the brochure, was very impressed and within a few months and had us come to South Africa to facilitate workshops. At that point we dropped the North American and became simply, The Grihastha Vision Team. Over the years, workshops were presented in Canada, U.S., England, Ireland, Guyana, South Africa, Ghana, Trinidad, India, Brazil, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Hungary and Russia, with multiple visits to many countries. Mentor couples were identified in some regions, and trained to educated other couples with our program, From Couple to Couple. We urged every place we visited to establish a premarital mentorship program to educate couples before marriage so they could be equipped with knowledge and skills, learning from experienced couples.
We decided to further develop these 12 Principles into a book, and in 2014 after 4 years of devoted labor, Heart and Soul Connection, a Devotional Guide to Marriage, Service and Love was published. (Currently in print in English, Russian, Portuguese and Italian. A Spanish edition is nearing completion.)
A partial list of the GVT’s accomplishments includes:
- Strengthening the Bonds that Free Us. A 2 to 3 day relationship enhancement workshop
- From Couple to Couple Mentoring Program. For training senior couples in stable balanced marriages to systematically teach newly married or prospective couples communication skills, repair attempts, developing a realistic vision, parenting and other skills
- Numerous short workshops on marriage
- Facilitated courses in 20 countries
- Developed a series of brochures available for downloading and printing
- Facilitated marriage retreats in Canada and the US, Trinidad, Guyana and Brazil
- Established a policy and culture of premarital education in ISKCON Canada
- Currently rolling out an online course in conjunction with Bhaktivedanta College, Radhadesh
- Developed a Website. http://vaisnavafamilyresources.org/ containing numerous articles, video and audio resources, visited over 93,000 times in the last 4 years
- Recently completed an 85-day tour of 8 countries and over 21 cities
- Our members offer premarital mentorship in N. America and have facilitated mentoring internationally via video conferencing
- Offer marriage counselling to devotees
All of this has been achieved on a grass roots level by individuals who saw a need in Srila Prabhupada’s society and worked sincerely in their areas of influence with the only motive being to help others. For the Grihastha Vision Team that was the crucible that enabled the Krishna Magic to manifest, the magic of bringing the GVT together, giving us the creative inspiration and meeting the people we needed to meet at perfect times.
What keeps us involved?
Seeing the impact on devotees’ lives. A 15 year old coming up to us in Mayapur and expressing how her younger sister used to cry at night out of fear their parents would divorce and sincerely thanking us for helping to save her parents’ marriage; having a devotee approach us and express how our book Heart and Soul Connection had been the most impactful experience in his life; helping couples experiencing downturns in their marriages make pivotal break throughs; seeing couples develop deeper more meaningful connections and seeing devotees have the epiphany that their marriage is actually an important service to Krishna and Srila Prabhupada’s movement.
The Grihastha Vision Team is indebted to His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada for his love, wisdom and inspiration; to Radhanath Maharaja and Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja for their encouragement, to Mother Vrnda our infinitely patient but insistent editor, to the many devotees around the world who organized seminars, to the translators who have worked with us on our travels, to the translators, proof readers and editors who have enabled The Heart and Soul Connection to appear in English, Russian, Portuguese, Italian and Spanish and to our students around the world who have embraced the understanding that marriage is a sacred service to Lord Krishna and Srila Prabhupada.
With gratitude, your servants,
Partha das and Uttama devi dasi