Back to the top
- To offer the mentor, as well as those devotees being mentored, a chance to progress in spiritual life.
- To provide our resident, community and congregation members guidance in the practice of Krishna consciousness.
- To provide one-to-one mentorship so that every individual feels enlivened, inspired and protected, and so that their growth as devotees is facilitated and they remain within ISKCON for the rest of their life.
- To provide individuals with the opportunities and the practical support needed to positively improve their spiritual life.
- To improve the quality of devotional practices, especially those of hearing and chanting.
- To create a family of devotees characterised by love and trust, and to help to sustain the enthusiasm of the members of the Mentorship System.
- To foster mutual respect within members of all the ashrams, and all our constituent communities.
- To enhance each individual's sense of personal responsibility and community belonging.
- To provide a strong sense of moral codes and choices in life, including how men and women relate to each other.
- To help the mentee develop personal qualities such as humility and compassion.
- To foster the spirit of selfless service and commitment to the sankirtan mission.
What is mentoring?Mentoring is where an experienced devotee, the mentor, helps another devotee to come closer to Krishna by providing time, knowledge and skills. Mentoring responds to important needs in the life of the devotee in ways that facilitate the individual's spiritual advancement. It is a structured system of devotee-care where mentors make every possible intelligent effort to help each of the devotees in their care in all aspects of their lives.
Why have you chosen this particular model of devotee-care?Within ISKCON there are several existing models of devotee-care. The Mentorship System offered by Bhaktivedanta Manor, in conjunction with the structure of local groups or 'sangas' and a good, systematic educational plan, combines the best of the models.
Why is it needed?All aspiring Vaishnavas require close devotional relationships and positive role models, to feel cared for and inspired, in order to continue advancing and serving in Krishna consciousness. An organization that does not take care of its members will not be able to expand.
What is the role of a mentor?A mentor is an individual who assists and guides another's development. This guidance is not done for personal gain or praise. A mentor can act as a role model, guide, tutor, coach, or confidante. Mentors enrich lives by sharing their experiences, by listening and giving advice, and through their life examples.
What is a 'mentee'?There is no English word for someone who is being mentored. But as we are Vaishnavas and accustomed to Sanskrit grammar and its back-formation of words, then the word 'mentee' popped up and now seems to have stuck. It's not in the dictionary, but it's our word. We hope you don't mind.
How does it work?Up to ten devotees meet together, as a group, with their mentor every two weeks. Devotees also meet up individually with their mentor at least once every three months. Meanwhile, the mentors meet together as a group once every month. The fortnightly meeting between one mentor and a number of mentees is known as the Mentee Meeting. The monthly meeting between mentors is known, not surprisingly, as the Mentor Meeting. Mentors also have mentors; however they do not attend their mentor's Mentee Meeting, instead they receive one-to-one guidance at least every three months from their mentor. Supervising all of this is the Mentorship Committee or MC, and keeping an eye on the entire enterprise is the Bhaktivedanta Manor Temple Council.
How does one become a mentor?Someone (ideally an existing mentor) recommends a devotee who shows the necessary aptitude and enthusiasm to the Mentorship Committee (MC). That devotee should already be in the Mentorship System as a mentee. The MC then considers the suitability of the devotee to become a mentor. If considered appropriate, the devotee's name is put forward at the next monthly Mentor Meeting and if there are no upheld objections the devotee becomes a mentor with a six month probationary period.
What should I consider before accepting a mentor?Before taking a mentor, mentees should contemplate their involvement in the mentoring process. This should include the following considerations:
- Am I willing, and able, to regularly attend and participate in fortnightly meetings?
- Do I have a genuine desire to take spiritual life seriously and the sincerity and willingness to accept the guidance of a mentor?
- What aspects of my spiritual life am I hoping to improve?
How do I find a mentor?Firstly, it is important that you carefully read the Mentorship Manual to understand the commitment involved. If you need further help in any way regarding the Mentorship System you may contact the MC. Once you are sure that you would be able to participate in the Mentorship System as per the guidelines, you should review the Mentor Profiles Presentation and then complete the Mentor Preference Form; both documents may be obtained by contacting the MC.
What should I consider when selecting a mentor?When choosing a mentor, it is beneficial if the following aspects are present and recognised. The mentor should be:
- Attracted to Krishna, an attraction that should include kirtan, chanting, and serving Krishna in a devotional attitude.
- A person with greater experience and knowledge.
- Flexible and progressive in assisting the mentee to move forward in spiritual life.
- Someone whom you are able to trust.
- A person who is happy to help you to develop skills and knowledge, and able to share knowledge and experience openly and honestly.
- Someone other than your service authority.
What if I'm unofficially mentoring someone already?We know that many devotees already offer guidance and encouragement to others, and of course we're glad of that and hope it will always continue. However, the term 'mentor' or 'mentee' is reserved for those who have been authorized by the MC to participate within the Mentorship System. There are no 'unofficial' mentors; the terms 'mentor' and 'mentee' should not be used to describe an ongoing relationship of guidance. Please note that all devotees who aspire for initiation will require a mentor.
What is the difference between Mentorship/Counsellor systems and Sanga/Bhakti Vriksha?The purpose of all the systems are the same: to create spiritually healthy individuals; to help those individuals join together with others for mutual support, practise and learning; and to foster the spirit of service to the mission of Srila Prabhupada, thus providing for newcomers the same opportunities. The Mentorship/Counsellor system concentrates on the supportive relationships between senior and junior practitioners, yet also includes group activity. The Sanga/Bhakti Vriksha concentrates on group participation yet also includes supportive relationships between senior and juniors. The additional focus is on group multiplication and preaching. In the Mentorship/Counsellor system, group meetings are held between fellow mentees of a single mentor. In the Sanga/Bhakti Vriksha system the meeting is open to newcomers periodically, and the group facilitator is the natural leader of the members of the group.
Can I invite a guest speaker to give a lecture?Only devotees from within the group should speak. Speakers can be invited for sanga gatherings instead.
Is it authorised?To have an older devotee look after the needs of a newer devotee is part of our Vaishnava culture. Srila Prabhupada said that in the Vedic educational system one guru was able to look after many, many students by dividing up the school into groups where seniors each taught a number of juniors. There are numerous instances in Gaudiya Vaishnava history where devotees were placed under the care of certain other devotees; for example, Jiva goswami was placed under the guidance of Rupa Goswami and Sanatana Goswami. Similarly, our situation today, where one guru initiates many hundreds of disciples, necessitates us employing the best aspects of our own traditional culture. And if each disciple extends themselves to newcomers we will have a very vibrant and spiritually healthy ISKCON which continues to grow. Srila Prabhupada gave repeated instructions for his older disciples to look after his younger disciples: (Letter to Karandhara Dasa, Delhi, 3 December, 1971): Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter of November 13, 1971, in which you have recommended that Sriman Howard Sorgen and Srimate Jo An McNamara be accepted by me as my disciples. I am very glad to accept them as my initiated students, and I have given their spiritual names as Ganga Narayana das and Jaga Mohini dasi respectively. Now you must guide them very nicely in Krishna consciousness, because you are a veteran devotee and practically speaking the future of our Krishna Conscious Society rests in the hands of my older disciples. Give them all facility to perfect their lives by protecting them and instructing them nicely, that is now the duty of my senior disciples. (Letter to Satsvarupa Dasa Bombay, 25 November, 1970): You are right to say that the example and kindly guidance of our elder members in the Society is the most profound force for motivating our students both new and old towards advanced Krishna consciousness…..One should sincerely try to bring himself to the stage of devotional service motivated by pure love of Krishna, and our personal example must set a guide for them. Back to the top
Back to the top
Back to the top
- Regularly attend their Mentee Meetings and be punctual.
- Give prior notice, and explanation, for absences at Mentee Meetings.
- Actively participate in Mentee Meetings.
- Regularly attend festivals and Sunday Feast programmes.
- Be careful not to download all their mind's thoughts upon their mentor, but rather to consult their mentor with a view to obtaining guidance.
- Be careful that they do not misuse their mentor for material gain.
- All mentors are required to:
- Chant, on beads, sixteen rounds of the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra daily (Srila Prabhupada asked his disciples to chant eight rounds before ten o' clock, but not to chant whilst driving).
- Follow the four regulative principles.
- Have received Hari Nama initiation.
- Demonstrate a good level of sadhana by attending morning program on a regular basis.
- Be residing in the UK for at least ten months each year.
- Have a mentor themselves who is also resident in the UK.
- Be properly situated in his/her ashrama.
- Be a loyal member of ISKCON who accepts his/her local temple president as an authority.
- Be a mature, sober and stable individual.
- Have good relationships with others, especially within their family; they must not be involved in any form of physical or verbal abuse including within their family.
- Have demonstrated a certain level of sincerity through their words and actions.
- Have read and understood the Mentorship System Manual and agreed to abide by it.
- Immediately inform a member of the MC should they contravene any of the above requirements.
In addition to the above criteria, mentors should be sincerely endeavouring to:
- Chant, attentively, at least eight rounds before 10 a.m.
- Read Srila Prabhupada’s books daily.
- Preferably lead, but at least participate in, either a regular (at least monthly) local sanga group or other ISKCON projects that involve preaching and cultivation.
- Refrain from watching TV/going to cinemas.
- Be a contributing member of ISKCON.
Back to the top
- Be compassionate and have genuine concern for the welfare of devotees.
- Be willing to extend themselves to help others and have a spirit of sacrifice>
- Be a representative of Srila Prabhupada and ISKCON and a good example of a Vaishnava.
- Stick to Srila Prabhupada’s teachings as the basis of any advice they give.
- Encourage their mentees to associate with appropriate senior devotees.
- Be willing to sincerely consider constructive feedback in a non-defensive manner.
- Sincerely strive to be exemplary in both behaviour and communication with others.
- Be honest, straightforward and a good listener.
- Be mindful that the same thing can be said in a pleasant or unpleasant way; hence mentors should always be sensitive in their speech.
- Be able to give balanced advice according to time, place and circumstance.
- Be endeavouring to develop affectionate Krishna conscious relationships with other mentors; this will avoid disunity and unhealthy competition amongst mentors.
- All be giving the same message to mentees; they should respect other mentors and not try to score points over each other.
- Not give authoritative direction on subjects where they do not have sufficient experience or knowledge (for example marriage, children or career). They should instead direct mentees to an appropriate authority.
- Not impose upon others their own preferences or inclinations in spiritual life.
- Not interfere with, or try to control or micromanage, a mentee's life.
- Not approach another mentor's mentees to enquire about their sadhana, service, personal issues etc.
- Not be prone to taking extreme and controversial positions on issues.
- Not be involved in deviant teachings.
- Not encourage, foster or even tolerate an unhealthy dependency of a mentee upon themselves.
- Be careful not to feel that they deserve any special privilege or respect.
- Focus on the growth, development and the ultimate well-being of the mentee and should not in any way exploit or manipulate the mentee for any selfish purpose.
- Avoid engaging in too much mundane chit-chat.
- Avoid speech that is politically motivated, reactionary, rude or self righteous.
- As a representative of ISKCON, avoid all criticism of devotees and the Society both in public and in private.
Back to the top
- Mentors should give personalised care and attention to each mentee and the mentee should be able to perceive that the mentor is genuinely concerned for their welfare. The main element to be existing between mentor and mentee is affectionate care.
- The mentor is a loving friend and guide, rather than an organisational authority figure. The mentor gives courage – encouragement – so the mentee can overcome any reservation in taking the next step in spiritual life. The mentor offers assessment and correction where necessary, and continually monitors mentees for suitability to receive first and second initiation; however the mentor should not be just looking for faults. Mentors should encourage mentees to cultivate others.
- A mentor discusses with each mentee all issues concerning a devotee's life including health, emotions, family and business, in addition to the spiritual aspects such as japa, sadhana, hearing, reading and service. It is advisable that the mentor keeps a log of all such discussions to facilitate follow-ups.
- The mentor is not a doctor, psychologist, financial advisor, marriage guidance counsellor, police officer or solicitor, although he or she may offer general guidance. Expert advice must be sought from those who are qualified in the relevant field.
- A mentor may guide a couple, helping them to balance occupation and spiritual practice, educating the couple to adjust to each other and to serve Krishna together. A mentor (in the absence of his/her spouse) may guide a person of the opposite gender only if that person's spouse is also present at the meeting.
- A mentor is there to help the mentee ask the right questions and guide them toward resources that will help them to make these choices. Mentees should remember that they, not their mentor, are responsible for their own life choices; the mentor will give general guidance but the ultimate responsibility lies with the individual mentee.
- Mentors should make themselves available for each mentee to give them the opportunity to discuss personal matters on a one-to-one basis; the responsibility to do this lies with the mentor. The principle of this requirement is to create a more reciprocal, personal and natural relationship with mentees where more personal issues can be discussed. Mentors should therefore arrange one-to-one meetings with each mentee or mentee couple at least once every three months, if not more often.
- There is no enforcement of any rules upon mentees by mentors, except of course those of confidentiality. Mentees should follow guidance out of love and trust, not due to any enforcement by mentors.
- Mentors should have a maximum of ten mentees. In exceptional circumstances, the MC may allow individual mentors to exceed this number. There should be a trial period of six months for the mentor and mentee to verify that the relationship is healthy and progressive for all concerned.
- It should be clear that accepting a mentor is not a permanent commitment. Both the mentor and the mentee are completely free to end the arrangement at any point. It is natural for the mentor/mentee relationship to change over time, and if helpful another mentor can be chosen who may further assist in spiritual growth. This should be done in a mature manner after discussing the matter and ensuring mutual respect and understanding of the conclusion. It is the mentor's responsibility to remove any perceived fears or uneasiness in the mind of the mentee when the mentee expresses a desire for another mentor. The mentee should be careful not to choose another mentor for the wrong reasons, for example because they don't want to be accountable to any one person for a long period of time. If required the MC can be approached for advice. The mentor is responsible for ensuring that the MC is immediately informed of the outcome of any such discussions.
- The mentor is not the mentee's service or organisational authority. The mentor cannot overrule a service authority in ISKCON. The mentor may give advice on general services and attitude etc. In instances of any contradiction with regards to services, mentors should defer to the service authority.
- If there is a lapse of mentoring communication (two months or more) between a particular mentor/mentee, the mentee will be approached by the MC. If the situation is not quickly resolved the MC will consider implementing a change in mentor for the mentee concerned.
- Vaishnava bhajans are sung.
- One of the mentees shares the presentation they have prepared on a topic based on Srila Prabhupada's books and a discussion follows.
- There is sharing of realizations amongst mentees.
- Discussion on chanting, sadhana, service and Vaishnava etiquette.
- Devotees are asked if they want to discuss any problems which are not personal (personal problems are discussed in private with the mentor).
- Prasadam is honoured if possible.
- Children's birthdays and wedding anniversaries can be celebrated.
|Mentor responsibilities||Mentee responsibilities|
|Acting as a source of information and/or insight into spiritual life and facilitating learning.||Taking time to actively participate in fortnightly mentee group meetings.|
|Assisting with personal goal setting and planning.||Thinking about goals before meeting their mentor and being willing to openly discuss these goals with their mentor.|
|Listening with an open mind, challenging and encouraging the exploration of ideas.||Communicating expectations, needs and feelings.|
|Encouraging sadhana/service.||Negotiating activities in order to obtain goals.|
|Arranging fortnightly mentee group meetings and one-to-one meetings||Embracing learning opportunities with enthusiasm and commitment.|
|Providing feedback on observed performance and serving as a reference point for recommendations on initiation.||Learning to accept feedback and using it positively.|
|Being a confidante during personal crises, problems, transitions, and times of success.||Trying to implement their mentor's suggestions.|
|Mentees are also advised to verify continuously, and especially during the initial stages, the advice the mentor gives by also taking advice from other senior devotees and checking with scripture.|
Back to the top
Back to the top
Mentors assist temple management:
- By encouraging mentees to perform service at their local temple. This in turn is a safety net since it helps to keep the mentors feet on the ground as the tendency for ownership or controllership is minimised by coming together to serve at the temple.
- By encouraging co-operation and communication between his/her own mentees, mentees of other mentors, and temple management.
- By encouraging the mentees under their care to integrate with other mentee groups and the local temple; spirit of unity is very important. Mentors must endeavour to ensure that their groups do not become isolated and independent from the local temple. This can be done by bringing their mentee group to attend festivals and by performing services together with other mentee groups at the local temple.
- Sangas are congregational groups of no more than fifteen members.
- Our ISKCON movement grows through the proliferation of such sangas.
- The sanga network is the organizational structure of ISKCON.
- The temple is the administrative headquarters of the sanga network
- The sangas may be open to new members or may be closed if at capacity.
- Mentors may be leaders of sangas, and their mentees may be members of that sanga.
- The sanga is not a mentee group, although both may be there.
- The sanga cannot function as a substitute for the Mentee Meeting.
- A mentee need not attend a sanga where his/her mentor is the leader.
- All devotees are encouraged to attend a sanga of their choice.
Back to the top
Back to the top
Back to the top